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Former Bush-era Solicitor General Paul Clement, the only senior Justice official to survive when the U.S. attorneys scandal and related troubles brought down the entire senior echelon of the Gonzales Justice Department, offers an important explanation, via the Associated Press:
President Barack Obama opposes the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military, so why are Obama administration lawyers in court fighting to save it? The answer is one that perhaps only a lawyer could love: There is a long tradition that the Justice Department defends laws adopted by Congress and signed by a president, regardless of whether the president in office likes them. This practice cuts across party lines. And it has caused serious heartburn for more than one attorney general.
The tradition flows directly from the president’s constitutional duty to take care that the laws are faithfully executed, says Paul Clement, who served four years in President George W. Bush’s administration as solicitor general, the executive branch’s top lawyer at the Supreme Court. Otherwise, Clement says, the nation would be subjected to “the spectacle of the executive branch defending only laws it likes, with Congress intervening to defend others.”
Of course this perfectly explains the performance of the Justice Department while Mr. Clement was near its helm. For instance, the Justice Department didn’t like the Anti-Torture Statute, but it enforced the statute anyway, which is why so many senior officials of the Bush era were prosecuted and sent to prison for their programmatic endorsement of torture and official cruelty, which are felonies. And, even though the Justice Department did not approve of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and its felony counts for warrantless surveillance by federal agents, it faithfully implemented the statute, which again explains a slew of very unpleasant prosecutions of senior government officials. A Justice Department that was less scrupulous about the “faithful execution” clause would have written secret memos advancing cockamamie theories about unlimited executive power and then simply ignored the statutes. But of course the Justice Department with which Mr. Clement was associated would never have contemplated such a thing.
Clement’s predecessor as solicitor general in the Bush Justice Department, Ted Olson, flatly disagreed with his assessment. “It would be appropriate for them to say ‘the law has been deemed unconstitutional, we are not going to seek further review of that,’” Olson told ABC News. The principle that the Holder Justice Department is seeking to uphold is not fidelity to the Constitution, but rather legal policy schizophrenia.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”