Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Sometimes Even Girlie-Men Have To Get Into The Fight

Worthless Senators, worthless presidential leadership, worthless Party, unless they start putting in some actual effort. Here's a pretty good Corner post by Stanley Kurtz:


That New York Times article about the disgruntled Hill staffers is important in more ways than one. Beyond establishing that Miers could indeed go down, the article subtly suggests tensions between Republican staffers and their own Senators. That tension needs to be taken seriously. When the history of the Miers nomination is written, it will emerge that the Republican senate itself played a key role in the decision not to go with an openly social conservative nominee.

This article from The Boston Globe, “For social conservatives, it just doesn’t add up,” is dead on. The real reason the president did this is that he believes he doesn’t have the votes to go nuclear in the senate and/or that the battle will be too politically costly, even if it succeeds. What’s more, I believe that senate Republicans themselves share precisely the same worry.

Senate Republican’s know that nominating a strong and open social conservative will set off a paralyzing battle, and virtually shut down the rest of their agenda for the duration. The mammoth battle will also turn the pressure now being aimed at the president onto the Senate’s Republican moderates. At a minimum, that would mean exacerbating party divisions and jeopardizing the majority’s congressional agenda going into a midterm election. At worst, the internal squabbling would threaten the Republican senate majority itself. Knowing this, I believe that senate Republicans themselves begged the president for a stealth nominee.

The president believed he had found that stealth nominee in Harriet Miers. He trusted her, because he’d known her for years. And no doubt she shows her conservative face–which is genuinely a part of who she is–to the president. But I doubt that Miers went into her meetings with George Bush in 1998 and 1999 telling him in excited tones how happy she was to have pleased her liberal feminist supporters by setting up a lecture series for Gloria Steinem and Susan Faludi. The president was taken by surprise by Miers long-practiced penchant for silence about her own complex political sympathies. So the wobbly Republican moderates in the Senate, combined with a stealth nominee who was less conservative than her own backers believed, got us into this mess.

I oppose the Miers nomination. But I’m realistic enough to admit that the sort of nominee I want would mean a politically dangerous Senate battle, with real risks for the Republican majority. I think the stakes justify the battle–and the fight would have the huge political plus of uniting and exciting the base going into the mid-term elections. But Republican Senators clearly have reason to fear the pressures such a battle will place on them.

Republican office holders are always reluctant to go along with the cultural battles craved by the base. Republican officials regularly beg Ward Connerly not to come into their states with his petition drives against racial preferences. And this is true, even though clear majorities of Americans oppose preferences. The wimp out on this nomination by both the president and the congressional Republicans is the ultimate example of that familiar split between Republican office-holders and their base. What the Republican officials need to understand, is that their base has been willing to swallow that sort of wimp out for decades–all on the theory that one day we’d get it back through this nomination.

For years, politicians of both parties have avoided difficult cultural battles by passing the buck to the courts. Now we see the consequences. Court nominations themselves become the focus of politics, and when politicians try to pass the buck even on the most important nomination, the base finally turns on them. Again, I believe that it’s the Senate Republicans–every bit as much, or more, than the president–who need to get the message that we demand a real battle on this court seat, bruising and risky for Republicans as it will admittedly be.

Posted at 10:58 AM

Yup. We've put up with a mountain of crap from the feckless GOP, with the understanding that the real prize to keep our eyes on is reforming the judiciary. And when crunch time comes, these jackasses flee from the battlefield.

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