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October 12, 2005

Bush's Faith-Based Choice for Justice

Wile E. Delaplaine

I have been thinking about our president; but more so about his faith-based choice for Supreme Court Justice, Harriet Miers, and I find myself torn.

On the one hand Ms. Miers is clearly a bright and distinguished lawyer, but on the other hand, constitutional studies are not her strong suit, and clearly President Bush could have made a much better choice for the Supreme Court from either the center or from the right.

One would have thought that an administration recently stung by the misadventures of its cronies, e.g. FEMA Director Michael Brown, OMB's David H. Safavian, and his ties to the sleazy Jack Abramoff, wouldn't have dared to pick anyone from his inner circle. But that's exactly what the president has done. His choice is baffling to just about everyone.

As a self-professed moderate, the question I have to ask myself is: Would I rather see Ms. Miers confirmed as the unknown quantity that she is and hope that she turns out to be both moderate and qualified, or, would it be better to see her torpedoed by an odd mix from the left and right and have him spin the wheel again? (Swap "conservative" for "moderate" in the question and you have the right's conundrum.)

The outcome of any rejection of Ms. Miers would very likely be that the president will choose someone who cannot be construed (or perhaps misconstrued) as a crony and who probably has a much more distinguished resume for the job. This new pick would likely have both a paper trail and would likely be openly conservative rather than just speculatively so; but thus, a known quantity, a known quality, and, (gulp) in all probability, a known conservative.

The left of the left would vote against, a couple center/left would vote for, and, if President Bush were as savvy as he was in his pick of John Roberts, enough Democrats would vote "aye" that he/she would be confirmed. Of course, there are a couple of nightmare scenarios, namely that of another Antonin Scalia, or worse. And if the choice is farther right than Justice Scalia, we face a filibuster - or the meltdown of the Senate.

I wonder if it would be better to have a known high quality conservative on the court, or would it be better to have someone likely to be a mediocre justice who may, just perhaps, turn out to be moderate? These are tough questions.

There is one other worrisome aspect of Ms. Miers as a justice. President Bush obviously has picked her thinking that she will be loyal. But loyal to what? To his vision? To his values?

Or...perhaps she will be loyal to him on a more personal level. If the various aspects, policies, wars and personalities of the Bush administration continue to unravel at the present rate, do we want someone on the bench who is more likely to be loyal to he-who-put-her-there or to the Constitution?

Do we want someone on the high court who will be forced to recuse herself each time a Bush "sandstorm" ends up before the court? Or worse, if she indeed turns out to be a crony, someone who doesn't recuse herself when she should?

Regrettably, it is left to the Senate to decide and not to Wile E. - the Just and Wise...

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