If reports are correct, President Bush will nominate retired federal judge Michael Mukasey as the new Attorney General, today. This is a mistake.
It's not that Judge Mukasey isn't a fine man or a good judge -- most reports indicate he is both.
But the impression is that President Bush avoided picking conservative favorite -- former solicitor general Theodore Olson -- because Sen. Harry Reid vowed to block his nomination.
What Bush fails to realize is that when you are right, picking a fight with an unpopular enemy can actually make you more popular with your base.
Keep in mind that Theodore Olson was by no means a "fringe" candidate. He is widely respected and highly qualified. As the Washington Post reports this morning, even reporter Matthew Cooper said this of Olson:
Ted Olson, unlike Alberto Gonzales, is incredibly well qualified, maybe the best qualified person, to take the job under a Republican president," wrote Cooper, whose wife works for Hillary Clinton.
So if Olson is clearly a respectable nominee, why not use this as an opportunity to pick a fight with the liberals who are blocking him for political purposes? I can't help but think that presidents like Clinton and Reagan would see this sort of thing as an opportunity to score political points -- not as a crisis.
Keep in mind, controversy can be good. In fact, I would argue that you can't get some people to love you unless some other people hate you. Just this past week, Rudy Giuliani seized on the opportunity to attack MoveOn.org and Hillary Clinton. While Rudy's maneuver may have made him less popular among the Left -- it most certainly bolstered his popularity with the conservative base.
I, for one, think conservatives would welcome an opportunity for a fight. Yet, time and again, President Bush seems to avoid opportunities to do things that might actually make him popular among conservatives. While I won't be as upset over this pick as I might if it were a lifetime Supreme Court vacancy, this is just the latest in a long string of snubs directed at conservatives.