“Yes, Gentlemen, I am a Party Man.”
Off to Phoenix, but before leaving I absorbed Professor Bainbridge’s latest, that compares me unfavorably to Eleanor Roosevelt. Perhaps I should not have been so encouraging in his blogging?
But the Professor of the Vines is hardly alone. “Shill,” “toady,” “kool-aid drinker,” and –yes– W’s “Joe Conason” –the unkindest cut of all– have all been attributed to me by colleagues on the center-right. Actually, there are even worse descriptions, but I maintain a PG blog. Fine, all around. Let fly, friends, you owe me nothing except your candid opinions. But you might owe the president more.
I submit Disraeli for the defense:
Gentlemen, I am a party man. I believe that, without party, parliamentary government is impossible. I look upon parliamentary government as the noblest government in the world, and certainly the one most suited to England. But without the discipline of political connection, animated by the principle of private honor, I feel certain that a popular assembly would sink before the power or the corruption of a minister. Yet, gentlemen, I am not blind to the faults of party government. It has one great defect. Party has a tendency to warp the intelligence, and there is no minister, however resolved he may be in treating a great public question, who does not find some difficulty in emancipating himself from the traditionary prejudice on which he has long acted. It is, therefore, a great merit in our Constitution, that before a minister introduces a measure to Parliament, he must submit it to an intelligence superior to all party, and entirely free from influences of that character.
There are many persuasive reasons beyond “Party” to support Harriet Miers, but “Party” ought to have at least tempered some of the most strident critics of the nominee. Nothing lasting will be accomplished with SCOTUS unless the GOP remains in power beyond 2008 and 2012. If the current seven veterans linger, and the GOP is crippled because of intra-party quarrels, how will President Hillary’s and Vice President Obama’s justices rule?
There is a great deal to be said for “Party,” including the willingness to accept that the good must not be the enemy of the perfect, and that at least 25% of the time you are going to be disappointed with the Party’s decision. There are occasions when you have to leave, and Churchill the younger lived that principle. There are even times when you ought to resign leadership because of principle —Lord Randolph Churchill taught that. (Of course you might end up as Lord Randolph, without the syphilis, that is.) But there is honor in heading for the exits when you can’t abide the leadership’s consistent pattern of decision making on the most important issues.
The nomination to SCOTUS of a ten-year veteran of George W. Bush’s team —a team that has been rock-solid on judicial appointments— is not one of those occasions. No Senator of the Party has stepped down from a Committee Chairmanship. No one has “crossed the aisle.” In fact, as far as I can tell, no one has refused a White House invitation. Thousands of words have been written, but no one has said “This far and no farther,” which makes me think that opposition to Miers is not that deep.
The debate ought rather to be an occasion for asking “What does the president know that I do not know?” and even, “Has the president earned my trust in this area?” It is easy for some to dismiss Cheney, Rove, Card, Dobson, Colson, Sekulow and many others, but what is the argument for not delaying the assault on Miers until the Administration had enough time to get her writings and bio out? That they didn’t think you important enough to brief before the announcement? What is the argument for trashing as “not impressive” her many accomplishments which have many millions of Americans of similar resumes wondering, “What am I, a potted plant?”? The series of posts she has held –Texas Bar president, Dallas City Council, and especially managing partner of a large law firm– all speak to her abilities which disappointment seems to forbid critics from recognizing. There are many hundreds of thousands of GOP faithful who have held similar posts. How wonderful to telegraph to them that their efforts are fine, for a certain class of people.
Some are suspicious of Miers’ ABA work:
“Scalia served a brief period between 1981 and 1982 as the chairman of the American Bar Association’s section on administrative law and the Conference of Section Chairs.”
Others assert that she is not the “best available candidate,” a criticism levelled at Clarence Thomas when he was nominated after a very brief tenure on the D.C. Circuit and a half-dozen years in the Reagan Adminsitration.
The critics might be right. I may end up regreting the posts now permanently archived in which I defend the confirmation of this nominee, but that will only be the case if the overall Bush presidency fails, not if Harriet Miers disappoints.
I am confident, however, in arguing that “Party” matters. And that it matters in much more enduring ways than Bush’s sunshine supporters ackowledge. To the doubters I recommend Blake’s Disraeli. The folks that get it, don’t be alarmed by the noise on the right. This, too, will pass.
This doesn’t matter? Of course not. She hasn’t any law review articles.