The rumors have been confirmed, but Harriet hasn’t. Ms. Miers has opted to avoid a hardy battle, sitting instead on her laurel as a pioneer of Texas jurisprudence. The process was becoming a comedy, which would have been a tragedy, so she ended the drama, exiting stage right. Stage right, I say, because she was done in by squabbles on the right rather than quibbles on the left.
More important perhaps than quickly naming a successor is repairing the rift in Republican ranks. To accomplish that, the syndrome must be correctly diagnosed. Sad to report, nothing that I have read shows signs of having the first clue.
Where to start? Well, with the world championship of baseball having historically changed sox, we naturally turn for guidance to baseball — and hosiery.
Baseball first. Once the St. Louis Cardinals faced a nervous young pitcher who walked six batters and hit two to start the game. Pitcher Dizzy Dean came to bat with no outs, bases loaded, and a 5-0 lead. He promptly swung at the first pitch and hit a roller back to the mound that the poor shell-shocked kid bungled for an error. Safe at first, Dizzy turned to the first base-coach in mock indignation: “Not enough that I do all the pitching around here, now I have to do the hitting too?”
This has been the plaint of conservative scribblers since the Miers nomination. Not enough that we do all the writing around here? Now we have to do the governing too?
That may sound terribly presumptuous, but it is a fact that Republican power in Washington is dependent upon sympathetic pundits in a way that is quite surprising for the modern world. An honest sociologist or historian, if there is such a creature, can find fodder here for a fascinating dissertation. This phenomenon is, in a word, phenomenal.
The genesis of this was the conquest of the reporting media by the foot soldiers of the left. Lenin mapped it out, Goebbels expanded on it, Orwell expounded on it, and by the mid-20th century it was clear. The capacity of modern technology to quickly spread information could be exploited. People are more resistant to opinion than fact. So, cloaking opinion in the garb of fact is a great tool for subversion. A fellow turns on the television to take a proper gander at the news, never suspecting that it has been goosed into propaganda.
The left knows, if only subliminally, that they are competing against eternal values with ephemeral impulses. In forums that strive for truth as the highest object, their cause may not be overwhelmed today, but it will certainly be outlasted tomorrow. By coloring fact as it is packaged for public consumption, they can promote their opinions through the ostensible purveyors of news.
For a time, this stranglehold on the news choked the right into submission. Then, William F. Buckley, Jr. and R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., later abetted by Rush Limbaugh, showed the way out of the tangle. They simply began to use the opinion media as an alternative pipeline for factual information.
Now, some decades into this, the left has almost no opinion writers of note, because that limb has become redundant and atrophied. The right, by contrast, offering a multi-faceted role to its pundits, has developed layers of talented communicators. All this adds up to an amazing anomaly: the Democrat base gets its opinion from news publications and shows while the Republican base gleans its news from opinion journals and programs.
Thus a Bill Clinton can flout the views of Maureen Dowd, Richard Cohen, and Molly Ivins, without paying a price, as long as his spin doctors offer a palatable version of events to be marketed as news. But, when George W. Bush proffers a nominee that insults the intelligence of my colleagues, he comes very close to sawing off the branch that serves as his perch. The writers are happy to let the elected do the governing, but they must maneuver within the range of the defensible.
Which brings us on a run back to hosiery. A fellow comes down to breakfast. His wife points out that he is wearing one blue sock and one black sock. He goes back to his drawer, puts on the next pair, comes back down, wife checks again; sure enough, one blue, one black. Disgustedly, the guy mutters: “Darn that maid. That’s the second time she did that to me today.”
The danger with bad nominations is that they usually come in pairs. Let’s hope that the administration can put some spine into their governing so we can get the whine out of our writing.