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Supreme Courtship
by Christopher Buckley

> August 2008

Who are the Most Likely Candidates to become Attorney General if John McCain Wins the Presidency on November 4th?
What about if Barack Obama wins?

by Steven Sarshik

The Republican candidate has a military background and not a legal one, so in selecting an Attorney General he may be expected to rely heavily on the advice of political colleagues.  McCain was critical of Michael Mukasey’s comments about waterboarding last year, but nevertheless voted for his confirmation as Attorney General.

Here are some of the people likely to be considered for appointment by a Republican President: 

nantucket flagLINDSEY GRAHAM is the Senior Republican Senator from South Carolina and the close friend of John McCain.  Graham has served as Co-chairman of the McCain Presidential Campaign and has traveled with the Arizona Senator on inspection tours of Iraq.  He has a ninety percent conservative voting record.  Graham is a graduate of the University of South Carolina Law School.  He served as a Judge Advocate at McIntire Air National Guard Station, and since that time he has claimed to have an expertise in questions relating to military justice.  Graham first made a name for himself while he was in the House of Representatives and pushed for the impeachment of Bill Clinton.  In the Senate, he has worked to win support for the Bush Supreme Court nominees.  Democrats in Congress claimed that he coached Judge Joseph Alito prior to his confirmation hearing.  During the hearing, Graham asked Alito, “Are you a closet bigot?  Alito responded:  “I’m not any kind of bigot.  I’m not.”  Negatives:  McCain may need him in the Senate.  And during a confirmation hearing Senate Democrats may give him a difficult time about the loss of freedoms which occurred during the Bush administration.

nantucket flagRUDY GIULIANI is the well-known former Mayor of New York City.  He is sometimes referred to as “Mr. 9/11” because he constantly trumpets his experience dealing with terrorist threats in New York City – although no one has ever explained what he has actually done to combat terrorist threats, except place the New York City emergency command center in a building known to be a likely terrorist target.  Giuliani received a great deal of favorable press after the 9/11 attack, and Time Magazine named him Person of the Year.  Giuliani is a graduate of New York University School of Law.  He voted for Democrat George McGovern in 1972 and then became a staunch Republican.  His first big job was as US Attorney in the Southern District of New York where he prosecuted organized crime figures and Wall Street financiers.  His campaign for the presidency in 2008 fizzled, and since that time he has served as a big supporter of McCain.  Negatives:  He probably would not be enthusiastic about disclosing crucial information about Giuliani Partners, his security consulting firm, during the Senate confirmation process.  And he would probably look foolish discussing his recommendation of Bernard Kerik to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security.

nantucket flagJOSEPH LIEBERMAN is a Senator from Connecticut and ran on the Democratic ticket with Al Gore in the year 2000.  Lieberman pretty much cut his ties to the Democratic Party by campaigning for his close friend John McCain and appearing at the Republican Convention where he not only supported McCain, but criticized the Democratic candidate.  If McCain wants to claim that he is building a cabinet that cuts across party lines, he may look to find a place for Lieberman, but after-all Lieberman is more a Republican than a Democrat anyway.  Lieberman graduated from Yale Law School.  His interest in foreign policy may cause him to go after the job of Secretary of State.  Negatives:  In terms of sincerity, he makes former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez look good.

nantucket flagFRED THOMPSON should probably be the South’s favorite candidate for the position. Thompson first got a taste of politics when he served as the campaign manager for Senator Howard Baker in 1972.  He received some notoriety when he worked as minority counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee, and there are some who believe that he came up with Senator Baker’s famous question:  “What did the President know, and when did he know it?”  Thompson served as Senator from Tennessee from 1994 to 2002 and is considered a good friend of John McCain.  He ran for President briefly in 2008, and the press criticized him for being lazy on the campaign trail.   He has appeared in many movies and was tapped to play District Attorney Arthur Branch on Law and Order for several seasons. Thompson is a graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Law.  Negatives:   He would certainly find directing the Department of Justice more difficult than playing a prosecutor on TV, and he may turn out to have a streak of independence.

nantucket flagTHEODORE OLSON is a prominent Washington lawyer and has a solid conservative following.  He argued Gore v. Bush before the Supreme Court in 2000.  He has represented a number of prominent individuals including Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.  He obtained his law degree from Boalt Hall at the University of California Berkeley.  He served as Solicitor General in the Bush Administration until 2004 (and was considered for the spot of Attorney General after Alberto Gonzalez left).  As Solicitor General he argued before the Supreme Court that federal habeas corpus law did not apply to the prisoners confined at Guantanamo.  Negatives:  He won confirmation as Solicitor General by an extremely narrow margin (51-47).  Would a Democratic majority now accept him for Attorney General or consider him too partisan and reject his nomination?

NOT GIVEN MUCH OF A CHANCE:   Eugene Scalia, son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and a partner in the Washington office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.