As I studied the short lists of potential candidates for appointment to the USSC over the past month or so my main consideration was political impact. I presumed that anyone shortlisted would have a legal background comensurate with the position. I didn't do any historical study of previous appointee's qualifications although I was aware that previous President's had gone outside the ranks of judges and law professors in making selections. When Harriet Miers was mentioned several months ago I immediately dismissed her because my political calculus was too narrow and too old fashioned. She received gender points but no points for ethnicity or (because of my ignorance) religious background.
I was rooting for Brown or Estrada or Garza (especially the latter) because, by my narrow calculus, an originalist such as Garza would both fulfill the President's promise and add an advantageous ethnic 'first' to the long list of people with very diverse backgrounds who have been appointed to positions of authority by this administration. The practice of making appointments to the USSC with an eye toward gender, religious background and ethnicity is not new (Taney, the first Catholic, was confirmed in 1836) but the use of "political calculus" for appointments seems to have increased since Marshall's appointment by Johnson.
All that to say that I was very surprised by Ms. Miers appointment. Stunned, actually, because the first thought in my mind was "he's crazy to pick an unknown insider - the base will revolt". Then I heard Karl Rove's whisper from the dark corner he so loves; "Fool - do your homework." So, unable to disobey the master, I started looking around the internet for clues. The first that I found was an post (via Hugh Hewitt) that mentions a 25 year membership at Valley View Christian Church, which appears to be a strongly evangelical institution with a 'Baptist Lite' theological orientation (Baptist Lite means that it does not focus on a purity code, in contrast to some churches in the SBC). Then Dr. Dobson stepped in with his affirmation. Finally, this morning Hugh Hewitt again. This appointment is everything that the most important part of the President's base could hope for. It does make the neocon segment of his support a bit queasy but they have generally produced more smoke than light anyway. Any loss among the neocons will be offset by an increase in commitment by evangelicals who have been a bit uncertain about the President's follow through.
This wasn't a political masterstroke by any means. It is simply the strengthening of the foundation of the political base which will carry the party forward. It may provide for some interesting political entertainment if the loony left tries to impose a religious test during the confirmation hearings.
Will Ms. Mier's appointment have a strong impact on the court? I really doubt that it will. Her church practices servant evangelism which relies on the actions of its membership in life ministry to carry the message. I doubt that she will ever cast a vote on the court that is inconsonant with her beliefs but I also doubt that she will actively voice her beliefs within the context of a judicial opinion.
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