I don’t know much about Harriet Miers, but on paper she does not appear to be the most qualified nominee available. I like the idea of someone with political experience, and don’t see the absence of judicial experience as any sort of disqualification. The problem is that the overall c.v. is rather thin compared to, say, a Roberts, a Scalia, a Souter, a Warren, or even a Stewart.
At first sight, her overwhelming qualification appears to be loyalty to Bush, and that, in these times, is no great selling point.
The obvious initial issues, post New Orleans, are cronyism and competence, and I expect that these issues will dominate the moderate and liberal reactions in the next few days; the issue may get a lot of additional oxygen if the ABA rating is anything less than its highest endorsement — and it could be.
If the conservatives end up splitting on this nomination, or even just lukewarm, it’s possible that this nomination might fail on a straight vote, without even a filibuster.
Which raises this Machiavellian question: WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?
Basically, there are three completely different possibilities that jump out at me:
The first one is that they are losing their grip over there in the White House, and this is just dumb. Plausible, but even post-Brownie, one must be wary of misunderestimating this crowd’s political sense.
The second one is that they are not losing their grip in the White House, that Ms. Miers has depths which are not immediately obvious, and that they will become manifest in due course. I’ll bet this is the least likely scenario, but it pays to keep an open mind at this early stage.
And the third scenario…well, it looks like this: The White House has hedged its bets. Either it gets its loyalist onto the Supreme Court, which will be handy for all sorts of reasons ranging from Guantanamo onwards. Or it doesn’t. And that’s fine too. The battle over Miers will take months, meaning that the battle over the next really red-meat nominee will take place much closer to the next election. Which is just the time you want to re-ignite the culture wars for maximum electoral effect. Plus the Senate, having rejected one nominee, may have less stomach for a second fight. (Not that this worked for Nixon, of course.)