Just Above Sunset
October 9, 2005 - They Call It Stormy Monday - For Good Reason

Home | Question Time | Something Is Up | Connecting Dots | Stay Away | Overload | Our Man in Paris | WLJ Weekly | Book Wrangler | Cobras | The Edge of the Pacific | The Surreal Beach | On Location | Botanicals | Quotes

Monday, October 3 - both Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan began at sundown, and it was "Labour Day" in Australia and in Germany the "Day of German Unity" (ironically enough). Gore Vidal turned 80, Chubby Checker turned 64, Tommy Lee turned 43, and Ashlee Simpson turned 21. Quite a day.

In the political world it was just more strangeness, of an almost subatomic kind. The four properties of the quark - one level below the proton, neutron and electron as you recall - are "up-ness, down-ness, strangeness and charm." Theoretical physicists call these "flavors." And it was that kind of day, with the emphasis on strangeness.

As for "down-ness," in Texas, the House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, who had been forced to resign after being indicted for some sort of criminal conspiracy by a grand jury there, was indicted by a new grand jury on a new charge of money laundering. And it was the first day this new grand jury met. Ah well, the new charge is essentially the same - conspiring to get around a state ban on corporate campaign contributions by funneling the money through various front organizations. You can read about it here and here, but what's the point? A felony indictment is a felony indictment.

Yawn. A bad week for the Republicans stretches into a second bad week.

On the bright side (up-ness), for the Republican folks, it was the famous "first Monday in October" and the Supreme Court began its new session, with John Roberts assuming his seat at Chief Justice. He was sworn in and the legal arguments proceeded. Dahlia Lithwick, one of the clearest writers on such matters, said he did just fine, in The New Kid: John Roberts' First Day at School, as he announces oral argument in IBP Inc v. Alvarez and Tum v. Barber Foods Inc where the issue is a number of consolidated appeals about whether the Fair Labor Standards Act requires that employees (in this case in the meat-processing industry) be compensated for the time they spend doffing and donning protective clothing and walking to their workstations. Whatever. "So, how does Roberts look in the chief justice's chair? As though he were born to it, quite frankly." Poor guy.

Of course the big news was the other vacancy on the court, and Bush nominated Harriet, but not Harriet my cat. This would be White House counsel Harriet Miers, a sixty-year-old little-known Bush aide - Bush's personal lawyer when he was in Texas not the White House, once a city councilwoman, once head of the Texas state lottery, and back in 1968 the woman in charge of making sure all those charges about Bush ducking service in the Texas Air National Guard didn't get out of hand. She started at the White House as his secretary, screening his papers, and seems to have fallen upwards. She seems to have been a pretty good lawyer, but she was never a judge, so there's no "paper trail" where you can look at her decisions and see how she'd perform in the big game. She's never been in the game at all. This qualifies as "strangeness."

Harry Reid, leader of the senate Democrats, apparently recommended her to Bush. Reid says nice things about her. Heck, there are records of her contributing to Democratic politicians, like Al Gore. Oh my!

On the right, the "social conservatives" (ban abortions, get the gays off the streets, prepare for the return of Jesus), were ticked off. They felt betrayed. She has no anti-abortion record at all! Oops. She has no pro-life record at all!

Conservatives in general were ticked off. This was supposed to be the big deal - the swing seat on the court where Bush repaid them all for their support. Roberts was bad enough - all intellectual and almost overqualified and so very careful and thoughtful. They didn't want thoughtfulness. This time they wanted action.

They got a cipher.


Bush Nominates Harriet Miers to High Court (ABC News)
Critics question Miers' experience - (MSNBC - Brian Williams)
Conservatives decry nomination, saying Miers' views are unknown (San Jose Mercury News)
Opinions Spreading Like Wild On Miers (CBS News)

That last one is interesting, as it surveys a lot.

Everyone is citing super-neoconservative center-of-everything William Kristol saying this in the flagship Weekly Standard:


I'm disappointed, depressed and demoralized.

... What does this say about the next three years of the Bush administration - leaving aside for a moment the future of the Court? Surely this is a pick from weakness. Is the administration more broadly so weak? What are the prospects for a strong Bush second term? What are the prospects for holding solid GOP majorities in Congress in 2006 if conservatives are demoralized? And what elected officials will step forward to begin to lay the groundwork for conservative leadership after Bush?


In the historically conservative National Review, founded by no less than William F. Buckley, former Bush speechwriter David Frum, the man who thought up the phrase "Axis of Evil," says this:


The Supreme Court is exactly the place where the president should draw the line. The Court will be this president's great lasting conservative domestic legacy. He has chosen to put that legacy at risk by using what may well be his last Supreme Court choice to reward a loyal counselor. But this president, any president, has larger loyalties.

And those to whom he owed those loyalties have reason today to be disappointed and alarmed.


Even the "lock up any and all Muslims in America" Michelle Malkin is unhappy:


It's not just that Miers has zero judicial experience. It's that she's so transparently a crony "diversity" pick while so many other vastly more qualified and impressive candidates went to waste. If this is President Bush's bright idea to buck up his sagging popularity--among conservatives as well as the nation at large - one wonders whom he would have picked in rosier times. Shudder.


Yipes! There's more at the link.

Another collection here noting these conservatives:

Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters with this: "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."

Orin Kerr at Volokh Conspiracy with this: "As far as I can tell, she has no particular experience or expertise in any areas of law that the Supreme Court is likely to consider in the next twenty years; she has no history of having thought deeply about the role of judges in a constitutional democracy; and she is a complete unknown among the parts of the DC legal community that will now be considering her candidacy for the Supreme Court."

At the liberal Washington Monthly, Amy Sullivan says this: "It's possible that with a six-week bar review course, any of us would be more qualified than Harriet Miers to sit on the Supreme Court. Bush chose hackery."

Does no one like this pick?

Well, Hugh Hewitt says we just have to trust the president on this, and John Dickerson here sees some support:


Already there are signs that the social conservatives may be more enthusiastic than the reaction of professional inside-the-Beltway conservatives would lead you to expect. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, has already moved to support Miers, a faster nod than he gave to Roberts. The evangelical community murmurs that Dobson based his endorsement on those who have known Miers for 25 years at the Valley View Christian Church in Dallas. Her fellow parishioners bore witness to her evangelical faith. Marvin Olasky, a key influence in shaping Bush's faith-based initiatives, reported a similar review of her personal devotion on his blog. The emerging message seems to be: She's one of us and she's with us on abortion. Now if she can just avoid saying that to the Senate and speak in complete sentences, she will be on the court in no time.


Not if Pat Buchanan can help it. He's says he's a real conservative, not one of those neoconservative nut cases calling for war here and war there on the ideological theory of the week, nor is he a "rapture" Christian.

His take? Try this:


Handed a once-in-a-generation opportunity to return the Supreme Court to constitutionalism, George W. Bush passed over a dozen of the finest jurists of his day - to name his personal lawyer.

In a decision deeply disheartening to those who invested such hopes in him, Bush may have tossed away his and our last chance to roll back the social revolution imposed upon us by our judicial dictatorship since the days of Earl Warren.

This is not to disparage Harriet Miers. From all accounts, she is a gracious lady who has spent decades in the law and served ably as Bush's lawyer in Texas and, for a year, as White House counsel.

But her qualifications for the Supreme Court are non-existent. She is not a brilliant jurist, indeed, has never been a judge. She is not a scholar of the law. Researchers are hard-pressed to dig up an opinion. She has not had a brilliant career in politics, the academy, the corporate world or public forum. Were she not a friend of Bush, and female, she would never have even been considered.

What commended her to the White House, in the phrase of the hour, is that she "has no paper trail." So far as one can see, this is Harriet Miers' principal qualification for the U.S. Supreme Court.


He says this appointment says a lot about Bush. He "capitulated to the diversity-mongers, used a critical Supreme Court seat to reward a crony, and revealed that he lacks the desire to engage the Senate in fierce combat to carry out his now-suspect commitment to remake the court in the image of Scalia and Thomas. In picking her, Bush ran from a fight."

He pretty much calls Bush a coward, and says the conservative movement "has been had - and not for the first time by a president by the name of Bush."

From Kevin Drum's collection at Political Animal, two of the many he cites, and these two are from the conservative National Review:


John Podhoretz: I think this was a pick made out of droit de seigneur - an "I am the president and this is what I want" arrogance.

Peter Robinson: What people see in this is the Bush of the first debate, the Bad Bush, the peevish rich boy who expects to get his way because it's his way.


Oh man. This is not going well.

But note this:


... here's one negative analysis from a lawyer who is a conservative Christian and worked with Harriet Miers in Texas (I agreed to go off-the-record with this lawyer, a credible person whose practice could be seriously hurt by this criticism of Miers): "Harriet could have become a conservative in Washington, but unless she did, she doesn't have any particular judicial philosophy… I never heard her take a position on anything… We'll have another Sandra Day O'Connor… Harriet worships the president and has called him the smartest man she's known. She's a pretty good lawyer…. This president can be bamboozled by anyone he feels close to. If a person fawns on him enough, is loyal, works 25 hours a day and says you're the smartest man I ever met, all of a sudden you're right for the Supreme Court."


Fawning works. "Harriet worships the president and has called him the smartest man she's known." She doesn't get around much, does she? Well, I'm sure my cat Harriet feels the same way about me, but Harriet-the-Cat has a very small brain.

Well, Harriet-the-Supreme-Court-Nominee does have her moments. From the LAW.COM profile -

- She is immensely, perhaps irrationally, into birthdays: "She always remembers everybody's birthday, and has a present for them. She'll be finding a present for somebody in the middle of the night.... 'Can't it wait until next week?' 'No,' she'd say, 'It has to be done now.'"

- She has dated Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht "over the years."

- She's nit-picky micromanager who failed upwards at the White House: "She failed in Card's office for two reasons," the [former White House] official says. "First, because she can't make a decision, and second, because she can't delegate, she can't let anything go. And having failed for those two reasons, they move her to be the counsel for the president, which requires exactly those two talents."

- Not even the president can think of much interesting to say about her: In 1996, at an Anti-Defamation League Jurisprudence Award ceremony, Bush introduced Miers as a "pit bull in Size 6 shoes," a tag line that has persisted through the years, in part because colorful anecdotes or descriptions about Miers are notoriously difficult to find.

Yes, the DC gossip blog Wonkette is on the case: "We're not even that excited about the possibility of her being gay." But she is obsessive-compulsive, and dull.

Perhaps the Rove team will bring all these unhappy folks on the right back into line. Rove can be mean. You don't mess with him. But, so far, the natives are restless. And Rove has been busy with other matters.

Well, it's a strange world, only made stranger by this from Reuters, Monday, October 3 - "Irish rock stars Bob Geldof and Bono are among the bookmakers' tips to win the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, alongside more orthodox candidates like campaigners against nuclear arms or a peace broker for Indonesia."

Wait - file that under "charm." That covers all four flavors. And the bookmakers were wrong.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....