More Blog, Less Thought

More Blog, Less Thought

More Blog, Less Thought

Notes from the political sidelines.
Oct. 14 2005 6:52 PM

More Blog, Less Thought

Your mother-in-law drives like a third-string chemistry professor. Plus: Why friends don't let friends get confirmed.


Friday, Oct. 14, 2005

Too tired to slog through a whole Has-Been? Sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day – or enough B-12 shots in the posterior. That's why Slate is introducingHas-Been Express - More Blog, Less Thought for the busy reader who can't waste time fast enough…

Wage Gap: On Wednesday, Mayor Ray Nagin boasted that a labor shortage is driving up wages so much that there are no minimum wage jobs left in New Orleans. After a record four straight years of income stagnation, the Bush administration has finally figured out how to increase wages: flood the country. It's a supply-siders' dream come true - tax cuts to speed up global warming.


Heroes Gap: Josh Paul, the third-string Los Angeles Angels catcher who earned baseball immortality Wednesday for suffering the worst blown call since the first base ump gave Kansas City Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, is writing a book about baseball – and it's not about injecting teammates with steroids. The Post reports that Paul has a degree in English literature from Vanderbilt, and is so well-liked he's called "Pope Josh Paul." At his first postgame news conference after hitting his first major league home run, Paul deadpanned, "I am not a crook." The sad thing is, young fans probably think he's talking about Rafael Palmeiro.

Science Gap: Tim Noah deftly highlights Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher's break with Bush. "I was a scientist before I was a politician," Thatcher declared recently, before scolding Dubya for failing to do his homework on Iraq. Thatcher is the godmother of compassionate conservatism: as a young chemist, she helped develop the first soft frozen ice cream. At Oxford, she was a mediocre student under Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, who won the 1964 Nobel Prize for discovering the chemical structure of vitamin B-12 – a discovery that gave the Prime Minister a boost late in life.

Dissing Bush isn't necessarily the beginning of wisdom for conservatives. The defections by Thatcher, Kristol, and other highbrow conservatives simply mean that right-wing intellectuals and left-wing intellectuals finally agree on one thing: they're a lot smarter than Bush.

Trust Gap: One of Allan Lichtman's students has some smart advice for his campaign. Mazer Rackam says, "He is a pretty good history professor." Lichtman should make those students the basis of his campaign, rather than his current claim: "For two decades I have worked to shape the great political debates of our time as a commentator for CNN."


All that time in the green room is a red flag, not a qualification. It's as if Lichtman's counterpart Larry Sabato were to reveal, after being quoted thousands of times by reporters looking for an impartial observer of Virginia candidates, that he had just been laying the groundwork to replace the chumps all along. As Pope Josh might say, you can't umpire one day and play ball the next. But if Lichtman wants to give students a greater voice, more power to him. Let Wellstone be Wellstone!

Stature Gap: For a woman who reportedly doesn't suffer fools, Harriet Miers has certainly found a number of them to vouch for her. In today's installment, a Texas lawyer describes his reaction when he learned that the tough but fair lawyer would be on the other side: "It was mixed. . . . It's like seeing your mother-in-law drive off a cliff in your brand-new Mercedes. There are advantages." Stay tuned for more episodes of Friends-Don't-Let-Friends-Get-Confirmed. ... 3:51 P.M. (link)


Thursday, Oct. 13, 2005

Vouching Toward Bethlehem: When the Miers nomination ran aground, the Bush White House launched its own Operation Rescue, based on a simple premise: Harriet Miers may not have John Roberts' résumé, but from the president on down, she has awesome references. Over the last week, we've heard daily testimonials from President Bush, along with frequent praise from the first lady, Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, and family-values kingpin Dr. James Dobson.


There's only one problem with the White House survival plan: Every time the president and his allies vouch for Miers, they make matters worse.

As John Dickerson points out, the president, the first lady, and supreme handler Ed Gillespie deeply offended conservatives by suggesting that criticizing Miers was sexist. Yesterday, Bush sparked more controversy by acknowledging that Miers' religion was a factor in her selection.

Judge Hecht has said more about Miers' views on Roe v. Wade in the last week than Justice Roberts has said about his own in an entire lifetime. Dobson's initial embrace kept the Miers nomination on life-support, but then he had second thoughts and agonized that his endorsement "could do something to hurt the cause of Christ, and I'd rather sacrifice my life than do that." When the leading evangelical conservative starts publicly musing about suicide, the party that tried to rescue Terri Schiavo will have its hands full rescuing Harriet Miers.

Dobson caused more trouble when he revealed how Karl Rove talked him into becoming a reference for Miers. If the Judiciary Committee calls him to testify, Dobson could be an even worse character witness than Hecht.


So far, my favorite Miers character reference comes from "her friend" Ed Kinkeade, a federal district judge, who told the Post, "She's not Elmer Gantry." With friends like that, who needs references?

House Mates: Even Miers' friends in the Bush administration are doing her more harm than good. Today, the Post quotes a number of prominent colleagues, none of whom does her any favors.

Former OMB director and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels says, "She did have that schoolmarm voice." Former press secretary Ari Fleischer says Miers was "always being tough as the paper kept moving," then adds, "Is that a skill you need to be a Supreme Court justice? No, I don't think so."

Even the able and honest Margaret Spellings, my successor at the White House, unintentionally damns Miers with faint praise: "To her, it was a matter of moving the grist through the mill. ... She was a manager of the process."


If that's the best that Bush staffers will put on the record, imagine what they say on background. In fact, the biggest threat to Miers' nomination comes from angry conservative pundits, who have far more forthcoming sources inside the White House than most White House reporters.

Quiet in the Court: John Roberts knew how to say nothing in three languages. We have no idea where Harriet Miers stands on past Supreme Court rulings, but she and the White House might brush up on Miranda: "Anything you say can and will be used against you."

No doubt, the White House is already planning just such a fallback strategy: Next time the president is asked about his nominee, he might take a page from Roberts and refuse to comment on Miers because it's conceivable she could come before the court someday. ... 8:55 A.M. (link)


Gong Show:As Bush's fortunes plummet, Republicans are having trouble recruiting candidates for 2006. In recent weeks, leading Republicans rebuffed White House pleas to run against Democrat incumbent senators in North Dakota and West Virginia. In Florida, only sure loser Rep. Katherine Harris seems willing to take on Sen. Bill Nelson, in a race where no recount will be required.

Democrats have the opposite problem: It looks like such a good year, everybody wants to run. For the most part, that's great news, because primaries generate excitement and make the winner a stronger, sharper general-election candidate. But like early rounds of American Idol, it can sometimes be painful to watch.

Republicans will wince most during the New York Senate race, which pits ambitious Fox News talking head Jeanine Pirro against Nixon son-in-law Ed Cox. Pirro's husband went to prison for tax evasion; Cox's father-in-law resigned in shame—so both candidates can boast of first-hand experience in dealing with cronyism and corruption.

The Democrats' episode of Cringe Factor may turn out to be the Senate race in Maryland, where Rep. Ben Cardin and former congressman and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume now have to endure the vanity campaign of American University professor and occasional CNN commentator Allan Lichtman.

Cable Guys: Pirro and Lichtman have the same dream: that 2006 will be the Year of the Talking Head. First the cable networks tried to ruin American politics by running pointless shouting matches around the clock. Now cable has grown up, decided to work within the system, and wants to ruin American politics by running pointless, shouting candidates around the country.

Pirro has reportedly told friends  that losing will boost her career at Fox. By contrast, Lichtman isn't even the only one in the Maryland Senate primary who owes his obscure candidacy in part to cable. He will be hard-pressed to keep up with a more impressive dark horse, forensic psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren, sister of CNN-turned-Fox legal analyst Greta Van Susteren.

Someday, we'll get the marquee matchup Roger Ailes has dreamed of, in which the Republican nominee is a commentator for Fox and the Democrat is a commentator for CNN. Imagine the synergy: the two candidates could debate each other, then appear on their respective networks to analyze their own performance.

Consider the possibilities: Bill O'Reilly vs. Aaron Brown, Fred Barnes vs. Carlos Watson, and of course, the battle of the party-switchers, Greta Van Susteren vs. Paula Zahn.

Perennial ratings cellar-dweller MSNBC might have to launch a third party to get its candidates into the race – but Pat Buchanan would be up for the challenge. CNBC could corner the market in a new breed of commentator by hiring talking heads who lost instead of losing politicians.

Attention, bookers: When the 2006 Senate race is over, Allan Lichtman will still be available.

To be fair, Lichtman isn't running entirely on his cable TV experience. He's also resting his candidacy on even more unlikely credentials: his career as an expert witness in redistricting and voting rights cases, as well as his system for predicting the outcome in presidential elections.

These days, you don't often see candidates running on their success in Democratic redistricting—because there hasn't been any. In his announcement speech, Lichtman actually cites his work helping Texas Democrats lose their redistricting battle to Tom DeLay.

As an expert in voting rights cases, Lichtman no doubt made Democrats' problems worse. One reason Republicans now control the House is that in the early '90s, civil rights groups (and their expert witnesses) fought to create ultrasafe districts for minorities—concentrating Democratic votes so that other districts were beyond the party's reach.

In any event, it's hard to imagine a place where redistricting experience would be less useful than in the U.S. Senate. In fact, that's just the type of obvious insight Lichtman perfected in his former life as a cable commentator: The whole point of the Senate is that it doesn't have districts.

The professor's other claim to fame—his system of handicapping presidential election outcomes—might interest some senators. He might offer to chair a Whether-to-Run-This-Time caucus.

It's harder to see what Lichtman's system has to offer Maryland voters, whose idea of constituent service may not include election forecasting. Yet Lichtman devotes an entire section of his campaign Web site to his book, The Keys to the White House, including this modest claim:

"In 1991, Allan J. Lichtman received a call from the Special Assistant to Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas who asked whether Dr. Lichtman still believed what he had written in his just published book on the Keys: that George H. W. Bush was a likely loser in 1992. Dr. Lichtman said that he did, sent Clinton a copy of the book and a memo on why he would become the next president. The rest is history."

Why is Allan Lichtman running? Perhaps he means it when he says he's running on "7th amendment rights." If you're an expert witness, the whole world is a trial by jury. Perhaps he agrees with one of the (lonely) supporters at his rally, who held up a sign that said, "If You Have a Brain, Vote for Lichtman." Perhaps he really believes he's the next Paul Wellstone, as he claimed in his announcement speech (just before attacking Cardin, and in the days since, Mfume and Harry Reid).

Lichtman could be touting his book on the campaign trail because a paperback version comes out in November, and the current Amazon sales rankings for his previous works range from 870,000 to 3,575,000 to "None." More likely, he's running because he actually thinks he has a chance. That kind of egocentric bad judgment won't get him far with the voters, but on the upside, it might help him get his old job back. ... 2:55 P.M.  (link)


Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2005

The Vapors: Back in July, prescient Has-Been reader Sean Watterson proposed a perfect name for the online paper trail of blog posts, e-mails, and easily Googled commentary that will make it harder for ambitious young lawyers today to be the blank-slate Supreme Court nominees of tomorrow. Watterson called this new phenomenon a "vapor trail."

If George Bush had his way, vapor trail would be the name for the entire confirmation process. Bush chose John Roberts because he was a tabula rasa, not because Roberts knew a thousand more Latin phrases where that came from. Harriet Miers is such an unknown that there's no paper trail to cover up.

Her official correspondence and state papers, released yesterday in Texas, reveal only that Miers told Bush he was "the greatest" and "cool." A New York Times review of her time in private practice found "little for the public record," except a mediocre win-loss record. Advice she has given Bush as White House Counsel is protected by presidential and attorney-client privilege. If we ever see any memos she wrote in her previous stint as deputy chief of staff for policy from 2003-04, they will confirm what we already know: The Bush White House didn't come up with any policy in that period.

What to make of this silent witness with a vapor trail? Dahlia Lithwick aptly points out that because we know so little about her, Miers has become a "human Rorschach test." But if she's an inkblot, she must have been written in lemon juice.

So far, Miers seems more like Bush's imaginary rabbit friend Harriet. He says she exists. His friends think he's crazy, but he continues to believe in her, anyway. We'd like to play along and take his word for it, except that every time we look, there's nothing there.

Pookaville: To quiet doubters, the White House has produced a few people who claim to have seen Miers. The most omnipresent is Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, who has known Miers for the past three decades.

If, as White House staffers reportedly joke, Miers is Bush's "work wife," Nathan Hecht is a previous work husband. She interviewed him for a job at her Dallas firm and later gave more than $6,000 to his judicial campaigns. Hecht returned the favor by helping Miers find the meaning of life during a mid-life crisis after she made partner.

Hecht is more than just another character witness. He's her longtime friend and colleague, fellow SMU grad, spiritual confessor—and above all, her substitute for judicial experience.

Hecht is even Miers' own personal Tower of Babel on abortion. "I know she is pro-life," he reassured the right last week. While she may once have been pro-choice, he says she told him at church in the 1980s that "life begins at conception." Yet at the same time, Hecht claims that Miers' personal views on abortion probably won't lead her to overturn Roe v. Wade: "I think she would take the view that only in the rarest of circumstances would she do something to reverse that kind of precedent."

It's bad enough that Bush thought Harriet Miers was the next John Roberts. Now her boyfriend thinks he's the next John Roberts, too.

Hecht and Miers describe their relationship as on-again, off-again. For Miers' sake, let's hope it's off again. Nathan Hecht is the kind of friend who would make anyone believe in the right to privacy.

He told the national press, "I know her judicial philosophy." He told conservative bloggers like Marvin Olasky that Miers' evangelical philosophy carries over into her judicial one: "She's an originalist—that's the way she takes the Bible."

Only Wonkette cares whether Hecht "knows" Miers' judicial philosophy in the Biblical sense. But now Hecht says he knows her Biblical philosophy in the judicial sense.

How? There's one way to find out: The Judiciary Committee should call Nathan Hecht as a star witness at Miers' confirmation hearings. He shoots from the hip, he can't stop talking, and like all great witnesses, he sounds like he's making it up as he goes along.

Hecht could be the worst character witness since the infamous John Doggett, who tried to vouch for Yale Law School classmate Clarence Thomas at his 1991 confirmation. His creepy performance did little for Thomas except to convince the nation that things could have been worse—if Bush had nominated Doggett.

The same could happen with Hecht and Miers. We won't know until the hearings whether Miers is more impressive than her résumé. It's a safe bet she is more impressive than her on-again, off-again boyfriend. ... 10:26 A.M.  (link)


Thursday, Oct. 6, 2005

Triple Play: If you asked my fellow Democrats in Washington to name the three best things that have happened to their party in the past month, most would say: 1) Tom DeLay's indictment; 2) the conservative crackup over Harriet Miers; and 3) yesterday's indictment of ex-White House aide and Abramoff pal David Safavian, coupled with swirling rumors that much bigger fish will soon be indicted in the Plame case.

Wrong answers! All three highlights from the Republicans' Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week were great fun for my side to watch, but they merely give Democrats an opening. We can't indict our way back to the majority. The jury we have to convince is the American people.

The best Democratic news this past week is that three of the party's rising stars showed that they are tired of a strategy that depends on the other side falling to pieces.

On Sunday, Tim Russert was gobsmacked to discover that when he asked his usual showstopper, "But what are the Democratic ideas?" Illinois congressman and ex-has-been Rahm Emanuel actually had an answer.

Rahm could have said, "Three things: Convict DeLay. Filibuster Miers. Stick pins in our voodoo dolls of George Bush and Karl Rove." Instead, he spelled out five real ideas: making college universal, demanding a budget summit, cutting energy dependence in half with a hybrid economy, creating a science and technology institute to rival NIH, and making health care universal over the next 10 years.

You might have your own ideas, but that's the point—when you listen to a Democrat with ideas, you don't fall into a deep funk or get hungry again half an hour later. (Full disclosure: Rahm Emanuel is my best friend in Congress, and next to him, I am his biggest promoter.)

You're Hired: If you do have a new idea, Andy Stern and the Service Employees International Union just created a platform for it. This week, Stern launched a Web site called, which will host a nationwide competition over the next two months to find the best new idea to promote economic opportunity for ordinary people.

The winner will receive a prize of $100,000; two runners-up will win $50,000. In the past, Democrats only gave that kind of money to consultants who had no ideas. Now everybody has an incentive to solve the country's problems.

Wherever it leads, the competition itself is such a great idea that Fox and the other networks must be kicking themselves for not coming up with it. Real people going head to head in a cross between the Nobel Prize and American Idol. It's just what Democrats need: reality thinking.

As if a nationwide search for ideas weren't encouraging enough, it's especially intriguing that Stern and his union are behind it. When Gary Hart first whetted Democrats' appetite for new ideas 20 years ago, his argument was that traditional Democratic interests were the ones standing in the way.

One key to Clinton's success in 1992 was persuading Democrats across the spectrum to be the party of change, not the status quo. Democrats can only win back a majority if they learn that lesson again, and Stern understands it better than anybody.

Truth Teller: Last Friday, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., posted a brilliant essay on Daily Kos called "Tone, Truth, and the Democratic Party." Obama used the split over John Roberts, whom he opposed, as an occasion to warn activists that hostility toward Democrats who don't always share their views is actually an impediment to a progressive majority.

Obama explains that "the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists"—that Democrats must grow a backbone, enforce Rove-like ideological purity, and polarize the electorate along our terms—plays right into Republicans' hands:

"Whenever we exaggerate or demonize, or oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. A polarized electorate that is turned off of politics, and easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate, works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government."

Obama points out that like litmus tests, arguments over "framing" and labels are beside the point. Instead of striving to be pure or predictable, Democrats need to be bold and unorthodox. That means being willing to "innovate and experiment with whatever ideas hold promise," and giving voters the benefit of "a real and authentic debate about the issues that matter."

Ironically, the desire to be bold and unorthodox may once again be the best bond to unite the Democratic Party. Like most Americans, most Democrats are profoundly disappointed by the performance of both parties in Washington. Whatever differences we might have over tactics, young guns like Kos and Has-Been reformers like me share an abiding contempt for the status quo, and want Democrats to state boldly and clearly what we stand for and what we'll do for the country.

The Obama essay may be the most intelligent advice Democrats have been given in the Bush era. There's nothing wrong with the Democratic Party or the country that can't be turned around by an honest debate, a civil tone, and above all, a bold, unorthodox agenda.

Iconoclasts like Andy Stern, Rahm Emanuel, and Barack Obama are the future of the Democratic Party. If the party listens to them, Democrats will prosper even if none of our favorite Republican bogeymen ends up rotting in jail. ... 8:43 A.M. (link)


Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2005

Spellbound: Today's Washington Post devotes five pages to the Miers nomination, but if you're in a rush, just read these two sentences:

"As Bush's staff secretary, she was known to correct spelling, grammar and even punctuation errors in memos to the president. But she has no judicial experience and not much appellate experience."

Never mind experience—President Bush wants nominees who understand that Supreme Court Justices don't legislate, they punctuate.

But wait—the president already put a stickler for spelling, grammar, and punctuation on the bench: John Roberts. At Hogan & Hartson, Roberts stuck clients with enormous bills by asking associates to rewrite briefs over and over until they were free of typographical and grammatical errors. In the Reagan administration, his snide memos mocked others' grammar. During his confirmation, he made sure journalists reported that as a youth, he never lost a local spelling bee.

In almost every respect, Miers would seem to be no John Roberts. But when it comes to spelling, grammar, and punctuation, Roberts may have met his match.

Will this shared obsession enable Roberts and Miers to bond on the bench—or is it more likely to cause a painful rift or even proofing gridlock? After waiting so long to change the Court, will the right wing's hopes be dashed by internecine dueling over the most elitist of concerns, proper punctuation?

We, the People: On matters of spelling, the Founders are little help, because they wrote the Constitution before many conventions of modern spelling took hold in the 1800s. Luckily, most spelling disputes can be resolved by simply looking in a dictionary.

Strict constructionists have a much tougher time, however, resolving questions of grammar and punctuation. As the flawed but amusing runaway British bestseller Eats, Shoots & Leaves observed, the laws of grammar and punctuation aren't really laws at all. On the contrary, they're judgment calls subject to a great deal of interpretation—rather like most Supreme Court questions.

Worse still, from the conservative standpoint, the conventions of grammar, punctuation, and even spelling change over time, as social conventions change. To be sure, an effective grammarian who capitulates to the will of the people can do real harm. History would not remember Justice Brandeis fondly had he written in DiSanto v. Pennsylvania, "The logic of words should yield to, like, the logic of realities."

On the other hand, a stickler who holds onto conventions of punctuation the public no longer shares may leave the law less clear than he or she found it. Consider one of the great Constitutional mysteries, the 2nd Amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Few sentences have done more to shape our current political landscape, and by extension, the current makeup of the Court. Yet you don't even have to be a Supreme Court Justice to see that the 2nd Amendment is largely a punctuation problem. Removing the first and third commas clears matters up quite a bit.

Eats, Shoots & Clams: It's bad enough that John Roberts was confirmed without revealing his judicial philosophy. It's worse that all we know of Harriet Miers's views is this Post quote from her sometime beau, Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan "She's a Terrible Cook" Hecht: "I know what her judicial philosophy will be, and when [conservatives] find out what this president knows about Harriet, they are going to be happy as clams."

But on top of everything else, now we have no earthly idea what their grammatical philosophies are, either.

Harriet Miers has never been a judge, and probably has no judicial philosophy. John Roberts may be hiding his, or may not have one himself.

By contrast, both Miers and Roberts obviously have strong views about grammar and punctuation. Those views will affect every sentence they write for the next 30-40 years. If they're both such sticklers, we have a right to know the philosophy behind their stickling.

Where do they stand on the serial comma ("disappointed, depressed, and demoralized" or "disappointed, depressed and demoralized")? With respect to the third person indefinite pronoun, do women have equal rights ("every Justice knows his heart" or "every Justice knows his or her heart" or "every Justice knows her heart")?

Finally, how can Ms. Miers reconcile her alleged dedication to established rules of grammar with her decade-long dedication to one of the worst grammatical evildoers in American history?

The White House has an obligation to release every document that Harriet Miers has written, edited, or let go by without a mark. Conservatives are already dumbstruck that Bush didn't pick another Scalia. Harriet Miers will never survive if they find out she's no William Safire, either. ... 11:39 A.M. (link)

** Update: Former Supreme Court clerk, future Supreme Court Justice, and fluent English speaker Robert Gordon  reminds me that in her maiden speech yesterday, Miers got off to a rocky start in her bid to become Associate Grammarian:

"The wisdom of those who drafted our Constitution and conceived our nation as functioning with three strong and independent branches have proven truly remarkable."

Chief Justice Roberts might allow the controversial use of "proven" in place of  the older and more established "proved," but any stickler who says "The wisdom ... have" listens too much to George W. Bush. Of course, in our obsession with grammatical correctness, we shouldn't miss the larger point: Even without the error in verb agreement, it would be a lousy sentence. ... 1:29 P.M.


Monday, Oct. 3, 2005

Mustang Harriet: Move over, FEMA. President Bush has designated a new official dumping ground for hacks: the Supreme Court.

The president's nominee, Harriet Miers, will be far from the first hack on the court. In fact, the justice she is nominated to replace, Sandra Day O'Connor, is one of the leading hacks in court history.

In terms of legal credentials, Miers is no John Roberts. She has never served on the bench. My guess is that she hasn't argued a case before the Supreme Court. She probably didn't even join the Latin club at SMU.

But Bush didn't pick Miers because of a nationwide search for legal talent. He picked her because she's the best lawyer within 100 feet of his office. So, the fair question to ask about Harriet Miers in the coming weeks is not how good a lawyer she is, but how good a hack?

Miers had some admirable firsts back in Texas. She may or may not be an impressive lawyer. But the Has-Been's uninformed view is that she's an uninspiring hack.

Who says George W. Bush can't be a uniter? Shortly after Bush nominated Miers, the left, right, and center joined in marveling at the underwhelming mediocrity of the choice.

Trendsetter Bill Kristol says he's "disappointed, depressed, and demoralized," because "her selection will unavoidably be judged as reflecting a combination of cronyism and capitulation on the part of the president." Right-wing loyalists at are despondent over her campaign contributions to Democrats.

The White House will no doubt argue publicly that maxing out to Al Gore's presidential campaign in the 1988 primaries and the DNC for Dukakis-Bentsen in the 1988 general shows Miers' political independence. Privately, they'll tell conservatives she was just greasing palms for her firm.

I don't know her motives, but I want to personally thank Ms. Miers for her $1,000 contribution, which paid most of my salary on Gore's short-lived campaign. With her help, we finished third behind Dukakis and Jackson in Texas on Super Tuesday. In the general, Dukakis-Bentsen lost Texas by 700,000 votes.

In the 1996 primaries, Miers contributed the maximum to Phil Gramm's presidential bid. So, perhaps she can sell herself as a Bill Bennett conservative: She's not a closet Democrat, she's just a bad gambler.

For her sake, let's hope that the "Mrs. Harris W. Miers, Sr." of Dallas, Texas, who gave $250 to the Clinton for President campaign in December 1991 is not Harriet's mother. That would spoil Miers' record of only backing Democrats who lose.

This morning, Harriet thanked her mother and her brother Harris, but I'll await official confirmation before sending the Miers family a thank-you for paying my salary in 1992 as well.

Note to freaked-out right-wingers: Surely not everyone who gave money to Al Gore, Mike Dukakis, and Bill Clinton was pro-choice.

Miers does have her defenders. "She's the kind of person you want in your corner when all the chips are being played," renowned Bush talent scout Joe Allbaugh told the New York Timeslast year. As Bill Bennett would say, "Hit me!"

Loyalty is one of Bush's better traits, but today's announcement smacked more of sentimentality. He wanted to promote from within and reward a longtime supporter and loyal employee. He agreed with his wife Laura that he couldn't pick yet another white guy.

Those were both good instincts. Unfortunately, so far as we know, Joe Allbaugh didn't have any college roommates who were women. So, Bush picked Miers '67, who overlapped with Laura '68 at SMU. Even if she turns out to be qualified, the Miers nomination starts out looking like another inside deal from an administration that has made far too many.

The right wing has only itself to blame for Bush's choice. For the last six months, they have waged a bitter war against Bush's first White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, on the grounds that Gonzales was "Spanish for Souter."

Gonzales may have been a hack with suspect conservative credentials, but at least he would have been an inspiring and historic hack. Now the right is stuck with Miers, who may not even be "SMU for Gonzales." ... 9:56 A.M. (link)