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Monday, October 03, 2005

Harriet Miers Fractures GOP in Real-Time

Posted by Bob Brigham

An important function of the blogosphere is a peek into real-time politics. Bloggers show and create what is going on in politics right now. The announcement of Harriet Miers gives us a short window to peer into the GOP.

First, look at the National Review's David Frum. Last week, Frum blasted Harriet Meirs:

In the White House that hero worshipped the president, Miers was distinguished by the intensity of her zeal: She once told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met.

Today, not only did he blast her again, but he then deleted the middle paragraph in the following:

Harriet Miers is a taut, nervous, anxious personality. It is impossible to me to imagine that she can endure the anger and abuse - or resist the blandishments - that transformed, say, Anthony Kennedy into the judge he is today.

She rose to her present position by her absolute devotion to George Bush. I mentioned last week that she told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met. To flatter on such a scale a person must either be an unscrupulous dissembler, which Miers most certainly is not, or a natural follower. And natural followers do not belong on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Nor is it safe for the president's conservative supporters to defer to the president's judgment and say, "Well, he must know best." The record shows I fear that the president's judgment has always been at its worst on personnel matters.

Right now, the White House is spinning like a top in GOP circles. Ankle Biting Pundits is "highly disappointed" and points out, "politically it's not good because it just opens the President up to charges of "cronyism"" while offering the following roundup of conservative bloggers reaction to the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court:

John Hawkins of RightWingNews goes further than me and calls Miers a "disaster"
Michelle Malkin is "utterly underwhelmed"
Powerline is also disappointed.
Confirm Them is underwhelmed.
John Podhoretz calls it dumb.
Mike Krepasky at Red State rightly says the President has some explaining to do.
Polipundit isn't exactly thrilled but is willing to give her a chance.
Andrew Sullivan is going the "Crony" route. But can we say he's wrong?
Mark Levin says that the President "flinched"
Betsy Newmark has a hard time putting an adjective on just how disappointed she is and says the President bowed to pressure.
Gerry Daly is in the "Anger" stage (#2 of the 5 stages)
Captain Ed is "mystified", and not in a good way.

The timing couldn't be worse for the GOP as today's newsstands are graced with a new Newsweek cover-story titled, Troubled Waters: War, storms, leak probes—and a growing array of ethics clouds. Dark days for the Republican Party:

Bush and his fellow Republicans have little margin for error. Three forces—sky-high gasoline prices, the massive costs of rebuilding the Gulf Coast and ever-gloomier public assessments of the war in Iraq—have combined to weaken Bush's reputation as a strong leader, and leave him vulnerable to the kind of second-term fiascoes that tend to befall all presidents: think Ronald Reagan and Iran-contra, or Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Indeed, polltaker Frank Luntz, who helped develop the "Contract With America" message that swept Republicans to power in 1994, was on the Hill last week warning the party faithful that they could lose both the House and the Senate in next year's congressional elections.

The Republicans' power outage is real—and the historical irony is as vast as Texas. Beginning in the 1950s, the Democratic Party of Texans Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn built a congressional machine of unrivaled power. But starting in the '80s, led by a firebrand named Newt Gingrich, Republicans led a revolt from below in the name of smaller government and an ethically cleansed Congress. In 1989 Newt & Co. forced out Democratic Speaker Jim Wright—a Texan, too, who resigned over charges that he profited improperly from book sales—and five years later the GOP took control of the House after a Biblical 40 years in the wilderness. But it took the Republicans only 10 years to become yet another ruling party beset by charges of profligate spending, bloated government and corruption—a party led by two Texans, Bush and DeLay, who don't particularly care whether they are beloved outside their inner circle. To paraphrase David Mamet, the Republicans became what they beheld.

And there is much to behold. Michael Brown, the hapless yet arrogant former head of FEMA, managed to anger even putative Republican allies in an appearance before a House committee.

Michael Brown is a name that should come up a great deal during the Miers' confirmation process. Harriet Miers is a Michael Brown quality pick. Even right-wing bloggers are using the word 'cronyism' and are worried because they know Bush can't afford this.

The storyline of Bush giving key jobs to completely unqualified political hacks is connecting with the American people. By picking people on the basis of loyalty, rather than effectiveness, Bush has set the stage for the Culture of Corruption that engulfs the entire Republican Party.

When these are the rules (or lack thereof), you have multi-million bagmen like Jack Abramoff. You have conspiring congressmen like Tom DeLay. You have national security traitors like Scooter Libby and Karl Rove.

Today's Republican Party puts allegiance to Party above duty to country. But individual Republicans are growing increasingly disgusted, because like so many members of the National Guard, they aren't getting what they signed up for.

The stakes are high, this is the swing vote, as evidenced by the following 5-4 decisions:

Sandra Day O'Connor has been the deciding fifth vote in many important Supreme Court decisions affecting civil rights, environmental protection, personal privacy, reproductive freedom and reproductive health, religious liberty, consumer protection and much more. If she is replaced by someone who doesn't share her fair and impartial perspective -- someone in the mold of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia -- the constitutional consequences will be devastating. These are among the key 5-4 decisions in danger of being overturned:

Environmental protection

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation v. EPA (2004) said the Environmental Protection Agency could step in and take action to reduce air pollution under the Clean Air Act when a state conservation agency fails to act.

Reproductive rights and privacy

Stenberg v. Carhart (2000) overturned a state law that would have had the effect of banning abortion as early as the 12th week of pregnancy and that lacked any exception to protect a woman’s health.

Consumer protection and corporate power

Rush Prudential HMO, Inc. v. Moran (2002) upheld state laws giving people the right to a second doctor's opinion if their HMOs tried to deny them treatment.

Civil rights: affirmative action and discrimination based on sex, race, and disability

Jackson v. Birmingham Bd. Of Educ. (2005) ruled that federal law protects against retaliation against someone for complaining about illegal sex discrimination in federally assisted education programs.

Tennessee v. Lane (2004) upheld the constitutionality of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and required that courtrooms be physically accessible to the disabled.

Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) affirmed the right of state colleges and universities to use affirmative action in their admissions policies to increase educational opportunities for minorities and promote racial diversity on campus.

Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Educ. (1999) ruled that it is a violation of federal law for school districts to be deliberately indifferent towards severe and pervasive student-on-student sexual harassment.

Brentwood Academy v. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (2001) affirmed that civil rights laws apply to associations regulating interscholastic sports.

Morse v. Republican Party of Virginia (1996) said key anti-discrimination provisions of the Voting Rights Act apply to political conventions that choose party candidates.

Hunt v. Cromartie (2001) affirmed the right of state legislators to take race into account to secure minority voting rights in redistricting.

Access to justice

Zadvydas v. Davis (2001) told the government it could not indefinitely detain an immigrant who was under final order of removal even if no other country would accept that person and that access to federal courts is available to combat improper, indefinite detention.

Brown v. Legal Foundation of Washington (2003) maintained a key source of funding for legal assistance for the poor.

Hibbs v. Winn (2004) subjected discriminatory and unconstitutional state tax laws to review by the federal judiciary.

Religious liberty and church-state separation

McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky (2005) upheld the principle of government neutrality towards religion and ruled unconstitutional Ten Commandments displays in several courthouses

Lee v. Weisman (1992) continued the tradition of government neutrality toward religion, finding that government-sponsored prayer is unacceptable at graduations and other public school events.

Money, politics and government accountability

McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003) upheld most of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, including its ban on political parties’ use of unlimited soft money contributions.

Federal Election Commission v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee (2001) upheld laws that limit political party expenditures that are coordinated with a candidate and seek to evade campaign contribution limits.

UPDATE: From Atrios:

Wingnuttia is rather angry at the choice. I don't think this is because they're really concerned that she's not conservative enough for their tastes, although that's part of it. They're angry because this was supposed to be their nomination. This is was their moment. They didn't just want a stealth victory, they wanted parades and fireworks. They wanted Bush to find the wingnuttiest wingnut on the planet, fully clothed and accessorized in all the latest wingnut fashions, not just to give them their desired Court rulings, but also to publicly validate their influence and power. They didn't just want substantive results, what they wanted even more were symbolic ones. They wanted Bush to extend a giant middle finger to everyone to the left of John Ashcroft. They wanted to watch Democrats howl and scream and then ultimately lose a nasty confirmation battle. They wanted this to be their "WE RUN THE COUNTRY AND THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT" moment.

Whatever kind of judge she would be, she doesn't provide them with that.



Wikipedia on Harriet Miers

Posted at 11:20 AM in 2006 Elections, Culture of Corruption, General, Netroots, Republicans, Scandals, Supreme Court | Technorati

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