Thursday, October 27, 2005

Miers Withdraws

I'm still not sure if I should be surprised. By sticking with Miers, Bush was marching into a political crossfire. Democrats were yelling cronyism. Republicans were yelling betrayal. But I honestly though Bush might just be stubborn enough to push a mediocre lawyer/talented lackey onto the Supreme Court. I guess cooler and more politically savvy heads prevailed.

The Washington Post has Ms. Miers’s letter to the president, in which she claims to be withdrawing her name in order to protect the confidentiality of White House documents that the Senate has requested.
As you know, members of the Senate have indicated their intention to seek documents about my service in the White House in order to judge whether to support me. I have been informed repeatedly that in lieu of records, I would be expected to testify about my service in the White House to demonstrate my experience and judicial philosophy. While I believe that my lengthy career provides sufficient evidence for consideration of my nomination, I am convinced the efforts to obtain Executive Branch materials and information will continue.

As I stated in my acceptance remarks in the Oval Office, the strength and independence of our three branches of government are critical to the continued success of this great Nation. Repeatedly in the course of the process of confirmation for nominees for other positions, I have steadfastly maintained that the independence of the executive Branch be preserved and its confidential documents and information not be released to further a confirmation process. I feel compelled to adhere to this position, especially related to my own nomination. Protection of the prerogatives of the Executive Branch and continued pursuit of my confirmation are in tension. I have decided that seeking my confirmation should yield.
Nice try, but this is a red herring. If the Roberts confirmation taught us anything about the dynamic between the Senate and the White House, it is that the Senate will push to see every piece of a nominee’s paper trail, and the White House (at least this White House) will stonewall with all its might. And really, what are the political consequences of this push-and-pull? After the Roberts confirmation, Democrats walked away mumbling about a lack of transparency in the Bush Administration, but we knew about that already. Nothing changed, and the White House got its nominee confirmed despite the fact that it withheld thousands of pages requested by the Senate. Besides, if Bush chooses another nominee from within the ranks, the Senate is going to ask the same questions and request the same types of documents.

No, despite what she says, I doubt Miers’s decision to withdraw had much to do with confidentiality. I suspect this was the White House’s call. Bush is hurting like never before for public approval and the Miers debacle was starting to look like political suicide. There probably came a point when Bush and his advisors decided to cut their losses and cut Miers loose.

At the risk of admitting he made a mistake in nominating Miers, Bush and his team have opted for a nice bit of political theater: Miers chooses to maintain her integrity, and that of the White House, by gracefully withdrawing in the face of threats from the Big Bad Senate. The truth is, Team Bush botched this nomination from the get go, and now they’re taking a do-over. Let’s wait and see what’s in store. My guess: a nominee far more conservative than Miers.

--Matthew McCoy