WASHINGTON - President Bush named White House counsel Harriet Miers to a Supreme Court in transition Monday, turning to a longtime loyalist without experience as a judge or publicly known views on abortion to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
Let's take a quick tour of today's press briefing by the presidential spokesmodel, Scotty McMessage McClellan:
Ms. Miers, the skeleton:
Q Scott, she's a total skeleton candidate with no paper trail. Do you think the --Ms. Miers, the Friend:
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I disagree with your characterization, because she is someone who has a very distinguished career and a long record of accomplishment.
Q Was he rewarding a friend?Ms. Miers, the Crony:
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I said he was appointing someone who will make an outstanding Supreme Court Justice. And all you have to do is go and look at her record and what she brings to the Court. She brings very diverse and broad experience that will be very helpful to the Court. Go ahead, Terry.
Q: Scott, you mentioned her legal experience. Part of that experience is that she was the President's personal lawyer. Can you tell us some of the matters that she would have represented the President in? I understand there was a real estate matter. Did she get involved in the National Guard stuff, the jury duty -- can you tell us --
Q And something else will come up, and I just want to let you have the opportunity to answer directly, and Kelly was getting at. What do you say when people will say he put his own lawyer on the Supreme Court? That's definitional cronyism.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'd say look at her record. As I said, she is someone that he knows well. But look at her record. Her record is one of being a trailblazer for women in the legal profession and a record of being a tough and strong litigator who has represented clients before state and federal courts on a broad range of issues. She is someone who brings the exact kind of experience and qualifications needed on our nation's highest court, and that's why the President selected her.
Ms. Miers, the Policy Wonk and "Senior Member of the Whitehouse Staff:"
Q She's going to pay strong attention to the law of the land, which means she should support Roe versus Wade. And, also, what policies has she participated in, in the White House, that are already on the record? Can you say what her participation was?Ms. Miers as the object of spin:
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, she's been very involved in the policy process here at he White House. She started as the Staff Secretary for the President when he first came into office. Then she became the Deputy Chief of Staff. And then, just about six/seven months ago, the President named her his White House Counsel. So she's been very involved in policy matters here at the White House. That was part of her role, and that's one of her strengths, is that she has served within the administration at some of the highest levels of government. The two justices I mentioned earlier, Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice White, were --
Q No, I'm asking --
MR. McCLELLAN: I know, but I'm pointing out, they were members of the administration prior to being nominated to the bench.
Q Well, what policies --
MR. McCLELLAN: So it's helpful that she has that kind of broad experience. She has served as a city councilwoman in Dallas. She has served as a state official on the Texas Lottery Commission -- she helped clean it up when it needed cleaning up. And she is someone who has produced positive results.
Q Can we assume that his policies -- that she had a big, strong hand in the policies that we've watched over the -- since 2001?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, she's been very involved in the policy process here. She's been a senior member of the President's White House staff.
Q Well, people like Howard Dean, are asking -- they're, like, the jury is still out because they want to know what her opinions are. What would you say to Howard Dean, beyond the spinnage [sic] you're giving now, to give something specific --Ms. Miers as Personal Legal Guardian of W:
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, beyond what?
Q The spin --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm giving the facts.
Q No, you're not answering directly, Scott.
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, I'm giving the facts, April.
Q No, you're not answering directly, Scott, about her opinion.
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, I'm giving the facts. There's some spin going on from you. (Laughter.)
Q Along the lines of what Terry was asking. There's a report that the President hired Harriet Miers to look through his background for anything that could be derogatory when he first started thinking about running for office, back when he was in Texas, back in --Ms. Miers - because there was no other qualified candidate?:
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me double-check. I wasn't working for him at that point. Go ahead.
Q There must be many other female corporate lawyers around the country who are also extremely well-qualified in the way that she is. Is there anything particular in her background with regard to her knowledge of constitutional law that makes her particularly well-qualified for this nomination?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's everything the President mentioned earlier today, as well as everything we've put out on her and her long distinguished career. I mean, if you go and look at -- I mean, Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice White, they were nominated at a much younger age than Harriet Miers, and had not had as much legal experience as someone like she has had. She is very uniquely qualified to sit on our nation's highest court. She is someone who was selected by her colleagues, who know her best, in Texas, to serve as the first president of the Texas Bar Association. She was a candidate for the second-highest position at the American Bar Association before withdrawing her name so she could come to Washington and serve in the administration of the President, back in 2001.
Well, from the sound of it, this looks to be a wild ride that may not beget confirmation.