As the Right’s spin machine cranks up again, two things are clear:
1- The first order of business is to change the subject from the Iraqgate scandal and from the calls for Karl Rove’s resignation.
2- The Right is looking for a fight it can win over process and politics. Naming and pushing through a hard-right leaning Supreme Court nominee like Samuel Alito (reported to be the pick today) as quickly as possible is the most obvious win they will seek. The more they can make the fight for Bush’s next nominee about ‘bigger’ issues of process and the President’s prerogative to name a nominee of his choosing, the less the nation will be looking at the spectacle of Iraqgate.
Regarding Point 1: The line has emerged on defending Rove and it seems to go along a logic that says, “Not indicted, so not involved.”
According to Dana Milbank and Carol D. Leonnig in the WaPo, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), a vigorous defender of the administration, said on ABC: "I think what we found out this week is that any alleged wrongdoing is really confined to a single individual. Those who were expecting an indictment, indicating a broad conspiracy to out a covert CIA agent or -- are going to be disappointed because there is no evidence to support that."
Regarding Point 2: The SCOTUS battle— It’ll be about the concept of the filibuster, about whether the Democrats can hold open debate without having a majority in the Senate. Republicans will be under pressure to close ranks and vote to approve the “nuclear option” of changing the Senate rules to stop Democrats from fighting a hard-right nominee by debate. Bush needs desperately to both win a battle and to make the win look like a victory for some sort of principle. Democrats look ready to take the bait by opposing a potential nominee and discussing tactics before having hearings. In response, the NY Times quotes Senator Lindsey Graham as saying that if the Democrats staged a filibuster against Judge Alito or Judge Luttig because of their conservatism, "the filibuster will not stand."
If the opposition has any sense of the moment, the discussion of a new SCOTUS nominee should be wrapped into discussion of the legal and ethical maelstrom the spin machine wants us to forget. Every statement issued should begin with, “Now that one of the highest officials in the Administration is under indictment and the President’s chief strategist is known by the prosecutor’s designation, ‘Official A,’ the Bush White House wants to put up a smokescreen.”
The spin machine is attempting to turn the SCOTUS nomination into a political Halloween trick of epic proportions. This is Rove’s work, timing the nomination immediately after Libby’s indictment. Whether it’ll prove to be a successful ruse or Bush’s last stand depends on whether Democrats are willing to let him change the subject in the process of fighting it.
Happy Halloween! Trick...or treat?