Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Monday, October 17, 2005

More McLellan Follies

First of all, apparently in an effort to bolster the case for Miers' confirmation, President Bush hosted six former justices of the Texas Supreme Court at the White House today.

It's not clear whether Justice Hecht was among them, but in general his name has been coming up with an odd constancy -- odd because I can't imagine it's ever before been the case that a nominee for such important office, an evangelical Christian at that, has been so frequently vouched for in public by an apparent present or former romantic partner to whom she has never been married. Personally, I find this strangely endearing, leavening what otherwise has emerged as a lifestyle so spartan as to recall Justice Souter. But it does seem odd that the far right isn't exploring this more carefully. One suspects that the nominee of a Democrat president would be taking it on the chin (so to speak) until the details of any such relationship were out in the open, and then would be roundly condemned if the relationship turned out to have a non-marital sexual component.

Anyway, all of this led me to the transcript of Scott McLellan's press briefing today, which was quite entertaining to read. Highlights follow.

First, this is my favoritest highlight of all, and it camne right at the beginning:

Q Why did the President feel it's necessary to invite these former justices, or sitting justices, to the White House to talk about Harriet Miers? Is he trying to change the debate from the religious preoccupation, which was much discussed here last week?

MR. McCLELLAN: Much discussed where last week?

Who am I? Who are you? Why are all of you waving your hands at me, and what's with all the cameras?

Q The President doesn't want anyone who would legislate from the bench. Can you define that a little bit more? For example, is Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas -- was that legislating? Was Miranda legislating? Was the right to a lawyer legislating from the bench?

MR. McCLELLAN: These are great questions. I'm not the one who's going through the confirmation process. These are questions that will come up in the confirmation hearing process, I imagine. I'm sure the --

Q But I want to know what you are saying. You keep saying --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure that members of the Senate --

Q -- you can't legislate from the bench. Would all of those rulings been wrong under your --

MR. McCLELLAN: And what we mean by it is that she is someone who will strictly interpret our Constitution and our laws, that will not try to make law from the bench. That's what the President means by it.

And that means that she is someone who will look at the facts of a case and apply the law, what the law says, and that's what the American people expect in a Supreme Court justice. And that's what the President has always looked for. He's nominated more than 200 people to the bench. And Harriet Miers has been very involved --

Q Is Roe versus Wade the law --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- has been very involved in that process.

Now, in terms of cases that could come before the Court, I don't think anyone has an expectation that a future judge should answer a question about a case that could come before that Court. A judge should be fair and open-minded and look at the facts of a case and then apply the law.

What you heard from these Supreme Court justices just now was that Harriet Miers is someone who is very fair-minded, and she is someone who will look at the facts and apply the law. And these are all questions about legal issues that she will be answering.

Q But you bring them up. I mean, you --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's right. And she looks forward to --

Q -- keep talking about legislating from the bench. Does that mean that nothing changes in 200 years?

MR. McCLELLAN: Of course not, Helen.

But don't expect me to tell you whether Roe v. Wade is the law, even though notwithstanding anyone's disagreement with it it obviously is the law for the time being. Ditto, Brown and Miranda, God forbid I stand here and just say, yes those cases are the law, and while the Bush administration might not appoint judges who decide cases in the ways those cases were decided, we nevertheless believe those cases by now are the settled law of the land.

For those keeping score, we now do not know where the White House stands on three of the ten or so most important cases decided by SCOTUS in the entire history of our country. Apparently, if any one of them constituted legislating from the bench (as all did), they're bad. Apparently, if any of them were issued by a majority of activist justices (and, for reasons previously discussed here, they all were) they're bad. So the Bush Admin -- again for those drinking along at home -- not only would take away the settled expectations borne of over 30 years of relatively free access to abortion, but also those born of a half-century of jurisprudence under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and a doctrine precluding school segregation nearly as old and even more settled.

Also notice that now, evidently, Scott McClellan is entitled to the same no-advisory-opinion escape clause as Article III nominees. Not a bad deal at all, folks, not a bad deal at all.

Q John Fund writes an article today saying that several people on a conference call assured religious conservatives that Harriet Miers would overturn Roe versus Wade. You were going to find out if any member of the White House staff was on that conference call.

MR. McCLELLAN: That was not a call organized by the White House, and as far as I've been able to learn, no one at the White House was involved on that call.

Q And is it correct that Karl Rove was the person who asked those two people who made the assurances that sh3 would overturn Roe versus Wade -- that Karl Rove asked them to join?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's well-known that Karl and Dr. Dobson spoke about the nomination and about the process. And they had a good discussion. And Karl talked about individuals who know Harriet Miers well, like Justice Hecht, and said that they would be people that probably would be willing to talk about her.

Q And did he say this knowing -- and is the White House aware that Harriet Miers would vote to overturn Roe versus Wade?

MR. McCLELLAN: Not at all.

Right, because Karl Rove has no idea what "Dr." Dobson's talking about, and in any event Bush has no idea what Turd Blossom is talking about. What are the odds that, on this topic, Bush is the last to know?

[Miers] has been rated by the National Law Journal as one of the top women attorneys in the United States . . . .

Okay, this meme is really starting to piss me off. (And the press is eating it up with a spoon: "The National Law Journal repeatedly named her one of the nation's 100 most powerful attorneys and one of the nation's top 50 women lawyers.") Aside from the fact that NLJ is hardly the end-all be-all of legal journalism and attorney assessment, there's also the little problem that NLJ never called her a "top" attorney, as the Bushies keep saying. Rather, in the late 1990's, they identified her among the most powerful attornies in the country. Being an appointee of, and personal counsel to, the governor of one of the most populous states in the union and then following said governor to the White House has a funny way of adding to your power. Doesn't mean you were a good attorney in the first instance. Oh, and by the way, her firm, while big and monied and just fine as firms go, is not Sullivan Cromwell, is not really a big presence on the national radar, and just really isn't all that notable, so enough about that, already, too.

In other news, the President continues to refuse to commit to whether he would continue to permit the American taxpayer to provide a salary to a man indicted for violating a federal law regarding the disclosure of the identity of clandestine federal agents, notwithstanding previous promises to that effect. I guess we'll just have to wait until Turd Blossom -- and maybe Scooter Libby, too -- is indicted to find out.

The prize for Best Non-Answer is earned here:

Q Scott, on Wednesday you encouraged me to look at news reports about scandals surrounding the Texas lottery when Harriet Miers was chairwoman of that commission. And it turns out there are hundreds of news reports from the late '90s covering problems with contracts and kickbacks involving the company GTECH and Ben Barnes. I have a two-part question.


Q You and the President --

MR. McCLELLAN: See what happens when I encourage you to do things? (Laughter.)

Q Thank you. You and the President are aware of these hundreds of news reports, aren't you?

MR. McCLELLAN: We're well aware of her time at the Texas Lottery Commission. There were problems that did occur there, and she helped clean up the Texas Lottery Commission. She was praised for her work as chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission.

Q What is the President's response to those allegations that he put Ms. Miers in charge of that lottery commission to be sure GTECH kept its lucrative contract, and its lobbyist Ben Barnes would not talk about his alleged influence concerning young George Bush and --

MR. McCLELLAN: Our responses to those questions have already been addressed and disputed. And I think we don't need to rehash those issues.

Evidently, an utterly unsatisfactory answer during the 2004 campaign to allegations regarding favors perhaps called in to keep Bush out of military service is doing double-duty, because as best I can tell that's what McLellan means when he says "those questions have already been addressed and disputed." What a two-fer!

A propos spending:

We've put a lot on the table in terms of savings -- some $20 billion in savings when it comes to discretionary spending, and then some nearly $200 billion over the next 10 years in mandatory spending. You need to address both.

So there's a full $220B "on the table?" Gee, that's great. That should pay for . . . um, about half of the war if we're lucky, and less than the bill for Katrina when all is said and done. Over ten years, no less. Sounds peachy to me.

And finally, out of order, the punchline:

The election that took place in Iraq this weekend was a milestone for the Iraqi people, and it is also a hopeful moment for peace in the world, because the Iraqi people are showing through their determination and courage that they are going to continue to defy the terrorists. The Iraqi people going to the ballot box in large numbers and freely expressing their views stands in stark contrast to the vision of the terrorists, which is simply one of killing innocent civilians and causing chaos and destruction.

I'll say!!!


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