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Bush nominates right-wing White House lawyer
Cronies on the court

By Nicole Colson | October 7, 2005 | Page 12

GEORGE W. BUSH picked a White House lawyer and conservative political crony from Texas to fill a vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bush announced Monday that he was nominating White House counsel Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. He made sure to talk up his respect for "diversity" in announcing the nomination of a woman.

But Bush's choice has nothing to do with making sure that women are represented on the Supreme Court--and everything to do with the fact that Miers is both a committed conservative and a "safe" choice who, since she has never served as a judge, has almost no embarrassing paper trail that could derail her nomination.

A former corporate lawyer in Texas, Miers went on to a series of positions in the Bush administration, including staff secretary (the official who manages the paper flow to and from the president), deputy chief of staff, and her current position as White House counsel.

Miers was heavily involved as a lawyer for Bush's first presidential campaign in 2000--working on the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case over the Florida election fiasco that got her boss into the White House. She has also participated in events sponsored by the ultra-conservative Federalist Society.

Supporters of abortion rights should be troubled by Miers' nomination. As president of the Texas State Bar in 1993, Miers was one of group of lawyers who tried to push the American Bar Association away from its pro-choice stance.

Leonard Leo, a White House adviser on Supreme Court nominations, highlighted Meirs' efforts as part of the reason that "conservatives should be very happy with this selection."
"As a leader of the bar, Harriet Miers was a fearless and very strong proponent of conservative legal views," Leo said in a memo on the Miers nomination. "She led a campaign to have the American Bar Association end its practice of supporting abortion-on-demand and taxpayer-funded abortions."

Parts of the Bush administration's right-wing base have complained about Miers, a former "conservative Democrat" who contributed to Al Gore's 1988 presidential run.

"I'm disappointed, depressed and demoralized," wrote William Kristol, editor of the neoconservative Weekly Standard. "What does this say about the next three years of the Bush administration. Surely this is a pick from weakness?"

According to the right-wing American Spectator, "There is now talk of among some conservatives about a filibuster of the Miers nomination...According to several White House sources, few inside the building took the possibility of a Miers nomination seriously. Now that it's a reality, they're stunned. 'We passed up [Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales for this?' was one conservative staffer's reaction."

So Miers isn't the Religious Right's dream candidate. But no one could mistake her for anything other than a conservative.

Except maybe the mainstream liberal organizations and Democratic Party leaders who welcomed Bush's nomination of a "moderate."

For years, they insisted that progressives had to support Democratic candidates at election time, if for no other reason than because it was necessary to stop the Republicans from packing the Supreme Court with right wingers.

But when it came time to challenge Bush's first Supreme Court nomination, John Roberts, groups like the National Organization for Women and NARAL Pro-Choice America did little to mobilize. Fully half of Senate Democrats voted to confirm John Roberts as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court--despite his clear record as an anti-choice, anti-affirmative action conservative.

While Miers' record may not be as clear, her longstanding ties to George Bush are undeniable. Yet she already has the stamp of approval of top Democrats--including anti-choice Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who pushed for her nomination, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who said that she "clearly has the potential to be a consensus nominee."

With the number of important cases that the Supreme Court is likely to hear in the coming months, organized opposition to the Bush agenda is more important than ever before.

Women's right to choose abortion continues to hang in the balance--with the court slated to hear at least one major abortion rights case this year.

The case deals with parental consent for abortion--and whether parental notification laws must include an exception for serious threats to a woman's health. While it won't be used to overturn abortion rights completely, the case gives the justices a chance to allow even tighter restrictions on abortion rights--by specifying a very narrow interpretation of "health" exceptions.

The court is also expected to hear the Bush administration's challenge to three federal district court rulings overturning a congressional ban on late-term abortions--a case that could be used to overturn Roe v. Wade entirely.

One of the first major cases before the court this term is the Justice Department's challenge against Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, approving physician-assisted suicide.

The justices will also review a ruling striking down a federal law cutting off funding to universities that don't treat military recruiters as favorably as those recruiting for other employers. A lower court decided that this law violated the First Amendment because it prevented universities from applying campus policies forbidding recruiters for employers that discriminate--as the Pentagon does with its "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays and lesbians.

Five death penalty cases are also on the docket, including a Tennessee case in which a death row prisoners says that new DNA evidence exonerates him. The Court will likely decide how strong newly discovered evidence of innocence must be before it overrides limits on new findings presented during the appeals process. This is literally a life-or-death decision for dozens of prisoners across the country who say they were wrongly convicted.

Other major cases likely to be heard in the next several terms could have far-reaching implications for the "war on terror"--including a possible challenge to the indefinite detention of "enemy combatants" and to the military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

With the Republicans in the majority in Congress, a spineless Democratic opposition and a Supreme Court that's likely to have two new Bush appointees in the near future, we can't wait to fight for our rights.

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