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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Senate Staff Revolt on Miers?

The headline news today on the Miers nomination is Laura Bush’s suggestion that resistance to the nominee among conservatives may be based on reflexive sexism, an argument that made the Right go nuts when RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie articulated it in private meetings earlier on.But the more important news, written up by David Kirkpatrick in today’s New York Times, is that there is a revolt brewing among Republican Senate staffers, especially those on the Judiciary Committee, against the nomination:

As the White House seeks to rally senators behind the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers, lawyers for the Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee are expressing dissatisfaction with the choice and pushing back against her, aides to 6 of the 10 Republican committee members said yesterday.”Everybody is hoping that something will happen on Miers, either that the president would withdraw her or she would realize she is not up to it and pull out while she has some dignity intact,” a lawyer to a Republican committee member said.All the Republican staff members insisted on anonymity for fear of retaliation from their supervisors and from the Senate leaders.

At two stormy meetings on Friday – the first a planning meeting of the chief counsels to Republican committee members and the second a Republican staff meeting with Ed Gillespie, the former Republican Party chairman who is helping to lobby for the nomination – committee lawyers were unanimous in their dismay over Ms. Miers’s qualifications and conservative credentials, several attendees said….”You could say there is pretty much uniform disappointment with the nomination at the staff level,” another Republican on the committee staff said. “It is clear there is quite a bit of skepticism, and even some flashes of hostility.”Another Republican aide close to the committee said, “I don’t know a staffer who approves of this nomination, anywhere. Most of it is outright hostility throughout the Judiciary Committee staff.”In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Specter emphasized that the senators would make their own decisions.”I think those staffers, like anybody else, have a right to their opinions and to express them,” he said. “Senators will make independent judgments. You have some pretty strong staffers on the committee, but you have got some stronger senators.”

Specter’s quote is very interesting, because (a) it appears to be his own Judiciary Committee staff who are the chief grousers about Miers, and (b) throughout his long Senate career, the Pennsylvanian has consistently distinguished himself for imperious treatment of staff in an institution where Sun King disdain for the opinions of underlings is standard.You don’t have to put on a tin-foil hat to wonder if Specter is playing a double game on Miers, especially given his own rather conflicted comments about her qualifications. Maybe the White House’s well-known injunctions to Specter to get along better with conservatives are producing some unintended and ironic consequences.

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