WASHINGTON – In a private conversation designed to garner support for the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, White House aide Karl Rove told a key conservative Christian leader that the Texas lawyer had taken positions that “would not be supportive of abortion.”
The unusual contact between Rove and James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, a Colorado evangelical group staunchly opposed to abortion, came two days before President Bush announced Miers’ nomination.
Dobson was one of the few fundamental Christian leaders to endorse Miers, whose lack of a public stand on abortion or other conservative legal issues has prompted widespread criticism among Bush’s traditional supporters.
Dobson made the disclosure in a radio address taped Tuesday, following threats that the Senate Judiciary Committee might subpoena him and force him to describe his conversation with Rove.
“I’m gonna tell them what I would say to them if I were sitting before the Judiciary Committee,” Dobson said at the outset of the broadcast.
Dobson said Rove told him in an Oct. 1 phone conversation that Bush wanted to name a woman to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and that Miers was on “the short list” of nominees.
Dobson said Rove described Miers as “an evangelical Christian from a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life,” who had “taken on the American Bar Association on the issue of abortion and fought for a policy that would not be supportive of abortion.” She had also been a member of the Texas Right to Life, Dobson said.
But Dobson stressed that they “did not discuss Roe v. Wade in any context or any other pending issue that will be considered by the court. I did not ask that question.” The 1973 decision legalized abortion.
Dobson’s broadcast was made to elaborate on statements he made in a previous radio show supporting Miers after “conversations with Karl Rove and the White House.” A transcript of the latest broadcast was released Tuesday night.
The White House has acknowledged that Rove called Dobson and other conservative leaders but said there was no discussion about how Miers would vote on a particular Supreme Court case.
In the latest broadcast, Dobson said Rove had given him permission “to go public with our conversation.” Dobson said he initially chose to keep confidential portions of the conversation regarding Miers’ previous pro-life positions but later felt comfortable discussing them after they became public in news stories.
Dobson, a 69-year-old child psychologist with a vast radio audience, has been characterized as a kingmaker in the Christian conservative movement, which helped fuel Bush’s re-election victory last year.
His Focus on the Family group seeks to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Bush’s nomination of Miers, his longtime confidante and a former corporate attorney from Dallas who now serves as White House counsel, has provoked a conservative uproar.
While leading conservatives such as Dobson and Southern Baptist leader Richard Land have expressed at least tentative support for Miers, others have angrily denounced her as a poor fit for the court.