Bench Memos

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Defending Miranda’s Right


The New Republic’s latest issue showcases liberal tactics at their worst. Senior editor Michael Crowley hacks out a predictable hit piece on Manuel Miranda, chairman of the Third Branch Conference, who, as senior nominations counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and nominations counsel to Majority Leader Bill Frist, created many of the political messages and structures we are using today in the Supreme Court fight, including the Senate’s “Miranda Plan” for a Supreme Court nomination.

Miranda’s efforts helped transform an issue, once considered just below campaign-finance reform in importance, into a GOP winner. On October 3, 2003, Miranda told The Hill newspaper that Republican candidates would sweep the South and defeat Tom Daschle based on the message of obstruction of judges, and more importantly, he worked to make it so.

In part, he got everyone’s attention through the use of language that went past dry lawyer’s parlance and, in part, he did it by putting himself at risk where others might have cowered and wrung their hands.

A hit piece from TNR is, of course, a badge of honor for conservatives.
Two years ago TNR put my boss, Committee for Justice Chairman Boyden Gray, on its cover and went into a tizzy over his collaboration with religious conservatives in the judicial confirmation wars. It was a clumsy attempt to divide Gray from other conservatives and quell his enthusiasm for the fight. It didn’t work.

The current article on Miranda is similarly ham-fisted.

TNR hit pieces have three possible purposes: to play to its generally liberal audience, discredit or marginalize a target who has proven too effective, or to discourage that target.

Crowley no doubt satisfied left-wingers. And there will always be short-sighted conservatives affected by a liberal hit on one of their leaders, the kind of people Theodore Roosevelt described as the critics of “The Man in the Arena.” Such people help explain our weaknesses on the Right. But Miranda’s effectiveness as a leader is based solely on his talent and ability to see the play before it happens, not on the loyalties of the weak-kneed.

And an effort to slow down Manny Miranda, I have found, is like trying to evaporate an iceberg with a hair dryer. It will, at most, annoy him.

Particularly ironic in TNR’s attempted putdown is the number of sloppy errors and transparencies. My favorite is the description of Miranda leading a conference call in an “untucked shirt.” In fact, it was a linen Cuban guayabera that is supposed to be worn untucked. Miranda is famous for them. So much for cultural sensitivity.

A second slight is the description of Miranda having attending a “small law school.” In fact, Miranda attended the largest law school of the University of California.

Of course, Crowley recycles all the Democrat spin over Memogate, the scandal over the discovery of unprotected Senate Democrat documents showing corruption and probably unlawful activity in the blocking of judicial nominees. In 2004, Democrats created a smokescreen, aided by less than nimble Republicans, to hide their own wrongdoing.

The media ate it up as they do all Washington leak investigations involving Republicans. In fact, there was no leak at all as the Senate itself defines it. And no, Miranda wasn’t fired. No, he was never found to have violated any Senate rule, ethic, or law. He never hacked or downloaded 4000 some documents, another favorite of the Left. And Miranda never stole a thing: the D.C Court has already ruled on the public interest in Senate documents.

Crowley displays zero interest in what the Democratic documents actually spelled out, or the fact that Miranda acted in keeping with the Code of Ethics for Government Service. In fact, Miranda was so unperturbed by the Democrats’ false charges that he sued for a Declaratory Judgment to get the court to address the Democrats’ allegations and wrote a Law Review article to boot. (You can read more about the politics, ethics, and law of Memogate at

Although noting that Miranda came out of Memogate as a hero to social conservatives, Crowley’s thrust is to paint Miranda as a “pariah”
and “a forgotten footnote.” He writes: “For much of last year, Miranda was unemployed, and he was forgotten as the judicial wars temporarily subsided during the 2004 election campaigns.”

It would have taken a few simple questions to learn that Miranda has been running conference calls on judicial nominations since May 2004, keeping together the coalition he helped assemble, that he was invited to raise money for Senate campaigns, and speak on campuses all over the country.

Presumably it would have undermined Crowley’s thesis to report that at a recent Republican National Lawyers’ Association event, and other gatherings, I have seen rooms of people erupt in applause when Miranda is introduced. And it is not surprising that Crowley leaves out entirely that former Attorney General Ed Meese brought Miranda to the Heritage Foundation as a Visiting Fellow. Many conservatives in Washington would love to be that kind of pariah.

Crowley also digs up a fiction based on a half truth about Miranda’s role in Georgetown University’s 1989 alumni litigation. I was senior news editor at The Hoya newspaper and know a little about that case. Had Crowley looked into it, he might have learned that Miranda’s successful efforts salvaged the Georgetown Alumni Association’s assets, saved 40 jobs, and that Miranda defeated the famously aggressive firm of Williams & Connolly on ten counts of summary judgment.

In fact, Crowley missed entirely that Manuel Miranda has been a hero in Washington for over two decades for his efforts to keep Georgetown University authentically Catholic, efforts that touched every Catholic college in America. And Miranda became a pro-life hero when he got Pope John Paul II himself to force Georgetown to de-fund a pro-choice advocacy student group.

Crowley speculates as to why reporters keep going back to Miranda for quotes. It may be the same reason why leaders on the Left are afraid to debate him: he is brilliant and does not hide from the truth. There is, of course, another reason. Hit pieces like Crowley’s are ginned up only because the target is threatening the Left and that makes reporters call Miranda, and that makes Miranda even more useful to his cause.


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