Sunday, October 16, 2005

A New Look For Miers

The online edition of Time Magazine is running an article that recounts the tactics used in support of the Miers nomination from the administration up to this point. It then lays out the presiden't new plan for bolstering support for Miers' appointment.
Get ready for a whole new Harriet. After a disastrous two weeks, White House officials say they hope to relaunch the nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court by moving from what they call a "biographical phase" to an "accomplishment phase." In other words, stop debating her religion and personality and start focusing on her résumé as a pioneering female lawyer of the Southwest. "We got a little wrapped around the axle," an exhausted White House official said. "As the focus becomes less on who she's not and more on who she is, that's a better place to be."

So, as the White House counsel begins her formal prep sessions this week for a confirmation hearing that's likely to start in early November, President Bush will hold a photo op with former chief justices of the Texas Supreme Court who will testify to Miers' qualifications and legal mind. The White House's 20-person "confirmation team" will line up news conferences, opinion pieces and letters to the editor by professors and former colleagues who can talk about Miers' experience dealing with such real-world issues as the Voting Rights Act when she was a Dallas city council member and Native American tribal sovereignty when she was chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission.

The change of strategy by the administration makes sense to me at this time, but I don't see it as a desperate move. While Karl Rove and the administration may not have seen the drastic reactions from some conservatives coming, they did know that eventually they'd have to offer arguments for Miers other than her good character.

The character issues and religious stances etc. that were brought up initially are always important for first impressions, even if the right's elite punditry wasn't swayed by them. But it's a necessary step to move from these initial impressions on to evaluating what makes Harriet Miers even eligible for the position to which she was nominated, and the strategy shift that will put the focus more on her qualifications comes just at the right time.

The Time article is a lot more critical of the administration, speaking very condescendingly about efforts to bolster support for Miers among the conservative movement's own members. Time's evaluation of this shift by the president is portrayed as being a panic move on his part. The article paints a picture that shows a flustered and frustrated president abandoning his initial strategy and grasping out for a new one. But this is simply not the case.

As I've said, though the reaction the Miers nomination initially got was not at all what was expected, this strategy is the same one that was used in selling Chief Justice John Roberts' nomination. Though Roberts' credentials are far bulkier than Miers', and though those credentials were a major selling point of his nomination, the first argument for him was that he was a quality individual. While this period was brief, it still occurred, and so the administration's plan of attack is consistent with its past efforts.

Harriet Miers is the president's second nominee, and certainly there must be some adjustments in how to sell a new nominee, especially because of the difference in circumstances surrounding each of the nominations. But nonetheless, I think there exists a much stronger case for the president's collectedness rather than his panic in his managing of this appointment.