course, we conservatives were hoping for -- and had justifiable
reasons to expect -- that President Bush would nominate any
one of the many brilliant conservative legal intellectuals who
our movement has been carefully nurturing and advancing these
past 30 years. We raised them from precocious pups. We gave
them succor when they presented themselves in the political
jungle. We advanced them carefully through the training grounds
of high office. And the deepness of their thoughts and the deftness
of their words made them beloved of the tribe.
now this president, who we with our own millions of arms raised
on high, has spurned our best and chosen one of his lackluster
But despite our admiration for sapience, as a species we humans
are better at biting than thinking -- which is understandable
as we have aspired to thought only for a few hundred thousand
years, while we have been biting and slashing since our DNA
shared space in the crocodile.
And I confess I was doing a fair bit of snapping and snarling
myself on Monday. But after my reptilian aggression subsided,
it dawned on me that I needed to distinguish between the desirable
and the necessary. In politics, we are well ahead of the game
if we gain 50 percent of our goals. I have spent whole decades
in politics where we accomplished almost nothing except a hard-fought-for
Of course I would have vastly and justifiably preferred President
Bush to have chosen a certain, proven, intellectually formidable
legal warrior (of whom he had an abundant choice). But I have
to admit on reflection that even with the dull, dutiful Dallas
evangel, it is much more likely than not, that 10 years from
now she will be voting quite reliably with Roberts, Scalia,
Thomas and the one or two more generally conservative justices
who George Bush will probably have the chance to place on the
court in the remaining three and a third years of his presidency.
It could have been so much more. But it is probably enough.
And in politics, when we probably get enough -- we should be
is why the Democrats this week do not share in glee proportionally
with our despond. First, they feared to bite the seemingly guileless,
yet cunning, Adonis who Bush first sent up for confirmation.
Now they are uncertain how to get their yawning mandibles to
grab and hold the hard but slight bones of the president's meager
offering the second time around.
It is often observed that each new president seems the opposite
personality of the one he follows (Washington and Adams, Buchanan
and Lincoln, Wilson and Harding, FDR and Truman, Eisenhower
and JFK, Nixon and Carter -- (Ford doesn't count) Reagan and
GHW Bush). And so it is with Clinton and W.
Clinton had an uncontrollable need to be loved (yes, that way
as well as politically), GW Bush seems to be preternaturally
a rock and an island unto himself. He is not only comfortable
in his own skin -- as we used to say admiringly, he is positively
ornery in it. One might go so far as to say he enjoys infuriating
both friend and foe. If Clinton's weakness was unmanly; W's
self-possession is too manly. As Barbara Walters might say:
He is not being gentle with us.
As in life, so in politics, if one seeks disappointment, one
will surely find it. And conservatives have not had to look
hard this week to find the gloom. But it is the disappointment
of an unrequited ardor, of a not yet fully consummated passion.
Such youthful vigor inevitably finds its satisfaction.
Consider, in the alternative, the deeper disappointment that
liberals contemplate in this dreary autumn of their aspirations.
The last remaining champions of their principles sit aged and
infirm on the high bench -- their former brilliance now brittle
and susceptible to being chiseled and crumbled by even the most
modest conservative laborers.
Victory may not be heroic, but it will be ours.