You can find a finely articulated summary of Hugh's argument in his op ed Why the Right Went Wrong in yesterday's New York Times.
Since some may have to register with NYT to view the op ed, I will try to summarize the main points for those who don't like the idea of registering.
1. The "up or down vote on presidential nominations" had a key role in electing the majority the Republicans now have in the Senate. But the fierce campaign by conservative pundits for Miers to be withdrawn has made it difficult to continue using the "winning argument: that Democrats have deeply damaged the integrity of the advice and consent process."
2. The use by the right of tactics previously used exclusively by the left ("exaggeration, invective, anonymous sources, an unbroken stream of new charges, television advertisements paid for by secret sources") has made it hard to effectively criticize those tactics in future nominations.
3. Fortunately not all conservative pundits used those tactics and no Republican senator called for Miers' withdrawal. Thus, there is still a basis for the continuing fight for a fair nomination process. "But the Democrats' hand has been strengthened."
4. Because it worked in Miers' case, the next nominee, no matter how well qualified, "will face an instant and savage assault." The ground has also been laid for a filibuster justified by "special circumstances". And how many good candidates will refuse to subject themselves to the withering critique sure to come?
A White House counsel with distinguished credentials was compared to Caligula's horse and Barney the dog on National Review's Web site. George Will denounced as "crude" those evangelicals who thought Ms. Miers's faith was a good indication of character in a nominee and a hopeful sign on issues involving the unborn. She was labeled a crony before lunch on the day of her nomination by scores of commentators. Attacks on her competence within the White House followed immediately. She never had a chance, really.
5. The criticism of Miers' lack of judicial experience has set a standard in favor of appointing only judges that is not in the constitution. Even though some of Miers' critics say they would support someone without judicial experience, after this defeat no president will want to take that risk.
6. The leaders of the anti-Miers' camp were two blogs, National Reviews' The Corner and ConfirmThem.com.
They unleashed every argument they could find, and the pack that followed them could not be stopped. Even if a senator had a mind to urge hearings and a vote, he had to feel that it would call down on him the verbal wrath of the anti-Miers zealots.
7. "It will be the lasting glory or the lasting shame of The Corner and others involved in driving Ms. Miers from the field, depending on what happens" in terms not only of the next nominee, but the nominees that follow, the coming senate campaigns and the 2008 presidential election.
8. "This triumph of the conservative punditocracy will have lasting consequences, and I hope my fears are misplaced." The first consequences may come in the parental notification case to be argued before the Supreme Court in late November--with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor probably casting one of her last votes.
Kudos to Hugh for presenting an articulate case for the sort of nomination process the constitution envisions and for warning of the consequences of using the "ends justify the means" strategy followed by some in the anti-Miers camp.