Along the Tracks

Sunday, October 09, 2005
 

Misguided defense of Miers


Robert Musil has a couple posts defending the Miers nomination from critics.

The first is a "don't get on her bad side" defense which scolds conservatives for their harsh and sometimes personal criticism. He adds such attacks might ease the path for a Justice Miers to be influenced by personal relationships with liberals on the court and move to the left.

I agree personal attacks should be out of bounds, but in this nomination, the problem is in many ways "personal." After all, President Bush made the nomination based on his long personal relationship with Miers. The criticism points to this as an illegitimate criterion for elevation to the court. The accusations of "cronyism" certainly meet any definition of the term, and are aimed not at Miers, but at the process involved in her nomination. Charles Krauthammer's belittling of that process with strong rhetoric should hardly be considered a "personal" attack on Miers - although it certainly is an attack on Bush's selection process.

Previously, Musil looked at Miers' resume. Musil's defense of Miers' qualifications for the high court are, frankly, unconvincing. He pronounces them superior to those of the woman Miers would replace, Sandra Day O'Connor, at the time of her nomination.

O'Connor's Stanford degrees are minimized as being prior to "the full reputation for excellence that it has acquired more recently." Perhaps O'Connor's successful career played a part in building that reputation, no? O'Connor's service as an assistant state attorney general for Arizona certainly matches Miers' private practice work in corporate law.

Musil brushes past O'Connor's time in the Arizona state senate, noting only she was "appointed" to her seat. True, but she then successfully campaigned and held her seat twice, and was elected by her Republican peers in that lawmaking body to senate majority leader, the first woman to hold that position in any state. Indeed, most observers would say her service in the Arizona senate was the crucial part of her resume, giving her experience in politics, interaction with citizens, as well as providing her with the opportunity to develop useful legislation, understand real-world application of the law and persuade colleagues to her point of view. By comparison, Miers served a term on a city council.

O'Connor's chose the judicial path with an elected court office in Arizona, followed by 18 months on the Arizona Court of Appeals. All this surpasses the lack of judicial experience on Miers resume. Being the personal lawyer of a governor who becomes president demonstrates legal accumen, certainly, but it is primarily a position one holds based on trust and past relationship, not through prior achievement.

The "cronyism" claim against O'Connor for her friendship with Rehnquist is ridiculous. Rehnquist did not nominate O'Connor; he didn't have the power to give a Supreme Court seat to her by his own actions; their relationship was not in the same league as the very close ties between Bush and Miers.

Is Miers equally or even more qualified than some justices in history? Maybe. But I don't recall Bush campaigning on the platform of nominating justices with resumes "no worse than some others who have been seated on the court." He said he'd name people with superb qualifications. Miers does not meet that standard.


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