Wednesday, July 13, 2005

On Rove and the Supreme Court

The bar exam is less than two weeks away, so I have been in a not-so-undisclosed location trying to get ready. Therefore, I've been in quite a bubble and not able to blog in awhile. You can expect this blog to go dark for the rest of this month sometime next week. But I will be back and blogging regularly in August.

Bar News: About two weeks ago, I took a sample BARBRI test for the multiple choice section of the bar exam. According to BARBRI, had it been the actual exam, I would be able to pass it now. Also, I'm significantly above the national median of other BARBRI students who took the same exam. My hubris know no bounds.... Now, I'm just now studying for the essay portion which is 2/3rds of my total score. Until now, I really haven't paid the essay section much attention. If I fail, that's why....

On Rove and the Supreme Court: Anyone who predicts what will happen with the Supreme Court is either psychic or simply crazy. I think it's simply too unpredictable for anyone (WH included) to know exactly what will happen. Supreme Court nominations are a breed unto themselves. Unlike Cabinet appointment (which are not lifetime or under the President's authority), Senators are not necessarily party loyalists to whomever the President nominates. Much like the filibuster, Senators take their traditional role in Supreme Court nominations very seriously. Lately, the President has gotten less deference from even Senators' of his own party because the Senators realizes the new justice will outlive the present administration.

Also, Supreme Court nominations can both costs and accumulate political capital for the President. The President has little choice but to nominate someone that will be popular with social conservatives. The question is if the Senate Republican moderates will put party loyalty over principal. My guess is any Senator running for tough re-election in 2006 will prove to be a critical tough sell depending on where their biggest threat is coming from. If moderates like DeWine and Chafee feel their biggest political threats are in the primary, then it's "ra, ra, Bush!"

This will be yet another test for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN.) The fact that the White House has apparently put former Tennessee Senator (and "Law & Order" DA) Fred Thompson in charge of shepherding the nominee through the Senate has been a slap-in-the-face few have commented on. If the moderates are perceived as running the nomination show, Frist may not survive long as Majority Leader, let alone as a presidential candidate.

The White House needs to use this opportunity to gain political capital with its base because it simply has none in its account after Iraq and Social Security. The developing Rove fiasco (for the record, I actually was one who thought the idea that Rove was responsible was too far-fetched and fortuitous to be true) only makes things worse. The President's polling is terrible, so he can no longer take the "my way or you're a terrorist" approach anymore.

The Rove fiasco also attacks one of the President's strongest positive attributes with the American people. Correctly or not, the President has been regarded as a honest, straight talker But the White House is not living up to that image in how it's handling the revelations about Rove. (Note: A recent poll has found the number of Americans who regard the President as honest and trustworthy is at an all-time low. What's startling is that this poll was before the Rove revelations.) When a White House is under an ethical/criminal cloud, it seeks to collect friends and attack the enemies. No doubt the White House views a protracted Supreme Court nominee fight as an opportunity to win back its base and paint the Democrats in a negative, obstructive light. Whether that is the actual perception the Senate moderates and the American people will see is another story.

On Bolton: Today, the President began an unusual defense of Rove when he said he refuses to judge someone solely based on media reports until the investigation is complete. Nevermind that the veracity of those reports are unquestioned and the source is the aide's personal attorney. However, the President's defense got me to think about the Bolton nomination: Why should the Democrats be required to offer their judgment on Bolton when the investigation on him is still ongoing and incomplete?

Bush's statements leave a huge amount of wiggle room. You could argue that a conviction is the only point an investigation is truly complete. But politically, I can't see how the President could keep Rove if he is ever indicted. The President's comments would seem to suggest that the White House is very comfortable in betting that such an indictment will never happen.

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