Harriet Miers: Pit Bull or Poodle?
With Alan Greenspan
due to step down in January as chairman of the Federal Reserve,
there is a lot of speculation about who will replace him. Big-name
candidates abound, but I'm betting on the accountant who does
President Bush's taxes.
writer Henry Adams said that the progression of presidents from
Washington to Grant refuted the theory of evolution. He could
have said the same thing about the Supreme Court appointments
made by George W. Bush, who has nominated one of the strongest
candidates in the last 50 years and one of the weakest.
For the latest vacancy,
Bush conducted a wide-ranging national search and ended up with
someone from down the hall. After John Roberts, the only appropriate
response to the nomination of Harriet Miers, on either the right
or the left, is: You cannot be serious.
It is hardly her fault
that she is not Supreme Court material. Miers is an accomplished
attorney who has worked for corporations that can afford high-quality
representation. She landed a plum legal job as White House counsel.
She's had a career plenty of young lawyers might aspire to.
But the fact that
Toby Keith has sold a lot of CDs doesn't mean he ought to be singing
with the Metropolitan Opera. There is nothing on Miers' resume
to suggest she is prepared to handle the formidable responsibilities
of a Supreme Court justice.
The official White
House line is that she was chosen because she was the very best
person available. Asked if she was "the most qualified to
serve on the Supreme Court," Bush replied with charming circularity,
"Yes. Otherwise I wouldn't have put her on." The amazing
thing is not that he could make such a claim, but that he could
make it without laughing out loud.
As lawyers go, she
undoubtedly is very good. As Supreme Court justices go, however,
she does not even rise to the level of mediocre. If you had asked
a host of appellate attorneys, law professors and heads of major
law firms a few weeks ago to name 50 people deserving of consideration
for the court, it's safe to bet none would have suggested Harriet
Bush makes much of
her ascendance to the head of the State Bar of Texas. But hundreds
of people have headed state bar associations, and it appears that
all of the others were absent from his short list.
About all she has
demonstrated is a quality prized in this White House: a deep and
fervent devotion to the president. Former Bush speechwriter David
Frum says Miers once told him that Bush was the most brilliant
man she had ever met.
The president insists
that if she's good enough for him, she's good enough for the rest
of us. "I know her character," he declared. "I've
worked with Harriet. . . . I know her heart. . . . I know exactly
the kind of judge she'll be." Message: Trust me.
A president is entitled
to give priority to personal loyalty and comfort when he is choosing,
say, a staff secretary -- a job Miers previously held. But for
a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, a bit
more should be expected.
Bush has described
her as "a pit bull in size 6 shoes," but she looks more
like his pet poodle. Even the accolades from Senate Republicans
suggest as much. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, promised fellow conservatives
that "she's going to basically do what the president thinks
she should, and that is be a strict constructionist."
When John Roberts
was appointed, the president's congressional allies extolled his
superb qualifications for the job. Now, most of them have decided
that qualifications are an overrated commodity. With a few exceptions,
Republicans are ready to settle for an undistinguished nominee
just because the president wants her.
is the response of liberals and Democrats -- many of whom would
prefer a nonentity with unknown views to an outstanding conservative
legal thinker. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada practically
gushed. Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
expressed satisfaction at the choice of someone who "wasn't
on the short list of the ideological right."
Many people on opposite
sides of the partisan and philosophical divide now concur on one
thing: Quality doesn't matter. Most Republicans apparently will
support Miers because they're afraid to challenge their president,
and many Democrats will go along because they're afraid whom Bush
might appoint if Miers is defeated.
So much for the Senate's
role as watchdog of judicial nominees. Miers may be a poodle,
but she's not the only one.
Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate
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