With his third pick to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, George W. Bush has just given the nation the kind of nominee it might have expected all along. As a candidate, Bush promised to name judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Samuel Alito, the man Bush just nominated, fits that mold so well that he's known as "Scalito" and "Little Nino."
That's part of the reason Bush chose him: Alito's track record, especially on abortion rights, is the sort that will please the religious right and, after a few rocky weeks, bring the president's base back to his side. The other reason Bush chose Alito: He has a track record in the first place. As Bush began his announcement of his latest pick this morning, he stressed Alito's "experience" -- as a Justice Department official, as a prosecutor and as a federal appellate judge -- and said his nominee has a "deep mastery" of the law.
The message to the president's base: Alito isn't Harriet Miers. The message to the rest of us: He's no Sandra Day O'Connor, either.