Why Miers?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


So Harriet Miers is the new Supreme Court nominee. Conservatives seem wholly unhappy with this pick. So what was the rationale? Given that she’s currently White House counsel, I’m guessing Bush wanted someone who agrees with his own dictatorial view of presidential powers in wartime. I suggested a few weeks ago that Bush would never pick Gonzales for this spot, because then both he and Roberts would have to recuse themselves in an upcoming and fairly crucial case on detainee matters, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which would leave the fate of Bush’s “war on terror” powers in the hands of a pseudo-liberal majority. Nuh-uh. Hence Miers. This seems like an awfully bizarre reason to choose Miers—who is otherwise fairly unqualified—but I can’t really see any other. Unless Bush just likes Texans.

Meanwhile, David Frum makes a pretty persuasive point here:

But here is what we do know: the pressures on a Supreme Court justice to shift leftward are intense. There is the negative pressure of the vicious, hostile press that legal conservatives must endure. And there are the sweet little inducements – the flattery, the invitations to conferences in Austria and Italy, the lectureships at Yale and Harvard – that come to judges who soften and crumble. Harriet Miers is a taut, nervous, anxious personality. It is impossible to me to imagine that she can endure the anger and abuse – or resist the blandishments – that transformed, say, Anthony Kennedy into the judge he is today.

Well I don’t think that’s conspiratorial at all; read Jeffrey Toobin’s old profile of Anthony Kennedy in the New Yorker and you get a sense that something like that really does go on. But hey, if the last few bastions of pseudo-liberalism—the press, the universities, the foreigners—can’t influence American public opinion, at least they can influence the judges. Still, whatever leftward shifts may come, it does seem that Miers could do lasting damage to the Constitution in her first few years by giving the president the ability to declare whoever he feels like an “enemy combatant,” and hold ’em without trial. Also, the elite “pressures on a Supreme Court justice to shift leftward” usually don’t include pressure to shift leftward on economic and worker issues: the so-called “liberals” on the court, like Stephen Breyer, are still remarkably business-friendly. That’s not to say anyone should be happy with Miers, least of all liberals, but it does seem like Bush isn’t pushing this court as far to the right as he, in theory, could have.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate