Yesterday, we reported that the administration's scheme to pack the Civil Rights Commission with Republicans was on shaky legal footing.
But a TPM reader made a good observation. The packing scheme relies on Republican commissioners changing their party affiliation to "Independent" after they've been appointed, thus creating room for more Republicans to be appointed (there can be no more than four commissioners at any one time from a single party).
The Republicans who've switched their affiliation, of course, have denied changing them just to create more room for other conservatives. Abigail Thernstrom was no different, telling the Boston Globe's Charlie Savage that she'd just decided that she'd be "most comfortable" as an independent.
But her comfortability level appears to have abruptly changed. In December, the president reappointed her to the commission, but this time as a Republican, after one of the four Republican nominees left. The move also allowed her to become the commission's vice chairman. (Update/Correction: Bush actually promoted Thernstrom to be vice chair in 2004 -- ironically, six weeks after her first party registration change.)
So to retrace her steps: she was first nominated as a Republican, then registered as an independent, then was re-nominated as an Republican. With that move, the commission's conservative majority drops to five to two -- it's not clear yet who the eighth nominee will be, or what party he or she will represent. But not to worry: the committee can move forward on business with a simply majority, so the commission's direction shouldn't change that much.