Bush Nominates Harriet Miers for High Court

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President Bush names his White House counsel, Harriet Miers, to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court. In recent days, Miers has led efforts to find O'Connor's successor, but that was only one reason her selection took many by surprise.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

In the end, President Bush found his new Supreme Court nominee just a flight of stairs and a short walk away from the Oval Office. Harriet Miers currently serves as White House counsel, and if she's confirmed by the Senate to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, she'll be just the third woman to serve on the court. Miers is 60 years old. The White House says she has impeccable legal credentials. She also has close ties to Mr. Bush, going back to their days in Texas. What she does not have is any experience as a judge. Reaction from Capitol Hill and more about Miers' career in Texas are coming up. First, here's NPR's David Greene from the White House.

DAVID GREENE reporting:

The president and Harriet Miers go way back. As governor, he appointed her to run the Texas Lottery Commission, and at one time used her as his personal attorney. In 1996, then-Governor Bush was giving Miers a legal award and he described her as a `pit bull in size 6 shoes.' But in the Oval Office this morning, Miers seemed far more reserved, standing at Mr. Bush's side as he announced her as his choice.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: In selecting a nominee, I've sought to find an American of grace, judgment and unwavering devotion to the Constitution and laws of our country. Harriet Miers is just such a person. I've known Harriet for more than a decade. I know her heart, I know her character. I know that Harriet's mother's proud of her today, and I know her father would be proud of her, too.

GREENE: The president was under pressure from people as close to him as his wife to find a woman to take O'Connor's place. First lady Laura Bush was with her husband on Sunday night when Miers came to the White House residence for dinner and got the job offer. According to the White House, Mr. Bush met with Miers three other times over the last two weeks to discuss whether he would choose her. She was on a list of about a dozen finalists, close to half of whom were women. Miers said she was humbled by the president's decision.

Ms. HARRIET MIERS (Supreme Court Nominee): It is the responsibility of every generation to be true to the founders' vision of the proper role of the courts in our society. If confirmed, I recognize that I will have a tremendous responsibility to keep our judicial system strong and to help ensure that the courts meet their obligations to strictly apply the laws and the Constitution.

GREENE: As a lawyer, Miers has extensive experience in courtrooms, but she's never served in one as a judge. Even before Mr. Bush came out to make his announcement, White House aides were scrambling to head off the anticipated criticism of her resume. They pointed out that the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist never sat on the bench either before being nominated. Mr. Bush himself offered a review of some of Miers' legal credentials.

Pres. BUSH: She has a record of achievement in the law, as well as experience as an elected member of the Dallas City Council. She served at high levels of both state and federal government. Before state and federal courts, she had tried cases and argued appeals that covered a broad range of matters.

GREENE: One of the matters on her plate as the president's chief legal counsel was to lead the search committee for new Supreme Court justices. The White House says she remained on that committee as her own name was being floated, but that other officials took care of her background checks. David Greene, NPR News, the White House.

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