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White House press secretary Scott McClellan today got a bit impatient with reporters asking him about the possibility of Harriet Miers withdrawing her nomination to the Supreme Court, asking rhetorically at one point, “Isn’t it my right to talk and say what I want to?”
The verbal jousting began as a reporter asked about a possible withdrawal by Miers, President Bush’s choice to fill the seat of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
“Some conservatives have suggested this week, or speculated, that while President Bush would never withdraw Miers’ nomination, that she might decide that she can’t weather the storm and withdraw. Can you give us just some idea of her tenacity to be able to withstand all this fire from the right and the left?” asked one reporter, according to the official transcript.
McClellan bristled at the suggestion, saying, “Those who know Harriet Miers are strongly supportive of her nomination, and strongly support her being confirmed to the United States Senate [sic].”
The spokesman then challenged the reporter, saying he had not reported on Miers’ qualifications.
Said McClellan: “I haven’t seen you out there reporting about some of her qualifications and her record, and I see by the tone of your question that you want to get into some of these side issues.”
A charge then came back to McClellan: “You divided your own party,” referring to the many GOP senators who have not committed to supporting Miers.
Later, the spokesman responded again to the possibility of a Miers withdrawal, saying, “Anyone that knows her record and experience wouldn’t be making such a suggestion. … Some of you all wanted to focus more on religion. We focused on her qualifications and record.”
Indeed, WND asked McClellan earlier about Miers’ religion, receiving a response devoid of the subject. Said McClellan: ” The President believes that a Supreme Court justice should strictly interpret our Constitution and laws and not try to legislate from the bench, and that’s what Harriet Miers is committed to doing.”
At one point during the fracas, McClellan was asked, “Scott, isn’t the idea we ask the questions and you provide the answers?”
Responded the spokesman: “Yes, and I was providing the answer. Can I not say what I want to say? … Isn’t it my right to talk and say what I want to?”
By the end of the briefing, several reporters became defensive, with one claiming McClellan had “attacked” him.
Another reporter, referring to McClellan’s desire that the Miers confirmation be a “dignified process,” asked, “Scott, you used the term ‘dignified process.’ Is it dignified to pejoratively characterize the motives or tactics of a reporter who is trying to cover a story?”
Speaking of dignity, McClellan earlier refused to answer a question WND posed about the lack of response by homosexual interest groups to Oprah Winfrey’s child-molester-locator reward program – in which the TV host pays $100,000 to those who turn in wanted criminals.
“I’m not going to dignify that [question],” McClellan said, before moving on to another reporter’s question.