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Land, on ‘Meet the Press,’ says he trusts Bush in court pick

NEW YORK (BP)–He is unequivocal in his support of Harriet Miers’ nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Richard Land said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” Oct. 9.

The president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission predicted that Miers, if confirmed, and new Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts “will disagree about 1 percent of the time” over the next five years. President George W. Bush has nominated Harriet Miers, who now serves as White House counsel, the chief legal adviser to the office of the president, to replace Associate Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who is retiring.

Land was joined on the news program by syndicated columnist and television commentator Pat Buchanan, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2000 on the Reform Party ticket and failed in two earlier bids to secure the Republican presidential nomination. Buchanan has called on President Bush to withdraw Miers’ nomination. This was Land’s third appearance on Meet the Press.

“We want Supreme Court justices who will understand their client is the Constitution and they’re going to interpret the law; they’re not going to try to write the law from the bench,” Land told Meet the Press host Tim Russert. “I’ll make a prediction for you: When she’s confirmed, over the next five years, she and John Roberts will disagree about 1 percent of the time,” Land added.

Land expressed confidence in the Bush pick, while admitting he does not know how Miers will vote on specific cases. “[Miers] was very much involved, intimately involved, in the vetting process for the stellar list of nominees the president has put forward, again and again and again,” he said, noting the judicial nominees have been “strict constructionists” and “original intent jurists.”

Buchanan told Russert the president “ducked the fight” in nominating Miers. “The president has recoiled from greatness. He has retreated from Reaganism into the old politics of compromise and consensus on what for us was the greatest issue of his second term,” Buchanan said. “I think, in a minor matter, he has probably risked his legacy. But more important, he has risked what some of us have fought for for 40 years since I was with Richard Nixon.”

Land disagreed, saying “even in the face of an unprecedented filibuster under [Senators] Daschle and Leahy, [Bush] never backed down.”

The Miers nomination has drawn praise from many in the conservative community, but scorn from others. The National Right to Life organization, Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice and James Dobson of Focus on the Family, among others, have voiced support for the nominee. Yet those expressing concern with the nomination include former presidential speech writer Peggy Noonan, columnist George Will and Robert Bork, whose own nomination to the high court was rejected by the Senate in 1987.

Land suggested some of the opposition had the “scent and whiff of elitism about it.” Miers earned her bachelor and law degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

“I’m a graduate of Princeton [University] and I just want to say, you don’t have to go to an Ivy League school to be on the Supreme Court,” Land said. “I think this woman is a woman of enormous accomplishment. I think she’s going to do an excellent job in the hearings. People who know her that I knew in Dallas, when I lived there, say she’s one of the most impressive women they know. She overcame a great deal of sexual prejudice to get to where she’s gotten to in life. She has the president’s absolute confidence.”

Given the president’s track record, Bush “deserves better from the conservative community than he’s getting in terms of trust,” Land said.

“I think the president has picked the person that he believes will most reflect his judicial philosophy and is least likely to be influenced by the Eastern establishment, by The New York Times opinion of them over the next 20 years,” Land said.

Buchanan said Bush passed over some of the “finest jurists in the country” in tapping “his personal attorney” for the court seat. He called the nomination a “faith-based initiative.”

“We were on the precipice of victory in the battle to return the Supreme Court to constitutionalism,” Buchanan said. “And the president of the United States picks a woman with no known judicial philosophy who has never taken a stand on any of these great questions, who has never written or said anything about Supreme Court rulings, and we have been told to take it on faith.”

Land said he is confident in placing his faith in Bush. “I don’t know Harriet Miers. I know George W. Bush. And I’m trusting George W. Bush. He understands — we all understand — his legacy depends on this nomination.

“George W. Bush, if he’s anything, is a man of his word,” Land continued. “And if there’s any issue that he’s earned the trust of conservatives on, it’s this issue. He has held steadfast and put up stellar nominees in the face of unprecedented opposition from the [former Sen. Minority Leader Tom] Daschle-led clack in the Senate and never backed down, never blinked, never flinched. He picked a person he’s known for 15 years, and I believe he picked her because he knows her that well and he knows that she will vote the way he would want her to vote,” he said.

When Buchanan questioned the president’s resolve in seeing the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Land said he was “absolutely certain” the president wants to see the controversial 1973 court ruling that effectively legalized abortion struck down.

“I know how he feels about abortion,” Land said. “I’ve talked to him about it. I’ve seen the look in his eyes. I’ve seen the anguish in his face, the pain in his heart. This, for him, is not just a moral issue. It is a deep issue of conviction. And he wants to see this decision returned to the people of the United States.”

While some on the right have signaled that Miers’ evangelical faith is a plus for her possible role on the bench, Land said a judge’s faith should not come into play in the decision-making process. “I think that John Roberts’ devout Catholicism and Harriet Miers’ strong evangelical beliefs should be irrelevant when it comes to judging cases before the Supreme Court,” Land said.

“In politicians, in governors and senators and congressmen, it’s very important,” he continued. “They have a right to bring their faith convictions to bear on public policy. But when it comes to judges, they must set aside their personal convictions and rule based on the law.”

Russert asked Land and Buchanan if Miers would be confirmed. Land said yes; Buchanan said no, suggesting the nomination may be withdrawn.

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  • Dwayne Hastings