Thursday, October 06, 2005

Did Bush Pull a Fast One?

Here's what CNN.com reported about Pres. Bush's news conference Tuesday:

Bush: Abortion not discussed with nominee
President says Miers shares his legal philosophy


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Tuesday he has never discussed abortion with White House counsel Harriet Miers, his nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

"Not to my recollection have I ever sat down with her [to discuss abortion]," Bush said in his first solo press conference since May...

The president said he has never discussed abortion during any his interviews with his judicial nominees, including Miers.
But let's see whether the actual transcript backs up CNN's claim that Bush has "never" so much as "discussed" the Christian right's most important topic with his longtime friend, fellow born-again Christian, White House counsel and lead screener for judicial nominees.

Here's what Bush said Tuesday when discussing Miers with reporters:

Q You've taken time to express that you know her heart, her character, you've emphasized your friendship. So it seems reasonable that over the course of the years you've known her, perhaps you have discussed the issue of abortion. Have you ever discussed with Harriet Miers abortion? Or have you gleaned from her comments her views on that subject?

THE PRESIDENT: I have no litmus test. It's also something I've consistently said: There is not litmus test. What matters to me is her judicial philosophy; what does she believe the role -- the proper role of the judiciary is, relative to the legislative and the executive branch. And she'll be asked all kinds of questions up there, but the most important thing for me is what kind of judge will she be? And so there's no litmus tests.

Q Sir, you've already said there was no litmus test --

THE PRESIDENT: Correct. And I'll say it again: There is no litmus test.

Q But she is not someone you interviewed for the job that you didn't know. You've known her a long time. Have you never discussed abortion with her?

THE PRESIDENT: In my interviews with any judge, I never ask their personal opinion on the subject of abortion.

Q In your friendship with her, you've never discussed abortion?

THE PRESIDENT: Not to my recollection have I ever sat down with her -- what I have done is understand the type of person she is and the type of judge she will be.

Pres. Bush only responds to the question directly once, with the following phrase: "Not to my recollection have I ever sat down with her." Now, clearly, CNN is taking it on faith that the president was going to say something along the lines of "...and discussed abortion." They have, however, no way of knowing that and no business presuming it in their reporting.

But let's stipulate for a minute that they're actually right. In fact, let's pretend that Bush actually said, "Not to my recollection have I ever sat down with her and discussed abortion." It still doesn't pass the hurdle needed to justify the reporting by CNN (and plenty of others) that they had never discussed it at all.

For one thing, there's the classic, "not to my recollection." But more important than that is the fact that he didn't end the sentence there. He went on to qualify that he never "sat down" for a discussion about abortion. I'm not being semantic here and suggesting that he had a conversation standing up (though I don't think I'd put that past him, either). But he's clearly using "sat down" in an idiomatic sense to characterize the discussion as having a certain level of focus or length or intensity. In other words, saying he never "sat down with her" for the discussion doesn't preclude the possibility of casual discussion, which could -- given her now well-known participation with an aggressively anti-choice church -- have been hugely revelatory about where she stands.

But let's pretend that Bush actually never discussed abortion in any way, shape or form with Miers. If that were the case, why wouldn't he simply have said so as soon as he was asked? If he and Miers truly never -- in the decade during which he's come to know her heart -- once discussed one of the defining political debates of our times, he could have given us a news conference that went like this:

Q You've taken time to express that you know her heart, her character, you've emphasized your friendship. So it seems reasonable that over the course of the years you've known her, perhaps you have discussed the issue of abortion. Have you ever discussed with Harriet Miers abortion? Or have you gleaned from her comments her views on that subject?

THE PRESIDENT: No.

Q But she is not someone you interviewed for the job that you didn't know. You've known her a long time. Have you never discussed abortion with her?

THE PRESIDENT: No.

Q In your friendship with her, you've never discussed abortion?

THE PRESIDENT: No.

Until the president is that direct and straight-forward in his answers, CNN should be just as vague and legalistic as he is when paraphrasing him.

1 comment:

ceej said...

"Q Sir, you've already said there was no litmus test --

THE PRESIDENT: Correct. And I'll say it again: There is no litmus test."

What a goddamn motherfucking idiot.

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