Dahlia Lithwick at Slate (she’s their legal affairs analyst, smart as hell, and a Canadian) details the recent beneath the radar attack on Harold Koh, dean of Harvard Law School who Obama has chosen as legal adviser to the State Department.
As Greg Sargent at the Plum Line notes, this smear campaign has taken place largely out of sight, the mainstream media not writing much about it until today (NY Times, one piece) while the smearing has gone on repeatedly at Fox and the National Review and the NY Post.
What’s the concern/motivation? As Lithwick points out, Koh’s potential to become a Supreme Court nominee (or to get near to it) is a prime fear. There appears to be three aspects here which are relevant: moving the courts to the right has been the focus of significant organizational and propaganda efforts from the right going back to Meese or earlier and thus ANY ‘liberal’ appointee to the SC is in for a sustained smear campaign – that’s simply a given. Secondly, Koh has been very outspoken about the Bush administration’s illegalities and that will provoke the concerns of people involved and their ideological supporters. Third, Koh holds a view that American jurisprudence can be and ought to be influenced by an international frame of reference rather than the limited frame which devolves from notions of American exceptionalism. This last one runs into a lot of powerful concerns, both ideological and financial.