Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: Has Bush blown it?
Posted on 10/06/2005 7:08:59 AM PDT by Pokey78
From President Bushs press conference on Tuesday:Any port in a storm, especially after the storm has passed. I said in the Telegraph the other day that the minute Hurricane Katrina hit, the media started scampering around like Munchkins singing Ding Dong, The Bush Is Dead. They always do, and it always fails. In terms of destroying Bush and the Republicans, Katrina was a total bust. In so far as it has any political impact, its likely to make Louisiana less Democrat. Thats it.
Question: Are you still a conservative?
The President: Am I what?
So the problem remains: how to slay Bush. And if this last week is anything to go by, it looks like Democrats are going to be denied that pleasure, and it will fall instead to conservatives to reduce the Bush presidency to rubble. Conservatives are mad at Bush, and the theory goes that next November theyll stay home and the GOP will lose Senate and House seats. Of course, conservatives have been mad about a lot of Bush policies for a long time education, immigration but, in fairness to him, he campaigned as a massive federaliser of the school system and as a big nancy-boy pushover for illegal Mexicans. So we cant complain we were misled.
On the other hand, he also said that, when it comes to Supreme Court justices, hed appoint jurists in the mould of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia conservative judges or, at any rate, strict constructionists, who dont claim, as so many judges do, to be able to detect constitutional rights to abortion and sodomy in an 18th-century parchment. Britons often find it hard to understand why Americans of Left and Right make such a big deal about judges, but the fact is that much of the stuff the Left likes is hard to get elected on gay marriage, racial quotas, partial-birth infanticide and the courts play a critical role in advancing a progressive agenda with minimal appeal to voters under the guise of constitutional fairness. Stephen Breyer, one of the nine Supreme Court justices, dislikes the term judicial activism and prefers to see what he does as part of a democratic conversation thats good for the health of the republic. The Right, not unreasonably, thinks the democratic conversation was held earlier, during the election and then in the legislature and that, having passed a law forbidding, say, partial-birth abortion, they shouldnt then see it overturned because Justice Breyer wants to have the last word in the democratic conversation.
So lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court are among the most important and lasting decisions a president makes. And, given the courts present 44 split, with Sandra Day OConnor as a whimsical swing vote, conservatives had high hopes that, whatever their other differences with George W. Bush, he wouldnt let em down on this issue at least. With two vacancies on the bench, the President nominated for Chief Justice John Roberts, who sailed through the nominating process by letting the blowhard Democrat Senators kill the thing dead with a lot of showboating speeches revealing mostly their own vanity, ignorance and emotional narcissism. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California pleaded with Roberts to quit all this legalistic jive and start talking to me as a son, a husband, a father. As a son, a husband, a father, he seems to be one of those manly taciturn Gary Cooper types, fleshing out a Yup or a Nope to a full sentence if need be, but otherwise content to let the Democrat speechifiers talk themselves into the ground. Somewhere into the second hour of a question by Senator Joe Biden, they threw in the towel and confirmed Roberts by 78 to 22 votes.
It wasnt just that Roberts had won but that Democrat oppositionism itself had lost badly. The old playbook the lame charges of racism, the accusations of being anti-women had gone nowhere, and conservatives were keener than ever that Bush should seize the moment and find another Scalia, an unashamed, forthright, erudite strict-constructionist so loathed by the Left that he was singled out for special mention by Barbra Streisand in her special Kerry-fundraising Campaign 2004 lyric to People:
I see-aBut, instead of Son of Scalia, on Monday the President nominated someone unlikely to scare even Barbra out of her Wolfowitz: a lady called Harriet Miers. Harriet who? Well, she served as his Staff Secretary or, as her bio puts it, the ultimate gatekeeper for what crosses the desk of the nations commander-in-chief. Legally speaking, that makes her sound more Della Street than Perry Mason. But dont worry she is, in fact, a lawyer; indeed, for some years, back in Texas, she was Bushs personal lawyer. She does, to be fair, have credentials independent of her Bush connections she won the Legal Services of North Texas 1996 Merrill Hartman Award but shes not a judge, not a constitutional lawyer, not a legal scholar, not someone with any judicial philosophy or someone whos shown any interest in acquiring one. What she is is a pal of the President. Remember Dick Cheney back in 2000? Governor Bush put him in charge of interviewing candidates for the vice-presidential nomination and then decided, while shifting through Dicks assessments, that he didnt care for the shortlist but he liked the guy who drew it up. Thats basically what he did with Harriet Miers: until a few days ago, she was the person calling up candidates and sounding them out. If Bush were to invite me to head up the process of selecting the next ambassador to Chad, you can make a safe bet Id be spending the next five years in Ndjamena.
How I dread every time he sits
Scared out of my Wolfowitz ...
Conservative commentators have been withering about the inner-circle cronyism of the Miers pick. National Reviews Rick Brookhiser said the only good news was that it wasnt as bad as Caligula putting his horse up for consul. It was then pointed out that, though Caligula had put up the old nag, he didnt get through the nominating process. Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News said that, when Justice Stevens retires, he expects Bush to nominate his dog Barney: Who can a man trust to be loyal more than his dog? Certainly Barney has no paper trail, unless you count stuff he chewed up when he was a puppy. In a blistering column on Wednesday, George Will all but called explicitly for Republican senators to reject the Bush nomination, on the grounds that nobody who knew anything about the subject would ever recommend Miss Miers for the Supreme Court and that the President had forfeited his right to be trusted as a custodian of the Constitution by his signature of the grotesque McCainFeingold campaign finance reform act.
Hence, that question at Tuesdays press conference: Bush has stiffed conservatives, and in return enough will sit on their hands next election day and Congress will fall to the Democrats.
Where do I stand? To be honest, I havent a clue. A vacancy comes up on the Supreme Court and for a month or so every columnist is expected to be an expert on the jurisprudence of a couple of dozen legal types hed never previously heard of. I had some chit-chat on the nominations a few weeks back with National Reviews Kate OBeirne and the former solicitor-general (and rejected Supreme Court nominee) Robert Bork. I did my best to keep my end up. There were two Ediths being touted as nominees back in the summer one Edith was regarded as sound, the other as wobbly and I pretended I was on top of which one was which, though right now I have absolutely no recollection. Judge Bork knew his lawyers, obviously, but Im not sure how many of the rest of us do. I like that black woman, said the guy who came to change the antifreeze in my heating pipes on Tuesday. He meant Janice Rogers Brown: strong conservative, but black and female and thus less easily Borkable by the Senate Democrats. But I like that black woman is not necessarily any less expert than most of the commentary in this field.
Even Presidents arent always better informed. The most bungled Supreme Court pick in recent years was Bush Snrs: Dubyas dad picked my fellow New Hampshirite David Souter knowing nothing about him and, ever since he joined the bench, hes been one of the Lefts most reliable votes. If Juniors sin is that hes only comfortable with cronies, dads problem was that he was way too trusting: whatever else she may be, Harriet Miers is no Souter Two.
For what its worth, my sense is that Harriet Miers will be, case by case, a more reliable vote against leftist judicial activism than her mercurial predecessor, Sandra Day OConnor. Why do I say this? Well, shes a strong supporter of the right to bear arms. The great Second Amendment expert Dave Kopel says you have to go back to Louis Brandeis 90 years ago to find a Supreme Court justice whose pre-nomination writings extol gun rights as fulsomely as Miss Miers. According to an old boyfriend, Judge Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court, she packs heat a Smith & Wesson .45 which I can say with certainty the other lady justice, the far-left Ruth Bader Ginsberg, never has. She is also very opposed to abortion, and a generous contributor to pro-life groups.
In other words, what seems to be emerging is a woman Bush responds to as a fellow cultural conservative and evangelical conservative (shes a born-again Christian) rather than as a judicial conservative a label Judge Bork dislikes, preferring quite correctly that we distinguish judges not as conservative or liberal but as either originalists or judicial activists. I find it hard to discuss Harriet Miers seriously in those terms, but on balance she seems likely to vote the right way for whatever reasons. Shes thus another representative of Bush and Karl Roves belief in incrementalism that the Republican majority can be made a permanent feature of the landscape if you build it one small brick at a time. Miss Miers is, at best, such a brick, at a time when conservatives were hoping Bush would drop a huge granite block on the court. But, given that she started out as a Democrat and has been on the receiving end of the partisan attacks on the administration for five years, she seems less likely than any detached effete legal scholar to be prone to the remorseless drift to the Left that happens to Republican Supreme Court nominees.
True, thats little more than a hunch on my part. My old comrade David Frum, who worked with her in the White House, is devastated by Bushs pick, calling her a lovely person but a taut, nervous, anxious personality wholl be a pushover for the leftie gang on the court. Well see.
Whats left, then, is the bases distress and the perception of weakness on the Presidents part. The first is real and may cause problems in 2006, though I cant see it costing the GOP its congressional majorities. As for Bush personally, he was the better of the alternatives in both 2000 and 2004 but, come on, the compassionate conservative thing was, in its implications, far more insulting to the base than the steel tariffs or the proposed illegal-immigrant amnesty or the judicial nominees. Bush, it seems ever more obvious, is the Third Wayer Clinton only pretended to be. The Slicker reckoned that, to be electable, a Democrat had to genuflect rhetorically to some kind of sensible soccer-mom-ish centre, and he was right, at least in so far as without him the Dems have been el stinko floppo three elections in a row. But Bush, for good or ill, believes in himself as the real Third Way deal: its a remarkable achievement to get damned day in day out as the new Hitler when 90 per cent of the time youre Tony Blair with a ranch. The President is a religio-cultural conservative who believes in big government and big spending and paternalistic federal intervention in areas where few conservatives have ever previously thought it wise. Not my bag but, that said, every time I or anybody else has predicted hes blown it, he manages to produce another victory. Even the sluggishness of the war on terror seems likely to be partly redeemed by the imminent fall of Baby Assad. Given the transformational potential of 9/11 and the fact that the Democratic party is all out of gas, I think the BushRove incremental strategy is way too limited. But it seems to work, and Id bet it does again on election day next year.
Of course, this could all be one big Karl Rove head-fake to make conservatives so hopping mad that the Dems scent blood and kill the Miers nomination, after which theyve shot their bolt and Bush nominates Scalia Mark Two....
Well, we can dream, cant we?
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They're going fast!
When issues are brought before the SC it is instantly taken out of the hands of We The People.
Why not let The People vote on abortion? WHY? Because the issue was brought before, and ruled by the SC. That's why.
Leaving all of us without a voice.
Here we go again...Bush defending the reliigon of Islam on the radio.
And, I didn't know Mark Steyn was a closet Communist! You outed yourself Mark!
Bush and Rove know there is an abortion case that will be decided before the mid term elections.
I don't they they are dumb enough to appoint a pro-abort that would show her colors within months of getting her job.
"My old comrade David Frum, who worked with her in the White House, is devastated by Bushs pick, calling her a lovely person but a taut, nervous, anxious personality wholl be a pushover for the leftie gang on the court."
If someone is a "pushover", and she is confronted by two gangs, one headed by Ginsberg/Stevens and the other headed by Scalia/Thomas, which gang wins? Which gang would you want on your side? I'm giving Scalia/Thomas all of my lunch money...and the lunch money I just stole from Ginsberg and Stevens.
The only things that has blown are the heads of the snobs who ihabit the right wing DC bubble, and I think that's a good thing.
Dream?! Dream about what?
Changing our Republic to
arrangement the way
countries work in, say, Europe?
Then all decisions
will need approval
from all two-bit "power blocs"
that can agitate
the pop emotions.
Instead of nightmares like that,
just let Bush govern!
Miers is a Souter....EXCEPT SHE'LL BE HARD RIGHT...LOL
My thoughts exactly!
And then there's this blogger who sums up what I believe is the strategy behind the Miers nomination:
Very good piece.
Maybe someday I'll understand WHY he wants to be a nancy-boy for Vicente's special benefit...
Steyn notes that the Democrats are "el stinko floppo" without xxx42, and have lost 3 elections since he "left" office. . .
I simply adore Steyn (all the time, but with gems like this, even more so)!
President Bush has gone all-in with an unsuited Queen but will anyone call him?
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