This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," October 4, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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BRIT HUME, HOST: Thirty-five years ago in a federal courthouse in Dallas, Texas, two young law clerks came to know each other. One of them was Harriet Miers, now nominated to the Supreme Court. The other was Martin Frost, who would go on to a career in Congress, where he would rise to prominence in the House Democratic leadership.
Martin Frost is now at Harvard, and he joins me tonight from outside Boston. So, tell us about your old acquaintance and, I guess, even friend, Harriet Miers. How’d you get to know her? What do you know about her?
MARTIN FROST, FORMER TEXAS REPRESENTATIVE: Well, she was clerking for a very conservative judge, Joe Estes (search). I was clerking for a more liberal, Democratic judge, Sarah Hughes.
HUME: Joe Estes a Republican?
FROST: Yes. And I always found, her to be smart, hard working and very pleasant. And I have kind of followed her career over the years. And you know, Brit, you have to put this in context. When she got out of law school in 1970, women had a very difficult time getting jobs in Texas at law firms.
Kay Bailey Hutchison (search), who went on to become a senator, got out of the University of Texas law school about the same time Harriet got out of SMU, and Kay Bailey Hutchison couldn’t get a job as lawyer and wound up being a television reporter.
Harriet was hired by a major firm in Dallas, went on to be a partner and then managing partner, became the first woman president of the Texas Bar Association (search). And none of this was handed to her. She had to go out and earn it. She is a very smart, able person. She is a conservative. No one should mistake that.
But she is qualified on the merits. I think that it will be interesting to see how she answers the questions before the Senate committee. And then we will see people make decisions on whether they want to vote for her or not. But she should not be labeled a "crony." She is qualified on the merits for this job.
HUME: Tell me, if you were a member of the Senate, would you be inclined vote for her? Based on what you’ve said it sounds like that.
FROST: As a Democrat, I would want to listen to what she says. But I would be inclined to give her full consideration. I think this is a very able person.
And, Brit, if this were a man being nominated who had the same credentials as Harriet Miers, having risen to be the managing partner of a major firm, having been president of the bar association of the state, being highly regarded by her peers, she didn’t get any of this by accident, I don’t think there would be any question that that person would be considered qualified.
But senators have to make a substantive decision. They have to listen to what she says. I haven’t talked to her about issues in a very long time. I don’t know where she stands on some of the controversial issues of the day.
But I will tell you senators on both the left and right want to ask her tough questions. Better be prepared, because she’ll be prepared. She is a soft-spoken southern lady, but she is a steel magnolia. She’s plenty tough.
HUME: You know the president has referred to her, as I’m sure you know, famously, once as a pit bull in size six shoes.
FROST: I wouldn’t call her a pit bull, but she is plenty tough. She has a pleasant demeanor. She is bright. She knows what she is doing. And anyone who tries to embarrass her at that Senate confirmation hearing had better do their homework. She’ll have done hers and she’ll give direct answers.
HUME: When you knew her, and over the years as you’ve followed her, do you recall her staking out any positions on some of these hot-button issues? Obviously, I’ve got to ask you about abortion, for example. We know that she resisted the A.B.A., the American Bar Association (search), when it was about to take a position, as it ultimately did, on abortion.
FROST: Well actually, they did take a position, and then she was part of an effort to get them to be neutral on the issue.
HUME: What is your view on that?
FROST: Listen, she was a lawyer from a very conservative state. That was a controversial issue within the bar association. She had every right to present that issue to the A.B.A. and take the position that they should not take a position on it. I have never discussed abortion with her. I have never discussed any of the controversial issues with her. That will be up to the senators.
HUME: Would you consider that to be kind of prima facie evidence that she is pro-life?
HUME: Why not?
FROST: No, I would not. Because she was the head of a bar association from a very conservative state. I am sure there were many lawyers in Texas at that time that thought the A.B.A. should just stay out of the issue. That didn’t mean they are necessarily pro-life, but they didn’t think it was appropriate for the A.B.A. to be out in front on the issue. I think that people should listen to what she has to say and make their own judgments. But I wouldn’t assume that’s prima facie evidence (search) of her view one-way or the other.
HUME: One of the reasons that some conservatives are worried about her is they feel that, if she gets on the Supreme Court, this is the fastest track in the country. This is a brilliant legal mind all around. And that you’ve got to be — boy, you said she is well prepared and very smart. Is it your view, based on knowing her — and you have known a number of the men and women who have served on the Supreme Court — that she is well up to playing in that company?
FROST: She can play in that company. You know, there have been a lot of people who have gone on the Supreme Court who hadn’t been judges, who had not been law professors: Hugo Black, Earl Warren (search), all kinds of people. The question is whether someone is deeply committed to the law, which she is, and is bright. She was law review at a good law school. She had the experience of clerking for a judge. I think she is very capable of playing in that league.
HUME: As a political matter, you’ve indicated that senators who may wish to challenge her need to be on their toes, well prepared. What about the politics of this issue? Do you think there are serious risks for members of your party for mounting strong and perhaps antagonistic resistance to her?
FROST: No. They have every right to ask her tough questions. I think they ought to approach it with an open mind. I don’t think anyone should go into this with the idea that they’re going to oppose her. Some of them may wind up voting against her. But I don’t think there’s any risk to Democrats, as long as they are responsible in the way they approach it.
As you know, the Democrats split 50-50. Half of the Democrats voted for Roberts and half of them voted against him. The ones who voted against him had their reasons. I think as long as they ask her good questions, as long as they carefully consider her answers — there are risks for Democrats, but the only risk that they face is that, just because she is a soft-spoken Southern woman, they shouldn’t assume that she can be pushed around. And if any senator assumes that of either party, they’ve got problems.
HUME: Martin Frost, a pleasure to have you. Thank you very much.
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