Republican Senators Should Not Rally Around Their President

“Sometimes, party loyalty asks too much,” said JFK. 

In asking conservatives to support Harriet Miers, prior to full Judiciary Committee hearings, George W. Bush asks too much.

Trust me, Bush is saying.  Trust but verify, they should reply.

For as of today there is no evidence Harriet Miers possesses the judicial philosophy, strength of intellect, firmness of conviction or deep understanding of the gravity of the matters on which her vote would be decisive to be confirmed as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. 

If she does not exhibit these qualities in testimony before the Judiciary Committee, Harriet Miers should be rejected.  That she is a woman, a good lawyer, a trusted friend of the Bush family, a born-again Republican and Evangelical Christian is not enough.  That Dr. James Dobson has been secretly assured by Karl Rove she is pro-life is not enough.  After all, we have a president who professes to be “pro-life,” yet cannot bring himself to say that Roe v. Wade was an abomination he hopes will go the way of Dred Scott.

Because of the immense damage the Supreme Court has done to our society over fifty years, seizing upon and dictating on issues beyond its constitutional province, imposing a social revolution from above, tearing our country apart over race, religion and morality, conservatives cannot take any more risks.  We are too close, now, to the promised land.

After Nixon named Blackmun, Ford named Stevens, Reagan gave us the malleable O’Connor and Tony Kennedy and Bush’s father gave us that textbook turncoat Souter, presidential assurances are not enough.  We must hear from Harriet Miers herself of her judicial philosophy and views of what the court has done and should do.

Why did Bush do it?  Is he unaware of the history or savagery of this struggle?  Does he not understand the cruciality of this one court appointment to conservatives who vaulted him to the nomination over McCain and gave him the presidency twice?  Does he not care? 

Since the Goldwater and Nixon campaigns of the 1960s, a great philosophical struggle over the Supreme Court has been waged.  In that 40-years war, jurists like Clement Haynesworth and Robert Bork have been pilloried, smeared and rejected by a liberal Senate that realizes the stakes.  Others like Clarence Thomas have survived brutal scourgings.  Brilliant young lawyers and aspiring judges like Miguel Estrada have even been denied a vote for the appellate court because of liberal fears they may have the stuff of another Scalia.

Yet now we are told by the White House Harriet Miers is an ideal candidate because she “has no paper trial.”  But what does that mean, other than that Miers has never declared herself with courage and conviction on any of the great issues from 1965 to 2005.

This is now a qualification for the U.S. Supreme Court?  To have been AWOL in the great social and moral conflicts of her time?  This is like saying the ideal candidate to sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff is an officer who has never seen combat or suffered a wound.

There are today third-generation conservatives who have bravely defended their beliefs in hostile law schools, clerked for Supreme Court justices, paid their dues in the White House or the Department of Justice, joined the Federalist Society, advanced by excellence and merit to federal judgeships.  The message of the Miers appointment to this generation is: You made a mistake.  You left a “paper trail.”  Is this the message we want to send to the next generation: Don’t let anybody know where you stand on gay rights, affirmative action, or Roe v. Wade?

Is this what the conservatism has come to?  By the standard of “no paper trail,” we would never have nominated Scalia or Bork, or Ronald Reagan, who, with his thousands of radio and TV commentaries, had the longest paper trail in American history. 

In claiming Miers is the most qualified person he knows to fill the seat of Sandra Day O’Connor, President Bush tells us more about himself than her.  If she is truly that qualified, why did he hide this extraordinary talent in the paper-shuffling job of White House staff secretary?  Why was she not named White House Counsel instead of Gonzales?  Why was she not nominated to the U.S. Appellate Court for the District of Columbia to give her judicial experience?  If she is that good, why did Bush pass her over for John Roberts?

Twenty-four hours after he picked his personal lawyer for the Supreme Court, George Bush was in the Rose Garden trying to put out the firestorm he had ignited in his own base camp.  How’s that for political brilliance?

His aides are now demanding that Republican Senators and conservatives rally around their president. They should not.  They should tell the president, respectfully, that, though he went with Harry Reid, they will stay with their convictions. 

It’s stand up time again, as in the days of old.