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In Dogged Pursuit

Searching for the real Harriet Miers. Also: On Saddam's trial. Serenity seekers. Lessons in Aramaic. Plus much more.

10.12.05

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WHERE'S HER PEDIGREE?
Re: Andrew Cline's The Conservative Problem With Harriet Miers:

Mr. Cline makes a very good point on a Supreme Court selection. I might liken the choice of a justice to judging AKC dog breeds. One can go down to the pound or one can go to a certified breeder and get a dog. Now either will end up as a likeable, dependable pet or a candidate. But when it comes to making it to the blue ribbon or the SCOTUS it is almost a certainty that one have papers.

And that is the problem, Miers, lacking any paper trail cannot either run afoul of the confirmation nor can she be certified as a legal conservative. Now it is not required to have a legal background to the SCOTUS but it helps. But one must have a critical eye and a burning memory to at least say, "Where does it say that in the Articles?" Living in Texas, I know first hand the "get along come along" political style down here. Such attitudes are critically the last thing you want in a Supreme Court justice.

President Bush, you brought home a mongrel. We the base paid for an AKC registered Rotweiler, so deliver the same.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

After reading Mr. Cline's analysis of the reasons for the conservative criticisms of the appointment of Harriet Miers, I have to respectfully disagree with him. He brings up many seemingly valid points of concern that conservatives may have with Ms. Miers, but I think that the reason for the strenuous opposition to this appointment is much simpler : disappointment.

For thirty years, conservatives have watched the court slip ever more into the morass of liberal activism. They have lost the battles over abortion, the institutional discrimination known as affirmative action, socialist practices of welfare, the rise of deviant behavior as protected speech and the removal of historical Christianity as protected speech and practice under the First Amendment. All these battles have been lost, not through the actions of the peoples' elected representatives, but through the actions of five or six "jurists."

The second term of GW Bush presented the staunch conservative enclave a remarkable opportunity. The opportunity to replace not one member of the Supreme Court of the United States, but two. And there was a conservative Republican President to do it. They expected a fight with liberals over the appointments, a bloody, bare-knuckled brawl. And they trained hard for it. They trained to win. The "nuclear option" was dusted off and prepared. The fight failed to materialize. John Roberts was confirmed with very little whining from the liberals and no bloodshed at all. But, there was another appointment in the works. This time it was hoped that it would be a recognized jurist with staunchly conservative views and, just possibly, an activist bent. There were a dozen names bandied about, but none materialized. Instead, they got Harriet Miers.

Harriet Miers, Presidential crony? Perhaps. But when has that made any difference in a SCOTUS nomination. Not a jurist? There have been other non-jurists appointed and confirmed. No paper trail to indicate the type of Justice she will be? The conservatives praised the same aspect of John Roberts. Her gender? Conservative Senators overwhelmingly voted to confirm Justice Ginsburg, knowing her philosophical leanings. What is different about this nominee?

Her nomination virtually guarantees there will be no confirmation battle with liberals. No gunfight at the OK Corral. No Armageddon. Liberal thought and philosophy will not be soundly trounced and its practitioners publicly shown up. There will be no fight.

Now Ms. Miers may turn out to be everything that her conservative critics say. She may be, at best, another Justice O'Connor and at worst a Justice Souter. Or she may be another Justice Scalia or Thomas. There is no way to develop any inkling until the hearings and maybe not even then. It is a wait and see situation.

There is very little objection to Ms. Miers on philosophical grounds. It is a fear that when the conservatives show up for the big game, it will have been cancelled.
-- Michael Tobias
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Would you care to name the 50 senators whom you believe would vote for the conservative jurists that you have named in your article? I concur in the advisability of your wish list, but I am unable to comfortably ascertain the 50 Senate affirmative votes that will be required to confirm him or her.

I think that Bush has outfoxed everyone by naming a conservative appointee who will not elicit the public outcry that one of your suggested nominees would unleash and who will serve us well.

In naming someone with no public record, he has given the Democrats a fig leaf to hide behind with their God-forsaken constituencies.

She is a devout Christian, she is unabashedly pro-life and she carries (or carried) a 45.

Enough said. Keep up the great work.
-- Christopher A. Hall
Knoxville, Tennessee

CONSTITUTIONAL SCORN
Re: Brandon Crocker's The Constitution Is Enlightenment Enough:

Great piece. That statement of Justice Ginsburg's, "I will take enlightenment when I can find it," was breathtakingly scornful and dismissive of the Constitution. It is also, as your article says, a superb summary of the liberal attitude to it.

As conservatives, we should engrave it in steel and use it at every turn -- as the article says, the first question to ask any nominee should be "what role does foreign law have in your deliberations?" If it is any at all, "next!"
-- Greg Richards

I have never before been moved to write twice in one day. But I am now giving Mr. Crocker a standing ovation in the former quiet of my office! Perhaps The Grand Klagon (or whatever he was) Senator Byrd will make this article required reading on his day of teaching the Constitution.
-- Jay W. Molyneaux
Juno Beach, Florida

While Justice Ginsburg's legal views are total anathema to everything that I believe, at the time of her nomination she had a demonstrable liberal record of legal scholarship, interpretation, and application. She was and is undoubtedly one who understands the opposing views on Constitutionality and legal reasoning.

Furthermore she can, has, and often does get into the debate pits and argue the fine points of Constitutional law from her liberal perspective. When she and Breyer debate a Justice Scalia, we see heavy weights of legal reasoning and jurisprudence contesting the most important issues of the day. Chief Justice Roberts gives one confidence that he, too, is cut from that same cloth, as is Justice Thomas.

On the other hand, Harriet Miers has spent a lifetime specifically avoiding any revelation of her constitutional legal opinions and underpinnings. She has spent a lifetime avoiding the contesting of conflicting views of First Principles. The scant record that has been found leads one to believe that she votes with whoever talks to her last. She has been on two sides of more than one issue and seems to strive exceedingly hard to hew strictly to a middle road. In short, she spends her time trying to please everyone. That, of course, satisfies nobody.

Where does one find a demonstration of her ability to persuade other strong personalities to her point of view? You say that, well, she has run a large law firm and been elected head of state and local bar associations. Surely that demonstrates the ability to bring others to her viewpoint. No, it does not. In fact the best stance in those instances is to have no view of one's own. The most successful person is often the one that simply cuts the middle between two arguments and then asks for unity in the name of comity. In other words, a swing vote on issue after issue. Can you say Justice O'Connor? Ms. Miers is a complete cipher.

Finally, can anyone show the evidence that proves that President Bush understands, or even cares, about the difference between a political conservative and a judicial conservative? I would argue that Bush shows evidence of being an obstinate, stubborn, arrogant, narrowly defined social conservative, and a moderate on everything else. By that I mean conservative on faith issues, family issues, abortion issues, and morality issues. He has grafted on to that issues of patriotism and foreign policy. He shows no inclination whatsoever for fiscal conservatism. His insistence on using "undocumented worker" instead of "illegal alien" shows his disdain for legal issues and border security issues.

Ladies and gentlemen, the only things keeping Bush from being labeled a typical New England moderate is his faith based conservatism and his Texas legal residence. Oh, and his tendency to get totally ticked off by offenses perpetrated on his friends. See his reaction to 9/11 and to criticism of Alberto Gonzales.

Miers must go. A SCOTUS nomination is too important to be wasted on an "I don't know," a "maybe," or a "trust me."
-- Ken Shreve
New Hampshire

CHE FOR DNC CHAIRMAN
Re: Christopher Orlet's Know Nothing, Do Nothing:

Mr. Orlet opines from an invalid premise: that the radical Democrat is in any way connected to reality. He or she is not. To sustain belief in the four pillars on which Democratic radical philosophy is based (anti-Americanism; anti-Christianity and anti-Semitism; anti-morality; and pro-collectivism in thought and deed) requires either an ignorance of or the ability to ignore the real world in which we live.

The heroes of the Democratic Party are in large measure mass murderers. Fidel Castro (30,000 to 100,000 murdered), Che Guevara (trial before firing squads are bourgeois "details"), and the ever popular Mao (who murdered tens of millions) all routinely grace the T shirts of the radicals who comprise the Democrat party.

So Mr. Orlet, I offer you the theorem that when any fact is discordant to any of the four pillars it will be dismissed by all good radicals as a lie, a right-wing plot to deprive all Americans of their most fundamental rights, or worst of all, an attempt to foist Judeo-Christian ethics on us as a viable system of values.
-- Jay W. Molyneaux
Wellington, Florida

My prediction is that it will take some diligent channel surfing to discover any coverage of Saddam Hussein's trial other than one-sentence chops on the order of, "In other overseas news, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead."

CSPAN ? Could you be there, somehow, please ?

FNC -- could you send Jed Babbin, Esq. to cover it ? Insh'allah.
-- Paul Kotik
Plantation, Florida

A CONSERVATIVE ENTERPRISE
Re: Peter Suderman's Spaceships and Small Governments:

At the risk of sounding like a sci-fi channel devotee (perish the thought), I echo Suderman's review of Serenity as libertarian totem. There's also a moderated conservative tinge to it as well, as many libertarians seem to think it's possible to exist without government whatsoever, and instead allow markets to completely determine things. Without any sort of governing authority, the Reavers behave as lawless cannibals who recognize no authority or boundaries -- similar to those libertarians who argue that there should be no lines of demarcation. Faith is placed in local governments, such as one occasion in the television show when the Serenity crew returns medicine to a local government who complains that the theft occurred under the noses of federal authorities who did nothing to help with their recovery.

But one minor quibble: Suderman dismisses the '60s Star Trek as an attempt to spread a multi-cultural nonsense. Jeff Racho at the Cornell Review, who knows far more than I do about the series, was able to convince me otherwise when noting that Captain Kirk often threw the Prime Directive (not to get involved in the affairs of other civilizations) to the wind. In one case, Kirk and Dr. McCoy freed enslaved peoples and rescued entire races from extinction despite the stoic protests of the super-liberal Prof. Spock, Ph.D. Harvard, who considered such an act illogical. Kirk, who didn't much care, referred to it as justice. In fact, Kirk, widely hailed as a hero, has the most internal investigations lodged against him -- which sounds eerily like the America's role in the United Nations.
-- J. Peter Freire
Washington, D.C.

BELTWAY PARLOR NONSENSE
Re: The Prowler's The Winning Card:

I wasn't going to comment on The Prowler's article on Andrew Card because I'm sick of self-serving Beltway "inside information" that frankly is nonsense. So, how does The Prowler explain Mrs. Bush's comments on Ms. Miers? It doesn't sound to me that Mrs. Bush was out of the loop on this choice. And speaking of being hoodwinked by "W.H. insiders," The Prowler and others never mentioned Card's name when the Roberts nomination was in play, but now suddenly, he's risen to a status beyond that of Rove, complete with a coup d'etat by northeast liberal Republicans. Rove wasn't listened to because he wasn't the last guy in the room? Are you people for real? Tell me, do you guys ever think about the info you get before you regurgitate it?
-- Anthony DiPentima

DESTABLIZING CONSTITUTION
Re: Jed Babbin's Next Sunday in Iraq:

While I don't basically disagree with Jed Babbin's analysis of the three likely outcomes of the vote on the Iraqi constitution, he is far too sanguine about a large Sunni turnout that fails to vote it down. As one of the Iraqi speakers at an American Enterprise Institute seminar commented recently, the constitution is a ''fundamentally destabilizing document'' that is going intensify sectarian division not reduce it. Without a strong ''someone'' to impose security and stability on the country, little is going to change. Clearly the Bush administration lacks the will to do this and has essentially given up, they just want an escape hatch that prevents their opponents from labeling the Iraq occupation as a total and counterproductive failure. I've read so many of these jam-tomorrow analyses from the very people who acted as cheerleaders for the Iraq adventure that it becomes tedious. When are you going to exercise some objectivity, recognize we have a major failure on our hands, and suggest serious remedies for protecting our national interests?
-- John Ellis

The final paragraph of your article in the American Spectator is as follows:

The global war against terrorists and the nations that support them will have to go on regardless of what happens in the Iraqi elections. If Iraq can stand as a democracy, the terrorist nations will be weakened, but not decisively. If we stand down as the Iraqis stand up, the terrorist nations will only grow stronger. And the war in Iraq will go down in history as did the first Roman war against Carthage. We will have to go back to the Middle East, again and again, until the enemy and its ideology are truly defeated.

I have a few questions. First of all, as I recall, the Romans finally defeated Carthage, not by "democratizing" them, or defeating, or even decimating them, but by completely destroying the city and killing all of its inhabitants. Is that your recollection as well?

Secondly, if you start comparing the "War Against Terror" to "Carthage Delende Est," people might take you seriously. There are approximately 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. A certain percentage, I don't know and you don't know what percentage, but a percentage, are going to be at least sympathetic to bin Laden's goals and world view, and more than a few will be active supporters.

Moreover, neither you nor I, nor anyone else for that matter, will ever be able to tell which is which with any great deal of reliability. Indonesia, for example, is relatively laid back in how it practices, and politicizes, Islam, but some of their citizens are bombing bars in Bali.

The only way I see to make absolutely, positively sure that the "enemy and its ideology are truly defeated," is to kill the better part of 1.2 billion people. If any Muslim that we aren't SURE is on our side is left alive, he may very well be on the side of the terrorists. Do you see any holes in this logic? I'm quite sure you don't LIKE it, but is there any part of my logic that you can actively DISAGREE with?

So, are you willing to slaughter 1.2 billion humans in order to WIN the "War on Terror"? If not, might it not be wise do discuss ways of coping with something less than absolute victory? A policy along the lines of "shoot the shooters, support the more democratic and peaceful elements of the Islamic societies, and hope for the best"?

Hey, if you're in favor of killing virtually every last Muslim on the planet, say it with pride! Otherwise, stop talking in "we will never be defeated" terms like you're Winston Churchill, and start picturing a world where there will be a limited number of Islamic crazies for decades to come.

A final thought. Just how worrisome are "the terrorists" or more generally, Islamic fundamentalism itself? Seriously, it's been compared to Communism and Fascism. Well, both Communism and Fascism had huge and resourceful nation states (the USSR and Germany) to provide muscle to their ideas. What do the terrorists have? Well, they used to run Afghanistan, not exactly a first world power, and now they don't. They can, maybe, realistically hope to gain control of Saudi Arabia and/or Pakistan. That would be about a best case for the "terrorists" in the medium run, wouldn't it?

Well, even if they do, those nation states have strengths, but also huge weaknesses. If the U.S. ever needed to conquer either of those countries, it could do so, and fairly easily through conventional means. Remember, that is a BEST case for the "terrorists." Right now, they control NO nation state at all. The most they can possibly do unless/until they acquire one, is kill people, mostly innocent civilians. Yes, they CAN kill people, and at worst, with a WMD they could kill a whole job lot of them. But what else? I mean, losing hundreds or thousands of innocent civilians is BAD, but...

If you had to choose undoing Iraq, with its 2000 dead soldiers, 15,000 wounded, $300 billion in taxpayer money, tens of thousands of civilian Iraqi deaths, and the nation in chaos we've created, or undoing 9/11, which would you choose?

I'd probably go with 9/11 too, but it's really NOT, in George Tenet's phrase "a slam dunk," is it?
-- Andrew Wallach

LESSONS IN ARAMAIC
Re: Mark Hughes's letter (under "Ignoring the Heretics") in Reader Mail's In Souter's Shadow:

Boys and girls, today we will be treated to a lesson in etymology conducted by the prescient and distinguished instructor, Mr. Mark Hughes, who, it appears, takes exception to Mr. James Philbin's lack of erudition with regard to his knowledge of Aramaic.

The fact that Mr. Philbin was discussing quite another matter -- the failure of the current Cardinal of the Washington Diocese -- seems not to have entered Signor Hughes's mind. In fact, his tirade can be easily labeled in Latin: ignoratio elenchi; the translation into Aramaic, unfortunately, escapes me.

Mr. Hughes, with indispensable assistance from Signor Lamsa, George W., endeavors to inform us how Jesus would have spoken the word, "God." And how about, "one God"? Well my Aramaic is a bit rusty, so I will have to pass on that one, too, but I do hope that such ignorance does not demonstrate my contempt for praying and lack of erudition.

Mr. Hughes, I am sure that you know that Aramaic had disappeared as a working language, and Greek was the first language of the Church. You must also know -- or should -- that when the Church moved west to its current digs, Church, as opposed to Roman, Latin became its lingua franca, and has so been for more than 1500 years. There are small fragments of Greek within the Latin Mass -- but Aramaic was too remote a linguistic medium to be considered practical to spread the Gospel, even if Christ spoke the language, so please forgive Mr. Philbin's failing.

Since you started this enterprise, I have to inform you that your philippic is, frankly, silly, and shows your "...lack of either erudition or linguistics..." Ubi deficient equi trottant aselli. Class over.

Pax tecum -- how would I say that in Aramaic?
-- Vincent Chiarello
Reston, Virginia

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