Steve’s analysis of the White House’s choice of Alito seems sound to me. But I wouldn’t leave the Libby indictment out of account.
If more people, including Rove, are indicted, the political future for the White House is bleak whatever tactics it adopts. But if Libby winds up being the only one indicted, there’s benefit to Bush in driving that story off the front pages for as long as possible. Only a controversial nomination would do that.
The Democrats are more or less caught. Either they start a fight over Alito — a fight they are likely to lose in the sense that Alito will eventually be confirmed — or they don’t. If they do, they help bury the Plame story; that goes double if they’re able to hold together a filibuster and force the Republicans to the (un)Constitutional option. If, on the other hand, they don’t fight, they look weak and help demoralize their supporters.
I’m inclined to think that the Democrats ought to fight, and fight hard. A losing battle isn’t necessarily a political loss. And the use of slime-and-defend against the conservative opponents of Miers will somewhat weaken that weapon for use against Democratic critics of Alito.
Moreover, the (un)Constitutional option requires that Cheney personally violate his oath of office by making a deliberately false ruling as President of the Senate. That would be a good time to mention that the not-yet-convicted perjurer and obstructor of justice I. Lewis Libby was indicted while serving as Chief of Staff to Cheney, and that Cheney has never offered a public account of his role in burning Valerie Plame Wilson.
But then my instincts in these matters tend to an undue pugnacity; I thought the United States ought to invade Iraq.
Update Matt Yglesias argues that the Democrats ought to filibuster Alito; at worst, Alito gets confirmed by an act of obvious Republican Calvinball and the filibuster — a fundamentally conservative rule — gets eliminated. Letting Alito mount the Supreme Bench in order to save the filibuster would be the worst of all possible worlds.