Thursday, October 27, 2005

Miers Withdraws As Supreme Court Nominee

Harriet Miers threw in the towel today, requesting the President that her name be withdrawn from nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bush, with regret, accepted her request.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comIn her resignation letter, Miers offered the reason for her decision as revolving around the issue of "separation of powers." As a White House Legal Council for the past five years she has amassed a wealth of documents that, if released, could provide evidence to her opinions on legal matters and the methodology and legal philosophy by which she forms her opinions.

While the Senate Judiciary Committee is demanding that those documents be released, Miers indicated that she would rather step down than be the cause of a legal headache for the White House that could lead to an unprecedented release of confidential Executive Branch files to the Legislative Branch.

Three thoughts:

1. Bush, with his advisors (including Miers), must have anticipated this particular issue when Miers was nominated. A plan must have been in place to deal with it. Why then, when the issue came up, did it become a reason for her withdrawal? That does not make any sense at all. If, on the other hand, the White House either did not anticipate this matter or, having anticipated it, did not have a rational and reasonable plan to countermand it, then the President and his staff are incompetent buffoons.

I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt but am still mystified by the lack of a systematic or coherent defense of her nomination. Either something went terribly wrong that has not yet been revealed or else the failure of her nomination was not only anticipated but planned from the beginning.

2. It would appear that Mier's reasoning in her resignation letter would preclude any future Federal Court nominee from having ever served in a White House position OR (using the same logic) in any capacity on the U.S. Supreme Court. If documents related to a nominee's service as White House Counsel can be subpoenaed then so could documents related to a nominee's service as a U.S. Supreme Court intern or aide.

The idea that such confidential memos, correspondence and legal advice could be subpoenaed for something other than a criminal investigation is, to my knowledge, without precedent. Once again I am mystified that the White House would "blink" over a matter that has the full weight of history and legal precedent on their side.

3. I am baffled that the White House went so long and so far with this nomination knowing and observing the political capital they were losing with their conservative base. The immediate negative reaction to Mier's nomination (which I initially supported here) should have been anticipated. Even if the reaction caught the White House by surprise, the President should have immediately had second thoughts about the cost of driving a wedge through the Republican Party over one particular nominee when there were many others, equally or more qualified, who would have drawn wide-spread party support.

Unless President Bush can turn dross into gold, even a solid and well-supported nomination will not quickly repair the political damage created by the Mier's debacle.