Is Harriet Miers a political "pawn," or someone who can restore a "different sort of balance" to the Supreme Court? Readers consider Bush's nominee.

Published October 5, 2005 7:34PM (EDT)

[Read "Spoiling the Party," by Michael Scherer.]

We have seen President Bush, in the span of several months, select not one, but two Supreme Court justices, one of whom is to serve as chief justice. The common theme with both of these picks is that they are bland, uncontroversial figures who have expressed or displayed very few ideas throughout their legal careers. The first of these nominees even bragged that he has no judicial philosophy at all. We can only assume one of two things here. Either President Bush has no ideas of his own about the nature of government and how our Supreme Court justices should act on behalf of protecting the rights of individual citizens, or he does have ideas, but is too frightened to express them in the form of a Supreme Court nomination and, in the end, prefers to have somebody be appointed rather than face controversy or the risk of rejection.

The problem is deeper than the inadequacies of our inadequate president. The problem is that we live in a time where ideology is passé. The greatest insult in the political realm, and the intellectual realm more generally, is to call someone an "ideologue." Does it ever occur to those who advocate this mainstream view that when you throw out "ideologues" you also eliminate ideas? Our leaders are out of ideas. Or they are afraid to express them. This is not the attitude that gave rise to the United States, and it is not the attitude that will sustain it.

-- Michael J. Hurd

I don't believe the right's worry about Bush's latest pick for the Supreme Court. It all appears to be staged, canned and great positioning to deflate any kind of opposition to her nomination from those concerned about competency and American values. We are all being twisted into a state of complacency.

The reality is that this woman has no record, no distinction worthy of such a lofty and lifetime appointment. She seems more of the "Brownie" ilk than the John Roberts type. And imagine her opinion when issues regarding Plamegate or Katrina-gate end up before the Supreme Court. She'll be a reliable force to inhibit any fairness in the adjudication of Bush and his cronies. Seems smart for an incompetent president to nominate someone who will protect him as his political fortunes wane.

-- Anne Wedner

"Mediocre résumé?" "No legal experience?" The sub-headline to Michael Scherer's article is ridiculous and shows a painful lack of knowledge of what real lawyers do. I'm not a supporter of the administration or the Miers nomination, but we are in a twisted world when this description is applied to a woman who graduated from law school when few women could find legal jobs and then rose to become a partner and then managing partner/president of a major law firm, as well as president of her city and state bar associations.

The idea that this equals "no legal experience" reflects an extreme narrow-mindedness that favors legal academia and the bench over the work that practicing lawyers do -- work that is often intellectually challenging and deeply engaged with the issues of the day. Perhaps these issues are not the "raging jurisprudential debates" that Scherer seems to prefer, but even that preference reflects a pinched view of what the Supreme Court does. Although abortion or First Amendment cases get the headlines, they are a small part of the important work done by the court on many other important legal issues. And, frankly, we could use a break from the "raging jurisprudential debates" so beloved by the press and political activists, which often seem to obscure, rather than illuminate, the actual work of the court and the records of the justices.

Moreover, the appointment of a longtime practicing lawyer would restore a different sort of balance to the Supreme Court, which is currently dominated by academics and longtime judges with little experience as lawyers. This is an unusual circumstance in the history of the court, which has, in the past, been composed of lawyers with a greater diversity of professional backgrounds and experience.

-- Margaret Garnett

If you read the short biographies of every current Supreme Court justice, you'll see that each one of them had served as a judge in some way, shape or form before he or she was nominated as a candidate for the country's highest court. The fact that Harriet Miers has never served as a judge nor worked on constitutional law at all during her career should automatically eliminate her from even being considered for the Supreme Court. Don't we have a list of basic qualifications for Supreme Court justices?

Hurricane Katrina taught us the dangers of cronyism. Let's see if we've learned our lesson. Democrats should have fought the Roberts nomination with a full-on, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners filibuster. Roberts was the one we didn't want on the court. He's the dangerous one. Miers is a pawn. The neocon and religious right is furious about her nomination, but I can't help thinking that they're in on the joke.

Bush nominates someone who is not qualified, both the right and some on the left do not confirm her, and then Bush brings in the big gun -- someone so extreme as to make Antonin Scalia look like a cuddly teddy bear. Democrats will be too scared to reject that candidate for fear of being called obstructionists by the ditto-heads. The neocons and the religious right have been waiting for this moment since the New Deal. They're playing hardball, and Bush has gleefully served as their lapdog. It is time for us all to be on guard, and hopefully Democrats have started sprouting spines.

-- Sue Voelkel

By Salon Staff

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