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White House: Miers won't withdraw

High court nominee's record unsettles some conservatives

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Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Harriet Miers won't ask President Bush to withdraw her nomination to the Supreme Court despite sharp criticism from some of Bush's conservative allies, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Thursday.

"No one who knows her record and her qualifications would make such a suggestion," McClellan said.

Bush's decision to nominate Miers, his White House counsel and a longtime adviser, for the Supreme Court has divided his supporters, many of whom wanted a nominee with a clear record of opposition to abortion.

Miers left few clues to her position on abortion when she served on the Dallas City Council and as lottery commissioner during Bush's Texas governorship.

"We look forward to people getting to know her like the president knows her," McClellan said. "She is someone who has not sought the limelight, but she is someone who has served with great distinction and has a distinguished career and record."

If confirmed, Miers would replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who announced her retirement in July after nearly 25 years on the court, pending confirmation of her replacement.

In a testy exchange with reporters Thursday, McClellan complained that coverage of the nomination has ignored Miers' "record and qualifications" to focus on "side issues" such as her religion.

"I think that we are doing a disservice for the American people when we focus on other issues and not her record and qualifications and experience, because that's what matters when you're on the nation's highest court," he said.

But the White House itself raised the issue in discussions with conservative Christian leaders such as James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family.

Dobson told listeners to his radio show Wednesday that Bush's top political strategist, Karl Rove, told him Miers belongs to "a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life." (Dobson on Miers -- 2:35)

And Bush fueled the issue Wednesday by suggesting that Miers' evangelical Christian beliefs played a role in his decision to nominate her. (Full Story)

Although Miers has never served as a judge, McClellan said her experience as White House counsel, deputy chief of staff and Bush's staff secretary gives her experience that few other lawyers have.

"The experience that she has is equal to or greater than many of those who have already been confirmed to the United States Supreme Court over the course of the last 70 years," McClellan said.

"One in three justices serving on the Supreme Court over that time period did not come from the court."

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