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.
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:
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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