Weld for Attorney General

I suppose that, given how far right the GOP has gone, you could fill up the entire Obama Cabinet with Republican refugees (or even not-so-refugees). And in fact, we’ve seen the proposals already: Hagel for Sec State, keep Gates at Defense, keep Paulsen at Treasury, Colin Powell for Education.

Which party won this election, anyway?

That said, aside from Gates at Defense, which, as Spencer Ackerman has mentioned (h/t Hilzoy), makes sense both for politics and policy, the others don’t: there are lots of very talented people who can fill the ranks in lots of places in an Obama Administration.

But I’d still like to make a push for my favorite idea: William Weld for Attorney General.

The rot inside the Justice Department is pretty overwhelming at this stage, and the cause is a toxic combination of incompetence and politicization. Weld solves both.

I think it would represent a strong symbol and reality for an Obama Administration to try to start a tradition of the AG coming from a different party than the President. Yes, Weld is very centrist, and yes, he endorsed Obama. Of course: I wouldn’t want it any other way. (Bipartisanship is not masochism.). But since the Bush Administration has eroded the public faith in a professional DOJ, then it would help restore confidence if a Republican was at the top.

I don’t think you’d lose anything on policy. We would expect that an Obama DOJ will stand for things like civil rights and constitutionalism, and Weld would follow these policies (now disfavored in the GOP). His major breaks with the Republicans have been based on DOJ type issues. But reality-based Republicans and independents could have some confidence that he would not countenance the use of prosecution for political purposes.

Second, Weld knows the DOJ. He was Reagan’s Assistant AG for criminal law, and the former US Attorney in Boston. He knows what a professional DOJ looks like, and he knows how to find the buried rot there (hint: find any graduate of Regent Law School). He was particularly good while US Attorney in Boston in the prosecution of white collar crime in financial institutions.

No, I haven’t seen anyone mention him. But I think he’s worth considering seriously.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.