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October 4, 2005
How To Tell When A Nomination Has Hit Trouble

One of the first indications Howard Kurtz had that the Harriet Miers nomination would have trouble came from the White House itself, which scheduled the announcement of the pick at 8 am on a Monday. Kurtz says he doesn't understand why the Bush administration didn't copy its rollout of the John Roberts nomination:

An hour after Bush nominated Harriet Miers at the deeply strange hour of 8 a.m. eastern, I realized the nomination had problems.

Not on the left, but on the right. ...

By the way, after a prime-time rollout for John Roberts, why would Bush have announced Miers on television at 8, which is 5 a.m. on the West Coast? Was the thinking to have clips of her dominate the cable/evening news cycle all day before today's papers could weigh in? Her schoolmarm persona has got to be a plus--she just doesn't look threatening. The cable networks soon moved on to weather reports, hurricane cleanup, etc. Everyone knew so little about Miers that the commentators soon ran out of things to say.

The White House has a perfectly good explanation for that change -- they knew that the Democrats would not immediately attack Miers. Reid and Schumer had already mentioned the White House counsel as a likely pick for a low-resistance confirmation, and therefore Bush's staff didn't think avoiding the press cycle would give them any advantage. With Roberts, people will recall that the late announcement effectively delayed the newspapers from extensive commentary for 24 hours or more, creating a gap which the Bush staff used to define Roberts directly.

The early-morning announcement told me that the White House had no concerns about the media acceptance of its nominee. My e-mail, however, told me that they knew it would inflame the conservative base.

I wound up deleting most of the GOP talking points e-mail I received on Monday, but I wish I'd kept it at least to count the messages. In fact, I learned of the nomination when the first e-mail hit my Inbox about five minutes after the first "official" leak that morning, confirming the AP report. At least two dozen others would follow, most of them pure boilerplate from the GOP's initial release. In the afternoon, a new wave of e-mails broke across my bow, this time round-ups of the positive comments from around the political world about the nomination of Harriet Miers.

Harry Reid got quoted as high as third on most of those, which should have set off red flags at GOP headquarters with whomever sent the e-mails out. Hello!, I wanted to shout. Harry Reid isn't exactly high up on our list of credible voices.

The GOP knew it had a problem as soon as it got this nomination, and it still knows it. Harriet Miers has a strong background as a groundbreaking attorney in Texas and a longterm aide to the President. Inasmuch as a nomination to the Supreme Court has no prerequisites other than Presidential approval, she cannot be described as unqualified. However, pretending that she has the highest qualifications for this position insults the intelligence of the people who have consistently supported George Bush, especially those who did so relying on his oft-stated demand for only the best-qualified nominees to this lifetime appointment which has the power to shape so much of our lives.

That being said, I plan on supporting Miers' confirmation to the Supreme Court, barring any revelation of malfeasance or incompetence.

I got a laugh from Michelle Malkin, who read my posts on this subject earlier today and pronounced me between Ill and Chill. She's right (as she so often is) -- I'm actually both. I share Michelle's disappointment and bitterness that despite handing Bush a damned-near bulletproof Senate majority in 2004, he decided to nominate his second stealth candidate instead of a proven "movement" conservative. With the Democrats forced to defend their filibuster for a potential John Paul Stevens replacement later in Bush's term, they could not have long opposed a J. Michael Luttig or Michael McConnell, or if a woman was wanted, an Edith Hollan Jones. If running a law firm as managing partner made Harriet Miers a thoroughly qualified candidate, then Bush had thousands from which to pick -- and I daresay some of those might have shown more Constitutional law energy and experience than Miers.

In the end, though, we owe Bush the same consideration we demand from the Democrats -- a recognition that the President picks the nominee based, most times, on his view of the country's best interests. He won election from more than just the right-wing bloggers. I don't truly believe that Miers will turn into David Souter; I think her personal views will make her at worst another O'Connor.

Some ask me to join in bombarding Senators to vote her down. To what purpose? Bush will never withdraw her from consideration, and the splintering among the base will only serve to weaken the Bush Predidency. That, unfortunately, gives us three years of lame-duck representation and probably will cost us the chance to make good on our electoral advantages in the 2006 Senate races. If the Democrats have to rescue Miers, they will -- if only to ensure that Bush doesn't throw them a Luttig or a McConnell as a punishment for having rejected Miers.

Our voices have been heard by the GOP, which has gone into overdrive to get us to buy the song and dance they've offered for two days on Miers. She may turn out well on the bench, but we only get opportunities a couple of times in a generation to put a true and tested conservative scholar on the Supreme Court, and the Bush Administration blithely ignored one here. That doesn't make Miers a bad pick, but certainly a disappointment.

Now, though, enough is enough. We've made our point. It's time to move on and remember that we have other priorities at stake, and we need a center-right President to even have a shot at getting them accomplished. We need a Senate that has the leadership to get nominees through the process without damaging them or ourselves. Setting a match to all that we have accomplished in three electoral cycles just to protest a single nomination makes as much sense as lecturing us that Harriet Miers had better qualifications than the thousands of other managing partners in law firms around this country, the constitutional scholars who have spent their time studying the issues that Miers will be tasked with solving, or the judges who have performed that work at state and federal appellate levels for years.

The choice has already been made, by the man we elected to make it. We have demanded deference to presidential prerogative from the Democrats for the past five years on judicial nominations, and now it's our turn to demonstrate that we know what that means.

UPDATE: Be sure to read Joe Gandelman's roundup of reactions to the Miers nomination, day 2. As always, Joe does an excellent job of gauging the temperature of the blogosphere.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 4, 2005 10:40 PM

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