Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Bush Regime Nominates Stealth Candidate

October 11, 2005

“Harriet who?” With these words, my professor opened class last Monday morning, echoing the thoughts of all America. Of course, the answer is “Harriet Miers, counsel to the Bushies for the last decade and well-established crony of the administration.” Although admired widely for her precision and attention to detail, she was criticized by one former White House staffer for being unable to “separate the forest from the trees.” She, like Roberts, has done a substantial amount of legal work for the Republicans. Unlike Roberts, Miers has done nearly all of her work in the private sphere. You know what that means? No records.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are records somewhere. Just not where the American public will ever get to see them. She was drafted for the Bush White House immediately in January of 2001 and she’s been a part of the administration ever since, getting a promotion to Deputy Chief of Staff in 2003 and taking over Alberto Gonzales’ position as White House Counsel when he became Attorney General in February. That, in combination with a single term on the Dallas City Council, is the totality of her public service work. Before going to work for the White House, she worked as the chair of the Texas Lottery Commission during – you guessed it – Bush’s gubernatorial stint from 1995 to 2000, providing Governor Bush with private legal counsel all the while. From 1972 until she moved to Washington to join the White House team, she also worked in large law firms. Go figure.

So we’ll never see records from, well, anything she’s ever done. Neither of the Dallas firms which employed her is going to be releasing records of her work there, and those records would likely be pretty much useless anyway. As for her role as counsel to George W. Bush for the last decade, the White House is screaming executive privilege and claiming such documents would be a “distraction.” That’s an appalling assertion, unless Bush means that some primary sources might be a distraction from the media frenzy.

On the up side, Miers seems dedicated to civil liberties and individual rights. When she was president of the state bar of Texas, she wrote, "The same liberties that ensure a free society make the innocent vulnerable to those who prevent rights and privileges and commit senseless and cruel acts.… Those precious liberties include free speech, freedom to assemble ... access to public places, the right to bear arms and freedom from constant surveillance…. We are not willing to sacrifice these rights because of the acts of maniacs." Though she wrote these words a decade before 9/11, they make my libertarian heart sing with joy in light of a security alert system that hasn’t dropped below “Elevated” in the three and a half years since its creation. The question is whether she has stuck by those principles or fallen prey to the scare tactics with which this administration has so successfully cowed the rest of the nation.

But there’s the small matter of some comments she made to a gay and lesbian alliance in Dallas to throw doubt on how thoroughgoing her convictions on civil liberties really are. Though it was a bold move to even talk to the group when she was running for city council in 1989, she merely told them what they wanted to hear on a survey, and then in an interview she hedged her way around tough civil rights questions by citing “personal religious beliefs.” If she’s bringing her religious beliefs to bear on her position as a member of the city council, what’s she going to do with a position on the Supreme Court? Dedication to freedom of speech and the right to own a gun are very different from dedication to freedom to choose who you marry.

There’s a possibility, though, that I thus far haven’t seen considered anywhere. Bush may have picked an unpopular candidate intentionally to throw her to the sharks. Her utter lack of serious experience in public service, the recent revelations of Bush’s blatant cronyism, and a total absence of public records make Miers a hard pill to swallow. Both the Democrats, who are sure to be incensed by such opacity when they just finished fuming about the Bush regime’s refusal to release a substantial portion of Roberts’ records, and the Republicans, who wanted someone more radical to tip the balance of a court they perceive to be right back where it started, are already grumbling. If Miers sinks, Bush’s next attempt will almost assuredly get through, no matter where he or she might stand ideologically. If she swims, well, great! Then the Neo-Conservatives have got a puppet on the court too.

Long story short? Miers looks like a Republican shill, but we’ll have to wait and see. On the basis of her professional credentials alone, completely independent of her jurisprudential ideology, I’m disinclined to trust her with a position on the highest court in the land.

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