Jewish World Review Oct. 21, 2005/ 18 Tishrei 5766

Wesley Pruden

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Maybe it's time for a little peace

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The White House wants everybody to sit down and shut up about Harriet Miers. She wants to spend the next fortnight cramming in Constitutional Law 101 for her confirmation hearings. That's not a bad idea.


Miss Miers rarely advances her cause when she speaks. Her critics have said everything they can — or at least enough — about her. The Democrats, who have said very little, have kept their powder dry enough. Besides, the abortion litmus test is the only part of the Democratic catechism that the party applies to Republican judicial nominees. So enough already.


She completed her tour of Senate offices yesterday, having sat down with only 25 of the 100 senators who must decide whether to send her to the Supreme Court to replace Sandra Day O'Connor as the ninth justice, assuming that she successfully negotiates past the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is an assumption not nearly as reasonable as it looked only a week ago.


"No one is walking out of these meetings thinking they've just met a star," a Judiciary Committee staffer told Charles Hurt of The Washington Times. Miss Miers followed the boffo performance of John Roberts, and any vaudeville trouper would tell you (assuming that you could find one) that following a show-stopping headliner is only slightly less risky than following a child or dog act.


Snakes have been lying in wait to bite since the day that George W. Bush sent her nomination to the Senate. She's a lot like the bowler who got his finger stuck in the ball and went flying down the alley with it. Maybe everything that could go wrong already has. Or maybe not.


The president's miscalculation about how this nomination would be received, particularly after his success with John Roberts, is breathtaking. So breathtaking, in fact, that there's a temptation to think that maybe it was not a miscalculation at all, but a stroke of genius.


There are two genius theories. In the first, the White House — maybe the president, maybe Andy Card (not heretofore regarded as the master of the political stroke) but not Karl Rove who was busy elsewhere — calculated that a conservative backlash against the nomination would eventually tempt low-lying Democrats to attempt to scuttle the nomination after all, with the help of conservative senators, which would in turn lead the conservatives to reconsider, to calculate that if the Democrats really don't want her that maybe they knew something bad about her, "bad" being "good." She squeaks through the Senate with 52 to 55 votes. John Roberts got 78, but 50 plus 1 is more than enough.


If that's too convoluted, here's Genius Theory No. 2: Harriet Miers is merely a stalking horse. Maybe she's even the originator of the ploy. The nominee that George W. really wants, and figured he couldn't get without a really imaginative strategy, is one of the Ediths, Clements or Jones, and after a bruising fight over Harriet Miers the Democrats will think twice before they mount a dirtbag campaign. If all goes well he might even get Janice Roberts Brown. However, the White House was surprised by the mild first Democratic reaction to the Miers nomination and stunned by the angry conservative revolt.


The presentation of Miss Miers suggests that if it's not Genius Theory No. 2 it's Stumblebumble Strategy No. 1. She was first presented as the exemplar of the evangelical Christian faith, carrying a barely concealed pike pole with which to smite the abortionists, and when that succeeded only in enraging the evangelical Christians who felt patronized, compromised and deodorized, the White House said no, forget all that other stuff and let us tell you about how as a Dallas lawyer she rewrote Blackstone.


When several conservative activists were called to the White House the other day to get "qualification talking points," what they got was a memorandum that a graduate of LaSalle Extension University would be reluctant to attach to his correspondence-school diploma. Miss Miers, her would-be advocates were told, had taken a Catholic Charities referral to represent, free, a single mother threatened with deportation to Nigeria, and if that was not impressive enough, she had once tried to help someone who had been denied Social Security benefits: "She had [litigated] eight trials to verdict and [handled] six appeals."


So maybe we all should shut up. Harriet Miers will make it, or not, on her own. Her friends note that this is exactly what she has done all her life. If she succeeds, she won't owe anybody but George W. anything.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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