- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Hell hath no fury like a conservative scorned. Voices that only months ago were praising President Bush’s single-minded resoluteness now call upon him to flip-flop.

Within hours of his nomination of Harriet Miers to fill the Supreme Court seat of Sandra Day O’Connor, the punditry pantheon’s right wing opened with choruses of complaint.

Their message, if I may paraphrase rapper Kanye West: George Bush doesn’t care about right-wing people.

Or, more precisely, he does not care enough about them to suit such conservative commentariats as George Will, Rush Limbaugh, Patrick Buchanan, William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Free Congress Foundation founder Paul Weyrich, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly and her smarty-mouth latter-day clone, Ann (“I eagerly await the announcement of President Bush’s real nominee to the Supreme Court”) Coulter.

The biggest fear: Miss Miers may be a potential “female Souter” in Mrs. Schlafley’s words. Justice David H. Souter, appointed by Mr. Bush’s father, turned out to be a moderate or, as sorely disappointing conservatives call him, a liberal.

Others say she’s nice and smart and all that, but an intellectual lightweight compared to the heavyweights the conservative movement has groomed for the past three decades or more, waiting for a moment like this to tilt the court to the hard right. “While Bush was still boozing it up in the early ‘80s,” Miss Coulter fumes, “Ed Meese, Antonin Scalia, Robert Bork and all the founders of the Federalist Society began creating a farm team of massive legal talent on the right.”

What, they ask, was Mr. Bush thinking? Or was he thinking?

Well, anybody who has paid attention to George W’s development over the years should have a pretty good idea of the answer to that question by now.

Mr. Bush likes Miss Miers because:

(1) He knows her.

(2) She goes to church.

(3) She’s good for business.

“Cronyism,” cry the critics. But one person’s “crony” is another person’s trusted friend. Mr. Bush is a people person. He’s also a political animal. He cares more about people and politics than policies. He likes Miss Miers because he has worked with her and thinks he understands her attitudes better and more reliably than his father understood Mr. Souter’s.

“Betrayal,” cry conservative critics. But movement politics bore Mr. Bush. He’s a man of action, not policy papers. The movement he cares most about appears to be organized conservative evangelicals, who largely stuck with him or remained silent after the Miers appointment was announced.

Most of Miss Miers’ major opposition came from the conservative pundits and think-tank elites, while warm praise came from James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family Action; fellow televangelist the Rev. Jerry Falwell, and David N. O’Steen, executive director of the National Right to Life Committee, just for starters.

Hints that Miss Miers is a committed right-to-lifer came from her friends and pastors at the conservative evangelical Valley View Christian Church where she worships in Dallas.

Interestingly, some of the same voices who criticized Democrats like Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, for asking how Chief Justice John G. Roberts faith might effect his judicial decisions (Chief Justice Roberts is a Roman Catholic, like Mr. Durbin) expressed open delight at the prospect of an evangelical Miss Miers on the high court.

But if there’s anything Miss Miers has in common with Justice Roberts it is their many years spent defending wealthy corporate clients. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Corporations need love, too, and George W gives them plenty.

Miss Miers has an impressive record of pro bono work on behalf of the indigent, but she has spent most of her legal career working for a large Texas-based firm that focuses on corporate law, defending firms like Microsoft and the Texas Automobile Dealers Association against consumers and other annoyances to corporate profit margins.

Justice Roberts similarly has lawyered and lobbied for a long list of corporate clients who may turn up in future Supreme Court cases. Awkward.

By contrast, Bill Clinton’s two Supreme Court nominees, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, taught at universities and worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union, respectively, before becoming federal judges.

Mr. Bush’s choice of Miss Miers broke the No. 1 rule of smart politics: Thou shalt not divide one’s base against itself. But I expect both to recover, as soon as some respectable Democratic opposition appears in the coming confirmation process. Nothing unifies Republicans like seeing one of their own under attack, as long as the attack is from Democrats.

Clarence Page is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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