some off-the-cuff remarks on the Bush Admin’s nominations

  1. I know other folks have observed this, but, really, isn’t it completely clear that Bush has implemented a religious test for office? Isn’t his pattern of practice completely obvious? Not just in his three Supreme Court nominees, but lower court nominees and executive appointments have all been filled with conservative Christians. Seriously, I challenge anyone to find me an avowed atheist, agnostic, or US minority faith member who has been appointed to any office that might draw the personal attention of the Bush Administration, Karl Rove, et al. Mormons don’t count as “minority faith members” (Buddhists and Hindus in the US will count as will pagans.) I’ll make a bet that every single one is not just Christian but identifiably “conservative”, “fundamentalist”, “evangelical”, or some variant thereof. Any Jews and Muslims will come up in specialty seats: liaisons to the Israel or Muslim countries, or councils on which interfaith dialog is necessary.

  2. The right-wing were fools to knock Harriet Meiers out on the abortion thing. I’m sure some few conservatives really believed that she was not sufficiently pro-life based on her stint with Girls, Inc. and her presentation in a debate of the various positions on abortion in their own terms. But surely most of them understood that she would have been a reliable anti-abortion vote. I personally suspect it would be very difficult to find any successful woman who has not been involved in women’s and girl’s organizations to some extent — women’s bar associations, Girl Scouts, whatever.

    My sense of the reactions to Meiers’ nomination was that only Concerned Women for America or similar overtly right-wing women’s organizations would have been acceptable to the right-wingers who were upset with her about the Girls Inc. activity. Which means, as far as I can tell, that they were unhappy with any organization that generally promotes women’s interests — even if it’s nonpolitical. The understated concern with Meiers’ marital status fits with my general sense that professional women are okay with the right, so long as they are very traditional and very overtly conservative in every respect. So I must conclude that sexism played a large role in the rightwing reaction to Meiers’ nomination. What a surprise … No, really, I’m a little surprised.

    Knocking Meiers out didn’t hurt the right-wing any, though, because there was no way Bush was going to appoint anybody who wasn’t anti-abortion. So I guess maybe the right-wingers weren’t fools so much as just really cocky. In every sense of the word.

  3. Sexism was also apparent in the over-the-top critiques about Meiers’ qualifications. Can anyone really imagine that a male practitioner would have been similarly disrespectfully critiqued? There would have been at least some praise for Bush thinking “outside the box”, bringing in real world perspectives, whatever. But not with Meiers who was roundly abused — and from both the left and the right, I’ll point out.

  4. Barring a big scandal (he’s gay! or he had an abortion!), Alito is in; he’s manifestly qualified and as I read it, he already has the votes. Democrats grandstanding for future political office, or with secure seats and points to pick up from the left, will vote no. But Republicans will all fall in line and so will the conservative Democrats and the ‘we just like qualified nominees’ Democrats. So he’s in.

    I annoyed some of my friends by holding that the left-wing fight against Roberts was a waste of recruiting time and energy and money. I’m not going to say it again with Alito, even though I still sort of think it, because a number of my friends have argued that there’s a lot of merit in fighting even a fight you know you’re going to lose. It’s on the record, it energizes the forces, etc. I grant the ‘on the record’ point. I’m less convinced about ‘energizing the team’. But infighting & criticizing your ideological allies’ tactics has always struck me as particularly unproductive. So if lefties, liberals, civil libertarians, etc. want to go all out and fight Alito, well, go for it. I’ll cheer a win.

  5. What is up with Bush’s nominations?

    For Roberts he went with Mr. Intelligentsia, the snarky conservative everyone hates in law school. A good solid pick, obviously made with a lot of advice from the Bush team.

    For Meiers he went with — well, someone he knew, and someone who was obviously conservative.

    The Meiers nomination showed me something scary: that Bush is actually personally involved in at least some aspects of the Bush Admin. Because who would have thought of her except for Bush himself? For years I haven’t known, and have largely resisted the temptation to ponder, what role George W. Bush plays in the Bush Administration: Is he merely a figurehead? or does he have some sort of actual decisionmaking role? These are the kinds of questions to which we mere subjects would rarely be privileged enough to learn answers, and since I peg him as morally culpable for his Administration’s actions in either case, I didn’t really care that much …. But Harriet Meiers? Qualifications aside, it’s obvious that Bush himself played some role in selecting and nominating his own attorney. This makes it harder for me to resist the speculations. Now I find myself wondering: Is Bush largely a hands-off figurehead who believes in his own authority but rarely puts it to the test because of his “delegation style”? If so, then when he chooses to exercise the authority, is it slightly shocking, and people don’t know what to do? Because he’s The President, and so we have to obey? A little flummoxed, they look around for someone else with authority who can speak up to him and tell him it’s a Very Bad Idea to tell that particular joke, give that official that nickname, or agree to have a press conference ….

    Can’t you imagine Cheney & Rice & other advisors in a meeting with Bush on the nomination:

    Bush: “Well, what about Harriet?”

    Confusion. “Harriet–?”

    Bush: “Harriet! Harriet Meiers, my attorney. She’s smart, she’s a woman, we know she’ll be solid on abortion.”

    Cheney, Rice, et al nod circumspectly. “Oh. … That’s an interesting idea, George. Umm … there might be some concern about cronyism, or …” (glancing at one another) “—Inexperience. You know, because she hasn’t got judicial experience.”

    Bush: “Well, that’s okay — it’ll liven that bunch up anyhow to have a bit of real-life experience. Heh-heh-heh.”

    And so on. Kinda scary, and now I just can’t help but go there.

    But Meiers’ nomination is torpedoed, and so Bush in frustration is like:

    “Well, what the fuck, we just can’t make anyone happy. Who else is on the list. They’re not happy with the lack of experience, so by god, let’s give them someone with experience. Who’s next on the list with a big judicial record that’s obviously pro-life. Okay, Alito. Is he any good? He’s the one we liked on Roe, right?” Nods. “Let’s get ‘im on the phone & talk to him, check him out.”

    And boom, the Admin pops in a new nominee. The new guy is smart and has a long record, obviously conservative.

    What do these three nominees have in common? Basically nothing, except their ideology. Since we already knew that Bush was going to nominate ideologically sympatico folks, one might wonder what his other criteria are. And the answer is … nothing. There are no other criteria. The whole process is completely, obviously, driven by political calculations (pleasing the right-wing Christians with more of their kind) and — shudder — Bush’s gut. Not good political calculations, necessarily, because of — shudder — Bush’s gut. But clearly not close reviews of, well, anything, and clearly, no particular standard. (Except for the religious test.)

    Doesn’t this obviously slap-dash process put paid to the notion that Bush is a good manager & delegator? That even if he doesn’t know how to do it himself, he’s a good MBA, and he can hire the right people? Especially in combination with the FEMA/Katrina fiasco? And especially if you look at how the attempts in the first administration to put in some qualified non-idealogues — Christie Todd Whitman @ EPA, Colin Powell at State, etc. — ended up with a lot of embarrassment and bad feeling all around? “Better to just have our people in,” you can just see them thinking. “Americans elected us, so, so what if we don’t reach out to every corner of the party? They’ll fall in line.”

    In fact if you look at Bush’s Legacy, what will it be? Conservative, without a doubt. Corrupt/Cronies. Incompetent. These are the three threads that run through so much of Bush’s White House management gig.