The Trouble With Harry

By MAUREEN DOWD

New York Times

October 6, 2005

Conservatives may consider Harriet Miers the last straw.

But what will Harriet Miers consider the last straw with conservatives?

Maybe it will be Bork Borking her.

The old Supreme Court nominee reject rejected the new Supreme Court nominee, calling her "a disaster on every level" and "a slap in the face" to conservatives. Robert Bork complained to Tucker Carlson on MSNBC last night that Ms. Miers had "no experience with constitutional law whatever," that it was wrong for W. to choose a justice simply to have a woman's perspective and that conservative reaction veered between "disapproval and outrage."

WHAM! BLAM! POW!

Way to crack the gal right across the kisser, when she's already on the ropes from so much conservative wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Senator Sam Brownback suggested it would be futile for the "very decent lady," as he dismissively called her, to compete with John Roberts's masterly performance because that would be like "following Elvis."

Pat Buchanan told Keith Olbermann that conservatives were "agonized," "depressed," and "virtually heartbroken," and Charles Krauthammer wrote: "If Harriet Miers were not a crony of the president of the United States, her nomination to the Supreme Court would be a joke, as it would have occurred to no one else to nominate her." Ouch.

Conservatives are shocked to discover that President Bush has been stuffing his administration with cronies and mediocrities in important places? If Ms. Miers were a sworn foe of Roe v. Wade and an ardent advocate of originalism in constitutional jurisprudence, would the same conservatives be so sick about her qualifications? Clarence Thomas, after all, was anything but a leading light of American jurisprudence.

The New Republic this week chooses the biggest 15 hacks in the Bush administration, noting that "no administration has etched the principles of hackocracy into its governing philosophy as deeply as this one." Ms. Miers wins at No. 1.

W.'s case for her elevation is their closeness, because she is, as Alexander Hamilton put it, one of the "obsequious instruments of his pleasure."

But there is some sign, at least, that there are limits to cronyism, even for the Bush administration. The president had nominated Timothy Flanigan to be deputy attorney general, a job in which he would oversee all U.S. attorneys, the criminal division of Justice and the F.B.I. His qualification for this was a stint as Alberto Gonzales's deputy White House counsel, a job where he helped write the torture memos. In Congressional testimony at one point, he said that waterboarding was a good thing, because it doesn't leave visible or permanent marks. After his White House stint, Mr. Flanigan was a senior executive at Tyco International, where his main contribution was hiring Jack Abramoff, the Republican influence peddler, to protect Tyco's offshore tax shelters. Yesterday, Mr. Flanigan withdrew amid growing questions.

The right is right about Ms. Miers's insufficiency to join the Brethren, even if the right is cynical. Actually, there's a lot of cynicism in the Miers affair. Those on the left are perfectly happy to look away from mediocrity because it is the lesser of two evils, because they were spared the nightmare of a reactionary maniac.

W. is so loath to leave his little bubble - where caretakers tell him how brilliant and bold he is - that he keeps selecting the people in charge of the selection committees. It's just so much easier to choose a sycophant who's already in the room than to create one from scratch.

He used to disdain pointy-headed liberals from Yale, but now he's angry at pointy-headed conservatives demanding some sort of genius for the Supreme Court, rather than a den mother who did all of W.'s legal wet work and who prefers John Grisham to Leo Strauss.

While the Bushies have been trying to reassure the right that W. knows Harry's heart, that she's a good Christian church lady who will vote in a way that will please them, Harry is probably working herself up to a good grudge against all those meanies who are savaging her as a lightweight apple polisher. Imagine! After she rechristened herself midlife as born again and Republican for them.

Even if she was going to be a loyal conservative jurist before, why should she be now, after all the loathsome things they've said?

The old maxim goes that a neoconservative is a liberal who got mugged by reality. But if you're a conservative mugged by conservatives, neo and paleo, it may have the opposite effect and turn you into ... David Souter!!!!