Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Supreme Court: Now What?

Now that Harriett Miers has withdrawn, the question is "Who will President Bush pick now". Many moderates and liberals have worried that if her nomination failed due to opposition from the right, Bush would nominate someone more acceptable to the extreme right. He could nominate someone who has a proven right wing track record. That was my opinion. At the time I heard about Miers' withdrawal, I was writing a comment to post here supporting Miers' confirmation because of that very possibility.

Another possibility is that Bush will decide that the far right base is not loyal to him, and ignore their wishes and appoint a more moderate person who has a solid resume for a Supreme Court nominee. The Republican senators would not have the excuse of "lack of experience" as a base for their opposition. A moderate would also draw at least some support from the Democratic senators.

We will just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Chertoff on Iraq

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff made a comment at a congressional hearing today that may be correct, but not in the way he meant. He made a comment about the time that it takes to plan actions (referring to the time they took to act on Huricane Katrina. Chertoff commented that the military took a "couple of years" to prepare for the war in Iraq.

We are told that the Iraq war was in response for the attack by a bunch of Middle Eastern (but non-Iraq) terrorists on 9/11. However, the air strikes on Baghdad started on March 20, 2003, less than a couple of years after 9/11.

Many have suspected that George Bush planned to attack Iraq before 9/11, but just needed an excuse. Did Chertoff let a secret slip our, or did he simply not remember the exact timeline? I think the latter is probably true. However, it is notable that the head of the government agency that seriously failed to keep the homeland secure (Chertoff was "Brownies" boss) may have made a correct statement only by accident.

Chertoff appeared before the House Select Committee on Hurricane Katrina today, and told them that the nations disaster relief system was overwhelmed by Katrina.

Still More Harriet Miers

So now we know, from the questionnaire she filled out in 1989, that Harriet Miers would support a constitutional amendment to ban abortions. That isn’t a surprise, considering what is known about her beliefs.

The question for Ms. Miers is how her personal beliefs affect her judgment on constitutional issues. As a conservative, she should believe in judicial restraint and in not allowing her personal beliefs interfere with her interpretations of the constitution and law.

Miers supported this principle in her written statement to the Senate: "'Judicial activism' can occur when a judge ignores the principles of precedent and stare decisis. Humility and self-restraint require the judiciary to adhere to its limited role and recognize that where applicable precedent exists, courts are not free to ignore it. Mere disagreement with a result is insufficient to justify ignoring applicable precedent, but reconsideration under appropriate circumstances is also necessary."

Referring to her service on the Dallas City Council in which she voted to urge the adoption of a flag discretion amendment, Miers wrote "There was a vast difference between our vote as a policy matter to prevent the desecration of the American flag, and the job of the courts (including the Supreme Court) to rule whether such an ordinance was constitutional."

We will have to wait and see whether Ms. Miers follows the true conservative viewpoint that judges only interpret the constitution and statutes, or, like such activists as Scalia and Thomas, she is willing to interject her personal beliefs into the judicial process.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Is Nobel Peace Prize for IAEA a Slap in the Face for Bush

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its director-general, Mohammed ElBaradei were awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize for Peace. Some think that the choice was a slap in the face for George Bush.

ElBaradei is an Egyptian lawyer who was educated, in part, in the United States. Under ElBaradei the IAEA refused to support White House claims, before the Iraq war was begun, that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.

Among those are Peace Action, a nuclear disarmament group. According to the group, he awarding of the prize to ElBaradei "helps to shine a spotlight on the urgent need to deal seriously with the increasing danger of nuclear weapons, their spread and potential use."

"The Nobel Committee obviously understands something the Bush Administration does not, namely that international cooperation, rather than unilateral, pre-emptive war (or threats of such action) is the best way to halt the spread of WMD and enhance global security," said Kevin Martin, executive director of Peace Action.

According to Peace Action, "Awarding the prize to the IAEA and ElBaradei is also a none- too-subtle rebuke to the Bush Administration, which has sought ElBaradei's ouster. The Bush Administration tried to bully ElBaradei and the IAEA into supporting its erroneous claim that Iraq was attempting to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program in the lead up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2002 and early 2003. The Bush Administration has also accused the agency of being too soft on Iran regarding its nuclear development."

"While ElBaradei called them as he saw them -- supported by the facts on the ground -- regarding WMD in Iraq during the run up to the U.S. invasion, the Bush administration fixed facts to support their foregone conclusions and unilateralist ambitions. The bravery of ElBaradei in maintaining impartiality and professionalism in his mission to stem nuclear proliferation stands in stark contrast to the Bush administration's bending of intelligence to support their invasion plans," concluded Martin.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bush: "Now they've set their sights on Iraq"

President Bush and the supporters of his war in Iraq have always wanted to give the impression that radical Muslims were involved with Iraq at the time of 9/11/01, and therefore Iraq was a suitable target post 9/11.

He seems to have changed his tune with today’s speech on the war on terror. "Over the past few decades, radicals have specifically targeted Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, and Jordan for potential takeover. They achieved their goal, for a time, in Afghanistan. Now they've set their sights on Iraq."

This time he seems to have it right. As long as Saddam was in charge, al-Qaeda was not in Iraq to any great extent. But now that there is a civil war in Iraq, the radicals see their chance to move in. So yes, Mr. President, because of your war the radicals have now set their sights on Iraq.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Reaction Mixed to Miers Court Nomination

Today President Bush nominated Harriet E. Miers, the White House counsel, to replace retiring U. S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Miers, 60, has never served as a judge on any level and lacks a record of opinions that might reveal how she would serve on the U. S. Supreme Court. About the only thing known about her is that she is a hard worker and a Bush confidante.

Before her nomination was announced this morning, liberals had been warning that the nomination of a conservative in the mold of Justice Scalia or Justice Thomas would bring about strong opposition in the Senate, provoking a very contentious committee and floor fight and possibly a filibuster.

Conservative groups, on the other hand, have worried about the opposite. They point out that they were responsible for the election of President Bush and that there support was based, in large part, on the belief that he would nominate conservative justices who would likely vote to overrule Roe v. Wade, the decision that kept abortion legal in all states.

To the nomination of a lawyer with no judicial experience, reaction is mixed.
Both Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada find advantages in the fact that Miers has not been a judge.

According to Hatch, “Harriett Miers will bring diversity and depth to the Court,” “She has broad professional experience that will provide a fresh perspective from outside the insular walls of the judiciary.”

Reid seemed to agree: "The Supreme Court would benefit from the addition of a justice who has real experience as a practicing lawyer. The current justices have all been chosen from the lower federal courts. A nominee with relevant non-judicial experience would bring a different and useful perspective to the court."
Added Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.: "[W]hen I choose judges In New York, I look for practical experience. And so the fact that she hasn't been a judge before, to me is actually a positive, not a negative."

However, the downside of the lack of judicial experience is the lack of a record on which to judge her judicial temperament and ideology.

"We know even less about Harriet Miers than we did about John Roberts and because this is the critical swing seat on the Court, Americans will need to know a lot more about Miers' judicial philosophy and legal background before any vote for confirmation." - Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Many Supreme Court justices had no prior experience: According to the White House, 10 of the 34 Justices appointed since 1933 came from within the president's administration, not from the judicial branch.
Among the other justices for whom the high court bench was their first judgeship were: Lewis Powell, Arthur Goldberg, Earl Warren, Tom Clark, Hugo Black, William Douglas, Felix Frankfurter and Louis Brandeis.

Conservative reaction is mixed:

Some conservatives are worried that Ms. Miers has not shown that she will support their views when on the bench.

Concerned Women for America released a statement saying it was taking a "wait and see" approach.
"We give Harriet Miers the benefit of the doubt because thus far, President Bush has selected nominees to the federal courts who are committed to the written Constitution," said Jan LaRue of CWA. "Whether we can support her will depend on what we learn from her record and the hearing process."

Family Research Council. President Tony Perkins: "President Bush has long made it clear that his choices for the U.S. Supreme Court would be in the mold of current justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. We have no reason to believe he has abandoned that standard. However, our lack of knowledge about Harriet Miers and the absence of a record on the bench give us insufficient information from which to assess whether or not she is indeed in that mold.

Public Advocate president, Eugene Delgaudio was clear in his opposition: "The president's nomination of Miers is a betrayal of the conservative, pro-family voters whose support put Bush in the White House in both the 2000 and 2004 elections and who were promised Supreme Court appointments in the mold of Thomas and Scalia. Instead we were given 'stealth nominees,' who have never ruled on controversial issues, more in the mold of the disastrous choice of David Souter by this president's father.

"When there are so many proven judges in the mix, it is unacceptable this president has appointed a political crony with no conservative credentials. This attempt at 'Bush Packing' the Supreme Court must not be allowed to pass the Senate, and we will forcefully oppose this nomination."

Operation Rescue also opposes Miers. "We must reject the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court of the United States," said the group’s president, Troy Newman.
"President Bush promised that he would appoint strong constitutional constructionist to the Supreme Court in the mold of Thomas and Scalia, but Miers is no Thomas or Scalia. We must be given a nominee that will restore the protections of personhood to the pre-born. If your head was about to be crushed, would you want to trust you life to someone who will not state their position on your murder?"
Other conservative groups favor Miers.

Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life and president of the National Pro-life Religious Council, thanked President Bush this morning for nominating a replacement for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in a timely manner, and called upon the Senate to do its work in an expeditious way as well.
"Our prayers are with Harriet Miers this morning as she begins this important process. We trust the President's judgment and his determination to fulfill his promises about the kind of Justices he wants to see on the Court.
"It is the judgment of certain liberal Senators, however, that gives us more concern. The demand that some make for preserving the current ideological balance on the Court, or for more "mainstream" nominees, is ridiculous. Do we have a more "mainstream" Constitution in some generations but not in others? Or do they think it is up to the Justices to re-write the Constitution? In short, there is no Constitutional requirement that Justice O'Connor's replacement should be a clone of Justice O'Connor.

"The place for arguments about ideology and mainstream positions is in political races. For the purposes of confirming nominees to the Court, the focus should be on qualifications to be a Justice, not on personal views on controversial issues." (We don’t know how Fr. Pavone would feel about nominees whose personal views supported the right to abortion.)

According to Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative law group:
"Once again, President Bush showed exceptional judgment in naming Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court to replace Justice O'Connor," said Sekulow in a statement. "At a time when the high court is facing some of the most critical issues of the day – including a number of cases dealing directly with abortion and life issues – the person who replaces Justice O'Connor is critical.

"Harriet Miers is an excellent choice with an extraordinary record of service in the legal community and is certain to approach her work on the high court with a firm commitment to follow the Constitution and the rule of law. I have been privileged to work with her in her capacity as White House counsel. She is bright, thoughtful, and a consummate professional, and I enthusiastically endorse her nomination."

Sekulow said his organization is ready to mount a campaign in support of Miers, similar to their support of John Roberts during his confirmation process as Chief Justice.

"We know the intentions of the liberal left – to do anything possible to derail this nominee," said Sekulow. "We are prepared to meet those challenges head on and ensure that this battle ends with the confirmation of Harriet Miers as an associate justice of the Supreme Court."

Sekulow may claim to know the intentions of liberals. However, their reaction is also mixed.

"I see no negatives at this stage in Harriet Miers. ... What her values are and where she will stand on this court remains to be seen." _ Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.,

"America can't afford a replay of the unrevealing confirmation process that preceded Chief Justice Roberts' confirmation. ... Without a meaningful exchange during the confirmation hearings, there is no way to know how Ms. Miers views the Constitution, whether she's a strict constructionist in the mold of Justices Scalia and Thomas, or whether she will protect fundamental rights." _ Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

"With no past judicial experience for the senators to consider, the burden will be on Miers to be forthright with the Senate and the American people. She must outline her judicial philosophy and provide direct answers to questions about how and whether she will uphold fundamental rights, liberties and legal protections on which Americans rely. ... There must be no rush to judgment." _ Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way.

At this point we know very little about Miers. Her nomination and confirmation debate will probably be more important than those for John Roberts, who replaced Chief Justice William Rehquinst. Rehquinst was clearly one of the most conservative members of the court; it is unlikely that his replacement by Roberts could move the court any more to the right. However, Miers is replacing the more moderate, and often swing vote, of Sandra Day O’Conner. If Miers turns out to be a Scalia-Thomas type conservative, her confirmation would swing the court to the right.