By Joel Shapiro of Portland, Oregon. Joel is a long-time political activist and an adjunct professor of law at Lewis & Clark Law School.
With the nomination of Harriet Miers to serve as Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, President Bush has elevated cronyism to the highest level of government.
One would think that in the wake of FEMA's Michael Brown fiasco, Bush would be somewhat cowed. But instead, we see the same pattern of cronyism that values personal connections and Bush loyalty above qualifications, experience, and excellence. Like Brown, Miers is wholly unqualified for the position to which she has been nominated. Miers has never served as a judge at any level, and has minimal jurisprudential experience.
When Clarence Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court, Bush the Elder famously stated that Thomas was "the most qualified" person for the job. That claim was laughable then, and stands up no better with the passage of time. Today, Junior claimed that after an exhaustive search, "one person stood out as exceptionally well-suited to sit on the highest court of our nation," in nominating Harriet Miers. This assertion is equally preposterous, and forces one to consider both the judgment of the President and the quality of the search.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the search for a new Justice was similar to other searches that Bush has commissioned. When Bush was confronted with choosing the most important position in his administration -- the office of Vice President -- the person who lead the search, Dick Cheney, was found to be the most qualified person for the job. Likewise, Harriet Miers headed the search for a new Supreme Court Justice. Does anyone really believe, given the tremendous depth of talent on the federal Circuit Courts, that someone with little or no jurisprudential experience can truly be "the one person who stood out as exceptionally well-suited"? You have to wonder what the search criteria were.
A position on the U.S. Supreme Court should not be treated as one more plum in the political spoils system. Replacing Justice O'Connor as the swing vote on the Court is too significant to the future of our country to be left to someone who has been essentially a political apparatchik for much of her career.
In this time of great political, economic, military, diplomatic turmoil and transition, many legal principles will be re-defined. Weighty issues of civil liberties, Constitutional rights, and the powers of the government vis-à-vis individuals and other nations will be decided by the Supreme Court. Do we really believe that these decisions should turn on the judgment of someone whose prime attribute is that no one besides George Bush really knows what her "judicial philosophy" is? Wouldn't a serious Constitutional scholar be better suited to these issues than someone who, until moving to the White House staff with Bush, spent six years serving as the Bush-appointed head of the scandal-plagued Texas Lottery Commission?
We have already seen the disastrous results that Bush cronyism wrought on the citizens of the Gulf Coast. While the purview of the Supreme Court is quite different from natural disaster preparedness, there can be no question that such cronyism on the highest court in the land would wreak even more devastating damage upon the long-term civic health of our nation.
We must get involved now to stop the political merry-go-round of Bush cronyism. We cannot afford to wait for the day -- sometime in the future, as our Constitutional rights lay in tatters -- when we hear ex-President Junior say: "Harri, you're doing a heck of a job."