- The Washington Times - Monday, July 18, 2005

President Bush said yesterday that he already has met with some top contenders for the vacant Supreme Court seat and plans to meet with other candidates, as Republican strategists said the high court nomination could come as early as this week.

The president, holding a brief press conference yesterday in the White House East Room with the prime minister of India, again refused to name any possible nominees to fill retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat.

“I’m going to take my time, and I will be thorough and deliberate,” Mr. Bush said. “Of course I’m reviewing different candidate. I’m reviewing their curriculum vitae, as well as their findings.”

At least two Republican strategists with close ties to the White House said they expect the nomination to come before the end of the week. A third strategist said the White House wants to divert news coverage from Karl Rove, a Bush aide at the center of a media frenzy over who leaked the identity of a CIA official.

Mr. Bush plans a working vacation beginning about the first week of August — another reason strategists predict an announcement soon.

The president yesterday reiterated his desire to have a justice on the bench by the time the Supreme Court reconvenes Oct. 3. To achieve his goal, the president would need to nominate a candidate in the next week or two, because it typically takes several weeks before the Senate is ready to hold hearings.

Speculation about the announcement has run rampant in recent days.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that a nomination does not look likely “for another two weeks,” but then cited sources yesterday who said the president “appears to have narrowed his list of candidates to no more than a few finalists and could announce his decision in the next few days.”

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said yesterday that Mr. Bush had discussions over the weekend with some senior advisers about possible candidates and reiterated the president’s plan to “nominate a fair-minded individual who represents the mainstream of American law and American values.”

Mr. Bush said yesterday that he would “continue to consult with the Senate.”

He already has met once with top Senate leaders on the nomination and has spoken several times with top Democrats, in part, as he said yesterday, “to ask the senators, ‘What’s it take to get somebody in place by the October session?’ ”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, urged the president to pick a nominee who can “unite America.”

“He must make a choice: He can either pick a nominee to appease his right-wing base, or he can choose someone who will respect the rights and freedoms of all Americans,” Mr. Reid said.

Candidates for the court mentioned most when Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist was expected to retire were Samuel Alito, Emilio Garza, J. Michael Juttig, John Roberts Jr., Michael McConnell and J. Harvie Wilkinson III — all federal appeals court judges — and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

Those hoping Mr. Bush will fill the seat with another women most often have mentioned federal judges Edith Hollan Jones and Edith Brown Clement, although new names have emerged, including Alice M. Batchelder and Deborah Cook of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati; Deanell Reece Tacha of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver; Karen Williams from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond; and Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

The names of dozens of people outside the judiciary also have been floated as candidates: One person said to be a serious contender is Larry Thompson, counsel at Pepsico and deputy attorney general during Mr. Bush’s first term.

On the list of other possible contenders are several Republican senators: Lindsey Graham, South Carolina; Michael D. Crapo, Idaho; Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas; Judd Gregg, New Hampshire; Mel Martinez, Florida; John Cornyn, Texas; and Mike DeWine, Ohio.

Still others include former Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson; former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, and Miguel Estrada, a former Bush appeals court nominee.

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