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Monday, October 03, 2005

HARRIET MIERS: I woke early (West Coast time) to learn that the president would shortly announce Harriet Miers to replace Connors. My response was visceral: disappointment. Like Roberts, she's got a fine resume, and no paper trail or controversial ideological history. On both counts, she stands to nettle the left as they fail to draw her into tar pits of their choosing. Still, I wanted a fight on principles, a battle of the kind that a Janice Rogers Brown nomination would have provoked. Did I actually expect him to nominate an "ideologue" (supposedly a bad word) of Brown's caliber? Not really. Surely Rove argued strenuously against spending limited political capital on a pitched Supreme Court battle. Fine; I'm enough of a realist to understand that. Since Bush clearly wanted a woman, why not one of the Ediths — Jones or Clement? I have no problems with picking a non-judge. Nor someone who doesn't wear her ideology on her sleeve. What I don't like is a faith-based nomination process. Now I'm keenly aware that Bush has fought hard to get good appellate judges to the bench: Brown, Pryor, Owen. And I freely admit that Bush has therefore already gone considerable distance to prove his role models are Scalia and Thomas. So for these reasons, a good case can be made for giving the president the benefit of the doubt about having vetted her views, when he says: "I know her heart. I know her character." Let's hope that turns out to be code for "I promised I'd change the Supreme Court and as time passes I'm certain conservatives will be pleased with Harriet Miers on the big issues." Wendy Long, counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, which worked in support of Roberts' nomination, isn't worried:
"No president in recent memory has done such a great job of choosing jurists who are faithful to the Constitution."
I've learned to trust my visceral responses, but not absolutely. So, yes, I'm disappointed, but I'm altogether open to being positively surprised in the long run. Maybe Bush and Rove are as canny in pursuing conservative goals as I like to hope they are. Maybe Harriet Miers will, for once, be the right kind of stealth justice — the kind who shifts the balance of the court away from the Souter-Kennedy bias. "Hope" and "maybe" aren't the words I wanted to be using about Bush's second pick, with its inevitable aura of cronyism. All that said, I have no regrets about how the Miers nomination denies the doctrinaire left the kind of opportunity for a full-blown fundraising bonanza that would have come with a Brown nomination. But that's kind of like saying, after a tornado, "Well, at least the foundation's still there." Not to push the metaphor, but can anyone say what Bush's "foundation" is at this point in his presidency? He's right about terror, he's sensitive to issues of faith, he's correct about low taxes. His domestic spending habits have been compared to FRD's. Tammy Bruce is less generous: Bush is morphing into Jimmy Carter. Ouch.