Double or Nothing

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.

Oddly, the initial conservative reaction is not favorable. [UPDATE: The article at that location has been neutered. ]

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.)

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6 Responses to Double or Nothing

  1. phil ford says:

    I would assume Bush thinks she’s all the U.S. deserves. After all HE seems to be ‘good enough’ for a lot of voters. It’s not whether you’re qualified, it’s who you’re loyal too.

    More stink from George’s DC swamp.

  2. Phill says:

    I think it has come down to the fact that Rove understands that he can never ever afford to deliver a supreme court that might overturn Roe vs Wade.

    Abortion is an effective wedge issue for the GOP despite the fact that clear majorities support abortion rights. Liberals and moderates know that only the SCOTUS can overturn Roe vs Wade and so the issue is only important in the Presidential race. Until recently they have also generally relied on the Senate blocking any appointments that might change the balance of the court.

    The GOP know that if they ever actually deliver to their anti-abortion core that moderate complaceny ends and abortion becomes a net loss for them.

    The same thing happens with creationsim. The fundies are quite capable of winning a school district here or there using the churches as their base. But the minute that they actually succeed in injecting creationism into the curriculum there is a backlash and they get routed at the next election.

    The fundies might be able to maintain an abortion ban in a handful of states but certainly not in Florida, Texas or much of what they regard as their heartland.

    So the best way to make sure that they don’t have to deliver is to appoint a Souter type but choose someone in their 60 rather than their 50s. That way they keep the issue alive and can claim they were disappointed.

    The lack of previous judicial experience is going to make it less likely that we are going to see a lot of radical opinions.

  3. Seth Gordon says:

    The problem is not just that overturning Roe would be a net loss for the Republicans: if Bush nominates someone who has a clear track record in favor of right-wing points of view, Republicans from moderate districts would be scared off. They can’t afford to alienate the folks who are culturally moderate but vote Republican because of Republican positions on taxes and defense.

    The right fringe has been burned over and over by Republicans who talked a good talk about overturning Roe and other pet conservative causes, but who appointed justices who wouldn’t follow through. The GOP establishment has been wooing these voters back by saying, “no, really, this time, if you help our guy win, you’ll get the Supreme Court of your dreams”. Ed Kilgore compares the process to a balloon mortgage and Mark Schmitt compares it to a Ponzi scheme.

    At some point, either the hard-core conservatives are either going to realize they’ve been had and stop giving so much money/volunteer time/votes to the Republican Party, or a Republican President is going to have to nominate someone who has a track record that the conservatives trust. Has this point finally arrived?

  4. richard says:

    Bush knows a lot about her thinking on many issues. There seems almost no publicly available information on her thinking. She could be a far right wingnut or a moderate all the public knows. Bush has much more info.

  5. Barry says:

    How could the ABA give her its highest recommendation
    to somebody who has not been a judge at all, with no
    distinguished legal experience to compensate?

  6. Deborah says:

    I wonder if Miers is a feint that Bush hopes will fail. That failure would allow him to move on to his first choice, Alberto (the torture memo) Gonzales.

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