At Least One Shoe Dropped

Hill Hawks such as myself have been watching with excruciating anticipation as two major political stories hung in the air refusing to break. One is the Fitzgerald case which is expected to hopefully, maybe, possibly break tomorrow, and of course the Miers nomination. As Goose caught earlier today, that second shoe did drop with the announcement that Harriet Miers has withdrawn her nomination.

And it’s about time.

The confirmation process up to this point has been tortuously painful, even for the serious critics of the admission. If it were at all possible, even I might have found it within me to dig up at least a little pity, but since I have none, we’re just going to have to move on.

The fact that Miers pulled herself as a means of ending this catastrophe should come as no shock to anyone. There is no way that this administration could afford the blow that would have been struck had she gotten blasted in committee, and if Bush were to withdraw her nomination, it would undermine his political image of someone who is of strong resolve that sticks to his guns. And let’s face it, the way things have been going for him lately, that’s about all he has left.

So the confirmation had to end, and this was the best way to do it. With me so far? Good.

In trying to look at what happened, and what’s going to happen, in my mind you have two basic scenarios. In the first, Miers is nominated because with Bush’s low approval numbers, his only chance of getting a conservative judge on the court was to pick one with absolutely no record, and to hope that the right goes in on the deal based on a wink and a nod. This is my take on the situation.

Another interesting take expressed to me by a friend of mine is that Harriet Miers was never intended to be confirmed. Instead she was a political decoy that would allow him to play the gender/minority card, let it get trumped, and throw in someone he really wants on that bench.

The major flaw in this way of thinking is that there is no way you can pull such a stunt without knowing what kind of political damage you are going to suffer. Okay, maybe the uproar from the religious right types may have come as a shock, but the constituency that is pulling for true strict constructionism, and not just in the context of getting rid of Roe v. Wade, would obviously be taken aback as you are now putting in someone who has not been proven in any way shape or form. And of course, you may as well forget support from most Democrats (friggin’ Harry Reid… come on man). So you are putting up there someone who has prospective support from one demographic? I find it hard to believe that the political arm of this administration didn’t understand that risk, and still think that they could come through with enough political capital to push forward a more blatant conservative judge.

Which brings us back to my opinion, which I think is the right one. Of course I think it’s the right one, that’s why I have MY opinions instead of just borrowing someone elses.

I truly think that Bush thought he could slide Miers in based on a little nudge-nudge wink-wink. Unfortunately, that’s just not gonna cut it anymore. Mainstream Republicans are going to of course not be so willing to fall in step now that their own jobs are on the line and W doesn’t guarantee the same kind of job security he used to. As for the social conservatives, well, after giving Bush two terms, they’ve probably gotten a lot less than they thought they would on hot button issues, and they think it’s time for a little recompense.

What does all this mean? That BushCo is now wedged in a very uncomfortable place. From the left side of the Hill, I think it is safe to say that the standard for fillibuster just got lowered considerably. At the same time, Bush’s base is, frankly, pissed off and fed up.

So let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. Bush will not nominate a liberal judge. Won’t happen, he’s got nothing to gain by it.

Also, we can expect the next nominee to be infinitely more qualified than Miers. While it’s not unprecedented to put someone on the bench with no prior judicial experience, Miers’ lack of confirmation itself serves as a warning. After all, one of her big minuses was the fact that she had no experience.

Not quite as much a no brainer, but still not a big venture in the realm of risky predictions, I think it’s safe to say that the next nominee will be pretty far removed from the current administration. Much like his pick to replace Greenspan, Bush is going to try and dodge some of the accusations of cronyism by picking someone without close ties to the white house or the Bush family.

After here it gets a little trickier because the last thing to really look at is does Bush go moderate, like Roberts, or does he push conservative. There is a valid argument for both, and it’s the difference between an easy quick fix, or a difficult long term solution.

In the case of a potential moderate, Bush could look forward to a little political relief from a relatively easy confirmation process. But at the same time, he risks further alienating his socially conservative base. This would serve to get him out of the hot water he is in now, sure, but the socially conservative political foundation upon which he has relied would be further eroded.

If he were to nominate a conservative, however, he could possibly win back his base, or at least start to, but only at the expense of another difficult confirmation process, and a possible filibuster leading to a third nomination. In effect, he would at least be trying to pull out of the tailspin he is currently in, but risks a crash and burn in the attempt.

Personally, I think he is going to try and win back his base. There is only one year of his term is down, and that’s a long way to go without having anyone behind you. Plus, if this next one is a failure, he can still try and recover at least a little bit of his dignity by going for the moderate. But in the end, he needs to start working on getting his political capital back, and the only way to do that is by going to the people that gave it to you in the first place.

Aside from the current nomination, I’m not a close watcher of the federal court system, so here is where I go to you all for help. By my criteria, I think we can render a pretty short list of possible future nominees:

-Federal court experience.
-Distanced from the current administration.
-Proven moderate or conservative.
-Prestigious law school background.
-Possible minority/female.

Leave your candidates in the comments.

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