Friday, October 14, 2005

PRES. BUSH'S LATEST TACTIC to get his rapidly vanishing fan base on board the Harriet Miers' nomination train is to proclaim that she is an evangelical Christian. This comes perilously close to endorsing a religious test for public office; and even religious conservatives are offended.

On Thursday, Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, called the administration's efforts to woo religious conservatives by stressing Miers' religion "out of bounds."

"We are the last people on Earth to object to the news that she is a committed Christian," Perkins said in a statement. "By the same token, this fact is not grounds for certifying her to us or to the public. ... Inferences drawn from an individual's religious affiliation have no place in decisions to nominate or confirm a judicial appointee."

Jan LaRue, chief counsel of the conservative Concerned Women for America, issued an extensive position statement Monday, saying, "We find it patronizing and hypocritical to focus on her faith in order to gain support for Miss Miers."

Hypocritical, for sure. When Democrats wanted to know whether John Roberts' being a Catholic meant he opposed Roe v. Wade, the White House cried foul. But now, all of a sudden, it's okay for Pres. Bush to woo evangelical Christians by implying that Miers is one of them.

In an editorial today, the Boston Globe says the reason can be summed up in one word: qualifications.

Roberts, as a protege of his predecessor, William Rehnquist, had strong conservative and legal credentials, so his handlers from the Bush administration bristled when some liberal groups began to question what role his Roman Catholic upbringing and faith might play on the court. Religion is not relevant to the appointment, they said.

But Miers has few credentials of any kind to carry into her confirmation hearings, expected to begin next month. So Bush and his minions have tried to reassure skeptical conservatives by pointing to her religious beliefs. Though raised a Catholic, Miers is now an evangelical Protestant whose commitment to her faith is portrayed by supporters as deep-seated and steadfast. ''Part of Harriet Miers's life is her religion," Bush said on Wednesday.

Bloomberg has an interesting article about the damage Miers' nomination -- and, more specifically, Bush's refusal to withdraw it -- is doing to the Republican Party.

A growing number of Republican activists say Bush blundered in naming Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court, failing to anticipate the firestorm it would ignite among conservative backers and leading opinion makers who question her qualifications. Bush now may be forced to choose between an embarrassing withdrawal of the nomination or accepting a fissure among conservatives that could jeopardize the party's hold on power.

"Right now the base is completely fractured and people are very concerned about the impact on the 2006 elections," said Manuel Miranda, who heads a coalition of 150 conservative and libertarian groups and opposes Miers. "The troubling thing is that the Supreme Court was the gold ring and the president's thinking appears indiscernible, unless you're willing to take it as a matter of faith."

It looks like two pivotal Bush personality traits -- his inability to acknowledge error or back down from a decision; and his extreme loyalty toward close friends and associates -- are coming together and inexorably pushing him into self-destruct mode.

When he was running for election and reelection, those qualities were seen as positives. He was perceived as being "decisive" and "a true leader." His loyalty was thought to be admirable by his supporters. Now those very qualities are bringing him down. Sounds like a classic Greek tragedy to me.

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