Miers as sacrifice metal
Harriet Miers is an odd pick for the Supreme Court. The conservative base doesn't like her and she's conspicuously underqualified. Loyalty counts for a lot in the Bush administration, but surely there are more nominally qualified sycophants out there. Why would Bush risk splitting his own party over such a mediocre nominee?
I find Tom Goldstein's preliminary explanation compelling:
I really need to get down to the Court to argue but wanted to note my sense that the President's nomination creates a very interesting political dynamic - one that places the nomination in peril. The nomination obviously will be vigorously supported by groups created for the purpose of pressing the President's nominees, and vigorously opposed by groups on the other side. But within the conservative wing of the Republican party, there is thus far (very early in the process) only great disappointment, not enthusiasm.
Rick Hansen is making similar arguments at Electionlaw Blog.
Tom and Rick wonder if Miers' nomination is a Rovian set-up. Bush may have nominated Miers precisely because she's unlikely to be confirmed. On this view, Miers is like sacrifice metal on a boat. She will bear the brunt of the initial Democratic onslaught. Then, after Miers takes the fall, Bush can nominate a real fire-breather like Janice Rogers Brown. Rove is betting that by then the Democrats will be spent, the public will be sick of confirmation "bickering", and the Republicans will have had some time to regroup after the Katrina/DeLay/Plame crises.
Granted, the "sacrifice metal" model sounds a little far-fetched, but it's the best rationale I've read so far.