Saturday, October 08, 2005

Losing their grip

Republicans are starting to lose their grip in Washington.
They are having an increasingly difficult time getting their awful legislation through Congress.

Today we had another GOP arm-twisting marathon vote that resulted in a bill that would shovel more government largess to the oil industry at a time when they are already making out like bandits across the country.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 - It took more than 40 raucous minutes of pleading and cajoling, bargaining and begging on Friday. But House Republican leaders managed to squeeze through an oil refinery bill in a tumultuous floor vote that severely tested a leadership team rocked by the indictment of Representative Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas.

After teetering on the verge of an embarrassing defeat, desperate party leaders managed to persuade enough of their members to switch positions to win narrow 212-to-210 approval of a measure that its backers said would expedite refinery construction and crack down on price gouging.

"House Republicans have taken the lead in providing America with price stability and a bold plan for this nation's energy future," said Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, who along with Mr. DeLay and other senior lawmakers buttonholed and browbeat resistant Republicans as the clock ticked on the vote.

Democrats attacked the substance of the bill and the process that the Republicans employed to force it through. The Democrats accused the majority of abusing House rules by stretching what should have been a five-minute vote to deliver a bill that Democrats said would benefit profitable oil companies but do little for American drivers.

"It took that long for the indicted leader of the House of Representatives to twist the arms necessary to get a vote against the American people, against the consumer, against the taxpayer and against the environment - in favor of the energy companies," said the minority leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California.

The good news is that the bill will probably die in the Senate thanks to a Democratic filibuster.

Friday, October 07, 2005

It could have been worse

The best that can be said of President Bush’s choice of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court is that it could have been much worse.
There is a big, long line of knuckledragging neanderthal judges anxiously waiting for the chance to roll-back all the advances of the 20th Century and take us back into the dark ages.
I don’t think Miers is capable of doing that even if she did share their views simply because she has no experience in the realm of constitutional law.
She might turnout to be the fifth vote that overturns Roe vs. Wade and sends thousands of poor women to the back alleys to end unwanted pregnancies. But she also might not be. And just the fact that there is that slight chance is about the best that we could hope for after Bush won the 2004 election.

I find the right-wing handwringing over Miers to be delightfully entertaining. But there is one line of criticism of Miers that reflects the nation’s elite east-coast, west-coast bias that I find highly offensive. I wonder if there would be as many people saying Miers is unqualified for the court if she had been an attorney with a major law firm in New York or L.A. and had attended an elite Ivy League school rather than Southern Methodist University?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Harriet Miers: stealth liberal?

More evidence that Harriet Miers is far from the ideal conservative that many on the far right were hoping for:

From a June 27, 1992 Texas Lawyer piece written while she was president of the State Bar of Texas:

How does a free society prevent a man from climbing to the top of a tower on a university campus and randomly killing whoever is in sight? How does a free society prevent a man from driving a truck into a cafeteria and executing patrons? How does a free society prevent a man from entering a courtroom and opening fire? We are loath to hear the answer to these questions as it comes from our lips, because the suggested solutions usually infringe on precious, constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

The same liberties that ensure a free society make the innocent vulnerable to those who prevent rights and privileges and commit senseless and cruel acts. Those precious liberties include free speech, freedom to assemble, freedom of liberties, access to public places, the right to bear arms and freedom from constant surveillance. We are not willing to sacrifice these rights because of the acts of maniacs.


The hearings also underscored that the lack of resources in some areas of the state not only has a dramatic impact on the courts' performance of all of their obligations, but also unduly burdens the ability of lawyers to maintain a private practice. Lawyers must, in the interest of the administration of justice, be aggressive advocates for increasing the resources available for the representation of indigent defendants.

Additionally, we are reminded that success in fighting crime in our nation is more than treating symptoms. We will be successful in solving our massive crime problems only when we attack the root causes. All of us, men and women, young and old, must pledge ourselves to address the ills that surround us in our communities.

We all can be active in some way to address the social issues that foster criminal behavior, such as: lack of self-esteem or hope in some segments of our society, poverty, lack of health care (particularly mental health care), lack of education, and family dysfunction.

It sounds to me like she could fit in quite well with the moderate/liberal wing of the court.

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.