The Miers-Thomas Connection

I generally agree with the spirit of Mike O’Hare’s commentary on Miers—this is a woman who all indications point to as being out of her league in the job. Even assuming that a fairly disciplined conservatism is a credential for the job, and that he had to appoint a woman, there were others with far better backgrounds than Miers (I could list at least a dozen).

Where I part company with Mike is his assessment of Thomas. Compared to Miers, he was the Frankfurter of his time. He went to Yale Law School, held a number of positions in the executive branch, and served (albeit briefly) on the DC Circuit. What is more, he had a reasonably serious interest in ideas, read fairly aggressively (if quite narrowly) and had developed something resembling a judicial philosophy by the time he got to the court. This is not to say that I would have voted to confirm him, had I been in the Senate, nor does it mean that he was by any means the “most qualified” person for the position (Doug Ginsburg, Frank Easterbrook, J. Harvie Wilkinson, Richard Posner…these were not “more qualified” than Thomas?). But to group Thomas in with Miers is to dramatically overstate Miers’ qualifications.

Author: Steven M. Teles

Steven Teles is a Visiting Fellow at the Yale Center for the Study of American Politics. He is the author of Whose Welfare? AFDC and Elite Politics (University Press of Kansas), and co-editor of Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy (Cambridge). He is currently completing a book on the evolution of the conservative legal movement, co-editing a book on conservatism and American Political Development, and beginning a project on integrating political analysis into policy analysis. He has also written journal articles and book chapters on international free market think tanks, normative issues in policy analysis, pensions and affirmative action policy in Britain, US-China policy and federalism. He has taught at Brandeis, Boston University, Holy Cross, and Hamilton colleges, and been a research fellow at Harvard, Princeton and the University of London.