Transparent Means Desperate

[This column ran in the PG Sentinel this week:]


Well, the man in the White House is nothing if not transparent. His two picks for Supreme Court justices have solely one, solid, take-it-to-the-bank recommendation, that they are both joined at the hip to George W. Bush. The ties may be euphemized as “loyalty,” but they are more tangible than intangible, business and professional more than “ideological,” and more direct than those of any previous president in a century, so far as I know, to his Supreme Court justices. After all the hullabaloo about what a “conservative” pick might do to the highest court in the land, Bush’s brazenly self-serving choices corroborate what a guy I knew in Texas said: “I think what George W. Bush stands for is mainly George W. Bush.”


This president has chosen two individuals who can be counted on, when the chips are down, to help broker an out for him in an impeachment. In fact, it looks as though he is successfully installing two individuals who would willingly smooth and help him arrange a super-flight, for the Bush team and assorted relatives, etc., to Saudi Arabia, “to spare the nation the agony of a long impeachment process.”


Obviously the credentials of John Roberts outweigh those of Harriet Miers, although Roberts’ credentials do not include actual courtroom experience as a barrister. But the factor of judicial independence is no more present in his background than it is in Miers’. A man who seems to have been grooming himself for the high court since the beginning of his government legal career, he also has the distinction of having ruled in favor of the administration while being interviewed for the top job. The case, furthermore, concerned Iraq, the administration’s discredited imperialism. Roberts ruled pro-Iraq-imperialism, in effect, while his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, is partner in a firm touting its ability to boost business in Iraq. (Go to; click on “Iraq reconstruction.” Ms. Roberts’ particular areas of expertise include satellite technology and outsourcing.) By the way, the firm also touts its contacts in government.


There is something awfully predictable about all this. But in any case, apparently we have a judge who can be counted on not to recuse himself.


I fortunately ignored all the predictions about whom Bush would name to the court. But when one of the television networks provided a short list of names and photos just before Bush’s announcement, something about Roberts’ slightly smiling face caused me to say, “That’s the one.”


Again ignoring the predictions and commentary following Rehnquist’s death, I knew that Bush would name someone who would work primarily for him rather than for the nation. That has been his pattern with every appointment from press secretaries to heads of agencies. That he was so blatant as to name someone who has never even been a judge, though, did surprise me somewhat. Arguably the nomination of an individual who was in effect Bush’s own lawyer – given the way this White House operates – goes even farther than the nomination of an individual with a direct stake in Iraq business. (Roberts’ financial investments include his wife’s firm.)


Undoubtedly Bush, Roberts and Miers differ as individuals. Aside from differences in age, gender or level of education, two of them are much harder-working than the man who nominated them.


Such attributes as these three individuals do share, though, are uniformly scary. Whatever their actual religious practices or belief systems, they are apparently comfortable with both relentless self-aggrandizement and relentless domination of other people, domestically and abroad. None of them has demonstrated an ability or willingness to check abuses of entrenched power. And none of them has been held to any standard of taste or judgment, as the weird White House penchant for staged nomination announcements demonstrates again.


Most destructive of all for the immediate future of this country, however, is that all three seem to share a vested interest in the inordinate expansion of one branch of one government.


There is one comforting thought, such as it is, in all this. Even neo-cons and White House shills like William Kristol, George F. Will and Charles Krauthammer, the chief media supporters of administration imperialism, are now throwing his nominee overboard. Splash. They may not defeat her, but they have been impelled to distance themselves. That Bush could risk consequences like these means that his key pattern is getting too transparent to ignore. And transparent means desperate.


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