Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bush Beaten By His Own Base

The news is officially out: the Harriet Miers nomination to the Supreme Court has been withdrawn. Miers has claimed in a statement that she is refusing the nomination because she's become a burden to the White House. I doubt that's true. I think it much more likely that Bush and his advisors actually made the decision and asked Miers to bow out. Oddly enough, the loudest calls for a different nominee actually came from social conservative groups, who see a Bush Supreme Court nomination as key to their goal of rolling back the Enlightenment.

Now that wingnut shills like Ann Coulter are free to resume their hero worship of Bush the Younger, it's worth looking at the political ramifications of the Miers nomination and to ponder what comes next.

First of all, Miers was most likely Pro-Life and would have voted to weaken, if not overturn, Roe vs. Wade. I believe to a certainty because she would never have gotten the endorsement of James Dobson otherwise. Plus, Democratic Senator Harry Reid is a noted Pro-Life Democrat and was an early supporter of the Miers nomination.

Any new person Bush nominates will likely hold to this position as well, though it does bear mentioning that Bush is not nearly as socially conservative as his supporters would like to believe. He's made virtually no head-way in office on any of the pet social issues on which the religious right is focused. Miers was likely Bush's nominee much more for her corporate background and role in defining executive power in the Bush Administration than for her stance against women's reproductive rights.

Second, the withdrawal of the Miers nomination is a stark example of just how lame this "lame duck" President has become. His fiscal policy has been grossly irresponsible, his domestic agenda has completely stalled for lack of support and public opinion is turning against the war in Iraq. That's why, I believe, the next nominee Bush presents will be a dyed-in-the-wool religious conservative, in an effort to make peace with that part of his conservative base.

The only problem with that strategy, is that the Democrats will have free reign to hammer down a filibuster on a nominee like that, under charges that they are "too extreme" or "out of the mainstream". This will be especially true if the nominee is either Janice Rogers Brown or Priscilla Owens, both conservative judicial activists that have already undergone strenuous confirmation battles.

The good news about the retraction of the Miers nomination is that many conservatives are no longer willing to just take Bush at his word any longer. His support of former FEMA director Michael Brown helped hasten this decline in trust, but the Miers nomination sealed the deal. Bush has made it clear that loyalty among his "inner circle" is what he most values, qualifications be damned. No longer will "I know his/her heart" pass as proof-positive that a Bush nominee is qualified to hold one of the nine most important jobs in the federal government.

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