Heller and the Conservative Base

In her post below on the news of squabbling within the administration over its Heller brief, Dahlia asks, “I’d give a donut to anyone who can offer insight on what end is served by these attacks from within the administration and without. What point in making Solicitor General Paul Clement look like a wild man on the eve of oral argument?” 

Here’s my guess: I think the goal was to keep the base happy. To draw an imperfect analogy, gun rights are to the right what abortion rights are to the left. Given that, DoJ’s middle-ground brief in Heller is the conservative equivalent of a hypothetical brief from a future Obama administration arguing that Roe v. Wade should be watered down a lot but just not completely overruled. In both cases, activists would feel that their “home” administration has basically abandoned them. They would get pretty angry, and in the case of DoJ’s Heller brief, they have.

By giving Novak the story of a divide inside the administration, the leakers tell the base that President Bush didn’t really abandon them. The middle-ground brief wasn’t Bush’s fault, the column says: Blame those lefty career lawyers, not GWB.  That’s my guess, at least.