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A pro-life president loses his voice

It is inconceivable to me that President Bush would send this not so subtle covert message to pro-lifers about his Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers: “I know her heart. I know her character. … I know exactly the kind of judge she’ll be. … I know what she believes,” while denying he has ever asked her beliefs about Roe v. Wade.

Miers has worked closely with President Bush as his attorney for over a decade. One of Miers’ duties in recent years was “ultimate gatekeeper for what cross[ed his] desk.” Apparently not one letter, speech, talking point, or even the president’s own thoughts on abortion motivated Miers to discuss her personal beliefs with the president, even in a quiet moment.

Nor did the president ask.

Miers also participated in interviews with prospective Supreme Court nominees before she was tapped. Although Roe v. Wade is the most notorious Supreme Court decision of our time, and 32 years later its presence dominates the focus of Supreme Court nominations, Miers was apparently never motivated to convey her personal beliefs about it to the president.

Nor did the president ask.

I can think of three reasons the president could honestly say he never discussed Roe v. Wade with Miers.

One is the pro-life issue is not a personal priority to the president, only political, so he doesn’t think to dialogue with associates about it.

Two is the president is skittish on the pro-life issue and preplanned not to discuss it with any potential Supreme Court nominee so he could say just that.

Three is Miers is a robot.

I’m leaning toward the first reason these days (which would provoke the second reason), particularly since a month ago the president thought it acceptable to joke about naming pro-abort Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to the high post. This was an obvious jab at pro-lifers and as funny as dead babies.

Criticizing President Bush on his Supreme Court nominee does not come easy for me. During his tenure he has been a pro-life advocate.

I won’t subtract from the president’s pro-life accomplishments except to say most have been conducted under the radar, as if he is indeed skittish. The achievements he did publicize had sizeable public support, like the Born Alive Infants Protection Act and the partial-birth abortion ban.

It’s not as if this president is a wimp. There is no question he fights for issues and people he is passionate about, and he understands the importance of educating the public.

So I wish President Bush treated the pro-life issue as he treated the Social Security issue. Imagine his conducting a multi-city tour to explain why we must stop abortion, because it is morally bankrupting our society.

And I wish the president handled his Supreme Court nominations as he handled his nomination to the United Nations, John Bolton. He knew Bolton was to liberals what red is to bulls, but he cared more about his agenda than them.

Harriet Miers may turn out to be a good Supreme Court justice, one who believes Roe v. Wade is unconstitutional.

But because the president had enough votes for her confirmation, even with Republican dissents, she was a flawed pick for two reasons.

First, by choosing Miers the president unnecessarily subjected his closest allies to literal torment. At stake here are millions of lives. Forcing us to walk on hot coals for him in a bizarre demonstration of faith is most egregious, something he wouldn’t subject on his own dog.

Second, by choosing Miers the president bypassed the grandest of opportunities to educate the public via an on-the-record, anti-Roe nominee and the confirmation process. I thought the president understood that advancing the culture of life involves not just change of law but change of hearts.

In the past, President Bush indicated he understood this. In 2004 he said, “At home, the job of a president is to help cultures change. The culture needs to be changed. … This is one of the reasons I got into politics in the first place. Governments cannot change culture alone. … But I can be a voice of cultural change. Part of the responsibility era is the responsibility that comes with promoting … a culture of life … [e]very child welcomed to life and protected by law. That is the goal of this administration.”

I fear the president has lost his voice.