Here’s the lead of a Washington Post story today on the White House’s attempts to use religion in order to shore up the prospects of President Bush’s embattled Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers:
POST: President Bush said yesterday that it was appropriate for the White House to invoke Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers’s religion in making the case for her to skeptical conservatives, triggering a debate over what role, if any, her evangelical faith should play in the confirmation battle.
Bush said religion is part of Miers’s overall background much like her work as a corporate lawyer in Texas, and that “our outreach program has been just to explain the facts to people.” At the same time, his attorney general went on television and described Miers as “pro-life.” But the White House said her religious and personal views would not affect her ability to serve as a neutral justice.
“People ask me why I picked Harriet Miers,” Bush said in response to a reporter’s question at an Oval Office appearance with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. “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.”
But when White House spokesman Scott McClellan was asked about this yesterday, he said the inordinate public attention on Miers’ religious beliefs was – you guessed it – the fault of the media. Here is the end of a long exchange:
Q: It seems that what you’re doing is trying to calm a revolt on the right concerned that Harriet Miers isn’t conservative enough, by saying, it’s okay, she is conservative enough, because she goes to this church.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, it seems like the media wants to focus on things other than her qualifications. Maybe your news organization would rather focus on things other than her qualifications and record. The President believes we should focus on her qualifications and her record and her judicial philosophy. And that’s what we emphasize.
Talk about trying to have it both ways.
The Post also reports today that some Bush administration officials grumbled that Miers wasn’t even qualified to be White House counsel when she was named to succeed Alberto Gonzales, now the attorney general. Supposedly they’ve changed their minds.