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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]

So. Harriet Meirs withdrew.

Very wise on the Bush front, I think. There was an excellent chance that she would not have been confirmed, and that would have been very bad for the administration. She was a mistake on their part in the first place, unless she makes the next candidate more palatable just by comparison, and that was their plan.

I don't think they're quite that machiavellian.

Now we'll see who's next. And that someone should be judged on their merits, not on Meirs'.


I don't think "nominate someone bad to make the next candidate seem good" was part of their plan. Up until they fumbled Social Security privatization, this Administration clearly drew power from its reputation for absolute discipline. As long as they had that, Republicans who were tempted to waver, and Democrats who were tempted to act like an opposition party, believed that "resistance is futile" and therefore they might as well play by the White House's rules.

The problem with this strategy is that it's very brittle: once you demonstrate less than absolute control, everyone with a competing interest becomes more assertive. (Cf. the Asch experiment: unanimous-minus-one-person social pressure is much less effective than unanimous social pressure.)

With the next nominee, Senators won't be thinking "well, Miers withdrew, so we have to be extra-nice to this one." The ones who don't like the next nominee (if there is one) will be thinking "what will it take prevent this one from getting approved?"

It also occurs to me that if I were a Republican Senator with ambitions to run in 2008, and I wanted to curry favor with conservatives in the primary, I would want that Supreme Court seat to stay vacant, so that I could tell the right-wingers "vote for me and I'll make sure a right-thinking person gets on the Supreme Court".

Maybe I'm cynical, but I think they *are* that Machiavellian.

From the inside of the conservative movement, I have to agree--they're not that Machiavellian. Miers was Bush's idea of Machiavellianism: Let's see if we can sneak a total pro-lifer on board by putting someone up who has no judicial decisions on record. I think the Bushies were genuinely surprised that (a) the left saw through it immediately, and (b) the intellectual right (aka, the coastal cons) were utterly and completely furious. The conservative movement is always fractious, and has generally gotten along reasonably well with disagreements in the ranks (Jonah Goldberg wrote about this in May), but this revealed the biggest schism we've got, which is between people who are kind of reactive conservatives, and people who are conservatives because of a lot of study and philosophy. The former are likely to be in the "My country/president right or wrong!" camp, while the latter have a notion of how things are supposed to be... and that doesn't include set-aside seats for a woman, nominations without qualifications, or ignoring vast numbers of conservatives who have sacrificed quite a bit to get exactly the kind of experience that Miers lacked. The first group went along; the second group felt completely betrayed. There was a third group--the ones who didn't think Miers was conservative enough socially and might "cave" on their issues.

As far as nominating a new justice goes, now Bush is in a totally untenable position. The kid gloves are off from the coastal cons, who won't put up with another buddy-nomination. The ultracons will demand someone who will publicly declare himself/herself for their cause (which means the person won't stand a chance of being confirmed).

I do think they're almost that machiavellian

I just think they screwed up.

I think Miers has some OTHER problems in her Texas history (the Lotto commission, and the personal caregivers she's employed for her aged mother -- who may not always at all times have had full Social Security /FICA taxes paid quite on time) which were anticipated to be attacked by Shrub's Democratic opposition. Then when Miers-the-moderate was forced out, Shrub would nominate a true hard core replacement.

What was screwed up was that they didn't include enough people in on the details of the conspiracy. So Shrub's supporters thought he was SERIOUS about putting up Miers-the-moderate, and started attacking her. Conservatives of course don't go, (first) for personal dirt, they go to other issues.

Miers was going to withdraw in any case, but now it will be harder for the Shrub to put up his hard core choice.

On the other hand, since "competence" has been established as the benchmark the whole game may be due for some re-thinking. Which is always good.