The Things She Couriered

By nominating Harriet Miers for a seat on the Supreme Court, President Bush has not simply named a member of his political staff -- and his onetime personal lawyer -- for one of the most powerful positions in the nation; he has named a staff member who was likely privy to the most confidential of material as other White House staffers planned their leak of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent.

When columnist Robert Novak outed Plame in July 2003, Miers had just ascended to the post of deputy chief of staff for policy from a two-year stint as Bush's staff secretary, “the person in charge of all the paperwork that crosses the president's desk,” according to a description of Miers' duties published on the conservative Web site NewsMax last year.

In an administration so ethically challenged, is it possible that Miers knew nothing of any shenanigans, be they leaking, weapons of mass destruction, or Ken Lay? The position she currently occupies is, after all, parallel to that held by the infamous Karl Rove.

Before I'm charged with assigning guilt by association, let's examine some other troubling aspects to this nomination.

Miers has been a key player in Bush's two Supreme Court search efforts. She was deeply involved in the choice of John Roberts, just sworn in as chief justice, and was presented to the Senate, in Cheney-esque fashion, as the president's point person conducting the search for the person to fill the position for which she has just been nominated. Prospect readers will recall that, even as he interviewed at the White House for his nomination, Roberts rendered a decision in the administration's favor regarding the U.S. internment of “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

One has to wonder what Miers' role was in the Roberts interviewing process. Was she aware of the Guantanamo case? (It's hard to imagine that she was not.)

Then there's Miers own acceptance speech today, a clearly political piece of oratory meant to reassure the president's right flank of her street cred as a “strict constructionist.” After lauding the genius of the Founders, Miers spoke exuberantly of “a tremendous responsibility to keep our judicial system strong, and to help ensure that the courts meet their obligations to strictly apply the laws and the Constitution.

“As White House Counsel,” she continued, “I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with the members of the Congress. And that experience has given me an eager, even greater appreciation for the role of the legislative branch in our constitutional system.”

As more is revealed about Miers, it will become obvious that the issues of concern with regard to her nomination have little to do with her lack of judicial experience, or even her enigmatic personal ideology, but rather with the very political nature of her White House record. (And believe me, I do find it personally painful to oppose so vigorously a nominee who, in many ways, has been a trailblazer for women in the legal profession.)

Given her remarks today, clearly meant to appease the Justice Sunday crowd, the big question in Miers' nomination concerns her views on the high court's role in interpreting the Constitution. The right-wing leaders who comprise the Justice Sunday coalition want nothing less than the overturning of Marbury v. Madison, the 19th-century case that set the precedent for judicial review of statutes passed by the legislative branch. Senators must ask whether or not she thinks Marbury was wrongly decided.

Then they need to get down to what Harriet Miers knew regarding the numerous scandals and improprieties plaguing the executive branch -- and when she knew it.

Adele M. Stan is the author of Debating Sexual Correctness: Pornography, Sexual Harassment, Date Rape, and the Politics of Sexual Equality, as well as the blog AddieStan.com.

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