Miers From Many Angles

Monday, October 10, 2005

Miers From Many Angles

Senator Barbara Mukulski (D-MD) raises an interesting point and accuses anti-Miers right-wingers of hypocrisy and sexist double-standards.
I'm shocked at the sexism and double standard coming out of the far right. All of a sudden they're saying that a woman who was able to become head of the Texas Bar Association isn't qualified. They're saying a woman who was one of the first to head up a major law firm with over 400 lawyers doesn't have intellectual heft.

I find this a double standard. I find it incredibly sexist, because one can only look at Judge Thomas in terms of intellectual heft.

The other thing is, Ms. Miers and I are not too far apart generationally. I know how hard it was to be able to get started in a career, trying to make it in law.

We also know Sandra Day O'Connor, even though she was a top student at Stanford, became a legal secretary while Rehnquist was picked for a law firm. Harriet Miers is of our generation. It was very hard to break the glass ceiling.
Nicely put, senator. Although this does twist things around quite a bit-- Bush nominated Miers because she is a woman, to replace a woman, and Bush frequently touts her "first woman to" status which hints at the sexist, good ol' boy Texas culture she had to conquer to get ahead. In this context, Mukulski is making a valid point. In many ways Miers is a posterchild for a rare creature indeed-- the independent feminist.

But there are several competing images of Miers at work here-- the hardworking lawyer who committed her life to her career, who rose to the top in Texas against great odds. Another is the conservative, trustworthy churchlady who can be trusted to vote the right way on abortion, gay marriage, etc. based on her membership to a supposedly ultra-conservative church. (Although I'm not sure how "family values" conservatives can trust a woman who never married, never had children and committed her life to her career.) But there's also the Harriet Miers who was a Democrat in the 80s, eschewed membership of the Federalist Society because of its bias, and said in the late 80s in Texas that she supported affirmative action's goals, gay civil rights and divesting from South Africa. On one hand she is championed as a tough glass-ceiling breaking go-getter, on the other she is continually referred to as "a lady" who likes to work quietly behind the scenes.

I'm not saying she can't be both, but outside of her professed love of Bush she seems pretty tough to pigeonhole. This fact by itself does make the nomination of Harriet Miers pretty amazing in consideration of our modern political world that is usually divided by extremes, black and white, blue and red, for and against. While Miers is certainly more red than blue, at this point she seems more human than most people in high political office; Miers background is complicated and contradictory in a political culture that hates (and fears?) shades of grey.

Dahlia Lithwick aptly calls Miers a Human Rorschach Test. I wholeheartedly agree. Until we hear more about Miers from Miers herself-- and that might not even be enough-- she sure feels like an enigma to me.

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