Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Saturday, October 22, 2005  

Dead in the water

The Harriet Miers nomination for the Supreme Court appears to not only have stalled but is shipping water and listing to port.

The latest revelation of her having been an advocate of affirmative action at the Texas Bar Ass. may be the bell that tolls her demise.

Bush really screwed the pooch on this one. (I'm trying to see how many metaphors I can mix in one brief article.)

Last Tuesday Adam Bellow argued at NRO that Bush's dynastic situation has been revealed:

" . . .Bush’s habit of appointing friends and retainers to major jobs in his administration. Some of these seem qualified enough — Condi Rice, Alberto Gonzales. Others seem more questionable, none more so than Michael Brown and Harriet Miers.

From the start, his administration was marked by a web of family connections, and certain members of the press were quick to cry nepotism.

You cannot understand George W. Bush without an understanding of his family, and dynastic families in general.

Dynastic families are not like yours and mine (unless your name is Bush or Kennedy). They are self-conscious, multigenerational enterprises displaying strong collective discipline and an innate, untutored grasp of certain perennial modes and orders that advance the family’s interest.

. . .the Bushes have created an enormous social network based on their family. Like other large successful clans they prefer their own company and that of their relatives, friends, and retainers.

In short, dynastic families are nothing but socially sanctioned mafias based on nepotism and various forms of patronage. Now that we have a dynastic family in office, it is inevitable that this will be exposed (my emphasis) to public view.

People have been trying to figure out what kind of bubble the Bushes live in for a long time. But it is not the cocoon of wealth that insulates them from reality and explains their frequent missteps and tone-deaf remarks, but that of family itself. The problem for W is that the ethic of friendship and loyalty that the Bushes cultivate and that brought him to power is threatening now to bring him down. He has made the common dynastic mistake of confusing loyalty and merit; in his eyes, the merit of people like Michael Brown and Harriet Miers consists in their being his friends. They are loyal to him, and their loyalty must be rewarded. Thus in Bush, the very loyalty that was a private virtue has become a public vice."

The only political dynasties I can think of in national politics are the Kennedys and Bushes. One might include the Roosevelts, Teddy and Franklin, but that's more tenuous since they were but cousins and their ascendency ended with them.

There were the Rockefellers as governors (Nelson became VP under Ford) and Jay Rockefeller, the great-grandson of John D., founder of the dynasty, is a senator from W. Virginia (previously governor).

There were the Longs of Louisiana, and father to son officeholders in various branches of government, but dynastic pretensions such as the Bushes and Kennedys is thus far unique in American politics.

The Adamses might have established one early in our history, but it fizzled out since the family lacked the necessary wealth to sustain its prominence. Wealth seems to be the deciding factor in such a thing. Money is needed to retain the connections, the employment and creation of loyalists.

Hence, the Rockefellers, Kennedys, and Bushes. The Roosevelts weren't rich enough, and the Bushes are just rich enough it seems.

Bellow's critique of Pres. Bush does help to explain why he seems incredibly tone deaf on so many issues important to conservatives, and why his father was completely oblivious to the needs of his Party during his term in office.

G. W. Bush had the chance to go down in history as a great president after his first term. He had cut taxes which had bouyed the economy and saved it after 9/11. He had commanded those who led lightening victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, and stayed the course in Iraq despite various mistakes.

But now, 9 months into his second term, what's happened? Just as Iraq appears to be turning the corner in being able to secure itself from internal enemies and terrorists, an event that should be heightening the President's standing and humiliating his critics on the left, Bush has stumbled hugely and lost all momentum.

The early attempt this term at fixing Social Security flamed out, Hurricane Katrina made him seem clueless, top aides may be crucified with indictments for next to nothing, he has been unwilling to fight the Dems in Congress or pitch a conservative message and build his party in strength, while the Miers nomination threatens to transform resoluteness as a leader into foolish obstinancy.

I have previously written that I believe Bush is out of his depth as president. That is not a fatal flaw. Most American presidents were mediocrities. A true incompetent can do a great deal of harm, though, as Jimmy Carter demonstrated.

That is not Bush, though. It just seems that second term presidents can't seem to do much right. Nixon, of course, self-destructed in his second term. Reagan lost focus and interest (perhaps it was his age and weariness), and now Bush seems to have fallen apart.

A number of conservatives who have been supporting Bush's choice in Miers have pointed out that it will damage Bush more to lose this initiative than it will harm the Court to have Miers, but at this point it's hard to see how Bush can be any more damaged than he already is by his misbegotten choice.

Despite Miers' position on abortion, it would probably do the Dems more good to get her confirmed than it will the Republicans. The latest revelation is damning.

"It's not just that Miers was in favor of racial quotas -- we'd pretty much known that for a while. It's the fundamental confirmation that she's a go-along-with-the-crowd establishmentarian." Jonah Goldberg

"Such is the perfect perversity of the nomination of Harriet Miers that it discredits, and even degrades, all who toil at justifying it." George Will

Is Bush resilient or imaginative enough to right his ship of state (back to nautical metaphors)? That is, does he possess the improvisational, political skills to reset his agenda, plan a strategy, and energize his staff and the country?

No, he doesn't.

Why? Because he is an inept communicator. Just as his father was. He has no clear political philosophy or principles, so how can he fall back to core beliefs (other than fuzzy Christian ones) and rebuild from there?

Republicans have also made too many excuses for Bush's verbal incoherencies. We wanted to believe that a lack of polish and articulateness was more endearing than disappointing; nor that it reflected upon his intellect -- that unkempt speech did not reflect an unkempt mind. But at some point, one has to admit that how a person writes and speaks is a condition of mental acuity.

Frankly, I am dreading the next three years of his leadership.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 10:04 AM |