The HOWs the WHYs and the WHATFORs

Ed Morrissey delivers his ‘state of the conservative blogosphere union’ speech as it regards the reaction to the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers, and in Ed’s view, the union is far from sound.

Well, he’s finally done it. By nominating White House lawyer Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, George Bush has managed to accomplish what Al Gore, John Kerry, Tom Daschle and any number of Democratic heavyweights have been unable to do: He has cracked the Republican monolith. Split his own party activists. And how.

So much for the gentle approach. By invoking the names Gore, Kerry and Daschle, Morrissey tosses a flash bomb into the room and quickly gets our attention.

The president’s surprise pick to replace Sandra Day O’Connor has ignited a massive debate among his former loyalists, especially in the blogosphere, where I spend a fair amount of time. Wails of betrayal are clashing with assurances of the president’s brilliant strategic thinking. Meanwhile, the heavyweights of punditry drop columns like artillery shells into what already may be a conservative civil war.

The question on so many minds on the right is: What in Bork’s name was Bush thinking?

And there it is…the most apropos reference one can make to thoroughly frame the discussion. Morrissey conjures up the perfect word picture, because a majority of us understand what the verb ‘to Bork’ means. For those of you in the minority, here’s a primer to review.

You have to understand. Conservatives have dreamed for decades of reversing what we see as the court’s hijacking of legislative prerogative to advance a liberal agenda. It’s what fueled the drive to develop new voters for the GOP and push for a majority in Congress. And finally the political stars have aligned — giving us a Republican White House, a solidly Republican Senate, and a Republican House to boot.

Bush himself ran on the promise that his election would guarantee Supreme Court nominations in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. But when he finally got an opening on the court — whom did he pick? An unknown quantity named John Roberts. After an initial round of puzzlement over this selection, conservatives backed the nomination, even though Roberts never gave any solid indication of whether he agreed with the philosophy of judicial restraint.

This is exactly what I suspected. Roberts, rather smoothly, sailed into his confirmation hearings, answered (or appropriately didn’t answer) the questions thrown at him, then somehow everything shifted into fast forward. Suddenly, it’s October 4th and the new Chief Justice is shown helping Justice Stevens as he walks down the steps of the majestic Supreme Court building. Perhaps it was the death of William Rehnquist that diverted everyone’s attention, or maybe it was the 24/7 Hurricane news that held everyone’s focus. Whatever it was, conservatives collectively thought, “OK, fine. Let Roberts in and we’ll go hardcore on the next nominee. After all, Bush understands our little deal with him. He’s gonna follow through exactly as planned and give us ‘Thomas Scalia’ on steroids. Won’t that be great?”

Yeah, great. If only it happened that way.

Morrissey goes on…

Bush has presented us with even more of a cipher, one with no demonstrable constitutional scholarship or judicial record, and whose best qualification appears to be proximity to him. The White House hasn’t publicly used Miers’s evangelical religion as an argument for her conservative credentials, but her supporters haven’t shown any qualms about proclaiming it a deciding factor. But since when did that represent conservatism?


Oh…(ahem), sorry.

The selection of Miers does represent one of Bush’s core values: his loyalty to his inner circle of aides. Conservatives normally see that as a big plus, but it has its drawbacks. And Miers isn’t the first possible candidate for the court to raise conservative blood pressure. Some on the right have speculated that Bush picked Miers as a pay-back for the trashing Alberto Gonzales has taken from the right wing since O’Connor first announced her retirement. It’s no secret that Bush would like to leave office with his longtime friend and ally on the Supreme Court as the first Hispanic justice. But conservatives made it clear that they regard Gonzales as a potential David Souter, a moderate who would bend to the left the way the notorious Bush 41 nominee did almost as soon as his hand left the Bible at his swearing-in ceremony.

Souter, the festering wound, forever an example of when good Bush’s go bad.

Most conservatives feel betrayed after working so hard to get enough Republicans elected to confirm almost any nominee. That’s why heavyhitters like Paul Weyrich, Grover Norquist and others confronted the president’s men about the nomination at the White House last week. Some, however, think the president’s move demonstrates a hidden brilliance that may take a decade or more to yield fruit. And then there are those who think the president made a mistake, but that any attempt at correction will only compound the damage.

I agree with the latter, and I said so here. Bush is not the type to do the big turn around and say he was wrong about Miers. That just won’t happen.

Captain Ed goes on to highlight the fighting camps in the blogosphere – ‘The Loyalist Army‘ led by Hugh Hewitt, ‘The Rebel Alliance‘ who tote the line propagated by MSM’ers like Coulter, Buchanan, Krauthammer and Kristol, and ‘The Trench-Dwelling Dogfaces‘ the clan where Morrissey claims membership. He’s pretty much got everyone pegged.

With important mid-term elections next year and at least one more Supreme Court opening likely during Bush’s term, we want to avoid a party schism that could make him a prematurely lame duck and hand the Democrats an opportunity to seize control of one or both houses of Congress.

So who will prevail? All I can predict is that if Miers is confirmed, the debate will continue into the next election cycle. And with this much rage building, the mid-terms look more exciting every day.

I’m not sure exciting is the word I’d use. I myself am sympathetic to the Rebel Alliance in this civil war. I have been a little less than impressed with Bush over the past 6 months. When he spoke of the political capital that he had gained in his reelection, and of his intention to spend it wisely, I anxiously awaited each carefully thought out transaction. After all, this man had the experience of one term as president under his belt, was handily reelected, and surely knew what it was he wanted to accomplish in part two. Unfortunately, what I’ve seen lately is reacting rather than leading, and all that reacting has led to a squandering of his valuable capital. Yet I’m not sure the president knows this. Does he believe the ‘capital’ he spoke of is still available to him? I wonder.

As I gaze longly at what might have been, I am left with the realization that our man only has about $2.50 of his capital left in my account of him. And with mid-terms coming up fast, that has me worried, not excited.

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