Among the ghosts and goblins that roam the halls of the White House tonight, Dubya can walk confident and unafraid. Never before in American history has such a beleaguered president been so blessed by the weakness and ineptness of his political foes. The mainstream media, the Dems, and even the terrorist nations are lining up, chins jutted forward, perfectly positioned to be knocked clear out of the ring. This week is the tipping point of the George W. Bush presidency: he can move the nation forward -- leaping tall quanta in a single bound -- or he can consign himself to Nixonian isolation and wait for Patrick Fitzgerald's next shoe to drop. If last week was the president's worst, this can be his best.
As early as today, the president may nominate a real conservative to replace Sandy Baby, who willfully ignored John Riggins's admonition to "lighten up" in favor of judicial liberalism. Yesterday's Washington Post-ABC poll found that Mr. Bush's job approval rating has sunk to 39%. That reflects a decline in conservative confidence in the president that was intensified by the Miers nomination. If the president nominates a sitting judge whose decisions demonstrate Scalia-quality Constitutional scholarship and originalist judicial conservatism, he can weld conservatives back together in a way nothing else in his power can. And a bond so forged will last through 2008 and beyond.
The liberals, fearing just that, are already whining that conservatives have given up the right to deny Dems the ideological filibuster weapon. They want to confuse conservative rancor at Hapless Harriett with the principled opposition to filibustering every judge who may not be of the liberal ilk. Nan Aron of the hyperlib Alliance for Justice is typical of the hard-core lefties, itching for a filibuster of Luttig or Alito or Janice Rogers Brown. Aron said in the Sunday WaPo that Republican senators who worked quietly for Miers's defeat have thus given up the claim to an up-or-down vote. But there is no inconsistency in causing Miers's withdrawal and fighting ideological filibusters tooth and nail. Which the right will have to do.
There will almost certainly be a filibuster. Chuckie Schumer hinted at it on Faze the Nation Sunday. MoveOn.org, NARAL, PFAW, and the whole liberal menagerie will be pulling out all the stops, spending millions to defeat any real conservative, and Sen. McCain's gang of 14 won't stand together against that tide. More importantly, conservatives will unite around the right nominee and will win the judicial war, even if they lose individual battles. If the next nomination is defeated, the president can -- and must, and will -- continue to call in right-handers from the well-stocked bullpen. The libs are ripe for defeat. And not just on the Supreme Court.
For the past several weeks the Merlot Democrats have been bleating about everything from Iraq to the Plame leak. (In the latter, they didn't get the gifts they anticipated on Fitzmas. Karl Rove wasn't indicted, so all the "They stole Bush's brain" headlines had to be spiked.) The French Party's best even went limp in reaction to the Libby indictment, Reid demanding an apology and Schumer demanding the White House conduct its own investigation into what went on in Mr. Cheney's office. (I wish they'd make their minds up about independent counsels. I have. Let us be rid of them for good.) Their other prime players -- Kerry, Levin, and Feingold -- are talking schedules for withdrawal from Iraq. The Dems' inability to craft any policy to defeat terrorism is startling. It's more than four years after 9-11, and they still don't have anything to recommend except retreat and surrender. If the president speaks against them, by name -- clearly and directly to the American people -- he can not only re-establish support for the war, he can lay the groundwork for another conservative to take up the fight in 2008.
The president should be most grateful for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The terrorist president of Iran laid aside all pretense last week and proclaimed Israel must be "wiped from the face of the Earth." Anyone who opposes action against Iran -- such as the EU-3 who have been pursuing the most feckless diplomacy since Chamberlain returned from Munich -- will be responsible for making the world safe for Islamic terrorism. President Bush should take a page from Tony Blair's book. In response to Ahmadinejad, Blair said that without international action, there is little chance that Iran will change course. It's time for military action on Iran, and a diplomatic bash at Bad Vlad Putin, whose government has been the chief facilitator of the Iranian nuke program. If Putin wishes to continue supporting Iran, he should suffer the same illegitimacy of his client state.
Israel has asked that Iran be thrown out of the UN. That would be symbolic and useful only to draw more nations into a coalition to take action against Iran. Though the UN will always be unwilling to act, the president should direct John Bolton to introduce a Security Council resolution to strip Iran of UN membership. And while that debate goes on, the president should sign a classified Presidential Decision Directive ordering massive covert action against the Iranian regime. Stability in the Middle East, desired by those such as Brent Scowcroft, is retreat. And this we cannot dare.
On past Halloweens, the president has dispensed budgetary treats to all the porksters in return for inconsistent support of his agenda. The president appears to be ready to stop this game, and it's high time. Cutting federal spending must be a priority, and if that means enraging porksters so be it. Vetoes should become commonplace, and there's a great place to begin.
The president has often threatened vetoes, but has never signed one. Ever. The McCain amendment to the Defense Authorization bill, which imposes enormously confusing rules on the treatment of terrorist prisoners, is a very good place to begin. It passed the Senate 90-9, but a veto can be sustained in the House. There is every reason for the president to veto this bill, and none -- especially concern about judicial nominees and filibusters -- should stand in the way.
In one Sunday editorial, the WaPo said the president's persistent failing is a "lack of intellectual seriousness which goes hand in hand with his excessive trust in loyalists." The left, in its unending arrogance, still thinks of him as a drunken frat boy. The president mustn't answer the libs by falling into their knuckle-rubbing indecisiveness. That possibility will evaporate, I predict, with the next Supreme Court nomination.
TAS contributing editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery, 2004).
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