Monday, October 10, 2005

James C. Dobson

October 10, 2005
Endorsement of Nominee Draws Committee's Interest
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 - Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and several Democrats on the committee said Sunday that they were considering calling the evangelical conservative James C. Dobson to testify on what he has been told about Harriet E. Miers, the president's Supreme Court nominee.

"If Dr. Dobson knows something that he shouldn't know or something that I ought to know, I'm going to find out," Mr. Specter said Sunday in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on the ABC News program "This Week."

In response to a later question, Mr. Specter added, "If there are back-room assurances and if there are back-room deals and if there is something which bears upon a precondition as to how a nominee is going to vote, I think that's a matter that ought to be known by the Judiciary Committee and the American people."

Mr. Dobson, the influential founder of the conservative evangelical group Focus on the Family, has said he is supporting Ms. Miers's nomination in part because of something he has been told but cannot divulge. He has not disclosed the source of the information, but he has acknowledged speaking with Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, about the president's pick before it was announced.

On his radio program last Wednesday, Mr. Dobson said, "When you know some of the things that I know - that I probably shouldn't know - you will understand why I have said, with fear and trepidation, that I believe Harriet Miers will be a good justice." He added, in a reference to aborted fetuses, "if I have made a mistake here, I will never forget the blood of those babies that will die will be on my hands to some degree."

Dana Perino, a spokeswoman for the White House, said Sunday that Mr. Rove did not provide Mr. Dobson "any insight into how Ms. Miers may rule on any particular case." But the attention to the private reasons for Mr. Dobson's endorsement underscores the delicate problem the White House faces in trying to quell conservative dissatisfaction with Ms. Miers without arousing the ire of liberals or, for that matter, the handful of Senate Republicans like Mr. Specter who support abortion rights.

Even as liberal groups were raising questions last week about Mr. Dobson's sources, the White House put him on a conference call with conservative activists around the country to try to reassure them that Ms. Miers shared their views of the law.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Sunday on the same program as Mr. Specter that he, too, would consider calling Mr. Dobson to testify. Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, another Democrat on the committee, said in an interview on the CBS News program "Face the Nation" that he already believed the committee should call Mr. Dobson as a witness. "This is not a game of wink and whisper," Mr. Schumer said. "This is serious business."

Senator Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat on the committee, said Sunday on the CNN program "Late Edition" that the possibility that the White House might have given "inside information" about Ms. Miers to Mr. Dobson was "reprehensible." Senator Ken Salazar, Democrat of Colorado, has called on Mr. Dobson to disclose whatever he knows.

Mr. Dobson has not been invited by the Senate to testify and will wait to respond until he does, his spokesman, Paul Hetrick, said Sunday.

Conservatives continued to debate over Ms. Miers's legal qualifications and conservative credentials. Robert H. Bork, the former Supreme Court nominee who is a hero to many on the right, said in an interview on MSNBC on Friday that her nomination was "a disaster," and some conservative publications and columnists are calling for her withdrawal or rejection.

But on CNN on Sunday, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican whip, called her "an outstanding lawyer" and predicted, "at the end of the day, the support in the Senate for Harriet Miers in the Republican conference in the Senate is going to be rock solid."

On Fox News, Justice Nathan L. Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court, a friend of Ms. Miers who has become her de facto spokesman, said there was "no chance at all" that she would withdraw her nomination. Although he said he had not heard it from her, he said, "it's outside the bounds of possibility."

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