Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Harriet Miers Nominated for Supreme Court

Pres. Bush nominated Harriet Miers to replace Justice O'Connor on the Supreme Court. Miers has the advantage and disadvantage of having virtually no paper trail. She has never been a judge. Her resume is not bad, but it is not nearly as distinguished as Justice Roberts's.

It appears to me that Pres. Bush nominated Miers in part to avoid a fight in the Senate. Any strong conservative nominee who is on record as opposing Roe v. Wade, which made abortion a constitutional right, would face an all-out confirmation battle. Because the majority of Americans like the result of Roe, confirmation of such a nominee would be difficult and could imperil the re-election of several Republican senators. On the other hand, the majority of Republican voters oppose Roe, and a large number of them want a Supreme Court nominee who will vote to overturn Roe. Thus, a Republican president faces a dilemma in selecting a Supreme Court nominee. The perfect nominee for political purposes is one who opposes the result of Roe but whose view is not on record. However, the absence of a record makes Republicans nervous about the nominee's judicial philosophy, especially when they remember Justices Stevens and Souter, who were appointed by Republican presidents but became reliable votes for the liberal bloc.

To my mind, Miers is a less than stellar nominee because there are dozens of better qualified candidates. If Pres. Bush wanted a woman, he could have selected Edith Jones, Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown (a black woman), or Joy Clement, among others. If he wanted a Hispanic, he could have selected Garza or Alito. If he did not rule out white males, he could have selected Michael Luttig or Michael McConnell. Each candidate mentioned in this paragraph has judicial experience.

Miers is also not an ideal candidate because she is 60, rather than the preferred 50 or 51. If she were a higher quality candidate, her age would be less of a concern.

Miers did not graduate from a top-tier law school. She received her law degree at Southern Methodist University, which is a fine law school. What matters more than her law school is what she has accomplished since.

Miers is an evangelical Christian. I personally do not care what a nominee's religion is, but an evangelical Christian will be deemed unfit for the Supreme Court by many liberals.

Miers made contributions to Democrats in the 1980s. Since 1994, all her political contributions have been to Republicans. The Democrat leaning so late in her life (until age 43) causes unease.

Miers's lack of an adequate paper trail concerns many conservatives. It puts liberal activist groups at a disadvantage for now because they do not have a file on her. They will investigate her background very quickly and very thoroughly to try to discover dirt. Should the confirmation process become very difficult for Miers, do not expect the conservative Republicans to leap to her defense unless they become convinced of her judicial philosophy.

In the end, Pres. Bush is asking his supporters to trust him and his judgment. He has thus far nominated solid conservatives, and his judgment on personnel matters has generally been very good. For example, his cabinet appointments have been exceptional on the whole. Still, he could have nominated someone with judicial experience and more familiarity with constitutional issues.

Do not expect strong opposition from Democrats. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate Minority Leader, recommended the nomination of Miers to Pres. Bush. Other Senate Democrats, such as Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), have said they expected much more conservative nominees from Pres. Bush. Unless the liberal activists uncover some serious dirt, Miers will be confirmed without a filibuster.

What kind of justice will Miers be? Cross your fingers.

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