Jan Crawford Greenburg has an article in the Washington Post/s Outlook section suggesting that the appointment of conservative judges has been one of the few (if not the only) successful major initiative of the Bush Administration. Near the end of the article, which appears to be based upon her new book, she has an interesting account of the Alito nomiation:
Alito was waiting in the wings when Miers's nomination fell apart. Unlike Reagan, who appointed the more liberal Kennedy to the court in 1987 after his nominations of Robert H. Bork and Douglas H. Ginsburg went down in flames, Bush had no problem seeking another solid conservative. With a Republican majority in the Senate, he did not compromise. Alito was considered a solid conservative, though not combative like others, and he had hired liberal law clerks. Bush hoped that Alito, like Roberts, would prove effective in building coalitions.
The call from the White House surprised Alito. Living in New Jersey, he had been insulated from the negative Washington buzz over Miers. He had absorbed the disappointment about being passed over and had come to terms with remaining a federal appellate judge. Alito didn't know that he had been Miers's choice for the O'Connor vacancy after Roberts got the nod for the top spot. She liked his quiet confidence; he didn't seem to be pushing too hard for the job. When Alito was nominated just four days after Miers dropped out, she greeted him warmly in the White House, moments before Bush introduced him as his next nominee.