Here’s one reaction nobody’s having to the May 2 Supreme Court leak: “If only Harriet Miers were on the Court!” That was the woman President George W. Bush attempted to put there back in 2005, forever changing conservatives’ view of the man. In fairness to him, Miers had two important qualifications: she was his personal lawyer, and unlike every other justice before her, she had served as head of the Texas lottery commission. Why did Harriet Miers pop into my head recently? Because once the laughter died down and W was forced to withdraw her...
Here’s one reaction nobody’s having to the May 2 Supreme Court leak: “If only Harriet Miers were on the Court!” That was the woman President George W. Bush attempted to put there back in 2005, forever changing conservatives’ view of the man. In fairness to him, Miers had two important qualifications: she was his personal lawyer, and unlike every other justice before her, she had served as head of the Texas lottery commission. Why did Harriet Miers pop into my head recently? Because once the laughter died down and W was forced to withdraw her name, he nominated… Justice Samuel Alito, author of the leaked draft opinion that will soon, God willing, overturn Roe. Only a man with Alito’s piercing intellect and deeply ingrained principles would have the balls to do what he (and at least four other justices) are about to do.
I was never a huge fan of W, but I had assumed we were basically on the same side. With the Miers nomination, there was a total fissure: we had nothing in common, he was not a real conservative, and he was almost assuredly as stupid as the left said he was. It was like finding out your dog is really a cat. Soon after Bush was elected in 2000, I sat next to his attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, at a dinner. Speaking on behalf of right-wingers, I told him, “We don’t care if Bush gets us in a war, raises taxes, tanks the economy. All we care about is the Supreme Court.” Conservative lawyers had been laboring in the trenches for a quarter-century to change the legal order in America. But when a rare Supreme Court opening came up, W spurned a movement built by the likes of Antonin Scalia, Robert Bork and the Federalist Society to nominate… his personal lawyer. Did I mention she was president of the Texas Bar Association?
Neoconservative David Frum and I were the first to come out swinging against this Monty Python nomination, for which I will always respect him, though we don’t agree on much else these days. On one of my many TV appearances immediately after Miers was announced, I succinctly laid out the problem with her nomination:
The argument is she’s not qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. There’s no disputing that. The hearing isn’t going to change anything… I keep hearing people say, “Oh, let’s wait and see.” She’s a sixty-year-old woman. We know what is in the record. We know what she’s done. We know what she’s accomplished. The day she was nominated, her speeches were being played over and over again on C- SPAN. That’s when I officially went on suicide watch.
I listed some of the ludicrous, insulting, completely irrelevant straw-man arguments being made in her favor: “One is that it’s sexism, that it’s elitist, that we don’t know how she’s going to vote, that she wasn’t a judge. That isn’t the argument we’re making!… The argument is she’s not qualified.” Soon, the Miers nomination became a sorting mechanism on the right: do you have one molecule of principle? Or are you just using the conservative movement for self-promotion, to keep a paid gig on TV, or to be able to say, “In my conversation with the president today…”? In addition to the president, the “small group” in the White House that chose Miers included Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. (Remember those names. Those guys could be trouble someday.)
Needless to say, Fox News was pedal-to-the-metal for Miers, repeating all the enraging arguments made on her behalf by the White House. Brit Hume questioned whether there was a “bit of elitism” in the Miers critiques, while the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes suggested it might be “snobbery.” (Note to Ed.: we’re not talking about staffing the Crawford Welcome Wagon. Of the eight justices appointed to the Supreme Court this century, four got their law degrees from Harvard and three from Yale.) Laura Bush said it was “possible” that sexism was a root cause of the uproar, touting how many times Miers had “broken the glass ceiling herself” and dubbing her “a role model for young women around our country.” (Note to Ed.: I prefer first ladies who don’t speak English.) Miers was a “very qualified person,” according to Lindsey Graham. “There are thousands of lawyers in Texas, but she’s the one chosen by the lawyers in Texas to represent the bar association.” (Note to Ed.: only three lawyers had applied for the position.) And Vice President Dick Cheney defended the fact that Miers had never served as a judge prior to her nomination, pointing out that “Judge Rehnquist never served on the bench before he became a member of the Supreme Court.” (Note to Ed.: Rehnquist graduated first in his class from Stanford Law School.)
Two weeks later, Bork wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal coming out foursquare against Miers — and suddenly all the frauds started pretending they’d been right there fighting alongside Frum and me the whole time. Speaking of unqualified cronies being elevated to positions they are manifestly unqualified for, we may be grateful that Jared Kushner had no interest in the courts, and Trump’s judicial selection was turned over to competent individuals at the Federalist Society. If only he’d done that with the wall!
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s June 2022 World edition.