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Sir Winston Churchill

10.24.2005

The Curious Credentialist

Baseball Crank wonders why Blogfather Hugh Hewitt's in the tank for Harriet Miers.

I've wondered this myself, but I think the real answer is more than pure partisan loyalty.

Hewitt, like many lawyers-cum-bloggers, seems to overvalue resume when it comes to valuing opinions. Indeed, this seems to be a primary mechanism for defending bloggers against the charge that we're a bunch of pajama-clad crazies typing away in our parents' basement: see all the lawyers who blog? We're smarter than the folks who get paid to provide opinions.

Yet resume is no substitute for credibility. Clausewitz and SLA Marshall wrote seminal works on warfare which are widely taught and referenced decades after their demises, yet they were not great generals or conquerors. Why do generals refer to them? Because they have credibility on the subject---their opinions make sense and have proven useful in the military arts.

Mark Steyn is a hugely influential columnist whom Hewitt regularly professes to admire. He opines on the entire gamut of policulti concerns. He is a writer. I am unaware of any special background he has in any of the areas he comments upon aside from being very observant and very intelligent. Yet he has enormous credibility, at least within conservative circles.

I've found lawyers as a rule to be enormously concerned with status. Hewitt himself has a great resume---he has walked the corridors of power and worked alongside the movers and shakers of the Right. Does this give him credibility? Not necessarily---David Gergen and Dick Morris have wielded similar influence, yet their predictions and advice routinely turn out to be wrong-headed.

Hewitt is a true party man, but I doubt this is what is guiding him in his support of Miers, who after all didn't attend a prestigious school, wasn't a leading light of conservative jurisprudence, and is far less eloquent and knowledgeable than John Roberts. Moreover, Miers' nomination clearly opened the door to Democrats' charges of cronyism in the White House, an allegation which wouldn't have any traction in the wider public had Bush not appointed her to SCOTUS. Hewitt the Party Man is well aware that splitting your base is a dumb idea. He clearly knows this nomination has done just that.

Why support it, then?

I think for two reasons:

1. She is an evangelical Christian. Hewitt has been a driving force behind the promotion of the "Godblogs"---blogs primarily devoted to Christian matters. If Miers goes through, having an evangelical on the Court will be a big win for Christian fundamentalists, no matter how you slice it. This is turn will reinvigorate a key component of the GOP base which has been ill-at-ease with the President's lack of fervor in the culture war.

2. Ego. Hewitt loves to chastise conservatives for being unrealistic in the political arena. By staking out an early position of support on Miers, he has become Defender of the Faith for the GOP. He is effectively shaping the debate, at least the pro-Miers side of it. If he winds up pulling the conservative side of the blogosphere along with him, it will be an enormous testament to his influence and powers of persuasion. As a lawyer and a talk radio host, I'm sure this outcome would appeal to Hewitt, regardless of whether Miers winds up helping the GOP in elections going forward.

I like Hugh and am enormously grateful for what he's done for the Republican Party, for the conservative movement, and for righty bloggers, but I think he's badly misread the field when it comes to this nomination.

George W. Bush simply does not have enough credibility with conservatives at this point to say, "Trust me", and unfortunately, neither does Hugh.

We need more.

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