Monday, October 24, 2005

Pull the plug on Miers' nomination

John Fund again writes a devastating critique and report of how the Bush Administration nominated Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, pushed her nomination on unwilling conservatives and its ineffective attempts to spin her as a worthy justice. Here are some of the more devastating nuggets Fund unearthed:

Many longtime supporters of President Bush have been startled to get phone calls from allies of the president strongly implying that a failure to support Ms. Miers will be unhealthy to their political future. "The message in Texas is, if you aren't for this nominee, you are against the president," one conservative leader in that state told me. The pressure has led to more resentment than results.

Similar pressure has been applied in New Hampshire, site of the nation's first presidential primary in 2008. Newsweek has reported that "when George W. Bush's political team wanted to send ambitious Republican senators a firm message about Harriet Miers (crude summary: 'Lay off her if you ever want our help')," they chose loyal Bush ally and former state attorney general Tom Rath to deliver it. Plans were even launched to confront Virginia's Sen. George Allen, a likely 2008 candidate for president, and demand he sign a pro-Miers pledge. Luckily, the local Bush forces were warned off such a move at the last minute.

Last week, we learned that Rath pushed for David Souter as a Supreme Court nominee and helped convince John Sununu (Sr.) to back Souter with Pres. Bush I. Andy Card, the current President's chief of staff is one of the strongest Miers supporters; he also supported Souter when he was Sununu's deputy chief in the Bush I administration.

But the White House was not only dumb, it was cowardly and craven:

. . . the same White House that says it won't listen to senators who tell them the Miers nomination should be withdrawn was highly solicitous of Senate objections to other qualified nominees. One federal judge was nixed by a powerful senator over a judicial opinion that would have been attacked by feminists. Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown, both of whom won tough confirmation battles for seats on appellate courts only this spring, were nixed by other GOP Senators as too tough a battle for the high court. Alice Batchelder of the Sixth Circuit was deep-sixed by an old Ohio political rival, Republican National Committee co-chairman Jo Ann Davidson. The White House and some senators deemed Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit too difficult to confirm. Given Mr. Bush's idée fixe that the nominee had to be a woman, it's possible the White House allowed itself to be pushed into a corner in which Ms. Miers was literally the only female left.

Worst yet, how do you build support for a non-entity? Fund tried to learn about Miers, he really did:

In desperation, I took to going on radio talk shows in Texas and tongue-in-cheek offered to practice "checkbook journalism" for the first time in my career. I said I would write a small check to the favorite charity of anyone who contacted me and could plausibly say that he has had a serious discussion about politics or judicial philosophy with Ms. Miers. So far it hasn't cost me a dime. For my trouble, I have been incorrectly attacked by allies of Ms. Miers, including some in the White House, for supposedly waving a checkbook seeking negative information about her. For the record, I made my offer in a jocular fashion, but to make a serious point. With the exception of President Bush, no one appears to know the nominee's judicial philosophy.

I'd like to say I had great prescience that this nomination would be a disaster, and on the merits I nailed it. But from the "seen it coming" file, exclusive to The Monk (I mentioned before that I work with some of her former colleagues): one former colleague of Harriet Miers told his secretary six years ago that if Bush became president, he'd nominate her for the Supreme Court. That says more bad things about the president's cronyism and lack of conservative credentials than anything John Fund will learn.

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