Harriet Miers talking points: Are there any left?

Remember how she was meticulous, detail-oriented and unchanging? Never mind.

Published October 20, 2005 8:20PM (EDT)

The White House can't trumpet Harriet Miers' judicial accomplishments -- she doesn't have any -- and its efforts to insert her religious views into the nomination process seem to have backfired. So what's left? Mostly discussion about Miers' character: She's "meticulous" and "detail-oriented," the attorney general said the other day. And the president himself has said that what he likes about Miers is that he knows she'll never change.

So much for those ideas.

The "meticulous" and "detail-oriented" point was always an odd one: The Supreme Court may need many things, but a really top-notch proofreader probably isn't one of them. Whatever. If Miers' main selling point was her careful competence, that idea is pretty much off the table now. Her first responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee's questionnaire were so sloppy that Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy have told her that she'll need to do them over. She left out all sorts of relevant dates; she failed to explain clearly the "issues of law or public policy" on which she has worked for George W. Bush; and the list of prior litigation experience she included omitted cases about which the Judiciary Committee -- without access to her files -- already knew. What's more, she had to fess up that she'd been suspended from the District of Columbia Bar because she forgot to pay her dues.

But Miers is constant, right? A rock, an evergreen, and not one of those aspens that are always turning out west? Well, not exactly. Bush -- who ought to know a few things about life changes -- said earlier this month that he knows that Miers will always be the person she's always been: "I know her well enough to be able to say that she's not going to change, that 20 years from now she'll be the same person with the same philosophy that she is today," Bush said. "She'll have more experience, she'll have been a judge, but, nevertheless, her philosophy won't change."

So how about this? Sen. Herb Kohl met with Miers today, and during their meeting he asked her about that 1989 questionnaire in which she said that she supported a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion except when necessary to prevent the death of the mother. Miers' answer? "She made the point that it was at a different time for a different purpose, that we should not read too much into that in terms of where she might be on the issue of privacy and a woman's right to choose."

By Tim Grieve

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

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Herb Kohl D-wis. Supreme Court