Thursday, October 27, 2005

Miers withdraws, what's next?

So, Harriet Miers pulled her own plug this morning on her nomination to the Supreme Court, presumably because she blew the questionnaire the Senate Judiciary Committee sent her and was rapidly losing senatorial support. Oh, and her responses to the questions of various senators in individual meetings were contradictory, leading to more public ridicule.

I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon and beat up on her. While I said that she's basically an FOB who got a JOB, and has too much allegiance to the executive (which is a major separation of powers issue), she seems to be a wonderful person, and really took a beating from everyone. I'm hoping now that everyone backs down, allows her to get back to work as counsel, and leaves her be.

What does this say for Bush, though? Politically, I believe he's running scared. Some of my liberal friends are worrying that this means a Scalia originalist (look, I don't like him much, but he writes some well-argued opinions) or a crazy Janice Rogers Brown nomination. I know the conservatives love Brown, but she scares the hell out of a lot of people, and she would ignite the nuclear option for certain. Right now, polls are consistently showing that Democrats are now more trusted on issues, and they would certainly unite, and could point to any use of the nuclear option as a corrupt party structure ramming through whatever they want. Given DeLay's indictment, Frist's SEC troubles, the pending indictments of Rove and Libby, and the FEMA disasters, the Republicans have serious problems, and cannot afford to ram through anyone without pissing off more people. A judicial fight might fire up the conservative base, but liberals have got their spine up, and they have greater support from Americans.

It's not like Republicans could successfully use a judicial fight to boost their chances at keeping Congress next year. A majority of DeLay's district has turned on him, Libby Dole has done an awful job of candidate recruitment, a host of Republican senators are at the bottom of approval ratings in the latest state-by-state poll figures, and Democrats have gotten several Iraq veterans to run, helping to blow up the argument that Dems can't fight. It's not a good climate for them right now to play power games.

What does this mean? Well, I personally believe that Bush may have used Miers as a stalking horse to bring Alberto Gonzales out as his next nominee, and while the right detests him too, he has a serious leg up on Miers in experience and judicial background. Furthermore, the advice that the president is likely to be getting these days is coming from more moderate people like Andy Card. Rove's influence is waning, and may soon be gone. Cheney is more withdrawn than before. Condi Rice is moderate on court issues like affirmative action, so I wouldn't expect the president to go far right with Miers' replacement. Between the change in advisor influence and his virtually complete loss of political capital, he can't afford a fight, and he's going to try and placate. It will be interesting to see whether Bush has it in him for another fight. He's only won with Roberts this year, and that's because the new chief justice is so freaking smart that it would've been a miracle from God Himself if he'd gone down.

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