Miers withdraws her nomination; Alito awaits confirmation for Court

On Oct. 3, Harriet Miers was nominated by longtime friend George W. Bush to serve as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. Just 24 days after her litigious nomination on the Texas lawyer-turned-White House counsel asked President Bush to withdraw her nomination on Oct. 27. Bush “reluctantly” honored her request. The nomination of Miers was controversial at best. Naught but criticism poured in from conservatives and liberals alike, given Miers’ lack of experience. Though she had been the White House’s top lawyer since the dawn of the Bush administration, Miers had never served as a judge and knew little about constitutional law. Joe Davis, political science professor at Saint Louis University, agreed with most Capitol Hill speculation that Miers’ withdrawal was simply the most graceful way for an unqualified candidate to bow out. “No matter how much opposition he had gotten from the Democrats, it wouldn’t have made any difference. But, since his own base was split, if she had gotten approved, it would have been very bad for his own party,” said Davis. Miers, 60, stated in her withdrawal letter to Bush that her nomination presented “a burden for the White House and its staff, and it is not in the best interest of the country.” The White House released a statement saying that Miers opted to withdraw her nomination as a result of requests from senators wanting access to private documents between Bush and his private counsel Miers. “I think there’s also a concern-a legitimate concern-that she was too closely tied to the administration. It was almost like appointing his [Bush’s] brother to the Supreme Court,” said Davis. Senior lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee balked, saying they had never requested documents, while the White House bolstered its thin argument by claiming the right of executive privilege. “It became very clear to the Bush Administration that Harriet Miers was not going to be successful in the Judiciary Committee hearings,” said Stephen Puro, Ph.D. of the political science department. “That kind of a defeat is particularly difficult for a president to absorb. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.), was asked in an interview shortly before the withdrawal if Bush would withdraw the nomination himself. “Absolutely not,” said Specter. “I think that would be an incredible sign of weakness.” “His strongest supporters are the conservative base of the Republican Party, and they want a sure thing. They want to make sure that whoever gets nominated has a track record of being conservative,” Davis said. Puro said that the White House tried to recover by nominating Judge Samuel Alito, a known conservative, on Oct. 31, a speedy two business days after Miers withdrew. If confirmed, Alito will swing the court to the right, but Puro does not think that this court will overturn the Roe v. Wade decision. “I think they will make the possibility for abortion so restrictive that abortions almost become minimal,” said Puro. He added that the likelihood is that abortions would be under such tight reins that lower socioeconomic classes wouldn’t be able to afford them. Miers’ replacement is not only more qualified-he is her antithesis. Alito spent 15 years as a federal appellate judge and is well-versed in consitutional law, while Miers spent years as Governor Jeb Bush’s personal lawyer; her only qualification was being in Bush’s back pocket. Alito’s record is clearly conservative, unlike Miers’ opaque stance on virtually all major issues. “The people that are hoping to tip the court to be permanently conservative, they want somebody with a proven record,” said Davis. “That’s why in the last 30 years, we always seem to appoint judges to the Supreme Court, because they are a known commodity.” Karen Pearl, interim president of Planned Parenthood, said that it was “outrageous” that Bush replace O’Connor’s moderate voice with a “conservative hardliner.” If Alito gains the nomination, besides taking a beating from the minority party of the Senate, the court will become predominately male, with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the lone female vote. Bush encouraged the Senate to hold Alito’s confirmation hearings before their holiday break. Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said it best: “Let’s move on. In two weeks, who will remember the name Harriet Miers?”