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Heavy-Handed Politics

"€œGod willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world
without the United States and Zionism."€ -- Iran President Ahmadi-Nejad

Thursday, October 06, 2005

More Thoughts on Meiers, Part II

Peggy Noonan in writing a piece for the Opinion Journal questions the Harriet Miers pick for SCOTUS. While I can understand the concerns coming from the right on the selection, after all I too would like to see a conservative court for a while, and I do agree with some of her opinions and observations, there are some things bugging me.

First, and somewhat unrelated to her article, but related to the SCOTUS issue, this notion and all this talk about the "swing vote" (and it comes from both right and left) is overblown, if not misguided. Where do we get this idea that we must have 4 liberal justices, 4 conservative justices, and one "moderate/swing vote" justice? Hell, we then might as well have just one justice, and send the other eight packing.

Anyway, back to Noon's article. She says, "This choice will live beyond his presidency. It's important to get a justice who will add to the wisdom of the court, who will make it more likely that America will get a fair hearing before the bench."

I agree.

Noonan wonders, "Would she? I don't know, you don't know, the president who appointed her doesn't know. Presidents are always being surprised by what losers they put on the bench."

Well, I have read or heard nothing that indicates that she won't bring wisdom to the court. I like the fact that she is not "Ivy League."

She adds, "I wonder in fact if Harriet Meirs knows what Harriet Meirs will be like on the court. I am referring to more than the fact that if confirmed she will be presented with particular cases with particular facts that spring from a particular context and are governed, or not, by particular precedents. And I'm referring to more than the fact that people change, in spite of the president's odd insistence that she won't. People do, for good and ill. Sometimes they just become more so. But few are static."

That's the problem Peggy. We will never know for SURE (nor can any President). GW's crystal ball is not any clearer than any other preceeding President. There are no guarantees. But in those instances, where the choices by a Republican have turned into complete failures (from the conservative rights' perspective) the President didn't know them well, if at all. As someone pointed out, President George Bush, the first, would not have been able to pick Justice Souter out of a police lineup.

Justice Kennedy, on the other hand, was a known commodity. He had a conservative track record. What happened to him? Who knows? Sucked in by the glamour of D.C., D.C. politics, and the pressure of media scrutiny, and a desire to be accepted by the community? Maybe. Who knows. There is no guarantee. No sure thing, Peggy.

I submit that a case can be made that this pick is one of the "safest" picks made by any President, for a justice of SCOTUS, in history from a standpoint of personal knowledge and a close working familiarity. In fact, his fathers blunder in selecting Souter, an unknown, maybe a driving force for him in picking someone he is completely at ease with and feels safe with, and feels reasonably sure that she won't morph into something else, so as not to repeat his fathers mistake.

She opines, "The president would have been politically better served by what Pat Buchanan called a bench-clearing brawl. A fractious and sparring base would have come together arm in arm to fight for something all believe in: the beginning of the end of command-and-control liberalism on the U.S. Supreme Court. Senate Democrats, forced to confront a serious and principled conservative of known stature, would have damaged themselves in the fight. If in the end President Bush lost, he'd lose while advancing a cause that is right and doing serious damage to the other side. Then he could come back to win with the next nominee. And if he won he'd have won, rousing his base and reminding them why they're Republicans."

I am not sold on this argument that losing a serious fight to the Dems would cause serious damage to them (the Dems) which would then enhance President Bush's chances so that he "could come back and win the next nominee."

A loss is a loss and that could embolden the Democratic party which does seem to be reeling a little bit now. But, I don't see the Dems rolling over on this pick. And the failure to get her nominated, which somehow would put the Republicans in a stronger positon on getting the next nominee confirmed, is a bit perplexing to me.

Noonan: "And that might explain why a Harriet Meirs has reached the age of 60 and no one seems to know what she thinks."

We are falling into the hyberbole trap now. There are people out there that know what she stands for. The President for one. And he gets to choose. Granted, she may not be a household name to many conservatives, but I have heard some very complimentary things said about her from the conservative side. "No one seems to know"? C'mon Peggy. No guarantees.

Noonan: "...... it's going to come down to Harriet Meirs's ability to argue her own case before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If the American people decide she seems like a good person--sympathetic, wise, even-keeled, knowledgeable--she'll be in; and if not, not."

Well, yes, and that's the way it should be. And, as John Fund points out:

"Conservatives should start to realize the fun and political gain that liberals are having at their expense. While skepticism of Ms. Miers is justified, the time is fast approaching when such expressions should be muted until the Senate hearings begin. At that point, Ms. Miers will finally be able to speak for herself. And those on both sides of the political spectrum will be able to make a more informed judgment."

Noonan sums it up this way: "And so the historical irony: Supreme Court justices are more powerful than ever while who and what they are is more mysterious than ever. We have a two part problem. The first is that no one knows what they think until they're there. The other is that they're there forever."

I concur wholeheartedly with this. Too powerful, too mysterious, and on the bench too long.


  • Well, the Mier’s pick certainly generated discussion didn’t it? Like you H-H, I am not terribly concerned and I expect she will turn out to be okay. Still, I was surprised and disappointed at the choice.

    I have some sympathy with Pat Buchanan’s desire for a knockdown drag out but I do not have confidence that we would have won such a fight. Too many of our representatives have weaseled out in the past. Our winning such a fight would probably not have hurt Democrats as much as our loosing it would have hurt us

    Still, I spoil for the fight because I long to have the issue resolved as to what the purpose of the Supreme Court is in our system of government. The Democrats notion that the court should be guided by its members own sense of justice much less the touchy feely nonsense that the Democrats prefer or, worse yet, that of foreign countries, is dangerously wrongheaded. They would attest to that themselves if or when ever the courts sense of justice should turn rightward, as Judge Bork tried to point out. We need a national civics lesson here.

    I recall Joe Biden’s response to Roberts regarding the umpire analogy and that the court needs to tell us where the strike zone is. What tripe! The strike zone is defined by the rule book and while different umpires will inevitably interpret a given pitch’s proximity to that zone differently anyone who has ever played the game would know that to be a problem with baseball, not a solution. It is unavoidable but to then acquiesce to it to the extent of saying each umpire can and should define his own strike zone only makes a necessarily bad situation worse. Yet, that is where we are at in both baseball and politics. (Where was our baseball aficionado George Will on this one?)

    I take Peggy Noonan’s point that people change but that is why my concern, like yours H-H, is with constitutional constructionists rather than conservatives. There are many reasons why ones sense of social justice may change as the years go by, ones situation, experiences and exposures change and life grows shorter but the purely objective determination of how our system of government was meant to function should not. A conservative constitutional constructionists may well become a liberal but should remain a constitutional constructionists and I am okay with that. I will deal with the legislature, wherein I have a vote, on matters conservative versus liberal. That way it remains in my hands as one of ‘the people’.

    Do the American people not understand this, do they not understand that the Democrats notion regarding the role of the Supreme Court takes away their right to self government, nullifies their vote and reduces ‘we the people’ to just nine human and therefore fallable beings? Perhaps they don’t. Perhaps that is why John Adams warned that all democracies committ suicide. Thanks H-H for speaking out so well and for providing me a forum to speak out against such lazy self destructive attitudes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:11 AM  

  • Yes, the selection of Miers has the media and the blogs abuzz.

    I was a little surprised, by her nomination, but not totally, because I had seen someone's short list of nominees and she was on it; but I must say I knew nothing about her.

    I agree with you Anotmo. I believe there are too many spaghetti-spined Republicans. This, in my humble opinion, automatically starts to box in the President and severely limits his options. There was a fairly decent op-ed piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (I kid you not) by a gentleman who is an associate professor of law at the University of Minnesota specializing in the U.S. Supreme Court, and who was also at one time, a former law clerk at the Supreme Court. He writes about our sick selection system and you might find worth reading. The URL is: www.startribune.com/stories/1519/5655770.html

    I strongly believe that there are a number of Americans that don't understand "that the Democrats notion regarding the role of the Supreme Court takes away their right to self government, nullifies their vote and reduces ‘we the people’ to just nine human and therefore fallable beings."

    I also believe that this "too powerful" Supreme Court is injurious to us, just as a large intrusive Federal government is destructive.

    Thanks for your kind words and your input which is always well articulated.

    By Blogger HeavyHanded, at 12:26 PM  

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