Monday, October 10, 2005
by Wayne Besen
The nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court is driving the right wing crazy. Well, they were always nuts, but now President George W. Bush is the surprising target of their vituperation, even as he desperately seeks their cooperation. The last time conservatives were this angry, it was over another presidential worshipping White House groupie. But at least Bill Clinton didn't nominate Monica Lewinsky to the Supreme Court.
Originally, Bush thought by choosing a crony with no paper trail he would inoculate himself against Democrats. What he did not expect was that conservative discontent would spread faster than avian bird flu. It appears that the only vaccine to stop this right wing pandemic of pandemonium is the withdrawal of the Miers nomination.
If you think I am overstating the revolt on the right, consider that for the past week conservatives of every stripe have uncharacteristically carpet-bombed the White House. Anne Coulter and Andrew Sullivan savaged the President on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. Pat Buchanan said on The McLaughlin Group that the Miers nomination has led to "Bush fatigue" among conservatives.
Indeed, when Bush was asked if he had ever discussed abortion with Miers, a longtime friend, he answered "not to my recollection". True conservatives must be tired of shilling for a guy who sounds positively Clintonian. What next, Bush will say "it depends on what the meaning of abortion is."
Meanwhile, failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork told Tucker Carlson on MSNBC that the nomination was a "disaster at every level." The American Family Association's Donald Wildmon said, "Republicans have a serious problem on their hands."
The most caustic review came from conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer who wrote: "If Harriet Miers were not a crony of the president of the United States, her nomination to the Supreme Court would be a joke, as it would have occurred to no one else to nominate her."
The only thing stopping this nomination from going down in flames are the twin conservative pillars of Focus on the Family's James Dobson and the Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land.
Land's cynical arguments for supporting the nomination are bizarre. He asserts the trustworthiness of both Miers and Bush because they were raised in Land's home state of Texas. Land also reasons that as a pick of patronage, Miers will be in Bush's back pocket and the president would consider it a "a deep personal betrayal" if Miers ruled contrary to his wishes.
But on NBC's Meet The Press, Land was caught off guard when Tim Russert informed him that Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked her to name her favorite Supreme Court Justice and Miers replied that it was Warren E. Burger, who voted for Roe v. Wade.
Dobson is supporting Miers because the White House supposedly gave him inside information that she is secretly a right wing zealot: "Some of what I know I am not at liberty to talk about."
Dobson is still talking in code, as his usual conservative allies are screaming Code Red. While he's out selling the Miers nomination, his buddies are surely calling him a sellout. If enormous peer pressure causes either Dobson or Land to crack and switch sides, I believe the Miers nomination is history. Once Bush loses this evangelical cover, his administration will run for cover.
Bush's hopes ride on his crony hitting a home run at the confirmation hearings, which is odd, because Miers has no experience with Constitutional law. Miers will burn the midnight oil with a crash course, presumably reading The Supreme Court for Dummies, so she won't crash and burn.
The White House will set up a pre-Halloween "Murder Board" to fire likely questions at Miers. Bush had always expected the senate slashers to be Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. I just don't see how this nomination can survive when the panel's Freddy Krueger is Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Michael Myers is Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
It could get particularly ugly if senators from both the right and left play Judicial Jeopardy, trying to humiliate the neophyte by asking arcane and mundane legal questions about obscure court cases. Her only defense, if this likely scenario occurs, will be sympathy and low expectations.
With gas prices rising, Iraq burning, scandals brewing and New Orleans sinking, I don't think the president, with his sagging poll numbers, can continue to alienate his right flank by standing by his nominee. Unfortunately for Bush, the hearings don't start until early November, giving his base almost a solid month to portray Miers as an ill-suited David Souter clone. If Bush doesn't back down, Thanksgiving may start early this November, as Senators carve up this turkey of a nominee that Bush had no business serving up on a silver platter.
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