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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Inside the Creaky Miers Spin Machine

Byron York, White House reporter for National Review, put up an online article this afternoon suggesting that the team lobbying for Harriet Miers’ confirmation is “gloomy and demoralized,” not due to external conservative opposition to the nomination, but because her “courtesy visits” to the Senators who will determine her fate are not going well.

Strategists working with the White House in support of the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers are becoming increasingly demoralized and pessimistic about the nomination’s prospects on Capitol Hill in the wake of Miers’s meetings with several Republican and Democratic senators. On a conference call held this morning, they even discussed whether Miers should simply stop visiting with lawmakers, lest any further damage be done — and so that time spent in such get-acquainted sessions will not cut into Miers’s intensive preparation for her confirmation hearing….”The number of participants [in the pro-Miers conference calls] is declining,” says one knowledgeable source. “With Roberts, these calls occurred five or six or seven times a week. Pretty early on, the calls on Miers were scaled back to twice a week. That says something in and of itself.””It’s been a gradual descent into almost silence,” says a second source of the calls. “The meetings with the senators are going terribly. On a scale of one to 100, they are in negative territory. The thought now is that they have to end….Obviously the smart thing to do would be to withdraw the nomination and have a do-over as soon as possible. But the White House is so irrational that who knows? As of this morning, there is a sort of pig-headed resolve to press forward, cancel the meetings with senators if necessary, and bone up for the hearings….””Demoralization and pessimism?” the source continues. “That’s been a constant. We’re in the various stages of grief.”

Now I realize that the magazine Byron York works for is one of the major sources of the conservative revolt against Miers. But he’s a solid, old-school reporter, and moreover, the fact that people involved in the Miers lobbying operation are talking to him, even on “deep background,” is significant in itself. Like John Fund’s leak-fed revelations about the incompetent vetting of Miers in the White House, it shows that Republican discipline has completely broken down. And that has to be freaking out the White House as much as anything else. In any given meeting or conference call to bolster the nomination, the spin team must be constantly asking themselves: Who can we trust?

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