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.