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October 03, 2005

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A lot of these thoughts were first tossed out during email discussions with my TNH partners, who supplied most of the links. Of course, it goes without saying that the mistakes are ours, but any original insights are entirely my own...or something like that.

heh. Unlike my posts, where my insights are entirely everyone else's. ;-)

Fascinating, and something that just needs more time to play out before we know What It All Means.

Rare combo. At once a defensive nomination, and a "F*** the World" nomination.

here's how the Note described it this am:

One senior Democratic source on Capitol Hill confirms to ABC News that Democratic Leader Harry Reid signaled to Bush that Miers would be acceptable.

Remember: Any pick would have set off political landmines, and in the end Miers seems as "safe" a pick for confirmation — without a bloody fight — as anyone else, perhaps the "safest" pick.

We bet in the end this means no filibuster (threat) — or any Democratic Senators coming out to oppose her right away. It also flies in the face of the Notion that the President would have to pick someone to "satisfy" the base.

But/and with even less a paper trail than John Roberts, if she insists on not discussing her views (as seems very likely), it is possible that a right-left coalition in the Senate and among the interest groups could oppose her. But we seriously doubt that. She might lose a few votes on each extreme, and some outside groups (and bloggers) will scream about a pig-in-poke, but the White House has bet (as it rarely does) on a win based on taking the center (and having it hold).

After another round of assurances that this time the process to replace a Supreme Court justice would be a "war" and "Armageddon," the White House has a reasonable chance of avoiding that — again.

And/but it also seems to bring into doubt one (and perhaps two) of the President's campaign promises on the Court. First, it is hard to argue that Miers is, based on her career, in the mold of Scalia and Thomas. How the White House has tried to convince the right of that — and how they will now — will be interesting to Note. But, of course, the Administration did just that — to our amazement — on Roberts. Senator Brownback, over to you.

Second, even some senior Republicans have said in the last week that they found it unlikely that Miers could be painted as the kind of "intellectual giant" that the President has said he would look for.

The biggest political question right now is how groups on the right (not directly affiliated with the White House operation) — especially those who demanded a nominee determined to overturn Roe — will react.

Has anything changed since then?

But despite what you may be reading elsewhere, I don’t think anyone else really knows either.

Truer words were never spoken.

Love all the speculation about the pick; that Bush has protection of his hiney in mind (as the Plame story unravels) is especially compelling. There's always the chance, too, that a pick from the innermost circle is signalling a mounting insecurity in Junior.

this is fun, even if meaningless:

Well, the initial reaction from the AOL crowd isn't overwhelming on the Miers pick, and the issue of Bush's judgement is now something to think about, especially in the aftermath of the "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" mistake.

After thinking all day about this, it is still a bizarre pick. I just think that Bush went, in the end, with someone he was comfortable with and trusted. That indicates he is feeling pretty bereft at this point, or he would have swaggered out there and appointed Priscilla Owen or someone like that.

This truly mediocre pick is pretty demeaning to the Court from someone who promised to bring back dignity to the government. Clinton picked a towering figure in women's rights in Ruth Bader Ginzburg. Maybe Bush can't tell the difference between a co-author of the first major casebook on sex-based discrimination and the first woman president of the Texas State Bar. Maybe Bush really doesn't care about anything but protecting his own hide.

And what is it about Bush and these adoring single women? Does Condi know about Harriet? Did we slip into another dimension a month or so ago and no one told me? DH is right. Weird. Her and the pick itself. And the whole place we now find ourselves in. Just weird.

What should the Dems do? Draw a contrast with Clinton's picks. Challenge Bush on her resume. Compare her to Roberts. Demand to know her views because there is so little to go on. And above all talk about cronyism, and how of all places it is clearly wrong for the Supreme Court, especially with so many GOP figures facing criminal prosecution.

It sounds like Miers' "meticulous, detail-oriented" style becomes a handicap when she gets into unfamiliar territory (I'm extrapolating from the comments about her work in Andy Card's office). That could be a bad sign, if she goes to the Supreme Court without having much relevant experience.

And did you know that Harriet Miers and Laura Bush went to the same school (Southern Methodist University) at about the same time (circa 1967)? Wikipedia is amazing.

Here is someone who said it much better than I--Alexander Hamilton, from Federalist No. 76, courtesy of Eugene Volokh:

"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."

Clearly Hamilton never knew Bush.

Yeah, this is somehow both an insulting and an insecure pick, and reveals as well as anything that the boy king fundamentally just doesn't understand, or really care about, his job. (And that goes for his posse as well.) So yeah, whatever the fate of the nomination itself, the hearings on this one seem tailor-made for dramatizing some key themes. And no, we can't know yet how she'll perform if she does get confirmed; but the obsession with detail, the inability to make decisions, and the difficulty delegating make it a good bet she'd be a dream to clerk for.

Two gratuitous personal notes: 1) So is Justice Hecht intimately familiar with her late-night shopping habits? Or just reporting second-hand? 2)How does Bush know all these women's shoe sizes?

DemFromCT, I actually found the silly AOL poll kinda interesting, just given what it suggests about how the probably-less-involved are feeling in general (the "choice of Cheney" numbers pretty much match the "choice of Miers" numbers).

And as for the definitely-more-involved, Viguerie's breathing fire (from Aravosis via Atrios):
http://americablog.blogspot.com/2005/10/i-think-conservatives-are-going-to-try.html

Wonder if Kansas is finally getting fed up with the shell game...wonder if we'll end up facing a nutjob after all?

'Publius' over at Legal Fiction has a pretty good post on all this...

The really interesting question – and the one above my pay scale – is why social conservatives have developed (psychologically speaking) such hatred for the federal judiciary that they are willing to overlook even the criminal negligence that is Iraq for the hope that Bush will nominate Justices and judges they like. That’s not to say that a Court nomination isn’t important, but compared to losing a war, it’s small potatoes. But for whatever reason, they sure do hate them some judges. And for years and years, they’ve dreamed of having an opportunity to hoist one of their own on the Court to shift the balance their way. And with O’Connor stepping down, their long wait had ended. At long last, the moment had come – and Bush failed them.

...ultimately arguing - I think convincingly - that his base won't abandon Bush in the end. He cites the obvious reason - that they have nowhere else to go - but also invokes the getting-to-be-proverbial 'battered spouse syndrome' metaphor in what I don't think is a glib way; amid heavy competition, the Christo-Federalist Society vision of the way the Fed. Judiciary ought to be is really the most fantastic (in the literal sense), delusional part of 'movement' conservatism. It's almost as if the fundies NEED the cycle of wooing-and-betrayal over and over. I really wonder how it would sit with them if they actually got everything they wanted (and their 'philosophy' was put to the test in the real world) - probably not very well (after some initial crowing). Like all terrorists and demogogues, their very reason for being depends crucially on never 'winning'.

Of course the anger you hear from the Right at the moment is genuine, but...I bet they'll get over it, at least to some extent.

What I am hoping for, counting on, demanding in my teensy little voice, is what Mimikatz has laid out: Tough questions and tough follow-ups to inadequate answers to those questions. And tough votes if the inadequate answers remain inadequate. I really truly absolutely utterly despise the idea being put forth by some people already and probably more people later that the Dems should roll over on the nomination because Bush will likely nominate Owen or somebody else more to the liking of reactionaries. I guess I'd rather have somebody with a mind of her own on the Court, even if aggressively conservative, than another Clarence Thomas who cribs opinions from Scalia or Roberts.

Besides the questions that Mimikatz suggests, I hope somebody puts the elephant in the room - whether or not we've got indictments by then: Did you, Ms. Miers, have discussions about legal problems with anyone at the White House concerning Valerie Plame Wilson?

Moreover, I hope somebody follows Paul Rosenberg's suggestion and asks:

Are you a meddler, Ms. Miers? Would you bring Big Brother into the bedrooms, living rooms, and hospital rooms of ordinary Americans, meddling and intruding into the most personal and difficult decisions that American citizens make about their lives and their families?

Or, more specifically, to cut through all the lawyerly gobble-de-gook, and customary evasions, let me put it like this:

You told David Frum that George W. Bush, was the most brilliant man you had ever met. Last March, President Bush flew back from Texas to sign a law passed by Congress, intended to force-feed Terri Schiavo against her husband's wishes, to let her die, as he said she would have wanted to do. Is that an example of Bush's brilliance?

Maybe it's a payoff. She was a secretary in the White House and then Counsel, she may know things that Bush cannot have revealed.

I think Tim has it right: she knows where the bodies are buried. But today we have the right calling for her head so this is going to get interesting.

I think he just likes her. This just doesn't ring true for the Bush "administration," this idea of blackmailing your way from staff secretary to the SCOTUS. If Bush wanted someone else, and she insisted that it had to be her because she knew where the bodies were buried, he'd bury her body.

Mimikatz, that's a nice find. And how cute, too! "Ashamed!" Tee hee! I don't know what's more quaint, this "shame" stuff, or the Geneva Conventions.

I have a bad feeling about this. Not about whether she would be a competent justice. I don't know what to think about that at this point. My first instinct is no, unless she is now on Zoloft or some such (she sounds like someone who would benefit from that). But I do think that the wingnuts and the ratings-driven media will not be able to resist ripping this woman to shreds with questions and innuendo about her personal life--think "crazy" instead of incompetent or inexperienced, and even uglier things about her never-married status.

Oh, and if Reid did in fact suggest to Bush that Miers would be a good choice, then he would have to come out and say what he did yesterday. Better to get that out of the way now. So he isn't stuck with a behind-the-scenes "but you said she would be okay" back-and-forth with the president about Miers--this way it's all out in the open. Plus, he can always change his mind later, and get big media play for doing so.

rj

Yeah, it's pretty clear Texas was not part of the country (future country) when Hamilton wrote those words.

Meanwhile, Atrios shows us that the real questions to ask might concern the famous August 6 2001 PDB.

Overnight thoughts, although I may have said this already:

The pick shows once again that Bush isn't serious about governing and doesn't really understand how government works and its importance. It's all a game to him and Rove, and an extendion of themselves, like medieval kngship or something.

But the Dems do pretend to be the party that not only IS serious about government but knows how to do it. So get serious about Miers. I understand very well how cloistered and insular supreme courts can get. But "someone with real-world experience" doesn't mean "anyone" with real-world experience qualifies. What a Supreme Court does is not decide cases in a factual sense, but resolve issues of law that can't be resolved any other way. It is an intellectually rigorous enterprise, because the judges are constructing the legal framework for lower courts and political bodies to follow. I just see no evidence she has the kind of mind that takes. So the Dems need to make this about qualifications and cronyism, the things Hamilton talked about.

And if she is confirmed, the most important thing is whose wing she ends up under.

Sure sounds pretty obsessive. And this would be a perfect complement to someone as narcissitic as Bush. But here's why I think she was nominated:

http://greyhairsblog.blogspot.com/2005/10/buds.html

Bush only takes care of Bush.

Loved most of your post, DHinMI, but have to take exception with your description of Miers as inordinately strange because she's never been married, had children or been in a long-term relationship (that we know about). I thought the left was supposed to be accepting of people who don't have a cookie-cutter profile, rather than subtly undermining them because they don't fit the mainstream definition of success? If anything, I think Miers' less traditional path might be one of the few things that would qualify her for the bench, as it might have given her empathy for those who are outside the mainstream. That's a complete guess on my part, but why should her personal life (or lack thereof) automatically be seen as a liability?

Second, her obsessive behavior at work. There are tons, and I mean tons, of corporate drones out there who are workaholics and hitch their star to their boss's wagon in order to climb up the career ladder, as apparently Miers has done. It might be pathological, but if so, it's as widespread as overeating, and probably a compensation for being one of the first women in a position of power in the Texas legal community.

God knows, I'm not advocating Miers should be named to SCOTUS. She's patently unqualified based on her professional record. But to show that, we don't need to bring her personal life into it, or treat it with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge kind of derision.

Orchid, you should reread because I didn't say she was wierd because she's unmarried, I speculated that she's unmarried because she's wierd. And I said nothing about children; that was your addition, not mine.

And how many corporate drones do you know who remember everyone's birthday, and insist on getting their presents, even in the middle of the night, because it has to be done right then, and not at any other time?

There's nothing on the left that says you can't point out someone's strange, eccentric and possibly even bizarre behavior.

I second Meteor Blades' additions to the good-question list, and (as always) pretty much everything Mimikatz has said. (Frum's reference to Miers being a "natural follower" -- which he excised from his post yesterday -- definitely highlights the importance of "whose wing she ends up under.")

The one area that's hitting me harder today is the Gitmo factor; I've been concerned about Roberts cutting Dear Leader too much slack, but this one...oy.

I have never before had the pleasure to read a blog called RightWingNews.com, but I was sniffing around there tonight and found this post, more than some of the other winger bitching, to be oddly comforting (emp. mine):

Hugh Hewitt, whom I admire and generally agree with, is defending the abysmal Harriet Miers nomination by asking conservatives, "Do you trust (George Bush)?" Unfortunately, the reason why this nomination has caused such an uproar on the right is that the answer to that is a resounding, "No."

Knowing what we know today, why should conservatives trust George Bush after the terrible judgement he has shown on so many issues?

It goes without saying that Bush is worse than Lyndon Johnson in the big spending department. In his entire time in the White House, he has never even vetoed a single pork laden bill. Then there's the enormous Medicare prescription drug benefit which will create a massive expansion of government and add a trillion dollars to the debt next 15 years.

We also can't forget the anti-First Amendment, McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill which Bush signed into law or Bush's position on illegal immigration which has alienated a large chunk of the party.

Since his election in 2004, Bush has spent months senselessly flogging Social Security when almost everyone acknowledges it isn't going anywhere. Even on the war in Iraq, an area where many conservatives agree wholeheartedly with his policies [and many don't!] , it has been frustrating to watch Bush twiddling his thumbs instead of making a real effort to buck up public support for the war.

Now, to top it all off, Bush has picked a minimally qualified crony without solid conservative credentials for the Supreme Court because...why exactly? He knows her, she has been nice to him, and that makes her the best person to fill one of the most crucial jobs in the country?

(....)

...to select someone like Harriet Miers -- who will significantly hurt Bush politically -- will be a big mistake even if she does turn out to be a solid conservative vote -- which, by the way, is far from a given.

This was another bungled decision in what is getting to be a startlingly long line of bungled decisions and it's entirely possible that it will cause so much political damage that the GOP will lose Senate seats in 2006 because of it. What makes Harriet Miers worth that?

Absolutely nothing that anyone other than President Bush can see.

I still think that the religious right will forgive and ulitimately cleave to Bush and the GOP, but he really has lost a certain chunk (the principled-but-pragmatic chunk) of the Bowtie Crowd.

Such weird politics in this country. Bush asleep at the wheel for Katrina focused the public's discontent about Iraq and the economy; the Miers nomination focused Bow Tie discontent about spending (and other things). America the Dysfunctional!

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