Peace through victory - the American way.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Who Declared Which War? Or How President Bush Became A Lame Duck.

"It is madness for a 37% president to declare war on his strongest supporters, but that is exactly the strategy that this unwise nomination has forced upon President Bush. And every day that passes, he will get angrier, the attacks will get fiercer - and his political position will weaken." That's what David Frum says on his Diary at National Review Online. (See his entire post here.)

It's not madness for the president to fight back and defend his nomination. The madness is in the minds of the conservative pundits who have decided to go to war over the Harriet Miers nomination. It's amazing chutzpah for Frum to accuse the President of declaring war on the conservatives when it's the conservative pundits who have decided to declare war on George W. Bush. And it's their war that is helping to bring the President's favorability ratings down.

God only knows why the right has declared this war. The Miers pick is clearly designed to avoid another David Souter problem and the pick seems like a reasonable choice to make. After all, the problem with Souter happened because Bush's father didn't know him; Bush knows Miers. The conservatives are upset because they don't.

It's unfortunate that the President apparently fell into the trap of making the Justice John McKinley seat a "woman's" seat simply because Sandra Day O'Connor occupies it right now. (See here.) And it would have been great fun to see a knockdown dragout fight in the Senate over a staunchly conservative judge. Janice Rogers Brown, for instance.

Yet unlike the conservative rebels President Bush has political instincts, he can count, and he has a memory. The Senate has 55 Republicans but that includes 7 in the Gang of 14 and half a dozen or so who are pretty liberal. To be plain, it's a Republican majority not a conservative majority. Bush went to the mat for conservatives with John Bolton and look what his 55 Republican majority got him: a recess appointment.

The President deserves better from his fellow Republicans and conservatives than he's gotten over Miers. Bush has been good on judges for his entire term. He's pushed the Iraqi liberation and continues to do so. National Review Online, for instance, has been in the forefront on that one. The President has generally been good on conservative issues. To the extent he has strayed from the compound it's because the USA is populated by more than just rightwingers. He's the President of the United States of America, not the Conservative States of America. Perhaps the conservatives pushing this war against Bush would like to secede like that other CSA did about 7 score years ago?

In fact what the conservative war against Bush shows is that he is now officially a lame-duck president. Hurricane Katrina started the transformation. Katrina's first blow came during the event when the media coverage of the fiasco in New Orleans finally gave the left a tangible event on live TV to attack Bush for incompetence and then for cronyism over the "Brownie" situation. Bush's political capital started to deplete rapidly with falling approval numbers. Katrina's second blow came from the right after Bush promised to spend whatever it takes to rebuild the Gulf Coast. The right started to grumble over Bush's statement and decided it was time to stand up to federal spending and say "this far and no further." Why they didn't go after the Congress, who must initiate spending bills is beyond me. Instead it was Bush's promise to rebuild that began the right's public split with the President. Bush's approval ratings began to recover after Katrina but his political capital with conservatives depleted further.

Then came Harriet Miers and everybody's a Bush basher now.

This conflict is over whether Bush's decision to appoint Miers should be trusted. The right has decided that just trusting Bush isn't good enough anymore. Their declaration of war is fast depleting the rest of his political capital. How can Bush lead now if his own base won't give him the benefit of the doubt and trust his judgment?

This split is a political tragedy. The conservative pundits have turned on the best and most successful conservative politician this country has seen in the last 50 years. That includes Reagan. Reagan's coattails were non-existent; Bush's have been formidable. That apparently doesn't matter to the conservative pundits waging war against the President. All that matters to them is that George W. Bush chose somebody he knows and trusts to be on the Supreme Court instead of one of their own.

Conservative pundits are leading the Republican Party off of a cliff by taking down their most effective leader. If there were any justice the pundits would crash first and cushion the fall for the rest of us. But that won't happen because the punditry will be unaffected if the Republicans lose the majority. They'll still have their jobs pontificating. Jobs that will be so much easier because being in the minority will let them be 100 percent pure in their conservatism. No more having to defend messy compromises that come from being in the majority.

Who knows if that will come to pass. But why should we trust the political judgment of a conservative punditry that has nothing to lose over the outcome of their war on George W. Bush?

-tdr

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