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Friday, October 28, 2005

Sand in the Gears

Howard Kurtz has a fairly comprehensive roundup of the media action surrounding the Miers nomination, particularly the role of blogs and New Media. Within the roundup is this fair and balanced insight from Fred Barnes (who only a week ago described the Miers opposition as "ill advised, counterproductive, and in some ways childish"):

After Bush nominated his White House counsel at 8 a.m. on Sept. 29, Ingraham was criticizing Miers on the air at 9, and Kristol was doing the same on Fox News minutes later. At 10:17, Frum assailed the nomination on his National Review blog, an essay that drew extra attention because he had worked with Miers as a White House speechwriter.

"The talking point was 'Let's wait for the hearings because we don't know anything,' " Frum said. "Well, I knew something. It was my responsibility. This was not fun. I take no pleasure in this. The long-term consequences for me are probably not going to be favorable."

In recent days, Frum helped found a group called Americans for Better Justice, along with such columnists as Mona Charen and Linda Chavez, an unsuccessful Bush nominee for labor secretary. The group raised $300,000 and began airing anti-Miers commercials.

"I don't think that's what journalists ought to do, even if they're in opinion journalism," said Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard. He was one of the most prominent conservatives writing that his ideological allies should hold their fire until the Senate confirmation hearings.

"I thought the conservatives who came out so harshly against Miers were off base, but they had some effect in keeping Republican senators from immediately jumping behind Miers," Barnes said.

And that kept the machinery of Washington from setting into motion a course of events that would have almost inevitably led to the confirmation of Harriet Miers. In the absence of immediate, negative outside forces, everyone would have fallen into traditional, comfortable roles, with the White House playing cat and mouse with information, GOP Senators being generally deferential to the White House, and Democrats making lots of ineffectual noise. No one inside the process who had the power to stop the nomination would have done so on their own, and Miers would have slipped through.

Politics in Washington is an organism with an autonomic nervous system. Without the application of an outside shock, it will quite often function as if on autopilot. When intervention is necessary, which appeared likely with the Miers nomination, better sooner than later, before the entire mass has achieved inexorable momentum.

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