Thursday, October 27, 2005

R.I.P. Miers Nomination

I have said that I think that any presidential nominee that is qualified for a position should be confirmed. I still believe this to be sound policy. Elections mean something. We implicitly give those we elect as chief executive the privilege of nominating people to various positions. As long as the nominee is qualified and is clean, he/she should be confirmed even if we don’t agree with the nominee’s philosophy.

This morning Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination to serve as an associate Supreme Court justice, much to the relief of many conservatives. I have to admit that I feel strangely relieved as well. I have watched this whole process with the same kind of interested horror with which people view the aftermath of a nasty automobile collision.

On one hand, I sympathized with conservatives that felt sick inside about the Miers nomination. On the other hand, I felt that the right thing to do was to let the nomination run its course. The Senate should discover whether she was qualified or not (something that was not immediately apparent), and then vote based on their findings. I thought the nomination was most likely a mistake, but I also thought that the President deserved to have the nominee he wanted as long as she was deemed qualified via the normal process.

The Miers nomination was problematic from the outset. While some people were concerned about John Roberts’ personal philosophy, there was never any doubt that he was imminently qualified for the position. All we had with Harriet Miers was a huge question mark. Sure she had been a lawyer and had managed lawyers, but was she qualified to rule on matters of constitutional law? Nobody could really say yes or no on that.

The administration circumvented its vetting process to nominate Ms. Miers. Regardless of how good the President felt about her, that was not the right thing to do. Our system of government strives for transparency to prevent corruption. Many questioned whether the nomination of someone so close to President Bush violated what auditors call separation of duties. It doesn’t mean that something fishy is going on, but it allows the opportunity for such.

While I had a sinking feeling about the Miers nomination, I was shocked at how vociferously many conservatives attacked it. Apparently the Bush administration was even more shocked. Ed Morrissey says here that the conservative backlash was merely the release of pent up frustrations. Miers was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Morrissey aptly notes what I have said before, that Bush is really not that conservative. But because Bush was the best option for the war against radical Islam, tax cuts, and the general quality of judicial nominees, conservatives stuck with him. They kept mum on (or even supported) many very anti-conservative policies such as the huge expansion of Medicare, the federal oversight of education, and discretionary spending; McCain-Feingold; and ignoring illegal immigration.

But the Miers nomination was simply too much for many conservatives. They vented their pent up fury for all of Bush’s anti-conservative actions on this one nomination. After three and a half weeks of withering criticism, the nomination was finally withdrawn. Despite Senator Harry Reid’s (D-NV) protestations, few are actually sad to see the nomination die. The administration has been so battered that some observers wonder whether the President will be able to achieve any of his goals over the next three years. I think they underestimate this president’s resilience.

I said here that conservatives have set too high a standard for President Bush. They want him to be something that he is not. Morrissey thinks that flare ups like the reaction to the Miers nomination can be avoided if conservatives deal with issues as they go along, rather than sweeping them under the rug. Maybe if the administration and conservatives have a regular dialog about issues, even if it’s quite lively, it will be healthier for people on all sides and for the nation as a whole. At any rate, I hope the President and his administration get it right on the next SCOTUS nominee.

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