Meet Madam Justice—Does Bush know something his conservative base doesn’t about Harriet Miers? He must, considering the outcry that has accompanied his pick to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Following the announcement, Bush’s choice was met with a firestorm of disapproval, this time from his supporters. They wanted another Scalia or Thomas. Instead they were given a White House insider with no judicial experience (and thus no paper trail) whom staffers jokingly refer to as Bush’s “work wife.”
The Miers nomination is “an unforced error,” wrote former White House speechwriter David Frum on National Review Online. “The president swung and missed,” seconded John Yoo of the American Enterprise Institute, continuing the sports metaphors. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) issued a tepid two sentence non-endorsement. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) questioned “whether [Miers] possesses a firm commitment to the framers’ Constitution and to the rule of law.” National Review‘s Byron York bluntly remarked, “Conservatives hate this nomination.” Yet frustrated cons may have as much trouble discerning the judicial philosophy of Miers as liberals did with Roberts. The moral of the Roberts hearings, York said, is: “Don’t answer.”
Sensing a right-wing backlash, Dick Cheney appeared on the most familial of places, the Rush Limbaugh Show. “I’m confident that she has a conservative judicial philosophy,” Cheney told Rush. Before signing off, he added: “You’ll be happy with Harriet’s record, Rush. Trust me.” Ominous words, to be sure.
DeLay Machine Motors On—The law has finally caught up with “The Hammer.” An indictment, on September 28, charged Representative Tom DeLay (R-TX) with one count of criminal conspiracy. Days later DeLay’s lawyers petitioned District Attorney Ronnie Earle to drop the charge. Instead, Earle countered with a weightier count of money laundering, arguing that DeLay “did knowingly conduct, supervise, and facilitate” the movement of $190,000 in corporation contributions through the Republican National Committee and back to candidates for the Texas state legislature, in violation of Texas law.
DeLay’s legal saga proceeds on October 21, when the ex-House Majority Leader travels to Austin for an arraignment hearing. If the past two week are any indication, he’ll be anything but remorseful. Following the initial indictment, DeLay aggressively circled the media wagons, calling Earle a “rogue district attorney” and “unabashed partisan zealot.” It’s a criticism DeLay has voiced before, prompting Earle to remark last year: “Being called partisan and vindictive by Tom DeLay is like being called ugly by a frog.”
Regardless of DeLay’s legal fortunes, his “DeLay Inc.” political machine will remain active on Capitol Hill. “Protégés of the wounded Texan still hold virtually every position of influence in the House, including the office of speaker,” the Washington Post reported recently. “DeLay’s former staff members are securely in the lobbying offices for many of the largest corporations and business advocacy groups.”
DeLay’s temporary successor as Majority Leader, Representative Roy Blunt (R-MO), effectively led the coordination between lawmakers and lobbyists on K Street. The net effect: “Lawmakers-turned-corporate lobbyists . . . remain among the most influential figures on Capitol Hill,” the Post wrote, “often more than lawmakers in writing policy and plotting political strategy.”
Changing the “culture of corruption,” as Democrats now refer to the Republican leadership’smodus operandi, requires not just indictments but full-scale lobbying reform. To that end, Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation to improve lobbying disclosure, curb lavish trips and gifts, and close the revolving door between Congress and K Street. Not one Republican has yet to sign on.
Propaganda Doesn’t Pay—“It is not legal for our government to subject the American public to domestic propaganda,” Chip Pitts wrote in our last issue, referring to, among other secret behavior, placing conservative commentator Armstrong Williams on the Department of Education’s payroll to hype Bush’s No Child Left Behind. Now, in its first official ruling on the subject, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has confirmed that such “covert propaganda” is indeed illegal. “We see no use for such information except for partisan political purposes,” the GAO wrote. “Engaging in a purely political activity such as this is not a proper use of appropriated funds.” Williams has promised to repay part of the $240,000 he accepted.