The president and his aides are peeved at conservatives who have dared raise objections to the nomination of Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court. They need to get over it -- and quickly. The president's popularity is at an all-time low, and he needs his base now more than ever if he is to accomplish his agenda over the remaining three years of his presidency. There are good and legitimate reasons why many conservatives were unnerved by Miers' nomination, and, so far, the White House has done little to allay concerns. Trotting out Miers' pastor and old boyfriend (who happens also to be a judge) to vouch for her and touting her Evangelical Christian faith won't substitute for clear insight into Miers' judicial philosophy. And I'm not talking about her personal views on controversial issues such as abortion or same-sex marriage.
We conservatives can't have it both ways. We didn't want Chief Justice John Roberts grilled on his views on Roe v. Wade or any other hot-button decisions, and we insisted that his devout Roman Catholicism was off-limits as a legitimate subject of inquiry. We can't now turn around and say we must know whether Miers is pro-life or delve into her born-again experience as a proxy for understanding her judicial philosophy. Even if she answered such questions, there is simply no guarantee that her personal life or present views are a guide to her future actions on the court, nor should they be.
I want to know how she forms her views. I want to know what she thinks the role of the courts is -- and why. I want to know her intellectual habits. What does she read? Has she spent time grappling with ideas? When confronted with unfamiliar territory, how does she prepare herself to learn what she needs to know in her professional life? Is she a curious person by nature? What does she expect of her subordinates when they are briefing her on an important matter? Is she good at playing devil's advocate? Is she a student of history? In the long run, answers to questions like these will be a more reliable barometer of her performance on the court than her current opinion on any given issue.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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