- The Washington Times - Friday, October 14, 2005

George W. Bush, who is just full of presidential surprises, did it again when he pulled his latest Supreme Court nominee out of the hat, or rather out of his office staff. The result has been a furious clash — among Republicans.

Democrats have largely been watching, doubtless with glee, from the crowded sidelines. What a show. It’s a cross between family quarrel and ideological schism. Again, the real fight in American politics is within a party, not between parties.

At this stage, it’s as if the loyal opposition were being more loyal than opposed. Some Democrats with a sense of chivalry have even offered a kind word for Harriet Miers, whose legal philosophy is largely unknown — and possibly unknowable. For the savviest Supreme Court justices don’t reveal their philosophy before they’re confirmed. Why risk offending?

For now, Miss Miers’ views on the law, if any, are as wispy as Sandra Day O’Connor’s after years on the court. (Some attain mystery by saying nothing, others by saying everything.)

That very little is known about the nominee’s approach to the law hasn’t kept the pols and pundits from weighing in. Both vocal critics and those withholding judgment take different positions on much the same grounds: Very little is known about her. Some say that disqualifies her, others that it is reason to keep an open mind, isn’t easy in this opinionated society.

By her enemies ye shall know her: The best thing about Miss Miers is that she’s been badmouthed by that always entertaining but never serious barb-thrower Ann Coulter. (“Harriet Miers isn’t qualified to play a Supreme Court justice on ‘The West Wing,’ let alone to be a real one.”)

Consider the source: Ann the Jungle Warrior would make Attila the Hun look like a Jeffersonian democrat. Her publicity photo will never be complete till she poses in one of those Wagnerian helmets with horns. Or at least a spear in hand.

Not long ago Ann the Ferocious was extolling Joe McCarthy as a role model — as if Tail-Gunner Joe hadn’t embarrassed his party enough, and the whole anti-communist cause, when he was still around. For some of us, being opposed by Miss Coulter qualifies as a ringing endorsement. Not that she has a closed mind; hers is more a doubled-sealed, triple-bolted, concrete-reinforced bunker — complete with ever-firing cannon.

But then, Miss Miers was endorsed by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, of the more sanctimonious wing of American politics, on no detectable grounds other than blind trust in Our Leader. Uh oh.

Couldn’t we just wait and see what the lady has to say for herself? Nope, say some more thoughtful critics on the right like Charles Krauthammer and George Will, who both have joined the rush to unfavorable judgment: They’re agin her.

Much is made of this nominee’s closeness to the president. She is, in a damning word, his … crony. Just saying the word delivers a guilty sentence. But before we’re all shocked — shocked — at the idea a president would not only have close associates but reward them with appointments, it might help to run down a list of presidential cronies who made remarkable, even great, justices of the Supreme Court.

The list would only begin with the greatest of them all, old John Adams’ emissary to France, secretary of state and political crony John Marshall. The list would include justices as varied as John Kennedy’s buddy Byron White and Lyndon Johnson’s disgraced pal Abe Fortas, Richard Nixon’s ally William Rehnquist and Franklin Roosevelt’s adviser Felix Frankfurter.

It is not being a crony of the president’s that should disqualify a nominee to the court, but what else he — or she — brings to the court. And at this point, Harriet Miers remains a mystery. Would it be too much to ask our learned commentators, that is, professional kibitzers, to hold their fire till the lady makes her appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee and its not-so-grand inquisitors?

The wisest assessment of Miss Miers’ qualifications or lack thereof may have come from Lindsey Graham, senator and gentleman from South Carolina. He proposed withholding judgment until there’s something to judge. How unusual: Here is a U.S. senator acting like a member of a deliberative body.

Why not wait and see, or rather wait and hear, before judging the nominee’s fitness for the Supreme Court? Even if she evades the tougher questions, how she does so would be revealing. But at this point, she’s still Madame X.

Paul Greenberg is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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