Paul Clement, the solicitor-general of the United States, will step in as acting attorney general when Alberto Gonzales finishes boxing up his memories on September 17. (You know, the ones he told the Senate he didn't have.) Clement isn't likely to stay in office very long, as President Bush intends to appoint a permanent replacement for Gonzales, but for an unspecified amount of time, Clement will be the nation's chief law enforcement official. (The acting attorney general can remain in office for up to 210 days starting from the departure of his Senate-confirmed predecessor, Mike Allen reports; but this is, to say the least, unlikely.) So that raises the question: Who is Paul Clement, anyway?
You might say he's... a conservative. Primarily a legal scholar an attorney in private practice, Clement clerked for two of the most conservative judges in the country, Lawrence Silberman of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He came to the solicitor-general's office in 2001 as the deputy SG on the strength of serving on John Aschroft's Senate staff, and for helping construct the winning argument in Bush v. Gore. It was something of a consolation prize: Ashcroft unsuccessfully tried to make Clement chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, but was blocked when the White House backed Jay Bybee for the position.
According to a 2004 Legal Times profile, Clement's consistent conservatism hasn't stopped him from winning the respect of his ideological opposites:
Indeed, in D.C.'s clubby Supreme Court Bar, where reputations are built over a lifetime, Clement seems to have achieved remarkably early success.
"He's one of the best I've ever seen," says O'Melveny & Myers partner Walter Dellinger, who served as acting solicitor general from 1996 to 1997.
"Whenever I think of an argument from Paul, the one word that springs to mind is clarity," Dellinger adds. "He has an extremely precise and clear intellect. Paul is never murky in thought or expression."
Indeed, at his Senate confirmation hearing in 2005 to become solicitor general, Clement received high praise from leading Bush-administration inquistor Russ Feingold (D-WI) for his "superb" 2003 defense of Feingold's campaign-finance reform before the Supreme Court. Feingold vouched for Clement's "professionalism and integrity" even when the two men disagreed.
Read More →