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Harold Koh Confirms That He’s Not Against Mother’s Day and Wouldn’t Impose Sharia Law

Despite some of the more extreme attacks on Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh, Obama’s nominee for counsel to the State Department, Koh skillfully defended himself at a remarkably respectful hearing on his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

Although he faced tough questions on his views of the applicability of international law from Republicans such as Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, even Lugar acknowledged the absurdity of right-wing attacks that Koh supports the imposition of Sharia law in the United States, or as Ed Whelan at National Review suggested, that Koh’s interpretation of an international law would require the abolition of Mother’s Day.

Asked about his controversial inclusion of the United States along with North Korea and Iraq as part of an “axis of disobedience” that has flouted international law, Koh explained that his intent was not to lump the United States in the same category with those countries, but to suggest that the United States needs to adhere more scrupulously to international law so as to avoid a reputation of lawlessness.

Koh noted that while his own views of the death penalty, the 2nd Amendment, and the Eighth Amendment might differ at times from those espoused by the Supreme Court, he would not hesitate to advise the State Department that it must follow the law of the land.

To his credit, Koh didn’t back down from his previous claim that the United States’ initiation of the war in Iraq in 2003 violated international law, though that clearly disappointed some Republicans. Koh said that while he wasn’t advocating any legal liability for the United States, as a result, it had already paid the price by losing the support of other countries who otherwise would have been stronger allies against terrorism.

Although Koh has been harshly criticized in the right-wing blogosphere, he’s won the praise of several eminent conservative Republican lawyers, including former Solicitor General Ted Olson and Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

We’ll see if Republicans on the committee try to prevent Koh’s nomination from moving on to a vote on the Senate floor..

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