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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 October 2005, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
Bush defends Supreme Court choice
President Bush
President Bush holds his first White House press call since March
US President George W Bush has defended his choice for the vacant Supreme Court seat, calling Harriet Miers "the best person I could find".

He said Ms Miers was a woman of principle whose judicial philosophy would be the same in 20 years time.

Mr Bush was speaking at his first White House news conference since May and after a number of events, including Hurricane Katrina, hit his ratings.

On Iraq, Mr Bush once again said the US was committed to stay.

'Dignity'

The Supreme Court is one of the most influential bodies in US public life.

If approved by the Senate, Ms Miers, 60, will take up the place left by Sandra Day O'Connor, who announced her retirement in July.

I know her character. She's a women of principle and deep conviction
President Bush on Harriet Miers

President Bush rejected suggestions of cronyism in appointing Ms Miers - a close White House aide.

"I picked the best person I could find. People know we're close."

He said he had never asked Ms Miers' personal opinion on the key subject of abortion.

"There is no litmus test" for choosing a candidate, the president said.

Some politicians of both left and right have questioned Ms Miers' experience. She has never sat as a judge.

Mr Bush said because of that people would "guess and speculate" on her opinions.

"I don't have to guess and speculate," he said.

MIERS' CAREER PATH
Harriet Miers
1985: First female president of the Dallas Bar Association
1992: First woman to head the Texas State Bar
1995-2000: Chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission
2001: Joins White House staff as president's staff secretary
2003: Appointed Deputy Chief of Staff
2004: Named White House counsel

"It's important to bring in somebody from the outside. People will get to see her character and a sense of her judicial philosophy... Harriet Miers will bring dignity to the bench."

Correspondents say Mr Bush appears to have reached out to the middle ground, by picking a woman and by apparently consulting Democrats before making his decision.

However, Democrats may oppose the nomination if they think Ms Miers will tip the court's balance towards the right.

Sandra Day O'Connor was considered the holder of a key swing vote on the court.

On the right, some conservative groups have expressed disappointment with Ms Miers' nomination, saying they had been promised a staunchly conservative candidate.

The president also touched on other issues that have given him a troubled summer - Hurricane Katrina and Iraq.

President Bush said the US would continue to pursue a joint strategy in Iraq of backing constitutional moves and maintaining security.

"We are not leaving Iraq. We will succeed in Iraq," he said.

On the hurricane, Mr Bush once again accepted there were failures in the handling of the aftermath.

"I'll take all the responsibility for the failures at the federal level," he said.


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