Talking to myself about foreign policy, US politics, technology, &c.

Supreme Quag-Miers

Harriet Miers is an unqualified disaster for President Bush. Reeling from Hurricane Katrina, the administration has stumbled from that debacle into a firestorm of protest with her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. She seems to be an extraordinary figure, bringing together in one person the sycophantic cronyism and anti-intellectualism that has been damaging the Bush administration from the get-go. As a choice to join “The Supremes” Miers is bizarro verging on clinically insane. However, it doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be confirmed.

The left was somewhat befuddled by our new Chief Justice Roberts, Bush’s first pick; he is obviously a smart man with impeccable credentials, albeit a bit Sphinxian, and seemed to be of a conservative-but-not-out-of-Bedlam-asylum bent. Filibustering anyone who is not a liberal is absurd; the US’ ever-thoughtful electorate picked a conservative president and Congress. To the victor go the spoils, including the plums on the court. People that are clearly qualified and not insane are hard to justify blocking, and so the Senate voted 78-22 to confirm Judge Roberts.

Harriet Miers is a different case. Her schooling was not impressive. She has no notable clerkships. She’s never been a judge. While there are some accomplishments to her name, there are clearly thousands of more qualified legal minds out there. It’s as if the exhaustive search for a nominee ranged all the way to 100 feet from the Oval Office. Some of the highest praise from White House staff has been that she bowls surprisingly well and is generous with her Mr. & Ms. Her real achievements seem to be as a long-time Bush family loyalist.

The right-wing commentariat ranges from underwhelmed to up in arms. There are great sighs of disappointment going up from everyone; this is not the triumphal candidate they had hoped for to take back the court from those damn “activist judges.” Or so we assume. Bush obviously has known her for years; presumably he believes she will take the court in the direction he wants. That leaves a few possibilities as to what he’s up to:

  • She’s a closet Antonin Scalia, the notoriously brainy curmudgeon
    that is the intellectual ogre lefty parents use to scare their
    children into behaving. Seems unlikely, considering she used to be a
    Democrat, has donated to Al Gore, and has made progressive noises
    about gay rights.
  • Bush doesn’t want another Scalia. That would indicate, again, that
    Bush actually doesn’t care much about the religious right, and they
    should go soak their heads. He won on the back of their labor, but
    apart from a bit of jawboning about the gay inequality amendment, he
    ain’t done much for them.
  • He doesn’t expect her to get confirmed, and this is an elaborate
    ruse. The scenario goes: nominate Miers, have her rejected, and get a
    knuckle-dragging troglodyte for the next choice. Unlikely, unless
    there’s a big ol’ skeleton in the closet and he’s setting her up for
    a fall. That doesn’t fit his overall MO, since she’s a long time
    friend. In any case, a defeated nominee would be another sign of
    Bush’s weakness.

Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress and the punditry have been barely able to stifle their chuckles as the Republican Party rips itself apart on this issue. George Will, notable right wing thinker, started the slicing and dicing of Bush with the statement that “the president has forfeited his right to be trusted as a custodian of the Constitution.” The a-list conservative intelligentsia have become increasingly shrill on Miers, and the controversy shows no signs of subsiding.

Indeed, it’s probably going to get worse. Bush never has to run for reelection again. However, there’s several old men in the Senate that would love to receive the tender care, fat checks, and armies of political foot soldiers from the religious right in their quest for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Unless the Bush goon squads are twisting arms until they pop out of sockets to get votes, these Senators will be racing to grandstand about her lack of sufficient conservative fervor. Meanwhile, as the news hounds dig into her past, Miers is becoming more a target of ridicule by the day. Recent records from Bush’s days as Texas governor show a level of brown nosing that is an inspiration to us all, with such winners as “Dear Governor GWB, You are the best Governor ever — deserving of great respect!” One would really expect better from a junior high crush.

All that said, the reading of the entrails would suggest she is a moderate choice, and another female voice on the court is much needed. However, such a long-time Bush toady may have precisely the wrong disposition to handle the critically important separation of powers issues between the branches of government in the US. The Supreme Court is one of the only checks on the uncontrolled growth of Presidential power. In the end, that may be precisely why Bush chose her. But that’s not an argument that will convince anyone else.

The Miers nomination is another sign of the wheels coming off of the invincible Bush Administration. It’s been a brutal couple of months, and with a number of indictments coming down the pipe in the convoluted Plame affair, it ain’t done yet. With over 3 years left in his term, Harriet Miers may be the choice that leaves President Bush
quacking like a lame duck.

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