Criticism of Supreme Court nominee Harriet E. Miers as a crony of the president is unfounded, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday, praising Miers as having a “probing intellect.”
President Bush earlier this month chose Miers, an aide who has never been a judge, to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Since then, Miers's nomination has divided conservatives who support the president and those who say it was a risky choice because her views were not known on issues such as abortion and gay rights.
Three Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which plans to hold hearings next month, said there had been vicious attacks by the Republican right.
They said Bush had made Miers's confirmation more difficult by highlighting her conservative religious beliefs move that was seen as an effort to close a growing split among the GOP.
Senator Dianne Feinstein said she remained open to voting to confirm Miers, citing in part the conservative criticism. ''The way she's being beaten up by the far right is very sexist," Feinstein, Democrat of California, said on the CNN program ''Late Edition."
"People should hold their fire and give people an opportunity to come before a hearing," Feinstein said, reports Boston Globe.
Rice said she has worked closely with Miers, the White House counsel and a former deputy chief of staff, on international legal issues such as a president's wartime powers.
“She's got a very probing mind and a probing intellect,” Rice said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“She is the kind of person who is - if there have been four arguments given, Harriet's going to look for the fifth,” said Rice, who was interviewed from London at the end of a diplomatic trip.
Referring to Miers' critics, Rice said, “I think that when they get to know her in the hearings, in the confirmation hearings, that they're going to see a woman of extraordinary talent, extraordinary integrity and somebody who would be an extraordinary Supreme Court justice.”
Asked whether she urged Bush to select Miers, Rice said, “I'm not in the habit of recommending Supreme Court justice nominees to the president.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, meanwhile, took issue with Bush's emphasis of Miers' religious beliefs.
“It's going to make for a very difficult line of inquiry at our hearing, but we have to understand what she's all about, what her values and beliefs are, so we can make an informed judgment,” said Durbin, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, informs Guardian.