Bush Focusing on Woman for Second Seat?

The New York Times, citing “several [anonymous] Republican allies close to the process,” reported this morning that President Bush is looking for someone who can stand up to the anticipated bloodbath in the Senate to fill Justice O’Connor’s seat:

The White House is reshuffling its short list of potential Supreme Court nominees with a new emphasis on finding someone who will hold up under the pressure of what is expected to be fierce confirmation battle….

The Times also says that Bush is looking hard for a woman, which, frankly, narrows the field considerably if he wants someone who will come close to equaling John Roberts’s qualifications and performance. According to the Times, Bush’s “reshuffling” means it is less likely that Janice Rogers Brown will get the nomination:

Republican strategists close to the White House worry that Judge Brown, an African-American known for her fiery speeches to conservative crowds, might try to fight back against vigorous questioning. Other conservative strategists say that she also lacks experience on the federal bench and that supporting her highly ideological oratory might strain the solidarity of the Senate Republican caucus.

I agree that Brown would probably be unable to treat Dem Senators like Biden, Durbin and Kennedy with the elaborate respect that they don’t deserve, and that her hearing would produce fireworks like we haven’t seen in a long time. But so what? She is much smarter than her Democratic opponents, and she’d do fine. And, more important, the views she would be defending are held by the vast majority of Americans. Let’s go ahead and have that fight, is my view.
The bland and mild-mannered Priscilla Owen is reportedly near the top of the pack; the Times says:

Another judge said to be on the list is Judge Priscilla R. Owen, a friend of the president also recently confirmed to a federal appeals court after a vigorous Senate battle. In her case, strategists say the White House is evaluating whether her reticence and mild manner would be a strength or a weakness under interrogation in the Senate.

The new name on the list is Consuelo Callahan, a Hispanic whom Bush nominated to the 9th Circuit in 2003. While I’m sure Judge Callahan is a fine jurist, she is a graduate of the McGeorge School of Law who is best known as a tap dancer:

A hoofer with a sense of humor, Callahan likes to surprise judicial and legal gatherings by starting discussions about serious topics and ending with a quip about appellate judges who tap dance around issues. She then pulls off her black robe to reveal a sequined costume and tap shoes.
She’s been known to hop on a tabletop or in one case on a judicial bench during these special events and do some pretty impressive steps.

Somehow I don’t think the President is serious about selecting Judge Callahan to follow in Roberts’s footsteps. In fact, knowing how Bush operates, this whole leak could be an elaborate misdirection. Maybe we’ll see Luttig or McConnell after all.


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