Monday, October 10, 2005

Harriet Miers and Her Critics

I think some of the major conservative commentators have left their base. I don't mean their readers or listeners. I mean the vast majority of the 62 million people who voted for George Bush.

Some of the criticism of Harriet Miers is, well, just plain petty.

She is only 1 of a million lawyers in this country. What makes her so special? (Charles Krauthammer) Maybe that she headed a major Texas legal firm successfully, or was the first woman head of the Texas bar, or is the trusted counsel for the President of the U.S. How many of the other 1 million can claim anything even close to those credentials? How many of her critics have done half as much? Yet there is sneering at her success as the basis for a "joke" nomination.

Then there's the innuendo that she is small minded because she corrected punctuation, grammar, and spelling on memos sent to the president. (David Frum - 10/6/05 CSPAN Washington Journal interview) This reminds me of the criticism of John Bolton for having demonstrated his anger by the intimidating gesture of putting his hands on his hips! Who thinks such a criticism is even worthy of being brought up? Harriet Miers is a detail person, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons she was successful in running a major business operation (as Beldar points out) and certainly was a factor in making her a successful practicing lawyer. Anyone who has gone to law school knows that getting the details (facts) right are the basis for any possibility of arguing the merits of a case--whether it's property law or constitutional law you are dealing with. To pooh-pooh attention to detail is not to understand the law.

Then there's the I-and-my-friends-didn't-think-of-her-so-why-should-the-President? criticism. (Charles Krauthammer, David Frum) Uh, maybe because Article II of the Constitution gives him that responsibility. If you think he makes bad choices, you shouldn't have elected him president. But the idea that the same senators who approved Justices Ginsburg and Breyer should reject Harriet Miers because she wasn't on somebody else's short list is ludicrous. (Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for pointing this out on his radio show.) One might well wonder if these commentators have even read the Constitution. But, they obviously have and for some reason have substituted "advice and consent of the Senate" with advice and consent of his political base--or, more accurately those pundits who presume to speak for his political base.

Which brings me back to my original point. I think most of the 62 million who voted for George Bush do not want a Supreme Court made up of judicial nerds who know lots of court case details and not much about real life. (Ann Coulter) I think they want judges who understand real life problems, have compassion, and can read the laws and Constitution and interpret them fairly. In fact judges have a bad name for lots of people in the base because they often let the guilty go free to prey on the innocent again, don't have a common sense understanding of eminent domain, and have problems figuring out if the Ten Commandments can be legally displayed in courtrooms. For most of the base these are no-brainer issues. We need people on the court who can cut to the chase. If it's your case being judged, would you list as one of your top ten desired attributes that you want a legal nerd hearing your case? Not me.

I don't like the petty carping of some conservative pundits--even though I admire and have learned from the commentary of those quoted above. I think it's demeaning to Harriet Miers and to the conservative movement.

The main problem is that no one knows enough about Harriet Miers to give substantive criticism. The main facts known about her are that she has been very successful personally and professionally in many different roles. So, her critics are reduced to trying to demean her and reduce the impact of her success. That's not nice, and it's not very flattering to people whose business is to communicate substantive issues and sell people on conservative values. Nit-picking and attack by innuendo are not conservative values. And, in fact, they are what has put the liberals in so much electoral trouble. Let's not take a page from their book.

I don't know much about Harriet Miers either. But, I like that she has been successful in a lot of different roles that require insight and the ability to express a case convincingly. I also like that people who know her like her and trust her. I think that sort of person can make a first-rate justice. I don't know whether she will be first-rate or not. But sneering and nit-picking is not the way to find that out or to enliven the base.

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