Just Above Sunset
October 9, 2005 - Wednesdays with the Church Lady

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By midweek, Wednesday, October 5, you'd think things would have settled down about the nomination of Harriet Miers for the open seat on the Supreme Court. Conservatives would have realized what Karl Rove does to people who don't do the pope thing with President Bush - you know, agree on infallibility as a given. In two days they should have come around. But they didn't, and that ate up all the space in the news and commentary.

There was enough other news.

The Shiite dominated parliament in Iraq changed the rules for the upcoming referendum on the new constitution, cleverly assuring there was no way it would not be approved, then, after the Kurds and Sunnis cried foul, and even the UN weighed in saying that would kind of, sort of, make the whole thing a farce, they said that the old rules would do just fine. That's all explained in the Associated Press story here. Busted! Ramadan started Monday night and things should have settled down over there, but that's a Shiite thing and we got this: Ramadan bomber kills 26 at Shi'ite mosque in Iraq - and that was at a funeral thing for someone killed in an earlier bombing.

But things are going well, as the president said in his radio address just a few days earlier, that Saturday morning thing - Iraqi security forces had "more than 100 battalions operating throughout the country." Cool. But there was that Tuesday press conference, four days later where we got slightly different numbers, with "there are over 80 army battalions fighting alongside coalition troops… There are over 30 Iraqi battalions in the lead." Let's see, a full battalion is about six hundred folks. Twelve thousand disappeared? He's not good at math? Whatever. And after he met with the Generals the next day - Pace and Petraeus - we got this - "I was also pleased to hear there are 3,000 Iraqi forces [taking part in an offensive in western Iraq]. Over 30 percent of the Iraqi troops are in the lead on these offensive operations." What's going on here?

The week before, two other Generals - Abizaid and Casey - had told Congress that there was actually one Iraqi battalion able to take on the insurgents on its own, as an autonomous force. Yeah, they admitted they had said there were three, but it was just one. Sorry about that.

But you have to trust the president. There's been good progress. He says so, and just pulls numbers out of his ass and smiles. He knows no one will check. The press doesn't do that sort of thing. So we have 139,000 or 149,000 troop there? You see both. So far 1,942 of our people have been killed, and ten in the first five days of October. We're spending a little under six billion a month on the effort. But who is counting?

Other news? The Tom DeLay indictments and the story around it just get stranger, as the Associated Press reports:


Tom DeLay deliberately raised more money than he needed to throw parties at the 2000 presidential convention, then diverted some of the excess to longtime ally Roy Blunt through a series of donations that benefited both men's causes.

When the financial carousel stopped, DeLay's private charity, the consulting firm that employed DeLay's wife and the Missouri campaign of Blunt's son all ended up with money, according to campaign documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist recently charged in an ongoing federal corruption and fraud investigation, and Jim Ellis, the DeLay fundraiser indicted with his boss last week in Texas, also came into the picture.

The complicated transactions are drawing scrutiny in legal and political circles after a grand jury indicted DeLay on charges of violating Texas law with a scheme to launder illegal corporate donations to state candidates.

The government's former chief election enforcement lawyer said the Blunt and DeLay transactions are similar to the Texas case and raise questions that should be investigated regarding whether donors were deceived or the true destination of their money was concealed.


Yes, when Tom DeLay had to step down because he had been indicted, the house Republicans named Roy Blunt majority leader to take his place. Geez.

What else? There's Larry Franklin - Pentagon Analyst Pleads Guilty in Spy Case - and it seems he passed a whole lot of classified information to Israel, the Likud Party, and to pro-Israel lobbying groups here. He admitted it. Ah well, at least they caught the spy in Dick Cheney's office - Espionage Case Breaches the White House - the FBI and CIA calling it the first case of espionage in the White House in modern history, a Marine from New Jersey who had worked for years stealing anything top secret that might help overthrow the government in the Philippines. Yep, things are tough over there. You could look it up, but no one does, as there is more than enough bad news to go around.

Really, there is. See Hard-hit New Orleans will lay off 3,000 workers (no residents now, no businesses now, so no tax base and thus no money) or CIA Chief Refuses to Seek Discipline for 9/11 Officials (everyone makes mistakes and that's old history) or Lindsay Lohan in Car Crash (the paparazzi were chasing her just down the street from here and she ran her new, big black Mercedes convertible head-on into a van, but she's fine) or Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes Expecting Baby (some people shouldn't reproduce).

Good news? There's this:


The Republican-controlled Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to impose restrictions on the treatment of terrorism suspects, delivering a rare wartime rebuke to President Bush.

Defying the White House, senators voted 90-9 to approve an amendment that would prohibit the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against anyone in U.S. government custody, regardless of where they are held.


This is a rider to a spending bill on the war, sponsored by John McCain, who knows a bit about abuse of prisoners, from personal experience. But it won't survive in the House. Bush has his guys there, and the White House has said Bush advisers would recommend the president veto the entire bill over the legislation. He gets to do what he wants. But he has never vetoed anything, so one never knows.

Underlying all this is the Fitzgerald investigation of who in the White House had the bright idea of revealing the name of an undercover CIA agent to get back at her husband for embarrassing the president when he exposed a bit of fibbing about Saddam trying to build nuclear weapons. Late Wednesday, October 5, see US officials brace for decisions in CIA leak case, and set that against this bit of gossip:


I just talked to a source who told me that Karl Rove has been missing from a number of recent White House presidential events - events that he has ALWAYS attended in the past. For example, Rove was absent from yesterday's presidential press conference to promote Harriet Miers. These are the kind of events Rove ALWAYS attends, I'm told, yet of late he's been MIA each and every time.

My source tells me that the scuttlebutt around town is that the White House knows something bad is coming, in terms of Karl getting indicted, and they're already trying to distance him from the president.


Well, the man has kidney stones - so this may mean nothing.

Besides, all anyone is talking about is Harriet, making the rounds in the senate doing some chitchat with the folks before the confirmation hearings. The two major newspapers of record, the New York Times and Washington Post, the morning of Wednesday, October 5, front page how she's now "the church lady."

The Times tells us that when she was a partner in a Dallas law firm, she "felt a void in her life." After long conversations with a colleague and with her sort of boyfriend, Nathan Hecht, she decided to accept Jesus as her savior and be born again. She was baptized right away - and she became a Republican just about the same time. Of course. The Post tells it differently - this conversion came when she listened to a speech by a surgeon. Afterwards that, she told Hecht, "I'm convinced that life begins at conception." Hecht, now a Texas Supreme Court justice, said to the Times that she's still pro-life, but "You can be just as pro-life as the day is long and can decide the Constitution requires Roe." That's not helpful. The Post also tells us the folks at her evangelical church like her enthusiasm for all that born again stuff, but she can't sing a lick - "Let's just say she makes a joyful noise unto the Lord."

Don't know what she'd do on the bench, and she can't sing. But she was "born again" (something didn't take the first time?) - so now what?
The president said she'll be just fine, Tuesday, in that press conference. One: "I know her character, I know her strength, I know her talent, and I know she's going to be a fine judge." Two: "It's one thing to say a person can read the law - and that's important ... But what also matters is the intangibles. To me a person's strength of character counts a lot. And as a result of my friendship with Harriet, I know her strength of character."

He mentioned "character" at least eight times. One thinks of what he said about Vladimir Putin in June 2001 - "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul. He's a man deeply committed to his country?"

That worked out, didn't it? (Some folks don't think it did.)

Well, that how the man makes decisions.

But not to worry, James Dobson of Focus on the Family says Harriet Miers will make a great Supreme Court justice. He's been telling all his radio listeners, who want abortion banned and gays to go away and America to be solely Christian, that there's something else going on. Don't worry. She's with "us." But he won't say how he knows this. As he told the New York Times here, he's been to the White House and talked with Rove and the gang, and "some of what I know I am not at liberty to talk about."

Colorado Senator Ken Salazar is oddly upset with that. He says if Dobson knows some secret about Miers, he should share it everyone, particularly the senate who has to advise and consent on this nomination, or perhaps reject it - especially if Dobson heard some super-dooper secrets straight from the White House. "It seems to me, all of the [information] the White House knows about Harriet Miers should be made available to the Senate and the American people. If they're making information available to Dr. Dobson - whom I respect and disagree with from time to time - I believe that information should be shared equally with a U.S. senator."

Ha, ha. You don't get to know! You'll find out everything once you confirm her.

But wait! There's more! Dobson, on his Wednesday, October 5th radio show, has a change of heart and says he's waiting for "a sign from God" as to whether he should endorse the woman. Apparently he just realized Karl Rove isn't God. –


He said "There is so much in the balance [with this nominee], there is no way to put it into words." Because of that, Dobson is begging the Lord: "If this is not the person you want on that Supreme Court, all you have to do is tell me so, and do it through any means you want to."

He finally then discussed why he is supporting Miers, saying "I can't reveal it all, because I do know things that I'm privy to that I can't describe, because of confidentiality." He then states that Miers "is a deeply committed Christian" and that people who know her have all told him that "she will not be a disappointment."

"I believe in trusting this president and this time because of the stand that he has taken and the way he has implemented it consistently for four and a half years. When you put that with all the other information that I have been able to gather - and you'll have to trust me on this one - when you know some of the things that I know, that I probably shouldn't know, that take me in this direction, you will understand why I have said, with fear and trepidation, why I have said why I believe that Harriet Miers will be a good justice."

He then states, "if I have made a mistake here ... the blood of those babies that will die will be on my hands, to some degree. And that's why is has weighed so heavily on me."


Poor guy! All these things he knows that he probably shouldn't know! All those dead almost-babies if he didn't fully understand all the super secret stuff Rove and the fellows told him about this woman!

Yeah, it's almost comical.

What's not comical was the seminal column in the Washington Post midweek from George Will, "the" conservative to a lot of people, even if his prose style is turgid and condescending and oh so "intellectual." The man is not happy.

That means he's operating from this thesis: The president "has forfeited his right to be trusted as a custodian of the Constitution."


It is not important that she be confirmed because there is no evidence that she is among the leading lights of American jurisprudence, or that she possesses talents commensurate with the Supreme Court's tasks. The president's "argument" for her amounts to: Trust me. There is no reason to, for several reasons.

He has neither the inclination nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution. Few presidents acquire such abilities in the course of their pre-presidential careers, and this president particularly is not disposed to such reflections.

Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that Miers's nomination resulted from the president's careful consultation with people capable of such judgments. If 100 such people had been asked to list 100 individuals who have given evidence of the reflectiveness and excellence requisite in a justice, Miers's name probably would not have appeared in any of the 10,000 places on those lists.


George Will is cold. The leading Republican voice just called his president, who he has supported, lacking in the will or, even worse, the ability to make judgments of any consequence. He said the man just doesn't think.

On the other end of the conservative spectrum, the last person you'd call intellectual at all, the reactionary Phyllis Schlaffly, with a livelier prose style, is just blunt: "Bush is building his own empire without regard for the conservative movement or the party."

The man who was senate majority leader before he said those odd things about how he agreed with Strom Thurmond about "nigras," Trent Lott, on MSNBC is also unhappy - Miers is "clearly" not the most qualified person for the job, and there are "a lot more people - men, women and minorities - that are more qualified, in my opinion, by their experience than she is." On the far, far right, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback added something about how the president's promises about Miers' "heart" aren't enough to assure him that she's "sufficiently conservative" on social issues.

Brownback and Dobson, of course, want a "reliable vote." So do Phyllis Schlaffly and much of the right. They would support the confirmation of Harriet Miers if they got assurances, and maybe Dobson has, that no matter what the evidence and arguments presented before her in session, she will vote against abortion rights and gay rights and all the rest. They want nothing to do with someone who considers the merits of any given case.

So, is she the one? No one knows.

There's a lot of agony on the right here.

Over at the National Review, editor-at-large of the National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg, has this to say:


Conservatives, I thought, were supposed to believe ideas have consequences, that American institutions - chief among them the Supreme Court and the Constitution - have specific and organic roles to play in the culture which depend on intellectual honesty, opposition to cant, and a dispassionate rejection of the politicization of the law. The reliable vote argument - absent other rationales - runs counter to all of these. This becomes obvious when you imagine a Democratic President appointing a confidante with few obvious credentials for the Supreme Court. A president Kerry could hardly convince any of us that his pick should be confirmed because she's a reliable vote.


Wow. He said that? He wants someone who listens and thinks and considers the evidence and the statutes and the precedents and the constitution and THEN decides what's right? He is on the other side of the right, as is George Will.

You see the opposing forces here - shall well have "a dispassionate rejection of the politicization of the law," or shall we embrace complete politicization of the law, to save America from the fags and sluts and the ungodly?

The Democrats can sit back and watch the debate. But maybe they should join in.


Footnote on Jonah Goldberg:

What he says above is fine, but does one forgive him for this?


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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