Advancing a Free Society

Paul Starobin on Harold Koh

Monday, August 8, 2011

Paul Starobin has a piece in the New York Times pondering the flip-flop of Harold Koh on war powers:

During the Bush administration, he was legendary for his piercing criticisms of “executive muscle flexing” in the White House’s pursuit of the so-called war on terror.

Even more, he was described by those who knew him as the inspiration for a generation of human rights activists and lawyers passionately committed to a vision of a post-imperial America as a model of constitutional restraint. His colleagues viewed him as not only a brilliant scholar but a “liberal icon.”

Suddenly, though, Mr. Koh seems to be a different person.

Starobin quotes several friends and former colleagues of Koh’s waxing indignant at the shift (Mary Ellen O’Connell: “Where is the Harold Koh I worked with to ensure that international law, human rights and the Constitution were honored during the Bush years?”). And Starobin considers a few possible explanations for the transformation. He’s an institution man; he’s very loyal; “A mix of partisan and personal sympathies could be at work.”

Continue reading Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare