In defiance of some law of physics or other, it is an observable fact that the pitch of the liberal frenzy against Theodore B. Olson and his nomination to become solicitor general has become still more shrill this week.
In a letter to every senator, 22 House Democrats beseeched their upper-house colleagues not to let Mr. Olsons connection with the American Spectator magazine go unpunished — or, rather, uninvestigated. Dont forget, urged House Democrats led by Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, all those “irresponsible, unfounded and often scurrilous charges” made by conservative groups against former President Clinton. “Despite this complete absence of evidence,” the Democrats continued, “extreme conservatives, such as the American Spectator, continued to make false accusations and we, as Members of Congress, were required to spend considerable time in the process of refuting them.” After dabbing away tears, one might find oneself gagging on the words, “complete lack of evidence.” One thing the serially scandalous Clinton years never lacked was evidence — boxes, discs, tapes, affidavits, canceled checks and stained dresses of it. The so-called Arkansas Project was the nickname of the American Spectators journalistic effort, funded by conservative philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife, to unearth and reconstruct all the bizarre bits of evidence of malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance Bill and Hillary Clinton left scattered across their home state on coming to Washington.
So where does Mr. Olson, a former board member of the American Spectator, come in? This week, Senate Democrats seem to be moving away from the dining-room-table-talk “evidence” of Mr. Olsons alleged role as mover and shaker in the “Arkansas Project” advanced by anti-to-pro-Clintonite journalist David Brock. Now, they are seizing on documents and letters from an independent counsel investigation (released by Senate Republicans, by the way) to support their contention that Mr. Olson had knowledge of the Arkansas Project at a date earlier than the one to which he has testified. They base their assertion on a late-1993 meeting between Mr. Olson and Spectator officials at which legal representation for key Whitewater witness David Hale was discussed — along with, according to an unnamed witness, “Bill and Hillary Clinton and the need for the Spectator to investigate and report on numerous alleged Clinton scandals.” The Democrats should be careful because evidence like this is going to give smoking guns a bad name. After all, Whitewater… Hale … Clinton … investigate … scandals. They go together like cookies and milk.
How this supports the charge that Mr. Olson intended to mislead Congress about when he learned of the Arkansas Project is a mystery. Or maybe its not such a mystery, after all. Mr. Olson, a long-respected lawyer whose nomination is supported by such liberal lights as Harvards Lawrence Tribe (one of Mr. Olsons legal opponents in the case of Bush vs.Gore), Bob Bennett (Bill Clintons Lewinsky-era lawyer), Clinton administration Solicitor General Walter Dellinger and the editorial page of The Washington Post, is a staunch conservative who most famously represented President Bush in his case before the Supreme Court. As columnist Richard Cohen rather dyspeptically put it this week, “Whats wrong with payback?”
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott should send Mr. Olsons nomination to the floor of the Senate for a vote without delay to prevent an excellent nominee and honest man from having to find out.