pageok
pageok
pageok
With Friends Like These . . . :
Dan Coats, the former GOP Senator tasked with helping Miers get through the Senate vote, isn't off to a very good start. Here's the defense of Miers that he gave today on CNN:
  If great intellectual powerhouse is a qualification to be a member of the court and represent the American people and the wishes of the American people and to interpret the Constitution, then I think we have a court so skewed on the intellectual side that we may not be getting representation of America as a whole.
  Thanks, Senator Hruska Coats.
Bill Dyer (mail) (www):
One problem is that even if one isn't an elitist, it takes a different kind of smarts to articulate persuasively the fact that there are different kinds of smarts.
10.8.2005 12:52am
Buck Turgidson (mail):
How did this moron ever become a senator? Oh, never mind--probably the same way that Bush became president.

These people don't seem to get the point that unlike the legislature and the executive, where any idiot can take charge if he's charismatic enough, the courts are a legal intellectual meritocricy. Even state elected judges need to show some ability in the field.

But the reality is that right-leaning intellectuals brought this disaster on themselves--they let the devil in the door, hoping to control him. They didn't seem to have learned the lessons of history.
10.8.2005 1:20am
Anon2 (mail):
Aside from the obvious Hruska overtones, Coats' comment is odd because it suggests that the Supreme Court is supposed to "represent" the public and act upon their "wishes." When I last read the Constitution (probably more recently than Coats), Article I and II elected officials serve the representational role that Coats describes, not appointed Article III judges. The life-tenured SCT seems intended to serve a counter-majoritarian, non-representative function.
10.8.2005 1:36am
SimonD (www):
What a shock - elitism! Who would have thought about demanding elite credentials for our nation's highest court!

If you seriously advance the "elitism is bad" argument, look me in the eye - metaphorically speaking, obviously - and tell me you would would choose to trust a nurse who you've known for ten years to perform open heart surgery on you, when you could have your pick of literally dozens of supremely qualified heart surgeons who are lining up to do the job. Tell me that in all honesty and I'll believe you have some credibility. Not much brains (guess I should have sead brain surgery, huh, but that's an overused cliche), but at least consistency, and thus credibility.
10.8.2005 1:37am
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
This is stupid. If the SC is supposed to represent the average American, who is representing the high school dropout constituency? Who's representing the blue-collar worker constituency? Why no minors on the court? Aren't they more than 20% of the population? Why no people with autism, trisomy, or permanent vegetative state?
10.8.2005 2:43am
Challenge:
The White House needs to put Bill Dyer on the payroll. That or just nominate him to the Supreme Court instead of Miers ;)

Simon, don't try to defend the rank elitism which is found in much of the criticism. It weakens the case against Miers. So Miers went to SMU and ran the Texas lottery? Many of those on the "short list" attended non-elite schools, but they still demonstrated their legal reasoning and constitutional knowledge in public writings and judicial opinions. With Miers we have very little information, and she may be a very sharp lady who is in fact a superb lawyer, but that doesn't mean she posseses the requisite constitutional knowledge or writing skills necessary to be a fine justice. Nor does it mean we can be confident she will be a consistent vote for originalism/textualism.
10.8.2005 3:29am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"who is representing the high school dropout constituency?"

I think he was elected in 2000.
10.8.2005 5:56am
Medis:
Give Coats credit for efficiency, if nothing else. He managed to contradict almost every principle of jurisprudence we have been hearing about from conservatives for 20 years in a single sentence.
10.8.2005 7:00am
Germanist:
I think Coats is the perfect choice to steer the Miers pick through the Senate. After several years working as the ambassador to Germany, even though he didn't speak German, he must know a lot about how to overcome an overwhelming lack of qualifications.
10.8.2005 9:29am
M (mail):
I think that the (small) train of truth that is behind Coats's (and other similar) statements is that it is reasonable, and perhaps desirable, to have a mix of justices on the court in some ways, and that the ability to empathize with a variety of defendents is both desirable and important. It doesn't seem hard to believe that some justices will find, say, sexual harassment to be no big deal becuase they have never experienced it (or perhaps were regularly engaged in it.) And, if you think some supposed harm is no big deal, you're quite unlikely to see a constitutional violation, even if the harm is in fact quite a big deal to the people suffering it, to the point where they are effectively kept from participating in public life as full equals. (Think of Blackman [I think] and his failure of empathy in Bowers, and his remarks that he had [he thought, wrongly] never met a homosexual.) Now, some may think this isn't what we want- that the cold hard law just sets out who is wronged enough to seek relief and who isn't, but I think this is a pretty unpersuasive way to look at things, both in theory and practice. I'm not arguing that Meir brings an important empathetic view to the court that it's missing, or that she should be confirmed for this reason, but I do think that this is the reasonable core idea behind the "she'll represent normal folks" idea.
10.8.2005 9:43am
Lochner Monster:
You know, when the nominee was Harvard and Harvard Law grad and a Rehnquist clerk, I don't recall too much wailing that he wasn't a Regular Joe.

This nomination is an insult.
10.8.2005 10:08am
Brennan:
Since the White House obviously thought Dan Coats would be capable of handling a good bit of their public spin on this nomination, one would imagine that he is aware of Hruska's infamous defense as the primary example of how NOT to endorse a Supreme Court nominee. Assuming this quote is reasonably accurate, therefore, Dan Coats must be a true idiot.

So the person the Bush Administartion selected to reassure the public that Bush knows how to pick good people is himself incompetant at the job he has been asked to do. Perfect.
10.8.2005 10:54am
not Hruska:
Intellectual Powerhouses love complex tests involving multiple subjective factors. These tests often provide little guidance to attorney who practice in trial Court and attempt to advise clients as to the relevant law. Someone like Miers may bring a set of skills and perspectives that are desperately needed on the Court.
10.8.2005 1:41pm
David Hecht (mail):
If there is anyone in this forum who is prepared to defend the jurisprudence of the last decade on the basis of the intellectual firepower of the bench--or indeed on the basis of any other criterion--I'd like to hear them do so.

Yeah, the law is complicated. So is computer programming: so is running a multi-billion-dollar business. But a lack of qualifications didn't stop either Bill Gates or Sam Walton from dominating their professions.

I hasten to add that Harriet Miers appears to be neither a Gates nor a Walton: but the point is, brilliance is no guarantee of effectiveness, and a lack of credentials is no guarantee of failure.

BTW--dittos, "not Hruska"! :-)
10.8.2005 2:24pm
Rhadamanthus (mail):

Constitution, then I think we have a court so skewed on the intellectual side that we may not be getting representation of America as a whole.



Hmm, amusing anecdote. I seem to recall that in the early years of the SC when appointment depended much on how much you had contributed to the little coup d'Eatat against the Brits, someone with no legal skills whatsoever was appointed. When defending him, the President of the day pointed out "there are a lot of incompetent lawyers out there. Don't they deserve some representation?" I wonder if this was what the Senator meant?
10.8.2005 10:23pm
Scott Moss (mail) (www):
Intellectual Powerhouses love complex tests involving multiple subjective factors. These tests often provide little guidance to attorney who practice in trial Court and attempt to advise clients as to the relevant law. Someone like Miers may bring a set of skills and perspectives that are desperately needed on the Court.


I don't buy that.

(1) Scalia is at least tied for "smartest Justice," and he's a clear advocate for hard-and-fast rules, not blurry standards.

(2) The major recent examples I see of Justices
favoring too-subjective multi-factor tests are Justices O'Connor and Powell (the O'Connor of his day). Powell had more practice experience than (I am fairly sure) any other Justice in recent decades; and O'Connor was certainly more real-world focused, and less a creature of the ivory judicial tower (in her pre-Court career), than most other Justices.

So I don't see any correlation between being an "intellectual powerhouse" and advocating too-subjective complex tests.
10.8.2005 11:46pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
the point is, brilliance is no guarantee of effectiveness, and a lack of credentials is no guarantee of failure

You are barking up the wrong tree. The point is, in this case, that lack of brilliance is a guarantee of failure. In fact, even that statement may be a touch too strong. Someone who's competent and sufficiently intelligent should be able to handle the job. Miers is not competent--she's a competent lawyer, but utterly lacks expertise where it counts. Her intelligence has never been on display, and what we have of her writings points to a hack. Miers is the quintessential mediocrity. She excelled at being mediocre. These are not the qualifications of a Supreme Court justice.
10.9.2005 2:49pm