Jewish World Review Oct 10, 2005/ 7 Tishrei,
Politics, sex and the court
Political correctness, the child of identity politics, demands
that Indian mascots of sports teams be erased, even though many Indians take
considerable pride in the exploits of the Florida State Seminoles, the
Fighting Illini, the Atlanta Braves and of course the Washington Redskins,
now that they're beating the Cowboys again.
Paradoxes all. What makes identity politics bad is that it
invites generalizations, stereotypes, and projects on others the narrow
prejudices of particular groups in pursuit of privilege. Identity politics
is intellectually shallow and inevitably runs afoul of the iron law of
unintended consequences. By scapegoating certain groups and patronizing
others, identity politics sacrifices the individual on the altar of
Harriet Miers, the president's heartthrob, is discounted by
conservatives because she's just a sympathetic woman the president found to
fill a "woman's seat." There's some truth in that. The president's wife put
a little pillow pressure on the president with her public wish that he would
choose a woman. Feminists, however, don't want just any woman, however
qualified, to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla
Owen or Edith Jones need not apply. Eleanor Smeal, president of the radical
Feminist Majority Foundation, demands a minimum of four women on the Supreme
Court: "The era of tokenism is over." This is what happens when sex appeal
trumps judicial appeal.
Not so long ago, women were touted as more feeling, more caring
than men, but George W., the "compassionate conservative," followed Bill
Clinton, who could feel everybody's pain but the pain of national
humiliation he often inflicted on everybody else. Today the notion that we
ought to have a woman's chair, seat or office no longer has so much to do
with her female sensibility. Sen. Harry Reid, the leader of the Democratic
minority in the Senate, says he likes Harriet Miers because she comes with
"real life experience." (As compared to what?)
When the president introduced Miss Miers, he gave several
examples as to how she was "the first woman" to achieve this and do that,
but he insisted that she was nevertheless the best person for the job no
matter what her sex. Can anyone believe that if Harriet Miers was Harry
Miers he would have been nominated?
There's more than a little coyness in the president's choice
because the woman he chose, like her or not, is not easily stereotyped,
unless you count the label "spinster," which the media has conveniently
attached to her resume. But calling her an old maid undercuts the idea that
she has "real life experience." Columnist Maureen Dowd, a spinster herself,
sneers in The New York Times that Harriet Miers merely joins other "vestal
virgins" who guard the sacred fire of W's reputation. The president invited
these characterizations, of course, when he told his conservative friends
not to be afraid of her thin resume because he could "see into her heart."
So far we haven't a clue as to what kind of judge, big heart or
not, Harriet Miers would make. She contributed $150 to a right-to-life
organization in Texas, but that doesn't tell us anything about what she
thinks about Roe v. Wade, or whether she sees that penumbra of privacy in
the Constitution on which Roe v. Wade rests. She gave money to an early Al
Gore campaign, so her biography, such as it is, offers scant support for the
president's assurance that "she's not going to change."
We can all admire her as an accomplished woman. But a cultural
conservative is inevitably disappointed by what's missing in that
biography and absence of evidence of judicial philosophy. Since the
nomination like it or not is out there, it's only fair to keep an open mind
about it (so long as our minds are not so open that our brains fall out).
Her answers to questions by the Senate Judiciary Committee should give us a
hint of whatever judicial philosophy she may have. Maybe George W. was
blinded by political sex appeal. Maybe not. The ball is in the Senate's
court, and the score is 15-love.
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