GOP Opposition to Miers Grows

Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and adviser to the president, discusses the growing chorus of Republican voices that oppose President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie is an adviser to President Bush, and he's been a point man on the nomination of Harriet Miers.

Mr. Gillespie, welcome to the program.

Mr. ED GILLESPIE (Presidential Adviser): Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: Another conservative columnist today--it's Charles Krauthammer--has a column today saying, `Withdraw this nomination. There are 1,085,504 lawyers in the US,' he writes. `What distinguishes Harriet Miers from any of them other than her connection with the president?'

Mr. GILLESPIE: Actually quite a bit. Her record as a lifelong practitioner of the law, someone who was the first woman hired by her prestigious firm in Dallas and the first woman to run it; she was the first woman to head the Dallas Bar Association, the first woman to be elected to head the Texas Bar Association. She has served for the past five years at the highest level of this administration and this White House, and perhaps most importantly, she is someone the president knows well and he knows that she shares his philosophy of judicial restraint.

SIEGEL: That's what's most important. I mean, is there a kernel of truth in what Krauthammer writes, that if she had not been a personal lawyer to and a close associate of the president's, she wouldn't have been on even a long list for the Supreme Court?

Mr. GILLESPIE: Well, I don't know about that. I do know the fact that the president has worked closely with her on putting forward qualified nominees to the federal bench who do share an understanding that the role of a judge is to apply the laws as written is a view that Harriet Miers shares.

SIEGEL: We heard on this program yesterday from Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, and it's a sentiment that's been voiced by other conservatives, that there's a disappointment that President Bush didn't nominate one of the other conservative powerhouses in the judiciary, people who are known to be strong legal minds and whose records have been established already in the courts. Why didn't he nominate another established federal judge?

Mr. GILLESPIE: Well, that--the president took into account a lot of factors in his decision-making process. I am not and Senator Brownback and others are not privy, frankly, to the information that the president had in that process, but at the end of the process came to the realization that Harriet Miers was the most qualified person to put forward to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. I do know this. In the consultation process with members of the United States Senate, we heard time and time again from senators on both sides of the aisle to look beyond the federal bench to consider someone outside of the courts, and in fact to look to someone maybe who holds elective office or who has held elective office. They encouraged him to look outside the Eastern seaboard. They encouraged him if there were a qualified woman to consider that because that perspective is important on the court. And then lastly on the Republican side especially, they said nominate someone who shares your judicial philosophy of restraint. And in every instance, Harriet Miers fits the bill.

SIEGEL: When Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, asked now Chief Justice Roberts, `Do you believe today that the right to privacy does exist in the Constitution?' Judge Roberts gave an answer. He said, `I do. The right to privacy is protected under the Constitution in various ways,' and he then cited the Fourth, First and Third Amendments and spoke of Supreme Court decisions going back over 80 years. Is Harriet Miers free to make an equally candid statement of what she thinks of the right to privacy, or does she observe a different line of discretion from the one that Judge Roberts adhered to?

Mr. GILLESPIE: Well, I do not know. I'm sure that question will be posed to Harriet Miers in the confirmation process, and I don't know--I'm not privy to her view on that, whether or not it's consistent with the chief justice's answer or...

SIEGEL: Well, but consistent in candor. Do you think she should live up to the same standard that Judge Roberts did in explaining what she thinks of these questions?

Mr. GILLESPIE: Well, where you draw those lines is a personal determination, and he drew the lines differently than some who had gone before him and he said that those who come after him may draw the lines differently. Harriet Miers will be as forthcoming as she can without undermining in her judgment her ability to rule in future cases that might come before the court.

SIEGEL: But wouldn't it be a good guideline to see what the man who's now chief justice who was just confirmed in hearings thought was appropriate to answer the question?

Mr. GILLESPIE: I think it is. I think it would be a good guideline, but I am not willing to commit on your program Harriet Miers...

SIEGEL: OK.

Mr. GILLESPIE: ...to give any answer without the benefit of having talked to Harriet Miers, if you don't mind.

SIEGEL: OK. Is she pro-life?

Mr. GILLESPIE: I don't know. I've never spoken with Harriet about her personal view on the issue of abortion.

SIEGEL: Never?

Mr. GILLESPIE: I am--no, I have not.

SIEGEL: Have you discussed with her any other subjects of general interest to the courts, the powers of Congress and the executive? She was White House counsel, for example...

Mr. GILLESPIE: Well, I've been in meetings, obviously, and discussions during the preparation for Chief Justice Roberts' confirmation with Harriet, in which I heard her talk about these issues, but they were analytical in nature, her comments, and I couldn't pretend to represent to you what her personal opinion is on such matters.

SIEGEL: Before I let you go, do you think you're making headway on this one with the conservatives and--or are you simply going to have to resign yourself to not winning over a certain segment of the Republican Party and the conservative movement because they didn't get a known quantity?

Mr. GILLESPIE: Oh, I think if you look at the confirmation process as it unfolded this week, I understand that there are questions from conservatives who do not know Harriet Miers the way the president does, and they have every right to ask those questions and they'll be answered in the confirmation process, but if you look at the centrist Democrats and Republicans, the so-called Gang of 14, met and said there's not going to be a filibuster. We saw conservatives senators come out and make very positive statements after their meetings with Harriet Miers, and so you can actually take a cold, hard look at the votes and where they're lining up and where the direction of the confirmation process is going, it looks very positive for confirmation.

SIEGEL: Former Republican National Committee chair and adviser to President Bush, Ed Gillespie.

Thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. GILLESPIE: Thanks for having me on.

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