Carol Platt Liebau: Revelation: Bush Isn't Stupid

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Revelation: Bush Isn't Stupid

Over at ConfirmThem is this interesting and unintentionally revealing post. It's a pretty telling commentary on the hysteria of the past few weeks that it's a revelation that the President isn't stupid and that he knows what he's doing.

Given the enormous fight within his base that the selection of Harriet Miers has engendered, does anyone think the President would push ahead if there were significant doubts in his mind about her judicial philosophy? He seems able enough to back down on a variety of other subjects -- from spending to social security reform -- when the political climate is inhospitable to them.

Yes, President Bush is sometimes a stubborn man, but he has every bit as much interest in the composition of the Court and his own legacy as any of us does. And if his friendship with Miers is as warm as it's been reported to be, it wouldn't be hard to take a little walk down the hall and ask her to withdraw, if he'd had qualms about her fitness for the Court or her inclinations once she's there.

As a number of Bush/Miers critics have noted, certainly Bush's expectations of jurisprudential excellence (in terms of opinion-writing, etc.) are less lofty (and perhaps his evaluations thereof less trustworthy) than those of some in the conservative intellectual priesthood. But if Miers doesn't have those skills, it isn't because she's fooled the President into thinking she does. It's because he doesn't deem them to be essential. In fact, my bet is that he thinks the Court needs someone who can and will write what the post links above characterizes as "reasonable, easy to understand opinions."

It seems clear that, for the President, the two indispensable criteria are (1) an originalist judicial philosophy; and (2) reliability. Frankly, it's not that hard to figure out the judicial philosophy and character of someone with whom you've worked closely for ten years. And if President Bush were either stupid or easily fooled, would he really be where he is now? Are some conservatives really beginning to buy into the whole "Bush is stupid & the handmaiden of Karl Rove" argument that's been peddled so long by liberals?


Blogger Patrick O'Hannigan said...

You don't fly a notoriously unforgiving fighter jet, get an MBA, or win two terms in the Oval Office by being stupid, so I've never bought the progressive canard suggesting that because President Bush is not glib, he must therefore be slow.

Were your bet as to what the president thinks the court needs correct, however, the nomination of Harriet Miers would still be problematic. David Brooks looked at Harriet Miers' sparse prose, not because he thought she had to be a scintillating writer, but because he wanted to find evidence of thought that was reasonable and easy to understand. He came away from that excursion horrified by her apparent willingness to place her byline on unremarkable sludge.

An ABA newsletter column is not a SCOTUS brief, yet competent writing will out in either venue, and incompetent or obfuscatory writing is worrisome wherever found. Supreme Court nominees don't all need to have Scalia's trenchant wit, but clear writing is a sign of clear thinking, and so far all anyone has seen from Ms. Miers is loyalty. That's a synonym of sorts for your second point -- reliability -- but it doesn't bode well for battle-tested originalist philosophy.

10:56 AM  
Blogger HouseOfSin said...

Carol --

The president may have the ability to write "easy to understand opinions" as a criterion for a justice, but the rest of us don't have to buy into that characteristic as a requisite for a justice.

Just to echo Mr. O'Hannigan, Miers hasn't really demonstrated this ability in anything public. Not unless platitudes count as "easy to understand opinion." I would add that even if her opinions were easy to understand, that wouldn't make them necessarily well thought out.

12:09 PM  
Blogger wile e coyote said...

It's often the smartest people who do the most stupid things. (Anybody remember Bill and Monica?)

9:17 AM  
Blogger Draino said...

Having sex is stupid? shucks...I thought it was fun...

12:48 PM  

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