Obama’s Latest Radical at Justice
By: John Perazzo
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, April 27, 2009
A 1986 graduate of Yale Law School, Johnsen arrives in Washington with impeccable leftist credentials. From 1987-88 she served as a staff counsel fellow for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization that routinely has defended the rights of terrorists, illegal aliens, and enemies of America generally. For the ensuing five years, she was employed by the National Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League (now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America).
From there, she went on to serve in the Clinton Justice Department from 1993-98. And today she is a national board member of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, which aggressively recruits and indoctrinates young law students and helps them rise to positions of power within the legal system—in an effort to drag all of American jurisprudence ever-farther to the political left.
Johnsen’s views on a wide range of issues mirror Obama’s. This is particularly true of her deeply felt sense that America is a nation with a great deal for which to apologize.
Johnsen’s opinion of the United States and its legal tradition, for instance, is largely negative. She considers America to be a nation rife with injustice, especially in the form of racial discrimination against nonwhites. In an April 2008 article in Slate, Johnsen lamented that “the U.S. incarcerates more of its people—and for longer periods—than any other nation, bar none.” Most disturbing, she said, was “the devastatingly disproportionate rates of imprisonment of racial minorities.” This inequity, she explained, was in large measure a result of “how we treat drugs: the crack/cocaine disparity and beyond that, the fact that African Americans face disproportionately higher rates of arrest, prosecution, and conviction and disproportionately longer sentences.” “And those disparities,” Johnsen added, “… translate to amazingly high rates of African Americans who subsequently are prohibited from voting, unable to find jobs, ineligible for student loans … the ramifications go on and on and on.”
There was just one problem with Johnsen’s righteous scolding about racism in the justice system: the charge wasn’t true. The research on these issues is now clear: race is not a factor that influences arrest rates, prosecution rates, conviction rates, or the severity of sentences—not even with regard to crack and powder cocaine, the example Johnsen cites specifically.
Johnsen also has been vocal on the issue of America’s national security. In a 2008 article condemning “Bush administration abuses,” she characterized the war on terror as an ill-advised overreaction to a single act of terrorism (9/11), rather than as a long-overdue response to years of jihadist provocations (including such incidents as the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole).
Johnsen further impugned the “irresponsibly and dangerously false” scholarship of Bush Office of Legal Counsel staffer John Yoo, who was the lead author of a key Justice Department memo that attempted to arrive at an operational and statutory definition of the term “torture.” As National Review Online editor Andrew McCarthy points out, Johnsen, uninterested in Yoo’s nuance of thought, “blithely presume[d]” the “illegality” of “the technique of waterboarding to interrogate some high-level al Qaeda detainees.” “Indifferent to the fact that our enemies train to resist known interrogation methods,” says McCarthy, “Johnsen wants all tactics spelled out explicitly in advance.”
Johnsen plans to press the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resource Division to “pursue innovative litigation and policy initiatives, such as the pressing issue of climate change.” Moreover, she embraces a broad-based “progressive agenda” that advocates “universal health care, public funding for childcare, paid family leave, and … the full range of economic justice issues, from the minimum wage to taxation policy to financial support for struggling families.”
Throughout her professional career, Johnsen has displayed a rigid intolerance for opinions contrary to her own. For example, she believes that nominees for the federal judiciary should automatically be disqualified from consideration if they subscribe to the concept of Constitutional originalism—as opposed to the notion that the Constitution is a malleable “living document” whose meaning can be molded to fit the preferences of activist judges.
Then there is the matter of abortion. Johnsen unequivocally supports the notion that all women in the United States should have a right to abortion-on-demand at any point in their pregnancies, for any reason whatsoever. This is a moral decision that Johnsen has a perfect right to make. But she also believes that taxpayers, and not the women having the abortions, should be forced to pay for them. Thus Johnson decried the Hyde Amendment of 1976—which permitted abortion but prohibited federal funding of the procedure—as a “callous” and “discriminatory” measure that disproportionately harmed low-income women. Not surprisingly, the ACLU and NARAL took precisely the same position.
In 1989 Johnsen filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, which centered around a Missouri law that did not ban abortions but restricted the use of state funds to finance them. Johnsen asserted that by means of this restriction, the government was “conscript[ing]” women’s bodies “for its own ends,” and was relegating many women to a state of “forced pregnancy” and “involuntary servitude” where they were compelled “to provide continuous physical service to the fetus in order to further the state’s asserted interest.” In these respects, she said, any ban on federal funding for abortion was akin to slavery and thus constituted a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment.
Characterizing women with unwanted pregnancies as “the inevitable losers in the contraceptive lottery” who “no more ‘consent’ to pregnancy than pedestrians ‘consent’ to being struck by drunk drivers,” Johnsen further contended that any restrictions on taxpayer-funded abortions had the effect of “reduc[ing] pregnant women to no more than fetal containers.” Without government-provided abortion counseling to give them “proper information about contraception,” she added, women simply “cannot be said to have a meaningful opportunity to avoid pregnancy.”
Four years later, Johnsen penned another amicus brief in the Supreme Court case Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic, where she characterized the efforts of anti-abortion petitioners as “terrorist” behavior that was “remarkably similar to the conspiracy of violence and intimidation carried out by the Ku Klux Klan.”
In Johnsen’s view, no judicial nominee should be eligible to serve on the federal bench unless he or she openly and unequivocally abjures any and all restrictions on access to taxpayer-funded abortion.
Dawn Johnsen is, in short, a political activist. The fact that she has been appointed to a post that calls for dispassionate legal analysis should be of immense concern to all Americans.
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