Politics ain’t beanbag

Here in the UK, the Government has been criticised for “climbing down” in its presentation of a new bill to curb smoking in pubs: instead of an outright ban, it will allow smoking in private clubs and in pubs where “food” is not served (where the definition of “food” isn’t quite settled). Whether you think such a ban is Nanny-statism or sound health policy, it seems weird to complain when the government has just followed Bismarck’s dictum: “politics is the art of the possible”. Are we meant to be shocked that the government has… compromised? Isn’t that what governments are meant to do in the face of disagreement?

Back in the US, yesterday we heard about Harriet Miers’ withdrawal of her nomination for the US Supreme Court. It has always seemed to me, although it does require an amount of cleverness on the part of the President that seems hard to imagine, that this has always been the plan. Nominate the loyal, semi-competent Miers, someone without a lengthy conservative paper trail.
The right, Bush’s base, doesn’t like her because she’s not obviously a raving conservative lunatic (replace with a positive description if you want a non-partisan version of the story).
Scooter the Muppet
And the left doesn’t like her because, well, Bush nominated her. So she pulls out. But now Bush gets to nominate a right-wing ideologue and look as though he’s only doing it because he has to, not because he wants to. So Bush looks more moderate, the court gets more conservative, the right is happy, and the USA’s takeover by a cabal of neocons and fundamentalist crackpots goes on and on.

Today, though, Miers’ dropping out has been overshadowed. And as happy as I am to see any pain in the Bush White House, it’s hard to take the indictment of someone named “Scooter” seriously.