Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The stealth crony

President Bush’s selection of Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court has infuriated movement conservatives and given some small hope to the rest of the nation that maybe we will get someone who will be more pragmatic than ideological.

The New York Times editorial board is somewhat hopeful in this aspect:

Ms. Miers's record is so thin that no one seems to have any idea of what she believes, and she was clearly chosen because of her close ties to the president, not her legal qualifications. Still, there is no evidence as yet that she is an ideological warrior who would attempt to return American jurisprudence to the 18th century...

Ms. Miers's résumé gives at least some reason to hope that she could be a moderate, pragmatic judge in the mold of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whose seat she will fill if she is confirmed. She has spent much of her career in corporate law firms and bar associations, environments that encourage pragmatism over ideology.

But far-right conservatives are either angry or disappointed with the selection. Here is a handy rundown of right-wing reaction via Kevin Drum at Political Animal.

• Steve Dillard: I am done with President Bush.

• John Podhoretz: I think this was a pick made out of droit de seigneur — an "I am the president and this is what I want" arrogance.

• Peter Robinson: What people see in this is the Bush of the first debate, the Bad Bush, the peevish rich boy who expects to get his way because it's his way.

• Andrew Sullivan: Boy, does this pick remind us of who GWB is: about as arrogant a person as anyone who has ever held his office. Now the base knows how the rest of us have felt for close to five years.

• Stephen Bainbridge: I got a lot of criticism for saying that George Bush was pissing away the conservative moment via his Iraq policies....With this appointment, I'd echo Andrew's sentiment with something a tad more off color: Bush is now peeing on the movement.

• Rod Dreher: As for me, I am really, really disappointed in the president.

• Bill Kristol: It is very hard to avoid the conclusion that President Bush flinched from a fight on constitutional philosophy.

• Pat Buchanan: What is depressing here is not what the nomination tells us of her, but what it tells us of the president who appointed her....In picking her, Bush ran from a fight. The conservative movement has been had — and not for the first time by a president by the name of Bush.

• David Frum: The record shows I fear that the president's judgment has always been at its worst on personnel matters.

• Michelle Malkin: Message to the White House: Don't get stuck on stupid.

• Jonah Goldberg: Bush's instincts about where his principles should be are often right. But in this case the principle seems to be that Bush's instincts are principle enough.

And these are the reactions coming from Bush’s base!

I have to agree with Atrios about the source of right-wing angst being directed at Bush and Mier:

Wingnuttia is rather angry at the choice. I don't think this is because they're really concerned that she's not conservative enough for their tastes, although that's part of it. They're angry because this was supposed to be their nomination. This was their moment. They didn't just want a stealth victory, they wanted parades and fireworks. They wanted Bush to find the wingnuttiest wingnut on the planet, fully clothed and accessorized in all the latest wingnut fashions, not just to give them their desired Court rulings, but also to publicly validate their influence and power. They didn't just want substantive results, what they wanted even more were symbolic ones. They wanted Bush to extend a giant middle finger to everyone to the left of John Ashcroft. They wanted to watch Democrats howl and scream and then ultimately lose a nasty confirmation battle. They wanted this to be their "WE RUN THE COUNTRY AND THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT" moment.

But there are some on the right who are willing to fall in line and support Bush’s pick such as my friend Bill Crawford.

Bill has decided that he can support Mier because she has been a member of Valley View Christian Church in Dallas for the last 25 years. One of the church elders describes it as a "conservative evangelical church” and from that Bill deduces that Mier must be in lockstep with the entire social conservative agenda.
That may be so, but does membership in this church prove that? If you look at what the church says it believes on its web site you find this interesting clarification:

We try not to be dogmatic about matters on which believers hold divergent views. Our core beliefs are centered in Christ and His message as supported by Scripture. More obscure doctrine, as well as controversial issues about which the Bible is silent, are left to believers to sort out on their own. On these issues we take no official/dogmatic position.

Then they go on to list official church positions which are pretty much consistent with what any mainstream church believes.

Still, Bill clings to the hope that Mier is secretly a dogmatic right-wing ideologue on abortion because she tried to get the American Bar Association to change its position on abortion back when she was serving as president of the Texas chapter. Of course it was a pretty feeble effort. She wasn’t even trying to get the ABA to come out against abortion, she just wanted them to take a neutral position and she failed to do even that. But then she pragmatically continued to be a supportive member of ABA afterward.

Kevin Drum also points out several things about Miers that will likely rub movement conservatives the wrong way including her chairing a committee that wrote a report recommending support for the rights of gay couples to adopt children and the establishment of an International Criminal Court.

Then there is the fact that Miers was a Democrat throughout the Reagan years and even contributed money to Al Gore and Lloyd Bentsen in 1988.
The biggest thing going for her among conservatives is that she latched on to George W. Bush when he ran for governor of Texas in 1990 and had held a tight grip ever since.

The truth is that no one really knows what Miers would do on the Supreme Court. But I can say that her selection does not surprise me. In fact, it is the kind of nomination I have come to expect from Bush and is highly reminiscent of his appointment of Michael Brown to be the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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