In nominating Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, has President Bush broken his campaign promise to nominate judges in the tradition of conservatives Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas? With Republican Senators expected to fall in line behind Bush, it will be up to the new conservative media to answer this question. But will they?
It is apparent that Miers is not the best qualified person for the position. What’s more, she is not necessarily a conservative. Commentators say she has no “paper trail,” referring to her not being a judge, when Federal Election Commission records show that, as recently as the late 1980s, she was contributing to the campaigns of Democrats such as Lloyd Bentsen of Texas for the Senate and Al Gore for president. That’s a paper trail of some significance.
Some conservative bloggers are upset, even outraged, by the pick. Powerline says, “I’m sure that she is a capable lawyer and a loyal aide to President Bush. But the bottom line is that he had a number of great candidates to choose from, and instead of picking one of them―Luttig, McConnell, Brown, or a number of others―he nominated someone whose only obvious qualification is her relationship with him.”
Captain’s Quarters finds the pick mystifying: “Other women with judicial experience and/or a stronger track record of conservatism could have been found?Not only does Harriet Miers not look like the best candidate for the job, she doesn’t even look like the best female candidate for the job.”
Right-wing News says, “Miers is a Bush crony with no real conservative credentials, who leapfrogged legions of more deserving judges just because she was Bush’s pal? This is undoubtedly the worst decision of Bush’s entire presidency so far.”
On the other hand, Hugh Hewitt supports her. “I trust him [Bush]. So should his supporters.”
But should Bush be trusted in view of what he said―and promised―on the issue?
On Meet the Press on November 21, 1999, host Tim Russert had asked Bush, “Which Supreme Court justice do you really respect?” He replied, “Well, that’s―Antonin Scalia is one. He’s an intellect. The reason I like him so much is I got to know him here in Austin when he came down. He’s witty. He’s interesting. He’s firm. There’s a lot of reasons why I like Judge Scalia. And I like a lot of the other judges as well. I mean, it’s kind of a harsh question to ask because it now pits me―some of whom are friends of mine. I mean, it’s―and so in all due respect, Judge Thomas and…”
Russert asked, “Do you believe Clarence Thomas was the most qualified man in the country for the Supreme Court?” Bush replied, “I do, and I think he’s proven my dad correct.”
These quotes were replayed on a Meet the Press show on January 2 of this year, when conservatives Kate O’Beirne and William Safire said it was their impression that Bush would pick another Scalia or Thomas for the court. That was the impression that Bush left on most conservatives.
O’Beirne noted that when Bush campaigned in 2002 for Senate candidates, “he didn’t appear on behalf of anyone without mentioning judges. He’s convinced it’s a politically winning issue. He’s convinced it’s part of his legacy. The federal bench really matters, these lifetime appointments. I think the President’s going to move aggressively. I think the President is not going to disappoint his conservative base. He cares about his legacy. He cares about the bench. I think he’s going to appoint conservatives.”
Safire was asked by Russert if Bush would nominate Scalia or Thomas to replace William Rehnquist as chief justice if there were a vacancy. “I think that would be a good move,” he said. “You get a two-fer if you do that. So if you put in Scalia as chief justice, that means you have another appointment to replace him as associate justice.”
Now we know that Bush did NOT go down that road. Not only did Bush not appoint Scalia as chief justice, he has appointed a former Democrat with no visible conservative legal credentials to fill the other vacancy. It is entirely conceivable that, with Miers on the court, it could move further to the left.
Since the liberal media do not want another Scalia or Thomas on the court, it doesn’t matter to them if Bush has broken his campaign promise. But does it matter to the conservative media? The answer will separate the Republicans from the conservatives.