Monday, October 03, 2005

Harriet Miers' "Records Record"

He [the President] would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.
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And as there would be a necessity for submitting each nomination to the judgment of an entire branch of the legislature, the circumstances attending an appointment, from the mode of conducting it, would naturally become matters of notoriety; and the public would be at no loss to determine what part had been performed by the different actors.
For the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, Bush today nominated his newest work wife, Harriet Miers. While the early encomiums are rolling in, you may want to begin considering all the reasons why this nomination is likely to become mired in bitter controversy.

One of them, surely, is just what did Harriet Miers do back in 1998 with George W. Bush's National Guard records?

On July 17, 2000, Newsweek Magazine reported in its National Affairs section (p. 24) that in 1998 as the Bush campaign team in Austin began drawing a bead on the White House, it paid Ms. Miers $19,000 to "investigate" his Texas/Alabama Air National Guard records for them. As the relevant parts of the Year 2000 article, written by Michael Isikoff and Martha Brant, explain --
More than two years ago the Bush camp launched a secretive research operation designed to scour all records relating to his Vietnam-era service as a pilot in the 111th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron of the Texas Air National Guard. The goal was to identify potential vulnerabilities early on and deflect any charges that Bush got favorable treatment.

Until recently, the campaign was confident that this worked. But as the latest flap [in 2000] shows, questions about Bush's military service haven't entirely disappeared.

The Bushies' concern began while he was running for a second term as governor. A hard-nosed Dallas lawyer named Harriet Miers was retained to investigate the issue; state records show Miers was paid $19,000 by the Bush gubernatorial campaign. She and other aides quickly identified a problem -- rumors that Bush had help from his father in getting into the National Guard back in 1968.

Ben Barnes, a prominent Texas Democrat and a former speaker of the House in the state legislature, told friends he used his influence to get George W a guard slot after receiving a request from Houston oilman Sid Adger. Barnes said Adger told him he was calling on behalf of the elder George Bush, then a Texas congressman. Both Bushes deny seeking any help from Barnes or Adger, who has since passed away.

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[T]he National Guard question * * * cropped up again with the Alabama controversy, which dates back to May 1972. That's when George W went to work on the campaign of a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama. Because he was still obligated to serve weekend duty with the Air National Guard, Bush had to arrange a temporary assignment to a guard unit in Alabama. He was accepted by the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron based outside Montgomery.

On Sept. 5 Lieutenant Bush asked his guard unit to approve "equivalent duty" with the 187th for the months of September, October and November. His commander agreed. That's where the mystery begins.

According to The Boston Globe, which recently dug into the matter, there is no record that Bush ever served with the 187th -- and the Bush campaign has been unable to locate any former officers who remember encountering Bush.

Kenneth K. Lott, the personnel officer who signed the orders directing Bush to report, told Newsweek: "I don't recall ever seeing the guy." A Bush aide, Dan Bartlett, conceded that the records "were either lost or misplaced... we are not sure."
Never having been a judge, Ms. Miers is something of a cypher for the Senate. All the public knows is she "belongs to the same State" as Mr. Bush and "is in some way or other personally allied with him." So, confirmation hearings on her nomination are sure to involve -- just as the Founding Fathers desired -- protracted inquiries into the nominee's legal, Constitutional, philosophical, and professional opinions, past and present.

Among those weightier issues, however, someone also is likely to ask, "What did you really do with Bush's National Guard records?" That's a question that needs to be asked so that we can know whether Ms. Miers possesses "the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render" her "the obsequious instruments of his pleasure."

1 comment:

nightquill said...

Puritan pundits pull out their pliers,
Pinching the Prez over Harriet Miers,
Stunned that they've received no surety
Of her ideological purity.
Liberals of suspicious mind
Naturally, though, expect to find
Anyone Mr. Bush delivers
"Pure" enough to give them shivers.

And neither are greatly mollified
By finding her so unqualified.
Will any old lawyer suit that Court
Who knows how to serve a half-baked tort?

But the greatest objection to letting a crony in
Is that it's so patently un-Hamiltonian.
Will the whole Senate exclaim with defiance, "We
Shun insignificance! Veto pliancy!"
Or will Mr. Bush get to keep his treasure,
"Obsequious instrument of his pleasure?"

Poor Mr. Hamilton can't be blamed;
Who'd think of a leader who can't be shamed?