"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, October 13, 2005

What, Me Worry?

The intensely negative reaction of some of my Reform Club colleagues in response to the Harriet Miers nomination certainly gives me cause to pause and think. My position, as our readers are well aware, has been one of rather blithe unconcern. Hunter Baker, Esq., describes it correctly as follows:

We've had S.T. play the "she'll vote fine" card and Tom urge tolerance in light of core values the president may be observing and those are good things to say. I count them better men than I for holding their water with so much less volatility.

I suppose that I should make it clear that I do not for a moment imagine that Ms. Miers is the "most qualified" person possible to name to the Court. (I also must admit that I could not begin to guess who is the person most qualified to do so.) I think it a misstep on President Bush's part to expect his fellow Republicans to "take it on faith" that Miers would suit their purposes if she takes a seat on the Court. When I heard the news of Bush's nomination, I said, "Who?" exactly like just about everybody else.

Yet, as mentioned earlier, I have found it very difficult to see precisely what there is to worry about here. If, as seems perfectly evident, Miers will provide a solid strict-constructionist vote on the Court, she should be exactly what Republicans have been calling for over the past couple of decades.

Perhaps this is a matter of personal temperament. To me, outcomes are everything, and any way of getting there is fine with me. It's just the way I'm wired. And as Hunter suggests, I haven't yet seen a problem with the ultimate outcome here, and hence don't see any need to get upset about the situation—yet.

But the world also needs people who are concerned about processes, and that is why I cannot and do not fault President Bush's Republican opponents on this matter for feeling uneasy. They are worried about the message this nomination sends (or fails to send) about the role of judicial philosophy in American governance, and although I think their worries are misplaced in the present case, I recognize the value of such concerns and the importance of the debate.

I think that Fred Barnes's article today on the Weekly Standard website hits just the right tone and reflects the same considerations I have been writing about. Barnes concedes that those on the Right who are angry with Bush for this nomination have valid concerns. Nonetheless, Barnes says, Miers has yet to testify before the Senate, and that is the point at which we will see what she is made of. Until then, some grumbling and suspicion are understandable, but the sense of betrayal and horror many on the Right have displayed is difficult for us goal-oriented types to fathom. Hence, at the risk of further angering some of his friends, Barnes concludes that a bit of forbearance would have worked better for those on the Right who are concerned about the role of the judiciary in American life:

My conclusion is: Bush supporters who were angry over Miers should have waited. That's the bottom line. Rather than bellow that Miers isn't qualified and won't turn the Court to the right, they should have

given her a chance to prove her conservatism at the hearings. They owed Bush at least that much. Of course it's not too late for Miers, in her testimony, to change their minds. But my fear is that the rift the Miers nomination opened between Bush and his (mostly conservative) followers will be slow to heal. It shouldn't have been this way.

Barnes is correct: it shouldn't have been this way. Yes, President Bush made it possible by nominating Harriet Miers, which now appears to have been a stupid move from a political standpoint—but his critics on the right share at least equal resposibility for this disagreement. The President's critics on the right complain that Bush has been wrong to expect them to "take it on faith" that Miers will serve the purposes they wish to see achieved on the Court. Yet could not the President equally complain that his critics on the Right have broken faith with him by suddenly asserting the importance of process over results?

Sometimes we all have to stand back, take a deep breath, and remind ourselves of what the real goal is.

2 comments:

Hunter Baker said...

I think what you've seen is shock rearing its head. Nobody expected her and we thought we were past the "stealth" phase. Now, as Jonah Goldberg has said, the Pres. is stuck in a two front war that gets worse and worse. For every reassurance he has to give, he gets the left more revved up, which he presumably was trying to avoid in the first place. Should have just picked an eminent person with whom it would appear petty to play bork games. Once again, I give you Michael McConnell and his supporting cast of law professors including many left-types.

Matt Huisman said...

"My conclusion is: Bush supporters who were angry over Miers should have waited. That's the bottom line. Rather than bellow that Miers isn't qualified and won't turn the Court to the right, they should have
given her a chance to prove her conservatism at the hearings. They owed Bush at least that much.
"

Give me a break. This opportunity doesn't come along every day, and to expect people to wait to see what happens in public political hearings is a joke. You're supposed to know what is going to happen in the hearings, your side nominated the candidate - presumably you should be comfortable with her.

No, Bush owed them. He chose an end run that was expedient to him, figuring that everyone else would 'have' to get on board because of the political landscape and the candidate was good enough.

By the way, I can already predict the next Fred Barnes article once the hearings have started...'Hey man, we really need you to be with us on this one...we all lose otherwise...and besides, if you didn't like her, you should have said something before we got to this point.'