Video: Race for the gavel

msnbc.com
updated 10/28/2005 5:02:58 PM ET 2005-10-28T21:02:58

Bracing for possible indictments in the CIA leak case, this was the not the White House resignation today some Republicans had been expecting.

But last night, following another round of courtesy calls with Senate Republicans who said they were still concerned, Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers told the president she wanted to withdraw.

This morning, just as prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was making it clear he would be announcing nothing today, Miers was delivering her withdrawal letter to the oval office, citing her role as White House counsel and her belief that "confidential documents and information not be released to further a confirmation process."

It might have been more, however, than the document dispute that sunk her.  From the start, questions were raised about her experience and qualifications, even as the president introduced her.

A day after the president nominated Miers and brushed over the fact she had never served as a judge or argued at the Supreme Court, the president tried to re-assure disappointed conservatives.

"I know her well enough to be able to say that she's not going to change, that 20 years from now she'll be the same person with the same philosophy that she is today," said Bush. Video: Miers out

White House supporters pointed to a questionnaire Miers answered in 1989 while running for city council where she indicated she favored a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion.

But this week, conservatives were confronted with the text of a speech she gave four years later where Miers endorsed, “self determination" in matters such as abortion.

She said “abortion clinic protestors have become synonymous with terrorists," and “legislating religion or morality we gave up on a long time ago."

Republican senators were puzzled, such as Sen. David Vitter who characterized it as “having a bunch of questions."

Conservative activists were also infuriated, including those who had been angry from the beginning about a nominee with no judicial record.

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said, “Now, conservatives are emboldened by their victory and moderates are calling the president weak.” 

The Miers nomination debacle comes at a time when the White House is already under siege.  On top of continued problems in Iraq, the hype from the administration that led to war is under the microscope by prosecutor Fitzgerald.

There are fears about the status of the president's top advisor Karl Rove, the vice president's chief of staff Scooter Libby and the role of Vice President Cheney.

All this comes as the grand jury is set to expire on Friday and with indications the panel is preparing to act.

Some of those indications are from lawyers in the case who say they are now convinced prosecutors will indeed make a big announcement tomorrow.  While conservatives, thanks to the Miers withdrawal, may now be ready to stand firm with this White House again.  Though, there may be little politically that anybody can do for any official who ends up under indictment.

Watch 'Hardball' each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC. 

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