Mr. Obama's strong legal nominees
THE SENATE has an opportunity - and a responsibility - to prove that the confirmation experience of Dawn E. Johnsen was an aberration.
Ms. Johnsen was nominated in 2009 to head the Justice Department's influential Office of Legal Counsel. She had to withdraw in April after Republican senators blocked a floor vote on her nomination in large part because Ms. Johnsen had criticized the Bush adminstration's detention and interrogation policies. Now some conservatives are grumbling about President Obama's new OLC nominee - because she apparently has no publicly enunciated views on national security issues. Neat trick.
Their protestations, in any case, miss the mark. Policy disagreements with the president should not be used to deny him his choice of executive branch personnel. These appointees, who do not enjoy life tenure, are meant to carry out the president's prerogatives. Every nominee should get an up-or-down vote. And except for disqualifying ethical or legal lapses or views so extreme as to be far afield from the mainstream, the president should get his picks.
In Virginia A. Seitz, Mr. Obama has found an able and respected lawyer to lead the OLC. That office issues binding legal opinions that affect every corner of the executive branch. In her private practice at the D.C. office of Sidley Austin, Ms. Seitz has focused on labor and employment issues, as well as administrative and constitutional law. She was a clerk for Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan.
Mr. Obama also recently gave Donald B. Verrilli Jr. the nod to fill the solicitor general's post left vacant when Elena Kagan was nominated to the Supreme Court. Another former Brennan clerk, Mr. Verrilli has been working as a deputy in the White House counsel's office, and before that he spent more than 20 years in private practice, specializing in First Amendment, intellectual property and telecommunications law.
His experience as an appellate lawyer - he has argued 12 cases before the Supreme Court and some 30 others in the federal courts of appeal - should serve him well if confirmed as the government's top advocate before the high court.