The Moose suggests that Democrats should breathe a sigh of relief because the President ducked a fight over judges.
Harriet Miers may very well out to be a Scalia-Thomas conservative. Who knows? But this is clear - a nuclear war over a unmistakably discernible conservative nominee would not have necessarily helped the Democrats.
To the extent that the issue of the composition of the Court played any significant role in the Bush-Kerry campaign - it was a mobilizing factor for the Republican base. Moreover, judicial over-reach concerning gay marriage might have moved some culturally conservative voters in the key state of Ohio. "Judicial activism" has usually been a winning issue for the Republicans.
While it may have excited the liberal interest groups and filled their coffers, a court smack down over a conservative nominee could have backfired against the Democrats among traditionalist voters - many of whom identify with the party on economic issues. Fortunately, the President avoided a fight because he was either devoted to cronyism or he feared that he could not risk diminishing political capital.
It would be good for Democrats to have a coherent judicial philosophy. They can try to make abortion and Roe the litmus test. But that would be a profound political loser, and a disservice to the political imperative that Democrats define themselves as something more than as a culturally liberal party that is in thrall to its interest groups. Yelling "extremist" in a crowded polity is not a plan.
Alas, the Democrats have the luxury of avoiding coming to grips with their judicial dilemma because President Bush blinked with the Miers nomination. He also potentially deflated his base for the '06 election. While evangelical Christians are kvelling over Miers, most conservatives are kvetching.
It could have gotten ugly.