Yesterday we opined that Judge Laurence H. Silberman would get the Attorney General nomination. Now we take that back.
After our post, a knowledgeable source informed us that Laurence Silberman isn’t interested in the job. A second source, who confirmed Judge Silberman’s lack of interest, added that he might be tougher to confirm that one might expect for a longtime federal judge. See here.
Then we came across this great analysis of the AG situation, by the ever-fabulous Jan Crawford Greenburg. She writes, over at her blog, Legalities:
The White House could announce as early as Wednesday its nominee to replace Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson has emerged as a leading candidate—despite initial concerns in the administration that he could face a tough confirmation hearing, according to sources close to the process.
Olson, a highly regarded Washington D.C. lawyer, has broad support inside the administration because of his deep experience in the Justice Department in two different presidential administrations. In addition to serving as solicitor general during President Bush’s first term, Olson headed the Office of Legal Counsel during the Reagan Administration.
This is consistent with what just went up at the Drudge Report:
FLASH: Ted Olson becomes frontrunner for Attorney General, top sources tell DRUDGE REPORT; announcement could be imminent… Developing…
But we’re not so sure. Remember when Edith Brown Clement looked like the frontrunner for the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice O’Connor? This White House likes surprises.
More discussion, after the jump.
Greenburg notes what several commenters on our post did yesterday — Ted Olson’s connection to the tragic events of 9/11:
Olson argued on behalf of George W. Bush in the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore and is considered one of the nation’s top Supreme Court lawyers. He was serving as solicitor general when his wife, noted commentator Barbara Olson, was killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. She was a passenger on the hijacked American Airlines flight that crashed into the Pentagon, killing her and 58 other passengers and crew members.
JCG has heard what we’ve heard with respect to Judge Silberman:
[White House Chief of Staff Josh] Bolten contacted Olson the weekend before Gonzales’ resignation to see if he would be considered for the post, sources said. Bolten also spoke with George Terwilliger, a former federal prosecutor who was deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration, as well as Laurence Silberman, a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Olson and Terwilliger said they were willing to be considered for the position, according to sources close to the process, but Silberman told Bolten he was not…. He said firmly that he did not want to leave the federal bench.
And what about the other contenders? Greenburg reports that Larry Thompson isn’t interested — which doesn’t surprise us, for the reasons we noted yesterday.
JCG mentions retired federal judge Michael Mukasey (S.D.N.Y.), but notes that “he is seen by some as lacking in managerial experience needed to take over the beleaguered Department.” We’d agree with that; serving as the Chief Judge of the S.D.N.Y. is nothing like presiding over the enormous bureaucracy that is the Justice Department. We’d also add that Judge Mukasey probably isn’t solidly conservative enough for the White House. See, e.g., his views on the federal sentencing guidelines.
So it all comes down to Ted Olson and George Terwilliger, according to Greenburg. She gives the edge to Olson, who “is considered the stronger and more experienced candidate,” even if he might mean “a bigger fight.”
But we’re going with Terwilliger. As Greenburg points out, “Olson was confirmed as solicitor general by a razor-thin 51-47 vote in 2001, when Republicans ran the Senate.” And given Democratic control of the Senate, the Bush Administration probably wants a bigger margin for error this time around. Given the White House’s depleted political capital, they don’t need another fight.
P.S. We’ve only reprinted excerpts from JCG’s excellent analysis. You can read the entire post here.
Considered In or Out? [Legalities]
Earlier: Who Will Be the Next AG? We’re Saying Silberman