Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

EDITORIAL >> The case for Harriet Miers!

Indecision, indecision. Senator Blanche Lincoln says she is a little troubled by the nomination of President Bush’s attorney as a justice of the U. S. Supreme Court. She knows little about Harriet Miers’ qualifications for the court and is eager to learn more.
We would like to help but no one, least of all Miers, will ever be able to enlighten Sen. Lincoln on that point. Miers is a greater enigma than anyone nominated for the court in modern times, greater even than the unknown and lamentable G. Harrold Carswell, nominated by President Richard Nixon and rejected by the U. S. Senate.

Miers has never been a judge, which should not itself be a disqualification, but her record in the service of the law turns up little either. She rose to be managing partner of a big corporate law firm in Texas and served a term as president of the Texas Bar Association, both of which testify to her political skills but not her legal acumen. There is so far little in the way of even appellate briefs on constitutional cases that might reflect her powers of reasoning and argumentation.

There are samples of her composition when she was head of the Texas Bar Association but it is mostly mush — windy, vapid sentences that argue earnestly for the commonplace. The conservative columnist David Brooks, ordinarily a cheerleader for the White House, gave samples from the bar association writings and said none of them even rose to the level of pedestrian.

Of course, the president’s own files while he was governor of Texas furnish the most illuminating evidence so far of her wisdom, the mail that he received from her while he was governor and she was at the law firm and then his appointee to the Texas State Lottery Commission.
“Great speech! Many compliments in the audience!” she wrote. (Jan. 15, 1998)

“Hopefully, Jana and Barbara recognize that their parents are cool — as do the rest of us. . . All I hear is how great you and Laura are doing. The dinner here was great — especially the speech! Keep up all the great work. Texas is blessed!” (no date)
“You are the best!” (July 21, 1997)
“You are the best Governor ever — deserving of great respect!” (undated)
“You and Laura are the greatest!” (May 15, 1997)
“Thanks for taking the time to visit in the office and on the plane back. Cool! Keep up all the great work. The state is in great hands.” (March 30, 1995)
“Texas has a very popular Governor and First Lady!” (July 8, 1996)
Conservatives are wondering why the president chose her!
Miers told another White House aide that Bush was the most brilliant man she had ever known, and Bush maintains that she is the most eminently qualified person in America for this seat on the Supreme Court.

The conservatives are upset because they expected a conservative intellectual who would tilt the court dramatically to the right and overturn all the landmark constitutional rulings since Dwight Eisenhower was president — abortion, school integration, prayer and religious homilies in the classroom and defendant rights.

Robert Bork, who was rejected by the Senate and is the exemplar of the movement, condemned Miers’ nomination in the most denigrating terms heard in modern times. But we would put that in her column. Bork might have been the worst nominee for the court in our time. Bobby Bork was bright enough, but he considered the judicial system and the whole of the law mere intellectual playpens, not a place of final resort for people seeking justice. He never gave the slightest obeisance to people.

A local example: In the famous Grand Gulf electricity case, while he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia 20 years ago, Bork concocted a formula that would have forced the people of Arkansas to pay staggering electricity rates to support Middle South Utilities’ subsidiaries in Mississippi and Louisiana. Arkansas would have borne almost 100 percent of the costs of giant nuclear power plants in Mississippi and received none of their power. If he could have persuaded one more judge to join him, Arkansans would have spent the past 20 years in virtual peonage. Bork thought he had come up with a clever theory for power sharing.
We doubt Miers would be so callous as to do that to any people — unless George W. Bush proposed it!
Besides, President Bush can make a compelling affirmative-action case for Miers. Remember Roman Hruska, the Republican senator from Iowa, who once insisted that the Senate confirm G. Harrold Carswell even while acknowledging that Carswell was no intellectual powerhouse.

“Even if he is mediocre,” Hruska said, “there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance?”

Senator Lincoln has a chance to give them representation now if she can be sure Miers rises to that test —but not if President Bush withdraws her nomination! Bless them all!