Regarding the collapse of the Harriet Miers nomination:

President Bush isn't the only one who should be deeply disappointed in the process of advising and consenting on Supreme Court nominations. Every American who believes in the Constitution ought to be deeply disappointed, if not absolutely horrified.

Since 1807 the Supreme Court has defined an impartial juror as one who will render a verdict based solely on the evidence permitted at a trial -- not someone who has decided guilt or innocence ahead of time.

Surely we ought to be able to count on at least a similar level of open-mindedness and impartiality in the next associate justice of the Supreme Court. But in the Harriet Miers case, conservatives have demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that they are not looking for a top legal mind in a justice. They are looking for a mind that is already made up to embrace a conservative, religiously guided interpretation of every case that will come before the Supreme Court.

At least the conservative blowhards are out in the open now. We can all see their utter contempt for the court and for the concepts of separation of powers and checks and balances.

JANET HILL KEEFER

Des Moines

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So the fight over the integrity of the federal judiciary begins anew. The president again must choose between a mainstream nominee who will bring a commitment to judicial independence and open-minded analysis to the high court and a confrontational ideologue committed to rolling back much of American constitutional jurisprudence over the past half-century to better facilitate the political and social power of the radical right.

Given the president's exigent need for support from his right-wing base, it is likely that he will be tempted to choose the latter. This would imperil many civil rights and liberties, especially the right to privacy, and would ensure the opening of even more fronts in the culture wars at a time when Americans need to find the political and social common ground to deal with the many domestic and foreign crises plaguing us.

Now is the time for Senate moderates of both parties to insist that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's successor be a consensus candidate. If not, then it falls on these moderates to defeat the nomination with all means, including the filibuster. A battle royal to protect the Supreme Court from extremism, cronyism and partisanship is a fight worth having, whatever the outcome.

EDWARD T. MULLIGAN

Springfield