George W. Bush's administration has come through what many have been saying would be its worst week, and it has turned out to be -- well, if not one of the best, then one that is far more encouraging than most of the mainstream media expected.
Four events, or non-events, have put the administration in a position to make progress and advance the standing of the president and his party in public policy and in the public opinion polls.
The first of these events, at least in world importance, was the announcement on Oct. 25 of the approval of the Iraqi constitution in the election held 10 days before. Mainstream media, unsurprisingly, were able to restrain their enthusiasm. The Washington Post ran a front-page story on the 2,000th American death in Iraq and ran a story on the approval of the constitution on page A13.
The successful election must not be allowed to get in the way of the media meme of quagmire and unending death and destruction. But in fact, the news about Iraq is encouraging. The Sunnis have now been brought into the political process. Voter turnout was up from the January elections, and the number of attacks way down. The targeting of Iraqis by the terrorists is surely not increasing their popularity. The number of competent Iraqi military and security units has been rapidly increasing. And the desire for democracy continues to increase in the Middle East.
The second event was Bush's appointment on Oct. 24 of Ben Bernanke to be Federal Reserve chairman. Federal Reserve chairmen don't come and go very often: Alan Greenspan lasted 18 years, and there have been only five Fed chairmen over the last 54 years. Bernanke is a widely respected monetary economist, and his appointment was greeted favorably by the stock market and just about all observers. Another bull's-eye, like John Roberts.
Unfortunately, Bush's Supreme Court appointment of Harriet Miers was not another bull's-eye. But at least the mistake was rectified in the third big event of the week, Miers' withdrawal on Oct. 27. Leading the opposition to Miers were many conservatives, who argued that she wasn't reliably conservative and lacked the qualifications for the job.
Senators found her underwhelming in interviews, and after reports by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Bush wisely chose the way out pointed to by columnist Charles Krauthammer: The senators wanted White House documents, Bush refused to hand them over, and Miers withdrew. Now, Bush has a chance to make a nomination that will evoke the same positive response, at least among Republicans, that Roberts did.