Thursday, October 27, 2005

Harriet Miers withdraws

Harriet Miers announced this morning that she has withdrawn her nomination to the Supreme Court. President Bush has blamed the Senate's repeated requests for release of documents relating to her service in the White House, which the President refused on the grounds of executive privilege. Miers has said that she believes that continuing her nomination process would not be in the best interests of the White House, its staff, or the country.

But despite the attempted redirect of our attention to the issue of executive privilege, the problems created by the Miers nomination were far more basic than partisanship or politics. Senators did not oppose Miers because of her views; her opinions, whatever they are, remained opaque for the duration of the process. Opposition came, rather, from her lack of qualifications for the Court.

With all respect to Ms. Miers, it should have been abundantly clear to the President and his vetting committee (headed by Miers) that a lawyer who is not a constitutional scholar cannot successfully serve on the Court. It is emphatically the duty of the Court to say what the law is, and without serious years of academic and legal training in the nuances and complications of the United States Constitution, it is beyond comprehension that any lawyer--no matter how skilled in corporate law--could serve in this capacity.

What of the role of gender in the nomination? Many who opposed Ms. Miers were accused of sexism. It's hard to see how that charge could hold water. I did not personally read any commentary that referenced her gender in other than a neutral way. However, many, many much more qualified women than Ms. Miers were available to the President for nomination. The implication that Ms. Miers was the best qualified woman that he could locate is simply laughable. The reasons he gave--that Ms. Miers is a "good lawyer" and that the President "knows her heart"--did nothing to bolster Americans' understanding of her intellectual and legal qualifications, and the disservice done was only marginally related to gender.

The obfuscation created by claiming that opposition to Ms. Miers was in any way politically motivated is truly unfortunate. Regardless of how one feels about Justice Roberts' judicial philosophy, it is incontrovertible fact that (1) he has one, and (2) it was developed over a lifetime of careful study. We should demand no less of each and every Supreme Court justice that the Senate consents to appoint.

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