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Slate's Politics: Dobson's Inside Scoop on Miers

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Slate's Politics: Dobson's Inside Scoop on Miers


Slate's Politics: Dobson's Inside Scoop on Miers

Slate's Politics: Dobson's Inside Scoop on Miers

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

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Social conservative James Dobson said last week that he had been told things about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers by the Bush White House that he "probably shouldn't know." Alex Chadwick talks with Slate political correspondent John Dickerson about Dobson's claim that Karl Rove told him two days before the nomination that Miers was an evangelical Christian who belonged to a conservative, pro-life church.


Now a Supreme Court quiz. Who is this man? Why does he think we're talking about him?

(Soundbite of radio broadcast)

Dr. JAMES C. DOBSON (Focus on the Family): I have been a topic of conversation from the nation's capital to the tiniest burg and farming community.

CHADWICK: It's James Dobson, radio personality and founder of Focus on the Family; that's a conservative Christian organization. Today, he explained a statement he made about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers last week. He said then he knew things he, quote, "probably shouldn't know about Ms. Miers." Joining us is John Dickerson, chief political correspondent for the online magazine Slate.

John, Mr. Dobson's been under pressure to clarify these remarks, hasn't he?

JOHN DICKERSON (Slate): He has been, and it's a symbol of, really, the fact that nobody knows very much about Harriet Miers. And James Dobson threw this out there, it's quite mysterious and some of the senators have said, `What does he know that we don't know? And he should come forward and tell us.'

CHADWICK: And there's suspicion that he might have heard from a presidential aide, `Don't worry. She's going to be good on Roe v. Wade. She's going to vote against abortions.' But today on his radio program, he said that he never talked about that with the president's chief political strategist Karl Rove. Here's what Mr. Dobson said.

(Soundbite of radio broadcast)

Dr. DOBSON: What the Democrats have concluded in their wildest speculation is that Mr. Rove laid out for me a detailed promise that Ms. Miers would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and revealed all the other judicial opinions that she has supposedly prejudged. It did not happen, period.

CHADWICK: So, John, is this storm going to go away, or are you going to believe Mr. Dobson now?

DICKERSON: Well, it's a bit of a straw man 'cause the real criticism about the Miers pick has come from the right, has come from Republicans. Democrats criticized Dobson to be sure, but the real heat and the difficulty over her nomination has come from Republicans. And so Dobson has clarified some things, but he's opened a whole lot more questions than he's brought to clarity.

CHADWICK: Well, including this. He said that there were several, several, high-profile potential nominees who had taken themselves out of the nominating process. He says he got this from White House aides as well because they didn't want to go through the torture of it.

DICKERSON: That's exactly right and that's the real mystery here, because the shortlist had, let's say, six women on it. Well, several suggested--they came to this independent conclusion themselves about this. Now it is a tough process, the nominating process, but this is also the kind of job if you're a lawyer you work all of your life to be offered. And so that people would come to this decision independently is quite extraordinary. And also, it raises questions about when they came to this decision and then how robust was the search process afterwards. And so he may--James Dobson may have been trying to help the White House, but he's opened up all of these very thorny questions I'm not sure the White House is going to want to answer.

CHADWICK: All right, John. And earlier today, President Bush, too, was speaking about Ms. Miers. He was at the White House at a photo op with a visiting dignitary, and this is what he had to say.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers. They want to know Harriet Miers' background, they want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions. And part of Harriet Miers' life is her religion.

CHADWICK: So there's the president raising again the question of Ms. Miers' religious beliefs.

DICKERSON: That's right. He said explicitly what up until now has really been code. When he's talked about before, he said he's known her heart. Now he's put religion on the table a little bit more explicitly. That may do something to help the criticisms, but really, the criticism is about what does she belief about the law. And so he's likely to have caused himself more problems by talking about religion today than solve any.

CHADWICK: Slate's senior political correspondent John Dickerson.

John, thank you again.

DICKERSON: Thank you.

CHADWICK: NPR's DAY TO DAY continues. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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