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October 12, 2005
The Miers Telecon

I took part in the teleconference today with Ken Mehlman and Patrick Ruffini this afternoon on the Harriet Miers nomination, although I could not blog about it at the time. It lasted about a half hour, and the process worked quite well; I think everyone appreciated the effort Patrick and Ken put into reaching out to the blogs to shore up support for Miers' nomination. They put on the best case, in positive terms, that the White House has made thus far. It's long overdue, and perhaps a harbinger of better thinking at the White House on the work needed for conservatives to accept Miers' confirmation.

That said, I'm still less than impressed with Miers as a nominee.

Ken and Patrick drove home the new message that nominees have to have two overriding qualities: the right philosophy and the right character. They argued that her track record in her pioneering role as a managing partner and as the president of the Texas Bar Association, as well as her long association with George Bush, should provide ample evidence of her character. On that argument, I tend to agree, or at least I can agree that the track record shows that kind of evidence. It shows that she doesn't shrink from a fight, that she has loyalty, and that she has a toughness that will come in handy for her confirmation hearings. She isn't going to get bossed around by the likes of Biden.

On the other hand, in terms of evidence of her philosophy, the bottom line remains, "trust me." And that's about as good as it will ever get.

I'm a little concerned about the use of statistics as evidence of widespread conservative support for Miers. The GOP wants us to believe that outside of the punditry, the base loves Miers, and they used the Pew polling as an example. However, the Pew poll shows something quite different; only 54% of self-described conservatives support her confirmation, and the numbers get worse as one crosses the spectrum. Moderates only give her 43% and independents 32%. Before his confirmation hearings, John Roberts -- who also had conservatives wondering -- had 72-52-40 numbers, respectively. That seems like a significant comedown.

Even evangelicals split, 43-41 on the question.

The questions from the bloggers made the thinness of the Miers nomination even more apparent. When asked to provide any written evidence of her judicial philosophy, the answer was to wait for the hearings and her testimony on how she would approach judicial decisions. Stephen Bainbridge emphasized this point. The question on my mind was the message that a Miers nomination sent to those conservative jurists and scholars with the courage to write and publish their philosophies; didn't this discourage them, making it clear that they could never get picked for the highest court? The two pointed out, quite accurately, that Bush has nominated -- and even renominated -- several such courageous conservatives, but felt Miers best filled this slot.

I'm still not convinced that she's an excellent candidate, or even a very good candidate, for this slot. I'm pretty sure that she will not slide into Souterville, and she might even stick to Bush's expectations and wind up more conservative than even Roberts. But unlike with a number of better candidates, we still have nothing more than a "trust me" to come to that conclusion.

Despite the idiotic response from the White House prior to this telecon, I'm inclined to support Miers. I don't believe she'll be a disaster, and I think she'll at least improve on O'Connor. I also don't believe she'll get pushed around, but I have to be honest and say I get that impression more from what Hugh Hewitt and Beldar have argued and presented than anything the White House has bothered to do on their own behalf. I've come to the conclusion that spanking Miers over the clumsiness and incompentence of the White House doesn't make a lot of sense.

In the future, Ken and Patrick should be put in charge of getting the word out to the conservative base, and whoever has been running the PR campaign thus far from the White House should get fired immediately.

UPDATE: Other bloggers included Lori at PoliPundit; Mark Coffey at Decision '08; Pat Hynes from Ankle-Biting Pundits; Eric Pfeiffer from The Buzz; Erick from RedState; and Thomas Lifson from the American Thinker. There are a wide variety of impressions among the bloggers who participated, so be sure to read everyone's opinions on it. I think we all agree that the process was very positive, however.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 12, 2005 6:47 PM

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» Liveblogging the Ken Mehlman Conference Call from
I've been invited to participate in a conference call with RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman and bloggers re the Harriet Miers nomination. I'll be live blogging as we go along. I'm not a stenographer, so this will be paraphrases, but I'll [Read More]

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