Harold Myerson criticizes my naivete on the Editorial Page of the Washington Post this morning as one of "The Right's Dissed Intellectuals," leading with an extended quote from my post on "The Court and the Legal Culture":
Bypassing all manner of stellar Scalia look-alikes, the president settled on his own in-house lawyer, whose chief virtue seems to be that she's been the least visible lawyer in America this side of Judge Joseph Crater. Miers has authored no legal opinions that can be dissected, no Supreme Court briefs that can be parsed, no law review articles that can be torn apart.
Which, I suspect, is why her selection cuts so deep in right-wing circles. The problem isn't only that Miers is not openly a movement conservative but that she's as far from a public intellectual as anyone could possibly be. In one fell swoop, Bush flouted both his supporters' ideology and their sense of meritocracy.
Worse, he bypassed the opportunity to demonstrate their intellectual seriousness — conservatism's intellectual seriousness.
Consider the following from George Mason University law professor Todd Zywicki, writing on a right-wing legal-affairs blog on Monday: "There are two possible ways to think about appointments: one is to appoint those who will simply 'vote right' on the Court, the other is to be more far-reaching and to try to change the legal culture. Individuals such as Brandeis, Holmes, Warren, all changed both the Court and the legal culture, by providing intellectual heft and credibility to a certain intellectual view of the law. . . . Bush's back-to-back appointments of [Chief Justice John] Roberts and Miers is a clear indication that his goal is at best to change the voting pattern of the Court. . . . Neither of them appears to be suited by background or temperament to provide intellectual leadership that will move the legal culture."
Note Zywicki's trio of legal heavyweights: Louis Brandeis, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Earl Warren, all figures in the liberal pantheon (though Holmes was less a liberal than a dissenter from his era's conservatism). Now, after three decades of a legal counterrevolution against the egalitarianism of the mid-20th century, the right had developed its own pantheon, its Brandeises-in-waiting. And Bush ignored them all.
But the conservative intellectuals have misread their president and misread their country. Four and a half years into the presidency of George W. Bush, how could they still entertain the idea that the president takes merit, much less intellectual seriousness, seriously? The one in-house White House intellectual, John DiIulio, ran screaming from the premises after a few months on the job. Bush has long since banished all those, such as Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, who accurately predicted the price of taking over Iraq. Yet Donald Rumsfeld — with Bush, the author of the Iraqi disaster — remains, as do scores of lesser lights whose sole virtue has been a dogged loyalty to Bush and his blunders. Loyalty and familiarity count for more with this president than brilliance (or even competence) and conviction.
I must confess, the man has a point.