EDITORIAL: Miers lacks experience, gravitas

In many ways, President Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers to fill the remaining vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court is a jaw-dropper; in many other ways, it doesn’t surprise anyone.

It’s a shock for liberals and conservatives alike because they expected the president to select a justice in the mold of Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas. Their strict constructionist judicial philosophy would appeal to the social conservative base that has enabled the Republican Party to maintain a stranglehold on government for over five years now. With all the judges, scholars, and legal professionals who fit both the conservative model Bush claims to value and the race/gender “qualifications” that so many require for a nominee, it’s hard to imagine that many on either side saw this one coming.

But President Bush is rather fond of handing high-level jobs out to friends and business associates; so, in that regard, it’s a nomination that falls in line with the precedent which Bush has established for himself. That’s not to say all of Bush’s cronies are unqualified for or undeserving of their positions, but it seems to be his modus operandi nevertheless.

So the Senate is left in a strange position: On one hand, liberals are relieved that the president shied away from the ideological dogfight that would have ensued with the nomination of Scalia II, but nervous that Bush has chosen such a close associate to fill the seat; on the other hand, conservatives are infuriated that Bush hasn’t fulfilled his promise to nominate the philosophical love child of Scalia and Thomas, but they are forced wait until the confirmation hearings to pass final judgment.

Both sides seem to agree, however, that it is unclear how Miers would rule from the bench. Democrats made the same criticism of John Roberts when he refused to answer several questions during his Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings. But the difference is that Roberts at least had a paper trail that gave a hint about his judicial philosophy. There is no such trail in the case of Miers, who has held no positions in her career that would require such definitive pronouncements – such as a judge or a prominent legal scholar.

What scant evidence there is seems to contradict itself. Miers is both an evangelical Christian, and she is on record in support of homosexual adoption rights. She is one of the closest allies of the president who appointed John Bolton to the United Nations, and yet she has supported the formation of the International Criminal Court – an idea which has had conservatives bristling since its inception.

This lack of experience and direction is not desirable in a nominee for the highest court in the land. As National Review’s David Frum pointed out, a Supreme Court justice is not just a vote; he or she is a voice. Miers, if confirmed, will have to summon all of her gravitas and expertise to convince the American people that the decisions she makes will be the right ones. At this time, it is unclear that she has enough of either to warrant her appointment.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.