- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2005

President Bush sought to calm conservatives over his latest Supreme Court pick in a rare Rose Garden press conference yesterday, but some Republicans on Capitol Hill remain unconvinced.

Responding to a question from The Washington Times, the president said he hopes conservatives who wanted him to pick someone more demonstrably conservative than White House Counsel Harriet Miers understand that “she will not legislate from the bench.”

“I know her; I know her heart; I know what she believes — remember, she was part of the search committee that helped pick Roberts,” he said. “She knows exactly the kind of judge I’m looking for. And I know exactly the kind of judge she’ll be.”

But in a response not likely to please conservatives or liberals, Mr. Bush yesterday said he does not recall discussing abortion with Miss Miers in the decade that he has known her, and he declined to say whether the court should overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that made abortion a constitutional right.

“Not to my recollection have I ever sat down with her,” he told reporters in a Rose Garden press conference. “What I have done is understand the type of person she is and the type of judge she will be.”

On Capitol Hill, some conservative Republicans remained skeptical. Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, said yesterday that he remained unsure “whether she possesses a firm commitment to the Framers’ Constitution and the rule of law.”

The pro-life senator voted to confirm Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. but cautioned that the next nominee should have a clear paper trail showing a commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade.

“I have said in the past that I would like a nominee with a proven track record on important issues to all Americans and whose judicial philosophy is well-formed,” he added. “I am not yet confident that Ms. Miers has a proven track record, and I look forward to having these questions answered.”

But he added that he is “hopeful that Ms. Miers will be, as President Bush promised, a qualified nominee in the mold of Justices (Antonin) Scalia and (Clarence) Thomas, who will strictly interpret the law and will not create law.”

Although Miss Miers, who is White House counsel, has never been a judge, the president yesterday said she is the most qualified person to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Prompted by a senator’s suggestion that he should look outside the judicial “monastery,” Mr. Bush said he learned that other presidents had also appointed nonjudges to the Supreme Court.

“I also remind them that I think it’s important to bring somebody from outside the system, the judicial system, somebody that hasn’t been on the bench and, therefore, there’s not a lot of opinions for people to look at,” he added.

But the president declined to say whether his father, former President George Bush, had erred in 1990 by appointing Justice David H. Souter, who was seen at the time as an easily confirmable “stealth nominee” but has proven more liberal than many expected.

Mr. Bush avoided a question on whether he would like to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe, saying he didn’t want to complicate Miss Miers’ Senate confirmation hearings.

“I’m not going to interject that kind of issue in the midst of these hearings,” he said. “Harriet Miers will stand on her own. I made my position very clear in the course of my campaigns … and I’m a pro-life president.”

The elder Mr. Bush made a similar comment about the Souter nomination and abortion, insisting that he had not discussed abortion with his nominee.

“In my view, it would have been inappropriate to ask him his views on specific issues,” Mr. Bush said in 1990.

The current president also said it will be up to Democrats to determine whether the Miers confirmation hearings will be contentious and lamented many of the ads run by liberal groups against Chief Justice Roberts.

On the Senate floor, Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada told colleagues that he’s “impressed” with what he knows about Miss Miers and urged them to wait until the hearings to make up their minds about supporting her.

Miss Miers met with Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and a member of the Judiciary Committee, who said later, “I intend to support her.”

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, called on the White House to provide documents pertaining to Miss Miers’ service in the White House.

“She’s a Bush loyalist, with little public record,” said the senior member of the Judiciary Committee. “Therefore, she bears a heavy burden in demonstrating that she is an independent thinker who is as committed to the fundamental rights and freedoms as Justice O’Connor has been for the last quarter-century.”

At his press conference, Mr. Bush said he would invoke executive privilege against such an attempt, saying presidents need to be able to receive unvarnished advice without worry that such advice will someday be made public.

This prompted the Democratic National Committee to question whether Miss Miers would be more loyal to the president than the nation.

“The question remains whether or not Miers can be independent on the bench, given her close association with the Bush White House,” said Democratic National Committee Communications Director Karen Finney. “Miers should recuse herself from any ongoing internal investigations at the Bush White House while she sits as a nominee.”

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