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October 6, 2005
Gasoline On The Fire

As if the eruption of war among conservatives had not gotten bad enough, the White House sent Ed Gillespie out to settle tempers down yesterday by inviting activists to a private meeting. Instead of assuaging their fears, he insulted them by calling them elitists and sexists, touching off a new round of recriminations about an administration that has clearly lost touch with its base:

A day after Bush publicly beseeched skeptical supporters to trust his judgment on Miers, a succession of prominent conservative leaders told his representatives that they did not. Over the course of several hours of sometimes testy exchanges, the dissenters complained that Miers was an unknown quantity with a thin rsum and that her selection -- Bush called her "the best person I could find" -- was a betrayal of years of struggle to move the court to the right.

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.

Has Gillespie ever made such a stupid statement in his life? Perhaps he might have a point about elitism, at least in terms of the criticism of Miers' scholastic record. However, no one would have brought up her choice of law schools if they could find any other interesting qualifications in her background that give any indication that she makes a remarkable candidate for the highest court in the land, let alone the "most highly qualified" candidate that the White House insists she is.

But "sexism" hardly plays into this when the critics of the decision practically begged to see Janice Rogers Brown go up against the Judiciary Committee in prime time. The same people who Gillespie insulted pushed for Priscilla Owen to get confirmed and not thrown under the bus like Henry Saad in the Senate compromise. Names with long track records of conservative jurisprudence like Edith Hollan Jones got left by the wayside while President Bush selected the person who, not coincidentally, ran his candidate search committee.

If Ed Gillespie thinks that makes me a sexist, then Gillespie has spent too much time drinking the MoveOn Kool-Aid. This response to the base qualifies as easily the stupidest, most ill-considered, and least prepared White House campaign yet seen. Has Bush declared war on the GOP? Has his staff decided to send him down in flames, a political version of Wotan and Valhalla? It looks that way from here.

For those who think that the Miers nomination shows some secretly brilliant strategem, this should provide a wake-up call. The nomination itself may work out passably well in the end, but it clearly came from an arrogance that no one on the right would question Bush's decision -- and the woefully inept response from the White House, accusing its heretofore loyal foot soldiers of sexism for daring to question Bush's judgment, demonstrates a complete lack of strategic thinking at all.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 6, 2005 6:04 AM

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