Conservatives Split Over Bush Nominee

Some of President Bush's conservative supporters are unconvinced by his defense of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, creating dissension in a Republican Party.

Conservatives in some cases are expressing outright opposition, some are in wait-and-see mode and some are silent, all bad signs for a Bush administration used to having the full backing of all wings of the GOP when it takes on the Senate's minority Democrats over judicial selection.

"I'm getting reports on both sides," said Paul Weyrich, a conservative leader from the Free Congress Foundation. "Some people are quite enthused about her and other people are very upset. The grass-roots are not happy, I can tell you that."

Miers, meanwhile, is trying to build up support by visiting senators at the Capitol, scheduling stops with GOP Sen. John Cornyn and top Judiciary Committee Democrat Patrick Leahy.

Bush defended the 60-year-old nominee at a Rose Garden news conference Tuesday, repeatedly implying that conservatives should trust his judgment in picking Miers to succeed the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor.

Bush, who emphasized that he's a proud conservative, said he hoped his supporters were listening. "I'm interested in someone who shares my philosophy and will share it 20 years from now," he said.

After a strong push from the president and his White House staff, some conservative groups are coming out in favor of Miers, the White House counsel and longtime Bush friend.

And one of the Senate's senior conservatives, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was one of the first senators to announce his support for Miers.

In the meanwhile anti-abortion group Operation: Rescue on Tuesday promised an active campaign to get Bush to withdraw her nomination.

Senate Democrats, in their turn, are mostly holding their fire.

"With so much at stake, we shouldn't rush to judgment about this or any other nominee, but even at this early stage of the confirmation process, I will say that I am impressed by what I know about Harriet Miers," the AP quoted Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid as saying.

Photo: the AP

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