S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Return to the rule of law? The horizon is yet obscure.

President-elect Barack Obama is a lawyer. He was for several years a popular teacher (rising to Senior Lecturer level), of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago, and a community organizer. He has a good resume. What will that mean to his transition into the presidency, and sebsequent efforts (we all absolutely assume) to restore the rule of law to his administration? McClatchy has the whole story.

  • Department of Justice - There will be a bevy of great candidates suggested for the Attorney General's position. In the meantime David Ogden, a Clinton administration veteran, is heading the DOJ transition team, according to TPM Muckraker. The post quotes the WaPo:
    "Democrats and interest groups have been developing "to do" lists for Justice, which had deemphasized antitrust, civil rights and environmental enforcement work under President Bush."

    Ogden's deputy on the transition will be Thomas Perelli, who, according to the Post, "supervised the government team suing cigarette makers and oversaw the Justice unit that defends federal agencies in complex legal disputes."

  • "Confronting the other "third rail" of politics -- Criminal Justice Reform," is from the ACLU blog. We have heard President-elect Obama talk about the huge numbers of people incarcerated in the United States. Can it be high on his agenda, given the economic crisis? To quote:

    . . . released this week . . . "Smart on Crime: Recommendations for the Next Administration and Congress." This transition guide for the Obama administration and the 111th Congress lays out in great detail all of the reforms, both major and minor, that should be undertaken to have a criminal justice system that protects public safety, but also honors our commitments to fairness and equality under the law for all. A coalition of more than 20 organizations (including the ACLU) comprised the 2009 Criminal Justice Transition Coalition that compiled these excellent, workable recommendations.
  • Copyright czar -- In October, our current president Bush (OCP) signed a new law creating a cabinet-level position who is to be, to quote Wired-Threat Level, "charged with implementing a nationwide plan to combat piracy and "report directly to the president and Congress regarding domestic international intellectual property enforcement programs." Our next president (ONP) will no doubt make the first appointment.

What will an Obama administration be able to do to restore the rule of law in the face of extremely high expectations? How are we to feel about the bizarre news that there was a run to buy guns yesterday? Will OCP Bush close Guantanamo before he leaves office? Will ONP Obama seek to restore the right of Habeas Corpus if the question comes before the Supreme Court? We all have our own ideas. Looking to my civil liberties guru, Glenn Greenwald, who has often been skeptical of Obama's willingness to vote as a true liberal, says in his Saturday post,

(3). . . people [ ] start pressuring Obama now to pay attention to their political principles and agendas. And it's certainly likely that Obama will end up doing many, many things that warrant and provoke intense criticism. I have no doubt about that. But he's entitled to actually start doing things -- on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, civil liberties, the economy, and otherwise -- before judgments are formed.

"Like Lincoln and FDR, Obama faces nation in crisis," Yahoo! News headlined today (Sunday). To quote the article's conclusion, about which I wrote the night of the election:

Obama supporters who spontaneously flocked to the White House into the wee hours after his election Tuesday night were anxious for Obama to move forward. Gazing at the illuminated Executive Mansion where Bush slept, one waved signs that said: "Why wait? Evict Bush now."

For some, jubilation was tempered by recognition of the enormity of the tasks Obama faces.

"It's not just about him," said Rachel Reclam, of Olympia, Wash., an international affairs student at George Washington University. "He inspired people, but I'm not expecting miracles. The financial crisis, the war in Iraq, the health care crisis are not going to be over tomorrow."

Thousands -- or millions -- of us were moved to tears this past week. It happened to me when I realized that the people on the TV screen in the shadows were on Pennsylvania Avenue. That is where I would have chosen to be if I could have traveled last Tuesday. And my anger is not yet completely gone. (I guess I will know it is gone when I am able to take down the "Millennium" slide show at the bottom of this column). Regret for the lost years is what the tears were about, that and utter relief that this era has come to an end and a new one has begun. As I have said before, it is a sea change. And, at the moment on this Sunday, it is entirely enough.


  1. Michael Rattner at Dandelion Salad -- video on Obama and civil liberties
  2. ACLU transition plan for the Obama administration: "Actions for restoring America"
  3. Rising Hegemon posted a neat cartoon of Lincoln. HT to "betmo" for this.

View my current slide show about the Bush years -- "Millennium" -- at the bottom of this column.

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.

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