Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid peeved some party colleagues last week with his out-of-the-starting-gate declaration on President Bush's second Supreme Court nominee: ''I like Harriet Miers."
Even though the Nevada senator later tried to temper his enthusiasm on the Senate floor, the die was cast: The Senate's top Democrat and a leading vote against Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. had signaled he wasn't especially interested in leading a fight over Miers, even though other Democrats and a panoply of interest groups were hankering for a showdown.
It turns out that Miers's name had been on Reid's mind for the past six weeks -- ever since a private lunch he and others attended inside the Supreme Court. Among the three justices sitting at Reid's small table was one who made a big impression on him by arguing that the highest court in the nation would benefit from the perspective of someone who wasn't already a judge. Reid was coy about the identity of his table guest, though informed sources point to retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Inspired by the lunch, Reid began floating the names of Republican senators, including Florida's Mel Martinez, Ohio's Mike DeWine and Idaho's Michael Crapo. But he also urged Bush during a White House meeting in September to consider Miers, a Southern Methodist University graduate he grew to respect during last summer's protracted filibuster debate.
Ironically, those same qualities Reid likes about Miers -- she's never worn black robes or opined on judicial philosophy from a top academic post -- have become fodder for conservative intellectuals condemning Bush's choice, the Boston Globe reports.