Lyle Denniston has an interesting post about the dynamics of the Roberts confirmation hearing in the shadow of the anticipated vacancy of Justice O'Connor's seat. He concludes:
In a way, therefore, this week has turned into a dress-rehearsal for the next nomination hearing. And, the chances are, the Democrats' task the next time around may well be made somewhat easier. It is hard to imagine a nominee who would be as talented a witness as Roberts has been, or one as deft as he has been in neutralizing the possible points of opposition. Moreover, despite the vivid conservatism that was on display in the thousands of pages of Roberts memos written as a young government lawyer, the next nominee probably will be a more ideological conservative, certainly more visibly so. (The President could hardly satisfy his most conservative following by using the O'Connor succession to nominate a consensus figure.)
To some degree, then, it could be argued that the advantage may shift, perhaps noticeably, to the Democrats with the next nomination. But that is an advantage that could be largely thrown away, in advance, by an array of hard-to-explain Democratic votes against Roberts.
But who will be the next nominee? Of course, I have no special insight or secret sources of information. All I have to offer right now is rank speculation. . . . Perhaps this is what is going through GWB's (or Karl Rove's) mind:
I think I will nominate Janice Rogers Brown to the Supreme Court. My daddy nominated Clarence Thomas to the Court, and the liberals struggled with what to do. With Brown, they'll be doubly confounded: she's African-American and female! Yeah, yeah, they filibustered her when I nominated her to the D.C. Circuit, but when it came to a vote, she was confirmed. Besides, this is a win-win situation.
If the Democrats don't oppose her and she gets confirmed, I get another conservative justice on the Court. And I get credit for doubling the number of African-Americans on the Court.
Besides, if the Democrats oppose her but she's confirmed anyway on a straight party line vote, maybe she'll become even more conservative, kind of like how Justice Thomas has turned out.
On the other hand, if the Democrats really mount an opposition and "Bork" her, I can blame them for keeping the first African-American woman nominee off the Court. And then I'll nominate Edith Jones. After fighting the Brown nomination, I don't think the Democrats will have the energy for another big fight.
But if they do, there's always Michael Luttig. . . .
What do you think, is this Machiavellian enough to approximate Bush/Rove?