Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Why Harriet Will Hurt Bush More than Katrina Did

My buddy Anthony, recent fill-in host for Air America's Mike Malloy Show and executive editor of the Guerrilla News Network, just e-mailed me a link to an interesting piece from today's Washington Times.

The piece helped me crystallize my thinking on several aspects of the Miers nomination that I've explored in recent posts. Earlier, I made a prediction about the Miers hearing. I think it will offer just what Bush promised -- evidence of her dignity, "heart" and maybe even spunk (I hate spunk) -- and none of what his base has clamored for: Hard evidence of where she stands not just on issues of judicial philosophy, but on specifics of how she would apply that philosophy to rulings on specific issues (hint, hint, nudge abortion). Now, drunk with prescience, I'm going to make an even bolder prediction: Unless she drops a major bombshell at her hearings, Harriet Miers will prove more politically damaging to Bush than Hurricane Katrina did.

Here's why: Katrina exposed Bush as a poor manager, a poor delegator, and a poor judge of qualified subordinates. However, all three of those conclusions can only be reached if you judge Bush using logical, rational criteria and apply quantifiable, empirical metrics to determine whether he meets those criteria.

Bush's hard-core base, the rock-solid Christian right, has never assessed Bush in those terms. That's why the polling floor in his approval ratings had proven so resistant to televised chaos in New Orleans and catastrophic chaos in Iraq.

Now, however, as I've already detailed, the base has been forced to pit its faith in Bush not against real-world facts, but against its faith in the same religious leaders who told them to have faith in Bush.

How do you resolve two mutually incompatible faiths? Faced with the paradox of having to make a rational choice between two irrationalities, Bush's base has had no recourse but to resort to the unthinkable: Thinking.

Here's how the new Washington Times piece portrays the Christian right's inaugural foray into the world of assessing Bush empirically and factually (empiricism italicized):

"I don't know anybody who is buying what the White House is selling here," said one Republican [Senate Judiciary Committee] staffer.

"They're putting out a bunch of positive rhetoric, but they're not putting any substance behind it," said another.

Since her nomination last week, Republican staffers privately have complained bitterly that Miss Miers isn't verifiably conservative. In one staff meeting last week in the office of Judiciary Committee chief counsel Michael O'Neill, a staffer reportedly cried in disappointment.

Okay, I left in that last sentence gratuitously. Sorry. Back to business:

A second meeting last week between staffers and White House officials devolved into a confrontational affair. Republican Senate aides who attended that meeting say the White House no longer returns their phone calls and e-mails seeking information about Miss Miers.

Republicans also say they were angered by some of the White House "spin," such as the argument that Miss Miers is similar to conservative icon and former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist because neither had previous experience as a judge.

"That's just grossly offensive," said an aide.

Staffers also said many of them chuckled over a biographical "pocket card" of talking points about Miss Miers that the White House distributed for use by any senator wishing to praise the nominee. "They had to double-space it," said one aide, laughing.

It's not just the us/them lexicon they've adopted. It's not even that they're disagreeing with the White House. The salient fact here is that they're thinking logically, using ratiocination to evalute White House claims. They seek information. They seek substance. They evaluate a White House analogy based on the the comparative qualities of the supposed analogues.

Katrina posed no real, long-term threat to Bush, because failure at earthly tasks is of no consequence to believers in a faith-not-works ideology, but also because the same actions Katrina ultimately required of him -- admitting failure, seeking redemption -- are the cornerstones of the born-again foundation upon which he's built his base.

Miers, on the other hand, has forced the base for the first time to evaluate Bush using the same metrics the rest of the world has. Anthony suggests Bush could still execute "some kind of super badass political jujitsu." But suppose Bush's base is so spooked by what it sees evaluating Bush empirically that it's no longer willing to extend to him its faith -- and the accompanying blind eye? After all, Miers hasn't just forced Bush's base to consider a negative possibility about Bush, it's forced them to adopt an entire new methodology for assessing Bush.

Bush and his surrogates have told them to have faith -- and that they'll see the fruits of that faith in the hearings. But now that they've begun using this new methodology, the hearings offer the first meaningful test of whether it proves more adept at predicting reality than its predecessor, faith, did. In other words, the Miers hearings won't just pit conservatives against liberals, or even Bush against his base, they'll put Bush's base in the position of determining whether faith in Bush predicts Miers' performance better than does the evidence, or lack of same, now in front of them.

And what if they like empirical thinking? What if they get used to its predictive powers? Ironically, the only mechanism they have to evaluate faith is logic. The very fact of questioning their faith (in Bush) forces them to resort to the same sort of comparative, logical thinking that dooms Bush; it may be that he's therefore already lost the advantages of blind faith.

Either way, though, if Miers at her hearing turns in the same kind of non-committal performance she helped prep John Roberts for, which methodology of assessing Bush do you think his base will stick with when evaluating Bush from that point onward? Faith? Come on, be realistic.


Pamela said...

You hate spunk?
Who do you think you are-- Lou Grant?


Good luck. Love the blog name.

Love Air America.

Anonymous said...

My first unsympathetic thought vis a vis rhetoric without substance and some poor staffer weeping over the actions of the Bush administration...

Welcome to my world, baby! Now the Bush base knows how we've been feeling.

Next cheerfully vindictive thought... Empirical thinking can indeed be addictive and once bitten, twice shy now almost certainly applies where the religious right is concerned.

Final self-reflective thought... These Republican s.o.b.s have taught me how to hate as I have never hated before. I have no compassion left for conservatives.

Geez, maybe I should enter Brother Riley's confessional?

Nah! Revenge is a dish best served cold. And it couldn't have happened to a more deserving, self-serving bunch of christo-fascists. Think I'll just enjoy the sweet after-glow of your deliciously wicked logic.

Great commentary, Larsen. You made my day.

Anonymous said...

"Harriet Miers will prove more politically damaging to Bush than Hurricane Katrina did."

Wow. Yeah. I bet it'll hurt Bush so much, he won't be elected to a third term. You're so smart.

By the way, the Republicans control the house, the senate, and the White House. Hurts, doesn't it? Keep trying, liberals. Keep losing, liberals. We'll keep laughing.

Anonymous said...

".....Keep trying, liberals. Keep losing, liberals. We'll keep laughing..."
You won't be laughing much longer after we take back the Senate and the House and impeach his dumb ass!

ceej said...

"By the way, the Republicans control the house, the senate, and the White House. Hurts, doesn't it? Keep trying, liberals. Keep losing, liberals. We'll keep laughing."

Laughing at what, your country being driven into the ground? Are you American first or Republican? How's Iraq? Bin laden "dead or alive"? Like deficits as far as the eye can see?

It's not a Republican or Democrat issue to me, I would vote for a fiscally conservative Republican. For you, it seems you are a Republican first and only, and if your idiot president screws the country, great, 'cause then Liberals will be unhappy.

Anonymous said...

...We'll keep laughing.

Go ahead. Laugh until there's another Weather Underground, Black Panther Party or Symbianese Liberation Army. Or did you forget the violent Left wing radical movements of the 70's? Most of which are even now gaining new memebers.

It's the "Nah! Nah! Nah! Nah! Nah! We win! Fuck you!" attituded that creates these violent back lashes. And even if they don't achieve their so-called glorious aims, they will still kill alot of innocent people trying to accomplish them. Mostly working republican stiffs.

It's not the politics that piss people off, it's the smug, self-righteous crowing of the schoolyard bullies that makes a man see red and go for the baseball bat to beat that dumbass smirk off of a republican face.

Republicans need to learn a sense of decorum and respectfulness. But since they don't even respect each other, how can one expect them to respect the loyal opposition.

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