Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Problem

Let it not be said that I am not willing to, once in a blue moon, praise a conservative. Linda Chavez's latest article is quite well written and makes several good points. She covers why the White House's defense of Harriet Miers as a evangelical Christian and sure to vote the right way on issues is kind of a miscue, coming so soon after the Roberts confirmation (where Robert's Catholicism was not supposed to be part of the debate and he didn't provide his views on anything).

And Ms. Chavez argues, correctly I'd say, that what is of far more importance is how she comes to her decisions. That's why her review of Miers career is a bit troubling to me, and possibly equally troubling to her (and other conservatives).
Harriet Miers is doubtless an able lawyer, but her career gives us no indication that she has the requisite knowledge and skill to be an effective justice. We know she has been ambitious and successful and can assume she is very bright. But she has largely chosen administrative and managerial roles in her legal career. She was the managing partner of a large Dallas law firm -- the first woman to achieve that distinction, as the White House keeps reminding us. We should assume that she is good at bureaucratic in-fighting or she would never have climbed so high in her firm or in the local and state bar associations, where she became president -- again the first woman to do so.
OK here's the problem from the liberal side of the fence. Harriet Miers is skilled at "bureaucratic in-fighting" which largely consists of knowing whose butt to kiss and how hard to kiss it. And for the last several years Ms. Miers has worked for President Bush. So presumably she's in the habit of telling him what he wants to hear. This might come in handy if a case on, say, the outing of Valerie Plame or the Rights of Prisoners not to be Tortured.

The problem from the conservative side springs from this; she's been skilled at climbing administrative ladders. But there's really no higher for her to climb. So there's no reason to keep kissing butts. She's free now to expose her real feelings about the issues as she likes. This would be true of any nominee, to a certain extent. But someone who had come up as a judge with a firm judicial philosophy would be far less likely to change that philosophy. Someone who's philosophy largely consists of doing what the boss says, well, they are going to need a new philosophy for a new job. So it's problematic.

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