The real political danger for Bush is that Miers could become a synecdoche for the secret fears his supporters have long harbored: that he's little more than a corporatist who values personal loyalty above ideology or thought. In short, Miers has the potential to crystalize very specific fears about Bush's shortcomings in the same way that Dan Quayle's misspelling of "potato" was particularly damaging because people were already worried that he wasn't smart enough to be vice president.
(Mind you, I'm talking purely about political danger. The substantive--and more important--danger is that Miers may not be a very good Supreme Court justice.)
The great political danger for Bush is that Miers forces people who were marginal supporters to reassess past incidents on which they may have given him a pass. For example, incidents such as this one, reported by Joseph Bessette, about the Bush administration's attack on Lawrence Greenfeld and the Bureau of Justice Statistics:
IN AUGUST THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION fired its director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics in a dispute over a press release about a report on racial profiling. Newspaper editorialists and Democrats in Congress charged the administration with suppressing painful truths. In response, Republican officials apparently spread the word to sympathetic commentators that this was a battle between the administration and the anti-Bush permanent bureaucracy. As one commentator told National Public Radio, "Bush finally clamped down on this guy."
"This guy" was President Bush's own appointee to the directorship of BJS, Lawrence A. Greenfeld, a career criminal justice statistician and longtime deputy director of the agency, a unit of the Department of Justice. Happy as the principal deputy, Greenfeld had not sought the top job, which had always gone to a political appointee serving at the pleasure of the president. Yet, when the directorship opened up after Bush's election in 2000, Greenfeld's stellar reputation within the criminal justice community brought him to the attention of the White House. President Bush nominated him to serve as director, and he was confirmed by the Senate. At his swearing-in ceremony, former Attorney General Edwin Meese praised the accomplishments of Greenfeld and the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
So what are we to make of this incident? Has the administration won a battle against a hostile bureaucracy, or has it suppressed the truth about racial profiling in the United States? A review of the facts compels four conclusions. First, the administration did not try to suppress or manipulate data, though it did seek to deny publicity to uncomfortable facts. Second, its ham-handedness backfired by attracting infinitely more attention to the sensitive racial profiling data than would otherwise have been the case. Third, it cashiered Greenfeld for doing his job in a responsible and, indeed, exemplary way. Finally, not content simply with firing a dedicated public servant, it maligned him and his agency in a way that was deeply unjust, that undermined morale at a model federal agency, and that jeopardized its good work and its reputation within the criminal justice community.
In light of Harriet Miers, this behavior becomes even more egregious.