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October 22, 2005
On The Nature Of Criticism

One of the themes that I see repeated in the blogosphere and in comments here on Miers, Abbas, and other threads here at CQ is that criticism of specific points of policy equates to a threat against the Administration. I can understand why people feel like this, especially on the Right; we have advanced our agenda by remaining remarkably united since 1994. That kind of unity has allowed us to make great electoral strides, gaining control of both houses of Congress and two terms in the White House, not easily done in during the times we have faced over the last decade.

George Bush, in my opinion, has performed magnificently on a broad range of issues, including the judiciary. He has prosecuted the war on terror using the forward strategy of military engagement on the home turf of the terrorists rather than the United States. He has used that as a means to introduce democratization to the Middle East in order to effect the long-term solutions necessary to deradicalize the Arab world. Democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq will lead the momentum of freedom in a part of the world that desperately needs it, and we have seen fruit from that in Lebanon, and to a lesser extent in Egypt and Libya.

That doesn't make Bush perfect, nor should it make him immune from criticism when he gets something wrong. For instance, not every single one of his nominees have been faultless. Bernard Kerik originally got nominated for Secretary of Homeland Security. Unfortunately, due to a poor job of vetting by the White House, Kerik's past came out to haunt Bush and make him look rather foolish. Presidential prerogative wasn't enough to justify us keeping our mouths shut and simply nodding our heads when the President made his decision -- nor should it be.

Many people have worked hard for years, harder than I have certainly, to create those GOP majorities so that we could turn the Supreme Court around. We want to use the few opportunities that arise to ensure that we can remake it from a superlegislature back into a court that focuses on its limited role in determining whether actions meet Constitutional requirements and no more, certainly not creating new law in any direction. Most conservatives do not want a Supreme Court that decrees all abortions illegal, for instance, any more than they want one that decrees all of them legal. They want a court which leaves those decisions to the Legislature.

When one of those rare opportunities arise -- remember that Bush didn't get a single one in his first term -- we want them used well. Harriet Miers doesn't meet that threshold, and given the critical nature of this appointment, expecting people to remain silent and nod their heads simply to support a GOP president asks too much.

Those of us criticising the President don't do so to declare that we're suddenly wistful for a Kerry administration. We do so because we genuinely believe the President has made a serious mistake. Of course he has the right and the prerogative to appoint whomever he wishes to the Supreme Court -- and we have the right and prerogative to either support or oppose the selection without it turning into a loyalty oath.

Criticism is essential to keeping the various factions of the GOP and the conservative movement in touch with one another. One fact that cannot be denied from the Miers debacle is that the White House never understood the level of interest the Right had in this nomination, nor did it understand the extent to which potential Supreme Court nominations held together the various factions on the Right. That may have been a result of a lack of open and honest dialogue on the Right in the name of unity, a state that no longer exists in the aftermath of Miers.

A good brouhaha can help clear the air and clarify the interests of the people involved. Speaking for myself, I continue to support George Bush wholeheartedly -- and I will continue to point out where he has gone off the tracks, in my opinion, as well as point out his victories.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 22, 2005 2:19 PM

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