The orphan

It’s difficult not to feel sorry for Harriet Miers — by all accounts a fine person. She gets no love from liberal Senate Democrats, and is bound to lose any good will they may have for her once she refuses, during the hearings, to commit herself to Roe v. Wade. She gets no love from conservative Senate Republicans because there’s little evidence that she’s a strong conservative.

For a while it looked like Arlen Specter was ready to adopt her. After their meeting earlier this week, Specter gushed about Miers’ command of her old cases, and especially how well Miers remembered the facts of her underground easement case. But after their “misunderstanding” about her position on privacy and the Constitution, and after her “skimpy” answers to the Judiciary Committee’s questions about her cases, Specter is said to be annoyed with Miers. He now claims to know more about her cases than she does.

Who is left? Well, there’s the gang of 14. Since this group cares little about ideology and lots about avoiding conflict (at least where conflict might threaten their privileges as Senators or their popularity back home), Miers seems made-to-order from its perspective. Indeed, all of her main career accomplishments — law firm head, state bar leader, White House facilitator — suggest the ability to put ideology aside and work around differences. Plus, most of this group always wanted a daughter, not a son.

However, the gang of 14 isn’t really monolithic. Some members may be nervous about a Texas Christian fundamentalist, particularly one with a strong pro-life position. In any case, the gang’s power resides in its status as a collection of swing voters. But if enough liberals and conservatives oppose Miers, the 14 won’t be swing voters this time. Imagine — 14 Senators not being able to control the Senate.

The odds probably still favor Miers if she does reasonably well at her hearings. But I’d like her chances better if I could name a single Senator with a strong reason to support her without reservation.


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