SCOTUS Hearings Redux


So the president has nominated another justice to the SCOTUS – Harriet Miers – and the screaming has already begun…from both sides. Leahy (sometimes irreverently referred to as Senator Leaky) is clearly aghast in that there is practically no paper trail by which to judge the nominee. The conservatives, such as Limbaugh and Bill Kristol are nonplussed because Miers could be (gasp) too much of a moderate and therefore not likely to cause a floor fight necessitating the republican majority’s mandating of cloture on an expected democrat filibuster of anyone even wearing conservative ties. Hard-line conservatives have been itching for the so-called Senate “nuclear option” to be imposed and – to hear the democrats scream – imperil the nation. Oh, mercy!

Meanwhile, the minions of Senators Kennedy, Biden, Schumer, and Durbin have surely joined those of Senator Leaky in combing through every scrap of paper, press conference utterance, trial brief/motion, public statement, and church-service attendance pertaining to the nominee. As was the case years ago with the reporter combing through the garbage of former State Dept. Secretary Henry Kissinger, the Senate staffers may be checking any and all garbage cans and dumpsters in Miers’ neighborhood for even a shred of evidence that the nominee is anything from a closet Nader-Raider to a closet lesbian to a secret viewer of child-porn on the Internet. Egad!!! She contributed to the presidential bid of Al Gore in 1988, it has been reported. One wonders if El Rushmo and Kristol and Hannity harbor deep misgivings that Miers will morph into a Souter, thus placing Bush 43 in the same boat as 41, who thought he was nominating a conservative only to find out too late that Souter was a liberal in conservative clothes.

Then, of course, the Judiciary Committee ham and resident smart-aleck, Senator Biden, will put on his usual act – maybe even addressing Miers as “Harriet old buddy” – combining his smile/smirk with some inane thought troubling him, such as Miers’ potential refusal to tell him if she will rule from the heart or not…or was that Durbin, whose main 15 minutes of fame this year has had to do with his comparing of Guantanamo with the Russkie gulags, Hitler’s storm troopers, and Pol Pot’s…well…whatever, with regard to the establishment of the well documented killing fields of Cambodia. Senator Feinstein will also be troubled about the worry that Miers will simply judge on the basis of a strict interpretation of the Constitution, rather than taking stock of all the societal upheavals du jour. One can expect the recent hurricanes to be injected into the committee’s hearings, not for elucidation regarding the nominee’s new job, but because the hearing presents the perfect setting for campaign mini-speeches and the preening before the cameras that senators love as they castigate FEMA yet again for the actual criminal neglect of the New Orleans mayor and the Louisiana governor.

The republican members of the committee will give Miers a pass, as they did Roberts. There seems to be within the republican party – and certainly within the “religious right,” said erroneously by many to be the backbone of the party – a bit of suspicion that Miers might look favorably upon Roe v. Wade, so there might be a mini-split among the republicans on the committee with respect to abortion rights, always known by its euphemistic term, privacy rights. As Roberts said in his hearing, the Constitution is filled with privacy rights, but that fact means nothing to democrats, who are interested almost exclusively with what Miers will do with regard to anything that comes before the court that might endanger a woman’s right to kill her fetus, even if it’s in the ninth month. The gals in NOW and other such organizations have had a hissy fit over a ruling regarding a requirement that a minor daughter’s parents or guardian (or even a judge, in the absence of either?) be informed before the girl takes herself off for an abortion. This seems a relatively weak threat to Roe v. Wade, but such is the nature of the girls these days that they are horrified that any ruling chip away allegedly at the right of a fetus to be equated with an appendix. This, by the by, is not a brief for the so-called pro-life crowd, since about the only thing worse than an abortion could be the bearing of an unwanted child, very often to suffer a hell on earth and more and more often in this drug-riddled, shack-up society to be brutally murdered by scumbag boyfriends, stepfathers, and their own mothers.

What probably will not happen in the hearings will be the kind of repartee between the senators and Miers that took place between them and John Roberts, the new Chief Justice. Armed with reams of documents and sided by aides whispering in their ears, the senators aspired to outtalk/outsmart Roberts on many cases that have been decided at the SCOTUS, only to be so firmly and obviously outwitted by Roberts, who had only a glass of water on his table and no aides doing anything, that they made themselves look silly. In the first place, they will be wary of trying that stuff with a woman, no matter how much smarter than they she is, on pain of appearing to be overbearing; in the second place, she might make them look as silly as Roberts did. Roberts turned out to be a scholar with regard to the Constitution and the Court, but it remains to be seen whether or not Miers is. Plainly, none of the senators are, no matter how great they might regard themselves, with the possible exception of Senator Graham. Admittedly, this may be an unfair judgment, since not all of the Roberts hearings were seen in this corner. One thing seems certain: Miers will not give the committee the time of day with respect to any way she will rule. This is called the Ginsberg Factor, and the democrats are hoist on their own petard because of it, since they profited by it extremely well during the Ginsberg hearings in the early 90s, when the republicans gave her a pass, notwithstanding her off-the-wall views.

The democrats have one hand behind their backs as they enter the fight, since Minority Leader Harry Reid has already grandly expressed his satisfaction with Miers. Taking into consideration that the gang of 14 would most surely not stand for a filibuster, Miers seems to be a shoo-in…unless, of course, it’s discovered that she’s a closet bank robber or a lesbian or cheated on her income tax or, a la Bill Clinton, has participated or is participating in untoward sexual activity. At least she shouldn’t have the illegally-employed nanny problem that a couple of Slick Willie’s nominees had and which eliminated them from the get-go, their non-caring, non-SS-remittances automatically disqualifying them, and justifiably so.