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Thursday, October 27, 2005


Harriet Meirs: Another scalp for the blogosphere

Yeah, I know, that’s probably an impolite way of putting it. But it’s nevertheless true. The blog echo chamber has resonated once again, and this time shattered a Supreme Court nomination.

It used to be that a powerful, well-connected person could say an idiotic thing or make a stupid mistake and still get away with it: Either no one would hear about it, or it would be covered up, or it would be spun away. Those days are gone. The old Main Stream Media has lost its grip, and the new media of the Internet is taking over.

Blogs pulled down Trent Lott from his perch as Republican Senate Majority Leader when he praised the 1948 Presidential candidacy of segregationist Strom Thurmond. Blogs vastly amplified (and encouraged funding for) the story of the Swift Boat Veterans, which fatally wounded John Kerry’s Presidential bid. Blogs torpedoed CBS News icon Dan Rather by revealing the 60 Minutes documents about Bush’s National Guard service to be crude forgeries.

Now President Bush has direct experienced the power of the blogs. What in the past would have been a few miffed voices crying in the wilderness instead turned into a huge interlinked outpouring of outrage. Blogs could investigate, analyze, comment on, and communicate every scrap of negative information about Meirs far faster than the White House could try to spin it in a positive light. Momentum against the Meirs nomination just kept building, and her chances of confirmation grew more and more hopeless.

I considered the Meirs nomination a terrible mistake right from the start. For example, here’s a comment I made on Instapundit:

One of the brighter spots of Bush's Presidency has been the high quality of individuals he has nominated to the federal courts. It comported with his promises while running for office, and was undoubtedly a decisive consideration for a significant number of voters.

Bush's nomination of John Roberts, a man of obvious intellect and experience and competence, further solidified my impression that Bush had established a very high standard for filling judicial vacancies. He sought the best nominees possible, confident that their qualities would make it difficult for the Senate to refuse to confirm them. And if the Senate nevertheless refused, the American people would hold Senators responsible, as they did in 2002 and 2004.

We neither need nor want the Supreme Court to be a super-legislative body consisting of nine life-time members accountable to no one. I just want the Supreme Court to fairly and objectively interpret the law and abide by the clear words of the Constitution. If a Justice truly acts as an "umpire", and truly applies the Constitution as it is written and was intended without inventing meanings which aren't in it, then I am happy. Because I'm confident that an honest and intellectually-competent Justice will in most cases arrive at the correct conclusion.

That's what makes the Harriet Meirs appointment so disappointing. In one stroke Bush has obliterated his prior record of seeking excellence. He has applied a "result-oriented" standard rather than a quality standard. He has validated the viewpoint that the Supreme Court is indeed a super-legislature, and that the only thing that matters is whether a Justice will "vote right".

This is why the Senate should reject the Meirs nomination. The damage to Bush has already been done; no one will ever again believe that his only concern is with quality and that his only desire is to choose the best person possible. But by rejecting Meirs' nomination, we can at least retain the ideal of a Supreme Court as an objective arbiter rather than a politicized legislature. Bush will be under enormous pressure to replace a rejected Meirs with a top-notch individual whose qualifications are beyond reproach.

If ever there was an occasion for the Senate to fulfill its Constitutional function of filtering out bad Presidential appointments, this is it.

Posted by: Daniel Wiener at October 10, 2005 10:20 PM

Without blogs, I fear that Harriet Meirs might have ultimately been confirmed. With blogs, she didn’t stand a chance.

And as with any political clash, there were winners and losers among bloggers and pundits (with the latter being elevated in importance by the blog links they received). Charles Krauthammer gets major credit for articulating the face-saving excuse for withdrawing the nomination which the White House ended up using. The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund, with his inside sources and series of well-researched reports, owned much of this story. David Frum rallied opposition with a petition and a website, based on his personal knowledge of Harriet Meirs.

And the big loser was Hugh Hewitt, who went to the mat for Bush’s nominee primarily on the basis of Republican solidarity. Right up until the bitter end Hewitt professed to be absolutely certain that the nomination would not be withdrawn because Bush would not cave in to the pressure. And hence Republicans and conservatives should accept the fait accompli and rally behind the President rather than risk splintering the party and losing elections in 2006 and 2008. And this was coming from the author of Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That’s Changing Your World in which he explained the rapidly growing power of blogs!

Now we wait and hope that Meirs’ replacement will be a person of quality and competence and sound judicial philosophy that we need on the Supreme Court. If not, the blogosphere will be here with enhanced reputation and power to fill the “watchdog” role which the Old Media used to rhetorically aspire to.

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