In deciding on his nominee for Attorney General, President Bush should focus on three main qualities. The nominee should be a strong conservative and, in particular, one who takes a hard line (as Alberto Gonzales did) on legal issues relating to the war on terror. The nominee should also command a high level of respect inside the Justice Department, which probably entails having significant prior experience at the Department. Finally, the nominee should be someone the Democrats will look bad trying to block, as they likely will attempt do.
The two names that immediately come to my mind based on these criteria are Ted Olson, the Bush administration’s first Solicitor General, and Paul Clement, his successor in that position and now the acting AG. Olson probably better meets the final criterion — tough for the Dems not to confirm. In addition, Clement, a much younger man, might well be nominated for the Supreme Court one day, and his prospects for confirmation could suffer if he’s in charge of the Justice Department during the contentious remainder of this administration. On the other hand, Clement would accept the nomination; I don’t know whether Olson would.
Robert Bork notes that during the confirmation process, the Senate Dems may demand the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the firing of the U.S. attorneys. President Bush should categorically reject this demand. If the Senate won’t confirm his nominee without this concession, Bush should make a recess appointment.
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