Monday, October 24, 2005

A Miers Scenario

I admit it, I haven't been paying the level of attention a true political blogger should to either the Miers story or the Plame leak investigation (and its sidebar, the Miller story). Why? I suppose all of them right now tend to involve much speculation, the facts of which will be resolved and/or known fairly soon.

But it does seem to me that the speculation about Miers has missed one possible mind-set Bush may have about the nomination. (And with my luck, he'll withdraw (by her proxy) her nomination right as I hit "publish".)

All along, Bush has said, "wait until the hearings." Tim Grieve over at's War Room speculates, relatively reasonably, I think, that Bush's stonewalling -- over what the Senate has specifically said is its request for documents NOT covered by executive privilege -- has the secret purpose of setting up an impasse with the Senate that can only be broken by Miers' withdrawal. That way, Bush (and, to some extent, Miers) get to save face by claiming to withdraw for ultimately bureaucratic reasons, rather than reasons implicating his and her competencies.

But I think there's a different possibility at work here. I think Bush may be stonewalling because he wants to minimize the level of substantive debate over Miers until November 7, when her hearings begin. I think Bush may have in mind, in essence, a bait and switch. The idea behind it is simply this: Tell the base, and the senators taking the most heat, "Just bear with me until the hearings." What happens when the hearings start? Bush just has to say, "Let's hear her out, and wait until the hearings are over to make our final judgments."

Once the hearings are over, however, Bush may then be in a position to say, "Look, the worst of it is over, and the hearings didn't produce any pubic-hair moments, so just bite the bullet and consider how much better it is to have me as a friend than as an enemy." This scenario only makes sense, I admit, if the hearings fail to produce either a pubic-hair moment -- highly unlikely -- or, more likely, a true wincer of a gaffe. The latter, however, isn't necessarily a big problem. Why? Because Miers isn't a total idiot. If she does make a goof, should we really expect it to be a goof of a sufficiently understandable and explainable nature for both the media and its audience to digest?

Without either a clear bonehead moment, or an easily understood legal bonehead moment, Bush will have the momentum on his side once the hearings end. And even in the event there is a legal bonehead moment, Bush can, in theory, bury it with some well-timed sabre-rattling. I think Bush has lived his life stalling and procrastinating judgments. And if he sees a clear timeline -- the hearings -- offering relief ahead of him, I think he'll stick out the criticisms rather than take the humiliation of a withdrawal. And I think once he makes it to the end of the hearings, he'll have the Senate's reluctance to go through another excruciation on his side. I'm not predicting that Bush will stick with Miers and that the Senate will confirm her. I'm just saying that I think there is a plausible narrative for this scenario to play out.

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