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Judging Harriet Miers: Lock up this 'pit bull'


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Katie Paulson
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By Katie Paulson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
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Defying conventional wisdom, Harriet Miers, a longtime friend of President Bush, has secured the nomination for Supreme Court justice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. Yet, she has done this with waning support and zero experience.

This "pit bull in size-6 shoes," as Bush fondly calls Miers, epitomizes the impact of cronyism in the modern political process. Unlike its more positive counterpart, patronage, cronyism refers to politicians who appoint long-standing friends to high-level public positions with complete disregard for their qualifications.

While White House officials continue to persuade critics that Miers' groundbreaking legal history highlights her overall competency, more and more conservatives (not to mention the leftist brigade) are sharing their concerns over Bush's decision. And for good reason.

Resembling more of an ambiguous puppet rather than a confident human being, Miers lacks strong convictions that would allow the public a glimpse into her potential decision-making head. But, we must remember that President Bush supports her; ergo, the American people must remain confident in his decision.

CNN reports that in his weekly radio address, Bush announced, "No Supreme Court nominee in the last 35 years has exceeded Harriet Miers' overall range of experience in courtroom litigation; service in federal, state and local government; leadership in local, state and national bar associations and pro bono and charitable activities."

Although these sound like esteemed credentials, Miers' actual positions restrained her from revealing her ideological stances. It appears that her most important career highlight involves her interactions with Bush since his role as Texas governor.

While Bush has authorized other close companions to powerful government positions (e.g. our favorite Haliburton guru, Dick Cheney), the Supreme Court is one institution that should remain devoid of manipulative nominating tactics.

Recently, the media has drawn attention to her evangelical roots. Thus, it would seem plausible to conclude that the religious right cherished her firm moral grounding.

Tony Perkins, a member of the conservative Family Research Council, said, "Our lack of knowledge about Harriet Miers, and the absence of a record on the bench, gives us insufficient information."

It should be noted that even Perkins understands that Miers has an "absence of a record on the bench. " While supporters repeat that other Supreme Court justices did not have previous experience before serving on the nation's highest court (e.g. the late William Rehnquist), they are merely masking her lack of a legal background by making outlandish comparisons.

It's impossible to justify her subpar skill level by claiming that Rehnquist or any other justice shared in her experience. Bush is simply providing baseless claims in order to control the nomination process for his longtime friend.

Here's what it boils down to: Conservatives find her undeclared position worrisome for their most poignant issues (e.g. abortion). William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, has even suggested that Bush withdraw the nomination.

Of course, liberals fret over the future of civil liberties and matters of personal choice. Amazingly, both sides are in relative agreement: Miers is not the ideal candidate to represent either a certain political agenda or the American people on the Supreme Court.

Judicial experience remains one of the most debated issues in the federal court system. While some justices do climb the court's structural ranks and bring their understood experiences with them, most are thrust into the powerful decision-making body without formal understanding of the implications of their actions.

With no bench experience, Miers represents another thorn in the side of opponents clamoring for more judicial training. If Miers were appointed to another federal district or appellate position, her character and history may not face such scrutiny. Yet, if confirmed, she stands to engage in some of the most controversial and pressing issues of modern times.

Why does Bush refuse to shed more light on his friend? Unfortunately, the president keeps the House in check - literally - and holds his hand close regarding Miers and her proposed role in the Supreme Court.

Regardless of her connections, religious convictions and pioneering background, Miers should not be confirmed by the judicial committee. Besides, should we trust anyone who considers Bush to be the most brilliant man she's ever met?


Katie Paulson is a junior majoring in English and political science. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.



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