The White House continues to catch javelins from the right wing over the Miers nomination.
The conservative uprising against President Bush escalated yesterday as Republican activists angry over his nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court confronted the president’s envoys during a pair of tense closed-door meetings.
At one point in the first of the two off-the-record sessions, according to several people in the room, White House adviser Ed Gillespie suggested that some of the unease about Miers “has a whiff of sexism and a whiff of elitism.” Irate participants erupted and demanded that he take it back. Gillespie later said he did not mean to accuse anyone in the room but “was talking more broadly” about criticism of Miers.
The tenor of the two meetings suggested that Bush has yet to rally his own party behind Miers and underscores that he risks the biggest rupture with the Republican base of his presidency. While conservatives at times have assailed some Bush policy decisions, rarely have they been so openly distrustful of the president himself.
Leaders of such groups as Paul M. Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation and the Eagle Forum yesterday declared they could not support Miers at this point, while columnist George Will decried the choice as a diversity pick without any evidence that Miers has the expertise and intellectual firepower necessary for the high court.
Weyrich, who hosted one of the meetings, said afterward that he had rarely seen the level of passion at one of his weekly sessions. “This kind of emotional thing will not happen” often, Weyrich said. But he feared the White House advisers did not really grasp the seriousness of the conservative grievance. “I don’t know if they got the message. I didn’t sense that they really understand where people were coming from.”
Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform and host of the other meeting, declined to comment on the discussion because of its presumption of confidentiality but said there is widespread concern given the experience with the nomination of Justice David H. Souter, who proved more liberal once on the bench. “There’s a great deal of frustration because of the Souter experience,” Norquist said. “The problem is there’s no fixing, there’s no allaying those fears. For the president to say ‘Trust me,’ it’s what he needs to say and has to say, but it doesn’t calm the waters.”
Yes, it is the Senate that gets to actually vote to confirm Ms. Miers, but if you think that Weyrich and Norquist don’t have their tentacles into the Republican side of the Senate, you’ve got to turn off TV Land and pay attention.
Remember last spring when all the buzz on Capitol Hill was the prospect of the nuclear option if the Democrats threatened to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee? To quote my friend Kenneth Quinnell at T. Rex’s Guide to Life:
The very fact that any conservatives are even remotely considering a filibuster of Harriet Miers means they are totally full of shit and totally lacking in any real values.
So far I haven’t read where any senator from the right wing has openly said they’d consider a filibuster, but they haven’t checked their voice mail from Grover yet, either. There’s an election next year and they know where the money comes from.