What is perhaps most striking in the Gallup Poll numbers on Miers’ withdrawal regards the failure of conservative pundits. In spite of the three week campaign waged by a majority of conservative pundits against Miers, a clear majority of conservatives either were unsure (22%) or disappointed (44%) by her withdrawal. With all that fire power why did the pundits only garner 34%?
It’s clear that there was a major disconnect between the pundits and the conservative base. I can’t remember a time when the pundits were so united and the base was so resistant. (If any one has other examples, I would like to hear of them.)
One could make the caustic observation that the President understood his base better than the pundits, but more helpful is to note how fragile the nomination process is and how fragile the connect between pundit and rank and file might be.
The fragile nature of the nomination process in the Senate (where 40% can block a nomination) was mirrored in the conservative movement (where 34% blocked a nomination). Is the withdrawal of the Miers nomination a victory for the pundits on the order that the filibuster has been a victory for the Democrats? A nay-saying victory?
The fragile nature of the connect between pundit and rank and file may be a one-time problem because of the difficult nature of the withdrawal issue. The pundits were perceived by many as arguing against the position they had championed for years. They had their reasons but were unable to communicate those reasons well enough to win a plurality, let alone a simple majority.
Part of the problem was that anti-Miers pundits had only wisps and strands of argument. Their analysis was based on phrases (not full blown arguments) that Miers had written or spoken years before, on a lack of judicial or political writings, and the assumed disconnect between being a lawyer and counsel to the President and being a good Supreme Court Justice. The argument was almost from silence.
Another problem was the very idea of not giving a nominee a fair hearing. That went against common justice. Many conservative pundits argued that Miers should not even be given a hearing. And, of course, she was not. But the reasons for not getting a hearing were not immediately understandable to many conservatives. That she might do a poor job of presenting her case and embarrass herself and the President did not seem a compelling enough justification to deny Miers the opportunity for self-defense. If there were more substantial arguments, they were not clearly communicated.
The real question is not whether the President can get his base behind him. Apparently, it was there all the time. The real question is whether the pundits have damaged themselves to the extent that they cannot help muster the conservative unity and fervor needed to break filibusters against future nominees--not to mention defang attempts at borking.