Charles Pickering's Take on Harriet Miers

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," October 11, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Tuesday President Bush and the first lady defended the nomination of Harriet Miers (search) to the Supreme Court, saying they believe she will be confirmed by the Senate.

By the way, Arlen Specter (search) says he expects those hearings to start within a month and to last a week.

Those predictions come as the White House works to crush skepticism about Miers from both the left and, of all places, the right. Let's talk to a former Bush judicial nominee, Judge Charles Pickering. The president installed him to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals last year in a recess appointment after the Democrats blocked his nomination. Judge Pickering announced his retirement after that one-year appointment ended.

So what's it going to be like for Harriet Miers?

JUDGE CHARLES PICKERING, FORMER BUSH JUDICIAL NOMINEE: John, I think there's no question she's going to be asked questions just as John Roberts was asked questions. I think she will decline to answer any questions that would indicate how she would rule in any particular case, but I think they will ask her extensive questions about her background and her thinking and how she would arrive at making a decision as a member of the Supreme Court.

GIBSON: Now, Judge Pickering, when you say "they," are you referring to the Democratic senators or the Republican senators?

PICKERING: I think both. I think the senators on both sides are going to be asking questions.

GIBSON: In your case, you had pretty complete support from the Republicans and you were being attacked by the Democrats?

PICKERING: Yes. That's correct.

GIBSON: Right. In this case, she's going to have — sort of put yourself in her position for a moment — she's going to have Republicans asking her essentially — and I know I'm boiling this down and paraphrasing it and probably making it a little too simple-minded — "Are you smart enough to be a Supreme Court justice?" And that's going to be a bit uncomfortable, I would think.

PICKERING: John, you know, I think her resume speaks for itself. She has a very impressive resume. And one of the strengths that I think she has is that she has real-world experience.

I think it's unfortunate that we think someone has got to come from the bench or someone has got to come from academia to sit on the Supreme Court. During the history of our nation, half of the judges that served on the Supreme Court did not have previous judicial experience, so this is not a new phenomenon. This is not a new situation.

And the fact that she has had real-world experience, she was an experienced litigator. She served in local government, state government, and federal government. I think that's to her advantage. I think that's a prospective that the Supreme Court by and large misses.

GIBSON: Judge Pickering, what I'm going to hear and what I know you're going to hear is conservatives saying, "Look, we want a battle-tested nominee like Judge Pickering. We want somebody who's made decisions and had to stick by them. We want somebody who isn't going to wilt under this liberal pressure."

PICKERING: I understand that and I respect that and I think that is a position that, you know, certainly everyone has a right to a position that they want to choose in this, but she's been there before. She's been in litigation. She's represented clients who had $100 million at stake. She has had to advise the president.

You know, for people to suggest that the counsel to the president is not a significant position. She advises him on things that he does all over the world. She's had to stand in the trenches and fight before. I think she'll be able to hold her own with the justices of the Supreme Court.

GIBSON: Judge Charles Pickering. Judge, thanks a lot. We appreciate you coming in and talking with us.

PICKERING: Yes. Good to be with you, John.

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