Who is Harriet Miers?
As most know by now, President Bush has nominated now-former White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Immediately, two memes have sprung up. One is that the President followed the “Cheney template,” by which it is meant that he ended up nominating the individual he had originally tapped to lead the search committee for that particular position. The second meme, and the one with more partisan legs, is that the President is guilty of “cronyism.” Meanwhile, the debate over Miers rages on in the blogosphere, with many conservatives (here, here, here, here, and here) disappointed. This doesn’t mean that liberals are giving her a pass, however, as there is too much to be gained ($$$) by ginning up opposition to anyone whom the President would have tapped. (Of course, many are particularly gleeful over the GOP infighting).
I don’t know enough about Miers to make a judgement right now, but the criticism seems to hinge on the fact that she’s never been considered a top legal mind (she’s never been a judge, actually) and the the President could have simply done better. In fact, most of the conservative criticism is of the President, not of Miers herself. For instance, Rush Limbaugh stated that this choice seemed to be “made from weakness” and not strength and one conservative blogger says he’s “done with President Bush” over this choice. There are a few (and here) conservatives who find the pick a good one, but, as can be seen, they are distinctly in the minority. Some think that the President is pulling a “rope-a-dope.” If that is the case, then Glenn Reynolds prediction that the nomination is already in trouble is all part of some Roveian master plan.
I think some of conservative disappointment is a result of trying to fit a real person, Miers, into the template many have of what, to them, is the ideal conservative SCOTUS judge (in whatever permutation each individual conservative has constructed said person). Especially as she comes on the heels of the nearly-unanimously welll-regard John Roberts. Simply put, they think that the President could have nominated a better-qualified, more clearly conservative–and just as confirmable–person to the SCOTUS. Perhaps the President’s close, personal relationship with Miers has clouded his judgement of her qualifications. However, as with most things, should Miers indeed be confirmed, it will take a few years to determine whether or not she was appropriate for the position.
And yet, maybe this is really the crux of the matter: no one is comfortable with the proposition of a candidate surrounded by so much uncertainty assuming a lifetime seat on the highest court in the land. For conservatives who voted for George Bush under the premise that he would select both respected and conservative judges to the court, the Miers pick is disappointing and unsettling. Simply put, conservatives feel as if they’ve been let down and, concomitantly, that they may not have cast their presidential vote for the type of candidate, George Bush, whom they thought. Maybe the confirmation hearings will clear things up and Miers will emerge as a solid, intellectual conservative.
I have my own doubts that will happen. These are based on her relatively short resume and by my own first impressions of her that I had while I listened to her accepting the nomination this morning. To me she sounded both nervous and overwhelmed. In short, she was not-ready -for-primetime. I know public speaking ability has little to do with one’s judicial expertise, but her shaky performance and lack of judicial experience give me pause. Now, I know former Chief Justice Rehnquist was never a judge and that Sandra Day O’Connor was really a politician with a limited judicial resume, but I still think there were many qualified judges (and others) to choose from. The president and his people, including VP Cheney, are telling conservatives to “trust us.” I’ll try, so I’ll reserve judgement until the confirmation hearings.
*A cynic might say that by then I will have talked myself into approving of Miers. Perhaps, but hopefully the fact that I’m aware of this very human tendency to seek equilibrium with one’s ideological cohort will mitigate such a thing happening “automatically.” Unless it already has, which is why I’m leaning towards doubt along with most of the rest of the conservative blogosphere.