Some Tough Love for Merrick Garland
Plus: A dissent on Lauren Boebert
In today’s Morning Shots:
Can We Talk about Abortion Without Tearing Each Other Apart?
President Biden Needs to Lead an American Democracy Campaign. Now.
A Dissent on Lauren Boebert
Fred Hiatt Remembered
Some advice for Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Let’s start with Garland, who has come under fire from both the left and the right in recent months. Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes gives Garland generally high marks, and he clearly respects and likes him. But on yesterday’s Bulwark podcast, Wittes had some tough love for the AG.
Garland, he said, needs to follow the example of his role model, the legendary Edward Levi, who “was called upon to restore the credibility of the job of attorney general after the turmoil of the Nixon era.”
This is from Levi’s NYT obituary, when he died at the age of 88:
As the 71st attorney general of the United States, Mr. Levi won wide acclaim for his stewardship of the Justice Department in the post-Watergate era. He has been regularly cited by political scientists and lawyers as the model of a modern attorney general.
When he was named to the post in 1975 by President Gerald R. Ford, there was confusion about his political affiliations and philosophy. Some news accounts questioned whether he was best described as a conservative, liberal or libertarian. When he left office two years later, the answer was no clearer, but the question seemed mostly irrelevant.
Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court, who was a senior official under Mr. Levi in the Justice Department, said in an interview that ''there couldn't have been a tougher job in Washington where the whole executive branch was in disarray after Watergate.''
Justice Scalia said that as attorney general Mr. Levi ''brought the department through its worst years.''
As he shapes his own tenure, Garland clearly has Levi’s legacy in mind.
On his first day in office, the only DOJ official he mentioned, “was Edward H. Levi, the attorney general who instituted reforms after Watergate to overhaul a department that had been politicized during the Nixon administration.”
The similarities are striking. Both Garland and Levi became attorney general after periods of turmoil that battered and tested both the rule of law and the independence of the Department of Justice. Both were respected legal scholars who were intent on restoring constitutional norms and the integrity of the institution.
But, as Wittes pointed out, there is one great contrast between Garland and Levi: During his term as attorney general, Levi was a high profile figure, who gave numerous speeches explaining what he was doing — and why it was important.
Those speeches were so noteworthy, that they’ve been collected in a book, titled “Restoring Justice,” which the publisher explains, “set out Levi’s view of the considerable challenges he faced: restoring public confidence through discussion and acts of justice, combating the corrosive skepticism of the time, and ensuring that the executive branch would behave judicially.”
Levi’s speeches, which included Congressional testimony, spoke “to issues that were hotly debated at the time, including electronic surveillance, executive privilege, separation of powers, antitrust enforcement, and the guidelines governing the FBI—many of which remain relevant today.”
Here it is:
In contrast to Levi, though, Garland gives few speeches, and maintains a low profile.
But, argues Wittes, he needs to follow Levi’s example and use his judicial pulpit to make the case for restoring justice. So far, the notoriously shy Garland hasn’t done that.
Wittes is giving him a nudge.
You can listen to my whole discussion with Wittes here.
Mona Charen, Jim Swift, Sarah Longwell and Tim Miller will helm this week’s edition of Thursday Night Bulwark. They’ll be talking all things politics starting promptly at 8 p.m. ET on Zoom. Exclusively for Bulwark+ members.
Lauren Boebert: A mild dissent
The other day we published Chris Truax’s piece, “In Defense—God Help Us—of Lauren Boebert” — which was not, in fact a defense of Boebert in any way.
Truax was, however, arguing against stripping her of her committee assignments because of her grotesquely Islamophobic comments. You should read the whole thing.
I agree in part and dissent in part.