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White House Keeps Pushing for Miers

The president officially sends the Senate her nomination to the Supreme Court despite discontent in some conservative quarters.

October 08, 2005|Maura Reynolds and Edwin Chen | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — President Bush formally sent to the Senate his nomination of White House counsel Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court on Friday, defying dissent from some core supporters and a few calls for her withdrawal.

In brief public comments, the president brushed aside calls for him to rescind her nomination.

"She is going to be on the bench. She'll be confirmed" by the Senate, Bush told reporters in the Oval Office. "And when she's on the bench, people will see a fantastic woman who is honest, open, humble and capable of being a great Supreme Court judge."

At least two prominent conservatives -- syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer and Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol -- called Friday for the White House to withdraw her nomination or Miers to remove herself from the process.

"I think her nomination was a mistake," Kristol said on NBC's "Today" show. "The president is loyal to her, but it was a mistake. She doesn't have the intellectual distinction or track record to justify putting her on the Supreme Court."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday October 11, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 48 words Type of Material: Correction
Miers nomination -- An article in Saturday's Section A on the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers said that Jay Sekulow, a White House confirmation advisor, is chief counsel for the American Council of Law and Justice. The organization is the American Center for Law and Justice.

Miers and the White House pressed on. White House officials sent a "notification of nomination" to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Miers continued to make courtesy calls on senators. She met with Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who said he was inclined to support her.

"I believe she has a great understanding of Western values, which is a good thing in my book," Burns said afterward.

Miers headed to Texas for the weekend to dig out old files to answer questions from the Judiciary Committee, which will review her nomination before it is sent to the full Senate. Bush was to make Miers the subject of his weekly radio address today.

Behind the scenes, White House advisors continued trying to persuade key holdouts in the GOP's base -- especially Christian conservatives -- to endorse Miers.

"I think we're better off today than we were yesterday," said White House confirmation advisor Jay Sekulow, who is chief counsel of the conservative American Council of Law and Justice. "I think it's moving forward, but it's small steps at a time."

Miers gained the support of at least one more leading evangelical activist Friday, the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon of Anaheim, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition.

He said of Miers: "The more I read, the more I like."

Sheldon said he had been in frequent contact with White House officials about Miers, beginning with an early-morning call from White House evangelical liaison Tim Goeglein on Monday, the day Bush announced his pick. "He said, 'Lou, you're going to be thrilled,' " Sheldon said.

Asked if his conversations with administration officials left him sure that Miers would help achieve evangelicals' goal of overturning Roe vs. Wade -- the 1973 high court decision establishing a right to abortion -- Sheldon was coy.

"I don't want to answer that question because I don't want to create a negative reaction among some Democrats who have already signed on to her," he said. "But I can only tell you that the more I'm hearing and making phone calls to friends who go to her church and know her, the more comfortable I'm feeling."

Other religious conservatives were unconvinced. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins e-mailed supporters Friday expressing concerns about Miers' role in organizing a lecture series at her alma mater Southern Methodist University. The series featured what he described as "an apparently unbroken string of pro-abortion speakers."

"Did Miss Miers know what kind of program she was helping to establish? Should she have known?" Perkins asked, citing the participation of feminist writers Gloria Steinem and Susan Faludi as well as former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, the Democrat whom Bush unseated in 1994.

The chief counsel of the conservative Concerned Women for America, Jan LaRue, also expressed continuing reservations about Miers. She said she was somewhat insulted by the tone of several meetings and a Thursday conference call during which White House allies repeatedly stressed Miers' resume in corporate law and her membership in an evangelical church.

"You have got to come out with something other than telling us about her faith and reading her resume," LaRue said. "She may be one of the finest corporate lawyers in the country, but corporate law rarely touches on constitutional issues."

LaRue said she found White House officials' emphasis on Miers' religious convictions condescending to believers.

"I'm an evangelical Christian. I'm delighted to hear that anyone shares my faith," she said. "But that alone does not qualify someone for the Supreme Court."

Many Democrats were hanging back, watching the Republican fray and saying as little as possible.

"We're unsure where this is going, and watching very carefully," said a senior Democratic leadership aide. "We're watching the president continuing to have to come to her defense, and yet the administration has been unsuccessful in getting her critics back into the fold."

Times staff writer Peter Wallsten contributed to this report.

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