Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Miers Nomination, or, Mark Shea Comes Unhinged

Mark Shea is a friend of mine, and I have more or less shared his attitude toward the Republicans and President Bush that they are allies of convenience, giving them support because their policies are much more pro-life than the Democrats. On my part, I also believe in things like limited government and, generally speaking, economic liberty. And, like Mark and many other conservatives, I have grown increasingly frustrated by the President's seeming abandonment of the conservative principles that got him elected.

And, like Mark and many others, I reacted to Harriet Miers's nomination to the Supreme Court with "Harriet who?"

But, unlike Mark and others, I do not think it is yet time to go all chicken little, proclaim that the sky has fallen, and say to the Repubs "the hell with 'em". I also do not think it is the height of insight or analysis to simply dismiss the President's appointment of Miers as "stupid, stupid, stupid."

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not defending the appointment of Miers. As many others have pointed out, this nomination is utterly deficient. President Bush could have done far better. But I think more can be said than that it is "stupid". To dismiss the President's action as "stupid" is a refusal to think about it. Charity requires more, and, frankly, so does simply trying to understand it.

The President said something in his press conference yesterday morning which seemed quite telling, and that practically no one else seems to have picked up on. The President said of Miers, "I know this woman's character," or something pretty close. This is very much the Bush style, to put character over "paper" qualifications. The president has never been one dazzled by academic distinctions or swollen resumes. Indeed, he ran for president on a "character" platform. He almost granted that Al Gore was the brainy, wonky, intellectual, but argued that he was the better choice on the grounds of character and principles. So it shouldn't surprise when he takes that same tack in a presidential appointment. What Bush is saying is "I know this woman, and I think she has the right stuff." Yes, that does boil down to "trust me". But it's not the same thing as merely "stupid". The real question is, do you think the president is a good judge of character?

Another thing is that many conservatives have been saying that this appointment was a "surprise", that it came from out of the blue. While I too was surprised at the choice of Miers, I wasn't surprised that the president chose a "stealth" candidate. Because the president has shown time and again that he is very reluctant to get into pitched political fights.

Many conservatives, sensing that their hour has come, and their influence has increased, have been spoiling for a fight. They've been itching for the opportunity to have that last open battle, in which they can put the liberals to flight once and for all. Pat Buchanan, interviewed Monday night, said that he thought Senator Harry Reid sounded relieved at the Miers nomination because Reid didn't want a confirmation battle, as Reid knew that the Dems would lose such a battle.

I for one do not share Buchanan's optimism. I do not think it is yet time for such a pitched battle. While conservatism has grown and is growing, liberals are still far too numerous and dominant for anything like assurance of victory. Fighting a premature battle and losing would do great damage and accomplish little. The liberals made their inroads on the culture over the course of 50 years. We will not undo that all in a decade or two, and certainly not in one all-out battle. It seems to me that the President has a similar view: far better to take incremental gains than to risk an all-out fight that you may lose. The president and I may be wrong, but I don't think that's merely "stupid."