Right's Got the Wrong Objections to Miers

Know them by their enemies. The more I read of the vituperative right-wing attacks on Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, the more sympathetic I become. Anyone who has incurred the wrath of Trent Lott, Gary Bauer and George Will can't be all bad. If Robert Bork thinks she's a "disaster," maybe there is a positive side to this nominee that I have missed.

Sure, the endorsements by Pat Robertson and James Dobson are alarming, particularly because the latter claims he has inside information. But let's hope she's not their kind of Christian. After all, Miers has a record of working with the gay community rather than calling acceptance of gays "the last step in the decline of Gentile civilization," as Robertson once did. "Dallas Gay Leaders OK Miers Pick" read the headline in the Dallas Voice, which bills itself as "The Community Newspaper for Gay & Lesbian Dallas."

True, what we know of her own religious convictions and the Valley View Christian Church, to which she has been so fervently committed, would indicate that Miers is something of a zealot and that she is personally opposed to abortion. But that would be true of any Bush nominee. Is our recently confirmed Catholic chief justice, John Roberts, any less fervent in his religious belief about when life begins?

What is crucial here, and what should be fully explored in the Senate confirmation hearings, is whether Miers will impose her personal religious views on the nation. Or does she, as a self-avowed strict constitutionalist, accept the doctrine of separation of church and state, which was the clearly expressed intent of the men who drafted the Constitution?

That, not the red herring of "judicial inexperience" raised so strenuously by her critics, should be the real deal-breaker here. If experience as a judge is so decisive, we would never have had a William H. Rehnquist court, nor would Roberts be replacing him as chief justice. The late Rehnquist had zero tenure as a judge when President Nixon nominated him, and Roberts has had less than three years on the bench.

As for the right wing's other main criticism of Miers -- her supposed lack of constitutional-law bona fides -- it must be dismissed as laughable. These same folks enthused over George H.W. Bush's 1991 nomination of rookie judge and ex-Reagan administration bureaucrat Clarence Thomas to the high court.

What does concern me about Miers' legal background is that she advanced her career by placing her skills in the service of the rich and powerful -- whether corporations or politicians. Also worthy of serious Senate grilling are questions relating to Miers' role as a key White House legal advisor during a period when torture and other human rights violations have been routinely condoned by this administration.

The real problem with Miers is the possible conflict of interest between her loyalty to the law and her devotion to a president she has called, according to conservative pundit David Frum, "the most brilliant man she had ever met." And the Los Angeles Times reports that an associate of hers said she considers the president "a genius." Such quotes hardly leave one sanguine about Miers' capacity for objective judgment.

The most important responsibility of the Supreme Court is to guard against the unconstitutional abrogation of power by any of our three branches of government. Yet here is a nominee to the high court who, with every glance, expresses fawning admiration for a president who has shredded constitutional safeguards. (Deceiving Congress as to the justification for a foreign invasion must leave the founders of this nation twirling in their graves.)

Such devout loyalty to a president is quite worrisome -- especially one who only attained the Oval Office through the connivance of a Supreme Court sufficiently politicized to interfere in the clearly defined obligation of the states to conduct a fair vote count. And does her loyalty extend to Bush's relatives, such as brother Jeb, who is a likely presidential candidate down the road? Or to the growing number of allies of this president who are now in trouble with the law?

For all of these reasons, Miers' nomination must be thoroughly scrutinized, but we should keep an open mind. With the vicious and deceitful enemies that this woman has made, she deserves a few honest friends.

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