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.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
After a week of efforts to equate the controversial remarks of two particular members of Congress, I pushed back a bit at New York:
It looks like House Republicans are going to deal with outrage over their perennial problem child Marjorie Taylor Greene by finding a Democrat to punish. That would be Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, according to Politico’s Huddle:
“’I think that Ilan should receive the same type of punishment as Marjorie because if it’s good for one, it is good for another,’ Rep. Maria Salazar (R-Fla.), who voted to remove Greene from her committees, told me. ‘Anti-semitism is the same thing as anti-semitism. It’s just that Nancy is afraid …'”
There are others who want to push for Omar’s removal as well as those looking to censure her over her war crimes remarks — and a few Dems may join them.
The idea of equating Omar’s complaints about unequal treatment of countries in investigating military misconduct with Greene’s comparisons of mask and vaccine requirements to the Holocaust is deeply satisfying to a lot of people. Republicans can continue their now-ancient habit of waving away extremism in their ranks by claiming it’s more prevalent on the other side of the aisle. Nervous centrist Democrats can document their nervous centrism by firing thunderbolts left and right. And most of all, accusing both parties of harboring those prone to “false equivalence” appeals to the false equivalence many Beltway media folks want to draw between Democrats and Republicans, who are engaged in the mutually assured destruction of partisan polarization.
There’s only one problem: Treating what MTG and Omar have said as equal expressions of false equivalence actually is false, as any honest evaluation of their words quickly shows. Greene bluntly compared COVID-19 precautions to the Holocaust, analogized vaccine documentation mandates to the Nazi practice of making Jews wear yellow stars, and, for good measure, said Democrats are like Nazis because they are “socialists.” Omar said this in the midst of a virtual exchange with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken over investigations of the brief but intense war between Israel and Hamas:
“’We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,’ she wrote. “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.’”
Her point wasn’t to say the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban were equally culpable in their commission of atrocities, but that all should be equally subject to international investigation. I suppose there are superpatriots who would dispute the idea that America has ever committed “unthinkable atrocities,” though the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear attacks, and of countless genocidal assaults on Native Americans, among many examples, suggest otherwise. But in any event, when challenged by Republicans and Democrats alike to make it clear she was not imputing equivalent culpability to these various nations and coalitions of fighters, Omar complied instantly:
“U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar said Thursday that she was ‘in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems … ‘
“’To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding [International Criminal Court] cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.’”
MTG, meanwhile, kept doubling down on her comparisons of public-health measures with the slaughter of many millions by Nazi Germany, and finally, after more than three weeks and a tour of the Holocaust Museum, she issued an apology that betrayed little understanding of the full scope of the Holocaust, and then refused to apologize for the Democrat-Nazi analogy.
Looking more broadly at the two women and their records of controversial utterances, Ilhan made an unfortunate and erroneous reference to “the Benjamins,” in a gratuitous comment about support for Israel in the United States, for which she “unequivocally” apologized:
“Anti-semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be able to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
Greene lost her committee assignments earlier this year after media focus on an almost incredible blizzard of incendiary statements she made on social media before coming to Congress (barely anyone even noticed her practice of brandishing an AR-15 when discussing her enemies in campaign ads). In February, she apologized for claiming that school shootings were fake and for promoting QAnon conspiracy theories. She never apologized for happily contemplating violence against congressional Democrats (including, very specifically, Ilhan Omar) and the Speaker of the House, or for her unusually aggressive support of Trump’s electoral big lie and the effort in January to overturn the presidential election results, or for her own subscription to very weird anti-Semitic claims.
If you cannot discern a qualitative difference between Omar’s “outrages” and Greene’s, and between the speed and coherence of their clarifications and apologies, it may be time for some remedial work in logic and rhetoric. These two members of Congress aren’t alike at all, and as much as I sometimes disagree with Ilhan Omar, treating her as a left-wing MTG is lazy and just plain wrong.