by Kieran Healy on October 6, 2005

Last week “I said”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/10/03/harriet-the-justice/ I didn’t know anything about Harriet Miers, but figured that while she would certainly be a staunch Bush loyalist, she would likely not be incompetent or a pushover. I think now I was being a bit optimistic, or at least not precise enough. I still think Miers isn’t an incompetent pushover, in the narrow sense that she’s probably pretty good at the job she currently occupies. It’s just that she has no real qualifications at all for a position on the Supreme Court, and there’s no getting around that. “Mark Schmitt”:http://markschmitt.typepad.com/decembrist/2005/10/souter_or_kerik.html gets it right here, by noting the curious parallel to the previous round of nominations to the Appeals Court:

The one and only thing to remember about Miers is that she is totally unqualified to sit on the Supreme Court. … there’s nothing there. Take away the George W. Bush-loyal-staffer aspect of her resume, and there’s absolutely nothing except some modest corporate law-firm and bar-association management, skills that are of no relevance to the Court. …

The reason this is so important to say goes back to the fight over the Nuclear Option and the nominations of Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen last spring. One of the big underlying questions then was whether a judicial nominee’s ideology, even way-out-of-the-mainstream ideology, could be a factor in confirmation. A number of us warned at the time that any deal that let an Objectivist crackpot like Brown go through would set the bar for extremist ideology so low that in effect, ideology could never be a factor.

… And that’s why it’s so important to be frank about Miers’s qualifications. Miers is to qualifications exactly what Brown and Owen were to ideology. She sets the bar so low that if she’s considered qualified, then who — other than, say, Jack Abramoff — is not qualified? If Miers is confirmed, it effectively establishes that neither qualifications nor ideology should be a factor in confirmation.

In the meantime, at least it’s been fun to watch the pseudo-libertarian lawyers suddenly shocked — schocked! — as they realize what everyone else already knows about the Bush administration and its appeasement of the hard right. They cheerfully helped feed the crocodile for the past few years in the hope of being granted a few seats on the bench. (Civil liberties? No problem! Torture? Too unpleasant to discuss publicly!). Now find that they’re the ones who have been tossed into its mouth.

*Update*: I’m amused to see the “You are the real x” line of criticism surface here, too, where x is “sexist”, “elitist”, or whatever. Forced to concede that Miers really has no relevant experience for the job, we now see people saying the job has no relevant requirements! My uncle Marvin could do it! You could put the Pets.Com dog up there in a robe and he’d be superb. Learned Hand, Learned Hand Puppet — what’s the difference, really? As c.j. colucci says in comments below, the question is not whether she could do a decent imitation of a Justice, leaving all the work to underlings. Anyone with a basic education and the ability to keep quiet in a courtroom could do that. Is this really the standard we’re supposed to be apply here?

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Competence and politics | Cosmic Variance
10.07.05 at 12:54 pm



otto 10.06.05 at 9:56 am

It’s a bit difficult to get this business of qualifications just right. I dont think that Miers would be a terrible judge, and if she was proposed for a federal court or an appeals court judgeship, she would not be out of line with many others: some political work, a partner in a law firm, some lobbying, some diversity sizzle. But if the standard is to be much higher for SCOTUS, as I think it should be, she doesn’t seem to meet it. It’s not that she has no qualities, it’s just clear that there is a gap between those qualities she has and the extraordinary qualities required here for this extraordinary position.


Tom T. 10.06.05 at 10:04 am

I was with you for much of this post, but the characterization of the Miers nomination as appeasement of the hard right seems like a bit of a stretch. Many on the right are among the ones most upset at this choice.


Thomas 10.06.05 at 10:06 am

Kieran, are you suggesting that the nomination of Miers–a person first suggested, apparently, by Senator Reid (D)–is Bush’s way of appeasing the “hard right”?

That’s an unusual take on the nomination.

So far as I can tell, the folks over at Volokh (that is who you’re referring to, isn’t it?) don’t seem to be concerned that Ms. Miers might be of the “hard right”; rather, the concern seems to be that she’ll be of the mushy, unprincipled middle.

As for Otto’s comment: I certainly agree that it’d be nice to have a much higher standard for the Supreme Court than for, say, the Court of Appeals. But, looking at the current court, does anyone really believe that the current members are of a higher quality, across the board? Really? Consider Kennedy. Or Stevens. Or O’Connor. Did they do anything worth mentioning before their appointment? Kennedy and Stevens both served on the Court of Appeals. Was any opinion they wrote noteworthy, in, say, the way that a half dozen opinions of Posner each year are noteworthy? We could continue on in the same fashion for, in my view, all but three or four of the current members.


Cranky Observer 10.06.05 at 10:07 am

> It’s not that she has no qualities, it’s just
> clear that there is a gap between those qualities
> she has and the extraordinary qualities required
> here for this extraordinary position.

I am all for more qualified people over less qualified people, generally speaking. But I am opposed to the deification of specific credentials, ticket punches, and (dare I say it) titles of nobility (oops – I mean titles of office) that seems to be suffusing the upper levels of US society.

Some years ago I had to more-or-less carry my pregnant wife up 1-1/2 flights of stairs at the pepetually-under-construction National Airport, only to find at the top of that staircase a nice, fat, shaded, police-guarded parking spot smack in front of the terminal labeled “reserved for Justice of the Supreme Court”. That made me angrier than just about anything I have seen in my life. People have differing abilities, but we are all equal under the Constitution. The goddam parking garage, or a kiss-n-drop, is good enough for me as at Citizen and is also good enough for a supreme court justice (small letters, because she/he is just a human being).

Realistically speaking, Miers is going to serve 10-20 years on the court. Whatever W and Rove may think today, they will _not_ control her mind after 2008. On the basis of who can cause the US the least harm as a W-selected justice, I think we could do a lot worse.



abb1 10.06.05 at 10:15 am

What Cranky said.

Any cook should be able to run the country, you snobs.


Martin James 10.06.05 at 10:21 am

What most appeals to me about the Miers nomination is the anti-meritocratic aspect of it. In other words, that in matters of ultimate concern, politics out-ranks qualifications.

The Democrats that voted against Roberts argued that qualifications weren’t enough; a judge also had to have the right values.

The populist, anti-intellectual strain in America takes this argument one further and says that ONLY values matter. In fact, being educated at an elite institution is likely a negative in regards to values.

For all the liberal hand-wringing over the rightward shift, Ivy-educated people are still in power all over the government. A rightward shift to the core would treat them as pariahs.

Beyond the policy issues, this is a big part of the distaste academics have with the right-wing: the de-valuing of neutral discourse and hence credentials. All the “reality based” epithets and the horror at intelligent design have an underlying status uncertainty component.

Or in gutter terms, “I’ve got you’re qualifcations right here.”


Cranky Observer 10.06.05 at 10:31 am

Contrary to abba1’s response, I am not arguing against the idea of placing highly _capable_ people in key positions. I am arguing against assuming that highly _credentialed_ people are necessarily highly capable, or in a weaker form necessarily the best for key positions. I do realize this is an argument the Radical Rights make out on the populist hustings, but I can’t do anything about that ;-(.

In my hiring experience, and as I read the history of the US 1850-1950, the most productive and inventive members of our society have been the children of new immigrants, who scraped up enough to get avail themselves of a good education – often at “2nd rank schools” – and then _worked_ their way up.

Put more concretely, when I am hiring new mechanical engineers I go to UIC, not Urbana, even though Urbana produces highly credentialed graduates. Because in my experience the UIC grads get a heck of a lot more real work done during their careers.



John Lederer 10.06.05 at 10:40 am

She didn’t graduate from the right sort of university, she didn’t join the right sort of law firm, she didn’t write scholarly articles, she didn’t attend academic conferences, she doesn’t support the appropiate political positions for a woman. she is homely, didn’t marry well, and she talks funny.

Clearly unqualified. Not our kind at all. Not the right sort. Not only should she be denied confirmation, but someone really ought step up and blackball her if she tries to join the country club.


a 10.06.05 at 10:41 am

I think the appointment is great. Next step GWB will be appointing to the Supreme Court someone who hasn’t gone to law school or (if that seems too much of a credential) not even knowing any law at all. This gives hope to us all, who want to be on the Supreme Court but haven’t passed their bar.


arthur 10.06.05 at 10:58 am

The Supreme Court is an easy job. The best lawyers in the country write the briefs and argue the cases. The smartest young law school graduates serve as clerks and do most of the actual writing. The appellate court opinions they’re reviewing are also written by smart folks who know how to present the issues. The justices only have to make decisions. They can take as long as they want, and any serious screwups will be caught by the clerks or the other eight jsutices before they get out of the door. It’s not like being, say, director of FEMA. No one’s going to die because of a wrong Supreme Court decision (except for convicted murderers already sentenced to death by both a jury and a trial court judge).

In other words, of all the places to put a possibly incompetent crony, the Supreme Court is the spot where there’s least potential for damage. If the president wants to promote friends, that’s the right place to do it.


MQ 10.06.05 at 11:00 am

I’m not a lawyer (this will become obvious in a moment), but: exactly why are “qualifications” so important for the supreme court? Law isn’t physics, it’s not a science or even vaguely close to one. It’s an ideological system. It’s not like these people are building bridges that will collapse if they calculate the structural stresses wrong. Yeah, you need familiarity with the legal system, a practical idea of how to maintain consistency across the different circuits, and so on, but I assume she has that as a reasonably intelligent and experienced lawyer.

We’re all supposed to respect Scalia as “brilliant” and “qualified” because he can write clever briefs, but his ideas about stuff come from some whacked out right wing catholicism. Being “qualified” just means you dress your ideologically based opinions in fancier clothing.


MQ 10.06.05 at 11:01 am

Posted at the same time as Arthur and didn’t see his post — but yeah, exactly, I agree with Arthur. It’s an easy job.


C.J.Colucci 10.06.05 at 11:02 am

Let’s get past some of the snobbery and the faux anti-credentialism. The problem isn’t that HM went to SMU rather than an Ivy (or equivalent) law school. As a loyal son of an Ivy law school myself, I can tell you that your law school says a lot more about what you were in your twenties than what you are (or will be) in middle age, and has a lot more influence on your first job than on your later success. An elite law school background is something you’d rather have than not, but by the time you’re of an age to be taken seriously for a judgeship, it’s at best a makeweight. The problem isn’t that she has never served as a judge. That’s obviously a plus, but by no means essential. See, e.g., Marshall, Story, Chase, Hughes, Stone, Jackson, Douglas, Warren, Frankfurter. Indeed, one of the things I liked about Roberts is that his judicial experience had been brief and he had recent experience on the front lines having to deal as a lawyer with precedents in non-constitutional cases that (whatever one might think of the results) were simply hard to understand and disconnected with the reality of litigation practice.
The problem with HM is that she has absolutely nothing to offer as a Supreme Court Justice that I couldn’t duplicate by throwing a rock down the hallway of a good law firm or a quality government law office and taking whoever I hit. She can probably handle the job without embarassing herself. So could I, and I wouldn’t vote for me.


Cranky Observer 10.06.05 at 11:06 am

c.j. colucci,
Well said. Thank you.



Martin James 10.06.05 at 11:30 am


The critical issue for me is whether you can offer a process other than rock throwing that will produce a more JUST Justice for the Supreme Court.

What precisely do these others have to offer and how are we to find them?

Its not that I think I have a better than random process, its that I like admitting that no one knows how to pick just people to be judges.

How ironic that the “highly qualified” Roberts basically said that justice doesn’t matter, the law is the law, and that’s all that matters.

In almost all legal cases I would agree with him, but I believe that the American tradition of being “endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights” is a matter beyond just learning, experience and knowledge.

A matter of wisdom, justice and likely even unreasoning belief.

Where do we find such people? Have we any?


Kieran Healy 10.06.05 at 11:32 am

On the appeasement thing: I don’t think it’s wrong to say that Volokh-type lawyers were appalled by the choice. Their first reaction was overwhelmingly negative. And the White House has been pushing Miers’ mid-career conversion to Evangelical Christianity like mad — it’s been the main focus of their campaign on her behalf. Obviously Bush isn’t in a strong enough political position to nominate someone like Judge Roy Moore (or what have you), so this no-record-but-she’s-evangelical line is the best he can do.

As for Harry Reid’s support, I think it’s a smart political move, at least in the short run. The other day he was out praising her as an excellent trial lawyer: Republicans _love_ those! Pretty funny.


Mike Otsuka 10.06.05 at 11:38 am

looking at the current court, does anyone really believe that the current members are of a higher quality, across the board? Really? Consider … Stevens.

As a philosopher without any legal training, Stevens’s opinions have struck me as typically the most well-reasoned among those that I’ve read by the current members of this court. And, flying in the face of the anti-intellectualism expressed in some of the comments above, I’d wager that this isn’t unrelated to the fact that he graduated from Northwestern Law School with the highest grades in the school’s history.


Daniel 10.06.05 at 12:08 pm

Surely this holds out hope for all of us who wanted to be judges, but didn’t have the Latin. Or alternatively, future Supreme Court appointments should be conditional on passing a very rigorous exam.

(“Yes, I could have been a judge, but I never had the Latin. I never had the sufficient Latin for the rigorous judging exams. They’re very rigorous, the judging exams, they’re noted for their rigor. People come staggering out of them, saying, “Oh my God, what a rigorous exam.” And so I became a miner instead. A coal miner. I managed to get through the mining exams, as they’re not very rigorous, they only ask you one question, they say, “Who are you?” And I got 75 percent on that. “)


Martin James 10.06.05 at 12:17 pm


The whole point is that people don’t agree on what standard should be applied. There is no politically neutral standard to apply.

Take Roe. There are roughly three camps.

1. The standard for a SC justice should be that its right, really right.
2. The standard for a SC justice should be that its wrong, really wrong.
3. The standard for a SC justice should be that its the law, really the law so we should live with it.

My anti-credentialing argument is that 3 is not a good standard and we should have a knock-down drag out fight over 1 and 2 instead.

How disappointing that no Republicans voted against Roberts because he was obviously obfuscating.


C.J.Colucci 10.06.05 at 12:19 pm

I don’t know how to do what you want done, and I don’t think anyone else does either. My post was addressed to the rules of the game as it is now played and how HM stacks up under those rules. I’m open to suggestions about changing either the rules or the game itself, but my humbler ambition in my post was to keep score.


Uncle Kvetch 10.06.05 at 12:29 pm

As for Harry Reid’s support, I think it’s a smart political move, at least in the short run. The other day he was out praising her as an excellent trial lawyer: Republicans love those! Pretty funny.

Yeah…I’ve been wondering myself if Reid isn’t deliberately engaging in some very skillful jujitsu here. It’s only surprising because we don’t expect a Democrat to be capable of that level of political finesse anymore.


Thomas 10.06.05 at 12:51 pm

Kieran, I think you misunderstand the objections at VC and elsewhere. If Bush had nominated Michael McConnell, or Michael Luttig, or Frank Easterbrook, the folks at VC would have been happy, and so would most everyone else on the right. So, again, there isn’t a disconnect here, and there’s good reason to think that this nomination isn’t an appeasement of the “hard right”.

As a matter of fact, I do think that those judges could have been confirmed for the Supreme Court. I don’t think many were thinking of or hoping for Roy Moore.

Harry Reid recommended Ms. Miers to the president prior to Bush’s nomination of her. That is, he isn’t just reacting to the nomination, but was in the chain of causation. He signalled that Miers was acceptable, and that led to the consideration of Miers. And when Harry Reid recommends Miers because she’s a trial lawyer, he means that in the descriptive sense: she’s tried cases, unlike, say, John Roberts. She certainly wasn’t a plaintiff’s lawyer, which is what the “trial lawyer” designation is often meant to suggest.

Mike–As a lawyer, I find Stevens’ opinions almost unreadable. But I don’t blame that on his education at the second-best law school in the city of Chicago. I’d hesitate to project back in time, if you will, the meaning of certain qualifications from our current day. When Stevens went to law school, competition for elite law school spots was less intense, and the metrics used to judge applicants less demanding, than those used in the present day. That doesn’t mean that his very fine law school record isn’t something to be proud of, but it does suggest that a similar record at an elite law school in more recent years suggests more accomplishment.


Martin James 10.06.05 at 1:04 pm


I think you are saying that your original comment, at root,is that the current rules of the game are that a SC Justice should have more to offer than what you would find at a good law firm or governement law office.

I misunderstood. I thought you were saying that it would be a good thing if the standard were that they should have more to offer.

My understanding of the process is that its 51 senate votes and the other rules are in play. Roberts was something of an exception but whether it was Souter or Bork or Thomas or Ginsburg (Ruth or Douglas)the rules of confirmation weren’t what you had to offer but that you didn’t have 50 votes worth of enemies.

Under these rules, the score on Roberts is that Bush wasted 27 (or 18 on a filibuster count) worth of senate enemies by choosing Roberts. By getting Reid on Board a filibuster is likely prevented and Bush is betting (after all he knows her heart) that he can move 27 votes more to the right.

As to the less humble issue of what the rules should be. To me, the lesson of the Bush presidency for us all is that the rules, at every level, are in play.


otto 10.06.05 at 1:51 pm

I dont know anything about Stevens, etc. but it’s not a great argument for appointing someone to claim that they are no worse than the current occupants who were least qualified at time of their appointment.


Mike Otsuka 10.06.05 at 1:59 pm


Professors at the first-best law school in Chicago were impressed by Stevens too. Here are two paragraphs from the archived New York Times article that announced his nomination to the Supreme Court:

“He’s a first-rate lawyer, a first-rate judge and a first-rate person — more than that you can’t ask for,” Philip Kurland, an authority on constitutional law at the University of Chicago, said yesterday.

Another University of Chicago professor, Kenneth Dam, who is a specialist in antitrust law, said Judge Stevens was “considered one of the strongest judges on the Federal bench,” and added: “He will easily be able to hold his own on the Court.

Not the most stellar praise, perhaps. But in a different league, both in terms of experience and intellect, from Miers.


fifi 10.06.05 at 2:00 pm

It’s her record vs. George Bush’s. Only she ain’t got no record. Coincidence?


serial catowner 10.06.05 at 2:24 pm

Almost everyone here thinks they could find a more qualified candidate. Here’s a newsflash for y’all: you’re not the one looking for a candidate.

Ths issue is not how happy you are with the choice, but how happy you’re going to be with the choice. It’s that fateful moment when you let the five-year-old choose the next ride in the amusement park.

Sure, George Bush appears to have lost his marbles. That’s not our problem.

The right-wingers are spoiling for a fight, as people often do when they are fairly sure they’re going to win. George Bush has deprived them of that fight. And now you want to pick a losing fight anyway?

And, frankly, the Court has had maybe a dozen great justices in a 200+ year history. You could make too big a deal of this.


Hogan 10.06.05 at 2:24 pm

Some of these replies are like watching a defense lawyer argue, “The DNA evidence shows my client is guilty, but DNA evidence by itself proves nothing. And the fingerprint evidence shows my client is guilty, but fingerprints by themselves proves nothing. And three eyewitnesses including his own mother say my client did it, but eyewitnesses by themselves prove nothing. And the police have shown a confession signed by my client, but confessions by themselves prove nothing.”

SMU isn’t the point. Lack of publication isn’t the point. Lack of judicial experience isn’t the point. Lack of any high-level engagement with crafting laws or regulations of any kind isn’t the point. All of it together in a thirty-some-year career–THAT’S the point.


rachel 10.06.05 at 2:38 pm

This assumption that intellectual mediocrity and lack of qualifications are no bar to the highest office — if anything, they’re a boon (vide Bush Jr) — has got to be one of the weirdest features of US politics, seen from the outside world. I’ve always assumed that it goes back to the Founding Fathers (or a particular, mostly false reading thereof): the great heroes of the Republic were (supposedly) just ordinary guys who stepped away from their ploughs to sort out the Constitution and win the war and then went back to being ordinary, so we should look for ordinariness above all in our leaders today.


Mike Otsuka 10.06.05 at 2:49 pm

By the way, Thomas, I agree with you about Justice Kennedy, whose most well-known contribution to constitutional law is: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” This is worse than a bad teenage essay on existentialism. Not even the best law clerks in the world were able to keep Kennedy from making such tripe the supreme law of the land.


carl 10.06.05 at 2:58 pm

Hey guys, be sure to check out Harriet Miers’s blog at harrietmiers.blogspot.com!


Purple State 10.06.05 at 3:05 pm

You could put the Pets.Com dog up there in a robe and he’d be superb.

You might want to read this that I posted this morning over on TPMCafe: http://www.tpmcafe.com/story/2005/10/6/82852/2812


fifi 10.06.05 at 3:17 pm

“Ths issue is not how happy you are with the choice, but how happy you’re going to be with the choice.”

If I were this administration, that’s how I’d want you to think. If I were an administration with a zealous vision for the country I didn’t want to risk in the rough and tumble and give and take of a democracy where people had sufficient information to qualify their selfish liberal self-destructive opposition, I’d nominate a born-again former corporate lawyer without a record as a justice and whose philosophy was opaque to everyone but me, and God, and now Dobson. What is more, who would not confirm her is sexist and elitist, i.e. anti-democracy.

So, do you feel lucky, punk?


Martin James 10.06.05 at 3:42 pm

Mike Otsuka,

“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

Kennedy went to Stanford, Harvard and LSE and was confirmed 97-0 by the Senate. I guess so much for credentials in your book.

Since I’m for liberty and existentialism (even of the teenage tripe variety), I’d love to have another Kennedy on the court.

In fact, Kennedy’s statement seems a lot like what Bush is doing with his choice, that is exercising his “own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

Amen to that brother Mike.


des von bladet 10.06.05 at 4:37 pm

Commerative special editions of “Bite me, Volokh” by my punkrockband Shmibertarian Schadenfreude are available at very excellent rates, incidentally.


Thomas 10.06.05 at 4:47 pm

Mike, you know, I hope, that Kurland and Dam are, or were (Kurland is deceased), both Republicans, defending the appointment of a Republican president. I’d take their assertions with a grain of salt. It’d be as if Doug Kmiec or Ron Rotunda (both of whom I respect) were to say nice things about Miers.


MikeAdamson 10.06.05 at 7:49 pm

I wonder what Ann Coulter thinks. Hmmm


bob mcmanus 10.06.05 at 11:48 pm

I thought of putting this on Bainbridge, but I will do it here. I think everyone is vastly misunderestimating both Miers and the President.

Assume she is ideologically acceptable.

What do we know about Miers? She rose, as a not very attractive woman, to the top of Texas business law firms, the Texas Bar, and rhe ABA. In an Oval Office surrounded by the likes of Rove, Cheney, Hughes, she not only thrived, but prospered. This is one champion schmoozer.

Now we have just added one intellectual heavyweight asshole to SCOTUS (“Dean Starr”?). The idea that Kennedy, or Souter, or Thomas will be moved ten or twenty percent in a favorable direction by have an additional intellectual barking briliiancies from the left chair while Roberts is barking brilliancies from the right is just stupid.

She will play “good cop” to Roberts’ “bad cop”.

“Now David, I know John can be a little hard to take sometimes. It is just his way. I really like your ideas on the case, but I don’t quite understand the reasoning in the third paragraph. Could you help me out? Here, have a cookie.”

It is a frigging brilliant pick. It is not contempt, it is not cronyism. You don’t build a basketball team with five point guards.


Martin Bento 10.07.05 at 1:13 am

People, this is one of those “history repeats itself” things:

Bush Nominates Horse to Supreme Court

President Bush caught the pundits by surprise yesterday in nominating his horse Harriet Neighers to the Supreme Court. Many Democrats who had been concerned that Bush’s next nominee would have extreme ideas were impressed with how deftly Bush neutralized the “idea” problem. “From all we can tell by the paper trail, her main concerns have been accumulating hay and flicking off flies. Who could argue with that?” said Senator Harry Reid, slyly suggesting that he had been consulted on the nomination. Senator Dianne Feinstein reported that she had once asked the horse at a cocktail party whether she approved of Roe – one tap for yes, two taps for no. The horse tapped once, lost its balance, and fell over. “I suppose we were all drinking a bit at that party”, said Feinstein, “but, still, one tap is one tap”.

continued at:



Martin James 10.07.05 at 1:34 am

Regarding the Ann Coulter link: One female republican lawyer lecturing conservatives on how another republican female lawyer is not a good enough choice for the Supreme Court.

How depressing…one might as well be a democrat.


abb1 10.07.05 at 2:19 am

The thing of it is, being a SC Justice has gotta be about JUSTICE. And yes, technical work can be and is done by underlings.

Now, I do agree that one should expect much from a Bush crony, but let’s be clear here: one don’t expect no freakin justice whatsoever from a successful super-smart freakin harvard/yale lawyer either. Certainly no more than from the Pets.Com dog. Know why? Gigantic ego causing all kinds of weirdness. Just look at that Alan Dershowitz guy.


Mike Otsuka 10.07.05 at 5:43 am

By the way, why haven’t any of you Miers supporters on this thread yet resurrected the Republican Senator’s defense of Nixon’s unsuccessful nominee Harold Carswell:

“Even if he is mediocre there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance? We can’t have all Brandeises, Cardozos, and Frankfurters, and stuff like that there.”

Not yet that desperate?


Contradictory Ben 10.07.05 at 5:53 am

Mier’s supporters are seriously arguing that qualifications and achievements are not important to (say) judging the legality of restricting women’s reproductive rights, or (say) deciding who gets to be the next president. Perhaps credentialism is elitist. But if they really want a justice ‘of the people’, they should argue for selection by lot rather than appointment by some of the most powerful and partisan people in the state. I doubt many would countenance this, so the charge of elitism is a red herring. The real fulcrum of this debate is whether you think Bush makes good choices in political appointments or not, i.e. whether he is a good judge of character. Needless to say, Brown, Rumsfield, and the rest of the gang do not inspire confidence in his appraisal of Miers.


jet 10.07.05 at 8:34 am

You all have missed the point of Miers. Bush picked her as a red herring as she will change the entire debate to being about “qualifications”. When she is shot down for being unqualified Bush will pick someone like Scalia and there will be little rhetorical room to shoot him down.


lemuel pitkin 10.07.05 at 10:15 am

Mier’s supporters are seriously arguing that qualifications and achievements are not important to (say) judging the legality of restricting women’s reproductive rights

So? Personally, I’d prefer to see the right to abortion upheld, however mediocre the judges upholding it, than overturned, no matter how brilliant the judges overturning. How about you?


Contradictory Ben 10.07.05 at 12:53 pm

Lemuel Pitkin,

Women’s reproductive rights are certainly more important than any formula for the election of justices, but I’m not sure how this affects my argument about the later. Are you claiming that the president could not find a high achiever who would uphold abortion rights?


lemuel pitkin 10.07.05 at 2:26 pm

If by “the president” you mean “b>this president” (and what else could you mean, really?) then yes, I’m claiming exactly that: any better-qualified Bush nominee would be less likely to uphold abortion rights.


lemuel pitkin 10.07.05 at 2:27 pm

(anyway, it doesn’t matter: either way, the statement that “The one and only thing to remember about Miers is that she is totally unqualified” is wrong.)


John Lederer 10.08.05 at 9:32 am

Those who decry Miers qualifications, really need to state what they think the qualifications ought be.

I note that many qualifications I have heard mentioned would reject several of the justices among most people’s top ten all time list.

My own qualifications would include above average intellect, rock solid personal integrity (including intellectual integrity), a knowledge of how the justice system works, and the ability to quickly learn (no lawyer is knowledgeable about all the areas the Supreme Court must rule on, ranging from admiralty law to patent law), and patience.

The requirement of intellectual integrity is a major one that I think constrains ideology.

How does Miers fit on these non-exhaustive criteria? I don’t know yet.


Richard Silverstein 10.09.05 at 1:19 am

Hey, I’ve got to speak up on Abramoff’s behalf. Don’t you folks know he’s a self-described “Scholar of Talmudic Studies?” And a real rabbi confirmed it! That should make him more than qualified to join the Supremes, right?

The link to my post on this topic is attached to this comment.


Ken Gayley 10.10.05 at 1:42 am

OK, so Bush can nominate almost anybody in the whole country to the SC, and it just happens that the best candidate is his personal aide? There are only two clear reasons for this choice, one is that he knows her better than most anybody, and the other is that he has a sense of personal loyalty. The first is troubling because it makes you wonder what he knows that we don’t, and the second is troubling because cronyism is viewed as a political evil that maybe should not taint our government all the way through to the SC. So which of these should be viewed as an acceptable reason for the US Senate to confirm her? There is even more at stake here than Roe, it is the credibility and integrity of the entire government that is supposed to be the centerpiece of world democracy.

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