Bush Didn’t Offer a ‘Robust Defense’

Today’s Washington Post front-page story on President Bush’s press conference and the Harriet Miers nomination makes two important assertions, but the authors—Peter Baker and Shailagh Murray—fail to substantiate either. Here we go:

Seeking to quell a revolt within his own party, President Bush offered a robust defense of his new Supreme Court nominee as well as his own conservative credentials yesterday in the face of Republican complaints that he has drifted from his ideological moorings in recent weeks.

1. “Robust defense.” As I blogged about yesterday, Bush spoke for a long time about Miers, but the one thing he didn’t do was offer a robust defense. As proof, the Post quotes Bush on Miers in the third paragraph:

"I picked the best person I could find," Bush said at his first full-fledged White House news conference since May. "People know we’re close. But you got to understand, because of our closeness, I know the character of the person. It’s one thing to say a person can read the law — and that’s important — and understand the law. But what also matters . . . is the intangibles. To me, a person’s strength of character counts a lot."

Mr. Baker and Ms. Murray, how exactly is citing one’s character worthy of the words “robust defense”?

2. “Republican complaints that he has drifted from his ideological moorings.” The Post does an even worse job on this front. It cites only two senators—none of the many conservative activists grumbling about Bush are even mentioned—regarding criticism of Miers. And even then, Senators Sam Brownback (R.-Kan.) and Chuck Grassley (R.-Iowa) are criticizing the nominee, not the President for drifting from his ideological moorings.

Speaking separately to an Associated Press reporter, Brownback added: "There’s precious little to go on and a deep concern that this would be a Souter-type candidate," he said, referring to Justice David H. Souter, who was little known when nominated in 1990 and turned out to be more liberal than Republican supporters expected.

"The circumstances seem to be very similar," Brownback said. "Not much track record, people vouching for her, yet indications of a different thought pattern earlier in life."

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said he also has concerns about the lack of a paper trail — leaving senators unsure about her views on a range of issues, including business law and social concerns. "I will need to know more about her," he said. But he said he was "very satisfied" with Miers’s answers during their meeting and added: "I would assume she is very conservative."

Two thumbs down to Baker and Murray for a piece that should have been much more exhaustive and, at the least, better worded.


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