Here's the idea. Say you're in charge of political strategy at the White House, and you realize that Mukasey is a truly outstanding nominee who is also highly confirmable. You know he'll make it through, and the only question is how easily and at what cost. For tactical reasons, you "leak" to the press that you are very worried about conservative opposition to the Mukasey pick. You then make sure the press can find someone on the right — anyone — who would be willing to say something negative about Mukasey.
At that point you can sit back and watch the show. Based on this inside "scoop" about potential conservative unrest, the MSM would dutifully go off and write their articles about how there is conservative opposition to Mukasey (citing White House worries and the one guy they could find to actually express concern, in this case some guy named "Brian Burch" from a group I have never heard of named "Fidelis"). The stories don't need any content; they really just need a good headline, like "How Bush's AG Pick Irritates the Right."
Predictably, a few conservatives would see the articles and echo the concerns in the blogosphere. After all, if the press is saying that the Right is worried and you very much identify as being on the Right, then presumably you should be concerned as well. Equally predictably, some liberal critics eager to paint conservatives as nuts would write columns imagining (and criticizing) broad conservative opposition. Voila — with just a simple "leak," you have ensured that media discussion of the nominee will frequently mention conservative concerns.
Why go through the trouble? Two reasons. First, in Washington the friend of your enemy is your enemy. You can't have a 100% consensus nominee because as soon as partisans on one side embrace a nominee the other side will grow suspicious. In a world with a Democratic Senate and a lame duck Republican President, it's much better to have a fellow Republicans suspicious of a nominee than the Democrats.
Second, this story changes the conversation. More press attention on largely imaginary opposition within the GOP means less press attention on the Democrats' agenda. It takes the story away from Democratic demands on the Bush Administration for documents and puts it on the internal dynamics of conservative interests groups in Washington. All things being equal, that's a conversation that the White House would much rather have.
Anyway, this is just my amateurish speculation. I really have no idea if this was a deliberate move. But the skeptic in me wouldn't rule it out, and it would be a pretty good pump fake if it's actually what's happening.
Related Posts (on one page):
- Dahlia Lithwick on Conservative Opposition to Mukasey:
- The White House and Conservative Concern About the Mukasey Nomination: