Hunt For Clues On Miers' Views

Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, right, meets with Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, in the Hart Senate Office Building on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2005 in Washington. President Bush nominated White House counsel Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers' footprints on contentious social issues suggest a moderate position on gay rights, an interest in advancing women and minorities and sympathy for anti-abortion efforts. Judging from the Smith & Wesson she once packed, she favors gun rights, too.

Miers' years as a corporate lawyer and White House insider have produced a record so scant that court-watchers are picking through 16-year-old Dallas city council votes and the like to divine how she might come down on constitutional matters.

CBS News senior White House correspondent John Roberts reports that many members of President Bush's own party are perplexed by his choice for this critical swing seat. At a press conference Tuesday, Mr. Bush asserted that "her philosophy won't change."

But questions remain about what exactly her philosophy is. On issues like abortion, there is nothing on paper, and at Mr. Bush's press conference, he wasn't revealing anything he may know from their personal relationship or by working with her in her current position as White House counsel.

It may be difficult for members of Congress to find out more on Miers' views. Mr. Bush indicated today that much of the nominees' paper trail during her time at the White House would be off limits.

CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger reports that conservatives are upset because they wanted an ideological battle.

"They wanted a symbol. They wanted someone who openly supported their views of the Supreme Court," Borger said. "But they know nothing about her judicial philosophy."

But, she is not a completely blank slate.

A decade before the 2001 terrorist attacks, Miers defended constitutional freedoms in a time of danger, with words that would hearten two groups of activists in the post-9/11 world of added police powers — civil libertarians and the gun lobby.

"The same liberties that ensure a free society make the innocent vulnerable to those who prevent rights and privileges and commit senseless and cruel acts," she wrote in Texas Lawyer, when she was president of the state bar. "Those precious liberties include free speech, freedom to assemble ... access to public places, the right to bear arms and freedom from constant surveillance.

"We are not willing to sacrifice these rights because of the acts of maniacs."

Miers once owned a .45-caliber revolver, a gift from a brother who was worried about her safety when she lived alone in Dallas, says Judge Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court, who has known Miers for 30 years and has dated her.

"It's a huge gun — he wanted to be sure she stopped the guy," Hecht said in a telephone interview. The judge recalled driving out to the country one Sunday afternoon, setting up tin cans on a dirt road and trying to teach Miers how to shoot.

How was her aim?

"She was terrible," said Hecht, who added that she kept the gun for a long time but said he was unsure if she ever fired it again.

In her writings, Miers has pitched a brand of criminal justice that borrowed from the right and the left. On one hand, she insisted, "Punishment of wrongdoers should be swift and sure," and she appeared to have little patience for those who would excuse an act of violence by blaming society.