Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Press Conference

I was roller skiing while listening to Bush's press conference today. As a rule, I wouldn't recommend this practice, as I spent way too much time listening and pondering and not enough time looking out for sticks and stones. Fortunately, my hide is intact.

Not sure we can say the same for Bush. The press was certainly nicer to him than they've been to his spokesperson, Scott McClellan, of late. But at least they didn't only throw him puffball questions. There was some pressing going on. Some difficult questions asked. Of course, those questions weren't actually answered. For someone with the rep of not being terribly bright, Bush is intelligent enough to be an artful dodger of questions to which he does not want to give answers.

The most interesting question that he did answer, though, was: is Harriet Miers the most qualified person he could find for this position? Amazingly enough, he answered, "Yes, otherwise I would not have (named her)". Later, he said "I picked the best person I could find."

Wow, wow, wow. How could he give that answer with a straight face? Miers may well be a fine and impressive legal mind. Don't have evidence to demonstrate that yet, but for the purposes of this discussion, let's even assume it. But there is no evidence presented that even vaguely suggests she is the most qualified candidate of all those names bandied about.

Of course, maybe I'm missing the boat, here. The key word is qualified. What does Bush mean when he uses that word? When I hear that word used in discussions of a Supreme Court nomination, I think of qualities that would make a fine judge: keen intellect, creative thinker, collegial actions, and vast legal and Constitutional knowledge.

But George Bush apparently has a different viewpoint of qualified means in this setting. And he gave us ample examples of why he thinks Miers is the most qualified. The qualities he emphasizes and seeks in a judge or Justice are loyalty to himself (which he disguises as "character") and intellectual rigidity.

What do I mean by intellectual rigidity? At the press conference, Bush said "I know her well enough to be able to say she's not going to change. . . . Twenty years from now. . . . her philosophy won't change." If I were President, I would run from a candidate that I felt was incapable of such change. Philosophical change is evidence of growth. It's evidence of thoughtful consideration of the multifaceted truths in the game of life.

Is Miers' truly intellectually rigid? There's probably no way to know. But, lack of paper trail or no, we will find out something about her intellectual capacity come hearing time. And I think that's what the success or failure of her nomination hinges on: her performance at those hearings.

David Garrow contends that, while many Justices before Miers have had similarly sparse records, Miers will conceivable suffer most from the inevitable comparisons between her upcoming performance and Chief Justice John Roberts' hearing performances. Like him or not, embrace his judicial philosophy or not, his knowledge was vast, his intellect facile. Miers has some big footsteps to follow in if she wishes to prove she's up to the challenge of SCOTUS.

Until tomorrow,


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