I’m glad to see Hugh Hewitt emphasize the need for mutual respect among conservatives in the Miers debate. The Bush “loyalists” and others who support the Miers selection should respect the right of disappointed conservatives to forcefully air their critique. Not only is this their right, but such commentary provides useful feedback to the administration about the sentiments of a portion of its supporters. At the same time, the critics should respect the expectation of the loyalists that the vote on Miers not be driven by disappointment or punitive considerations, but rather by an open-minded assessment of the options.
Finally, both sides should respect the good faith of the other, as we all try to sort through this messy situation. Not everyone who undertakes an open-minded assessment will reach the same conclusion, and it’s fine to criticize reasoning and conclusions with which one takes issue. But calling fellow conservatives toadies, bed-wetters, or elitists, or telling them to just shut up, is immature and unhelpful. Let’s leave that sort of thing to the left.
JOHN agrees: Yes, and I think it’s also fair to point out that if you want to insure that your preferences in Supreme Court nominees are honored, you should get yourself elected President. I have my own opinions about who would make the best Justices, but I’m not the President. If you invest many years of hard work, risk pretty much everything, and are fortunate enough to be elected President, then it matters who you want to be on the Court.
Within a very broad range, the President’s choices should be honored. For example, I’m sure I disagree with Ruth Ginsburg about pretty much everything, and in my opinion, she has the worst possible background for a Supreme Court nominee, having spent much of her career as a lawyer for a hyper-partisan special interest group. But my opinion doesn’t matter; Bill Clinton got himself elected President, and I didn’t. It was entirely foreseeable that a Democratic President might nominate a Supreme Court justice of whom I disapprove. So what? It never occurred to me, or most other Republicans, to agitate for the defeat of Ginsburg’s nomination.
Does President Bush, or any other President, owe it to those who supported him to nominate Supreme Court justices in a particular mold? Broadly speaking, sure. George W. Bush campaigned on the Court, and said that he would select conservatives who are strict constructionists. And so he has: I know of no reason to doubt that Miers is both. If Bush had said that if elected, he would nominate justices from a list consisting of Roberts, McConnell, Luttig and Brown, then his supporters would have reason to complain that he has broken his promise. Or, if he had nominated a known liberal like, say, Larry Tribe, or a far-out left-winger like Cass Sunstein, then the Republican base would have every reason for open revolt. As is it, I think it is presumptuous and naive for Republicans to complain that Bush’s choice was not their choice–whoever that choice may have been. And it is absurd to complain that Miers is not a hard-line right-winger, when Bush himself is not a hard-line right-winger.
Which is not at all inconsistent with my own assessment that the Miers nomination was a disappointment and a missed opportunity, in several respects. But we’ve made our point, and it’s time to move on. The only issue now on the table is whether she will be confirmed. By any relevant historical standard, there is no doubt that she should be. There is nothing to be gained by obsessing on the hypothetical Justice that might have been.
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