Cronyism and Miers

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Cronyism and Miers

At, Jonah Goldberg tries to offer some cover for Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers -- a nomination that even Goldberg confesses "was ill-conceived." He writes:
... it's something of a departure for liberals to become particularly vexed over cronyism, given that cronyism is central to traditional Democratic machine politics. Recall Bill Clinton appointed his childhood friend Thomas "Mack" McLarty as his chief of staff and Bruce Lindsey as his counsel, and he criminally attacked the White House travel office so he could get his cronies in there.
True, those individuals were all close friends of Clinton's -- thus, the "crony" tag would seem to apply.

Yet Goldberg's analogy only works if one believes there's absolutely no difference between appointing your close friend to book airline tickets for White House staff and appointing your close friend to decide:

* whether abortion is criminalized
* whether U.S. residents or citizens can be indefinitely "detained" by the government
* whether gays have a constitutional right to marry
* whether criminal defendants retain their Miranda rights
* ..... and so on

Most intelligent people would see a huge difference between these two instances of cronyism.

A White House chief of staff who happens to be a personal friend of the president effectively answers to him and is accountable to him.

A SCOTUS justice is not assigned by the president, nor does she/he answer to the president. The independence of the judiciary is a critical principal in our democratic system. Having a close friendship with the president could reasonably cast doubt on a nominee's ability to exercise the independence required of a justice.

But, later in this column, Goldberg himself seems well aware of the pitfalls of nominating a close friend for SCOTUS:
Friendship corrupts, or at least distorts, our judgment. We tend to think our friends are more qualified than they really are for all sorts of reasons.
Quite true.

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