Last month, Bush pushed up the announcement of his nominating John Roberts to the Supreme Court in order to push news about Karl Rove's problems off the front page. It worked for about a day, but news Rove hasn't entirely disappeared from the news and the Roberts announcement now has its own problems. By announcing a week early, Bush has given critics an extra week to go over Roberts' record.
The administration appears to have done the same splendid job vetting Roberts that they did with Bernard Kerik last fall. And, in their hubris, they completely miscalculated where their vulnerabilities were. The White House can handle congressional Democrats with their time tested tactics of stonewalling and crying "obstruction" (oops, that should read "unprecedented and possibly unconstitutional obstruction; 9/11, 9/11, 9/11"). They can handle the left, but they didn't expect trouble to come from the right. Like this:
A conservative group in Virginia said yesterday it was withdrawing its support for Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' confirmation because of his work helping overturn a Colorado referendum on gays.
The group, Public Advocate of the United States, is one of the first conservative organizations to announce anything but support for the judge...
Or this one from Dobson's group:
Conservatives reacted cautiously to the news this week that federal Judge John G. Roberts Jr. helped a group of homosexual rights activists win a seminal victory 10 years ago before the Supreme Court.
[Family Research Council President Tony] Perkins said his initial reaction to the news was concern that Judge Roberts had been "aiding and abetting" the groups. But after discussions with the White House and surrogates, Mr. Perkins urged caution in reaching that conclusion.
And my favorite:
But White House supporters said yesterday the hysteria over Judge Roberts' involvement in the homosexual rights case has been fostered by liberals hoping to split the right's support for the nominee among conservatives. "The goal of the left here was to try driving a wedge between conservatives and a nominee," said Leonard A. Leo, a conservative lawyer working with the White House to confirm Judge Roberts. "They have failed."
It's telling that hey feel the need to denounce a liberal conspiracy as the source of "hysteria" on the right. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has officially rejected the request by Senate Democrats for Roberts' papers from his days as deputy Solicitor General. No doubt they want to go over those papers and see if there are any other potential roadside bombs waiting to detonate on the right side of the road.
Of course, none of this is likely to derail Roberts' nomination, and we have no reason to expect a better nominee from Bush even Roberts does fall. The best we can hope for is division and strain within the Republican coalition. But a whif of conservative fratricide enough for me.