WASHINGTON - There is still much to learn about Harriet E. Miers, shown at left visiting the capitol with Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist, but in naming her to the Supreme Court, President Bush revealed something about himself: that he has no appetite, at a time when he and his party are besieged by problems, for an all-out ideological fight.
Many of his most passionate supporters on the right had hoped and expected that he would make an unambiguously conservative choice to fulfill their goal of clearly altering the court's balance, even at the cost of a bitter confirmation battle. By instead settling on a loyalist with no experience as a judge and little substantive record on abortion, affirmative action, religion and other socially divisive issues, Mr. Bush shied away from a direct confrontation with liberals and in effect asked his base on the right to trust him on this one.
What Ms. Miers does bring to the court is a long record of loyalty to Mr. Bush, a trait that some scholars said would be attractive to the White House at a time when the court faces a welter of conflicts, beyond abortion and other social issues, that are of immediate concern to the administration.
Foremost among them, said William P. Marshall, a former deputy White House counsel in the Clinton administration, are executive power and government secrecy. In both areas, Mr. Bush has sought to establish wide latitude for the executive branch, especially in battling terrorism and religious extremism at home and abroad.
In this area, Mr. Bush might be better able to count on a loyalist than on an ideologue, said Mr. Marshall, a law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.