Conservatives are cranky people by nature. Having walked in the liberal shadow for forty years as the opposition party, finding themselves in control of the government has, at times, been an even less sunny experience. For too long, they fought only liberals and their freedom-killing "progressive" ideas. Now that they are truly a major political force, they additionally must battle the mainstream media and, it seems, each other.
They too, by nature, have brains they like to use, also sometimes against each other. So we see that in the Harriet Miers dustup, some wise words have been expended on both side of the argument. Unlike their liberal counterparts, conservatives are a diverse group who seldom march in lockstep and there's no fight as fierce as a family fight; but until now, it's been mostly civil.
It is easy to understand the near hysteria from some on the right. The courts have been the Holy Land that conservative crusaders have been trying to reclaim for decades. They are the reason some have looked the other way at what they regard as President Bush's major transgressions; profligate spending and his reluctance to deal with the illegal immigration mess.
Their former disagreements have been mostly in-house. Apart from think-tanks and conferences, conservatives who support the GOP have generally followed Ronald Reagan's Eleventh Commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican." Who then could have conceived of the following from National Review's Rich Lowry?
The nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court is foundering, but President Bush is confident that she will be confirmed. Bush thus displays a touching faith in the power of hypocrisy, double standards, and contradictions to see his nominee through. The case for Miers is an unholy mess, an opportunistic collection of whatever rhetorical flotsam happens to be at hand.
Or this biting snippet from the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto:
Mediocre people are, of course, entitled to representation. That's what Congress is for. But the federal courts are not a representative institution, and the charge of elitism is a strange one in this context. After all, it's called the Supreme Court, not the Court of Common Place.
But it is exactly this kind of rhetoric that disturbs rank-and-file conservatives, exceptional as well as mediocre. It is buying into liberal elitism to think the SCOTUS should be anything more than the third -- and by design least powerful -- branch of government or that its justices should be more than mere mortals.
It is disheartening that some conservative pundits attach an almost mystical aura to the simple words of the U.S. Constitution and believe one must possess mythical powers to discern their mysteries. It is this sort of thinking that led to liberal visions of penumbras and other fanciful illuminations that so frustrate those on the right who, mediocre though they may be, are able to read and understand the forthright law of the land.
Still, there is cause for concern regarding the Miers nomination. Because she was on nobody's short list -- or medium or long -- she is a judicial cipher, or as some say, a stealth nominee. Much energy has been spent asking questions. The anti-Miers choir sings the same songs: Who is she? What are her qualifications? How can we know her judicial philosophy with no case history to read?
Pertinent questions all, though they will probably go unanswered until she is on the bench. But ultimately one must also ask: Why would President Bush nominate a stealthy Souter-type? What in his judicial nomination history suggests that he would? What would his purpose be? Could his vanity lead him to abandon his vow to remake the judiciary?
We are left to ponder the questions on all sides of this curious case as well as the liberal media's inference that the Miers nomination will lead to the demise of conservative power. They somehow believe that disaffected right-wingers will sit out the 2006 elections in protest of Bush's "betrayal," and allow the balance of power in Congress to be decided by their liberal brethren.
Certain members of the conservative punditry may be sounding some discordant notes, but the media is, as usual, tone-deaf.
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