—unless you’re a mild-mannered, decent, middle-of-the-road Democrat. In which case, like all nice guys, you finish last. This is from Jeffrey Toobin’s book, Too Close to Call, on the theft of the White House in 2000:
Theodore Olson … was rewarded by the president with perhaps the greatest prize any litigator can receive: Bush named Olson solicitor general of the United States, the government's chief advocate before the Supreme Court.
As it happened, the vote on Olson's nomination took place just as the Senate was switching from Republican to Democratic hands, and the Democrats could easily have prevented it from coming to a vote. Because of Olson's role in the election controversy — as well as his questionable activity in support of extreme anti-Clinton organizations — some in the Democratic Party wanted to deny him this plum appointment.
But in a not-so-distant echo of the Democrats' approach and behavior during the recount, the new Senate leadership decided to be gracious and allow Olson to assume his post.
During the Clinton years, the Republican-controlled Senate had refused to confirm any number of Democratic appointees who were far less controversial than Olson. Indeed, Senator Jesse Helms and others had stopped Gore's adviser Walter Dellinger from ever getting a vote on his nomination to be solicitor general.
But Senate Democrats, showing off their gene for unrequited conciliation, handed Olson a pass for the same job. (Olson's confirmation gave rise to some rueful speculation by some of Gore's Florida operatives. If Gore had won, they figured, the Senate Republicans would have refused to confirm them for anything — and President Gore would have sacrificed them rather than force the issue.)
You can safely bet that the next president will be a Democrat backed by Democratic majorities in both houses. Unhappily you can also bet that his or her judicial appointments will be like Clinton’s: solid, decent, well-qualified, moderate, middle-of-the-road jurists.
Exactly what the nation needs to challenge the five justices (now reinforced by two more hard-right clones) who soiled their robes by appointing Bush to the White House.
The last Democratic president willing to fight to put liberals, women and minorities on the federal bench was Jimmy Carter. Often at considerble political cost to himself, he succeeded. But unhappily he never got the chance to fill even one Supreme Court vacancy.
And so for at least a generation to come we will be saddled with the residue left on the high court by Ronald Reagan and the Bush family.