The news that Harriet Miers was withdrawing her nomination to the Supreme Court was not a surprise. That it took so long was a surprise.

Miers, President Bush’s White House counsel, was under fire from the beginning. And not from Democrats, but from conservatives who thought she lacked the credentials to serve on the court. They even launched a national television ad urging her to step down.

It worked. And now the conservatives and evangelicals that Bush calls his base are expecting him to nominate someone more to their liking. Bush has promised a quick replacement.

But that would be a mistake. Now is the time for the president to slow down and make a solid selection, someone who is well respected and can actually be confirmed. He needs some good news because this is not a good time for Bush, with U.S. deaths in Iraq now at 2,000, a soaring deficit and possible legal woes for staff members.

When Bush hurries, he makes mistakes. Miers is a good example of that. She is a longtime Bush friend, but has never served as a judge and has a fairly thin legal background for someone being considered for the Supreme Court. Senators who are voting to confirm a nominee want to know who they are voting for. In Miers’ case, that was nearly impossible. When demands were made to see internal White House documents related to her role as the president’s counsel, the president balked.

This couldn’t have been a surprise to Bush. He must have known that with little else to go on, senators and others would want some document relating to the work she has done. That is a reasonable expectation.

At the very least, the next nominee needs to have a record that can be examined and debated. The American people deserve that. And at least some judicial experience would also be a wise move following the problems with the Miers’ nomination.

No nomination should be made public until the person being considered is fully vetted by Bush. The president has a chance to recover some of that “political capital” he has spoken about, but only if he makes an informed decision on who to nominate. A quick nomination that turns into another disaster like this one would hurt Bush politically. And he can’t afford any more damage.

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