From NBC's Mark Murray
In American politics, observers are always grasping for historical comparisons. But often, these comparisons are flat wrong -- or they're way too early to be made.
For instance, because you have a Democratic president who pushed for health-care reform and whose party faces a challenging political environment, the question has become: Is this midterm season 1994 again? (But we still have six months to go before we get an answer to that.)
Or as the Obama administration received some criticism for its initial response to the oil spill in the Gulf, the narrative became: Is this the Obama administration's Hurricane Katrina? (Even Michael "Brownie" Brown has been hitting the TV cable rounds.)
And now with President Obama's nomination of U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan to serve on the Supreme Court, a new question has surfaced: Does Kagan = Harriet Miers?
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office sent this email to reporters:
"A Trailblazer Throughout Her Career" – 2010 White House on Elena Kagan
"A Trailblazer for Women Lawyers" – 2005 White House on Harriet Miers
But right now, there are only three similarities between Kagan and Miers:
1) They are women
2) They weren't judges before being picked to serve on the Supreme Court
3) They faced concern from the Dem/GOP base about their liberal/conservative bona fides
Yet the similarities -- for now -- end there. For starters, people forget that Miers' nomination failed in large part because she bombed her initial interviews with senators. "When you meet somebody and you spend an hour with them, depending upon the job, you get some impressions about whether or not they're the right person for the job, and I think most people were worried about whether she was the right person for the job," Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl (D) told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel back then. Kagan begins her courtesy calls on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Two, remember that Republican senators -- not Democrats -- sank Miers' nomination. And they revolted because they had been burned before (example: Justice David Souter, picked by Bush 41, turned out to be a reliably liberal vote on the court). By comparison, no recent Democratic SCOTUS pick has become a reliably conservative vote (example: see Sonia Sotomayor's first year on the Supreme Court).
Three, Miers was never really vetted before Bush picked her to serve on the court. By contrast, Kagan won Senate approval -- with seven GOP votes -- to serve as U.S. solicitor general.
And perhaps most importantly, it's hard to compare Kagan's background (U.S. solicitor general, dean of Harvard Law School, nominated to a position on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Harvard Law School) to Miers' background (Bush counsel and assistant to the president, chair of the Texas Lottery Commission, private law practice in Texas, clerked for federal Judge Joe Estes, SMU Law School).
Of course, it's possible that liberals could revolt against Kagan's nomination -- a blogger could discover the equivalent of Miers' ambiguous 1993 remarks on abortion.
But unless that happens and unless Kagan flunks her one-on-one interviews with senators, it's hard to see how she'll meet Miers' same fate.