October 3, 2005

Who is Harriet Miers?

Marc Comtois

As most know by now, President Bush has nominated now-former White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Immediately, two memes have sprung up. One is that the President followed the "Cheney template," by which it is meant that he ended up nominating the individual he had originally tapped to lead the search committee for that particular position. The second meme, and the one with more partisan legs, is that the President is guilty of "cronyism." Meanwhile, the debate over Miers rages on in the blogosphere, with many conservatives (here, here, here, here, and here) disappointed. This doesn't mean that liberals are giving her a pass, however, as there is too much to be gained ($$$) by ginning up opposition to anyone whom the President would have tapped. (Of course, many are particularly gleeful over the GOP infighting).

I don't know enough about Miers to make a judgement right now, but the criticism seems to hinge on the fact that she's never been considered a top legal mind (she's never been a judge, actually) and the the President could have simply done better. In fact, most of the conservative criticism is of the President, not of Miers herself. For instance, Rush Limbaugh stated that this choice seemed to be "made from weakness" and not strength and one conservative blogger says he's "done with President Bush" over this choice. There are a few (and here) conservatives who find the pick a good one, but, as can be seen, they are distinctly in the minority. Some think that the President is pulling a "rope-a-dope." If that is the case, then Glenn Reynolds prediction that the nomination is already in trouble is all part of some Roveian master plan.

I think some of conservative disappointment is a result of trying to fit a real person, Miers, into the template many have of what, to them, is the ideal conservative SCOTUS judge (in whatever permutation each individual conservative has constructed said person). Especially as she comes on the heels of the nearly-unanimously welll-regard John Roberts. Simply put, they think that the President could have nominated a better-qualified, more clearly conservative--and just as confirmable--person to the SCOTUS. Perhaps the President's close, personal relationship with Miers has clouded his judgement of her qualifications. However, as with most things, should Miers indeed be confirmed, it will take a few years to determine whether or not she was appropriate for the position.

And yet, maybe this is really the crux of the matter: no one is comfortable with the proposition of a candidate surrounded by so much uncertainty assuming a lifetime seat on the highest court in the land. For conservatives who voted for George Bush under the premise that he would select both respected and conservative judges to the court, the Miers pick is disappointing and unsettling. Simply put, conservatives feel as if they've been let down and, concomitantly, that they may not have cast their presidential vote for the type of candidate, George Bush, whom they thought. Maybe the confirmation hearings will clear things up and Miers will emerge as a solid, intellectual conservative.

I have my own doubts that will happen. These are based on her relatively short resume and by my own first impressions of her that I had while I listened to her accepting the nomination this morning. To me she sounded both nervous and overwhelmed. In short, she was not-ready -for-primetime. I know public speaking ability has little to do with one's judicial expertise, but her shaky performance and lack of judicial experience give me pause. Now, I know former Chief Justice Rehnquist was never a judge and that Sandra Day O'Connor was really a politician with a limited judicial resume, but I still think there were many qualified judges (and others) to choose from. The president and his people, including VP Cheney, are telling conservatives to "trust us." I'll try, so I'll reserve judgement until the confirmation hearings.

*A cynic might say that by then I will have talked myself into approving of Miers. Perhaps, but hopefully the fact that I'm aware of this very human tendency to seek equilibrium with one's ideological cohort will mitigate such a thing happening "automatically." Unless it already has, which is why I'm leaning towards doubt along with most of the rest of the conservative blogosphere.

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In his blog, Marc Comtois made the following comment: “There are a few ... conservatives who find the pick a good one, but, as can be seen, they are distinctly in the minority.“

In a moment, I am going to list more than a “few” positive remarks by conservatives, but let me say this first.

I am more than just a little amazed at the negative attitude being expressed by so many conservatives regarding the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. She is, after all, Counsel to the President and his VERY trusted advisor. Not only has she worked closely with the President in Washington, but also in Texas. In all that time, one HAS to assume that she and the President have had some VERY deep conversations concerning her views on many issues. I can't help but think that the President knows her mind like the back of his hand.

EVERY nomination the President has made to a Court has been a conservative. And when the Democrats shamelessly fiIibustered them, the President came back and re-submitted their names AND got most of them through. He stood by his choices!

To think that he would not nominated a conservative to the Supreme Court, flies in the face of everything he has done so far. If George Bush is anything, he is a man of his word and I for one stand solidly behind him with this nomination. George Bush has not disappointed me for 5 years, I honestly don't think he will now.

I greatly fear that if the President were to nominate God to the Supreme Court, He wouldn't be given a fair chance by a lot of people!.

That being said, here are just a few of the things that conservatives (and a few others) around the country are saying of Ms. Miers:

James C. Dobson, Focus On The Family Chairman: “We Welcome The President’s Nomination Of Harriet Miers To The U.S. Supreme Court. … Harriet Miers Appears To Be An Outstanding Nominee For The Supreme Court.” (Focus On The Family Action, “Dobson Welcomes Miers’ Nomination,” Press Release, 10/3/05)

Spence Abraham, Committee For Justice, Co-Chair: “I Have Had The Chance To Work Closely With Harriet Miers For The Past Four Years And Am Confident That She Will Bring The Same Integrity And Intelligence To The Court Which She Has Displayed In The Important Legal And Governmental Posts She Has Held.” (Committee For Justice, “CFJ Congratulates President On Miers Nomination,” Press Release, 10/3/05)

Hugh Hewitt, Conservative Talk Show Host: “The President Is A Poker Player In A Long Game. He’s Decided To Take A Sure Win With A Good Sized Pot. I Trust Him. So Should His Supporters.” (Hugh Hewitt, “Do You Trust Him,” www.hughhewitt.com, 10/3/05)

Jay Sekulow, American Center For Law And Justice Chief Counsel: “Once Again, President Bush Showed Exceptional Judgment In Naming Harriet Miers To The Supreme Court To Replace Justice O’Connor.” (American Center For Law And Justice, “ACLJ Calls Harriet Miers – President Bush’s Nominee To Replace Justice O’Connor – An ‘Excellent’ Choice For The Supreme Court,” Press Release, 10/3/05)
Sekulow: “Harriet Miers Is An Excellent Choice With An Extraordinary Record Of Service In The Legal Community And Is Certain To Approach Her Work On The High Court With A Firm Commitment To Follow The Constitution And The Rule Of Law. I Have Been Privileged To Work With Her In Her Capacity As White House Counsel.” (American Center For Law And Justice, “ACLJ Calls Harriet Miers – President Bush’s Nominee To Replace Justice O’Connor – An ‘Excellent’ Choice For The Supreme Court,” Press Release, 10/3/05)

William Owens, President Coalition Of African-American Pastors: "We Are Pleased With The President's Nomination Of Harriet Miers To The U. S. Supreme Court. The President Pledged To Appoint Judges Who Will Apply The Law Rather Than Make Up New Law, And We Believe He Has Not Disappointed Us So Far." (Coalition of African-American Pastors, Press Release, 10/3/05)
· Owens: "Harriet Miers Is An Excellent Choice And The Coalition Of African-American Pastors Is Very Happy With This Selection." (Coalition of African-American Pastors, Press Release, 10/3/05)

Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht: "She's Very Conservative. I Don't Know, Scale 1 To 100, Up There Somewhere. She Works Well With Other People. Everybody Says She's A Very Fair-Minded Person. She Definitely Shares The President's Values." (ABC's "Nightline," 10/3/05)

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX): "She Has Been My Friend For A Long Time. We Graduated From Law School In Roughly The Same Era. Both Of Us Had A Hard Time Getting Jobs, Because The Big Law Firms Did Not Hire Women At That Time To Be Partners, And In The Partner Track, And She Overcame That With A Determination, And A Positive Attitude." (ABC's "Nightline," 10/3/05)

CNN's John King: "[Miers Has] Been A Driving Force Behind The Renomination Of Conservative Judges Like Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, All Judges Who Have High Approval Ratings From Social Conservatives." (CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight," 10/3/05)

National Review's Rich Lowry: "I Think She'll Be Confirmed Easily." (ABC's "Nightline," 10/3/05)

Texas Lawyer's John Council: "Well, What I've Been Doing All Day Long Is Talking To Lawyers In Texas Who Know Harriet Miers And Have Worked With Her ... When I Talked To These Lawyers, They Said, Look, This Is A Perfect Pick For The Court. She's Not An Ideologue, She's Highly Intelligent And She's Got The Trust Of The President. ... This Is From Republicans And Democrats Alike." (MSNBC's "The Abrams Report," 10/3/05)

USA Today: "Neither Miers' Lack Of Judicial Experience Nor Her Ties To Bush Need Be Disqualifying. ... Like O'Connor, Miers, 60, Has Been A Precedent-Setter For Women In The Male-Dominated Legal Field." (Editorial, "Bush Chooses An Even More Mysterious Court Nominee," USA Today, 10/4/05)

Assistant Attorney General Noel Francisco: "I Don't Think That Anybody Can Seriously Question Harriet Miers' Commitment To The Principles Of Judicial Restraint And The Rule Of Law." (CNN's "Larry King Live," 10/3/05)

The [Elmira, NY] Star-Gazette: "Her Legal Skills Suggest That She Is A Talented, Respected Lawyer ..." (Editorial, "The President's Pick," The [Elmira, NY] Star-Gazette, 10/4/05)

Fox News' Kiran Chetry: "She's Going To Be Confirmed, Absolutely In Your Mind?" Julian Epstein: "Yes." ... Rich Galen: "Without Even A Hard Fight." (Fox News' "Fox And Friends,'' 10/4/05)

Chicago Sun-Times' Robert Novak: "[Miers] Is As Safe A Bet For Senate Confirmation As Any Nominee Who Would Be Expected To Follow A Conservative Line On The Court. Barring Some Mistake She Makes In The Confirmation Process, She Looks Likely To Be Confirmed Without A Filibuster." (Robert Novak, Op-Ed, "Dems Offer Praise,
Republicans Optimistic," Chicago Sun-Times, 10/4/05)

Vice President Dick Cheney: "I Think [President Bush Has] Found A Good One In Harriet Miers. I Think She'll Do A Great Job." (Vice President Dick Cheney, Telephonic Interview By Rush Limbaugh, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/3/05)

Cheney: "[I]'m Confident That She Has A Conservative Judicial Philosophy ..." (Vice President Dick Cheney, Telephonic Interview By Rush Limbaugh, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/3/05)

Cheney: "She Believes Very Deeply In The Importance Of Interpreting The Constitution And The Law As It's Written. She Won't Legislate From The Federal Bench." (Vice President Dick Cheney, Telephonic Interview By Rush Limbaugh, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/3/05)

James C. Dobson, Focus On The Family Chairman: "We Welcome The President's Nomination Of Harriet Miers To The U.S. Supreme Court. ... Harriet Miers Appears To Be An Outstanding Nominee For The Supreme Court." (Focus On The Family Action, "Dobson Welcomes Miers' Nomination," Press Release, 10/3/05)

Chuck Colson, Founder And Chairman Of Prison Fellowship Ministries: "You Look At The Sum Total Of Her Record And See Someone Whose Very Much In Line With The President's Thinking, And I Trust George Bush On This. He Gave Us Roberts, Who Is A Clearly One Of The Best Appointees To The Court In My Lifetime, And I Think Harriet's Going To Be A Perfect Vote On That Court Along With Roberts." (Fox News' "Your World," 10/3/05)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): "President Bush Has Made A Solid Pick For The Supreme Court. ... Her Legal Experience Combined With Her Life Experience Makes Her A Solid Choice. ... In My Opinion, There Will Be No Filibuster As She Is A Mainstream Conservative Who Will Be A Strict Constructionist On The Supreme Court. " (Sen. Lindsey Graham, Press Release, 10/3/05)

Wendy Long, Former Law Clerk To Justice Clarence Thomas: "She's Going To Modestly And Strictly Interpret The Constitution And Laws. It's A Lot Of What We Heard From John Roberts." (CNN's "Live Today," 10/3/05)
Long: "I've Met Her During The Course Of The Administration. She's A Very Bright Woman, But She's Modest And Understated. She's Very Prudent. She's Discrete. All Those Are Important Qualities For A Judge." (CNN's "Live Today," 10/3/05)

Christian Coalition: "Christian Coalition Of America Is Pleased That President Bush Named A Replacement For Justice O'Connor To The Supreme Court Who He Says Will Not Legislate From The Bench. Even Though She Has No Judicial Experience, She Has Spent Many Years Of Her Career Serving As The Personal Attorney To The President And Supporting His Conservative Agenda While Serving As An Attorney In The White House." (Christian Coalition, Press Release, 10/3/05)
· Christian Coalition President, Roberta Combs: "As A Woman, I Am Honored That The President Would Appoint Another Woman To The Supreme Court. Ms. Miers Has An Excellent Career Record And Has Accomplished Many Firsts For Women. She Was The First Woman To Be Elected The Texas State Bar Association And The First Woman To Be Hired In Her Law Firm And To Become President Of The Law Firm. I Trust That She Will Be An Excellent Addition To The High Court And All Americans Will Be Proud Of Her." (Christian Coalition, Press Release, 10/3/05)

NPR's Juan Williams: "The President Once Said That She's A Pit Bull In A Size Six Shoe ... I Think It Hints At Her Tenacity And Her Intellect. You Don't Rise Up To Head The Bar In Texas, To Run For The Number Two Spot In Terms Of The ABA Without Being Someone Who Impresses Your Legal Colleagues As Absolutely One Of The Best. And She's One Of The Best By All Measures, Liberal Or Conservative." (Fox News' "Fox News Live," 10/3/05)

Former Harriet Miers Colleague Karin Torgerson: "I Think What She Will Bring To Her Job Is The Ability To Study Everything That Comes Before Her And To Boil Down The Facts ... And Apply The Constitution To Those Facts And Circumstances." (Fox News' "Fox News Live," 10/3/05)

Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh: "She Has Had A Distinguished Record In The Private Practice Of The law. She Has Held Public Office. That's A Refreshing Change From The Long String Of Justice Nominees Who Have Come Strictly From The Federal Judiciary." (Fox News' "Fox News Live," 10/3/05)

Mr. Comtois also reported: “...one conservative blogger says he's "done with President Bush" over this choice. Mr. Dillard also said http://southernappeal.blogspot.com/2005/10/i-am-done-with-president-bush-harriet.html “Oh, and if any of you RNC staffers are reading, you can take my name off the mailing list. I am not giving the national Republican Party another dime.“

And I say, fine, let him go and let him keep his money. What the Republican party does not need are fair weather friends.

And for those who say: “...she's never been considered a top legal mind...” you need to take a reality check. She is considered a great legal mind by those who know her.

Finally, let me say this; if we know anything about George W. Bush it is simply this: he is a man of decision and he stands by the decisions he has made. I don't expect him to be God, but I do expect him to exercise those qualities of leadership that make a great man. From where I stand, he has done that for the past five years as President and I am delighted in his decisions and his choices.

So to all you 'Little Rhodies' who find his choices not to your liking, perhaps you should swear off the clams for a while and drink a long, tall glass of warm milk!

Posted by: J.P. Moore at October 5, 2005 11:09 AM

A few more of the latest endorsements:

David N. O'Steen, National Right To Life Committee Executive Director: "President Bush Has An Excellent Record Of Appointing Judges Who Recognize The Proper Role Of The Courts, Which Is To Interpret The Law According To Its Actual Text, And Not To Legislate From The Bench. We Believe That Harriet Miers Is Another Nominee Who Will Abide By The Text And History Of The Constitution." (National Right To Life Committee, "Statement On The Nomination Of Harriet Miers To The U.S. Supreme Court," Press Release, 10/5/05)

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT): "She Is Going To Basically Do What The President Thinks She Should, And That Is Be A Strict Constructionist ... I Know Her Really Well And I Intend To Support Her." (Margaret Talev, "Bush Defends Selection Of Miers," The [Myrtle Beach] Sun-News, 10/5/05)

And 'Oh my God' even the Providence Journal: The Providence Journal (the world must be coming to an end!):
"[T]hose Who Know Her Well Regard Her As Smart, Tough But Reasonable, And A Team Player. ... Ms. Miers, 60, Knows Much About Politics, Practicing Law, Running A Business, And Meeting A Payroll. Such A Background Could Help The Supreme Court Better Reflect On The Real-World Implications Of Its Rulings." (Editorial, "The Miers Nomination," The Providence [RI] Journal, 10/5/05)

Posted by: J.P. Moore at October 5, 2005 11:26 AM

Thanks for the updates, but I was referring mostly to the first reactions from over the weekend and Monday morning. As you point out, many conservatives have come to the President's defense on this. For the record, my stance can be encapsulated by the old Reaan maxim, "Trust, but verify." That's all. I don't know enough about her yet. But, again, thanks for the tally!

Posted by: Marc Comtois at October 5, 2005 7:50 PM

That was the "REAGAN" maxim, not the little-known Hindu god Reaan!

Posted by: Marc Comtois at October 5, 2005 7:51 PM