Thursday, October 06, 2005


The Mistaken Nomination of Harriet Miers and Trouble for the GOP

Like most conservatives, I was deeply disheartened by our President's nomination of Harriet Miers to SCOTUS. Like most conservatives, we were led to believe that this second Bush Administration would be different from the first one (Bush-41's reign from 1989-1992). In all reality, it has been marked by bigger blunders and a greater betrayal of conservative values than the first Bush Administration ever cooked up. Without a serious correction of course, this Bush Administration will have another item in common with the previous version - it will end with a Clinton in the White House.

I felt that the words penned by Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and regular contributor to the Fox News Channel, only a few minutes after the Miers announcement were quite on point:

"I'm disappointed, depressed and demoralized.

I'm disappointed because I expected President Bush to nominate someone with a visible and distinguished constitutionalist track record--someone like Maura Corrigan, Alice Batchelder, Edith Jones, Priscilla Owen, or Janice Rogers Brown--to say nothing of Michael Luttig, Michael McConnell, or Samuel Alito. Harriet Miers has an impressive record as a corporate attorney and Bush administration official. She has no constitutionalist credentials that I know of.

I'm depressed. Roberts for O'Connor was an unambiguous improvement. Roberts for Rehnquist was an appropriate replacement. But moving Roberts over to the Rehnquist seat meant everything rode on this nomination--and that the president had to be ready to fight on constitutional grounds for a strong nominee. Apparently, he wasn't. It is very hard to avoid the conclusion that President Bush flinched from a fight on constitutional philosophy. Miers is undoubtedly a decent and competent person. But her selection will unavoidably be judged as reflecting a combination of cronyism and capitulation on the part of the president.

I'm demoralized. What does this say about the next three years of the Bush administration--leaving aside for a moment the future of the Court? Surely this is a pick from weakness. Is the administration more broadly so weak? What are the prospects for a strong Bush second term? What are the prospects for holding solid GOP majorities in Congress in 2006 if conservatives are demoralized? And what elected officials will step forward to begin to lay the groundwork for conservative leadership after Bush?"

Kristol, as per usual, is right on the money. This is really disappointing, depressing, and demoralizing. The outcome is disappointing because conservatives must once again watch as our elected political leader once again plays Russian roulette with our country's future for the sake of cronyism, compromise, and pride. This is depressing because it is unknown when we will ever get a chance to effect change on the Court again. Finally, this is demoralizing because conservatives who already feel betrayed as election year tools by the Republican Party (see my comments from May) may stop voting or start leaving the GOP altogether. I admit this to you - I am at that crossroads. The GOP has done nothing in 2005 but ignore those conservatives who brought the Party into power over the past decade. Several of the wounds have been unavoidable (Kelo, for instance) as it relates to the Party, but the most unkind (the Supreme Court nominations, unsound immigration policy, inept energy policy by a President with too many friends making record profits, federal indictments) have been self-inflicted. I look at the Constitutional Party and the Libertarian Party and see myself having more in common with those folks than the new direction of the GOP. It's too bad that the organization and ability to win national races doesn't rest in those two "minor" parties.

I want to be clear. I - nor anyone else, for that matter - knows enough about Miss Miers to say whether or not she would be an adequate Justice. And that's the point. Many of my Christian friends are incorrectly defending her because she goes to church or for other clues as to her character. They (mostly lawyers) are missing the point. I shouldn't have to rely on a President who has lied to conservatives repeatedly just because he says, "Trust me." That - the word of this President absent any record as a judge, writings as an academic, or significant legal body of work - is not enough. Thus, I will be speaking to the Tennessee Republican delegation as soon as possible in an effort to apply pressure to the Senate Republicans that will result in the defeat of this nominee. Traditionally, SCOTUS nominees have either been a) noted legal theorists, b) respected jurist, and/or c) renowned lawyers with an impressive history of Supreme Court argument. As many conservative pundits have pointed out, Miers' greatest position of influence may have been her appointment as the head of the Texas Lottery Commission (which, according to recent reports, wasn't her finest hour). Again, no offense, Miss Miers, but someone who has a record equal to mine in terms of deserving a seat on the "Highest Court in the Land" should not be confirmed.

My main focus now, though, is on how this will impact the elections of 2006 and 2008. No matter how you spin it, Bush's awful 2005 places an immense amount of pressure on the Democratic Party. Yes, that's what I wrote - pressure on the Democratic Party. The reason for this is that the Democrats are rudderless and impotent. If they cannot take advantage of this excellent opportunity over the course of the next two major elections, they have no future as a major political party. Barring a major recovery by the GOP, I could easily see the Democrats regaining one of the Houses of Congress in 2006. (Chuck Todd shows several Senate races trending Democrat. Hat tip: Michael Silence.) What does that mean for Tennessee? Probably nothing. The only concern that Ed Bryant should have in the Senate race is that a national wave of discontent with the GOP washes into Tennessee and floods his campaign. That truly is the only way that he could lose a race to Harold Ford, Jr., who is providing the GOP with ammunition for the general election on a near-daily basis (not to mention his past indiscretions prior to the start of this campaign). After all, the latest Zogby poll has Bryant leading Ford by 11 points. Unless someone like Steve Gill decides to take another run at a weakened Bart Gordon in the 6th District, I would expect the Tennessee Congressional line-up to remain unchanged, despite the national problems with both parties. In other states, though, where competitive races already exist, that might not be the case.

For other views similar to mine, check out George Will's objections ("Miers is the Wrong Pick"), my girl Ann Coulter's stinging comments, and Professor Randy Barnett's excellent argument.

MORE: And the hits just keep on comin'... Cole Stinson is feeling my pain, ResurrectionSong is singing a sad tune, and Pensieri is down about more qualified women being ignored. (I would add Edith Jones to the Conservatore Dall'est's post, as she was certainly my hope once it became clear that gender mattered to the President.)

Well said, Rob.
When it comes to mediocrity, there ain't nobody better at it than W.

I'm a first-time visitor to your blog (thru Google search on "miers in trouble") and I really like what you wrote about the Miers nomination. Although I don't share your views about neo-con giant Bill Kristol, he IS right on this subject, although for me--a trad. conservative who left the GOP after the Dole-Kemp disaster in '96--I am definitely NOT "depressed, demoralized and defoliated" (sic)! I am actually ENERGIZED, ELATED and ECSTATIC!!! The reason is, we are finally seeing the conservatives grass roots have an effect on our elected leaders (not Bush, but certain Senators and many Congressmen).

I assume you are probably a GOPer. As I am not, so I have nothing to gain or lose by trashing RINOs/other GOPers. I have no party, so I am no "threat" to the GOP. They just won't ever get my vote again. Ever. I did as many conservative did in 2000 and voted "for the lesser of two evils, I thought!". My "message" to those still in the GOP from one on the outside without a party for the past 9 years is this--and you hit it on the nail, Rod--THIRD PARTY!! But it will take time, and Americans don't want to wait 8 years for a new party to grow. We want things NOW, and that's a difficult thing to deal with. But I disagree that The CP (or any other small conservative party currently in existence) can properly represent us, each for different reasons perhaps. The CP and the "patriot parties" (that are currently trying to develop one big Patriot Party) have shadowy figures running the show (Howard Phillips never came out of the shadows last year and few people probably knew he was behind the Peroutka party, The CP). The "patriot parties"--The AIP, The AP, The AFP and others--only want Christians in their parties and have some scary, white nationalist thinking. The CP, contrary to what supporters say, had a candidate last year--Peroutka--who used "God" in almost every sentence and sounded--I swear--like a white Baptist preacher! So, when I say "Third Party", I mean a party open to ALL faiths that is not controlled or headed by evangelical whites. I want a party open to "conservative secularists", like me. Any other form of third party simply won't be accepted by most Independent conservatives. Anyway, that "party"--whatever it ends up looking like--is probably a long way off. But the "movement" to form a third. conservative party is far from dead! It's just "fractured" and a lot is going on these days--hurricanes, etc.--that is making it tough "to think in party-forming terms". As you know, when the '08 campaign rolls around next year (they always start about 2 years from the election), in all likelihood it will be George Allen or Giuliani running against Hillary or Sen. Bayh. People like me will be warned for the next 2 years that "You'd better vote GOP, or it will be President Hillary!" While that tactic clearly worked in 2000, it won't again, for a number of reasons. For one, that famous saying "Fool me once,..." (in other words, we're onto the RINOs which Allen and Giuliani certainly are). Secondly, the Border. The President's duty is to protect the country from invasion. We have been and are continuing to be invaded along our Southern Border. It is no joke! Third, almost everything Bush 43 has done--including invading Iraq on false pretenses/intel to pushing the Drugs Bill--smacks of LJBism. While it is true that Kennedy got us into Vietnam, it was Johnson who racheted it up and prolonged it. Bush is certainly no conservative. He "stole" talk show host Michael Savage's "compassionate conservative" phrase during his 2000 run, never giving Savage credit. But he is not conservati, not by a long stretch. Not by a long shot. And neither are Giuliani, McCain, Hagel, Frist, Gingrich or anyone other Republicans considering a run. You mentioned that conservatives may "bolt" and not show for next year's mid-terms, hurting GOP Senatorial candidates...So true! What you didn't say is...many have already bolted, long before Miers was gleam in Bush's eye.

You barely mentioned illegal immigration in your wonderful piece. I can't tell you how much that one issue--we conservatives knew all along that Bush was going to oppose us on--means to most of us. I do not include in Wall Street or economic conservatives in "most of us". They are the reason we haven't closed the Border and deported all illegal aliens since Ike did it in the mid-50s. "It's the Border, stupid!" is my mantra, over and over and over. And thank heaven--we are starting to win that war!

You are dead on with your take on the Miers nomination, but I think it goes much deeper than Bush 43 chickening out from a fight with the left by not nomination Luttig, who is the one most of us wanted a man his father put on the lower court. Some of us know why Bush 43 did not nominate him, and it wasn't his being a white male; it was his ruling against the Feds/White House on a combatant-detainee issue before the District Court. Going against the Administration on that was Luttig's end to a possible nomination to SCOTUS. Bush does not tolerate people who go against his wishes, plain and simple. So if Bush withdraws Miers or Miers withdraws herself from the nomination, who will he pick next? I can guarantee you, given his temper/rage shown for those who oppose him, it ain't gonna be a conservative!! He won't want to reward us and give us a victory!! If anything, it will another person who conservative can't accept--someone like A. Gonzales. This process (the 9th seat nomination) thus COULD go on into 2006!! And it will weaken his presidency, because it will be clear for the world to see that the Emperor has no clothes--that Rove & Friends have been running the show, and they will have been diminished. We didn't elect Rove and Friends, yet they are calling the shots. The People will have spoken, and a truly lame duck president will have nobody but himself to blame. If he tries to blame us, he will begin to look and behave more and more like a hunkered down Nixon and I don't believe that will do him or us any good. This guy does not like to lose--he and Bill Clinton have that in common, big-time. Remember how many of us were worried that Bill Clinton might declare martial law when Gore would not accept defeat? An angry, defeated Bush may be even more dangerous.

Can't wait to read more from your excellent blog!

Thanks, Rob.

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