Monday, October 03, 2005

Justice who? Or, Can I be a nominee too?

Crony seems to be a word in frequent use since the announcement this morning of White House Counsel Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court.

While crony is certainly a mean-spirited term, the implication that she has worked very closely with President Bush is spot on.

She has gone from his choice of Texas Lottery Commission Chairman in the mid-'90s to the White House Counsel in 2004. Along the way she has rarely been too far from the President's side.

She served as a personal lawyer for Bush and did exploratory opposition research on his record to dig up any embarrassing details before the 1994 Governor's race and again in 1998. The 1998 research was in part a prep for his potential 2000 Presidential run; Bush was seen as the front-runner after his 1998 reelection.

After President Bush's 2000 victory, Miers came on as Staff Secretary in 2001. As White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said,
"There is not a piece of paper that goes into the Oval Office or that comes out of the Oval Office that doesn't go through Harriet's hands." - Dallas Morning News March 22, 2001.
She later moved on to Deputy Chief of Staff for policy and then replaced Alberto Gonzales as White House Counsel after he was appointed Attorney General, a position her name was floated for back in 1998 (Washingtonian Magazine, July 1998) when he was seen as a potential front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

It was from her post as White House Counsel that Miers led the search for the next Supreme Court nominee and spearheaded Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts' nomination process. She will now follow in the path she laid out for Roberts.

Miers' most commented upon quality seems to be her ability to "fly under the radar". While that would seem to help deflect criticism from the Democrats (it's hard to criticize a record that doesn't exist) her unobtrusive record might also be seen as undistinguished by conservatives who have, so far, been the most vocal criticizing her. From distinguished conservative journal the National Review Online's The Corner:
THE GOOD NEWS ON MIERS [Rick Brookhiser]
It's not as bad as Caligula putting his horse in the Senate.
And from the NR's editorial board, a more measured evaluation.
These things are either not present, or are present to a smaller degree, in Miers’s case. Being a Bush loyalist and friend is not a qualification for the Supreme Court. She may have been the best pick from within Bush’s inner circle. It seems impossible to maintain that she was the best pick from any larger field. It seems highly unlikely that she will be the kind of justice who, in combination with Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas, will attract additional votes by the sheer force of her arguments. This nomination was a missed opportunity.
If this is the reception Bush's nominee is receiving on the first day, it is likely that the next few weeks will be tumultuous for her.

In general Democrats on the left have said little. One exception that stands out, however, is Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) who, inexplicably, had this to say:
"It appears the President has made a sound choice in Harriet Miers. From every indication it seems that she has the qualifications and experience to serve on the Supreme Court. Based on her background and experience, if confirmed, she would undoubtedly bring a new perspective and balance to the Court."
Despite Miers' nearly blank visage if there is one thing she is not bringing to the table is is qualifications to serve as a Supreme Court Justice.

She has argued no major cases, never served on a bench and spent most of her recent professional life as as advisor to President Bush. She is a loyalty pick, plain and simple.

I am not the first to point this out but if I were a part of the "party of values" that delivered for President Bush in 2004, I would ask for my money back.

- Murphy

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