Thursday, October 06, 2005

Miers, "Hector," and Rove's Double Game

In my last post, I painstakingly put together an analysis of the religious tradition that Harriet Miers has embraced, concluding that it doesn't much provide definitive evidence of her probable views on issues like abortion. Imagine my chagrin when I picked up the newspaper the next day to discover that her sometimes boyfriend and fellow parishioner at Valley View Christian Church, the right-wing Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, has been running around telling anybody who would listen that there's zero doubt about Miers' views on abortion.

In my own long discourse on Miers religious background, I concluded that the nexus between her religion and her judicial philosophy would probably remain a mystery so long as "she and her friends and associates decide to keep it that way." Well, Hecht would certainly qualify as someone in that inner loop; after all, he's the one who introduced Miers to Valley View about a quarter century ago, when she, a lapsed Catholic, was seeking a renewed spiritual life.

And indeed, Hecht's assertions seem to be having an effect in some circles. The influential conservative evangelical Marvin Olasky (best known as the coiner of the phrase "compassionate conservatism") has placed great stock in Hecht's assurances in his cautiously pro-Miers blog posts. More importantly, the ultimate Christian Right bigfoot, James Dobson, in his bizarre radio remarks yesterday defending his early support for Miers, mentions his friendship with "the man who brought her to the Lord" as one part of the "confidential" information persuading him. This is clearly a reference to Hecht.

But is Hecht speaking for himself, for Miers, and for the White House? Well, it's not like he's some loose cannon with no insider connections. Karl Rove ran his first campaign for the Texas Supreme Court. He knows the president well enough that W. has bestowed him with one of his famous personal nicknames: "Hector." It sure looks like he's on a mission from the administration to help preempt any Christian Right revolt against this nomination.

But the weird thing is: it may not be working that well. Yes, the latest C.W. among the chattering classes is that the intra-conservative fight over Miers is one of those Main Street/Country Club fights pitting the GOP's Christian Right base against snobby elitists who care more about a prospective justice's legal resume than about her willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade. Indeed, some point to the non-Christians prominent in the conservative opposition to Miers (e.g., David Frum, Bill Kristol) and luridly suggest a big-time Theocon/Neocon split.

I don't think so. Aside from Frum, most of the National Review luminaries (e.g., Rich Lowry, Ramesh Ponnuru) who are prominent in the revolt against Miers are serious Right-to-Life Catholics. Nobody can out-Main Street Phyllis Schlafly, another Miers skeptic. Nobody's more focused on cultural issues like abortion than Paul Weyrich. Tony Perkins, Dobson's comrade-in-arms in the Colorado Springs Empire, has been notably neutral on the nomination.

And even Dobson himself is expressing doubts and fears on Miers and the abortion issue, noting in the radio address that he will have "the blood of all those babies" on his hands if he guesses wrong about her views.

You have to figure at this point that the White House is playing a dangerous double game on Miers, trying to get the word out to the Cultural Right that she's a sure vote to overturn Roe, without providing any evidence that could blow up on her during the confirmation hearings. The fact that the Cultural Right is split on Miers is an indication this preemptive strategy has failed, which means that conservatives as well as Democrats are going to press her and the White House for clearer answers to their questions.

My guess is that "Hector" will now shut up, leaving Rove and company to come up with a new strategy for threading this particular needle. It won't be easy.
-- Posted at 10:40 AM | Link to this post | Email this post

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