In all the brouhaha over James Dobson being given secret information, I have maintained all along that James Dobson is lying. He first claimed to be given information by the White House that was “confidential” and that he “probably shouldn’t have” that made him endorse the Miers nomination, but he couldn’t say what that information was. After threats of a potential subpeona to come before the Judiciary committee and reveal what he was told (quite a reasonable threat, I might add; the White House certainly has no business sharing secret information with supporters that is not also given to the Judiciary committee), Dobson went on his radio show and said he would reveal what he was told by Karl Rove in a conversation before the nomination was announced.
Dobson said then that Rove told him the following: A) that Miers was an evangelical Christian who attended a conservative evangelical church; B) that she had been a member of Texas Right to Life; C) that she had pressed the ABA to change their position on abortion when she was head of the ABA of Texas; and D) that many of the other potential candidates had turned down the nomination because of the difficulty of the confirmation process. I’ve already dealt with the absolute absurdity of the last claim. Anyone who thinks that Michael Luttig, Michael McConnell, or Samuel Alito would have turned down the job they have been grooming for their entire life is too naive to take seriously. And the first three were all a matter of public record and widely reported, so they obviously couldn’t be “confidential” and too secret to be revealed. So what’s left?
The speculation, of course, has been that Dobson had received assurances that Miers would vote to overturn Roe v Wade if she had the chance. After all, when he mentioned on his radio show on October 3rd that he had this secret information, it was immediately after he spoke about praying that he was right about this nomination because the lives of millions of babies was at stake. Well in today’s Wall Street Journal, conservative columnist John Fund reveals that this is exactly what happened, it just happened in a separate phone call involving two of Miers’ closest friends, a phone call arranged by the White House:
Mr. Dobson quelled the controversy by saying that Karl Rove, the White House’s deputy chief of staff, had not given him assurances about how a Justice Miers would vote. “I would have loved to have known how Harriet Miers views Roe v. Wade,” Mr. Dobson said last week. “But even if Karl had known the answer to that–and I’m certain that he didn’t because the president himself said he didn’t know–Karl would not have told me that. That’s the most incendiary information that’s out there, and it was never part of our discussion.”
It might, however, have been part of another discussion. On Oct. 3, the day the Miers nomination was announced, Mr. Dobson and other religious conservatives held a conference call to discuss the nomination. One of the people on the call took extensive notes, which I have obtained. According to the notes, two of Ms. Miers’s close friends–both sitting judges–said during the call that she would vote to overturn Roe…
Mr. Dobson says he spoke with Mr. Rove on Sunday, Oct. 2, the day before President Bush publicly announced the nomination. Mr. Rove assured Mr. Dobson that Ms. Miers was an evangelical Christian and a strict constructionist, and said that Justice Hecht, a longtime friend of Ms. Miers who had helped her join an evangelical church in 1979, could provide background on her. Later that day, a personal friend of Mr. Dobson’s in Texas called him and suggested he speak with Judge Kinkeade, who has been a friend of Ms. Miers’s for decades.
Mr. Dobson says he was surprised the next day to learn that Justice Hecht and Judge Kinkeade were joining the Arlington Group call. He was asked to introduce the two of them, which he considered awkward given that he had never spoken with Justice Hecht and only once to Judge Kinkeade. According to the notes of the call, Mr. Dobson introduced them by saying, “Karl Rove suggested that we talk with these gentlemen because they can confirm specific reasons why Harriet Miers might be a better candidate than some of us think.”
What followed, according to the notes, was a free-wheeling discussion about many topics, including same-sex marriage. Justice Hecht said he had never discussed that issue with Ms. Miers. Then an unidentified voice asked the two men, “Based on your personal knowledge of her, if she had the opportunity, do you believe she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?”
“Absolutely,” said Judge Kinkeade.
“I agree with that,” said Justice Hecht. “I concur.”
Shortly thereafter, according to the notes, Mr. Dobson apologized and said he had to leave the discussion: “That’s all I need to know and I will get off and make some calls.” (When asked about his comments in the notes I have, Mr. Dobson confirmed some of them and said it was “very possible” he made the others. He said he did not specifically recall the comments of the two judges on Roe v. Wade.)…
Judge Kinkeade, through his secretary, declined to discuss the matter. Justice Hecht told me he remembers participating in the call but can’t recollect who invited him or many specifics about it. He said he did tell the group that Ms. Miers was “pro-life,” a characterization he has repeated in public. But he says that when someone asked him about her stand on overturning Roe v. Wade he answered, “I don’t know.” He doesn’t recall what Judge Kinkeade said. But several people who participated in the call confirm that both jurists stated Ms. Miers would vote to overturn Roe.
A couple things need to be said about this. First, it should surprise no one. Only the most breathtakingly naive among us could possibly buy the line that the White House doesn’t know how Miers, or any other nominee for that matter, stands on abortion and Roe v Wade. The standard line we hear is that the President would never ask a nominee about that because only the Democrats have a “litmus test” and all the President cares about is whether a justice will “interpret the constitution strictly” and not “legislate from the bench”, or whatever meaningless catchphrase they’re using this week. If you believe this line, you are either far too naive to understand how politics really works or you’re so blinded by partisan loyalty that you’ll believe anything at all as long as it’s said by those you believe in.
The President doesn’t have to ask a nominee about their views, those views are absolutely a part of the vetting process, just as they are for the other side. The anti-abortion lobby being a huge constituency of the Republican party, there is no way they’re going to nominate a judge without being able to assure that constituency that the nominee is on the right side of that issue. The same is of course true on the pro-choice side with the Democratic party. And if either party pretends not to know or care because they don’t have “litmus tests”, they’re lying. Period.
Second, what they have received is not an assurance from the nominee that they would vote a certain way – which would be a serious problem, since no nominee should be giving such assurances – but a prediction from those who know her based on their knowledge of her. But there’s also no doubt that Miers knows what is being said by her closest friends to the administration’s supporters behind closed doors and she isn’t going to dispute those things. She will, however, take the standard line in front of the Judiciary committee that she can’t speak about a particular case that might come before the court, she’ll judge each case on the facts of that particular case, yadda yadda yadda.
This is how the game is played. You can’t let your supporters think you aren’t against abortion, but you can’t let the Democrats in the Senate think you are against abortion. So both sides play this dishonest little game of saying one thing to supporters and another to the Senate, using highly parsed language to give just a little wiggle room so they can claim that they weren’t technically lying. And it’s the same thing Dobson is doing here. The secret information he was given was the assurances that she would vote to overturn Roe, not the other nonsense he revealed. But he was careful to discuss only the conversation with Rove on October 2nd, so he can say that technically he wasn’t lying. But it’s still a deceitful game and everyone knows it, or ought to. And it’s played by both sides.