Carol Platt Liebau: The Voice of Impartiality

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Voice of Impartiality

Hardly, that is. The New York Times opposes Ted Olson's possible appointment of attorney general in part because he represented President Bush in Bush v. Gore.

Yet the paper runs pieces expressing shock, shock that anyone would look askance at lawyers representing terrorist detainees at Guantanomo. And imagine the outcry if Republicans opposed a Democratic AG pick because the putative nominee had representated a terrorist defendant or some other undesirable. The paper would be overflowing with platitudes about everyone's right to legal representation and a lawyer's duty to advocate on behalf of even the despised and unpopular.

It's revealing that for the Times, President Bush is apparently a more disreputable client than the kind of people who hope to kill all of us.

12 Comments:

Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Perhaps Ms. Liebau only skimmed the editorial; had she read it thoroughly, she would have grasped that the central argument in the editorial was the need for an AG who is above partisan politics. The fact that Mr. Olson represented Mr. Bush in Bush v Gore was only referenced to demonstrate his partisanship, along with several other facts.

Given the corrosive effects of partisanship on the Justice Department, surely we would all agree that the Attorney General should be someone whose reputation is as a legal mind, not a partisan.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Carol Platt Liebau said...

Arguing that there's "a need for an AG who is above partisan politics" is specious. John Ashcroft had been a partisan politician, but The New York Times didn't oppose him on that ground -- just as it wouldn't oppose a Bush nomination of any Democratic senator to the post.

Janet Reno had partisan affiliations before her nomination and the Clintons politicized the Justice Dept. to no end (just as they fired 96 US attorneys, instead of 8), but that never seemed to be a problem for the left (just as Justice Ginsburg's association with the ACLU was just fine, but every affiliation of a strict constructionist justice is cause for suspicion).

The problem for the Times -- with Ashcroft as with Olson -- is the substance of their politics, not the fact that they exist. And in contrast to Janet Reno, of course, Ted Olson has an impeccable reputation "as a legal mind."

10:04 AM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Allow me to restate my final sentence, with additional emphasis:

Given the corrosive effects of partisanship on the Justice Department, surely we would all agree that the Attorney General should be someone whose reputation is as a legal mind, not a partisan.

There was nothing wrong with selecting Mr. Ashcroft in 2001, because the political atmosphere was not so poisoned with partisanship, and the Justice Department was not in disarray. The current situation demands remedial action, not more of the same.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Chepe,

Are you suggesting Ted Olson does not have a reputation as a "legal mind"?

11:24 AM  
Blogger Carol Platt Liebau said...

The "above partisan politics" standard is a silly one since it gives the other side (or sides) veto power simply by declaring the potential nominee to be partisan.

Basically, any sane President would select the most partisan person that can be gotten through the Senate, "partisan" meaning best able to implement the President's policies.

That is why elections matter, isn't it?

1:17 PM  
Blogger Carol Platt Liebau said...

Coyote here.

The post immediately above was mine.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Earth to Carol said...

But Bush has proven he can not put the country's interest before his own specials interests.

We are all witnessing the disaster of two stolen elections.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Are you suggesting Ted Olson does not have a reputation as a "legal mind"?

Not at all. He seems to be qualified. My point was that a good nominee today should be both qualified and nonpartisan.

Coyote, if you think that nonpartisanship should not play a role in the AG post, then I suggest that, when Mr. Olson is rejected for partisan reasons, you be prepared to shrug your shoulders and say, "Oh, well, that's what the Democrats were elected to do." What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Myself, I'd rather have a government that tries to work things out, but if you really want to play partisan politics, then you'll lose in the Senate.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

A partisan is someone who adheres to or supports a person, idea, or party.

So, Chepe, you're advocating that a President elected by the people based on the ideas and party he or she represents should appoint members to his or her cabinet that DO NOT necessarily adhere to or support the president, his or her ideas, or his or her party.

Is that really what you're saying?!?!? Doesn't that sound ridiculous on its face?

Also, you've indicated that Ted Olson would not be approved by the Senate.

If I were you, I wouldn't bet on that.

6:19 AM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

In the context of American politics, Greg, partisanship usually refers to placing loyalty to one's party over loyalty to the country. People who almost always side with one party or the other are partisans.

So, Chepe, you're advocating that a President elected by the people based on the ideas and party he or she represents should appoint members to his or her cabinet that DO NOT necessarily adhere to or support the president, his or her ideas, or his or her party.

I'm saying that, if Mr. Bush wants to play that way, then the Democrats should play exactly the same game. With a majority in the Senate, Mr. Bush will surely lose -- if the Democratic Senators are just as partisan as Mr. Bush. That's the problem with partisanship: usually, when both sides play that game, everybody loses.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Wrong!

Even in American politics today, Chepe, partisanship most certainly does not inherently indicate "over loyalty to the country".

By your definition, any group of people who generally agree on a variety of subjects, and therefore find themselves on the same "side" are, by definition, partisan and therefore not loyal to their country!

This is ridiculous on its face - as is the notion that Cabinet level appointees must meet some pre-screening requirements imposed by the opposition party.

However, given the actions of Democrats regarding Iraq over the past few years, I can see where you might get your definition of partisanship. But please, don't transfer the characteristics of one party to politics as a whole in this country.

You've gotten yourself way out on a limb here, Chepe. And for what? To defend the Democratic talking points as uttered by the likes of Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer?

11:40 AM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Greg, if you don't like my definition of partisanship, please offer your preferred definition; if it's an honest definition, I doubt that there will be much operational difference between the two definitions. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that you might define partisanship as "liberalism" -- that seems to be the thrust of your third paragraph.

the notion that Cabinet level appointees must meet some pre-screening requirements imposed by the opposition party.

Cabinet-level appointees must be approved by the Senate. That's what the Constitution says, and that's what I'm saying. If a majority of the Senate says they want a nonpartisan AG, then you and Mr. Bush can huff and puff all you want, but that doesn't change the Constitution.

8:05 PM  

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