Alito Conference With WH Special Advisor: Take 2
Steve Schmidt, Special Advisor to the President in charge of the White House confirmation team, is about to host a blogger conference call to provide an update on the Sam Alito confirmation process.
Watch this space for a thorough debrief...
Update: And away we debrief (lightly paraphrased throughout, except as noted):
Patrick Ruffini opened the call, introducing Brian Jones (RNC Communications Director) and Steve Schmidt, who noted we were also joined by Matt David (who I assume is the Matt David who's Special Assistant to the Director, Bureau of Justice Assistance).
Mr. Schmidt characterized the first week of Judge Alito's confirmation process as a "terrific start". He summarized the nominee's CV (U.S. Attorney for the northern district of New Jersey, 15 years as a federal judge, a stint as Assistant Solicitor General, and an entire career dedicated to public service).
This week, Alito has been meeting with Senators, from whom the response has been "very positive". Schmidt noted that "a great many" law professors and Constitutional scholars, many of whom identify themselves as liberal and/or Democrats, have attested to Alito's fairmindedness, judiciousness, and jurisprudence.
Schmidt also addressed some of the early heat that's been put on the nominee. He called attention to a People for the American Way attack ad that is about to launch, comparing it to the NARAL ad that seemed to suggest Judge Roberts was complicit in abortion clinic bombings.
Schmidt went on to address recent attacks on Judge Alito's ethics, vis a vis the brokerage cases. They've been thoroughly dissected elsewhere (highly capably at redstate.org), but suffice it to say Alito was not required to recuse himself, given the de minimus financial and/or non-ownership interests he had in the involved parties.
Schmidt concluded that the more Judge Alito's record becomes known to the American people, the more confident they will become.
James Joyner from Outside the Beltway asked the first question, namely why Harriet Miers was the original nominee rather than Sam Alito.
The "answer" was simply that the purpose of the call was to discuss the Alito nomination. Schmidt did mention that Miers was back hard at work and is a woman of outstanding character.
Bulldog Pundit of Ankle Biting Pundits asked what reaction Schmidt had to certain members of the Gang of 14 complaining about a lack of Senate consultation around this nomination.
Schmidt noted that before the first nomination, more than 75 Senators were consulted, and before this nomination, more than 80 were consulted. He clearly felt that, with 155+ consultations in total, it does not seem reasonable to claim any failure to consult (I second that emotion).
Tim Chapman from Townhall.com asked what the chances were of a Democrat-led filibuster.
Schmidt replied that, given Alito's extraordinary qualifications, he is deserving of the Senate's consideration. He noted recent bi-partisan momentum, given the hearing timeline established by Senators Leahy and Specter. Answering Tim's question, he maintained, "We have every expectation of no filibuster," and noted that a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee is without precedent.
Schmidt did say that he didn't expect the 22 Senators that voted against Judge Roberts to be "particularly inclined" to vote for Judge Alito.
John Hawkins of Right Wing News asked whether the White House would support the Constitutional option in the unlikely event of a filibuster (and pilfered my question right out from under me, right as I entered the on-deck circle).
Schmidt repeated simply that he didn't anticipate a filibuster.
Your humble narrator asked what Schmidt felt the likelihood was of the Senate sticking by the timeline laid out by Chairman Specter (begin hearings on January 9th, go to a committee vote on the 17th, and go to a full Senate vote on the 20th).
Schmidt declared high confidence in Chairman Specter's handling of the "enormously difficult task" and several times pointed to his capable handling of the process in a fair, diligent, and equitable manner over the summer during the Roberts confirmation. He stated he was pleased with the bi-partisan momentum toward a full vote on January 20, though he stated he would've preferred getting to it by the end of December.
Matt Margolis of Blogs for Bush was surprised that the White House is satisfied with Specter's confirmation calendar. He noted shorter timelines for previous nominees and asked whether this was a case of Specter pandering to Democrats.
Schmidt disagreed with the characterization and repeated his praise for Senator Specter's job handling the "complicated process". He also noted that with Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, there were seasonal factors in play.
John Hawkins asked how confident the White House was that Judge Alito could receive a simple majority in an up-or-down vote.
Schmidt was "extremely confident" that as Alito moves through the process, continuing to meet with Senators, he will be widely supported in the Senate and by the American people.
- End of call -
My primary lingering question is, well... the question I asked. I don't like the long lead time either, but it's a pill I'd be happy to swallow if the full Senate vote were assured by January 20th. I'd also like to know the behind-the-scenes answer to Hawkins' first question (whether the White House would support the Constitutional option in the unlikely event of a filibuster).
Because somehow, I have a pesky feeling it might not be so unlikely.
Anyway, big thanks to Patrick Ruffini, Brian Jones, Matt David, and Steve Schmidt for coordinating and hosting the call.
Handcrafted by Flip on November 4, 2005 |
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