Thursday, Apr. 29, 2010

David Boies and Theodore Olson

David Boies and Ted Olson, both 69, are lions of America's legal establishment — Boies, a darling of the left; Olson, the right. Time and again they've clashed, most famously in Bush v. Gore, in 2000. Olson won that battle, and given how high the stakes were, the two lawyers might be forgiven any lasting bitterness. Instead, they've become great friends.

So perhaps it is not shocking that this odd couple teamed up to challenge the constitutionality of California's prohibition of gay marriage. They've put on an extraordinary case in the federal court system and could prevail in their long-shot mission.

In today's debates, polarization and personal attacks have replaced civility and excellence. It says a lot about Boies and Olson that they can disagree profoundly about legal issues without losing respect for each other. They remind us that the ideas binding us together in our constitutional democracy are far more important than those separating us.

Klein is the chancellor of the New York City public-school system

TIME 100 Social-Networking Index for Boies: 151

TIME 100 Social-Networking Index for Olson: 40