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President Bush Defends Supreme Court Pick


President Bush continues to defend his choice for the Supreme Court in the wake of criticism from disappointed conservatives.

The president and First Lady Laura Bush were in Louisiana to help with hurricane relief, but took time out to defend Harriet Miers in an interview with the NBC Today program.

"Harriet Miers is going to be confirmed and people will get to see why I put her on the bench," said Mr. Bush. "She is an extraordinary woman."

First Lady Laura Bush said it was possible there is an element of sexism in the criticism of Harriet Miers, much of it coming from conservative activists normally allied with the president.

"She is a role model for young women around our country," said Laura Bush. "Not only that, she is very deliberate and thoughtful and will bring dignity to wherever she goes, but certainly to the Supreme Court. She will be really excellent."

The defense of Ms. Miers comes in the wake of continuing criticism from conservatives who wanted Mr. Bush to nominate any one of several better-known conservative jurists to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Republican Senator Sam Brownback, a leading conservative from Kansas, remains unconvinced that Ms. Miers is the best-qualified nominee for the high court.

"A lot of us wanted to see somebody that was a well-formed jurist, so that they had a track record of what they would do in key cases coming in front of the court," Mr. Brownback said on the CBS program Face the Nation.

Opposition Democrats have largely withheld their opinions on Harriet Miers, preferring to let the Republican squabble over her nomination play out for a while.

"The president says she is the most qualified person in America to be on the court," said Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will soon hold confirmation hearings on the Miers nomination."She [Miers] says the president is the most brilliant man she has ever met. It is not being partisan to say that there are some Americans who do not agree with either statement."

The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, says there has been a stampede to judgment about Ms. Miers. He says lawmakers from both parties should wait for the hearings.

"When we talk to her, we understand that it is a difficult situation and you have to approach it [fairly] and give her a chance to respond," he said..

President Bush says he would like a Senate confirmation vote on Harriet Miers by late November. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor says she will remain on the court until a successor is confirmed.

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