I"ve never been a very good political prognosticator -- I think I"ve confidently predicted six of the last two Democratic presidential victories -- but sometimes I get it right. Four hours after the Miers nomination was announced, I wrote:
...there have to be some real questions about what Republicans will do. Remember, the 2008 presidential campaign has already begun. If you're a potential candidate like Senator Brownback, and you see this anger in the base, it is a golden opportunity to make some allies. And if Brownback turns on Miers, what are George Allen and Rick Santorum supposed to do? You could see the beginnings of significant bipartisan opposition to Miers, in which case the nomination would have to be withdrawn, even if it's not clear that the opposition would reach the 40-vote level.
Pretty good prediction, including the recognition that Brownback was the key.
As to what happens now, I don't think it will be quite as easy as naming Ben Bernanke to replace Greenspan. I've always thought that one explanation for the Miers nomination was that the White House process simply wasn't functioning. They had a decent number of plausible nominees -- female, Hispanic or both, reliable movement conservatives currently sitting on federal courts -- but just failed at the process of vetting them, getting them in to the President, making him comfortable with one of them, and moving forward. So they fell back to the person they knew, the familiar face in the room. That was almost a month ago. Now, with the top White House staff looking at each other suspiciously as they try to avoid indictment and with a president sliding into "Final Days" territory, they have to do the whole thing over again? Maybe, if as in the cases of Roberts and Bernanke there is an obvious choice, but I suspect it won't be so quick.
If all they had to do was satisfy the hard right, they could probably do it, especially if they don't worry about the nominee being female or Hispanic. But there is another factor they have to deal with now: Arlen Specter. A year ago, Specter was humbled and compliant. Bush and Santorum had saved his Senate seat from a right-wing primary challenge, and Bush had protected him when there were right-wing objections to his taking the Judiciary Committee chairmanship. But now the politics are very different. What's the right going to do to him now? What's Bill Frist going to do to either protect him or hurt him? Nothing. What good is the protection of a humbled White House? And knowing a little bit about Specter, I'm guessing that he feels highly insulted by the fact of the Miers nomination and that he was expected to push it through. An angry, empowered Specter is not a pretty sight, and my guess will be that if they send up a hard-right movement conservative, especially on choice, Specter will no longer feel any obligation to do anything to move the nomination forward. It's going to be much harder to satisfy both the angry right and the angry moderate than it would have been a month ago to just nominate one of the plausible candidates.