This is the best you could do?

I’ve never been sure what motivates George Bush. Unlike so many presidents before — Clinton, Reagan, Nixon, Carter, with more or less success each — Bush does not seem motivated by his legacy. If he were, he’d have done what was necessary to win democracy for Iraq and not leave a mess. If he were, he would have used the political capital to bring some strategic vision to life — on, say, energy independence. If he were, he wouldn’t have nominated Harriet Miers.

I can understand cronyism — the need to be surrounded by loyalty, whether as a matter of ideology or as the tit paid for a tat. I don’t approve of it (see: Brownie). But I get the motivation.

But to install a crony in the Supreme Court where personal loyalty is meaningless? I can’t decide whether it’s stupid or cynical.

John Podhoretz complains:

There is only one person on the planet who would have made this selection — the person whose personal lawyer Miers was, whose staff secretary she was, as well as, for less than a year, his chief White House counsel.

Without the patronage of George W. Bush, Harriet Miers is nothing more than a fairly obscure lawyer from Texas who served as president of a relatively minor law firm and served in state government on a lottery commission for five years….

The Supreme Court is a strange institution. It basically makes its own rules as it goes along, since there are only a few legal matters its nine justices are required by the Constitution to consider. It is a combination of court, think tank and policymaker. It doesn’t quite possess paramount authority in the United States, since its rulings can be overridden in some cases by acts of Congress or by the passage of a constitutional amendment. But it’s pretty close.

And these decisions are made through the complex interplay of written law, oral argument and logical analysis….

Harriet Miers might be a very fine person. She might be a good lawyer. Her boss, President Bush, certainly thinks a lot of her work as staff secretary and policy aide.

But it is highly unlikely that she will be a good Supreme Court justice, because there is no indication in her 35 years in professional life that she has intellectual interests, that she has committed herself to the study of Constitutional theory and practice or even that she can write a decent English sentence. And it beggars reason to think that a person at the age of 60 can suddenly emerge as an intellectual powerhouse.

Or was this a most cynical act: the product of an effort to find someone with no meaningful paper trail, robbing the Senate and thus us of the chance make sure we have the best?

But Democrats are guilty of cynicism at least as thick.

The Democrat minority leader, Harry Reid, who mentioned her name to the President during the consultation process, said: “I have to say without any qualification that I’m very happy that we have someone like her.” …

Liberal New York Democrat senator Charles Schumer said “it could have been worse.”

But shouldn’t the response of the Democrats and Republicans, for that matter, have been: This is the best you could do, Mr. President?