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Miers did the right thing
Scripps Howard News Service


October 28, 2005

Wow, do I respect Harriet Miers for withdrawing her nomination to the Supreme Court. I respect her because she did the right thing and put the interests of others, and the interests of America, ahead of herself and a coveted position with the Big Nine.

(I don't think we should assume for a minute that she wouldn't have been confirmed and that's why she backed out. Nor do I think her withdrawal really has anything to do with the issue recently raised about executive privilege.)

Whether or not one thinks she should have withdrawn her nomination, the fact remains that at some level Harriett Miers put aside her own ambition for what she believed was a greater good. Good for her. Let's give her that credit.

There was incredible pressure mounted from mainstream conservatives rightly furious at President Bush for abandoning his base and choosing someone who was not only an unknown quantity, but truly unqualified, even though she may have been a fine private practice attorney.

The aspect of her nomination I found most offensive was that her advocates, including the president, pointed to the fact that she was a woman and would supposedly bring diversity to the high court as one of her qualifications. The only thing I care about on the Supreme Court is a fine legal mind that will rightly interpret the Constitution and not try to make new laws. I don't care what kind of a body that mind comes in. News accounts revealed that just the opposite was true of Miers - there was reason to be concerned that she might have been something of a judicial activist.

Still, by all accounts she resigned of her own accord. (There's no hint that anyone at the White House asked her to. In fact, it's clear that Bush was furious at leaders of his conservative base for trying to quash her nomination.) Whether she was just tired of the whole thing, thought she would never get the respect of her fellow justices and perhaps the American people, who knows?

But I do think most people looking at that plum assignment would have said, "Hey I have a good shot at getting confirmed - no way am I giving up, no matter what anyone says." That is the way Washington operates. From Bill Clinton to Tom DeLay, rarely does anybody there give up power willingly no matter what the fight to keep it might cost the Republic.

So good for Harriett Miers. She needs to be given a lot of credit - by those who thought the attacks on her were unfair, but especially by those of us who thought they were fair.

And good for the conservatives who fought this nomination. Conservatives are so used to defeats. It would have been easy to have said, "Forget it. We may have been waiting decades for this swing seat on the court, but there's no chance of getting her to withdraw. Let's just stay on the good side of our president and drop the whole thing."

But leading conservative activists, journalists, radio talk-show hosts, judicial minds and more did the right thing, standing up to the fury of the White House and risking personal political cost to make the case to the American people of why Miers was wrong for the court. (I don't believe that liberals would have ever taken on a Democratic president in such a powerful way. It's not how they operate.)

Let's never again hear that conservatives and George Bush are in each other's hip pockets.

At the same time, it's also clear this wasn't about just a few activists in Washington and elsewhere. All they really did was alert the American electorate as to why Miers wasn't right for the court. So good for the American people most of all - they took note and more and more clearly said, "no way."

This is how the process should work.

I confess that, being a little cynical, it surprised me that it did work. And, of course, as I write this we don't know whom the president will next appoint - I suppose it could be worse. But whatever happens, good for Harriett Miers, good for conservative activists, and good for the American people.


Betsy Hart is the author of "It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting Our Kids - and What to Do About It."
She can be reached at

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