Man Without Qualities


Thursday, October 13, 2005


Another Looming Miers Disaster II

It is nothing short of astonishing that anyone could view this post as a "defense" of the Harriet Miers nomination, or as arguing that she should be confirmed, still less that the Man Without Qualities is a "supporter" of that nomination.

Yet, there it is and is and is.

As this blog has noted in connection with the Miers nomination several times: While I have not made up my mind on Harriet Miers, I do find many of the arguments advanced by the critics of the nomination to be curious and, in the case of the arguments discussed in my prior post linked above, nasty, personal and highly counterproductive. That post points out possible consequences of such nasty and personal attacks on this woman or anyone: Personal alienation from her critics fostering alienation from the principles held by those critics.

Most people would be pretty hard put to spend a pleasant dinner with someone who called her nomination "scandalous" and "a joke" and worse. As for such personal alienation fostering message drift, I don't know if Harriet Miers is prone to that or not. But I do think that (1) it is likely she will be confirmed, regardless of what her critics say, (2) personal and nasty attacks are not helpful, and do not clarify the problem of getting her nomination in focus, and (3) whatever her propensity to message drift may be, personal and nasty attacks from the right will maximize it - which is perverse.

Would Charles Krauthammer test a new bullet-proof vest by having his wife shoot him in the chest with a 45? If he were true to the tenor of his column, the answer would have to be"yes."

Nor have I suggested that Clarence Thomas might have been prone to message drift absent the personal and nasty attacks on him from the left - but those attacks spared us whatever risk there may have been. What, exactly, do Ms. Miers critics point to prior to Justice Thomas' appointment that proved to their satisfaction that he was immune to what David Frum refers to as "transformation" by anger, abuse, sweet inducements and blandishments? Absolutely nothing sensible. Mr. Frum, for example, argues that "it is simply reckless for any conservative president to take a hazard on anything other than a known quantity of the highest intellectual and personal excellence." Nothing in the record proved Clarence Thomas to fit that description prior to his nomination to the degree Ms. Miers' critics are now demanding. By the standards now advanced by many of Harriet Miers' critics, the nomination of Clarence Thomas should have been summarily rejected. And if conservatives had savagely criticized his nomination, called it a "scandal" and a "joke," pointedly ignored his considerable talents and personally attacked him, I would not want to wager how he (or anyone experiencing such things) might have reacted. But he is now on track to becoming one of the greats.

It is worth noting that Ms. Miers' critics do not argue that she is unsound, only that there is an unacceptable risk that she is unsound. The savage, demeaning and personal attacks on Ms. Miers greatly increase whatever risks may exist - and would increase those risks for any candidate whatsoever. And anyone arguing to the contrary just doesn't pay enough attention to human nature.

I very much worry about how firm "convictions" are if they are swayed by personal grievances (or charm). And I am concerned (although not convinced) that Ms. Miers may be of that sort. I have repeatedly noted that I have not made up my mind whether she is a good choice, or even an acceptable choice. But I certainly do not agree with those critics who seem to have reached the conclusion that if she isn't ideal, then it's OK to throw the kitchen sink at her. It's nothing short of hilarious (in a dark way, but still hilarious) that the agitation among her critics has reached the point where criticism of even the most counterproductive, distracting, overheated and plainly fallacious arguments against her is seen as a "defense" and "support" of her nomination.

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