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Version 2.0

Oct
28
2005

The end of the Harriet Miers nomination is at first glance a victory for the conservatives of the Republican Party. For once, the President was held to a promise, and prevented from egregiously violating it. But it does not follow from this that he will seek to fulfill it.

We know two things about this White House: first, it does not surrender graciously; second, it prizes die-hard loyalists and relentlessly punishes the unfaithful. A silver lining for the Administration now is that the ranks of the unfaithful, while swelled, are well-delineated. And they are swelled with conservatives. The movement that put George W. Bush into office twice is now arrayed against him. It is not how they see themselves — they are, for the most part, persons who sincerely wish him well and want to help him succeed — but it is how he sees them.

This is what sets up the dynamic for what is to come next. In the aftermath of the Miers fiasco, conservatives are aware that the President is immensely weakened. War, a stalled agenda, the destruction of New Orleans, and now this combine to drag down an Administration that must of necessity pull its party with it. Conservatives know that a weakened President is a harm to them, and they will not, on the whole, be willing to go down this path again. A few might — Richard Viguerie, Paul Weyrich, me — but you likely won’t get Sam Brownback to repeat his performance as the guardian of the gates. Brownback’s service to the Republic and the movement is done, and a good service it was. Now he, and everyone else who opposed Harriet Miers, must look to the broader picture. We cannot hold this against them. It is a reasoned stance. It is a strategic stance. It is, indeed, a principled stance.

It is the very thing that will allow a petulant Administration to kick them in the shins.

Make no mistake: Harriet Miers was not, ultimately, done in because of opposition from conservatives. She was killed by her own manifest incompetence for the position to which she was nominated. A person that ideologically faulty would be unacceptable to conservatives in any case. But the alienation of the likes of Charles Schumer — and every other Democrat and Republican fence-sitter in the Senate — was extraneous to that. Every other Democrat and Republican fence-sitter in the Senate, by the bye, constitutes a majority.

The challenge for the White House is therefore to find someone more competent, in the technical, ideologically-neutral sense, and hence more palatable. They won’t mind sending forth a Harriet Miers 2.0 just as bad as the first, with the exception of a demonstrable competence in Constitutional law. The icing on this cake for the Administration in this scenario is the petty vengeance against the conservatives who stood in the breach throughout October. The latter won’t be able to muster the grassroots revolt a second time around, the apologists will be further bolstered, and the President will have a victory on two fronts — public and intramural — in the wake of this debacle.

My guess is that despite the leaking to placate conservatives, this is exactly the scenario we face.

Now, there are good arguments against this. One might argue that the President cares about conservatives. One might argue that the President cares about his party and its future prospects, so to speak apres moi. One might argue that the President is a high-minded man who understands that politics is politics. There are indeed people high in the White House for whom these things are quite true. But they are not statements I would make about George W. Bush.

Share  Posted by Josh Trevino at 2:58 PM | Permalink

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