Bush Nominates "Pit Bull in Size 6 Shoes" to High Court. Will Lady McGruff Pass Senate Smell Test?

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From Newsday:

[Harriet] Miers, who has never been a judge, was the first woman to serve as president of the Texas State Bar and the Dallas Bar Association.

Without a judicial record, it's difficult to know whether Miers would dramatically move the court to the right. She would fill the shoes of O'Connor, a swing voter on the court for years who has cast deciding votes on some affirmative action, abortion and death penalty cases.

Known for thoroughness and her low-profile, Miers is one of the first staff members to arrive at the White House in the morning and among the last to leave.

When Bush named her White House counsel in November 2004, the president described Miers as a lawyer with keen judgment and discerning intellect—"a trusted adviser on whom I have long relied for straightforward advice."

He also joked of Miers, "When it comes to a cross-examination, she can filet better than Mrs. Paul."

I know nothing about Miers but I have eaten too many fish sticks in my life. And it seems to that comparing her to a ground-fish miester opens her up to a lot of criticism right out of the gate (note to traditionalists: What does Mr. Paul do for a living?). That–and her lack of bench experience–opens her up to a lot of criticism out the gate. Libs/Dems will harp on the latter point of course. But cons/Reps might worry about a someone who is reportedly "not strong pro-lifer."

More here.

Last week, Reason's Jeff Taylor wrote that a Miers' nomination would suggest "a White House nod to factions who loathe the federal judiciary in general and would love nothing more than a non-judge justice on the highest court in the land." He further wrote, "a non-judge seems a mighty reach for Bush."

We'll see, whether we want to or not.

In the meantime, here's some 411 on the woman once described by Bush as "a pit bull in size 6 shoes." Assuming she's tough on crime, let's call her Lady McGruff.

NEXT: Walk This Way

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  1. Another crony appointment.

    Just how shallow *is* the GOP bench?

  2. A crony appointment is perfect from Bush’s POV. It means that the president will know a great deal about how the nominee will act on the court, but she will offer little in the way of a paper trail.

  3. If the Plame case goes to trial, with indictments of White House officials, and the White House tries to erect legal roadblocks, and it goes up to the Supreme Court, would Bush’s appointees have to recuse themselves?

  4. Jon H.,

    For merely being Bush appointees? I don’t think so. Now, if they were somehow personally involved, made statements about it that showed them to have pre-judged the case, etc. they should recuse themselves.

  5. Smells a bit funny… I’d be much happier if Bush was picking people that have backgrounds to go off of.

  6. htimish,

    Good “stratergy” though.

  7. 2 nominees with…

    ? virtually no paper trail
    ? profile on the level of obsequiousness
    ? knowledge of and loyalty to to the Bush administration

    Combined with a need by the administration to…
    ? Blunt criticism from both the left and the right.
    ? Reduce chances of a fight or filibuster

    Is anyone really surprised? This is a tactic that will eventually be known by future adminstrations and those who care as “The Bush Manuever.”

    Yes, they make decisions that boggle the mind, they outdo Reagan in the same “Do As I Say…Not As I Do” approach to fiscal responsibility and have bested him in how to placate Democrats – and Republicans – with the public’s largesse. But they do play the game awfully well sometimes.

    I’m more interested at the notion that an easy time with the left gives Dems a lot more cache if and when a truly dismal extremist – the kind who will refuse to legislate from the bench unless the issues are search and seizure laws, drug cases, mandatory sentencing guidelines or the legitimacy of Roe v Wade – is selected.

    If Dems, by and large, give her the same latitude they gave Roberts, it’ll be a lot harder for con/Reps to accuse the Dems of being obstructionists when they get up and fight against such and appointment…if indeed they do.

  8. madpad,
    Don’t really see how this could be viewed as politically smart at all. Bush is hovering at 40% in the polls and he nominates some crony who not only thinks “he is the most brilliant man in the world”, but is also likely to completely enrage the minority of Americans who still actually supported him.

  9. madpad,
    Don’t really see how this could be viewed as politically smart at all. Bush is hovering at 40% in the polls and he nominates some crony who not only thinks “he is the most brilliant man in the world”, but is also likely to completely enrage the minority of Americans who still actually supported him.

  10. madpad,

    Well, you have to have someone as stupid (and nutty) as Bork in order to sink a nominee’s chances. Of course bouncing Bork has given conservatives the oppurtunity to wave the bloody robe from that point onward.

  11. madpad,

    Well, you have to have someone as stupid (and nutty) as Bork in order to sink a nominee’s chances. Of course bouncing Bork has given conservatives the oppurtunity to wave the bloody robe from that point onward.

  12. “Without a judicial record, it’s difficult to know whether Miers would dramatically move the court to the right.”

    No, it’s not. It’s just difficult to prove.

    I can’t believe, a month after Katrina, Bush is nominating a crony with a thin resume to an extremely important, high profile position.

  13. some crony who not only thinks “he is the most brilliant man in the world”

    Wait, wait, did she really say that? Honestly? Come on…

    […] but is also likely to completely enrage the minority of Americans who still actually supported him.

    Oh, please. Do you actually believe that? After the shit that Bush has pulled, it’s plainly obvious that the ones that still support him would not be swayed by such “details”. If they supported him through Iraq, Katrina, and the biggest spending spree this country has ever seen, then, why would this “enrage” them? The ones that support him still, are mostly made up of the “yeah, President Bush just raped a bunch of baby kittens. So what? I stand by my president!” crowd. Nothing short of Dub actually murdering their families in cold blood is likely to “enrage” those blind followers.

  14. scott,

    At first blush, that strategy might seem counterintuitive. But work with me here.

    He’s not making the left or the middle happy and he’s not making the right happy either. The extreme right has gone along for unity’s sake. And the far (but not extreme) right seems to still find him acceptable.

    He has to play to the middle. And that means picking someone who will get past the left while hoping the right will “trust” him to pick someone they’ll warm up to. Risky, I know…but from where I’m sitting, he doesn’t have many other options.

  15. Mrs. Paul? Bah! I nominate Gorden S. Fisherman fo the high court.

    (Sorry, but I couldn’t resist.)

  16. Akira MacKenzie,

    I believe her name is “Gorton S. Fishwife.” 🙂

  17. I went to a restaurant with good seafood in downtown DC. Maybe their head chef could be nominated?

    If they pick a seafood chef from Maryland, given the state’s signature seafood dishes we could have lots of fun with “The Supreme Court has crabs” jokes.

    I have no idea how this thread turned into a seafood discussion, but it’s fun.

  18. crony appointment = bad idea

    non-judge appointment = good idea

    non-lawyer appointment = better idea

    * Consitution-obeyer apointment = great idea

  19. Disappointing.

    Anyone who has served on the Dallas City Council is immediately suspect, in my book.

    Also disappointing because Bush nominated a woman to replace a woman, reinforcing the idea that O’Connor’s seat is now reserved for chicks only. One nice thing about Roberts as O’Connor’s replacement is that it ignored the odious idea that we should fill seats according to interest group heredity, but Bush managed to trash even that small nod toward sanity.

    Why couldn’t he put Roberts through as O’Connor’s replacement, immediately nominate him to the CJ slot, and nominate someone qualified to replace Rehnquist?

  20. It was her, or they nephew of the guy who cleans Jeb’s pool. Tough decision, but leaders make tough decisions.

  21. Someone please remind me why GWB should give a hoot what his poll numbers are? Fealty to the GOP machine? bah….

    This nomination should come as a surprise to no one. The only surprise would have been if Bush had picked someone with a clear track record.

    I am so disgusted that I’m almost tempted to move to a Red State just so I could vote for gridlock in the Senate. Thankfully, even though I live in CT, I can lodge a protest vote that might evict Chris Shays.

  22. Seriously, he’s introducing his nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States, and he’s talking about the Dallas City Council, the Lottery Commission, and “she’s argued cases before state AND FEDERAL courts.”

    What’s the mindset here? “OK, we got the respected, qualified nominee out of the way. Done our part for history. Now, let’s get back to rewarding cronies!”

  23. Why would anyone want to go through an unnecessary senate confirmation hearing? (i.e. Roberts to replace O’Connor but not be Chief Justice)

  24. Sadly, the source for the claim that Miers once called Bush “the most brilliant man she had ever met” is David “Axis of Evil” Frum, who I suspect would have little reason to make up something so unfavorable.

  25. But aren’t the mediocre entitled to a little representation? We can’t all be Brandeises and Frankfurters and Cardozos.

  26. She served a single term on the Dallas City Council. Did she run for reelection or for some other office and lose, or did she decide to pursue something else in ’91?

    Unless she didn’t show up to the meetings, or did show up but never said or did anything, the Dallas Morning news so far is worse than useless. The paper’s archives currently return two articles more than a couple of weeks old in a search on “Miers”. You’d think that as someone brought in to clean up the reputation of the state lottery commission and head of the state Bar, she’d make her hometown paper once in a while.

  27. R.C. Dean,

    Well, its just the Republican version of affirmative action. Look for a black person to be pressed to fill Thomas’ spot when he leaves office.

    MP,

    Someone please remind me why GWB should give a hoot what his poll numbers are?

    Typically its part of the whole “legacy” project of second term Presidents.

    joe,

    Well, appointments to the SCOTUS have been in part politically motivated since Washington’s Presidency. For example, Washington would only nomiate people who supported the Constitution during the enactment period. So I think you are expecting things from Bush that haven’t been all that common to start with.

  28. Oh, criminey, I forgot about the Lottery.

    If there is a bigger collection of ass-kissers, screwups, and all-around cronies than the Dallas City Council, its the Texas Lottery Commission. Both are laboratory specimens of incompetent boobery.

  29. Why would anyone want to go through an unnecessary senate confirmation hearing? (i.e. Roberts to replace O’Connor but not be Chief Justice)

    The hearing would be a complete formality, since they just had one on the guy, so it would be low-cost.

    And it would be worth it to put a thumb in the eye of the interest group diversity industry.

  30. It could have been worse. It could have been Brownie. He does have judging experience, even if it was Arabian show horses.

  31. The Ghost of Roman Hruska,

    I’d say most SCOTUS judges have been mediocre.

    James Kabala,

    Well, she could be just playing the role of a sycophant. 🙂

    s.m. koppelman,

    You’d think that as someone brought in to clean up the reputation of the state lottery commission and head of the state Bar, she’d make her hometown paper once in a while.

    I’m sure there were more important stories in Texas than anything about her; like clamoring for the continued ban on dildo sales. 🙂

  32. “Well, appointments to the SCOTUS have been in part politically motivated since Washington’s Presidency.”

    Oh, of course, no question – the difference here is one of degree, not kind. But that’s an awful lot of degree! Going back from Roberts’ nomination, through Clinton’s picks, through Old Bush’s, through Reagan, even back through Carter and Nixon’s picks, Miers really does stand out as an underqualified crony.

  33. It used to be common for non-judges to be nominated to the Court. I am not necessarily a fan of William Douglas, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Earl Warren, etc. but that none of them were qualified seems a stretch. Robert Jackson, of who I am a fan, neither finished law school nor had prior judicial service.

    I can think of plenty of non-judges who would make great Justices (Miguel Estrada or Larry Thompson or Ted Olsen, for example). I don’t know much about Ms. Miers though. Perhaps she’s really just “Abe Fortas in a dress”.

  34. John H,

    What’s so frustrating is that the GOP bench is not shallow. Michael McConnell, for example.

    But between a brilliant, seasoned jurist who opposed Bush vs. Gore, and a long-time Bush clan crony, the answer is obvious with this guy. I’ll bet it wasn’t even close.

  35. polt, I agree that someone without bench experience can make a good justice. But the Lottery Commission? One term on a City Council? Yes, being President of Bar Association and George Bush’s lawyer is quite nice, but it’s not exactly Governor of California (Warren), now is it?

  36. Bush is a uniter not a divider!

    He got Joe and I to agree that this nomination was an act of almost criminal stupidity on the part of George Bush.

    As a bonus (for the Democrats) George Bush has enraged the Republican base in a way that even reading a weeks worth of Joes comments could not.:-)

    On a more serious note is there any potential Republican presidential candidates who have any kind of a conservative philosophy beyond mouthing whatever platitudes it takes to get elected?

  37. I’ve dealt with a lot of govt. employees on their personal business in my career and what set Ms. Miers apart from the govt. careerists is that she would not do it on the taxpayers time. She had too much integrity to do that. She routinely works 10+ hour days. Kinda like an anti-joe. I think she’ll be a surprise, perhaps the most libertarian justice.

  38. Somebody doesn’t like what I’m saying, and wants to poison the well.

  39. Well shoot, Joe. Next you’ll be saying government should play a role in seeing to it that the well gets cleaned up. Maybe you should have posted some guards if you really cared so much about the water quality on your property.

  40. Wake me up when she goes missing in Aruba.

  41. “What’s so frustrating is that the GOP bench is not shallow. Michael McConnell, for example.”

    I guess that, as far as Bush is concerned, the bench consists only of those people within his protective bubble.

    That would make it shallow, indeed.

    I wonder if he asked Karl if he could appoint Barb and Jenna to the two open seats.

  42. I see some real potential for whacky hi-jinks in the SCOTUS, in a King Ralph/Dave kind of way, with this pick. She’s an outsider! She’s never had a job like this! Soon she’ll be solving all our problems with good old American common sense, like when Dave called up his accountant friend Chuck Grodin and balanced the budget overnight. I nominate the Miers pick for smooth hearings, memorable characters, and boatloads of laughs!

  43. TJIT,

    So, what is the sentencing range for “criminal stupidity?” 🙂

    No seriously, the answer to your question is no.

  44. In a world where both Richard Posner and Janice Rogers Brown exist, why on Earth would any sane person pick this lady?

    1) She’s from Dallas, a town whose only virtue is not being Fort Worth.

    2) She has a very short, very underwhelming list of accomplishments.

    3) She’s obviously some sort of crony. So, even if she would be a great justice, it looks bad. Very bad. Especially given the recent Brown fiasco.

  45. TJIT,

    Or rather, no one with a chance of winning.

  46. Timothy,

    Well, in the case of Posner he’s (a) too old and (b) its likely that neither Bush nor any of his close allies have strong connections with him.

  47. Sadly, the lack of qualifications and experience was no doubt a bonus in the minds of the people who chose her. The Republican “stealth nominee” strategy is real disservice to this country.

  48. Abe Fortas in drag! That’s exactly was it is. Dubya really is the second coming of LBJ. Gives “born-again” a whole new meaning, now doesn’t it?

  49. joe,

    I have to ask. What are the proper qualifications in your eyes for a position on the SCOTUS?

  50. Sadly, the lack of qualifications and experience was no doubt a bonus in the minds of the people who chose her. The Republican “stealth nominee” strategy is real disservice to this country.

    On the happy side:

    (1) all the Democratic senators with integrity will vote against her (unless candidate is more forthcoming at the hearings than we have gotten ourselves accustomed to, in which case she should be judged according to her intellectual substance).

    (2) if Miers does get confirmed despite the lack of info about her, then the Republicans will be estopped from bitching when Hill returns the favor triple in ’09, ’10 and ’11.

  51. Trzesniewski,

    Are you sure she’s not Linda Hunt in a bad disguise? 🙂

  52. if Miers does get confirmed despite the lack of info about her, then the Republicans will be estopped from bitching when Hill returns the favor triple in ’09, ’10 and ’11.

    This is true only if you assume that the current crop of “Republicans” (whom the Goldwater Republicans of old should sue for defamation) are free of hypocrisy. Somehow, I have my doubts.

  53. Hak: Well, yeah, Posner is too old. But the point stands, there are plenty of other folks who would appear more qualified.

  54. The more I read, the more I feel like this is a disaster waiting to happen. Hopefully she gets drilled very hard before the judicial committee. I at least need an indication of how she generally views the commerce clause.

  55. Timothy,

    Well, yeah, but doesn’t that depend on what you mean by “qualified?” 🙂

    Posner is too old for Bush’s purposes; if I were President (ha ha) I’d nominate him in a heartbeat. Hell, even just a few years on the SCOTUS would be a great exercise of his judicial acumen.

  56. Bush, biggest spender since LBJ.
    Bush, first to nominate a personal crony to the court since LBJ.
    Bush, first to engage in unprovoked war since LBJ.
    Bush, first to expand Medicare since it was created by LBJ.

    As they say, don’t mess with Texas!

  57. “R.C. Dean,

    Well, its just the Republican version of affirmative action. Look for a black person to be pressed to fill Thomas’ spot when he leaves office.”

    RC: LOL. good comments! remember the version of AA to your neighbor state to the south. we had to endure Alan Keyes against Barak “call me Clinton” Obama. (argh!)

    and good call on the blind support of bush supporters. he certainly inspires their loyalty.

  58. One lament I heard about Roberts, and more generally the Court, is that most of them have followed the same rarified legal career paths: Clerk for somebody really important, a variety of stints in federal and state agencies, maybe teach in a prestigious law school, work for a Washington law firm, maybe do some corporate work, sit on an appellate court, then Supreme Court.

    Which is great, but it’s hardly the only way to build a career. Maybe it’s a bad idea if they all follow more or less the same path. What about significant experience in elected office? What about spending more than a few years in a private practice that involves neither DC clients nor corporate clients? What about experience prosecuting or defending in state and local cases rather than federal cases? Surely there must be ways to distinguish yourself outside the traditional SCOTUS career paths.

    This nominee has definitely gone outside that rarified path, but I don’t know enough to say whether she’s distinguished herself in it. My initial read is that there are some high points but it’s not clear whether she’s reached the same heights in her path that Roberts reached in his path. I need to learn more before I draw conclusions.

  59. thoreau,

    Well, O’Connor definately didn’t follow that path and she’s a generally well respected jurist. Rehnquist also had nothing like the career that Roberts did; indeed, Rehnquist had never been a judge prior to coming to the Court.

  60. Anyway, I don’t think this is any worse than Lincoln nominating his pal David Davis to the high court or some of FDR’s crony appointments.

  61. Agreed. O’Connor followed a very different path. Rehnquist clerked for the SCOTUS but then did a long stint of private practice before going to DC. Of course, Rehnquist is gone and O’Connor is more-or-less gone.

    What about the others? I seem to recall the criticism applying more to the others in the places where I’ve encountered it.

  62. or some of FDR’s crony appointments

    A high standard that any president should be proud to match.

  63. MP,

    I believe that there is way too much myth surrounding Supreme Court appointments when it should be admitted that the whole process has been and continues to be very political (as it should be – after all, this is only time “we” really get to “vote” on these folks).

  64. Hak, “I have to ask. What are the proper qualifications in your eyes for a position on the SCOTUS?”

    In general terms, a combination of A) a respected, significant record of service as a judge (federal appeals court, state supreme court), B) a respected, significant record of service in other areas of the law, and/or, C) a respected, significant record of service at other HIGH LEVELS of public service.

    I could let it slide that Meirs has never so much as cancalled a ticket in traffic court, if she was, say, the veteran speaker of a state’s house, or had decades of service as a White House lawyer, or was dean of a quality law school.

  65. joe,

    Basically you want a significant “record” you sift through. I guess that makes sense but its not historically how the Court’s members have been judged.

  66. Hakluyt,

    Historically, dead people voted by the thousands in urban wards throughout the country. These days, not so much.

    I think the unqualified crony SCOTUS appointment belongs in the dustbin of pre-modern Ward Boss democracy. For more than three decades, that’s exactly where it’s been, and I think it’s a shame Bush is resurrecting it.

  67. joe-

    Sounds to me like you want somebody accomplished to have a job with the word “Supreme” in the title.

  68. For more than three decades, that’s exactly where it’s been…

    You must be living in fantasy land. Honestly, if Court appointments were truly meritorious proceedings Judge Posner would be on the Court before Ginsburg, Souter or Thomas ever were.

  69. There’s a great post over on Volokh detailing the general conservative blogosphere disdain for this nomination.

  70. Holy crap, that ad for Miers went up really fast. 🙂

  71. MP,

    Well, am sure that the “social conservatives” don’t like her because she she may be an unknown entity from their perspective.

  72. Hak, “Honestly, if Court appointments were truly meritorious proceedings Judge Posner would be on the Court before Ginsburg, Souter or Thomas ever were.”

    I’m not looking for ideal meritocracy here. Politics, partisanship, and personality are going to play some role, regardless of what we think. I’m just looking for a floor here. Ginsburg, Souter and even Thomas are miles ahead of Meir, based on the resume I’ve seen.

  73. thoreau-There is certainly nothing wrong with coming to the court by way of another path. But, the problem with it is that the current path provides quite a bit of information about how a certain candidate will respond to issues. For all any of us know, this woman could be fully in favor of dispensing with civil liberties for anyone even accused of “terrorism.” It doesn’t seem all that likely, I’ll admit, but without having as much background information as possible it becomes more and more likely that someone who does believe it will be placed on the court without anyone realizing it. Plus, if they can ignore questions from the Senate at will, as Roberts did, a record becomes even more important.

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