The Conservative Backlash Over Miers

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Pat Buchanan and several other conservative pundits have raised objections to President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Alex Chadwick speaks with Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving about the conservative backlash against the president's choice.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Politics now, with members of Congress not in Washington but back at home listening. And they may hear more about President Bush's Supreme Court nominee, White House counsel Harriet Miers, who's increasingly subject to unfriendly comments from Mr. Bush's usual allies. Here is commentator and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.

Mr. PAT BUCHANAN (Former Republican Presidential Candidate): This is a faith-based initiative. The president of the United States is saying `Trust me.' And when you have the decisive vote on the United States Supreme Court, that is not enough.

CHADWICK: We're joined by NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving.

Ron, how did you think things went over the weekend for Mr. Bush with this Harriet Miers nomination, political commentary generally?

RON ELVING reporting:

It's been more of the same, Alex. He's still getting beaten up on this choice on several levels and primarily from the direction of his own normal supporters. Some of them think she might be another David Souter. Some of them think that she just should have been another justice that--somebody who's got a judicial background, somebody who has a track record of supporting the causes that they want to see championed on the court. And others of them, I think, it's just become the focus of their disappointment with George W. Bush on a number of issues, including the war in Iraq and the size of government spending and things of that nature that are very disappointing to conservatives.

CHADWICK: Let me just note that David Souter is the Supreme Court justice who was nominated, put on the court by Mr. Bush's father, thought to be conservative. Turns out to have a much more liberal voting record than conservatives would like.

Here's Senator Arlen Specter now. This is someone who really has a very important voice in this. He's chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He'll be leading these hearings into Ms. Miers. Here's his comment over the weekend.

Senator ARLEN SPECTER (Republican, Pennsylvania): She's faced one of the toughest lynch mobs ever assembled in Washington, DC. And we really assemble some tough lynch mobs. But she's intelligent, she's hardworking, unquestioned integrity.

CHADWICK: The senator also went on to say he's going to run very difficult hearings for Ms. Miers, said she would face very hard questions. What kind of reception do you think she's looking forward to from Senator Specter?

ELVING: I think Arlen Specter is planning to put her through her paces on a number of cases, not just having to do with privacy, Roe vs. Wade and some of the things that John Roberts was closely questioned on, but a whole range of jurisprudence questions that have to do with the Constitution's commerce clause and all kinds of points that most people, even most lawyers, do not devote much time to after law school. So it's going to be tough.

CHADWICK: Ron, Senator Specter would be termed a moderate Republican, I think, by most observers. She doesn't seem to have friends on the right. If Senator Specter is not offering much help, who are her friends?

ELVING: Actually, some of the Democrats have said much kinder things about Harriet Miers up to this point than most of the Republicans have. Perhaps some of them see her as being more of a potential centrist on the court than they might have been expecting. But there are some Republicans who have been speaking up for Harriet Miers. The former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee--that's Orrin Hatch of Utah--has come out in favor of her. And also the two senators from Texas, John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, have come out strongly in support of Harriet Miers. And there have been other Republicans as well.

CHADWICK: When are these hearings going to begin?

ELVING: That's a good question. Arlen Specter has said he would like to begin them on November the 7th, but that's not too much time for her to prepare. It is, on the other hand, pretty much the only chance that this nomination could be confirmed before Thanksgiving, as the president has said he wants it to be.

CHADWICK: Ron Elving, NPR's senior Washington editor. And you can read his political column, Watching Washington, on our Web site, npr.org.

Ron, thanks again.

ELVING: Thank you, Alex.

CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. We'll be right back with more DAY TO DAY.

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