Seeking to avoid a threatened subpoena by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Focus on the Family Chairman James Dobson, with White House permission, revealed the contents of his private phone conversation with President Bush’s chief adviser Karl Rove regarding Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers – details that largely became public later.
While the contentious confidential information was not the bombshell sought by some Democrats, the family advocate provided more insight into the selection process, which has become a bitter point of division among Republicans who feel betrayed by the president’s choice of a nominee without a proven conservative judicial philosophy.
According to Dobson, Rove stated in the Oct. 1 conversation that some better-known candidates removed their names from the list and that before finally selecting Miers, the president had decided to narrow his choice to a woman.
Dobson – speaking today in a taped broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, scheduled to air tomorrow – said Rove “made it clear that the president was looking for a certain kind of candidate, namely a woman to replace Justice O’Connor.”
“And you can imagine what that did to the short list,” Dobson said. “That cut it. … I haven’t looked at who I think might have been on that short list, because Karl didn’t tell me who was not willing to be considered. But that many have cut it by 80 percent right there. ”
Dobson said Rove gave him permission to reveal details of the conversation after the pro-life advocate’s remarks about it piqued the interest of abortion-rights supporters on Capitol Hill. Dobson told his listeners last week his endorsement of Miers was founded on “confidential” information he was “privy to” but “not at liberty to talk about.”
Harriet Miers and President Bush
As WorldNetDaily reported last weekend, the unspoken suspicion among some Democrats was that someone in the Bush administration, likely Rove, told Dobson that Miers is pro-life and has pledged to vote against the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which overturned state laws banning abortion.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R, Pa., a supporter of abortion rights, also has said he might summon Dobson to testify about any private assurances from the White House.
The privileged information, Dobson said on the broadcast, was that “Harriet Miers is an evangelical Christian, that she is from a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life, that she had taken on the American Bar Association on the issue of abortion and fought for a policy that would not be supportive of abortion, that she had been a member of the Texas Right to Life.”
Roe v. Wade, Dobson added, or any other pending issue that will be considered by the court, did not come up in the conversation, which took place one day before President Bush made his decision to nominate Miers and two days before the Oct. 3 public announcement.
Dobson did acknowledge Rove told him something he “probably shouldn’t know”: names of people on Bush’s short list of candidates who removed themselves from consideration.
“What Karl told me is that some of those individuals took themselves off that list and they would not allow their names to be considered because the process has become so vicious and so vitriolic and so bitter that they didn’t want to subject themselves or their families to it,” he said.
Dobson is one of just a few prominent evangelical leaders, along with Richard Land of the Southern Bapitist Church, who has expressed preliminary support for Miers. Last week, however, he conveyed to his listeners some doubt, saying if it turns out he had made a mistake, “The blood of those babies who will die will be on my hands to a degree.”
‘Just go do it’
In the broadcast taped today, Dobson said he had a message for Senate Democrats.
Speaking directly to members of the judiciary committee about the possibility of serving him with a subpoena, he said, “If they want to do that, then I just suggest that they quit talking about it and just go do it.”
“I have nothing to hide, and I’ll be happy to come and talk to you,” he said. “But I won’t have anything to say that I haven’t just told millions of people. And so, that’s really the end of my statement.”
Focus on the Family says its secular and Christian radio and TV broadcasts are heard or seen by 28 million people a week.
Dobson noted that Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democratic member of the judiciary panel, said on ABC’s “This Week” program Sunday: “James Dobson has said that he knew privately; he had private assurances of how she would vote.”
Dobson responded, “Well, Leahy is either lying or he’s given to his own delusions or he’s got some problem somewhere, because that’s flat out not true. Nowhere have I been quoted making such a statement, because it’s not true.”
Dobson also pointed out another panel member, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., referred to his conversations with Rove as a “wink and a whisper.”
“You know, trying to make something sinister out of it,” Dobson said. “It’s obvious what the agenda is here.”
Dobson said that shortly after the announcement of Miers’ selection, he joined in progress a conference call with conservative Christian leaders, many of whom were “expressing great disillusionment with President Bush’s decision, and there was a lot of anger over his failure to select someone with a proven track record in the courts.”
Dobson told the leaders Miers might be more in keeping with their views than they might think.
He said he decided to support the nominee because “Rove had shared with me her judicial philosophy which was consistent with the promises that President Bush had made when he was campaigning.”
Dobson pointed out that Bush “told the voters last year that he would select people to be on the [high court] who would interpret the law rather than create it and judges who would not make social policy from the bench.”
“Most of all, the president promised to appoint people who would uphold the Constitution and not use their powers to advance their own political agenda,” Dobson said. “Now, Mr. Rove assured me in that telephone conversation that Harriet Miers fit that description and that the president knew her well enough to say so with complete confidence.”
Rove gave Dobson contacts in Texas familiar with Miers, including federal Judge Ed Kinkeade and Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht.
Dobson said he spoke with evangelical leader Charles Colson, a former White House counsel, who helped him assimilate the information.
The Focus on the Family founder said he was careful to keep the Rove conversation confidential.
“I’ve had a long-standing policy of not going out and revealing things that are said to me in confidence,” he said. “That may come from my training as a psychologist, where you hear all sorts of things that you can’t go out and talk about.”
Dobson said he, therefore, would not reveal any details of the call, “although I did say to these pro-family leaders, which has been widely quoted, that Karl had told me something that I probably shouldn’t know. And you know, it really wasn’t all that tantalizing, but I still couldn’t talk about it.”