Jewish World Review Oct. 17, 2005/ 14 Tishrei 5766


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All Bias, All the Time: We Decide, You Decide | I'm not sure if President Bush got into this Harriet Miers pickle on purpose or not.

It could be, as Beltway lifer Ronald Brownstein wrote in the Oct. 10 Los Angeles Times that, contrary to popular speculation, Bush disregarded his current low polls, the blame he's taken for Hurricane Katrina and associating with Tom DeLay, and nominated Miers not out of weakness but conviction.

On the other hand, perhaps Bush anticipated the explosion among his supporters, most of whom wanted a prime time 15-rounder with the Democrats over the prospect of Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, and figured it was in his political interest to make Miers a sacrificial lamb. Then, with the conservative intelligentsia appeased, and the midterm elections closer, he'd counter with Michael McConnell and let Sens. Biden, Kerry, Leahy and Schumer make fools of themselves during televised hearings. Voters, as Tom Daschle might remind editorialists, don't cotton to obstructionists.

It's all a little too complicated for me, and it seems Bush could've avoided this treacherous terrain, intentional or not, by picking Sen. John Cornyn, the Republican junior senator from Texas. Cornyn, a lawyer and former state attorney general, might not have been Bill Kristol's first choice, but the Weekly Standard editor, who apparently believes Miers will bond with Ruth Bader Ginsburg if confirmed, would not be demoralized. George Will, instead of inciting rebellion with the National Review crowd, might've devoted scant attention to Cornyn in his syndicated column and concentrated instead on the athletic majesty of Roger Clemens and Mariano Rivera.

In the Senate, it's hard to see how Democrats could derail a colleague—even today, that's just not done—in a Republican-controlled body. Over and out. Apparently, Bush wanted the drama—it's fairly inconceivable he didn't count on dissent from the right wing—and now he's got it. Initially, liberals laid low while their opponents piled on, but that didn't last long. Arlen Specter, the snarky nominal Republican senator from Pennsylvania, and chairman of the judiciary committee, appeared on ABC's This Week last Sunday and said he might call James Dobson, the evangelical windbag who's supporting Miers, as a witness because of the murky "private assurances" he says he's received that the nominee will be sufficiently pro-life. (Dobson's a showboat in my opinion, going the kooky Pat Robertson route by causing this ruckus. Bush has known Miers for 20 years; it's not as if he's unfamiliar with her view on contentious issues.)

The New York Times, on Oct. 10, was all over Dobson, as reporter David Kirkpatrick recounted not only Specter's interest in the religious leader, but also the remarks of Schumer, who said on CBS's Face the Nation that, "This is not a game of wink and whisper. This is serious business."

Kirkpatrick, however, didn't see fit to let the Times' insatiably "curious" readers (according to editorial staff members asked to describe their audience by the paper's "public editor" Byron Calame in his Oct. 9 column) know the full extent of what Specter told This Week host George Stephanopoulos. That was left to the country's Democratic "paper of record," The Washington Post, which had a different spin on Specter's TV appearance.

Christopher Lee wrote in the Post: "Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers will get a thorough vetting by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel's chairman said yesterday, adding that critics of President Bush's pick have pilloried the nomination before giving Miers a chance to be heard. 'What you've had here… is not a rush to judgment—it's a stampede to justice,' said Sen. Arlen Specter. 'She's faced one of the toughest lynch mobs ever assembled in Washington, D.C., and we really assemble some tough lynch mobs.'"

I don't care for Specter at all—Bush's endorsement of him in last year's senate primary over the far superior Pat Toomey was a huge political error—and perhaps his even-handed treatment of Miers signals she could be a Souter or Stevens or Kennedy or Warren or Blackmun (to name several GOP presidential Supreme Court appointments that went sour), but you'd think the Times could mention the "lynch mob" barb.

As it happens, liberals seeking affirmation of their beliefs needn't waste their money (or Internet-browsing allotment) on the Times, not when "blogging revolutionary" Andrew Sullivan is on the case.

Sullivan, who changes his mind on global topics every week or so, is a committed Bush-basher who believes that all would right with the world if only John McCain were president. (Sullivan and McCain share the belief that the U.S. military, personified by Donald Rumsfeld, practices torture tactics in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay that rival those of historic dictators.) He may get that wish in 2008—McCain has cannily positioned himself to win over nervous conservatives by correctly denouncing the GOP Congress' wanton spending—but don't be surprised if the fickle diarist strays from the Arizona senator's flock before long, and goes down the Hillary Highway. After all, McCain has endorsed a ballot initiative in his home state that would ban gay marriage.

Hiding behind Alexander Hamilton's writing in the Federalist Papers, Sullivan on Oct. 9 vented against the president he supported for about a minute earlier this century. The barrister writes: "There are two reasons to vote against Harriet Miers. Someone who needs a 'crash course' on constitutional law should not be selected to be a Supreme Court Justice required to make decisions, if confirmed, in a short period of time. The second reason is simply that this president has abused his power by picking someone who 'worships' him, whose fundamental qualification is that she is an indentured servant to him, and whose fundamental loyalty has long been to a political dynasty, rather than a serious, settled judicial philosophy. I'm still waiting for the hearings to give her a fair shot. But in some ways, this nomination tells us little about Miers, and a lot about Bush."

Sullivan, whose web homepage (unintentionally an homage to his more lucid days) has a link to The Nation with the caption "Always good for a laugh" and still lists Spinsanity even though that site discontinued earlier this year, might as well start another "Impeach Bush" movement. Although I think it's a stretch to say that the President has "abused" his power by making a Supreme Court nomination that Sullivan doesn't care for.

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- was the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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