The Harriet Miers I Know

M&Ms, lock-jaw determination, and boundless compassion

BY: David Kuo

 
White House staffers used to refer to getting documents past Harriet Miers to the President as attempting to "run the gauntlet." She was staff secretary during her first three years at the White House. Her job was to ensure the absolute accuracy and consistency of every memo, every event, everything that was to go to President Bush. We all had nightmares that she'd call us the night before a memo was to be seen by the President and tell us we were incompetent Communists. She never did such a thing, of course, and typically handled mistakes with grace, kindness, and an implicit understanding that if such a mistake ever occurred again we'd be executed by ninjas in the middle of the night.

There was another gauntlet, however, that was easier to run. Harriet used to keep a humidor full of M&Ms in her West Wing office. It wasn't a huge secret. She'd stash some boxes of the coveted red, white, and blue M&Ms in specially made boxes bearing George W. Bush's reprinted signature. Her door was always open and the M&Ms were always available. I dared ask one time why they were there. Her answer: "I like M&Ms and I like sharing."

Do these things matter at all when it comes to her qualifications for being an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court? Yes. They speak to her character. And in matters of justice, matters of character count.

What makes a great Supreme Court justice? Ideological liberals and conservatives agree that the only answer is an exacting paper trail of decisions on key issues. The problem, of course, is that getting these ideological judges confirmed takes huge political capital, a presidential willingness to fight the battle, and an extraordinary woman or man to endure the process.

Clearly, President Bush was unwilling to engage in a battle over a nominee with a paper trail. There are two possible reasons. First, he found himself too politically damaged and weak to do it. Second, in Harriet Miers he found what he was looking for.

It seems pretty clear that the second choice is the most logical. As Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention said in his Tuesday statement about Miers, "This President has kept no promise more faithfully than his promise in 2000, and again in 2004, that he would nominate only strict constructionist, original intent jurists to the Supreme Court." What Land refers to is the fact that President Bush has continually nominated conservative judges to every available open seat. Why, Land asks, should conservatives fear that he has suddenly changed course?

They shouldn't. First, as everyone now knows, she is an "evangelical Christian" a fact that is intended to assure conservative Catholics and Protestants that her theological orthodoxy translates into a legal orthodoxy as well. Second, as the president's supporters know, George W. Bush does and says what he pleases. Indecisiveness is not a major character trait. It is precisely that cowboy attitude that has so endeared him to conservatives when it comes to the war on terror, cutting taxes in the face of massive deficits, and other initiatives. Conservatives elevated President Bush to near-Reagan levels just a year ago during the 2004 campaign. If he was worthy of the voters' trust then, why isn't his choice worthy of their trust now?

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