Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Miers Hype

Lots of thoughts on the new SCOTUS nominee. The three things you should read first are:

TLaura’s post on the embarrassing Bush, not the terrifying one

That is, Miers represents one side of Bush, and it's the relative good side -- the side that has Cheney rushing out on Limbaugh to calm the rubes, the bizarre, clueless, politically oblivious side, the self-absorbed but supremely un-self-aware, Loyalty Above All Else side. This was the side we saw mainly during the 2000 campaign and the early days before 911. Those were the relative good days, when the problems with Bush were mainly aesthetic. At the end of the 2000 campaign, The New Republic wrote:

If [Gore] loses on November 7, it will not simply set America on an ideological course that we consider perilous and unworthy of our best traditions. It will be a sign that we are not living in a serious age.

Ezra’s post mocking conservatives for following a dunderhead
Poor kids. They thought electing a cipher and surrounding him with conservative ideologues and Republican wisemen would result in a sort of Robo-Republican, a candidate genial enough to take office and suggestible enough to govern -- pun not intended -- right. Instead, Bush reacted as most small men in big boots do and surrounded himself with folks even less qualified than he. With his Spidey Sense tingling, Bush staffed his administration with a who's who of neocons grateful to come in from the cold and Texan loyalists eager to erase their regional insecurity through national actions. Classic spokes-and-wheel formation -- the connections and loyalty all flowed towards Bush, not the party or each other.

and Prospect’s post about Harry Reid’s meeting with Bush where they discussed Harriet
I personally think that I would like to see someone who has not had judicial experience. I think that we need somebody to go on that Court in the mold of the people on the Berger court, people who have not spent their lifetime holed up in some office writing opinions and reading briefs. One of the people that’s being talked about is Harriet Miers, his own lawyer. At the meeting we had with the president last week, we were in the office he has there; I was there, Frist was there, Leahy was there, and Specter was there, plus Andy Card and the vice president. I said, “The vice president got here in a very unusual way. He was chosen by you to find a candidate to be your vice president. You liked the person in charge of finding a candidate better than the people he chose.” I said, “I think that rather than rather than looking at the people your lawyer’s recommending, pick her.” ... The reason I like her is that she’s the first woman to be president of the very, very large Texas bar association, she was a partner in a law firm, she’s actually tried cases, she was a trial lawyer, and she’s had experience here. I could accept that. And if that fits into the cronyism argument, I will include everybody as a crony, but not her, when I make my case.

Anyway, reading these articles and comparing this to the Robert’s nomination I’m really not sure what to think. The going line for leftblogistan seems to be that Bush appointed an unqualified (anti-intellectual?) crony above a great deal of other factors. I would love to attack Bush along those lines, but a) clearly Sen. Reid was the one who first mentioned this unqualified person and b) Roberts fit neither the unqualified part nor the crony part that well. And of course c) I don’t think Bush is allowed to choose what cheese-spread to have on his sandwiches without the direction of his political advisors, let alone pick a SCOTUS justice all on his own. Also, I don’t particularly agree that he was “spoiling for a partisan fight” as the conventional wisdom apparently was, since eh, I think this team likes to pick fights they can win.

In which case I’d like to start off by saying that I’m kinda disappointed in Harry for going with an unqualified person, unless he knows something we don’t. Oh wait, Sen. Reid is pro-life. Sure he opposes Bush’s judicial nominations on many levels and has been a great party leader, but let’s just say this is the one scenario where you really don’t want to have someone who betrays your party’s policies. The Republican leadership is weak, they want to compromise, and Reid allows them to do that largely because he doesn’t fight for the most important issue to many judicially-focused Dems. That may be very unfortunate, for NARAL and whoever runs against Chaffee at least. Or if things go badly enough, for Reid.

Which leads to a distinction that I think many conservatives have glided past. Many members of the Republican party want to overturn Roe v Wade. Many members of the Republican party want a reduction in judicial activism and this “strict constructionist” stuff. These are not the same thing. During elections and news shows it’s easy for them to be allies that can pretend they are trying to accomplish the agenda of social conservatives through principled interpretation of the Constitution. But the fact is there are many Republican intellectuals and money-makers who primarily believe in the more federalist court, and there are many conservatives who would sell their grandmother to get rid of abortion (which, given what they view abortion to be, is perfectly understandable).

So what was Roberts? He was the federalist’s dream. A supremely qualified return to a humble judicial atmosphere. Of course, if you want a non-active court, turning over 30 years of precedent that most state laws are based around and has been affirmed in multiple court cases, is really not that good an idea. Roberts said this in his famous “Roe is the law of the land” answer, and those intellectual federalists just can’t see why the Christian-right isn’t happy since hey, at least they got a strict-constructionist.

Harriet Miers seems the opposite. No well-formed legal views about the political responsibility of the third branch, no classy arguments about what precedent means – just an explicit desire to get rid of abortion, and no qualms against voting that way on the highest Court.

PS: I’d also say read Andrew Sullivan as he has the best conservative round-up, but he’s spending the majority of his time chronicling an Army Captain who’s being sequestered(jailed?) because he spent the past 17 months trying to get to the bottom of the torture epidemic in Iraq and is now trying to go public. (Which really, is probably the proper priority of things but there isn’t anything this blog feels like saying on that except what I said here.)


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