When in doubt, throw out a trial balloon by using a leak followed by a staunch denial. The Washington Times signals that the White House is getting very nervous about the friendly fire they’re receiving over the Miers nomination to the Supreme Court. Rumours of her withdrawal abound. They are, of course, being denied. That’s how trial balloons work. Let one go. Gauge the reaction. Make a decision.

“White House senior staff are starting to ask outside people, saying, ‘We’re not discussing pulling out her nomination, but if we were to, do you have any advice as to how we should do it?’ ” a conservative Republican with ties to the White House told The Washington Times.

The White House denied making such calls.

“Absolutely not true,” White House spokesman Trent Duffy said.

But the conservative political consultant said that he had received such a query from Sara Taylor, director of the Office of White House Political Affairs.

Miss Taylor denied making any such calls.

A second Republican, who is the leader of a conservative interest group and has ties to the White House, confirmed that calls are being made to a select group of conservative activists who are not employed by the government.

The fact that this appears in the Washington Times is, of course, significant. It’s the paper of record for hard-line conservatives (she said, nicely).

According to the Times:

A conservative political consultant with ties to the White House said the president and his political team once thought Democrats would go easy on Miss Miers, a friend of Mr. Bush’s and his personal counsel. The theory was that Democrats see her as the best they could expect in the way of Bush appointments to the high court.

In other words, Bush was so confident that his base would support his decision, no matter what, that he didn’t even give a second thought to screwing over his rabidly fundie fans. No wonder “hubris” is the word now being used in conservative circles to describe their president. It sure took them long enough to take their blinders off. Welcome to the reality-based community. Find a chair. Sit down. And shut up.

The criticism from the right is fast and furious. Read on…

Republican lawyers on the committee staff have said Miss Miers’ meetings with senators have gone poorly. That’s why, they say, the White House has shifted its strategy from the private meetings to “boning up” for the hearings.

Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, said Miss Miers needs a “crash course” in constitutional law.

Isn’t it a bit late for law school?

Meanwhile, ardent kool-aid drinker John Cornyn slammed all of the Supreme Court justices with this endorsement of Miers:

“When you take a look at Harriet Miers’ career, what you see is a lawyer who has a breadth of legal experience unmatched by any justice currently sitting on the Supreme Court,”

Take that, John Roberts!

(Resource: Slate offers a good description of the different types of leaks and why they occur.)

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