More On The Rosenberg Ring And The Vigilance Required For Security

The New York Sun has a book review that sheds more light on the case of Julius Rosenberg and his participation in Soviet spy rings. Ronald Radosh reviews Engineering Communism, a look at the escape of two Rosenberg recruits from the US and how they helped transform the Soviet Union into a military powerhouse — using American technology:

It has taken almost half a century, but Steven Usdin, in “Engineering Communism” (Yale University Press, 329 pages, $40), has finally told the story of the two men recruited by Julius Rosenberg to be Soviet spies and how they evaded the FBI and escaped to carry on their work on behalf of the Soviet state. Barr and Sarant rose to the pinnacle of power in the Soviet establishment and managed the building of the postwar modern Soviet military machine and microelectronics industry.
Mr. Usdin’s greatest accomplishment is to clear up remaining gaps in the story of the Rosenberg espionage network. The Rosenbergs’ defenders have long claimed that whatever the couple did, it was for genuine anti-fascist motives and that they only were concerned with helping an American ally. Mr. Usdin puts that argument to rest. He emphasizes that Rosenberg was recruited as a Soviet spy before June 1941 – i.e., during the years of the Nazi-Soviet Pact – and his primary motive was that he saw himself “as a partisan fighting behind enemy lines … on behalf of Soviet Communism.” He and his recruits wanted to “do anything they could to help the Soviet cause – before, during, and after the war against Hitler.” Barr, Sarant, and Rosenberg were Soviet patriots above all else.
The book clearly details the importance of the military information the network stole for Stalin. They passed on the 12,000-page blueprints for the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, the first American jet produced in large quantities and the workhorse of the Air Force in the Korean War. The detailed knowledge helped the Soviets build the MIG-15, whose superiority shocked the U.S. military in Korea. Barr and Sarant gave the KGB information on every project they worked on, including airborne radars for nighttime navigation and bombing and other new radar technology. One of these, an exact copy of the American device, was used in both Korea and Vietnam to direct artillery fire against American planes. “Rosenberg’s band of amateur spies,” Mr. Usdin writes, “turned over detailed information on a wide range of technologies and weapon systems that hastened the Red Army’s march to Berlin, jumpstarted its postwar development of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and later helped communist troops in North Korea fight the American military to a standoff.”

Since the case of the Rosenbergs usually gets treated as true-belief dogma by their defenders on the Left, who ignore even the data from the Soviets showing their involvement, I suspect this will change few of those minds. For the rest of us, this book might make a fascinating read and a warning about allowing our technology to escape to potential enemies. That warning should have been heeded long before now, especially in regards to mainland China. Our long debate over the nature of the Rosenberg perfidy clouded that issue and made it more difficult to remain vigilant against such thefts.

Kuwait Weighs Its Stance Towards Israel

Long one of the hard-line nations against Israel despite their American ties, Kuwait has served as a bastion of Arabic thought for decades. They housed Yasser Arafat and thousands of PLO activists during the group’s heyday in the 70s and early 80s, when the entire movement went on the run. Now, however, the unilateral Gaza withdrawal has chnaged the calculations of the region, and Kuwait is no exception, the New York Times reports today:

Kuwaiti newspapers in recent days have floated the idea that the country could take steps to reduce hostility toward Israel as a means of helping the Palestinians, prompting a quiet debate about Kuwait’s decades-old strategy of isolating Israel.
The discussion breaks long-held taboos and brushes at an emotionally explosive subject for Kuwaitis, who had long considered themselves among the standard-bearers for the Palestinian cause. But experts emphasize that it remains no more than a discussion at this point.
“After a long time, we have finally decided to leave the Palestinian cause to Palestinians, because it is they who are really concerned with this issue,” Ahmed al-Jarallah, editor in chief of the English-language Arab Times, wrote in an editorial on Sept. 22.
In order to prove that Arabs are seeking peace, he contended, the Arab world must no longer use Palestinians as a tool of its policies. Referring to recent decisions by Bahrain, Qatar and Tunisia to ease their policies toward Israel, he said, “We Arabs have also reached a unanimous agreement to make peace with Israel as our strategic choice, before conducting negotiations with that country.”

This change has taken a long time to take root in the country’s conservative nature. It started with the first Gulf War, not just for the US’s rescue of their nation, but also the forbearance of Israel from retaliation for Saddam’s scud missiles. That refusal to answer the genuine act of war allowed the other Arabic countries to stand down. The Palestinian decision to stab the Kuwaitis in the back and throw in with Saddam opened their eyes to the nature of that conflict as well. It didn’t cause the Kuwaitis to dump their cause entirely, but they now see it as a political conflict for open resolution, instead of the pan-Arabist terms in which they have traditionally viewed it before.
Rumors about lifting a trade embargo seem premature. The government wants it; for one thing, it cannot get favorable trading terms with the US while it remains in place. The more reactionary National Assembly would probably block, for now, any attempt to lift the embargo despite other Arab nations’ direct negotiations with Israel on trade. However, the existence of the debate itself does show the progress towards multifactional democracy in Kuwait and the general failure of pan-Arabism. That might stick in the craw of pan-Islamists as well, even though Kuwait has hardly promoted that particular cause.
It appears that Ariel Sharon may have shown how much Israel gained by unilaterally forgoing Gaza, diplomatically and also fiscally, as it finally begins to gather trading partners in the region and sink the decades-long embargo on their production. His action not only made his military situation easier but also may result in the further isolation of the Palestinians, a group of people who operated under the delusion that the Arabists actually cared about their plight. Sharon, it seems, knew what he was doing.

US To ‘Ally’: Please Stop Teaching People To Hate Us

The Saudis have come under fire repeatedly since 9/11 for their sponsorship of radical Wahhabbism and incitement of violent jihad in their madrassas at home while selling themselves as dedicated anti-terrorists abroad. It turns out that they have been selling more than that here in the US, according to the New York Sun, and the US government has finally spoken publicly to embarrass the Saudis into changing course:

The American government is demanding that Saudi Arabia account for its distribution of hate material to American mosques, as the State Department pressed Saudi officials for answers last week and as the Senate later this month plans to investigate the propagation of radical Wahhabism on American shores.
The flurry of activity comes months after a report from the Center for Religious Freedom discovered that dozens of mosques in major cities across the country, including New York, Washington, and Los Angeles, were distributing documents, bearing the seal of the government of Saudi Arabia, that incite Muslims to acts of violence and promote hatred of Jews and Christians.
A Washington-based group that is part of the human rights organization Freedom House, the Center for Religious Freedom also found during its yearlong study that the Saudi-produced materials describe democracy and America as un-Islamic. They instruct recent Muslim immigrants to consider Americans as enemies and the materials urge new arrivals to use their time here as preparation for jihad. The documents also promote the version of Islam officially embraced by Saudi government and several of the September 11, 2001, hijackers, Wahhabism, as the only authentic Islam.

The Saudis have done this for some time; the CRF noted this activity in January of this year and produced a detailed report on the activity at that time. The Saudis spread this kind of propaganda everywhere it goes, although one would think that after 9/11, they might have had the good taste to forego it here, especially considering the importance of maintaining a friendly relationship with one of the countries that makes the House of Saud the richest family in the world.
Not so. The material itself aims straight at the heart of the multiculturalism that allows its dissemination. It calls on Muslims within the US to reject our laws and civil society, and condemns democracy as un-Islamic, for example. It urges them to consider themselves, as Muslims in the US, as soldiers “behind enemy lines” — a strange concept for an ostensible ally to push with its sympathizers. It advocates violence against those Muslims who convert out of the faith, imams who preach tolerance, and those who have sex outside of marriage.
These materials do not bear the imprint of a couple of wackos within the massive and unwieldy House of Saud, either. The publishers include the Saudi Air Force, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, and the Cultural Attache of the Saudi Embassy in DC.
The Bush administration has quietly tried to get the Saudis to stop disseminating this material at all, but especially within the US. The Saudis have apparently promised to do so, but have continued anyway. The issue came to a head when Karen Hughes, traveling across the Middle East on an outreach mission for the President, mentioned the closed-door efforts to the press. Arlen Specter also wants to hold a Senate Judiciary Commitee hearing this month on the ongoing problem.
All of this signals that the Bush administration has given up on reforming the Saudis and will settle for embarrassing them instead. The First Amendment does not require us to tolerate foreign governments from sending violent propaganda and identifying us as enemies to their followers. Instead of holding hands with King Abdullah the next time they meet, perhaps Bush might want to slap them instead.

How To Tell When A Nomination Has Hit Trouble

One of the first indications Howard Kurtz had that the Harriet Miers nomination would have trouble came from the White House itself, which scheduled the announcement of the pick at 8 am on a Monday. Kurtz says he doesn’t understand why the Bush administration didn’t copy its rollout of the John Roberts nomination:

An hour after Bush nominated Harriet Miers at the deeply strange hour of 8 a.m. eastern, I realized the nomination had problems.
Not on the left, but on the right. …
By the way, after a prime-time rollout for John Roberts, why would Bush have announced Miers on television at 8, which is 5 a.m. on the West Coast? Was the thinking to have clips of her dominate the cable/evening news cycle all day before today’s papers could weigh in? Her schoolmarm persona has got to be a plus–she just doesn’t look threatening. The cable networks soon moved on to weather reports, hurricane cleanup, etc. Everyone knew so little about Miers that the commentators soon ran out of things to say.

The White House has a perfectly good explanation for that change — they knew that the Democrats would not immediately attack Miers. Reid and Schumer had already mentioned the White House counsel as a likely pick for a low-resistance confirmation, and therefore Bush’s staff didn’t think avoiding the press cycle would give them any advantage. With Roberts, people will recall that the late announcement effectively delayed the newspapers from extensive commentary for 24 hours or more, creating a gap which the Bush staff used to define Roberts directly.
The early-morning announcement told me that the White House had no concerns about the media acceptance of its nominee. My e-mail, however, told me that they knew it would inflame the conservative base.
I wound up deleting most of the GOP talking points e-mail I received on Monday, but I wish I’d kept it at least to count the messages. In fact, I learned of the nomination when the first e-mail hit my Inbox about five minutes after the first “official” leak that morning, confirming the AP report. At least two dozen others would follow, most of them pure boilerplate from the GOP’s initial release. In the afternoon, a new wave of e-mails broke across my bow, this time round-ups of the positive comments from around the political world about the nomination of Harriet Miers.
Harry Reid got quoted as high as third on most of those, which should have set off red flags at GOP headquarters with whomever sent the e-mails out. Hello!, I wanted to shout. Harry Reid isn’t exactly high up on our list of credible voices.
The GOP knew it had a problem as soon as it got this nomination, and it still knows it. Harriet Miers has a strong background as a groundbreaking attorney in Texas and a longterm aide to the President. Inasmuch as a nomination to the Supreme Court has no prerequisites other than Presidential approval, she cannot be described as unqualified. However, pretending that she has the highest qualifications for this position insults the intelligence of the people who have consistently supported George Bush, especially those who did so relying on his oft-stated demand for only the best-qualified nominees to this lifetime appointment which has the power to shape so much of our lives.
That being said, I plan on supporting Miers’ confirmation to the Supreme Court, barring any revelation of malfeasance or incompetence.
I got a laugh from Michelle Malkin, who read my posts on this subject earlier today and pronounced me between Ill and Chill. She’s right (as she so often is) — I’m actually both. I share Michelle’s disappointment and bitterness that despite handing Bush a damned-near bulletproof Senate majority in 2004, he decided to nominate his second stealth candidate instead of a proven “movement” conservative. With the Democrats forced to defend their filibuster for a potential John Paul Stevens replacement later in Bush’s term, they could not have long opposed a J. Michael Luttig or Michael McConnell, or if a woman was wanted, an Edith Hollan Jones. If running a law firm as managing partner made Harriet Miers a thoroughly qualified candidate, then Bush had thousands from which to pick — and I daresay some of those might have shown more Constitutional law energy and experience than Miers.
In the end, though, we owe Bush the same consideration we demand from the Democrats — a recognition that the President picks the nominee based, most times, on his view of the country’s best interests. He won election from more than just the right-wing bloggers. I don’t truly believe that Miers will turn into David Souter; I think her personal views will make her at worst another O’Connor.
Some ask me to join in bombarding Senators to vote her down. To what purpose? Bush will never withdraw her from consideration, and the splintering among the base will only serve to weaken the Bush Predidency. That, unfortunately, gives us three years of lame-duck representation and probably will cost us the chance to make good on our electoral advantages in the 2006 Senate races. If the Democrats have to rescue Miers, they will — if only to ensure that Bush doesn’t throw them a Luttig or a McConnell as a punishment for having rejected Miers.
Our voices have been heard by the GOP, which has gone into overdrive to get us to buy the song and dance they’ve offered for two days on Miers. She may turn out well on the bench, but we only get opportunities a couple of times in a generation to put a true and tested conservative scholar on the Supreme Court, and the Bush Administration blithely ignored one here. That doesn’t make Miers a bad pick, but certainly a disappointment.
Now, though, enough is enough. We’ve made our point. It’s time to move on and remember that we have other priorities at stake, and we need a center-right President to even have a shot at getting them accomplished. We need a Senate that has the leadership to get nominees through the process without damaging them or ourselves. Setting a match to all that we have accomplished in three electoral cycles just to protest a single nomination makes as much sense as lecturing us that Harriet Miers had better qualifications than the thousands of other managing partners in law firms around this country, the constitutional scholars who have spent their time studying the issues that Miers will be tasked with solving, or the judges who have performed that work at state and federal appellate levels for years.
The choice has already been made, by the man we elected to make it. We have demanded deference to presidential prerogative from the Democrats for the past five years on judicial nominations, and now it’s our turn to demonstrate that we know what that means.
UPDATE: Be sure to read Joe Gandelman’s roundup of reactions to the Miers nomination, day 2. As always, Joe does an excellent job of gauging the temperature of the blogosphere.

Ante Up For Chelsea: A Twin Cities Blog Challenge

One of my son’s friends, Charles Decker, died recently in a traffic accident at the age of 23. Charles left behind a little girl, Chelsea, who will have to grow up without her dad. Charles’ friends, including my son David, have arranged for a benefit Texas Hold ‘Em tournament on October 8th at the Clarion Hotel in Bloomington. Clarion has donated the use of one of its ballrooms for the event and will have free beer and snacks for those who enter the tournament. The buy-in is only $20, and all proceeds will go into a trust fund for Chelsea.
I’d like all Twin Cities bloggers to join me next Saturday at 7 pm for the bargain price of $20 to assist Chelsea and Charles’s friends. Let’s get together for a good cause, show how bad we are at poker — I’ve never played Texas Hold ‘Em before — and help a little girl face life without her father with a little bit of a better start. Please RSVP to 651-293-1626 if you can ante up for Chelsea. Maybe several of us can also live-blog the event, and I’ll try to get a PayPal link so that those who cannot attend can still pitch in a few dollars to help Chelsea out. (Note: they really need solid numbers on this, so please RSVP if you plan to show up.)
The hotel is at 5151 American Boulevard West and can be reached at 952/830-1300. If you have an opportunity to travel to the Twin Cities, staying at the Clarion would be a good way to show them gratitude for their generosity towards Chelsea and the Decker family.
BUMP: To top.

Cohen To Democrats: Think Or Shaddap

It’s not often that the Democrats lose Richard Cohen, one of the Washington Post’s op-ed writers. It usually happens in any week with two Tuesdays, but otherwise it takes a blatantly bad move on their part to raise his ire. Remarkably and to his credit, Cohen castigates Democrats over two issues that they widely see as great openings for themselves in reversing their political fortunes — Tom DeLay’s indictments and the mostly ill-informed criticisms of Bill Bennett. Cohen chides the Democrats for not only forgetting their manners but also their good sense in trying to make political hay out of either:

That was especially the case last week when I started reading what Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, had to say about Tom DeLay, her Republican opposite. I fully expected boilerplate, something about innocent until proved guilty. But Pelosi crossed me up. DeLay, as it turned out, was guilty until proved innocent.
“The criminal indictment of Majority Leader Tom DeLay is the latest example that Republicans in Congress are plagued by a culture of corruption at the expense of the American people,” Pelosi said — apparently forgetting to add the boilerplate about the American system of justice. If she had those thoughts, they’re not on her Web site and not mentioned anywhere. Instead, the reference to a Republican “culture of corruption” shows that when it comes to a punctilious regard for the legal process, in this instance the Democrats ain’t got no culture at all.

That only provides the warm-up for Cohen. After giving a brief but accurate synopsis of Bill Bennett’s remarks on the air, he slams Democrats for deliberately misinterpreting Bennett and even hauls out the M-word to describe them:

Actually, it is Reid and the others who should apologize to Bennett. They were condemning and attempting to silence a public intellectual for a reference to a theory. It was not a proposal and not a recommendation — nothing more than a possible explanation. But the Democrats preferred to pander to an audience that either had heard Bennett’s remarks out of context, or merely thought that any time conservatives talk about race, they are being racist. The Democrats’ obligation as politicians, as public officials, to see that we all hear the widest and richest diversity of views was suspended in favor of partisan cheap shots. (The spineless White House also refused to defend Bennett.) Because I came of age in the McCarthy era, I have always thought of the Democratic Party as more protective of free speech and unpopular thought than the Republican Party. The GOP was the party of Joe McCarthy, William Jenner and other witch-hunters. Now, though, it is the Democrats who use the pieties of race, ethnicity and gender to stifle debate and smother thought, pretty much what anti-intellectual intellectuals did to Larry Summers, the president of Harvard University, when he had the effrontery to ask some unorthodox questions about gender and mathematical aptitude. He was quickly instructed on how to think.

Cohen’s surprise seems a bit strange. After all, the political correctness movement hardly came from conservative thought, and that has stifled free speech (especially regarding race) for over thirty years. Conservatives don’t impose speech codes on college campuses, and they don’t come up with new names for medical conditions such as blindness (visually challenged?) to assuage sensitive souls every decade. However, reading Cohen gives hope that even liberals indoctrinated in PC still see its end result and can rail against it when the Road to Damascus moment comes. Kudos to Cohen for recognizing it.

The Second Indictment: Second Verse Stinks Worse Than The First

The grudge match between Ronnie Earle and Tom DeLay went from blatantly political to surreal yesterday after Earle managed to get an indictment within hours of empaneling a grand jury that had eluded him for months with a previous panel. After DeLay’s attorney Dick De Guerin filed an expected motion for an expected dismissaal of the indictment Earle issued, one that lacked any mention of lawbreaking on DeLay’s part, Earle’s sudden ability to add money laundering to the charges raised eyebrows throughout the legal world:

The new indictment was brought on the first day of deliberations by a newly empaneled grand jury in Austin. The grand jury that brought the original conspiracy charges against Mr. DeLay, and which had been investigating the lawmaker for months, was disbanded last week.
Without an explanation from the prosecutors, local criminal law specialists seemed perplexed by Mr. Earle’s actions, saying they may reflect an effort by the prosecutor to ensure that some charge sticks to Mr. DeLay even if the conspiracy indictment is dimissed.
George E. Dix, a law professor at the University of Texas and a specialist in criminal procedures, speculated that prosecutors “saw a potential problem” with the conspiracy counts “and didn’t want to hassle over it, so they went with a legal theory on money laundering that wouldn’t present the same problems.” He said if that was the case, it could be embarrassing to Mr. Earle because “it is a little awkward to have to change a theory before your horse is out of the gate.” …
Within hours, Mr. Earle responded with the new money-laundering indictment, brought before a grand jury that was in its first hours of operation. Mr. DeGuerin said in a telephone interview that the new grand jury could not have understood what it was approving: “These are 12 people who are newly sworn in, and just getting them oriented takes them all day.”

Earle, in other words, appears to have abused the grand jury system to get an indictment that his previous panel denied him, and rightfully so. As has been pointed out numerous times, if the Republicans laundered money through the transactions Earle uses as evidence, then the Democrats did exactly the same thing — and yet Earle, who raised over $100,000 for Democrats last May talking about this case, has done nothing to pursue them for either conspiracy or money-laundering:

At stake in 2002 was control of the Texas legislature, which was to redraw congressional district lines. Corporate contributions to legislative candidates are illegal in Texas. The DeLay aides stand accused of violating that prohibition, along with eight companies like Sears Roebuck that provided the funds. The corporate money, however, never went to the candidates. Instead, it went to a much larger fund for state elections controlled by the Republican National Committee in Washington. That committee made contributions to Texas legislative candidates, constituting what Earle now charges is “money laundering.”
The only problem is that similar transactions are conducted by both parties in many states, including Texas. In fact, on October 31, 2002, the Texas Democratic Party sent the Democratic National Committee (DNC) $75,000, and on the same day, the DNC sent the Texas Democratic Party $75,000. On July 19, 2001, the Texas Democratic Party sent the DNC $50,000 and, again on the same day, the DNC sent the Texas Democratic Party $60,000. On June 8, 2001, the Texas Democratic Party sent the DNC $50,000. That very same day, the DNC sent the Texas Democratic Party $60,000.

District attorneys represent all of the community and as officers of the court have strict responsibilities to enforce the law equally, without bias or prejudice. Their actions can have far-reaching consequences as they have access to fairly one-sided legal mechanisms that can cause great havoc in the lives of citizens. For that reason, most states require DAs to hold to a high standard of personal conduct in their role as the legal representative of The People.
The quick issuance of this additional indictment shows that Earle not only has focused on DeLay for strictly personal and political reasons — fixated might be a better word — but that he fully understands that his original indictment had no chance of being upheld. He betrayed the trust invested in him as an officer of the court and used those mechanisms to push his personal, political goals. Not only should the state of Texas start an investigation into Earle’s activities in abusing his office, but the state Bar should begin questioning his standing to remain an attorney at all.

The Liberal Editorial Triumvirate On Miers: Stealth Or Legacy?

The Big Three liberal dailies — the LA Times, NY Times, and Washington Post — all issue similar verdicts on the Harriet Miers nomination to the Supreme Court in this morning’s editorial pages. While the East Coast papers seem more optimistic about the potential for Miers, the LA Times sees little for which to cheer except her gender. And if George Bush hoped to get a pass on a big political fight at the Judiciary Committee, it won’t come with the blessing of the Big Three.
The LA Times echoes the disappointment of many conservatives when first told of the Miers nomination:

This pattern of relying on advisors he knows and trusts was also on display with the export of several White House confidants, including Condoleezza Rice, Margaret Spellings and Alberto Gonzales, to various federal departments after Bush’s reelection.
Extending the pattern to the Supreme Court, a separate branch of government, is more problematic. Is being a Bush crony Miers’ chief qualification for serving on the Supreme Court?
The president’s desire to replace Sandra Day O’Connor with another female justice is welcome, and Miers is undoubtedly an accomplished lawyer. But she and her White House patron will have to make the case in coming weeks that she is more than just that, because Americans want truly exceptional jurists to serve on the highest court, not merely smart loyalists to the president.

The Gray Lady, on the other hand, sees more daylight than darkness in the choice. The editorial refers to the “odd routes” taken by some of the best Supreme Court justices to the bench, and expresses hope that Miers’ work in the ABA and corporate law will moderate any conservative impulses she has — one of the worries of the conservative base’s concerns. They note that the efforts of Senators Reid, Schumer, and other senior Democrats to moderate nominees may have paid off with Miers, but once again wants to get Miers on record committing to policy support as a prerequisite to confirmation:

The Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, Senator Charles Schumer of New York and other Senate Democrats made it clear that an extremist nominee would face a tough confirmation battle, and they may have helped convince Mr. Bush not to nominate a judge or law professor with a long record of opposing privacy rights, civil rights and other freedoms. But choosing Ms. Miers, a member of his team who was also his own personal lawyer, is still very much in character with the president’s tendency to reward familiarity and loyalty over independence and a reputation for excellence.
The American people are certainly entitled to know a lot more about Ms. Miers. As a non-judge who has largely operated behind the scenes, she does not have a lengthy record of judicial opinions, law review articles and public comments. While this page complained about the lack of information available about John Roberts, the new chief justice was a veritable font of background records compared with this new nominee.
This administration likes to argue that Ruth Bader Ginsburg declined to say much about her views when she was nominated. But she had been a federal appeals court judge for more than a decade, and her approach to judging was well known. The Senate needs to ask Ms. Miers directly where she stands on important legal issues, and it should not confirm her unless she makes clear her commitment to well-settled rights that Americans take for granted.

Again we see the theme of the previous rules not applying to the new candidate that we expected no matter whom the President nominated, but I suspect that many conservatives might feel similarly with Miers. The Washington Post also calls for strict questioning of Miers once in front of the committee, but perhaps comes closest in ferreting out the true reason why Bush selected Miers in the first place — one we may have missed yesterday:

IN REPLACING Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court, President Bush could have opted for ideological confrontation and an automatic confirmation battle. His nomination of Harriet Miers, his White House counsel, may save the country from that ugly outcome. Ms. Miers, like Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., is not known as an ideologue or a cultural warrior. A corporate lawyer, she served as president of the State Bar of Texas and was active in the American Bar Association, an organization of which many conservatives are suspicious. In her bar activities, she pushed for greater legal representation for the poor. Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) suggested that Mr. Bush consider someone like Ms. Miers. Mr. Bush’s decision, particularly in light of the heat he is now taking from the right, seems like a significant gesture of conciliation.
That’s the good news. It also should be said that Ms. Miers’s background is not insubstantial: She has managed a major law firm and been a prominent corporate litigator; she served on the Texas Lottery Commission and the Dallas City Council. Her combination of bar activity and legal practice calls to mind that of the late Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. There’s something to be said for a diversity of legal experience on the court; not every justice has to be a former federal appellate judge and constitutional scholar.
And yet, Ms. Miers is not the most evidently qualified nominee available to the president — far from it. Her clearest distinction is her service and loyalty to Mr. Bush. She has served on his White House staff from the inception of his administration; she was on his transition team when he became governor of Texas; she has done personal legal work for him as well. She and Mr. Bush have a long and close relationship — and this is an administration that puts an enormous premium on political loyalty.

Of the three papers, the Post’s editorial board has usually remained the most supportive of Bush’s efforts, and I wonder if they come closest to the mark here. Harry Reid’s chief of staff remarked to Salon yesterday that Reid mentioned Miers’ name as one that could gain easier confirmation, although he says Reid stopped short of outright promising his public support (which Reid provided anyway yesterday, at least initially). Considering Miers’ long record of service to Bush and her lack of judicial experience, that offer may have intrigued him and gave him the idea that a Miers confirmation could help resolve the generation-long impasse over judicial nominees.
Bush, like most second-term presidents, wants to leave a substantive legacy after the end of his term. One of the initial promises he made to the people during his first presidential campaign was the oft-cited vow to be a “uniter”. Unfortunately, with the radical Left in charge of the Democrats these days, the opportunity to fulfill that role has not often appeared. With Reid giving Bush a pass to nominate an evangelical with little record of legal scholarship to the Supreme Court as a political peace offering, he may have hoped to cement his place in history by not only confirming one of the brightest legal minds of the era as Chief Justice but in using his second pick as a bridge to an era of better cooperation between the White House and Senate — while still getting a conservative on the bench.
Will it happen? The Post not only seems to believe so, it wants to celebrate it. If Bush knows Miers as well as he believes — and after more than a decade of close service, he should — then he may well have pulled off the biggest hat trick of his career. We will soon find out when Miers starts her confirmation hearings at the Judiciary Committee.

My Grudging Support, Such As It Is

Before we on the Right get a head of steam on what I believe to be completely justified disappointment in the Harriet Miers nomination, I would urge all of us to reflect on a few points made by others with a more optimistic approach. The Anchoress and Hugh Hewitt appear to think that Miers will turn into some kind of Derek Jeter on the Supreme Court, and Dick Cheney predicts that we will thank George Bush ten years from now for picking Miers for this opening. Marvin Olasky tells us all about Miers based primarily on her private life instead of her legal practice.
Miers could well surprise all of us and turn out to be another Scalia or Thomas, or more likely a Rehnquist. Even if she turned out to be an O’Connor with a bit more consistency, it still moves the court to the right. If outcome-based nominations were all that interested us, that would certainly prove satisfactory.
However, we have long argued against such a strategy. Conservatives have waited a very long time to have both a Republican president, a GOP-controlled Senate, and an opening on the Supreme Court that allowed us to nominate not just any lawyer willing to pay lip service to the philosophy of judicial “humility”, as John Roberts put it, but someone with a track record of putting it into practice. We had a one-time shot, with the Democrats having to play defense for a potential retirement of John Paul Stevens, to have another true constitutional scholar and conservative philosopher confirmed to the Supreme Court.
What did we get? Another long-term Bush buddy getting a lifetime job on the basis of proximity instead of excellence.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m certain that Harriet Miers is a fine attorney in private practice and has performed admirably as one of Bush’s long-term aides. However, nothing in her career shows that she has any remarkable experience or aptitude for this assignment. As Brant at SWLiP (an attorney himself) points out, Miers came from a second-tier law school with no law-review experience, no noticeable record of scholarship or significant practice at constitutional law. That describes thousands and thousands of fine attorneys around the country with whom I would place my trust to sort out my personal legal struggles. For a Supreme Court selection, that background at best can only be called remarkably unremarkable.
With Harry Reid recommending her and running interference for her on Day One, as the Washington Post reports, she won’t get much opposition on the Hill for her confirmation:

“I like Harriet Miers,” said Reid, who had voted against John Roberts as chief justice in Roberts’ confirmation vote last week, in a statement. “In my view, the Supreme Court would benefit from the addition of a justice who has real experience as a practicing lawyer.”
Later when meeting with Miers at the Capitol, Reid noted that 39 other people have been appointed to the Supreme Court without having experience as a judge. He praised her experience as a trial lawyer, an occupation he shares with her.
“So anyone with that background makes me feel good — someone who has been a courtroom, tried cases, answered interrogatories, done all those things that lawyers need to do,” Reid said.

Reid supposedly urged Bush to consider Miers during their consultations on the open court seat. It’s unlikely that any but the most knee-jerk Bush Derangement Syndrome sufferers, like Barbara Boxer and Ted Kennedy, will vote against her with Reid shilling for the confirmation. If Reid did suggest Miers, he can hardly vote against her — and if he did, that would give Bush an opening to jettison all future consultations on judicial nominations.
The only way that Miers doesn’t get confirmed, therefore, is if the GOP decides to derail the nomination — and I would urge people not to push that option. First and foremost, I do trust Bush to nominate someone who will at least vote correctly once on the Court. We really didn’t have much more on which to rely for Roberts; the difference between the two was the remarkable experience and scholarship that Roberts had gave him so much more credibility than his critics. Bush knows Miers very well, even if we don’t, and I’m certain that he wouldn’t pick a Souter. (Incidentally, that’s also why I didn’t think Gonzalez would be another Souter; I just think he has too much political baggage to be an effictive nominee.)
We have expressed our disappointment in clear and factual terms. Unlike the Julie Myers nomination to ICE, that should satisfy us, absent any disqualifying revelations in the next few weeks. If Bush knows his counsel well enough, we will have avoided a bloody battle and won most of the war. Let us continue to insist that future nominees to all posts demonstrate a level of excellence that makes all of us proud to support, instead of a level of proximity that leaves us all scratching our heads.
UPDATE: A clarification:
No, this does not mean that we let up on the Senate. In my opinion, the lack of leadership in the Senate made this choice possible, although given the odd nature of some of Bush’s recent nominees — like Myers — it might have happened anyway. It doesn’t mean we let up on Bush and his instinct to pick nominees from his close circle of friends. We need to insist on excellence, especially for lifetime appointments.
But at the same time, we have to be realistic. The choice has already been made. I don’t want to inflict unnecessary political wounds now, especially at a critical juncture with the Iraq elections and Iranian nuclear proliferation on the foreign-policy table. Pulling Miers off the table for even a Maureen Mahoney, who would have been a much more remarkable “cipher” candidate, would trigger the war that we could have fought on much better terms had Miers never been nominated at all. It would have been worth fighting under the right political conditions, but now would make Bush look like a puppet to the “radical right” and play into the hands of the Exempt Media.
Bush blew it, but Miers may still surprise us, so let’s not compound the mistake.
Let’s get through the Iraqi parliamentary elections and focus on conservative, fiscally responsible, and excellence-supporting candidates in 2006. The next stage will be to create a new fundraising machine that will challenge the GOP to match its rhetoric with concrete actions; perhaps we will take Not One Dime More or some other mechanism in that direction next year…

Two Years Of Blogging Bliss

Two years.
5,556 posts.
12 million visitors and counting.
Thank you for two years of pure blogging bliss. I have so many people to thank that I no longer dare to go into specifics. I have too many friends to count, and that is by far the best blessing I could ever have received. My deepest appreciation goes out to all of them, as well as the entire CQ community.
UPDATE: It’s the second blogiversary for Sister Toldjah, too!