Conservatives Are Blowing It

Conservatives are blowing it. In Harriet Miers, George W. Bush designated a nominee to the Supreme Court who, without conservative opposition and digging, particularly by the diligent Wall Street Journal, would almost surely have sailed through Senate confirmation. By all indications, Miers would have likely then done exactly what George W. Bush suspected: chipped away at, undermined, and possibly even overturned Roe v. Wade.

Yes, yes, I’ve heard the arguments from allies on my side of the fence. I understand and respect them. As is so often the case, I’m impressed with the lack of emotion-driven thinking from the conservative movement. Many of my comrades are opposing Miers because they have taken a close look at her qualifications and found them wanting. I will not address that matter here, though, suffice to say, I do not share their disregard for her background.

My colleagues on the right also point to the fact that there are better candidates for the job, as there is for every job. They are also chagrined by President Bush’s unwillingness to go to the mat with a nominee like Janice Rogers Brown, a true believer who comes with all the bona fides. In my view, there is a shortsightedness here: a Janice Rogers Brown, unlike Harriet Miers, would have been rejected.

My own estimate is that George W. Bush probably opted for Miers, a stealth candidate, with plans to pick an ideological firebrand for his (likely) next nominee. A smart politician chooses now based in large part upon later calculations. It is obvious that Bush and his team carefully considered the Roberts-Miers arrangement in tandem, and ditto for the next pick.

Of course, none of this really matters anymore, which brings me to my central point: In opposing Miers, conservatives are likely losing a wonderful opportunity to undercut Roe v. Wade. Notably, I’m encountering conservatives who tell us that abortion alone should not be the reason for supporting Miers. I totally disagree (as do liberals, by the way). The fact is that abortion is the single most important domestic issue of our time—hands down. Taxes, regulations, church-state separation, affirmative action, flag burning, gay marriage, eminent domain—not one of these issues has savagely snuffed out the lives of over one million babies per year since 1973. Not one of them has robbed the most innocent and defenseless among us of the most basic of all human rights: the right to life. Who cares about admissions quotas at the University of Michigan when certain Americans—those living in the womb—have no protection? How can abortion not be considered the most significant issue of our time?

I’m sympathetic to Gary Bauer’s point: “I don’t think godly people or the politicians we support should approach any issue on a stealth basis. That’s not a way to touch hearts and minds. What would Lincoln have been if he’d never talked about slavery.” Sure, let’s have a public debate over abortion. If we’re right, we can win it.

However, Bush and his team understand what many conservatives do not: There is no issue that liberals and the liberal media hold closer to their heart than legalized abortion. It is a jaw-dropping, appalling, horrifying reality of modern politics that the Democratic Party—the party of my grandparents—is more committed to abortion than any other issue. Bush knows that the time and moment to have the big debate over abortion is not before the Senate judiciary committee here and now, with a lone nominee taking on the liberals, Arlen Specter, and the vast resources of the entire pro-choice media. A nominee who defends the right of unborn infants to simply be birthed and exist will be portrayed (incredibly) as a gargoyle, a hateful, intolerant, stupid individual.

Miers was—I repeat, was—a stealth pick, a master-stroke by Bush, who would have likely sailed through. Her pro-life credentials were exposed by opponents and supporters from our side, thus opening the way for the left to shut the door. If Miers’ nomination is defeated, conservatives will have themselves to blame for blowing this huge opportunity to help reverse the worst crime of our generation: the scourge of abortion. Liberals will celebrate their victory. Our side will be left to hope that Bush’s next nominee is pro-life, conservative, a strict constructionist, has all the impressive academic credentials, and can somehow make it through the Senate.