Friday, October 28, 2005

Harriet, Sweet Harriet

by Kyle Michaelis
The next justice on the U.S. Supreme Court will not be Harriet Miers. President Bush's first choice to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor withdrew her nomination Thursday morning after an embarrassing couple of weeks for Bush that brought renewed attention to his administration's worst unsettling tendencies to cronyism and subterfuge.

Working so hard to install a loyalist with little written record or judicial qualification blew up in Bush's face when the religious Right proved unwilling to take him at his word that Miers would do their bidding from the bench. Moreover, revelations about Miers hyperbolic flattery towards President (and then-Governor) Bush portrayed both as sharing a laughably indefensible relationship predicated on pure, unadulterated ass-kissing. Whoever said "flattery will get you nowhere" obviously hadn't encountered Bush's degree of egotistical narcissism.

Making this a little bit relevant to the Nebraska political scene, here's what Senators Hagel and Nelson had to say on Miers' withdrawal. The AP reports:
Criticism of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers by social conservatives likely will have a long-term political fallout for the Republican Party, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said on Thursday.

"I think by the way she was treated, the Republican Party can kiss the women's vote goodbye," Harkin said. "I think the right wing has captured the Republican Party. They are going to keep pushing their right-wing agenda and they are making it very difficult for moderate Republicans to do anything"....

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. said, "This certainly is not the kind of action that any administration would like to see. I think the White House made a very clear calculation and came to the conclusion that this was a nomination that was going to have significant difficulty.

"I think Harriet Miers did a very principled thing in taking herself out of contention. I admire her for that. Her selflessness should be acknowledged. She put the interests of the president and the country over her own interests and that's significant, especially in this town."

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said, "Ms. Miers' nomination was troubled. I respect her decision to withdraw"....

Harkin said Democrats had withheld judgment on Miers, and that damage to her nomination was largely inflicted by conservatives hoping for one of their own to be named to the high court.

He said Bush's decision to allow GOP conservatives to undermine the Miers nomination shows the extent to which social conservatives are now in control of the White House.

"I think the pressure from the right wing just got to be too much," Harkin said. "It shows the power they have."

Hagel, of course, didn't comment on the Right's now-proven ability to destroy this nomination, but I'm sure he's taking notes since these are the cannabilistic lions he thinks he's going to have to win over to have a shot at the presidency.

What's funny is that, had the Miers nomination continued to a vote, it's difficult to imagine either Hagel or Nelson having voted against her confirmation. In fact, with a 10-seat Republican majority in the Senate, I can't bring myself to accept the notion that these sickeningly well-conditioned Republicans would have so repudiated their first-in-command as to actually reject anyone he put up there and stuck behind. They would have fallen in line eventually because that's all this current crop of Republicans knows how to do.

What does it all mean? What secrets - what lessons - does this whole ordeal hold for the future? Will Bush give his crowd the fundamentalist whackadoo to whom they believe themselves entitled even though such a show of their true nature would threaten the integrity of the U.S. Constitution and the fortunes of the Republican Party (not to mention Bush's place in history)? Or, will he go the easy route of selecting someone such as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who has already passed muster with the Senate once and would be the nation's first Latino Justice. Perhaps he'll go the even safer route of choosing one of the Senates' own members?

It's all really a matter of how much a "game of chicken" Bush wants to make of this. He's already flinched once. That doesn't put him in a position of strength. With all their recent undermining of the Miers' nomination, Republican rhetoric about every judge deserving an up-or-down vote is going to sound mighty hypocritical if push comes to shove and Democrats are forced to challenge a proven partisan ideologue via a filibuster. In general, Democratic filibustering has been a disasterous course - one that should have been reserved solely for the Supreme Court. Because of Bush's weakness and unpopularity, however, it might well present an opportunity this time around for the Democrats to prove their mettle and stand up for the living, breathing progressive Constitution that the American people demand.

For once, I think it might be time that we borrow a line from Bush (at his most cowboy-ish) - "Bring it on!"


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