My continued Culture War appeasement policy

Via Glenn Reynolds, John Fund, in a piece about the administration's failure to properly examine Harriet Miers' background, sees two primary problems with her nomination:

  • "her lack of experience in constitutional law"; and
  • "the firestorm of criticism from conservatives"

  • I would agree that these are problems, and I am not at all pleased with the selection of someone who is apparently a conservative on social issues and a liberal on economic issues. Why? Because, as I pointed out more than once, as a libertarianish person, my politics tend toward the inverse of that.

    But who asked me, anyway? FWIW, I'm also concerned about her lack of constitutional experience, although not as much as I would be were I a constitutional scholar. I'm quite accustomed to being ignored, whether I speak up or keep my mouth shut. While being ignored does have its downside (it makes me feel like a two year old sometimes), in general it's good for the soul, and a reminder that we all must die.

    What's tougher to ignore than my childish libertarian tantrums, though, is a civil war.

    According to the Inquirer's Dick Polman, there's a civil war between conservatives:

    We are now witnessing, in activist Ed Morrissey's words, "a conservative civil war" over the Miers nomination, with many leaders on the right declaring that they no longer can take President Bush at his word. They're demanding that Miers answer the kinds of questions that they considered out of bounds just a few weeks ago. They're even circulating these questions among themselves.
    Before I go further into the Polman piece, let's get an initial question out of the way. I Googled this "activist Ed Morrissey" and came up with nothing, but I'm a regular reader of the Captain's Quarters, which is written by Ed Morrissey, aka "Captain Ed." And he did opine that there's a conservative civil war. So, I'm sort of assuming that by calling Morrissey an "activist," Polman seeks to build him up as a "war leader" -- which might mean it's a war Polman is not exactly unhappy to be seeing.

    In the interest of full accuracy (and because I don't relish the idea of being an anti-war activist), here's the Declaration of War -- straight from Activist Ed:

    But even more, the Democrats may want to rescue Harriet Miers from the clutches of the Republican base. They're delighting in the civil war that has erupted in the conservative ranks since her nomination, but the majority of them should realize that Miers will be the best nominee they can expect from George Bush. She may be a cipher, but she has some history of flexibility on affirmative action during her political and legal career. Her lack of credentials also means that their normally apoplectic support base will not go crazy over her confirmation. Faced with replacements such as Michael Luttig, Michael McConnell, Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, and Edith Hollan Jones, they'll take Miers.
    I wish Polman could have supplied a link, as right now I'm wondering whether he might have been referring to something else. What Ed seemed to be anticipating in the above post was not so much a war in the true sense, but liberal delight in seeing it. And in a more recent post, Captain Ed sounded downright peaceful on the Miers issue:
    Despite the idiotic response from the White House prior to this telecon, I'm inclined to support Miers. I don't believe she'll be a disaster, and I think she'll at least improve on O'Connor. I also don't believe she'll get pushed around, but I have to be honest and say I get that impression more from what Hugh Hewitt and Beldar have argued and presented than anything the White House has bothered to do on their own behalf. I've come to the conclusion that spanking Miers over the clumsiness and incompentence of the White House doesn't make a lot of sense.
    Can I come out of my fallout shelter now?

    I don't think so, because even if Captain Ed's being drafted into combat against his will, others are already there. As Glenn opined yesterday, it's resembling a "circular firing squad." I agree, but I just don't know which way to shoot.

    Is this one of those situations where we ought to just have the war and get it over with? See who wins?

    As far as the actual shooting war is concerned, there really isn't much dispute about Ms. Miers' lack of constitutional scholarship or background. Despite the fact that social conservatives yell loudly about this, the actual focus -- and what seems to be driving the much-touted "war" -- relates more to real issues. Here, according to Polman, are some of the real life, "war" issues:

    They want to know (among other things) whether Miers, as an evangelical Christian, had moral qualms about running the Texas Lottery Commission. They want to know why she sympathized with people with AIDS while serving on the Dallas City Council. They want to know why she helped create a lecture series that brought famous liberal feminists to Southern Methodist University in 1998.

    Jan LaRue, chief counsel at Concerned Women for America, a conservative grassroots group, said yesterday: "My goodness, we keep being told to just believe the President. I was on a conference call - everybody was - with [GOP national chairman] Ken Mehlman, and the whole message was 'Trust us, trust us, trust us.' But we've never had to just rely on trust before. There was always credible information to look at before. But, with this nominee, I can't determine what she really believes in, and I can't find anything in her record even remotely related to constitutional law."

    Moral qualms with the Lottery Commission? That's a pretty serious charge, and while I couldn't find it at the Concerned Women for America's web site, I did see that they demand answers to questions on the issue of feminist speakers. I'm not sure whether they believe it to be a constitutional issue, but they do ask these questions:
    Has Miss Miers expressed any opinion about the dominance of feminist theory in the women's studies program? Does Miss Miers share the feminist theory that lecturers have presented? Has she disassociated herself from the lecture series or attempted to bring lecturers to the program that represent a traditionalist perspective on women? Why has she not participated as a lecturer?
    Couldn't find any direct evidence that she "sympathized with people with AIDS" while she was on the Dallas City Council either.

    But is sympathizing with people with AIDS a constitutional issue? The problem I have with such lines of attack is that they make me more, not less, sympathetic to Miers, despite my disagreements with her.

    I think I'll continue to sit the war, and hope the firing squad won't come for me.

    "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile - hoping that it will eat him last."

    -- Churchill

    Life itself can be a croc.

    UPDATE: In the comments below, Steven Malcolm Anderson provided this link to a 1989 survey allegedly completed by Harriet Miers. If the information is authentic, it might be of value in evaluating Ms. Miers.

    Of course, attitudes have changed in the last 15 years....

    (I have no idea whether she still thinks that way.)

    posted by Eric on 10.13.05 at 09:25 AM


    What a circus!

    You'd think Democrats would back her, because she is "the best nominee they can expect from George Bush" and all that, but the "evangelical Christian" thing sure has set them off.

    I don't like the "social conservative/economic liberal" label myself, but really, if she's inviting feminists to lecture series and "sympathizing with AIDS," how socially conservative can she be? At least she has a bit of an open mind on certain topics, right?

    Besides, who knows what anyone will do once appointed to the Supreme Court?

    Bonnie   ·  October 13, 2005 11:18 AM

    Her answers to this questionnaire on homosexuals' rights in 1989 show extremely muddled thinking. On the one hand, she said that homosexuals should have equal rights under the law (good) -- and then that the government should force private employers to hire homosexuals, and that the government should spend more money on AIDS. And at the same time, she said she supported a law criminalizing private homosexual relations between consenting adults! Contradictory? Totally incoherent! Not that she's at all alone in this. Polls have shown the majority of Americans think the same way -- brainwashed by a combination of anti-homosexual propaganda from one collectivist quadrant of the spectrum mixed with decades of New Deal/Marxist thinking from another collectivist quadrant of the spectrum.

    Therefore, unless she has changed her thinking drastically over the years, she cannot be called a coherent Constitutional thinker. The whole point of our Constitution is that rights are not things government does for you, but things government may not do to you. In other words, the right to be left alone, not a subsidy from the government. When will Americans wake up?

    Steven THANK YOU for your thoughtful comment, and for providing this helpful information. I don't know whether it's been authenticated, but it's indeed incoherent by any rational standard of today. What I'd like to know is:

    1. Is it authentic?

    2. Does she still think that way?

    Eric Scheie   ·  October 13, 2005 5:17 PM

    Dear Eric:

    Thank you!

    I assume it's authentic. I don't know that she still thinks that way, or that she actually thought that way then, thought at all about it. How much thought goes into such a mess of contradictions? I doubt she will try to overturn Lawrence & Garner*. Bush didn't contest it and neither will she. I'm just wondering how much thought she gives to such issues at all.

    *I don't know if she will try to overturn Roe either, or any other precedents. There are plenty of precedents that need overturning, e.g., Wickard, but I doubt Bush has it in him to appoint Justices willing to do that.

    I wrote this in the Queen's blog:

    As for Harriet Miers, I have moved from neutral to mildly favorable to "don't confirm." What has convinced me more than anything else were most of the arguments in her favor. She'd be great to have as a lawyer. No doubt about that. She has practical experience in the real world of business law -- not one of those egghead theorists with their heads in the clouds of Constitutional law.

    Well, (on a higher level) a soldier fighting on the ground has plenty of practical experience of the real world of warfare. But that doesn't necessarily qualify him to be a General commanding the armies. A General has to know long-range strategy just as a Pope has to know Catholic theology -- just as a Supreme Court Justice has to know the Constitution.

    There is a hierarchy. Inequality. Only a few, an elite, are qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. Prior judicial experience is a plus. That, and/or a "paper trail" of books, articles, blog posts, speeches, etc., on the meaning and proper interpretation of the Constitution. Clear-thinking, consistent, Constitutionalist minds like Randy Barnett, Richard Posner, Richard Epstein, Eugene Volokh, Glenn Reynolds, Timothy Sandefur -- these, above all, are what we need on the Supreme Court.

    I'm afraid that if Miers is confirmed, then that may well send a signal that these qualities are unimportant, or undesirable, that such great minds are not welcome. The message will go out: "It's not what you know but who you know that counts." and: "Don't leave a paper trail, don't make your views too clear. Don't openly take a stand that will offend a Charles Schumer or a Ted Kennedy." The President, in trying to please everybody, ends up pleasing nobody. Such is the nature of compromise.

    I'm not saying that Harriet Miers is not good, she could be a lot worse. But, from what I've heard so far, not quite good enough to sit on the Supreme Court. We'll see what she says during the confirmation hearings. I may change my mind. I hope so.
    10.13.2005 2:51pm

    Bear in mind, Steven, that these committees are not particularly concerned about we might think.

    Eric Scheie   ·  October 14, 2005 7:29 AM

    I wrote:
    "Well, (on a higher level) a soldier fighting on the ground has plenty of practical experience of the real world of warfare. But that doesn't necessarily qualify him to be a General commanding the armies. A General has to know long-range strategy just as a Pope has to know Catholic theology -- just as a Supreme Court Justice has to know the Constitution."

    That was not intended in any way to deprecate the heroism of our brave soldiers, only to note that there is a hierarchy within the military. In the overarching hierarchy, a mere civilian like me isn't worthy to lick the boots of a soldier of the lowest rank.

    "God hath shapen lives three:
    Boor and Knight and Priest they be."

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