- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 12, 2005

President Bush yesterday said it was appropriate for the White House to tout the evangelical Christianity of Harriet Miers because it is one of the reasons he nominated her to the Supreme Court.

“Part of Harriet Miers’ life is her religion,” Mr. Bush told reporters in the Oval Office. “People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers. They want to know Harriet Miers’ background.

“They want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions,” he added. “And so our outreach program has been just to explain the facts to people.”

Part of the outreach program was for White House strategist Karl Rove to tell influential evangelical James Dobson about Miss Miers’ religious background just before she was nominated by the president.

Mr. Dobson, on his radio show yesterday, said Mr. Rove told him Miss Miers was from an “almost universally pro-life” church, that she fought for the American Bar Association to “not be supportive of abortion,” and that “she had been a member of the Texas Right to Life.”

Mr. Dobson said Mr. Rove also told him that several people withdrew their names from a White House list of potential nominees because “the Democrats have so politicized that process that it’s become an ordeal.”

The White House yesterday confirmed that several potential nominees withdrew from consideration, but it would not reveal their names.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was not assuaged by Mr. Dobson’s report.

“The rest of America, including the Senate, deserves to know what he and the White House know,” he said yesterday. “We don’t confirm justices of the Supreme Court on a wink and a nod. And a litmus test is no less a litmus test by using whispers and signals.”

He also did not rule out the possibility that he might want to call Mr. Dobson or Mr. Rove to testify before the committee.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan was unapologetic about highlighting Miss Miers’ religion as a way to shore up her support among conservatives, some of whom have questioned her credentials.

“We do reach out to a lot of people,” he said. “People want to know who she is.”

But the White House downplayed the Roman Catholicism of Mr. Bush’s first Supreme Court nominee, John G. Roberts Jr., in order to tamp down liberal angst about the church’s pro-life stance. Now that Miss Miers is being criticized by conservatives, not liberals, the White House is emphasizing her evangelic bona fides.

Some conservatives have criticized Mr. Bush for failing to pick an experienced judge with conservative credentials on social issues such as abortion. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania this week said he will press Miss Miers hard on her legal beliefs. Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican and committee member, already said he is prepared to vote against her.

The Rev. Pat Robertson yesterday said senators who want to stay in office should support Miss Miers.

“They’re going to turn against a Christian who is a conservative picked by a conservative president and they’re going to vote against her for confirmation? Not on your sweet life, if they want to stay in office,” Mr. Robertson said on his “700 Club” broadcast.

He said people should look at who is supporting Miss Miers and mentioned the names of Mr. Dobson, the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Most liberal Democrats have said they would withhold their fire over the Miers nomination until hearings could shed some light on her judicial philosophy. But one of the left’s leading advocacy groups, People for the American Way, took some shots at Miss Miers and conservatives yesterday.

While praising Miss Miers for what he said were substantial legal credentials, PFAW President Ralph G. Neas warned that she was “someone who could turn back the clock on rights and liberties that most Americans take for granted.”

“I think there is a whiff of sexism and hypocrisy on the right with many of the conservative pundits and activists who say she doesn’t have any credentials,” he added.

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday completed its questionnaire for Miss Miers.

Sections tailored for Miss Miers include one asking her to detail any “constitutional issues” she has ever handled. It also asks specific questions about how she was selected and what potential conflicts of interest she might face when cases come before the court involving the Bush administration. Miss Miers was a White House counsel and former personal lawyer for Mr. Bush.

Charles Hurt and Donald Lambro contributed to this report.

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