Harriet Miers is never going to be grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

She is going to withdraw her name from consideration before such hearings ever begin.

You can take that to the bank.

Why? Because, even though Democrats in the Senate seem more pleased with the choice of Miers than do Republicans, the questions that must be asked of the nominee for Sandra Day O’Connor’s Supreme Court seat would be among the most embarrassing ever raised about her boss, President Bush.

Most of the attention on the nomination so far has focused on her lack of experience, her track record, her opinions on abortion, etc.

But the silver bullet that will do in the nominee is her cozy relationship with Bush – one that likely placed her in a position of covering up scandals in the Texas Lottery to keep secret the preferential treatment the president received as a young man to enter the Texas Air National Guard.

All it will take is a subpoena or two to get the whole sordid story on the public record – in front of a national television audience.

I don’t think George W. Bush, already experiencing unfavorable public opinion ratings, will allow that to happen.

Democratic senators will overcome their apparent enthusiasm for the Miers pick when they realize they have an opportunity to embarrass Bush over the way he avoided Vietnam service.

All they would have to do is to subpoena two witnesses – former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes and former Texas Lottery director Lawrence Littwin.

It was Barnes, also a former House speaker in the state, who testified under oath in 1999 in a lawsuit brought by Littwin that he called the head of the Texas Air National Guard to put in a good word for Bush. Barnes later parlayed that favor into multimillion-dollar leverage as a lobbyist-consultant with a company called GTECH that won the business of running the scandal-plagued Texas Lottery.

After Littwin was hired by the Texas Lottery Commission, he made the unfortunate decision of questioning why GTECH should get Texas’ business without facing competitive bids. He also questioned why the company should be paying former state officials like Barnes and contributing money, perhaps illegally, to other Texas politicians.

As a result, the commission headed by Miers fired Littwin. GTECH paid him off with a $300,000 settlement and bought out Barnes’ contract for $23 million. The unusual settlement required Littwin to destroy all of his lawsuit documents, and Harriet Miers, the chairman of the Lottery Commission and future White House counsel and Supreme Court nominee, avoided testifying as to her knowledge of the whole sordid affair.

Does anyone really expect President Bush will allow this can o’ worms to be reopened in Senate hearings?

No way!

In fact, every day Bush allows this nomination to remain on the table is another day he risks embarrassment over a scandal everyone thought was dead with the retirement of Dan Rather as CBS anchorman.

Can you imagine John Kerry’s friends in the Senate passing up an opportunity to revisit the high-water mark of the Democrats’ 2004 presidential campaign? I don’t think so.

Frankly, I’m amazed the Democrats have been able to keep still as long as they have. They are keeping their powder dry for a reason: They want Harriet Miers to testify.

Somehow, this story has remained largely below the radar screen of the national press. Maybe they, too, can’t wait for the real fireworks to begin in televised hearings.

So, now it’s back to the drawing board for President Bush. Maybe Harriet Miers will decide she can’t put her favorite client through this ordeal. She may suddenly decide she doesn’t really want to be on the Supreme Court, after all.

In any case, mark my words, Bush is looking for his third choice to fill Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat right now.

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