10/13/2005

Is Anyone Still Listening?

The last 10 days have been marked mostly by people who should be allies talking past each other. If anyone at the White House has ever listened to their friends--and we are their friends, not Harry Reid or Credit Check Chuck (no matter how many nice things they say about Miers)--now is the time.

Peggy Noonan has it nailed: If the administration had a compelling rationale for Harriet Miers's nomination, they would have made it. Simply going at their critics was not only destructive, it signaled an emptiness in their arsenal. If they had a case they'd have made it. "You're a sexist snob" isn't a case; it's an insult, one that manages in this case to be both startling and boring.

One of President Bush's great strengths is his willingness to stay the course, even in the face of intense opposition. That speaks to great strength of character. But on those occasions when he is mistaken, it is a painfully self-destructive trait. His performance today, citing Miers' religious faith was embarrassing. It invalidates the criticism conservatives have rightly made of Democrats for opposing judicial nominees because of the their faith. If it is right to vote for someone because of faith, it is just as valid to oppose them for it.

This whole problem has been caused by the President's attempt to have it both ways. Rather than send up a proven commodity like Edith Jones or Priscilla Owen or Janice Rogers Brown, and have the fight with the Democrats, he tried to put in a stealth candidate instead. I do believe he wants a pro-life, conservative judge. But he wasn't willing to pay the price to get one. Mindful of his father's great failure with Souter, he attempted to co-opt the religious right with the secret handshake and wink strategy. But when Dobson went out to lead the charge he made the mistake of saying he knew "things I probably shouldn't know." That left the President the worst of both worlds. He did not have a proven nominee around whom the base would rally, and yet her stealth cover with the Democrats had been largely blown by Dobson's remark.

None of Miers' most ardent defenders has made a compelling case for her. When asking about her judicial philosophy, we hear about her character and trail-blazing accomplishments. When asking about her conservative credentials, we hear about her character and trail-blazing accomplishments. When asking about her view of the Constitution, we hear about her character and trail-blazing accomplishments. Noonan is right--if there were a legitimate case for her, it would have been made by now.

If the White House doesn't start listening to their friends, and soon, the Republican party is going to suffer potentially catastrophic consequences. Rather than trashing us, how about listening for a change? You may not like the fact that we haven't saluted and fallen in line, but we have something to say that you need to hear.

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