George W. Bush, it is supposed, has a secret.
It is not classified national security information. But whatever its substance, the president evidently found it so persuasive he decided to risk the Supreme Court on it.
The secret is when and how -- if ever -- a middle-aged Harriet Miers made the long philosophical journey all the way from being an Al Gore contributor to being a constitutionalist conservative of such unshakable conviction that she merits lifelong appointment to a sharply divided Supreme Court by a president who promised he would name justices in the mold of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.
Many voters supported Bush on the strength of this promise. So, did he keep it or break it when he named his former personal attorney and current White House counsel to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor?
The public record does not come close to demonstrating that Miers is a Scalia-Thomas constitutionalist. Some of it, in fact, points to the opposite conclusion.
In an Oct. 4 press conference, Bush said he picked Miers because of her philosophical constancy. "I know her well enough to be able to say that she's not going to change -- that 20 years from now she'll be the same person, with the same philosophy that she is today," he said.
But if Miers is now a committed constitutionalist, she was not one 17 years ago.
In early 1988, she contributed $1,000 to the Democratic presidential primary campaign of then-Sen. Al Gore. Later that year, five days before voters would decide whether then-Vice President George H.W. Bush or then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis would be the next president, she contributed $1,000 to the Democratic National Committee.
The Supreme Court was a hot issue in that campaign, as the senior Bush branded Dukakis a "card-carrying member of the ACLU." Dukakis said abortion was "one of the reasons why we don't want George Bush and Dan Quayle appointing new justices to the Supreme Court."
The very next year, according the Dallas Morning News, she made a $150 contribution to the Texans for Life Coalition.
But Miers' 1988 investment in the DNC cannot be chalked up as a youthful indiscretion. She was an aspiring, 43-year-old Democratic politician who would soon be elected to the Dallas City Council. In her one term there, she definitely did not embrace fiscal conservatism, voting to endorse a 7 percent increase in property taxes.