Sunday, October 30, 2005

Bush in a hurry to change the subject; naming Supreme nominee, yep..that's the ticket

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush is expected to announce his new nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday as he tries to battle back from a series of difficult developments last week.

White House officials were not talking about who Bush had in mind for the nomination to replace loyalist Harriet Miers, who withdrew from consideration last week under withering attack from conservatives within Bush's own Republican Party.

But Republicans close to the White House expected Bush to pick from a short list of highly credentialed, solidly conservative judges.

Among the candidates most talked about were appeals court judges Michael Luttig and Samuel Alito. Bush considered candidates over the weekend at his Camp David retreat, aided by Miers, who is staying on as his White House counsel, and White House Chief of Staff Andy Card.

In addition to Luttig and Alito, Bush was also said to have been looking at appeals court judges Michael McConnell, Edith Jones and Alice Batchelder.

The nomination for the lifetime job is to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and a conservative choice was bound to trigger concern among Senate Democrats who want to see O'Connor replaced by a moderate justice like her.

Those close to the selection process have said avoiding a battle with Democrats would not be the president's top priority, as he tries to satisfy conservatives who fought Miers hard by accusing her of lacking the credentials and conservative pedigree they would like to see on the highest U.S. court.

Bush, who will also meet Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday, is seeking to rebound from one of the toughest weeks of his presidency.

First Miers withdrew, then Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby was indicted by a federal grand jury in the investigation into who leaked a CIA agent's name in 2003.

Bush is looking for a fresh start, and aides were hoping the new Supreme Court nominee would help provide him one. He is also focusing on making progress in the Iraq war and trying to cut federal spending that has ballooned under his presidency.

Conservatives are eager for a conservative in the mold of justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to replace the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor, a moderate conservative and often pivotal swing vote on the divided court.    Continued ..

Let us not become unduly distracted by this, as the news media is bound to.

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