Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.), the first senator to publicly endorse Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, told HUMAN EVENTS he underestimated the conservative base’s influence prior to the botched Miers’ nomination.
“It’s an unfortunate perhaps fact, but I now do believe, given the division between the warring factions in our body politic, it’s almost impossible to make a decision without regard to your base,” Cornyn said in an exclusive interview with HUMAN EVENTS. “You have to start there and try to chip away at people in the middle rather than start in the middle and desert your base.”
Cornyn added: “What the President perhaps learned, and what I did learn, is that in a 51-49 nation, if your base deserts you, you are in deep trouble. And that’s what happened on this.”
Miers asked Bush to withdraw her nomination October 27 after coming under fire from conservatives. Less than a month earlier, on October 3, Cornyn was the first senator to endorse Miers. He publicly stood by her despite the drumbeat of opposition against her.
During the interview with HUMAN EVENTS, Cornyn also said Democrats hadn’t ruled out a filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito (see separate Q&A with Cornyn).
On the topic of Miers, who has since resumed her job as Bush’s White House counsel, Cornyn defended his Texas friend.
“I was perhaps unique on the Judiciary Committee in that I actually know Harriet and have known her for 15 years,” Cornyn said. “It wasn’t just what I learned from the public record or my courtesy meetings with her. I know what the President was thinking when he chose her. He thought: Here’s someone I trust, is loyal to me and shares my judicial philosophy.”
Cornyn continued, “She is a pretty humble person unlike most people you meet in Washington in public life who have big egos with sharp elbows. When it became about her, she became a distraction and a drag on the President.”
Cornyn said he believes Miers is conservative, but faulted the White House when it tried to make religion an issue to appease conservatives.
“I believe she is personally conservative,” Cornyn said. “I think it was a mistake to focus so much on her religion. We just got through saying, with [Appeals Judge] Bill Pryor and [Chief Justice] John Roberts, we don’t have a religious test, and then, of course, the White House starts pointing to Harriet’s religion.