President Bush famously described Harriet E. Miers, the outgoing White House counsel, as “a pit bull in size six shoes.” Woof woof!
But some White House insiders viewed Harriet Miers as insufficiently canine. Per the Washington Post:
Miers, a longtime Bush loyalist whose nomination to the Supreme Court was withdrawn in 2005 as a result of conservative opposition, led an office that will oversee legal clashes that could erupt if Democrats aggressively use their new subpoena power. Bush advisers inside and outside the White House concluded that she is not equipped for such a battle….
The White House did not announce a replacement but has settled on someone to take on the assignment, according to several advisers who did not disclose the name.
If you have thoughts about who this person might be, we’d love to hear from you.
Further discussion and speculation, after the jump.
The Post piece contains some hints about what to expect from the next White House counsel:
Republican advisers have been telling the White House to be ready for war, and many cited Miers as the wrong general. “The White House knew they needed to get a tough street fighter — that’s what this is about,” said one such adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve access to the White House.
The advice, according to this person, could be summed up this way: “You guys better lawyer up, and lawyer up in the right way. You better understand the need and the peril and the urgency. . . . You need somebody as tough as [Clinton aides] Harold Ickes or Bruce Lindsey. Because they’re coming for you.”
Miers, Bush’s personal lawyer in Texas, is popular in the West Wing and is admired for her hard work, loyalty and character. But since taking over last spring, White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten had privately expressed doubt that Miers, 61, was right for the job, current and former officials said.
So the new White House counsel will be (1) pretty badass, and (2) someone who can work well with Josh Bolten. Maybe the post will go to an “elder statesman”-type, or a grizzled veteran of partisan warfare. If so, then two possible candidates — Deputy White House counsel William Kelley (OT 1988/Burger/Scalia), and Assistant Attorney General Rachel Brand (OT 2002/Kennedy) — may be deemed too young for the job (despite their brilliance).
Interestingly enough, it seems that Harriet Miers was under some pressure to leave at an earlier date:
When news reports at the time suggested that she might leave as part of [Josh] Bolten’s initial shakeup [of the White House staff], Miers talked to Bush and kept her job, the sources said. After Democrats captured Congress in November, the issue was revisited and some Republicans were told before Thanksgiving that someone else would be brought in.
Miers had told colleagues that she planned to stay until the end of the administration, but after several conversations with Bolten in the past week, she agreed it was time to move on. “We’re entering a new era here in the White House, and they both came to that conclusion,” a senior administration official said.
One name that was floated as a possible replacement was Ted Olson (wedding photographs here). But that won’t be happening:
[Olson] said he had no intention of taking the job. “I’m not going to be replacing Harriet Miers,” Olson said yesterday.
Ouch. We wish we had an audiotape of that telephone call. We can practically hear the disdain in Olson’s voice.
From the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire, two more possibilities:
Rumored as possible successors are Fred F. Fielding, who served President Reagan in a similar capacity, and Ford Motor Co. General Counsel David G. Leitch, a former Bush administration lawyer.
Fred Fielding is a name partner at Wiley Rein & Fielding, a firm that is exceptionally well-connected in Republican circles. He works in the area of crisis management — which the White House could use some help with these days.
As senior vice-president and GC at Ford, the
crashing and burning troubled automaker, David Leitch knows all about serving on a sinking ship. In addition, he’s among the Elect (OT 1986/Rehnquist). Given the challenges that the White House faces, the brainpower of a former Supreme Court clerk may be just what the doctor ordered.
Miers Steps Down As White House Gears Up for Battle [Washington Post]
Read My Eyes [Washington Wire]
“You Guys Better Lawyer Up, and Lawyer Up in the Right Way” [WSJ Law Blog]
Earlier: Harriet Miers: Farewell My Concubine Counsel
Breaking: Harriet Miers Has Resigned As White House Counsel!