Friday, October 07, 2005

The Ultimate Oxymoron: Elitist Conservative?

Friends and long time readers know that I think Ann Coulter is easily the brightest and one of the funniest columnists writing today. That she is ever attacked by anyone speaks either to the attacker's lack of intelligence or lack of a sense of humor. She is brilliant, witty and devastatingly funny.

But that doesn't mean everyone has to agree with her, not all the time, not even part of the time. You can and should be able to recognize her talent without agreeing with her philosophy. But you simply have to admit she is funny.

Here's an excerpt from her column last week, entitled "THIS IS WHAT 'ADVICE AND CONSENT' MEANS," in which she explains her utter disdain for the newest Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers.

"Unfortunately for Bush, he could nominate his Scottish terrier Barney, and some conservatives would rush to defend him, claiming to be in possession of secret information convincing them that the pooch is a true conservative and listing Barney's many virtues - loyalty, courage, never jumps on the furniture ..."

As you might guess, I do disagree with Ann and a legion of conservative commentators over their chosen method to attack Harriet Miers. But, for the record, Ann's comment above is both totally correct and amazingly funny. You can link to Ann's columns every week here: There are archives of past columns here, too.

To explain my disappointment for the conservative's method of attack we, sadly, must now relive the Clarence Thomas hearings for his Supreme Court nomination.

In those wondrouss days of yore it was never possible for Democrats (or Republicans) to attack a nominee over their judicial philosophy. We were all much too civil back then. Hearings were limited to the "qualifications" of the nominee. Since Thomas was well qualified, Democrats were faced with the possibility of a true constructionist sitting on the bench. One thing was for certain, if possible, Thomas would be a vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

So out came a secret weapon: Anita Hill. Hill was able to attack Thomas on purely personal grounds: sexual harassment. Philosophy would never have to be mentioned. In reality she was there, as she herself would later admit, as part of the fight for abortion rights.

It was a comic and tragic hearing. And it did have a profound effect the American workplace. Every company held sexual harassment seminars and workshops. But, in the end, it didn't keep Thomas off the bench.

Democrats quickly realized the error of their ways. From that moment on, a nominee's judicial philosophy was not only fair game, it was the only game!

Conservatives, however, were true to their conservative nature. Judicial philosophy was still a topic never to be discussed. So conservatives not only let Ruth Bader Ginsberg sail through the Senate 'Advice and Consent' hearings, they actually voted for her nearly unanimously. And you must remember that Ginsberg is so liberal it should have been shock to have her considered for the Supreme Court of Denmark, let alone the United States.

Meanwhile, the President has to live in this bizarre world of double standards. Democrats will attack any candidate with the slightest paper trail indicating a conservative or constructionist philosophy. So we enter the era of the stealth candidate. Nominate only persons with no provable philosophy. Now confirmed Chief Justice Roberts was a perfect choice. A well qualified blank slate.

Now fast forward to the nomination of Harriet Miers. The conservatives, still living in 1979, don't ever attack based on philosophy. "We have no litmus test," cry the conservatives.

Meanwhile, President Bush, forced to live in 2005, chooses another stealth candidate, one with even less of a paper trail than Roberts, Harriet Miers. Only this time even conservatives are frightened they don't know her philosophy. The slate is so blank, they're actually afraid there might not even be a philosophy there.

So what's to do? Boxed into a corner, they can't attack the lack of a philosophy they claim they don't require. So conservatives pull out their version of Anita Hill. No, not sexual harrassment . Instead they attack her educational background!

To quote once more from the wonderful Ann Coulter:

"Harriet Miers went to Southern Methodist University Law School, which is not ranked at all by the serious law school reports and ranked No. 52 by US News and World Report. Her greatest legal accomplishment is being the first woman commissioner of the Texas Lottery."

"Second, even if you take seriously William F. Buckley's line about preferring to be governed by the first 200 names in the Boston telephone book than by the Harvard faculty, the Supreme Court is not supposed to govern us. Being a Supreme Court justice ought to be a mind-numbingly tedious job suitable only for super-nerds trained in legal reasoning like John Roberts. Being on the Supreme Court isn't like winning a "Best Employee of the Month" award. It's a real job."

Perhaps the most ironic fact in reviewing Conservative's misplaced attack on Miers is that conservative's first choice for the Supreme Court is 5th Circuit Court Justice Priscilla Owen, a fellow Texan and graduate of Baylor University. Let me assure you that Baylor is no SMU. Hence, the primary argument against Miers falls flat on its face!

Tragically, conservatives have fallen into the Anita Hill trap. And they look and sound petty, childish and, well, elitist. Instead of making up a false and silly new litmus test for Supreme Court Nominees, like an Ivy League Law Degree, they need to actually be willing to embrace their own philosophies.

This Conservative Elitism is not only an oxymoron, it's actually moronic.

Postscript: Here's perhaps the best statement I've read concerning the Miers' debate; it comes from Liberty Counsel President Mathew Staver:

"First, the President had a number of highly qualified candidates with proven track records and well-developed judicial philosophies. He passed over them and chose an invisible nominee. Second, selecting a nominee who has held her views in silence for 60 years sends a wrong message to conservatives - if you want to be appointed to the federal bench, you should keep your views to yourself. That's a terrible message to send to our future leaders."

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