National Review: Withdraw Miers or damage the movement

The editors deliver the ultimate insult: When it comes to Supreme Court nominees, Bill Clinton did it better.

Published October 21, 2005 5:37PM (EDT)

Just two weeks ago, George W. Bush helped the National Review celebrate its 50th birthday. A few minutes ago, the editors sent their thank you note: a stern editorial urging Republican senators to demand the withdrawal of Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court.

"Five days into White House 'qualifications week' in making the case for Harriet Miers, her nomination is looking weaker rather than stronger," the editors say. "No matter how many times Scott McClellan says that she is 'extremely well qualified,' it doesn't make it so, especially when she makes basic constitutional flubs on her Senate questionnaire and is leaving senators singularly unimpressed during her Capitol Hill visits."

The real problem, the editors say, is that Miers' lackluster performance as a nominee could do lasting damage to the conservative ideals a Bush-appointed justice was supposed to advance. "Instead of having a nominee as equipped as, say, a Judge John Roberts as their champion, conservatives will watch the case be made by Miers, who may not even grasp all the principles or believe in them," they write. "If she implodes at the hearings, it will not just be her personal embarrassment. She will set the conservative cause back dramatically. Surely, she will be coached to say all the right things initially, but she has no depth in conservative judicial philosophy. If she wilts under questioning, the conventional wisdom might be that the principles themselves were indefensible."

In calling for Republican senators to push for Miers' withdrawal, the National Review's editors deliver to Bush what must be the lowest of all possible blows: They say Bill Clinton did it better. "Some GOP senators wonder how they can justify having voted for Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Steven Breyer, then not support Miers, who will at the very least be a more conservative vote than those two. This is backwards. Republican senators supported those two justices (mistakenly, in our view) because they calculated Ginsburg and Breyer were the two most qualified, least objectionable justices that a Democratic president could nominate. But now we have a Republican president and a Republican Senate. That president owes the same duty to his principles and his supporters that Bill Clinton owed to his. But while Bill Clinton chose highly competent liberals, George W. Bush has now chosen someone whose conservatism and whose qualifications are in doubt."

By Tim Grieve

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

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