Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Eye-Opening Aspects of The Miers Controversy

As I listened to Laura Ingraham on the way to work this morning, I was struck by her credulous unfairness toward President Bush and Harriet Miers. Laura accepted every negative tidbit advanced against Miers, proven or not. More strikingly, Laura was trumpeting this front page story in the New York Times. She repeatedly and triumphantly referred to the story as not only front-page, but "above the fold."

Since when do conservatives turn to the New York Times as a source of unquestioned truth about Republican presidents?

The approach taken by the anti-Miers movement has been remarkably unfair to this nominee. This has not been a great moment for conservatism. I can see that because this time, I happen to on the other side of the issue, and have taken the time to be relatively well-informed about it. So I notice the little errors of fact that anti-Miers folks simply repeat as truth.

Now, I am not necessarily right about all this; I remain prepared to be convinced I am wrong. But I do see how my own ideological brethren can be unfair, short-sighted, and guilty of flabby reasoning. It's a bit of a jarring perspective-expanding lesson, even though it should not be. In the future I will bear it in mind when I am once again on the same side as those talk radio hosts and blogospheric conservatives. (It's a place I like to be, believe me.)

As for that New York Times article, let's try some critical thinking. Here's what three senators said:

"I am uneasy about where we are," said Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican on the Judiciary Committee who had so far expressed only support for the president's choice. "Some conservative people are concerned. That is pretty obvious."

Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, called Republican sentiment toward Ms. Miers's nomination "a question mark."

"There is an awful lot of Republican senators who are saying we are going to wait and see," he said.

Senator Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican in the political middle of his party, said he needed "to get a better feel for her intellectual capacity and judicial philosophy, core competence issues."

"I certainly go into this with concerns," Mr. Coleman said.

Let's see: If you are a Republican senator and an extrardinarily large group of influential thought leaders in the right wing of your party are experiencing a public meltdown over a Supreme Court nominee, what else are you going to say-- especially before confirmation hearings have even begun? Only a fool would take that bunch on. They have great power; they will not listen to anything any senator has to say that they don't want to hear; and if you do dare to chalenge them they will attack you ferociously on the air and in print. Choosing not to pick that fight looks like a no-brainer to me.

Laura tried mightily this morning to get Senator George Allen to say the Miers nomination was in trouble, asking him directly if that is the case. He said he had questions, but we needed to wait until the hearings. Well, what a reasonable position to take!

Not only is Laura relying on the New York Times, she also read this quote from a senator who is one of the formerly-discredited Gang of 14, and about whom she usually has little good to say:

And leaving the lunch meeting on Tuesday, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a Judiciary Committee member, acknowledged that senators who had met with Ms. Miers were telling colleagues that they had been unimpressed.

"She needs to step it up a notch," Mr. Graham said.
Laura, suddenly deciding that Graham was a very wise man, thought this was a very portentous statement. To me, it's pretty unsurprising that a senator from the most conservative state would hedge his bets on Miers, when people like Laura would pillory him on her national radio show if he did not. (She's pilloried Graham before.)

Apparently Laura did not consider this later quote from Sen. Graham as important as the first one:

"To support the withdrawal would be a rebuke of the president, not her, because she has not said anything yet, so that is a slam on the president, not Harriet Miers, so I don't think any Republican wants to do that," Senator Graham observed.

"The message being delivered from the White House," he added, is that she will not withdraw before the confirmation hearings."

Perhaps the most interesting tidbit this morning came from Tony Blankley, who said that if Bush withdraws Miers and nominates someone acceptable to the anti-Miers crowd, that would result in

"a principled fight between conservatives and liberals (a debate that should break in his favor at least 60 percent to 40 percent nationally on the judicial issues), rather than the current idiotically unuseful fight between blind presidential loyalists and sighted presidential loyalists."

Wow. If you support the president on the Miers nomination you're blind; if you oppose him, you're still loyal to the president, but you can see - better than the president himself can. The anti-Miers people are the ones truly loyal to GWB. They're just trying to save him from himself.

Thanks. Now I get it.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt asks all the right questions. And I love this graph from his post today:

The echo-chamber effect that plagued the Michael Moore Democrats last year may now be at work among conservative intellectuals who think they are seeing a
rising, when in fact they are witnessing the equivalent of a cyber faculty meeting meltdown over a tenure decision, on steroids.

Sounds about right to me.


Anonymous DL said...

"The echo-chamber effect that plagued the Michael Moore Democrats last year
may now be at work among conservative intellectuals who think they are seeing a
rising, when in fact they are witnessing the equivalent of a cyber faculty
meeting meltdown over a tenure decision, on steroids"


Hewitt makes fair comment here and refrains from referring to his fellow conservatives as having a "hissy fit" as you did.

This is strange commentary coming from someone who recently was criticizing those same people as presenting an "emotional argument"

Your point about Blankley was an excellent one.
though I wish you had dealt with the excellent other comments Tony made. 

Posted by DL

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 8:53:00 AM  
Blogger The Hedgehog said...

Point well taken, DL. I have removed the hissy-fit language. I was in a bad mood when I first drafted this post. Laura's not fun to listen to when one disagrees with her. 

Posted by The Hedgehog

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 9:05:00 AM  
Blogger slarrow said...

On another blog, I was defending Hewitt over a remark he made about people making judgments about Miers' qualifications when they really didn't have the chops to. I was claiming that that Hewitt wasn't attacking the people who did not accept the pro-Miers case; he was going after those who claimed that there was NO possible pro-Miers case and consequently ignored the claims of people who thought otherwise. I was challenged on this: just who is acting like that, and why should we think they have any influence?

Tony Blankley's remark about "blind presidential loyalists" rather fits the bill, more's the pity. (I wish I didn't have examples like this, but I do.) There's no arguing with some people on this; they "know" what they know, they've got a head of steam, and they're not going to stop or listen until they draw blood. Sigh. 

Posted by slarrow

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Bonjo said...

[Senator George Allen] said he had questions, but we needed to wait until the hearings. Well, what a reasonable position to take!

Yet another reason why I like my senator and former governor. I am disappointed by the words and actions of many conservatives who form the "foundation" of the current conservative movement.

What do these people think will happen if the Miers nomination is defeated or withdrawn? Do they think suddenly Bush will pull another Scalia out of thin air? Do they not recognize the damage they are doing by wasting our "political capital"?

Another great post, Hedgehog. Thanks for your time and excellent writing. 

Posted by Bonjo

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 2:39:00 PM  

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