Ronald Reagan used a phrase in his dealings with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev: trust, but verify. Reagan's point was that Gorbachev's words sounded good, but that they must be tested to see if he meant them. That standard should be applied to President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The reason verification has special relevance to the Miers nomination is that, like Miers, O'Connor had a thin record. Before her nomination, she was an Arizona state legislator and state judge. Reagan's primary motivation in naming O'Connor seemed to have been to place the first woman on the Supreme Court. In conference and personal calls to conservative political and religious leaders, Reagan promised she would be "OK" on the issues conservatives cared most about, such as abortion. In fact, she turned out to be the swing vote that has maintained the expanding "right" to an abortion for any reason and at any time.
President George H.W. Bush delivered similar assurances to the same conservatives when he nominated David H. Souter to the bench. Souter had served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and as a judge on the New Hampshire Supreme Court. He, too, had a thin paper trail. Once on the court, Souter immediately headed left. Conservatives have viewed him as a disaster and a squandered opportunity to end liberal judicial activism.
It matters less to conservatives whether one is a woman or a minority than it does what a nominee believes and whether he or she will be influenced by the Washington and media culture and "grow" in office, which to the left means drift its way.
Miers said the right things at her White House unveiling. She and the president used the code words conservatives like. The president assured us she would "strictly interpret our Constitution and laws. She will not legislate from the bench," a phrase he has used numerous times during two political campaigns and in his nomination of now Chief Justice John Roberts. Miers said "It is the responsibility of every generation to be true to the founders' vision of the proper role of the courts in our society," and that if nominated to the Supreme Court, ".I recognize that I will have a tremendous responsibility to keep our judicial system strong and to help ensure that the courts meet their obligations to strictly apply the laws and the Constitution."
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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