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Oct. 14, 2005|
Harriet Miers What Dallasites Are Saying |
Harriet Miers has spent her entire legal career, since her graduation from Southern Methodist University School of Law, in Dallas, Texas where she grew up. She ran for office once and was elected to the Dallas City Council and served for one term, choosing not to run for re-election. But, most of her career has been spent as a corporate trial lawyer, and it was in that capacity that she began to represent then Governor George W. Bush as his personal attorney, a role that caused him to appoint her to the Texas Lottery Commission and later to her job as White House Staff Secretary and most recently, White House Counsel.
The Dallas Morning News has been covering the Miers story since the President announced her nomination to the Supreme Court. While Harriet Miers is a woman who has revealed almost nothing of herself or her opinions to anyone in her entire life, even to the man to whom she was once engaged, the News stories do shed just a glimmer of light on her obscure record.
(October 4, 2005) Columnist James Ragland wrote: “Miers is definitely not a stone-throwing ideologue. She’s more of a legal eagle, a nerdy bookworm who thoroughly researches an issue and even seeks out conflicting viewpoints before making up her mind. I caught glimpses of that when I covered her 1989-1991 term on the Dallas City Council.
“One of the more telling moments came in July 1990, when Ms. Miers flip-flopped on a controversial issue before the council. In the fall of 1989, she was part of council majority that urged Congress to repeal the Wright amendment, the federal law that restricts flights from Dallas Love Field. [Ed. Note: If you want to fly Southwest Airlines from Dallas directly to anywhere else in America, you can’t, unless you make a stop in Tulsa or Little Rock, and change planes. Or, you can fly to Austin or Houston, and then take a non-stop flight to your destination. Repeal of the Wright amendment is currently a very hot issue in Dallas right now.]
“Ten months later, she changed her mind. Armed with two studies suggesting that letting more planes fly out of Love would lead to congestion at the inner-city airport and tarnish the region’s gem, Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport, Ms. Miers sponsored a resolution supporting the Wright amendment.”
“(Miers) initially backed a controversial, voter approved redistricting plan that most black and some Hispanic leaders said would dilute their voting power. Once it became clear that the plan would not prevail in the courts, however, she got behind a plan that the black plaintiffs favored rather than another alternative that some civic leaders were pushing.” [Ed. Note: The change led to a council comprised of single-member districts with only the Mayor running at-large, resulting in often highly-charged council meetings with members pitted against each other, often along racial lines, much to the detriment of getting things done in the city of Dallas.]
(October 6, 2005) Many close to the math major and budding lawyer say that, during her years at SMU, they knew little about her politics and beliefs.
Dallas Lawyer Jim Martin dated Ms Miers for two years and was engaged to her for a year after law school. Yet, he said they didn’t discuss politics. And, although Roe vs. Wade, which began in Dallas, was headed to the Supreme Court, he said he didn’t know his former fiancée’s views on abortion. The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe vs. Wade came during their time together, but “honestly, I don’t think we ever discussed it,” he said. “Maybe that’s why we had no business being engaged.”
“As a law student at SMU in1969, Ted Minick worked with Ms Miers as an editor on the Southwestern Law Journal. Despite long working hours, he came away with no clear picture of her politics.
“Frank Carroll co-taught a night class with Ms. Miers at SMU law school. ‘I’ve known Harriet Miers for 30 years, and I couldn’t tell you that I really understand any of her personal opinions on anything. She’s all business,’” he said.
(October 7, 2005) “ . . . in 1991, Ms Miers voted in favor of a council resolution reaffirming economic sanctions Dallas had imposed against South Africa, then under a white minority-rule apartheid government. The Council adopted the resolution by a 6-2 vote with three absences.
“At the time, President George H.W. Bush was considering repealing federal economic sanctions against the country.
“‘As she goes through this nomination process, something like that should cheer the liberals and lead to gnashing of teeth among the very conservative social conservatives,’ said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, Ms. Miers alma mater. ‘Hers was the appropriate moderate Republican position of the day, but beating up on South Africa wasn’t a way to win friends with conservatives.’”
Ms. Miers was one of 10 Dallas council members to unanimously approve a 1989 agenda item that revised minimum height, weight and vision requirements for Dallas firefighters to facilitate “promotion of certain ranks in the Fire Department,” particularly women.
(October 7, 2005) “Ms. Miers appointed openly gay attorney Don McCleary to the city’s community development block grant board. AIDS led to Mr. McCleary’s death in 1996.”
“She joined with two black council members in support of a 14-district plan. The U.S. Justice Department eventually approved a variation. Such actions may foreshadow her judicial philosophy if she becomes a Supreme Court Justice, said Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill. He was a young lawyer when Ms. Miers nominated him to his first city board, which oversaw cable access television.
“She’ll look at every side of an issue, and I think she’ll be in the tradition of a Sandra Day O’Connor, Mr. Hill said.”
Jim Schutze, who has covered Dallas politics for many years and now writes for The Dallas Observer, had this to say in the October 6, 2005 edition: “Just about everybody who served or worked with Harriet Miers during her brief political career in Dallas remembers her as a hard-working, fair minded moderate.
“On the day President Bush announced Miers was his nominee to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court, most of the Democrats and liberals I talked to in Dallas were delighted.”
The Observer story says that, in 1989, when Harriet Miers ran for the Dallas City Council, her campaign manager was liberal activist Lorlee Bartos, who urged Ms. Miers to seek the endorsement of the homosexual and lesbian groups. Miers, who worked for an old, ultraconservative firm, was uncomfortable with that, but she did agree to attend the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus where she told them she supported civil rights for homosexuals, but did not support repeal of the Texas Sodomy law. At about the same time, Ms. Miers told Ms. Bartos that she was opposed to abortion.
What her opposition to abortion means today, in view of the many life issues at issue in this country, is anybody’s guess. Since that time, it appears that Harriet Miers has not written or spoken one word on the subject.
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