Friday, October 14, 2005

Odds and ends

The NYT had a story this week from a source inside the Senate Judiciary Committee. The source said that Republican staff was already actually gathering research against Harriet Miers, which is pretty much unprecedented for one's own party's nominee. I don't know if it's true, but the fact remains that basically NOBODY outside of the White House and their flunkies (Ed Gillespie, Hugh Hewitt) have come to Miers' defense. Even Dobson is starting to waffle. Even Limbaugh wasn't on board. So I had to be wondering, WHY, aside from simple lese-majeste and stubbornness, Dubya would be sticking so desperately to Miers, or even picked her in the first place.

Then I saw this:

Among the various defenses of Miers advanced in recent days, Card's achieved new heights of peculiarity. Before a crowd that was dense with conservative intellectuals, Robert Bork among them, Card defended the nomination as a breakthrough for women. Miers, he said, "was breaking glass ceilings before most people realized glass ceilings were even there." ("People," in this formulation, probably doesn't include women themselves.) He testified to Miers' intellectualism by reminding listeners that Miers had majored in math ("something Herman Kahn would have liked") and has counseled the president on any number of challenges -- "and by the way, that includes constitutional challenges."

At which point Card himself turned constitutional scholar. As White House chief-of-staff, he found the most intriguing article, he said, to be Article II, which established the presidency and the executive branch. Miers, he continued, understood Article II as well, and would defend it "when challenged by those given the power to challenge it by Article I [i.e., the Congress] and Article III [i.e., the courts]."

Thus ended Card's constitutional disquisition -- not a moment too soon, as he had managed to conflate Miers' duties as White House counsel with what he seemed to be saying was her judicial philosophy on executive power. He could not have meant to imply that Miers would see her first duty on the bench as defending Bush against all enemies, legislative and judicial, but that's what he managed to convey. At minimum, he suggested that Miers would be the staunchest proponent of executive power over that of the other two branches that the Court had seen in a very long time. Whom, exactly, this was meant to reassure is unclear. Card's comment could not have been better calculated to raise suspicions of Miers on both sides of the aisle.

Then Card left, leaving the assembled conservatives to grouse about Bush and think the unthinkable.

That's Andy Card at a reception for the Hudson Institute, a neocon thinktank. I think we have the answer. As much as the rash of investigations is going to handcuff this administration, I guess they figure their best strategy is to stack the court with as many loyalists with experience in the executive branch as possible. (Note: I don't think John Roberts is a mere time-serving crony; he's clearly been positioning himself for this job his whole life, and I'm sure will pull his weight; but with all his experience as part of Article II, he's bound to have some bias in that direction. As for Miers, she smells like Abe Fortas without the pedigree or panache.

The good news is there is such a dearth of actual support for Miers, a stiff breeze will probably knock her over. The bad news is I'm not sure if I'm going to like whatever takes her place any better.

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