In an October 18 report, Washington Post staff writer Peter Baker included Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers's "religion" among the topics that have "continued to assert themselves" despite the White House's efforts to "refocus attention on Miers's qualifications." But the subject of Miers's faith hasn't just "asserted" itself; President Bush prompted much of the discussion by bringing up her religion while discussing "why I picked Harriet Miers" at a White House press conference.
From the Post report, which attributed the focus on Miers's "religion and position on abortion" to defections by Bush's "team" rather than to remarks by the president himself:
The White House hoped the appearance would help it refocus attention on Miers's qualifications and away from issues such as her religion and position on abortion. But it found that such topics continued to assert themselves amid a report from a Wall Street Journal columnist that two other judges who are close to Miers told conservative activists on a conference call the day she was nominated that they believed she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
Such disjointed messages are easier to avoid with an integrated campaign backing a president, and Bush advisers rue the fragmenting of the team they put together. Through intermediaries and more conference calls and e-mails, White House officials are trying to lobby estranged supporters and reassemble the coalition.
From Bush's October 12 press conference:
BUSH: People ask me why I picked Harriet Miers. They want to know Harriet Miers's background; they want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions. And part of Harriet Miers's life is her religion. Part of it has to do with the fact that she was a pioneer woman and a trailblazer in the law in Texas. I remind people that Harriet Miers is one of the -- has been rated consistently one of the top 50 women lawyers in the United States. She's eminently qualified for the job. And she has got a judicial philosophy that I appreciate; otherwise I wouldn't have named her to the bench, which is -- or nominated her to the bench -- which is that she will not legislate from the bench, but strictly interpret the Constitution.