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President Bush and his wife, Laura, offered a double-barreled defense of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers on Tuesday while the White House worked to dampen opposition from the right and win confirmation for the president’s pick. “Harriet Miers is going to be confirmed and people will get to see why I put her on the bench,” Bush said in a television interview on NBC’s “Today” show. The Bushes were in Covington, La., at a Habitat for Humanity housing work site just north of New Orleans. In Philadelphia, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., told The Associated Press that he hopes to begin the confirmation hearing for Miers within a month. Questions for the hearing, which he said he hopes will last no more than a week, likely will focus on her approach to constitutional issues, he said. Bush’s nomination of Miers has fractured his conservative base of supporters. In recent days, some conservatives have expressed outrage that Bush did not choose a nominee with a judicial record. They said it was risky putting Miers on the court because she was a blank slate on issues such as abortion and the death penalty. Some activists have called on Bush to withdraw her nomination. Bush also rebutted worries from his right flank that Miers will be another Justice David Souter, a little-known judge nominated to the court in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush. Souter has disappointed conservatives by drifting, over the years, to the left. “She won’t change,” Bush said. “I mean, the person I know is not the kind of person that is going to change her philosophy and her philosophy is, is that she is not going to legislate from the bench.” Bush said Miers is the most qualified candidate for the job, and Mrs. Bush agreed: “Absolutely. Absolutely.” “She’s very deliberate and thoughtful and will bring dignity to wherever she goes, but certainly to the Supreme Court,” Mrs. Bush said. “She’ll be really excellent.” The public appears more concerned about Miers’ close ties to Bush and lack of judicial experience than they are about any ideological effect she would have on the court, a Pew Research Center poll found. Most in the poll, 56 percent, said they are not worried about whether Miers, the White House counsel, would make the court too conservative or insufficiently conservative. Almost four in 10 said they view Miers less favorably because she has never served as a judge and once served as Bush’s personal attorney. Presidential advisers are reaching out to GOP skeptics to reassure them that Miers is a solid conservative. In the calls, the White House is arguing that Miers is an accomplished lawyer and that the president’s nominees for the federal bench prove that he is consistent and committed to conservative judicial philosophy. Opinion leaders as well as pundits on the right were hungry for a fight over what they see is a need to appoint Supreme Court justices who will strictly interpret the Constitution and will not allow their personal opinions or social trends to influence their opinions. “We are reaching out frequently and regularly in a variety of ways, including conference calls, small group meetings and personal meetings to a variety of groups,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, adding that the outreach has included women, black, elected leaders and Hispanic groups. Meanwhile, conservative groups are continuing their criticism of the president’s pick. Mathew Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, a conservative law group based in Florida, called on the president to withdraw the Miers nomination, saying that Bush passed over several highly qualified candidates with proven track records and well-developed judicial philosophies for an unknown. “I am terribly disappointed,” Staver said. “Bush has turned his finest hour into a political debacle that threatens to split his conservative base. The reverberations from his decision to nominate Harriet Miers have political consequences, if not corrected, that will haunt the Republican Party for some time.” Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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