For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 13, 2005
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:42 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everybody. I want to begin with a few world leader calls that the President had this morning. This morning the President called Chancellor Schröder to thank him for his service. While the two leaders had differences at time on policy, the President said that he enjoyed working with Chancellor Schröder. The President expressed his and Mrs. Bush's best wishes to Chancellor and Mrs. Schröder as he prepares to leave office.
Following that, the President called President Saca of El Salvador and then President Berger of Guatemala. The President expressed our condolences for the loss of life and destruction caused by rains and mudslides in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Stan. The two leaders thanked the President for his concern, and the assistance the United States is providing to both countries. The President underscored our commitment and willingness to continue working with El Salvador and Guatemala and the international community to help provide needed resources and assistance for ongoing relief and recovery efforts.
And finally, just one update on the Supreme Court. The President's Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers, received her questionnaire from the Senate Judiciary Committee last night. She is working to complete and return it by the beginning of next week. The Senate has been in recess this week, as you all are aware. She looks forward next week to continuing her courtesy visits with members of the Senate, as well. As you know, she has now visited with some 16 members of the United States Senate as part of her initial courtesy visits.
And that is all I have to begin with.
Q Scott, why did the administration feel it was necessary to coach the soldiers that the President talked to this morning in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, I don't know what you're suggesting.
Q Well, they discussed the questions ahead of time. They were told exactly what the President would ask, and they were coached, in terms of who would answer what question, and how they would pass the microphone.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, are you suggesting that what our troops were saying was not sincere, or what they said was not their own thoughts?
Q Nothing at all. I'm just asking why it was necessary to coach them.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of the event earlier today, the event was set up to highlight an important milestone in Iraq's history, and to give the President an opportunity to, once again, express our appreciation for all that our troops are doing when it comes to defending freedom, and their courage and their sacrifice. And this is a satellite feed, as you are aware, and there are always technological challenges involved when you're talking with troops on a satellite feed like this. And I think that we worked very closely with the Department of Defense to coordinate this event. And I think all they were doing was talking to the troops and letting them know what to expect.
Q But we asked you specifically this morning if there would be any screening of questions or if they were being told in any way what they should say or do, and you indicated no.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's what the question was earlier today. I think the question earlier today was asking if they could ask whatever they want, and I said, of course, the President was -- and you saw --
Q And I asked if they were pre-screened.
MR. McCLELLAN: You saw earlier today the President was trying to engage in a back-and-forth with the troops. And I think it was very powerful what Lieutenant Murphy was saying at the end of that conversation, when he was talking about what was going on in January, how the American troops and coalition forces were in the lead when it came to providing security for the upcoming election, an election where more than eight million Iraqis showed up and voted. It was a great success.
And he talked about how this time, when we had the preparations for the upcoming referendum this Saturday, you have Iraqi forces that are in the lead, and the Iraqi forces are the ones that are doing the planning and preparing and taking the lead to provide for their own security as they get ready to cast their ballots again.
Q But I also asked this morning, were they being told by their commanders what to say or what to do, and you indicated, no. Was there any prescreening of --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not aware of any such -- any such activities that were being undertaken. We coordinated closely with the Department of Defense. You can ask if there was any additional things that they did. But we work very closely with them to coordinate these events, and the troops can ask the President whatever they want. They've always been welcome to do that.
Q Scott, on the nomination, conservatives are taking issue with some testimony that Harriet Miers gave in a 1989 Dallas case, in which she said that she would not belong to a politically-charged organization like the Federalist Society, but also thought that the NAACP did not fall into that category. Do you know if those continue to be her views?
MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of things. One, I think you're referring to documents that we've been pulling together from her time in Texas, and we will be making those documents available to the Senate Judiciary Committee. That's all part of the confirmation process, and we're acting in accordance with the wishes of the Senate Judiciary Committee. And once that information is made available to the Judiciary Committee, I'm sure they will make all that information available to the public, as well. So that's something that is part of the confirmation process we've been working to pull together so that she can move forward on the hearings later this month.
In terms of -- what are you suggesting or what are you saying about her views?
Q I'm just asking if those continue to be her views to this day, that she believes the Federalist Society is a politically-charged organization that she would not take membership in, and that if she still believes that the NAACP does not fall into that category?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Harriet Miers has been supportive of the Federalist Society, including participating in events, and giving a speech to the Society last spring. I know she's proud that a number of her attorneys on her own staff are members of the Federalist Society. And she, like the rest of the White House, knows that the Federalist Society has been a great ally on many important issues, particularly when it comes to the federal judiciary. They are someone that advocate -- an organization that advocates a strong and distinguished federal judiciary, and she's spoken to them about that and expressed her appreciation for what they do.
Q So it would seem that her views have changed?
MR. McCLELLAN: I would say those are her views that I just expressed. In terms of all the documents that are going to be released to the committee, we encourage everybody to look at those documents and look at what was said and look at the context.
Q What does the President mean by "total victory" -- that we will never leave Iraq until we have "total victory"? What does that mean?
MR. McCLELLAN: Free and democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East, because a free and democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will be a major blow to the ambitions --
Q If they ask us to leave, then we'll leave?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm trying to respond. A free and democratic Iraq in the heart of the broader Middle East will be a major blow to the ambitions of al Qaeda and their terrorist associates. They want to establish or impose their rule over the broader Middle East -- we saw that in the Zawahiri letter that was released earlier this week by the intelligence community.
Q They also know we invaded Iraq.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Helen, the President recognizes that we are engaged in a global war on terrorism. And when you're engaged in a war, it's not always pleasant, and it's certainly a last resort. But when you engage in a war, you take the fight to the enemy, you go on the offense. And that's exactly what we are doing. We are fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them here. September 11th taught us --
Q It has nothing to do with -- Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you have a very different view of the war on terrorism, and I'm sure you're opposed to the broader war on terrorism. The President recognizes this requires a comprehensive strategy, and that this is a broad war, that it is not a law enforcement matter.
Q On what basis do you say Helen is opposed to the broader war on terrorism?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, she certainly expressed her concerns about Afghanistan and Iraq and going into those two countries. I think I can go back and pull up her comments over the course of the past couple of years.
Q And speak for her, which is odd.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I said she may be, because certainly if you look at her comments over the course of the past couple of years, she's expressed her concerns --
Q I'm opposed to preemptive war, unprovoked preemptive war.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- she's expressed her concerns.
Q All right. Let me get back to the President's encounter with the troops, if I can. You said that the choreography of this was because of a technological challenge involved in the satellite feed. Well, what does that mean?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm just saying that there -- you have delays and things like that when you have a satellite feed, and so, obviously, there's going to be some coordination going on when you're setting up an event like this.
Q So the choreography --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you're missing the broader point of what this event was about. And what this event was about was to highlight an important milestone in the history of Iraq: that is the upcoming referendum. The Iraqi people are going to be able to freely express themselves this weekend, once again, as they cast their vote for the constitution that was drafted by their elected leadership. And that was the point of the event.
It was also an opportunity for the President to continue expressing the appreciation of the entire nation for the courage and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. We're greatly appreciative for all that they're doing. And these were troops that are on the ground in Iraq. They know firsthand what is going on. And so the President wanted to talk about some important topics that are very important to all Americans, and that is the security situation in Iraq, as well as the upcoming referendum that the Iraqi people will be participating in this weekend.
In fact, today, my understanding is that some of the Iraqi citizens that are in hospitals began casting their ballots already.
Q So you're saying this was not a staged conversation for PR purposes?
MR. McCLELLAN: This is an event where there's coordination that goes on and we work closely with the Department of Defense. They worked to pull together some troops for the President to visit with and highlight important topics that are going on right now on the ground in Iraq. The President is going to continue speaking out about what we're working to achieve in Iraq and he's going to continue talking about the vital mission that we're working to achieve there.
The stakes are high in Iraq. This is right up there at the top of our list of priorities. As the President said in the remarks, his most solemn duty and the most solemn duty of our men and women in uniform, like those he was talking to, is the safety and security of the American people.
I just don't know if some are suggesting that what our troops were saying was not their own thoughts, because it clearly was.
Q Now, we all saw the event, so without getting into what the President said and what the troops said, can you just talk specifically to the choreography? Did the soldiers know what questions they would be asking? Did they --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I really can't, because we coordinate this with the Department of Defense, and you might want to direct questions to the Department of Defense, because when we do these events -- we appreciate all the help that they provide -- the Department of Defense takes the lead in terms of pulling some troops together so that we can do events like this.
Q So you, personally, do not know if those soldiers rehearsed their answers before they were on air, live?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, my understanding is that someone from the Department of Defense was talking to them ahead of time. But I don't know -- I was with the President, so --
Q Can you find out what the answer is?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think you might want to talk to the Department of Defense. Like I said, they're kind of the point person in terms of coordinating this with our troops. And we appreciate all that they do to help coordinate an event like this. But I think what the American people heard was some very important information from our men and women in uniform. These are men and women who are on the ground in Iraq, and I think we can get caught up in some of these side issues -- because that's all this is -- but let's talk about what was most important. What's important is that the Iraqi people are going to the polls this weekend, and they're going to vote on a constitution in a free Iraq. Just three years ago, the Iraqi people were under a brutal, oppressive dictator, a dictator that killed thousands and thousands of people.
Q How many have we killed?
MR. McCLELLAN: We've liberated 25 million, both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
Q How many have we killed?
Q When the prosecutor tells somebody --
MR. McCLELLAN: Helen -- I'm sorry, Bob, I just can't let this go -- our men and women in uniform go out of their way not to target innocent civilians. They go out of their way to target those who are enemies and to bring them to justice. They are making the world safer for our children and grandchildren.
Q I've moved out of barren ground. The Valerie Plame investigation, when the prosecutor asks, no comments about the investigation, he's asking those who have been questioned not to comment on the substance of the question. That's not what I'm asking you. I'm asking for the White House reaction to the Deputy Chief of Staff, chief political advisor of the President, appearing for the fourth time tomorrow at the grand jury.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, this is relating to an ongoing investigation, and the President has said that no one wants to get to the bottom of it more than he does. I want to get to the bottom of it. We don't know all the facts. We want to know what those facts are. This is an ongoing investigation. The President directed the White House to cooperate fully with it. That's exactly what we have been doing. We will be glad to talk about it once it's over, but until that time, what we're going to do is let the special prosecutor complete his work.
Q Can I just ask a quick follow to that? Without talking specifically about the CIA leak case, which I know you don't want to do, can you talk in generality, would the President allow --
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, Jim --
Q Would the President allow a staffer who's been indicted to continue to serve?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me correct you. I will be glad to talk about it once it's come to a conclusion.
Q But today.
MR. McCLELLAN: You're saying that I don't want to talk about it. I will be glad to once it comes to a conclusion. I don't know all the facts. I want this to come to a successful conclusion.
Q But you've said you're not going to talk about it because it's an ongoing investigation. What I'm just asking is, in general, would the President allow an indicted staffer to remain in the White House?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President has addressed these issues, and, again, you're asking a question relating to an ongoing investigation, and you're asking in the context of --
Q Can you just remind us of the answers, because I'm --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- someone who you're all reporting may be going back to testify, and I'm just not going to get into that kind of speculation.
Okay, now, back to you. I'm sorry, they're going back and forth.
Q You say you can't wait to be able to talk about this. Why?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q You said that you just can't wait --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I said I'll be glad to talk about it once it's done.
Q You said you can't wait to be able to.
MR. McCLELLAN: I said I'll be glad to talk about it, and I look forward to that opportunity, once it's completed.
Q Who was the audience for today's event and how will the soldiers actually see it in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: The 42nd Infantry Division and a member of the Iraqi army.
Q I realize that. How will the rest of the troops that the President is seeking to reassure see it?
MR. McCLELLAN: You know, you might want to check with the Pentagon, but this was something that was aired live and I know, certainly, cable networks carried it here. You might want to ask the Pentagon if they had any set up to show it through the Armed Services networks.
Q You're not aware of any such provisions at this point?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm just not sure on that. They would probably be able to answer that question for you.
Q Scott, could you give us maybe three examples of lawsuits or cases that Harriet Miers was involved in, that were, themselves, trailblazing in some way?
MR. McCLELLAN: That were, themselves, trailblazing?
Q Yes, that were trailblazing. We're told she's a trailblazer. I'd like to know --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. I don't think I said it in that context.
Q But has any of the law that she's been involved in been trailblazing?
MR. McCLELLAN: You might want to go and do a Westlaw review, and you can pull up the information for yourself. But she has handled complex issues when it comes to her litigation experience. Harriet Miers is someone that is exceptionally well-qualified to serve on our nation's highest court. She has been a trailblazer for women in the legal profession. She has broken through barriers. She became the first woman president of the Texas Bar Association. She became the first woman President of the -- she was the first woman president of the Dallas Bar Association, then the Texas Bar Association. She was the first woman in Texas to manage a large law firm. She co-managed her law firm of some 400 people. She is someone who is highly regarded within the legal community for her experience as a litigator.
She has tried a number of cases in state and federal courts. She has tried cases in appeals courts. She has represented clients on a diversity of issues, whether it's business issues or family law issues or other issues. She has great experience. She has a lot of experience in constitutional law, at the highest levels of government. She is someone that the President for the last five years has looked to for her recommendation when it comes to dealing with complex legal issues involving our Constitution, and he has turned to her and said, what is your recommendation.
And she is well-versed in constitutional law. You have to be when you serve at the highest levels of government. She has served as the President's General Counsel, which she is doing right now; as his Deputy Chief of Staff; and as Staff Secretary. And those are three of the highest positions within the White House. And I would submit to you that there are very few lawyers, men or women, who have that kind of experience at that level.
And I would also -- I'd also, because it seems to me that you're trying to suggest that maybe she's not experienced. I would encourage you --
Q She's 60 years old, I'm sure she's very experienced.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thirty years of legal experience. She is someone of great legal ability. I would encourage you to go and look back over the last 70 years of Supreme Court justices that have been confirmed, and then look at her qualifications and her record, because her qualifications and record clearly show she is exceptionally well-qualified to serve on our nation's highest Court. The experience that she has is equal to, or greater than many of those who have already been confirmed to the United States Supreme Court over the course of the last 70 years. One in three justices serving on the Supreme Court over that time period did not come from the court.
Q From what you've just said about her work in the White House, would you not agree that, should she be confirmed, she should recuse herself from any and all cases that might arise --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think these are issues that will come up during the confirmation hearings, and she'll be glad to talk about them at that point. I'm not going to try to make some broad, sweeping statement from here. She'll be answering these questions before the Senate Judiciary Committee; she looks forward to it.
Q Scott, yesterday you said --
MR. McCLELLAN: By the way, I like your color. University of Texas, burnt orange. (Laughter.)
Q Scott, yesterday you said you'd look back on whether or not there was some evidence or demonstration from Harriet Miers about her embrace and support of a conservative judicial philosophy. Did you find something for us?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Yesterday I asked you about some demonstration of Harriet Miers --
MR. McCLELLAN: Go back and look at her remarks when she talked about our founders and how she has deep respect for what our founders outlined in our Constitution. She is someone who has long believed in strictly interpreting our Constitution and our laws. That's what the role of a judge is. And I just highlighted her experience serving at the highest levels of government.
Richard, go ahead.
Q Scott, earlier you defined total victory in Iraq as a free and democratic Iraq. Is Iraq now not free and democratic?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Is Iraq now not free and democratic?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you know what I'm talking about there. I'm talking about a free and democratic Iraq that is able to defend itself. That's what we're working to accomplish in Iraq. We have a very clear strategy. It is a two-track strategy. The President talked again about it today. That strategy is to support the Iraqi people as they move forward on the political process, and to train and equip Iraqi security forces so that they can provide for their own defense. And we've seen great progress on both fronts.
The Iraq security forces are more and more in the lead when it comes to taking the fight to the enemy. The Iraqi forces are partnering right alongside American forces as they take the fight to the enemy. In some instances, the Iraqi forces are the ones that are in the lead, and we're providing a support role. You heard from our commanders in the field talk about the progress that has been made there. You're seeing the progress on the political front. You're seeing that the Iraqi people want a free and democratic future. Democracy is taking root in Iraq. The Iraqi people are determining their own future. They are the ones who are able to now freely express their views and choose their own destiny.
Q Scott, a two-part. Yesterday's briefing transcript reveals that in the first six pages, out of 18 pages, which means those people in the two front rows, there were no less --
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, Les, Les --
Q There were no less --
MR. McCLELLAN: Shouldn't be pointing fingers in this room.
Q Oh, no, no, no. There was no -- there were no less than 18 questions all dealing with Supreme Court nominee Miers' religion. And I wanted to ask, does the President believe that she should and will adhere to the admonition rendered under Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and under God the things that are God's?
MR. McCLELLAN: Always leave it to you to come up with an interesting way to look at things. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you very much. Well, how about an answer? Does he believe in this?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes that a Supreme Court Justice should strictly interpret our Constitution and laws and not try to legislate from the bench, and that's what Harriet Miers is committed to doing. And he looks forward to her being confirmed.
Q Presuming that the President is grateful that Oprah Winfrey is giving $100,000 rewards for assisting in the capture of child molesters, could you tell us whether the White House has seen any evidence of support for Oprah's action from the nation's many homosexual organizations, or has there been silence or opposition?
MR. McCLELLAN: All right, next question. I'm not going to dignify that. Go ahead, Mark.
Q Can I go back to the Iraqi referendum. I know we talked about this a bit this morning. Do you have any particular goal for turnout -- I mean, I'm assuming that you'd like to see the constitution approved; is there a particular goal that you have, in terms of getting participation that --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one thing to understand is that the preparations are going well. It's not for us to decide this; it's for the Iraqi people to decide. I think that there are now -- registrations are up. The number of polling places that are opening is up. There are more than 15 million Iraqis that are registered to vote. You saw back in January more than 8 million Iraqis show up and vote.
And we think that the agreement that was reached earlier this week will help encourage more people to participate in the political process, more people to participate in the election this weekend, as well as more people to participate in the political process as they move forward on building a strong and lasting democracy. That's what they're working to do now, and it will be up for the Iraqi people to decide their own future and decide whether or not they want to accept or reject this constitution. But it's a significant milestone that they are voting.
Q But you don't have any particular yardstick, in terms of measuring --
MR. McCLELLAN: No. You can ask political pollsters those questions, or people that are more on the ground there. But it appears that Iraqis are enthusiastic about voting on this draft constitution and expressing their view, whether that be for or against it.
Q Scott, you told us the President consulted with more than 80 senators before making his announcement on Harriet Miers. Beyond the phone call to James Dobson, could you describe what the level of outreach from the White House to conservative allies of the President was?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's very similar to what we did with the first vacancy. It's very similar to the vacancy that Chief Justice Roberts filled. We have extensive outreach efforts, both to the public and supporters, and to the United States Senate. It's the United States Senate that will ultimately make the decision on the confirmation. And we're confident that they will recognize what the President already knows about Harriet Miers, and that is that she'll make an outstanding Supreme Court Justice.
Q Was there a discernable difference on the response in that outreach, between the Roberts outreach and the Miers outreach?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I mean, I think you can see a response from various individuals. I think what you're seeing -- just like you saw with the Roberts confirmation -- is that the people who know these two individuals best highly recommend them and strongly support their nominations to the United States Supreme Court. They recognize both these individuals are people of great legal ability; they each have their own unique experience. And one thing that the President believes is important is that the Court have some diversity of perspective and experience, and Harriet Miers brings that to the Court, much like others have before her.
Q Thank you, Scott. There are reports the Chinese government has deported many North Korean defectors by force to North Korea. It's a clear violation of human rights. What will be the response by the United States?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me check into it. I haven't seen those reports. The State Department might be able to provide you some of the latest information on it, as well.
Go ahead. I'm sorry, you're with? Tell us your name and who you're with?
Q I'm Eric Brewer with BTC News.
MR. McCLELLAN: Welcome. Just so everybody knows.
MR. McCLELLAN: Everybody knows who Les is, but some of the other people in the room sometimes no one knows.
Q Thank you, Scott, very much.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q It's been reported that last week's New York City terrorism threat was a hoax, and it's also been reported that the informant who provided faulty intelligence was an Iraqi who had cooperated successfully with U.S. intelligence in the past. But apparently, this person has now disappeared. Does the President believe that the making of a false terrorist threat is, itself, an act of terrorism, and that the person or persons behind last week's incident should be hunted down and brought to justice?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's important that we take any threat seriously. And I think you saw, by the actions of officials in New York, that we have to act out of an abundance of caution and it's better to be safe than sorry. That's why we shared this information with the Mayor and other officials in New York, and we supported the action that they took. That is what the role of elected officials is. Their job is to protect their citizens, first and foremost. And so they made decisions that they felt were in the best interest of the people of New York.
Now, we have -- and I think the Department of Homeland Security talked about this. Since that time we've continued to analyze it and we found nothing to substantiate the threat. But in terms of issues beyond that, I think the military -- our intelligence community talked about how this was information obtained from Iraq. But beyond that, for national security reasons, I'm just not going to get into discussing it any more.
Q Scott --
Q Thank you.
Q Before you thank me again --
MR. McCLELLAN: He said, thank you.
Q You did that to me yesterday, too. One question just before we go. Some conservatives have suggested this week, or speculated, that while President Bush would never withdraw Miers' nomination, that she might decide that she can't weather the storm and withdraw. Can you give us just some idea of her tenacity to be able to withstand all this fire from the right and the left?
MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, "all this fire"? I would disagree with that, because those who know Harriet Miers are strongly supportive of her nomination, and strongly support her being confirmed to the United States Senate [sic] --
Q Well, you can't deny that there's a lot of fire --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you can't deny that some people are clearly setting a different standard for the confirmation. Because the standard has always been, are you qualified to serve on our nation's highest court.
Q But, bottom line, does she have the tenacity to weather this fight?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, let's talk about how -- the way you're approaching things. This should be based on a person's record and qualifications and their judicial philosophy, and she greatly exceeds all the standards that have been set for meeting what is needed to serve on our nation's highest court. She is exceptionally well-qualified. And I would encourage you -- I know you don't necessarily want to do this -- but to look at her qualifications and record.
Q Excuse me?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen you out there reporting about some of her qualifications and her record, and I see by the tone of your question that you want to get into some of these side issues. Let's look at the record --
Q You divided your own party?
Q Wait a minute --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- let's look at the qualifications.
Q But, Scott, yesterday you yourself said that --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not saying everybody. I'm just saying I haven't seen John report on the qualifications record.
Q Yesterday you talked about some prospective nominees who decided that they didn't want to go through this, this laborious process. The question was, is it possible that she would be overwhelmed enough by this laborious process that she might consider pulling out.
MR. McCLELLAN: Bob, anyone that knows Harriet Miers knows that she's exceptionally well-qualified to serve on our nation's highest court, and no one that knows her would make such a suggestion. And no one that knows her record and her qualifications would make such a suggestion. We look forward to people getting to know her like the President knows her. She is someone who has not sought the limelight, but she is someone who has served with great distinction and has a distinguished career and record. And that's what this should be about when it comes to the Supreme Court. I welcome the opportunity to engage in this discussion, because this should be based on qualifications and experience and judicial philosophy.
Some people want to create a different standard. And, Jim, you can sit there and shake your head, but she's exceptionally well-qualified.
Q Wait a minute, wait a minute -- excuse me --
Q Scott, yesterday both you and President said that it was important for --
MR. McCLELLAN: Anyone -- anyone that knows her record and experience wouldn't be making such a suggestion.
Q Scott, yesterday, both -- yesterday the President himself said that the American --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, some of you all wanted to focus more on religion. We focused on her qualifications and record.
Q Scott, isn't the idea we ask the questions and you provide the answers?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, and I was providing the answer. Can I not say what I want to say?
Q Don't you wish that Scott would get back to you?
Q Can you characterize --
MR. McCLELLAN: Isn't it my right to talk and say what I want to?
Q I defend your right, Scott.
MR. McCLELLAN: You all want to focus on side issues like religion. We've said from the beginning --
Q Side issues --
Q You focused on religion.
MR. McCLELLAN: We've said -- no, we have always publicly talked about --
Q When has religion been a side issue?
Q Scott --
MR. McCLELLAN: Come on, Jim, we've always talked about her record and her qualifications --
Q You call this a side issue.
Q Scott, yesterday --
Q The opposition to her is in your own party. What are you going to do about that?
Q Yesterday, Scott, the President said that the American people did want to know about her background, and that her religion was part of that. And you pointed out repeatedly that her religion was part of that, as a means of letting the American people know more about who Harriet Miers is. The question was whether or not she is the type of person that has the tenacity to deal with any criticism in a confirmation process. Could you describe her and who she is, relative to her tenacity? The President has called her a pit bull in size six shoes. Could you elaborate?
MR. McCLELLAN: Carl, what we have talked about publicly is her record and her qualifications and her judicial philosophy. Some have chosen to focus on other issues. We have focused on her record and her qualifications, because that's what this should be based on. That's why the President selected her, and that's why he knows that she will make an outstanding Supreme Court Justice. And some people don't want to talk about the record and qualifications. They're interested in setting different standards --
Q But you also called her a woman of faith, a person of faith, yesterday. Those words came out of your mouth, she's a person of faith.
MR. McCLELLAN: She is -- and she is.
Q And so we've reported on the qualifications and --
Q But what's the relevance if you're saying it's not relevant?
Q And why would -- why would you not answer -- but why not answer the question? It sounds as though you're not willing to say she's tenacious.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go on, jump in. No, jump in. (Laughter.)
Q Well, you've always said she was not a publicity seeker, and she has, through this appointment --
MR. McCLELLAN: This is great. Let's talk about the record and qualifications. Obviously you don't want to do that, because you keep talking about --
Q No, that's not fair. No, that's not fair. No, you've described her as someone who did not seek the limelight; the President has done that, as well.
MR. McCLELLAN: That's right.
Q Now she is in one of the most visible positions in the U.S. right now, and with that comes a lot of criticism. The question has been, since she has never been in this situation before, what do you know about her and her ability to withstand that? That's a fair question.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me correct -- let me correct something. First of all, you said I talked about how she is a person of faith. Yes. And I said that she recognizes that religion and personal views have no role to play when it comes to being a judge. Yet, some in the media wanted to continue to chase this story and not focus on her record and her qualifications. That's all I'm saying. And I think the focus should be on her record and qualifications.
And John is going, asking a question, based on what some others are saying or suggesting about withdrawal. Those are people that do not know Harriet Miers, because if you know Harriet Miers, you know that she will make an outstanding Supreme Court justice. You have every right to ask your questions. You have every right to report whatever you want. And I have every right to talk about what this should be about, because the American people want this to be about qualifications and record; they want this to be a dignified process; they want them to focus on the issues that are relevant to being a judge.
The role of a judge is to be fair and open-minded, and to look at the facts and apply the law. Harriet Miers is a fair-minded person. She has always been. People that know her, know that about her. And she will make an outstanding Supreme Court justice. And those that are making such suggestions simply do not know her, or they're trying to create a different standard, one that is not based on the historical standard for confirming a Supreme Court justice.
And I welcome talking about this; I welcome talking about her record. Let's talk about it.
Q Can I ask -- can I ask one question just before we go here?
MR. McCLELLAN: Steve said "thank you" a second time. I think the first time -- the first time --
Q I know, but my question is --
MR. McCLELLAN: The first time, we probably should have stopped it at that.
Q Right. I know. Aren't you sad that you didn't go for -- that you went past, "thank you"?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. Actually, I'm not. I'm glad we had this discussion, John.
Q Okay, good. But my only question was, the very last thing that you said there, why didn't you just say that in response to my question instead of attacking me and getting into this whole brouhaha?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I was trying to, but some people kept jumping in, including yourself when I was responding to your question.
Q Well, excuse me, you attacked me. I just wasn't going to let it sit.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not attacking. I'm just pointing out that a lot of the coverage is not focused on the record and the qualifications and the philosophy -
Q I'll bring you transcripts after the briefing.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and that's where it should. Did it focus on it last night? Let's look at the transcripts.
Q You spoke about a dignified process, do you think it's dignified to --
Q Are you -- let's talk about truth and honesty. Are you trying to say that the White House has not talked to conservatives and pointed them to the church that she goes to, and to her religion --
MR. McCLELLAN: I answered all those questions yesterday.
Q -- to show that she has religion -- but you're just saying right now that we're making an issue of it. You're making an issue of it by having White House officials --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm saying --
Q -- tell conservatives that that's a reason they should trust her. Then they tell us that --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not saying that. You're putting words --
Q -- that that's what's happening.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- in my mouth. I'm saying the focus ought to be on records and qualification and philosophy.
Q I'm not putting any words in your mouth.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, you are.
Q I have a question about judicial philosophy.
Q Scott. Scott, you used the term "dignified process." Is it dignified to pejoratively characterize the motives or tactics of a reporter who is trying to cover a story?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Is it dignified -- to use your word; "dignified process" --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's not -- I'm simply saying that the focus should be on the record and the qualifications. And, you know, the media -- I know sometimes you all don't like criticism, but I think the American people want the focus to be on records and qualification and philosophy. And that's all I'm pointing out. And I'm urging you all to look at the record. And I'm encouraging you to go and look at her record and her experience and compare it to previous Supreme Court Justices that were confirmed -- because there is a standard that has been set here. Some want to create a different standard. That's not you all. I'm saying it's some out there that are making some of the comments. But there are --
Q You're making it sound like --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- but they are uniformed comments. Because all you have to do is look at the record and look at her experience and you will see how well-qualified she is to serve on the bench. That's what this is about. This is about our nation's highest court. And I think that we are doing a disservice for the American people when we focus on other issues and not her record and qualifications and experience, because that's what matters when you're on the nation's highest court.
END 1:18 P.M. EDT