Miers Nomination a Challenge for Bush

Steve Inskeep talks to News Analyst Cokie Roberts about President Bush's response to the earthquake in Southeast Asia and the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now the United States is promising up to $50 million in aid for earthquake relief and reconstruction in Pakistan. That's the early word from diplomats in that part of the world. And joining us now is NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts.

Good morning, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS (NPR News Analyst): Good morning, Steve. Welcome back from New Orleans.

INSKEEP: Glad to be here. And President Bush has another disaster to deal with, doesn't he?

ROBERTS: He does. And, as you just discussed with Steve Cohen, it's something he's responding to quickly because of the need to appear to be on top of things. But, you know, part of what's going on here, Steve, is that the president is facing one disaster after another as he is deprived of the constant attention of his most trusted adviser, Karl Rove. Rove has, as you know, been called back by the prosecutor who's looking into the leak investigation, the leak of the name of the CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson. And Rove is now going back to that investigation. It is not at all clear whether he is--the possibility of his indictment is there. So this is a tough time in the White House when it was already a very tough time in the White House. And one of the ways that you can tell that things are not going anywhere near as smoothly as they were in the much sunnier first term is that you have the kind of back-biting that is normal in most White Houses, but it has not been the case in this administration, which is that over the weekend Time magazine published an article saying that the appointment--the nomination of Harriet Miers as a Supreme Court justice was really Andy Card, the chief of staff's, idea. Karl Rove was out of the loop. Now that's the kind of thing that, you know, you just didn't see in the first term with this administration.

INSKEEP: And you've also got what you could call back-biting among some members of the president's conservative base outside the White House. They're not happy with Harriet Miers, some people anyway.

ROBERTS: It's just fascinating to see who her defenders are and who her attackers are. Right out of the box the Democratic leader, Harry Reid, said he liked her. Since the criticism has been mounting, Democratic Senator--senior Senator Barbara Mikulski has said that she thinks that there's more than the whiff of sexism going on here. And then you have James Dobson, the leader of Focus on the Family, an evangelical group, saying that he's very fearful, with fear and trepidation. He thinks it's the right thing to do to back her after a conversation with the White House, where he learned things that he is not free to divulge. Well, now that created another firestorm of Democrats and Republicans saying, `Does he know something we don't know? And have there been assurances made that are inappropriate?' So you've now got just a whole huge brouhaha going on; what Senator Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called a lynch mob that has gathered on the subject of Miers. I think basically what we're going to see here is that her hearings will be key.

And there's more than a little bit of hypocrisy going on here, Steve. You've got people who said it was inappropriate to ask John Roberts about where he stood now saying they need to know where Harriet Miers stands. And then an administration that said it was inappropriate to bring up John Roberts' religion assuring its base that Harriet Miers is OK because of her religion.

INSKEEP: OK. Thanks very much. That's NPR news analyst Cokie Roberts, joining us as she does every Monday.

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