The nomination of Harriet Miers has conservatives split and arguing amongst themselves. Beyond being silly, pointless, and counterproductive, I find it all very puzzling.
Like everyone else, I scratched my head and said "Who?" upon hearing of the nomination. And like everyone else, I wondered why the President would choose someone so far outside the Conventional Wisdom as to be patently invisible and unknown.
My belief is that we should be looking past Ms. Miers herself to learn why the President has nominated as he has. Going back to the John Roberts nomination and confirmation, a few things present themselves:
- 1. Roberts was not shown to be a firebreathing conservative; rather, he appears to be solidly conservative while still being acceptable to all but the most fevered moonbats.
- 2. Senator Leahy broke with the Dems and publicly came out for Justice Roberts well in advance of the vote, leading to a split in the Dem coalition and a solid if not overwhelming confirmation, avoiding the party-line vote. This 78-22 vote indicates bipartisan support and lends validity to Justice Roberts.
- 3. The President knows that of his majority numbers in the Senate, he has no more than 44 or 45 that he can reliably count on when a fight is in the air, especially on social conservative issues. The odds of getting Olympia Snowe, Lincoln Chafee, et al on board for a hardcore like Luttig are effectively nil. There is little point in starting a war that you know your soldiers will not fight.
Senator Leahy and the rest of the backdoor Dems undercut their party. This is never done lightly in those circles, and it is reasonable to assume that some sort of deal was worked out with the President. My take is that in order to get Roberts in with a minimum of fuss, he had to agree to provide another apparent O'Connor to Dems. A woman with a history of supporting affirmative action, giving money to Dems in the past, etc, must have appeared irresistible to the Dems, and so they jumped at the opportunity to give us Roberts in exchange for Miers. The ringing endorsements from Dems like Reid give reason to believe that even if some Reps defect, there will be more than enough votes to support the confimation.
While I support and trust the President, I am certainly not one of the cheerleaders. That being said, I believe President Bush has done it again -- he got everyone (including his own supporters) to misunderestimate him in order to achieve the larger goal, which in this case is to rein in the Supreme Court and return it to a more originalist bent.
The President has demonstrated an ability and willingness to nominate solid conservative judges over the course of his time in office. Ms. Miers has been a major part of this, from assisting in the process of selection to vetting and finally to preparing nominees for confirmation, including Justice Roberts. They have a close personal and professional friendship that dates back to the Reagan years. It is safe to say that he truly believes and trusts that she will embody the principles he seeks to invest in that seat.
The issue of personal knowledge versus the paper trail should be minimized, rather than maximized. Many of us have been hired (or hired others) based on nothing more than the word of a friend, getting into jobs or positions that we/they are not on paper qualified for, but are nevertheless able to perform and even excel. Granted, these are not usually as high-profile as in this case, but the principle remains. There is no doubt in my mind that the President himself has confidence in this nomination, and based on his judicial track record and political acumen, I am inclined to trust him.The President knows fully that had he nominated Luttig or one of the other Scalia types that we have hungered for, it would have triggered war with the Dems (not necessarily bad in and of itself). The problem is that this war would likely be lost due to the defection of his own RINOs, and the guarantee of Dem solidarity. Why fight the war you can't win? It makes infinitely more sense in these circumstances to slip in a Stealth nominee that will fool the Dems into thinking she's another O'Connor. If the President is convinced she will in fact be a solid conservative originalist, then he will have achieved true diplomacy in that he made the Dems think they won while he got exactly what he wanted. From his gubernatorial contests on down through his presidential contests he has consistently been the Dummy That Outsmarted The Smarties. He is a risk-taker, and he knows his opponents better than they know themselves.
I agree that in most cases it would be best to take the fight to them, to put in someone we know we will all stand behind, and be someone steeped in judicial knowledge, experience, and scholarship. The problem is that this person will never get confirmed in the current political arena -- Remember Judge Bork?My clarion call is for conservatives to stop for a moment, consider the things I have said here, and to remember that politics does not happen in a vacuum. There is ALWAYS a bigger picture, and most have missed it. Yes, we have been betrayed by this President on spending, on border control, on cronyism in other areas. But the judicial appointments have been excellent, and there is no evidence now to have reason to believe that this one is a mistake. I'm not telling anyone to "shut up" or accuse anyone of being on a lynch mob; rather, sit back and observe without rancor and malice. The debate can and should happen, but it should not rage like a DU slapfight. Most importantly, try to remember that President Bush is concerned with having conservative originalists on the Court, as are the rest of us. Sometimes we get desired results from undesirable methods.
Remember, this buys time for the 2006 elections. Two solid conservatives (assuming the President is correct on Miers) will have already started the process of reworking the Court. Hopefully we will gain more seats in 2006, which could allow President Bush to think about a Luttig when Stephens retires. There is a time for boldness, and a time for quiet, and this is the time for quiet victory. When we have 51 solid conservatives, then we can ram candidates down the Dems' throats. Until then, we still have to convince them either that we are right or trick them into giving us what we want. The former hasn't happened; I believe the latter will.