18 Oct 2005 Washington Post: The Conservative Machine and Miers
The Washington Post, in an article by Peter Baker, takes a looktoday at “the conservative machine’s” efforts (or lack thereof) on behalf of Harriet Miers.
I agree with Baker’s main thrust, but have some notes around the margins.
Baker says, in part:
The apparatus constructed largely by Bush strategist Karl Rove and deployed effectively on behalf of recently confirmed Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has splintered over Miers and broken free from its commander. Conservative organizations that generated millions of e-mail messages on behalf of Roberts have silenced their servers. Airwaves that sizzled with commercials demanding a Senate vote just weeks ago carry no such ads into living rooms now. The followers of these groups are not flooding their senators with supportive telephone calls and letters.
I agree with the main point, though I disagree with the notion that the conservative “apparatus” that weighs in on judicial nominations was “constructed largely by… Karl Rove.”
Baker also says:
The split seems to be evolving into one of the most profound schisms in years within a conservative movement whose unity has buoyed Bush through his most difficult moments and earned the envy of the political left. While conservative groups have disagreed over policies in the past, rarely have they turned against a president so normally aligned with them on such a central, legacy-building priority.
Rarely, but not never. Recall Medicare, 2003 — the White House throws Medicare deeper into insolvency while surrendering the best chance for fundamental reforms that could both have improved the program’s financial stability while increasing health care options and quality for seniors. The conservative movement was appalled, but our Chief Executive was bailed out by the Republican Congress (how many years was that vote held open?). Also recall McCain-Feingold, in which President Bush apparently let a bill he opposed on Constitutional grounds become law for political reasons, figuring the Supreme Court would do his job for him — which it didn’t.
There’s an irony for you. If the White House and Congress had fought harder for Constitutional government, maybe we wouldn’t be quite so unwilling to “just trust” on Supreme Court nominations.
In the Medicare and McCain-Feingold cases, the White House got off more easily than it otherwise would have, because conservative anger at Congress in the first instance and at the Supreme Court in the second took heat off the President. However, in the Harriet Miers case, Bush has no one to hide behind.
The “schism” that would concern conservatives would be one that occurred over core principles, and (despite what one hears by a handful of commentators who, perhaps due to personality, don’t work well in coalitions) we aren’t having any serious splits over principles.
Frankly, politicians come and go. On the whole, I think very highly of President Bush, but we must be realistic. Before long, he’s going to be fundraising for his presidential library and inhaling the rarefied air of “former president.” We’ll still be working the trenches while he’s showing deference to his successor (in the way of Bush 41 and Reagan) by not speaking out on policy from retirement.
Finally, Baker did well, in my view, to include the following:
“We’ve been there for him because we’ve considered ourselves part of his team,” [the American Conservative Union’s David] Keene wrote in an essay printed in the newspaper the Hill and e-mailed to fellow conservatives. “No more. From now on, this administration will find it difficult to muster support on the right without explaining why it should be forthcoming. The days of the blank check have ended.”
Keene captured the sentiment exactly, but liberals shouldn’t get too gleeful. We’re still part of George Bush’s team, whenever he’s still part of ours.