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The Time to Say "No" to Ted Olson is Now


(Photo by Reuters)

Today is Alberto Gonzales' last day as Attorney General of the United States.

Who will replace him? Joe Conasen at Salon wonders whether Bush would dare to nominate Ted Olson. Reporter Matt Cooper, who hired Olson for his Supreme Court appeal in PlameGate, praises Olson.

Peter G. points out in the comments here, the valid reasons for not appointing Ted Olson are not his politics, but any lapses in his integrity, principles and competence. Criticism should be leveled at him for his own actions, opinions and choices rather than our opinion of his clients.

In my view, this is fair game:

Olson was investigated by independent counsel Alexa Morrison for his role in covering up the EPA scandal of the early 80's. He testified before Congress about advice the DOJ gave to the EPA about withholding documents. (The Reagan Administration had decided to claim executive privilege and refuse to turn over documents requested by Congress during the investigation.)

While Morrison decided against bringing perjury charges against Olson for his statements to the Congressional committee, her 225 page report found his statements to be "disingenuous and misleading."

Another question to ask is whether Olson, as Attorney General, will operate within the bounds of the law? Is he conflict-free? Can he put aside his partisanship to perform his duties with political independence?

In at least one area, still being investigated by Congress, I think the answer is "no."

The New York Times, in an editorial this week, wrote:

Mr. Olson figures, at least indirectly, in the United States attorneys scandal. His law firm represented Jerry Lewis, a Republican congressman, who was investigated by the United States attorney in Los Angeles, Debra Wong Yang. While the investigation was pending, the firm hired Ms. Yang as co-chair of its crisis management group with Mr. Olson. The move raised questions, still unanswered, about whether Ms. Yang was lured away to disrupt the investigation.

And in a related area: What happens to the congressional subpoenas issued by Congress that the White House has refused to honor, claiming executive privilege? If that claim is defeated in court, can Olson be counted on to allow contempt charges to proceed? Or will he act to prevent a prosecution for contempt, thereby effectively quashing the investigations?

Olson has continued to maintain an activist, partisan role. Since he's in private practice, there's nothing wrong with that per se. But the reasons for his endorsements reflect his deeply held views about limiting judicial power, and that again raises the question of whether he can put his personal beliefs aside and be an Attorney General who acts impartially. Earlier this year, Ted Olson endorsed Rudy Giuliani for President.

He said he will help Giuliani raise money as well as offer advice on legal issues and domestic policy matters that involve constitutional questions.

....Olson gave a $2,100 contribution to Giuliani's presidential exploratory committee in December, according to FEC filings. Records also show that Olson contributed $2,000 to Giuliani's U.S. Senate campaign in 1999, before Giuliani dropped out of the race because of his battle with prostate cancer. As solicitor general, Olson was a tireless legal advocate for the Bush administration's policies in the War on Terror. In 2004, he and Giuliani co-signed a letter to Congress in support of the PATRIOT Act.

In May, he wrote this love-fest to Rudy in the National Review.

That is one very important reason why this conservative Republican is supporting Rudy Giuliani for president. I know the qualities he will look for in the persons he will appoint to the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts: Individuals of talent, quality, experience, integrity, intellect and conscious of constitutional limits on judicial authority; men and women who will respect and defer to the wisdom of the framers of the Constitution and the rights of the citizens to make policy through their elected representatives. Jurists in the mold of Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito and Chief Justices Rehnquist and Roberts. (my emphasis.)

Here are Mr. Olson's campaign contributions. In addition to Giuliani, he's donated several times to Senators Arlen Specter, John Kyl, Mel Martinez, Jeff Sessions, Orrin Hatch. All would have to vote on his confirmation.

There has been a crisis in leadership at the Justice Department. Ted Olson is simply not the person Americans can depend on to fix it. There are too many questions raised by his past and current conduct. When it comes to picking an Attorney General who, while sharing President Bush's priorities in crime-fighting, can restore independence and impartiality to the sorely diminished DOJ, selecting Ted Olson is, at best, buying a pig in a poke.

At worst, he's another partisan like Alberto Gonzales, albeit smarter. And while he may not be beholden to President Bush the way Gonzales was, he may be more dangerous, because of how beholden he is to his own extremist and deeply held partisan political beliefs -- and to Rudy Giuliani, who is probably planning on putting him on the Supreme Court if he gets elected.

The time to say "No" to Ted Olson is now.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Obviously (none / 0) (#1)
    by wg on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 02:21:28 AM EST
    the temptation to judge him by what we think of his "clients" will be there not only because that's just normal human nature but also because of  widespread suspicions about the nature of his relations with his clients.

    If just lawyerly, no problem, we all understand lawyers need to represent shady characters sometimes. If more of him being their ideological agent or groupie, then we have a problem.

    Sen. Reid seem to think it is the latter. He should know, the gentleman been around  Washington DC for quite some time.


    Even shady characters (none / 0) (#8)
    by Edger on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 11:25:05 AM EST
    should have their rights defended, no?

    Judging him by the nature of his relations with his clients is fair I think, if the relationship is a corrupt one, but judging by what we think of his "clients" is not.

    Parent

    thx (none / 0) (#15)
    by wg on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 03:32:20 PM EST
    Edger, Edger, that's exactly my point,  no need to reiterate, but thanks anyway.

    Parent
    Ha. :-) (none / 0) (#16)
    by Edger on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 05:06:27 PM EST
    Well, I never know when I might need a good defense lawyer, you know?

    Parent
    He was Bush's lawyer in (none / 0) (#2)
    by scribe on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 10:03:06 AM EST
    Bush v. Gore.  Having been instrumental in putting the present occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania and Blair House in their respective posts, his work was the efficient producing cause of everything they've done.

    Propriety limits my speech.

    'Nuf said.

    Dont blame the lawyer (none / 0) (#10)
    by NMvoiceofreason on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 12:19:49 PM EST
    ...for the stacked court.

    Blame those appointed by Bush's Father for not recusing themselves (ethically challenged, narrow recusal grounds, unwilling to sign opinion).

    The Supreme Court of the Republican Party did the job it was hired to do.

    Five people's votes counted more than millions.

    Parent

    and who helped push the nominations (none / 0) (#13)
    by scribe on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 12:26:42 PM EST
    of those appointed by Reagan and Bush I?

    Among others, Ted Olson.

    In this case, it is perfectly appropriate to blame the lawyer for the stacked court - it's accurate because he helped make it.


    Parent

    Perjury, partisanship, withholding documents? (none / 0) (#3)
    by rdandrea on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 10:10:02 AM EST
    He's perfectly qualified to be a Bush AG.

    don't judge him by his clients (none / 0) (#4)
    by jjray on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 10:15:05 AM EST
    Gonzales was incompetent and a political hack.  Olson is merely a political hack.  The root problem is independence.  The country needs and deserves an Attorney General who is independent enough to actually do to the job of investigating the executive branch of government for violations of the law.  Oh, and it would be nice if the AG would refrain from stuffing political ideologues into career DOJ positions (especially the civil rights division).  Alberto was a nightmare.  I don't trust that Olson would be an improvement.  The country would be better served by just keeping the status quo and allowing whoever is the acting AG in Alberto's absence to serve out the rest of W's term.  Olson is no less partisan than Alberto IMHO.  But he's more dangerous because he's an intelligent man who can actually make sense when interviewed.

    he didn't get those clients (none / 0) (#5)
    by scribe on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 10:23:51 AM EST
    by sitting in his office and taking whatever walked in the door.  

    No.  You're absolutely wrong here.

    He was an active part in building the Rethuglican infrastructure that coughed up the hairballs currently sitting in those high offices.  He helped cultivate the careers of the same people who now would appoint him to protect them from the laws.

    He and his clients are two sides of the same coin.

    Noscitur a sociis applies spectacularly well here.

    Parent

    Sounds like you are arguing (none / 0) (#6)
    by Molly Bloom on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 11:03:30 AM EST
    that he is the lawyer defending the mafia don who has stepped beyond mere representation and has joined the criminal enterprise.

    Parent
    More than that (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by scribe on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 11:09:55 AM EST
    he's one of the people most responsible for the don being the don.

    The blood's on his hands.

    Parent

    Olson's (none / 0) (#12)
    by tnthorpe on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 12:21:52 PM EST
    part of the problem, not any sort of solution. Is he going to reinvigorate the DOJ with more cases like this?

    "In July [2001], in a case with potentially far-reaching implications for religious liberty and church-state separation, Solicitor General Ted Olson took the unusual step of asking the Supreme Court to take up the Ohio school voucher case. Lower courts have ruled that the program's publicly funded vouchers predominantly benefit religious schools and violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Olson's brief asked the justices to uphold Cleveland's voucher program, and was seen by Court observers as a way for the administration to send a signal to the Court about the importance of the issue to the administration. Religious Right organizations and their political allies hope that the Supreme Court will use the voucher case to radically alter its interpretation of the First Amendment and open the door to a wide range of government funding for religious institutions. "

    Maybe it's brilliant lawyering, but it's horrible policy and we need someone who doesn't view the law through a radically politicized lens.

    Parent

    If I had a nickle (none / 0) (#9)
    by NMvoiceofreason on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 12:16:33 PM EST
    ...for everytime I heard a lawyer make "disingenuous and misleading" statements....

    I'd buy me one of them Oprah thingies.

    Saying "No" to Olson (none / 0) (#11)
    by NMvoiceofreason on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 12:21:21 PM EST
    ...says "Yes" to a reccess appointment of Harriet Miers or John Yoo.

    Recess? Of course. (none / 0) (#14)
    by Jim Strain on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 03:01:21 PM EST
    When it becomes obvious that there are not the votes to confirm Olson, the Republicans themselves will drag their feet.  We're already halfway to October, so it's no stretch to imagine that Ted will get a Christmas present just as soon as the Congress is out of town.

    Parent
    Can't Reid (none / 0) (#17)
    by tnthorpe on Fri Sep 14, 2007 at 05:17:51 PM EST
    put the Senate into pro forma session so that Bush can't make recess appointments?

    Rather than having the Senate adopt a month-long adjournment resolution, Reid could opt for a recess of a few days. Then, Democratic senators -- most likely from Maryland, Virginia or another nearby state -- would be asked to take turns convening the Senate briefly every few days.

    From CQ.com, though concerning the August recess.

    Better this than Y, M, or O

    Parent

    Imputing guilt (none / 0) (#18)
    by Beldar on Sat Sep 15, 2007 at 01:18:58 AM EST
    Holy cow. I am surprised to see you endorse the concept of guilt by association on the Lewis stuff, Jeralyn.  Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?  And when did you get so eager to condemn someone for his law firm colleagues' defense of someone else?  You know that Gibson Dunn is a mega-firm whose partners cross the whole range of soup to nuts, hard right to hard left and everything in between.  I'd be stunned if its Washington office doesn't include within its midst at least one potential cabinet nominee for a Clinton-44 or Obama or Edwards Administration.  Are you going to say they're disqualified too?

    Tyranny, Dishonesty, Corruption, Depravity (none / 0) (#19)
    by john horse on Sat Sep 15, 2007 at 07:57:42 AM EST
    Speaking about Alberto Gonzales, according to his farewell speech "Over the past two and a half years, I have seen tyranny, dishonesty, corruption and depravity of types I never thought possible."  But enough about the Bush administration.  

    My thoughts (none / 0) (#20)
    by NMvoiceofreason on Sat Sep 15, 2007 at 12:46:40 PM EST
    EXACTLY.

    Parent