Who is Harriet Miers?

The left doesn't know her. The right asks, "Where's our Scalia/Thomas"?

Published October 3, 2005 2:06PM (EDT)

The right and the left may ultimately come to disagree about Harriet Miers, but at the moment there's a strange sense of accord on this: No one knows who she is.

In a fair bit of understatement, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said this morning that we know even less about Miers than we knew about John G. Roberts when his confirmation process began. And over at the conservative blog RedState.org, a poster asks, "Where is our Scalia/Thomas?"

The basic outlines of Miers' career are known, of course. She was born in 1945. She earned her undergraduate and law degrees from Southern Methodist University then clerked for a federal District Court judge. She became the first female attorney to be hired by the Dallas firm of Locke Purnell Rain Harrell and ultimately was chosen as the firm's president. When the firm merged with a Houston firm in the 1990s, she became the co-managing partner of a legal business with more than 400 lawyers. Along the way, she represented big-deal corporate clients -- Microsoft, Walt Disney Co. -- and participated in the sort of legal and civic activities you'd expect of a successful lawyer before becoming the personal attorney to George W. Bush.

That's what Miers has done. But what -- or how -- does she think? That's the question for which nobody has much of an answer yet. At RedState, they're reading tea leaves: Miers appears to have given money to Al Gore and Lloyd Bentsen, but she also appeared to align herself against a pro-choice stand taken by the American Bar Association. Among the posters at National Review Online, there's something between mystification and panic. There's good news -- she worked on Bush v. Gore, she has participated in Federalist Society events -- but there are also worries that Bush has named Miers with less regard for her political views than for her gender and her loyalty to him.

The second half of that equation is cause for concern on the left, too: In Harriet Miers, has Bush found another Michael Brown? The White House would like to palm off Miers as another John G. Roberts, but the reality is that she comes from a different league of legaldom altogehter. SMU is a perfectly good school, but it isn't Harvard Law; a clerkship for a District Court judge isn't a clerkship with William Rehnquist; and even a successful career at a relatively unknown Texas law firm isn't the same thing as arguing dozens of cases before the Supreme Court. Miers may never have judged an Arabian horse contest, but the truth is she's never judged anything at all.

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who voted last week to confirm Roberts, issued a statement this morning in which he said he met Miers only recently and does not know her well. "What I do know is that she has a reputation for being loyal to this president, whom she has a long history of serving as a close advisor and in working to advance his objectives," said Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "In an administration intent on accumulating executive power, Ms. Miers' views on and role in these issues will be important for the Senate to examine."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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