Thursday, October 13, 2005

Is A President Required to Cater to His Base?

There was a moment of clarity on the Laura Ingraham show today. Laura said that President Bush must not only respect his conservative base, but "cater" to it. She quickly caught herself and said he should "cater" to that base but "not in a bad way." She did not explain the difference between good and bad catering by a president to a political faction.

Peggy Noonan agrees, apparently. She thinks the president should withdraw Miers' name and then, well, cater to his base:

The White House, after the Miers withdrawal/removal/disappearance, would be well advised to call in leaders of the fractious base--with heavy initial emphasis on the Washington conservative establishment--and have some long talks about the future.

This is very, very interesting. These two commentators have been much more candid than many of their ideological brethren. After all is said and done about Harriet Miers and the reasons she is not the right pick for the Supreme Court, what the "Washington conservative establishment" (you have to love Ms. Noonan's refreshing frankness) wants is approval over what President Bush does on issues important to them. These unelected pundits, scholars, and assorted activists evidently think they deserve that kind of influence over the President of The United States.

The Miers opponents reacted ferociously to claims of elitism, but what Laura and Peggy have said this morning sure sounds like elitism to me. (Well, maybe it's oligarchism. Whatever "ism" it is, it's not conservative.)

By the way, I must note here that I happen to be a proud member of the conservative base. If you doubt me, read the posts in this blog's archives at the left. I apparently differ with my fellow conservatives, however, in my belief that the president doesn't have to do everything the way I want him to, and that I will not threaten to take my ball and go home when he does not.

Another moment of clarity appears in Peggy's Noonan's piece today, when she says, regarding the Miers debate, "An essential White House mistake--really a key and historic one--was in turning on its critics with such idiotic ferocity."

Folks, it seems to me that there plenty of idiotic ferocity on both sides of this debate. Just listen to Laura Ingraham for 10 minutes any morning this week and you'll hear plenty of that-- with a large dose of shrillness thrown in. Other examples include an NRO Corner writer's likening of Miers to Caligula's horse and Noonan's comment today that if Miers withdraws her own name from consideration, "She'd not just survive; she'd flourish, going from much-spoofed office wife to world-famous lawyer and world-class friend." Oh, dear.

The opposition has reacted with fury to any suggestion of sexism or elitism on their part. Well, if the shoe fits, wear it. Robert Bork goes on Laura's show and says there is no "glass ceiling." Many serious, sensible, conservative, Reagan-voting, gun-toting women would disagree with that statement. And we won't say any more about Noonan characterizing Miers as an "office wife."

Viewed in that light, the conservative outrage about Ed Gillespie noting that the rabid opposition to Miers has "a whiff of sexism" seems a little overdone. Maybe more introspection and less outrage is called for.

As for elitism, that was the charge raised early on when snide comments were made about Miers' having attended SMU Law School, on her lack on contribution to law reviews, and so forth. When the hard-right opposition was criticized for that, they were clearly stung. Laura backpedaled, saying that the opposition was not elitist, but simply insisted on "standards of excellence." Then the refrain became that Miers does not have a clearly expressed judicial philosophy. It was interesting to watch the basis for opposition morph from one complaint to another. This is what people do when they argue from their anger-- they keep looking for a justification for their feelings.

Interestingly enough, now we are hearing other bases for opposing Miers-- like John Fund's thesis that Miers really is a victim in all this, and it's the White House's fault for not properly vetting her. Laura Ingraham joined in on that refrain. She now feels sorry for Harriet Miers. I suspect Miers does not welcome Laura's sympathy.

Hugh Hewitt is right. This is an argument among friends. Like many such arguments, it has become nastier in many ways than fights with outright enemies. As Hugh suggests, now is the time to subscribe to National Review. We need dialogue on the right. I don't think the NRO Corner crowd wants to be elitist, they just don't see themselves the way others do. (And who among us is really good at that anyway?) We won't understand each other without talking.

So let's keep talking. But let's not withdraw that nomination either. I don't care what you did to get G.W. Bush elected, you have no right to demand that he cater to you.


Anonymous nash said...

Every time someone accuses Laura of elitism she launches into a list of female judges from schools outside the Ivy league that she would support to show that her objections to Miers is not due to elitism. It sounds like a pretty strong defense against charges of elitism to me.

"I don't care what you did to get G.W. Bush elected, you have no right to demand that he cater to you.  "

Oh, baloney. We have every right to demand whatever we want. He can choose to ignore the people at his own expense. I assume he has an agenda he'd like to pursue over the next three years. Good luck getting it passed if he pisses away his base. 

Posted by nash

Thursday, October 13, 2005 1:32:00 PM  
Blogger The Hedgehog said...

Nash, I guess we just disagree. Elitism is more than which law school one attended. It's whether a small group of conservative intellectuals (Will, Krauthammer, Frum, Noonan, Lowry and the rest of The Corner) should have a huge say in what the president does. Is there a conservative principle you can point to that supports rule by oligarchy?

Also, please refrain from using gutter language on my blog?

Thanks for commenting. 

Posted by The Hedgehog

Thursday, October 13, 2005 2:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Duane said...

The President of the United States is President of all the people of the United States, and not just of his "base", however one defines that term. If he must "cater" to anyone or any thing, he must cater to the Constitution, to which he swore an oath. That being said, then there is the matter of politics.

President Bush's "base" - despite what Ms. Noonan, Ms. Ingraham, or the host of folks who hang out at NRO's "The Corner" may think or claim - is not circumscribed by the conservative punditry, the blogosphere, and/or Ms. Noonan's so-called "Washington conservative establishment". Mr. Bush's "base" is the record number of voters (wasn't it something like 60 million of us?) who cast ballots for him in the November 2004 election, to whom he made specific promises that, as far I can tell, none of which were violated with his nomination of Harriet Miers to SCOTUS. The initial "outrage" of the pundits has turned into a seemingly emotional, rather personalized vendetta against Ms. Miers (re: David Frum's anonymous sources and his laughable online "petition"), and now seems to be morphing int an assault against the institution of the Presidency itself. In my humble non-elitest opinion, I believe that the vast majority of the President's real base make no such claims on him to "cater" - which is to say in non-elitest-speak, "kiss ass", "suck up", "cave in" or any other such foolishnes. If the critics who now demand Presidential capitulation had paid any attention to the man's behavior over the last five years (taxes, War on Terror, etc.), they must know that he would never ever do such a thing.

Let the hearings go forth, let the votes in the Judiciary and then the Senate floor be counted ... and then let the wailing and gnashing of pundit teeth continue a bit longer (that is, until the self-absorbed elitests in Wash and NY finally come to realize that nobody on the street pays much attention to their narcissistic caterwauling). I expect Harriet Miers will be confirmed, and she will be just what the President promised us - a reliable, conservative, no-nonsense Supreme Court Justice in the mold of Scalia and Thomas!

By the way, I am not necessarily convinced that this is really an "argument amongst friends". On a variety of issues lately it has become more and more apparent that there is growing and serious disagreement amongst the conservative punditocracy, many of our politicians, and the vast majority of the Republican grass roots. The schism over the Teri Schiavo affair earlier this year, for example, during which the pundits and the politicians clamored all over each other to see who could more vehemently and self-righteously proclaim and act upon their opposition to the independence of our judiciary, and its protection of private affairs from excessive government intrusion. Yet opinion polls consistently showed a 3:1 majority amongst registered Republicans in opposition to the actions taken by Governor Jeb Bush, the Florida Legislature, and eventually the United States Congress and President Bush. The "base" said, simply, "Butt out! It's a family affair!" To which the pundits and politicos paid absolutely no attention. I don't know where this process is headed eventually, but there are definitely serious differences amongst those who call themselves "Republican" and/or "conservative" that are not easily papered over. I just hope that the rhetoric of our self-styled leaders in and out of government does not become so polarizing that the Republican coalition permanently weakens or splits. That's about the only way I can see that the libs and dems will ever beat us. If only 2-3% of the electorate on the Republican side sits out the next election or two, the dems will reign. It could get ugly!

Posted by Duane

Thursday, October 13, 2005 2:58:00 PM  
Blogger bethtopaz said...

I agree with you, Hedgehog. He is the leader. He is the president. He gets to choose. It doesn't mean that we don't have our doubts and misgivings, but we need to recognize that he has the constitutional right to choose his judicial nominees. I am sure that he did not choose Miers lightly and we are not privy to all the information that he knows in making his decision.

Something that is sorely lacking in today's world is respect. I see this lack of respect in my conservative family. We can disagree - that is our right, but we should maintain respect for a man who has proven to be trustworthy and keep his promises.

I disagree with him on the borders and some other things, but I have the utmost respect for this man who has done more for this country and the world in a very short time than most presidents in recent history, and along with it has taken more abuse and criticism from his enemies and now conservatives than most people would be able to stand up to.

Respect for our President and prayers always for our leaders! 

Posted by beth barnat

Thursday, October 13, 2005 2:59:00 PM  
Blogger slarrow said...

Excellent observation, Hedgehog. Regarding elitism, the charge is that the NRO crowd, among others, is claiming that only certain criteria count as qualifications. As it happens, those qualifications happen to be the things with which they are familar, about which they make their living, and about which they care the most. It comes across in the manner in which they discount or dismiss experience in politics, practical trial lawyering, administration, or some such. It's a club thing, and their huffiness when called on it has grown quite tedious.

After consideration, perhaps the charge isn't so much "elitism" as it is "parochialism." 

Posted by slarrow

Thursday, October 13, 2005 3:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...

The less-than-serious, emotional criticism (and petty nastiness) against Ms. Miers by Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter and Peggy Noonan show a lack of intellectual heft or intellectual honesty on these women's part. Unfortunately their behavior reinforces stereotypes that strengthen the "glass ceiling".

Posted by Mary Ramsour

Thursday, October 13, 2005 9:55:00 PM  
Blogger Luke said...

I think that more importantly than anything else, the collected group of conservative elitists (Noonan, Frumm, Coulter...ect.) have forgotten that they are entitled to one vote and that regardless of the size of the microphone in front of them, they still are just one citizen with one vote.

They also seem to forget that we elected representatives, to represent us in our republican government. Our vote is to send them to an elected body to represent us as best they can. Our vote on election day doesn't buy us the right to dictate to them how they should vote. If we are uncomfortable with how they represent us, then we have the right to vote them out of office, but we really have no place to demand they listen to us. The ought, as good representatives, to listen to what we have to say, but this is not direct democracy. We cannot, and indeed have to legal recourse, to force our representatives to vote how we would like them to.

I am also very, very disapointed with the level of debate that Ann Coulter has resorted to, especially when she said Bush was too drunk in college to understand the conservative movement fully. That was very poorly done. 

Posted by Luke

Friday, October 14, 2005 10:07:00 AM  

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