Everyone has kitchen cabinets, and the other day I began to clean mine out — a nasty process I avoid until there is virtually no room for new groceries. When I hit critical mass, I must clean house in order to run my little personal kitchen government efficiently, fairly, and in the best interests of my family constituents.
But cleaning house, especially his kitchen cabinets, is not something George Bush knows how to do, even when he’s reached scandal critical mass. The fate of Harriet Miers and the selection of Judge Sam Alito as her successor are proof that Bush is as clueless about the state of his nation as I was about the state of my kitchen. Scrape away the superficial differences between the two with a nonpartisan trowel and what you get are two Bush peas in a Bush pod.
To be fair, when I’m forced to clean kitchen cabinets, I often think of President Andrew Jackson, his kitchen cabinet, and good old-fashioned political cronyism. I must admit, I believe in cronyism up to a point. If I were Jackson or Bush, I’d want to surround myself with some trusted buddies. Look at Jack Kennedy. He named Bobby attorney general.
Like Boss Tweed of New York’s Tammany Hall, I’d probably be rewarding some of my ward workers with post-election jobs. To the victors belong the spoils, right? Political patronage is as American as Mom, apple pie, and the smoke-filled back room.
But the problem with the Bush White House is that the president has elevated cronysism to a shocking and simply appalling level. Miers may have been supremely unqualified for the post, while Alito has served on the federal bench and has basic judicial qualifications. There end the differences between the two. Paper trail or no paper trail, both of them swim in the evangelical swamp of radical-right-wing politics.
Miers was a personal friend and the president’s counsel. Once she withdrew her nomination, to whom did Bush turn? A man always on the “short list” and the darling of those radical right-wingers, Alito. The judge, who dissented in Casey v. Planned Parenthood, wants to order women to notify their husbands before getting an abortion. A man on record as against a woman’s right to choose, and one who has made it clear he has no particular allegiance to separation of church and state, even though separation seems to be clearly stated in the Constitution that Bush wants him to interpret on our behalf.
Did the president learn from his Miers mistake? No. Did he consult with Democrats? No.
Did he ignore the plea of Democrat Harry Reid and others to choose someone mainstream, someone moderate? Yes.
He went straight into his dirty kitchen cabinet and bowed to his crony-radical base. Those right-wing born-again-Christian evangelicals who want to force their God, their morality, and their religion down America’s throat _ in violation of the Constitution _ anointed Alito, and Bush gave his cronies the crony they wanted.
Gee, thanks, Mr. Bush. You’re always putting the American people first, right behind Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Halliburton, and a vitriolic crackpot group of “Christians” whose sole motivating force is one thing, to overturn Roe v. Wade.
I’m not fooled for a minute. Like John Roberts, our new chief justice, Alito’s hitting the halls of Congress, chatting up the Senate, all smiles, all thoughtful countenance, all full of promises about precedent and laws of the land, and, no doubt, eventual refusal to answer direct questions about his religious views and political agenda. Because, make no mistake, Alito has one _ period. That’s why he’s the nominee.
Kitchen cabinets are one thing; the Supreme Court is another. One day Karl Rove, whether indicted or not, will leave the White House. Bush, Cheney, Rove, et al. will depart to the lecture circuit and their publishers. That’s the “revolving door” of the American political system. That’s the check and balance on kitchen cabinets and cronyism.
But the Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment, and cronyism has no place near it. I don’t want to see Alito’s nomination leave the Judiciary Committee. I don’t want to see his face before the Senate, assuring me that he believes in judicial conservatism _ which is a form of judicial activism, too _ and that he stands behind the great precedents of the court, including Roe v. Wade. He’ll call it the “law of the land.”
Well, I’m no fool. The Dred Scott decision was the law of the land. Do we still have slavery? What was Brown v. Board of Education about? The right to an improved cafeteria in public school? Or overturning separate but unequal education?
That Roe v. Wade is the law of the land right now means little. Alito is before us for one reason only: to provide the swing vote to overturn a woman’s right to choose. What a tribute to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Mr. Bush, your popularity is at an all-time low, your best friend and chief advisor, Karl Rove, is under investigation by a grand jury; Scooter Libby’s been arraigned, more than 2,000 Americans have been killed in Iraq, where terrorist attacks control the country, not Iraqi and American troops.
This was it, sir. This was your one chance to step up to the plate and be a president to every American, not your cronies and kitchen cabinet. You took an oath to do so, twice.
Still, you couldn’t manage it. “You stupid blockhead,” as Lucy says to Charlie Brown.
So now, all that’s left to do is collect 100 wire coat hangers, tie a pink ribbon around each one, and send them to every member of the Senate. Remind them of the way things were for their mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters before 1973.
Oh, send one to Judge Alito, too.
Meanwhile, I have kitchen cabinets to clean.
(Hilary Cosell is writing a memoir of life as Howard Cosell’s daughter, which will contain high praise of Justices William Brennan, William Douglas, and Thurgood Marshall: Cosell-family idols.)