Jeff has an interesting piece up on what conservatives really wanted with the SCOTUS pick:
First, the base is not necessarily asking for a “social conservative,” I don’t think (after all, James Dobson is behind Miers, and yet an array of staunch conservatives are still quite unhappy) so much as it is demanding a legal conservative with a track record of intellectually supporting conservativism by showing a fealty to the text of the Constitution. And so while yes, nominating a strong conservative could indeed exacerbate party divisions insofar as such a nomination will expose Senate Republican “moderates” for the unprincipled political fencesitters that they are, no, I don’t think it will hurt the Party so much as it will party members who cede control of the process to the managed and manipulated outrage of Senate Democrats and a not entirely disinterested media.
Jeff appears to believe (and if I am wrong, I am sure he will correct me), as do many others (see the folks at Red State), that one of the reasons we got stuck with Miers is because of the foolish misdeeds of the ‘Gang of 14.’ I disagree.
All the Gang of 14 did is, in my estimation, bring people back from the edge of the precipice when it was unnecessary to, if you will, ‘go nuclear.’
Believe me- if Democrats were filibustering an extraordinary number of candidates, and had no deal been made (which is what the Senate and Senators do- make deals- see “Gang of 14”), I would have had no problem with the Senate going ‘nuclear’ (or if you are a real party hack- ‘exercising the constitutional option’).
But as it was, I was watching a large group composed of the more belligerent members of the Republican caucus, fresh on the heels of berating the judiciary up one newspaper and down another for judicial activism for failing to be the right kind of judicial activists in the Schiavo affair. I was watching Bill Frist and others in the same caucus paint anyone who failed to agree with their judicial philosophy, or, more accurately, their brand of judicial activism, be tarred as someone who was ‘anti-religion’ or not a ‘person of faith.’ I doubt you need a refresher course on the ad hominems leveled at the unfortunate Judge Greer.
In short, I saw what looked to be a calculated fight to intentionally exercise the nuclear option, or, to put it in more honest terms, to simply change the rules of the Senate that had been agreed upon simply because things weren’t working out the way they wanted it to- so it was time to blow it up. It was an attempt at governance through brute strength, rather than deliberation. And that to me was not a good thing, not a precedent I wanted established, and not an outcome that would be good for any of us.
The Gang of 14 simply allowed for conditions where several judges who would not have been confirmed got confirmed, and it was a gentleman’s agreement to play nice in the future after several years of escalating tension. In the end, it was a good thing.
And it has PRECISELY NOTHING TO DO WITH WHY CONSERVATIVES EVERY WHERE ARE PISSED AT THE MIERS nomination. As we saw with Chief Justice Roberts, a well qualified strong conservative can be confirmed with an large majority of the vote. That the Gang of 14 seems to have given their tacit approval not to filibuster Miers is not an admission of her qualifications- it is that the agreement made to avoid the unneccessary implosion of Senate rules still stands, and the confirmation process will work as it is intended.
The blame for this nomination, quite simply, starts and stops with the White House. It is not, as Jeff points out, because conservatives are ‘sexist’ or ‘elitist,’ charges that infuriate me to no end. It is not because a bunch of weak-kneed moderates would vote down a conservative judge. It is not because the vetting process showed that there were skeletons in the closet of great minds like Luttig, McConnell, etc. It is not because, pace Dobson/Rove, conservative legal scholars everywhere were cowed into submission and terrified of a vicious confirmation process.
It is because this White House dropped the ball, and continues to offend and bungle at every opportunity. It is because, rather than fulfill their promise and appoint a qualified conservative with impeccable credentials and a solid judicial philosophy, they reached yet again into the inner circle to find someone Bush felt ‘confortable’ with and someone they thought would be confirmed without incident.
In short, it was an act of monumental cowardice, and the finger-pointing and smears, rather than help the cause of Harriet Miers and the White House, serve as a giant blinking neon sign pointing to the incompetence of the current White House and their reliance on short-term political calculations rather than exhibiting a quality most conservatives admire.