A Conservative View of American Politics Today
Upon the withdrawal of Harriet Meirs nomination to the Supreme Court, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said: “The radical right wing of the Republican Party killed the Harriet Miers nomination. Apparently, Ms. Miers did not satisfy those who want to pack the Supreme Court with rigid ideologues.”
Well, once again, Senator Reid doesn’t know what he is talking about.
Rather, here is a more accurate “reid” of the conservative view of American politics today.
An editorial by Rod Dreher offers these comments:
…American conservatism is in crisis at the moment because the bizarre Harriet Miers nomination imposed a surreality check on the right, forcing us to consider just how much nonsense we had gone along with for the sake of party discipline.
Where to start? With the Lyndon Johnson-level spending? The signing of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill, which candidate Bush had denounced as unconstitutional? The race-preferences sellout in the University of Michigan cases?
There was also the cynical use of the federal marriage amendment, which the administration dropped after turning out the social-conservative vote in 2004. And grass-roots conservatives cite the president’s intent to liberalize immigration policy with Mexico.
Then there is the Iraq quagmire, which, even if initially a worthy cause, has become a rolling disaster.
On top of this came the Katrina debacle, which further damaged conservatism’s claim to competent governance.
Conservatives, consciously or not, looked the other way for far too long, mostly because we felt it important to back the president in wartime and because nothing was more important to the various tribes of Red State Nation than recapturing the Supreme Court. For the first time in a generation, a conservative Republican president and a Republican majority in the Senate made that dream a real possibility.
Whatever else Bush might fumble, we trusted him to get that right.
Instead, he gave us a crony pick of no special talents or discernible vision, except for love of Our Lord and George W. Bush, and support for racial preferences. This is what we drank the Rovian Kool-Aid for? The Miers selection was no isolated incident, but the tipping point in a series of betrayals…
A Washington Times article added these comments:
…The choice of Miss Miers was significant because, conservatives critics agreed, it caused some on the right to go public for the first time with their criticism of Mr. Bush, blaming him directly for a major decision he made instead of blaming it on White House advisers, administration aides or renegade Republicans in Congress.
“Withdrawing Miers put a Band-Aid on the rift,” says George Conway III, a New York lawyer who is beginning to emerge as one of the new generation of conservative-activist leaders. “That rift now is healed and will be reopened only if he makes the same mistake twice — then the Band-Aid will come right off.”
“Miers was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back among conservatives,” says Mr. Conway, who worked behind the scenes against President Clinton during the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky scandals.
He says some nationally prominent conservative leaders have privately dissented from most or, in some cases, all of the president’s initiatives on a range of fronts. “It’s a long, long list.”
He says it includes expanding the federal government’s role in education and the welfare state through Medicare drug benefits, encroachment on personal freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism, the decision to go to war with Iraq and what they see as mismanaging the war, not opposing the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance regulations, promoting a guest-worker program for illegal aliens and not fighting the principle of enforced diversity in the University of Michigan racial-preferences cases…
Many anti-Miers conservatives disagree on the desirability and purpose of a nomination fight.
“I think it is a bogus claim people in the press make when they say what the right wants is a fight about ideology,” Mr. Conway says. “No. What we want is a good justice nominee but not a fight for the sake of having a fight. If it takes a fight to get a good justice, fine.”
Horace Cooper, a former Bush Labor Department official who is now a constitutional law professor at George Mason University, supported the Miers nomination, and he now says a Senate confirmation fight could be useful.
“We need a certifiably conservative judge as Bush’s choice so that the fight in the Senate provides that ‘teaching moment’ when we can explain to the nation what we mean by conservative and constitutionalist.”…
Wanting a strong candidate for the Supreme Court, an “A” player and not an unqualified crony. Wanting a teaching moment, a moment to stand on principles carefully and rationally articulated to the American public. Being willing even to lose in the short run in order to take that principled stand. Acting based on the knowledge that, in politics, there is a need to stay on offense – even after a defeat – because there will always be future opportunities to win the battle. This is conservatism at its principled best.
Contrast that principled approach with the way the Democrats are handling the hot topic of special counsel Fitzgerald’s investigation, as noted in this excerpt from a New York Times’ editorial by David Brooks:
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald did not find evidence to prove that there was a “broad conspiracy to out a covert agent for political gain. He did not find evidence of wide-ranging criminal behavior. He did not even indict the media’s ordained villain, Karl Rove,” writes David Brooks in Sunday’s NY Times.
“Leading Democratic politicians filled the air with grand conspiracy theories that would be at home in the John Birch Society.”
“Why are these people so compulsively overheated?.. Why do they have to slather on wild, unsupported charges that do little more than make them look unhinged?
Brooks quotes from an essay written 40 years ago by Richard Hofstadter called “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.”
Hofstadter argued that sometimes people who are dispossessed, who feel their country has been taken away from them and their kind, develop an angry, suspicious and conspiratorial frame of mind. It is never enough to believe their opponents have committed honest mistakes or have legitimate purposes; they insist on believing in malicious conspiracies.
“The paranoid spokesman,” Hofstadter wrote, “sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms — he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization.” Because his opponents are so evil, the conspiracy monger is never content with anything but their total destruction.”
Brooks summarizes: “So some Democrats were not content with Libby’s indictment, but had to stretch, distort and exaggerate. The tragic thing is that at the exact moment when the Republican Party is staggering under the weight of its own mistakes, the Democratic Party’s loudest voices are in the grip of passions that render them untrustworthy.”
As this previous posting noted, the left is trying to frame this judiciary debate on false terms:
Implicit in the public debate about the upcoming Supreme Court nomination is the assumption by many on the left that any nominee by President Bush is going to be an activist from the right who will seek to undo the aggressive legislating done by the Court in recent years with an equally aggressive counter response. Such a belief reduces the debate to nothing more than a raw power struggle between competing interests. And it completely misses the real point of the judicial activism debate…
Those of us who believe in an original intent approach to judicial behavior believe that legislatures are the place where democratic processes should play out in order to build a public consensus on important policy matters. It takes time and it frequently seems like a messy, inefficient process. But, consider the horrible alternative we now live with: When the Supreme Court legislates on policy matters, it immediately stops any public debate before there has been sufficient time to develop a public consensus. As a result, their action immediately yields a polarization on the topic which, as the abortion issue has shown, makes reasoned debate and building a public consensus practically impossible. We have become a more divided society due to judges legislating from the bench.
Nothing would be more valuable for the American public than to see a very public debate between a principled conservatism and a paranoid, unhinged left.
As a small contribution to the public debate, here are some previous postings on the Supreme Court nomination process, with an emphasis on the proper role of the judiciary:
The Kelo Decision: When Private Property Rights are Eroded, Our Freedom is Diminished
Rediscovering Proper Judicial Reasoning
Relinking Constitutional Law & Jurisprudence to the Constitution
“The Supreme Court Has Converted Itself From a Legal Institution to a Political One”
How Original Intent Does Not Equal Conservative Judicial Activism
Are You an Originalist?
Judicial Activism: Commandeering the Public Debate & Violating the Founding Principles of America
Orrin Hatch: Don’t Overstate “Advise and Consent”
Senator Santorum: Judicial Activism is Destroying Traditional Morality
“Restoration of Judicial Restraint Assists the Restoration of Good Will, Because Democratic Governance Gives Everyone Their Say”
The Ginsburg Precedent
Senator Schumer’s Double Standard
Playing the Religious Bigotry Card, Again
Nothing But a Fishing Expedition
How the Left Blurs the Distinction Between Judging & Politicking
What is the Federalist Society?
U.S. Constitution: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust”
The Religious Bigotry Continues…In Full View, For All To See
Judicial Restraint 101
Here are two examples of how the Left views the same issues:
“We Are Going To Go To War Over This”
Viewing the Supreme Court Nomination Battle From the Far Left
Here are other postings on this site about the related issue of the judicial filibuster debate:
The Injustice of Smearing A Fellow American For Political Gain
The Senate Judicial Filibuster: Power Politics & Religious Bigotry
Mac Owen’s open letter to Senator Chaffee
Senator Mitch McConnell on the Judicial Filibuster
The Foolish Fourteen: An editorial by the former Dean of BU’s Law School
A Power Line overview of the filibuster debate
Revisiting the Case for Janice Rogers Brown