Miers Appointment Ticking Off the Wrong People?

Hugh Hewitt continues to bear the heat of being perhaps the lone prominent conservative blogger carrying the administration’s water on the Harriet Miers nomination. His latest argument is an appeal to consequences:

Getting this vote wrong will be disastrous for the GOP, with possible consequences including Patrick Leahy returning to the chair of the Judiciary Committee for starters. Michael Barone was right to call it a 51-49 or 51-48 nation after last year’s election. That crucial margin can be lost. In such a situation, the GOP cannot send even 3% of its supporters to the sidelines.

One is tempted to respond, So what? If Miers is the best we can do electing Republicans, we might as well let Democrats pick the judges and at least have the satisfaction of being able to be angry about it.

Steve Bainbridge has a better retort, though: Which 3%?

But what of those of us whose party loyalty was stretched to the breaking point by the Miers law straw, if I may mix metaphors? (See, e.g., Rod Dreher.) What if ramming through Miers causes us to go to the sidelines? And what if we make up a lot more than 3% of the GOP base?

He examines the stats and notes that exceeding 3% is indeed likely.

There’s an old joke about a pompous doctor lecturing a group of medical students about some new treatment he had created and how he was testing it on his patients. One of the students asked, “But, doctor, surely you are using a control group?” To which the doctor huffed, “And condemn 50% of my patients to die?!” To which the student asked, “Yes, but which 50%?”

Do we risk giving up Republican control by siding with the Democrats against Miers? Perhaps. But we risk giving up Republican control by not governing like Republicans. For that matter, if we don’t govern like Republicans, there’s not much point in having control anyway.

While party politics sometimes feels like a team sport, it isn’t one. In sports, winning is the point of the game. In politics, winning is a mere means to an end.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. James, you are spot on. Very well said.

  2. Mr. Hewitt seems to have fallen into the old false dichotomy of “you’re either with me or against me,” or expressed in boomer terms, “you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.”

    Well, if you force me to choose, then so be it. Gosh, does this mean I have to be opposed to the liberation of Iraq now?

  3. Bithead says:

    One is tempted to respond, So what? If Miers is the best we can do electing Republicans, we might as well let Democrats pick the judges and at least have the satisfaction of being able to be angry about it.

    Miers is better than your fears, James.
    And in any event, I don’t call 51% a majority whne half of the majority are RINOS. THe fact is, we simply do not have the numbers to support the kind of idealogical fight you’re spoiling for.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Bithead: My concern is that she’s a C- candidate when there are dozens of A+s out there waiting to be picked.

    Recall that John Roberts was initially picked, and expected to sail through, for the O’Connor seat with Rehnquist as Chief. There’s no reason in the world that a Roberts-type would not be confirmed for that seat now.

  5. Hal says:

    So, this governing like republicans? Is it only judges? Or does it cover expanding the size of the government, running up record debts and doling out huge helpings of pork for agribusiness, steel, pharma and transportation give aways (want to buy a bridge to nowhere in Alaska?).

    I’m glad y’all are finally putting your collective feet down, but considering the last 5 years has been anything but a conservative regime, I must admit it’s kind of funny to see what straw finally broke the camel’s back.

  6. ken says:

    You are mistaken James if you think that Bush has not been governing as a conservative republican for the last five years.

    What does a republican stand for if not a belligerent foreign policy, deficit wracked fiscal policies, and a repressive social policies? I see little difference in the actual policies of the republicans you guys have actually put into office over the last thirty years whether in the White House or the Congress. In fact, most of your congressman are even crazier than the presidents you elect.

  7. DL says:

    It’s very simple. When we have the majority and are reduced to apologetically sneaking stealth candidates through the Senate,the Democrats are already deciding who will be on the court!

    Our Chamberlainesque behavior will have the same effect as it did for that man whose name is used as a synonym for capitulation:we are weak cowards who lack the will to fight, for that which we believe, or, we really believe in nothing! Take your pick Hugh!

  8. Bithead says:

    My concern is that she’s a C- candidate when there are dozens of A+s out there waiting to be picked.

    A valid concern. Yet, who of your A list stands a snowballs chance of making it through the gauntlet set up by the Democrats, and reinforced by the RINOS?

    We don’t have the numbers to go for the fight you’re spoling for, as I’ve suggested previously.

  9. Bithead says:

    And, no, Ken; Mr. Bush is was and always will be, a centerist, as I said when I endorsed him. Not that I’m particularly centerist, but given the possible choices…..

    And he’s been acting like one while in office.

  10. James Joyner says:

    Bithead: Roberts was on his way to easy confirmation to the O’Connor spot when Rehnquist died. I don’t know the candidates that well off the top of my head, but there’s surely another Roberts-type out there.

    I’m not suggesting that Bush appoint a Robert Bork. But there have to be twenty or more uncontestably brilliant conservative judges or law profs out there who have a reputation for fairness and not being party hacks. Such a candidate would likely be confirmed, as Roberts showed.

  11. McGehee says:

    James, if my link is to a comment (yours, in fact), can I get away with sending a trackback?