WASHINGTON -- Such is the perfect perversity of the nomination of Harriet Miers, it discredits, and even degrades, all who toil at justifying it. Many of their justifications cannot be dignified as arguments. Of those that can be, some reveal a deficit of constitutional understanding commensurate with that which it is, unfortunately, reasonable to impute to Miers. Other arguments betray a gross misunderstanding of conservatism on the part of persons masquerading as its defenders.
Miers' advocates, sensing the poverty of other possibilities, began by cynically calling her critics sexist snobs who disdain women with less than Ivy League degrees. Her advocates certainly know that her critics revere Margaret Thatcher almost as much as they revere the memory of the president who was educated at Eureka College.
Next, Miers' advocates managed, remarkably, to organize injurious testimonials. Sensible people cringed when one of the former Texas Supreme Court justices summoned to the White House offered this reason for putting her on the nation's highest tribunal: ``I can vouch for her ability to analyze and to strategize.'' Another said: ``When we were on the lottery commission together, a lot of the problems that we had there were legal in nature. And she was just very, very insistent that we always get all the facts together.''
Miers' advocates tried the incense defense: Miers is pious. But that is irrelevant to her aptitude for constitutional reasoning. The crude people who crudely invoked it probably were sending a crude signal to conservatives who, the invokers evidently believe, are so crudely obsessed with abortion that they have an anti-constitutional willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade with an unreasoned act of judicial willfulness as raw as the 1973 decision itself.
In their unseemly eagerness to assure Miers' conservative detractors that she will reach the ``right'' results, her advocates betray complete incomprehension of this: Thoughtful conservatives' highest aim is not to achieve this or that particular outcome concerning this or that controversy. Rather, their aim for the Supreme Court is to replace semi-legislative reasoning with genuine constitutional reasoning about the Constitution's meaning as derived from close consideration of its text and structure. Such conservatives understand that how you get to a result is as important as the result. Indeed, in an important sense, the path the Supreme Court takes to the result often is the result.