Late Friday afternoon, while the media was distracted with the Supreme Court’s new vacancy and speculation as to whom the President may tap, the administration quietly abandoned their nomination of another radical—militant feminist Dawn Johnsen (the President’s choice for assistant attorney general at the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). The announcement handed organizations like FRC—and those of you who signed a petition opposing the nomination-a significant victory after 14 months of fighting her confirmation. The former counsel to NARAL Pro-Choice America was such a left-wing zealot (she once called pregnant women “fetal containers” and actively lobbied for partial-birth abortion) that even Democrats had a hard time stomaching her appointment. Two of them, Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Nebr.) and Arlen Specter (D-Penn.), had promised openly to vote her down. Others were uneasy, but their concerns were never tested.
After Johnsen was voted out of committee last year, her nomination expired on the Senate floor. When the President tried a second time, Senate Republicans promised to filibuster, leaving the leadership in the difficult position of finding 60 votes in Johnsen’s favor. Although the President is publicly blaming the GOP for her early exit, the excuse is purely posturing. As most people know, President Obama could have bypassed Congress altogether by making hers a recess appointment. He refused, hinting that even the White House knows when to step back. The last thing Democrats need after the PR disaster of the health care bill is to defend a far-Left ideologue going into the elections this fall.
In the White House statement, Johnsen says, “Restoring OLC to its best nonpartisan traditions was my primary objective for my anticipated service in this administration.” How did the President expect to restore “nonpartisan traditions” by nominating one of the most explosively liberal candidates of his term? Of course, it is a little ironic that Johnsen’s job would have been to explain the limits of President Obama’s power. Her nomination alone seemed to accomplish that! For Democrats—many of whom stuck out their political necks over ObamaCare—the announcement must have come as a relief. Johnsen’s confirmation would have given the party even more to answer for at the ballot box.
Not surprisingly, special interests on the Left are sulking over the decision, but the President’s advisors seem to realize that the upcoming elections demand a new level of White House restraint. We’ll soon see if that realization plays a role in their nominee for the Supreme Court.
Tony Perkins heads the Family Research Council. This article is excerpted from the Washington Update that he compiles for the FRC.