New Scandal Looms On Horizon For Embattled Whitehouse: Staffers Accused Of “Astroturfing” Miers Nomination

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — A new wrinkle has emerged in the growing battle over President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, sending an already troubled White House reeling. White House staffers stand accused of attempting to “astroturf” an online poll showing massive opposition to the Miers nomination.

Blogger N.Z. Bear, who has been soliciting endorsements and non-endorsements of Miers by other bloggers, noticed something amiss late Monday night. “Reactions to [the Miers nomination] had largely been negative up to that point,” said Bear. “We had roughly 230 bloggers opposing the nomination and around 45 supporting it, so I thought it particularly odd that those supporting the nomination would have jumped to around 138,000 by Monday night.”

Conservative opponents to the nomination were quick to level charges of fraud against the White House itself, claiming that the Bush administration was using “splogs” to falsely inflate the numbers of supporters in an effort to deflect criticism.

Scott McClellan, White House spokesman, categorically denied any involvement by the Bush administration. “Why would we need to fake such a thing? This enormous, sudden groundswell of support just goes to show how pleased the small business community is with the nomination of Harriet Miers. The President is pleased that so many vendors of natural male enhancement products, XBOX360’s and PlayStation3’s and small-scale online gambling outfits have seen fit to endorse Ms. Miers in such a strong fashion. He is particularly heartened by the support of the leagues of Texas Hold ‘Em sites and is planning on having several of them attend a press conference in which they will vouch for Ms. Miers’ pro-business stances.”

Reaction from conservative bloggers of all stripes has been swift and vicious. “The White House has been caught red-handed trying to force Harriet Miers down the throats of the American people,” said well-known conservative blogger Michelle Malkin. “More here, here and here,” she continued, pointing first to her head, then to her posterior, then her foot. “Sorry, sometimes I just get in a groove.” Conservative lawyer Patterico, an outspoken critic of the Miers nomination, was unable to be interviewed due to an ongoing suicide watch, while Jeff Goldstein, former English professor and all-around raconteur issued a profanity-laden statement unfit for print and then proceeded to perform a puppet show rendition of Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas, substituting George Bush for Hunter S. Thompson and Harriet Miers for his lawyer using a dirty table napkin and a shaker of salt.

Conservative supporters of the Miers nomination, however, were quick to try to put a good spin on the White House’s tactic. “The President is using a tactic to highlight the immense public support for Ms. Miers that, to this point, has been largely silent,” said Hugh Hewitt, conservative talk radio host and noted author. “In fact, his highly legitimate course of action is providing me with the impetus to write my new book, Splogs: Changing the Face of Online Politics Hundreds (of Thousands) of Sites at a Time.” One Houston-area blogger William Dyer, who goes by the name of “Beldar” on his blog, emphatically endorsed the White House’s tactic as “well within the bounds of proper political moves. The critics of this [tactic] simply don’t understand the inner workings of a White House staff and should therefore hold their fire until the [Senate] Judiciary Committee hearings.”

Liberal reaction has largely been muted. Jeralynn Meritt of TalkLeft chuckled softly and then declined to comment, noting that “[I]t’s best to stand out of the way when one’s enemies are making complete fools of themselves”, while the outspoken Oliver Willis was unavailable for comment, having fallen into a fit of laughter upon hearing the news of the Bush administration’s misstep.

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