President Bush, responding to critical questions about his appointment of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, said he is confident she shares his judicial philosophy now and that she will continue to share it during the next 20 years.
He asked the Senate to confirm her appointment to the nation's highest court by Thanksgiving and urged Democrats to give her a chance to explain her views of the law and the Constitution.
"I know her heart. She knows exactly the kind of judge I'm looking for," Bush said at a morning news conference, noting that she had helped conduct the search that led to the appointment of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. She will be "exactly" what he is looking for, Bush said several times.
Asked by a reporter if she was "the most qualified" person he could find in the country, he said, "Yes, otherwise I would not have" named her.
In a wide-ranging news conference in the Rose Garden -- his first since May -- Bush also talked about the federal budget, the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the war in Iraq and the possibility of an outbreak of bird flu.
He used the news conference to defend his brand of conservatism, saying he is "proudly" conservative and a "pro-life" president. This defense came as a number of conservative commentators have questioned his appointment of Miers and his extensive spending plans in the wake of the devastating hurricanes.
Bush called the news conference as he struggles to regain his political footing, which has been battered recently by high gas prices, increasing American casualties in Iraq and the sluggish federal response to Hurricane Katrina.
The questioning at the Rose Garden news conference centered not around Democratic reaction to the appointment of Miers yesterday, but to the reaction of conservatives, many of whom expressed open disappointment with Miers's lack of a judicial track record or known philosophy about the role of the judiciary.
Reporters noted several times that a number of conservative commentators had questioned passing over some of the more prominent, proven conservative judges in favor of Miers.
"I'm interested in people who will be strict constructionists. . . . There should be no doubt in anyone's mind what I believe," Bush said. "Harriet Miers shares that philosophy."
"I know her well enough to be able to say she's not going to change. . . . Twenty years from now. . . . her philosophy won't change."
That, he said, "is important to me."
"I don't want to put someone on the bench who's this way today and changes. . . . I'm interested in someone who shares my philosophy today and will share it 20 years from now."
He was asked if he was referring to Justice David Souter, appointed by his father, George H.W. Bush, as a conservative but whose votes on the court have often disappointed conservatives.
"You're trying to get me in trouble with my father," he responded.
Asked if he and Miers had discussed Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, he said he had no "litmus test." Asked again, he said he could not recall "sitting down with her" and discussing abortion.
He said he would not release documents relating to her work at the White House. It is "important that we maintain executive privilege in the White House. . . . That's how we get good sound opinions from people."
Speaking about the possibility of an outbreak of the avian bird flu, Bush said he was considering whether the U.S. military should be used to help quarantine infected parts of the country.
"It's one thing to shut down airplanes, it's another" to quarantine parts of the United States, Bush said. "And who is best to effect a quarantine? One option is to use the military. I think the president should have all . . . assets on the table to deal with something this significant."
Bush said he wasn't "predicting an outbreak. I'm just suggesting to you that we need to be thinking about it."
On Katrina and increased federal spending, Bush said he would work with Congress to "make real cuts" in discretionary, non-security spending. He also called for reducing mandatory spending, saying he has proposed eliminating or streamlining 150 federal programs in an effort to save $20 billion a year.
Bush said the private sector, rather than the federal government, will be the engine that drives the recovery of the devastated Gulf Coast and that private investment needs to be encouraged in the affected areas.
He repeated his call to build more refineries , noting that no refineries have been built in the United States since the 1970s. He said the hurricanes, which affected energy supplies and so raised gas prices, highlighted the fact that the country needed to expand and build more refineries and also invest in nuclear power.
Speaking about Iraq, Bush said Americans needed to understand that the war in Iraq was part of the "global war on terror."
"We are not leaving Iraq," Bush insisted. "We will succeed in Iraq."
He said the United States is progressing toward its goals there as "more and more Iraqis" are becoming able to defend their own country.
He said the United States was pursuing a dual political-military solution in Iraq. "The goal is for a stable, democratic Iraq that is an ally in the war on terror," he said. Bush said U.S. troops in Iraq were both tracking down terrorists and training Iraqi security forces.
He also called on Congress to extend the controversial Patriot Act, parts of which are due to expire at the end of the year. "Terrorist threats won't expire," he said.