WASHINGTON — Before President Bush nominated White House Counsel Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court, his deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, called influential Christian leader James C. Dobson to assure him that Miers was a conservative evangelical Christian, Dobson said in remarks scheduled for broadcast today on his national radio show.
In that conversation, which has been the subject of feverish speculation, Rove also told Dobson that one reason the president was passing over better-known conservatives was that many on the White House short list had asked not to be considered, Dobson said, according to an advance transcript of the broadcast provided by his organization, Focus on the Family.
Dobson said that the White House had decided to nominate a woman, which reduced the size of the list, and that several women on it had then bowed out.
"What Karl told me is that some of those individuals took themselves off that list and they would not allow their names to be considered, because the process has become so vicious and so vitriolic and so bitter that they didn't want to subject themselves or the members of their families to it," Dobson said, according to the transcript.
Dobson said that he and Rove did not discuss Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that established a woman's right to end a pregnancy, or how Miers might judge abortion-related cases.
"I did not ask that question," Dobson said. "You know, to be honest, I would have loved to have known how Harriet Miers views Roe v. Wade. But even if Karl had known the answer to that -- and I'm certain that he didn't, because the president himself said he didn't know -- Karl would not have told me that. That's the most incendiary information that's out there, and it was never part of our discussion."
In conference calls to other conservatives last week, Dobson had mentioned that he and Rove had talked privately before the Oct. 3 nomination, leading to speculation that he had been provided assurances about Miers' views and convictions.
In recent days, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, had said that he would consider issuing a subpoena for Dobson to appear before the committee to discuss those assurances.
In his radio broadcast, Dobson said that though the information Rove provided on Miers was private at the time of the conference calls, it has since been reported from other sources and that Rove had agreed he could share it publicly.
According to Dobson, that information included "that Harriet Miers is an evangelical Christian; that she is from a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life; that she had taken on the American Bar Assn. on the issue of abortion and fought for a policy that would not be supportive of abortion; [and] that she had been a member of the Texas Right to Life."
Miers' personal views on abortion have been the focus of much concern on the right and the left. As president of the Texas Bar Assn., she contended that local chapters should be allowed a voice in American Bar Assn. positions on national controversies such as abortion, but she did not say whether she was personally against abortion rights.
And in 1989, Miers gave $150 to Texans United for Life and was a sponsor of the group's annual dinner that honored Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), a leading congressional opponent of abortion -- but she does not appear to have formally joined the organization.