I listened in on the RNC conference call with bloggers. It is great that they have started these. Today’s was a disappointment. Apparently, the strategy is to say “Harriet Miers has a conservative judicial philosophy and the character to avoid changing over time” repeatedly. That there are no documents to back that up, at least not yet, is beside the point. I really, really want to believe that we have not been Soutered, but so far we’ve been given nothing very substantive from the White House. It is also my understanding that Ms. Miers’ law firm has not given the White House much of a paper trail to use in Miers’ defense.
For those of us who are not comforted by the spin, there is new spin in the rumor mill. It’s what we’ve all heard — Miers got the job because no other conservative female jurist wanted a life time appointment to the United States Supreme Court. This newest strategy is perhaps the most troubling act of a spin machine that, for some reason, after a stunning November victory has somehow managed to mangle its message horribly and divide its base better than a Democrat could ever have done.
Those of us who have been covering this story and beating the bushes have heard the rumors. I actually believe part of them. There were several people who were supposedly heavily vetted — Owen, Batchelder, and Williams. They were also supposedly looking at Corrigan. The rumor is, though denied, that Owen withdrew. The other rumor is that someone else withdrew immediately before Miers. The latest rumor is that the person in question was Williams. That is denied by those close to Williams.
No matter how you look at this, it is a colossal mistake. On one hand we are suppose to believe that Harriet Miers took the job because none of these other women wanted to go through the Democrat gauntlet. If that is so, what does it say about them? What does it say about the White House failing to inspire confidence in these nominees that they backed out?
On the other hand, what if that is not the case? What if these names are being floated to make us think Miers is a team player and they are not? Are we really to believe that these women are of lesser character or lesser spine than Miers? And if that isn’t why the names are out there, then why are they floating around? If we accept that these women backed out, we must conclude that either they were not up to it, they were not qualified, or the Republicans gave them no confidence of standing behind them. If we do not accept that these women backed out, it is even more farcical — farcical because we are expected to believe something that did not happen in order to make a case for Miers the administration has otherwise failed to make.
I’ve heard the rumors from enough people to make me really think that someone dropped out at the last minute. I do not know who. What I do know is that names are floating out there — Williams, Batchelder, Corrigan, and Owen. Names that are not floating out there are Luttig, Alito, Jones, McConnell, Garza, Brown, and Pryor. Personally, I would treat the latter group of names, plus Batchelder, in an all-star league. If the rumors are to be believed and if the rumors are an effort to bolster Miers, can we then also conclude that either the White House rejected or never considered the all-stars, just the minor league players? If Brit Hume is to be believed, the White House tossed Batchelder for her perceived “judicial activism.” What of Luttig, Brown, Pryor, Alito, McConnell, Jones, and Garza?
I do not really know who is behind the floating of all the names. White House sources and others have been mentioning these names. Outside groups have too. It could be a case of everyone talking in a circle. Where they got them is anybody’s guess. But, no one has yet tried to dampen the talk and speculation. In fact, the latest comments from James Dobson and Scott McClellan only add to the speculation.
On a final point, the Mehlman call did have one interesting tidbit that tickled my legal ears. In the beginning, Mehlman said we could learn about Miers from what she had done in the White House, including her participation in forming amicus briefs for the administration. Stephen Bainbridge asked the last question of the call and it was about Miers’ role in the Michigan affirmative action case. Reports indicate Miers favored the affirmative action position. Mehlman said the White House advocated helping the disadvantaged in the amicus brief, but then refused to go into a discussion of private White House discussions of court cases. He repeated that Miers has the judicial philosophy and character to be a stellar nominee.