Without a doubt, this was the worst week of President Bush's 5 years in office. The withdrawal of Harriet Miers as Supreme Court nominee dealt a severe political blow to a president already suffering from extremely poor public opinion ratings, raging energy costs, an increasingly unpopular war, and multiple natural disasters along the Gulf Coast. (San Francisco Chronicle: Bush Heads to Camp David to Ponder Nominee
Following right on the heels of Miers' resignation came the indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. (The Irish Times: Bush faces political crisis as top aide resigns
). While the news could have been worse for the White House, all indications are that the investigation into other potential charges continues.
In a way, the questionable status of other White House staffers including top Presidential adviser Karl Rove is worse (for the President) than actual indictments. Until the investigation is completed, Rove is effectively neutralized. His ability to advise the President on critical matters is severely impaired. The effects of the investigation may well have first manifested in the nomination of Harriet Miers. To promote a candidate that drew such immediate and sharp criticism from the President's power base is glaring evidence that his closest advisers dropped the ball on the nomination.
President Bush has now retreated to Camp David to ponder his next nominee for the Supreme Court, however he does so with a severely crippled advisory staff. The record for most nominees rejected by the Senate is 8, set by President John Tyler in 1844. Let's hope President Bush does not make a run on that record. There are several lessons to be learned by Miers' failure to garner support:
- The next nominee must be a judge with a lengthy track record. The Senate is not going to support more on-the-job training in the Supreme Court.
- The nominee must have a clear and accessible paper trail that the Senate can review. Nominating another inner circle confederate with documents the administration will not release simply won't fly.
- The nominee will have to be a moderate. As much as I would like to see an ultra-conservative judge on the court, I do not believe the President has the political clout to push a conservative through the Senate. He may have been able to pre-Miers - barely - but he's on the ropes now and the Senate knows it. He's getting a moderate.
Without a doubt, this is a week the President would like to forget. Unfortunately, all indications are that the legal and political troubles will continue. The best move for the President now is to promote a court nominee that will have an easy time in the confirmation process and then focus his attention on cleaning his inner circle of advisers. The investigation will likely take down a few more people in his inner circle, and his chief adviser may well head that list. With three years remaining in his term, the President would be well advised to clean house, regroup, and make a fresh start. Trying to salvage the current situation will be both distracting and futile. A good house cleaning is in order.
Technorati: politics Libby Miers Cheney Bush
IceRocket: politics Libby Miers Cheney Bush