The Dartmouth Observer

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Saturday, October 29, 2005
UnMiered: Bush's Next Move

SCOTUSblog offers that Bush cannot nominate Gonzales to the court, but will want to taunt the group he perceives as having brought down his nominee.
As Miers' nomination got into deeper trouble, some observers who are close to the President had said that it would come close to wrecking this presidency if he were forced to back down on Miers. That perhaps was an exaggeration, but the President, already newly vulnerable because of the hurricane disasters, the Iraq war, and the criminal investigation focused on figures high in his government, is perceived to have less political authority than he had even at the beginning of this month. He may not be in the mood, or have the "political capital," to wage another costly battle over the Supreme Court seat.

At the same time, however, the President undoubtedly is angry about having been forced to give up on Miers. His announcement (a decision he attributed to Miers' preference, not his) was restrained, but reflected keen disappointment. Because it was the most conservative elements of his political following that brought this about, he may be determined not to surrender by going to a nominee more clearly in favor with that sector.

Still, the best way to taunt that group -- naming Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, unpopular with many conservatives -- may not be available to him. Gonzalez's nomination would run into the same problem that the President cited in withdrawing Miers' name: his unwillingness to give senators access to internal White House legal papers. The attorney general was White House Counsel just ahead of Miers, and he had more tenure and more influence in the job than she did, and senators surely would demand access to materials showing Gonzalez's role in the Executive Mansion, just as they did with Miers.

The Miers nomination, though, did give political tacticians like Rove--who, I assure you, memorized every major conservative blogger and politician to speak out against Miers--clear signals about which Republicans aren't interested in being a part of a Bush-dominated Republican party. Expect censure soon.

My analysis: Bush likes surprises, but his willingness to gamble is tempered by the mess he finds himself in. I predict that we will get a nominee by November 2. I have four reasons for this. My two posts on why Bush selecting Miers: for her pro-business leanings and his tactical situation should look differently for the next candidate.

First, the White House needs to let the rumor mill test the temperature of the conservative waters. Conservative bloggers and the illegentsia will offer the names up that they believe Bush should nominated. I don't think Bush will feel as restricted to pick a minority, a woman, or a non-judge this time. Though if there are any former Solicitor Generals that would merit scrutiny, Bush might go down that route. Whatever Bush decides to do, Slate offers that there won't be any more code speak about Roe.

Second, the rumor mill allows Reid and the Gang of 14 to signal their limits of toleration. Bush really doesn't have the patience to deal with a filibuster.

Third, the Administration will have more information about Rove's final political state. If Rove can still play a role in the White House, he and Miers will then go through an extremely through process to pick an all-star candidate. The White House desperately needs another successful candidate like Roberts for Chief and Ben S. Bernanke for Federal Reserve Chairman. Voxbaby provides some details. Even the TNR had something nice to say about Bernanke.

Fourth, Bush can't look likes he's directly pandering the extremist section of his party. While he's quite willing to govern from the Right, he wishes to do so through his political muscle, not from a position of weakness.