The American people have got to stand behind the administration. And again, it’s not a partisan thing[italics Chatterbox’s].
—Solicitor General Ted Olson, April 13, on Fox News’s Hannity & Colmes.
I’m sorry to see that kind of controversy develop between people, because I don’t think it’s constructive. I think that some members of the [9/11] commission have attempted to exploit that sort of thing, for partisan purposes[italics Chatterbox’s] or for purposes that relate to their own opportunity to be in the spotlight, and I think that’s very destructive, it’s very unfortunate.
—Olson, April 14, on CNN’s Larry King Live.
Ted Olson lost his wife on Sept. 11, 2001; she was on the American Airlines flight to Los Angeles that al-Qaida terrorists hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon. Barbara Olson’s death rendered the nation’s tragedy a personal one for Olson. His rage at the killers and his grief for his wife command considerable deference.
But that deference does not require us to keep a straight face when Olson intones piously against the evils of partisanship. Olson was a card-carrying member of the “right-wing conspiracy” to destroy President Bill Clinton through endless legal investigations of his personal life. Olson never liked to advertise that fact—indeed, in his Senate confirmation hearings he so minimized his role in the American Spectator’s get-Clinton “Arkansas Project,” funded by the deep-pocketed Clinton-hater Richard Mellon Scaife, that an ungenerous person would call it perjury. But Olson was a hugely important player in that tawdry episode. “If any single figure in Washington embodied the effort to undermine Clinton,” write Joe Conason and Gene Lyons in their book The Hunting of the President: The Ten Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, “it was Ted Olson.”
Olson was an attorney for the Arkansas Project; he was an attorney for David Hale, the star witness in the Whitewater investigation; and he advised lawyers for Paula Jones, the woman whose accusations of sexual harassment provided the occasion for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr to set a “perjury trap” for Clinton regarding his affair with Monica Lewinsky. He did all this after arguing before the Supreme Court that the Independent Counsel statute, which made most of this mayhem possible, was unconstitutional. In an article he wrote under a pseudonym for the January 1997 American Spectator, Olson wrote, “[C]omparing Clinton to Nixon may underestimate the scope of the administration’s problems … the appropriate comparison for Bill Clinton may well turn out to be Don Corleone.”
And now Olson’s lecturing Americans not to ask tough questions about the Bush White House’s preparedness for Sept. 11 because that’s too … partisan? He just set a new world’s record for shamelessness.
[Update, April 17: No sooner did Olson set the world’s record than he was bested by House Majority Leader Tom “the Hammer” DeLay. In a letter to Thomas Kean, chairman of the 9/11 commission, DeLay complained, “Partisan mudslinging, circus-atmosphere pyrotechnics, and gotcha-style questioning do not get us closer to the truth.” Hasn’t the GOP got anyone who can make this complaint with clean hands?]