When Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination to the Supreme Court, it brought to a crashing end one of the most embarrassing periods of President Bush’s time in office thus far. Miers claimed differences between the president and Congress over documents as the reason for withdrawing, but that is only where the problems start.
I still cannot figure out what prompted Bush to nominate her in the first place. Miers has spent her entire life as a lawyer, most of it as Bush’s personal lawyer. By no means does that qualify someone to sit on any court, let alone the United States Supreme Court. Miers has never been a judge at any level, never had a single constitutional case argued before her. Of course, the same was also true of the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, but at least he had clerked for a Supreme Court justice.
It didn’t take long after her nomination was announced to figure out it was doomed. Republicans never warmed up to her – not even moderate ones. Some Republicans weren’t happy over the John Roberts nomination either, but in that case at least there was somewhat of a paper trail for senators to go back over. With Miers, there was nothing to go on, and she didn’t help matters by frequently being unable to answer senators’ questions on constitutional issues during informal meetings. In response to one question on an issue, she said she would obviously have to “brush up on that.” Sorry, not good enough for the Supreme Court.
With two Supreme Court seats having opened up within a couple months – Rehnquist and the retiring Sandra Day O’Connor’s seats – Bush had and still has a chance to impact how the court will look for perhaps the next 25 to 30 years. In Roberts, Bush chose what can best be described as a moderate conservative. We really don’t know. All we know is that the 50-year-old Roberts will likely be around for awhile.
The choice of Miers on the heels of Roberts was probably the worst move Bush could have made, both realistically and politically. Members of his own party were calling for a reliable conservative for the O’Connor seat, and it’s not like Bush didn’t have plenty of names to choose from. Miers certainly wasn’t anywhere close to being on any of those lists. She is an unknown entity, and Bush shouldn’t have expected conservatives to embrace such a nominee after they, for the most part, kept quiet on Roberts.
Politically, the nomination was a disaster. Bush comes out of this looking absolutely foolish, and for me to say that, it must be true. Given a chance to nominate a qualified conservative with judicial experience, he instead looked no further than his personal lawyer who has probably never held a gavel in her life. The accusations of cronyism against this administration can often be shrill and inaccurate, but in this case, I don’t know how else to explain it.
As an aside, how do you think Justice O’Connor must be feeling? She announced her intention to retire on July 1 and said she would stay on until her successor is confirmed. First, Bush nominated Roberts to fill the seat, but his nomination was elevated to the chief justice’s seat when Rehnquist died in early September. Then, Bush chose Miers for the seat, and it turned into a fiasco. With the third nominee and counting waiting to be announced, O’Connor is probably wondering if she will ever be able to leave.
Bush has said he will announce another nominee soon, but I would suggest he take a better look at his options this time. The fact that Miers withdrew herself, rather than going through what would have been absolutely laughable confirmation hearings, allowed Bush to save face to some degree. But the president clearly made a big mistake here. All the Harriet Miers nomination managed to do was create the rare situation of Republicans and Democrats agreeing on something – that she was an unqualified, unacceptable choice.