Let's put today's utterly-puzzling nomination of White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court in historical context.
"Look, Harriet! It's some of the Evangelical dupes who rabidly support me!"
In fairness to the President, the Constitution (Article III, Section 1) lays out no formal requirements at all for serving on the Federal bench. In fact, not only is no judicial experience required but no legal experience is required. As late as 1954, there were Justices on the Court who had legal experience but had never set foot in a law school classroom (the last "country lawyer" was FDR appointee Robert H. Jackson). And appointing Presidential cronies is obviously not without precedent either. The controversial Court tenure of Abe Fortas in the late 1960s began when Lyndon Johnson decided to appoint the man who mounted the legal defense of his fraudulent Senate campaign (in which 200 mysterious Johnson votes were cast in alphabetical order as the polls closed) to the nation's highest court. Hugo Black was a Senator (not to mention a former Klansman) when FDR nominated him.
Certainly it is possible to deal with issues of Constitutional law at a very high level without having mountains of legal training – in fact, most professors of Constitutional Law are not lawyers but Political Scientists. I'm not going to argue that Harriet Miers is a baffling appointee because she has never been a judge. I will argue, however, that her utter lack of any apparent qualifications beyond "President Bush's confidant" is going to turn her hearings into a cluster-fuck of Borkian proportions.
I urge our readers to prove me wrong, but I'm almost certain that at no point in the last 100 years has someone been appointed to the Supreme Court without having previously done at least one of the following:
A) Served on the Bench at some level
B) Held elected office
C) Held appointed office (Senate-confirmed)
Even Fortas, the quintessential crony nomination, had held the Senate-confirmed appointed position of Undersecretary of the Interior under FDR. Miers is, for all intents and purposes, as qualified to hold a Supreme Court position as the most prominent lawyer on the courthouse square in every small town in America. She has done absolutely nothing except graduate law school and be Bush's pal. Her public service record consists of one term on the Dallas City Council and five years under Bush as the Texas Lottery Commissioner from 1995-2000. This reads like the resume of a junior State Legislature candidate – and one not likely to win a primary at that.
I cannot imagine what utility the President hoped to get out of this nomination. The political opposition will oppose it vehemently – and if he's going to piss off the other side, he might as well at least please his core supporters. But hardcore conservatives are as puzzled, disappointed, and irritated by this "buddy system" pick as their political counterparts (ask David Frum).
She's not young (60) so she's not a legacy pick. She doesn't please any of the key constituencies upon whom the GOP will be relying to maintain control of Congress in just a few short months. She doesn't mollify liberals. She doesn't do anything at all for the President except raise the possibility that the Democrats will foot-drag the nomination into 2006, a brilliant move that would force the Congressional GOP in tough re-election races to either give their party the finger or commit electoral suicide (or, as they say on the Hill, pulling a Mesvinsky).
In short, President Bush comes up with a new way to prove himself a retard every day. You'd think that the one thing he might be consistently able to accomplish is to keep the Cato-types happy. Apparently even that is beyond him. Or maybe it is simply that he has no principles or ideology at all – at least none that can't be overpowered by his commitment to back-slapping patronage politics.
If I'm James Dobson or any of the religious whackos that the GOP relied upon so heavily in 2004, I'm fire-breathing mad right now. You got used like cheap vending machine condoms, people. You've been salivating for this opportunity to "fix" the Supreme Court for a decade, and when the opportunity arose Bush decided it was far more important to give his politically-inert friend a gift appointment than to cater to the concerns of the constituency that put his retarded ass back in Washington for a second term.
Bush could easily have appointed a die-hard conservative in the Luttig/Alito mold and, with the substantial Senate majority, gotten a confirmation. He just didn't want to. This is a microcosm of what history will remember about George W. Bush in 50 years – he excelled at awarding government contracts and appointments to his hangers-on. Stocking FEMA with one's old frat buddies is one thing – he's about to find out that the Supreme Court is another.