More troubles for Miers. Is the end near?

As a Republican senator questions her "intellectual capacity," a newly unearthed speech raises more questions about her abortion views.

Published October 26, 2005 1:15PM (EDT)

It doesn't get much worse than this.

Emerging from a meeting Tuesday in which Republican senators discussed the nomination of Harriet Miers, Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman said he can't make a decision about the nominee until he gets a "better feel for her intellectual capacity and judicial philosophy, core competence issues."

Miers is under attack from all sides, and that's just counting the Republicans. Coleman wonders out loud whether Miers is smart enough to be a Supreme Court justice. Conservative groups that were supposed to be backing President Bush's judicial nominees are launching ads aimed at forcing her withdrawal. GOP senators from Sam Brownback to Arlen Specter are saying that they're going to need to see documents the White House is unlikely to give them before making a decision. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a reliable White House suck-up if there ever was one, acknowledges that -- two "meet Harriet Miers" efforts later -- people still don't know enough about the nominee. And Sen. Trent Lott, asked if there could be Republican votes against Miers, says: "As it now stands, clearly there could be. Because I could be."

Miers' supporters are apparently working on their third attempt to get her nomination off the ground. The idea now under discussion: Have the nominee make a speech in order to prove that she's clever and constitutionally sound. But more talking by Miers hasn't seemed to help much so far. Her visits to senators on Capitol Hill have apparently left her with less support, not more. And the Washington Post has just unearthed a speech by Miers that will cause the nominee more troubles among conservatives. In a 1993 talk to a Texas women's group, Miers seemed to suggest that government should stay out of issues like abortion: She stressed the importance of "self-determination," and she framed the question of abortion in a way that seemed friendly to abortion rights, talking of the debate over whether "to once again criminalize abortions or to once and for all guarantee the freedom of the individual women's [sic] right to decide for herself whether she will have an abortion."

The speech has already set off a new round of howls from the Christian right, and they'll echo through the Republican-controlled Senate today. Miers' nomination may not be dead yet, but it's quickly moving toward the life-support stage. If Patrick Fitzgerald delivers bad news for the White House today, will the president decide that it's an opportune moment to pull the plug?

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Supreme Court War Room