Exclusive: Harriet Says Goodbye

(AP)
If Harriet Miers harbors any bitterness or resentment from her painful and humiliating 24-days as the president's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court in October of 2005 - she's keeping it to herself.

President Bush ended up withdrawing the nomination which drew fire from a number of conservative pundits and officials who said Miers wasn't qualified for the High Court.

But even as she leaves the White House, Miers won't engage her critics.

"Others are gonna have to judge what took place during that period of time," she told me in an exclusive radio interview with CBS News. (You can hear the full interview right here.)

"I know some people expected a nominee who had either judicial experience or a different kind of experience than I brought to the table which was a practicing lawyer, representing clients. And so I'll just leave it to others to make judgments."

Speaking in her only broadcast interview on her last day as White House Counsel, Miers looked back fondly on her service to President Bush – which began on Day One of his Administration.

"I have had so many wonderful days in the White House: some tragic as 9/11 was – and challenging as 9/11 was. I couldn't single out any particular time as being the best or the worst," she said.

She says "it's been an incredible experience." She worked for George W. Bush when he was Governor of Texas, and came with him to Washington. She first served as White House staff secretary, then deputy chief of staff – and most recently as Counsel – the president's top lawyer.

"White House Counsel is a lawyer's dream," she says. It's tough work but she says "there couldn't be a better job for a lawyer."

But with Congress now in the hands of Democrats, the job will get tougher still. The White House is braced for new legal battles.

"I had a number of conversations right after the first of the year with our chief of staff Joshua Bolten and we both concluded it was time to have a change in the White House Counsel's office," she said.

President Bush has named veteran D.C. power attorney Fred Fielding to be succeed Miers. He has considerable experience as a White House lawyer - having served as a deputy counsel to Pres. Nixon and chief counsel to Pres. Reagan.

"Fred Fielding doesn't need my advice," says Miers. "He's a very fine lawyer with experience in this office. I'm sure he will come and represent the presidency very ably."

She says she's been bringing him up to speed in recent days. He starts work on Monday.

So at age 61, Miers returns to private life, and has just one main goal in mind.

"Well, I plan to sleep," she says, acknowledging the sleep-depriving nature of a senior level post in the White House.

She says she'll take her time in deciding on her next professional step. I asked her if there's any job that can be as professionally satisfying as White House Counsel. Her answer was vague.

"Obviously, (I want) another position that will utilize my legal skills. But I've made no decisions about what to do next."





  • Mark Knoller On Twitter»

    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.

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