Like most Americans, I don't know much about Harriet Miers, President Bush's choice to fill the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court to be vacated by Justice O'Connor when she retires. From what I do know about her, I'm not particularly surprised that she is the president's choice, though I question both its wisdom and political dimensions. President Bush has shown a strong loyalty to his close and longtime associates. Miers certainly qualifies on both counts. What I find puzzling in the President's nomination of Miers to the Supreme Court is why she was willing to be nominated.
From what the newspapers and various blogs have said of Miers, she has had a remarkable career as a lawyer and politician. She became the managing partner of a large and powerful Texas law firm after a successful practice in commercial law. She became president of the Texas Bar Assn., a major political accomplishment. She has served President Bush in offices while he was both governor of Texas and since he has been president.
I think that it is entirely appropriate for her to be nominated to a federal judgeship in recognition of her successful legal and public service career and I think it would be entirely sensible for her to cap her career as a federal judge, if found qualified. Given her background as a commercial litigator, a seat on the federal district court, itself a great honor, might well be appropriate.
But why seek a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court? Why suffer through the often-humiliating confirmation process? Can she truly believe that her nomination will sail through after witnessing what happened to Robert Bork or Clarence Thomas? Indeed, in both of those confirmation hearings, the nominees were sitting federal judges and had strong support both in Congress and among the general public. It would appear that Miers lacks both.
It seems to me that President Bush, however well-intentioned toward Miers, has done her a major disservice. There are simply too many questions about her competency and her views. Unlike Chief Justice Roberts, who could reasonably be called the "best" candidate for the job of chief justice of the United States, based on his credentials and experience, Miers has too little of both.
No matter how much the White House may call for civility in the confirmation hearings, they will likely be bruising at best. As far as support goes, Mrs. Miers appears not to have support either on the right or the left in Congress and has already been criticized by leading conservative pundits such as George Will. Given all of this, why does she want the job? This is what I don't understand.
What motivates someone to strive for a job for which they appear to be wholly unprepared? Why expose oneself at the peak of a stellar career to the difficult and unpleasant process she will have to undergo? Is it ambition? Is it an inability to say "no" to a president she admires? Is it simply a chance "too good to give up.?"
I'm afraid that if I had been in Miers' position I never would have agreed to be nominated for the job. I'm just not that brave nor ambitious. Nor am I thick-skinned enough. I suppose all I can say in the end is that I wish Harriet Miers' good luck in whatever happens, although I'm not at all sure what that means either for her or for the country in this odd situation.