The Corner

Supremely Depressing/Maddening

This was so preventable. And some tried to. Read the whole Fund, but I’ll highlight this:

Regardless of whether or not the vetting process was complete, it presented impossible conflicts of interest. Consider the position that Mr. Bush and Mr. Card put Mr. Kelley in. He would be a leading candidate to become White House counsel if Ms. Miers was promoted. He had an interest in not going against his earlier recommendation of her for the Supreme Court, or in angering President Bush, Ms. Miers’s close friend. As journalist Jonathan Larsen has pointed out he also might not have wanted to “bring to light negative information that could torpedo her nomination, keeping her in the very job where she would be best positioned to punish Kelley were she to discover his role in vetting her.”

Mr. Lubet, the Northwestern professor, says “all the built-in incentives” of the vetting process were perverse. “In business you make an effort to have disinterested directors who know all the material facts to resolve conflicts of interest,” he told me. “In the Miers pick, the White House was sowing its own minefield.”

“It was a disaster waiting to happen,” says G. Calvin Mackenzie, a professor at Colby College in Maine who specializes in presidential appointments. “You are evaluating a close friend of the president, under pressure to keep it secret even internally and thus limiting the outside advice you get.”

Indeed, even internal advice was shunned. Mr. Card is said to have shouted down objections to Ms. Miers at staff meetings. A senator attending the White House swearing-in of John Roberts four days before the Miers selection was announced was struck by how depressed White House staffers were during discussion of the next nominee. He says their reaction to him could have been characterized as, “Oh brother, you have no idea what’s coming.”

A last minute effort was made to block the choice of Ms. Miers, including the offices of Vice President Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. It fell on deaf ears. First Lady Laura Bush, who went to Southern Methodist University at the same time as Ms. Miers, weighed in. On Sunday night, the president dined with Ms. Miers and the first lady to celebrate the nomination of what one presidential aide inartfully praised to me as that of “a female trailblazer who will walk in the footsteps of President Bush.”

Recommended

The Latest