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A Dilemma for the Democrats.--

It is becoming clear that the criticism of Harriet Miers is strong enough from both the right and the center that Democrats can oppose her nomination without paying much of a political price.

We learned in the Roberts nomination that some Democratic Senators were willing to find reasons to go back on their earlier assurances that they would support a "mainstream conservative," but not an extremist. When Bush nominated a mainstream conservative, John Roberts, fully half of Senate Democrats opposed his confirmation.

Now George Bush has nominated a weak choice for the Supreme Court, one without a strong judicial philosophy that might help her resist the pressures to "grow in office" in ways that would please the NY Times and the Washington Post.

Will Democratic Senators vote for Miers in the belief that, while she may start out as a conservative, she may eventually make the same move to the left that Justices Souter, Blackmun, and Stevens made? And, even if she doesn't, Miers may at least make the sort of move to the center that Justices O'Connor and Kennedy have made. (The fervor with which Bush asserted that Miers would not change her views after long service on the Court makes me wonder whether she promised him that she wouldn't change. But can anyone be expected to keep such a promise years from now?)

Or will Democratic Senators decide to try to stop the Miers nomination if they can? Although I think that Senate Democrats could survive the political fallout from a filibuster, in my opinion Supreme Court nominees deserve an up-or-down vote. It may take a few weeks for the politics to sort itself out, but getting some Republican defectors may be entirely possible. My best guess is that almost all Democratic Senators will at least begin by tentatively opposing Miers.

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