When George W. Bush was asked this morning about a report that the White House is thinking through contingency plans for the withdrawal of Harriet Miers' nomination, he responded with what we thought was a non sequitur: Rather than confirming or denying the report, the president said that he will refuse to release documents reflecting the advice Miers has given him as a member of his White House staff.
It wasn't an answer to the question he was asked, but -- as a War Room reader notes -- maybe it wasn't quite the non sequitur we thought it was, either. In a column last week, Charles Krauthammer laid out a face-saving exit strategy for the White House: Senators demand documents from Miers' White House tenure; the president refuses to turn over the documents on executive privilege or attorney-client privilege grounds; the senators say that, in light of her scant record elsewhere, they can't consider Miers' nomination without seeing her White House documents; Miers, faced with an irreconcilable conflict between the Senate and the president, puts the good of the nation above her own desires and graciously withdraws her nomination.
Far-fetched? Maybe, but it seems to be working so far:
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback called on Bush to turn over documents related to Miers' White House work. "Providing this type of information from the White House is almost a risk they assume when you nominate a candidate just from inside the White House," he said. "A lot of the things she worked in the White House are on their way up to the Supreme Court. I think it's totally legitimate to say, 'What did you work on? If that issue comes before the Supreme Court, what would you do?'"
At his Cabinet meeting this morning, the president all but blurted out that he wouldn't and couldn't turn over such documents without jeopardizing the ability of future presidents to hear frank advice and "to make sound decisions."
And like clockwork, the mainstream press is now reporting that a "document snag" is threatening to "scuttle" Miers' nomination. Maybe this is all just coincidence. Maybe Krauthammer was tipped off to a plan already in the works. Or maybe, with Karl Rove distracted by other matters, the president is taking advice from wherever he can find it.