Democrats, Rejoice: Right Says Wrong on Harriet Miers

White House Counsel Harriet Miers at the Oval Office after being nominated
photo: White House photo by Paul Morse/

The most notable reaction to Bush's nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers to be his next Supreme Court justice pick has come not from liberals, but from conservatives. They’re howling with dismay.

"I'm disappointed, depressed and demoralized," wrote William Kristol, the editor of the neoconservative Weekly Standard. "What does this say about the next three years of the Bush administration. 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?"

"I'm actually hoping there are no more vacancies during this presidency," sniffed Mark Levin, at the "Corner" weblog of the conservative National Review Online, reflecting the conservative consensus sense of having been let down by the White House. "The Miers nomination. . . is an unforced error," wrote David Frum, former Bush speech writer, in his column at National Review Online:

Unlike the Roberts nomination, which confirmed the previous balance on the Court, the O'Connor resignation offered an opportunity to change the balance. This is the moment for which the conservative legal movement has been waiting for two decades.There was no reason for [Bush] to choose anyone but one of these outstanding conservatives. So the question must be asked: Why not the best?

"I'm appalled," writes conservative UCLA law professor Stephen Bainbridge. "This appointment reeks of cronyism, which along with prideful arrogance seems to be the besetting sin of the Bush presidency. At this point, I see no reason—none, nada, zilch—for conservatives who care about the courts to lift a finger to support this candidate."

By contrast, the reaction from Democrats has been far more muted. Crony appointment? Sure. Thin on experience? Perhaps. Unknown quantity? Definitely.

"Miers is a 'stealth' candidate, who has not written or spoken much about the key issues that fill the Supreme Court's current docket," writes Yale law professor Jack Balkin. "Presidents will turn to such candidates when they have to please many different constituencies in their party and when they face the prospect of a significant confirmation fight if they choose an ideological stalwart."

But Democrats realize, if only from the reaction of conservative outrage, that this pick could have been worse. Indeed, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada sounded positively warm and fuzzy about the 60-year-old Miers: "I like Harriet Miers. As White House Counsel, she has worked with me in a courteous and professional manner. I am also impressed with the fact that she was a trailblazer for women as managing partner of a major Dallas law firm and as the first woman president of the Texas Bar Association."

Reid added: “In my view, the Supreme Court would benefit from the addition of a justice who has real experience as a practicing lawyer. The current justices have all been chosen from the lower federal courts. A nominee with relevant non-judicial experience would bring a different and useful perspective to the Court."

"Bush should at least be given credit for nominating a candidate who has united the right and left—in being underwhelmed," writes legal eagle blogger Brian Tamanaha.

Indeed, Democrats might worry, that if they choose to filibuster Miers, conservatives would be only too happy to help them, and force Bush to give them someone more reliably conservative.

Laura Rozen can be found online at War and Piece.

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