Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Miers, Conservative Elites, and What About the Hapless Senate?

If I was losing patience yesterday with what seemed to me to be ducking a fight, today I am losing patience with Conservative elites--including some of my dear friends here--who seem to be too quick to point out Ms. Miers’ lack of "credentials." A caller on Hugh Hewitt’s show today and a graduate of the University of Dayton’s law school, pointed out that all of this whining about her degree from a small law school in Texas is starting to sound to him like Conservative elitism. I agree. Since when do big name law degrees hold sway with us? We don’t know this woman’s mind. Bush says he does. He ought not to be held accountable for the sins of his father. I will be amazed if this woman is a Souter. Peter’s point that we don’t know anything about this woman other than that she is not Alice Batchelder, Mike McConnell, or Edith Jones, is exactly right. So we didn’t get way. Boo, hoo. If you want your way in judicial appointments, stick your neck out and run for President.

And finally, if we really want to pick a fight with someone, why not take it to the spineless Republicans in the Senate whose shameful behavior in the last year has given us this moment? One might ask WHY Bush feels the need to play politics right now instead of complaining about the fact that he does. The Senate is why. We all know the Senate is why. Voinovich and DeWine--Ohio’s two senators--are why. We need to do something about that before before we demand more of Bush. To do less is peevish and, worse, it hurts our cause. We will get another shot at it. The problem is that I think the people we most want to get the next nomination will be so tainted by the support of these childish rants that they won’t be taken seriously. Too bad.

Discussions - 28 Comments

Hey Julie, that’s a nice set-up for an eventual Supreme Court justice who went to Bob Jones University - we must not be elitist!!

I think you are missing the real issue of complaint for most people. The problem with Miers is not her education at a small school (and to be honest, I have hardly heard that mentioned at all); her problem is her complete lack of any substantive qualifications that set her apart from thousands of other attorneys in this country.

If you need proof, consider the law schools of some of the top conservative judges, who many say would have been MUCH better choices: Alice Batchelder (University of Akron School of Law); Priscilla Owen (Baylor University Law); Maura Corrigan (University of Detroit Law); Edith Jones (University of Texas Law).

So, my point is, you "losing patience" with the "conservative elite" has much more to do with you not paying attention to the problem, than any form of your alleged "conservative elitism."

As to your second claim, that the real people to blame are the Senators, I think you are engaging in a futile attempt at shifting blame. Had Bush nominated someone like Batchelder, Jones, or Owen -- sure, the dems could have attempted to filibustered them, but there is plenty of fighting that could have been done to get around that (including whether or not filibusters even apply to nominations). The decision not to wage that fight was not the Senator’s, but rather that of Bush.

My biggest problem with the nomination of Miers is the precedent that it seems to set for future nominees. If confirmed, it sets the necessary qualifications for SCOTUS Justice dangerously low. The reality of the matter is, the nomination of Miers violates the Advice & Consent clause, and she should not be confirmed. Regardless of her conservatism, if the Senate fails to vote her down on account of her qualifications, I fear the practice of nominating a buddy attorney who has no public record (instead of well-seasoned jurists or others who have extensive experience and qualifications) will become commonplace. That includes potential nominations by democractic presidents too. Is this really the road we want to travel down?

The nomination of Miers is a slick move by President Bush, in my opinion. He has to know her, inside and out. Bush also knows that to appoint another Souter would be disasterous for his legacy and the Republican party.

The liberals are divided and confused, again. Throwing them off balance seems to be a sure way to defeat them.

I am hopeful that Miers will be known as "The Iron Lady" of the Supreme Court in the near future.

This is a statement of faith in President Bush. I wouldn’t want to look at it any other way.

I too have problems with this woman’s qualifications. Bush has passed up many fine conservatives judges who have enormous legal experience to name this woman, all in order to avoid a fight? I’m sorry, but since when does Bush avoid a fight? I find this behavior inconsistent, and frankly it shakes my faith in the Bush Administration. Despite what all the Lefties say about conservatives’ willingness to blindly follow Bush’s lead, we (unlike the Left) still have integrity.

The GOP Senate should kill this nomination and send a strong signal to Bush...do this right or not at all.

Gary,

I don’t care if she turns out to be the female version of Scalia, I don’t think she’s qualified for the job. I don’t care how "slick" of a move this is, the bottom line is, she is not qualified. I do not want Supreme Court nominations to turn into this type of "slick" process that results in non-qualified people being named to the bench. Republican presidents aren’t the only ones who can nominate Justices to the Supreme Court, and I surely don’t want to start giving this type of candidate any legitimacy.

Julie:

You are spot on. Arlen Spector and the bobsie twins from Maine and the missing Linc all make the Senate a Crap shoot even starting with nominally 55 votes going in. You mentioned the Ohio pair but left out Hagel who says he wants to be a Republican nominee for President but spends much of his time pissing off all the Republican voters.

I think the guy who liberal call an "idiot" and a "chimp" just outfoxed the minority leader of the Senate and the Sr Senator from NY. I blame Karl Rove.

We just got a very very conservative lady on the Supreme court.

Now its for Stevens to retire. He hasd done little for Republicans in his term but perhaps he will at least remember who put him on the Court.

If we get lucky Darth Bader steps down too do to health issues and we now can talk about a conservative Supreme Court.

Albert

You do know that Renquist did not have judicial experience beofre he came on the court? right? Seems like he was able to handle the job just fine. My understanding is that almost a third of the last 30 justices had no prior judicial experience including a justice like Brandeis. Either it aint that tough or the necessary skill set is more than having called "balls and strikes" before.

Gary, I’m glad you brought that up...

It is true that William Rehnquist never served as a judge before his nomination to the Court, however his resume included credentials noticeably absent from Miers’. For instance, Rehnquist attended attended Stanford University where he received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in political science. Following his receiving these degrees, Rehnquist attended Harvard University, where he received another master’s degree, this time in government. Following reception of his second master’s degree, Rehnquist attended Stanford Law School (where he graduated in the same class as Sandra Day O’Connor). After completing law school Rehnquist served as a law clerk for Associate Justice Jackson of the SCOTUS. Rehnquist went into private practice for 16 years, before returning to Washington to serve as Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel.

Harriet Miers received both her undergraduate and law degrees from SMU (Southern Methodist University). She worked at the firm of Locke, Purnell, Rain & Harrell from 1972 to 1999, rising to the position of president. In 1985, she became the first woman president of the Dallas Bar Association; she also served as a member-at-large on the Dallas City Council. In 1992, Miers became the first woman president of the Texas State Bar. Most recently, she was co-managing partner at Locke Liddell & Sapp, LLP. From 1995 until 2000, Miers was chair of the Texas Lottery Commission. Miers has served as Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff, and most recently as Counsel to the President since February 2005.

Both Rehnquist and Miers are obviously very bright people. However, Rehnquist’s resume is much, much more distinguished than that of Miers. The only positions that have separated Miers at all from so many other attorneys in America, are those that she has received on account of being close with Bush. Moreover, from these positions which she has held due to her relationship with Bush, we can gather nothing of her performance or aptitude, as none of this work was of public record, and you can be sure the White House will not be handing over any memos from her time as Counsel to the President.

I’m not saying Miers isn’t qualified just because she hasn’t been a judge. I’m saying she isn’t qualified because she hasn’t done anything that shows she is more deserving of a Supreme Court seat than any other partner at a large firm in America.

SORRY for the double post, comment 8 can be disregarded -- I have put in paragraph markers to make it readable.


Gary, I’m glad you brought that up...


It is true that William Rehnquist never served as a judge before his nomination to the Court, however his resume included credentials noticeably absent from Miers’. For instance, Rehnquist attended attended Stanford University where he received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in political science. Following his receiving these degrees, Rehnquist attended Harvard University, where he received another master’s degree, this time in government. Following reception of his second master’s degree, Rehnquist attended Stanford Law School (where he graduated in the same class as Sandra Day O’Connor). After completing law school Rehnquist served as a law clerk for Associate Justice Jackson of the SCOTUS. Rehnquist went into private practice for 16 years, before returning to Washington to serve as Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel.


Harriet Miers received both her undergraduate and law degrees from SMU (Southern Methodist University). She worked at the firm of Locke, Purnell, Rain & Harrell from 1972 to 1999, rising to the position of president. In 1985, she became the first woman president of the Dallas Bar Association; she also served as a member-at-large on the Dallas City Council. In 1992, Miers became the first woman president of the Texas State Bar. Most recently, she was co-managing partner at Locke Liddell & Sapp, LLP. From 1995 until 2000, Miers was chair of the Texas Lottery Commission. Miers has served as Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff, and most recently as Counsel to the President since February 2005.


Both Rehnquist and Miers are obviously very bright people. However, Rehnquist’s resume is much, much more distinguished than that of Miers. The only positions that have separated Miers at all from so many other attorneys in America, are those that she has received on account of being close with Bush. Moreover, from these positions which she has held due to her relationship with Bush, we can gather nothing of her performance or aptitude, as none of this work was of public record, and you can be sure the White House will not be handing over any memos from her time as Counsel to the President.


I’m not saying Miers isn’t qualified just because she hasn’t been a judge. I’m saying she isn’t qualified because she hasn’t done anything that shows she is more deserving of a Supreme Court seat than any other partner at a large firm in America.

Here here, Julie. I agree with you one hunderd percent on what you have said. Yes the point is that President Bush KNOWS his nominee which is a whole lot more then can be said for the rest of you. And when you voted for him for president of the country then well, you picked him because you trusted him to make the right picks for Supreme court. And I for one do not see what good all this second guesing does. Judge Miers is going to be quite right is my guess. Good day.

Mike, I think you’re missing the point I’m trying to make. It’s not that I don’t think she will be a good conservative judge (I’m not 100% convinced), but rather that she really probably should not be confirmed, due to her lack of credentials.

Take a look at what Alexander Hamilton had to say in Federalist 76 regarding the role of the Senate in the confirmation hearings:

To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. . . . He would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.

Now, do you really think that the founders would have been satisfied with a president picking a close friend who has no credentials independent of her relationship with the president?

Gary says:

"Bush also knows that to appoint another Souter would be disasterous for his legacy and the Republican party."

I have no confidence that he really understands this. Sure, he has a vague notion, but does he really understand the root causes of a Souter? Principles seem to have gotten lost in this somehow...

Well Albert it maybe that I did miss your point but likewise I think your missing mine. YOu see what I am saying is simply that it does no good for us to quarrol with President Bushes pick when we are not the ones who get to make the decision. Yes, I’m talking about the fact that it is the PRESIDENT’S choice and not our’s. I am presuming that you as I voted for President Bush and if the answer is that yes you did, well than I guess that means you trusted him at one point. My question to you and to the others who are now expressing so much doubt is Why did you vote for him in the first place?

Mike,


You’re absolutely right, that’s why my quarrel with Miers is not that I do not think she will be conservative, while I’m not totally convinced of it, I am, as you say, willing to trust the president on that one.


Regardless, my problem is that Bush is now attempting to cheat the confirmation process, much like the dems did during Roberts’ hearings. Us conservatives spent the Roberts’ hearings arguing that the Senate was overstepping their role in the confirmation process (which they were). Now, we (conservatives) are just as bad as the Democratic Senators who voted against Roberts, as we are trying to confirm a nominee whose only distinguishing credential is that she is a friend of the president and he "trusts" her. If Miers’ is confirmed, then in a matter of months the Democrats and Republicans will have succeeded in completely diluting, if not ruining, the confirmation process that the Founders envisioned when they wrote Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2 of our Constitution (Advice & Consent Clause).

Albert. You made Julie’s original point even better than she did. Probably quite by accident. I dont give a rat’s ass that someone went to Harvard and Stanford. So freaking what. SMU is a fine university and very well thought of. Harriett managed a large law firm. Was a litigator and counsel to the President that I voted for. Good enough for me. Harvard and Stanford seems to turn out more than their share of white guilty liberals, the kind that have screwed up this country for a generation.

O’Conner went to Stanford law. I rest my case and yours is in tatters.

Gary,


I don’t think you have read a thing I wrote. I made the point that Julie’s criticism of "conservative elitism" was not well-founded. I made the point that, at least to me, my problem is not so much whether or not I would be happy with Miers as an Associate Justice; rather, it is whether I think she is qualified for the job, as required by the Constitution.


Do me a favor, and read R.J. Pestritto’s article, then tell me if you are understanding where I am coming from. This isn’t about what law school she went to. It is about her apparent lack of any experience that would show that she is any more qualified to sit on the Supreme Court than any number of other attorneys who have made partner in a firm. When you realize there is nothing distinguishable for Miers, other than her frienship with Bush, you then will realize that her confirmation was exactly what the Framers of our Constitution were seeking to prevent when they wrote the Advice & Consent Clause.

Nice backtrack but you are the one who wanted to lay the resumes side by side. The difference in education? The Name on the sheepskin. It dont mean beans to me ( or Julie) but it sure does to you.

Ands she was a little more than just another partner. Managing partner. Large law firm. I know the firm personally and have worked with them in the past ( just not Harriett ). General counsel to the Office of the President. Probably more access to the President than anyone but Andrew Card.

I dont need law school profs and appellate court justices to explain the constitution to me. If I can read and think, so can Harriett. Probably better than a bunch of elitists. I think her experience more than trumps Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s. If Ruthie was qualified, ( 95 votes for )then so is Harriett. Maybe the bar is already set pretty low but precedent is fine by me.

Gary,

If you believe she is qualified, that’s fair enough, it’s your opinion, but you’re certainly entitled to it. Personally, I disagree.


To me, managing a law firm, although a great accomplishment, is not
in and of itself, enough to make someone a qualified Supreme Court justice. Personally, while her appointed positions are obviously impressive, it seems counterintuitive to, in the context of preventing cronyism, consider the appointments (which were received due to her relationship with Bush) alone as making her more qualified for SCOTUS. Unfortunately, there is nothing for us to gather the quality or ability of her work while holding these positions, as none of her work was public. So, what we are left with, in terms of qualifications for the Supreme Court, is her private practice experience(which thousands of other attorneys share), and her positions that she received through appointment by Bush.


Oh, and your claim that Miers’ experience "more than trumps" Ginsburg’s is pretty ludicrous in my mind. Ginsburg graduated from Columbia Law, clerked for a federal judge (so did Miers), was associate director of the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure. Ginsburg was a Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law from 1963-1972, and Columbia Law School from 1972-1980, and a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford University, California from 1977-1978. She was general counsel for the ACLU for 7 years, helping them establish their Women’s Rights Project during that time. Also during this time, not only was she on the National Board of Directors for the ACLU, but she also argued and won several cases before the Supreme Court. In 1980 she was appointed to the DC Circuit where she served until her appointment to the Supreme Court in 1993.


I think it’s pretty obvious from their credentials that Ginsburg’s qualifications for the Court were much easier to discern from her resume than those of Miers. Before you start crying "elitism," comparing resumes is just about all we are able to do in this case to compare the two women. So, unless you can propose a better system of assessing Miers’ qualifications in comparison to Ginsburg’s, I think you may want to re-think your statement that Miers is better qualified than Ginsburg was.

what? We are not on different planets we have a momentary intersection of two parallel universes.

Again you put great stock in elite name degrees and apparently being a professor. Sorry but that not a bragging right with many many folks.

Ginsburg was a professor, Miers ran a very large law firm and was a litigator.

President of the US general counsel vs ACLU general counsel. which gets your nod here?

When Ginsburg went to the appellate court she had exactly no judge experience. NONE Since the advice and consent function is the same for appellate and Supreme court(s), I am sure you find that Ms Ginsburg should never have been given the opportunity as she was unqualified.

Or is it different becuase she went to the Ivy league, was a poor professor and had a bif affinity for liberal causes?

Haha, come on Gary.


First of all, yes, when looking at resumes for the purposes of determining qualifications, some stock is put in obtaining a law degree from Columbia or Harvard, as opposed to SMU. That is a fact of life when you are applying for any job in the legal field, why should it suddenly be any different for the Supreme Court?


That being said, by the time you get to the stage of your career, where you went to law school is nowhere near as important of a consideration as what you have done since you graduated. If you want evidence of me not being a "conservative elitist," my top picks would have been Alice Batchelder (University of Akron School of Law), Edith Jones (University of Texas Law), Janice Rogers Brown (UCLA Law), Priscilla Owen (Tulane Law), or Maura Corrigan (University of Detroit Law).


Ok, I think we are spinning our wheels on the law school issue. We both agree that it would be nice to have someone from a non-ivy league school on the Court.


Next and FAR MORE DISTURBING to me, is your trying to compare Ginsburg’s qualifications at the time of her nomination to the DC Circuit, to Miers’ qualifications to the Supreme Court. If you don’t think there should be a difference in the level of qualifications necessary for a federal appeals court and the Supreme Court, I don’t know what to tell you. True, Ginsburg had no judicial experience when she was appointed to the federal bench. But, by the time Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court, she had 13 years of Federal Appeals Court experience. How you can even compare the qualifications for the Supreme Court of Miers and Ginsburg, at the time of their nominations to the Supreme Court, I have no clue. I think Miers is extremely qualified, for a Federal Appeals bench, but NOT for the Supreme Court. Big difference.


Oh, and one more thing -- Like I said, for the purposes of the confirmation hearings, which are to assess qualifications and guard against cronyism, I do not think it is appropriate to put much stock in Miers’ service as Counsel to her friend Bush. Her appointments at the hands of Bush speak much more to their relationship (cronyism) than it does to her ability and readiness to serve on the Supreme Court. Since all of her work is privileged, the positions she has held are not those which allow us to have any idea about the quality or scope of her work.

We indeed agree to disagree. Why is it bragging rights to admit you way overpaid for something ? Like your education.

There are only about 130 -150 appellate court justices in the country at any given time. there are 9 Supreme court justices who are the final appellate level. The difference if there is one is one of acute degree.

Real world experience and not a lifer in the messed up world of Washington DC.

Now cronyism is Abe Fortas as he is about to be indicted. Harriett Miers is a very qualified pick and a breath of fresh air for a staid court.

Harriett Miers is a very qualified pick and a breath of fresh air for a staid court.

Well, I want something more than being a partner at a firm and riding Bush’s coattails to prove the ability to preside over the most prestigious and important court in the nation.

Bush’s word may be good enough to satisfy people that Miers would be a solid conservative, but unfortunately I don’t think the President’s word is what the Constitution’s founders had in mind to solidify the qualifications of a nominee.

We can agree to disagree.

Julie, what are you talking about? I haven’t heard any conservatives criticize Harriet Miers’ alma mater. The only things people are talking about are (1) her utter lack of judicial experience, and (2) her close relationship with W. It’s one thing to respond that Miers need not have been a judge before, a point that many conservatives are likely to agree on. But don’t go making straw men ("conservative elitism," etc.) that are easy for you to knock down but don’t accurately reflect conservatives’ criticisms of the nomination.

Well I want something more

Like an Ivy league petigree and law school professor position on the resume, preferable at an elite institution

Sheesh

As for me, if the woman can read the Constitution, understand it, write about it coherently and hold her ground in the shark infested waters of Washington, I don’t care if she washed dishes for a living before getting to the court. Time will tell--not speculation. Move on, boys.

Well, your incredibly low standard for what should be required of a potential Justice on the Supreme Court partially explains why you think Miers is qualified. The funny part is, nothing in her resume would give us any reason to believe she has done anything with the Constitution, including reading, understanding or writing coherently on it. I guess we will have to wait until the confirmation hearings to see if she can even meet that burden.

Incredibly low standard you say. I think the standard should be exactly what recent history shows us of confirmed nominees. I believe 10 of the last 34 justices had NO judicial experience but were found confirmable. Now the standard should be raised? What seminal event has caused this change?


You dont get to where she has been without the ability to reason, to form coherent arguements and to write in an understanable form. And the constitution is not written in Greek so I think she can read it. In fact that what most of us have been clamoring for, a justice who is a strict constructionist. Miers in his speech promised just that. Good enough for me.


Now here is something we can agree on. When Stevens goes, the battle should be joined and it should be everyone on the ramparts behind a McConnell or clone.

Her for his otherwise its dead solid perfect.

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