President Bush has sought to counter a tidal wave of accusations — not from his Democratic opponents but from his own core political supporters — that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers is a crony who lacks the experience, intellect and record to fill the pivotal seat of retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Clearly, conservatives are worried that Miers will be a repeat of Justice David Souter, an unknown New Hampshire judge who after being appointed by George H.W. Bush, became the conservative poster child of Republican Supreme Court nominees who turn liberal on the bench.
“I’ll tell you, if these nominees end up voting with the liberals, the Bush coalition will absolutely fly apart,” longtime conservative activist Paul Weyrich, head of the Free Congress Foundation, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “The only thing that has held it together has been judges. People would have left on account of profligate spending, on account of immigration, on account of the war, you name it. But they’ve held on because of judges, and if these two nominees end up being something other than what the president has promised, we’ve got big problems.”
“Let’s put it this way,” Michael Greve, head of the federalism project for the American Enterprise Institute, told the Chronicle. “I think it is fairly obvious that there were better picks out there.”
Randy Barnett, a libertarian law professor at Boston University, wrote a scathing piece in the Wall Street Journal blasting Miers’ lack of experience in constitutional law and accusing Bush of cronyism.
“Given her lack of experience, does anyone doubt that Ms. Miers’s only qualification to be a Supreme Court justice is her close connection to the president?” Barnett asked.
But in spite of hoo-hah, Miers has an excellent chance of being confirmed.
Most Senate Republicans are likely to back her, despite misgivings. Key Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), greeted her nomination favorably.
Their reasons for supporting Miers are ironically similar.
Because Miers has never been a judge — and thus has never written a judicial opinion — Senate Republicans are left with having to trust Bush’s judgment. If the GOP fails to support Miers, what does that say toward their support of Bush? Essentially, Bush is staking party unity on Miers confirmation. It’s a dangerous game to play, but Bush is no doubt confident he will win.
Meanwhile, Miers lack of a court record leaves Senate Democrats with little to rally the troops around — at least in the 10-minute chunks they’ll be given for questions during her confirmation hearings.
And maybe they think that Bush has nominated a future Souter. Miers’ loyalty to Bush notwithstanding, her background, includes contributing to Al Gore’s 1988 run for president and to Lloyd Bentsen’s 1988 run for Senate. She also has been on record supporting gay rights.
However, on abortion rights, Miers appears to be to the right of recently confirmed Justice John Roberts. But do Democrats want to be seen as having a one-issue “litmus test” for the Supreme Court?