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1/29/2009 7:20 pm

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Entered 2/1/2009, Updated 2/1/2009

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Conservatives perfected the art of turning government against government. Now liberals have a chance to make bureaucracy work. Tim Fernholz | January 29, 2009 | Since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, conservatives have made an art out of using government against government. Though conservatives have never come close to achieving their central campaign promise of shrinking the federal bureaucracy, they've done well enough for themselves simply by preventing it from doing its job. But now voters have repudiated that philosophy, at least for the time being, and government is back. GOP pollster Frank Luntz reports overwhelming support, even among Republicans, for the massive infrastructure investments in President Barack Obama's economic stimulus legislation. New appointees in the Obama administration will have the opportunity to try some jujitsu of their own, using federal agencies and offices where scandals were hatched, science ignored, and the law shattered to promote sound public policy. Sound melodramatic? Consider the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel, where the now-infamous John Yoo hatched legal opinions justifying torture, warrant-less surveillance of American citizens, and other radical expansions of executive power. The new head of the OLC is Dawn Johnsen, a law professor whose recent article, What's a President to Do? Interpreting the Constitution in the Wake of the Bush Administration's Abuses, outlines specific measures to roll-back the controversial legal gambits that characterized the OLC during the Bush administration. Other attorneys appointed to the office have been similarly outspoken about rolling back executive overreach, and the office promises to play a key role in reforming counterterrorism policy. But the best example of the Republicans' interference with the workings of government is the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.


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