President George W. Bush’s second term isn’t going as planned. An inept response to Hurricane Katrina has given way to more of his tax-cut-and-spend philosophy. Add to it the continuing debacle in Iraq and the challenges ahead for Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn.,Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Karl Rove, and this fall is shaping up to be a downer for the president’s poll numbers.
So, in a way, I understand the president’s choice of Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. The idea was to nominate someone to negate bad headlines and unite the Republican Congress to defeat those evil, judicial-activist loving Democrats. Much to the surprise of many, the fight over Miers, at least for now, has little to do with a two-party scuffle but rather dissention within the Republican ranks.
“Disappointed, depressed and demoralized” is not the title of the Democratic talking points, but rather the reaction of conservative pundit William Kristol to the nomination of Miers. Reservations have also been expressed by Gary Bauer, Robert Bork and Republican senators Trent Lott, R-Miss, and Sam Brownback, R-Kan. Needless to say, some may point to this kind of opposition as a sign that Miers is a good pick for the court. After all, anyone who Gary Bauer, promoter of a Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, is opposed to cannot be that bad, right?
The issue with the conservative opposition, especially those in the religious right, is that they appear to be suffering from the same hypocrisy they accuse Democrats of. With previous judicial nominees, Republicans have repeatedly decried Democratic calls for more information about the backgrounds and views of nominees, yet that is exactly what they are calling for now.
In addition, the war cry of conservatives we heard crescendo during the Terri Schiavo debate was that the courts have been overrun by judicial activists that cannot be impartial interpreters of the law.
Is that what Republicans truly want? It seems to me that if you are like Kristol, who wants “a visible and distinguished constitutional track record,” the real meaning behind your front of impartiality is a nominee who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Taking this line of reasoning further, it isn’t a surprise that Focus on the Family founder James Dobson seems to support the choice of Miers after a telephone conversation with Rove before the nomination. His support would seem odd given the angst among fellow conservatives, except if you consider that Rove obviously told him something to shore up his support. Unfortunately, that conversation was so secret that Dobson told The New York Times, “Some of what I know I am not at liberty to talk about.”
The worst part is that the confirmation hearings are probably a month away. So, while bottom feeders attempt to drudge up some dirt on Miers, we will be inundated with meaningless headlines such as those indicating her admiration for the president, which is a no-brainer given the amount of time she worked for him.
Don’t misunderstand me: I find it a fault in personal judgment to say the president is “the most brilliant man she has ever met,” but that doesn’t correlate to being a bad Supreme Court choice.
Obviously, the confirmation hearings will make news whether we find out more about Miers or merely the pundits’ dissection of every word she uses. She may very well be a bad choice and not the best qualified candidate but we don’t know enough now to make such a determination.
So what is there left to complain about? We can utilize the often-coined argument of cronyism, but that occurs in administrations led by both Republicans and Democrats alike. After all, if it was a problem specific to the Bush administration, you would think Americans would have experienced enough of it in the first four years and not re-elected him.
With 41 out of 109 justices in the history of the Supreme Court having no prior judicial experience, Harriet Miers is by no means unique. Critics would do well to practice some restraint and let the Miers confirmation succeed or fail not solely on her resume but also on her testimony.
Aaron Hill is a senior majoring in economics.