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October 23, 2005

No Other Way To Couch It


At this stage of the nomination dance, why does the typical Harriet Miers photo still show her waiting alone outside some Senator’s door (and positioned so far away, no less)?  The answer — which some right wingers are desperately trying to justify as qualification — is that she earned the nod for being loyal and meek.

I read what I consider a spot-on comment at HuffPo the other day.  The writer was responding to a post by one Kathleen Reardon, who was attempting to wrap Harriet Miers’ character around some kind of "power woman" theory. The commenter, knighterrand, writes:

I pity Harriet Miers. When she was introduced by Bush I was struck by how she was looking at him, with fawning eyes that never strayed. It was weird. Then I read this [an article in Slate on Miers' modest finances] and realized that here was a person who has been a partner and president at one of the biggest law firms in Texas and I’m richer than she is ….

I’ve known such people in local politics. True believers who worship some specific elected official and will sacrifice all for them. They are the perfect volunteer. I’ve seen cynical politicians ride them like a loyal horse who will run himself to death to please his master.

To call her a crony or sycophant it to credit her with too much
self interest. She is a votarist, more a cultist than a politician.
Should Bush choose to martyr her she will walk into the flames with a
smile on her face.

The sad fact about Harriet is that, regardless how competent she was as
a corporate lawyer or even a presidential counselor, she’s not SCOTUS
timber. Of course, this is fast becoming obvious from her interviews
with Senators, her written answers to the Judiciary Committee
questionnaire, and greater scrutiny of her background.

The pictures seem to mirror the same fact.  I believe it partly explains why she was looking somewhat askance
during her nomination press conference, and why she has been
continually photographed in doorways and antechambers waiting to talk
to Senators (Durbin’s office, Grassley’s office).


I believe it’s also why, in the first photo to hit the newswire last
week kicking off Harriet’s second (or, maybe third) reintroduction, we
saw a file shot of a much younger Miers posing for news cameras. The
problem is, no matter how hard BushCo tries to create a salable
picture, most attempts defy the visual impression of a credible

(image 1: Jim Young/Reuters. October 20, 2005. Office of Senator
Ken Salazar (D-CO), Washington, D.C. October 20, 2005. Via YahooNews.
linked image 1: linked image 2: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas.
Washington October 4, 2005. YahooNews. linked image 3: REUTERS/Yuri
Gripas. Washington October 6, 2005. YahooNews. image 2: State Bar of
Texas/A.P. Then State Bar of Texas President Harriet Miers. 1992. Via

  • tuffy

    >>”I pity Harriet Miers. When she was introduced by Bush I was struck by how she was looking at him, with fawning eyes that never strayed. It was weird. ”
    I was reminded of the devoted, adoring, rapt way Nancy Reagan used to look upon her husband when he spoke–what the press nicknamed “the gaze.”

  • Diane

    This photo of her reminds me of one of those poor little dogs rich women carry around – too small, shaking with fear at their surroundings, huddled in the only corner they can find. I’m beginning to feel sorry for this person. Another victim of Bush stupidity…

  • eva

    Yesterday I read a column by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times about her colleague Judith Miller, and for some strange reason I kept thinking of Harriet Miers. Then today, reading the BAG, it hit me: Dowd led off her commentary by referring to Miller’s “tropism toward powerful men”. That and the above observation that Miers has always acted as a “votary” of George Bush brought it all home — these women are two sides of the same coin. Harriet waiting, docile, outside the offices of powerful men, and Miller waiting (standing by her man) in jail, but only for so long. You’ve come a long way, baby — not.

  • George Myers

    After huge losses of life in WWII, many of the positions of government were filled by women in the former U.S.S.R. Doesn’t mean we shoud like the current “gulag” in Cuba, or the fact the US never settled with the captives of Japanese descent from 17 countries interred with our Japanese-Americans, never recompensed for our admitted “racism”, or the shennanigans in the Presidential election in the great state of Ohio.

  • PTate in MN

    She adores Bush, and her sole qualification for the SCOTUS is that she is his crony.
    In this context, I love the picture of her sitting at the edge of the sofa, so open, come-hither: “Look, I have been waiting for you. I’ve saved a place for you here on the bench.” The remaining question is who is “you” in this context? Who is she inviting to share the bench with her?
    She isn’t qualified and should be rejected. Here we have photo-evidence that Miers is saving a place for someone else–rather than claiming the bench as her own.

  • mugatea

    Harriet is just a play to take air time away from the horrible mess the administration has created. If all the top news organizations cover her incompetance it’s a chunk of the news that doesn’t deal with anything criminal in association with the administration.
    She’ll be on her way back to Texas (or the WH) soon, but ’till then she’ll create enough of a stir to take a chunk of the focus of the nightly news away from the war crimes this cabal has committed.
    No one in this for real would answer questions from the judiciary committee in the manner that she did. It’s all a game to this group.

  • George Myers

    Someone should ask her, under oath, if she’s ever contributed to the Texian organization whose stated intent is to build a wall between Oklahoma and Texas, that I was once shown by an Oklahoman from Texas A & M.

  • ummabdulla

    I hate to be catty, but her clothes are just too much. I know styles have changed since 1992, and maybe they were also different in Texas than what I was used to, but I know what I was wearing as a computer consultant then, and that red-and-white outfit just wouldn’t have been considered professional for the President of the State Bar giving a TV interview.
    Apparently someone’s giving her fashion advice now, though. The hair is still a work in progress…
    But PTate makes a good point that she looks like she’s just saving a place for someone else. At least she’ll come out of this experience with a makeover…

  • black dog barking

    Several in the blogosphere ( Josh Marshall for one ) have commented on the curious absence of any power broker championing Ms Miers’ claim to a seat on the Court. The top photo makes the same ( negative ) observation. Where’s the camera-shy senator? Miers is not just alone in this shot, she’s damn near quarantined.
    Other Miers pics run on this site make the same (Miers poking her head into a room full of Important People) and similar (Miers passing out memos to comfortably seated players in Crawford) comment on insider perceptions of the nominee’s stature.

  • tuffy

    As much as I have followed this story so far, I haven’t yet seen one photograph of Miers that is really flattering to her. Is it revealing that instead of portraying her as anything resembling learned, capable, powerful or trustworthy, every single publicly seen photo makes her look all the more like a 2nd grade teacher at some rural elementary school or, yes, a devoted, fawning personal assistant.
    This woman was supposed to have been the president of her law firm and president of the Texas Bar Association–where are the professional studio portraits of her? At some point, wouldn’t P.R. have required that she be groomed and presented to the public as a capable professional?
    >>Diane, I love the imagery of Miers as a shivering toy dog.

  • Asta

    I concur. The shivering toy dog imagery is really good, Diane. It made me think of a pomeranian. Watery eyes. Big poofy fur.
    I wonder, if we could find older photos of Harriet, would we find a woman who believed in Big Hair. Country Western Singer kind of Big Hair. Stand by Your Man kind of woman. Y’all know?
    Harriet is such an antiquated name. Ozzie and Harriet comes to mind. Family Values. Let’s do the Time Warp and travel back to the ’50’s.

  • fotonique

    BAG, you pose the question:

    …why does the typical Harriet Miers photo still show her waiting alone outside some Senator’s door (and positioned so far away, no less)?

    Answer: On the contrary, the typical Harriet Miers photo has not and does not show her waiting for (or waiting on) someone.
    If you look at a general Yahoo! News image search for “Harriet Miers”, it gives 211 total results (duplicates included) going back to October 5, 2005. 79 of the 211 Yahoo! News images mention Miers in the caption, but don’t show her in the frame. The remaining 132 images show Miers in the frame, and they break down as follows:

    • 65 (49%) of 132 images show (or mention) Miers meeting with Senators.
    • 47 (37%) of 132 images show Miers in transit between Senate offices, or in other situations.
    • 20 (15%) of 132 images show (or mention) Miers waiting for Senators.

    Thus, the majority of Yahoo! news images (85%) show her meeting with Senators; on her way to meet with Senators; or in other situations. Only 15% of the images actually show Miers waiting, and such a small percentage is hardly typical of anything.
    Regarding the image of Miers untypically waiting alone (so alone) on Ken Salazar’s red couch, it only represents one-third of its set: two subsequent images show Miers meeting with Salazar.
    Perhaps Miers was the end of that long couch (love those perspective-distorting wide angle lenses) because it was a more photogenic spot. Note how cramped the couch and desk are: Salazar sat in the chair at the end of the couch, probably to be in a better face-to-face with Miers, but it also gave the photographer a better POV.
    Some of I.F. Stone’s contextual rules might apply here:

    • Seek out those images that manage to reveal a fuller story.
    • Take account of stories where images are notable for their absence.

    As in an earlier BNN example, the visual evidence presented—when examined in its overall context—does not support the original assumptions.

  • Cactus

    In every photo I have seen of this woman, she seems to be begging for our pity. She reminds me of the women I once hired as temps…just one notch below competent and several notches below knowing how to mix in with the rest of the staff.
    Before the recent make-over, her attire was definitely 50’s-60’s. It’s still a bit dowdy. I’d be willing to guess that someone once told her she was pretty, and she hasn’t changed her hairdo since.
    Her entire demeanor is that of a servile assistant to power. She’s so busy admiring her boss she hasn’t noticed that no one is wearing that much makeup any more.
    In the top photo, her pose (stance?) is that of someone ready to jump up and out of the way if someone really important happens to come in. The entire picture is of her, yet she takes up less than 1/4 of the frame. In fact, in most of her photos that I’ve seen, she takes up less than 1/4 of the frame. The one outside Grassley’s office has another interesting dimension: the door in the background almost carries more weight than she does. Is she sub-consciously trying to disappear from the camera’s gaze? I wonder if she would just be happier left alone to adore her boss from the background.
    It would be interesting to speculate what would happen were she appointed. Would she transfer her adoration to the CJ, who really is smarter than the average bear? Or would Ginsberg smack some self respect into her? Hmmmm.

  • fotonique

    One more thing about that leading (in more ways than one…) red couch image: Harriet is not alone.
    Isn’t that Ken Salazar’s foot peeking around the far edge of the desk (or table)?
    Scratch another shot from the “Alone” category. BAG, you must have missed your usual ration of carrots this week.

  • Diane

    She always seems to be waiting for somebody to let her into an office, left cooling her heels because she’s doesn’t have the clout to be let right in as the person most important to see…

  • Sharkbabe

    The animal metaphor/meme must be going around – this Tom Toles cartoon on Miers made me laff.

  • momly

    Well, fotonique we work with what we’re given and until you begin posting your findings on your own website, we’ll just have to go with what we’ve got.
    My initial impression of Miers in the top photograph is one of a nervous person in a doctor’s waiting room or of a kid sitting in the antechamber of the school principle. The body language is all tense and I bet you anything that if a car were to backfire in earshot, she would be out of her skin in an instant.

  • Lt. Bighorn

    I concur with the trembling lapdog imagery in the first photograph. It’s isn’t an inviting “come-hither” pose, but rather someone uncomfortably fearful who is sittng as far away from the observers as possible.
    Miers as Bush’s lapdog… Hmmm.
    And they CAN’T be serious about the second picture. When I first saw it, I thought it must be a file photo from the 1980’s. She simply does not look serious. She looks like a country singer still hanging on to her trailer park roots.
    For a nomination that had so many problems from the beginning, they are not doing anything to help her. The “she’s a Christian” comment was puzzling at best and frightening at worst, the laughably inadequate questionnaire (why didn’t someone help her with that?) and this pathetic re-tooling every week.
    Karl Rove is off his game. Wonder why?

  • Marysz

    The bottom picture shows the young(er) Meirs surrounded by cameras and the slightly off-center of attention. The upper photo, taken years later, shows her stranded on the end of a leather (masculine looking) couch. In both photos, she has a similarly wry expression on her face. Putting her political identity aside, these photos demonstrate how women are marginalized as they age. Meirs tight smile could signal her awareness of the continual precariousness of her position.

  • fotonique

    Momly said:

    Well, fotonique we work with what we’re given and until you begin posting your findings on your own website, we’ll just have to go with what we’ve got.

    Should we analyze what we’re given, or just accept it? The BAG’s Mission statement says:

    2.) To encourage and help train my readers to become better consumers of visual news media, advertising and advocacy images, and political propaganda (of all stripes).

    Propaganda comes from all directions, and not just from the right. There’s much more visual context out there than BNN can provide: a closer look at it might even change your POV.

  • momly

    Also from the mission statement:
    ” From a more partisan point of view, the intent is to also explore potential underlying conservative or commercial agendas.”
    It’s stated; this is a left leaning site. Why try to change it? Truly, if you want a more “fair and balanced” site, start your own. I’d be glad to visit.

  • fotonique

    Change is up to the BAG, but I hope he doesn’t change things much. He puts up too many good targets for all dart-throwers.
    “Left-leaning” means “not quite there yet”, and you’ve gotta have hope.
    Besides, if we all retreat to our own pulpits, the only regular audience that shows up is the choir.

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