Balkinization  

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Miers Nomination

JB

President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O'Connor combines three important requirements for this President. First, Miers is a woman, preserving the number of women currently on the Court. Whether this means that there are now two "women's seats" on the Court is anybody's guess, but it does suggest that Bush felt considerable political pressure to maintain the number of women currently on the Court and he was not willing to oppose that pressure.

Second, Miers is a long time friend of the President's whom he trusts on a personal level. This gives him information about her beliefs and values that most other people are not likely to have. It also allows Bush to have a far greater degree of comfort in making a lifetime appointment, because he will have a somewhat better ability to guess how Miers will likely respond not only to the key issues of the moment but to unknowable problems in the future. When in doubt, this President has turned to trusted aides and associates, and promoted them. The Miers nomination is yet another example. The advantage of this strategy is predictability (for the President, as opposed to the public as a whole); the disadvantage is the danger of cronyism. Although we don't know much about Miers, it's likely that, like John Roberts, she was picked with a view toward protecting executive power.

Third, Miers is a "stealth" candidate, who has not written or spoken much about the key issues that fill the Supreme Court's current docket. 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. President Bush is often said to avoid the sorts of decisions his father made, but in this respect George Bush is taking a page from his father's playbook. Hoping to avoid the confirmation battle over Robert Bork, President George H.W. Bush chose David Souter, about whom little was known when he was first nominated. (Unlike Souter, Miers is a stealth candidate about whom the President has lots of information unavailable to the public.) Choosing a stealth candidate is a sign that the President wants to avoid a fight, either because he is in a relatively weak political position, because he fears that his supporters disagree among themselves, or because he would rather expend his energies and influence elsewhere. All three of these seem to be the case right now.


Comments:

i'm not entirely sure we are dealing with a stealth candidate here. sure, she has never been a judge, and has little in the way of written opinions to go on. keep in mind, however, that she has long been the president's personal attorney, going back to his gubernatorial campaigns. she is a member of bush's inner circle. that hardly means that we are getting a left winger.

i am also troubled by her brief remarks upon being nominated this morning. in particular, i am concerned with her comments about making sure the judiciary knows its role, and how she will "strictly" interpret the constitution. i get the feeling that we are in for the second coming of scalia and thomas. i hope i am wrong.
 

Re: phg's post. "Stealth" does not mean "liberal." It means that we don't know quite what she is, and that, for Bush, is the virtue of this appointment, for all the reasons suggested in the top post.
 

Here's an observation from Andrew Willeke, who bills himself as the Wash Park Prophet:

I suspect that one of the attractions of Miers for Bush her keen loyalty to the executive branch. On issues of Presidential power, like the Enemy Combatant cases, I suspect she will be a sure vote in the President's favor.

If so, we're looking an yet another example of creeping authoritarianism of the kind that threatens to undermine the rule of law.
 

Here's an observation from Andrew Willeke, who bills himself as the Wash Park Prophet:

I suspect that one of the attractions of Miers for Bush her keen loyalty to the executive branch. On issues of Presidential power, like the Enemy Combatant cases, I suspect she will be a sure vote in the President's favor.

If so, we're looking an yet another example of creeping authoritarianism of the kind that threatens to undermine the rule of law.
 

regarding gee's observations. you are right that stealth does not mean liberal. my post refers simply to the obvious fact that we can infer from the fact that since miers has been a bush insider for years, it is at the very least reasonable to infer that she holds many of the same views on the constitution and today's hot button issues as the president; therefore, she is not a stealth candidate in the truest meaning of the term.
 

we can infer from the fact that since miers has been a bush insider for years, it is at the very least reasonable to infer that she holds many of the same views on the constitution...as the president

I do not find that very comforting. It is very difficult to reconcile many of the Bush administration's actions against the original understanding of the Constitution, and the more one thinks about it, the more one realizes that if Bush has any understanding of originalism, he will avoid appointing originalists, as they will not tend to serve as a break on conservative power as the GOP solidifies its grip on the Federal Government. So far, at least, he seems to be 0 for 2. Dissastisfying for those of us whose support was premised on the appointment of another Scalia or Thomas, and who merely grit our teeth at much of the rest of his program.
 

What's funny about the whole thing is the means employed to make this "appointment"--see my blogpost today on that point.

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