At the Federalist Society’s “The Presidency and the Courts” forum yesterday in Cincinnati, President Bush took time to rally the troops and bask in their loving glow as he recounted his battles over the issue of judicial nominees and reminded his audience that, just as he had promised, he put two new justices on the Supreme Court who shared their right-wing ideology:
When asked if I had any idea in mind of the kind of judges I would appoint, I clearly remember saying, I do. That would be Judges Scalia and Thomas … And I made a promise to the American people during the campaign that if I was fortunate enough to be elected my administration would seek out judicial nominees who follow that philosophy … I have appointed more than one-third of all the judges now sitting on the federal bench, and these men and women are jurists of the highest caliber, with an abiding belief in the sanctity of our Constitution … America is well served by the 110th justice of the United States Supreme Court — Samuel A. Alito … I was very proud to nominate for the Supreme Court a really decent man, and a man of good judgment, and that would be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts.
Bush then went on to lament the politicization of the confirmation process, pointing to the treatment of Miguel Estrada as a prime example, and blasting those who engaged in “harmful tactics and maneuvers to thwart nominees”:
Unfortunately, Miguel Estrada’s experience is not an isolated one. Many other well-qualified nominees have endured uncertainty and withering attacks on their character simply because they’ve accepted the call to public service. Those waiting in limbo include: Peter Keisler for the D.C. Circuit, Rod Rosenstein for the Fourth Circuit, and dozens of other nominees to district and circuit courts across this country.
The broken confirmation process has other consequences that Americans never see. Lawyers approached about being nominated will often politely decline because of the uncertainty and delay and ruthlessness that now characterizes the confirmation process. Some worry about the impact a nomination might have on their children, who would hear their dad or mom’s name dragged through the political mud. This situation is unacceptable, and it’s bad for our country. A judicial nomination should be a moment of pride for nominees and their families — not the beginning of an ugly battle.
The American people expect the nomination process to be as free of partisanship as possible, and for senators to rise above tricks and gimmicks designed to thwart nominees … In Washington, it can be easy to get caught up in the politics of the moment. Yet if we do not act to improve the confirmation process, those who are today deploying harmful tactics and maneuvers to thwart nominees will sooner or later find the tables turned.
Oddly, he didn’t mention the most high profile vicitim of this problem – Harriet Miers:
According to “WithdrawMiers.org,” a coalition formed by the Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly, Fidelis, and others for the sole purpose of opposing the nomination: “Miers’ … few published writings offer no real insight or assurance of a judicial philosophy that reflects a commitment to the Constitution.” And on issues where Miers had something of a record, WithdrawMiers.org was not impressed: “Ms. Miers fought to remove the pro-abortion plank in the American Bar Association platform, yet fought this Bush Administration in ending the ABA’s role in vetting judges which is known to be biased against judges whose judicial philosophies reflect a clear commitment to the Constitution. She donated money to a Texas pro-life group, yet helped establish an endowed lecture series at Southern Methodist University that brought pro-abortion icons Gloria Steinem and Susan Faludi to campus.”
Like WithdrawMiers.org, Americans for Better Justice sprang up simply to oppose the Miers nomination. Founded by ultra-conservatives like David Frum, Linda Chavez, and Roger Clegg, ABJ was unconvinced that Miers shared its founders’ right-wing views and began gathering signatures on a petition demanding Miers’ withdrawal: “The next justice of the Supreme Court should be a person of clear, consistent, and unashamed conservative judicial philosophy … The next justice should be someone who has demonstrated a deep engagement in the constitutional issues that regularly come before the Supreme Court — and an appreciation of the originalist perspective on those issues … For all Harriet Miers’ many fine qualities and genuine achievements, we the undersigned believe that she is not that person.”
The right-wing magazine National Review had, in many ways, led the charge against the Miers nomination from the very beginning. Its writers called Miers “a very, very bad pick,” declared her nomination “the most catastrophic political miscalculation of the Bush presidency” and complained that the Right had been forced to endure “an embarrassingly lame campaign from the White House, the Republican National Committee, and their surrogates.”
What caused this gnashing of teeth was the fact that, according to the National Review’s editorial board, “There is very little evidence that Harriet Miers is a judicial conservative, and there are some warnings that she is not … neither being pro-life or an evangelical is a reliable guide to what kind of jurisprudence she would produce, even on Roe, let alone on other issues.”
Others on the Right were just as dismayed by the nomination. American Values’ Gary Bauer explained: “[Harriet Miers] has not written one word, said one word, given a speech, written a letter to the editor on any of the key constitutional issues that conservatives care about and are worried about and want to make sure the court does not go down the road on.”
The Wall Street Journal called the nomination a “political blunder of the first order,” lamenting that “After three weeks of spin and reporting, we still don’t know much more about what Ms. Miers thinks of the Constitution.”
Stephen Crampton of the American Family Association said Miers is a “stealth candidate for a seat on the Supreme Court [and] is an unknown with no paper trail,” while the Christian Defense Coalition blasted the president, saying his supporters “did not stand out in the rain for 20 hours passing out literature or putting up signs for the President to have him turn around and nominate Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. A nominee in which there is no record of their judicial philosophy or view of the Constitution.”
Back when John Roberts was preparing for his confirmation hearing, Concerned Women for America was praising him as a “highly qualified nominee with extraordinary personal integrity who has proven himself worthy to sit on our nation’s highest court.” CWA said “Senators should ignore the ridiculously inappropriate litmus tests and document demands of the radical left” and that Roberts “should receive overwhelming bi-partisan support and confirmation.”
This is in stark contrast to the stand CWA took on Miers: “We believe that far better qualified candidates were overlooked and that Miss Miers’ record fails to answer our questions about her qualifications and constitutional philosophy … We do not believe that our concerns will be satisfied during her hearing.” In calling for her withdrawal, CWA revealed their real objection: “Miers is not even close to being in the mold of Scalia or Thomas, as the President promised the American people.” They demanded that the president give them a “nomination that we can whole-heartedly endorse.”