WASHINGTON — This takes the cake. In fact, this takes the whole bakery. Usually intellectuals organize in committees or letter-writing campaigns to liberate an incarcerated dissident or urge legislation for a noble cause. During the Cold War, I recall intellectuals organizing to “Ban the Bomb” or, in one memorable instance, install intermediate-range missiles in Europe. I believe I even served on that committee. Certainly putting missiles in Europe is always a good idea.
Yet today we have had intellectuals organizing over poor Harriet Miers. In a way, I suppose, you could say they were agitating to free her. They wanted her nomination to the Supreme Court withdrawn. That would be a kind of liberation for her. She was sitting in her White House Office cringing every time the telephone rang. No news for her was good news, but there was an abundance of news, which was mostly bad. The latest was that a group of conservative intellectuals was organizing against her. Led by a former Bush Administration speechwriter, David Frum, and a former Reagan Administration official, Linda Chavez, these intellectuals were drawn from what the liberal media call the “hard right.”
In the pre-tech days Linda might have been leading a group of her fellows on a march down Pennsylvania Avenue. She might have been strumming a guitar and singing. “Where Have All the Strict Constructionists Gone?” David might have been chaining himself to the White House fence or howling to a glassy-eyed throng. Oh, perhaps things would not go that far. After all, these are conservatives. When conservatives demonstrate things are more sedate. In fact, conservatives rarely demonstrate. Rather, they pay taxes and vote. Yet these are conservative intellectuals, and this is the era of High Tech. So these two and their colleagues established a website, BetterJustice.com; and they called for Miers to do the honorable thing and withdraw. Today she did.
All of this is unprecedented, at least for conservatives. I cannot recall such opposition to a conservative presidential initiative ever. Others were weighing in. There is a second website lambasting Miers, WithdrawMiers.org. It had the support of Phyllis Schlafly’s venerable Eagle Forum, the Center for a Just Society, and something called Conservative HQ. James C. Dobson’s Focus on the Family remained steadfast for Miers, but among conservatives support was not gathering.
Where has it all ended? Just where I said it would end in my Thursday column in the New York Sun and on Spectator.org.
The President said on Tuesday that he would not hand over documents relating to Miers’ work for him to the Senate Judiciary Committee. That, he said, violates his lawyer-client relationship. His point was well made. Moreover, Democrats were going to insist that they see these documents. Stalemate was going to be reached. Miers did the prudent thing to bow out.
WHERE DO WE GO from here? The President needs a nominee with stature, proven knowledge of the law, integrity, and special authority in talking about the Constitution and the Supreme Court. Immediately after Miers’s withdrawal Chris Matthews on MSNBC provided a solution. The President should nominate former Solicitor General Ted Olson. If sensible liberals such as Matthews see Olson’s attributes, surely sensible Democrats will agree. Moreover even the “hard right” led by Frum and Chavez will have to agree.
Olson is a solid conservative, though he is not “hard right.” His many appearances before the Court as Solicitor General and as a practicing lawyer are legendary. He has already passed muster with the Senate during the hearings on his nomination as Solicitor General. Finally there is a qualification that only Olson has. In a time of war on terror no one has thought more carefully about the role of law and the condition of the Constitution in time of this sort of insidious war than Ted Olson. As many know, Olson lost his beloved wife, Barbara, in 9/11. He then proceeded to serve as one of the finest Solicitors General in American history, balancing individual rights with the requirements of national security. What Democrat on the Judiciary Committee would take cheap shots at a nominee such as this?
Olson has devoted his life to the law. He is the “heavyweight” Matthews perceives, and only an obsessive partisan would oppose him.