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1993, 2001, and 2005: The Miers Speech and the Rosetta Stone

Wednesday, October 26, 2005  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Patterico asks what do I think of the Harriet Miers’ speeches dug up by the Washington Post. Answer: Not much. (“A mess” I said on tonight’s show, though I shudder at the thought of seeing what I said in many of the thousands of speeches I have given over the years reproduced by the Post as though each one was a Rosetta Stone to my beliefs.)

Lousy speeches, in fact, and she should be asked to explain what she was trying to say and whether she still believes it. Conservatives are right to ask if they contain an implicit endorsement of Casey though the speeches do not mention any case at all, and conclusiveness on that point is an overreach. The neo-Borkers want to declare “Game, Set, Match.” That is not fair, but fairness went out the window on day 1.

There’s a lot of overreach going on because anti-Miers people want to kill the nomination before the nominee makes it to national television –Ollie North and all that. Under no circumstances should the nominee withdraw or the president allow this nominee to withdraw, because I think the exchanges are going to be very interesting, and very instructive.

On the morning of the announcement, I wrote:

As I wrote last night, Judges Luttig and McConnell are the most qualified nominees out there, but I think from the start that the president must have decided that this seat would be given to a woman, and it is very hard to argue that she is not the most qualified woman to be on the SCOTUS for the simple reason that she has been in the White House for many years.

When Chief Justice Roberts was nominated, I wrote a piece for the Weekly Standard on the importance of Executive Branch experience, “The Presidents’ Man.” That piece focused on John Roberts’ service in the Counsel’s Office under Reagan, and concluded that his nomination brought

to the highest court the sort of experience it deserves among its members, especially in a time of war. It can only help all the justices, even those who will vigorously disagree with the new justice from time to time, to have within their number a genuine voice of experience from within the inner circles of presidential decision-making.

The Chief Justice’s experience did not, however, include GWOT experience, and it is here that Miers has a decisive advantage. Consider that none of the Justices, not even the new Chief, has seen the battlefield in the GWOT from the perspective or with the depth of knowledge as has the soon to be Justice Miers. The Counsel to the President has seen it all, and knows what the President knows, the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Joint Chiefs and the Attorney General.

I suspect that the President thinks first and foremost about the GWOT each morning, and that this choice for SCOTUS brings to that bench another Article II inclined justice with the sort of experience that no one inside the Court will have.

Tonight, Soxblog got very close to understanding my perspective on this, but ommitted one other set of considerations which I will write on tomorrow. In addition to her qualifications –which to me are manifest, and include her character– and the terrible political price the GOP Senate will pay for rejecting the nomination, there is also the obvious and lasting damage that will be done to the judicial confirmation process that is inevitable if a GOP controlled Senate rejects a GOP nominee on ideological/competence grounds. That’s for tomorrow.

Tonight, though, I will say that people do in fact change. Even if Miers was wrong about some important things in 1992-1993, that doesn’t mean she is wrong now. Politics can change people. War can change them as well, in dramatic ways. Years with W and his team can change them.

I argued tonight, like I argued on October 3rd, that there is nothing like five years in the White House to educate an individual on what your opposition at home and your enemies abroad are really, truly about. Miers has that credential. What, Patterico, is that worth? Do you want her to have the chance to answer?

What do Harriet Miers and the new Chief Justice share in common? Five years of service in the White House. I only spent one, but with the addition of one year as an aide to the Attorney General on national security matters, my world view was altered.

You learn stuff. Lots of important stuff.

Five years in the White House during a war of extraordinary challenge, and throughout which there has been a domestic opposition of unprecedented ferocity: Does that have any value to her critics at all?

I think Harriet Miers deserves the hearing GOP senators gave Justices Ginsburg and Breyer. I think the GOP senators owe Bush at least as much deference as they gave Clinton. And as for new senators who were not there when Clinton nominated his two justices, what do they owe the president?

What ticks me off more than anything else about the long knives is that Harriett Miers has been on the political front lines of the GWOT for five years, and they are trying to deny her a hearing.

It is bad politics. It is bad policy. It is also an incredible display of bad form. And with full knowledge of the ridicule this will bring: It isn’t the conduct of a gentleman.

Back to Patterico: Is change possible over a dozen years, five of which are spent in a White House at war? Does Miers deserve a hearing? Are you open to being persuaded? What are the minimum qualifications for a SCOTUS nominee? Does a dashed off speech from a dozen years and a different life ago provide a sound basis for judging Harriet Miers?

I answered Patterico, so I suspect Patterico will answer me. Keep in mind that these questions put into text a standard with which Patterico will have to live with for a long, long time, and which Dems will be watching evolve with interest.

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