October 5, 2005
The surprisingly sharp negative reaction among conservative legislators and pundits toward Harriet Miers as Supreme Court nominee heralds a veritable rebellion against the Bush administration from within his own party. In today's Washington Post, a clearly exasperated George Will calls attention to the nominee's lack of credentials for the nation's highest court, and heaps scorn upon Bush's plea to "trust me." In unusually strong language, he writes,
"the president has forfeited his right to be trusted as a custodian of the Constitution. The forfeiture occurred March 27, 2002, when, in a private act betokening an uneasy conscience, he signed the McCain-Feingold law."
I too opposed the McCain-Feingold law, but mainly on grounds of its unenforceability and wrong-headed attempt to insulate voters from their responsability to monitor candidates. (Speaking of which, the dubious indictment of Tom DeLay is a good illustration of how such contrived "reform" laws generally backfire.) Finally, Will ridicules the way Bush paid lip service to "diversity," the holy grail of contemporary mindless blather.
But that's not all! On the same Post op-ed page, economics writer Robert Samuelson bitterly rips into Bush's "compassionate conservative" approach to governance, calling it "Cynical Conservatism":
"Compassion" for Bush has consisted mostly of distributing new benefits to large constituencies in the hope of purchasing their gratitude and support.
Spend more, tax less. That's a brazen political strategy, not a serious governing philosophy.
Just what conservative values Bush's approach embodies is unclear. He has not tried to purge government of ineffective or unneeded programs. He has not laid a foundation for permanent tax reductions. He has not been straightforward with the public. He has not shown a true regard for the future. He has mostly been expedient or, more pointedly, cynical.
That reminds me of what one-time Bush speechwriter John DiIulio called his former White House colleagues back in 2002: "Mayberry Machiavellis." It's times like this when I'm glad I've made known my concerns about the direction the Bush administration has been heading. He has not addressed any of the market-oriented policy initiatives I suggested ten months ago, and instead, he has largely squandered the precious post-election "window of opportunity for reform." (I'm well aware that not many conservatives view the link between economics and security the way I do, but that is bound to change as the global political-economic landscape shifts.) I'm inclined to judge Bush leniently when it comes to his lack of rhetorical skills, possibly a genetic defect, but there can be no excuse for continuing to ignore the warning signals from conservative intellectuals on vital issues such as the budget or national security. What can Bush do to pull out of his recent political tailspin before his presidency crashes and burns? Last week Jim Hoagland wrote in the Washington Post that Bush is in desperate need of a special adviser and confidant with the wisdom and courage to tell Bush the things he doesn't want to hear, much like when LBJ tapped Clark Clifford to serve in such a role during his final, disastrous year in office. As long as Karl Rove stays in the White House, however, I'm afraid the likelihood of that is extremely low.