Wright from Washington City
October 30, 2005


No priestess robe for Harriet Miers
Sturm und Drang
about stuff and nonsense




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Poor Harriet Miers. Finally on the verge of her reward for her years as a loyal Bush hanger-on, she saw it all go up in smoke when people started taking an unhealthy interest in such inconvenient issues as her morality and qualifications. In the future, her name will be mentioned in the same breath with that of G. Harrold Carswell, Nixon's unsuccessful Supreme Court nominee, last heard from when he was arrested for soliciting sex in a men's room, and about whom one Senator Roman Hruska once said, "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?"

But before we weep for Harriet, let me draw your attention to what's really going on. In all the fuss about the Emperor's nominations to the Supreme Court, the most egregious offense of the Establishment and its media running dogs is that of portraying judges on the Supreme Court, such as The Ahnerrable Chief Injustice John Roberts, as people whose job it is to make well-considered decisions in the service of the rule of law.

On the Jim Lehrer News Bore, solemn pundits endlessly masticated the issue of whether Roberts is a believer in Original Intent, an Activist, a Strict Constructionist ... Secret Carnivore, Ultramontane Covenanter, Anti-Tugwellite ... I lost track. Policy wonks were no doubt entranced, but everybody else probably nodded off, despite the typical PBS viewer's notion that being able to sit through such insufferable nonsense is a measure of high-brow status. [1] I think the Guantanamo torturers may be missing a trick if they're not strapping prisoners — excuse me, "detainees" — into chairs a la Alex in "A Clockwork Orange" and forcing them to watch Mr. Lehrer's ghastly cavalcade of droning "experts" and other Establishment-certified stuffed shirts.

In any case, Roberts was confirmed, apparently in recognition of his excellent job of ducking questions, keeping his cards close to his chest, and soothing his questioners with a lot of hifalutin but empty verbiage. I suppose that's what passes for judicial temperament these days. It didn't hurt that his family, which he brought along to his confirmation hearing, looked as if they were hired by Central Casting for the roles of "Ideal Happy, Apple-Cheeked Suburban Kids," and "Ideal Loyal, Church-Going Suburban Wife."

In fact, Roberts succeeded because he convinced a majority of the senators that he is a "team player" who will uphold the established order and never upset the apple cart on hot-button issues such as abortion. And that is a key to understanding how things work in the Imperial City. The "anti-abortion" senators, for the most part, don't really want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Why should they? If that happened, they'd lose a great issue with which to rally an important voter base, a motivated body of campaign volunteers, and a good source of campaign contributions. All they'd gain would be a re-energized, newly motivated opposition. The "pro-abortion" politicians are similarly unconcerned, but they have to play to the feminists, who regard abortion as their Holy Sacrament. Roberts's mealy-mouthing gave politicos on both sides enough cover to vote for him without arousing tiresome opposition from their respective power bases.

With the success of Roberts's nomination, the Emperor decided to go him one better and — no surprise — promptly shot himself in the foot. For the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor's position he nominated Miz Miers — his own personal lawyer and somebody who not only wouldn't talk but also had no qualifications for the post at all. It's hard to guess what Bush was thinking, especially in view of rumors that his underlings advised adamantly against his decision.

Apparently, the fact that Miers had no court rulings or written opinions revealing what she might actually believe — assuming she believes in anything — was seen as an asset. Beliefs, above all moral or religious beliefs, are a decided disadvantage for those who aspire to power, especially the Maximum High Priesthood of the Judiciary. Legislators who believe in right and wrong are likely to balk at log-rolling, vote swapping, or betraying their constituents, and so are viewed with deep suspicion by successful politicians, for whom such goings-on are the necessary tools of power. Supreme Court judges with such beliefs could wreak havoc, and not just on the issue of abortion. Imagine the turmoil if the Court ruled that the Second Amendment should be interpreted as the Founders intended, or ruled likewise on the constitutional requirement that only Congress can make war. What if the Thirteenth Amendment forbidding slavery were seen as prohibiting conscription? [2]

Bush's miscalculation soon became apparent when Miz Miers ran into heavy flak from neocons such as Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer, and radio Goebbelses such as Rush Limbaugh. But what decisively killed her chances was the growing uneasiness of some of Bush's own main constituency — the "cultural conservatives" and right-wing Bible-thumpers — who, after being asleep at the switch for the Roberts confirmation, awakened like an old hound dog smelling something suspicious in the breeze. What they sniffed was the slight odor of pro-abortion sentiments, emanating from Miers's habitual attendance at a liberal Episcopal church in Washington City and other dubious associations. The paucity of information about her beliefs only heightened their suspicions. They were not distracted by Bush's empty assurances, still less by his wife's sappy assertion that she just knew Harriet would vote the right way, although she couldn't quite put her finger on why.

The "religious Right" may have regretted letting Roberts — whose superficial "devout Catholic" wrappings guaranteed nothing — slip through without a more-thorough vetting. And they may finally have been reminded of the sainted Ronald Reagan's nomination of "swing voter" (read "preserver of the leftist agenda") O'Connor herself. They gave Reagan a pass on that one, but they extended no such grace to Bush the First on another nomination they may be recalling — that of David Souter. Like Miers, he was a sexless, colorless non-entity, and he turned out to be a raving lefty once he had his hindquarters safely welded to the bench.

The anti-abortion forces were not comforted at all by Miers's unsettling boast to liberal senators two weeks ago that "nobody knows my views on Roe versus Wade." If that were true, it would mean that George Bush was lying when he vouched for her reliability on issues dear to their hearts. In fact, the Imperial Palace's official press spokesorganism admitted that Bush never asked Miers about her attitude on abortion.

A final attempt to save the nomination came last week, in the form of a dusty old Texans United for Life questionnaire Miers answered 'way back in 1989, during an unsuccessful run for local political office. In it she claimed to support the abolition of abortion — except in cases in which the "life of the mother" is at stake. The catch is that anti-abortionists recognize such an exception as a weasel clause used by politicians who are soft on the issue; and some saw other hints of mushiness in the document. By October 24, things were falling apart fast. Anti-abortionists were starting new Web sites to oppose Miers, and one "conservative" organization spent $250,000 to broadcast its opposition on radio and the telescreen. [3] The same day the Emperor publicly refused to reveal documentation on the private legal advice given him by Miers.

The death blow came in a gleeful Washington Post story on October 26:

Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers said in a speech more than a decade ago that "self-determination" should guide decisions about abortion and school prayer and that in cases where scientific facts are disputed and religious beliefs vary, "government should not act."

In a 1993 speech to a Dallas women's group, Miers talked about abortion, the separation of church and state, and how the issues play out in the legal system. "The underlying theme in most of these cases is the insistence of more self-determination," she said. "And the more I think about these issues, the more self-determination makes sense."

In that speech and others in the early 1990s when she was president of the Texas Bar Association, Miers also defended judges who order lawmakers to address social concerns. ("In Speeches from 1990s, Clues about Miers Views," by Jo Becker)

Meanwhile, Arlen Specter, the liberal Republican chairman of the Senate's judiciary committee, revealed that his outfit would question Miers about her views on torturing prisoners at Guantanamo and look into a shady land deal as well. It seems that Miers's family received about 12 times the worth of a small parcel of land needed for a freeway ramp, while the judge who appointed the panel determining the price received a hefty campaign contribution from Miers's law firm. Such deals are the bread and butter of local politics; the fact that Specter made an issue of it signaled rough going indeed for her confirmation in the Senate.

The quick withdrawal of Miers's nomination may have saved the support of Bush's last solid constituencies, the "social conservatives" and pro-war evangelicals. However, it's still possible the Miers fiasco will alienate a large number of them, especially if Bush doesn't nominate an acceptable replacement. With the hounds baying on both sides now, getting a candidate the "conservatives" like through the Senate may be impossible, so Bush may decide to punt with another ringer. Either way may result in a huge fight leading to an ignominious slide below the lethal 30 percent mark in the all-important popularity polls. It sure couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

What remains unremarked on is the fact that, whoever finally manages to plant himself in Sandra Day O'Connor's big chair, the end result will almost certainly be the same. The chances of someone making it to the High Bench who will significantly change its direction are close to nil. That's because the Supreme Maximum Priesthood is not concerned with truth or justice and still less with the adherence of laws to the Constitution.

If it were, its proceedings would be of little interest to anyone except lawyers and law professors. We wouldn't be getting all this Sturm und Drang about whether or not Miers "supports" or is "against" Roe v. Wade, or any other issue. In particular, Roe v. Wade would never have become an issue in the first place, because it would have quickly been dismissed, or not even considered, by the Court. Interest groups wouldn't wangle to get "their" people on the bench in the manner of Ming-dynasty eunuchs scheming for power — only to be betrayed when the chips are down. The drunken, openly bigoted "justice" Thurgood Marshall wouldn't have gotten away with outrageous, injudicious rants, calling his colleagues "racist," doing no work at all, and watching TV in his chambers all day. The "nation" wouldn't wait with bated breath for the latest predictable judicial decree from on high. The pundits wouldn't spend endless hours quarreling and reading entrails, trying to divine shadowy trends and proclivities as if they were Cold War kremlinologists.

Anti-abortionists and others who agitate for one nominee or another, besides making a corrupt bargain, are being taken for a ride. The Supreme Court's mission today is to make rulings that support the current power structure and ruling classes, and to legislate for their interests on issues that are too politically inconvenient for Senator Bumtrinket and Congressman Snark to vote on. Miers herself revealed this in her fatal speech 12 years ago, when she pointed out approvingly:

Officials would rather abandon to the courts the hard questions so they can respond to constituents: I did not want to do that — the court is making me.
Finally, of course, the Supreme High Priesthood provides lifelong sinecures to a privileged few — a function of the courts that William Schwenck Gilbert pointed out 130 years ago in his first successful collaboration with Arthur Sullivan, the operetta Trial by Jury. After boasting how he slimed and betrayed his way to the bench, the Judge revels in his accomplishment:
JUDGE. For now I'm a Judge!

ALL. And a good Judge, too!

JUDGE. Yes, now I'm a Judge!

ALL. And a good Judge, too!

JUDGE. Though all my law be fudge,
Yet I'll never, never budge,
But I'll live and die a Judge!

ALL. And a good Judge, too!

JUDGE (pianissimo). It was managed by a job —

ALL. And a good job, too!

JUDGE. It was managed by a job!

ALL. And a good job too!

JUDGE. It is patent to the mob,
That my being made a nob
Was effected by a job.

ALL. And a good job too!

October 30, 2005

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1. While it may be tempting for readers to use the News Bore as a soporific at bedtime, I must warn them that if they do, they run the risk of waking up screaming from nightmares in which flocks of mice, each with the tiny face of Ray Suarez, are nibbling on their paralyzed extremities.

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2. I note that true believers in leftist ideologies are, in general, much less of a threat to the Establishment than those who believe in God or have other traditional attitudes. That's simply because the leftists' beliefs, for the most part, support the continued well-being and expansion of the State. Anti-war leftists go against the grain, and so are marginalized, but that may be changing. Recent sallies by lefty politicians indicate that the Red Guards and their allies in Congress are considering the unpopularity of the War on the Iraqis as a possible chance to increase their power at the expense of the "conservatives."

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3. Opposition to Miers came mostly from right-wing groups that had comparatively little influence with the Imperial Palace. Those who had closer working relationships, such as James Dobson's "Focus on the Family," tried to keep their heads down so as not to alienate either Bush or their constituents. Last month, Dobson also came out in support of the increasingly beleaguered House majority leader, Tom Delay, who was indicted for breaking campaign finance laws. Dobson provides a useful illustration of the way political organizations claiming to represent constituencies voluntarily subvert their own supposed ideals to get and maintain influence.

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