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Conservatives callto withdraw Miers
The nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court has splintered President Bush’s base and triggered a growing demand from his own supporters to withdraw her nomination.
“What a stupid, stupid mistake,” said Mark W. Smith, a member of the conservative Federalist Society who has actively supported Mr. Bush but wants to see the nomination withdrawn. “You cannot fix this for 25 years.”
Conservatives have stuck with Mr. Bush through the bloodiest and gloomiest days of the war in Iraq, held firm as administration officials are investigated for revealing a CIA operative’s identity and given him a pass on the galloping federal spending. But blowing the historic opportunity to replace a swing vote on the Supreme Court is unforgivable, conservatives say.
“An awful lot of people hung in on the administration’s coalition despite being troubled by the prolific spending, the war and everything else,” said Paul W. Weyrich, a leader in the conservative movement. “The one thing they were certain of was that Bush would give us outstanding jurists.”
Many conservative columnists and commentators — including Peggy Noonan, the Reagan speechwriter who worked on Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign — have called on Mr. Bush to rescind Miss Miers’ nomination.
Asked yesterday whether Miss Miers would request to have her nomination withdrawn, White House spokesman Scott McClellan responded, “No one that knows her would make such a suggestion, and no one that knows her record and her qualifications would make such a suggestion.”
The fissure has separated the White House from some of Mr. Bush’s most loyal Republicans in the Senate. Several — including Sens. Trent Lott of Mississippi and George Allen of Virginia — have publicly questioned whether Miss Miers was the right pick.
Leonard A. Leo, who took a leave from the Federalist Society to help the White House get nominees confirmed, said he finds the criticism from Congress odd.
“To the extent that there is a problem here, a good portion of it dates back to the spring when Senate leadership failed — failed — to achieve filibuster reform,” he said. “That was the decisive moment in this fight.”
Many conservatives wanted Senate Republicans to push through a ban on judicial filibusters earlier this year.
Instead, a renegade group of 14 senators — seven Democrats and seven Republicans — signed a last-minute deal to avoid what had come to be known as the “nuclear option” for its propensity to create caustic fallout in the chamber.
“I find it highly ironic that many of the same conservatives criticizing the president’s nominee were nowhere to be found when it came time to pull the trigger on filibuster reform,” said Mr. Leo, adding that he wholeheartedly supports the Miers nomination. “If I’m the president, I wouldn’t have a high level of confidence that my boys in the Senate can get the job done.”
The dissension has been particularly visible within the Federalist Society, a group of conservative lawyers that has provided many of the jurists who Mr. Bush has picked for the federal bench.
“I have found very few people who are pleased at all,” said Mr. Smith, who is vice president of the New York City chapter and author of “The Official Handbook of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.” “The mood ranges from anger to depression.”
Conservative jurists have waited decades for an opportunity to reverse what they see as a leftward trend of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court. Much of the problem, they said, has been caused by Republican presidents who nominate people such as Miss Miers who aren’t verifiably conservative jurists.
By John R. Bolton
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