female genitals enough to qualify for the Supreme Court?
as a whole benefits immeasurably from a climate in which
all persons, regardless of race or gender, may have the
opportunity to earn respect, responsibility, advancement
and remuneration based on ability.”
Miers’ ears are surely burning these days. Still, it’s probably
asking for the moon to hope her entire head, and then her
body, will combust and conclude this latest American juridical
burlesque. No, it’s probably going to be a lot more painful—and
much less spectacular—than that.
is absorbing flak from all sides, mostly because she is
woefully unqualified for and undeserving of a seat on the
US Supreme Court. Yet, rather than simply drawing attention
to her conspicuous lack of legal bona fides, the intense
scrutiny of her record has been deemed by some as “sexist.”
She has become, by virtue of her unfitness, a symbol of
persistent social inequities. And just like her detractors,
those trumpeting the charge of gender bias hail from all
points on the political spectrum.
newest and highest-profile member of this dubious counteroffensive
is Laura Bush herself. Appearing October 11 on NBC’s “Today”
show, the First Lady praised Miers as an “extraordinarily
accomplished woman.” Mrs. Bush expressed dismay that “people
are not looking at [Miers’] accomplishments and not realizing
that she was the first elected woman to be the head of the
Texas bar association, for instance, and all the other things.”
Did you get all that? The bar association thing…and then
the other stuff?
it turns out, “all the other things” is about as impressive
as it sounds. During her legal career, Miers did some trailblazing,
but nothing she accomplished, or apparently even strove
for, likely prepared her to serve as a Supreme Court justice.
After receiving her JD in 1970 and clerking for a US District
Judge, she became the first woman hired at Dallas law firm
Locke Purnell Boren Laney & Neely. She was reputedly
a very skilled trial attorney, representing clients like
Microsoft and Walt Disney. In March of 1996, her peers selected
her as the first woman president of Locke, Purnell, Rain
is no doubt Miers, 60, encountered obstacles in the legal
profession. Marcia D. Greenberger, founder of the National
Women’s Law Center, countered critics’ arguments about Miers’
lack of a federal appeals clerkship saying, “There were
many judges who would not accept women law clerks at all
[at the time Miers graduated law school], including many
federal judges.” As it stands now, women remain grossly
underrepresented in the federal judicial system. Nevertheless,
Sandra Day O’Connor, whose vacancy on the Supreme Court
Miers—fifteen years O’Connor’s junior—would fill, ascended
the ranks from assistant attorney general all the way to
the Arizona Court of Appeals before becoming the first female
Supreme Court justice in 1981.
to articulate a reason for her nomination, even Miers’ former
colleagues become tongue-tied. Margaret Donahue Hall, a
partner at the firm Miers once headed, was quoted in the
New York Times as saying, “In my heart of hearts,
I know she’d make a great Supreme Court justice, but it’s
hard to put into words why.” Is it possible, then, the president’s
claim that his nominee had “broken the glass ceiling” was
not merely self-serving, but also a glaring embellishment?
Maybe Miers just crawled through a preexisting hole. Whatever
the case, it hardly seems sound to seek to redress an injustice—if
Miers’ lack of experience can be called that—by lowering
the standards for the highest court in the land, the guardian
of the constitution. And, as has been pointed out, it isn’t
necessary either, except that President Bush has chosen
to ignore more deserving candidates of both genders. As
Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune noted, if President
Bush has so much faith in his nominee’s ability, he could
have appointed her to an appellate seat, where even a luminary
like John Roberts made a stopover before ascending to the
reactions to the Miers controversy on the left beggar belief.
Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, maintained
she was “shocked at the sexism and double standard coming
out of the far right.” I always find it hilarious to read
such virginal declamations from a class of people who regularly
swallow things that would make a buzzard barf. Mikulski’s
senate bio states she returns every night from her duties
in Washington to Maryland, but I’d be shocked if she isn’t
commuting to Earth via pod every day from Proxima Centauri.
only “double standard” from the right applied to Miers I’ve
seen was courtesy of Ann Coulter. Coulter derided Southern
Methodist University, Miers’ law school alma mater, as insufficiently
august, writing in an odd explication of reactionism, “I
know conservatives have been trained to hate people who
went to elite universities, and generally that’s a good
rule of thumb. But not when it comes to the Supreme Court.”
If Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in the senate, isn’t
already inoculated against that kind of potty sophism, it’s
probably because she’s spent her political career focusing
on that which preoccupies our elected leaders: getting reelected.
appalling, though, is the blithe disregard for the nomination
process, or the seeming willingness to vitiate it, expressed
by some of Miers’ defenders. Eleanor Smeal, head of the
leftist Feminist Majority Foundation, summed up her frustration
with the questions about Miers’ qualifications when she
told the New York Times, “I think that essentially that
this hue and cry that she isn’t qualified, there’s a sexist
basis to it.”
she have the mental capacity? Give me a break,” Smeal railed.
“Would they say that about a man? I don’t think they would.”
Funny, but I rather think “they” would, and with good reason.
Pointed questions were raised about Clarence Thomas’s resume,
and even he had sat on the DC appellate court. Smeal’s incendiary
locution, “mental capacity,” appears to be her own. I haven’t
encountered it, or even a periphrastic equivalent, in any
critique of Miers, although I’m not sure why.
greatest achievement appears to be her professional and
personal association with George W. Bush. In 1994, she served
as general counsel to then-Governor-elect George Bush and
later accepted an appointment to the Texas Lottery Commission.
She followed Bush to Washington in 2001, where she was appointed
assistant to the president and staff secretary, and two
years later was elevated to deputy chief of staff. She’s
been counsel to the president since 2005.
their correspondence, however, that suggests an odd consanguinity.
It’s difficult to read Miers’ personal letters to President
Bush without blushing, laughing or vomiting in one’s mouth.
She’s almost literally a cheerleader for the president.
In one missive, she wrote, mixing the idioms of a dull Chinese
courtier and a cast member of MTV’s “Laguna Beach,” “You
are the best governor ever—deserving of great respect.”
Like, totally! She also told Bush he was “cool.” After witnessing
the president sign an autograph for a girl, Miers was positively
moist, writing, “I was struck by the tremendous impact you
have on the children whose lives you touch.” To which the
president responded, with typical modesty, “Thank you for
your friendship and candor.” Only our commander-in-chief,
a man disposed to unquestioningly accept every glowing thing
said about him, could characterize such sloppy fellation
from astounding vanity, the comparative tepidity of Bush’s
reply hints that Miers’ ardor, while an asset, is not entirely
requited. Maybe it’s finally making Bush uncomfortable.
More likely, he just wants Harriet somewhere more advantageous
to his own agenda. Can she be counted on to vote objectively
on cases involving the president or his policies, let alone
render decisions without using words like “awesome” or “superduperbestest?”
I have doubts on both counts. Nor can I imagine many things
more distasteful than reading a concurring opinion overturning
Roe v. Wade with similar juvenile superlatives.
White House strategy hasn’t succeeded, thus far, but as
usual it’s given them more mileage than it should have.
How is it Miers’ sororal protectors don’t find anything
unseemly about Bush’s monomaniacal pursuit of her confirmation?
His overlooking more qualified women. Trotting out his automatous
wife to give credence to an absurd charge of gender bias.
Or his ostensible calculation Miers will get a pass because
she’s female. The president is attempting to spend all that
vaunted “political capital” like a kid using his employee
discount to buy a last-minute gift for his girl. “Here,
Harriet, have a robe! You like it? Picked it out myself.”
Miers, a gorgon who makes Ruth Bader Ginsburg look like
Scarlett Johansson, and therefore a prime target for any
number of chauvinist broadsides, isn’t the victim of a “double
standard” so much as the latest figurehead for an agenda
of brazen manipulation and unprecedented venality. It’s
cynical, despotic and, yes, sexist.