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The Gross National Debt

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Late last night (EST) I saw a CNN report on Arlen Specter's comments about his meeting yesterday with the newly re-nominated (do-over, anyone?) Harriet Miers.

What Specter heard her say is remarkable. And then the controversy set in.

Here is the original statement out of Specter's office:

Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers told the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday that she believes there's a right to privacy in the Constitution, a basic underpinning of the Supreme Court's landmark abortion ruling Roe v. Wade.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the panel chairman, said that during a nearly two-hour private meeting Monday, Miers also told him that she believed the court had properly decided a precedent-setting 1965 privacy case, Griswold v. Connecticut, which established the legal foundation that led to Roe v. Wade.

(Source: The Washington Post)

My emphasis added. If true, this is potential insight into Miers' feelings about the legal and Constitutional nature of Roe v. Wade and an insight that is very favorable to those who want to protect Roe and choice at all costs.

At the same time, however, it's obvious that this could and would kick up a shitstorm within the conservative community. Already suspicious of her "far right" credentials, this will be another and perhaps final nail in the coffin of her nomination.

But wait. Now this:

Last night, a spokesman for Specter issued a statement saying that Miers had called him after his public comments "to say that he misunderstood her and that she had not taken a position on Griswold or the privacy issue."

"Sen. Specter accepts Ms. Miers's statement that he misunderstood what she said," the statement said."

(Source: The Washington Post)

Now see Ed Henry's interchange with Anderson Cooper when the story was originally breaking after 11pm EST last night:

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the White House tonight is denying this claim by Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter that Harriet Miers told him in a private meeting this afternoon that the 1965 ruling in Griswold vs. Connecticut was -- quote -- "rightly decided."

That's significant, because the Griswold case was the underpinning for legalized abortion in America, with the subsequent Roe v. Wade decision. So, Miers suggesting it was the correct decision could further erode her support with conservatives.

Now, Specter, who supports abortion rights, was unequivocal in telling me and several other reporters -- quote -- "She said she believes there's a right to privacy in the constitution and she believes Griswold was rightly decided."

A White House official tonight told me this was not true. Miers did not discuss the Griswold case with Specter, and the senator would, quote, "correct the comments. But Specter put out an official statement that did not exactly correct his comments. He revealed that Miers called him tonight to declare that the senator had, quote, "misunderstood what she said."

That explanation is raising some eyebrows among conservatives I spoke to tonight, like Jan Larou (ph) of Concerned Women for America. She's puzzled that Specter, known for being meticulous about Constitutional law, would have a miscommunication about such a seminal case.

More interesting, this controversy comes the same day Miers told another senator, Chuck Schumer, that nobody knows how she'll vote on abortion. That question sparked by this column in today's "Wall Street Journal," alleging that during a conference call with conservatives, two Texas judges declared Miers would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Now, conservatives on that call, like James Dobson, later announced their support for Miers. I spoke tonight as well to David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter, who has come out against Miers. And he told me the Specter matter suggests Miers is trying to play this abortion issue both ways. From what he -- Frum basically said, quote, "It's remarkable and disturbing that James Dobson would be left with the impression Harriet Miers completely agrees with his position against Roe, and that Arlen Specter was left with the impression she agrees with his position on Roe."

The bottom line, this is just yet another cloud in a confirmation battle already stormy, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, a couple questions. Why would Harriet Miers have conversation with Arlen Specter? Because all along, they have been saying, I think what the White House is saying, is that she's not discussing specifics on any case, or says she hasn't made up her mind about particular cases. Is that correct?

HENRY: You're absolutely right. She's having this meeting because she's been doing meet-and-greets with lawmakers in both parties. Specter, as chairman, is obviously a key lawmaker on this.

It was stunning that she would talk about a specific case, as you suggest. Now, of course, the White House is insisting she did not talk about a specific case. But I can tell you, I was standing there with Arlen Specter. He -- this is his ninth or 10th Supreme Court battle. Unequivocally, twice, he said that she believes that Griswold was rightly decided. He said it twice.

So you have to -- you know, who do you believe? A Republican chairman, or the White House? This is going to be a very interesting dispute, and it's very delicate for the White House, because they don't want to antagonize Specter, who's going to be overseeing these big hearings.

COOPER: And I know you said it once, but just repeat it, the White House had said that he was going to come out with a new statement correcting himself, but his new statement doesn't really correct himself, does it?

HENRY: It doesn't really correct it. When you read it very closely, he basically says, OK, I'll take Harriet Miers at her word that I, Arlen Specter, misunderstood what she said.

The White House is saying, She said no such thing. Arlen Specter is saying, I misunderstood what she said, again, indicating that she said Griswold was rightly decided.

So clearly, to me, not a correction, maybe a clarification. But this is not the last you've heard of this story, Anderson.

CNN coverage today has subtly reinforced the fact that Specter did NOT withdraw or correct his statements; merely that he acquiesced to some level of misunderstanding. The point has also been made the Specter has extensive Constitutional and Supreme Court experience and is not one to misunderstand discussions about key cases.

So back to the speculation machine. What if Miers is signalling that she fundamentally supports the underpinnings for Roe? I'm not saying she does - I just don't know - I'm just saying "what if"? If this story grows legs, expect to see hard religious right Republicans come out strongly against her nomination. The question is: if the progressive community essentially decided that she's a good option (in light of circumstances), could they get the 5 or 6 Republican senators needed to provide the illustrious "upperdownvote"??

I realize I'm speculating wildly here - but the prospect of Miers being a privacy proponent coupled with the potential to shove her down the religious right's throat all while extending the non-partisan olive branch of the up or down vote is irresitable. Imagine that religious right Republicans now become the ones insisting on more than a simple majority to confirm a Justice... Too fucking rich!!

Ok. I'll go back to reality now.

posted by RenaRF at 9:52 AM 1 comments links to this post


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