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October 11, 2005


I think the Republicans are in a very very very awkward place, particularly given collapsing discipline in the Senate and Bush's increasing unpopularity. Consider the numbers:

55 Republicans (therefore not enough to stop a filibuster on their own)

48 non-compromise Republicans (which means they need to make a really compelling argument if they want to pull nukes--and note, I'd put this number closer to 48, trading Lindsay Graham for Trent Lott, who seems to want to preserve the filibuster even if he doesn't want to be part of the compromise--or just as likely, even if the compromisers didn't want him)

49 Democrats plus pro-choice Republicans (counting Specter, the Mainiacs, and Chafee--this means they're never going to get to a point where either the pro-lifers or the pro-choicers win, you're at a near standoff, no matter what you do, so long as abortion comes into play)

Which is, I think, the second most important reason Bush chose Miers. The only judge he can get passed HAS to be a cipher on abortion; if the person is enough of a corporate shill, he or she might pick off enough Republicans to pass. But I don't think an executive power and corporate shill is going to get passed at this point. The Senators are regaining their independence and their interest in protecting their own power.

The nuclear option fight is definitely not over, no matter what happens to Miers. But the ground has shifted, and if the president doesn't reverse course and withdraw her nomination, there are solid grounds for making the nuclear option a focus of some pointed questioning in her hearings.

I'll explain later.

OK. So Bush decides that Miers isn't going to fly - or somebody persuades him - and he withdraws the nomination or gets Miers to come up with some excuse for withdrawing her own nomination. Then what?

The "intellectual" right that complained she didn't have the gravitas for the job will want her replaced with somebody who has (we all know who's on that list), a paper trail, a somewhat but not (wink-wink) too-well-known judicial philosophy. The rightwingers whose primary concern is abortion want somebody who they don't have to guess on in that regard. Then there are those - including, allegedly, Laura - pushing for a female replacement for O'Connor. Bush is right back where he was a week ago.

So, does John Roberts have a sister Joan who is as smartly stealthy a candidate as was the new Chief Justice?

MB, no. That's the thing. They can't succeed with just pushing an openly hostile justice, and the rigth won't settle for anything less.

I think they have a few stealth options available to them. The need for an explicit record on, say, abortion, comes from a relatively small subsection of the right. Dobson didn't require it for Miers, because he got word that she was "one of them," an evangelical. That was all he needed to hear. But that didn't fly with the Catholic right, many of whom are hiding comfortably behind the folds of the "intellectual" right's skirts, like Manuel Miranda. But those guys got their man in the person of John Roberts. How much more does Bush feel he owes them?

The "intelletual" right would probably settle for people not on the usual suspects list, so long as the credentials were right. And the honeycombs of the white shoe firms and elite divisions of the DoJ are swarming with grubs ready to climb into position. There aren't many of them obviously in line for the Supreme Court just yet, but there are a few who could make the grade. That is, if Roberts can -- with just two years on the bench -- they can, too. I write here with Maureen Mahoney in mind.

Truth be told, the "intellectual" right would probably settle for a good deal less, so long as the nomination didn't leave them holding the cronyism bag again. And here, I'm still thinking about Connie Callahan.

The limits of conservative power are simple: they don't speak for a majority of the people in this country.

John Tierney has an idiotic piece in today's NYT about "cronyism on the left," basically saying that universities and journalists are engaged in that. Obviously he has never competed for an academic job, where experience does matter. I assume it is the same in journalism.

But there's something else: the reality is that teaching jobs and most newspaper jobs don't pay very well. Only the perfumed power elite of the national media is paid well, and there are plenty of conservatives in those jobs. The reality is that most people who care enough about teaching to spend years preparing to work in a low-paying job (in the humanities, at least) aren't Republicans, in college or otherwise.

I'm a regular subscriber to the dead tree Times, so I have the dubious pleasure of having acccess to Tierney, who is the most drab, uninteresting Bush apologist in print. Now that no one can read him, especially, he's gotten even more uninteresting.

I believe the filibuster/nuclear option issue can be diffused once and for all if the Dems can play some really good politics here. There have already been minor rumbling threats by the wingers of the GOP that they will filibuster Miers. Every such rumble undercuts their argument for any such thing as a "Constitutional Option". This sort of rumbling must be nurtured and encouraged. The MORE GOP wingers threaten a filibuster, the weaker becomes the basis, poor as it is, for going nuclear. They can't fight for going nuclear against a Democratic filibuster, real or threatened, if they themselves are threatening filibuster of one of their own.

The Dems should be "optimistic" and "mildly supportive" of Miers up to the actual vote. The more Dems are seen as on-board with Miers (barring illegal/unethical leaking of doublesecret behind-the-scenes info on Miers to the base...ROVE TO DOBSON?) the more likely the wingers will get more restive and likely to filibuster. Even open threats of filibuster on their part is enough. The Dems need not actually, in the end, vote FOR Miers, just play along as reasonably supportive and pleasantly surprised enough to blow the top off the crazies.

Drive the GOP to undercut their own argument for the nuclear option and then filibuster with impugnity against any unacceptable nut Bush sends in to replace Miers.

Forgot one outside dynamic. The Fitz investigation. If he comes along in mid-to-late October with indictments getting cast about like playing 52-pickup, and there are any "unindicted co-conspirators" listed, then the entire nomination process is off. There wont be one. The Administration and the GOP in both houses of Congress will be in panicky defense mode. They will be trying desperately to fight off impeachments and general staining of each and every one of them from the backsplash from the indictments.

The outcome of Fitzgerald's investigation can very well end any worries about Bush appointing anyone...at least until after 2006 midterm elections when he would likely have to face a Dem majority in the Senate, if not the House as well.

Whatever else may happen, I'd be willing to wager my first-born that there is zero chance of a Republican filibuster on Miers.

MB, there doesn't have to be an actual filibuster by some of the GOP against Miers, all that is required is talk or threat of filibuster. This alone goes a long ways to hamstringing them in trying to go nuclear against the Dems for filibustering. It cannot be justifiable and OK in general for the GOP to consider or threaten filibuster but not Dems.

I believe the nuclear is one senator short for blast off.

Replace Graham for Specter and you've got 14 solid senators who won't vote for it.

And Bush and Company know it, even if religious wingnuts don't.

I just want to point out that if Miers bows out and another unknown is presented, it will cause further damage to the conservative movement. I can hear already the louder and louder cries of movement conservatives banging their heads against the wall as Bush throws up one stealth after another.

The important thing as I understand it is that movement conservatives do not just want abortion/gay rights/science undone, they want it done loudly and in the open. They must have it done this way to gain the legitimacy they so desperatly want and need. Quietly overturning Roe v. Wade only carries so much comfort for the Right (and very little for the Republican Party, which will lose the attention of many fanatics).

At this point, I see a rock and a hard place and democratic action on the left side horizon ready to undo the republican majority in one of the houses thus collapsing the republican corruption machine.

One more thing: I think all the contributors on this page are amazing. Thanks for the excellant work

I believe Bush has a back-up nominee should the right succeed in forcing the withdrawal of Miers. Rove was out here interviewing her about ten days before the Miers announcement -- and from Bush's viewpoint, it would be propper setting down of the movement and religious right in the Republican Party.

She is, Kathleen Blatz -- former State Legislator, District Judge, headed Family Court, appointed to the State Supreme Court, re-elected twice, and for past 8 years, Chief Justice. She is mildly pro-choice, and respected across party lines. Last year she married one of the most successful Republican Fund Raisers nationally -- Wheelock Whitney. (Payne Whitney etc.) She is 60 and is to retire from the State Court in January. There is much rumor about this from fairly serious folk -- but everyone is just watching.

How indictments would figure in all this -- who knows. Congress might be so caught up in selecting a new VP, they just might decide to leave Sandra unretired for a time. What we are seeing is the breakcown of the coalition of the "Movement" Republicans and the "economic" Republicans -- and Miers is an economic Republican with a very light frosting of "movement" ideology.

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