Peggy Noonan, who knows a thing or two about Oval Office strategy talks, weighs in on the issue of How Harriet Got Religion and just nails it. Again and again, I will raise the question: Did someone play the Jesus card on purpose in an emotional attempt to rally the base and create flaming headlines that bury the crony angle? Who knows?
So here is Noonan (with a nod to the entertainment culture):
Barring a withdrawal of her nomination, it's going to come down to Harriet Meirs's ability to argue her own case before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If the American people decide she seems like a good person -- sympathetic, wise, even-keeled, knowledgeable -- she'll be in; and if not, not. . . .
So the administration can turn this around. Or rather Ms. Meirs can. In her favor: America has never met her, she'll get to make a first impression. Working against her: But they'll already be skeptical. By the time of the hearings she'll have been painted as Church Lady. There's a great old American tradition of not really liking Church Lady.
P.S. Yes, I saw the Dallas Morning News take on the HHGR story, but after I had written the overflight story on the major papers. It has the usual material from the omnipresent Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht. Reporter Sam Hodges also notes that Miers may have grown up Catholic or it might have been Protestant. Who knows?
But he also jumps down I-35 to Baylor University for some "are they evangelicals or not" information from the place where I got my master of arts degree in church-state studies. The people down there take words like this seriously, which is good, in an era when mainstream journalists start talking about, well, Catholics who "vote evangelical."
By the way, Texas readers will certainly note the presence of the explosive word "infallible" in this story -- which is the one-word land mine that blew up the Southern Baptist Convention 25 years ago. There are a few Southern Baptist newspaper readers in Texas and lots of them vote. For which party? Both, actually.
Here is Hodges.
These churches describe themselves as evangelical.
"That'll tell you a lot theologically," said Barry Hankins, an associate professor of history and church-state studies at Baylor University. "It'll tell you they affirm the authority of Scripture and they affirm a conversion experience followed by baptism."
Indeed, the "What We Believe" section of Valley View's Web site (www.vvcc.org) speaks of the Bible as "the only infallible, inspired, authoritative Word of God." Dr. Hankins said Christian churches such as Valley View have tended to be less politically active than many evangelical churches. Justice Hecht agreed that that had been the case at Valley View.
"They are concerned, but the thought in the past has always been that the emphasis of the church should be on its primary mission" -- conversion and ministering to believers. That said, they have had pro-life literature in the church building and pro-life speakers over the years," he said.
What does this tell us about Miers? Who knows?
But if Saturday Night Live calls in Dana Carvey to morph Ms. Miers into the Church Lady, then -- amazingly enough -- her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court is probably toast. It's America.
Am I joking? Who knows?