October 6, 2005


The Miers Misstep: What was President Bush thinking? (Peggy Noonan, October 6, 2005, Opinion Journal)

What everyone forgets about the case of Robert Bork in his confirmation hearings is that regular people watched him, listened to the workings of his fabulous and exotic mind, saw the intensity, the hunger for intellectual engagement, caught the whiff of brandy and cigars and angels dancing, noticed the unusual hair, the ambivalent whiskers, and thought, "Who's this weirdo?" They did the same thing with Arthur Liman in the Oliver North hearings. I am not saying Americans are swept by the superficial. I am saying Americans pick things up, and once they've picked them up, they don't easily put them down. Anyway, public opinion moves and then senators vote "no," or not.

So the administration can turn this around. Or rather Ms. Miers can. In her favor: America has never met her, she'll get to make a first impression. Working against her: But they'll already be skeptical. By the time of the hearings she'll have been painted as Church Lady. There's a great old American tradition of not really liking Church Lady.

That having been said, the Miers pick was another administration misstep. The president misread the field, the players, their mood and attitude. He called the play, they looked up from the huddle and balked. And debated. And dissed. Momentum was lost. The quarterback looked foolish.

The president would have been politically better served by what Pat Buchanan called a bench-clearing brawl.

This has to take the cake for the most bizarre attack on the pick. The Bork nomination, which the Right wants to replay, went down in flames with even Republicans scared of him and made the country, which is generally conservative on moral and legal matters, think conservative jurisprudence was nutty. Instead of Mr. Bork we ended up with Anthony Kennedy, who the Right once liked but now despises. Ronald Reagan though is the secular saint of the Right and we couldn't ever say that he -- of the mammoth budget deficits, drunken spending sprees, tax hikes, immigration amnesty, etc. -- sold us out just to get a confirmable pick. Suppose though, for just a second, that you could go back and force another fight over that seat. Who's the one person Ronald Reagan would have trusted to be his man on the bench? To not go wobbly on us? That's right--former White House counsel and Reagan apparatchick Ed Meese. Sound like a familiar scenario?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 6, 2005 1:49 PM

Excellent point, though I think Gonzales is W's Meese, as you've pointed out. He was blackballed by the same folks who are wigging out now.

I really do not like this pick, but understand it for the reasons you describe. The conservative pundits flatter themselves if they think W wants to stick it to them with this pick for being mean to Gonzo. He has bigger fish to fry than to get back at Ann Coulter, for gosh sake.

Hopefully Viet Dinh will turn 40 about the day Stephens and Ginsburg retire.

Posted by: JAB at October 6, 2005 2:12 PM

Who, by the way, is painting Miers as Church Lady? Yeah, "conservatives".

OJ, you're right, we are stupid.

Posted by: Bob at October 6, 2005 2:17 PM

Let's not forget Reagan's first pick to after Bork went down in flames: Douglas Ginsberg. The proto-Souter. Which makes me wonder what sort of scary second pick Bush will have if Miers does go down.

It used to be the Stupid Party was limited to leadership positions like Congress-critters, Governors and such, but these days everyone wants to qualify.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 6, 2005 2:23 PM


Posted by: oj at October 6, 2005 2:28 PM

Bush knows his Hoffer.

Posted by: ghostcat at October 6, 2005 2:33 PM


Agree with your analysis, but Reagan's pick would have been Bill Clark, as it was when he appointed Clark to the California Supreme Court.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at October 6, 2005 2:45 PM

Harriet Souter for SCOTUS Church Lady.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 6, 2005 3:12 PM

Nah, Clark was chosen when competence was required, not ideology.

Posted by: oj at October 6, 2005 3:19 PM

Now that they've spent 72 hours tearing at the draperies and rendering the furniture over at The Corner, some people there are finally starting to figure this out, though the anger is still there about the need to select a Miers in the first place.

Posted by: John at October 6, 2005 3:28 PM

There is the difference that, when Bork was nominated, the Democrats were in the majority and controlled the chamber. You would think that would make a difference.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 6, 2005 4:09 PM

It's gone totally bonkers on the Corner. Now K-Lo is worried about Miers and...Title IX.

Once Miers brings down Roe by sweet-talking Kennedy into a 5-4 majority, I think K-Lo will allow herself a small smile. I'll be p.o.ed, but I'm already pretty depressed about the nomination.

By the way, I always thought Noonan herself was the Weird Jesus Lady. A case of projection?

Posted by: Casey Abell at October 6, 2005 4:30 PM


Why? There were still Southern Democrats then and they were way more conservative than most Republicans.

Posted by: oj at October 6, 2005 5:34 PM

You mean like Howell Heflin, the great Bloviator from Alabama who probably did more to torpedo Bork by coming about against him that Ted Kennedy could ever have done?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 6, 2005 5:45 PM

Because it was made a party-loyalty test in the run-up to '88.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 6, 2005 5:51 PM

Bork torpedoed himself by answering the questions as if the American people wanted a legal education.

Posted by: oj at October 6, 2005 5:55 PM

Bork torpedoed himself


Posted by: David Cohen at October 6, 2005 6:37 PM

Bork torpedoed himself by not shaving.

Posted by: sam at October 6, 2005 7:01 PM

Curious: When I wrote my original post on Miers, I said that her being a "church lady" -- and I used that very phrase -- would be a big plus. Maybe I should have added "outside Washington, D. C."

Maybe Noonan and I can make a deal. I won't write speeches if she promises not to do political analysis.

(Here's my post, if you are curious.)

Posted by: Jim Miller at October 6, 2005 7:14 PM

A degree in mathematics? Didn't know that. Make the Miers-is-dumb arguments on the Corner look even dumber.

Th real argument against Miers is that she'll overturn Roe. That's an argument the Cornerites can't make, because they supposedly want Roe overturned. So instead they resort to all these idiotic snipings, like Miers is a closet Gloria Steinem because of a lecture series at SMU she apparently had very little to so with. This "argument" winds up with a comment from a fellow SMU-er that Miers is "very conservative," which certainly furthers the faux-Steinem case.

It's hard to believe the Cornerites could be this brain-dead. But I'm starting to wonder if the Corner's real unease isn't EXACTLY the realization that Miers will overturn Roe. Once Roe is gone all hades breaks loose as the wild-eyed Repub evangelicals try to outlaw every abortion everywhere. Maybe some of the saner types on the Corner realize how mauch that could hurt the conservative cause.

Posted by: Casey Abell at October 7, 2005 8:54 AM

Not sane. Anti-life.

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2005 9:05 AM

Ann Richards spoke at that lecture series. If Miers had anything to do with the administration of it, would Ann Richards have spoken? Obviously not. The President beat her like a drum for governor. Not to mention the "poor George" speech in 1988. Miers raised money to honor someone and the radical feminists hijacked it. Sad but all too common in the academy.

Posted by: Bob at October 7, 2005 10:15 AM

It's a speech series--why wouldn't you invite different people?

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2005 10:20 AM

Okay, anti-life or whatever you want to call them. But it baffled me why K-Lo, a pro-lifer to end all pro-lifers, would be so opposed to Miers...a pro-lifer to end all pro-lifers.

At least, it baffled me until I realized that maybe K-Lo has thought about what might happen if Roe was actually reversed.

Right now K-Lo has an easy time of it. She can argue for late-term abortion bans or snitch laws or other little changes. This makes her look very reasonable and non-threatening compared to liberals with their last-ditch defense of every single abortion.

If Roe falls, suddenly K-Lo and other pro-lifers have to decide whether to push for laws banning all abortions. If they follow the logic of their position, even first-trimester abortions would be illegal.

Uh, oh. This position starts to look as extreme and threatening as the current every-abortion-is-wonderful position the Dems are locked into.

I don't think K-Lo really wants that problem. She might have had the problem with, say, Luttig or McConnell, though neither has anything like Miers' pro-life paper trail. She's much more likely to have the problem with Miers.

Posted by: Casey Abell at October 7, 2005 12:41 PM

Miers is an evangelical. K-Lo wanted another Catholic.

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2005 12:46 PM

Would NRO have gone this wild (for slightly different reasons, of course) if Bush nominated Roy Moore?

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 10, 2005 1:15 AM


Jeff Sessions would be the great one.

Posted by: oj at October 10, 2005 7:57 AM