I’m still deciding whether to support Harriet Miers, President Bush’s nominee to fill Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. However, I just spotted a column by Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post that aims blistering criticism at the nominee and at the president, and demands a withdrawal of the nomination.
Watch Krauthammer fire both barrels:
For half a century, liberals have corrupted the courts by turning them into an instrument of radical social change on questions — school prayer, abortion, busing, the death penalty — that properly belong to the elected branches of government. Conservatives have opposed this arrogation of the legislative role and called for restoration of the purely interpretive role of the court. To nominate someone whose adult life reveals no record of even participation in debates about constitutional interpretation is an insult to the institution and to that vision of the institution.
There are 1,084,504 lawyers in the United States. What distinguishes Harriet Miers from any of them, other than her connection with the president? To have selected her, when conservative jurisprudence has J. Harvie Wilkinson, Michael Luttig, Michael McConnell and at least a dozen others on a bench deeper than that of the New York Yankees, is scandalous.
It will be argued that this criticism is elitist. But this is not about the Ivy League. The issue is not the venue of Miers’s constitutional scholarship, experience and engagement. The issue is their nonexistence.
But what does she bring to the bench?
This, say her advocates: We are now at war, and therefore the great issue of our time is the powers of the president, under Article II, to wage war. For four years Miers has been immersed in war-and-peace decisions and therefore will have a deep familiarity with the tough constitutional issues regarding detention, prisoner treatment and war powers.
Perhaps. We have no idea what her role in these decisions was. But to the extent that there was any role, it becomes a liability. For years — crucial years in the war on terrorism — she will have to recuse herself from judging the constitutionality of these decisions because she will have been a party to having made them in the first place. The Supreme Court will be left with an absent chair on precisely the laws-of-war issues to which she is supposed to bring so much.
By choosing a nominee suggested by Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and well known only to himself, the president has ducked a fight on the most important domestic question dividing liberals from conservatives: the principles by which one should read and interpret the Constitution. For a presidency marked by a courageous willingness to think and do big things, this nomination is a sorry retreat into smallness.