It may be dawning on George W. Bush that as a second-term president he can do pretty much whatever he wants.
The voters can’t touch him. He can’t run again. Theoretically, the Republican Congress could impeach him, but that would resurrect memories of the previous administration. From blaming everything on Bill Clinton, the Republicans now avoid mentioning his name altogether because the citizens associate him with happy times. Invidious comparisons, you know.
Bush must have realized he was safe after the Michael Brown business. He was Bush’s FEMA director on whose watch he kind of, sort of, drat the luck, lost a major American city. From doing “a heck of a job,” Brown went to doing no job at all. It turned out his previous job was running, apparently not too well, an organization dedicated to helping horses have sex.
Bush must have figured that if he could survive that he could survive anything. He could do whatever he wanted, and what he wanted to do was name Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. So he did.
Miers has been a White House staffer since day one of the Bush administration and is now counsel to the president, so the talent search likely consisted of little more than Bush sticking his head out the door of the Oval Office and yelling, “Hey, Harriet! You want to be a Supreme Court justice?”
Bush’s “base,” the assemblages of socially conservative and politically supportive interest groups, think tanks and special pleaders, inundated him with lists of jurists they deemed worthy of elevation to the court, appointments they believe Bush owed them.
So Bush nominated Miers, who wasn’t on anybody’s list but his. Why? Because he could. She wasn’t even a judge. But what were they going to do about it? He might even have thought, “Serves those sanctimonious doofuses right.”
His aides could make him hold a Rose Garden press conference, his first in five months, but they couldn’t make him like it and it showed. In defending his choice, he almost seemed to be taunting the base.
“I know her well enough to be able to say that she’s not going to change, that 20 years from now she will be the same person with the same philosophy that she is today,” Bush said of a person who has changed her religion and her political affiliation and indeed changed her career and her residence to follow him to Washington. Another life-altering change over 20 years doesn’t seem out of the question.
Whatever Miers’ legal talents, said to be considerable, she is a long-serving Bush loyalist who tidied up a few messes in his past and bonded with him by bike riding and cutting brush.
(Shades of Abe Lincoln splitting logs, the only two-term Republican presidents since Eisenhower _ Reagan and the current president _ were serial brush cutters. A Republican presidential hopeful like Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may be out whacking away at the shrubbery on Boston Common even as we speak.)
Judging Miers’ judicial potential for both backers and opponents would require looking at the legal opinions and memos she wrote while White House counsel. But Bush says no one’s going to see those documents because they’re covered by executive privilege and he won’t waive it.
“I’m hopeful she’ll get confirmed, and then they’ll get to read her opinions,” he said. In other words, you’ll find out what kind of justice she’ll be once she becomes a justice. No advise here, just consent.
How can he get away with this, you ask. Because he can, that’s why.
(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com)