Bush tries to sell Americans on Alito


  • World
  • Sunday, 06 Nov 2005

By Steve Holland

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina, Nov 5 (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush sought to persuade Americans on Saturday to support Judge Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court after his first choice, Harriet Miers, withdrew under fierce attack from conservatives. 

Bush, beset by a series of political woes and with approval ratings at an all-time low, used his weekly radio address to outline Alito's lengthy resume and deep background in constitutional law. Conservative Republicans had fought Miers, the White House counsel, accusing her of lacking the intellectual heft and experience needed for the highest U.S. court and doubting whether she was truly a conservative. 

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito looks on before a meeting Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, in this November 3, 2005 file photo. (REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

"During his career on the bench, Judge Alito has participated in thousands of appeals and authored hundreds of opinions," said Bush, who was in Argentina attending the 34-nation Summit of the Americas. "He has demonstrated that he understands the proper role of a judge: to interpret the Constitution and laws, not to impose the judge's own preferences or priorities on the people." 

Conservatives back Alito wholeheartedly but the question for the White House is to what degree Senate Democrats will go along with the appeals court judge from New Jersey. 

Democrats are worried the conservative Alito would shift the balance of power in the divided Supreme Court toward the right on social issues such as abortion rights. 

In the Democratic radio response, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland expressed disappointment that Bush did not nominate a woman to take the seat being vacated by the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor. 

"I cannot believe the president searched the country and was unable to find a qualified female nominee," Mikulski said. "More likely, he was unable to find a qualified female nominee who satisfied that far right wing of the Republican Party." 

NOMINATION BATTLE 

The White House strategy was to repeat the Senate confirmation process of U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative whose depth of experience impressed even his detractors as he was approved in by a 78-22 vote. 

Although nomination battles are unpredictable, Bush said Alito was off to a good start since he was nominated on Monday. 

Bush is hopeful that getting Alito confirmed by the Senate will be one step toward a rebound in his presidency after struggling with Hurricane Katrina, soaring gasoline prices, a rising U.S. death toll in Iraq, the failed Miers nomination and White House staffers being linked to the leaking of a CIA operative's identity. 

The problems have left Bush in a slump, with his job approval ratings at their lowest levels. An ABC News/Washington Post poll on Friday showed that only 40 percent of Americans said Bush was honest and trustworthy and fewer than half called him a strong leader. 

Alito had private meetings with numerous senators all week in Washington and a bipartisan group of moderates that could hold the key to his confirmation has adopted a calm "wait-and-see" attitude after its first meeting about Alito on Thursday. 

Bush said on Friday, said he was disappointed by the decision by Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, to put off Alito's confirmation hearing until January. Bush had hoped to get Alito confirmed by the end of the year. 

He said Specter told him the reason why the committee could not meet Bush's timetable was "Alito had written so many opinions" that Specter and others wanted time to read them. 

(Additional reporting by John Poirier) ((COURT-BUSH; Editing by Doina Chiacu; Reuters Messaging: steve.holland.reuters.com@reuters.net; +1 202-898-8300, fax +1 202-898-8383)) 

Saturday, 05 November 2005 23:00:05RTRS [nN05539341] {C}ENDS 

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