This is kind of big.
I just finished a too-long explanation of why the media's misunderstanding of Bush's faith led them to hear something he didn't say. In it, I made the argument that Bush is no longer using The Code in the way the Christian right once understood it. And, in an earlier post this week, I predicted that the Harriet Miers nomination could be the first event of the Bush presidency to jeopardize his lock on the Christian right base.
Now, I've just read the latest posting by Tony Perkins, of the misnamed Family Research Council. It's clear that his rejection of a religious litmus test for nominees is simply a smoke screen to cover his opposition to Miers, but don't miss the potentially staggering implications of where he stands now. With apologies for anyone allergic to meta-cryptography, I've bolded his coded references to The Code, and italicized his coded references to the current disjoint between reality and White House use of The Code vis a vis Miers:
...Because Harriet Miers' philosophy has not been articulated by the one person that matters - Miers herself - we had little to go on. Now, 10 days post nomination, some of our friends are citing a White House message about her religious beliefs as a factor that recommended her for appointment.
We scored liberal Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and their interest group allies, for making comments and inferences about the fitness for office of Bush nominees because of their "deeply held personal beliefs." We argued then, and believe now, that this language was code for the Democrats' objections to any judicial nominee of orthodox religious conviction...
It's not just that religious conviction is an unreliable indicator of a judicial philosophy (though it clearly is), it's that inferences drawn from an individual's religious affiliation have no place in decisions to nominate or confirm a judicial appointee. Religious convictions do find their way appropriately into the law when they undergird and inspire norms of justice, as they have always done in the American experience. But that is not the same thing as drawing conclusions about a judge's potential rulings based on their personal faith.
In other words, Tony Perkins just ripped up The Code!
The big news here is not, as some will claim, that Perkins is abjuring a religious test. Hell, they've always officially claimed that. They could afford to do so -- because they had The Code!
Now, however, Perkins has put the White House on notice that The Code is no longer operable! First, he identifies Democratic language as an alleged code, to make sure everyone on both sides understands that he's been part of the semaphor club in the past. Then, he talks about the "message" that Bush proxies -- primarily Rove -- have used to sell Miers: Specifically, that she's a born-again evangelical. Rove, clearly, sold Miers' faith as code to suggest a correlation on the political spectrum. Perkins is flat-out clear about how the Christian right is reading The Code from now on: "...unreliable indicator," "...inferences...have no place," "...not...drawing conclusions...based on personal faith."
The new rule of The Code is, There Is No Code.
I've gone on (yes, at length) before about my theory that Bush's watershed negative moment will be the moment that the Christian right joins the rest of the world in evaluating Bush's works, not his faith, by applying quantifiable metrics to his results. The rejection of The Code sure seems to me like a strong indicator that this moment is nigh.
Thursday, October 13, 2005