Harry, We Hardly Knew Ye…

The Guardian calls it “a new low” in Bush’s presidency as he “reluctantly” accepts Miers’ withdrawal from consideration for the Supreme Court in the face of overwhelming pressure from within the Republican Party. And it is the week of the 2000th US military casualty in Iraq… and of Hurricane Fitzgerald! But let us put a stop right here to this being characterized as a surprise or Washington being stunned. You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to see this coming, and I blinked to the rumor that Miers’ nomination would tank awhile ago.

The dysadministration presented the Miers withdrawal as a way of avoiding a looming constitutional crisis over Senatorial demands for papers on Mier’s work as White House counsel that the president considers privileged — documents senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said no one had requested. A transparent lie if we have ever seen one from this cabal.

“Charles Krauthammer laid out a plan for an exit strategy last week, and the White House has followed it to a “T”: Manufacture a dispute over White House documents, declare an impasse and let the honorable Harriet Miers spare the nation an irreconcilable dispute between the legislative and executive branches by graciously withdrawing her nomination. When the president was asked Monday about a report that the White House was considering a contingency plan for Miers’ withdrawal, Bush blurted out instead that he would never turn over documents from the White House “about the decision-making process, what her recommendations were.” It wasn’t an answer to the question Bush had been asked, and yet it was: The trumped-up, or at least not yet fully realized, document dispute was, in fact, the “contingency plan.”” (Salon )

Bush will likely hurry to name a new candidate to distract attention as rapidly as possible from expected Treasongate indictments, and of course he already has a thoroughly vetted shortlist left over from the Roberts and Miers deliberations. If Bush was scraping the bottom of the barrel with Miers, what lies ahead? Although many progressives are jubilant, that old saw about being careful what you wish for may apply, and Bush’s troubles with the Right are likely to be far easier to fix than our contempt for him from the Left. As someone said, the next nominee may make “Robert Bork look like Thurgood Marshall,” especially if Bush bows to the pressure to pander this time to the Reactionary Right that did the Miers bid in. Some are suggesting that the Miers nomination was a Machiavellian plot engineered by Rove to fail so that he could push through someone further to the Right with less of a fight. It has also been speculated that, with Rove distracted by his own difficulties, the Miers nomination is what you get when Bush runs the show himself, a caricature of pure cronyism divorced from qualifications.

As far as the reactionary bona fides of the next nominee go, Bush may be a little damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Tim Grieve, considering to whom the president might turn next, opbserves that he can’t nominate Gonzales, who has the same privilege problem that Miers had from his legal work for the White House. He cannot turn to a middle-of-the-roader who would infuriate the Right wingnuts further. Has Bush exhausted his stock of women willing to fall on their swords for the man they love? Does he have the political capital to push through someone contentious? The dysadministration strategy in its last few nominations has been to both select candidates on the basis of opacity about their personal stances on partisan issues and to train them intensively to stonewall in the face of confirmation scrutiny. This obviously backfired with Miers, who was such a cipher that those concerned about her ideology could imagine the worst and those concerned about her qualifications would surely come up wanting. Legal analysts suggest Bush will abandon the search for someone who is not already a judge, and that he is looking for lightning to strike twice with another John Roberts clone, equally prepared to stonewall in front of the Judiciary Committee.

Any Bush signals to the Right that he has finally found the cojones to advance an ideologue and risk the fight he has not had the stomach for recently will give the Democrats the ammunition to raise principled objections… if they have the stomach for the fight. If the Democrats are emboldened enough by the freefall in Presidential fortune, perhaps the “nuclear option” lies ahead after all! One crafty way Bush might just squeak past this would be to appoint a current or former Senator, who might mobilize whatever vestiges of bipartisanship and civility remain in the Senate toward a colleague.(How about Orrin Hatch? At least it would get him out of the Senate…)

In any case, the Left can breathe a momentary sigh of relief that the Right scuttled Miers’ chances. It is now likely that Sandra Day O’Connor will still be on the bench when the Supreme Court considers three abortion-related cases on Nov. 30th.

Related: the New York Times summarizes other webloggers’ reactions to Miers’ withdrawal here.