Two Conservatives Who Opposed Miers React to Her Withdrawal

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from Oct. 27, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: I believe, without any question, when the history books are written about all of this, that it will show that the radical right-wing of the Republican Party drove this woman’s nomination right out of town.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: On the one hand, he wants to please this extreme wing of his party. On the other hand, he knows America is not going to like a Supreme Court nominee, who, you know, who adheres to their views.


BRIT HUME, HOST: So is that really what happened, that the right wing got Harriet Miers? Well, who better to ask than two conservatives who strongly and publicly opposed her, Laura Ingraham, the radio talk show host and former Supreme Court clerk, and the columnist Charles Krauthammer, whose suggested scenario for her withdrawal is what came to pass.

Welcome, both.

So, Laura, what about this? What was, in your view, the critical factor? What was the thing that tipped this decision?

LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, Republicans have been burned, and burned, and burned, and burned. Every time someone’s put up there without a clear, unequivocal record of being a judicial conservative, writing persuasively about judicial conservatism, and actually being courageous in battles about the court, every time we do that, we end up getting burned, as judicial conservative Republicans.

HUME: But that was the initial objection to her. And at the beginning, of course, most of these senators said, "Wait and see." And they kept seeing, "Wait and see."


HUME: The president stood by her. And there came a tipping point. What brought about the tipping point?

INGRAHAM: I think the tipping point was the two speeches from 1993 that The Washington Post linked to yesterday, one of which she addressed women executives in Dallas. And it was almost like she was tailoring her remarks to the politics of the moment, which is — this was a very — seemed like a very liberal group of women executives who think the glass ceiling is one of the biggest problems facing the United States.

You know, she invoked Barbra Streisand in another speech and talked about how Ann Richards might be vice president or president of the United States, in another speech. So the totality of all of this, and her comments about judicial activism, I think senators were not going to be able to defend that.

HUME: Charles, did you have any idea, when you wrote that withdrawal scenario, where the document struggle would be cited, that it could come to pass? Did you have an inkling?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I thought it — I honestly — the reason I wrote it was because I thought it was the only honorable way out that would have the least amount of blood on the floor, because, as she was headed into the hearings, given how poorly she had done in her visits with the senators on the questionnaire, it looked as if she was going to get really chewed up out there.

HUME: In the hearings?

KRAUTHAMMER: In the hearings. I mean, you know, it’s like asking a person to do heart surgery who’s trained in podiatry. It doesn’t work. You can’t pick it up on the fly.

And I did not want to see her humiliated. I was against her nomination. I thought, in the end, if it came to a vote, I would urge the senators to oppose her. But I was hoping it wouldn’t happen. So I was looking for an exit strategy. And that was the obvious one.

HUME: And you view the document struggle as pretext, clearly, right?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, it’s an honorable pretext. But let’s — look, we all know the reason, you know, was her competence, experience, ideology. But let’s assume that none of them had been issues. She has a peculiar history.

Unlike any other justice I can think of, or nominee I can think of, her entire exposure to constitutional issues happened at the White House. That’s really unusual.

You take a John Roberts. He had a lot of other experience, a lot of other speeches and articles that would have told the Senate about how he thought outside the White House. So, in her case, because of her unusual history, the only information available would have been her White House years. But that stuff was obviously unattainable because no president would release it.

HUME: Correct. Now, you said early on — in fact, in one of your prognostications about it, you conceded what you considered to be the likelihood that she would give a good account of herself in the hearings.

Now, Laura, let’s take Charles’ scenario, in that regard, at face value. And do you think that we would be sitting here discussing this event tonight if in her appearances up on the Hill she had given the impression to those senators that she was going to be really strong in the hearings?

INGRAHAM: I don’t know how she could have done that, given what she said in 1993 about abortion, given what she said about the role of the courts, given what she said about a whole host of issues regarding women’s rights.

How could she square those comments with what she said in 1989, in that questionnaire, where she said, "I’m for a pro-life amendment to the Texas constitution"? How would she be able to answer those questions, if posed to her, by the Senate? I don’t know how she does it.

HUME: I know. But wouldn’t you concede that, substance aside for the moment, that her presentation up there was obviously lacking, or do you disagree with that?

INGRAHAM: You’re saying she could have done a good job at the hearings?

HUME: I’m saying that, isn’t it also the case, that whatever — we kind of don’t know what it was going to be like. But it seems fairly clear that she wasn’t scintillating in her discussions with the senators, who might have wanted to back her. I think many clearly did want to back her.

INGRAHAM: I think they wanted to back her until what they saw was an increasing body of evidence that would indicate that Harriet Miers, when she spoke to one group, she’d say one thing, and when she spoke to another group, she’d say something that seemed a little bit different philosophically. And I think that track record was very difficult to map out.

HUME: Do you agree that — do you now sense, Charles, that an impressive performance in the hearings was simply not going to happen?

KRAUTHAMMER: Right. At the beginning, I thought, a day or two after the nomination, I thought that, because of all of the hits on her, including mine, expectations would be low. And if she had a reasonable performance, she would do OK.

But after reading her speeches, and reading her documents, she obviously didn’t have a facility with the constitutional thinking and language. In the absence of that, she was a dead duck.

HUME: Now, what about this idea — you’re going to hear it from Democrats. We started it today, that the president is now beholden more than ever to the right wing of his party and that he will nominate someone who is going to be attacked as an extremist. Will the Laura Ingrahams and the Charles Krauthammers of the world rally behind him, if he nominates a true-blue conservative?

INGRAHAM: Oh, absolutely. I think today you saw the people who were most upset about Harriet being out of there were Kennedy, Feinstein and Reid. That tells you all you need to know about this situation.

HUME: Charles, do you agree with that?

KRAUTHAMMER: Key ingredient will be excellence, experience and being a distinguished jurist. I think he’ll pick that if he does and it’s a conservative, conservatives will be enthusiastic in support of him.

INGRAHAM: It’s a victory for Bush.

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