- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Trying to understand what is behind the delay in the Senate proceedings to confirm esteemed constitutional lawyer Theodore B. Olson for the post of the Justice Departments solicitor general is an exasperating exercise. First, Mr. Olson was turned into a bargaining chip by Judiciary Committee Democrats who were seeking instant, ultimate leverage over President Bushs nominees to the federal bench. That happened earlier this month when committee Democrats, led by Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, staged a strike against committee Republicans by walking out on committee business rather than vote on two key Justice nominations, one of which was Mr. Olsons. Apparently, flexing Democratic muscle has become a matter of greater urgency to Mr. Leahy and his party than staffing the Justice Department and what better nominee to hold up than Mr. Olson, the man who successfully argued Bush vs. Gore before the Supreme Court?
While Judiciary Democrats have since decided to return to their chairs, they are clearly not through making mischief. Late last week, the murkiest kind of allegations against Mr. Olson began to take shape in The Washington Post, resulting in another delay on Mr. Olsons committee vote. Mr. Leahy, it seems, had become "troubled" by Mr. Olsons responses regarding the so-called "Arkansas Project," a journalistic endeavor undertaken by the American Spectator Magazine in the 1990s to sift its way through the practically archeological layers of Bill and Hillary Clintons Arkansas. In response to committee questions, Mr. Olson, who joined the magazines board in 1996, stated he was not "involved in organizing, supervising or managing the conduct of those efforts."
The magazines efforts, if you recall your Clinton demonology er, chronology created headlines when charges came up along the Whitewater investigation that the Spectator had tainted David Hale, a key Independent Counsel witness against Bill Clinton, by, in effect, "buying" his testimony against the former president. This explosive, distracting, and, frankly, intimidating charge was duly investigated by an outside investigator and found to be so demonstrably false that even The Washington Posts editorial page was moved to call upon the Independent Counsels critics to admit they were wrong.
But back to the "troubled" Mr. Leahy. According to this newspapers Donald Lambro, senior Democratic committee staffers called David Brock, a onetime anti-Clinton Spectator writer who has since authored a sympathetic biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton, to read him portions of Mr. Olsons testimony. Citing Spectator dinners attended by Mr. Olson where Clinton stories may actually have been discussed, and unspecified legal work Mr. Olson performed for the magazine, Mr. Brock insists that Mr. Olson played a greater role in the "project" than the nominee says he did. Shades of the "vast, right-wing conspiracy"? Mr. Brock, incidentally, is publishing a book on that very subject.
If all this seems a bit thin, Mr. Leahy found it inspiring enough to pen a perfectly unctuous letter to Mr. Olson on the need for "credibility" in Americas solicitors general. Credibility? What has Mr. Olson, an honorable and brilliant lawyer, done to deserve the senators condescension? And what is this delay all about? It is frivolous to the point of injury for Senate Democrats to try to hold up an appointees career over allegations about his role in what was, after all, a completely lawful, journalistic enterprise.


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