All the President's Women

By MAUREEN DOWD

New York Times

October 5, 2005

I hope President Bush doesn't have any more office wives tucked away in the White House.

There are only so many supremely powerful jobs to give to women who are not qualified to get them.

The West Wing is a parallel universe to TV's Wisteria Lane: instead of self-indulgent desperate housewives wary of sexy nannies, there are self-sacrificing, buttoned-up nannies serving as adoring work wives, catering to W.'s every political, legal and ego-affirming need.

Maybe it's because his mom was not adoring enough, but more tart and prickly, even telling her son, the president, not to put his feet up on her coffee table. Or maybe it's because, as his wife says, his kinship with his mom gives him a desire to be around strong, "very natural" women. But W. loves being surrounded by tough women who steadfastly devote their entire lives to doting on him, like the vestal virgins guarding the sacred fire, serving as custodians for his values and watchdogs for his reputation.

First he elevated Condi Rice to secretary of state, even though she had bungled her job as national security adviser, failing to bring a sense of urgency to warnings about terrorism aimed at America before 9/11, and acting more as an enabler than honest broker in the push to invade Iraq.

But what were these limitations, considering the time the workaholic bachelorette logged at W.'s side in Crawford and Camp David, coaching him on foreign affairs, talking sports with him, exercising with him, making him feel like the most thoughtful, farsighted he-man in the world?

Then he elevated his longtime aide, speechwriter, memoir ghostwriter and cheerleader Karen Hughes to undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, even though it is exceedingly hard for the 6-foot Texan to try and spin a billion Muslims whom she doesn't understand the first thing about.

But who cares about her lack of expertise in such a critical job, as long as the workaholic loyalist continues to make her old boss feel like the most thoughtful, farsighted he-man in the world?

And now he has nominated his White House counsel and former personal lawyer, Harriet Miers, to a crucial swing spot on the Supreme Court. The stolid Texan, called "Harry" by some old friends, is a bachelorette who was known for working long hours, sometimes 16-hour days, and was a frequent guest at Camp David and the Crawford ranch, where she helped W. clear brush.

Like Ms. Hughes and Laura Bush, she's a graduate of Southern Methodist, and she has always been there for W. In 1998, during his re-election race for governor, Harry handled the first questions about whether Mr. Bush had received favorable treatment to get into the Texas Air National Guard to avoid the draft. Though the former Democrat once gave a grand to Al Gore in '88, she passed the loyalty test for W. during the Bush v. Gore standoff in 2000, when she recruited conservative lawyers to work for the Bush scion in Tallahassee.

But who cares whether she has no judicial experience, and that no one knows what she believes or how she would rule from a bench she's never been behind, as long as the reason her views are so mysterious is that she's subordinated them to W.'s, making him feel like the most thoughtful, farsighted he-man in the world?

David Frum, the former White House speechwriter and conservative commentator, reported on his blog that Ms. Miers once told him that W. was the most brilliant man she knew.

Bushie and Harriet share the same born-again Christian faith, which they came to in midlife, deciding to adopt Jesus Christ as their saviors. The Washington Post reported that she tithes to the Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, "where antiabortion literature is sometimes distributed and tapes from the conservative group Focus on the Family are sometimes screened," and where, when she returns, Ms. Miers asks well-wishers to pray for her and the president.

Born Catholic, she switched to evangelical Christianity in her mid-30's and began to identify more with the Republicans than the Democrats, The Times reports today; she joined the missions committee of her church, which opposed legalized abortion, and one former political associate said that Ms. Miers told her she had been in favor of a woman's right to have an abortion when she was younger, but that her views hardened against abortion once she became born again.

W. is asking for a triple leap of faith. He has faith in Ms. Miers as his lawyer and as a woman who shares his faith. And we're expected to have faith in his faith and her faith, and her opinions that derive from her faith that could change the balance of the court and affect women's rights for the next generation.

That's a little bit too much faith, isn't it?