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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: So She is the President’s Friend

Monday, October 24, 2005

So She is the President’s Friend

Upon the announcement of the president’s selection of Harriet Miers, like many people, I was very surprised. I was expecting that he would choose someone with volumes of rulings and scholarly writings about his or her judicial philosophy. Certainly, John Roberts did not have the experience of many prospective justices available but he did at least argue cases before the United States Supreme Court and seems to have a profound understanding of the law. The same cannot be said of Ms. Miers.

Why does the president tell us the senate should confirm Harriet Miers? She’s a woman, she was the first lawyer in Texas to run a major law firm, she ran the Texas Lottery Commission, she’s an Evangelical Christian, and President Bush has known her a long time. Someone tell me how any of these things qualify her?

She’s a woman? So is Janice Rodgers Brown.

She ran a major Texas law firm? Ok, that’s nice but…so what?

She ran the Texas Lottery Commission? Ok, so maybe she can run a state agency, where does she stand on constitutional principles and the role of the court?

She’s an Evangelical Christian? If it was inappropriate for the senate to question the credentials of John Roberts based on his faith (and it was inappropriate), then it is also inappropriate to sell Harriet Miers on her “evangelical” credentials.

President Bush has known her a long time? Indeed he does. The Bush/Miers relationship goes back to the days when Dubya was the Governor of Texas. At first glance, this does not seem to be a big deal. So he wants to put one of his friends on the highest court in the land, what’s the problem?

The Smoking gun has posted some of the correspondence between then Governor Bush and Harriet Miers. These records were released by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Here are a few examples of the type of relationship Bush and Miers had:

Dear GWB,
You are the best governor ever - - deserving of great respect! Thank you for listening and for your time this week.

(s) H.
Written on a cutesy Hallmark card that said: “I’m Sorry I missed your birthday”

Here’s one from Governor Bush to Ms. Miers:

Dear Harriet:
Happy birthday to a fine Texan and a great friend!

Laura and I extend our very best wishes for your happiness and good health. Have a great life!

Best regards,

(s) George W. Bush
An excerpt from another personal card to Governor Bush from Harriet Miers:

Dear Governor Bush,

Hopefully Jenna and Barbra recognize that their parents are “cool” as do the rest of us…The dinner here was great - - especially the speech! Keep up all of the great work. Texas is blessed!

(s) Harriet

This is a window into the type of friendship Bush and Miers has. I am sure she is a kind person who would want to do the right thing on the Supreme Court. The problem is she is too close to the president. Appointing friends as members of the cabinet is one thing (provided that they are qualified), appointing close friends to the Supreme Court (or any high court) is another.

Can we expect that Harriet Miers would rule fairly on cases which involve the executive branch? Could she rule against “the best governor ever who is a blessing and deserving of great respect”? There is no way to know for sure. The problem is there will be the appearance of a conflict of interest. We cannot expect Ms. Miers to recuse herself from every case where the Bush administration is one of the parties involved. Whatever her qualifications, even if Harriet Miers was the best legal mind of our time (I don’t know of anyone who is saying that) this conflict of interest is reason enough for the senate to reject her nomination. The people need confidence that the referee (judge) is impartial basing the calls on the rules of the game (the law). How much confidence would we have in a game called by an official who once worked for one of the competing teams?


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