WASHINGTON – Harriet Miers' (search) religion is one of the qualities that defines the Supreme Court nominee, who is likely to appeal to conservatives being courted by White House advisers, President Bush said Wednesday.
"People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers. They want to know Harriet Miers' background. They want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions. And part of Harriet Miers' life is her religion," Bush said during an Oval Office press conference with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.
Bush also gave other reasons for choosing Miers, including her consistent rating as one of the top 50 women lawyers in the United States, a judicial philosophy that leans toward a strict interpretation of the Constitution and her long list of qualifications for the post.
"Harriet's going to be able to explain the facts to people when she testifies and people are going to see why I named her — nominated her — to the bench. And she's going to make a great Supreme Court judge," he said.
Bush spoke before a radio broadcast airing Wednesday in which Focus on the Family President James Dobson (search), a leading conservative voice in America, says that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove (search) all but assured Dobson, in private, that Miers would be a candidate who could earn the support of conservative groups.
"What did Karl Rove say to me that I knew on Monday that I couldn't reveal? Well, it's what we all know now, that Harriet Miers is an evangelical Christian, that she is from a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life," says Dobson, adding that Miers had taken on the American Bar Association on the issue of abortion and been a member of Texas Right-to-Life.
Dobson, whose producers distributed an audiotape of the radio show to the media before it aired Wednesday, also says that he and Rove did not in any context discuss Roe. v. Wade (search) — the controversial 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion — and the implications for it if Miers were to join the bench.
Bush's choice of Miers has raised concerns among several conservatives, who say Miers does not have the conservative credentials needed to win their approval. Since then, the White House has been lobbying the president's base to support Miers.
During the Oval Office photo opportunity on Wednesday, Bush said his advisers had begun an "outreach program ... just to explain the facts" to conservatives who may oppose her.
Nonetheless, Dobson's discussions with Rove have prompted Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter to suggest that Dobson may be called to testify about what he was told. Specter said he's looking into claims that Dobson had private assurances from the White House that Miers opposed abortion.
Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Rove's assurances were merely a matter of explaining to Dobson who Miers is and what type of person she is, but were not meant to appear as some form of guarantee about how she'd rule from the bench. McClellan said Miers' personal faith and religious beliefs would have no role in her judicial decision-making.
McClellan also acknowledged that some of the people the president considered for the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (search) didn't want to go through the grueling confirmation process, and asked that their names be withdrawn.
McClellan refused to say who withdrew their names from consideration, but that the candidates who asked not to be included made their requests when the list of names was still in the double-digits.
"The confirmation process in recent years has become rather ugly," McClellan said, but denied it has shrunk the pool of candidates for the high court.
"There are still plenty of good people willing to be considered," he added.
Dobson revealed in his radio show that Rove had told him about the withdrawn names shortly after Miers' nomination was announced last week.
"What Karl told me is that some of those individuals took themselves off that list and they would not allow their names to be considered because the process has become so vicious and so vitriolic and so bitter," Dobson said.
Miers spent the weekend in Texas, going over documents from her days as president of a huge Dallas law firm and the head of the state lottery commission. The papers are being reviewed to help Miers fill out the Senate Judiciary Committee's questionnaire for Supreme Court nominees.
So far, the fight over Miers' nomination appears to be mostly among conservatives. Weekly Standard Publisher Bill Kristol has said he wanted a nominee with a conservative judicial track record and has called on Miers to withdraw, a notion rejected by the president.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (search), who used to hold Miers' current job of White House counsel, made the rounds on Wednesday morning news shows. He told FOX News that Miers holds the same philosophy as Bush.
"She understands what the proper role of a judge is in our system of government," Gonzales said. "She understands, she believes in judicial restraint. She will respect precedent as a judge. And so for all these reasons, I think she is uniquely qualified to serve as an associate justice of the Supreme Court."
The attorney general added that Miers is very well qualified for the job, and he expressed disappointment about the treatment she has been given from some quarters.
"I've always found that it's dangerous to reach a conclusion or make decisions based on imperfect information," he said. "For many of the critics, and for those who are concerned about the nomination, that's where they're at right now. They don't have enough information to make an informed judgment."
The nomination has even drawn in first lady Laura Bush, who suggested that some of the objections to Miers might be sexist in nature. Miers' critics hotly deny that allegation, with some accusing Mrs. Bush of taking a page from the liberals' playbook.
That brought an even stronger reaction from White House Communications Director Nicolle Wallace, who lashed out at conservatives, saying that "snide comments and the personal nature of the indictments from some conservative elites ignore Miers' record of accomplishment."
FOX News' Wendell Goler and Kelly Wright contributed to this report.