Sunday, October 16, 2005

Harriet Miers, Best Justice Ever?

You may have been surprised over the past few months as the chickens have been coming home to roost around the White House that I have had little to say. With his approval levels dropping below 40%, his associates under multiple investigations, his war in Iraq not going particularly well, his blatant cronyism under the spotlight, his handling of the economy faltering, his international standing about as low as an American president has ever been, and his second term agenda in deep trouble, it has been a long time since G.W. Bush has had much to feel good about. Maybe he should go to the movies; or maybe not. But I have been content to just let history play out the rope with which he is entangling himself with little comment.Harriet_Miers

But I was just blown away by his choice of Harriet Miers as the next Supreme Court justice. I really don't know whether to laugh or cry. With one announcement he has managed to confound his friends and foes alike, and expose at the worst possible time his consistent lack of sound judgment and personal integrity. I almost feel sorry for the guy. Almost.

More than for him I feel for Ms. Miers. Minimally qualified, except through her devotion to a man who became President, it must be very painful to have to endure the hostile scrutiny of practically everyone with her main defenders all working at one address. With friends like the President's "conservative" supporters, she does not need enemies. She may well be a great person, smarter and more hard working than most. But she has fallen in with thieves. It is getting personally ugly, and may get more so.

Almost as informative and amusing has been the roiling about of the more reactionary elements of our political establishment, almost as entertaining as watching a dog chew on its own leg. Sometimes the best you can hope for is that these folks get the opportunity to really say what is on their minds, and that someone is listening.Tucker tie.vsmall

The recent "interview" of Robert Bork by our bow-tied Tucker Carlson was a joy to behold. Besides the uneasy image I had reading the transcript of two dogs smelling each other, I found it amazing that Bork was willing to say, in effect, that his main objection to Ms. Miers appointment was that she may carry with her to the court a somewhat open mind. Interpret for yourself:
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST: Are you impressed by the president's choice of Harriet Miers?

JUDGE ROBERT BORK, FORMER SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Not a bit. I think it's a disaster on every level.

CARLSON: Why? Explain the levels on which it's a disaster.

BORK: Well, the first one is, that this is a woman who's undoubtedly as wonderful a person as they say she is, but so far as anyone can tell she has no experience with constitutional law whatever. Now it's a little late to develop a constitutional philosophy or begin to work it out when you're on the court already. So that - I'm afraid she's likely to be influenced by factors, such as personal sympathies and so forth, that she shouldn't be influenced by. I don't expect that she can be, as the president says, a great justice.

But the other level is more worrisome, in a way: it's kind of a slap in the face to the conservatives who've been building up a conservative legal movement for the last 20 years. There's all kinds of people, now, on the federal bench and some in the law schools who have worked out consistent philosophies of sticking with the original principles of the Constitution. And all of those people have been overlooked.Bork
So for Mr. Bork - shown here in a bow-tie of his own and thankfully still a private citizen - it is necessary to have developed a "constitutional philosophy" before considering the facts and context of a case brought before the court. And not just any constitutional philosophy will do. It should be one he agrees with. Lord help us if Harriet Miers ever gets a chance to vote based on something she might learn after taking a seat on the bench.

The interview also had a wonderful little moment provided by Mr. Carlson.
BORK: ... It's odd that Justice Roberts, who is now the chief justice, and who will probably be an excellent choice in many ways, also had no track record that was easy to follow.


BORK: Now this woman, who has even less of a track record.

CARLSON: None at all, it seems like. But her defenders' flaks from the White House, some of whom we've had on the show.

BORK: Flaks, eh?

CARLSON: Flaks, you know, professional spinners.

BORK: I know the word, I just was interested in this. Go ahead.

CARLSON: Yeah, that's essentially what they are some decent people, but repeating a line that's been devised by the PR office of the White House - claim that she is a great pick because she brings diversity of experience. Not only is she a woman, and that supposedly - for reasons I don't quite understand - is very important, but beyond that, she has followed a different path than most Supreme Court nominees. She hasn't been a judge, et cetera.
First he calls White House defenders - not supporters - of Miers "flacs." Then he damns them with faint praise by describing them as "decent people." Finally he does not quite understand why diversity of experience or her gender might be important on the Supreme Court.

Listen up Tucker. If you were not white and male - like most of our Supreme Court justices have been and are - you just might find it easier to understand.

These guys can't be as thick as they appear. Or can they?

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