Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why We All Should Care about Harold Koh's Confirmation

As Diane Amann and Chris Borgen have blogged, the cloture vote on Harold Koh's nomination to be Legal Advisor at the Department of State is scheduled for tomorrow. Although many of us have blogged about his qualifications for months, I want to reiterate in these final moments before the vote his tremendous qualifications and why we all should care about whether he is confirmed.
It is hard to imagine a career that could better prepare one for this job than the one that Harold Koh has had thus far. After receiving his education at Harvard and Oxford, he served as a law clerk at both the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. He then practiced law at the leading law firm Covington and Burling and worked at the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department before becoming a professor at Yale Law School. He was previously unanimously confirmed as an Assistant Secretary of State, and has most recently served as Dean of Yale Law School. He is a leading expert on private and public international law, foreign affairs, and national security, with his published work including eight books and over 150 articles. He has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court and testified before Congress on over twenty occasions. His many honors include multiple honorary doctorates, medals, and awards, including the 2005 Louis B. Sohn Award from the International Law Section of the American Bar Association and the 2003 Wolfgang Friedmann Award for lifetime achievements in international law from Columbia Law School.
The reason we should care about his confirmation, however, goes beyond the fact that someone with his qualifications and record should be confirmed. Even brief glance at the week's news, with major developments in both Iran and Pakistan, shows how important it is for the United States to have its State Department working at top capacity. Someone like Harold Koh, with his wealth of expertise, could help us handle these situations in the best way possible. In the months that his nomination has been held up, our country has not had the benefit of his advice. Unless he is confirmed tomorrow, we can look forward to more months without the State Department having a legal advisor. These delays don't just hurt the Democratic Party and the Obama administration. They hurt our country. They make us less ready to take on difficult international challenges and make us look petty.
It is time to rise above partisanship and confirm Harold Koh. I urge anyone who has time today to call your Senators and encourage them to put the good of the country before political gamesmanship. For more details on what you can do, visit this bipartisan Facebook site supporting Harold Koh's nomination.

1 comment:

Diane Marie Amann said...

Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) has released a statement in favor of Koh's nomination. Full statement is available at http://lugar.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=314922&. Excerpts:

... After reading his answers to dozens of questions, attending his hearing in its entirety, meeting with him privately, and reviewing his writings, I believe that Dean Koh is unquestionably qualified to assume the post for which he is nominated. ...
... Both in private meetings and in public testimony, Dean Koh has affirmed that he understands the parameters of his role as State Department Legal Adviser. He understands that his role will be to provide policymakers objective advice on legal issues, not to be a campaigner for particular policy outcomes....
... Absent extraordinary circumstances, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton should be able to choose the individuals on whom they will depend for legal analysis, interpretation, and advice. Given Dean Koh’s record of service and accomplishment, his personal character, his understanding of his role as Legal Adviser, and his commitment to work closely with Congress, I support his nomination and believe he is well deserving of confirmation by the Senate. ...