Miers the last one to know about nomination

One of the last, at least... We voters were dead last -- law

About two weeks ago, White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. told presidential counsel Harriet Miers to add another name to the Supreme Court selection process she was leading. The new candidate: Harriet Miers.

What do you mean me?" she asked, according to a colleague.

Miers was hardly the only one surprised, but perhaps neither she nor the rest of Washington should have been. Throughout his career in public life, President Bush has frequently turned to his inner circle for critical appointments, relying on personal judgment and favoring loyalists over the most sterling r�sum�s of better-known outsiders.

In fact, senior administration officials said yesterday, Bush had Miers in mind for the court for two months without telling her. Shortly after nominating John G. Roberts Jr. in July for the first opening on the court, the officials said, Bush and Card began discussing Miers to fill the next vacancy that opened. Card even launched a secret vetting process last summer to investigate Miers -- assigning her own deputy to do the digging behind her back.

The result was a nomination that upended the modern-day conventions of the capital but underscored those of the Bush White House, an institution known for promoting from within, ignoring criticism from without and keeping secrets even from one another. Once he settled in his own mind that Miers would make a good justice, Bush disregarded the likely complaints of cronyism from the left and wails of disappointment from the right in order to install a trusted confidante on the nation's highest court.

"This choice is exactly what it appears to be -- it's the ultimate vote of confidence by the president in a lawyer who has served as his lawyer in one capacity or another for a very long time," said Bradford A. Berenson, an associate White House counsel in Bush's first term. "The president is very, very confident in his judgments about people, and he likes to reward loyalty."

The choice of Miers most strongly recalled Bush's selection of a running mate in 2000, when he likewise ended up picking the head of the team tasked with finding a candidate -- in that case Richard B. Cheney. Even now, five years later, the most certain route to landing a high-level job in the Bush administration is to be close to the president's side.

Once More, Bush Turns To His Inner Circle


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