First rule of blogging and I forgot it: never go to sleep with a timely post on the brain. Last night I was going to finish up with another request for a show of hands on just who thought Harriet Miers would ever sit on the Supreme Court. And you can see the price I paid for an early bedtime.
In any case, I have to say I think this played out very much as I suggested it might back on the 9th. Despite the thunderings on the right, this nomination didn’t go down because it had so many enemies or because those enemies were so strong. It went down because the nomination never found any reliable bank of defenders. She had no allies. And the White House was too enfeebled to create them. As I wrote …
Nominations can have dynamics similar to those of political scandals.
We tend to think that the real key to a scandalee’s fate is how many mobilize against him or her. Usually, though, the key issue is whether and how quickly they can find some committed group to mount a defense. If that happens, and quickly, a scandal equilibrium can be reached, and an embattled pol can often withstand merciless attacks and revelations. With no true base of support, however, a career can rapidly collapse even if the opposition itself isn’t all that intense.
Miers’ nomination could fail in a similar way.
Sure, only a few Republican senators have expressed serious misgivings. But who is it exactly, either in or out of the senate, who is going to fight hard for this nominee? What argument are those senators going to make on the floor? That the country needs Harriet Miers on the Court? That the criticisms of her nomination are frivolous?
In the end this nomination fell apart because of the crushing weight of its own insubstantiality.
The problem for the president — aside from the imminent forced rearrangement of personnel — is that each group that took a bite out of Miers will feel empowered. And those groups are so multifarious that the president’s freedom of maneuver will be significantly curtailed.
The most obvious answer is that the president needs to throw one right over the plate for his right-wing base. But which one? The DC brainiac right? The single-issue anti-abortion fundies? Certainly there are plenty of brainy circuit court judges out there who could fill the bill. But each group feels empowered now and will want to be catered to.
Meanwhile, Democrats will see the obvious: that President Bush is a very weak chief executive right now. This is the second time in something like a week that a nomination has been withdrawn. Yesterday, the president folded on a policy initiative for the right — the Davis-Bacon suspension. Democrats can see that the president’s initiatives really can be beaten. In fact, they’re going down pretty routinely now. And more Republicans up for reelection next year will think twice before walking off another plank for the president.
In sum, he’s dealt himself deep in the hole with the Miers’ fiasco.