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October 8, 2005
Miers Analysis At WaPo Sympathetic, So Far

So far, the analysis of Harriet Miers at the Washington Post appears mostly sympathetic, a marked contrast to the initial work done on John Roberts in the first few weeks of his nomination to the Court. Jo Becker, who wrote some of the more egregious material on Roberts, provides a more nuanced and attractive look at the cipher whose nomination has touched off an internecine war on the Right:

Now President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court, Miers served one term on the Dallas City Council, from 1989 to 1991, a period that offers a rare view of her political philosophy and style. Her campaign, votes and public stances defy easy characterization.

She would meet with abortion rights advocates and gay rights activists but tell them firmly she did not agree with them. She backed a redistricting plan aimed at electing more minorities even though conservatives called it a quota system. She voted to raise taxes two years in a row, disagreeing with some colleagues who favored deeper budget cuts.

"That's the thing about Harriet -- she did things she didn't have to do and that, if you were only looking out for yourself, you wouldn't do," said John Wiley Price, the Democratic county commissioner whose arrest sparked the protest. "She was gutsy."

At the same time, Miers's supporters and detractors say the woman who campaigned on a promise to bring "good manners and decorum" to the rancorous City Council was never comfortable with the more rough-and-tumble aspects of politics.

A loner who liked to say that she made her decisions based on "the facts," Miers brought a lawyer's intellect and courtroom demeanor to a venue where ego-massaging, compromise and vote trading were more common. She left elected office of her own choosing after one term, lamenting to a local reporter that "decisions are more political" than an effort to reach the "right result."

Becker obviously wants to communicate that Miers has an independent streak and will follow her own mind on issues, but that may not sound like terrific news to conservatives looking for a more substantial reason to trust George Bush. In fact, though, the further one reads into Becker's review of her Dallas city council tenure, the more nervous they will become. Miers made a habit of switching sides on issues, as Becker notes:

She also had a tendency to switch stances on critical issues, a trait supporters said showed her thoughtfulness but that critics labeled indecision.

"We spent about 1,200 hours together and had in excess of 6,000 agenda items, and I never knew where Harriet was going to be on any of those items until she cast her vote," former council colleague Jim Buerger said. "I wouldn't consider her a liberal, a moderate or a conservative, and I can't honestly think of any cause she championed."

That sounds like she might wind up being much more of an O'Connor than a Rehnquist and wouldn't move the Court in any direction except more vacillation -- an outcome sure to displease the hard Right. Granted, Miers' tenure on the Council ended fourteen years ago, but it also provides the majority of the public evidence of Miers' approach to law and social issues. It almost looks as if the Post wants to reassure Democrats about Miers rather than Republicans, an interesting dynamic supported by the two editorial pieces in the Post that offer cautious support for Miers and tell naysayers from both parties to calm down.

The lead editorial castigates Republican conservatives for their "unfair ... snap judgements and demeaning rhetoric." Colbert King writes an excellent column reminding readers that the Supreme Court does not have to be the last word on anything if the people elect courageous representatives willing to work hard to pass legislation negating the Court's more egregious excesses. He also plays the "enemy of my enemy" game to consider supporting Miers.

What can we discern from all of this comity? First, Miers will undoubtedly get her confirmation. Bush will not withdraw Miers; it simply isn't in his character to back down from a fight, a quality which we on the Right normally admire. The mainstream media has realized that a Harriet Miers will be the most palatable candidate they'll ever see from Bush and will not allow her defeat to force them to deal with a less-pleasant possibility. If it becomes necessary to do so, the Senate Democrats will push her nomination through to victory before giving Bush an excuse to send Janice Rogers Brown as a replacement.

Does that mean Miers will be a disaster for the Right? Possibly, although I still have my doubts about that. She may be less formidable than some have painted her, but she still pretty much goes her own way. And for the past ten years, that has led her to stick very close to Bush and the center-right, passing up major income opportunities to work in close proximity to a politician and President whose judicial philosophies she knows well.

As I have said before, we need to acknowledge that this nomination may well have been a mistake, but like the proverbial bell, it can't be unrung. Forcing a showdown with a President who has stared down Putin, Chirac, Saddam Hussein, the UN, and Tom Daschle wastes time and political capital, especially when he holds all the cards. He will get Miers on the bench, and probably on a voice vote on the floor of the Senate. The bickering should cease and we should look Colbert King's advice to elect a Senate with a stronger will to fight for better Court candidates.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 8, 2005 9:11 AM

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