The conservative activists' strategy isn't complicated: They want to disband the "Gang of 14" that diffused last year's nuclear crisis. Then they want to trigger a Democratic filibuster that will in turn trigger the "nuclear option." After the huge nuclear battle is over, masses of their judges will be confirmed before November on a simple party-line majority instead of by the 60 votes now needed. Judges would be in place, the base would be rapturous, and the courts could begin the hard task of reversing the Warren Court revolution.
But while a huge fight and the short-term stacking of the bench are in the best interests of these judicial lobby groups, it's not at all in the best interests of the administration. As more than one conservative strategist has suggested, with the political winds blowing as they are, it's likely that the nuclear option will help Democrats more in the long run than it will the GOP. They may not only win the long-term fight over judges, but Democrats will also gain a powerful weapon over every other legislative issue that comes before the Senate.
Only a small handful of voters in November will be inspired by a charred-landscape victory in the war over the judiciary. Many more will just find it a distraction from their real concerns, like the real war, and the price of gas. President Bush doesn't want a full-on war about judges. And the conservative groups that care about judges will not be happy with anything less. Before the president opts to use the courts to revive his presidency and his party's dismal standing, he should recognize that it's way too late to please this particular constituency, and far too early to write off everyone else.