October 03, 2005

Loyalty Versus Experience (We Lose)

As just about everyone who wakes up this morning will soon realize, Bush has chosen a new nominee to the Supreme Court: Harriet Miers. I'm not a relentless court-watcher, so this name was new to me. I have no idea how conservative or moderate she is (I'll assume she's not liberal). However, just how qualified is she?:

Miers came with him to the White House in 2001 as staff secretary, the person who screens all the documents that cross the president's desk. She was promoted to deputy chief of staff before Bush named her counsel after his reelection in November. She replaced Alberto R. Gonzales, another longtime Bush confidant, who was elevated to attorney general. (link)

She only became White House Counsel this past February (only 8 months ago), and before that she did staff work (including screening documents?) in the White House since early 2001. Of course, before that, she worked on Bush's campaign.

The currents running underneath the Washington Post story seem to hint that she has two prime qualifications: first, she has no paper trail (she's never been a judge before), so the Democrats won't be able to mount an effective attack against her; and second, that she's been with Bush a very long time (she also worked for him as governor of Texas) and is thus very loyal.

Honestly, how qualified is she to, now, serve for life on the most important court in the country? Since when did stealth and loyalty rise up to be the prime qualifications for the Supreme Court, over intelligence or experience or strong views or even ideology?

Again, I know nothing about her from a judicial point of view. However, given her "stealth" status, I can only judge her candidacy from the perspective of other, relatively unknown, Texas-connected people that this President has installed into office: Gonzalez, Brown, Rodgers-Brown, Pickering, and on and on. This President values loyalty, it seems, above all other qualifications (including, in the case of Brown, actually being qualified to run FEMA). In other words, once again a bad choice.

Posted by baltar at October 3, 2005 08:13 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Law and the Courts


Of course Volokh has a brief post up, but the links to these comments shows some undertow in the conservative tide.

A betrayal. Kossacks will sneer at his pathetic cronyism and they will be right.

Looks like Baltar's not the only one.

Posted by: binky at October 3, 2005 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

see also SCOTUSBlig.

although my initial thought was that her "stealth" status makes it hard for the left to take her down, they will nevertheless try. if, given that, the right isn't behind her, she's going to go down and hard.

forget about any evidence as to her judicial qualifications -- we don't even know the degree of her mastery of constitutional law. her confirmation prep's going to be an ugly thing, as this evidently non-public figure type gears up to get raked over the coals on everything a nominee can expect to get grilled on plus what i imagine will be an extraordinary amount of questioning on the nuances of constitutional and united states statutory law.

goldstein (above link) thinks she's toast. i can easily see her being confirmed (the GOP never does more than grumble when bush defects; the truth is, if bush jumped off a bridge . . . ah, but that's just wishful thinking), but if i had to wager, as the morning wears on, i'd bet against her.

should be good political theatre, in any event.

Posted by: joshua at October 3, 2005 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Pretty much everything I've read this morning suggest she could actually be in trouble - which I find nothing less than stunning. The president has a Senate with 55 Republicans in it. How could he NOT get someone through (apart from one or four people who would stoke up real opposition on ideological grounds like Janice Rogers Brown)? Unqualified crony with no paper trail seems to be the description of her that's gaining momentum across the political spectrum.

Posted by: Armand at October 3, 2005 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

it really is sort of amazing to see this unfold. kerr's noted that the left is quiet, but that's because the right is falling all over itself tearing her down. and understandably, from an ideological point of view: this is bush's last best chance to move government further to the right. it's like he took away the evangelical wing's favorite toy, the swing vote seat on the u.s. supreme court, and gave it to the poor kid from the other side of town.

Posted by: joshua at October 3, 2005 01:06 PM | PERMALINK

I am still suspicious that this could be a stall. Majikthise has an inkling too.

Posted by: binky at October 3, 2005 01:19 PM | PERMALINK

Well, some of it is just silly - the posts I've seen (a number of them) that are as mad as hell that they're not going to get a big debate on the righteousness of right-wing jurisprudence ... I mean is the right really so deluded as to think that Bush and Rover would ever have wanted such a thing? That said ... well, it's nice to see that some of the right are finally willing to take a stand and say that cronyism isn't always a good thing, even if it's el presidente that's pushing it - though it would've been nice for them to note that earlier.

Posted by: Armand at October 3, 2005 01:20 PM | PERMALINK

The set-up angle sounds incredibly dangerous. I mean it would throw so much uncertainty into the equation ... and who knows what gas prices will be (though we know this winter's power bills are likely to sink all sorts of poll numbers come December) or will be indicted by the time you'd get around to the next nominee. Seeking defeat is rarely a good strategy.

Posted by: Armand at October 3, 2005 01:24 PM | PERMALINK

Ms. Miers was a city council person in Dallas. It would be interesting to read about some of the issues the council faced then and how she approached public service there.

Posted by: John at October 3, 2005 03:05 PM | PERMALINK

dollars to doughnuts she never dealt head-on with united states constitutional questions as a city councilwoman.

or in any other job she's ever held, for that matter.

and that's all i need to know -- whether she's left or right -- to know she's not an appropriate candidate for this job. for all the use of bar association participation and leadership bush made this morning in defending her nomination, it's surprising it didn't occur to anybody to stay away from the topic, since it seems more than a little likely that the ABA will not find her strongly qualified for the position.

Posted by: joshua at October 3, 2005 03:45 PM | PERMALINK

Don't forget Joshua, she helped lead the Bush administration's rejection of ABA rankings for justices, on the grounds that the ABA was too liberal.

Posted by: binky at October 3, 2005 03:49 PM | PERMALINK

convenient for her, no? interesting, too, given that she has been extensively affiliated with the ABA over the years, too, which is one of several digs that keep turning up among the righties: that no self-respecting conservative judgeship hunter would have affiliated with that crazy fringe-group ABA.

Posted by: joshua at October 3, 2005 04:46 PM | PERMALINK

Has anyone found a good, rational, explanation as to why (other than loyalty - that I'll give you) she was nominated? What does she bring to the table?

Posted by: baltar at October 3, 2005 05:03 PM | PERMALINK

That seems to be what Bush values above all else - does there need to be another reason? Bush famously told Bob Woodward that being president means you never have to explain yourself.

Still, she's probably socially conservative (given her church and her associates) - how about that?

Posted by: Armand at October 3, 2005 07:27 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe she was nominated because of this:
"Several officials familiar with Bush's consultations with Congress said that Sen. Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record) of Nevada, the Democratic leader, had recommended that he consider Miers for the vacancy."
(sorry Binky, all that HTML stuff is a little too complicated for someone like me)

Posted by: Morris at October 4, 2005 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

yeah, that's it. bush did it because a democratic senator told him to.

morris, are you serious?

Posted by: joshua at October 4, 2005 09:36 AM | PERMALINK

It's so flattering to see how much you need my attention Morris. In order to better serve your craving for a response, I have constructed a simple multiple choice quiz to give you the opportunity to influence the desired response. Would you prefer:

a) a threat of prompt deletion of any non-coded html?

b) a retort and entreaty to commenters to ignore uncoded html?

c) snarky comments and an eyeroll

d) all of the above?

Vote early and often. Glad to be of service in your attention-starved day.

Posted by: binky at October 4, 2005 10:28 AM | PERMALINK


I'm happy to debate Miers with you. I'm even happy to debate why Reid seems to have given her the green light (short answer: I have no idea). But "trolling" by arguing that Bush nominated her because Ried told him to isn't worthy of response, much less debate.

Posted by: baltar at October 4, 2005 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

My two cents on the "Reid told him to" angle - Bush picked a mighty weird time to list to Democrats for the first time in his presidency.

Still, maybe Bush did want to avoid a nuclear scenario and knowing that Reid was ok with her eased Bush's mind on that matter.

Posted by: Armand at October 4, 2005 02:20 PM | PERMALINK

or maybe we're just discovering that reid is a mole. forget about party affiliation and presumed ideology: for all we can discern, the last time she addressed a constitutional question head on was in law school. sorry -- not good enough. and that reid hasn't taken, at the very least, an agnostic position with regard to her objective qualifications suggests to me that either

a) he's an idiot and unworthy of his constituents' trust, or

b) the alternatives bush had on the table were so mephistophelian that reid would have approved mister ed in their place.

hell, he pretty much did.

Posted by: joshua at October 4, 2005 02:25 PM | PERMALINK

And of course it might be worth noting that Harry Reid is pro-life - maybe that's a reason he's comfortable with or happy about the appointment. Though Joshua's (b) proposition is worth noting.

Posted by: Armand at October 4, 2005 02:29 PM | PERMALINK
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