Thursday, October 20, 2005

Abandoning Bush

One of the pleasures of recent months, as Bush has made mis-step after mis-step, most notably his disastrous nomination of Harriet Miers as Supreme Court justice, has been the conservative on conservative sniping. For the first time ever I saw Brit Hume and Bill Kristol at each others' throats on Fox News and on Real Time with Bill Maher such putative conservatives as Andrew Sullivan and Ann Coulter ripped Bush apart. After years of nodding and smiling, coddling and excusing, more and more conservatives are through; they feel abandoned, so they're abandoning him.

Slate's Timothy Noah is keeping abandonment watch and brings us choice quotes from Margaret Thatcher and Ari Fleischer:

And as a scientist I know you need facts, evidence and proof—and then you check, recheck and check again. The fact was that there were no facts, there was no evidence, and there was no proof. As a politician the most serious decision you can take is to commit your armed services to war from which they may not return.
[Miers] was always pleasant, always polite, always being tough as the paper kept moving...Is that a skill you need to be a Supreme Court justice? No, I don't think so.
Sidney Blumenthal's column in today's Salon has an interesting thesis: that conservatives are railing against Bush to "hide the utter failure of their ideology":
For his second term, Bush took his narrow victory as a mandate to govern from the hard right. At last, he would begin the privatization of Social Security, rolling back the signature program of the New Deal. But he stumbled upon a dirty little secret of conservatism: Members of the public support conservative presidents so long as they leave the liberal programs that benefit them alone. The more Bush barnstormed the country to promote his Social Security scheme, the more the public became aware of it and opposed him.

Baffled and confounded, he plowed ahead, even as the Iraq war eroded his support. Then Hurricane Katrina blew the top off his administration's culture of cronyism. Meanwhile, the special prosecutor investigating the disclosure of a covert CIA operative's identity by senior administration officials has moved steadily and silently like a submarine toward his targets.

The anti-Bush rhetoric among conservatives has seriously ramped up post-Miers, her nomination being widely seen as a last straw. Conservatives stayed silent in the face of unprecedented spending and a growing deficit under Bush hoping their devotion would pay off in the end; they were counting on this nomination to be their coming out party. Instead they got Miers, an unproven jurist with an uncertain judicial philosophy. They've seen other conservatives such as Sandra Day O'Connor ascend to the court only to turn against them with so-called liberal votes. Blumenthal continues:
Bush's nomination of his White House legal counsel and former personal lawyer, Harriet Miers, for the Supreme Court was the hair trigger for a conservative revolt. Miers is demonstrably the least qualified nominee for the high court since Clarence Thomas. She has never been a judge or prominent public official and has no background in constitutional law. She appears on the White House Web site discussing how Bush plays horseshoes with his dog: "The president throws the horseshoes to Barney, and Barney runs after them."

Conservatives see her nomination as a rebuke to the cadres of ideologues in the Federalist Society groomed for Republican upward mobility; right-wing pundits have outdone each other in denouncing her as a crony. Frum has launched a petition drive to force Bush to withdraw her nomination. "She once told me that he president was the most brilliant man she had ever met," the Bush iconographer sneered. Yet Bush nominated Miers in place of professional ideologues because he had fallen from grace as a consequence of his stubborn adherence to conservative policies; Bush calculated that the Senate would approve her but not a right-wing judge with a well-delineated record. Had Bush's conservative policies succeeded, he might have been able to name a purebred ideologue.
Despite Bush's faithful implementation of conservative ideas, disloyal ideologues blame him personally to deflect attention from the failure of their ideas as they position themselves for whatever or whoever is next. Like Trotskyists for whom communism always remained an unfulfilled ideal, conservatives now claim that conservatism has not been tried, and that Bush is a "betrayer" and "impostor." In his attempt to avoid the nemesis of his father, he is reliving it.


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