Hugh Hewitt has an excellent strategic piece in the op-ed section of today's New York Times. Regardless of where you stand on the Harriet Miers nomination that was withdrawn yesterday, the effect of the fight will have long-term repercussions in the US Senate and ultimately on the interpretation of the law of the land throughout the country.
Mr. Hewitt argues that Republican senators, who won key elections in battleground states, are in a weaker position now that Ms. Miers' nomination was torpedoed from the right.
"But the Democrats' hand has been strengthened. Voting for or against Ms. Miers would have forced Senate Democrats to articulate a coherent standard for future nominees. Now, the Democrats have free rein.
The next nominee - even one who is a superb scholar and sitting judge who recently underwent Senate confirmation like Michael McConnell of the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, or a long-serving superstar like Michael Luttig of the Fourth Circuit - will face an instant and savage assault. After all, it "worked" with Ms. Miers. A claim of "special circumstances" justifying a filibuster will also be forthcoming. And will other nominees simply pass on the opportunity to walk out in the middle of a crossfire?"
President Bush is likely to put forward a strong Republican judge to solidify the base and remove the distraction from the presidency over another potentially failed nomination. However, the Democrats are now in the dominant position in framing the debate to come over the next nominee.
Mr. Hewitt raises one other good point about a political change in our democracy from the way it was intended in our Constitution.
"The Miers precedent cements an extraconstitutional new standard for nominees. Had the framers intended only judges for the court, they would have said so. No doubt some Miers critics will protest a willingness to support nominees who have never sat on the bench, but no president is going to send one forward after this debacle."
By limiting the scope of future nominees to only federal judges currently on the bench, likely with a short record (politically this is becoming a requirement for confirmation), we actually weaken our democracy by giving more power over the Supreme Court to the Senate. The Gang of 14 compromise is looking more and more like a disaster for the republic rather than its touted "saving".