Tuesday, October 11, 2005

VIA A READER, Laura Bush assures Americans that Harriet Miers is qualified to be a Supreme Court justice:

Joining her husband in defense of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, Laura Bush today called her a "role model for young women around the country" and suggested that sexism was a "possible" reason for the heavy criticism of the nomination.

"I know Harriet well," the first lady said. "I know how accomplished she is. I know how many times she's broken the glass ceiling. . . . She's very deliberate and thoughtful and will bring dignity to wherever she goes, certainly the Supreme Court."

Laura's husband chimes in:

"She is a brilliant person," he said of Miers. "Just because she hasn't served on the bench doesn't mean she can't be a great Supreme Court justice."

One: The fact that Laura Bush "knows Harriet well" does not qualify "Harriet" to be a Supreme Court justice.

Two: The fact that Ms. Miers has "broken the glass ceiling" many times does not qualify her to be a Supreme Court justice.

Three: "Deliberateness," "thoughtfulness," and "dignity" are all very positive qualities that would stand a person in good stead in many professions. However, they do not qualify Ms. Miers to be a Supreme Court justice.

Four: Being "brilliant" does not qualify Harriet Miers to be a Supreme Court justice. Having a brilliant legal mind as demonstrated by a record of service on the bench, having received a law degree from an outstanding law school, having written legal opinions, being associated with specific legal cases, and so on, might so qualify her.

Five: "Trust me, she's a good friend of mine, I know her well, she's really smart," are all not proof of fitness to serve as a Supreme Court justice.

Six: If the best George W. Bush can say about Harriet Miers' qualifications to be on the Supreme Court is that "there's no reason she can't be a great Supreme Court justice," then we're all in trouble. I want to know the reasons she can be a great Supreme Court justice, and that means measurable professional credentials, not just personal qualities.

The reader who sent me the link to this WaPo piece put it very well:

We do not need a "role model" on SCOTUS. We need an excellent legal mind with a very keen intellect. Also, what I do know is that law professors graduated #1 in their law school class, worked on or edited the law review and probably clerked for a Federal judge. Now, while females are under represented as far as law professors are concerned, there must be at least 200 female law professors in the country who are more qualified than Ms. Miers."

So the "sexism slash glass ceiling" argument does not fly.

Pres. Bush is insulting Americans' intelligence and demonstrating his contempt for the majesty and awesome importance of America's legal institutions by trying to pass off on us someone who is so clearly and unarguably NOT qualified for a Supreme Court appointment

4 comments:

Old Cowhand said...

assume that Justice Ginsburg dies tomorrow, let me give you a hypothetical nominee by Bush:

1) He has been a governor, and a lifelong Republican party operative (convention delegate, fundraiser and candidate)
2) He worked for the attorney general, and spent over 15 years in public and private practice, but never managed a law firm or was a senior partner
3) He testified as a strong advocate for suspension of habeus corpus for some citizens when the President has declared a war
4) He is a close friend of the President, who promised him a nomination in return for his loyalty
5) He served on the judicial nominations committee charged with vetting Supreme Court nominations
5) He never served as a judge in any capacity at any level

Given these qualifications, would you have the same view of this hypothetical nominee that you do of Ms. Miers?

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Old Cowhand said...

In case you said that you WOULDN'T support the "hypothetical" nominee above, you should know that you would be keeping Earl Warren off the court...

I think that you've made an unfounded rush to judgment about Miers. We simply DO NOT know enough to make an informed decision yet.

Steve Stevenson said...

Now isn't it possible that the roots of Harriet Miers's closeness to George W. Bush lie in a college friendship with his wife? I haven't heard it suggested before. But consider: Harriet Miers and Laura Bush attended SMU from 1964 to 1967, both with the intention of becoming librarians. SMU was a lot smaller in the late 1960s than now. It's very plausible that they were friends.

Official records of Harriet Miers's interactions with George W. date back to 1989, when Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht took his girlfriend to an event hosted by the Senate Ladies Club. (Justice Hecht first became romantically involved with Miers in the late 1970s, when the two worked in the same Houston office of the law firm Locke & Liddel. Over the years the status of their relationship shifted, but they remained close.)

Consider the time. For the Bushes, it was an amazing moment. In 1989, W.'s father had just been elected President. W. himself was kicking off the process of buying the Texas Rangers. For Hecht and Miers it was also amazing; both were becoming well-known in the Texas power circles.

At the Senate Ladies Club event, the two couples were seated at different tables. But they conversed and struck a rapport nonetheless. My guess is that the common ground lay between the two ladies, not the two men.

In 1993, Miers started representing George W., first in a fishing dispute and then in his Texas gubernatorial race. She's been an unwavering Bush loyalist since.

Another important figure is "James B. Francis." He's one mysterious guy. Now a lobbyist and businessman, formerly Bush's 1994 campaign coordinator, he apparently first tagged Miers to join the Bush team. It appears to me that he was influential in Bush's decision to nominate Miers for the Supreme Court.

He's clearly a political heavyweight. Putting aside the question of how he knows Miers, way back in 1992-3, when Bush was putting together his gubernatorial campaign, why did Bush decide on James Francis? My bet is that W. knew him well--you don't turn to a stranger to organize your first major political campaign. But all of Mr. Francis's political muscle is behind the scene; try finding a solid biography of him.

Finally, there's the shadow of one "Roland Garcia" to examine. It's also impossible to find information about this guy. (As with James Francis, web pages about Roland Garcia appear to be systematically requested to be removed from search engines--call this a paranoid theory or do some searches yourself.) In the 1980s, he too was a partner in Locke & Liddel, the firm Harriet Miers eventually presided over. That means he and Miers knew each other well.

Here's the kicker: Mr. Garcia seems to have had a really close friendship with the disgraced Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Remember Gonzales? He's the guy who planted the roots for the Guantanamo Bay prisoner-abuse scandal and drafted a memo limiting the Freedom of Information Act and expanding Executive Privelege, which allows the Bush administration to act in secrecy. He's also the dude considered most likely to have been nominated for the Supreme Court vacancy had he not been exposed. Gonzales was also with Bush back in 1994.

So this is how it went down. It's possible they already knew each other, but George W. is only formally introduced to Harriet Miers through his wife Laura, their mutual connection, in 1989. They keep in touch for the next few years. Then in 1993, Bush has his gubernatorial campaign organized by James Francis. Bush thinks of Harriet Miers when Mr. Francis explains to him the importance of having a powerful Texas woman lawyer on board.

In comes Harriet Miers. With her comes the legal weight of her male friend, Texas Supreme Court Justice Hecht, and the minority connections of her coworker, Roland Garcia.

Hecht himself is not directly useful in W.'s bid for governor because as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court he's already as powerful as W. could make him. So they remain pals, connected through Harriet. But Roland Garcia is interested in Bush's bid for governor. He joins the club, bringing his good friend Alberto Gonzales on board.

Pretty soon, Bush is elected governor. He appoints Gonzales to be his General Counsel in that capacity. He appoints Harriet Miers to the state's Lottery Board.

Years pass. Gonzales proves to be particularly loyal to Governor Bush. So in 1999, Bush helps Gonzales get elected to fill a vacancy on the Texas Supreme Court. Why, aside from his loyalty? Because Harriet Miers's "male friend" Nathan Hecht, already a Texas Supreme Court Justice, has gotten to known Gonzales since 1994 and recommends him. On the Texas Supreme Court, Gonzales serves alongside Nathan Hecht and Priscilla Owen. The treo is close; their judicial opinions tend to be in accord.

Texas likes Governor Bush. So W. decides to run for his daddy's old job. His team remains close.

In 2001, as President of the United States, George W. remembers his friends who helped make his presidency possible: he nominates Priscilla Owen to fill a vacancy on the Federal Appellate Court; taps Gonzales (who was always less a judge and more a political ally) to be Attorney General; and chooses Harriet Miers to be the White House's General Counsel.

As President, W. knows he'll need to nominate a Supreme Court Justice. He has Gonzales in mind. But unfortunately, before Sandra Day O'Connor retires, Gonzales is exposed as a corrupt political hack. So now who should he nominate? He asks for the input of his close friends, including Harriet Miers, whose job description as White House General Counsel included the role of finding a good nominee, as well as other power figures in Washington. All stars point to John Roberts. He's a luminary and he's got no record.

Turns out, Roberts was a great choice. People love it. The Senate confirms him. But during this process Rehnquist dies. Now W. has another nomination on his hands. He can't choose Gonzales, because he's been exposed; he can't choose Priscilla Owen, because she has too weighty of a conservative trail; so he chooses the chooser herself, his wife's old friend, Harriet Miers.

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