Saturday, October 08, 2005

My Thoughts On Harriet Miers

I have refrained from commenting on Harriet Miers’ nomination to the Supreme Court. I am not a lawyer, and actually know very little when it comes to the subject of Court procedures.

But I do know poker...
And I have been known to relish a good fight in my younger days...

It seems to me that the primary objection of those on the right (with the exception of George Will, who I will get to shortly) is that this nomination has robbed them of the rousing fight that they somehow feel they so richly deserve.

I agree that the Democrats have been obnoxious and obstructive in their treatment of George W. Bush’s judicial nominees, but any time you can get your opponent to fold his hand without a fight, you win. The pot may not be as big as it would have otherwise been, but you get to stay at the table for another hand or two. At this table of Supreme Court nominations there could very well be a couple more hands yet to be played. I know a good poker player when I see one, and I am thankful I don’t have to sit across the table from this one. Bush has just played a very good hand, it seems to me.

One argument against her that gets a lot of attention is cronyism, with Michael Brown being thrown up as an example of why that is such a bad thing. But with each day, more information (as opposed to “news”) comes out that shows that Michael Brown was not so much incompetent as he was uninformed by local officials. The Governor and Mayor were much closer to the situation, yet they knew just as little about what was actually happening on the ground as Brown did. Which brings us to the national media who it has been shown was reporting extremely inaccurate and skewed stories. Comparisons of Ms. Miers to Brown are not applicable at all, yet one sees such comparisons daily.

David Souter is the next example used by those objecting to her nomination. Fair enough, especially considering the first President Bush did the nominating in his case. But (and most ignore that big but) it has been said that if asked two weeks before the nomination George H. W. Bush could not have picked David Souter out of a line-up. George W. apparently knows Ms. Miers very well, and has for some time. That is an important difference. He also knows David Souter and he most definitely knows George H. W. Bush. Are you following me here?

Added to that, he has known since the beginning (and it was dramatically reinforced in 2001) that if his Presidency is to have much of a legacy it will be for one of two things (or both), the war on terror, and the future shape of the Supreme Court. He will not jeopardize that legacy with what he considers to be a frivolous, “throw away” nomination. See the poker reference above. I believe he is once again being “misunderestimated”, only this time by his own supporters.

George Will made some compelling arguments regarding Ms. Miers’ qualifications. The gist of them being that she is not a “notable” legal mind. I’m sorry, but that just sounds elitist to me.

No, she is not a Yale or Harvard graduate. Not even University of VA, but instead is a product of Southern Methodist University (with a Batchelors Degree in mathmatics, which automatically endears her to me). Somehow that is a bad thing. She has no major published articles that show her to be a distinguished legal scholar. Again, that is somehow a bad thing. Some besides Will have even suggested that no prior experience as a judge is a bad thing, even though that is actually typical of Supreme Court nominees.

There is no constitutional requirement that a Supreme Court Justice have prior judicial experience. As a matter of fact, there is no requirement that one even be a lawyer. I for one would love to see a non-lawyer selected for the Court. (No offense intended to my legal friends Chad, Brian, Steve, et al..) Of course no non-lawyer has ever been selected for the Supreme Court, but it was 1851 before a Supreme Court Justice was a graduate of a Law School. Prior to that time, all Supreme Court Justices had learned their craft either by reading the law on their own, or as apprentices (typically one would assume, to someone who had read the law on their own, or apprenticed to someone who had). I would imagine few, if any, had published notable legal treatises prior to their nomination. This group includes John Jay, John Rutledge, and John Marshall. This is NOT to be considered a direct comparison between Ms. Miers and any of these legal legends. Instead, it is to point out how unrealistic some demands are from both sides. Would any of those three be called "qualified", if nominated today. (But, just maybe if her name was John Harriet Miers…)

An elite education and noted publications are wonderful things, but they do not automatically portend greatness, or even competence, as can be proven by some opinions of current occupants of Supreme Court seats.

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