Swiftboating Koh

April 3, 2009

Harold Koh, Dean of Yale Law School (and Boston native), was recently appointed by the president as Legal Adviser of the State Department. Who was Legal Adviser of the State Department under Bush? No idea. Actually, it was John Bellinger, and before that William Howard Taft IV, but really, who cares? Since when do we follow these things?

Since the right wing went bat-shit insane, apparently. The right has mounted opposition against the appointment on charges that Koh is a radical who has all sorts of un-American ideas about the law. He’s an “internationalist,” in the words of legal scholar Glenn Beck, who wants to make US law subservient to the EU or UN or some other commie outfit. And The Terrorists, too. He likes them.

Specifically, three charges have been made against him: (1) he said Shari’a law (you know, what them Muslims use) can be applied to US law; (2) he said the United States is in some “Axis of Disobedience” with some really, really bad states like North Korea (and Koh is Korean…coincidence?); and (3) he thinks that other countries’ laws should trump our Constitution.

Not to go on at length about this, because it’s really not worth it, these charges are: (1) bullshit; (2) bullshit; and, finally, (3) bullshit.

The funny part is that Glenn Beck trotted out a “legal scholar” to help attack Koh. He brought out Jay Sekulow, the “chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice.” Wow, that sounds really impressive! Chief legal guy for something about America and Justice! Is that the Justice League, like with Superman and Batman?

The American Center for Law and Justice is a kooky right-wing religious organization founded by Pat Robertson. Yes, THAT Pat Robertson. You can guess where this is going. Jay Sekulow got his “PhD” from Pat Robertson’s Regent University. If it weren’t for the right-wing money and foundations, this guy would certainly not have a job. Oh, and Sekulow is a talk show host.

Harold Koh went to Regent University. Oh, wait a minute, no he didn’t. He went to Harvard, from which he graduated summa cum laude. He’s in Phi Beta Kappa. He’s written 8 highly respected books and 175 articles. He worked in the OLC in the President Reagan’s Justice Dept (you know, that hotbed of lefty radicals). He’s been defended now by just about every major legal scholar in this country.

But Jay Sekulow and Glenn Beck are going to set the record straight.

If you really want to read a defense of Koh (personally I think these idiotic charges are beneath contempt and not worthy of a response), NYU Prof. Kenji Yoshino’s post on Jack Balkin’s blog pretty much sums it up.

What really concerns me is, AGAIN, why isn’t the mainstream press calling the nutcases on their bullshit? Swiftboat attacks have been mounted against both Harold Koh and Dawn Johnsen (she compared pregnancy to slavery, you know! Except that she didn’t.). FOX – it’s just their job to repeat this shit. But ABC? NBC? CBS? Somebody? The story shouldn’t be framed as: the right said these things about Koh, the left said these things in response, he said she said. The story should be: the right said these things about Koh, we checked it out, and it’s all bullshit. The evidence is just not there. It’s a hit-job.

Seriously, if you cite someone as supporting your argument, then that person comes forward and says they said no such thing and they disagree with you, should you really just be able to keep citing them as evidence with impunity? That’s what they’re doing with Koh and Johnsen. And the press is giving it all a pass.

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