Arlen Specter on Miers Withdrawal

In a Senate floor speech about the Harriet Miers nomination today, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) said:

I respect Ms. Harriet Miers’ decision to withdraw from consideration for the Supreme Court.

At the same time, I do regret that our constitutional process was not completed. Instead of a hearing before the Judiciary Committee and a debate on the Senate floor, Ms. Miers’ qualifications were subjected to a one-sided debate in news releases, press conferences, radio and TV talk shows, and the editorial pages. I acknowledge the rights of everyone to express themselves as they see fit. But that should not have precluded Ms. Miers from getting basic due process.

There was a decisive imbalance in the public forum with a case for Ms. Miers not heard because of the heavy decibel level against her.

I have repeatedly noted her excellent work in handling complex civil cases. Had the constitutional process been followed with a hearing, she would have had an opportunity to establish that her intellect and capabilities demonstrated in her thirty-five year professional career could be carried over in the field of constitutional law and the work of the Court.

Whether she would have been confirmed remains an open question. But at least she would have had the major voice in determining her own fate.

Ms. Miers did deliver late yesterday evening, on time, her responses to the Committee’s request for supplemental information on her questionnaire. Eight large boxes are in the Committee’s possession but now there is no reason to read or analyze those responses. The Judiciary Committee carefully did not intrude on the President’s executive privilege. The Committee studiously avoided asking what advice Ms. Miers gave to the President and that limitation would have been continued in any hearing with an adequate range of questions available to enable the Committee to decide on her qualifications for the Court.

We must guard against having the Miers proceedings become a precedent for the future.

Specter’s comments have the whiff of elitism. One gets the sense that, like Senator Lott, Senator Specter didn’t like mere citizens expressing a point of view.

Well, Senator, tough cookies. Silly cookies, too. Harriet Miers and the White House apparently made the decision that the Senate could not be relied upon to confirm her. Citizens groups could have raised the roof, but if Senators weren’t agreeing with the “outside groups” (as if citizens groups are “outside” America!) it would have meant nothing. The groups simply would have been ignored, as they are so often, on so many matters.

The Senator’s “one-sided debate” observation is silly as well. Ms. Miers had the White House behind her. The debate was not one-sided, it simply appeared that way because the White House was not answering the questions that were being raised. Furthermore, Senators (including Senator Specter), after private meetings with Ms. Miers, were raising even more questions. If the Senators had come out of meetings with Miers expressing firm confidence in the nominee, or if the White House and its varlets had given good solid responses to the questions of critics, the outcome would likely have been much different.

Finally, Ms. Miers’s nomination did receive procedural due process, until such time as she removed her name from consideration.

If billboards were permitted on Capitol Hill, I’d buy a big one reminding Senators that they put their pants on one leg at a time, just like everybody else. Wouldn’t help, though. They’d probably just consider it more unwelcome advice from an “outside group.”

P.S. On the due process question, my comments to Senator Specter apply to former Senator Dan Coats as well. Harriet Miers got turned down for a promotion. She isn’t getting thrown in jail.

Besides, the most powerful man in the world — the guy who got her into this — now owes her a big, big favor. There are worse things.

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