The mood surrounding the withdrawal of Harriet Miers from consideration to serve as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court has drawn strong reaction. Now, just a day later, it’s time to look at the damage done, and see what is really needed to right the ship. Make no mistake, serious damage has been done, and unless immediate and committed actions are taken, the damage will become a genuine threat to the Republican majority, and to the Conservative Movement as a whole.
In 1964, Ronald Reagan learned from Barry Goldwater how to pursue Conservative politics as an ideal. The former Democrat and Governor of California also learned about coalitions and duplicity, when he made his historic but unsuccessful run for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1976. Very few people have observed the depth of Reagan’s mind and heart, which could come up with his “11th Commandment” after the shabby way he was treated by the GOP in 1976. A lot of people have never understood that Reagan was a loyal Republican as well as a strong Conservative, enough so that he campaigned for Ford in 1976 after the Convention, and again for George H.W. Bush in 1992, though he cannot have been completely happy with either man as the standard-bearer for the Grand Old Party.
But Ronald Reagan understood the stakes and the reality of the situation. In 1976, after he lost the nomination to Ford, Reagan understood that the choice was between Ford and Carter, and he worked for the best feasible result. In 1992, Reagan understood that the choice was between Bush and Clinton, and again Reagan worked without complaint for the better of the two. In his Presidential appointments and nominations, Reagan always sought the best possible candidate, and he was well aware that the perfect choice was not always the one which could be confirmed or accepted by Congress.
President George W. Bush is a man who has had to carry the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement on more than a few occasions. His back is broad indeed, to have borne such a weight for so long, and also one which is so consistently ungracious for his help. The Miers nomination is just another in a long string of decisions, where Bush made the choice to the best of his abilities, yet the very people who owe him the most for their own success and advantage, found it preferable instead to pillory the nominee and attack the President, sometimes personally, simply because they were petulant and spoiled.
And if anyone is spoiled, it is the membership of the United States Senate. Known to many as “The Club”, the Senate is indeed a refuge of luxury and privilege for its members, who have made it no secret that they consider themselves a better sort of person than the average citizen. And that arrogance lends itself to a haughty disdain for clear ideals in government. The habit of always supporting both sides of every question was not at all unique to John Kerry; it’s quite the practice, as it allows Senators to come back later and parse their statements to make it appear they were always on the winning side. And it is that lot which decide the confirmation of every nominee sent by President Bush. By the time William Rehnquist passed away, and President Bush realized he would need to present a second nominee for the Supreme Court, the Senate had already demonstrated a strong aversion to confirming judicial nominees known for clear and firm positions, especially any evidence of Originalist thought. And earlier this same year, seven Republican Senators defected from party promises, and betrayed their own Majority Leader, joining Democrats to not only deny the “Nuclear Option”, but supported the conditional use of filibusters against judicial nominees. The demand that President Bush could only submit nominees who were known to hold positions that the Democrats and a significant number of Republicans would be sure to oppose, was never realistic.
A quick review of Bush’s judicial picks shows his preference for judges right in line with Conservative ideals. In that light, the attacks on Miers were obscenely unfair, but let that go for here, since the matter is well over, excepting that Democrats will certainly use the “Extraordinary Circumstances” claim to filibuster anyone remotely considered a threat. Which brings us to the tactical question of whom to appoint, and how to gain confirmation.
There are, in essence, three elements to the decision which I think will color the next choice. First, with parental notification on the docket along with some other significant issues, Bush wants to get O’Connor replaced as soon as possible. As Hugh Hewitt observed on his radio show yesterday, every judicial nominee needs a full FBI background check. Since nominees recently confirmed will have already had their background checks done, that will speed up the process. Also, this means that the White House is not going to look very far beyond the short list they already had. That tells me that Bush probably already knows who he wants to nominate.
The second element is one which a lot of people miss. Bush went through a lot of trouble to get his choices placed on the Circuit Courts. Those are important posts, and if one of them is considered for the Supreme Court, Bush will also have to find a replacement for the Circuit Courts, and you can count on the Democrats being just as nasty on that level as on the Supreme Court, as their history shows. That means that unless a recently confirmed federal judge is far ahead of anyone else in his opinion, I do not think Bush wants to move anyone whom he has already selected for the federal bench. Also, there is going to be a fight of some kind, no matter whom he picks, so if I had to guess, I’d say we’re going to see someone else whom Bush already knows from personal experience, and it’s likely to surprise people.
The third element is the concrete of the road. The Democrats, whatever else they are, understand that unity is the only way they can recover something of power and influence in the federal government. That means that they will get together and either vote almost everyone for a nominee, or they will make sure absolutely every Democrat votes against the nominee. In most respects, I couldn’t care less how 45 Democrats vote, but it means that the Republicans must plan on supplying 50 votes out of their 55. If we had a firm consensus in the Right side of the Senate, that would be great, but we do not. The evidence of the last year is clear, that not only can we not count on the 7 Senators who signed that damnable filibuster agreement with the Democrats, but several other Republican Senators have tried out the invertebrate posture, like Specter or Hagel. There are, in truth, only about 44 sure votes for an Originalist nominee who is known to the Senate. And only a very great fool believes that the events surrounding the Miers nomination has motivated the eleven jellyfish wearing R’s to find a spine.
In addition, the present condition is one of a damaged party. The attacks from the MSM and the Democrats have had little to do with the situation, in part because the Liberal world seems unable to discuss anything in a rational or evenhanded manner. But the damage done by the extremists in the Miers nomination is very real, and very serious. People who have voted Republican out of a sincere principle have seen that principle abandoned for expediency. It will be difficult to convince them that the principles will be maintained the next time they are inconvenient. There are certain fundamental expectations in any relationship, and one of the biggest is the sense of respect. To put it bluntly, people who put their trust in the President in the Miers nomination have found themselves insulted, and their President openly mocked by a few people with the means to broadcast their tantrums to the world at large. News flash to David Frum – I’m just a guy with a keyboard and an opinion, but you’re a published author and a reputation for speaking for the whole party. When you choose to employ personal insults against Ms. Miers and the President, you are enabling Michael Moore and validating Howard Dean. I figure there’s a couple million people who are a bit less likely to vote Republican next go-round, because you’ve just given them reason to think the Conservatives are no better than the Liberals. Nice going. With important elections coming up in places like Virginia and Ohio, this was not the time to give folks a motive to stay home.
So, there we are. One end of the Conservative spectrum has chortling celebrants, unaware that the shot they fired off has hit their own ship. On the other end, the party is losing support, possibly only temporarily, but at a bad time and for a stupid reason. The Senate has seen an exhibition of political thuggery, which will doubtless compel them to believe that any future nominee will have the blessing of multiple Special Interest groups, which will make the nomination hearings even more ridiculous and petty than they have been. The nominee will need to be someone the Senate can accept, and so not known as an “extremist”, yet must have some sort of record to track. The nominee will need to be someone who has already been confirmed in the past few years, so that their background check will go smoothly, and someone who will be familiar in appearance if not known well in fact. The nominee will, ideally, be attractive in appearance, since some took part in mocking Miers looks, and should not be a great surprise to the American public.
The next nominee, therefore, will likely be Barbie Millicent Roberts. “Born” on March 9, 1959 (according to Mattel), she is only 46, and has not aged appreciably in many years, so that many observers believe she could serve on the High Court for a very long time. Barbie is, of course, well known to and popular with many Americans, and she has never been known to take an unpopular position on any issue. Since President Bush brought up two daughters, it is believed that he is quite familiar with Barbie, yet cannot be accused of promoting a crony by nominating her. Barbie has written a number of works and several movies, and her grammar is known to be perfect, and her elocution impeccable. Barbie’s legal education is unclear, but she has never given a speech or contribution to a single Liberal group or cause, so that her political virginity should be appealing to Conservative Jihadists like Frum And in her incarnation as Lawyer Barbie (with matching briefcase and purse), it is well known that Barbie has never lost a case, a record difficult to oppose. And after seeing how smoothly the first nominee named Roberts received confirmation, President Bush may take advantage of the name to gain similar results for Barbie. Certainly, it is expected that Barbie would say nothing to hurt her chances.