Last year, on November 2, I was still undecided about whether to cast a vote for George Bush. I had decided not to vote for John Kerry, so my decision was between a vote for George Bush and a protest abstention. That afternoon, I visited the polling place, and I recount my experience here:
I skipped the portion of the ballot with the presidential candidates, and marked my choices for the other races. Then I stared at the line for Bush-Cheney. Five minutes I stood there and stared. I recounted a mental list of issues — including, importantly, Chief Justice Rehnquist’s bad health — and ultimately decided that my preference for Bush over Kerry was strong enough to overcome my inclination to register a protest. I voted for Bush.
The process that led me to cast that vote was a long one. At the end of last September, I publicly declared my intention to abstain here, and the reaction was immediate. Matt Evans wrote: “It’s our religous duty, it seems to me, to figure out who is better. Being weary shouldn’t be an excuse. Being a law professor, you must have ideas about what makes a good justice. The next 30 years of Constitutional law may depend on which candidate wins the election, and one of the candidates will pick better justices than will the other.”
With the nomination of John Roberts, I felt that my vote was vindicated. With the nomination of Harriet Miers, I feel profoundly disappointed.
My support for withdrawal is based on the assumption that no new evidence will be forthcoming. If Bush knows something the rest of us don’t, by all means proceed with the hearings. What the rest of us know is that she appears to be an able administrator, which might be an important skill if she were being nominated for Chief Justice, but she’s not. (Notice that the positive spin on the “Warren” comment is that she meant to refer to “Warren Burger” and that she admired him for his administrative prowess. That’s the positive spin!)
What we would like to be surprised to learn is that she has thought deeply about the Constitution and judging and that she has the capacity for intellectual leadership in connection with a right-of-center world view. If she has these things, plow forward. But if this is just about getting the right votes — and I suspect this is the case — end it now. For me, the controversy is not about whether she went to Harvard or Yale — I prefer Chicago grads, but that’s really beside the point — it is about whether she is able to articulate a clear vision of the Constitution that comports roughly with my own. That’s why I plugged my nose and voted for George Bush rather than sitting out the last election. He promised that, and by all appearances, he has failed to deliver.
Today, I read EJ Dionne’s WaPo column entitled “Faith-based Hypocrisy,” which takes Bush to task for using Miers’ evangelical faith as the primary selling point for her nomination. Unlike some, I am comfortable with the notion that religion matters here, but I resent being told that I have to trust President Bush on this rather than being given a candidate who has enough of a record to allow me to make my own judgment.