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With Miers Dubya disappointed

By Michael M. Bates
web posted October 10, 2005

Don't get me wrong. I like George W. Bush. I think his heart is in the right place. I believe, deep down, he genuinely is a conservative. That he is a decent man and has served the country far better than any of his opponents could have. Perhaps more than anything, I like him for the enemies that he's made.

As many on the Right have, I've occasionally been let down by this president. He hasn't vetoed a single congressional spending bill, no matter how outrageous. Little has been done about the problems caused by massive illegal immigration. Or rolling back the size of government. He's readily helped in the rehabilitation of Clinton's justifiably shabby image.

Still, there's constantly been hope that he'd one day set aside that "I'm a uniter, not a divider" nonsense and throw down the gauntlet. Actually look the Lefties and self-styled moderates in the eye and challenge them. Get busy implementing the conservative agenda on which he was elected and reelected.

If he were defeated in the struggle, so be it. In the meantime, the opposition would know they'd been in a fight and that George W. Bush wasn't a go along and get along pushover.

Then there's always the matter of the Supreme Court. Presidents come and go, but much of their ultimate legacy evolves decades after they've left office. Many times, chief executives will be remembered for the justices they placed on the Supreme Court.

The principles and decisions of those people affect every American. George Bush actively courted voters who wanted to see a change in direction. Some presidents have lamented their Court appointments. Dwight Eisenhower made Earl Warren chief justice and later characterized his pick as "the worst damn-fool mistake I made as president."

Perhaps the first President Bush has similar feelings about Justice David Souter. Certainly Souter looked reasonably good during his hearings, garnering the aversion of folks like Molly Yard, then president of the National Organization for Women. She warned the Senate Judiciary Committee:

"Are you prepared to deny freedom to women? Are you prepared to deny reproductive health to women? Are you prepared for lawlessness, and for the death of your daughters and your granddaughters? I tremble for this country if you confirm David Souter. But most of all I tremble for the women of America and their families."

Yet Souter is a reliable pro abortion vote on cases coming before the Court.

No, there isn't a guaranteed way of knowing how judges, once confirmed for life, will vote on the highest court. And there's no certainty that Harriet Miers, the woman nominated by President Bush, won't turn out to be like Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas, two justices previously cited by Mr. Bush as sharing his judicial philosophy.

What we do know is that Miss Miers has a paper thin portfolio on which to forecast her philosophy. She hasn't been a judge, so there are no court decisions to review. As Mr. Bush's lawyer, many of her communications will presumably be privileged and not subject to scrutiny. By and large, what she stands for and what she believes in are as unknown as she is. My guess is that even political junkies needed to Google her the day she was named.

One thing we do know is that the President passed over numerous well-qualified jurists with established records of fidelity to the Constitution. These nominees might have given Kennedy & Associates heartburn. Confirmation would have been contentious and far from assured.

But, you know (as Hillary often says), that's why a lot of voters backed Bush to begin with. They overlooked things they may not have liked so the country would be spared from another Souter or Ruth Bader Ginsberg or John Paul Stevens. They weren't looking for a justice recommended by Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid. They weren't hoping for a nominee who gave money to Al Gore.

This was George Bush's opportunity to turn the Court around. Maybe Miss Miers will be a conservative jurist. Maybe she'll vote much of the time with Scalia and Thomas. But why take an unnecessary risk when so much is at stake? The President has left a considerable part of his base disappointed, disillusioned and dejected. He had an exceptional opportunity to achieve exactly what many of the people who voted for him wanted accomplished.

Instead, he blinked.

Mike Bates is the author of Right Angles and Other Obstinate Truths. This essay appeared in the October 6, 2005 Oak Lawn (IL) Reporter.

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