WASHINGTON (BP)–Trying to calm conservative nerves, President Bush Oct. 4 defended his choice for the Supreme Court, calling nominee Harriet Miers a “strict constructionist” whose judicial views won’t change if she sits on the bench.
“I’ve known her for more than 10 years. I know her character,” Bush told reporters in a White House Rose Garden press conference. “She’s a woman of principle and deep conviction. She shares my philosophy that judges should strictly interpret the laws and the Constitution of the United States and not legislate from the bench.”
Miers’ nomination has split conservatives, some of whom wanted Bush to pick a federal appeals court judge with a clear record of conservative rulings. By contrast, Miers — currently serving as White House counsel — has never served as a judge, although her career as an attorney has drawn widespread praise. Part of Miers’ responsibility as White House counsel has been to help Bush choose which judges to nominate to the federal court.
“She knows the kind of judge I’m looking for,” Bush said. “After all, she was a part of the process that selected [Chief Justice] John Roberts. I don’t want somebody to go on the bench to try to supplant the legislative process. I’m interested in people who will be strict constructionists, and I’ve told that to the American people ever since I started running for office. I said, ‘Vote for me [and] this is the kind of judges I will put on the bench.’ There should be no doubt in anybody’s mind what I believe the philosophy of a judge [should be]. Harriet Miers shares that philosophy.
“… I know her well enough to say she’s not going to change, that 20 years from now she will be the same person with the same philosophy she has today. She’ll have more experience … but nevertheless, her philosophy won’t change, and that’s important to me. It was important for me when I picked Chief Justice Roberts. It’s important for me in picking Harriet Miers.”
If confirmed by the Senate Miers would replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, whose votes on some social issues — particularly those on abortion — have disappointed conservatives. Although nominated by President Reagan, who was pro-life, O’Connor ended up supporting abortion rights. Bush said he hopes to see Miers confirmed by Thanksgiving.
At one point Bush was asked if Miers was the “most qualified” candidate he could have chosen.
“Yes — otherwise I wouldn’t have put her on,” Bush said.
One reporter asked Bush if he had ever discussed the issue of abortion with Miers.
“I have no litmus test,” he responded. “That’s also something I’ve consistently said. There is no litmus test. What matters to me is her judicial philosophy — what she believes the proper role of the judiciary is relative to the legislative and the executive branch.”
The reporter then asked, again: “Have you never discussed abortion with her?”
“In my interviews with any judge,” Bush said, “I never ask their personal opinion on the subject of abortion.”
The same reporter then asked: “In your friendship with her, you’ve never discussed abortion?”
“Not to my recollection …” Bush responded. “What I have done is understand the type of person she is and the type of judge she will be.”
Later in the press conference Bush was asked if he wanted to see Roe v Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion, overturned.
“I’m not going to interject that kind of issue in the midst of these hearings,” Bush said. “Harriet Miers will stand on her own. I made my position very clear in the course of my campaigns … and I’m a pro-life President. Harriet Miers is going to go up to the Senate, and they’re going to look at her and determine whether or not she’s got the temperament, the intelligence and the philosophy to be an excellent Supreme Court judge. And she will be.”
Conservatives who support Miers have pointed to her actions as president of the Texas bar in 1993, when she led an effort to convince the American Bar Association to return to a neutral position on abortion. Texas lawyers, including Miers, proposed the ABA hold a referendum on its stance regarding Roe v. Wade, which the ABA supports. Her effort failed.
Also, in 1989, Miers donated $150 to a Texas pro-life group, Texans for Life. It was the same year she won a seat on the Dallas City Council. While such news normally would be embraced by conservatives, the current president of Texans for Life told Baptist Press that it’s not uncommon for politicians to give to Texans for Life for pure political reasons.