The last group President Bush thought he had to worry about opposing Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers was the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill. But it turns out the man most responsible for taking Miers down was an insider, the G.O.P.'s fourth-ranked Senator, Jon Kyl (rhymes with smile). The second-term conservative from Arizona argued at length in meetings with majority leader Bill Frist and G.O.P. whip Mitch McConnell that the Miers nomination was too risky ideologically and too costly politically, sources on Capitol Hill tell TIME. From Day One, says a G.O.P. staff member, "[Kyl] was trying to kill Miers."
The influential Judiciary Committee member and his staff organized internal whisper campaigns, say Republican sources, that led to newspaper articles damaging Miers. The strategy was so successful, G.O.P. staff members say, that the White House called Kyl to object. Undaunted, his staff spread word of the disastrous meetings Miers was holding with Senators until White House officials finally said they were canceling the rest of the sit-downs a week before Miers withdrew her nomination, say Hill sources.
Kyl's coup de grace came last Wednesday after the Washington Post unearthed pro-choice language Miers used in speeches a decade ago. That morning, after Frist told Bush he didn't have the votes to get Miers out of committee--let alone confirmed--the President sent chief of staff Andy Card and other White House officials to the Hill to try to save the nomination. But Kyl and his team fought back, G.O.P. staff members say, and used the Post article to help keep Senators opposed to Miers and to bring at least one other Senator into the undecided camp. At 9:30 p.m., Frist called Card to tell him it was over, and Miers' withdrawal was announced 12 hours later. Kyl's office declined to comment on his role in her downfall, but the White House will no doubt keep an eye on him during the next confirmation campaign.