United Way: Powers of ten

Monday, October 24, 2005

The nation's capital is awash in speculation about what kind of Supreme Court justice Harriet Miers would be. The discussion brings to mind the scene when Hamlet, gazing at a cloud, says first that it resembles a camel, then a weasel and finally a whale. Looking at something vaporous and indistinct, you can picture almost anything you want.

Miers is a hazy commodity. Having spent most of her career in private practice, Miers has left behind very few pieces of information about her views on the subjects that are likely to come before the Supreme Court. So supporters as well as critics can perceive -- and portray -- her in very different ways, with equal plausibility.

This week, though, a potentially vital piece of information came out. In 1989, when she was running for the Dallas City Council, Miers filled out a questionnaire from a pro-life group and indicated she would support a constitutional amendment to prohibit all abortions except those needed to save the life of the mother.

That disclosure elicited worries among pro-choice supporters in the Senate. But it came as welcome news to some pro-life Republicans who have reserved judgment, such as Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who "took some comfort" from it.

But it's hard to know exactly what to make of her response. In the 1980s, she made political contributions to Al Gore and the Democratic National Committee, even though they supported abortion rights. How she managed to reconcile these contradictory actions is a puzzle.

What no one knows is whether Miers has a principled approach to constitutional interpretation, or if she has any approach to it.

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