- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Not much is known about the judicial thinking Harriet Miers would bring to the Supreme Court — and no doubt that’s one of the things President Bush likes about her.

In today’s polarized political atmosphere in Washington, armchair analysts were once again predicting — before Miss Miers was named — a bloody fight that would be the mother of all Supreme Court confirmation battles. But Mr. Bush had no appetite for that, nor was he in a good position to engage in such combat with job-approval ratings in the mid-40s.

He wanted his second choice to tip the court in a more conservative direction, but, like his previous nomination of Chief Justice John Roberts, he looked for someone who would satisfy his political base while dividing and defusing his critics.

But Miss Miers has no paper trail to gauge her opinions, despite years as a high-powered Texas attorney and then as Mr. Bush’s personal attorney, confidant and adviser who rose to the job of chief White House counsel. There are no judicial rulings, no public memos, no sweeping statements or speeches — the raw materials needed for political attack.

That left judicial analysts and Republican conservative activists this week desperately searching for clues to her leanings on the most divisive current issues — from abortion to homosexual rights. Sifting through available evidence, those clues give us a peek into some of her private thinking and beliefs.

On abortion, for example, she has attended several right-to-life dinners and contributed to its causes. Kyleen Wright at Texans for Life, says Miss Miers gave $150 to the group when it was known as Texans United for Life. She was listed as a sponsor and donor at their annual dinner where pro-life crusader Henry Hyde was the keynote speaker.

As a candidate for Dallas City Council, she opposed repealing the law against homosexual activities, something the Supreme Court later struck down.

The first woman to head the Texas State Bar, she was a leader in an insurgent effort to get the American Bar Association to drop its official pro-abortion position — arguing it was inappropriate for the legal body to stake out a position on a matter of personal conscience.

As for religious commitment, she was a member of the Valley View Christian Church in Dallas for 25 years. Nathan Hecht, a close friend and Texas Supreme Court justice, describes it as a “conservative evangelical church … in the vernacular, fundamentalist, but the media have used that word to tar us.”

Fundamentalist might be the most apt description. This is a church where pro-life literature is distributed and tapes of the conservative, pro-life Focus on the Family are often screened.

How conservative is she? Justice Hecht, described by Time Magazine as “an arch-conservative jurist,” says “She is conservative, and is very comfortable in the Bush administration and has felt comfortable being his lawyer.”

As Mr. Bush’s counsel, one of her chief jobs has been to screen all the judicial nominees he has sent to the Senate for confirmation and, in many cases, have been rejected by Senate Democrats. It would not be a stretch to say Miss Miers has been a powerful influence on the kind of judges Mr. Bush has nominated, including Judge Roberts.

“Look at the kind of judges Bush has named” if you want to understand Miss Miers’ judicial thinking, says Ken Mehlman, former White House political director who ran Mr. Bush’s 2004 campaign and is the Republican National Committee chairman. He got to know Miss Miers on a basic political working level.

Notably, Mr. Mehlman says that within the White House “she was a strong voice for the constitutional option,” otherwise known as the nuclear option that would have changed the Senate’s rules to require a simple majority vote to break the Democrats’ filibuster of judicial nominees.

In his news conference Tuesday, Mr. Bush pointedly reminded reporters his nominee was a strict constructionist who “doesn’t believe in legislating from the bench.”

To be sure, there is some doubt and anxiety among conservative groups who fear Miss Miers may turn out to be another David Souter, former President Bush’s egregiously ill-chosen nominee who became one of the most liberal members of the court. The Family Research Council this week cautiously urged conservative groups to “wait and see if the confidence we have always placed in the president’s commitment is justified by this selection.” That’s a reasonable position in light of our meager information about this nonjudicial nominee.

But two political realities loom large at this juncture of the confirmation process. First, it is hard to remember when a president has nominated a person to the high court whose views were so intimately known to him at the highest levels of national policymaking. Second, Mr. Bush has once again deftly chosen a Teflon conservative nominee who has denied his foes the ideological ammo they need to fight his presidency.

Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent of The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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