Sunday, October 23, 2005

Miers Withdrawal Watch -- Part 2

GOP Bloggers addresses the rumors of a Miers withdrawal: "I don't see it happening," but "I still think that conservatives should lay off for a bit and see what developes [sic] over the next week."

Whatever. The big news today is George Will's second major assault on the Miers nomination (see here for my post on the first), a column in the Post called "Defending the Indefensible". Key passages:

Such is the perfect perversity of the nomination of Harriet Miers that it discredits, and even degrades, all who toil at justifying it. Many of their justifications cannot be dignified as arguments. Of those that can be, some reveal a deficit of constitutional understanding commensurate with that which it is, unfortunately, reasonable to impute to Miers. Other arguments betray a gross misunderstanding of conservatism on the part of persons masquerading as its defenders...

In their unseemly eagerness to assure Miers's conservative detractors that she will reach the "right" results, her advocates betray complete incomprehension of this: Thoughtful conservatives' highest aim is not to achieve this or that particular outcome concerning this or that controversy. Rather, their aim for the Supreme Court is to replace semi-legislative reasoning with genuine constitutional reasoning about the Constitution's meaning as derived from close consideration of its text and structure. Such conservatives understand that how you get to a result is as important as the result. Indeed, in an important sense, the path that the Supreme Court takes to the result often is the result.

And this is what it comes down to:

Can Miers's confirmation be blocked? It is easy to get a senatorial majority to take a stand in defense of this or that concrete interest, but it is surpassingly difficult to get a majority anywhere to rise in defense of mere excellence.

Still, Miers must begin with 22 Democratic votes against her. Surely no Democrat can retain a shred of self-respect if, having voted against John Roberts, he or she then declares Miers fit for the court. All Democrats who so declare will forfeit a right and an issue -- their right to criticize the administration's cronyism.

And Democrats, with their zest for gender politics, need this reminder: To give a woman a seat on a crowded bus because she is a woman is gallantry. To give a woman a seat on the Supreme Court because she is a woman is a dereliction of senatorial duty. It also is an affront to mature feminism, which may bridle at gallantry but should recoil from condescension.

As for Republicans, any who vote for Miers will thereafter be ineligible to argue that it is important to elect Republicans because they are conscientious conservers of the judicial branch's invaluable dignity. Finally, any Republican senator who supinely acquiesces in President Bush's reckless abuse of presidential discretion -- or who does not recognize the Miers nomination as such -- can never be considered presidential material.

I'm hardly a conservative critic of the Miers nomination, but Will is right: This is about "excellence," Miers's lack thereof, and "Bush's reckless abuse of presidential discretion". It may be tempting for Democrats to vote for her, but they should stand firm and refuse to condone such blatant cronyism and the denigration of one of America's most important institutions. (Plus, Miers may very well be a hardline conservative on such issues as abortion, executive prerogative, and corporate law.)

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The News Blog: " Miers seems to have had no relevant experience except cheering George Bush on with the most obsequious notes in presidential history. Her abject idol worship is discomforting in a woman 60 years old."

It's discomfiting in anyone.

Hugh Hewitt responds to Will. But, given his knee-jerkingly loyal defence of Miers, does Hewitt have any credibility left?

Professor Bainbridge looks at the Wills v. Hewitt battle (Hewitt certainly seem to be paying close attention to Will. Does Will even care what Hewitt has to say?). Check out the links, but here's the thrust of his post: "First, the blogosphere. Then Robert Bork. Then National Review. Now George Will. These are serious people and real conservatives who have concluded that the Harriet Miers nomination was a slap in the face to those who have toiled for decades to bring the Constitution beck from exile. It's sad to see Miers' defenders like Hewitt dismiss such folks as having 'run off the cliff.'"

Confirm Them weighs in here.

Jonah Goldberg at NRO here.

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Meanwhile, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is claiming that Miers lacks the votes for confirmation: "'If you held the vote today, she would not get a majority either in the Judiciary Committee or the floor,' said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York. On the 18-member GOP-controlled committee, 'there are one or two who said they'd support her as of now.'" And here's more:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, rejected suggestions that the White House was considering whether to withdraw Miers' nomination. Hutchison said the former Dallas lawyer is highly qualified and deserves to present her case. Confirmation hearings are set to begin Nov. 7.

"She is the only one whose entire career is in private practice," Hutchison said, in contrast to the current justices. "I can't imagine not having someone with practical real-world experience."

Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have asked the White House to release more information on the nonlegal work Miers has performed there over the past five years.

Brownback, a Judiciary Committee member, cited concerns he had about Miers' views on affirmative action following reports that she supported diversity and numerical set-asides when she was president of the State Bar of Texas.

"I do think we're going to have to see more information -- not attorney-client privilege type information, but more information of the work product that she was involved with at the White House that was not of a legal nature but that's of a policy nature," Brownback told "Fox News Sunday."

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the committee, agreed. "The president has based that decision based on what he's seen her do in the White House. We ought to at least know what she did in the White House," he said.

The head of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean, said it was his guess that Miers would not be confirmed if the White House failed to provide the request documents.

For more, see Taegan Goddard's Political Wire and The Mahablog.

And Newsweek examines how Katrina hurt Harriet: "The tale of how Katrina hurt Harriet is just one glimpse inside a White House that seems overwhelmed by crisis and in desperate need of some kind of relief." It's a very good review of everything that has gone (and is going) wrong for the White House. Definitely worth a read.

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