Yesterday on All Things Considered, correspondent Nina Totenberg noted conservative division on the Harriet Miers nomination and in passing described the cautious, positive reactions of liberal Democrats, but failed to affix the liberal label to Senators Harry Reid and Charles Schumer, who both cast "nay" votes on installing John Roberts as the nation's 17th Chief Justice.
Totenberg began her report by noting that in announcing Miers at 8:00 a.m. on John Roberts’s first day as Chief Justice, the President was "stepping on" positive PR and refocusing the media's political lens on Miers:
Normally, the story of the day would have been Roberts investiture with pomp, ceremony, and pictures of rambunctious children at the Court, instead the story of day was the Miers announcement, a story that left many conservatives privately if not publicly disappointed and Democrats poised for a fight that they may in the end forego. David Frum worked with Miers at the Bush White House in the first term. He posted an entry on the conservative National Review blog today bemoaning the Miers appointment as an opportunity missed to name any one of several outstanding conservative jurists.
In an article in today’s New York Times entitled “When a President is Not Spoiling for a Fight,” journalist Richard Stevenson practically called President Bush a chicken for nominating Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court:
“There is still much to learn about Harriet E. Miers, but in naming her to the Supreme Court, President Bush revealed something about himself: that he has no appetite, at a time when he and his party are besieged by problems, for an all-out ideological fight.”
“By instead settling on a loyalist with no experience as a judge and little substantive record on abortion, affirmative action, religion and other socially divisive issues, Mr. Bush shied away from a direct confrontation with liberals and in effect asked his base on the right to trust him on this one.”
In the Times’ view, the Miers pick is indicative of a president in dire trouble:
All three broadcast network evening newscasts on Monday focused attention on the disappointment expressed by conservatives at President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, but the CBS Evening News went the furthest in reporting the selection through a liberal prism. Anchor Bob Schieffer employed “rights” language which put the liberal position in a positive light: “Social conservatives wanted someone who is on the record against gay rights and abortion rights. Many liberals wanted someone who is for abortion rights.”
John Roberts put the most negative hue on Miers' connection to Bush as he asserted that “Miers' ties to President Bush are too close for some people on the left and right. What looks like, they say, to be the very embodiment of cronyism." To back that up, Roberts ran a clip from CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen. Unlike ABC's Terry Moran and NBC's Pete Williams, Roberts failed to point out (as did Gloria Borger in a subsequent piece) how Miers gave a $1,000 to the Al Gore campaign in 1988, but Roberts, using phraseology favorable to abortion backers, stressed her position on abortion: “We do know as head of the Texas bar, she fought against support for abortion rights and she was a patron of a Texas anti-abortion group. Friends say she is very religious.” Roberts concluded with an extreme label: “White House officials, including the Vice President, insist she has the sort of bedrock conservative judicial philosophy that even the far right will like." (I doubt Cheney used the term “far right.”)