15 October 2005

"But I Slept At A Holiday Inn. . ."

Don't say I didn't warn you. Let the implosion begin!


Chorus of Disapproval Over Court Pick

By Justin Webb
BBC News, Washington

President Bush is involved in an increasingly rancorous political battle with people who used to be his most ardent supporters, a battle which is leading to fresh questions about his judgement and the future of his administration.

The strange turn of events has come about because of the president's decision to pick a close friend - the White House chief lawyer Harriet Myers - for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court.

The religious right had been hoping that one of their own would get the nod and the court would be swung decisively in their direction. They are accusing Mr Bush of flunking his big moment.

"I have known Harriet Miers for more than a decade," the president said last week.

"I know her heart, I know her character. I am confident that Harriet Miers will add to the wisdom and character of our judiciary when she is confirmed as the 110th justice of the Supreme Court."

But what was the president thinking? Social conservatives held their heads in their hands after his announcement on Ms Miers.

Their thinking went like this, according to Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post: "Is the president doing this because he feels weak at the moment because the news from Iraq continues to be bad, Hurricane Katrina was a disaster in more ways than one.

1985: First female president of the Dallas Bar Association
1992: First woman to head the Texas State Bar
1995-2000: Chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission
2001: Joins White House staff as president's staff secretary
2003: Appointed Deputy Chief of Staff
2004: Named White House counsel

"Or is he feeling all-powerful and essentially saying to betrayed-feeling conservatives, I am the president, I can do what I want to do."

You'll notice that neither of those alternatives is particularly flattering. Both suggest that the right think their man has lost the plot.

The right-wing former presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan put it like this: "Ms Miers' qualifications for the Supreme Court are utterly non-existent.

"She has not only not ruled or written on any of the great controversies of our time - religion or faith, morality - she has shown no interest in them in 40 years.

"This is a faith-based initiative, the president of the United States is saying trust me, and when you have the decisive vote on the US Supreme Court, that is not an option."

Personal notes

There have been conservatives who have defended Ms Miers, some after receiving phone calls from the White House mysteriously suggesting that all will be fine in the end.

The woman herself has said only this: "If confirmed I recognise that I will have a tremendous responsibility to keep our judicial system strong."

Some conservatives point out that that does not add up to a fully-fledged judicial philosophy.

Released this week, the personal notes Ms Miers used to send to Mr Bush when he was governor of Texas - "you're the best governor ever", etc - only serve to add to the sense that her chief qualification really is her friendship with the president.

Sam Brownback is a Republican Senator on the judiciary committee who was looking forward to supporting a tough-minded social conservative with an anti-abortion, anti-gay rights track record.

"Harriet Miers doesn't have that track record and doesn't seem to be well-formed in her judicial philosophy, having never being on the bench.

"And over a period of time - and this is the second point of what is going on - [justices] that have been appointed by a Republican president have tended to veer to the left over a period of time if they are not well formed in their judicial philosophy."

Conservatives 'feel betrayed'

Ms Miers faces nomination hearings in the Senate next month, but already the heat is on. And from her own side.

Senator Arlen Specter, Republican chairman of the judiciary committee, paints a vivid picture of the trial that awaits the president's woman.

"What you have here on Harriet Miers is not a rush to judgement but a stampede to judgement. She has faced one of the toughest lynch mobs ever assembled in Washington DC, and we really assemble some tough lynch mobs," Mr Specter said.

There is a history here. The president's first supreme court choice, John Roberts, was also not a firebrand right-winger.

Social conservatives were told to be patient, and according to Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post they feel betrayed.

"The conservative base said, OK well we can take Roberts, he's bright, we can tell he is conservative. Then to come up with Harriet Miers, the fact is that we don't know where she stands, she is not identified with any particular philosophy, she has left no paper trail," Robinson said.

Assuming that Ms Miers is confirmed by the Senate next month it does look as if Mr Bush's Supreme Court legacy will be more measured than many had hoped or feared.

Mr Bush has not delivered to his core constituency on the religious right and many of them will not forgive him.

As one put it: "We accept that the Lord works in mysterious ways, but we have different standards for the president."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/10/14 16:02:42 GMT



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