May 24, 2014

AP’s Fram Neglects to Mention ‘Filibuster’ or ‘Waterboarding’ in Covering Judicial Confirmation of Obama’s ‘Drone Memo’ Author

At the Associated Press on Thursday, reporter Alan Fram covered the Senate’s confirmation of David Barron without using the words “filibuster” or “waterboarding.”

Given that he was confirmed on a 53-45 vote, it is highly unlikely that Barron’s nomination would have survived had Senate majority leader Harry Reid not imposed the “nuclear option” last year to prevent senators from stopping a contentious nomination by requiring 60 senators to approve the idea of even having a confirmation vote. As for waterboarding, Barron’s nomination became controversial because he is, as Fram noted, the “architect of the Obama administration’s legal foundation for killing American terror suspects overseas with drones.” 53 Democratic senators are apparently okay with that, even though many if not most of them have gone apoplectic over the idea of waterboarding known terrorists of any nationality who may have knowledge of their fellow travelers’ plans.

The headline at Fram’s report would seem to indicate that someone at AP is really unhappy with Barron’s confirmation (bolds are mine):

SENATE OKS DRONE MEMO AUTHOR TO BE FEDERAL JUDGE

DavidBarronDronesWide

The Senate approved a top federal judgeship on Thursday for an architect of the Obama administration’s legal foundation for killing American terror suspects overseas with drones, as Democrats overcame opposition by Republicans and quelled concerns by some civil libertarians.

By a near party-line 53-45 vote, senators confirmed David Barron to join the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia were the only lawmakers to cross party lines and vote against the confirmation.

President Barack Obama’s pick of Barron for the job last September drew criticism from members of both parties. It became a proxy fight over drone attacks on Americans abroad who the administration believed were terrorists, including those not on a battlefield. Also contentious was the administration’s refusal to divulge documents showing why it believes it has the constitutional right to kill U.S. citizens without trial.

Barron, a Harvard Law School professor, has also drawn opposition from Republicans who say he is too liberal.

In 2009 and 2010, Barron was acting chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel when he authored at least one such memo. His judgeship nomination gained steam this week after the administration declined to fight a federal appeals court order to release a censored version of one of his memos, though the document has yet to be made public.

On Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., mocked concerns he said some lawmakers have expressed about the possible U.S. use of drones in places like Canada and Germany.

“Oh my God, talk about grasping at straws,” Leahy said. “We’re dealing with reality here, not Alice in Wonderland.”

Barron cleared a pivotal hurdle Wednesday when senators voted 52-43 to end opponents’ efforts to derail the nomination.

That final excerpted paragraph, which was also the final paragraph of Fram’s dispatch, shows that a cloture vote under the old filibuster rules which had been in place for many decades would have almost definitely failed.

Democratic Senator Leahy clearly knows that nothing Barron or others have written would prohibit the use of drone strikes in countries which are at least nominally U.S. allies.

When Reid changed the filibuster rules, most on the left surely thought that his move wouldn’t enable an drone strike-supporting attorney to ascend to the federal bench. Just desserts, guys.

Many of the same Democrats who supported Barron would go into hysterics if Johh Yoo, the Bush administration attorney who wrote a memo supporting the waterboarding of terrorists, ever got nominated for anything, even dog catcher. Last time I checked, those subjected to waterboarding live through it, while those subjected to drone strikes — and others, some of whom may be innocents, who happen to be in the vicinity — don’t.

The hue and cry from civil libertarians was also relatively muted, and certainly justifies alleging that their outrage is selective. Does anyone seriously believe that they would have been satisfied with allowing a vote on a Republican or conservative administration’s judicial nominee before actually seeing what he had written on a controversial matter, as was the case with Barron?

Fram should have noted that Barron’s nomination would not have succeeded under the old Senate rules, and the blatant inconsistency exhibited by those who support drone strikes but can’t abide the idea of waterboarding. But this is really the Administration’s Press, so he didn’t.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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