Monday, October 03, 2005

Miers: Another Stealth Nominee?

Two things strike me about the revelation that President Bush intends to nominate his White House counsel, Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

First, I'm struck by the fact that this story broke before an official White House announcement. Aides leaked it to the press before the Communications office confirmed that on Sunday night, Mr. Bush offered the nomination to Miers.

In past administrations, this wouldn't be a surprise. But the Bush 2 White House has been relatively leak-proof. Was this a trial balloon? Or has the once-vaunted discipline of the administration begun to erode?

There are probably good arguments one could advance to answer yes to either of these questions.

I'm also struck with how little anyone seems to really know about Miers at this point. That will probably change quickly. While she may not have judicial paper trail--she's never been a judge--she does have a public record. She served, for example, on the Dallas city council and as chair of the Texas Lottery Commission. Democrats, under pressure to placate liberal interest groups, will undoubtedly go through that record with a fine tooth comb.

Certain conservative groups, apparently concerned that Chief Justice Roberts will turn out to be a closet liberal, will also be exerting pressure on Republican senators to make sure that Miers votes their way once she's on the Court. But it seems to me that just as it was wrong to exact pledges from Roberts on how he would vote as a member of the Court, it would be wrong to seek promises from Miers.

In a way, it seems that Miers, like Roberts before her, is a variation of the stealth nominee strategy that began with Justice Souter's appointment to the Court. Ideological pressure groups, feeling that the stakes are even higher when it comes to choosing the successor of Sandra Day O'Connor, will severely test whether the strategy can continue to work.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt writes, "Harriet Miers isn't a Justice Souter pick, so don't be silly. It is a solid, B+ pick. The first President Bush didn't know David Souter, but trusted Chief of Staff Sunnunu and Senator Rudman. The first President Bush got burned badly because he trusted the enthusiams of others."

Speaking only for myself, when I compared this nomination to that of Souter, it had nothing to do with either how well this President knew this nominee or whether Miers might be a "closet liberal." I meant only that there are no apparent red flags inviting opposition from the opposition party to her nomination.


Deborah White said...

The Harriet Miers nomination was not all that stealth...DailyKos predicted it (with confidence, I might add) on September 28, Wed.

From my research, she is extremely similar to Roberts: modest, unassuming, a moderate with no particular ideological bent, a craftsman at the law, a hard-worker, cordial and collegial, not unusually imaginative or inventive, and Christian.

She served on the Mission Committee at her Dallas church, and has served coffee and donuts at church. :)

I heard her described on C-Span this morning as some who is concerned about the poor having access to justice.

She sounds fine to me. Her academic and experiential qualifications are impeccable. Unless disappointed conservatives revolt, Ms. Miers wil be confirmed.

Mark Daniels said...

I would say that just because Kos and a few others mentioned her as a potential candidate for the Court doesn't take away from her "stealth" quality.

Little is known about her, her judicical philosophy, her understanding of the Constitution, and so on. That may or my not be reason for some to oppose her. Virtually the same things could be said (and were said) of Roberts and Souter when they were nominated.

I suppose my post was something of a lament that Presidents seem constrained to only nominate persons for the judiciary who have never said, done, or thought anything remotely conspicuous or out of sync with various sensibilities. I wonder whether Mr. Bush will get away with such a nomination at this time and should Miers be rejected, what sort of person he might then nominate.

So far, Senators Reid, Leahy, and Schumer have signaled a significant openness to Miers' nomination. In our excessively bifurcated political atmosphere, this may be reason enough for some Republicans to not like Miers. That seems as irrational to me as the reaction of some Democrats to Roberts' nomination. (I mean those Democrats who opposed him simply because he was a Republican.)

My sense is that Miers' nomination could get squeezed from both the left and the right. (Reid's influence is limited, after all. He was against Roberts, but half his fellow Democrats voted for the new Chief Justice's confirmation.)

At a personal level, Harriet Miers seems like a good person.

By the way, is she being accompanied by Fred Thompson on her visits at Capitol Hill? Or is she such an old hand in dealing with Congress that it's thought unnecessary?

Thanks, as always, Deborah, for your comments!


purple_kangaroo said...

Asking any judge to make promises about how they will rule on future cases seems really wrong to me too.

Mark Daniels said...

Thanks for the comment! I do think it's wrong to ask judges how they will vote on future cases. It wasn't until about thirty years ago, after Roe v. Wade, that such litmus test questions were posed to judicial nominees.

God bless!