Sunday, October 09, 2005

MOOT COURT. I think the Miers controversy has much more to do with the need of newspaper writers, bloggers, and talking heads to preserve their credibility than with anything else.

Does a contentious or even a failed SCOTUS nomination seriously weaken the Administration? These nominations have all been contentious in one way or another since the Reagan Administration at least. After the failures of Bork and Ginsburg, it is true, Reagan resorted, late in his second term, to Anthony Kennedy, whom many movement conservatives consider a letdown at least. But Bush I, of all people, shoved through the highly controversial Clarence Thomas, who has been happily following the script ever since.

The Republicans under Bush II are observably more sensitive to their conservative base – the blood-and-thunder base, the Jesus base, not John Tierney and Glenn Reynolds -- that they were under his father, and much more than under Reagan (whose tenure produced, despite all the chest-beating, very few of the Kulturkampf victories for which his true believers agitated). When W says "trust me," he’s not talking to David Broder, he’s talking to them. Miers is an evangelical Christian. I don’t think her fellow born-agains care that she let Gloria Steinem give a lecture once. They know Miers has been called by the Lord, and has answered.

If Miers is withdrawn or defeated, the right to nominate does not devolve to Harry Reid. Bush will simply reach into his trick-bag of stealth nominees and eventually someone else of equal, um, reliability will be placed.

The Miers nomination clusters in an intellectually pleasing way with a bunch of other Bush mishaps, and may contribute to the public’s growing sense of unease with Republicans. But it’s hard to see a political benefit to the Democrats whatever the outcome. If they had their shit a little more together, they might be able to make a more credible "we warned you" case after these guys overturn Roe v. Wade, a distinct possibility over the new few years (especially now that John Roberts is the Center Square). But they probably don’t have the will, and they certainly don’t have the money, to work that angle effectively.

Bush has nothing to lose here but the approval of people he doesn’t need. The Republicans may be nervous, but it’s control of the largesse spigots on Capitol Hill that really concerns them – and this nomination can’t affect that one way or the other. The Democrats might make a stand here, but what, politically, will they have won, other than a reaffirmation of their reputation as spoilsports?

This is not to suggest that it would be a bad thing morally and ethically to insist on better qualifications in a Supreme Court Justice, if you want to be idealistic about it. But where’s the percentage in that?

UPDATE. Good points made in comments. I think Julia is right that this has awakened the sleeping midget that is our MSM. I'm not sure Notsobright is correct that the average voter will be affected by whatever weak skepticism the press has been emboldened to emit.

True, said voter is susceptible to propaganda, and the MSM can provide the sort of professionally-packaged messages that can reach his lizard brain. But the Bush Administration's terror mantra is psychologically very penetrating. If they have few non-Fox allies in the MSM, they can always count on cop shows, tributes to firefighters and soldiers, country music, football, etc., to fill in the copious blanks. The instructions that doubt is weakness will continue, and I think this will blow away whatever runny on-the-other-hand palaver the MSM provides.

Like Sven, I don't doubt that the Republicans would like to keep Roe alive as a secure fundraising scam. But for once I agree with the conventional wisdom that a Supreme Court Justice might do something silly once appointed. The Bushites are playing with fire here. Of course it may be that Miers' second birth in Christ is fake -- I'm not sure Bush's is legit either -- but if it isn't, we may see some wacky votes and opinions on her part. Besides, as Mark suggests, there's always hatred of homosexuals to keep the home crosses burning.

Gmoke is onto something: that Bush may worry about his own fortunes in a possible North American replay of the Pinochet trials, and want Miers as a sleeper sellout. (Pinochet didn't worry about stuff like that, but Pinochet was a soldier.) Bush may well hope that breeding will keep his old pal from sending him to the gallows. But one's Supreme Court appointees have been known to betray one -- or at least abstain.

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