Miers and the Federalist Society:

Miers on the Federalist Society, from a 1989 trial transcript (via Drudge):

Q. Ms. Miers, are you a member of any predominantly minority organizations, such as the NAACP, Black Chamber of Commerce, Urban League or any other predominantly minority organizations?

A. Women minorities?

Q. Well, maybe predominantly racial and ethnic minorities?

A. No.

Q. . . . . In your capacity as an at-large member do you think being involved in such organizations might assist you in having a perspective that -- bring a perspective to your job that you don't have?

A. I attend meetings designed to give me that input. However, I have tried to avoid memberships in organization s that were politically charged with one viewpoint or the other. For example, I wouldn't belong to the Federalist Society any more than -- I just feel like it's better to not be involved in organizations that seem to color your view one way or the other for people who are examining you. I did join the Progressive Voters League here in Dallas during the campaign as part of the campaign.

Q. Are you active in the PVL now, do you intend to be?

A. No, I am not.

Q. Do you think the NAACP and Black Chamber of Commerce are in the category of organizations you were talking about?

A. No, I don't. . . . .

(1) Ms. Miers obviously didn't know what she talking about. The Federalist Society, as I've noted before, is a big tent organization for right-of-center lawyers and does not push any particular political positions, unlike, for example, the NAACP. When Ms. Miers testified, the two most influential intellectual leading lights in the Federalist Society were probably Robert Bork and Richard Epstein. Any organization that can accommodate two such divergent worldviews can hardly be accused of "coloring" one's views any specific direction.

(2) I would love to know what Ms. Miers originally was going to say after "any more than...", but it doesn't sound promising.

(3) The transcript makes me wonder whether Ms. Miers was behind the embarrassing, offensive, and completely unnecessary White House denials that John Roberts was ever a member of the Federalist Society. One is even led to wonder whether under the Miers regime at the White House counsel's office, membership in the Federalist Society was disqualifying for nomination to the Supreme Court.

I know quite a few conservative attorneys who have been upset since the beginning of the Bush administration over the administration's spending policies, Iraq policies, and more, but have been loyal to the administration because their primary issue is the makeup of the federal courts. The Miers nomination is going to cost the president quite a bit of support. If she really wants to be loyal to the president, she should withdraw.

james23 (mail):
Will the Federalist Society take a position on the Miers nomination? What is Leonard Leo's relationship to the Fed. Society? Assuming he has some relationship, why doesn't his endorsement of Miers answer any concerns about her views of the Society?
10.14.2005 1:08pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
The concern is about Miers' political alliances. She has been an active member of the American Bar Association, and it does take stands on political issues, including the suitability of judicial nominations. If Miers is a judicial conservative or a strict constructionist, then she appears to be the sort who is unable or unwilling to stand up for her beliefs.
10.14.2005 1:20pm
I think it's a bit much to say Miers didn't know what she was talking about. Even though the Federalist Society has no specific political agenda, it's absurd to say that membership in the FS is not "politically charged with one viewpoint or the other." It's undeniably a conservative calling-card.
10.14.2005 1:32pm
Been There, Done That:
Leonard Leo's comments in the Washington Times today are not helping his cause, whichever cause that might be at the moment. He is basically yelling at conservatives for not doing enough earlier to stop the threat of a filibuster, and so Miers is what we can get due to a weak Senate.

Fairly incredible.

The Miers nomination cannot be squared with the FedSoc's implicit mission of promoting merit and intellectual achievment. When it comes down to it, Leo apparently favors cronyism and political ladder climbing over the more intellectual pursuits with which he's been previously identified.

Leo isn't doing his credibility or that of the FedSoc's any favors here. It is unfathomable that, were he not co-opted by the White House, he could publicly defend such a nominee.
10.14.2005 1:47pm
dbernstein (mail):
For the record, Leo is on leave from his position as Vice-President of the Federalist Society, and is advising the White House on nominations, though, apparently, he is not a government employee. From what I understand, however, if he publicly opposed Miers, he'd have to resign his current position with the White House.
10.14.2005 1:52pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I was a "wait and see" person until reading this transcript. Anyone who honestly believes the NAACP isn't at least AS politically charged as the Federalist Society is too naive to be confirmed.

Of course, there's the possibility that she actually believes something else about the NAACP and for one of several possible reasons was unwilling to speak her mind. This also leads me to believe she doesn't have the proper character to sit on the Court.

A small thing, but it is convincing to me.
10.14.2005 2:24pm
Been There, Done That:
And from what I understand, Leo will want to do something in this town after leaving the White House, whenever that is.

Since he's not going to be nominated to a judgeship anytime soon, he may want to preserve some measure of his credibility on the issues he's worked so much to advance over his career. Who will care about his opinions regarding the proper role of the courts if he falls on his sword for Miers?
10.14.2005 2:26pm
Eh Nonymous (mail) (www):
Steve: you're missing the point. Didn't you see the post? _Bork_. _Epstein_. If you can't see that lumping a bunch of conservatives (political, social, legal or otherwise) together and then pretending it isn't political isn't _non-political_, how are we going to convince you otherwise?

Color me deeply unimpressed that a "big tent" for "right of center" lawyers isn't viewed by at least one nominee as being apolitical and neutral. It's not just whether it takes positions - apparently being affiliated with the ABA doesn't forever tarnish one - it's whether one has, uh, an appearance of impartiality.
10.14.2005 2:47pm
Anon1ms (mail):
"I know quite a few conservative attorneys who have been upset since the beginning of the Bush administration over the administration's spending policies, Iraq policies, and more, but have been loyal to the administration . . . "

They should have stood up for what they believed in from the start. Perhaps then they wouldn't have been taken for granted, or ignored.

Hard to feel sorry for them now.
10.14.2005 3:11pm
GregC (mail):
Prof. Bernstein,

You seem to be omitting the possibility that Miers knew exactly what she was she was talking about, and that she was intentionally mischaracterizing the Fed Society in order to make herself appear more centrist. That's neither an excuse nor an endorsement, merely an observation.
10.14.2005 3:20pm
Veggie_Burger (mail):
She was intentionally mischaracterizing the Fed Society? Excuse me while I intentionally mischaracterize you as a reasonable and thinking individual. You may not think she is qualified for the court, but I've never seen an instance of her maligning someone by making a wanton conjecture about someone's sneaky motives. She's too high-class for that.
10.14.2005 4:24pm
Chrisdoc (mail):
One could post for Daily Kos and say they are a member of a big-tent organization for left of center bloggers that does not push any particular positions (aside from those pushed by the individual bloggers, akin to individual positions of Federalist Society lawyers). Yes, Daily Kos has overarching goals - destroy Republicans - and an overarching philosophy - Republicans are evil - but so does the Federalist Society (see Federalist Society Purpose). Just because Daily Kos fits in with a broad and innocent description doesn't make it any less political on the whole or make membership in it any less incendiary for its opponents.

I don't know the greater text of Miers' testimony, but she says, "...color your view one way or the other for people who are examining you." Is she worried about how membership might be viewed by others? This doesn't sound like any grand insult to the Federalist Society. What it sounds like in the limited context I have is her acknowledgment that the Federalist Society to some people is a great bogeyman. And I would agree with her; the Federalist Society is unfairly treated like some kind of conservative bogeyman. It may indicate a lack of backbone that she is unwilling to join a reasonably mainstream group for fear of what it would say to others (just as it would show a lack of backbone to disavow the ABA because of what others are saying about her active membership), but it does not show that she is clueless about the Federalist Society. She is, however, apparently clueless about the NAACP's rather charged political advocacy.
10.14.2005 4:39pm