My phone has been ringing off the hook this morning. There is a rumor circulating inside and outside the White House that Judge Alito is the next justice of the United States Supreme Court. Folks, it is all rumor — in fact it is Joy Clement buzz level right now. But, the fact remains that very credible people outside the White House and lower staff level people inside the White House all have Alito on their lips.
Here are the facts I trust:
The President has decided to give conservatives the fight they were looking for, with a caveat. The President is not going to go with a Janice Rogers Brown, an Edith Jones, or a Bill Pryor. No one previously filibustered will go through and no “flame thrower” will be considered. At the same time, the White House intends to go with a solid conservative pick, knowing that whoever is picked will draw the wrath of Democrats. It is important for the White House to be seen as making a reasonable pick.
Given that the Republicans in the Senate effectively blocked Miers through a coordinated effort — and be wary of White House staffers trying to take credit for the Miers withdrawal — the GOP in the Senate can be expected to stand behind the President on the new pick.
To make a reasonable pick, the White House has decided it will go with a sitting federal judge. A woman is not required. This will not be an affirmative action pick and it will not be a sop to a specific subset of conservatives, e.g. evangelicals. The White House is going with a solid conservative jurist who can readily be portrayed as mainstream.
Judge Sykes of the 7th Circuit is getting a lot of play. One friend of mine who clerked there insists she is not ready for prime time. However, she has gotten some consideration. Outside groups who have been laying advance work for the White House while it withdrew Miers have been looking at McConnell, Alito, and Sykes very hard. There is a lot of concern about McConnell given his prior statements on polygamy, abortion, and campaign finance. While the base could be pacified with McConnell, the White House has some worry about McConnell’s academic writings being mischaracterized by the left.
Right now, the buzz is Alito. I’ll let you know if it changes.
Update [2005-10-28 10:13:53 by Erick]:THE Source of Sources called and said not to discount Luttig, but if I had to place a bet, bet on Alito. Says the White House wants this done quickly and the best way to do it quickly is to go with an known quantity who is readily acceptable and will look very reasonable to the public at large.