The Miers Nomination and the Media

The following is a partial transcription of the October 8, 2005 special edition of "FOX News Watch", that has been edited for clarity:



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This morning, I'm proud to announce that I am nominated Harriet Ellen Miers to serve as associate justice of the Supreme Court.


BURNS: Since that announcement on Monday, we've seen headlines like this one in The Los Angeles Times: A Mysterious Choice; from Bill Kristol, editor of "The Weekly Standard," an article with this headline: "Disappointed, Depressed and Demoralized" and this from Charles Krauthammer, another conservative, like Kristol, in The Washington Post: "Withdraw This Nominee".

Jane, it is the conservative press that seems most upset and really upset in its opinion pieces about this nomination.


George Will wrote a piece about how, you know, if you polled 10,000 people for their choice of this person, you wouldn't come up with somebody — people are concerned who wanted somebody with stronger credentials. They're concerned because they would like to this - it's not a litmus test, but they're out there trying to tell the conservative media — they've got Dick Cheney telling Rush Limbaugh, "You're going to like her."

I think what's interesting is that the - the mainstream media missed the right story, and talked about how the Democrats were going to be split. They really seemed to not have calculated that conservatives might have some objections to her.

BURNS: Meanwhile, the Democrats are so happy that the conservatives are unhappy that they're not even talking to the media yet about it, Jim.


The liberal mainstream press has rush in to express all this solicitude for the conservatives as they're busy killing each on this thing. I mean, The Washington Post headline on Friday was: "Right Sees Miers as Threat to Dream." I guarantee you, The Washington Post has never worried about the well being of the right until now, until they can cover this food fight between conservatives.

BURNS: What do you make of this, Cal?

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, what is amazing -- if you look back on the history of recent nominations to the Supreme Court by Republican presidents, there wasn't any conservative rebellion when Richard Nixon named Harry Blackmun. There wasn't a conservative rebellion when Gerald Ford named John Paul Stevens to the court. And there was not really a conservative rebellion - there were a few questions raised when Reagan named Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy.

But what you have here now, particularly in the media, is a huge growth in the conservative media — the blogs, the Web sites, the conservative talk radio and the magazines - that this is the whole ball game right here. This is the seventh game of the World Series. This is what this team, this conservative team has been fighting for for years. And the conservative media says, We're no longer willing to trust a Republican president. We want to see the evidence.

BURNS: Neal, it seems to me that because Ms. Miers has a kind of blank slate.


BURNS: Well, not a kind of - as a judge.

GABLER: She has a blank slate.

BURNS: She has a blank slate -- that the media may be investigating her positively, negatively, we hope neutrally -- more diligently than they have any nominee for a high-ranking government position in a long time.

The media have to go after her because they don't know her.

GABLER: Well, let me completely disagree with you on that fact.

I mean, the main story this week was, A, we know nothing about her. And B, because the conservatives know nothing about her, they're afraid of her.

I also want to add here a little rank hypocrisy. When the Democrats wanted to find out what Roberts thought about things, Oh, that was terrible. That was off the table. But now that Republicans want to find out what Miers thinks about things, particularly about Roe vs. Wade, that's on the table.

But it's interesting: the storylines where we know nothing about her. Now what's wrong this picture? The storyline should have been: here is who she is. We're out there and we're going to tell you who this woman is.

BURNS: But aren't they going to?

GABLER: Well, there's been very little of that this week. Surprisingly little of that this week. And what little there has been has been largely the echo of the administration sources.

There was the same article that ran in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The L.A. Times from one source that was put out there by the administration, Justice Hecht of the — of the Texas Supreme Court, who was the boyfriend — or is the boyfriend of Miers. Very interesting that — that how incurious the press has been.

HALL: I think it's very interesting to see.

I think that even though the whole moral-values voting thing was questioned after the election, the media decided that they missed - misreported on evangelicals and their role. I have never seen — I mean, there was a front page piece in The Washington Post that started out on — in a year when she devoted her life to Jesus Christ. That that was on the front page of The Washington Post — I don't think you would have seen a story that respectful 10 years ago.

THOMAS: Well, her conversion story, of course, made the front of The New York Times, which is historically not very friendly to religious people or religious issues.

BURNS: Her conversion from Catholic to evangelical Christian.

THOMAS: Right.

BURNS: Also, P.S., a conversion from Democrat pro-life to...

THOMAS: But here's the interesting thing — and I agree with [Washington Post columnist] E.J. Dionne on this, who had a piece Friday — a column...

GABLER: Wait a minute. That's a headline.

THOMAS: And now I'm going to agree with you on this too.

There is an interesting polar opposite here. On John Roberts, we weren't supposed to bring up his Catholicism or note that he was an additional Catholic, and the Catholics were supposedly overrepresented on the Supreme Court. But now we're going to throw all this business about her evangelicalism out there. This is to try to convince the evangelical Christian right that she's going to be OK.

Subtle message? Don't worry, she's going to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

But that's not for certain.


I agree with Cal. This is the first media eruption in the new media era. It really reminds me of the...

BURNS: What do you mean exactly by that charge?

PINKERTON: Well, first — I meant — I misspoke — a Republican eruption.

The 1990 tax rate pledge for Bush '41 was alike this, only now we've got Rush Limbaugh, FOX News, the new media overall, covering it in infinitely more detail with a lot more sympathy to the conservative side than in the best.

And so, for example, questions are going to have to get chased down. Like, what did Karl Rove say to [Focus on the Family founder] Dr. Dobson that had Dr. Dobson endorse Miers, and then kind of un-endorse and then sort of re-endorse her again. I mean, it - there's so many - this is going to be an incredibly densely covered story for months now, as the reporters finally get around to asking questions, like, What was she doing in the White House? What did she have to do with - you know, all the different issues that have - the White House has been involved in the last five years.

GABLER: If — if they get around to asking those questions.

THOMAS: Yes. Yes.

GABLER: But it seems to me that they're much more interested in the political stakes here. Will the conservatives support her ultimately? Will they not?

So it's a political story, rather than a content story.

BURNS: Final word, Jane.

HALL: I also think politically incorrect — this is to say she's getting deference because she's a woman and people are afraid to question her qualifications.

GABLER: She's a Bush groupie.

HALL: ...there's a fear of being accused of being sexist.

BURNS: [to Neal] The final word was Jane's.

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