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September 12, 2005
Brownstein Tries Humor At Joke Newspaper

Ronald Brownstein must have intended his latest political analysis for The Onion, the satirical newspaper best known for its interviews with the 9/11 hijackers from their new residences in Hell. Instead, he found it published by his usual joke newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, which buried a news report of an explicit al-Qaeda threat in its back pages this weekend. Brownstein indulges in wishful thinking from the Left by spending an entire article detailing why he thinks Bush might consider appointing a Democrat to the Supreme Court:

A Bush gesture to Democrats "would be seen as panic or that he is willing to offer us up," says veteran conservative strategist Jeff Bell.

But Bush may find such discontent an acceptable cost for reaching out beyond his core coalition to independent and moderate voters who have soured on him so much in recent surveys that independent pollster John Zogby says Bush now "is president of the Republicans" alone.

Any Democrat would require some ideological concession from Bush. But prospects such as Jose A. Cabranes, appointed by Bill Clinton to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, or even Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), might bring judicial philosophies Bush could tolerate. And by compromising ideologically, Bush could make a dramatic gesture of national reconciliation and conceivably improve his own political standing as well.

Brownstein either is kidding us or himself. In the first place, Bush has no more elections to win. Even if he did, he wouldn't win even a single state by appointing Democrats after such a long struggle to gain control of the Senate and the White House simutaneously by the GOP. Thanks to the ill-advised selections of justices such as William Brennan by Dwight Eisenhower -- one of Brownstein's examples of how past presidents made themselves more popular -- the Supreme Court has transformed itself into a superlegislature that further leftward expansion will only exacerbate.

Nor does Brownstein find many examples of such largess on the part of Presidents. Lincoln did it once, but anyone with a sense of history should understand why Lincoln would reach out to those Democrats who still found themselves in the Union. Republicans crossed the aisle nine times, the last of which was Brennan, while Democrats returned the favor only three times, the last of which was Truman appointing his personal friend Harold Burton. None of these gestures had any lasting impact on the political standing of the presidents involved. Eisenhower still gets unreasonably low marks from liberals, while Truman's popularity has much more to do with his steadfastness in foreign affairs than his appointees to the Supreme Court.

Brownstein doesn't even bother to argue that such a move would reduce the irrational Bush-hatred of the Left even an iota. Bush has appointed more African-Americans to higher positions of power than any other President in history, and what did he get for his efforts, other than arranging one of the most distinguished and competent Cabinets in memory? Kanye West telling America that Bush doesn't care about black people, and the Congressional Black Caucus this week providing echoes of West in their floor speeches. He worked with Ted Kennedy to develop the largest spending increases in decades for education, and Kennedy winds up accusing him of secretly concocting wars on his ranch in Crawford.

Other than the war and cutting taxes, most of Bush's presidency has focused on centrism and reaching across the aisle for solutions. The response has consistently been hatred and irrationality. Why waste a Supreme Court nomination just to win approbation with that crowd?

Perhaps Brownstein should consider working directly for The Onion from now on, or the Los Angeles Times should rethink his status as political analyst.

UPDATE: Professor Bainbridge looks at the history that Brownstein recounts and figures that the GOP could call itself the Sucker Party if it tries what Brownstein suggests again.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 12, 2005 6:45 AM

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