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October 03, 2005

Bush's Nomination

I should probably be offering some more coherent thoughts on Miers than "conservatives dislike her", although watching their heads go "pop!" sure is fun. Poor kids. They thought electing a cipher and surrounding him with conservative ideologues and Republican wisemen would result in a sort of Robo-Republican, a candidate genial enough to take office and suggestible enough to govern -- pun not intended -- right. Instead, Bush reacted as most small men in big boots do and surrounded himself with folks even less qualified than he. With his Spidey Sense tingling, Bush staffed his administration with a who's who of neocons grateful to come in from the cold and Texan loyalists eager to erase their regional insecurity through national actions. Classic spokes-and-wheel formation -- the connections and loyalty all flowed towards Bush, not the party or each other.

What was different about this case was that all manner of conservatives got shafted. From the theocrats to the libertarians to, eventually, the neocons, the only group who found Bush a reliable genie were the plutocrats, and they're more self-interested Rockefeller types than ideologues. But that's because Bush was never into ideology, he was into power, into winning. That's what happens when you pick a cipher. In politics, if you're not driven by ideology, you're driven by drive. And with that sort of self-referential motivation schematic undergirding the candidate, better bet he's no more wedded to your agenda than his.

Of course, the spurned factions of America's conservative fraction turned to that old standby to explain the defeat: fantasy. Bush was like them "deep down", he just need to win reelection, boost his poll numbers, pass CAFTA, fill the first Supreme Court seat, blah blah blah. What's hitting now is the realization that Bush is really as small and short-sighted as he seemed, it wasn't some plan or bit of overly-complicated "strategery". This time, there was nothing holding him back and, indeed, much pushing him forward. Roberts won with room to lounge, Bush needed to reinforce his base, Republicans needed to change the agenda...if there'd ever been a moment for a pitched ideological battle over a wingnut nominee, now was it.

But in the end, Bush really was a provincial, uninterested power-amasser. He wanted a Texas crony and, since conservatives deep-sixed Gonzales, Miers was the logical fallback. There's no political upside to the pick but then, for the reelected Bush, there's really no downside either. Where the fuck are congressional Republicans gonna go? What's the Christian Right gonna do? Get behind a neanderthal like Roy Moore so the country can elect a liberal like Hillary Clinton? Let 'em try. Bush has 'em by the balls. The Christian Right's influence comes from control over the Republican party, but since Bush shows little evidence of caring about the long-term health of his party, they've got nothing on him. Nobody does. He can pick who he wants.

And so he did.

October 3, 2005 in The Supreme Court | Permalink

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Ezra thinks that President Bush could care less about the conservative ideology, but instead solely cares about power:But in the end, Bush really was a provincial, uninterested power-amasser. He wanted a Texas crony and, since conservatives deep-sixed ... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 4, 2005 12:11:27 AM

Comments

Well now, you are getting to where you can really turn a phrase, and I count at least a dozen nice ones here.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Oct 3, 2005 4:31:23 PM

On the nose.

Posted by: Matt_C | Oct 3, 2005 4:38:44 PM

Yes, this is the "f*** you" nomination. "You say I can't pick a close friend for the Court? Watch this."

A child, spoiled at that.

Posted by: Ugh | Oct 3, 2005 6:15:27 PM

What an embarrassing president Bush is.

He appointed his personal lawyer to the Supreme Court. The heads going pop on the right is the realization taking root that Bush has no vision whatsoever. None. He likes his friends. He treats them well. There's no grand scheme. Conservatives want the grand scheme. Bush's speechwriters convinced a lot of conservatives he had one for a long time.

He appointed his lawyer -- his ADA-member, pro-ICC, probably-voted-for-Dukakis-against-his-dad personal lawyer to the Supreme Court because she thinks he's a really great guy. That's all it takes with Bush.

Incredible. It just gets more and more incredible.

Posted by: tlaura | Oct 3, 2005 6:58:23 PM

Bush has spent the last five years pissing all over liberals and liberal pet programs that the conservatives forgot that he isn't really on their side either. When back into a corner, he'll piss on them, too, just out of spite if nothing else. Bill maher pointed out on hios show a few weeks back that Bush's attention span isn't that long. Maher pleaded with him to loose interest and walk away to another fnatasy job (astronaut or cowboy). He's doing the next worse thing and just fucking around. With no election to look forward to, he's just spinning his wheels until '08. So, might as well have fun and spread the wealth around a little.

Can't wait to see his executive pardons in a few years. that should be fun.

Posted by: Keith | Oct 3, 2005 6:59:09 PM

As fun as it is to watch wingnut heads go pop, the best is yet to come. No way does Miers get confirmed. Watch for a faction within the GOP to lauch the reverse nuclear option and filibuster their own president's nominee. Then watch Bush's head go pop.

Posted by: nonplussed | Oct 3, 2005 7:08:04 PM

As some friends have said, Miers could be the "face in the door" candidate: someone his own party could reject, only so that he could return with someone grossly conservative to satisfy them. (That would give congressional Senators a 'victory' against Bush in 06, which could help them in elections as they distance themselves from his falling star)

That said, I think this suggestion (and variants of it) give the GOP way too much credit, and grossly underestimates the combative egomania of the individuals comprising the party's leadership.

This should be fun to watch.

Posted by: lb | Oct 3, 2005 7:49:32 PM

It's kind of ironic that Bush had the Hussein brothers whacked out, because you've got to believe that, had he been born into the Hussein rather than the Bush family, he would have made a great Uday.

Posted by: Matt_C | Oct 3, 2005 7:57:48 PM

I'm with McManus - this is a great post.

I think the one other thing to mention, though no one does these days, is that the choice is a pure and simple celebration of mediocrity. Who needs the fancy degrees and the years of legal scholarship? Who needs proof of deep intelligence and a love of the law? You can just pick... your own lawyer!

In these anti-intellectual times, this is just another sad, yet humorous example of know-nothings (or perhaps worse, know-littles) triumphant. The kind of argument that says Miers shouldn't be confirmed because, quite simply, she's not very good will get lost in lots of other bright shiny objects and loud noises. If it weren't so hilarious to watch, it would just be sad.

Posted by: weboy | Oct 3, 2005 8:04:52 PM

I know its paranoid and gives Bush/Rove/whoever too much credit, but I tend to agree with lb. This nomination smells like a setup.

Posted by: Scats | Oct 3, 2005 9:23:54 PM

No offense Ezra, love your stuff, but I have to disagree with other commenters about this particular post being so great. Of course it's a joy to read -- but that's the subject matter, you'd really have to screw up not to make it enjoyable.

On more substantive matters: I disagree with lb and Scats. Remember that this is the guy who let his vice presidential selector select himself, and selected Roberts based on his exercise regimen. So now he let his Supreme Court nominee selector select herself. It fits the pattern just fine.

Moreover, this cynical theory presupposes that they're intentionally taking a faithful Bush crony, holding her up for scrutiny, and then dumping her. I don't remember any analogous examples in the past of this sort of behavior on their part. (Kerik and Brownie don't fit.)

Posted by: Allen K. | Oct 3, 2005 10:11:52 PM

Well-written and insightful. I hope that the sight of Bush piddling away his second term is enough for 1.1% of the electorate to change their minds about the GOP in 2008.

Posted by: Stephen | Oct 3, 2005 10:13:00 PM

ah, good ole Sam Cooke:

"Don't know much about history
Don't know much biology
Don't know much about science book
Don't know much about the French I took"

Megalomanics, like many of the 20th century totalitarian dictators, don't pay much attention to what either their supporters or detractors say.

Unless there is some grand Rovian strategy yet to unfold - which seems doubtful - Bush seems to be getting more out of touch and more prone to see himself as the nation's savior and above responsibility to any political or moral force.

Were Stalin or Hitler more insane than sane? Is Bush acting like a man in finite leadership of the nation?

The warning signs are flashing. We should be vigilant.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Oct 4, 2005 2:26:30 AM

"Waaaaaaaaaaa...........waaaaaaaaaa........Bush didn't pick who we wanted him to pick.....Waaaaaaaaaaaa....."

Isn't that really about it...from both sides of the aisle? The choice is not theirs to make.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 4, 2005 9:29:20 AM

No, but it is ours to critique. The guy's not a dictator.

And, I should add, this is exactly who I wanted Bush to pick, since I know he won't pick anyone actually good, choosing a nominee who depresses conservatives is my next best option.

Posted by: Ezra | Oct 4, 2005 9:36:15 AM

Count me as one who thinks there is a just a bit too much analysis going on in the blogosphere about this appointment.

Bush is a simple man. Bush really like his friends. Bush nominated a friend. All this stuff about screwing over various wings of the Republican party, I find hard to believe Bush even gave any of that consideration.

Posted by: Adrock | Oct 4, 2005 10:35:50 AM

Don't be ridiculous, Fred.
The right is complaining because they've been promised something they're not sure they're getting. (Though this woman thinks they are indeed getting it.)
Is your position that under no circumstances is it appropriate for the left to complain about the choice of nominee? If I'm misunderstanding, then please describe a scenario where it would be appropriate. The floor is yours.

Personally, I'm delighted to have Bush's lawyer available for grilling by the Congress, on the torture memo, covering up Bush's Vietnam records, the Plame case, etc.

Posted by: Allen K. | Oct 4, 2005 11:06:46 AM

Conclusions that hinge upon Bush being a moron, or evil or just wanting to piss people off may be fun to make, but they are horribly unlikely to have much to do with reality.

Bush has a reason for this pick, and it isn't just friendship, he wants something out of the Courts that he thinks Miers will give him.

Here is my guess on what that is.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Oct 4, 2005 11:07:57 AM

Slight logical problem here. If Bush has 'em "by the balls" and can pretty much do what he wants, then why didn't he go ahead and pick Gonzales?...thekeez

Posted by: Jeff Keezel | Oct 4, 2005 11:28:00 AM

Dave Justus,

I largely agree with your analysis, re:reliable expansion of the power of gov. vis a vis "national security" questions.

However, it does seem that cronyism is not in any way at all out of the picture.

Posted by: TJ | Oct 4, 2005 11:47:45 AM

What is 'cronyism' exactly though? If you want to ensure a Justice friendly to the principle of executive power, Miers is probably the best (or second best counting Gonzales) person for the job.

It seems that Bush could only evaluate someone in that capacity that he knows well and has worked with closely. Not too many others have reason to a)have a positive view of the expansion of excutive power and b)telegraph in any way that they have that view.

So, if that is what he wants, he is limited to a pretty narrow circle.

I am not sure that I want what Bush wants here, far from sure actually, but if you accept the premise that that is what is needed, Miers is not a 'cronyism' appointment. Especially if you figure that Bush is looking at Miers to behave this way consistantly, and not just while he is in office, which I suspect is the case.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Oct 4, 2005 12:09:33 PM

Dave Justus,

The set of people approving of the expansion of executive power can't possibly be as small as you're thinking.

As for working closely with the President being necessary for him to evaluate the qualifications of a candidate, that would mean that the view from the highest office in the land is pretty limited. This really flouts the notion that the nominees should be the most qualified or best possible (in some way) nominees, in favor of nominating "the best that work for me."

That's not a good way to run a railroad.

Posted by: TJ | Oct 4, 2005 1:44:54 PM

TJ,

I meant specifically the ability to evaluate a person's view on expansion of executive power. Franky, the issue doesn't come up that often for most people, and the place it comes up is in the White House. A few legal scholars may write on it, but it is more 'fashionable' to take the opposite view.

Are their many lawyers or judges or law professors who have publically advocated for greater deference to the executive? Maybe, probably not too many though. Mostly that is a job left purely for White House lawyers. Add in that Miers has at least lukewarm (and maybe more than lukewarm) support for other conservative issues. If you want a pro-executive power conservative judge, she looks pretty good.

I'm not terribly interested personally in a pro-executive power judge, and I am completely in favor of 'the most qualified' nominee who has a devotion to the law and a powerful legal mind (I really liked Roberts.) I am far from sure I like what Bush is selling here. I do think we should understand why he is selling it, and cronyism just doesn't seem to fit.

It is also hard to explain Reid's shortlisting of her is she is just a 'crony' of Bush's

Posted by: Dave Justus | Oct 4, 2005 2:12:03 PM

Dave,

I know what you meant. I would agree that it doesn't come up for most people, but would quite disagree when it comes to those in the appellate or district courts! Many judges encountering the role of the executive, and more broadly, the central government.

Further, consider the solicitor general, who, no doubt, is well known to the President. There's a dude with serious intellectual chops and, as we've seen with Roberts, basically no way to pry answers out of somebody from the OSG.

I think cronyism fits well; there are many, many, people who have to think about these issues that don't dwell in his inner circle. The fact that he selected one who did is incredibly suggestive.

It is also hard to explain Reid's shortlisting of her is she is just a 'crony' of Bush's

Not in the least.

Consider that Reid may have wanted to suggest someone not obviously odious to the President's views. Or that he wanted to move the thinking from judges to lawyers. There's plenty of reason to think that Reid suggested her for political reasons, rather than, you know, actually good ones.

Posted by: TJ | Oct 4, 2005 3:09:47 PM

TJ,

Reid may have picker her for wrong reasons, but it seems doubtful that he picked her because she was a crony of Bush's. I think it fair to say Reid considers her to be at least minimally qualified. Cronyism is, properly speaking, putting someone in who isn't minimally qualified.

I am sure their were other reasons that wayed in. Mier's probably got an edge over Clement because she is a woman. I like the concept of having a diverse judiciary, but I am troubled by the idea of O'Conner's seat being a 'woman's seat.'

Posted by: Dave Justus | Oct 4, 2005 3:41:24 PM

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