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Miers was loyal to Bush to the end

Harriet Miers closeness to President Bush proved her undoing as a nominee to be a justice on the United States Supreme Court
/ Source: Reuters

Harriet Miers served George W. Bush faithfully for a decade and she showed that loyalty again Thursday by removing herself as a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court before she damaged the president even more.

Miers, 60, provided legal advice to Bush for years. She was part of the Texas contingent that Bush brought with him to the White House in 2001 for his first term, and took over as top legal adviser to the president when her predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, became attorney general in February 2005.

But it was that closeness that got her in trouble when Bush nominated Miers this month to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Critics said her private dealings with Bush made the public record of her opinions very thin. Many conservatives were unsure her opposition to abortion was strong enough that she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal.

Others said her closeness to Bush might make her reluctant to vote against the president if she sat on the high court and some even went so far as to call the choice cronyism."

The controversy over Miers added to a string of troubles that were lowering Bush's standing in polls: the ongoing investigation of a CIA leak, growing opposition to the Iraq war and high gasoline prices.

In a letter to Bush released by the White House, Miers said she was concerned that the Senate confirmation process "presents a burden for the White House and our staff that is not in the best interest of the country."

Miers had decades of legal experience but never was a judge. Nor, with the exception of a stint on the Dallas City Council, did she have the political background in elected office of many non-judges nominated in the past for the lifetime job on high court.

The lack of judicial experience she had in common with about a third of former high court justices, including the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who had not been a judge before being named to the court by President Richard Nixon. The eight justices currently on the court were all judges.

Bush Defense
Bush tried to answer any critics by emphasizing her legal successes. "Over the course of a distinguished legal career, Harriet has earned the respect and admiration of her fellow attorneys," he said.

Reminding that she will replace O'Connor, the first woman picked for the high court, Bush stressed that, as a woman, Miers overcame much in her legal career.

But despite Bush's efforts, questions about Miers and opposition to her did not abate.

As White House counsel, Miers' role is to advise Bush on legal issues concerning the presidency and the White House. She is known for paying attention to detail, being meticulous and organized.

Her office was also responsible for making recommendations about judicial nominations, coordinating with other attorneys throughout the administration, and being involved in the clearance process for nominations.

During Bush's first term, Miers was White House deputy chief of staff and staff secretary.

She was his personal lawyer in Texas and, in an admiring reference to her tenacity, Bush once described her as a "pit bull in size 6 shoes."

Miers headed the Texas Lottery Commission from 1995 to 2000 while Bush was governor of Texas.

Before joining the White House, she was co-managing partner at the law firm Locke, Liddell & Sapp.

She made inroads for women in Texas legal circles -- becoming the first woman elected Texas State Bar president in 1992 and the first woman to become president of the Dallas Bar Association in 1985.

Miers, a native of Dallas, received her undergraduate and law degrees from Southern Methodist University in Texas, which is also the alma mater of first lady Laura Bush.