Harriet Miers Withdraws from Supreme Court Fight

Harriet Miers has withdrawn from consideration for the Supreme Court, as I suspected earlier this morning.

NEWS ALERT | 8:56 AM ET: Bush’s Embattled Nominee to Supreme Court Withdraws (NYT)

Details will follow. Let me be clear about something, though: While I am glad this is over, this controversy reflects badly on President Bush, not Harriet Miers. From all indications, Miers is a decent, honorable woman. The fact that she did not meet the incredibly high threshold of being qualified to sit on the Supreme Court is no shame. Unfortunately, the president put her in a position to become the target of public ridicule. She did nothing to deserve that.

Update (0918): AP has more:

Miers Withdraws Supreme Court Nomination

Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination to be a Supreme Court justice Thursday in the face of stiff opposition and mounting criticism about her qualifications.

President Bush said he reluctantly accepted her decision to withdraw, after weeks of insisting that he did not want her to step down. He blamed her withdrawal on calls in the Senate for the release of internal White House documents that the administration has insisted were protected by executive privilege. “It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House — disclosures that would undermine a president’s ability to receive candid counsel,” Bush said. “Harriet Miers’ decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the constitutional separation of powers — and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her.”

Miers’ surprise withdrawal stunned Washington on a day when the capital was awaiting news on another front — the possible indictment of senior White House aides in the CIA leak case.

Miers notified Bush of her decision at 8:30 p.m., according to a senior White House official who said the president will move quickly to find a new nominee. In her letter dated Thursday, Miers said she was concerned that the confirmation process “would create a burden for the White House and our staff that is not in the best interest of the country.” She noted that members of the Senate had indicated their intention to seek documents about her service in the White House in order to judge whether to support her nomination to the Supreme Court. “I have been informed repeatedly that in lieu of records, I would be expected to testify about my service in the White House to demonstrate my experience and judicial philosophy,” she wrote. “While I believe that my lengthy career provides sufficient evidence for consideration of my nomination, I am convinced the efforts to obtain Executive Branch materials and information will continue.”

Miers’ nomination has been under withering criticism ever since Bush announced her selection on Oct. 3. There were widespread complaints about her lack of legal credentials, doubts about her ability and assertions of cronyism because of her longtime association with Bush.

Most recently she has been Bush’s White House counsel. Bush said that with her withdrawal, she would remain as counsel. He did not indicate when he would name a successor.

It looks like the Krauthammer-Morrissey option was indeed invoked. Unfortunately, sh is wrong: her career has indeed been lengthy; it has, however, provided precious little insight into what sort of guardian of the Constitution she would make.

National Review has a PDF of her resignation letter.

Other bloggers:

    Pam Spaulding: “Next up: the Chimp is going to probably push one of the Right’s shining stars of AmTalibannery.”

    Eric @Myopic Zeal is furiously updating

    Michelle Malkin: “What a relief.”

    Ed Morrissey: “Now can we nominate a candidate whose qualities and track record presumes we control the Senate?”

    Mike Krempasky: “Ok everyone – back to the barracks, let’s get ready to get behind a nominee we can support.”

    Nate @ another attempt: “Yes! I caught it before Drudge. Or anyone…” [Uh uh. -ed.]

    Jon Henke: “I’ll be anxious to hear Hewitt, et al, explain why Luttig/McConnell/Owens/etc will be a less qualified candidate that Harriet “Cool! Proportional representation!” Miers.”

    Roger L. Simon: “Is anyone surprised?”

    Steven Taylor is doing multiple posts. Scroll down.

    Mary Katharine Ham quotes Trent Lott: “In a month, who will remember the name of Harriet Miers?”

    Jonah Goldberg finds the timing “Brilliantly Rovian!”

    Glenn Reynolds has yet to note the event. I predict a hearty, “Indeed” will be forthcoming.

    John Hawkins
    : “I actually whooped so hard when I heard she withdrew that I scared the dog.”

    Terry Oglesby: “Look for the next nominee to be more Bork than you ever thought possible. ”

    B. Preston: “Now let’s get a real conservative nominated and get ready to rumble.”

    Will Baude notes that he originally predicted easy confirmation.

    Radley Balko: Three Words: Janice, Rogers, and Brown.

    Confirm Them has a series of interesting updates.

    Armando @ DailyKos: “The Wingnuts would not even wait for the confirmation process to unfold.”

    John Cole: “Personally, I am mad at the White House for this nomination. It was a stupid pick, it was arrogant, and it was unfair to Harriet Miers.”

    Jo Fish: “See, that’s what happens when Prezint Incredibly Incapable tries to go without Unka Karl and Unka Dick, he just ties the anchor to his own leg and heaves.”

    Julian Sanchez:

    The narrative emerging seems to be that this was, above all, about Miers’ failure to meet the right’s litmus tests—in particular, uncertainty about whether she’d overturn Roe. But that just doesn’t make sense in a lot of ways. For one, the widely loved (on the right) Roberts doesn’t seem to have been any more of a sure thing on that front—certainly not after he described Roe as a “settled precedent” that is “entitled to respect.” Is it that hard to buy that this really was, at least in significant part, about her thin resumé? Heaven forfend we should concede that not everything is explicable through the lens of horse-race outcome-oriented politics, that some people actually have a principled commitment to a competent Court.

    tbogg: “[This] will now allow George W. Bush to select someone who is qualified (and will overturn Roe) in place of Miers who was unqualified (and would overturn Roe.).”

    Cernig: “The question is really can Humpty Bush put his party together again after so many of his former cheerleaders washed their hands of him and his administration?”

    Norbizness imagines what the conversation last night might have been like.

    Xrlq interviews himself answers Baseball Crank‘s questions for Hugh Hewitt about the Miers nomination.

    Andrew Sullivan

    This is a big coup for the Washington conservative intellectual establishment and the counter-intelligentsia that has been deliberately built to tackle the left’s academic monopoly these last couple of decades. They wanted one of their own on the Court, and they’ll get one.

    And, surely, tons more. Check memeorandum and the trackbacks below this post for starters. (See also Bill Nieunhuis‘ roundup.)

(1145): NPR has a roundup of reactions from politicos. Perhaps most noteworthy:

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV): “The radical right wing of the Republican Party killed the Harriet Miers nomination. Apparently, Ms. Miers did not satisfy those who want to pack the Supreme Court with rigid ideologues… In choosing a replacement for Ms. Miers, President Bush should not reward the bad behavior of his right wing base. He should reject the demands of a few extremists and choose a justice who will protect the constitutional rights of all Americans.”

The irony is that, as Julian Sanchez noted above, most of the anti-Miers reaction was on the basis of her resumé, not her positions on the issues. Indeed, she is almost certainly more likely to vote in ways satisfactory to the Religious Right than John Roberts, who garnered only token opposition.

(10/28, 0722): Rather late but worth adding to the record here:

A Miers Tick-Tock (Hotline)

“The tipping point came within the past several days. GOP Senators privately communicated to WH CoS Andy Card that unless they had access to hard evidence that Miers was conversant in constitutional issues, there was no way she would be confirmed. Her performance in private meetings was weak, at best, these senators told Card. Throughout the day yesterday, says a senior Senate aide, there were “conversations throughout the day at the staff level.” Late yesterday, Senate Maj. Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) called Card and told him in no uncertain terms that Miers would probably not be confirmed. An aide: “He provided frank assessment of situation in the Senate. [The] lay of land on committee.” After that call, according to White House sources, Bush and Card met privately with Miers, and they decided jointly that preserving WH privilege on documents was too important a principle to risk. Miers officially informed Bush at 8:30 pm ET. As late as 8 p.m., one White House aide said the WH counsel’s office was rushing to finish a revision to the Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire. (It arrived after 11:00 pm ET). Word began to spread through conservative Washington last night. The White House office of political affairs notified allies at about 8:30 a.m ET this morning but swore them to secrecy until the White House released the President’s statement.

Related at OTB:

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. whatever says:

    > Unfortunately, the president put her in a
    > position to become the target of public
    > ridicule. She did nothing to deserve that.

    You ridicule her then blame the president for it?

  2. Boyd says:

    She did nothing to deserve that.

    While I generally agree with your point that she’s a decent, honorable woman, I have to quibble a bit on your above statement, James. Ms. Miers did lead the search effort for the SCOTUS nomination. If she couldn’t come up with someone better suited to be the nominee to replace O’Connor, then she did contribute to this situation, at least in some small part.

  3. James Joyner says:

    whatever: The Dallas Cowboys finally released a placekicker this week who had long since demonstrated he had no business in the NFL. I don’t, however, blame Jose Cortez for taking the job and doing his level best to kick field goals; I blame Bill Parcells for giving him the job in the first place.

    I didn’t ridicule Harriet Miers, merely stated a case for why I believe she wasn’t qualified for the office to which she was appointed.

    boyd: Well, sure. But I don’t think she suggested herself for the job. Bush, clearly feeling the pressure to appoint a woman, almost certainly turned to her because he liked and trusted her.

  4. ken says:

    Well one thing for sure: this sure makes Bush look weak.

    It is bound to further erode what little confidence the American people have left in his judgement.

  5. Hal says:

    Yep, this just showed that the pres does not, in fact, have the god given right of an up or down vote – that whole attack vector on a fillibuster is now officially inoperative. And the pres now looks beholden to the religious right in addition to losing serios face. Glad it happened though. It’s always a great day when so many great things come together in one event. I can hardly wait to see what gifts Fitz will leave tomorrow.

  6. Anderson says:

    Unfortunately, the president put her in a position to become the target of public ridicule. She did nothing to deserve that.

    Agreed. And I never really bought the idea that she put herself forward for the nomination. (If she did, she was definitely not someone I’d want on the Court.)

    This was an illustration of Bush’s contempt for the Court. “Hey, we need a lady justice? Why not Harriet? She’s great, she’ll vote the right way, let’s nominate her!” (Possibly on Andy Card’s suggestion, if some reports are correct.)

    And of course the lickspittles around Bush don’t dare point out that this isn’t really such a good idea.

  7. bithead says:

    “Now can we nominate a candidate whose qualities and track record presumes we control the Senate?”

    No, Ed.
    We can’t.
    Because we don’t.
    Ever heard of RINOS?

  8. James Joyner says:

    bithead: Ever heard of DINOs? I’m not sure what the numbers are these days with guys like Zell Miller gone. But there are Senators of both parties who are a disappointment to their party’s base but not to their constituencies.

  9. Joann says:

    She had the right and left convinced she wasn’t qualified. They were afraid she had no experience in Constitutional law. They didn’t want to take a chance on whether or not she could learn it after she said she thought Dubya was the most intelligent man she had ever met. Was she cloistered?

    Bush says he relies on his gut. Well no wonder he makes such poor decisions. Everyone knows what goes thru the gut, right?

  10. Ralph Thayer says:

    Unfortunately, the president put her in a position to become the target of public ridicule. She did nothing to deserve that.

    I also agree. I can’t think it’s an awful thing to be able to add to your resume, however. There are worse “consolation prizes.” I hope Ms. Miers carries on with a good career.

    As for the “why” of all this, does the term “trial balloon” come to anyone’s mind?

  11. Xrlq says:

    Xlrq [sic] interviews himself about the Miers nomination.

    Er, not exactly. Baseball Crank asked the questions; I answered ’em.

  12. James Joyner says:

    Oops–I didn’t notice the hyperlink. Fixed!

  13. Bithead says:

    Ever heard of DINOs? I’m not sure what the numbers are these days with guys like Zell Miller gone.

    The Clinton years, and Howard Dean running things, with no Democrat denouncing him, should provide your answer: