Special Report

Waiting to Be Persuaded

Can Bush sell Miers to conservatives?

By 10.4.05

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WASHINGTON -- Where am I on Harriet Miers? Right now I'm keeping an open, if very skeptical, mind. Here are some random thoughts:

On the Positive Side: President Bush has said many times he is committed to putting strict constructionists on the bench. He knows Miers well, and, hopefully, he knows he has nominated a conservative. However...

Cronyism? Actually, I'm skeptical of the cronyism argument, if for no other reason it is the one that Mainstream Media seems to be running with (yes, yes, I know, even a stopped clock...). But if Bush wanted a crony, he also could have nominated Priscilla Owen -- that would have made the base very happy. No, I think that Miers was chosen because she comes off as rather lovable grandmother. Kennedy, Schumer and the rest of the goon squad will look like jerks should they hammer her too hard. Unfortunately, that means that Bush does not have the stomach for a fight. Rather, he may be more concerned with the PR battle than with how conservative the nominee is. Not good, because it may mean that he was not as concerned as he should have been about her judicial philosophy.

Worse: Harry Reid is all but in love with her. Chuck Schumer is almost warm to her. People for the American Way and the rest of the Spawn of Satan don't seem too upset. Bad omen.

Worse Still: David Frum, who knows Miers, says she is "a taut, nervous, anxious personality. It is hard for me to imagine that she can endure the anger and abuse -- or resist the blandishments -- that transformed, say, Anthony Kennedy into the judge he is today." Oh, how important it is that a Republican president picks a nominee who is firmly committed to conservative principles, especially in this town! Let's hope Frum is wrong.

Needs To Be Explained: Her donations to Al Gore, Lloyd Bentsen, and the DNC back in 1988. Yes, it was a long time ago. Still...

On The Other Hand: The rest of her giving suggests that she might have once been a Democrat but has since become a Republican. Those who switch as adults are often more committed to conservative principles than those who have been conservatives all along. I should know. Back in 1988 I was more liberal than Al Gore. If you were to appoint me to the Court, I'd make Antonin Scalia look like George McGovern.

And: She is an Evangelical. They tend not to be the granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing sort.

Yet: One big problem is that Bush has just made 2006 more difficult for the GOP. With a Brown, Owen, or Luttig, the base would be all charged up. Now, they seem about as enthusiastic as Nancy Pelosi at an NRA convention. Bush had better hope that once Miers is on the Court she rules in ways that make the base happy. Otherwise, Democrats are going to have a very good year.

Bush is going to have to do a lot of selling of Miers to the base. It is still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he has to make a compelling case that she is indeed a conservative. It can be persuaded.

So can I.

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David Hogberg is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.  Follow David Hogberg on Twitter.