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October 12, 2005

The Miers Gamble

At this point I'm not sure whether to support Miers. Bush vouches for her, finding her to be politically sympatico, but then, she's served as his personal lawyer for a number of years. Your lawyer is your advocate; a good lawyer looks out for your interests and adopts your views of the law, to the extent that you don't ask them to do anything plainly illegal.

Little wonder why Bush has found Miers so agreeable. It was her job to agree with him, generally. To advise him, certainly, to warn him of illegality, of course. But in all the gray areas, all the debatable issues, she was on Bush's side because she was paid to be.

Bush is essentially betting his presidency, and perhaps the future of the Republican Party, on this nomination. By drafting an evangelical leader of sorts, James Dobson, into pro-Miers advocacy, he's using Dobson. If Miers turns out to be a reliable conservative vote, Dobson won't mind being used, and will in fact be happy to have enlisted. But-- if Miers turns out to be an O'Connor or, worse yet, a Souter, Dobson is going to feel poorly used indeed, and he's going to trash Bush (deservedly) for convincing him to give his personal voucher for Miers.

And conservatives, especially Christian conservatives, are going to be angry. The anger will equal if not exceed the anger after Bush the Elder's "Read my lips" broken promise.

If Miers isn't every bit of the conservative stalwart the White House is telling us through surrogates, there is going to be hell to pay, and conservatives will desert Bush, leaving him almost no support at all. (It doesn't even need to be said that he won't gain liberal support for nominating a liberal. But there, I said it anyhow.)

Now, given the great stakes here, I would normally say, "Gee, the White House must know what the hell it's doing. They are effectively ending their administration three years early if they're wrong. So perhaps I should trust them to act in their own best interests."

The trouble is that I can't quite rely on them to do so. Bush has flaws, and among them is the instinct of a losing gambler to double-up on bad bets, throwing good money after bad in a futile effort to win what is already lost. Sometimes this basic stubborness serves him well -- he got his tax cuts through despite great resistance, and it's doubtful that there are many other Presidents who would have been so steadfast, in the face of steadilly eroding support, in pressing forward in a war that must be won. I'm sure Bush understands the importance of the Iraq War, and this is the major reason for his tenacity; but I can't help but think his resolve is partly a personal matter, a determination to win, to defeat his enemies foreign and domestic, and to have personal vindication.

I hope in the Miers case that determination to win isn't causing him to make the biggest mistake of his Presidency.

I suppose I will mute my opposition to Miers, as Bush seems psychologically incapable of reversing himself at this point. He will press on with the nomination, and, as Hugh Hewitt observed, attempting to thwart him will only damage his political powers. In the end, Miers is almost certain to be confirmed, conservative resistance or not.

We tried to have an intervention of sorts; the Bush walked away from it and declined to go through the twelve steps. He's going to do what he wants, and what he wants to do is get Miers on the Supreme Court and win another battle, this one against his conservative constituents.

I'm not a praying man, but for Bush's sake, and for the sake of the President retaining some amount of political authority in these dangerous years, I hope to God his vaunted "gut" is right about Miers.

Because if he's wrong, that's it. The conservative base will not accept another "mistake" from a Republican President, this time with the historical opportunity of having a Republican (though not conservative) Senate behind him. We will not accept another "whoopsie" on a cause that has been central to our political agitation for thirty years.

If Bush gets this wrong, after being sternly warned off of Miers by half the Republican Party, after being presented the once-in-a-generation opportunity to truly shift the political orientation for the court, well, that's it for him then. His conservative supporters will walk away, and I'll be among those taking a hike.

Bush is a gambler. He better look long and hard at the hand he's currently in and decide whether it's smarter to lay it down or call all-in. If Miers is a good justice, he'll look smarter than all of his Ivy League critics, and he'll be owed many apologies. (I of course will offer one, despite not being Ivy League.)

And if he's wrong, he'll be a crippled president and won't have the support to fight the the only battle more important than the one for the court, the war against terrorism.

I sincerely hope I know what he's doing.

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posted by Ace at 02:30 PM

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