- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

Amid all the questions about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers’ respect for abortion rights, persistent questions also have circulated about Miss Miers’ qualifications and intellect.

While supporters note her extensive courtroom experience and diligence, one conservative activist called her the “most unqualified nominee since Abe Fortas” — a reference to the Supreme Court associate justice who was blocked from becoming chief justice in 1968 over personal financial dealings.

Earlier this week, President Bush asserted — as his father did after naming Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — that Miss Miers is the most qualified nominee in the country.

Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican and Bush supporter, took issue with that answer.

“Is she the most qualified person?” he asked aloud on MSNBC this week. “Clearly, the answer to that is ‘No.’ There are a lot more people, men, women and minorities that are more qualified in my opinion by their experience than she is.”

Other lawmakers on Capitol Hill have made similar suggestions, though they’ve been a little more politic.

“It’s very hard to learn it all in six weeks,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and member of the Judiciary Committee, chuckled to reporters this week. “Someone suggested facetiously that we should ask for the hearings to be Monday.”

Usually, backhanded questions about her qualifications come in references to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who was confirmed last month after what was widely regarded as a brilliant performance during his Senate hearings.

Sen. Sam Brownback, the Kansas Republican who is unconvinced that Miss Miers should be confirmed, called Justice Roberts “a rock star.”

“You’re really following Elvis here in this situation here,” he said, before quickly adding: “She has her own sets of qualifiers.”

Mr. Schumer observed that Miss Miers will face tough questions from both the left and the right at her hearings.

“She’s got a tougher job than Roberts, you know, all things being equal,” he said. “And — no disrespect to her — all things aren’t equal because Roberts is one of the most brilliant people who ever has come before us.”

Such comments brought charges of sexism from Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat.

“I’m shocked at the sexism and double standard coming out of the far right,” she said, emphasizing that she hasn’t made up her mind on how she’ll vote. “They’re saying that a woman who was able to become head of the Texas Bar Association isn’t qualified. They’re saying a woman who was one of the first to head up a major law firm with over 400 lawyers doesn’t have intellectual heft.”

Miss Mikulski pointed to Justice Thomas, who received widespread support from conservatives.

“I find this a double standard,” she said. “I find it incredibly sexist, because one can only look at Judge Thomas in terms of intellectual heft.”

President Bush dismissed all concerns yesterday, assuring that “she’ll be confirmed.”

“She is a very bright woman,” he said. “She is a pioneer in the law in Texas.”

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