So we will have our drag-out ideology battle after all. Harry Reid, among others, has expressed disappointment, but is disappointment appropriate? I don’t think it is. For one thing, Bush promised a long time ago to nominate another Scalia, so it’s not like we didn’t see it coming. For another, Bush basically had no choice.
It’s not so much the pledge itself (about which there’s some debate); Bush already had a chance to fulfill that promise and he chose Miers. The issue is that this is Bush’s last and only chance to avoid becoming a living, walking joke. In comedy they say that you play to who’s laughing, which in politics means that you know where your support is coming from and you keep them happy. A rock-solid 40% is often a better political position than a tepid 50%.
In that light it’s not an accident that Sam Alito comes right off a short list prepared by James Dobson. In the face of scandal, resignations and political embarrassments stemming from a raft of reversed decisions and withdrawn nominations, Bush is looking at a roomful of sober, stony faces peppered with a small crowd still ordering drinks and giggling. 37-38% of America supports George Bush, if recent polls can be believed, and that’s only the number not yet willing to openly disapprove of his presidency. The solid supporters certainly number considerably less than that. If Bush can’t keep those holdouts ordering drinks, management will put on the red light and toss the next guy on stage.
So gear up to fight, and god knows we’ll have a fight, but don’t blame the president for doing what he said he’d do, and what he has no choice but to do.