I’ve known Andy(I) for a long, long time and so I believe he’ll forgive me when I say: Bud, you’ve done run right off the intellectual tracks. The Miers withdrawal – a timed, planned diversion from potential indictments in the Affaire de Plame? Dude, I scored two points from pure Machiavelli himself on that stupid quiz they made us take junior year of high school and even I couldn’t conceive of a situation under which such a “Wag the Dog” scenario could in any way, shape or form be viable.
Firstly, on the Plame matter: there is
no, I repeat, novery little evidence that a crime was even comitted in her identity being released to the press. The crimes committed were lies, told by Libby to the FBI and the grand jury which were motivated not by a desire to avoid any criminal responsibilities, but rather to avoid uncomfortable political implications regarding his boss. It looks as if Cheney and Libby, in the process of discussing Joe Wilson’s lie-filled New York Times editorial, talked about the fact that Wilson was sent to Niger at the behest of his wife, a CIA operative at the Agency’s WMD desk. Since both Libby and Cheney are cleared to talk about classified information, this conversation was well within their purview, regardless of whether Plame’s employment status was classified (a position both Fitzgerald and the CIA seem to be trying to take, although we’ll have to see if the evidence for such ever shows up if and when Libby actually goes to trial). The White House has likely known of Libby’s legal jeopardy for a long time and has been cooperating fully with Fitzgerald’s investigation.
Secondly, on the Miers nomination: I wholeheartedly believe that Bush made what he thought was a very clever, very slick selection in Miers. Problem was, he was too clever by half. It’s my belief that Bush was fed some bad information by Senate Republicans, possibly Bill Frist, but most likely Arlen Specter, claiming that Senate GOPers were unwilling to go to the mattresses for Bush’s next pick. Bush then faced a connundrum entirely of his own construction: how could he possibly live up to his campaign promise of nominating judges “in the vein of Thomas and Scalia” while avoiding a fight in the Senate he (and his staff, I’m guessing) thought he’d lose? In his mind, Harriet Miers was the ultimate solution to this problem: he’d known her for years and she fit his definition of a judicial conservative, yet she lacked a compelling paper trail for the Democrats to criticize. He could make assuring noises to his base and get Miers onto the bench with little fuss or muss. Unfortunately, he severely misread his base on this issue.
George Bush is, at heart, an MBA through-and-through. He’s results-oriented, he cares about the end results and, most times, waves his hands at the details, preferring to delegate the actual implementation of his visions to trusted officials. His pick of Miers was a very results-oriented pick: a woman, a conservative, little-to-no chance of a fight in the Senate. What he failed to realize was that the legal conservative (as opposed to social conservative) portion of his base is very much a process-oriented constituency. They are more than willing to have a judge with a consistent judicial philosophy issue a few rulings they manifestly disagree with than to have a judge whose philosophy is shrouded issue highly favorable rulings on a few key cases. That way lies O’Connorite incoherence.
For most of his presidency, Bush has had process-oriented advisors on hand to help him out – Condi Rice readily springs to mind, as does Karl Rove. However, in the case of Miers, Bush stripped himself of that advice. He nominated the person responsible for vetting his SCoTUS picks and, in doing so, cut his own lifeline to political realities. With Karl Rove distracted by the ongoing investigations, I think Bush lacked a strong “nay” against his pick and thus plowed ahead, assured of his own flawed reading of his base.
I do not credit George Bush with nearly as much guile and talent for subterfuge as his detractors do. His presidency has largely been marked by him saying what he intends on doing and then, inasmuch as he is able, doing so. For some reason, this mystifies his critics, including Andy.
In short: a Supreme Court nomination is a very, very big stage to be playing any sort of political chicken on, particularly when the career that’s on the line is one of a career bureaucrat whose invocation causes most Americans to say “Scooter who?”. Here on planet Earth, those are mighty long odds to be playing for very little gain.
Much more commentary on Scooter Libby chronicled here and here by Jeff Goldstein.
UPDATE: Also, see Rob Port for why there’d be no indictments at all had Libby told the Feebs the truth in the first place.