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Who is she?

A loyal member of Bush's staff, Harriet Miers is described as quiet, sharp and someone who puts ideology aside.

By wire services
Published October 4, 2005


WASHINGTON - In tapping White House counsel Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, President Bush went with a longtime loyalist who has kept a very low profile but now faces very public scrutiny.

Announcing Miers' nomination, Bush said "she has devoted her life to the rule of law." But for more than a decade, she has also has devoted much of her career to him.

She has been Bush's fixer, gatekeeper and Lone Star State soulmate, the person most likely to be called upon when Bush is in trouble or needs hard-boiled political advice. A petite 60-year-old, Miers was once described by Bush as a "pit bull in size 6 shoes."

What she is not known for are her personal views on the hottest legal and political issues of the day. She has never been a judge, and appears not to have written any legal articles espousing a point of view. Her friends and acquaintances say they are at a loss to describe with certainty her political, judicial or philosophical leanings.

But for the last 12 years she has had the support of a pretty important patron.

In 1993, when Bush first ran for governor of Texas, he wanted a solid lawyer on his staff to handle a politician's delicate personal tasks, including scrutinizing his own past. His first two choices declined, but both mentioned a quiet, deceptively sharp Dallas lawyer: Miers, who just happened to be the first female president of the Texas bar association.

Miers has been a go-to person for Bush ever since, first as his appointee to the Texas Lottery Commission, then in the midst of a scandal that she helped clean; then as White House staff secretary, where she directed the flow of presidential papers; then as a deputy White House chief of staff; and since the beginning of this year, White House counsel, the president's in-house lawyer.

"He is in a sense reciprocating her loyal service," said Bruce Buchanan, who has long followed Bush's career as a specialist in presidential studies at the University of Texas at Austin. "She tells him what he needs to hear, not just what he wants to hear, but also is someone very loyal and competent."

She is known among friends and associates as a hardworking and thorough advocate, someone staunchly loyal to Bush and possessing an unusual ability to remain calm and out of public view in the glare of the White House.

She is listed as attorney-of-record in only 21 federal cases. Her most controversial work - as an attorney to the president - will likely be withheld from Senate investigators because of attorney-client privilege.

Until she joined the Bush administration in 2000, Miers' whole life was based in Dallas and revolved around her legal work, her involvement in the professional bar, her family and an attachment to an evangelical church. She was on a track to become president of the American Bar Association when she came to Washington instead.

Miers has never married, but is close to her family and still relishes the Texas tradition of "Friday night lights" at her nephew's high school football games.

Harriet Ellan Miers was born in Dallas on Aug. 10, 1945, the fourth of five children. Her father, Harris, invested in real estate; her mother, Sally, was a homemaker. Miers was a standout student and athlete, lettering in tennis at Hillcrest High School.

Miers majored in math at Southern Methodist University, but instead chose to go to law school, she has said, after a lawyer stepped in and organized her family's finances when her father was disabled by a stroke.

The family's money problems grew so difficult after her freshman year in college that she came close to dropping out and becoming a technician at Texas Instruments, her relatives said. Instead, as Bush noted in announcing her nomination, she worked part time to help pay her expenses through college, which she finished in 1967. She graduated from SMU's law school in 1970, where she was one of handful of women and served on the law review.

One of those issues bound to be controversial was her unsuccessful campaign in 1993 to have the ABA reverse its controversial stand endorsing the U.S. Supreme Court abortion decision, Roe vs. Wade . The issue divided the group's Texas membership, and Miers came to believe that the national organization should not take sides.

Martha Barnett, a partner with Florida law firm Holland & Knight, opposed her in that debate. But Barnett said Miers' detached advocacy impressed her enough that the two became close friends.

"She was the floor leader for the Texas delegation, but I couldn't tell you today whether she was prochoice or not," said Barnett, who describes herself as favoring legal abortion. "Nobody could have handled that particular debate more professionally than Harriet. And even though we were undoubtedly on different sides, I remember thinking to myself, "Wow. Now that's a real lawyer."'

--Information from the New York Times, Dallas Morning News and Boston Globe was used in this report.