There is an excellent editorial in the Wall Street Journal today titled Borking Mr. Olson:
Not content with having run Attorney General Alberto Gonzales out of town, the Democratic posse on Capitol Hill is already gunning for his replacement–even before he’s nominated. More preposterous still, they’re disguising this pre-emptive borking as a plea for a “consensus” choice.
The breadth of this proposed condominium appears to be on the narrow side, however, running from Harry Reid to Pat Leahy, and perhaps stretching all the way to Chuck Schumer. Revealingly, this “consensus” doesn’t seem to have room for Ted Olson, the former Solicitor General who is merely one of America’s finest lawyers.
“Ted Olson will not be confirmed,” declares Senate Majority Leader Reid. “He’s a partisan, and the last thing we need as an Attorney General is a partisan.”
Are Senate Republicans going to take this lying down? You be the judge. From a recent AP story:
“It would be unfortunate to nominate someone who can’t be confirmed,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said earlier in the day.
. . . .
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.”
Yup: lying down. The article says Sessions and Hatch believe Olson would make it through, but their weak comments don’t inspire. It takes someone tough like Mitch McConnell to speak out against this putative Borking:
The bubbling controversy spilled onto the Senate floor Wednesday, when Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned that any holdup of the yet-to-be-named nominee would make hypocrites of Democrats who urged Bush to swiftly name Gonzales’ successor. Nomination to confirmation of new attorneys general has taken on average three weeks since the Carter administration, McConnell said.
If Democrats delay the nomination, McConnell warned, “they’ll show the American people that their concern for the department was insincere.”
The WSJ editors ask:
Is Mr. Reid saying that a Republican President can’t nominate any Republican as Attorney General? Or does he mean that President Bush can only nominate a certain kind of Republican–namely one who agrees with the Senate Democratic agenda, or short of that one who can be easily rolled?
That the latter is the real Democratic game was given away by none other than Mr. Leahy, whose own “partisanship” is so raw he can’t disguise it. Number Two on Mr. Leahy’s helpful “Checklist for Choosing the Next Attorney General” is this: “A proven track record of independence to ensure that he or she will act as an independent check on this Administration’s expansive claims of virtually unlimited executive power.”
Ironically, the AP story suggests that indeed Olson may be just such a person:
Olson has displayed some independence from Bush on at least one occasion. When former Deputy Attorney General James Comey was summoned to the White House in 2004 after refusing to sign off on Bush’s warrantless surveillance program, Olson accompanied Comey for support.
But that means nothing to the sanctimonious fraud Leahy.
Finally, the editors observe:
What’s really going on here is an attempt to intimidate Mr. Bush into nominating a candidate Democrats favor. This makes it all the more disappointing that Republican Senators have failed to speak up for Mr. Olson, with some joining the “consensus” chorus. We hope it isn’t because one or more of them are angling for the Attorney General job. Voters didn’t elect them to act as an echo of the Democrats, and they’re likely to stay in the minority for a long time–and deserve to–if they won’t stand up for the prerogatives of a President from their own party.
This is a veiled reference to (at a minimum) Orrin Hatch, as the AP article makes clear:
Hatch is another name mentioned. Several Senate colleagues have said they have spoken with Hatch about the prospect and predicted that the White House could turn to him if Bush can’t convince anyone else acceptable to Democrats to take the job.
Hatch has said he discussed the prospect with the White House but believes “it’s not going to happen.”
Is it a cheap shot by the editors? I don’t know, but I’m disappointed by Hatch’s comments, whatever motivated them.
I’d love to believe that this is all a head-feint, and that Bush still has Olson’s nomination in mind.
But it’s looking like Senators aren’t going to give him much support. The same folks who allowed the disastrous Gang of 14 deal to go through are caving on Olson before the fight even begins.
Lack of courage in individual battles is not a way to win the larger war.