Among the rarest honors that President Bush bestows is induction into the Hundred Degree Club. Its members are the aides who have managed to keep up with him running a dusty three-mile course at his Crawford, Texas, ranch when the temperature is above 100°. It's certainly one way to get to know someone's heart, or at least his heart rate. Harriet Miers, 60, Bush's former personal lawyer, then loyal White House aide, was one of the few women to spend time clearing cedar with Bush on the ranch and pacing him on his runs, and over the years he got to know her well enough that he was sure she would help him avoid his father's fate. Presidents, especially those named Bush, must not appoint Supreme Court judges who, once robed for life, turn out to be squishy moderates. "No more Souters" was the right's rallying cry, so when he said he knew her well, knew her heart, knew she wouldn't change, he thought conservatives would be delighted.
Imagine, then, watching what came next, as she was declared a mediocrity, a crony, "the least qualified choice since Caligula named his horse to the Senate." There was such venom in the attacks that you had to remind yourself that unlike in past court dramas--the slaying of Robert Bork or Richard Nixon's ill-fated henchman G. Harrold Carswell--this was not just about her; it was about him, about Bush's promises and the dream of a permanent conservative revolution. Of all the things a President ever does, this is the one that lasts: he picks the jurists who will chisel and polish the Constitution in ways that can affect citizens for generations. After 11 years had passed with no vacancies, Bush was given two in two months, with a 55-member majority in the Senate and a Democratic opposition that has no clue how to stop him.
And whom does he pick? The right, at least the conservative intellectual right, didn't care about her heart as much as her other muscles, her constitutional brilliance, her persuasive powers, her ability to walk into all that marble and make some history. It had its sacred short list of seasoned legal warriors who would take back the Constitution once and for all. But neither John Roberts, a legal star whom the President scarcely knew before last summer, nor the loyal Miers offers the kind of ideological pedigree that conservatives could count on. And for once they were not prepared to take Bush's word that it would all turn out O.K., that they should just trust him. Bush was showing "stunning arrogance," declared Ann Coulter, to think he could just pick anyone he liked. "The President is not supposed to be nominating his personal lawyer for a job on the United States Supreme Court," she said. "You don't have your personal accountant replace Alan Greenspan. It's embarrassing to hear people describe this as if this is the best woman Bush could get." Veteran conservative activist Paul Weyrich saw insult in the assumption that Bush's followers wouldn't dare question his choice. "They are so used to conservatives falling in line, rolling over and playing dead--that's what they expected," he said.