Thursday, October 6, 2005

A 'pit bull' revealed?

Well ... maybe she's not so rasa a tabula after all. The Associated Press -- no doubt feeling the same kind of gauntlet throwdown as with Gary Hart all those years ago -- began sifting through the public life of Harriet Miers; they're reporting now that Miers has had a documentedly vibrant public life, with enough deviations from anyone's political script to make her, perhaps, the kind of jurist whose life experiences and passion for evolution the Supreme Court couldn't do without.

The AP's Donna Cassata and Calvin Woodward report that "Miers’ footprints on contentious social issues suggest a moderate position on gay rights, an interest in advancing women and minorities, and sympathy for anti-abortion efforts." She used to pack a piece too, they reported. Miers apparently didn't use the Smith & Wesson .45-cal pistol her brother gave her for protection very often or very long. But throwing that fact in with other aspects of her public persona, what may be shaping up is the public's discovery of the most interesting nominee to the Supreme Court since William Rehnquist. If living an at least marginally fascinating life -- one more average, one slightly out of step with the usual judicial career path -- counts for anything, Miers may be more qualified than we know.

What makes her somewhat more than mildly interesting is what makes her dangerous to the Republican right: She's unpredictable within the context of the predictable. The right wing knows she's a conservative, they can bank on that. But it's those doggone little spasms of philosophical and political originality that have Republicans terrified right now.

Just when everyone got comfortable with her philosophical throughline, something breaks ranks with the okey-doke. Consider her past championing of individual rights, something the GOP publicly endorses but doesn't want to go too far. In 1991, a decade before the Sept. 11 2001, attacks, Miers defended constitutional freedoms in a time of peril, AP reported.

“The same liberties that ensure a free society make the innocent vulnerable to those who prevent rights and privileges and commit senseless and cruel acts,” she wrote in Texas Lawyer as the president of the state bar association. “Those precious liberties include free speech, freedom to assemble ... access to public places, the right to bear arms and freedom from constant surveillance. We are not willing to sacrifice these rights because of the acts of maniacs.”

Cassata and Woodward reported that, "[i]n one of the few head-on expositions of her views on public policy, a short gay-rights survey she filled out during her city council campaign in 1989, Miers backed equal civil rights for homosexuals and spending on AIDS education while defending a Texas law — since overturned by the Supreme Court — that made gay sex a crime."

She contradicts herself? Very well, she contradicts herself. Guess what? It's human and it reflects the fallibility of just about everything we know, and absolutely everything we are.

And anyway, it's just interesting for Chrizake! The judiciary hearings for John Glover Roberts, the blandest, most frighteningly generic white man in the United States, were basically a love feast, a mildly abrasive coronation of a man whose name was probably being painted in gold leaf on his Supreme Court office door before the hearings even started. Drama is rarely found in a slam dunk -- outside the realm of basketball, anyway.

That's why the Roberts hearings weren't terribly interesting; there was much stonewalling and obligatorily refusing to speak about one topic or another that could come before him on the bench -- but through it all, Roberts presented the image of the Company Man from central casting, fulfilling a role that years of experience on the bench had made perfectly clear. It had all the drama of watching grass grow.

John Roberts was, to a greater or lesser extent, a known quantity and predictable as mashed potatoes, and sooner or later predictable is boring. Harriet Miers is all over the lot in many compelling ways, and that's unpredictable, and that has the GOP strategem machinery nervously ordering takeout from the West Wing on weekends -- wondering, like all of us, what's next.

Can't wait for the hearings.

1 comment:

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