Moving past Miers.
President Bush is no stranger to what he calls "the blame game."
After Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, Bush blamed the Senate for insisting on the release of documents relating to Miers' work as White House legal counsel and suggested she had sacrificed herself to protect the principle of executive privilege.
Bush's explanation is a transparent attempt to save face. Miers withdrew because the Republican right distrusted her conservative credentials. Because Democrats distrusted the White House's attempt to sell her as an evangelical Christian. Because both Democrats and Republicans questioned her second-tier qualifications. Because it had become clear that Miers was nominated not because of her knowledge of constitutional law, but because she was a consummate team player.
Miers also withdrew because Bush was unable to provide the support needed to win confirmation. The Miers nomination was going nowhere. Senate leaders had reportedly informed the White House there were not enough votes to confirm her.
In one sense, Bush is back where he started. He's under pressure from his right-wing base to nominate a red-meat conservative with anti-abortion credentials. He's under competing pressure from Democrats and moderate Republicans to choose a nominee in the mold of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. There is also pressure across the political spectrum for Bush to appoint a woman or a member of a minority group.
The Miers meltdown has magnified all of those pressures, while at the same time weakening the president's hand. Bush can hardly afford to defy conservatives, who have established that they can squelch a White House nomination. Yet Democrats are also empowered and wield the filibuster threat.
Politics have always played a prominent role in Supreme Court nominations. But with a few notable exceptions, presidents have been able to win confirmation of nominees they deem best qualified - intellectually, experientially and, yes, politically - to serve on the nation's highest court. While the process can be messy, it generally has worked well and produced justices of consistently high caliber.
However, there is now reason to fear that the administration has become so weakened - and the competing factions so entrenched - that external political forces will unduly influence, perhaps even dominate, selection of the next nominee.
Bush should move slowly and avoid a knee-jerk nomination. It's already clear O'Connor will serve out the majority of the term and play a role in some of its higher profile rulings, including a challenge to Oregon's assisted suicide law.
When the storm over Miers has subsided and the administration is in less of a crisis mode, Bush should nominate a candidate who has the academic, intellectual and judicial qualifications that Miers so glaringly lacked.
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|Title Annotation:||Editorials; Bush should move slowly on next nomination|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Oct 28, 2005|
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