The Dirty Dozen

Obama's most outrageous nominees.

By From the June 2010 issue

If a man is to be known by the company he keeps, then we know a lot about President Obama's ideology and priorities. After his election in 2008, he won praise for choosing such non-ideological advisers as Robert Gates, Paul Volcker, Larry Summers, and James Jones. Yet when it has come to selecting officials for less prominent positions, the president has often appointed people who have little admiration for the U.S. Constitution and espouse a radical agenda. A year and a half into his presidency, Obama has repeatedly appointed outré liberals to serve as his aides, executors, regulators, judges, and legal advisers.

A typical example is White House director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren, also known as the "science czar." He has argued vigorously for population control since the 1960s. As David Freddoso reported in the Washington Examiner, he's even written in favor of forced population control. As he considers in his book Ecoscience:

[R]esponsible parenthood ought to be encouraged and illegitimate childbearing could be strongly discouraged. One way to carry out this disapproval might be to insist that all illegitimate babies be put up for adoption -- especially those born to minors, who generally are not capable of caring properly for a child alone....It would even be possible to require pregnant single women to marry or have abortions, perhaps as an alternative to placement for adoption, depending on the society.

To be sure, Holdren's position on the nuclear family is likely to offend liberals as well.

Holdren has repeatedly made apocalyptic claims about climate change and the environment. In 1971, he predicted that "some form of ecocatastrophe seems almost certain" before the end of the century. He's also gone as far as to call for a "de-development" campaign in the United States. With Department of Labor data showing 3 million job losses since Obama's inauguration, such a campaign may well be under way.

Holdren could have had a friend in the head of the Office of Legal Counsel were it not for a pesky public and the Senate. The head of OLC is responsible for reviewing all executive orders and advising the attorney general and the Executive Branch on the legality of their actions. Dawn Johnsen, who has compared pregnancy to slavery, was the person President Obama wanted in that position. The former ACLU attorney wrote of pregnant women in an amicus brief she signed in 1989, "Statutes that curtail her abortion choice are disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude, prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment, in that forced pregnancy requires a woman to provide continuous physical service to the fetus in order to further the state's asserted interest." She was more than a one-hit wonder. While working for the Abortion Rights Mobilization, she sought to strip the Catholic Church of its tax-exempt status, costing the Church millions of dollars in legal fees in a case it eventually won. Upon her nomination in 2009, Senate conservatives began to invoke Frankie Valli, as in "Dawn, go away." In early April she did, as her nomination was quietly withdrawn.

Recess-appointed National Labor Relations Board member Craig Becker would like to de-develop the private sector on behalf of Big Labor. The SEIU and AFL-CIO associate general counsel not only advocates Card Check, but also believes every worker should be a dues-paying union member. In 1998 he termed union elections "profoundly undemocratic" because workers can choose to remain unrepresented. Becker is on a five-member panel governing the relations between unions and the private sector.

Chai Feldblum, another recess appointee, is now commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Having cut her teeth clerking for Justice Harry Blackmun, author of Roe v. Wade, she has also done advocacy work for the Human Rights Campaign and the ACLU. Asked by the Weekly Standard in 2006 about weighing considerations when religious liberty and "sexual liberty" conflict, she replied, "I'm having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win."

Sexual liberty remains a top administration priority. Kevin Jennings, assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools at the U.S. Department of Education, believes schools are trying to brainwash children to be heterosexual. At a speech reportedly given in Iowa in 2000, Jennings declared, "Every time kids read Romeo and Juliet, or they're encouraged to go to the prom, or whatever it is, kids are aggressively recruited to be heterosexual in this country."

In 1988, when Jennings taught high school in Massachusetts, a male sophomore reported to him that he was having sex with an older male. Rather than report the incident, Jennings told the child, "I hope you knew to use a condom." They don't call him "safe schools czar" for nothing.

The third czar on our list -- Obama's "green jobs" czar Van Jones, the former special advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation in the Council for Environmental Quality -- was the ultimate charm. He resigned last September amid news that he had signed a petition suggesting that President Bush "may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war," and had called Republicans "assholes" in a speech prior to his joining the administration.

But there was much more in his file. About the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005: "My fore-bearers would have known better than to expect the U.S. government to prioritize saving Black people from serious danger, in the first place." About the Columbine massacre: "You've never seen a Columbine done by a black child. Never. They always say, ‘we can't believe it happened here. We can't believe it's these suburban white kids.' It's only them. Now, a black kid might shoot another black kid. He's not going to shoot up the whole school." He has also accused "white polluters" of "steering poison into communities of color." He will be teaching at Princeton next fall.

While putting up with lefties, President Obama has reached out to believers in faith-based programs. Mercedes Marquez is Obama's assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development for Community Planning and Development. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Marquez spent $18,819 of Los Angeles Housing Department funds on Zen Buddhist management training back when she was general manager. The training included playing with sticks, breathing exercises, and standing practices. Some colleagues found the routine intriguing, although others argued they were pointless and insulting because they already knew how to stand and breathe. Marquez is a Zen priestess.

Then there are Obama's judges. In 2007, the future president told Planned Parenthood what he was looking for in his judicial nominees:

Good intellect, you read the statute, you look at the case law and most of the time, the law's pretty clear. Ninety-five percent of the time. Justice Ginsb[u]rg, Justice Thomas, Justice Scalia they're all gonna agree on the outcome.

But it's those five percent of the cases that really count. And in those five percent of the cases, what you've got to look at is -- what is in the justice's heart. What's their broader vision of what America should be. Justice Roberts said he saw himself just as an umpire but the issues that come before the Court are not sport, they're life and death. And we need somebody who's got the heart -- the empathy -- to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old -- and that's the criteria by which I'll be selecting my judges. Alright?

No, not "alright," unless you have an overwhelming majority in the Senate, though even then, some of Obama's nominees have been too radical to get through the Democrats.

The president nominated Louis Butler to be a U.S. judge for the Western District of Wisconsin last September 30, and then re-nominated him in January after his nomination was sent back by the Senate. Butler was the first Wisconsin supreme court judge voted off the bench in 40 years. Yet the president thought it a good idea to send him back to Wisconsin as a federal judge. Among his judicial highlights are ending the state's tort limits in Ferdon v. Wisconsin and establishing a "collective liability" in Thomas v. Mallett, where he found that painting companies that did not use lead paint would be liable for those companies that did. John Fund reported in the Wall Street Journal that Butler has also come to be known as "Loophole Louie" for his soft record on crime, including frequent overturning of convictions and expansive interpretation of the Wisconsin constitution with respect to the rights of criminal defendants.

U.S. district judge Robert Chatigny also embodies the empathy standard. Obama has nominated him to serve on the 2nd District Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2005, Chatigny presided over the case of Michael Ross, the "Roadside Strangler" convicted of kidnapping, raping, and murdering four women by a Connecticut jury. Chatigny asserted he believed Ross suffered from a "disease" of "sexual sadism." He went on to say, "I suggest to you that Michael Ross may be the least culpable, the least, of the people on death row."

Chatigny's empathy toward sex offenders preceded Ross. In 2001 he struck down Connecticut's sex offender registry law. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed that ruling.

Elsewhere on the licentiousness front, Obama has nominated Edward Chen to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. A former staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, Chen signed an ACLU brief that opposed efforts by parents to restrict children from viewing Internet pornography at libraries. Eagle Forum has reported that while serving as a U.S. magistrate judge, Chen took a partisan shot at Sarah Palin, saying that he had "enough executive experience to run for vice president. Kind of like being the president of the Wasilla PTA, except I have real responsibilities." The Washington Times reported that Chen even stopped a sheriff deputy's request to have a man who bit him tested for AIDS. How dare anyone disrespect a vampire's right to privacy?

Another ACLU friend of Obama is recently confirmed David Hamilton. As a trial judge, Hamilton ruled against abortion waiting periods and regulations for sex offenders and struck down a 188-year tradition of sectarian prayer at the Indiana State House. His abortion waiting period ruling was later overturned by the Seventh District Court -- the court he now sits on.

UC Berkeley professor and former ACLU board member Goodwin Liu, an Obama nominee to the Ninth Circuit, has the most liberal record of them all. In a podcast for the American Constitution Society, Liu says "the Constitution should be interpreted in ways that adapt its principles and its text to the challenges and conditions of our society in every succeeding generation." He's written that welfare rights, such as medical care, housing, food, could be interpreted as constitutional rights over time. As he put it in a 2008 law review article aptly titled "Rethinking Constitutional Welfare Rights,"  "I argue that judicial recognition of welfare rights is best conceived as an act of interpreting the shared understandings of particular welfare goods as they are manifested in our institutions, laws, and evolving social practices."

During the confirmation of Justice Alito, Liu testified against him saying that his views were, "at the margin, not the mainstream," and that Alito's America "is not the America we know. Nor is it the America we aspire to be." Instead, Goodwin Liu's mainstream America is a welfare state of positive rights. Incidentally, Goodwin Liu does not meet the American Bar Association standards for becoming a federal judge, due to his having been a member of a state bar for less than 12 years and his lack of experience as a trial lawyer.

Liu co-wrote his coming book, Keeping Faith with the Constitution, with Christopher Schroeder, recently confirmed Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy. He will likely be involved in judicial selection. If he is like Goodwin Liu, round the count to a baker's dozen and expect many more appointments with the heart and the empathy that Obama likes to put on the bench.

We've listed 12 names, in part because of the snappy alliteration, but we could just as easily have listed "the dirty thirty." Despite the many leftists serving in the administration, those in the top senior positions come across as relatively distinguished and centrist. The president benefited from picking Secretary Gates, Jim Jones, and Larry Summers. Regarding the Supreme Court, when Justice Sotomayor was scrutinized, she abandoned the empathy standard. This pattern of appointing radical nominees to less well-known positions while appointing moderates and less ideologically driven officials to more prominent positions indicates that the public may want to keep closer tabs on the whole package.

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About the Author

Brian O'Connell is the Collegiate Network fellow at The American Spectator and former editor-in-chief of the Stanford Review.