White House Briefing, October 12
12 October 2005
Supreme Court/Harriet Miers nomination, Syria, Karl Rove/involvement in White House issues, tax commission, FEMA, Iraq elections
White House press secretary Scott McClellan briefed the press October 12.
Following is the transcript of the White House briefing:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
October 12, 2005
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
-- Harriet Miers nomination
-- Karl Rove/involvement in White House issues
-- Tax Commission
-- Iraq elections
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
October 12, 2005
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:37 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone. I will go straight to your questions today.
QUESTION: Scott, you said earlier today that some potential nominees or candidates for the nomination for the Supreme Court had withdrawn their names from consideration, requested that their names to be withdrawn. Who were those people?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm not going to get into any names, John, out of respect for the nomination process and out of respect for those individuals who may or may not have been under consideration.
Q: Scott, the President has said that religion was part of Harriet Miers' life, and the White House's outreaching has mentioned the fact that she does go to this conservative Christian church --
MR. McCLELLAN: Outreaching -- reaching out.
Q: Reaching out, outreaching. No such efforts were made, not to this extent, anyway, in terms of Chief Justice Roberts. No one in the White House even mentioned his religion, as best we can tell. Why is this case --
MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of outreach?
Q: In terms of talking about his religion --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's well-known that he is a person of faith, as well.
Q: I know, but it was never -- it never was brought up at this podium, and the President never mentioned it.
MR. McCLELLAN: Where have I brought up Harriet Miers' religion at this podium?
Q: Do you think Harriet Miers' religion is being emphasized more by this administration than Chief Justice Roberts' was?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Harriet Miers is a person of faith. She recognizes, however, that a person's religion or personal views have no role when it comes to making decisions as a judge. A judge should make decisions based on our constitution and our laws. That's the role of a judge. A judge should look at the facts and apply the law. And that's just like Judge Roberts. He recognized that, as well, that someone's ideology or religion has no role to play when it comes to making decisions on our nation's highest court. That's what the American people expect.
I think when you're talking about our outreach, or reaching out, we do reach out to a lot of people. And Harriet Miers is not someone who has sought the limelight. So there are a lot of Americans who are just beginning to get to know who she is. And we're confident that, as they do, they will see what the President has known for some time now, which is that she will make an outstanding Supreme Court justice. But what we emphasize in the outreach to people we talk to is that she has the qualifications and experience and judicial philosophy that is needed on our nation's highest court. The President appointed her, or nominated her, because she is eminently well-qualified to serve on our nation's highest court. We should be looking at a nominee's record and that nominee's qualifications and their judicial temperament. She is someone who believes in strictly interpreting our Constitution and our laws. And that's why the President selected her.
Q: So if her personal views and ideology have no bearing on --
MR. McCLELLAN: You just had your question.
Q: -- the judicial decision --
MR. McCLELLAN: You're taking away from others.
Q: -- what relevance does it play in a conversation between Karl Rove and James Dobson? Why would he bring it up, even?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you're being very selective in what you're talking about from the conversation, because I know what Karl emphasized in that conversation is her qualifications and her background, and her judicial philosophy.
Q: Also that she's a member of a very conservative church.
MR. McCLELLAN: That she is a person of faith. She is someone who attends church on a regular basis. And people want to know who she is. They want to know her qualifications, they want to know her background, they want to know her experience. And that's all part of reaching out to people to gain support for her nomination.
Q: But in the context of the conversation between the President's Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor and the head of a very conservative Christian organization, it sounds like code.
MR. McCLELLAN: John, what Karl emphasized in that conversation is that she is someone that has the qualifications and experience and the judicial philosophy that the American people want to see on our nation's highest court. And that's why the President selected her.
Helen, go ahead.
Q: I read that the President is seeking a regime change in Syria. Does he plan to widen the war in the Middle East? And just how does he -- what right would he have to unseat anybody in another country without provocation?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't know what you're reading, but it doesn't seem like it's an accurate reflection of our policy.
Q: The Financial Times.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think it's an accurate reflection of our policy.
Q: Are you denying --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President talked about our concerns when it comes to Syria earlier today --
Q: I know. I'm asking you specifically --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and he expressed what our view is.
Q: -- is he seeking a regime change in Syria?
MR. McCLELLAN: There's no change in our policy toward Syria.
Q: Whatever that is.
Q: Back to Miers for a moment. When you say that Ms. Miers understands that religion has no role in the business of the Court, at the same time the President has said he knows her heart, her beliefs, her character; he talked today about people wanting to know about her life and, therefore, her religion. How are we not to interpret that her religion was one of the factors in his selection?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President makes selections based on potential nominees' qualifications and experience and judicial temperament. That is what he has done in each and every instance when it comes to appointing people to the bench. He has a long track record of appointing people who have a conservative judicial philosophy, one that is based on interpreting our Constitution and our laws, not making law from the bench. And that's what he bases his decisions on, not someone's religion.
Q: So her religion played no role in her making it to the final group and then, ultimately --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, the President makes decisions based on the person's qualifications and experience and judicial temperament.
Q: All right. So there was no -- no role at all in the President's decision-making of Harriet Miers' religion?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's part of who she is. That's part of her background. That's what the President was talking about in his remarks in the Oval Office.
Q: Why is Karl Rove calling up religious leaders telling them it's okay, she belongs to an ultra evangelical church?
MR. McCLELLAN: We're calling up a lot of people --
Q: Why that?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- to reach out to them and talk to them about the President's selection of Harriet Miers. And what he is emphasizing in those conversations, Terry, is that she is someone who is strongly committed to a conservative judicial philosophy.
Q: What is somebody's --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, why wouldn't --
Q: Wait, wait, wait. What relevance does how a person prays have to the judicial philosophy?
MR. McCLELLAN: Didn't say that it did.
Q: So why are you peddling it?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's part of her background, Terry; it's part of who she is.
Q: But you just said it was relevant to judicial philosophy.
MR. McCLELLAN: People want to know who she is. And when you're getting to know someone, you want to know what their qualifications and experience are, you want to know what their judicial philosophy is, and you want to know who they are. Faith is very important to Harriet Miers. But she recognizes that faith and that her religion and that her personal views don't have a role to play when it comes to making decisions.
Q: It seems that what you're doing is trying to calm a revolt on the right concerned that Harriet Miers isn't conservative enough, by saying, it's okay, she is conservative enough, because she goes to this church.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, it seems like the media wants to focus on things other than her qualifications. Maybe your news organization would rather focus on things other than her qualifications and record. The President believes we should focus on her qualifications and her record and her judicial philosophy. And that's what we emphasize.
Q: Why is his top aide going around and telling people how she prays?
MR. McCLELLAN: He's simply talking about who she is and what her background is. And you're being very selective in your comments there, because what he emphasized and what Dr. Dobson said he emphasized, was her conservative judicial philosophy. That's what it should be based on.
Q: Scott, isn't -- the bleed-over here, though, is that if we understood the account correctly -- and it doesn't sound like you're disputing it -- that Karl was making an argument that her religious faith and her membership in the evangelical church was evidence of what her judicial philosophy -- conservative judicial philosophy would be. He was using it to buttress the question of how she would rule -- am I misunderstanding that?
MR. McCLELLAN: See, David, there's some that have -- no, there's some that have a litmus test for the Supreme Court. The President does not. The President does not ask candidates their views on issues that may be controversial, like abortion. The President looks at them and asks them what their judicial philosophy is; are they someone who is going to strictly interpret our Constitution and our laws, rather than -- and not make law from the bench. The President doesn't believe people should be legislating from the bench. He believes that judges ought to be looking at the law and applying the law.
Q: Scott, if that's the case, then, wouldn't Karl's statement to Mr. Dobson have been, "you know, what church she belongs to is completely irrelevant to how she would serve on the Supreme Court; I'm not even going to tell you what church she went to because it doesn't have anything to do with her philosophy." Wouldn't that be the consistent statement?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's part of who she is, David. We're just pointing out facts about who she is. But that's not what we're emphasizing. What we're emphasizing is her judicial philosophy and her experience and her qualifications.
Q: So there was no effort, to your mind, that it was not Mr. Rove's desire here to use her church background as evidence of how she may approach cases from the bench?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think I already described what we were talking about in these outreach efforts. If you want to interpret them differently, that's your right to do.
Q: I was asking how you were interpreting.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I just explained it.
Q: You talk about conservative judicial philosophy. As you know, there is a difference between conservative judicial philosophy and conservative ideology. Were both equally important to the President in picking Harriet Miers?
MR. McCLELLAN: I just told you what the President looks for when he nominates someone to the bench. He has a long track record of appointing people who are highly qualified and people who have a conservative judicial philosophy. That's what you're looking for in a judge -- you want someone that is going to apply the law, not try to legislate from the bench. And that's why the President -- in part, is why the President selected Harriet Miers.
He also selected her because she is someone who is exceptionally well-qualified to serve in our nation's highest court. Some have tried to create a different standard when it comes to the confirmation process for a Supreme Court justice. I would encourage you to go back and look at her record and look at her qualifications. She is very accomplished. She is someone who has a distinguished career and a long record of accomplishment. She was one of the top 50 women lawyers in the nation, named by a national journal, on a number of occasions. She is someone who has been a trailblazer for women in the legal profession. She has broken the glass ceiling when it comes to the legal profession in Texas, serving as the first woman president of the Dallas Bar Association and then the first woman president of the Texas Bar Association. And she's on track to be the number two leader at the American Bar Association. She is someone who has a record of overcoming obstacles throughout her life.
Q: That doesn't answer my question. Is it --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I disagree because I think it's important --
Q: No, no, no. Here is my question. Is it as important to the President that his nominee, that Harriet Miers has a conservative ideology, as a conservative judicial philosophy?
MR. McCLELLAN: He bases it on their judicial philosophy and their qualifications and experience. That's what he makes decisions on. Again, your question implies that there are litmus tests. There are not litmus tests when it comes --
Q: I wasn't implying anything. I was asking --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, sure, because a person's ideology and personal views have no role to play when they're making decisions as a judge. A judge makes decisions by looking at the case and looking at the facts and then applying the law. That's what the American people expect, and that's the type of people that the President has always appointed to the bench.
Q: If personal views don't have a role to play, then why would anybody from the White House talk about what church she goes to and what the beliefs are of the people in the church?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's part of who she is. And faith has played an important part in her life. But she recognizes that religion and personal views and ideology don't have a role to play when you're a judge, but people want to know who she is. And that's been an important part of her life.
Q: Scott, was she a member of Texas Right to Life?
MR. McCLELLAN: Not that I'm aware of. I think she attended some events.
Q: Well, Dobson said that Karl Rove told him that she was a member of Texas Right to Life.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think she attended some events.
Q: Scott, does the fact that some on the right oppose Harriet Miers so much suggest that they are just unwilling to trust the President?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me talk to you about a couple things. First of all, there are a number of conservatives who know Harriet Miers very well, and they strongly support her because they recognize that she is exceptionally well-qualified to serve on the highest court in our land. And she is, right now, going through what is essentially a job interview. People are just beginning to get to know her. The President has known her for a long time. She is not someone who sought out the limelight or sought out the spotlight; she has quietly accomplished much in her life, breaking new ground for women in the legal profession and serving with distinction with the White House, at the highest levels of government.
Back in 1970, she was clerking for a federal judge. Not many women were clerking for federal judges back in 1970. She has tried many cases in state and federal courts, represented many clients, and she is someone who is highly respected within the legal --
Q: -- respected --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- within the legal community. With all due respect, you're not pointing out her record and accomplishments, Ed.
Q: I'm not talking about Harriet Miers as a person or her background. I'm asking if some of the people who have supported President Bush so strongly over the last five years and their unwillingness now to take his word for -- on this issue. Is that not --
MR. McCLELLAN: What do you mean, what about their unwillingness?
Q: Well, he's saying, trust me, I know Harriet Miers, and they're not willing to.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, he's saying -- he's saying, get to know her. Look at her record, and look at her accomplishments. Listen to her during the Senate confirmation hearings. That is what the confirmation process is about, Ed. This was just -- this nomination was just made just over a week ago. She is not someone that is well-known by the American people, but as they come to know her, they will see what others who know her already know, which is that she is --
Q: Well, why are some already opposing her --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- that she is exceptionally well-qualified to serve on our nation's highest court. I'm not going to try to speculate about people's intentions, but I do think that some people are setting a different standard for this nomination.
Let's go back and look over the last 70 years or so. Since 1933, one out of three people confirmed to our nation's highest court have not had prior judicial experience. The President believes that it was important to take into account what many senators said, both Republicans and Democrats, which is that having someone that doesn't come from the bench would bring some good diversity of perspective to our nation's highest court. That's one of the things he took into account. He listened very seriously to that. She is uniquely qualified and she is someone who will bring a different perspective to our nation's highest court. And that will strengthen the court.
Q: So if there's a different standard being set, is it sexism, and to what extent is sexism a part of that --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I certainly hope not. The President believes it should be based on qualifications and experience and judicial philosophy. But as I said, it's clear that some people are setting a different standard. And go back and look at people who didn't have prior judicial experience that were confirmed to our nation's highest court -- people like Justice Rehnquist, or Justice White. They served with great distinction on the nation's highest court. Look at their record. Look at Justice Powell's record. And look at Harriet Miers' experience and her record. I would encourage you to look at that, and look at the standards. The standards should be based on qualifications. That's always been the standard that has been used when it comes to our nation's highest court.
Q: Until Mr. Dobson this morning disclosed his conversation with Karl Rove, it has been suggested in some places -- that Mr. Rove's role has been diminished and he wasn't as hands on in the Miers nomination, and perhaps hasn't been as involved in other things in the White House. Can you give us --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's an accurate reflection at all. He was part --
Q: Well, can you give us one?
MR. McCLELLAN: He was part of the committee that the President had in place to consider people for this nomination. The President is the one who made the decision, but he was very much involved in that, as was the Vice President, Andy Card, Karl -- as I mentioned -- General Gonzales, the Attorney General, Scooter Libby, and Harriet Miers, of course, was involved in that process. In fact, that's another thing for people to consider. She is someone who has been very involved in the President's judicial selection process. She was very involved in overseeing the selection of Chief Justice Roberts to our nation's highest court. She knows what the President is looking for in a Supreme Court justice. She knows that he wants someone on the Court that believes in strictly interpreting our Constitution and our laws, and not legislating from the bench. And that's the type of person that she is. And that's the type of person the American people want on our Court.
Q: Has Mr. Rove's involvement in any issues in the White House changed at all in the last couple of weeks?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. He continues to perform his duties.
Q: When the President created his tax commission there was confusion on the commission as to his instructions. For example, former Congressman -- thought that the President told the commission, don't mess with the charitable deduction, don't mess with mortgage deduction. Chairman Connie Mack, on the other hand, interpreted the President's instructions as everything is on the table. Could you tell me, was everything on the table, or did the President say, don't touch that mortgage deduction?
MR. McCLELLAN: This is a bipartisan advisory panel that the President appointed, and he appreciates the work that they are continuing to do. They are about to wrap up their work and send their recommendations to the Treasury Secretary. They will send their recommendations by November 1st to Treasury Secretary Snow. He will then review those recommendations and send his own recommendations on to the President for consideration.
When the President announced this bipartisan advisory panel, he laid out some very clear principles. He said that the tax code is a complicated mess; we need to make it simpler, fairer, and more conducive to economic growth. That's the principles that the President laid out. Beyond those principles, he didn't set any parameters. He did say, as one of the principles, that we should have a tax code that encourages home ownership and encouraging charitable giving. And that's one of the principles that he believes strongly in.
Q: Reports are that the commission will recommend a reduction in the amount of interest people can deduct on their home mortgages. Does that fit in within that parameter?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's let them make their recommendations, and then the Treasury Secretary will have a chance to review those and send his recommendations to the President. And then we'll have an opportunity to talk more about it. He appreciates the work that they're doing. He looks forward to seeing what their recommendations are. But in terms of the principles that the President outlined, those are principles he remains strongly committed to.
Keith, go ahead.
Q: I'll try to ask an earlier question a bit more directly. Did Rove talk to Dobson about Miers' religious beliefs to signal in any way how he thought she would vote on an issue before the Court?
MR. McCLELLAN: He talked to her about a lot of things. And he emphasized what her experience was and what her qualifications are. And he talked about her judicial philosophy, and I think that's what he was emphasizing. He also talked about who she is and what her background is.
Q: Okay, but part of the discussion -- you talked earlier about it -- part of the discussions was about her religious beliefs.
MR. McCLELLAN: I've already answered this question.
Q: Did he -- I haven't heard an answer. Did he bring that up to signal --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you have an answer. It may not be one that you like, but you have an answer.
Q: I don't feel I have an answer. Can you just say yes or no, did he try to signal -- was he trying to signal how she might vote on any particular --
MR. McCLELLAN: This should be based on someone's qualifications and record and judicial philosophy. That's what the President believes. And I'm not going to get into trying to go through every conversation that people have in our outreach efforts. We have a lot of conversations. We are reaching out to members of the Senate. Harriet Miers has met with a number of Senators already. And the decision that senators make we hope will be based on what the standard has always been, which is, is she qualified to serve on our nation's highest court. She is highly qualified to serve on our nation's highest court, and we encourage people to get to know her better and get to know her record and her qualifications.
Sarah, go ahead.
Q: Scott, former President Jimmy Carter believes FEMA should be removed from Homeland Security, and again made independent. Based on the problems FEMA encountered with Hurricane Katrina, does the President agree?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, a couple of things. One, we continue to move forward on an internal lessons learned review within the federal government. The President believes it's very important that we learn the lessons of the response to Hurricane Katrina, and that we apply those in the future so that we can prevent any possible problems that occurred in the preparedness and response for Katrina from happening again. All levels of government had responsibilities -- local, state and federal. And the President believes it's important also to support the investigation underway by Congress. Congress is moving forward to conduct a thorough investigation and we support those efforts.
Secondly, Secretary Chertoff has been moving forward on some reorganization within the Department of Homeland Security. He is moving forward on the position of an undersecretary for preparedness. And I think when you look at preparedness and response, you have to take into account all our efforts, not just one agency. FEMA is one part of that, and they're an important part of that. And Secretary Chertoff is committed to improving and strengthening FEMA. In fact, since we've been in office, we've provided significant increases in the budget for FEMA. But you also have to look at what we're doing in terms of providing grants to state and local authorities, because the local authorities are the first responders. They're the ones that are in a position to immediately respond.
Of course, in Katrina we had a very different situation, because of the magnitude of the storm, and that's why it's important to look at some of the lessons from that storm and discuss with Congress about how we move forward and respond better in the future, all of us, at the local, state and federal level.
Go ahead, Bill.
Q: Scott, a point of clarification on a question. Can you clarify for us how many potential nominees withdrew their candidacy, and when did that take place?
MR. McCLELLAN: There's a couple. I mean, any time you're going through a --
Q: Was that on Friday, or --
MR. McCLELLAN: Any time -- no. Any time you're going through a confirmation process you have a fluid and dynamic list that is expanding and contracting, and people are being added to it, people are being taken off of it. Sometimes you're going through a vetting process, and people may be taken off of it for various reasons. And then sometimes along the way, people express that they would prefer not to be considered, and there were a couple of individuals in this instance that asked that they not be considered. And that was when the list was longer; the list was in the double digits at that point in time.
Q: When the President says "not legislate from the bench," can you give us an example what that means? Does that mean that Harriet Miers would not interpret the Constitution to protect an implied right that is not specifically --
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, she's going to go through the confirmation process. These are questions that are going to be asked during the confirmation process of her by members of the Senate. That's part of their role. She looks forward to answering questions when she appears before the United States Senate. She'll be talking about that. What he means is, is someone that is going to strictly interpret our Constitution and our laws, that is going to look at the facts and apply the law. And I think, beyond that, she's going to be the one who's going to be answering questions and talking about the legal issues that you bring up.
Q: Can I ask about the constitution deal in Iraq? I know you've welcomed what's taken place. The change, as I understand it, is essentially to make an amendment easier. Are you convinced that's really going to make a big difference, in terms of the participation that you're hoping to see?
MR. McCLELLAN: What is going to make a big difference, I'm sorry?
Q: The deal to change the way the constitution can be amended, that that's going to make a big difference in the turnout and participation?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, that's a decision being made by Iraqi leaders. This is an Iraqi process. They're the ones who are making the decisions about their future. That is part of what democracy and freedom are all about.
We view the agreement that was reached as something that is very positive. We welcome it. What we have always encouraged is that the political process be as inclusive as possible. That's what we've emphasized. And we believe that steps such as the one that you're mentioning will help Iraq move forward on the path to a strong and lasting democracy. It's important to reach out and be as inclusive as possible. And what you've seen is that Iraqi leaders have come together. One of the things that we've always worked to do is assist them and help them come together and work to reach a compromise and build consensus. And that's what's happening. That's what democracy is all about. It's about compromise and consensus-building.
And Iraqi leaders are showing, even though sometimes this process can be difficult, that they are determined to build a future that is based on freedom, that they are strongly committed to democracy.
Q: But it's suggested that this deal postpones as much as it opens up -- postpones tough issues as much as it opens up the process.
MR. McCLELLAN: This is part of democracy, and the Iraqi leaders are the ones who are making the decisions. They were elected by the Iraqi people to serve in these positions, and the Iraqi people have shown time and time again that they are committed to living in freedom. They did that in January when more than eight million showed up to cast their ballots. They will be going to the ballot box again this weekend, where they will be voting on whether or not to ratify the draft constitution. And one thing that we have continued to emphasize as they move forward on the constitution is that they continue to work to reach compromises that will broaden the participation in the political process. And I think that's what's really is happening here. In terms of the decisions that they are making, those are decisions that they are making that they feel are in the best interests of building a lasting democracy.
Q: Scott, quick follow on Bill's question.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q: When you said a couple of individuals withdrew when the list was long, was that prior to the Roberts' nomination, or in the interval between Roberts and Miers?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think it was more in the interval.
Q: Scott, Worldnet Daily reported in 1995 Ben Barnes, Texas former lieutenant governor, secured a contract for a company called GTECH to run the Texas Lottery. And my first question: Did Harriet Miers continue the Texas Lottery's contract to GTECH without bid, so that Barnes received a $23 million payoff as part of the deal, authorized by Miers?
MR. McCLELLAN: I would encourage you to go back and look at news reports at the time, because the governor's office at the time denied any connection that you may be asserting within your question. That's an issue that's already been discussed, and I think that Ben Barnes has said the same.
Q: In 1999, a former executive director of the Texas Lottery, named Lawrence Littwin, filed a lawsuit alleging he lost his job as a result of political influence wielded by Barnes. And my question, since this Littwin suit was settled out of court for $300,000, what is the White House response?
MR. McCLELLAN: The allegations have been disputed previously by both the governor's office and -- by the governor's office at the time, and by Mr. Barnes. I would encourage you to go back and look at the comments that were made at the time. I'd be glad to provide those to you if you would like.
Go ahead, David.
Q: Scott, just to go back to Tom's question. Dr. Dobson said that Karl Rove told him that Miers was a member of Texas Right to Live. Did Karl tell Dr. Dobson that?
MR. McCLELLAN: My understanding is that she attended some events. That's what we've said previously. I'll be glad to look into it, but my understanding is that she attended some events, some fundraising events that they had.
Q: Well, was that part of the conversation? I mean, did Karl bring that up to Dr. Dobson in the conversation you're talking about?
MR. McCLELLAN: I have no reason to dispute his account that it came up.
Ken, go ahead.
Q: Scott, in addition to concerns about sexism in the Miers nomination, there's been some hinting that there's some elitism involved, in that she is "only" from SMU, not from the usual Ivy, Stanford, Northwestern, that produce Supreme Court nominees. Does the White House feel there's any elitism involved, and that people are not looking outside the usual places for a justice?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, it's the same thing I said earlier: We would certainly hope not. She is someone, that if you look at her qualifications and her experience and her judicial philosophy, will make an outstanding Supreme Court Justice. This should be based on qualifications and experience. And I see some may be shaking their heads, but that's always been the standard that has been used when it comes to confirming a Supreme Court justice. And that's the precedent that has been set.
Regardless of where one stands on personal issues, or ideology, the United States Senate, if you look at recent history, has come together and voted to confirm people to the bench because they recognize that they were qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. Justice Ginsburg and Justice Breyer are good examples. There are many senators that probably didn't agree with some of their personal views, yet in large numbers they voted to confirm their nominations, because they recognized they had the experience and qualification to serve on our nation's highest court.
Now I think some are, clearly, setting a different -- or trying to set a different standard. Judicial experience has never been a standard that has been necessary to serve on our nation's highest court. I pointed out earlier how one in three of the Supreme Court justices confirmed since 1933 had no prior judicial experience.
Q: Does the President think it's an advantage that her academic background is from outside the usual places where we've been getting justices?
MR. McCLELLAN: He thinks that her broad experience and diverse experience will help strengthen the Court. That's something he very much considered when making this nomination. He very much considered the comments by members of the Senate that he should look outside the bench, and it would help to bring some diversity of experience to our nation's highest court -- diversity of experience and diversity of perspective. And that is one of the reasons he selected her.
Q: Scott, can I just quickly follow up on the judicial philosophy? Can you point to a time in Harriet Miers' life or career when she demonstrated, of her own volition, a support for a conservative judicial philosophy, apart from the selection process as the President's advisor?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry? Apart --
Q: A time in her life or career when she demonstrated a --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that is part of her life and her career.
Q: Apart from her role in the selection process of late, can you point us to a --
MR. McCLELLAN: She's someone the President has known -- she's someone the President has known for a long time, Carl, and she knows that as governor, the President nominated people to the bench who have a conservative judicial philosophy. She has very much had a deep respect for our Constitution and our laws for some time. She has served as the managing partner of one of the largest law firms in Texas. She was the first woman to do so. And --
Q: But that answer doesn't necessarily speak to --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, no, wait, I'll be glad to go and look back, Carl, and provide you more -- I mean, you're asking me to go back and look over her entire career. She'll be answering all these questions before the United States Senate, and she looks forward to it. But she is someone who, for a long time, has believed that people who serve on our benches ought to have a philosophy that is based on interpreting our Constitution and our laws, and not trying to legislate from the bench.
You can't separate out the last five years. Let's talk about the last five years and talk about constitutional experience. She has served at the highest levels of government. She has served as Counsel to the President. She deals on a daily basis with complex constitutional issues here at the White House. For the past five years she is someone the President has been looking to and saying, what do you recommend, and she has had to answer those questions. She is someone who is well-versed in knowledge of the Constitution. And she has expressed those views to the President during the course of the past five years in those high positions of government. And I think very few lawyers, men or women, have had that kind of experience.
END 2:09 P.M. EDT
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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