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Published: Thursday, 10/20/2005

A nomination in trouble

MAYBE it's time for President George W. Bush to spare the country any more embarrassment and withdraw his nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

The conservatives apparently don't like her; the liberals clearly don't. The center, that area of shifting boundaries where most Americans who have opinions on political matters tend to lurk, probably thinks Ms. Miers is simply not qualified - or is by no means the most highly qualified person - for the Supreme Court.

The opposition of some conservatives and some of the fundamental religious right to Ms. Miers' nomination is curious. Given Ms. Miers' adult religious affiliation with a church which, although fairly mainstream among fundamentalist groups, is nonetheless four-square anti-choice in its approach to abortion rights, one might imagine that group would have been delighted with Mr. Bush's choice.

Instead, many have come out against her, except for one major religious leader who has said he knows something about her that he can't tell the rest of us, that has reassured him as to her faithfulness to his political and religious position.

The fundamental right's public opposition to Ms. Miers' nomination has prompted some suspicion that they are running a game on the rest of the American political spectrum: the right oppose her, pushing the center and left to support her, to spite the right.

But liberals clearly don't like her either, partly because of her likely position on choice, and also because they can't warm to someone who likes Mr. Bush as much as she clearly does.

Compare her record to that of the person she has been nominated to succeed, Sandra Day O'Connor. Would anyone be prepared to believe, as Mr. Bush has stated, that Harriet E. Miers is better qualified to be a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court than any other woman judge, law school dean or professor, corporate lawyer, or criminal lawyer in the United States?

That is the relevant criterion for a nomination to that position. The argument that Ms. Mier's qualifications will emerge in Senate Judiciary Committee hearings is fatuous.

Senators' and Americans' time should not be wasted with such games in this time of grave problems, such as what to do about the Iraq war and how to rebuild the U.S. Gulf Coast after Katrina. Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) put it very well when he suggested after meeting Ms. Miers that she needs a crash course in U.S. constitutional law. She should have had that course a long time ago, spanning her career, not starting now.

Mr. Bush obviously cares a lot about Ms. Miers or he wouldn't have tried to reward her for a career of loyal service to him by naming her to the Supreme Court. He should now carry that solicitousness for her to the next level by withdrawing her nomination, before the charade becomes even more obvious.

Or Ms. Miers herself could carry her record of loyalty to Mr. Bush to the next level by withdrawing her own nomination.

Whichever way it occurs, Mr. Bush has floated the nomination of Ms. Miers, and it didn't fly. He should look for someone else better qualified.



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