October 27, 2005
This morning's bombshell announcement by the White House that Harriet Miers wants her nomination to be withdrawn will take some pressure off the Bush administration, and hopefully signifies the low point of the recent downward spiral. If Bush had persisted in promoting her nomination, he would have wasted precious political capital (much of which was squandered earlier this year on an ill-considered proposal to privatize Social Security), and undermined his rhetoric about "staying the course" in Iraq. The President was correct to say that "disclosures [of internal White House documents requested by several senators] would undermine a President's ability to receive candid counsel" (see whitehouse.gov), but that just goes to show why a White House official should not have been nominated for a high judicial post in the first place. Now the question is, Can Ms. Miers continue to serve the president effectively in her present position as White House counsel? No.
Nearly 200 people attended last night's "debate" (actually a "forum," sponsored by the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce) between the candidates running for commissioner of revenue in Staunton. It was a startling display of public interest in an office that seldom arouses much passion. Incumbent Ray Ergenbright made his points about the need to maintain checks and balances in city government, and to ensure democratic accountability for municipal functions. He calmly explained that he had only limited involvement in the choice of the faulty R-MASS system, and assured voters that the transition to the new MUNIS system is succeeding. Challenger Maggie Ragon blamed Ergenbright for the money that was wasted on the software snafu, but did not provide any evidence for this accusation. She made much of the alleged "communication breakdown" between the Commissioner and other city offices, but did not even attempt to explain what that might have to do with the software snafu. She also highlighted her experience in business, saying she is not "a politician" (gasp!), but the issue of her business partnership with the city official who originally pinned the blame on Ergenbright did not even come up. Ergenbright, who is too decent and civil to call an opponent's motives into question, declined the opportunity to raise this conflict-of-interest issue. Neither the Waynesboro News Virginian nor the Augusta Free Press mentioned the very telling, awkward moment toward the end of the debate when Ms. Ragon declined to state whether she favors maintaining the commissioner of revenue office as an elected position; [the Staunton News Leader alluded to it briefly]. Her strained hesitation in that response left little doubt that she shares the City Council majority's desire not to maintain that constitutional elected office for which she is running. How ironic, and how intriguing!