Robert Novak speculates about what was up with the Edith Clement “boomlet” last Tuesday. According to Novak:
Mentioning the little-known Judge Edith Brown Clement as front-runner for the Supreme Court vacancy was not a ploy to obscure the eventual selection of Judge John Roberts. She was the real runner-up, after evoking mixed reviews from conservatives.
I’m reasonably certain that the White House did present Clement’s name to certain conservatives on Monday for reaction. I believe that the reaction was “mixed,” as Novak says. There’s no reason to assume that the White House engaged in “misdirection.” However, President Bush had already interviewed John Roberts, and must have been giving him strong consideration even as the White House was floating Clement. Perhaps the president had narrowed his choices down to the two of them.
In some ways, Clement resembles Roberts, so it’s easy to believe that she could have been the runner-up. The two are about the same age, both are attractive, both were confirmed during the Bush administration by a contentious Senate, both probably made a good impression during the interview. The differences — (1) Roberts has a more distinguished overall record (no reflection on Clement; few can match Roberts’ credentials) and (2) there seems to be more evidence that Roberts is solid conservative.