- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

Democrats are holding their fire on Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers because conservatives already are grinding away at her thin judicial record, a top Democrat said yesterday.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said yesterday that Democrats can pin Miss Miers down on a whole range of topics in due time.

“But for the moment, you know, people like Sam Brownback and Trent Lott are doing that job for us,” he said.

Mr. Brownback, a Kansas Republican who also sits on the committee, met with Miss Miers for an hour yesterday but remains unconvinced that she belongs on the high court.

“I have not determined myself at this point in time how I would vote on her nomination,” said Mr. Brownback, who leads a group of conservatives — including Mr. Lott of Mississippi — who are worried about Miss Miers’ scant paper trail and are wary of her conservative credentials.

“This may be a great nominee, but we don’t know,” Mr. Brownback said.

He specifically lamented that in order for nominees to successfully run the gantlet of Supreme Court confirmation hearings, they must obfuscate their views on key issues such as abortion.

Conservatives want retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor replaced with a jurist who thinks Roe v. Wade — the 1973 court case making abortion a constitutional right — was wrongly settled and should be overturned.

Mr. Brownback said that he discussed with Miss Miers some of the cases that Roe is based upon, but that “no promises were made either way.” The two did not discuss Roe itself, Mr. Brownback said, because it remains a “live” issue that is expected to come before the court again.

In conversations with leading conservatives in recent days, it has become clear that the White House knew the Miers nomination would be a tough sell on the political right, dispatching a series of emissaries to the leaders of major conservative and religious groups.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove personally won over two major Christian conservative leaders — James Dobson and Richard Land — in telephone calls on behalf of Miss Miers, conservative evangelicals said.

“The White House is in the midst of a political battle, and the person best able to make the argument has the responsibility to do just that,” said Al Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., adding that Mr. Rove’s “success testifies to the effectiveness of the White House effort” on the Miers nomination.

Many other Christian conservative leaders have resisted arguments in support of Miss Miers even when these arguments were delivered by Mr. Bush and, in person at various conservative gatherings in the past few days, by Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society.

Mr. Mehlman, Mr. DeLay and Mr. Gillespie all spoke Wednesday at conservative luncheons and gatherings, but none made significant inroads, according to several people who attended one of the meetings.

Only Mr. Rove was very effective — succeeding in convincing Mr. Dobson, president of Focus on the Family, and Mr. Land, a director of the Southern Baptist Convention, which comprises more than 16 million worshippers in 42,000 churches in the United States.

But Gary Bauer, the chairman of the Campaign for Working Families and an evangelical with close ties to Mr. Dobson, remains unswayed by White House efforts.

“From a purely political standpoint, it was stupid to miss the opportunity to put a judicial forward nominee with a clear, unambiguous conservative record,” he said.

Another matter of concern to Republicans are the compliments about Miss Miers from Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

White House officials have become so concerned about the impression that they are scheduling Miss Miers’ meetings with Democrats late in the day after reporters meet their deadlines, said Mr. Schumer, who said he declined an offer to meet Miss Miers at 8 p.m. yesterday.

He and other Democrats on Capitol Hill are chortling over Republican divisions.

“Finally, the chickens have come home to roost,” Mr. Schumer said. “The hard right — which is out of the mainstream of America — has held their tongue so long that they now demand fealty from the president, and the president and Karl Rove know that that is harmful politically because the hard right is far away from the mainstream.”

He added: “Their hard right is now more powerful and more dangerous to them than our hard left is to us.”

That division, he said, spells trouble for Miss Miers’ nomination — especially her hearings.

“John Roberts only had to worry about, you know, the left,” he said, referring to the recently confirmed chief justice. “She’s going to have to worry about the left and the right.”

Ironically, any Schumer approval of Miss Miers was mentioned yesterday by Mr. Bauer as the one thing the former Republican presidential candidate didn’t want.

“I despise the strategy of giving into the worst element in the United States Senate — letting the Schumers and Kennedys of the world determine the parameters of whom we nominate,” he said. “It says we’re somehow ashamed of who we are as conservatives and what we stand for.”

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