Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman sent out a mass “Dear Republican” email urging support for Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, saying: “Before Ms. Miers was even announced many Democrat groups said they would oppose her.”
That’s false. Some groups said they might oppose Bush’s next nominee, and we have little doubt that some will. But the RNC couldn’t come up with a single group that had said they would oppose Miers.
To the contrary, the nomination brought quick praise from Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader. There was opposition all right – but it was mostly from conservatives, not Democrats.
This one is another example of how facts matter little to partisan groups intent on scoring points against their opponents.
“Many?” Try “None.”
The Republican National Committee wasted no time. The President announced his choice of Miers at 8:01 am, and by 10:16 am we had received our first copy of RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman’s “Dear Republican” email. (We sign up to get mailings from both parties, just to see what they are saying to the faithful.)
Mehlman urged party loyalists to call senators, sign a petition, call talk-radio hosts and write letters to newspapers pushing for Miers to be confirmed.
To motivate the partisan base, Mehlman’s message predicted a hard fight and accused the other side of “promising to throw every punch, make every accusation” to stop Miers from being confirmed, adding: “They have no interest in giving Ms. Miers a fair hearing or vote.”
And Mehlman said flatly: “Before Ms. Miers was even announced many Democrat groups said they would oppose her.”
We asked the RNC for their list of groups Mehlman was talking about, but they could not point to a single organization that had said it would oppose Harriet Miers.
Just to be sure, we also asked the Alliance for Justice, a group that has opposed many Republican judicial nominations in the past, if they knew of any groups that had said they would oppose Miers. They didn’t. AJC press secretary Julie Bernstein told us there’s “no basis for what he (Mehlman) said.” So far, liberal groups aren’t describing Miers as the sort of nominee they had feared.
The RNC would have been accurate to say that many liberal groups had said they might oppose Bush’s next nominee, without naming Miers specifically. But the vows of opposition were conditioned on Bush naming somebody unacceptable to them.
For example, Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority, said Sept. 29, “we are ready to fight any stealth candidate or opponent to women’s rights for the Supreme Court.” Even after Miers was named, Smeal stopped short of outright opposition, saying the Senate shouldn’t confirm Miers if she fails to answer certain “tough questions” regarding abortion and other topics.
Punches? Try, “I Like Harriet”
Indeed, about the same time that Mehlman’s email was arriving in Republican inboxes, the Senate’s Democratic leader Harry Reid was issuing a public statement practically endorsing Miers.
While Mehlman was saying Democrats were promising to throw punches, Reid was saying “I like Harriet Miers.”
Reid said “she has worked with me in a courteous and professional manner,” and he called her “a trailblazer for women” in her Texas law firm. “In my view, the Supreme Court would benefit from the addition of a justice who has real experience as a practicing lawyer.” That’s not a punch; that’s a political air-kiss. And it is particularly significant because Reid was among the 22 Democrats who opposed the confirmation of John Roberts to be Chief Justice. If his statement is any indication, there could well turn out to be less Democratic opposition to Miers than there was to Roberts.
“More Contentious?” Maybe.
Mehlman’s “Dear Republican” message may turn out to be right about one thing – though not quite in the way he meant it. He said, “This confirmation . . . promises to be much more contentious than the confirmation of Judge John Roberts.”
And sure enough, William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, said, “I’m disappointed, depressed and demoralized” at Bush’s choice. “Harriet Miers has an impressive record as a corporate attorney and Bush administration official. She has no constitutionalist credentials that I know of.”
And the conservative National Review’s David Frum called the Miers nomination an “unforced error” by Bush, saying, “We are being asked by this president to take this appointment purely on trust, without any independent reason to support it. And that is not a request conservatives can safely grant.”
Now, that’s throwing punches. Perhaps Mehlman should issue a correction to his email.
Eleanor Smeal, “Roberts Confirmed as Chief Justice 78 to 22,” Feminist Daily News Wire, 29 Sep 2005.
Eleanor Smeal, “Miers: A Stealth Woman Candidate; Are We Surprised?” The Smeal Report 2 Oct 2005.
Sen. Harry Reid, “Statement of Senator Harry Reid on the nomination of Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court,” 3 Oct 2005.
William Kristol, “Disappointed, Depressed and Demoralized: A reaction to the Harriet Miers nomination” Weekly Standard Web site 3 Oct 2005.
by William Kristol
David Frum, “David Frum’s Diary: Madam Justice” 3 Oct. 2005.