October 06, 2005

Republicans Split Over Miers?

This is not encouraging:

The conservative uprising against President Bush escalated yesterday as Republican activists angry over his nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court confronted the president's envoys during a pair of tense closed-door meetings.

A day after Bush publicly beseeched skeptical supporters to trust his judgment on Miers, a succession of prominent conservative leaders told his representatives that they did not. Over the course of several hours of sometimes testy exchanges, the dissenters complained that Miers was an unknown quantity with a thin résumé and that her selection -- Bush called her "the best person I could find" -- was a betrayal of years of struggle to move the court to the right.

At one point in the first of the two off-the-record sessions, according to several people in the room, White House adviser Ed Gillespie suggested that some of the unease about Miers "has a whiff of sexism and a whiff of elitism." Irate participants erupted and demanded that he take it back. Gillespie later said he did not mean to accuse anyone in the room but "was talking more broadly" about criticism of Miers.

The tenor of the two meetings suggested that Bush has yet to rally his own party behind Miers and underscores that he risks the biggest rupture with the Republican base of his presidency. While conservatives at times have assailed some Bush policy decisions, rarely have they been so openly distrustful of the president himself.Leaders of such groups as Paul M. Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation and the Eagle Forum yesterday declared they could not support Miers at this point, while columnist George Will decried the choice as a diversity pick without any evidence that Miers has the expertise and intellectual firepower necessary for the high court.

As the nominee continued to work the halls of the Senate, the White House took comfort from the more measured response of the Senate Republican caucus and remained confident that most if not all of its members ultimately will support her. Yet even some GOP senators continued to voice skepticism of Miers, including Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who pronounced himself "not comfortable."

"Is she the most qualified person? Clearly, the answer to that is 'no,' " Lott said on MSNBC's "Hardball," contradicting Bush's assertion. "There are a lot more people -- men, women and minorities -- that are more qualified, in my opinion, by their experience than she is. Now, that doesn't mean she's not qualified, but you have to weigh that. And then you have to also look at what has been her level of decisiveness and competence, and I don't have enough information on that yet."

While I do not necessarily agree that Harriet Miers is the wrong pick or a bad pick, I thnk that President Bush clearly screwed up this nomination. With one pick, he has singlehandly alienated a large part of his political base. Clearly, he should have done a better job at (a) picking a nominee and (b) obtaining consensus from his own party on that nominee.

If he doesn't do something quick, 2006 could likely be a bad year for the Republicans. The last thing Republicans need is for their political base to stay home and allow the Democrats to make gains in Congress.
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