Two things strike me about the revelation that President Bush intends to nominate his White House counsel, Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.
First, I'm struck by the fact that this story broke before an official White House announcement. Aides leaked it to the press before the Communications office confirmed that on Sunday night, Mr. Bush offered the nomination to Miers.
In past administrations, this wouldn't be a surprise. But the Bush 2 White House has been relatively leak-proof. Was this a trial balloon? Or has the once-vaunted discipline of the administration begun to erode?
There are probably good arguments one could advance to answer yes to either of these questions.
I'm also struck with how little anyone seems to really know about Miers at this point. That will probably change quickly. While she may not have judicial paper trail--she's never been a judge--she does have a public record. She served, for example, on the Dallas city council and as chair of the Texas Lottery Commission. Democrats, under pressure to placate liberal interest groups, will undoubtedly go through that record with a fine tooth comb.
Certain conservative groups, apparently concerned that Chief Justice Roberts will turn out to be a closet liberal, will also be exerting pressure on Republican senators to make sure that Miers votes their way once she's on the Court. But it seems to me that just as it was wrong to exact pledges from Roberts on how he would vote as a member of the Court, it would be wrong to seek promises from Miers.
In a way, it seems that Miers, like Roberts before her, is a variation of the stealth nominee strategy that began with Justice Souter's appointment to the Court. Ideological pressure groups, feeling that the stakes are even higher when it comes to choosing the successor of Sandra Day O'Connor, will severely test whether the strategy can continue to work.
UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt writes, "Harriet Miers isn't a Justice Souter pick, so don't be silly. It is a solid, B+ pick. The first President Bush didn't know David Souter, but trusted Chief of Staff Sunnunu and Senator Rudman. The first President Bush got burned badly because he trusted the enthusiams of others."
Speaking only for myself, when I compared this nomination to that of Souter, it had nothing to do with either how well this President knew this nominee or whether Miers might be a "closet liberal." I meant only that there are no apparent red flags inviting opposition from the opposition party to her nomination.