Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Bush Nearing Choice to Lead Justice Dept.

I've been seeing some interesting news and blog stories about President Bush's search for a replacement U.S. Attorney General, since Alberto Gonzales resigned. So far, the attorney general's position has been temporarily filled by Paul Clement, who was the solicitor-general of the United States before Bush tapped him for this temp job. The Bush White House has been on a hunt for a new AG.

Now this little New York Times article is taking some notice:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 — The White House is closing in on a nominee to replace Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, with former Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson considered one of the leading candidates, administration and Congressional officials said Tuesday.

Reports of Mr. Olson’s candidacy suggested that President Bush, in choosing the third attorney general of his presidency, might defy calls from Democrats and choose another Republican who is considered a staunch partisan to lead the Justice Department. Mr. Gonzales is departing after being repeatedly accused of allowing political loyalties to blind him to independently enforcing the law.

“Clearly if you made a list of consensus nominees, Olson wouldn’t appear on that list,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who led the Judiciary Committee effort to remove Mr. Gonzales. “My hope is that the White House would seek some kind of candidate who would be broadly acceptable.”

The choice of Mr. Olson, or almost any other candidate on the list, would almost certainly draw opposition from some Senate Democrats. Democratic leaders had called on the White House to find a respected, moderate nominee to restore calm to the Justice Department.

You have got to love the audacity of this Bush White House. Congressional Democrats have been calling for President Bush to select a moderate, consensus nominee, and who does Bush choose? A controversial, conservative ideologue? Continuing further into the NY Times story, there is this detail:

The White House said Mr. Bush had not made a decision as of Tuesday, but officials added that the choice was a priority. Associates of several prospective candidates said they believed the field had narrowed, but none had been told when to expect an announcement.

Aides to Mr. Bush are calculating that Democrats, who spent months clamoring for Mr. Gonzales’s ouster, will pay a political price if they try to block confirmation of a new attorney general. The thinking inside the White House is that Democrats cannot call for new leadership at the Justice Department, then block it.

The Bush White House believes that they can stare down the congressional Democrats on this issue. The thinking is that if President Bush selects a "qualified" nominee, and the Democrats reject it, then the Bush administration can claim that the Democrats are playing partisan politics in rejecting a nominee who could bring integrity back into the Justice Department. The problem here is that President Bush is not selecting a nominee that could bring integrity and honesty into the Justice Department, but rather Bush is selecting another partisan hack. I seriously doubt there is going to be any difference with Olson as attorney general in comparison with Bush's previous hack of Alberto Gonzales. Olson will probably continue the Bush White House politicalization of the Justice Department. Consider this from the NY Times:

If nominated, Mr. Olson would be expected to face tough questioning from Democrats, especially over his role representing the Bush campaign in the Supreme Court case that decided the 2000 presidential election, as well as his involvement in partisan attacks during the 1990s on President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mr. Olson never denied being a leading figure in the anti-Clinton campaign, but there has been a dispute over his ties to a venture sponsored by the American Spectator magazine known as the Arkansas Project that sought damaging information about the Clintons. Mr. Olson said that he was connected to some negative articles, but that he did not learn of the project until 1997, when as a board member he authorized an audit that led to its end.

After Mr. Bush was elected and Mr. Olson survived a bruising confirmation battle to become solicitor general, he was regarded as a steady presence in the office that represents the Justice Department before the Supreme Court. In 2004, he counseled James B. Comey, a former deputy attorney general, when Mr. Comey confronted the White House over the legality of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program.

Olson provided a huge service in arguing the Bush administration's case in the Supreme Court's decision on the 2000 presidential election, and Olson was involved in digging up dirt to use against the Bill and Hillary Clinton in the late 1990s. For his own services in helping to first elect Bush in 2000, it appears that Olsen will be awarded the attorney general position.

TPM Muckraker has some excellent background information on Olson, while the Carpetbagger Report has a great post on the story.

Update: It appears that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has thrown a gauntlet down in stating that Ted Olson will not be confirmed as attorney general. According to Talking Points Memo:

Senate Democrats will block Ted Olson from succeeding Alberto Gonzales as attorney general if President Bush nominates him, Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday.

"Ted Olson will not be confirmed," Reid, D-Nev., said in a written statement. "I intend to do everything I can to prevent him from being confirmed as the next attorney general."

The comment gave weight to Republican warnings that Olson, a former solicitor general, would face brutal confirmation hearings and that the White House can't afford a fight now over who will head the troubled federal law enforcement agency.


Earlier Wednesday, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a former Judiciary Committee chairman, said he talked with about 10 Democrats about Olson and that some made noises, if not outright threats, about blocking his nomination.

"I have been warned by a number of Democrats that they're not going to let that happen," Hatch said of an Olson confirmation. If the White House thinks Olson would sail through the Senate, Hatch said, "then they don't understand the people up here."

Reid's comments were the first indication that Olson's nomination would be dead-on-arrival on Capitol Hill.

Democrats, including current Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, indicated they would mount strong challenges to Olson if Bush nominates him. "He is certainly not a consensus nominee," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "He has a very political background."

It appears that the Democrats are digging in, and outright rejecting President Bush's potential nomination of Olson to the attorney general slot. And knowing how this Bush White House loves to confront the congressional Democrats, I'm guessing that President Bush will announce Olson as his AG pick, just to be spiteful against the Democrats. Is Friday a good time for Bush to announce Olson as AG, just as Alberto Gonzales is leaving?

No comments: