Is it sexist to oppose the Miers nomination?

Laura Bush says people who criticize Harriet Miers just can't stand that she's a lady lawyer.

Published October 11, 2005 8:05PM (EDT)

Earlier today, in a moment of weakness for which we feel truly bad, we made fun of Harriet Miers' hair. This wasn't right, and we were later made to understand that criticizing a woman for her appearance -- rather than some shortcoming in her professional life -- was pretty much the calling card of a sexist. After all, as Think Progress notes, when John Roberts was nominated to the Supreme Court, people went on and on about his brilliant mind. But with Miers, the praise has been rather more pedestrian: She doesn't gossip. She's not that into clothes. Or, as her sister-in-law told the Associated Press, "She makes a wonderful sweet potato pie. Many marshmallows. They call it a vegetable, but it's probably more of a dessert."

Still, having apologized for our transgression, we really have to take exception with Laura Bush's suggestion this morning that people opposed to Miers are motivated by sexism. Appearing with her husband on the "Today" show, the first lady praised Miers as a "very deliberate and thoughtful" woman who has "broken the glass ceiling" and who will "bring dignity to wherever she goes, certainly the Supreme Court." Host Matt Lauer then asked the first lady if she believes Miers' opponents are fighting her nomination because she's a woman. "It's possible. I think that's possible ... I think people are not looking at her accomplishments," Bush said.

But Laura Bush has it exactly backward: Folks opposed to Miers -- folks here at War Room, but also folks whose politics are quite different from ours -- are suspicious of this nomination precisely because we have looked at Miers' accomplishments, and we've found them, to put it kindly, thin. There are many female conservative lawyers in America whose records far outshine Harriet Miers' -- to name just one, look at Maureen Mahoney, a veteran Supreme Court litigator whose brilliance prompted some to dub her the female John Roberts.

But when looking for a woman to replace the court's first woman, Bush didn't name Mahoney or any other acclaimed female legal scholar. He picked a blank slate, a woman whose record tells us nothing about how she may rule on the court. Which probably explains why the best thing some people can say about her is that she makes a killer sweet potato pie.

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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