WASHINGTON - President Bush countered conservative displeasure Saturday with a detailed defense of his Supreme Court nominee, saying White House counsel Harriet Miers would bring to the bench vast experience in the courtroom and at the highest levels of government.
"No Supreme Court nominee in the last 35 years has exceeded Harriet Miers' overall range of experience in courtroom litigation; service in federal, state and local government; leadership in local, state and national bar associations and pro bono and charitable activities," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
"Throughout her life, Ms. Miers has excelled at everything she has done," he added.
A growing number on the right have expressed displeasure with Bush's selection of Miers to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.
The grumbling stems from Miers' career, which encompassed 28 years as a corporate attorney in Texas, stints as a member of the Dallas City Council and as chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission and, since 2001, as a top member of Bush's White House staff.
None of the positions provide a public record clearly identifying her as a strong conservative.
Some worry that Miers could end up disappointing the right much like Justice David Souter, a little-known judge nominated to the court in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush who later turned out to be more liberal than expected.
Other critics have expressed concern about her lack of experience grappling with constitutional reasoning.
Robert Bork - whose nomination to the high court was rejected by the Senate in 1987 - called the choice of Miers "a disaster on every level."
"It's a little late to develop a constitutional philosophy or begin to work it out when you're on the court already," Bork said Friday on MSNBC's "The Situation with Tucker Carlson." "It's kind of a slap in the face to the conservatives who've been building up a conservative legal movement for the last 20 years."
Bush sought to give a rebuttal to the critics - offering a point-by-point recounting of her background and talents that revealed the level of concern at the White House about the conservative reaction.
The president touted the "hundreds of cases in state and federal courts, from massive commercial litigation to criminal cases to civil disputes" that Miers handled as an attorney at a large Texas law firm. And he said, as White House counsel Miers addresses complex matters of constitutional law and "sensitive issues of executive-congressional relations."
Bush also spoke glowingly of a candidate outside the realm of sitting judges. Since 1933, he said, 10 of the 34 justices - such as the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist - came to the Supreme Court directly from positions in the executive branch.
"Harriet Miers will be prudent in exercising judicial power and firm in defending judicial independence," he said.
As of Friday, the end of Miers' first week as the nominee, she had met with 16 senators. She was spending the weekend in Texas gathering material from her legal career to answer the Senate's questions, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.