Bush says religion a criterion for selecting Miers for court

Thursday, October 13, 2005

WASHINGTON -- President Bush said Wednesday his advisers were telling conservatives about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers' religious beliefs because they are interested in her background and "part of Harriet Miers' life is her religion."

"People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers," Bush told reporters at the White House. "They want to know Harriet Miers' background. They want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions. And part of Harriet Miers' life is her religion."

Bush, speaking at the conclusion of an Oval Office meeting with visiting Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, said that his advisers were reaching out to conservatives who oppose her nomination "just to explain the facts."

He spoke on a day in which conservative James Dobson, founder of Focus on Family, said he had discussed the nominee's religious views with presidential aide Karl Rove.

Continuing controversy

Not even a congressional recess nor Bush's preoccupation with hurricane recovery and affairs of state have shrouded the continuing controversy surrounding his selection of Miers to replace the retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Debate about Miers' credentials was prominent on the Sunday television talk shows and has continued to occupy considerable attention on the Internet.

Some of Bush's conservative critics say Miers has no judicial record that proves she will strictly interpret the Constitution and not -- as Busy says -- "legislate from the bench." They argue that Bush passed up other more qualified candidates to nominate someone from his inner circle.

No assurances

On a radio show being broadcast Wednesday, Dobson said he discussed Miers with Rove on Oct. 1, two days before her nomination was announced. Dobson said Rove told him "she is from a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life," but denied he had gotten any assurances from the White House that she would vote to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said: "The rest of America, including the Senate, deserves to know what he and the White House know."

"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," the Vermont senator said. "No political faction should be given a monopoly of relevant knowledge about a nomination, just as no faction should be permitted to hound a nominee to withdraw, before the hearing process has even begun."

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