Harriet Miers should not have been subjected to this. But she showed class and dignity (and a good deal more sense than her boss) by withdrawing. Now, the Bush administration has to show it learned from the debacle. While the president reportedly loves to surprise people, being overly clever here by picking another stealth nominee (or a White House insider who's a cipher to the outside world) would neither mollify his supporters -- nor promote an independent judiciary, which will have an impact on Americans long past 2009.
It's just plain sad to see Chuck Schumer and other Democrats blame the Miers withdrawal on the vast right wing conspiracy, or to see Dianne Feinstein (who's sadly becoming more of a party hack as the years drift by) play the sexism card. Miers had few champions, because she clearly was not qualified for the job. It's not her fault; she specialized in the administrative side of law, not the theoretical. Still, it's gonna be fun to watch the Democrats and their special-interest puppet masters squirm if Bush selects a successor for Sandra Day O'Connor that draws unity from conservatives and libertarians.
The silver lining
At Instapundit and The Corner and The Volokh Conspiracy, the mood seems more relief than celebration. And that's a healthy sign -- especially with the NR crowd. It's an indication that speaking expansively, "the right" is perfectly happy complementing the GOP or the Bush administration but not becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of either. The Porkbusters campaign (which has been temporarily stymied but refuses to evaporate) is another example of a movement that's putting principle ahead of personality.
By contrast, Democrats and the left, which are both bereft of ideas and an agenda, and are pinning their hopes on the Clintons. Talk about your cult of personality.
Don't get me wrong. W and his brain trust might be tempted to forge a political dynasty -- word that the White House was compiling what amounted to an enemies list that comprised the public opponents of the Miers pick is certainly not encouraging. But the free-market or conservative movement is much larger than one person or one administration -- and is clearly more grounded in ideas than in the short-term lust for power. Peggy Noonan may be gloomy. But I'm willing to have a sunnier outlook ... if Bush uses this setback as an opportunity to rebuild credibility with his principled supporters -- to dance with who brung him.