Features

Justice for all

"Justice for all" Continued...

Issue: "Survivors," Sept. 29, 2007

Democratic lawmakers recently blocked Keisler's bid for a judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a position occupied before his appointment to the Supreme Court by current Chief Justice John Roberts. Now, those same Democrats must suffer Keisler as acting attorney general-with a Mukasey confirmation as their only remedy.

Lifetime achievements

1941: Born in the Bronx, where Michael Mukasey grew up

1963: Graduated from Columbia University and briefly considered a career in journalism

1967: Graduated from Yale Law School and began his legal career in private practice

1972: Entered public service as assistant U.S. attorney in the criminal division of New York's Southern District, where he worked alongside fellow prosecutor Rudy Giuliani

1976: Joined the New York law firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, where he remained for more than a decade and made partner

1987: Nominated by President Ronald Reagan to be a federal judge in New York's Southern District, a position he held for almost 20 years

1994: Presided over the ceremony to swear in Giuliani as mayor of New York City

1995: Sentenced blind sheik Omar Abdel Rahman to life in prison for his role in conspiring to bomb civilian targets throughout the New York metropolitan area

2002: Bucked federal prosecutors in ruling that U.S. citizen and suspected terrorist Jose Padilla should be granted legal counsel

2006: Retired from the bench and joined the Giuliani presidential campaign as a legal advisor

2007: Nominated by President Bush to serve as attorney general

Trouble for Ted

In passing over Olson, Bush ducks a fierce confirmation battle with Democrats

Before President Bush named Michael Mukasey as his choice for attorney general Sept. 17, many pundits seemed convinced the nomination would go to former solicitor general Ted Olson. Why the sudden change?

In the days leading up to Bush's announcement, Olson's name sparked considerable backlash from Senate Democrats. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised to block the confirmation of a prospective candidate he labeled a partisan.

Much of the Democrats' angst stemmed from Olson's role in the 2000 Supreme Court case that decided the razor-thin election between Bush and Al Gore. Olson personally represented Bush during the ordeal, forever branding himself an unprincipled party loyalist in the eyes of Gore supporters.

With Congress already resisting Bush at every turn, the president apparently opted for a conciliatory nominee around whom all elected officials could unite. Though some staunch conservatives are disappointed with the decision to avoid a confirmation fight, most Republicans agree that waging a months-long battle for a lame duck attorney general would amount to a colossal waste of time and resources.

But Bush's decision does not reflect poorly on Olson's qualifications for the position. The longtime lawyer, once considered a viable candidate for a Supreme Court nomination, has earned respect from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for his integrity and commitment to the rule of law. Lanny Davis, an outspoken Democrat and former special counsel to President Bill Clinton, had endorsed Olson as "an excellent choice for attorney general," calling him "intellectually honest" and "extremely smart."

The decision to forgo such a candidate may ultimately rest with pragmatics. But the Mukasey pick might also suggest a weakened Bush administration-or at least a wearied one.

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