Who is Supreme Court Nominee Harriet Miers?

Who is Supreme Court Nominee Harriet Miers?

by Mariah Wojdacz, December 2009

Conservatives across the nation are poised on the edge of their seats, watching the latest suspense-thriller. But this one isn't from Hollywood, it's the latest Supreme Court nominee, White House Counsel Harriet Miers. Why worry? Is it because conservatives fear that Miers will not be confirmed? Or, because they fear she will be?

The nomination, announced in early October, was supposed to have pleased every side of the political spectrum. The female Miers is also an evangelical Christian who has donated to both political parties over the years. Even Senate Democrats, who first suggested her name during the advisement process, seemed unlikely to make much of a fuss.

But in the weeks following his announcement, Bush has discovered just how tough the critics can be. And while Bush surely expected some opposition to Miers, he probably did not expect most if it to come from his own party.

So far, as many as 27 Senate Republicans have said privately that they may vote not to confirm Miers. High-profile conservatives such as Pat Buchanan and Rush Limbaugh are criticizing Bush for passing over sitting conservative judges with records to illustrate their judicial philosophies. Some conservative groups have gone so far as to urge the nomination be withdrawn.

The problem? Miers herself has never been a judge, and when it comes to the High Court, many conservatives are wary of taking yet another shot in the dark.

One such conservative is American Values Group president Gary Bauer, who disagrees with Bush's "so-called stealth strategy." The idea is to nominate someone with no record for the Democrats to criticize, as Bauer pointed out last week on Fox News Sunday. But the problem with that, he said, "is that that's a strategy that has been tried over and over and over again. And at the end of the day, the only ones who get fooled by it are conservatives."

History certainly supports Bauer's contention. Republican presidents appointed seven of nine Justices to the most recent court, which was widely criticized for being staunchly liberal. In fact, the first President Bush came under much political fire for appointing Justice David Souter, whom many conservatives lump into the liberal voting block. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whose seat Miers has been appointed to fill, was another disappointment for conservatives. Appointed by President Reagan, Justice O'Connor proved to be the infamous "swing vote," upsetting conservatives almost as frequently as she did liberals.

In order to sit on the Supreme Court, the Constitution does not require previous experience as a judge. Bush's move is not unprecedented, and not every such stealth nominee has backfired on conservatives. In fact, the recently-deceased Chief Justice William Rehnquist became a judicial hero to conservatives during his tenure, and he never served on any lower court's bench. He was practicing law privately in Arizona when President Nixon nominated him in 1972, and his originalist view of the Constitution has become the template for modern conservative judges. While conservatives hope Miers, if confirmed, would be another Rehnquist, they also fear she could be another Souter or O'Connor.

Or worse yet, an Earl Warren.

The case of Chief Justice Warren is perhaps the most ominous warning for conservatives to avoid the stealth strategy. Although Warren was appointed over fifty years ago, conservatives are still stinging from the slap in the face he gave them in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education

In 1953, Republican President Eisenhower was so confident Warren would reverse the liberalism of the Roosevelt administration that he pushed the nomination through during recess, without confirmation from the Senate. But the very next year, Warren ruled against the conservative position that the federal government had no power to desegregate the schools. Later, Eisenhower called the Warren appointment the "biggest damn-fool mistake I ever made."

But it isn't just the fear of the unknown that has conservatives wringing their hands. Republicans and Democrats alike question whether Miers is sufficiently qualified to fill a seat on the High Court.

In spite of Miers' impressive legal resume, which includes such accomplishments as first woman elected Texas State Bar President, first woman to become President of the Dallas Bar Association, President of the law firm Locke, Purnell, Rain &Harrell and Co-Managing Partner at Locke Liddell & Sapp, LLP, Buchanan has described her qualifications as "utterly nonexistent."

Not surprisingly, Senate Democrats have their own concerns about Miers, and have requested certain documents from the White House they hope might evidence her views on key issues. But according to Senator Arlen Specter, R-PA, such documents are protected under executive privilege and should not be released.

But by nominating Miers, Bush is asking the Senate and the American people to take a shot in the dark. So what assurance does President Bush offer, what evidence that Miers will make a good Supreme Court Justice? "Trust me," he says. "Just trust me."

Will conservatives trust him? According to Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC, they should. "The bottom line is the president knows her best," Graham told Fox News Sunday. "He's a conservative president pushing conservative policies and his lawyer, he believes, is a conservative." Graham has urged conservatives to listen to what Miers has to say before jumping to conclusions.

Whether liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, every citizen in this country is affected by every decision the Supreme Court hands down. Bush's assurance to the nation that he is making the right decision is nothing more than, "Trust me. I know what I'm doing." Twenty years ago, that very same catchphrase gave a bumbling detective on a short-lived TV series his obligatory fifteen minutes of fame. Each time Detective Hammer said the line, the viewers knew - something was about to go terribly, terribly wrong.

Does Bush know what he's doing? Should America just trust him? Or, if Miers is confirmed, will we sit back and watch our liberty and freedom blow up in our faces?

It's a cliff-hanger, folks.

Don't you just hate those?