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My Way

Oct
24
2005

There is little that can be said about Harriet Miers nomination to the Supreme Court that can be disputed. She was not picked for her ideology; she was not picked for her scholarship; she was not picked for her intellect; and she was not picked to appease a constituency. She was picked for the same reason Richard Cheney is the Vice President of the United States: Because George W. Bush is comfortable with her.

In assessing that comfort as a value, we might ask what brings it about. After six years of this President on the national stage, we may guess well enough: loyalty, forthrightness, and a lack of irksome independent-mindedness are the measures of this President’s men and women. How else does one explain the persistence of the bumbling former Congressman Norman Mineta at the Department of Transportation? The discredited Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon? The hapless Michael Chertoff at Homeland Security? The faceless John Snow at Treasury?

Harriet Miers is an abominable writer. Harriet Miers has offended United States Senators. Harriet Miers is a broken promise to the social conservative movement. Harriet Miers has a wretched grasp of the very Constitution she will supposedly defend on the Supreme Court. All these things are irrelevant. Right now, she is to ascend to the highest court in the land because George W. Bush is comfortable with her.

In this, she is not alone. This personal-comfort-as-principle is not merely the measure of the President’s men, but of his governance. It is the enshrinement of whim and gut feeling as analysis. It is the elevation of Kentucky windage to a faux science. It is the same phenomenon that expresses itself cruelly in Iraq, erratically in policy, and as farce in the judiciary.

It is a startling thing to contemplate. We allow our leaders their prerogatives in the belief, implicit as it is, that they will exercise them for something beyond themselves. The mayor may retain councillors for their sartorial splendor alone – but usually he does not. The Congressman may hire an old friend and inveterate drunk as his chief of staff – but usually he does not. The police chief may recruit only believers in phrenology to the force – but usually he does not. We allow them these things because we assume a sense of responsibility, a sense of conscience, a sense of propriety, and a sense of mission imparted by their offices.

Neither Left nor Right, Democrat nor Republican may justly claim that Harriet Miers stands at the cusp of the Supreme Court by dint of any sense of responsibility, conscience, propriety or mission. How then do we explain her? How do we interpret the stupefying accident of history whereby we must consider this titanic mediocrity as an arbiter of our very Constitution?

The answer lies in the titanic mediocrity who leads our nation. We should consider what he is not before we address what he is. As in so many things, Robert Bork said it best:

….George W. Bush has not governed as a conservative (amnesty for illegal immigrants, reckless spending that will ultimately undo his tax cuts, signing a campaign finance bill even while maintaining its unconstitutionality). This George Bush, like his father, is showing himself to be indifferent, if not actively hostile, to conservative values. He appears embittered by conservative opposition to his nomination….

To think we once rejected a man of such intellectual stature as unworthy of the high court. The comparison is embarrassing; the contrast stark. But turning away from the missed opportunities of history, we turn toward Bork’s words now. George W. Bush is not a conservative as conservatism is generally understood. Men of ideological self-identification usually are such from first principles or, failing those, material interest. George W. Bush’s first principles are barely identifiable as such. They have no noble center and no higher purpose. But they do have a center and a purpose. These things are not material interest — there is no evidence that he is a man of avarice. They are, rather, self-interest.

Thus we return to the selection of Harriet Miers. We grasp the Miers nomination as the confirmation that for George W. Bush, the Presidency of the United States is not about the office, nor the nation, nor any particular mission attendant to them.

It’s all about him.

Share  Posted by Josh Trevino at 2:21 AM | Permalink

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