If you don’t believe it’s possible to admire and loathe somebody at the same time, then you’ve never heard of Ted Olson.
The powerful conservative attorney was the fellow who effectively made the case for the Supreme Court’s theft of the 2000 election from Al Gore. In what surely must have been a bizarre coincidence, President George W. Bush then nominated Olson to be Solicitor General; he served in that role from the summer of 2001 until the summer of 2004.
In the late-2000s, Olson became one of the right’s most prominent supporters of marriage equality, playing a key role in the succesful fight to end discrimination against gay and lesbian couples in California. In a January 2010 Newsweek column that brought me to tears, Olson destroyed every single right-wing argument against marriage equality, observing:
If we are born heterosexual, it is not unusual for us to perceive those who are born homosexual as aberrational and threatening. Many religions and much of our social culture have reinforced those impulses. Too often, that has led to prejudice, hostility, and discrimination. The antidote is understanding, and reason. We once tolerated laws throughout this nation that prohibited marriage between persons of different races. California’s Supreme Court was the first to find that discrimination unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agreed 20 years later, in 1967, in a case called Loving v. Virginia. It seems inconceivable today that only 40 years ago there were places in this country where a black woman could not legally marry a white man. And it was only 50 years ago that 17 states mandated segregated public education—until the Supreme Court unanimously struck down that practice in Brown v. Board of Education. Most Americans are proud of these decisions and the fact that the discriminatory state laws that spawned them have been discredited. I am convinced that Americans will be equally proud when we no longer discriminate against gays and lesbians and welcome them into our society.
Olson is demonstrating similar integrity today in his fight for privacy rights on behalf of Apple, which is valiantly trying to prevent the United States government from destroying encryption in the supposed name of fighting terrorism. I find myself cheering for Olson in his recent media appearances, as he squares off with hosts who appear not to understand how dangerous it would be for our privacy if Apple lost its fight against the feds.
Yet I can’t forget Olson’s dark side: his history with the radical-right Federalist Society, his efforts to bring down the Clinton administration, and especially his odious defense of the Koch Brothers. It’s a profound shame that a man as brilliant as Olson doesn’t seem to realize that protecting the planet is just as important as protecting privacy–and that because of the political machinations of the Kochs, the children of the married gay and lesbian couples he fought for may not have a livable future.
UPDATE: More from Bloomberg Business.