Talk at the Federalist Society's conference in Washington was all about politics as things began to heat up on Thursday afternoon.
One topic of conversation was the embarrassing political mess Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University, has found herself in.
Nominated by President Bush to serve as Ambassador to the Vatican, Glendon has recently been serving as a key political adviser to presidential candidate, Gov. Mitt Romney. But with Romney's social conservative bona fides now increasingly in question, Glendon isn't getting the support White House officials expected for a woman who has long been considered pro-life.
According to Senate source, Glendon's nomination already has a hold on it, placed by a Republican Senator, with several others ready to place their own holds on the nomination.
"[The nomination] is DOA as far as we are concerned," says a senior Republican Senate aide. "Glendon isn't going to get this without a fight from the White House and we don't think that is going to happen."
Not only are some Republicans sharpening their knives, Democrats are looking to make hay of the nomination. According to a Democrat leadership aide, Sen. Harry Reid is negotiating the lifting of the holds on Glendon, with an expectation that the nomination would be voted down by a full Senate.
"It would be a huge embarrassment to the President, but a bigger embarrassment to Romney," says the Senate Democrat.
And it is that political calculus that is another reason for the stalled nomination. Even those who support the Glendon nomination now believe that little will be done with it until after the GOP nomination fight is over.
"Maybe we'll be able to do something before the Pope comes in April," said a supportive Republican.
While the White House is relieved that it was able to successfully push through the nomination of now-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, there is continued concern over just what the new Attorney General will do now that he's actually in office.
"He's a good man, but he had to make commitments during the nomination process and it's not going to be easy for us," says one senior White House aide, who added that festering issues that Democrats want to capitalize on -- FISA warrants and wire-tapping procedures, U.S. Attorney nominations -- are areas where Mukasey may be boxed in.
"In a nonpolitical world, Judge Mukasey probably understands the nature of the terrorist threat and the tools we need to combat it," says a long-time Justice Department attorney. "But this is a political world and we don't know where he's going to come down on some of this. A lot of it may be coming at him from Congress."
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