Saturday, October 08, 2005

Two Takes on Harriet Miers

Here are today's editorials from John Tierney and Maureen Dowd in the New York Times about Harriet Miers:

The New York Times
October 8, 2005
The Trouble With Harry

Conservatives may consider Harriet Miers the last straw.

But what will Harriet Miers consider the last straw with conservatives?

Maybe it will be Bork Borking her.

The old Supreme Court nominee reject rejected the new Supreme Court nominee, calling her "a disaster on every level" and "a slap in the face" to conservatives. Robert Bork complained to Tucker Carlson on MSNBC last night that Ms. Miers had "no experience with constitutional law whatever," that it was wrong for W. to choose a justice simply to have a woman's perspective and that conservative reaction veered between "disapproval and outrage."


Way to crack the gal right across the kisser, when she's already on the ropes from so much conservative wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Senator Sam Brownback suggested it would be futile for the "very decent lady," as he dismissively called her, to compete with John Roberts's masterly performance because that would be like "following Elvis."

Pat Buchanan told Keith Olbermann that conservatives were "agonized," "depressed," and "virtually heartbroken," and Charles Krauthammer wrote: "If Harriet Miers were not a crony of the president of the United States, her nomination to the Supreme Court would be a joke, as it would have occurred to no one else to nominate her." Ouch.

Conservatives are shocked to discover that President Bush has been stuffing his administration with cronies and mediocrities in important places? If Ms. Miers were a sworn foe of Roe v. Wade and an ardent advocate of originalism in constitutional jurisprudence, would the same conservatives be so sick about her qualifications? Clarence Thomas, after all, was anything but a leading light of American jurisprudence.

The New Republic this week chooses the biggest 15 hacks in the Bush administration, noting that "no administration has etched the principles of hackocracy into its governing philosophy as deeply as this one." Ms. Miers wins at No. 1.

W.'s case for her elevation is their closeness, because she is, as Alexander Hamilton put it, one of the "obsequious instruments of his pleasure."

But there is some sign, at least, that there are limits to cronyism, even for the Bush administration. The president had nominated Timothy Flanigan to be deputy attorney general, a job in which he would oversee all U.S. attorneys, the criminal division of Justice and the F.B.I. His qualification for this was a stint as Alberto Gonzales's deputy White House counsel, a job where he helped write the torture memos. In Congressional testimony at one point, he said that waterboarding was a good thing, because it doesn't leave visible or permanent marks. After his White House stint, Mr. Flanigan was a senior executive at Tyco International, where his main contribution was hiring Jack Abramoff, the Republican influence peddler, to protect Tyco's offshore tax shelters. Yesterday, Mr. Flanigan withdrew amid growing questions.

The right is right about Ms. Miers's insufficiency to join the Brethren, even if the right is cynical. Actually, there's a lot of cynicism in the Miers affair. Those on the left are perfectly happy to look away from mediocrity because it is the lesser of two evils, because they were spared the nightmare of a reactionary maniac.

W. is so loath to leave his little bubble - where caretakers tell him how brilliant and bold he is - that he keeps selecting the people in charge of the selection committees. It's just so much easier to choose a sycophant who's already in the room than to create one from scratch.

He used to disdain pointy-headed liberals from Yale, but now he's angry at pointy-headed conservatives demanding some sort of genius for the Supreme Court, rather than a den mother who did all of W.'s legal wet work and who prefers John Grisham to Leo Strauss.

While the Bushies have been trying to reassure the right that W. knows Harry's heart, that she's a good Christian church lady who will vote in a way that will please them, Harry is probably working herself up to a good grudge against all those meanies who are savaging her as a lightweight apple polisher. Imagine! After she rechristened herself midlife as born again and Republican for them.

Even if she was going to be a loyal conservative jurist before, why should she be now, after all the loathsome things they've said?

The old maxim goes that a neoconservative is a liberal who got mugged by reality. But if you're a conservative mugged by conservatives, neo and paleo, it may have the opposite effect and turn you into ... David Souter!!!!

The New York Times
October 8, 2005
Justice Miers? Get Real

The contrarian in me has been trying to find a reason to defend Harriet Miers against her critics, but it's too much of a stretch. We need a new nominee - or at least a more entertaining way to choose a nominee.

I searched for a good rationale Thursday night at the Woodstock of conservatism, the dinner in Washington celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National Review. But I ended up feeling like Diogenes as Republicans kept shaking their heads and shrugging helplessly.

A few friends and colleagues testified to what a nice person she is and how hard she works. But I heard more stories about her being indecisive as well as a micromanager at the White House, fussing about the punctuation and the proper margins on memos.

There were two plausible arguments on her behalf. One was that there were no alternatives to her, since the other candidates would have infuriated either the left or the right. John Roberts managed to become an expert in constitutional law without leaving a paper trail, but he'd had rare foresight. The other candidates had made the fatal mistake of discussing important issues.

The second argument was that Miers's lack of experience wasn't even a drawback. Being a Supreme Court justice wasn't all that hard - look at all the nonjudges from second-tier schools who'd done the job. In fact, her background was a plus, because she'd spent most of her life beyond the Beltway and outside what President Bush called the "judicial monastery."

Instead of writing laws or issuing decrees from the bench, she spent most of her life working for businesses that were coping with the rules. Her judgment would be tempered by "real-world experience."

This was an appealing argument, and it made me want to side with Miers against the elitists making fun of her background. I tried making this case for Miers with a Boston University law professor, Randy Barnett. But, like a typical nitpicking legal scholar, he had to complicate the issue.

"If real-world experience is the best qualification for the Supreme Court, then presidents can appoint anyone they want," he said. "Why do you even need to be a lawyer? There are millions of people outside the Beltway with real-world experience."

Fair point. Who is to say those millions' worldly experience is any less real than Miers's? They also meet the crucial qualification for today's nominee: no expressed opinions. Like Miers, they eschewed the bench, following the modern equivalent of the advice from Sir Joseph, the First Lord of the Admiralty in "H.M.S. Pinafore": "Stick close to your desks and never go to sea, and you all may be Rulers of the Queen's Navee!"

To choose a nominee, we should do more than rely on the president's word or on a confirmation hearing in which Miers will be determined to say nothing of interest. We need the best process available today to determine the nominee's real-world credentials.

That, of course, would be a reality TV show. Pit Miers against other would-be justices in "Road Rulings," which would test their real-worldliness as they traveled the hinterland in an RV. They'd cope with the arcana of daily life. Do they know what a gallon of milk costs? Can they pump their own gas?

They'd emerge in small towns and large malls to test their legal skills. Can they help someone beat a speeding ticket? Can they arbitrate a divorce settlement? How will they apply the Supreme Court's definition of obscenity when they hear a case by a church group demanding that a newsstand stop selling Hustler and Barely Legal? Can they explain to a family why it would be a "public use" for the government to take its home to make room for Costco?

If this competition seems too time-consuming - I realize we have a vacancy to fill - then we could instead quickly replace Miers with a nominee who already has the perfect credentials, starting with her sex. She's an experienced judge yet hasn't ruffled feathers with rulings on constitutional law, and no one can accuse her of living in a judicial monastery.

Just this week she has dispensed justice to a tenant accused of making $3,000 in 900-number calls, a woman battling with her nanny over a loan for back surgery, and a 9-year-old girl accused of popping wheelies and wrecking a motorized minibike at a birthday party. If real-world experience is what the Supreme Court requires, all rise for Justice Judy.


At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing. Now would you be a real darling and put up all the oped columns unabriged on this blog everyday?


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