Miers: The Artful Dodger

Friday, October 14, 2005

Miers: The Artful Dodger

In New Yorker's current issue, Hendrik Hertzberg's column is as clever and insightful as always. He writes:
Figuring out who [Harriet Miers] is, and what she would be likely to bring to the Supreme Court, will be like deducing the life story of some mid-level functionary of an ancient Pharaoh’s court from a few shards of pottery found in the rubble of a looted tomb.

... The vanloads of (John) Roberts-related material that the National Archives delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee added up to more than eighty thousand pages. For Harriet Miers, vans will not be required. There’s nothing in the Archives .... If there is anything interesting in the written record of her White House service, “executive privilege” will keep it safely out of sight.
One of the few documents that has been cited for clues to Miers' views is an issues survey that she completed for a Dallas-based gay rights organization in 1989.

Although reporters have cited Miers' response on one of the survey's question as a sign that she is not a conservative ideologue, Hertzberg takes a broader look at the survey and finds that all it really proves is that Miers is adept at dodging questions:
... to the question “Do you believe that gay men and lesbians should have the same civil rights as non-gay men and women?” [Miers] had answered “Yes.” But then hardly anyone is for depriving gays of civil rights — just “special rights.”

And this: Do you, as an individual citizen, support repeal of Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code which criminalizes the private sexual behavior of consenting adult lesbians and gay men? No.

Section 21.06 happens to be the same law that the Supreme Court struck down two years ago in Lawrence v. Texas. Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the three who voted to uphold it, nevertheless wrote that it was “silly,” adding, “If I were a member of the Texas Legislature, I would vote to repeal it.”

... Elsewhere in the questionnaire, Miers showed a talent for evasion that will no doubt serve her well in her confirmation hearings. Would she support increased funding for aids services? “Yes, assuming need and resources.” Lots of wiggle room there.

Would she favor city ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on AIDS/H.I.V. status? “I prefer a legislative solution to the issues raised by these questions."

How about job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation? “I believe that employers should be able to pick the best qualified person for any position to be filled considering all relevant factors.” Why mention “relevant factors” in this context, if sexual orientation isn’t one?
Miers' responses to these survey questions help to explain why she has felt so comfortable in the Bush political milieu.

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