President Bush nominated White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the vacant Associate Justice position on the Supreme Court.
Bush had this to say about Miers:
This morning, I’m proud to announce that I am nominating Harriet Ellan Miers to serve as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. For the past five years, Harriet Miers has served in critical roles in our nation’s government, including one of the most important legal positions in the country, White House Counsel. She has devoted her life to the rule of law and the cause of justice. She will be an outstanding addition to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Harriet was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She attended public schools. When illness struck her family during her freshman year in college, Harriet went to work to help pay for her own education. She went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a law degree from Southern Methodist University.
Over the course of a distinguished legal career, Harriet has earned the respect and admiration of her fellow attorneys. She has a record of achievement in the law, as well as experience as an elected member of the Dallas City Council. She served at high levels of both state and federal government. Before state and federal courts, she has tried cases, and argued appeals that covered a broad range of matters. She’s been a leader in the American Bar Association, and has been recognized by the National Law Journal as one of the most powerful attorneys in America.
Harriet’s greatest inspiration was her mother, who taught her the difference between right and wrong, and instilled in Harriet the conviction that she could do anything she set her mind to. Inspired by that confidence, Harriet became a pioneer in the field of law, breaking down barriers to women that remained even after a generation — remained a generation after President Reagan appointed Justice O’Connor to the Supreme Court.
Harriet was the first woman to be hired at one of Dallas’s top law firms, the first woman to become President of that firm, the first woman to lead a large law firm in the state of Texas. Harriet also became the first woman president of the Dallas Bar Association, and the first woman elected president of the State Bar of Texas. In recognition of her achievements paving the way for women lawyers, Harriet’s colleagues in Texas have honored her with numerous awards, most recently the Sandra Day O’Connor award for professional excellence.
Harriet has built a reputation for fairness and integrity. When I came to office as the governor of Texas, the Lottery Commission needed a leader of unquestioned integrity. I chose Harriet because I knew she would earn the confidence of the people of Texas. The Dallas Morning News said that Harriet insisted on a system that was fair and honest. She delivered results.
Harriet has also earned a reputation for her deep compassion and abiding sense of duty. In Texas, she made it her mission to support better legal representation for the poor and under-served. As president of the Dallas Bar, she called on her fellow lawyers to volunteer and staff free neighborhood clinics. She led by example. She put in long hours of pro bono work. Harriet Miers has given generously of her time and talent by serving as a leader with more than a dozen community groups and charities, including the Young Women’s Christian Association, Child Care Dallas, Goodwill Industries, Exodus Ministries, Meals on Wheels and the Legal Aid Society.
Harriet’s life has been characterized by service to others, and she will bring that same passion for service to the Supreme Court of the United States. I’ve given a lot of thought to the kind of people who should serve on the federal judiciary. I’ve come to agree with the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who wrote about the importance of having judges who are drawn from a wide diversity of professional backgrounds. Justice Rehnquist himself came to the Supreme Court without prior experience on the bench, as did more than 35 other men, including Byron White. And I’m proud to nominate an outstanding woman who brings a similar record of achievement in private practice and public service.
Here are some thoughts and things about Harriet Miers that Bush did not share.
1. While this nomination is a lot like Roberts in that there is little in the way of “judgments” and legal actions to easily document the nominee’s views, it is clear that Bush is avoiding people who are clearly and unequivocably ideologically right-wing. Harriet Miers appeared on few lists of those whom the left feared might get the seat. But at the same point, we don’t know enough about her core views to easily assess her — and she could be a “trojan horse” for any political view on the spectrum.
2. Miers is politically wily. She’s been a political operator for some time in Texas and has made political donations to Republicans and Dems. Miers contributed to Al Gore in 1988, Lloyd Bentsen in 1987, and the Democratic National Committee in 1988. (According to one comment from a friend, “sounds like Ms. Miers didn’t want George H.W. Bush to be President.) Since 1988, however, she has stayed on the Republican side of the fence.
3. Issues like abortion may be part of her portfolio if one follows the money. Her only political contribution to a non-Texan has been to former Nebraska Attorney General Donald Stenberg who has been waging war over the practice of “partial-birth abortions” and plans to run against Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) in 2006. Apparently, the Bush administration is trying to push cases up to the Supreme Court that would get decisions against such late-term abortions, and Miers could be counted on to be an ally.
4. It turns out that in 1994, Harriet Miers was in charge of running checks on anything in Bush’s past that might be embarrassing. What did she find? What did she do when she discovered papers or issues of concern?
She also headed the Texas State Lottery Commission under Bush’s tenure as Governor and during the Commission’s “most controversial period”. From the Houston Chronicle:
As his personal attorney, Miers conducted a background check on Bush before he ran for Texas governor in 1994 to look for potentially embarrassing information. And Miers headed the Texas Lottery Commission under his direction during the agency’s most controversial period.
5. David Frum thinks that Bush has made an error in nominating Miers and should have gone with a more “steely”, dependable conservative — but he has this to say about Harriet Miers:
I worked with Harriet Miers. She’s a lovely person: intelligent, honest, capable, loyal, discreet, dedicated … I could pile on the praise all morning. But there is no reason at all to believe either that she is a legal conservative or – and more importantly – that she has the spine and steel necessary to resist the pressures that constantly bend the American legal system toward the left.
6. In contrast, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) seems to have already given up the fight on this nominee and seems ready to have her on the Supreme Court.
Here is Reid’s statement today:
I like Harriet Miers. As White House Counsel, she has worked with me in a courteous and professional manner. I am also impressed with the fact that she was a trailblazer for women as managing partner of a major Dallas law firm and as the first woman president of the Texas Bar Association.
In my view, the Supreme Court would benefit from the addition of a justice who has real experience as a practicing lawyer. The current justices have all been chosen from the lower federal courts. A nominee with relevant non-judicial experience would bring a different and useful perspective to the Court.
I look forward to the Judiciary Committee process which will help the American people learn more about Harriet Miers, and help the Senate determine whether she deserves a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court.
7. I don’t have a real sense of Miers yet.
The real issue here is that she is a deeply embedded loyalist to George W. Bush. She helped clean up his past, it seems, and has been there in the White House both as Deputy Chief of Staff and then White House Counsel seeing all the dirt and problems that passed by. She has had to have turned a blind eye to may ethical questions — such as the absurd notion that the White House can’t find who leaked Valerie Plame’s identity to the press as well as many other matters.
What is clear about her is that she is a cog in the Bush political machine — and that machine intends on being around a long time, even after this President steps down in three years.
However, given the contrast between Frum who in principle thinks that the nomination was bad and Reid who thinks it can be good, I don’t see the stomach among Dems yet for a fight.
— Steve Clemons