Strict Constructionist Hypocrisy about Harriet Miers

"People ask me why I picked Harriet Miers," Bush said in response to a reporter's question at an Oval Office appearance with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. "They want to know Harriet Miers's background. They want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions. And part of Harriet Miers's life is her religion."
The issue was stoked by James C. Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, who recounted on a radio show taped Tuesday and aired yesterday that Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove raised religion in a private conversation to assure him of Miers's conservative bona fides. According to Dobson, Rove told him two days before Bush announced the nomination "that Harriet Miers is an evangelical Christian [and] that she is from a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life."

-The Washington Post

"Jay Sekulow, counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, said on Pat Robertson's television show that the Miers nomination was 'a big opportunity for those of us who have a conviction, that share an evangelical faith in Christianity, to see someone with our positions put on the court.'"
-E. J. Dionne Jr.

“no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
United States Constitution, Article VI, Paragraph 3


One thing I can't stand is hypocrisy, especially within Christian circles.

I hear many Christians advocating a "strict constructionist" view of the Constitution, a view advocated by Robert Bork that seeks to read the Constitution as a static document and therefore "limit judicial interpretation to the meanings of the actual words and phrases used in law, and not on other sources or inferences" (Wikipedia). Strict Constructionists believe that since the Constitution does not specifically mention a right to privacy, recent Supreme Court decisions that have established the right to privacy as a basic human right (based on the 9th Amendment and amendments in the Bill of Rights, such as the 3rd, the 4th's search and seizure limits, and the 5th's self- incrimination limit) are fallacious. The Court's establishment of the right to privacy has resulted in several controversial Supreme Court rulings, including those dealing with contraception (the Griswold and Eisenstadt cases), interracial marriage (the Loving case), and abortion (Roe v. Wade).

So, here's the hypocricy: Why is it that the White House and James Dobson, two advocates of strict constructionists on the Supreme Court, are so willing to NOT strictly interpret the 6th Article of the Consitution ("no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States")?



lyricano said...

But isn't hypocrisy the hobgoblen of the Rational Mind. Of course, social conservatives are hypocrits--they in fact must be to sustain the belief system. But so what; they are merely embracing a postmodern relationship to "truth" (inadvertently maybe).

Bob Robinson said...

Well, I'd agree with that if hypocrisy were merely a Modern phenomenon. But hypocrisy is an age-old practice. The Greek word, hupokites, means "one who pretends to be other than he really is." Strictly, it means "an actor, a stage player." In the New Testament, the word was used figuratively for those who are moral or religious counterfeits or pretenders.

So, if the Religious Right is claiming to live their lives based on the PREmodern Bible, they are still hypocrites!

Byron said...

The problem, Bob, is that there is NOT "hypocrisy" here, as much as you'd like to ascribe it. No one has advocated that there should be a "religious test", and the remarks you make confirm that. James Dobson received assurances, apparently, about Ms. Miers' Christian faith. So? Is he advocating that a religious test be in place? Absolutely not. What he IS saying is that he is reassured (and by the way, I am NOT, strict constructionist that I proudly am) about her because of her supposed faith. There is utterly nothing wrong nor hypocritical with him saying this. He has received information which encourages him; great. What he has not done is to advocate that the Constitution be changed to require some religious test. What he has not even done is to advocate that the President only choose Protestants, say. The president has handled this nomination unusually poorly, to be sure; Harriet Miers is a poor choice, and when he says that she is the "best choice for the job", he is fooling no one. He chose, apparently, or perhaps Karl Rove chose, a clumsy method of allaying the fears of Dr. Dobson. What there is no evidence of him doing is actually applying some "religious litmus test"; what there IS evidence of him doing is making a choice that he believes is right for America---though I have my doubts.

This does not mean that I agree with the president in using Harriet Miers' faith as a "selling point" is a good thing; it most certainly is NOT. But what it does mean is that your eagerness to throw around the term "hypocrite" does not stand up to scrutiny if words mean things, which they do. Clumsy? Certainly. Hypocritical? Not the way my dictionary defines it...

I won't dignify my friend Lyrciano's remarks on the innate hypocrisy of social conservatives with a comment...

Bob Robinson said...

Come on, "Mr. No-Kool-Aid-Zone!


You should be able to see the "wink-wink" religious test here. Rove knows that the Religious Right wants a Christian on the Court. The Constitution says that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification for the Court. So, instead of coming right out and saying it, Rove, representing the White House, "reassures" Dobson that she is a member of a Pro-Life evangelical Christian Church.


Bob Robinson said...

By the way,

It's good to hear from you again. I couldn't for a LOOONG TIME enter your blog for some reason.

I'm glad it's up and running.

And, I admit, I understand Rove wanting to reassure a major constituency, but Christians themselves have to own up to the fact that just because a person claims to be a Christian does not mean that this person will be a good public servant. I just wish Christians would allow for the fact that Christians screw up government as much as non-Christians do. And, in the case of our current president, the lies and distortions and ineptitude and the untenable war we are in are all indicators that Christians are sometimes the worst people to have in office.

Oh, man, I'll get off my soapbox now.

Byron said...

You're missing my point. Rove (or whoever) is reassuring Dobson on the point. Frankly, I don't care one whit whether or not the person on the Court is a Christian (or at least, I don't care one whit more than I would for any other person, which is to say a great deal, but again, NOT because of a nomination to the Court). What I'm hearing is a lot of people, Christian folks, making the same point: it's great that Harriet is apparently a Christian, but it's completely irrelevant to the point at hand. Rove apparently used a ham-handed tactic to mollify Dobson, and maybe Dobson bought it. But if a "religious test" were in place, how would Roberts have passed muster with evangelicals? After all, he is a member of the Great Whore of Babylon, right?

What you're doing is confusing terms. There is no "religious test" at work here, "wink-wink" or otherwise, nor is there any hypocrisy. There IS a president making a poor choice, then doing what he thinks is reassuring to his constituency. Or at least attempting it, because many of us aren't buying it.

Hard for you not to throw in a bunch of gratuitous, ill-defined potshots at the Prez in the last paragraph, eh Bob? But don't you stretch it by about 5 times to suggest that "Christians" think that other Christians can't screw up public office (after all, look at Jimmy Carter!), and further, to suggest that sometimes Christians are "the worst people to have in office"? Sheesh...how much history do you have to ignore to come to those conclusions???

Glad to have you back at my blog, by the way; keep reading, because your education is far from over... :)

Bob Robinson said...

Touche, Touche, Byron!!

(By the way, I can now read your blog but I can't comment).

Sorry if my comments about GWB seemed to be "gratuitous, ill-defined potshots." They are not, I assure you, meant to be that. What I meant about the "Christians are sometimes the worst people to have in office" comment is that, in the case of GWB, we have Christians acting as apologists for a president whose White House is mired in scandal and trying to justify a despicable war, undaunted by these events and chalking it up as just left-wing babble. That's amazing to me. I also am very wary of his attempts to manipulate the evangelical community for his political gain (this Harriet Miers thing being just the latest). And I am troubled by his self-assurance that God has him on some crusade against evil in Iraq that has now cost 2,000 American lives and over 15,000 wounded Americans (and, lest we forget, over 20,000 Iraqi civilians lives have been lost).

You personally might not care one whit about Miers' religion, but I assure you that there are people in your church that will vote for a Christian over a non-Christian every time (since the only thing they vote is "pro-life"), and have been praying for a Christian to be on the court for years in order to overturn Roe v. Wade.

They need to be taught about the Constitution's 6th Article...
Especially if they are being asked to buy into Bork's "Strict Contructionism" ideology of Constitutional Law.

Byron said...


What I meant by your "gratuitous potshots" were the words "lies and distortions and ineptitude", etc. These words are thrown around by folks on the left end of the spectrum, but throwing them around does not necessarily make them so. It's a convenient thing to say that "Bush lied about Iraq", for instance, but that makes Mr. Kerry and Mr. Clinton, just to name two, liars as well. It is overspeak as well to say that the White House is "mired in scandal"; looks to me as though every president in memory has had muckrakers dig up stuff, and some of it sticks (in each administration) and some of it doesn't. Further, to parrot the word "despicable" to characterize the Iraq war does not make it so. I happen to believe that there are some good arguments that have been made on both sides of the equation, and not just by Bush apologists, frankly.

I have no idea how people in my church vote, nor the criterion that they use, though you're probably right in your assertion. And there is no contradiction between the 6th Amendment and an individual hoping, even praying, for evangelical Christians to be elected/appointed to office. What would be unconstitutional would be for such a test to actually take place---not for you, me, anyone else to have our own preferences. I am not the state; I am not in a position to dictate who will/won't be on the SCOTUS (though you'd better believe I've contacted Rick Santorum vis a vis Ms. Miers).

I'll go you a step or three further: if given a choice between a strict constructionist who is personally pro-choice, and a judicial activist who is ardently pro-life, it's an EASY, EASY call. I'll take the constructionist any day of the week and twice on Sunday, even if he's an atheist. If we leave the moorings of the original intent of laws as they were passed, all of our law becomes grounded in the swampy morass of subjectivism and societal do-goodism, determined by the elite anointed. This is why I personally have been hoping for a strict constructionist, because the way Robert Bork sees the constitution is the only LEGITIMATE way to see it...

Bob Robinson said...


Byron, I still can't get into your blog at times. I get a "Precondition Failed" message from your anti-spamming set-up. FYI.

Byron said...


I'm going to check on why that is happening with my webbie-dude. You NEED to get on there today, because my most recent post will turn your stomach (it turns mine). Yicccchhh...

DLW said...

Did you read what I wrote about strict constructionism?

It really is a form of judicial review that is not functionally that different from judicial activism compared to judicial restraint.


Bob Robinson said...

You've been so stinkin' prolific in posting onto your blog lately that I've been overwhelmed! I'm still working my way through your excellent synopsis of the John Perkins seminar you attended!

Thanks for the link.

DLW said...

Wrote a reply...