All Hail Caligula’s Horse

Harriet MiersLegends state that during the height of Roman Emperor Caligula’s madness, his most cherished thing in life was the racehorse Incitatus.

Incitatus was given luxurious treatment by any standard. Praetorian guards would enforce silence near his stables to ensure rest and calm before competitions. Eighteen servants attended him in a stable made of marble and ivory and he was adorned with precious stones and elegant blankets. Guests were invited to dine at the palace at the horse’s bequest; it’s even rumored that Caligula appointed Incitatus as consul while a frightened and subservient Roman senate capitulated to their insane leader’s whims.

While much of what we know of Caligula’s reign is largely apocryphal, the idea that an aimless and increasingly irrational head of state could push hilariously insane nominations past a spineless legislature is all too relevant today. This week saw President Bush recommend that Harriet Miers replace outgoing judge Sandra Day O’Connor as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Miers, not surprisingly, is a longtime friend and confidant of the president. Nonetheless, she has zero judicial experience, and her nomination has outraged both Democrats and Republicans alike over the obvious patronage implications.

The only question is, will this Senate stand up to their befuddled prince and deny him his curious pleasures, or will they sit by and watch as insanity strips another branch of government of its usefulness? Historians records Incitatus’ civil appointment as a joke to highlight how useless the body politic truly was.

Does Bush plan to do that with the Supreme Court?

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Patronage is not new. Unqualified candidates have filled positions in public office since long before the Republic, put there by friends in high places.

If it has such a negative connotation, however, why does society look at a family-run company that’s plucked its leadership from the family tree for generations as a stable and reliable machine? Could it be that sometimes a friend or family member actually is the best person for the job? Should they be penalized for their relationships?

My only concern with “cronyism” in federal government is if it does not serve the interest of the people. And that is the case with Harriet Miers.

I have no problem with Miers’ lack of judicial experience. Should she be confirmed, Miers will join a long list of Justices (including former Chief Justice William Rehnquist) who ruled without serving time on a lower bench. The idea of someone with common sense — a rarity in any branch of government — interpreting the Constitution strikes me as a good idea. I tend to believe we have enough lawyers in government today; thinking beyond litigiousness could be a breath of fresh air.

However, Miers does not come to bat with any degree of objectivity. A career lawyer (and the first female president of the Texas Bar Association, so the press releases say), Miers has spent a lifetime protecting the interests of corporations and the Bush family. That spells conflict of interest to me.

Miers has worked with George W. closely for almost a decade; she was with him on September 11 and considers the President the most brilliant man she’s ever met (someone introduce this woman to more men, please). As White House counsel, she’s almost undoubtedly connected to outing Valerie Plame as a CIA asset. She has been responsible for shaping the voice and direction of the Bush presidency; nominating her is akin to giving a criminal the ability to choose whether he’s guilty or not.

Miers has also shown a propensity to bury incriminating evidence about the president in the past; her history regarding Bush’s National Guard AWOL scandal alone should show her commitment to burying evidence from the court of public opinion. These are the actions that should disgust and anger the United States, not whether or not she’s presided over court cases (even though her legal experience is also suspect).

Why then should we concern ourselves with putting a blatant Bush-firster on the Supreme Court? Weblog Polunatic says it best: “Dubya has made a decisive and bold, yet defensive move. Has has gone ‘all in’ and nominated his former personal lawyer… for the Supreme Court.

“What better way to avoid jail for war crimes, profiteering and conspiracy. Appoint your own lawyer to the bench… Bush’s cronies can stop sweating now.”

Miers represents a critical turning point in the political nature of the Supreme Court. In addition to blocking any punishment the president and his goof troop face when the U.S. collectively wakes up and realizes they’ve been sandbagged, Miers’ uncompromising conservative ideology would shift the Court towards the right. And with a woman who represents anti-abortion interests and a legislate-from-the-bench mentality, the right-wing faction will have little to no opposition in choking every last freedom from the American people.

Not that key Democrats oppose the nomination, anyway. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) applauded the nomination and even claimed Miers’ nomination as his own.

“I think that rather than looking at the people your lawyer’s recommending, pick her,” Reid said. “The reason I like her is that she’s the first woman to be president of the very, very large Texas bar association, she was a partner in a law firm, she’s actually tried cases, she was a trial lawyer, and she’s had experience here. I could accept that. And if that fits into the cronyism argument, I will include everybody as a crony, but not her, when I make my case.”

And when you’re done making your case, Harry, you can adorn Harriet with baubles and capes and put her in her own marble stable where people can gawk in jealousy and the leader can fawn over her simple beauty!

Just be careful when you accept an invitation to one of her parties, you insignificant, useless relic.