Miers Tough Sell As Goldwater Descendant/Dobson GOP Factions Face Off
President George Bush’s nomination of his lawyer Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court is now turning out to require a sales job that may not necessarily require an emergency visit by super salesman Zig Zigler — but all the King’s horses and all the King’s men may not be able to put George Bush’s agenda and trust from some factions of his party together again.
How bad has it gotten?
How about a top White House aide accusing Miers’ Republican critics of sexism, as noted by the Washington Post:
The conservative uprising against President Bush escalated yesterday as Republican activists angry over his nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court confronted the president’s envoys during a pair of tense closed-door meetings…..
….At one point in the first of the two off-the-record sessions, according to several people in the room, White House adviser Ed Gillespie suggested that some of the unease about Miers “has a whiff of sexism and a whiff of elitism.” Irate participants erupted and demanded that he take it back. Gillespie later said he did not mean to accuse anyone in the room but “was talking more broadly” about criticism of Miers.
WASHINGTON â€” President Bush faced a growing Republican backlash Wednesday over the nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court, with several GOP senators threatening to oppose her confirmation and top conservative activists questioning her qualifications during a tense confrontation with White House advisors.
In an effort to quell the discontent, administration aides and allies were dispatched to plead with lawmakers and party activists to give Miers â€” a longtime Bush friend and lawyer â€” a chance to prove herself.
But on Capitol Hill, some GOP senators made it clear that they were not now in Miers’ corner. And at a weekly meeting in Washington of leading conservatives, many in the crowd berated Ed Gillespie, the White House point man on judicial nominations, over the president’s choice.
“With this nomination, we have ratified the strategy of the left and they have won,” said Richard Lessner, former executive director of the American Conservative Union. “With this pick, the White House has ratified what the left did to Bork.”
That’s in reference to President Reagan’s ill-fated nominee Robert H. Bork, who was rejected by the Senate due to liberals challenging his well-documented views and, some believe, truly weird facial hair.
The St. Petersburg Times:
As the Bush administration scrambles to build support for Miers, many conservatives activists, lobbyists and some lawmakers are refusing to lend even shallow approval to her nomination. Instead, they are questioning her qualifications and conservative credentials, as well as the president’s commitment to hard-fought conservative principles.
The discontent, which gelled Wednesday after three days of e-mails, phone calls and opinion articles, is not expected to derail Miers’ nomination altogether. It is highly unlikely that a sizable number of Republican U.S. senators will vote against the president’s nominee, and several already have suggested they’ll vote for her.
But conservative activists warn the choice could have lasting effects on the president’s ability to advance his agenda, especially on issues that force conservatives to compromise their ideals for the good of the party.
And (as usual) some of the most incisive reporting comes from The Christian Science Monitor:
Social conservatives want assurances that Ms. Miers will share their views on flash-point issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, and that she is genuinely one of them.
Conservative intellectuals, on the other hand, want someone with the legal acumen to roll back the reach of judges.
If Bush’s rally cry for Miers is beginning to echo across the megachurches of heartland America, it is falling flat in the urban think tanks that have defined the conservative revolution since the Reagan era. Insiders fear that the grand coalition that helped elect Bush is fracturing on the issue most thought would unite them against the Democrats and liberal interest groups. Instead, they’re firing on each other.
“We were looking for somebody who could advance the cause of the right, move the court in our direction, and it takes a certain amount of intellectual power to accomplish that,” says Paul Weyrich, chairman of the Free Congress Foundation, one of the first of many conservative think tanks in Washington.
As a longtime conservative leader, he was consulted about the Miers nomination. “I will probably end up supporting her,” he adds, “but I can tell you that … the grass roots are just heartbroken by this nomination.”
For social conservative groups, this week’s reports that Miers is a genuine evangelical – and, in a conversion experience about the same time, a genuine Republican – may be winning back hearts and minds. After initial hesitation, they are now rallying behind her, albeit tepidly.
What’s going on?
The Miers nomination is accentuating several glued-over divisions in the GOP. You could say it is LITERALLY a battle for the heart and the soul of the GOP.
Bush can always count on a certain number of party loyalists who will quickly adapt their positions and values to whatever ones he embraces. That’s not where the conflict lies. The biggest conflict lies with two groups:
(1) The Evangelicals. They’re the faction that gave the GOP its muscle in recent years and the faction the White House and Congressional GOP leaders have sought to cultivate by their public pronouncements. They want to take the party in a new direction, recasting conservatism that is if not faith based, then faith grounded. Is Harriet Mier’s seeming inscrutability part of a political “intelligent design?”
The poster boy for the Evangelicals is Focus on the Family’s James Dobson who was earlier quoted as saying he had confidential information that he can’t reveal on Miers being a terrific choice. But a now new report has Dobson seemingly hedging his political bets:
WASHINGTON – An anguished James Dobson prayed Wednesday for a sign from God, telling his Christian radio listeners he was questioning his early endorsement of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.
So he’s waiting for God to tell him? We bet he’ll announce that God told him Miers is the one — giving Miers The Ultimate Reference Letter.
In the case of the Supreme Court, this group is morphing into a quiet, let’s-not-rock-the-boat-just-yet conservatism, a seeming desire to get someone in place quietly, almost unnoticed through the back door without any attention. Dobson and others have apparently been given enough PRIVATE ASSURANCES by administration bigwigs (wouldn’t it be nice if, in the interest of fair disclosure, Senators demand to know what they were told about Miers?) that Miers is The One For Them.
(2) The Direct Descendants of Barry Goldwater. These people dreamed and fought for a conservative court for years — a court where nominees could proudly go before Congress and assert conservative ideas, rejecting the idea that there is any stigma, and let the chips fall where they may. They wanted judicial nominees who would honestly proclaim who they were — to, in effect, step out of the BMW.
What’s most notable about these GOPers is that they are genuinely outraged about Miers qualifications. To them principles and ideas shouldn’t just be promoted but openly embraced…and they reject the Miers nomination.
Writes UCLA Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge in a long MUST READ post that MUST be read IN FULL:
Plain and simple, however, I no longer trust Bush’s judgment. Here’s just one chilling reason why I don’t; Bush said today:
“I know her heart,” Bush told a Rose Garden news conference. “Her philosophy won’t change.”
Remember when Bush said almost precisely the same thing about Vladimir Putin?
I believe in a few basic principles of government: Government should be small, mostly leave people alone, balance its books, and defend life (whether born or not). No honest conservative can claim Bush has been true to those principles. For me, the Miers nomination was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I think it’s time for principled conservatives to give Bush and the rest of the GOP leadership a spanking for having deserted the principles for which we stand. If that costs the party seats in the short term, maybe that’s the price we have to pay for teaching the party a valuable lesson.
Bainbridge uses a baseball analogy to argue his case against Miers, writing:” do you remember what Crash Davis told Deke about the big leagues in Bull Durham?”
Read it yourself.
Bainbridge isn’t the only law professor up in arms over Miers. Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, also gives the Miers nomination a thumbs down in USA Today writing, in part:
With Chief Justice Roberts, Bush had the ability to appoint the conservative equivalents to Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis â€” gifted legal intellects who could bring depth and breadth to the court’s new vision. Instead, Bush chose someone of greater personal and historical significance.
The question is now whether the Senate is capable of meeting Hamilton’s test in resisting a nomination offered primarily for a president’s pleasure. It seems more likely that the dream of a judicial conservative renaissance will succumb to a combination of blind loyalty and presidential whim. Let no one say qualifications do not matter. In securing this questionable confirmation, Bush will be remembered by many as a myopic president who could not see a legacy waiting just beyond his small circle of friends.
So….as the legions of those who consider themselves the wave of the New Conservativism take issue with those who are direct descendants of Goldwater conservatism, the question remains: WHY MIERS??
Columnist Robert Novak echoes a theory we’ve expressed here:
The question recurs: “What was he thinking?” Bushologists figure the president was irked by repetitive demands that he satisfy the base with his Supreme Court appointments. He also was irked by the conservative veto of his Texas friend and Miers’ predecessor at the White House, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. So, Bush showed the critics by naming another close aide lacking Gonzales’s track record to draw the ire of the party’s right wing.
UPDATE: Another illustration about how sour GWB’s pick is, even to people who have decided to support him, comes from Captain Ed:
Even John Thune, who just got to keep his air force base, expressed his dismay with Miers’ selection, although he issued a caveat against an intraparty war he sees coming.
Thune, of course, hits the nail on the head. It’s a war we can’t afford at this time, which is one of the reasons why I have decided not to oppose Miers’ confirmation. However, if war comes to the GOP, we will all know who started it — and how Bush let a historic opportunity to bolster conservative scholarship on the court slip through his fingers while doing so.
UPDATE II: Right Wing News John Hawkins gives a MUST READ point-by-point rebuttal to the arguments being used to try and sell the Miers nomination to conservatives and to the nation. When you read this you realize that (a) the White House badly miscalculated on this one OR (b) the White House decided it must at ALL costs get someone close to GWB on the court, no matter what the political consequences.