Saturday, October 15, 2005

Harriet Miers: Is the Right protesting too much?

Last week, I happened to see a lawyer who runs an association of women judges and has a long history of national leadership in the legal field. She basically knows everyone who is anyone in the legal profession. I asked her what she thought about Miers.

“Well”, she replied in all seriousness and after some thought, “she’s not a monster.”

This hit me like a ton of bricks--that in this era of hard-right conservative grip on our nation’s political institutions, “not being a monster” could be a qualification for the highest court in the land—the United States Supreme Court, the final arbiter of the Constitution, the nine men and women who decide how laws can intrude upon or enhance our lives, our liberties, our fundamental civil rights.

Now the interesting thing is that the strongest concerns being voiced about and even outright opposition to Miers are coming not just from Democrats and organizations on the progressive side of the ledger. In fact, the pithiest language progressives seem to be able to muster is that they are “troubled” by the nomination. Makes me want to pour buckets of starch into their backbones—but that’s a subject for another day.

The most virulent attacks on Miers are coming from George Bush’s base—the right-wing ideological groups like the Eagle Forum and their cronies in the Senate such as Sen. Sam Brownback.

“Souter in a skirt” they have called Miers, revealing more than a whiff of sexist derision.

You do have to wonder what Bush is thinking:
But then there is this Administration’s recent record—appointing a male veterinarian to run the women’s health division of the FDA—a former horse association director to run FEMA—the Texas Lottery commissioner to USSC-- do we see a pattern? Cronyism rather than qualifications perhaps?

In the absence of information, people tend to make up their own, so it’s no surprise that both sides have big questions about Harriet Miers.

Perhaps this nomination is arrogance as usual from the Bush White House, once again thumbing its nose at anyone who dares to question them. “You want to judge my nominees by their past decisions? Well, I’ll show you—I’ll give you a nominee who has written NO decisions.”

Or--is this a sign that the right is losing its power, in the wake of Schiavo and Katrina and DeLay and Rove and Frist and voter anger about the war in Iraq? Should the Democrats simply declare victory and go home, since Bush didn’t nominate a monster?

The only way for the public to find out is for the Senate Judiciary committee—R’s and D’s alike--to insist (at a minimum) upon the release of Miers’ legal memos during her tenure as White House Counsel and Deputy Counsel. These are the only documentation of her legal thinking on the great issues facing our nation.

And Miers must—MUST-- answer questions on her judicial philosophy and Constitutional perspectives on those issues.

‘Strict scrutiny” of Harriet Miers is absolutely necessary in the interest of the integrity of the Court and the esteem in which we should all hold it and its opinions.

There is a fragile centrist balance on the current USSC today. It divides 5-4 on many criitcal issues like reproductive and other civil rights, and separation of religion and government. This appointment to fill the seat vacated by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will either hold that center or tip the scales toward the Scalia and Thomas side of the Court.

Miers tried to get the American Bar Association to rescind its pro-Roe position. Generally speaking, that’s a pretty reliable code for the probability that Miers will sit on the rightward end of the Court’s liberal to conservative continuum.

And I think the braying you hear from the political right is just a cover, that they desperately want Miers to be confirmed because they have been assured by the White House that she is one of their own.

Copyright 2005, Gloria Feldt

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