No Evidence Bush Ever Promised To Name To High Court Those In The Mold Of Antonin Scalia And Clarence Thomas
By John Lofton, Editor, Recovering Republican
You’ve heard it said many times and so have I: President Bush promised to name to the U.S. Supreme Court nominees in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. But, did Mr. Bush really say this? I have found no such quote and neither has anyone else.
Among those who have said the President said this is Dr. James Dobson. In a press release (7/1/05) headlined “Focus Action Calls for Strict Constructionist; Thomas, Scalia Models for Future Supreme Court Nominees,” Dr. Dobson said, in part:
“President Bush must nominate someone whose judicial philosophy is crystal clear. And no one has been clearer about this than the President himself, who said during his campaign that he would appoint justices in the mold of Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia. We have full confidence that he will carry out that pledge.”
When I asked Dobson press spokesman Christopher Norfleet of “Focus on the Family Action” where and when Mr. Bush made this pledge, and what exactly did he say?, Norfleet said they would not share their research with me. Here are some others who have repeated this alleged Bush promise:
— Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Family Research Council: “The president was elected with the promise that he would appoint people in the mold of Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas.”
— Ed Meese, former Ronald Reagan Attorney General: “The president has committed himself to nominating someone in the mold of Scalia and Thomas.”
— George Stephanopoulos, host, ABC’s “This Week” program: “I think [conservatives] really wanted someone who, as President Bush promised in the last campaign, was like Justice Scalia or Justice Thomas, a sure bet to move the court to the right.”
— National Public Radio reporter David Wellna: “While campaigning, Mr. Bush often promised to appoint strict constructionists to the Supreme Court in the mold of conservative justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.”
— CBS News White House reporter Bill Plante: “Conservatives want Mr. Bush to keep his promise and pick someone in the mold of justices Scalia or Thomas.”
— New York Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer has spoken of Mr. Bush as “a president who has admitted he wants to appoint justices in the mold of Scalia and Thomas.”
— Al Gore, in the 2000 Presidential debates said: “Governor Bush has declared to the anti-choice groups that he will appoint justices in the mold of Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who are known for being the most vigorous opponents of a woman’s right to choose.”
But, I repeat: Did Mr. Bush ever make such a promise?
In a recent report on the Cable News Network, CNN White House correspondent Dana Bash showed some people who have repeated the alleged Bush/Scalia/Thomas promise. Then she said, about this supposed pledge:
“Reinforced by grassroots groups trying to pressure the president, reiterated by bloggers. Just one problem: It turns out the Bush ‘mold of Scalia and Thomas’ promise may be an urban myth. It goes back to 1999. Then Governor Bush, asked which justice he respected, said Antonin Scalia. So would his appointments be like Scalia?
Bush (video clip): “Well, I don’t think you’re going to find many people to be actually similar to him. He’s an unusual man. He’s an intellect.”
Bash: “Praise, but no promises. The same went for Clarence Thomas.”
Then Bash said this: “A longtime top Bush aide confirms to CNN Mr. Bush didn’t actually publicly pledge a Scalia or a Thomas, but they made no effort to clarify. To conservative activists, it was code. They expected Mr. Bush to pick justices with clear records showing they’d move the court right” (emphasis mine).
So, why is this alleged but never proved Bush quote important? Because it has been used repeatedly by GOP cheerleaders to support high court nominees they did not know. The reasoning, based on this bogus Bush promise, has gone something like this.
GOP Cheerleader: “Well, I do not know (unknown nominee). But, I support (unknown nominee). And I support (unknown nominee) because I know and trust George Bush who has promised that he would appoint to the high court justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. So, I am sure that (unknown nominee) is in the mold of Scalia and Thomas.”
The moral here: People who are Republican Party cheerleaders lack discernment, are easily deceived and hear what they want to hear even if what they think they heard was never said.
A footnote: A lengthy report about this phony Bush promise can be read by putting into Google the words “Media Matters For America.”