Critics Target Miers' Intellect; Call Nominee 'Unqualified'

Article excerpt

Byline: Charles Hurt, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Amid all the questions about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers' respect for abortion rights, persistent questions also have circulated about Miss Miers' qualifications and intellect.

While supporters note her extensive courtroom experience and diligence, one conservative activist called her the "most unqualified nominee since Abe Fortas" - a reference to the Supreme Court associate justice who was blocked from becoming chief justice in 1968 over personal financial dealings.

Earlier this week, President Bush asserted - as his father did after naming Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas - that Miss Miers is the most qualified nominee in the country.

Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican and Bush supporter, took issue with that answer.

"Is she the most qualified person?" he asked aloud on MSNBC this week. "Clearly, the answer to that is 'No.' There are a lot more people, men, women and minorities that are more qualified in my opinion by their experience than she is."

Other lawmakers on Capitol Hill have made similar suggestions, though they've been a little more politic.

"It's very hard to learn it all in six weeks," Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and member of the Judiciary Committee, chuckled to reporters this week. "Someone suggested facetiously that we should ask for the hearings to be Monday."

Usually, backhanded questions about her qualifications come in references to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who was confirmed last month after what was widely regarded as a brilliant performance during his Senate hearings. …