Blogger Conference Call, Ken Mehlman, RNC Chairman
I had the good fortune today to participate in a conference call with the great Ken Mehlman, RNC Chairman, regarding the Harriet Miers nomination. Here are some quick highlights, and I’ll conclude with some final thoughts.
- Mr. Mehlman opened with a well-deserved congratulations to Patrick Ruffini on coming back to the RNC, a sentiment I completely echo (and thanks, Patrick, for the invite!). Mehlman spoke of his belief that one of the winning factors in 2004 was the more effective use of technology by the Republicans – at one point he said we had been at 2.0 while the Democrats were still on version 1.0. The RNC Chair also said that looking to the future, he thinks there will be a continued strengthening of the nexus between talk radio and blogs.
- Before the questioning began, Chairman Mehlman made a brief statement about Harriet Miers, stressing how she shared the belief he had formed upon joining the VRWC as a Harvard Law student in 1989, when he joined the Federalist Society. That belief was in a judiciary that was strictly constitutionalist in nature, one that did not legislate from the bench. Mehlman said that the judicial philosophy of Bush’s picks was second only to the War in Terror in his support for this President. Thus philosophy was the first selling point.
His second selling point was the character of Miss Miers. Mehlman likened judges who ‘grow’ on the bench to socialites who curry favor with the Georgetown cocktail set; he assured us Miss Miers was not such a person.
The third point stressed by the RNC Chairman was the War on Terror. While conceding that Miss Miers may have to recuse herself from a few cases, he said this was a short-term problem and the GWOT is a generational affair. Mehlman spoke of his disgust that activist judges are micromanaging decisions at, for example, Gitmo, decisions that should be properly made by a branch of government accountable to the electorate, in this case the Executive Branch.
Finally, Mehlman spoke of the qualifications of Miss Miers, emphasizing her resume, as it were.
- On to the questions: Lorie Byrd of PoliPundit fame asked if there was any polling that Mehlman was aware of concerning the attitude of rank-and-file Republicans as opposed to bloggers. Mehlman responded that the only polls he was aware of were the Pew Poll, which showed strong conservative support, and the Gallup Poll that showed support to be weaker, though Mehlman was, as you might expect, dismissive of that result, pointing to the polling dates as a big difference between the two.
Patrick Hynes of Ankle Biting Pundits, who already has his post-conference call piece up, asked if Ken could give us any assurance that Miers would be in the mold of a Scalia or Thomas; Mehlman replied that while there could be no assurances with any nominee, as that would be a call for prejudging, he was confident that Miers shared the philosophy that makes conservatives so fond of Scalia and Thomas.
Eric Pfeiffer of National Review‘s The Buzz, who also has a number of conference-call-related comments up, had this as his question:
“Do you believe that those conservatives who have reservations about the Miers nomination will be more comfortable with her qualifications and philosophy after the hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee?”
Chairman Mehlman responded, “Yes, I do. People will be able to hear about her vision. She will be a judge who respects the Constitution. She will have a conservative approach to the bench and I think she will reassure people with her constitutionalist approach.”
I totally struck out on my own question, as I knew I probably would, but at least I gave it the ol’ college try. I asked Mehlman if he could follow up on Scott McClellan’s confirmation today that several potential nominees had withdrawn themselves from consideration prior to the naming of Miers, by either giving us some names or some reasons why. Mehlman responded that those were matters that weren’t shared with the RNC Chairman and that it would not be appropriate for him to comment (note to self: ask a better question next time!).
I missed the fifth question while kicking myself for blowing my question – I’ll see if anyone else has that info and update appropriately, if so.
Gerry Daly of Daly Thoughts asked if there was a long-term strategy for dealing with the fairly effective Democratic tactic of forcing us into sending up nominees that won’t get ‘borked’ because of controversial writings in the past, and whether we could trust Bush on Miers after he flip-flipped on McCain-Feingold. Mehlman said that McCain-Feingold was a different bill by the time it reached the President than the one we all know and hate…and on the first part – goose egg (for me, not Mehlman). My notes do not indicate this response – again, I’ll update later if possible.
The good Captain Ed tried to articulate what he sees as the conservative problem re: Miers: that here we are with a Republican President and Senate, and yet we don’t seem to be rewarding those conservatives with the strongest background and written records of solid conservative principles. Mehlman said that a consistent philosophy was more important than a paper trail, and that Janice Brown, Pryor, etc., were absolutely rewarded with appellate seats.
Good ol’ Prof Bainbridge closed out the call. From his own post:
I get to ask whether Miers’ records on preferences suggests she’ll be more like O’Connor than Scalia or Thomas. Mehlman won’t comment on Miers role, but defends the position the administration took in the Michigan affirmative action litigation. I also comment that Miers needs to be forthcoming at the hearings. Mehlman says she’ll lay out her philosophy, but comport with the judicial code of ethics (which says to me that she’ll pull a Ginsburg and we won’t learn much from the hearings other than how well she can spout platitudes).
Call ends. My mind is unchanged. It was a lot of assurances but not a lot of facts. And facts are what we need.
Well, my own mind was not changed, either…I preferred to wait until the hearings to render a final call and I still do. I did find my support for the nomination strengthening, however. Mehlman was a terrific salesman, as always, and even he said many times, if you’re on the fence, wait for the hearings.
I guess a lot of how you feel about the Miers nomination depends on how much you trust the President. I happen to trust him a hell of a lot. I know others don’t, even many conservatives, at least not on this issue. To the nay-sayers, I can only echo Mehlman: wait for the hearings…
Many thanks to Patrick Ruffini and Ken Mehlman once again. I am grateful for the opportunity, and proud to be in a party that reaches out this way to the blogging community.
UPDATE 3:31 p.m. central: Be sure and read Gerry Daly’s clarifications in the comments, and thanks to Leon H at Red State for the link (and speaking of Red State, our good friend Erick Woods-Erickson remains unimpressed)…and a big thank you to the lovely Mary Katharine Ham and the less lovely but still lovable Instapundit for the links…
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