Over the last few days, John McCain has taken some hits on remarks he made last year about judicial nominations, specifically that he might not have chosen to nominate Samuel Alito for his overt conservatism. While this got overblown — McCain supported Alito and said he’d have nominated John Roberts — conservatives wondered whether McCain would fight for conservative jurists or sacrifice constructionists for comity with the Senate. Now, McCain may have an answer for the question:
Ted Olson, fomer U.S. Solicitor General and conservative legal icon, has just informed me that he is endorsing John McCain.
The assurance conservatives take from this endorsement will depend on the level of involvement Olson takes with McCain’s effort. When Rudy Giuliani needed to convince conservatives that his pro-choice politics would not impact his determination to appoint constructionists to the bench, he turned to his old friend and conservative stalwart Ted Olson to lead his judiciary advisory panel. It mostly calmed nerves on the Right, as most realized that Olson would bring conservative credibility and strength.
As it turns out, Rudy never got close enough to the nomination for the reassurance to have any practical value. If Olson joins McCain’s staff in a similar position, will that make it easier for conservative voters to at least have confidence in a McCain administration’s efforts to appoint constructionists? After all, McCain has a long track record as a pro-life politician, unlike Rudy.
It will be interesting to see whether this makes any difference, and how McCain puts Olson to use in the campaign. I’d bet we’ll see Olson at CPAC.