Bush: Miers 'shares my philosophy'

President seeks to reassure his base on high-court pick

By Finlay Lewis

October 5, 2005

* Miers appears moderate on social issues 

WASHINGTON – Noting that he is a "pro-life president," President Bush said yesterday that he is confident that Harriet Miers shares his philosophy and will not stray from a conservative path as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bush sought to reassure conservatives about his latest high-court nominee, saying she is the best-qualified candidate.

RON EDMONDS / Associated Press
President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court has attracted criticism from conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh and Pat Buchanan.
The president also tried to rebut growing criticism that Miers lacks judicial experience and doesn't have a clear conservative record.

"I know her character. She's a woman of principle and deep conviction," Bush said at a Rose Garden news conference. "She shares my philosophy that judges should strictly interpret the laws and the Constitution of the United States and not legislate from the bench."

Bush asked the Senate to confirm Miers by Thanksgiving. She would replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has often been the court's swing vote in critical decisions.

As Miers visited senators who will vote on her nomination, she picked up the support of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who told reporters yesterday that she would be the kind of "strict constructionist" that Bush has promised to place on the court.

The term refers to jurists who believe their role is to decide cases based on a close reading of the Constitution rather than ranging more widely in interpretation.

Across the map

Issues raised during President Bush's news conference:

Spending: "Congress needs to pay for as much of the hurricane relief as possible by cutting spending." Energy: "We need more refining capacity. ... We haven't built a new refinery since the 1970s."

Alan Greenspan's successor: "It's important that whomever I pick is viewed as an independent person from politics."

CIA leak: "I'll remind you what I said last time I was asked about this: I'm not going to talk about it until the investigation is complete."

SOURCE: Associated Press
Hatch, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will conduct Miers' confirmation hearings, said he needed no more information about Miers, adding: "I know her really well and I intend to support her."

Under fire from some quarters for filling slots in his administration with "cronies," Bush brushed off the question of whether her nomination would add to the problem.

"I picked the best person I could find," he said.

While reminding reporters of his opposition to abortion, Bush repeated his insistence that he applies no "litmus tests" to judicial nominees. The president said he could not recall discussing abortion with Miers during the decade that she served as his personal lawyer and most recently as White House counsel.

But he pointed out that Miers, 60, has been closely involved in the process of picking judicial nominees, including Chief Justice John Roberts, and that "she knows the kind of judge I'm looking for."

He declined to answer when asked if he would like to see the high court overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

He added: "Harriet Miers will stand on her own. I made my position very clear in the course of my campaigns, my position, and I'm a pro-life president."

On Capitol Hill, Miers also met with Republican Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, both members of the Judiciary Committee.

While withholding his support pending a review of her record, Sessions described himself as "enthusiastic" about the nomination and added, "I know the president believes in Ms. Miers strongly, and I value his judgment."

However, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., a committee member and one of the Senate's staunchest voices against abortion, said, "I am not yet confident that Ms. Miers has a proven track record."

Miers' position on abortion is unclear. The closest she has come to public involvement in that controversy came in 1993 when she played a leading role in challenging the American Bar Association's support for abortion rights. Miers, without voicing a position on abortion, called for a referendum.

Several conservative leaders, including James Dobson of Focus on the Family, have given Miers a qualified endorsement – saying, in effect, that they have faith in Bush's judgment. Several others, including commentator Rush Limbaugh, have criticized the pick.

In an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," Pat Buchanan, a conservative columnist and former presidential candidate, suggested Miers was nominated because of her gender. "There's no way this woman is qualified for the United States Supreme Court," he said.

Some conservatives have expressed fears that Miers would follow the path of Justice David Souter, who was nominated by Bush's father and has become one of the more liberal justices on the court.

Said the president: "I don't want to put someone on the bench who's this way today and changes. . . . I'm interested in someone who shares my philosophy and will share it 20 years from now."

Asked if that was a reference to Souter, Bush chuckled and said, "You're trying to get me in trouble with my father."

Miers' nomination will surely trigger a debate over the release of White House documents as lawmakers will seek clues to her judicial philosophy.

But Bush said that the question of releasing documents is a distraction and that it is important to maintain executive privilege.

"That's part of the deliberative process. That's how I'm able to get good, sound opinions from people," he said.

Recalling his consultations with senators on filling judicial vacancies, Bush said he was intrigued by the suggestion that he should reach outside "the judicial monastery."

He did so, he added, because "Harriet will bring not only expertise, but a fresh approach."

Cox News Service and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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