Captain's Quarters Blog

« My Grudging Support, Such As It Is | Main | The Second Indictment: Second Verse Stinks Worse Than The First »

October 4, 2005
The Liberal Editorial Triumvirate On Miers: Stealth Or Legacy?

The Big Three liberal dailies -- the LA Times, NY Times, and Washington Post -- all issue similar verdicts on the Harriet Miers nomination to the Supreme Court in this morning's editorial pages. While the East Coast papers seem more optimistic about the potential for Miers, the LA Times sees little for which to cheer except her gender. And if George Bush hoped to get a pass on a big political fight at the Judiciary Committee, it won't come with the blessing of the Big Three.

The LA Times echoes the disappointment of many conservatives when first told of the Miers nomination:

This pattern of relying on advisors he knows and trusts was also on display with the export of several White House confidants, including Condoleezza Rice, Margaret Spellings and Alberto Gonzales, to various federal departments after Bush's reelection.

Extending the pattern to the Supreme Court, a separate branch of government, is more problematic. Is being a Bush crony Miers' chief qualification for serving on the Supreme Court?

The president's desire to replace Sandra Day O'Connor with another female justice is welcome, and Miers is undoubtedly an accomplished lawyer. But she and her White House patron will have to make the case in coming weeks that she is more than just that, because Americans want truly exceptional jurists to serve on the highest court, not merely smart loyalists to the president.

The Gray Lady, on the other hand, sees more daylight than darkness in the choice. The editorial refers to the "odd routes" taken by some of the best Supreme Court justices to the bench, and expresses hope that Miers' work in the ABA and corporate law will moderate any conservative impulses she has -- one of the worries of the conservative base's concerns. They note that the efforts of Senators Reid, Schumer, and other senior Democrats to moderate nominees may have paid off with Miers, but once again wants to get Miers on record committing to policy support as a prerequisite to confirmation:

The Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, Senator Charles Schumer of New York and other Senate Democrats made it clear that an extremist nominee would face a tough confirmation battle, and they may have helped convince Mr. Bush not to nominate a judge or law professor with a long record of opposing privacy rights, civil rights and other freedoms. But choosing Ms. Miers, a member of his team who was also his own personal lawyer, is still very much in character with the president's tendency to reward familiarity and loyalty over independence and a reputation for excellence.

The American people are certainly entitled to know a lot more about Ms. Miers. As a non-judge who has largely operated behind the scenes, she does not have a lengthy record of judicial opinions, law review articles and public comments. While this page complained about the lack of information available about John Roberts, the new chief justice was a veritable font of background records compared with this new nominee.

This administration likes to argue that Ruth Bader Ginsburg declined to say much about her views when she was nominated. But she had been a federal appeals court judge for more than a decade, and her approach to judging was well known. The Senate needs to ask Ms. Miers directly where she stands on important legal issues, and it should not confirm her unless she makes clear her commitment to well-settled rights that Americans take for granted.

Again we see the theme of the previous rules not applying to the new candidate that we expected no matter whom the President nominated, but I suspect that many conservatives might feel similarly with Miers. The Washington Post also calls for strict questioning of Miers once in front of the committee, but perhaps comes closest in ferreting out the true reason why Bush selected Miers in the first place -- one we may have missed yesterday:

IN REPLACING Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, President Bush could have opted for ideological confrontation and an automatic confirmation battle. His nomination of Harriet Miers, his White House counsel, may save the country from that ugly outcome. Ms. Miers, like Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., is not known as an ideologue or a cultural warrior. A corporate lawyer, she served as president of the State Bar of Texas and was active in the American Bar Association, an organization of which many conservatives are suspicious. In her bar activities, she pushed for greater legal representation for the poor. Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) suggested that Mr. Bush consider someone like Ms. Miers. Mr. Bush's decision, particularly in light of the heat he is now taking from the right, seems like a significant gesture of conciliation.

That's the good news. It also should be said that Ms. Miers's background is not insubstantial: She has managed a major law firm and been a prominent corporate litigator; she served on the Texas Lottery Commission and the Dallas City Council. Her combination of bar activity and legal practice calls to mind that of the late Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. There's something to be said for a diversity of legal experience on the court; not every justice has to be a former federal appellate judge and constitutional scholar.

And yet, Ms. Miers is not the most evidently qualified nominee available to the president -- far from it. Her clearest distinction is her service and loyalty to Mr. Bush. She has served on his White House staff from the inception of his administration; she was on his transition team when he became governor of Texas; she has done personal legal work for him as well. She and Mr. Bush have a long and close relationship -- and this is an administration that puts an enormous premium on political loyalty.

Of the three papers, the Post's editorial board has usually remained the most supportive of Bush's efforts, and I wonder if they come closest to the mark here. Harry Reid's chief of staff remarked to Salon yesterday that Reid mentioned Miers' name as one that could gain easier confirmation, although he says Reid stopped short of outright promising his public support (which Reid provided anyway yesterday, at least initially). Considering Miers' long record of service to Bush and her lack of judicial experience, that offer may have intrigued him and gave him the idea that a Miers confirmation could help resolve the generation-long impasse over judicial nominees.

Bush, like most second-term presidents, wants to leave a substantive legacy after the end of his term. One of the initial promises he made to the people during his first presidential campaign was the oft-cited vow to be a "uniter". Unfortunately, with the radical Left in charge of the Democrats these days, the opportunity to fulfill that role has not often appeared. With Reid giving Bush a pass to nominate an evangelical with little record of legal scholarship to the Supreme Court as a political peace offering, he may have hoped to cement his place in history by not only confirming one of the brightest legal minds of the era as Chief Justice but in using his second pick as a bridge to an era of better cooperation between the White House and Senate -- while still getting a conservative on the bench.

Will it happen? The Post not only seems to believe so, it wants to celebrate it. If Bush knows Miers as well as he believes -- and after more than a decade of close service, he should -- then he may well have pulled off the biggest hat trick of his career. We will soon find out when Miers starts her confirmation hearings at the Judiciary Committee.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 4, 2005 5:14 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry is

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Liberal Editorial Triumvirate On Miers: Stealth Or Legacy?:

Captain Ed does a nice job here of summarizing and analyzing the reaction of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times -- the blessed trinity of the liberal elite media -- to the President's nomination of Harriet Miers to the U... [Read More]

Tracked on October 4, 2005 10:35 AM

Design & Skinning by:
m2 web studios

blog advertising


Proud Ex-Pat Member of the Bear Flag League!