Tuesday, October 04, 2005

SCOTUS thoughts 

I am still trying to get my footing after Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, a move that seems strange to me in light of the rallying support he received for nominating John Roberts amidst calls to seek women, minorities and other non-qualification relevant attributes. But the issue of qualification seems to be the central one in this round, mainly since nobody seems to know whether she is qualified or not. Richard Lowry opines:
We don’t know much yet about Harriet Miers, except that she is the anti-Roberts, a nominee whose credentials are less than sterling and whose qualifications for the Court are less than obvious.

It might turn out that she is an outstanding justice. But there is no way for anyone besides President Bush’s immediate circle to know it. Of course, other Supreme Court justices have come without experience on the bench. Chief Justice Earl Warren was governor of California. Harriet Miers was “an elected member of the Dallas City Council,” as Bush put it in his announcement of her nomination.
Of course, Miers currently has a heavy-hitting job as White House counsel. That is testament to a certain legal acumen, and she has apparently impressed people with whom she has worked closely. But given the significance of a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest Court, this is a rather thin qualification. Indeed, the most important reason Miers was picked is that Bush is comfortable with her.

Now, I feel that the personal approval of the President is a strong qualification in itself, since we have seen Republican presidents nominate a seemingly more qualified (and conservative) judge he was unfamiliar with before, with less than savory consequences. But at the same time, I can identify with those who are calling this the ultimate act of "crony-ism" from a Whitehouse that has been continually (and wrongfully) accused of nepotism since it came to power. A trusted friend, indeed a valuable asset, but what else? I also wonder whether this was a wasted opportunity.
The amazing amount of support Roberts received from both sides of the isle testifies to the ability of a strong character and sterling resume to win over even some of your harshest critics. And its no secret that he had the Presidents personal approval, even friendship, or that he has sided with a more conservative interpretation of the law before. It seems to an outside observer to suggest that Bush had plenty of leway to push the envelope by nominating another such qualified candidate, or perhaps one who is more judicially conservative, having been handed the formula for success in the confirmation process. I am not alone in this sentiment, although the over all feeling amongst conservative circles on campus seems to be one of reluctance: a "wait and see" sort of attitude. The consensus also appears, however, to be that she will be approved.
And perhaps there lies the only shred of genius in this move. For the right, her conservative qualifications seem strong, albeit hard to find. Her writings on civil rights and the second amendment are staunchly in line with my own, and that of most conservatives. And her writings on crime, punishment and personal responsibility also speak to an attitude of traditional legal ideology. (For quotes on both, see this TIME article) Yet what Democrat wants to be the one to vote down a woman as "unqualified?" A woman who has been out in favor of gay civil rights for more than 15 years. It also helps that Harry Reid seems to like her too. Her philosophy seems sound, and despite questions about her experience and closeness to Bush that make her potentially difficult to gather support for, she is certainly difficult to oppose. And that may be all it takes.

[Update:]Check out this Volokh post for more upbeat news on the "right to bear arms" issue, perhaps her strongest selling point currently. Also note that her support of "civil rights" is not the same as supporting gay marriage, and she was openly against repealing the Texas sodomy law. "Gay" civil rights is a non-issue, and this can only be an asset in selling her to lefties.

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