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White House Works to Quell Attacks From Right on Miers

By Elisabeth Bumiller


The White House moved to contain a continuing revolt among conservatives on Thursday over President Bush’s selection of Harriet E. Miers for the Supreme Court. Some conservatives said that Miers could withdraw, and White House officials countered that the idea was preposterous.

The White House aides said they were now focusing their efforts on the Senate floor. “There’s frustration because people don’t know Harriet and they have all these questions,” said Ed Gillespie, the former Republican Party chairman, who is helping shepherd Miers through her Senate hearings and who was pummeled by angry conservatives at a meeting earlier this week.

Republicans said that White House officials had not anticipated the intensity of the criticism and that conservative groups felt they had not been given adequate warning that Miers was the president’s pick.

“There might have been more comfort with her if she’d been discussed earlier,” said Grover G. Norquist, an influential conservative. He spoke to reporters in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building shortly after Bush addressed a gathering of conservatives at a tribute to William F. Buckley Jr. on the 50th anniversary of the founding of his magazine, National Review.

As Miers continued her meetings with senators on Capitol Hill, the administration stepped up its campaign to try to win her confirmation. The White House official in charge of reaching out to conservatives, Tim Goeglein, organized a conference call on Thursday afternoon to more than 500 conservatives, many of them dubious about the president’s selection, who listened to endorsements of Miers from some of the president’s closest allies on the right.

Among those extolling Miers’ conservative credentials were Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee; James C. Dobson, an evangelical conservative and the founder of the group Focus on the Family; Charles W. Colson, the founder and chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries; Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention; Jay Sekulow of the evangelical American Center for Law and Justice; and Leonard A. Leo of the Federalist Society.

Colson urged conservatives to pull together because, he said, “it doesn’t matter if she walked across the Potomac,” the Democrats would still “demand their pound of flesh.”

Dobson, acknowledging the deep divisions among social conservatives, said he believed the president had been a consistent opponent of abortion. “This is his personal belief and philosophy and I think probably theology, and I appreciate that,” he said. “I believe he has appointed a woman who is consistent with that.”

At his daily press briefing, Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, announced that Daniel R. Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana and the former U.S. ambassador to Germany, would serve as a “public advocate” for Miers and accompany her on her meetings with senators, much as former Sen. Fred Thompson did for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. Republicans said Coats was chosen in part because he has strong ties to both parties.