Who is it? Who knows?

White House staffers who couldn't resist blurting out the identity of a CIA employee sure seem to be good at keeping the name of Bush's Supreme Court pick under wraps.

Published July 19, 2005 10:50PM (EDT)

Maybe the White House has been raising expectations that George W. Bush will name a woman to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, or maybe the expressions of interest by the president and the first lady have merely been signals that, yes, the president considered female candidates seriously before deciding to name a man after all.

Either way, there is, statistically speaking, about a 50 percent chance that the judge Bush has picked isn't a woman -- and that means it's still possible that Bush's nominee will be Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson; federal appellate court Judges Samuel Alioto, Michael McConnell, J. Michael Luttig, John Roberts Jr., Emilio Garza or J. Harvie Wilkinson III; or any of the other Y-chromosome candidates said to populate the not-so-short shortlists.

Of course, there's also a chance that Bush will still name a woman. There's Priscilla Owen plus the two Ediths -- Clement and Jones -- from the 5th Circuit; Karen Williams from the 4th Circuit; Janice Rogers Brown, recently of the California Supreme Court, now of the D.C. Circuit; Cecilia Altonaga, a district court judge from Florida; and Harvard Law School -- Harvard Law School? -- professor Mary Ann Glendon.

Who's at the top of the list? Who knows?

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter met with Bush last night, but he isn't naming names; Specter's office says he circulated a transcript of Edith Clement's 2001 confirmation hearing testimony earlier today only because so many people had asked him to do so. Other Republican senators either are doing a good job of bluffing or are clueless about Bush's pick, too. Within the last hour, Republican Judiciary Committee member Charles Grassley was telling CNN that he's hoping he'll be shown the "courtesy" of knowing the name of the nominee before it is announced.

We'll all know the answer soon enough. In the meantime, we'll say this: White House staffers who couldn't resist blurting out the identity of a CIA employee sure seem to be doing a good job of keeping the unclassified name of a judicial pick under wraps.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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