Boring From Within


The Bush White House loves Harriet Miers because she keeps her mouth shut and can be counted on to do the dirty work. If confirmed, she would be Bush’s Abe Fortas, LBJ’s longtime crony on the court, who played the judges as a bunch of suckers. Eventually, Fortas got caught in improper dealings and was forced to resign.

As a Bush hatchet woman on the court, Miers would probably offer a degree of solace to people like Rove, DeLay, Frist, and other Bush functionaries now beginning to face disgrace if not prosecution. But, too bad for Bush, she would be no James Baker. And the president would be throwing her up against the new chief justice, John Roberts, who, after all, got his training from the old master of political sleaze, William Rehnquist himself. Roberts surely doesn’t want to wreck his career on the court by blowing himself up for the creepy Bush family.

Miers hasn’t talked much, but here is a chronology gathered from published sources:

• 1945: Born in Dallas, where she would spend most of her life. The fourth of five children of real estate investor Harris W. Miers Sr. and Sally Richardson, she is raised a Catholic.

• 1963–70: Graduates from Hillcrest High School in Dallas, gets a B.S. in math from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, then a law degree, also from SMU.

• 1971: Clerks for U.S. District Judge Joe Estes in Dallas, a job that helps give her entry into the all-male Texas law fraternity.

• 1972: Hired by Dallas law firm Locke, Purnell, Boren, Laney & Neely, later becoming a partner.

• 1975: Meets Nathan Hecht, whom she later hires at her firm. The two become fast friends, dining, jogging, confiding in each other. He takes her to church and into evangelicalism. There’s talk of marriage but it doesn’t happen. “I don’t like talking about all that,” Hecht reminisced recently. “There’s two in a relationship. Yes, I thought about it, and I guess she did too.” Hecht is now a Texas Supreme Court justice.

• 1980: Hecht introduces her to the evangelical Valley View Christian Church. Baptized by immersion, she starts teaching Sunday school and working on the church’s mission committee. Hecht later says: “Her personal views are consistent with that of evangelical Christians. . . . You can tell a lot about her from her decade of service in a conservative church.”

• 1985: Becomes the first woman president of the Dallas Bar Association.

• 1988: Contributes $1,000 to Al Gore’s last-minute presidential bid aimed at ridding the Democrats of Jesse Jackson, who is gaining strength in the primaries. (Gore helps sink him in New York.) Also gives $1,000 to Texas senator Lloyd Bentsen, running mate of Michael Dukakis against the elder George Bush. Former GOP chairman Ed Gillespie now describes Miers as a “conservative” Democrat during the ’80s.

• 1989: Elected to the Dallas City Council for an inconsequential, one-time, two-year term. During the race, her campaign chair, Lorlee Bartos—a liberal activist—now says, Miers balks at appearing before the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. But in response to a survey by the Lesbian/Gay Coalition of Dallas, Miers answers “yes” when asked “Do you believe that gay men and lesbians should have the same civil rights as non-gay men and women?” She also says the city has responsibility for AIDS education and patient services. She opposes, however, the repeal of the state anti-sodomy law.

Although a supporter of abortion rights in her youth, Miers’s “born-again” awakening, says Bartos, changed her view.

• 1989: Hecht takes Miers to a gala and introduces her to George W. and Laura Bush.

• 1989: Contributes $150 to Texans United for Life and is a sponsor of the group’s annual dinner honoring a top abortion opponent, Illinois Republican Henry Hyde.

• 1992: Becomes first female president of Texas State Bar. The next year, tries unsuccessfully to get the American Bar Association to drop public support for Roe v. Wade.

• 1994: Bush’s gubernatorial campaign chair, Jim Francis, tells him: “Look, we need to have a campaign general counsel. We’re running against a popular female governor [Ann Richards]. We need a woman.” Bush hires Miers.

• 1994: She works on Bush’s transition team and then serves as his personal attorney. Among other things, she helps Bush get out of a wrongful-termination suit brought by the manager of a fishing club where Bush is a member. She also proposes Alberto Gonzales as counsel to the governor.

• 1995: Bush appoints Miers to chair the Texas Lottery Commission. By this time she is gaga over Bush, telling the governor it is “cool” to ride with him in a plane. In letters to him, she tells him to “keep up the great work” and that “Texas is blessed.”

• 1996: The first woman hired by her firm, now known as Locke Liddell & Sapp, she becomes its first female president. She doesn’t spend much time in court, but her clients include Disney, Microsoft, and Chase Manhattan.

• 1996: At a lunch honoring Miers, Bush tells the crowd, “She looks so petite and, well, harmless. But put her on your case and she becomes a pit bull in size-six shoes.”

• 1997: Miers fires one lottery director and hires another, but later fires him.

• 1999: Becomes co–managing partner of her now merged law firm. She is helping to run the firm when it tries to market a client’s get-rich scheme by end-running the IRS—trying to sell investors on a gimmick to turn highly taxed regular income into lower-taxed capital gains income by means of a tax shelter. The law firm apparently makes $3.5 million in the deal, which the IRS later bans.

• 2000: Gives $2,000 in campaign cash to Bush and $5,000 to the Bush-Cheney recount fund. Becomes involved in helping to defend the Bush-Cheney ticket from charges that it was unconstitutional because both candidates lived in Texas. The suit was dismissed on grounds that Cheney had changed his residence from Texas to Wyoming, where he had been sent to Congress for six terms.

• 2001: Miers, with a salary of $624,000 a year and $1.1 million in assets, leaves her law firm to join Bush in D.C. as deputy chief of staff for policy, assistant to the president, and staff secretary. As gatekeeper, she scrutinizes paperwork before it goes to Bush. Her starting salary at the White House: $140,000.

• 2004: Contributes $2,000 to the Bush campaign. Since 1988, she has donated $12,000 to Republican candidates, party committees, and PACs. Her law firm has given at least $65,000 to Bush campaigns and had been major backers of “tort reform.”

• November 2004: Bush names her White House counsel after Gonzales leaves.

• October 3, 2005: Bush nominates her to the Supreme Court.

• October 10, 2005: The chickens begin to come home to roost. Lawrence Littwin, the whistle-blowing director of the lottery commission whom Miers hired then abruptly sacked, reportedly will come to Washington to testify at her confirmation hearing. Littwin reportedly can not only describe supposed graft Miers covered up at the commission, but maybe even get into Bush’s National Guard mess.

Meanwhile, conservatives are falling all over themselves to join the growing tirade against Miers. Trying to rally the troops and get some order, James Dobson says he got it on the q.t. from Karl Rove that Miers is one of them. Pat Robertson also touts her as a good Christian and threatens senators who vote against her with retribution in the next election.

• October 12, 2005: Bush tries to quiet his rebellious allies, telling reporters, “People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers. 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.”

Additional reporting: Isabel Huacuja and Ali Syed