Bush spent the weekend at Camp David huddled with Miers, who remains his White House counsel and is therefore in charge of the judicial selection process, along with Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., who originally advocated Miers as the first choice to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. As the three talked, White House officials contacted prominent conservatives to test the reaction to various candidates.
One group consulted was the Concerned Women for America, whose decision to oppose Miers last Wednesday became one of the final blows to help kill the nomination. Janet M. LaRue, the group's chief counsel, said it received a call from the White House on Saturday and liked what it heard.
"Alito and Luttig have always been at the top of our list," she said in an interview. "We think either of them would be a supreme pick. There isn't a thing stealthy about them. They've got a long, proven record of constitutional conservatism."
Other conservatives yesterday also embraced Alito, in particular. "Alito, Luttig -- all these people are solid conservatives," Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said on CBS's "Face the Nation." On CNN's "Late Edition," Gary L. Bauer, president the conservative group American Values, described his criteria for a Supreme Court justice and added, "Certainly, Judge Alito fits those characterizations."
A judge on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Alito has been dubbed "Scalito" or "Scalia-lite" by some lawyers because his judicial philosophy invites comparisons to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's.
"That is not one of the names that I've suggested to the president," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told "Late Edition" on CNN. "In fact, I've done the opposite. I think it would create a lot of problems."
Reid said Bush would be making a "mistake" were he to settle on a hard-liner simply to appease the far right in his party, especially after conservatives' wrath undermined Miers' nomination.
Yes. A big mistake.