Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Senate Republicans yesterday dismissed conservative leaders’ adamant opposition to the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers.

“This is absurd,” said Sen. Mike DeWine, the Ohio Republican who sits on the Judiciary Committee. “We need to move on to hearings.”

Some senators — especially those viewed as seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2008 — defended the right of conservatives to weigh in on the nomination. But several Republicans said the conservatives are not offering anything constructive.

“It’s awfully hard to be critical of something you know nothing about,” said Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican.

Many conservatives say Miss Miers — President Bush’s White House counsel — lacks a clear and solid record of conservative jurisprudence and could wind up being wooed by the liberal wing of the Supreme Court.

Anger at Mr. Bush from his conservative base has only intensified since the nomination was announced three weeks ago. And yesterday, a group of conservative leaders organized an effort to force the White House to withdraw the nomination, a scenario the White House rejected.

“Enough is enough,” Mr. DeWine said. “If I pick up one more paper and read about one more group that I’ve never heard of saying they’re for Miers or against Miers — it just doesn’t matter at this point.”

Manuel Miranda, who has helped organize much of the opposition to Miss Miers, said this battle will not be forgotten by the Republican base.

“Mike DeWine is going to lose in Ohio, and he should be more aware of grass-roots sentiment,” Mr. Miranda said. “Mike DeWine doesn’t have a great deal of conservative support in Ohio and ham-fisted remarks aren’t going to help with that.”

Democrats continued to remain silent on the nomination, eagerly watching Republican officials openly sparring with their staunchest supporters.

Accordingly, senators eyeing the Republican nomination for president in 2008 weren’t so quick to tell conservatives to pipe down.

“There are people who care a great deal about this particular vacancy on the Supreme Court and they’re expressing their views,” Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, said very carefully. “You listen to all people who have a point of view.”

Off Capitol Hill,, a new group made up of conservatives, including former Bush White House speechwriter David Frum, planned to begin airing a television advertisement tonight that calls on Mr. Bush to give up on Miss Miers’ nomination.

The wording of the ad is careful to criticize Mr. Bush’s choice of Miss Miers, but not the president himself.

“Even the best leaders make mistakes,” says an unseen female announcer in opening the 30-second TV spot, as still black-and-white pictures of the president appear on the screen.

Miss Miers’ picture replaces Mrs. Bush’s as the voice says, “Conservatives support President Bush but not Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.”

The ad, to appear on various prime-time news and talk shows on the Fox News Channel for a week, quotes Judge Robert H. Bork as saying he doesn’t think Miss Miers is qualified and as calling her nomination “a disaster on every level.”

Next, leading talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh is quoted saying, “I am totally behind the president, but I disagree with his nomination.”

The ad concludes with words that cannot be pleasing to Mr. Bush — “America deserves better. Go to Urge President Bush to withdraw the nomination of Harriet Miers.”

The ad is scheduled to run on the Fox News Channel’s “Special Report With Brit Hume,” “Hannity & Colmes” and “Fox & Friends.” A version of the ad also is expected to run soon on nationally syndicated talk-radio shows, including Mr. Limbaugh’s and conservatives Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican, said he’s waiting for the hearings, scheduled to begin Nov. 7.

“I think all of us in the Senate should take a deep breath and listen,” he said

Mr. DeWine said Republican senators facing challengers in the 2006 election — such as himself — need not worry that their positions on the nomination will be held against them.

“This is not a factor,” he said yesterday. “People are not having a big discussion back in Ohio. It’s not a huge issue.”

Mr. Frum said was formed about 10 days ago. He said the group has raised about $300,000 and will spend $250,000 to air the ad.

His fellow BetterJustice board members are syndicated columnists Mona Charen and Linda Chavez; New York lawyer George Conway; New York Times columnist Virginia Postrel; Roger Clegg, vice president of the National Legal Center for the Public Interest; attorneys E.C. Birg and Ephraim Wernick; and businessman Michael Dokupil.

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