Ted Olson is no Fredo: Matt Cooper, the Washington editor of Portfolio, still thinks Ted Olson, his attorney in the C.I.A. leak case, would be a good attorney general. “I wouldn’t appoint him Attorney General because I’m not a hard-core conservative,” Cooper writes at Capital, his Portfolio blog. “But this president is.” Cooper continues:
And Ted Olson, unlike Alberto Gonzales, is incredibly well qualified, maybe the best qualified person, to take the job under a Republican president. What’s more, he’s right wing but not, I think, reflexively so. After all, he sided with former Associate Attorney General James Comey in that showdown with Alberto Gonzales and Andy Card at John Ashcroft’s hospital room. He’s got a civil libertarian streak; see his work on First Amendment issues. As an experienced litigator, he’s by nature less of an ideologue than a judge or academic.
Senate Democrats, who are threatening to reject Olson if President Bush nominates him for the post, should be careful what they wish for. “[I]f Dems reject him, that’s a bad precedent for their presidencies,” Cooper writes. “They ought to be free to appoint liberals who are as partisan and brilliant as Olson.”
(Cooper made a similar case for Olson in August.)
In a faint-praise-filled editorial titled “The Least Bad Plan,” The Washington Post editorial page gives a cautious thumbs-up to President Bush’s speech last night.
The editorial says that “the president failed to acknowledge that, according to the standards he himself established in January, the surge of U.S. troops into Iraq has been a failure — because Iraqi political leaders did not reach the political accords that the sacrifice of American lives was supposed to make possible.”
But it concludes on a supportive note:
Still, there are no easy alternatives to the present policy. In the past we have looked favorably on bipartisan proposals that would change the U.S. mission so as to focus on counterterrorism and training of the Iraqi army, while withdrawing most U.S. combat units. Mr. Bush said he would begin a transition to that reduced posture in December. But according to Gen. Petraeus, Mr. Crocker and the consensus view of U.S. intelligence agencies, if the U.S. counterinsurgency mission were abandoned in the near future, the result would be massive civilian casualties and still-greater turmoil that could spread to neighboring countries.
Mr. Bush’s plan offers, at least, the prospect of extending recent gains against al-Qaeda in Iraq, preventing full-scale sectarian war and allowing Iraqis more time to begin moving toward a new political order. For that reason, it is preferable to a more rapid withdrawal. It’s not necessary to believe the president’s promise that U.S. troops will “return on success” in order to accept the judgment of Mr. Crocker: “Our current course is hard. The alternatives are far worse.”