Friday, October 7, 2005

The Sound of the Far Right Going Nuts

Columnists Charles Krauthammer and George Will are in a twit over the president's latest nominee for the Supreme Court. William Krystol, editor of the Weekly Standard was the first to fall out of his editorial chair. "The idea that one is supposed to sacrifice both intellectual distinction and philosophical clarity at the same time is just ridiculous."


All dressed up, with nowhere to go, conservative Republicans (and the deeper the conservatism, the stronger the outrage) have been spoiling thirty years for this fight, waiting for control of the Senate that advises and consents to the President’s choice. They had a long list of potential candidates, sharpened intellectually by conservative thought, honed philosophically to the finest edge, all preparatory to undoing the damage they perceive a half-century of liberal thought has done to ‘their’ court.


Harriet Miers' name is nowhere to be found among those having sweated for and received the mantle of acceptance. George Will says that if a hundred conservatives were asked to name a hundred potential candidates, Miers absolutely would not be found among the 10,000 possibilities.


Which is perhaps a long way to my point, but a certain amount of setup is required.


HarrietmiersHarriet Miers may well sail through the Senate for the very reasons above, eliciting a massive sigh of relief from the center and left that worse was not proposed; worse in this case being someone more rigidly and demonstrably dedicated to the conservative cause. There is an almost palpable glee behind cautious grins, a sense that the middle has just dodged two bullets in a very short and likely non-recurring period of presidential opportunity. 


Born-again Christian that she admits to be, Miers hasn’t yet drawn the fire of radical abortion supporters such as Naral and that’s evidence of a held-breath, can-you-believe-it reaction among those spoiling for a fight.


And spoiling they were, on both the right and left. Conservatives and the religious right were ready to go to the mats for their chance to reform what they considered a liberal and activist court.  Naral and Act For Change had huge war-chests ready to meet the coming challenge.  Girded for battle, the wind is inexplicably out of everyone's sails, first with Roberts, now with Miers.  To the amazement of the left and the fury of the right, it's all over but the sweeping up.


The likelihood is that sufficient votes are not there to be cast against this nomination. A coalition of Republicans unwilling to go against their president, centrists relieved by avoiding a bloody confrontation and liberals thinking this is surely the best they can do, will ride this unexceptional nominee across the finish-line.


My point, finally arrived at, is the question of whether this nomination and probable confirmation serves the public good.  Pragmatism is a pretty thin strand with which to string the bow of the nation’s highest court and this is a pragmatic choice.  No one doubts that Harriet Miers will give her best, but the evidence of what she has to give is smothered under a career in commercial law and difficult to discern. 


The accusation has been made that she is a mere cipher, a reaching out to the nearest friend of a distracted and dispirited president, too beaten to face another national confrontation.  It’s a puzzle.  It’s a very long way from the nomination of the intellectually and constitutionally brilliant John Roberts to the presentation of the very much unknown Harriet Miers.  Personally, I was stunned with the brilliance of the first choice and don't quite know what to make of the second.  George Bush's private logic often confounds me.


But it has his conservative base going nuts and they are very vocal about their sense of abandonment.
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