Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Left's Harriet Miers Non-Moment

The Harriet Miers nomination was one of the few bright moments for conservatives during the Bush administration. Nearly every conservative intellectual outside the precincts of Townhall.com stood up to oppose Miers--not because she wasn't conservative enough or reliable enough--but because she was, by any reasonable standard, neither smart enough nor accomplished enough for the job. Her nomination was the worst of mix of identity politics and cronyism. And for the first time since 9/11, conservatives were willing say, Hold on--I didn't sign up for this.

Clearly, the left has not gotten to that point with Obama. Because if they had, they'd be jumping off the Sotomayor bus rapido. The problem with Sotomayor isn't her politics. She's a lefty. So is Obama. He won and the Dems control the Senate, so that's their prerogative. The problem is that she's a grievance warrior with ideas about race and racialism that are supposed to be out of bounds. Absolutely nobody is making the argument that she's the most intellectually qualified person in America for the gig. And there seems to be at least some evidence that her temperament leaves something to be desired.

President Obama can appoint--and probably get confirmed--anybody he wants. So why not pick a devastatingly smart lefty? Was Elena Kagan busy? Was Cass Sunstein out of town? Shouldn't the left demand as much from Obama? After all, nearly anyone can give you the vote you want. It takes a good deal more to advance or defend an agenda. If I was a liberal Obama supporter, I'd be pretty despondent right about now.

(Mind you, there's one other possibility: It could be that the left sees identity politics itself as the core of their intellectual belief system. In which case they could rightly view the Sotomayor nomination as a victory, the medium being the message and all that.)

But all the evidence suggests that the left is in for a penny, in for a pound.

Obama keeps disappointing them--wiretapping; no Iraq withdrawal; an escalation in Afghanistan; support for torture; no movement on gay issues; little transparency--and they keep rolling right along with him.

Of course, on the one hand, you dance with the one that brought you. On the other, take a look at the GOP to see what loyalty in the face of mistakes gets you at the end of the day.

If you'll recall, liberals were thrilled with the idea of Harriet Miers being on the Supreme Court. They were prepared to pound the table and vote against her, but they thought she was the best they (if not the country or the law) could hope for. Conservatives are now in a similar position.

PS: The Gormogons note that in his introduction to Sotomajor, President Obama said that SCOTUS judges have to interpret principles first more on paper "20 centuries ago."

It sure is great to have a con-law scholar as president.

Update: Hugh Hewitt--pro-Miers and pro-Sotomayor! Paint the map red!


Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that her intellectual credentials are not that she's been a brilliant jurist, but that she graduated top of her class at Princeton and Phi Beta Kappa. Sounds like she made law review and Stephen Carter said today on NPR that she was "one of the best" on the bench, which seems to be to be damning with faint praise. -K.

Seems to me that the way the Dems see the Supreme Court, they must be responsible for the beyond stupid insistence that MLB All-Star teams must have one player per club.

Jeff Westcott said...

There is no doubt in my mind that the Left (or least the great lot of them) really do see identity politics itself as the core of their intellectual belief system.

Northeast said...

I'd echo Jeff - when I worked on the Hill (in a Dem office) I saw this kind of stuff time and time again - basically celebrating someone or something for the symbolism provided, not for the actual result or competence.

In fact, when Pelosi and Hoyer were vying for the minority leader position, I repeatedly heard the argument in favor of Pelosi that basically went like this "we're the party of minorities and women, and therefore breaking new ground by selecting a woman for this post and ramming that point home is more important than competence." The member I worked for hated her and thought she was an idiot and voted for Hoyer, which literally left one female staffer in tears.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute. Her credentials are BETTER than Rehnquist's were, better than Souter's, better than Thomas', and far better than O'Connor's. She was in the top 10% of her class at two elite institutions. She's been a judge, been in private practice, and been a prosecutor. Harriet Miers isn't close to being in that league.

Had Obama picked Kagan or Sunstein, the right would be screaming that they were ivory tower denizens with no business or real world experience: wicked smart often makes pretty dumb decisions on actual real world cases. (See, e.g. Kelo).