President Bush said Wednesday that Harriet Miers’ religious beliefs figured into her nomination to the Supreme Court as a top-ranking Democrat warned against any “wink and a nod” campaign for confirmation.
“People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers,” Bush told reporters at the White House. “Part of Harriet Miers’ life is her religion.”
Bush, speaking at the conclusion of an Oval Office meeting with visiting Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, said that his advisers were reaching out to conservatives who oppose her nomination “just to explain the facts.” He spoke on a day in which conservative James Dobson, founder of Focus on Family, said he had discussed the nominee’s religious views with presidential aide Karl Rove.
While Bush and company may think this is a clever way to reassure the base that Miers will ‘vote the right way’ on Roe and other social issues, this is a disastrous calculation, as well as patently offensive. Most conservatives (and, in all likelihood, most liberals) recognize that she will probably vote against Roe. Roe, however, is not the only issue facing the Supreme Court, and, as Andrew Sullivan noted, this misuse of an individual’s religious affiliation and beliefs for crass political motives smacks in the face of what most conservatives claim to want- someone who will faithfully interpret the constitution:
It seems to me that the personal religious faith of a nominee to the Supreme Court is completely irrelevant to the job in question. Interpreting a secular constitution requires no religious faith or affiliation. If the president really does believe that faith is an actual qualification for the court, then once again he has stepped over a line between church and state. Religion should neither qualify nor disqualify someone from SCOTUS.
Which is precisely what Bush and company are now doing- pushing Harriet Miers’ religious conversion to evangelical Christianity as not only the chief selling point, but, some would observe, a qualification. Before today, all the President’s men were doing this through vague reassurances, winks and nods, and references to her religious beliefs, but we now have the President himself stating that a main reason for her selection is her religious beliefs.
Let’s flash back, if you will, to one of the more offensive moments in the Republican Party’s recent past- Justice Sunday:
As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as “against people of faith” for blocking President Bush’s nominees.
Fliers for the telecast, organized by the Family Research Council and scheduled to originate at a Kentucky megachurch the evening of April 24, call the day “Justice Sunday” and depict a young man holding a Bible in one hand and a gavel in the other. The flier does not name participants, but under the heading “the filibuster against people of faith,” it reads: “The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith.”
In other words, an attempt was made to portray those who opposed Bush’s nominees as having a religious qualification test. It was an outright lie, it was offensive, and as I remarked earlier it was as if they were saying “If you don’t share our politics, you hate the baby Jesus. If you don’t share our politics, you hate religious people.”
Republicans waxed eloquent about the establishment cause, about how people could serve on the court and not have their religious beliefs interfere with their judgement, about how Democrats and other were against people of faith, and so on. I didn’t buy it then, and felt that it was simply an attempt to bully nominees through by using religion as a blunt instrument against political opposition.
But, oh, how the times have changed these past few months. It turns out that now, in fact, religion IS a partial qualification and that the religious views of a candidate are a material aspect of their fitness to serve. After all, as Bush himself has stated, “Part of Harriet Miers’ life is her religion.”
And if anyone is pissed at this latest bit of nonsense, it should be the evangelical base. After this, they can have Justice Sunday every god damned Sunday for the rest of their lives, and they can’t say a damned thing if Democrats ask whether a person’s religious beliefs may unduly influence their judgement. When Joe Biden is up there talking at length about whether or not Harriet Miers can judge Roe fairly with her religious beliefs such an important part of her life, before James Dobson’s head explodes, he best remember who is to blame- Bush and the White House.
After all- if a person’s religious beliefs are enough of a reason to confirm someone- shouldn’t it reason that those same religious beliefs could be used to deny confirmation?