Friday, October 21, 2005

The price of embarrassment

Who is Harriet Miers and what did she do for George W. Bush to earn the sweet plum of a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court?

A few clues have dropped into the picture.

Today the Associated Press reported that Governor George W. Bush's campaign paid Harriet Miers' law firm $163,000 in legal fees during his 1998 campaign for re-election. Just for comparison, the 1994 Bush campaign paid $7,000 in legal fees and Bush's opponent in 1998, Garry Mauro, says he paid less than $20,000 for legal services during the campaign.

Everybody's citing attorney-client privilege and no one will even hint at what the big legal problem might have been. Reporters asked the White House if Ms. Miers ever did any work researching the president's background, such as his military record, and presidential aides declined to say.

But yesterday, columnist Robert Novak wrote about the peculiar case of Lawrence Littwin, fired by Harriet Miers when she was on the Texas Lottery Commission. It appears that Mr. Littwin may have been fired for stumbling onto some corruption at Gtech, the lottery management firm, which was paying $3 million a year to its lobbyist, Ben Barnes. Mr. Barnes, the former Texas House speaker, admitted in a 1999 deposition that he helped young George W. Bush stay out of Vietnam by pushing him to the head of the line for the limited slots in the Texas Air National Guard.

Well, that is embarrassing.

But is there still anybody on the planet Earth who doesn't know that the president used connections to stay out of Vietnam?

Surely President Bush didn't nominate Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep that a secret.

It must be something else.

In her jobs as White House secretary and White House counsel, Harriet Miers was present for and involved in a few interesting things.

She was at the ranch in Crawford in August, 2001, when the Presidential Daily Briefing came in warning that al-Qaeda was planning to hit the United States.

She was on Air Force One on September 11, 2001, when President Bush was flying around the sky as Dick Cheney was giving shoot-down orders at the White House, which the vice president says were cleared with President Bush at the time.

She was at the president's elbow as he reviewed the claims that Saddam Hussein had (or didn't have) weapons of mass destruction and considered his legal authority to invade Iraq, and she was there as White House aides were getting their stories straight for the special counsel investigating the leak of a CIA agent's identity.

Prizes will be awarded to the readers who come closest to predicting the number of times Harriet Miers refuses to answer a question by citing executive privilege, attorney-client privilege, and the Fifth Amendment.

Copyright 2005