Here’s a spectacularly relevant quote from the Federalist Papers, where Hamilton argues for the Senate’s important role in vetting presidential appointments to bodies such as the Supreme Court. Someone should cite it at the Miers’ hearings:

To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. In addition to this, it would be an efficacious source of stability in the administration.

It will readily be comprehended, that a man who had himself the sole disposition of offices, would be governed much more by his private inclinations and interests, than when he was bound to submit the propriety of his choice to the discussion and determination of a different and independent body, and that body an entire branch of the legislature. The possibility of rejection would be a strong motive to care in proposing. The danger to his own reputation, and, in the case of an elective magistrate, to his political existence, from betraying a spirit of favoritism, or an unbecoming pursuit of popularity, to the observation of a body whose opinion would have great weight in forming that of the public, could not fail to operate as a barrier to the one and to the other. He would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.

My italics. There are two reasons to vote against Harriet Miers. Someone who needs a “crash course” on constitutional law should not be selected to be a Supreme Court Justice required to make decisions, if confirmed, in a short period of time. The second reason is simply that this president has abused his power by picking someone who “worships” him, whose fundamental qualification is that she is an indentured servant to him, and whose fundamental loyalty has long been to a political dynasty, rather than a serious, settled judicial philosophy. I’m still waiting for the hearings to give her a fair shot. But in some ways, this nomination tells us little about Miers, and a lot about Bush. From the Federalist papers, no. 76.


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