Empowering the Executive Branch: An Issue That Must Not Be Overlooked regarding Supreme Court Nominee Harriet E. Miers Is Her Staunch Support for the Bush Agenda of Executive Branch Empowerment

Article excerpt

The talking heads on television keep yammering on and on about the same questions regarding President Bush's nomination of Harriet E. Miers for the U.S. Supreme Court: Is Miers a conservative or liberal? A constitutionalist or activist? Will she vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?

Given Miers' lack of judicial history, questions about her nomination turn to political matters. Miers contributed to Al Gore's presidential campaign in 1988 at the then-legal maximum of $1,000 and gave the same amount to the election campaign of Texas Democrat Lloyd Bentsen. She said she supported "equal rights" for homosexuals, but opposed repeal of the Texas state sodomy law. She is known as a Republican "moderate," but goes to a fundamentalist church. She opposed the American Bar Association's policy endorsing legalized abortion, but hasn't stated whether or not she believes Roe v. Wade is "settled law."

James Dobson of Focus on the Family, after a telephone conversation with White House political operative Karl Rove, endorsed the Miers nomination, adding, "You will have to trust me on this one." But Cathie Adams of the Texas Eagle Forum is more skeptical. "Dobson made the wrong decision on stem-cell research. That shows that he is not any more knowing than the rest of us," she told THE NEW AMERICAN. "I think [constitutionalists are] being asked to sign a blank check .... 'Just trust me' is not what a true friend would say."

Who--and what--is a constitutionalist to believe?

All of those are important questions and lines of inquiry for the U.S. Senate as it begins hearings on the Miers nomination. Because of Miers' lack of a judicial record, some of the questions will not be definitively answerable unless and until she actually ascends to the court and begins writing decisions.

But have the pundits missed a key point about the Republican nominee to the Supreme Court? Have they ignored the drift away from strict constructionism when it relates to the so-called "war on terrorism"? A few leftist pundits have taken notice of this aspect of Miers' nomination.

The October 5 Boston Globe reported: "As President Bush's counsel, Harriet E. Miers continued the expansive interpretation of presidential powers favored by her predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, who backed Bush's authority to hold terrorist suspects without trial, as well as the White House's right to withhold more administration documents from public disclosure than in the past. Miers has also been outspoken in her support of reauthorizing the Patriot Act, which gave the executive branch new powers of surveillance over US citizens."

Bill Goodman of the leftist Center for Constitutional Rights fretted to the Boston Globe: "The fact that the president is now seeding the Supreme Court with people who have been handmaidens in his efforts to increase the power of the executive without any check or oversight whatsoever is very disturbing." Goodman's organization sued the federal government to bring due process to prisoners who had been tortured at Guantanamo Bay. He may have a point, especially with Harriet Miers. The Globe reported that Miers was "part of the administration's legal team when it developed both the Patriot Act and the detention policy for suspected terrorists." Though Miers' precise role in forming those policies is not known to the public, she has been a public supporter of reauthorizing the Patriot Act. …