Among the documents presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee by Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers are copies of speeches she gave more than a decade ago. In one 1993 speech before a women's group in Dallas, Miers invoked what might be called a doctrine of self-determination.
Speaking about today's hot-button social issues, including abortion and church-state separation, Miers said, "The underlying theme in most of these cases is the insistence of more self-determination. And the more I think about these issues, the more self-determination makes sense."
She added, "The ongoing debate continues surrounding the attempt to once again criminalize abortions or to once and for all guarantee the freedom of the individual women's (sic) right to decide for herself whether she will have an abortion."
That line might comfortably fit inside a Planned Parenthood brochure.
Miers then delivered what one might reasonably conclude was a libertarian, not a conservative philosophical worldview. She said people who attempt to resolve such disputes should remember "we gave up" a long time ago on "legislating religion or morality."
If she has not changed her views for specific reasons since then, these statements make a mockery of President Bush's use of her flaunted "evangelical faith" as an indicator of her supposed true beliefs and how she would decide cases on these subjects. An atheist or an agnostic would feel comfortable with the views expressed by Miers in that speech.
White House spokesman Jim Dyke tried to spin Miers' remarks, saying they are "entirely consistent" with the conservative doctrine of judicial restraint. "This is someone who sees an appropriate role for the courts and an appropriate role for the legislature," he said.
Not exactly. In another speech later that year titled "Women and Courage," Miers lamented the relatively high poverty rates in Texas at the time and said the public should not blame judges when the courts step in to solve certain problems. "Allowing conditions to exist so long and get so bad that resort to the courts is the only answer has not served our state well. Politicians who would cry, 'The court made me do it' or 'I did not do that - the courts did,' should not be tolerated." Her implication being that the courts couldn't be blamed for activism when the legislature doesn't act. Yes they can. If the people don't like what their legislators do, or fail to do, they can engage in the self-determination of voting them out of office.
In those speeches, Miers doesn't sound like someone who has a clear view of the separate roles of the people's representatives and that of an unelected and unaccountable judiciary. She reflects the judicial activism conservatives have been battling for decades and it tells you why so many are in open rebellion against her nomination.
It appears to have escaped Miers' notice that in the case of abortion someone else is involved. It is one thing to self-determine to have sex. It is another to self-determine to kill the baby, which leaves no chance for that other "self" to make any determination about his or her own life. That strikes me as cold, hedonistic and selfish.
Could the president have known Harriet Miers for such a long time and not been aware of her views on the most important moral, religious and political issues of our time? No liberal president would nominate a stealth pro-life nominee to slip through, and none has since Roe v. Wade was decided. If Miers still believes these things, how could President Bush jeopardize his standing as an unyielding pro-lifer, not to mention most of his political base?
A government that allows "self-determination" in most personal matters is one that supports liberty. A government that allows its citizens to engage in behavior that undermines social structures and a sense of morality contributes to its own demise. Watch the HBO series "Rome." It shows where unrestrained self-determination leads.
I have not joined the pack calling for Harriet Miers to withdraw, but I'm getting close. She should be thoroughly grilled on these 1993 speeches and not allowed to get away with "confirmation conversion."
Miers might consult that Bible she says she believes in and see the disastrous consequences of self-determination when practiced by the ancient Israelites. A good place to start is in Judges 21:25: "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit."
Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist and a host on Fox News Channel. Readers may leave e-mail at www.calthomas.com. His column appears on Tuesday and Thursday.