- The Washington Times - Monday, October 3, 2005

President Bush has reached to his Texas roots to find a replacement for Sandra Day O’Connor, nominating Harriet Miers, his White House lawyer and before that his own personal lawyer in Texas. The rest of us know nothing about her judicial philosophy and judgment. We’re eager and open to learning more. But for now we’re somewhere between “whelmed” and underwhelmed.

Having twice campaigned for president with assurances of how much he admires Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, stalwart conservatives both, Mr. Bush presumably is sure he knows the judicial philosophy of Miss Miers. That puts him in a distinct and very small minority. She has been working at his side in the White House for five years, and in Texas before that. Reserving judgment on the Miers nomination for now, we look forward to hearing a lot more about her judicial philosophy.

There is no doubt that Miss Miers is a highly skilled corporate lawyer with impeccable credentials. Her clients have included Microsoft and the Walt Disney Co. But as we all learned from reading the appellate client list of Chief Justice John Roberts, you can’t learn very much about his judicial philosophy from a lawyer’s briefs. Justice Roberts, who had worked in Washington for decades, was himself a half-known quantity when Mr. Bush nominated him to the Supreme Court.

Miss Miers, by comparison, is an authentic stealth candidate. Her judicial philosophy is more of a mystery to the public than the philosophy of David Souter, who served on the New Hampshire Supreme Court for eight years, was before President George H.W. Bush nominated him for the Supreme Court in 1990.

Conservatives unanimously regard the appointment of Justice Souter as disaster. His nomination was an enormous loss of opportunity. As the replacement for Justice William Brennan, a devoted liberal whose nomination by President Eisenhower in 1956 was an earlier Republican disaster, Justice Souter could have redressed the leftward tilt of the court. Instead, he has established himself comfortably in the court’s liberal wing.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who has led the filibuster campaign against Mr. Bush’s nominees to the appeals courts — and who opposed the Roberts nomination — recommends Miss Miers. Democrats, in fact, have good reasons to like her. She made the maximum individual contribution to the 1988 Al Gore presidential campaign. On the eve of the 1988 election, she gave $1,000 to the Democratic National Committee for the campaign of Michael Dukakis. Perhaps she has learned a lesson.

George W. Bush, like his father before him, had an opportunity to change the court. Americans who listened to his promises in 2000 and again last year had good reason to believe that he would not forfeit his opportunity. Perhaps he has not. We hope not.

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