Monday, October 03, 2005


Loyal To A (De)Fault

A number of voices on the right are pronouncing their disappointment? -- surprise? -- indignation? -- outrage? at George W. Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. I will allow others to debate forcefully the wisdom of a Miers pick from both a political and a legal standpoint.

I will just say that -- as many conservatives decry the cronyism aspect of the nomination (see
here and here) -- why would they/we be surprised? Miers reflects the default Bush position: To the extent that he values one principle above all, it is loyalty. That was seen in his selection of Dick Cheney as vice president, Condoleezza Rice as national security adviser (and subsequently, secretary of state). Obviously, bows must be made in certain cases to political reality (Colin Powell); but loyalty is the default. And Miers fits that. Ideally, Bush would probably have liked to have gone with the equally loyal diversity pick, Alberto Gonzales. But there were too many red flags in that direction (conservatives didn't trust him and Arlen Specter had already said that he would be a problematic choice).

So, Miers was -- to Bush -- the ideal option.

It's interesting that John Hawkins over at Right Wing News entitles his post,
"Disaster, Thy Name is Harriet Miers."

One would think that after the Katrina/FEMA/Michael Brown fiasco, that the White House might have been more sensitive to the appearance of cronyism. After Brown resigned, he was quickly replaced with
R. David Paulison, a lifelong firefighter.

But, the FEMA example is hardly the first time that the Bush team responded to disaster by replacing a clearly political appointee with someone who actually has a body of knowledge and experience befitting the agency in which he is working.

Similarly, Michael Griffin, the new head of NASA, has been involved in the
space program for decades. In one of his first major pronouncements last week, he said that both the shuttle and the space station were "mistakes." Many people had thought this for years, but it seems that it took someone of Griffin's clear qualifications and experience to begin laying the groundwork for the eventual phaseout of this expensive, three-decade-long boondoggles.

Griffin replaced Sean O'Keefe, whose previous job in the Office of Management and Budget made him a curious selection for the nation's space program. The shuttle Columbia disaster occurred, with seven astronauts on board, on O'Keefe's watch. O'Keefe's tenure at NASA soon became
fodder for a Government Accounatabilty Office probe into wasteful use of airplane travel. On the face of it, O'Keefe wasn't nearly as unqualified for NASA as Brown was for FEMA. But, ironically -- in terms of "disaster" -- O'Keefe left to become chancellor of Louisiana State University.

A question that could be asked: Does it take a disaster for Bush to "get it" when it comes to inappropriate picks to sensitive positions? And if Hawkins is right that Miers qualifies as a "disaster," will Bush have the opportunity to "get it" right next time -- if there is a next time?

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