Monday, October 03, 2005

When the President has to choose from a position of weakness, it's a good day

This may come as a surprise, but I am thinking that the nomination by President Bush of his personal lawyer, Harriet Miers, to the Supreme Court could be very good luck for us as Democrats. Clearly, he is in no position politically to fight out a tough confrontation in a Senate confirmation fight, and it shows in his choice.

We know that Miers has never been a judge (and therefore has no record-- remember that lawyers say and do what they are paid for), which may mean a great many things. We can safely assume that she is a typical Republican party hack (but we knew that no matter who Bush nominated, it would be some brand of conservative), and that she has said on record that the Shrub is the most brilliant man she has ever met.

Read that again. Miers is sixty, never married, and thinks Shrub is a genius, in fact the biggest genius she has ever met. Or at least she has SAID that's what she thinks. This tells me all I need to know.

Since no sixty year old lawyer is actually that stupid or challenged for intellectual experience, but all experienced lawyers are experts at playing to the audience, I consider this to be flattery. Pure and simple. And, it worked. Today, it worked. She told the emperor his clothes looked great, and he gave her what she wanted, ahead of a great many more qualified lawyers, in fact even ahead of her predecessor as his personal lawyer, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (I've never cared for Zap Albert, but there is no question that he would have been a more qualified choice).

Look at what this appointment says.

It says, that experience and qualifications mean nothing, it's not what you know, it's who you know.

It says, quotas are strictly in place. Do you honestly think that such an undistinguished lawyer as Miers would have been considered if she were a man? But with increasing pressure to choose a woman with the departure of Justice O'Connor, it is clear that gender played a role in the decision. Now, do you seriously think that the Bush administration will be taken seriously next time they argue against affirmative action?

It says, at least as defined by the Bush administration, the best way for a woman to jump up to the top is still by stroking a man's ego.

It says, when Republicans talk about qualifications, merit, and earning your way to the top, these are empty words. As Democrats we may talk about fairness, equality and diversity as goals we are working towards, but at least we MEAN what we say!

It says, that those who have pointed out since the Michael Brown debacle that the Bush administration is a virtual study in cronyism, riddled with incompetent political hacks, are right. And those who have been trying to deny and defend the Bush administration against the cronyism charge, are fools.

As to the matter of the hapless Miers on the Supreme Court, there are two things to consider.

The first is that during the administration of Bush's father, the elder Bush, during a period when his approval ratings were low, opted to avoid a bitter confirmation hearing over a vacancy on the Supreme Court by choosing the 'stealth' candidate, a judge of very few published opinions, named David Souter. No one was sure exactly what he thought about a great deal of subjects. He said very little during his confirmation hearing, and was confirmed easily. Souter is now part of the court's liberal wing. I would be surprised if Miers is another Souter, but I'd rather take my chances on an unknown than someone I know would be bad, such as Samuel Alito or Michael Luttig. Ironically, if the decision was to select a woman, Miers may have been appointed ahead of hardcore conservative Edith Jones, who was also the runner-up for the Souter nomination.

The second is that not being a strong and 'principled conservative' in the mold of an Antonin Scalia or a William Rehnquist, Miers, even if her inclinations are to be a conservative (and what else could we expect from Dubya), is not likely to be a leading intellect on the court, and could be persuaded away from opinions that conservatives like Scalia would never budge on, if a sufficiently good argument were made. Any of the other three judges, or at least a dozen more that Mr. Bush could have named would have been such 'principled conservatives,' which Miss Miers is not. As time goes on, her ties to Bush will become more and more distant, and I believe that she is likely to be one of those judges who may be persuadable.

As a couple of aside details, if the President had nominated one of them, very likely the whole 'gang of fourteen' compromise would have broken down, leading to a vote on the 'nuclear option' and putting us back where we were not that long ago. Also, by not picking someone from a circuit court, he denies himself the chance to move a younger conservative up the ladder.

She will certainly be grilled at confirmation, but all in all, I think that as Democrats we may have dodged a bullet.

Let us pray that she is the last Justice of the United States Supreme Court that Mr. Bush nominates this term.


dorsano said...

as Americans we may have dodged a bullet - only a very small minority want the court to follow the GOP's base over a cliff.

Beth said...

The nomination of Miers means exactly that Eli.

Experience is worth nothing. Bedfellows everthing.

Chuck said...

You've given me more to think about- from absolutely nothing on this "surprise". I still say fight it, but I get a strange feeling that bush won't care either way. We just don't need that in there for the next 20+ years.

Chuck said...


I understand you completely, but:

The only problem is that, no matter who it is, IT'S GOING TO BE A bUSH CRONY.

dorsano said...

The Miers' appointment brings to mind Henry VIII's work to have his long time friend and Chancellor, Thomas Beckett installed as Archbishop of Canterbury - things didn't go quite the way the king expected after Beckett became primate.