I‘m a bit confused about the uproar from the right over President Bush’s most recent U.S. Supreme Court nomination. Yes, Harriet Miers has few qualifications and little experience in constitutional law. And granted, maybe she isn’t the outspoken, identifiably conservative nominee the right was hoping for – but I thought we were supposed to unconditionally trust the discretion of our president. Isn’t that what the government has asked us the past – to put blind faith in our highest office? Despite obvious blunders and a consistent lack of justification, conservatives have told us to just trust him. Yet, as Bush calls upon our trust again with the nomination of Harriet Miers, the right doesn’t seem to be in such a trusting mood. A swig of their own medicine, perhaps, has made them sick to their stomach.
The double standard here is obvious. Liberals were asked to quiet their objections back in 2003 when unsubstantiated claims of “weapons of mass destruction” instigated the invasion of Iraq. Even though Bush could not offer any definitive evidence that Iraqis were concocting such weapons, he requested America give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, he would never put “our boys” in harm’s way unless he was completely sure it was necessary. He asked Americans to trust him and to trust his elusive intelligence – but when it was time to bring home the weapons of mass destruction bacon, America went to bed hungry. However, when the left questioned the validity of the invasion, it was met with sharp criticism — and labeled unpatriotic.
Now with his Supreme Court nomination, Bush again is asking the country to trust him. But this time, now that conservatives have something to lose, a mere leap of faith isn’t good enough.
The nomination was a bait and switch, and right-wing loyalists felt betrayed – perhaps rightfully so. This was their chance to alter the balance of the Supreme Court – to leave their mark on issues like abortion, gay marriage and the role of religion in public life. This was Bush’s time to reward his loyal right-wing base with the hard-line conservative justice he had promised to deliver. But Miers’s ambiguous political views and thin record left conservatives deflated, shaking their heads at the missed opportunity.
Yet despite the legitimacy of their grievances, the hypocrisy is striking. The right has consistently demanded trust in the president, but the moment their own needs aren’t met, the united front crumbles. Liberals have been chastised for undermining the president’s authority, but when push came to shove, the right’s trust proved equally as flimsy.
Ironically, by appointing Miers, Bush is only following precedent his party has set in the past. Conservatives have given Bush permission to follow his instincts and have even given him extreme latitude when these instincts proved wrong. They have made it clear that whatever Bush says goes, so shouldn’t they take their own advice and trust their fearless leader?
The answer of course, is no. Michael Brown, former chief operating officer of Federal Emergency Management Agency, is an unfortunate emblem of what can happen when we put unquestioning faith in the president’s discretion. “Brownie” buckled under the pressure of Hurricane Katrina and proved clueless and ineffective when the country needed him most. But considering his only qualifications prior to his 2003 appointment to FEMA head man was running the International Arabian Horse Association – is anyone surprised? When a president makes an appointment, we trust at minimum the person will be competent – particularly when lives are at stake. But here again Bush let his country down by rewarding an inexperienced friend with a crucial federal position.
The Senate cannot set the precedent that a Supreme Court nomination is just another reward to be won by close friendship to the president. Despite the obvious double standard, both parties have a responsibility to ensure Miers is qualified to take a position on the federal bench. If confirmed, this woman will shape our laws, our lives, the lives of our children – this is no time for blind faith. If Miers proves to be the crony many fear her to be, both parties have the duty to reject her confirmation.
In the meantime, the right needs to examine the hypocrisy in its objection to Miers and the double standard it has set for the country. Whether it is a foreign invasion, a high-ranking appointment or a judicial nomination, this country must operate on a system of checks and balances – not trust. We cannot set a standard that facts are gratuitous and a leap of faith is sufficient. Republicans need to remember this every day, not just when their own party suffers from Bush’s trust-me politics.
Dibo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.