Sunday, October 16, 2005

The new Harriet Miers (is the same as the old one)

Time is reporting that the White House will re-spin the Miers nomination by re-marketing Harriet Miers herself:

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...

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 Miers nomination has been nothing short of a debacle, as I've been calling it -- not to mention nothing short of an embarrassment to everything the Supreme Court is supposed to represent in American democracy. I'd never deny that she's had a relatively accomplished career, but much of that career has involved being appointed to various positions by her mover and shaker, George W. Bush, "the most brilliant man she [has] ever met".

I've linked to it before, but here, once again, is Eriposte's excellent overview of Miers at The Left Coaster. The White House wants to tout her accomplishments? Consider this (from the overview): "In fact, Miers has proven herself to be a GOP hack and both a personal and political crony of President George Bush." (Make sure to read the whole thing.)

I'm sure the White House spin machine will do its utmost to re-invent both the woman and the nomination, and I'm sure we'll hear the same talking points repeated over and over again by Bush loyalists, but I wonder if general perception of the Miers nomination isn't now immune to further spin. There are simply too many critics on the right, after all, and they're not about to shut up just because the White House tried to go back to square one out of desperation -- they, far more than Bush's critics on the left, have applied the stench of failure to this long-anticipated nomination. As well, the mainstream news media seem to be a bit more skeptical when it comes to anything coming out of this White House. Misled on Iraq and manipulated on terrorism (not to mention all the other lies, damned or otherwise), they're not about to buy the new Miers angle -- indeed, I would argue that it's been much easier to spin a disastrous foreign war than a pathetic judicial nomination. And then there's the not-so-little problem of Bush's justifiably low approval ratings across the board.

In the end, should her nomination not be withdrawn or should she not bow to pressure and common sense and withdraw herself, Miers may still be confirmed. Enough Republicans may support Bush, conservative criticism notwithstanding, and enough Democrats may come to the conclusion that an unqualified justice would be better than some right-wing ideologue (or whomever else Bush would nominate -- potentially some right-wing activist to woo back his base). But I doubt that this latest spin will do much to support the cause of her nomination.

It's just the latest desperate measure from an increasingly desperate White House.

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See here -- my post on "How Harriet Miers is the right's Yoko Ono" -- for a list of (and links to) my previous posts on the Miers nomination.

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Newsweek covers the story, too. It's a "hail mary" (but Bush is no Doug Flutie): "The idea—the hope—is to generate some positive buzz with testimonials. Strategists have lined up endorsements and op-eds to be doled out day by day, one of them an Oval Office pageant of praise featuring former members of the Texas Supreme Court. Miers will work her way through a series of office visits with senators, with a fairly heavy emphasis on Republicans who have kept their distance so far."

At Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall puts it well: "So things will look better when interest moves from her not being a qualified candidate for the Court to her being an unqualified candidate."

The debacle continues...

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