Miers Nomination Reflects Bush's Need to Personally Trust Candidates, Howard Says

October 13, 2005
A. E. Dick Howard, White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs, is a frequent commentator on the Supreme Court.

Despite exposing himself to charges of cronyism, President George W. Bush's need to trust prospective appointees on a personal level probably explains his selection of White House counsel Harriet Miers to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court, law professor A. E. Dick Howard said in remarks to the Law School's chapter of the American Constitution Society Oct. 10.

"How else to explain Miers?" Howard asked, noting that she has no experience on the bench or in national politics. "Bush seems to trust his own judgments about people. He probably clicked with John Roberts."

Howard surmised that administration officials "were thinking about this being the O'Connor seat — the swing seat — and so were expecting a hard fight from Democrats." They figured Miers wouldn't present much of a target and might disarm Democratic critics, and assumed that disgruntled conservatives would come along, he said.

"I think conservatives are genuinely upset. They don't know if they can trust the president." Given that she lacks a record of judicial rulings, "Bush is assuming she will vote right most of the time," said Howard, who teaches courses on the history and dynamics of the Supreme Court and is an avid court watcher.

Senate hearings on her appointment will "not be a pleasant process," he predicted. "She does know what she's supposed to say." But with Republicans being critical of the choice "there are unhappy people on both sides."

Howard said Miers will "probably" be confirmed and is only likely to withdraw if she comes to believe her nomination is seriously hurting Bush. "If she gets to the actual hearing, the White House will have a lot at stake and there will be a lot of arm-twisting."

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