Cover Story

Blessed are the meek

For they (or at least one of them) shall inherit a U.S. Supreme Court seat

Issue: "Miers doesn't fit the mold," Oct. 15, 2005

U.S. District Court Judge Ed Kinkeade joked last week that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers talks so slowly that the Senate should add an extra day to her hearings. "She gives my name four syllables-E-ye-e-d," said Mr. Kinkeade, who has known Ms. Miers for over 25 years. But there is nothing slow about the rush to judgment from both left and right following the president's surprise nomination of Ms. Miers, a relatively unknown judicial quantity.

Before and after President Bush on Oct. 3 nominated Ms. Miers to the high court, WORLD interviewed numerous Texans who have worked closely with her. Almost all see Ms. Miers as an excellent choice and emphasize what they say is her extraordinary integrity and her self-effacing nature.

They see her as an evangelical who is meek-in the biblical sense of humble strength. For 25 years she has been a member of Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, a conservative evangelical church and not one of the city's fashionable ones. Never married, she has devoted herself to work, her extended family, and her church, serving on the missions committee for 10 years, teaching children in Sunday school, making coffee, and bringing donuts.

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At the same time, she's practiced corporate law in a major Texas firm. Mr. Kinkeade calls her "a superstar here in Dallas before George Bush ever entered the picture." He believes that some critics are attacking her because "she's not from the East or West coasts-didn't go to an Ivy League law school. They don't like that."

That's part of the reason, but there's more to it. Neoconservative William Kristol wrote that he was "DISAPPOINTED, depressed and demoralized." Paleoconservative Pat Buchanan wrote that the nomination was "deeply disheartening." Conservatives of the many in-between stripes who wanted another Justice Antonin Scalia, ready to rumble with rhetorical brilliance against the legal theorists of the left, expressed dismay for two principled reasons.

One major concern is that Ms. Miers has not shown a clear judicial philosophy, and that under the media and social pressures of Washington life she will shift leftward. Political analyst Larry Sabato estimates that a quarter of the Supreme Court justices appointed in the last half-century have "evolved" from conservative to moderate or liberal. Explanations for why that happens include "the Greenhouse effect"-a yearning for positive coverage by scribes such as Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times-or the desire to be termed a judicial giant by liberal historians.

A second major concern is that she doesn't fit the profile of the brilliant legal theorist that many seek in a justice. Even one of her administration backers, to whom WORLD gave off-the-record status because any public criticism of Ms. Miers would derail his career, said that "her qualities are not necessarily those that make a great constitutional law professor or a great author." He then added, "They do give her gifts that are needed on the court."

What gifts are those?

Friends who know Ms. Miers testify to her smarts but emphasize an internal compass that includes a needle pointed toward Christ. Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht says she has a philosophy that grows out of evangelical exegesis and carries over into legal issues: "She's an originalist-that's the way she takes the Bible," and that's her approach to the Constitution as well: "Originalist-it means what it says."

Justice is blind and so is friendship at times, so it's worth pointing out that Mr. Hecht, 55, has also never married; he has known Ms. Miers for 30 years and says they are "very close friends. We dated some. The relationship has been close: Platonic. . . . We go to dinner, I go to Washington for special things" with Ms. Miers, such as White House parties at Christmas, Fourth of July, and the president's birthday.

But Mr. Hecht is also an honest man and a pro-life advocate who strongly fought for parental notification laws when his court colleagues were scuttling them. Moreover, he was instrumental in teaching her about Christ: She "had a Catholic upbringing, had not been close to the church, it was off again, on again, then she came to a point in her life when she wanted to change that. . . . She made an abrupt change in 1979 or '80. She was very hard-working and successful, she wanted new meaning, substance in her life."

Mr. Hecht says that at the time of abrupt change he and she had long discussions, until one evening she called him to her office and said she was ready to make a commitment. They prayed and talked, and soon after that she was baptized at Valley View, where Mr. Hecht has been an elder.

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