What can Bush do, short of sackcloth and ashes?

As Peggy Noonan sees it, President Bush is in “the first political crisis of his presidency, a crisis unusual, even perhaps unprecedented, in modern American politics, in that his own side has risen up and declared it no longer sees him as one of them.”

What Bush needs to do, she says, is to undergo a kind of political reprise of the personal transformation he underwent at age 40: to look at his own failings, change his ways, and re-attune himself to the larger conservative movement of which he is ostensibly a part but to which he has been disloyal. In a word, repent. Noonan’s analysis of Bush’s problem and the cure is spiritually sound, but impossible of execution given that Bush is not a real conservative and never has been one.

Yet short of such a large-scale re-orientation, I see no way for Bush to heal the rift with his base. I, of course, do not want the rift to be healed, as I think the conservative secession from Bush is a very welcome and positive development, both for conservatism and for America. At the same time, apart from his specific relationship with the conservatives, Bush must and can break free of the current impasse, in which, having committed his administration to a manifestly unqualified candidate for the most specious and embarrassing reasons, he has lost his credibility and will be unable to lead the country for the next three years. He therefore needs to withdraw Harriet Miers, then bite the bullet and fulfill his prior commitments by nominating (and committing the energies of his administration to supporting the confirmation of) a solid conservative jurist to the Court. As unpleasant as this will be for him, it is the only way to get out of the dead end in which he has trapped himself and restore some measure of credibility to his presidency. Such a course of action by Bush will mollify without winning back the conservatives, who, short of his engaging in an all-out, Noonan-type repentance, will never embrace him again as they have done in the past—which, as I’ve said, is a good thing for America. The steps I’ve suggested are, nevertheless, the only way for Bush to leave this insane Miers chapter behind and move forward, thus avoiding a Carter-like breakdown of leadership which will not be good for anyone.

That’s the best advice I can come up with. But according to Byron York this morning at NRO, Bush is as committed as ever to his irrational course:

In an interview with National Review this morning, a senior Senate Republican said he firmly expects President Bush to continue to stand behind Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. The Republican said the president is absolutely convinced, without question, that Miers is the right choice, and that even if Miers herself wanted to withdraw, the president would not accept it.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 21, 2005 09:57 AM | Send

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