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One of Miers' jobs as White House counsel was to judge the judges, including the search that ended with the Roberts pick. According to a presidential adviser who has been briefed on the chronology of the decision, senior adviser Karl Rove was less involved than he is in most major decisions. Some conservatives speculate that Rove was distracted or out of the loop because of his possible legal jeopardy in the CIA leak case, but White House officials reject that notion. The driving force was chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr., who took over the vetting role. "This is something that Andy and the President cooked up," the adviser told TIME. "Andy knew it would appeal to the President because he loves appointing his own people and being supersecret and stealthy about it." Relations between Rove and Card have always been strained, and this adviser said the nomination has reignited the tension. Another Republican involved said it reflected Bush's isolation. "Somebody just like her should have told him, 'Mr. President, no. This is a mistake.' But he picked the picker, so there was no one there to tell him no."
To his skeptical conservative allies, Bush did chant the litany. "She will not legislate from the bench," he vowed. "I've known her long enough to know she's not going to change," Bush said, a code for "No more Souters." Bush may be right, but Miers got to be her resolute self after undergoing a profound change. Raised a Catholic, she was reborn an Evangelical in 1979, and it was to her spiritual credentials that her surrogates pointed in trying to reassure conservative Christians that she could be trusted. But that was not enough for activists like Janet LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America. "Jimmy Carter claims to be an Evangelical," she says, "and I wouldn't want to have him on the Supreme Court."
The people most familiar with her legal instincts did not provide much reassurance. "My theory is that she is going to be a Justice very much like Sandra Day O'Connor," says Gary Rice, in words that might cheer moderates but spook anyone looking for someone with a weed whacker who will go after liberal rulings of the past 30 years. "If she moves the law, it will be in small steps. She won't be one to say, 'Let's just throw all that out and do something different.'" One of the most intriguing insights into the Real Harriet Miers came from her longtime friend, former law partner and sometime love interest Justice Nathan Hecht, who is considered the most conservative justice on the Texas Supreme Court. "This is very important, and I don't think the public understands," he told TIME. "When you take an oath and swear that you will judge cases properly after that, you can't inject your personal views or religious faith into decisions because it would be wrong. You would either be a bad Christian or a bad judge. Religion says a lot about who you are personally, but it says nothing about stare decisis [following precedent], the commerce clause, the First Amendment, search and seizure or any of the issues she's going to deal with." All of which will surely leave some Christian activists wondering, What's the good of having the first Evangelical on the bench if she leaves her faith in the robing room?