The White House is preparing to relaunch the nomination of Harriet Miers with a new focus on what she’s done rather than on who she is, but first it will have to deal with this: As John Fund reports today in the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove arranged for two of Miers’ friends to participate in a conference call with leaders of the religious right on the day that her nomination was announced. And in the course of that call, Fund says, both friends assured the Christianists that Miers would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Fund bases his report on notes taken by someone who participated in the call. According to the notes, somebody asked Miers’ friends, Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht and U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade, “Based on your personal knowledge of her, if she had the opportunity, do you believe she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?” Kinkeade’s answer: “Absolutely.” Hecht chimed in: “I agree with that. I concur.” Fund tried to get confirmation from Kinkeade and Hecht. Kinkeade declined to talk with him, and Hecht — who has had what he calls a “semi-romantic” relationship with Miers — told Fund that he’d responded to the question by saying, “I don’t know.”
For what it’s worth, Fund doesn’t seem to buy it. “The benign interpretation of the comments is that the two judges were speaking on behalf of themselves, not Ms. Miers or the White House, and they were therefore offering a prediction, not an assurance, about how she would come down on Roe v. Wade,” he writes. “But the people I interviewed who were on the call took the comments as an assurance, and at least one based his support for Ms. Miers on them.”
Conservatives are already up in arms about Miers’ nomination, and Fund’s report could push some liberals over the edge. And if liberals and conservatives come together, Fund seems to think that the middle won’t hold — assuming that Miers gets as far as a floor vote in the first place. “Should she survive the hearings, liberal groups may demand that Democrats filibuster her,” Fund writes. “Republican senators, already hesitant to back Ms. Miers after heavy blowback from their conservative base, would likely lack the will to trigger the so-called nuclear option. ‘The nomination is in real trouble,’ one GOP senator told me. ‘Not one senator wants to go through the agony of those hearings, even those who want to vote for her.’ Even if Ms. Miers avoids a filibuster, it’s possible Democrats would join with dissident Republicans to defeat her outright.”