Monday, October 03, 2005

Bush really is weak

I was at a house party two weeks back and we were discussing who would be the next nominee for the Supreme Court. Someone opined that Bush was to politically weak right now to nominate someone controversial. I disagreed. I said that it is a hallmark of Bush and Rove's political style to make a strong attack just when everyone else is advising them to play it safe. Think back to the first year of his first term when everyone was talking about how Bush couldn't afford to do anything extreme because of the controversial way in which he assumed power. Bush defied the conventional wisdom and struck out with an agenda of breathtaking scope. And, for the most part, he got pretty much all he asked for.

That's the kind of "boldness" I've come to expect from Bush.

So, when the question of the next nominee came up, I assumed that Bush and Rove would use the opportunity to deny the beltway wisdom and instead go for a candidate who would be a real stick in the eye to the Dems and a big rallying point for his base.

I was wrong. Bush this morning nominated Harriet Meiers, a close friend and his personal lawyer and someone who has virtually no public record on the most controversial issues of the day.

She is the epitome of a "safe" nomination. There is virtually nothing about her to hang a controversy on. But there is also virtually nothing about her that can be a rallying point. The reaction of Bush supporters is already running the gamut from disappointment to outrage. This is the candidate they've been waiting 20 years for? This is the candidate they were promised who would finally provide the 5th vote to overturn Roe v. Wade? This was the anti-Souter?

It is important to remember that the promise of a nominee in the "mold of Scalia and Thomas" was the promise that kept the right-wingers rallying around Bush even as he busted the budget and did lots of other things that didn't please them all that much. They were repeatedly reassured that if they just waited they would get what they wanted. If they just worked to get Bush in office he would eventually give them their dream. Many of them believed that this nomination was THE nomination.

The sound you hear coming from the right is the sound of that dream shattering.

Now we really don't know what kind of justice Meiers will be. She could be a Souter. She could be a Thomas. Hell, she could even be a Stevens (remember, he was nominated by Nixon!)

But what we can say about this nomination is that Bush wouldn't have made it if his personal sense of invulnerability was as strong as it was in 2001. Not only is Bush weak, he KNOWS he is weak and that is a profoundly significant change in the political dynamic.


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