Some interesting commentary today regarding the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. The editorial and op-ed pages of the Washington Post offered a full buffet of food for thought:
At first I didn’t know what to think about President Bush’s nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court. She certainly was not among the people that I expected Bush to select for the high court. But then conservative commentators and columnists — bless their hard-wired hearts — came down on Miers like tons of bricks in free fall. Thus I was visited with the following revelation: If Miers is capable of causing the right to weep, wail and gnash its teeth, she can’t be all bad.
E. J. Dionne, also in today’s Post, sees inconsistencies between the current Federal Administration’s stance on discussing (now) Chief Justice John Roberts’s personal life and Ms. Miers’s personal life:
Shortly after Bush named John Roberts to the Supreme Court, a few Democrats, including Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), suggested that the nominee might reasonably be questioned about the impact of his religious faith on his decisions as a justice.
Durbin had his head taken off. “We have no religious tests for public office in this country,” thundered Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), insisting that any inquiry about a potential judge’s religious views was “offensive.” Fidelis, a conservative Catholic group, declared that “Roberts’ religious faith and how he lives that faith as an individual has no bearing and no place in the confirmation process.”
But now that Harriet Miers, Bush’s latest Supreme Court nominee, is in trouble with conservatives, her religious faith and how she lives that faith are becoming central to the case being made for her by the administration and its supporters. Miers has almost no public record. Don’t worry, the administration’s allies are telling their friends on the right, she’s an evangelical Christian .
Ruth Marcus considers how Senator Frist and Congressman Delay managed to get in such serious public relations trouble (and perhaps serious legal trouble–we will have to wait and see about that) almost simultaneouosly.
Hubris, indeed, can be seen at the core of the twin dramas that have ensnared two top congressional leaders. But the fault takes many forms, and its manifestations in the cases of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) are as different as the two lawmakers themselves.
Frist’s hubris is that of the man whose overweening self-regard is such that he can’t imagine that anyone would question his behavior; DeLay’s is that of the man whose relentless drive for power is such that he doesn’t care what people think.
More fundamental is that it is no more legitimate for conservatives than for liberals to demand satisfaction on the “key issues of the day,” as Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) put it. Mr. Bush is not obligated to nominate a jurist with a stated philosophy that can be relied on to produce predictable votes on contested questions. The president promised during his campaigns to nominate justices who would interpret the law strictly and not legislate from the bench. He believes Ms. Miers would be such a justice and is willing to put his prestige behind the proposition, and that fact entitles the nominee to reasonable consideration.
I offer another perspective: This nomination has put a strain on the uneasy alliance between right-wing Christian groups seeking to promote a specific social agenda and business-oriented Republicans seeking to promote a particular economic agenda. The Republican Party has reached its current strength because these two factions have bargained to support each other’s programs.
It seems clear from their comments that a good part of the unhappiness of many Republicans, those with the social agenda, with the nomination of Ms. Miers is that, as far as they are concerned, she is an unknown quantity.
I think that the business-oriented Republicans realize that the social agenda of the right-wing Christian groups is not palatable to the nation as a whole. Remember that Mr. Bush’s majority in the popular vote was very thin in the last election and that, in the 2000 election, he actually lost the popular vote, while his victory in the Electoral College will forever be under a cloud.
There is, in short, no huge national mandate for change, and certainly not for the radical changes some of the right-wing Christian (and business) groups are calling for. The fate of Mr. Bush’s attempt to privatize social security (even when cloaked in the Trojan Horse of “personal accounts”) demonstrates that.
Nevertheless, significant parts of the business agenda have moved along: The rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer, business and environmental regulations have been relaxed or abolished, businesses have even been intimidated into firing lobbyists who are not members of the correct party.
Now the proponents of the social agenda are demanding payback from the business element, payback in the open, on top of the table, for all to see.
The business side of the house knows that payback in the open might well awaken resistance from the great majority of moderate or apathetic citizens and render that social agenda a non-starter, just as the social security proposals turned out to be non-starters.
In short, the unholy Republican alliance of the the Baptists and the Bootleggers is under severe strain. It will be interesting to see in what shape it survives.