White House Watch: Cheney clips right-wing objections
To get the clearest indication of President Bush's innermost concerns, White House insiders say, take a look at what Vice President Cheney is up to. Soon after the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, for example, Cheney appeared on two of talk radio's most influential conservative showsone hosted by Rush Limbaugh and the other by Sean Hannity.
His message was that conservatives should tamp down their initial worries that Miers lacks a right-leaning judicial record. Cheney urged the president's core supporters to trust Bush and assume that Miers will turn out to be a strict constructionist.
"She believes very deeply in the importance of interpreting the Constitution and the law as it's written," Cheney told Limbaugh. "She won't legislate from the federal bench. And the president has great confidence in her judicial philosophy. He's known her for many years. And I share that confidence based on my own personal experience."
Shortly after Bush announced his selection of Miers, a lawyer who has never been a judge, it quickly became clear that White House strategists needed to do some damage control to keep conservatives from getting up a head of steam against Miers. White House insiders say Cheney, as Bush's supreme confidant and an idol of conservatives, has succeeded so far in muffling the thunder from the right.
In the end, the choice of Miers will be shown to be a wise move precisely because of her lack of a judicial record and an extensive paper trail of opinions and rulings that Democrats could shoot at, Bush advisers say. The White House theory is that her opponents in the Senate won't have much ammunition to attack her with.
But her lack of a judicial record also means that the Republican right will need to swallow its objections and trust Bush. Keeping the right in line will be Job 1 for Cheney for the foreseeable future.