James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:23 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone. The President was pleased to offer the Supreme Court nomination to Harriet Miers last night, and pleased that she agreed and accepted it. Harriet Miers has a distinguished legal career and a record of accomplishment. The National Law Journal has recognized her on a number of occasions as one of the nation’s most powerful attorneys and one of the top 50 women attorneys in the nation. She’s worked at the highest levels of government, most recently and currently as Counsel to the President in the White House. She helped manage a 400 person law firm in Texas. She has clerked for a federal district judge. She has tried cases before state and federal courts, including trying cases before appellate courts on a broad range of issues.
Harriet has been a trailblazer for women in the legal profession. She was the first woman elected president of the Texas Bar Association. She has been a leader in the American Bar Association. She is someone who is exceptionally well-qualified to serve on our nation’s highest court. She has earned the respect and admiration of the legal profession, and she will earn the respect and admiration of the American people — we are confident of that.
The President was looking exactly for someone with her qualifications and experience and judgment. She has great legal ability and good judgment. She is someone of the highest integrity who will faithfully interpret our Constitution and our laws.
Just to give you a little bit more information on how this came about, the President was pleased to get the input and advice of the United States Senate. We consulted with more than 80 senators. The President took their advice very seriously. There were two things that stood out to the President in those consultations: one, that Republicans and Democrats alike had suggested Harriet Miers by name as someone that would serve well on the United States Supreme Court; and, two, that the President should consider someone that is not a judge, someone that would bring some unique and different perspective to our Court. As you all are aware, there are a number of justices that have served — served with exception and served with distinction that were not previously members of the bench, or not previously served on the bench — Chief Justice Rehnquist is one; Justice Byron White is another one.
The President — and remember, we consulted with more than 70 senators in the first round when the President was considering the first vacancy. This process was really a continuation of that first. There were a number of people considered; there were a number of people interviewed during this whole nomination process. There was a committee that the President had set up the first time around with Andy Card, Harriet Miers, Judge Gonzales, the Vice President, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Scooter Libby.
The President considered a diverse group of potential nominees. He was looking at people from all walks of life. This is not a position that Harriet sought. She was someone who, as I mentioned, was involved in the selection process. But as others on this committee were looking at credentials and qualifications — and the President, as well — they recognized that she was someone who had the kind of qualifications and experience and judgment that was needed to serve on the nation’s highest court.
And the President met with Harriet on four separate occasions to discuss the vacancy with her specifically, including on September 21st, was the first, and September 28th and 29th. He met with her last night over dinner in the residence, and that was when he formally offered her the position.
The President had called Andy Card just before 7:00 p.m. last night to let him know that he had made a final decision. Andy Card informed the Vice President. And then this morning, the President called Chief Justice Roberts around 7:00 a.m. to let him know about the decision. And he spoke with Justice O’Connor around 7:15 a.m. to let her know about the decision, as well.
And as you all are aware, Harriet has been over at the Capitol meeting with leaders of the Senate to begin the consultations during the confirmation process. And she met earlier with Senator Frist and Senator Specter and Senator Stevens, and had good discussions with them. She’s scheduled to be meeting with Senator Reid this afternoon. And we’ve also reached out to Senator Leahy to set up a time that will be good for him to visit with her, as well.
And with that, I will be glad to go to questions.
Q: Scott, some conservatives appear to be less than thrilled with this nomination. One noted conservative columnist said that he had expected the President to pick someone with a visible and distinguished constitutionalist track record — a suggestion that the President flinch from a fight on constitutional philosophy, that this appears to be a combination of cronyism and capitulation on the part of the President. What would the President say to his conservative base to allay them of those concerns?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you ought to look at those who know Harriet Miers well, because they have said other things than what you just cited. There are a number of people who have praised her for her great legal ability and her sound judgment and her extensive experience. She is someone, as I just mentioned, who brings great legal ability to this position. She is someone who has earned the respect of the legal community.
The President was looking for someone who has a philosophy of strictly interpreting our Constitution and our laws, and she is someone who has committed to do that. She will look at the law and she will apply the law. And I think that that’s what the American people want on the bench. She was appointed, or nominated by the President because she is the best person in his mind to fill this vacancy.
Q: How would you describe her? Is she a bedrock conservative, an ideological conservative, a moderate? What words would you use to —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would describe her the way I did, John. As you know, ideology, religion, politics, things of that nature don’t really have a place when it comes to making decisions on our highest court. The decisions should be based on the law. Harriet Miers will apply the law. She will look at the law, look at the facts of the case, and then apply the law. That’s what she’s committed to doing, and that’s what the American people want on the bench.
Tom, go ahead.
Q: Scott, she’s a total skeleton candidate with no paper trail. Do you think the —
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: Well, let’s say without judicial experience, and without having taken public positions on issues, if that will — if you’re concerned that that will give Democrats in the Senate more desire to take a long — very long time looking into her background to sort things out?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me back up. There were — and we appreciate Leader Frist expressing his commitment to move forward in a timely manner and have this confirmation completed by Thanksgiving. Senator Specter made it clear that he was going to move forward on a thorough confirmation process. We welcome that. Harriet looks forward to sitting down with members of the Senate, visiting with them in person. She welcomes the opportunity to go through the confirmation process and answer their questions. I know that she’s very much looking forward to that. This is our nation’s highest court, and it should be a thorough process.
The President went through a very thorough and deliberate process when selecting her, and we would expect nothing less. We hope they will move forward in a prompt and timely manner and that they will remain committed to moving forward in a civil and dignified way, as Senator Frist and Senator Specter expressed their commitment to doing so earlier today.
But let me back up, because I think it’s important to look at the Court. There are a number of justices who have served on the United States Supreme Court that had no prior judicial experience. I think that is a strength that can be brought to the Court. It will help offer a broader perspective and bring some broader experience to the Court.
That’s something the President did consider as he was making this selection. Neither Chief Justice Rehnquist, nor Justice White had prior judicial experience when they were appointed to the bench. But they both become two of the most distinguished and respected justices in recent memory. And they served for 30-plus years with great excellence, and so I think you have to look at that. But there have been, I think, some 38 people appointed to the highest court that did not have prior judicial experience. But she does have experience as a practicing lawyer, very extensive experience. And that is something that the President considered, as well.
Q: Harry Reid said that he likes her. Are you encouraged by that comment from him?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as I said, there are Democrats and Republicans alike who suggested that she would be a good nominee. We did take those into consideration.
Q: Was he one of them?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not going to get into any individual discussions; I’ll let them speak for themselves. But I think you’ve heard from a number of senators, Republican and Democrat, who said that the President should look outside the bench for when he makes this selection.
Kelly, and then I’ll come back here.
Q: To what extent did the President’s personal friendship with Harriet Miers have an impact on his ultimate decision? And those who say that it is sort of the appearance of cronyism, that — did this relationship give her an advantage, and the fact that she was heading the search committee?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President knows her well. He has known her for some time now. But the decision was based on who was the best person to fill this vacancy. And she has the qualifications and experience needed to do an outstanding job on the United States Supreme Court, and that’s why the President selected her.
Q: Was he rewarding a friend?
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.
MR. McCLELLAN: 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 —
MR. McCLELLAN: There will be a confirmation process. No, I don’t have specifics on that in front of me. She did, originally, I think, serve as counsel to the President’s gubernatorial committee that was set up when he was first running for governor, back in ’93, and I think it was some time after that she did represent him in some personal matters.
Q: And you can get us details on what those matters were?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’ll work on getting you more information. Obviously, that will be something that, I’m sure, will come up during the confirmation process.
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.
Helen, go ahead.
Q: I have a two-part question. She’s going to obey the law of the land —
MR. McCLELLAN: You’re taking the Les mode now.
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?
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: On treatment of the prisoners of war, for example?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the General Counsel of the White House during the time you’re referring to was Justice — was Judge Gonzales, or Attorney General Gonzales.
Q: Scott, he —
Q: She gave money to Al Gore in the —
MR. McCLELLAN: No, he’s answered those questions before the Court, but I think she’s going back to some of the previous directives that were issued.
Q: She give money to Al Gore and Bentsen in the ’80s. Do you have any information that she was ever registered as a Democrat?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know what her affiliation was back then. I do come from Texas, and I do know that there were not a lot of Republicans back in the ’70s and early ’80s in Texas. And most of the elected officials in Texas, and certainly the statewide level, were Democrats at the time. They were conservative Democrats and liberal Democrats. And I think that since probably about 1988, she has contributed exclusively to Republicans as an individual.
Q: So you don’t know what — before that, you don’t know her affiliation before that?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I was just pointing out the history of Texas. Many of us in Texas grew up Democrats because there really wasn’t much of a — there weren’t many Republicans elected to statewide office. Many of the elections were decided in the primaries, and so I think some of those contributions go back to primary time.
Q: Did you give money to Al Gore? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: I did not. When I became 18 I was a Republican and voting Republican, and proud of it.
Q: Scott, back on Tom and Helen’s question —
MR. McCLELLAN: I supported the President’s father, too. (Laughter.)
Q: Back on Tom and Helen’s question, people are trying to zero in on her opinions. They are concerned that, you know, granted, she doesn’t have any paper trail from the bench or what have you, but they want to know specifically what her thoughts are on issues. Specifically, can you give us something that, from the White House Counsel’s Office, what she has thought, what she has worked on, the opinions that she’s put into the work that she’s done?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as Staff Secretary you have involvement in a broad range of issues; as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, you have involvement in a broad range of issues; as General Counsel to the President, you have involvement in a broad range of issues. And the confirmation process will be an opportunity to discuss these matters. I’m sure that she will answer questions appropriately.
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 —
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: Okay, so anyway — okay, thank you. So, anyway, on another subject —
MR. McCLELLAN: I would say they ought to look at what Senator Leahy said. It’s too early to reach any firm judgment about such an important nomination, if there are Democratic members of his own party that are saying otherwise. Senator Harry Reid said — made some very positive comments about Harriet Miers.
The standard that we should look at, April, is qualifications. That has been the precedent, and certainly in recent history, is what are the person’s qualifications. Are they qualified to serve on the highest court? Do they have the kind of background and experience and judicial temperament to represent the American people well on the United States Supreme Court? Harriet Miers is someone who will make the American people very proud. She has the kind of experience that is needed on the United States Supreme Court.
And so I encourage you to look at her record. She welcomes the opportunity to talk about her distinguished career, and to talk about her record of accomplishment. These will be questions that will come up during the confirmation process, but there’s been a precedent set. The precedent is based on the Ginsburg and Breyer standard, and even people before that. We should look at qualifications. There are many that may have disagreed with some of the philosophical views or political views that those justices took, but there was broad support when it came time to confirm them to the Court, because people on both sides of the aisle recognized they were qualified to serve on our nation’s highest court.
The one thing that the Court should not become is subject to partisan politics. We would hope that Democrats wouldn’t become — wouldn’t become beholden to liberal special interest groups that want to prevent a civil and dignified process from moving forward. That would be unprecedented.
Q: And another — Scott, quickly. On Bill Bennett, the President was upset when he saw the issue about the stamp coming out of Mexico. What are his thoughts about Bill Bennett and his statements about blacks and —
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I spoke about that last week, and I think I’ve already addressed that matter.
Q: Can you address it again, please, because it’s still an issue and many people —
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I’ve already answered that. I don’t think —
Q: People are calling for an apology.
MR. McCLELLAN: — I need to again. Bill Bennett is someone who has done a lot of good things in life for a lot of people from all walks of life.
Go ahead, Goyal.
Q: Scott, two questions. One, as far as Katrina is concerned, and Rita, there are hundreds of small businesses are out of business, and they are nothing now to —
MR. McCLELLAN: Small businesses where?
Q: In Louisiana and those affected areas.
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay.
Q: And they were employed — hundreds of thousands of people they were employed. Now they can’t —
MR. McCLELLAN: I’ll tell you what, can I come back to you? Because I think there’s probably more people that have questions about the Supreme Court. And if we have time, I’ll come back to you.
Q: Can I get one? Can I ask you real quick?
MR. McCLELLAN: You’ve had one. Dana.
Q: No, just real quick.
MR. McCLELLAN: No.
Q: Are you going to make available all the documents regarding her time here —
MR. McCLELLAN: Dana. I’ll come back to you.
Q: That’s my question.
MR. McCLELLAN: Is that your question?
Q: It’s my question.
MR. McCLELLAN: Do you defer — do you defer to John Roberts?
Q: No, no. What I was going to say is essentially that recent history shows that Democrats, especially when there’s virtually no paper trail, they want to know what the nominee has done, particularly —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that’s what the confirmation process is for. And Harriet Miers looks forward to that process.
Q: If and when the Democrats ask to see the documents, the papers, the consultations that Harriet Miers was involved in, in the White House and the executive branch, will —
MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of things. She welcomes the opportunity to answer questions during the confirmation process. That’s an important part of the confirmation process. And I’m sure that she will answer questions in an appropriate manner. We will also make sure that we provide them appropriate information so that they can do their job.
Q: Does that mean we’ll be more inclined to show them some of the documents that perhaps before were —
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not going to speculate. And I’m not aware of any such requests that have come at this point.
Q: Okay. Wait, can I just follow up on one thing?
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, yes, go ahead.
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 —
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me double-check. I wasn’t working for him at that point. Go ahead.
Q: Scott, could you please elaborate on the four meetings, including the dinner the President had with Ms. Miers? It seems like that they’re in contact with each other anyway, throughout the normal working process. Why did it take four meetings — did she readily agree to serve, or did he have to talk her into it? Can you tell us a little bit about each of those meetings?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as I mentioned, I don’t think this was something that she expected. She was not seeking this out. She, earlier today, said how honored and humbled she was to be selected by the President to serve on our nation’s highest court. The President, having known her, believed that she would make an outstanding Supreme Court Justice. And that’s why the first meeting began on September 21st, to talk to her about the possibility. And those discussions continued over time.
I wouldn’t look at that as being surprising or anything, I think that’s just part of the nomination process. The President was doing his homework. He was seriously considering a number of people, from all walks of life. And it became clear to him, having known her and having been very familiar with her record of accomplishment and her long career, distinguished career, that she would be the best person for this position.
Q: Did she readily agree to it, or did she have to kind of be brought along?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think if you look at her record, she is always someone who has answered the call to serve. She is someone who has done an enormous amount of pro bono work. The President talked about earlier in his remarks all the community service activities that she has been involved in. And that is something that she has always been committed to, serving the people and helping people who are in need.
Q: Scott, when I asked earlier about whether or not some conservatives who have expressed concern that this is a capitulation, and that perhaps Ms. Miers isn’t going to be conservative enough, you said that ideology, religion and politics, things of that nature, don’t really have a place. Do you think —
MR. McCLELLAN: When you’re on the Supreme Court and you’re making decisions, you make decisions based on the Constitution and based on the law and then you apply that law. I think that that’s what the American people want, including conservatives.
Q: So that said, then, what would you say to cheer those conservatives who are concerned that this is a capitulation?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think they ought to look at some of the comments, and, again, this is an appointment of someone who will represent all Americans well. And I think, as I said, the American people want someone who is going to strictly interpret our Constitution and our laws, and is going to apply the law — that’s going to look at the facts and apply the law.
And they ought to look at some of the comments from people who know her well — many of their colleagues, people who are very familiar with her, because they have spoken out about how well-qualified she is and what an outstanding jurist she would make.
Q: And can you give us some indication as to how the President decided he would deal with these charges of cronyism, what his reaction might have been as it was discussed during the process?
MR. McCLELLAN: He doesn’t spend time thinking about it. He’s looking for the best person for the position, and that’s what he focuses on.
Q: If I understood your opening remarks, it sounded like some Democrats, in advance of the announcement, had said flattering things about Ms. Miers.
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s correct.
Q: I’m wondering if — who were —
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s part of the consultative process. I’m not going to get into names. If they want to talk more about it, they are welcome to do so, but I’m not going to get into names from this podium out of respect for that process.
Q: But we can assume that some key Democrats said, she’s not radioactive, she’s okay with us?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t think they used those words. (Laughter.) Republicans and Democrats alike both suggested her name as someone who would make an outstanding Supreme Court nominee.
Sarah, go ahead.
Q: I have a different subject, so I’ll wait until —
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay. Supreme Court. Les? No? Okay, go ahead.
Q: Scott, it’s been suggested that because she has no body of judicial rulings to examine, that Harriet Miers should be more forthcoming than other Supreme Court nominees. Is that a reasonable suggestion?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you ought to look back at what Justice Ginsburg said and what other justices have said, that — are you talking specifically about answering questions about cases that may come before the Court? Because that’s never been a —
Q: Well, about —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the judicial philosophy is one of strictly interpreting our constitutional laws, and certainly, there will be questions talking about the law and how you apply the law. That’s part of the confirmation process. Judge Roberts did that. And I disagree with your assessment of the previous confirmation process, because it has never been a precedent before the Supreme Court that justices — or nominees should get into answering questions about cases that may come before the Court. Go back and look at recent nominees and look at what justices on the Supreme Court have said. You shouldn’t be prejudging cases that could come before you.
Q: I wasn’t being — I wasn’t making any judgment, I’m just saying that it has been suggested that there should be a higher standard if there isn’t this body of legal work. Is that not fair?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that’s what I — I think the question you’re getting to is talking about cases that could come before the Court. And that’s why I was making clear what that precedent has been. But, certainly, she will answer all questions appropriately.
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.
Q: So in terms of writings or constitutional law, you’re not aware of anything?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has certainly talked to her about the philosophy that she applies. And that’s why he said —
Q: Can you tell us about she said?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. She is someone who will strictly interpret our Constitution and our laws, that will look at the law and apply the law based on the facts of the case.
Q: Just a quick follow up. It seems to me that every justice on the Supreme Court would say that that is exactly what they do. It seems that there’s a very different understanding of what that means by different justices. We don’t know what their understanding is.
MR. McCLELLAN: There’s a confirmation process that will come along in due course. They are moving forward on the confirmation process already. Those are all questions and issues that they can discuss during that process.
Ken, go ahead.
Q: Scott, two Miers-related topics. Does the President invite and hope there will be close Senate scrutiny of her tenure at the Texas Lottery Commission?
MR. McCLELLAN: Certainly, that’s part of her record, and I’m sure she would welcome the opportunity to discuss her time there.
Q: And what do you think her record there shows?
MR. McCLELLAN: That she helped — what I said earlier. She is someone who helped clean up the Lottery Commission. It was an agency that was in need of cleaning up. And papers in Texas, not the one you work for, I don’t know — well, maybe they did, but The Dallas Morning News, certainly a well-read paper in Texas, praised her for the results she accomplished at the Texas Lottery Commission. That’s why the President selected her; she was someone of the highest integrity, who brings a very straightforward approach to the issue, and was able to get results and turn that agency around.
Q: In 1992, she was part of a group in the ABA that moved for neutrality by that body on the topic of abortion. Is that to be viewed as her feelings on the merits of the issue, or just on the merits of what the ABA should be saying?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don’t think that’s correct. I think in 1993 the American Bar Association had voted to endorse — essentially endorse abortion, and taken a position on that. And she was head of the Texas Bar Association at the time. She took the position that if the Bar was going to take a position on the issue, that the members should be allowed to take a vote. And that was her position, that the entire membership should be able to vote on it.
Q: Was it a statement at all about her position on abortion?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?
Q: Was it a statement at all about —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if you’re getting into asking questions about litmus tests, the President doesn’t have litmus tests.
Q: What kind of test does he have?
MR. McCLELLAN: You’re asking specific questions about issues.
Q: Has he been tested? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: Peter, go ahead. I didn’t hear that. Must have been funny, though. It came from Ken Herman. It’s not worth going back to.
Q: One conservative group is circulating a memo on the issue that Ken just mentioned, on this abortion-on-demand and taxpayer-funded-abortions stand by the ABA, characterizing her as the leader of that campaign. Is that —
MR. McCLELLAN: She was the leader of the Texas Bar Association.
Q: Was she the leader of this campaign, though, to have the ABA in the practice of supporting, “abortion on demand”?
MR. McCLELLAN: She felt that the membership ought to be able to vote on it.
Q: How many cases — how many, aside from — separate from this, how many cases was she actually at the defense table for? How many cases has she actually been involved in?
MR. McCLELLAN: She’s argued a number of cases, on a broad range of issues. She’s a well-known, proven litigator, and someone who has represented clients before state and federal courts, and someone who has represented clients before appellate courts.
Q: Do you have an exact number?
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s her background as a practicing lawyer.
Q: Do you have an exact number on how many?
MR. McCLELLAN: I can check on that. I’m sure that — I’m sure we can pull that together. I don’t have that specific number off the top of my head.
Go ahead. Supreme Court still?
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, go ahead.
Q: The Anna Nicole Smith case is coming before the Supreme Court, and she’s from Texas. And if this confirmation goes through smoothly, would Harriet Miers have to recuse herself because she may know some of the legal people involved out of Dallas in this —
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s out of left field. I hadn’t even thought about that, and, no, I don’t know that there’s any connection there whatsoever.
Q: Would she have to step aside because of the players involved —
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t even know who the players are that are involved.
Q: Her husband is a wealthy Texan, oil man and —
MR. McCLELLAN: So that has a connection to the case?
Q: No, but Harriet Miers might have had some social or legal interaction with some of the people out of Dallas —
MR. McCLELLAN: None that I know of.
Q: What about Paris Hilton? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: Elisabeth. Your seat is open up here.
Q: Okay. Two things. One, did she do pro bono work for the Exodus Ministries, or Exodus Prison Ministries?
MR. McCLELLAN: It was the prison ministries. She did serve on the board of that ministry, which helped prisoners who had served their time adjust back into society and reunite with their families.
Q: — Exodus Ministries — so is that —
MR. McCLELLAN: The one I just described to you.
Q: You mean Exodus Prison Ministries?
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s correct, yes. And I just described which one she was a board member of.
Q: Okay. She had no relation to Exodus Ministries?
MR. McCLELLAN: No.
Q: Okay. Secondly, these four meetings, were they similar to the other interviews for the Supreme Court — you know, potential nominees the first time around —
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know if you can necessarily describe them as similar. Oh, were they all in the residence? I think some may have been in the Oval Office. I’ll have to double-check which ones were where. I can check that for you. But I don’t know if you can necessarily say “similar.” There are some people the President interviewed last time that he didn’t know as well as he knows Harriet.
Q: But how many people did he interview this time?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don’t think you can separate out the first nominating process from this nominating process. He interviewed a number of people previously. The committee that was involved has interviewed a number of people, as well. And —
Q: You don’t have the number of how many he sat down with?
MR. McCLELLAN: He interviewed five the first time, and he interviewed some additional ones this time.
Q: How many?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’d leave it at that.
All right, questions on other topics, or are we still on Supreme Court? Supreme Court? Finlay.
Q: Maybe I missed this, but do we know anything about her academic rankings as an undergraduate and law school? Was she law review, summa/magna cum laude?
MR. McCLELLAN: We can get you that biographical information, but I think she did very well academically.
Q: Okay now?
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, Goyal, then Sarah.
Q: A question as far as the economy is concerned in those affected areas of (inaudible). Small businesses, especially minority-owned businesses, they are in trouble, putting back together their businesses because they’ve been hiring hundreds of thousands of those affected victims. So what is President doing about those — putting together those businesses so they can hire back those affected victims?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we’ve issued some waivers that will help open up the process to more small businesses, and that would include women-owned, or minority-owned small businesses. The President very much believes that the role of the federal government is to support the state and local vision for rebuilding the region in the Gulf Coast. And Mayor Nagin announced the appointment of a private sector-led commission on renewal and rebuilding. The Governor of Mississippi has announced — is moving forward on a commission to look at all these issues.
We want to continue to support those efforts. And one thing that is important that you bring up to do is to help people get back into their communities, particularly at the jobs that are most needed right now. So that helps — if we can get them the temporary housing that they need, help put them in a position to get back to work and help their companies. The President visited Folgers Coffee Plant in New Orleans, and they had taken a number of steps to get trailers right on the property there so that they could get the workers and contractors back in place to get those jobs going again and get the economy going again. That’s an important part of the process.
Sarah, go ahead.
Q: Thank you. Scott, there are those in New Orleans and Louisiana who want to destroy all structures in the lower Ward Nine of New Orleans. That is a predominately poor and black neighborhood, and many families there don’t want to relocate. How does the President feel about this project and massive relocation and destruction of a historic neighborhood?
MR. McCLELLAN: Two things. One, the President has committed to a locally inspired vision. He wants that to be decisions of the local officials and local community leaders and others. And, two, the President believes that it’s up to the people from those communities to decide where they want to live and where they want to go. And we want to help assist them in that effort.
END 12:58 P.M. EDT