Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 5, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

MIERS MISCELLANY....I've been trying to suss out the real skinny behind the Harriet Miers nomination, but I have to admit I'm still flummoxed. Here are a few miscellaneous thoughts:

  • In the end, I expect that Republicans will all simmer down and toe the line on Miers. It's true that the White House sales job has been pretty transparent, producing suspiciously identical stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post about Miers's religious convictions that are obviously just crudely coded assurances that she'll vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, but so what? Everyone knows the easiest person to sell is another salesman. The pitch may be crude, but conservative senators want to be sold. After a bit of grumbling, they're going to put lipstick on this pig and head off to the prom.

  • On the other hand, this time around it's going to be Republicans who want the nominee to respond substantively to questions about judicial philosophy. Just a couple of weeks ago they were furiously berating Democrats who tried to get serious answers out of John Roberts, and it will be fun to see which Republican gets whiplash first by insisting that the two cases are completely different.

  • Like a lot of people, when James Dobson endorses Miers and then says, "Some of what I know I am not at liberty to talk about," I too would like to know just what it is that he's not at liberty to talk about. A subpoena to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee would be kind of fun, wouldn't it?

  • Oddly enough, I agree with the conservative White House lawyer who said this:

    Judging takes work, but the folks who think "constitutional reasoning" is a talent requiring divination, intense effort and years of monastic study are the same folks who will inevitably give you "Lemon tests," balancing formulas, "penumbras" and concurrences that make your head spin. The President sees through that mumbo jumbo and recognizes that good Justices are the ones who focus on the Constitution's text, structure and history and who call balls and strikes.

    I actually think the length of modern Supreme Court decisions is ridiculous, and the "brilliant thinkers" who produce the cleverest arguments aren't necessarily the best judges. The Supreme Court's job is to provide guidance to lower courts, not to produce absurdly subtle arguments that mere mortals can neither understand nor apply coherently.

    In other words, the fact that Harriet Miers isn't the most brilliant legal mind in the country isn't necessarily a strike against her. On the other hand, it would be nice if she had at least a teensy bit of background in interpreting constitutional law, wouldn't it? Surely we can all agree that President Bush has taken his signature anti-intellectualism to indefensible levels here?

  • It's kind of odd that it's liberals who are the ones digging out evidence that Miers might hold some moderate opinions, isn't it? Here's Jon Cohn suggesting that she sided with the non-wingnuts in a dispute at her church. Here's Ryan Lizza wondering if she supports gay adoption and the International Criminal Court. Here's AmericaBlog posting a memo that implies support for gay civil rights as far back as 1989. That's mighty tolerant of Ms. Miers.

    Naughty, naughty, boys. Are you trying to stir up trouble?

  • So what should liberals do about Miers? It's hard to see how we can support her. After all, a non-judge is one thing, but Miers takes the principle of non-qualification to new heights. Bush has basically made a mockery out of the very idea of being even minimally qualified to be a Supreme Court justice.

    Still, Bush is a Republican and that means Miers is a Republican problem. I'm not sure we're really obligated to do anything except sit back and watch the show. Let 'em clean up their own messes.

I guess that's it. Except for one thing: Harry Reid is a devious fellow, isn't he?

Kevin Drum 11:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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