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Bush to Name Supreme Court Nominee; Senator Hatch Interview; Legacy Likely a Factor in Supreme Court Nomination; Former Attorney General, Chief of Staff Weigh in on Supreme Court Nomination; Past Supreme Court Nominations Led to Battles

Aired July 19, 2005 - 15:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: Waiting for his verdict: President Bush is set to name his Supreme Court nominee tonight.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll let you know when I'm ready to tell you who it is.

ANNOUNCER: A legacy in the making: In the search for a justice, how much has the president been thinking about his place in history?

Changing the subject: The Supreme suspense softens the focus on the CIA leak saga.


DAVID GERGEN, POLITICAL ADVISOR: That's the way to let the air out of the balloon from a political standpoint.


ANNOUNCER: But how much damage already has been done?

Now live from Washington, CNN's INSIDE POLITICS.

DANA BASH, HOST: Thanks for joining us. I'm Dana Bash.

The Supreme Court tension that has been building for weeks, as one official put it, "about to pop." President Bush is just hours away from revealing his choice to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. That announcement is set for 9:00 p.m. Eastern and CNN will carry it live.

Our correspondents and analysts are of course in high gear reviewing all the possible names and digging into who the president actually did pick and how that will play politically.

Now we're going to bring in our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux and our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry. First we're going to go to Suzanne. Suzanne, tell us what happened there at the White House and what you're hearing as of now.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, there is certainly a sense of excitement and really the anxiety, palpable here at the White House. Of course, President Bush, to give his announcement in the East Room at 9:00. What we're told is that the president will come out, he will announce his candidate, then his candidate will go ahead and make a statement, as well. The president will urge Congress to carry out this process in a dignified manner.

The timing of all this, of course, is very curious. In speaking with many different people inside the White House and outside, they say, of course, one of the concerns was that the president didn't want to be scooped by his own announcement; news of this.

So, it's quite expedited, the whole process and then, also, of course, they are not unhappy in any sense of the word that the Rove or CIA leak investigation is going to be knocked off the front pages.

And then finally, they are looking at Congress's timetable, clearly so he can put out those feelers, he can get a sense. All those senators notified before their Friday recess.

Now, over the last couple of days, as you know, the tension has been very high. The White House and president specifically, very coy about this announcement. President Bush earlier today, trying not to tip his hand.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do have an obligation to think about people from different backgrounds, but who share the same philosophy. People who will not legislate from the bench. That's what I told the people when I ran for president. I want to be known as the kind of person who does what he says he's going to do and -- because I believe it's right. And so, I guess the best way to put it is: I'll let you know when I'm ready to tell you who it is.


MALVEAUX: Well, Dana, of course, the president now ready to let us know in less than six hours or so. Of course, the speculation: When did he makes that final decision?

Sources tell us that he interviewed at least eight candidates within the last 72 hours; perhaps up to three of those candidates at the White House. I even got a little tip from inside -- someone who actually attended the state dinner last night at the White House, saying the president was even joking with Justice Clarence Thomas who was in attendance at that state dinner telling him, "well, I guess you -- I bet you want to know who it is that I actually picked." That person saying that he looked like he was very happy and very proud of his selection -- Dana?

BASH: Suzanne, thank you. We're going to ask you to stand by for one minute while we go to Ed Henry on Capitol Hill. Ed, let us know what exactly you are hearing from members of Congress. Have they been notified yet?

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, Dana. That's what's fascinating right now. You want to talk about message discipline from the White House: Republican senators say they still do not know the name of the pick. In fact, the only inkling they got that anything at all was up, came last night when Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter was pulled away from a staff softball game on the National Mall and said he needed to come to the White House to talk to the president.

Specter is still not talking today with and specificity about exactly what was discussed about the Supreme Court pick; whether he got the name or not. And I can tell you right up until this minute, a couple of hours ago, at 1:00 Eastern time when the White House announced officially that there would be -- the pick would be unveiled tonight at 9:00, Republican senators -- all 55 Republican senators were having lunch, in fact, with Vice President Cheney in the Capitol and Republican senators are telling me that Vice President Cheney never let on that even that announcement was coming on, let alone a name.

In fact, Republican senators tell me it was their Blackberry devices going off with e-mails from their staff saying: Look out, as soon as you come out of that behind-closed-door lunch, you're going to get hit by reporters wanting to know whether you know.

That was the only way Republican senators found out and in fact, Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, came to the camera and said he doesn't care about that. This is the president's pick, not the senators' pick and he said, though, "now that the president is giving Democrats more than enough time to vet this nomination, there will be no excuses to delay the nomination."


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY WHIP: There is really no reason why we shouldn't have a new Supreme Court justice on the court by the first Monday in October. This is well within the time constraints that have typically been the case when nominations are created. So, we think we'll be able to meet the president's goal of having a new member of the Supreme Court by the fall term, the first Monday in October.


HENRY: Now, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid responded that he sees no problem meeting that timetable. He first wants to know who the nominee is. He's not going to make any commitments. He wants to make sure, in his words, "it's a noncontroversial nominee." Also, very interesting: Senator Reid basically all but accused the White House of trying to change the subject from Karl Rove and the CIA leak story by moving up the timetable on this announcement.


SEN. HARRY REID (D), MINORITY LEADER: I would say this, just changing the subject a little bit, it's interesting how the subject has changed from the White House administrative staff to the Court today, isn't it? QUESTION: Do you think the timing of that is deliberate?

REID: I don't know, but it's interesting how it's changed. I heard it was going to be next week.


HENRY: And Republicans shoot back that they have -- they believe that, in fact, they have no control over what newspapers are going to write, what television networks are going to cover. They say the White House is moving on its own timetable and the Karl Rove story has nothing to do with it -- Dana.

BASH: And standby for one minute. I want to ask Suzanne what she's being told by White House officials about those allegations. It's not just Senator Harry Reid, Senator John Kerry put out a statement to his supporters.

Other Democrats are saying maybe this is too cute by half; that the White House is accelerating this for one reason and one reason only and that is to get Karl Rove off the front pages.

MALVEAUX: Well, the White House denies that it has anything to do with that, but certainly Republican strategists and those inside of the White House are quite pleased that this would knock that story off the front page.

As you know, Dana, of course, this is not a White House that does anything by accident. They say primarily, of course, the goal is to hit that timetagle (ph) -- timetable, rather, for October; for them to be able to actually confirm the nominee.

He has been consulting with members in the Senate about that timetable; what's actually necessary to carry out the process for them to also have their Congressional recess. But clearly this is not something that this White House does by accident, by any means -- Dana?

BASH: That's for sure. They're very good at this communication strategy thing. Ed, one last question for you. You have been picking up some buzz. You said that the Republicans even, haven't been notified specifically, but there is definitely buzz about somebody perhaps we're not hearing elsewhere?

HENRY: That's right. Everyone has been focusing on Edith Clement in that she might be picked, but there's another woman whose name is being circulated by Senate Republican aides. They say they believe that Priscilla Owen from Texas, who as you know, was just recently confirmed by the Senate to an Appellate Court in Texas.

They believe she's still in the mix. They say that the president is very comfortable with her, of course and secondly, the Gang of 14 moderates just recently endorsed her. That's what got her through and broke the Democratic filibuster. They said it'd be pretty hard for the Democrats to filibuster her, even though she's been pretty controversial -- Dana? BASH: Ed Henry, thank you very much. Suzanne, thank you very much from the White House. We'll be certainly talking to you as we get closer to that 9:00 announcement. Thank you, both.

Well, officials here in Washington, as we heard from Ed, certainly have been floating a number of names possible for the high court. Many of judges. Other are legal figures who are highly respected in their field, but largely unknown to most Americans.

We're going to run down the names and what they may or may not bring to the bench with our chief national correspondent, John King. John, we have heard some names from Ed Henry, but there is one that everybody is talking about: Edith Clement.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Everyone in Washington outside of the White House -- some even saying they have been told by people inside the White House today that it would be Judge Edith Brown Clement. She is from the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. First put on the bench by this president's father; confirmed 99-0, I think the vote was with out any opposition in 2001, to the federal appeals court bench.

There was this great buzz about her earlier today. The president did meet with her twice over the weekend, we are told. She spoke to the White House counsel, Harriet Meirs, I am told, just last night. But I'm also told by a number of officials, some of them deeply involved in this process, "whoa, back off. Don't go there. Don't say that it is Judge Clement."

She was a finalist, but I'm getting very strong indications this afternoon she is not the finalist. However, it's very interesting, because she is viewed as a conservative. She's viewed as a "safe pick" to some, because there's not much of a paper trail. She hasn't written any polarizing explosive opinions.

But while some Republicans think that's a good thing. It would give the liberal interest groups less to grab onto, if you will. I know from talking to several of the conservative interest groups today, that worried them that she does not have an established record. When they see a judge like that, they think: David Souter.

BASH: And certainly they -- I would imagine, very worried about that, but somebody their probably not very worried about and very excited about is Michael Luttig. Tell us about him.

KING: Well, this has been a name in the mix for a long and we're going to mention him today for one reason: We have an excellent Justice Department producer, Terry Frieden, who was down in Richmond, Virginia, where Judge Luttig sits on the bench today.

He was hearing a very important terrorism case today and while he was hearing this case, his wife was there, his children were there. These children are on their summer vacation from school, but as you see, they're dressed very nicely today and our Terry Frieden tried to ask: Why is the family together? A trip to Washington planned perhaps? And they would not answer the question. Now, this would be a dream for the conservative groups. He was a clerk to Justice Scalia. He worked both with Justice Thomas and Justice Souter on their confirmation process. Conservatives love him.

I was told by one source deeply involved in this today, don't buy into all this talk of a woman. It could very well, in the end, be a male. That was a bit earlier today. At that point, we were told the president had not said go. The president has said that now. We don't know who it is. If it is Justice Luttig, that could make conservatives happy, but it could bring about the threat of Democratic filibuster, because he is very conservative.

BASH: This is a White House, we know, that likes to do some fake-outs. So, clearly there are some surprise candidates out there, potential surprise candidates. We know if it's a surprise, we probably don't know about it, but we do know some potentials.

KING: Well, there are some people have been listed as wild cards. Ed Henry just mentioned one, Priscilla Owen from Texas. The president knows her. She's a Karl Rove protege, he ran her campaign. She's one -- she was part of that deal, Ed Henry said.

There are two others who others mention as potential wildcards who would be quite interesting. And I'm going to mention them as part of the speculation while being very careful to say we have no information that says they are the finalist.

But one is Larry Thompson. He was the number two at the Justice Department. He goes back to the prior Bush, Republican administrations, as well. He is an African-American. The president loves him. He went into the private sector, but the president has always said he would like to see him back in the administration. This man has the president's trust. He also has very strong support on Capitol Hill. If the president wanted to go off the board, pick an African-American, Larry Thompson would be one.

Another potential wildcard -- but this would mean war -- would be Janice Rogers Brown. She was the California Supreme Court justice, just confirmed as part of that deal to end -- not have the filibusters to the appellate court bench here in D.C., the D.C. District Court of Appeals here. But she has writings, including calling the New Deal our socialist revolution. She is very skeptical of government's role in people's lives. Democrats have said sure, they let her go through to the appellate court. If the president tried to put her on the Supreme Court, we would have an ideological war.

BASH: As we've been talking about right now, we're sort of in Neverneverland. But one thing we do know is the potential impact of whomever it is on the court, given the cases that they are going to hear.

KING: I think that's the most important issue today. Until we know who, we should not forget why. Sandra Day O'Connor was a swing vote, 5-4 decision throwing out that federal law the president pushed for banning certain late-term abortions. That issue is likely to come back before the court again. There are two cases on the docket, one about abortion restriction, specifically parental notification and consent. That has been an issue the court has been divided on 5-4. There's an Oregon right to die case that is viewed as critical to the right to life movement in this country. You have a number of issues on the court docket. We know those cases will be heard by the next court. We don't know who will take Justice O'Connor's seat.

If this is a more conservative pick than Justice O'Connor, that could tip the balance of the court. That is what -- that is what the debate will be about. We don't who yet, but we do know what it will be about.

BASH: And before we let to you, John, I have -- we have to talk about the idea that the White House moved this whole process up or perhaps accelerated it to get Karl Rove off the front pages. Talked to one White House official who just giggled when I asked about that today, which was quite telling.

KING: They are thrilled that we've just spent the top of this program with Suzanne and Ed and now me, talking about the Supreme Court, not about the CIA leak. But I have to say, from talking to people I trust very much, who are close to this president, it is ludicrous to think that the president of the United States would rush a decision simply to change the subject.

This is a pick, the Supreme Court pick, that will define his legacy, that will define some of the big issues in this country for perhaps 25 years to come. They're not going to go grab some guy off the subway just to change the front page of the newspaper. But, of course, once he's ready, of course he's going to move as quickly as possible, if he thinks it will help him politically.

And we do see some damage from the whole CIA leak investigation. The new ABC poll out just yesterday saying only 25 percent of the American people think the White House is fully cooperating. Nearly half of Americans think the White House is not fully cooperating. This president's political support, even when his personal approval or his job approval rating goes down, people trust him as a leader.

And we talked to a Republican pollster today, Glen Bolger, who says this president is in trouble on that question. Although Glen Bolger says he thinks it's less to do with Karl Rove and more to do with a cumulative effect, especially rising doubts about the war in Iraq.


GLEN BOLGER, GOP POLLSTER: I think that what you've seen is a kind of a cumulative impact, in terms of the -- on his perceptions of his trustworthiness, from just all the controversy surrounding Iraq. And then to have issues like the Karl Rove controversy, as well, that just kind of adds to it a little bit. Again, I'm more inclined to think that any kind of impact on the president comes more from Iraq than any kind of smaller issue like the Karl Rove issue.


KING: So, I'm sure they're happy to have us talking about the Supreme Court, not about Karl Rove. But when you're president, you have to multi-task. Sometimes we don't do it so well in the cable news industry. But just because he's making his pick tonight, the special council's not going to shut down the grand jury. We're going to have to deal with all of this as we move forward into the fall.

BASH: We definitely will. It's going to be a fun August. John, thank you very much.

KING: Your definition of fun, not mine.

BASH: Thank you, John.

Well, we've just begun our countdown, of course, to the president's announcement of a Supreme Court nominee. Up next, insights into the process and prospects, from Senate Judiciary Committee Member Orrin Hatch.

Plus, the buzz in the blogosphere, and advice for the president, in our "Strategy Session."


BASH: Well, for more on the president's scheduled announcement of his Supreme Court nominee and other issues, we're joined now from Capitol Hill by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. He's a former chairman and current member of the Judiciary Committee.

Senator Hatch, thank you for joining us.

The first question is, who is it? Have you been told?

HATCH: No, I haven't. No, they're keeping that very close to their vest. I've been quite interested in the process.

But I suspect we won't hear until the president actually comes out at 9:00. They might call a couple of us a little bit in advance, but it'll be very short advanced notice.

BASH: Well, as you probably know, as we have been reporting here on "Inside Politics," there is a lot of buzz, a lot of talk in Washington right now about one particular judge who's on the appellate court. Her name is Edith Clement.

But there are conservatives who are a little bit concerned about the fact that she doesn't have a very long history, a very long paper trail, if you will, of writings. She hasn't made any rulings on abortion, for example.

Are you hearing those concerns? And is that a concern of yours?

HATCH: Well, I've heard those concerns. But that's probably good because that'll make it easier for her to be confirmed.

I hear very good things about her. And as far as I'm concerned she'd be an excellent nominee.

But there are about 14 others that I've read about in the papers and every one of them would be good.

I think the president has a plethora of really good choices here in this particular nomination.

BASH: Senator Hatch, Senator Specter on "Inside Politics" yesterday in an interview with our Ed Henry was pretty vocal about the kind of nominee he wants to see, apparently seeming to send a signal to the White House. Let's listen to Senator Specter.


U.S. SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA): I think it's important to keep balance on the court. And that is in every respect. And I think that Americans are concerned about having somebody who is too far one side or too far to the other side. And the balance is critical.


BASH: Now, that's the current chairman of the Judiciary Committee. You're, of course, former chairman.

At a time where the White House is sort of trying to quiet conservative critics, was that an appropriate thing for Senator Specter to say?

HATCH: Well, sure, but the fact of the matter is nobody knows what balance is. The question is, is the person that is nominated qualified? Does that person have a good temperament, top notch integrity, good ability, the health to do this job?

Those are really, along with some other -- decency and honor and so forth -- those are the type of things that you have to look at.

And if a person is qualified, the fact that they may be more moderate than some Republicans would like, or more conservative than some Republicans would like, I mean, that's irrelevant.

And it was irrelevant when Bill Clinton was picking people. If you look at Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there's no doubt she was very liberal. There's no doubt that she was head of the ACLU. No doubt one of the top feminist lawyers in the country, had argued five out of the six top feminist cases before the Supreme Court. But she was qualified. And Republicans voted for her en masse.

And, you know, let's face it, that's the issue. It isn't whether they're moderate or in the middle or whatever. It's, are they qualified?

BASH: Senator Hatch, very briefly. Because we're sort of in never, never land here, because we don't know who it is, talk about the court. Talk about the importance of who this nominee will be and the impact on the future cases. Just think about the impact that Justice O'Connor had, a number of 5-4 decisions that rested on her, on abortion, on affirmative action, on school prayer.

HATCH: Well, in a number of other ways, too, that were basically on the conservative side of the coin. She was a master at being in the middle on some of these very, very crucial issues. As a matter of fact, she was an excellent justice. Whether you agreed with her or not, she became probably one of the most powerful justices in history because of her ability to bring one side or the other side together.

And you just can't tell what a person's going to do or what a person is going to be until after they have been on the court and you see what they are going to do.

And I never forget, Eisenhower was asked if he made any mistake, and he said, "Yes, I made two of them and they're both sitting on the Supreme Court."

And, you know, in retrospect I think some of the other presidents probably think, "Well, I may have made some mistakes, too."

But what we want are honorable people who are qualified. And in this particular case the president has been very vocal about, when he ran for president, that he's going to appoint a conservative, and I believe he should. I believe he will. And the question is, is that person qualified?

And I hope that the Democrats will not use the same smear tactics they use on a lot of other people, and that is that they'll start saying, well, they're outside the mainstream of American jurisprudence.

Let me tell you, every one of the potential nominees that I have seen in the press is a qualified person. And anybody who says otherwise is just playing politics and they ought to get off the kick.

BASH: Senator Orrin Hatch, we're going to have to leave it there. I'm sure we will be talking to you in the days and weeks ahead. Thank you very much, senator, for joining us.

Well just ahead, more on the president's upcoming announcement for the high court. Plus "Political Bytes" from the beltway and beyond. New York's mayor is making a strong showing in a new poll.


BASH: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. As we have been reporting President Bush will make his announcement of who he will send to Congress to be the next nominee for the Supreme Court, tonight at 9:00 Eastern. And we are told by our Republican sources that this kind of announcement, a prime time announcement, was in the works for quite sometime. Also in the works has been how that nominee will be shown around Washington and shown to the country. And we understand that will start tomorrow morning. We understand from a Republican close to the White House that Ed Gillespie, who is the former RNC chairman, and Fred Thompson, somebody else who is helping the White House, will shepherd the nominee tomorrow to see the leadership in the Senate, Republican and Democrat, as well as the top Republican and Democrat on the judiciary committee. That's tomorrow morning.

And when we come back on INSIDE POLITICS, it's time to fasten your seat belts and hop on the Supreme Court nomination roller coaster, you've already been on it, of course.

Coming up, the lead-up to the president's big announcement tonight. Will his nominee help seal his place in the history books? And we'll hear from the White House insiders who have been there and done that. Former Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese and former Clinton Chief Of Staff John Podesta, will weigh in on Mr. Bush's high court options. More INSIDE POLITICS is straight ahead.


BASH: As the markets get set to close on Wall Street we're joined now by Christine Romans in New York with "The Dobbs Report." Hi, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Dana. Less than a minute to go and stocks are solidly higher on Wall Street this afternoon. Right now the Dow Jones Industrial average up 72 points, 10,647. And the NASDAQ is adding one-and-a-quarter percent.

IBM led tech stocks higher, handing two dollars a share, investors there happy with the company's earnings report. Big Blue appeared to shake off a weak start to the year, reporting second quarter earnings and revenue that rose from a year ago. Intel is due to report it's quarterly results any minute now.

For weeks now we've been hearing rumors about big job cuts in the works from the new management team over at Hewlett Packard, and now it is official. The computer maker plans to cut more than 14,000 positions in the next year and a half. That works out to be about 10 percent of Hewlett Packard's work force. The move a part of a plan to save that company nearly $2 billion a year. HP's new CEO Mark Herd is the driving force behind those cuts. You may recall he took over for Carly Fiorina after she was ousted in March.

Coming up on CNN at 6 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," we'll have extensive coverage on President Bush's first nominee to the Supreme Court with live reports from the White House, Capitol Hill and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

And senators Jon Kyl and John Cornyn discuss their new immigration reform legislation, aimed at strengthening border security.

Plus the chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission and the head of the Senate for security policy give us their views on a repeatedly delayed Pentagon report that's finally released today about China's military buildup.

All that and more 6 Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." Now back to Dana.

DANA BASH, HOST: Christine, thank you very much. Now back to INSIDE POLITICS.

About 5 1/2 hours from now, five hours actually, exactly, President Bush could offer an olive branch or fire a political shot over the bow. We'll find out when he announces his Supreme Court nominee at 9 p.m. Eastern tonight.

During the president's appearance today with the Australian prime minister, the White House hadn't yet revealed that he had made his choice for the high court. And Mr. Bush clearly did not want to give anything away.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm comfortable with where we are in the process. That's important for you to know.

Secondly, that I have thought about a variety of people. People from different walks of life, some of whom I've known before, some of whom I had never met before.

I'm trying to figure out what else I can say that I didn't say yesterday that sounds profound to you without -- without actually answering your question.


BASH: And as Mr. Bush has weighed his options, an "L" word may have crossed his mind more than once. That's legacy. Here's our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.


BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Former President Clinton has some advice for President Bush. When you nominate a Supreme Court justice, you should put political considerations aside.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he ought to do something that you know when he goes to bed the night after he announces it, he'll sleep well and feel good.

SCHNEIDER: After all, a second term president isn't thinking about reelection. He's thinking about his legacy. Naming the first Hispanic justice would make history. President Bush has made Hispanic outreach a priority.

BUSH: The way I see it is mi casa es su casa.

SCHNEIDER: Two-thirds of all Americans say a Hispanic justice would be a good idea. More than three-quarters say another woman justice would be a good idea, among them, the president's wife. A male justice would move the court from two women to just one. That looks like back sliding.

Conservatives want President Bush's legacy to be a true conservative court. Yes, seven of the nine current justices were named by Republican presidents, but only three justices are considered true conservatives: William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Conservatives like to remind the president of his campaign pledge.

JAY SEKULOW, AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW & JUSTICE: He ran with the concept that he is going to appoint, as he has for the court of appeals, conservative judges that are going to not legislate from the bench.

SCHNEIDER: Most persons don't want the court to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that established the right to abortion. Nominating a conservative who would vote to overturn established precedent would provoke a bitter political fight and make it difficult for the president to get much accomplished in the next three years.

That could damage his legacy and divide the country. Remember, President Bush also made this campaign pledge.

BUSH: I will unite our nation, not divide it.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats are telling the president that it would be possible to appoint a conservative who does not divide the country, just as President Reagan did.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: He was Mr. Conservative, and yet, he nominated someone to the court that brought the Senate of the United States together.

SCHNEIDER: That nominee was Sandra Day O'Connor.


SCHNEIDER: Tonight the president will be speaking to the entire country in primetime. It's the best chance he's likely to get in the next three years to demonstrate that he's the president of all the people.

BASH: You talk about the court, his court pick as his legacy, but of course, up until now, we've all been talking about 9/11 as his legacy.

SCHNEIDER: Nine-eleven is his legacy, his response to it, the war on terror, and the court pick could have something to do with that. I think there was some dismay in the administration about a year ago when the Supreme Court ruled that enemy combatants being held by the United States must have access to attorneys and access to the United States courts, essentially overturning the administration's policy on that.

He may be looking for a judge that could turn the Supreme Court into -- in a position, in a direction, rather, that is friendlier to administration's policy, and that means someone who's very, very tough on law and order.

BASH: And Michael Luttig just was presiding over a case about Jose Padilla just today.

SCHNEIDER: That's one possibility.

BASH: But of course, we don't know. We're going to keep saying that until we get the real deal. Bill Schneider, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Thank you.

And now let's hear from a Reagan White House insider who knows a thing about the Supreme Court nomination process. I spoke a short while ago to former attorney general, Ed Meese. I began by asking him if he knows who the president has chosen.


ED MEESE, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, only the president knows and maybe one or two others in the White House. I don't think any of the rest of us do.

BASH: You, though, have been one of a handful of people who have been meeting regularly with White House officials to talk about the strategy, to talk about the process, to talk about this moment and how to move forward. Discuss some of that, what the plans are in place for nominating and then starting tomorrow to sell the nominee.

MEESE: Well, the president has committed himself to nominating someone in the mold of Scalia and Thomas. And obviously, it's possible that left wing elements, special interest groups, will try to motivate some in the Senate to oppose these nominees.

And so our purpose has been to assist in developing a strategy to work with members of the Senate, Senate leadership and others, as well as outside groups, to provide support for the president's nominee once that's made.

BASH: And describe support. What exactly are the plans in place?

MEESE: Well, unfortunately, since Judge Bork's nomination, left wing special interest groups have mounted, essentially, a political campaign against nominees. And our job is to find a coalition of people who will be supportive of a constitutionally oriented candidate for president -- for the Supreme Court to be nominated by the president.

BASH: Now, you were a part of the White House team for a lot of nominations, for Justice O'Connor, for Rehnquist, Scalia, and of course, for -- for Judge Bork. What exactly do you think the White House has learned from all of those nomination processes, especially Judge Bork?

MEESE: Well, in the first nominations, they were hard fought in some ways, less so with Justice O'Connor, because the Republicans had the leadership in the Senate at that time.

More so or less -- there was a considerable controversy to some extent raised by some with Chief Justice Rehnquist, very little with Justice Scalia, who was nominated at the same time.

But when Judge Bork was nominated, there was a whole sea change in the way in which opposition members, in this case the Democrats, who both held the leadership in the Senate and also, unfortunately, I think, carried the water for the left wing special interest groups, made a political contest out of it, even with advertising, and television ads, all of those kinds of things.

BASH: One thing that our understanding is that everybody sort of learned from Bork is perhaps it's not the greatest thing to have a long paper trail of opinions, of writings, because they can be used, potentially, against the nominee.

There is one candidate who has been out there and it's -- we certainly have to be careful, but a lot of buzz about Edith Clement. She is somebody who does not have a long paper trail, and there are some conservatives, whom I'm sure you're in touch with, who are actually worried about that. Because on the one hand, it means that she can't get attacked, but on the other hand, it may make it so that it's unclear how conservative she will be on the court.

MEESE: Well, I think that the president and the White House and the Justice Department have really gone into some detail for whoever is the candidate.

And sometimes a lack of a paper trail, as you put it, can mean that there's not that much known about them. But I think that's understood by the White House, and that's why I'm sure they've gone to a great extent to understand what the judicial philosophy is of whoever's going to be the nominee, whether they have a long paper trail or not.

One thing you do know is even sometimes the candidates with a long paper trail, who seem to be absolutely perfect based on everything they've ever written or everything they've ever said, and yet, they turn out to be disappointments. So you just can't tell for sure.

BASH: And just one final question, since we don't know who the nominee is yet. Take a step back and define the moment in terms of what this nominee will mean for the court in terms of the cases that they will see, abortion and other sort of hot button issues.

MEESE: Well, I think that, again, if the nominee follows what the president has said he would like and that is someone who's faithful to the Constitution and who will actually apply the law and not just make it up, I think we will have a Supreme Court that really follows, then, the will of the people, because this essentially is what the president campaigned on, and this is what the people want.

BASH: We will see in about five hours, maybe four.

MEESE: We will.

BASH: Thank you very much, Ed Meese. Appreciate you joining us.

MEESE: Thank you.


BASH: Well, some Democrats are on red alert for the president's announcement tonight. Up next, former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta on who Mr. Bush may choose and whether that fallout will mean war. And also, we'll talk to him about that other story, Karl Rove, we've been talking about over the past week.

Plus, the high court nominations of the past that left Washington reeling.

And later, anticipation online. The blogging frenzy over the soon to be named nominee begins.


BASH: President Clinton was no stranger to partisan warfare, yet his two nominees to the court, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer, were confirmed easily. How will the process play out for President Bush once his name -- his nominee is named tonight?

We're joined now by former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta. Thank you very much for joining us.


BASH: Let's talk about that, about the difference in tone, perhaps, the difference in times. Is there a danger for Democrats, for your fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill to sort of get out there and make this too partisan?

PODESTA: Well, I think that, you know, it depends on who the nominee is. I don't think they are likely to prejudge a nominee who comes from the center or even, you know, we expect a more conservative nominee than obviously than Bill Clinton picked. But if they're in the mainstream of judicial opinion, then I think that they'll get a fair hearing.

There are a lot of questions that need to be asked. They're asked of every potential justice candidate. They were asked of Justice Rehnquist. They were asked of Justice Breyer. They were asked of Justice Ginsberg. And, you know, as your previous guest said, they were asked of people who have failed in the nomination process like Judge Bork.

But I think that we'll learn a lot more about whoever the president announces tonight, in the days that come, and I'm sure there will be a lot of fair questions, really, about their judicial philosophy and how they'll handle their position on the court.

PHILLIPS: We just -- as we just were talking about, President Clinton had two successful nominees go through. But given the state of partisanship in Washington right now, Republicans say, "Look, even if we put up somebody who is just like Mother Teresa, Democrats will say, 'No way. She's too conservative. She's not for us'." Is there something to that?

PODESTA: I don't think -- I don't think that's right. I think what the Democrats have asked for is for the president to consult with them. There's some of that that's gone on.

I think that served President Clinton very well. I think he found two nominees that reflected his philosophy about the way judges ought to carry out cases. They were from the mainstream. And they were both -- they weren't unanimously approved but near unanimously approved. And I think that they had strong support from both Democrats and Republicans.

And you know, I think they've served very well on the court by being the kind of judges who, you know, kind of put -- who aren't really partisans on the court who put that aside. They listen to cases. They try to judge fairly. They have their own perspective. They sometimes disagree with the more, you know, conservative, more right wing members like Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas, but they listen. And I think they're good justices. I think that the president is very proud of his nominees.

BASH: Senator Harry Reid, Senator John Kerry, others have suggested that the president accelerated this process to change the subject away from the troubles of Karl Rove, to stop getting asked -- he was even asked today about that particular issue.

PODESTA: Well, I guess the happiest man in America today must be Scott McClellan. He'll have something else to talk about from the White House podium, you know, other than the scandal that's enveloped the White House around the leaking of the name of Joe Wilson's wife and the cover-up really, the dissembling that went on in 2003 and suggesting that the people who we now know involved, particularly Mr. Rove were not.

Mr. McClellan went out and said it was ridiculous to suggest they were involved. That's the one thing that's unassailable, is that Karl Rove was involved and deeply in the middle of this.

BASH: But let me ask you. You were inside the White House when things were coming at you, partisan attacks, criminal investigations. Talk about what it's like to be in the Oval Office or to be in the chief of staff's office and you're making decisions on how to respond or not respond. Do they not have a choice here in what they're doing?

PODESTA: Look, we were subjected to 55 congressional investigations on everything up and including whether Socks the cat was receiving mail from the public and whether we should answer it. So I mean, at some point it got ridiculous.

But I think what any White House needs to do is to do the people's business first. And I think the one thing that's problematic in, particularly in this Rove matter is that Mr. Rove holds a sensitive position on national security as deputy chief of staff. He's in charge of coordinating the Homeland Security Council and National Security Council, so he's distracted by this, but I think rightfully distracted, because I think he did dissemble. And I think he -- you know, we may not know whether he committed a crime until Mr. Fitzgerald reports, but we do know that he didn't tell the American people the truth. And when you hold a sensitive position like that, I think one of the things that one needs to do in those positions of trust is be able to level with the American people and know that on matters of war and peace, that they can trust what you say.

BASH: And as you know from being through this, we only know what certain people want us to know, because this is an ongoing investigation.


BASH: Certainly, a lot more will come up in the months to come. John Podesta, thank you very much for joining us.

PODESTA: Thank you.

BASH: Appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, in the lingo of Supreme Court nomination battles, one of the worst things that can happen is to be Borked. Up next, we'll revisit some of the nasty fights from the not so distant past.


BASH: Well, ever since Sandra Day O'Connor announced her plans to retire, interest groups on the political right and the political left have been anticipating tonight's announcement. CNN's Bruce Morton takes a look at some recent nomination battles and how the confirmation process has evolved.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Years ago, senators didn't even question the Supreme Court nominees. Now, they not only ask questions, they sometimes refuse to give the nominee the job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The yeas are 42, the nays are 58. The nomination is not confirmed.

MORTON: That was the Senate in 1987 rejecting a Ronald Reagan nominee, federal appeals Judge Robert Bork.

Bork had originally opposed issues that became part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, feeling merchants had a right to refuse to serve blacks or anybody else. He subsequently changed his mind and enforced the law as solicitor general.

He opposed the idea of a woman's right to abortion and said he'd vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision establishing that right.

ROBERT BORK, FORMER SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: The question is never whether you like the statute. The question is, is it, in fact, contrary to the principles of the Constitution?

MORTON: The Bork fight was angry, but it was, one way or another, mostly about issues.

The most personal confirmation battle ever was probably Clarence Thomas's. The first President Bush nominated conservative Thomas to replace liberal Thurgood Marshall, who'd been the first black justice.

Fireworks went off when Anita Hill, then a law professor, accused Thomas of sexual harassment when they'd worked together at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He talked about pornographic movies, she claimed, and once about a can of Coca-Cola.

ANITA HILL, CLARENCE THOMAS ACCUSER: He got up from the table, at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke. Looked at the can and asked, "Who has put a pubic hair on my Coke?"

MORTON: Thomas angrily denounced the hearing.

CLARENCE THOMAS, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: It is a message that, unless you kowtow to the old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate, rather than hung from a tree.

MORTON: The Senate confirmed him, 52-48, in 1991.

There have been others. Lyndon Johnson tried to promote Abe Fortas from associate justice to chief justice. But Republicans filibustered. Reports surfaced of Fortas taking lecture fees, giving political advice to the president, and Johnson withdrew the nomination. And Fortas later resigned.

Richard Nixon once nominated a Florida judge named G. Harrold Carswell. He was criticized for having supported white supremacy and because law groups rated him mediocre.

One defender, Republican Roman Hruska of Nebraska, said there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They're entitled to a little representation, aren't they?

The Senate, 51-45, voted no. Carswell was not confirmed.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


BASH: Well, the high court nomination is a huge topic online. Up next, we'll check in with our blog reporters to find out what people are saying about tonight's announcement.


BASH: Well, bloggers are, of course, joining the speculation about the president's Supreme Court nominee. For more let's go to CNN political producer Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner, our blog reporter -- Jacki. JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Dana, I know you're not surprised with just hours away from President Bush announcing his Supreme Court nominee, there is no shortage of guesses and speculation on the blogs.

We're seeing some of this right now, "A Tale of Two Ediths." Of course, they're talking about Edith Clement, who we've been talking about on this show, and then also about Edith Jones. That seems to be the two thoughts right now they're having as to who it may be.

ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: And Edith Clement is certainly the one that's buzzing around the most right now. If you look at this search engine that searches the blogs, (ph), it's currently the second biggest search out there in this hour.

The left is compiling resources on this justice -- that one's not coming up right now -- looking for information., a lawyer and a writer, was compiling all the information. He said that he's been looking for the last couple of weeks, since he received a tip that it was going to be Clement. Everyone seems to have a source out there, it seem.

What did he say? That yes, it's a stealth candidate with fewer published views, but on some of the evidence, at least, that she's a hard right judicial activist. That's from one progressive.

SCHECHNER: We also should make note of how impressive it is, how quickly a lot of these bloggers have put together their background information and bio information on the possible nominees, certainly barring any information as to who it actually is going to be.

Over at -- this is over on the right -- there is a discussion of the possibility that Clement may not be conservative enough, a lot of people saying she might turn out to be another Souter. That's not what they want.

But at Confirm Them they are posting "Everybody chill out," that she is a solid careful conservative, that she is not a born again Christian but she is certainly a devout Catholic and she is a fair, fair jurist.

TATTON: Bench Memos is another conservative blog at the devoted to the judiciary, and they've been saying, well, now that we've been talking about Clement all day, we know it's not going to be her. That's K.J. Lopez. But she's saying also that she said the same thing about Cardinal Ratzinger for the papacy right before the smoke cleared. So maybe not go on that on.

SCHECHNER: That isn't always how it is.

So somebody who thinks it might be Edith Jones and has for quite some time is at No More Mr. Nice Blog. This is One of the reasons they think it won't be Clement and will be Jones is that Clement is not anti-abortion, thinking that may not be enough for the religious right, unless she was crossing her fingers when she made the comment that was reported in the A.P., that they're going to go Jones and not with Clement.

TATTON: But what is the blogger' role going to be once we have the nominee? Well, it's certainly going to be digging. And Kevin Aylward over at, which is a conservative site, he had a very interesting post on this today, talking about the bloggers' role, remarking that anyone with information on the nominee and a modem can get the information out there now that this is the first nomination in the time of the Internet and blogging.

What he's looking for, what he's interested in is what the Senate Democrats are going to be doing with the information compiled by the anti-nominee blogs, how much they will actually use this information.

SCHECHNER: And finally, we would be remiss if we didn't mention that everyone's noticing the change of topic away from Karl Rove and the Plame investigation. We're seeing a lot of this.

Over at Blogging Out Loud at, "It's a diversion, I tell you," saying that President Bush announcing this in primetime is exactly meant to do just that, be diversionary.

Same thing over at "Changing the subject tonight at 9 p.m."

And it's not only on the left that they're noticing. Over at Captain's Quarters Blog, his quote, "Bush to announce end of Plame debate tonight at 9 p.m.," saying, Dana, that he's going to toss the media a fresh bone on which to chew for the next few weeks. The media and the blogs, it seems.

We'll send it back to you.

BASH: Jacki, Abbi, thank you very much.

Believe it or not, there is some political news outside of talking about the Supreme Court. We're going to get to that right now in our "Political Bytes" this Tuesday.

First, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean and Republican Chairman Ken Mehlman addressed the National Council of El Raza today in Philadelphia. Both parties are aggressively competing for support among the nation's growing number of Hispanic voters.

When Hispanics were asked to name the most important problem facing the country, a recent Gallup poll found 29 percent said the war in Iraq, while 14 percent named the economy, 10 percent said immigration policy.

The Republican Party, meanwhile, has announced a banner first half of 2005 when it comes to fundraising. The GOP reports it raised more than $59 million in the first six months of the year, with $34 million in cash on hand. Last week, the Democrats announced they raised $28 million during the same period.

And in New York, Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg makes a strong showing in a new public opinion poll. Looking ahead to this fall's election, Bloomberg's approval rating stands at 60 percent among all New Yorkers. Thirty percent say they disapprove of the job he's doing. Quinnipiac University also found Bloomberg leads all of his potential Democratic challengers by at least 15 points.

Well as we've been reporting, the president announces his selection for Supreme Court tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. That's just the first part of the process. When we return, our "Strategy Session" looks at what's next, including the White House plan to promote the nominee. Stay with us.


BASH: The Washington guessing game of when will the president name a Supreme Court nominee has changed to, who will the nominee be. Today, in our "Strategy Session," Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and former Pentagon spokeswoman, Tory Clarke. Today's topics, you guessed it, the president's names his nominee. What's the next step for Congress and interest groups and will the Supreme Court pick take the heat off presidential adviser Karl Rove.

First, it's judgment day and President Bush will end some of the suspense, some of it, this evening when he names his choice to fill the seat of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The week began with heightened anticipation that a nominee would be announced this week getting a name out before Congress leaves town for it's August recess. But until tonight's announcement, the name game will continue. Who will it be? Anybody here know.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, I don't know. I don't even have my crystal ball out today. But we know it will be a conservative. And based on some of the early rumors in terms of Edith Jones, Edith Clement, a strict constructionist, someone without a long paper trail. look the important thing is to make sure that this individual is fair, that this individual will pledge to protect the rights and individual freedoms and liberties of all Americans and if that's the case this person will get a fair hearing.

BASH: And Tory, you've been inside the sort of Bush machine, the decision making process, a little bit different on the issues, but sort of the same kind of idea. Give us a sense of where you think he went vis-a-vis all of the things that he has been hearing from the conservative groups, from Senator Specter saying don't pick somebody too conservative.

VICTORIA CLARKE, FMR. PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: I think sometimes people like us over think these things and people try to find too many different aspects to the strategy. Like him or not like him, this is a president who says what he means and means what he says. When he says I want someone whose got very, very good credential, and I want someone who will interpret the Constitution strictly, and not go off making laws, I think that's what you're going to get. So I don't know who it will be either. But I'm pretty confident that person will be seen with that main tenant to their portfolio.

BRAZILE: I mean look, he's been thinking about this now for 18 days, perhaps four years and 18 days. CLARKE: Four and a half years. Exactly.

BRAZILE: But he's also broadly consulted with some Democrats. So tonight we'll find out, you know, just how much consultation took place. Did he select someone, as Senator Specter said, that's in the main stream, that's more of a swing voter, someone that could generate bipartisan support? We'll learn that tonight.

BASH: Now we want to be careful because they are keeping it very -- I mean Tory doesn't even know -- so they're keeping it very close to the vest. But certainly there have some names that have been really buzzing around. First and foremost today is Edith Clement. She is somebody who is -- doesn't -- as we talked about a paper trail -- first of all is serving on the Appellate Court, the fifth circuit, and she was confirmed in 2001 99-0. Going back to the idea of a paper trail though, something we've been talking about earlier in the show, Tory, some conservatives are saying it's great she doesn't have a paper trail in terms of confirmation, but not so great in terms of how she'll be as a justice. They're thinking Suter all over again.

CLARKE: But I just don't think -- to make a pun, they shouldn't prejudge the justice here. They ought to, baddum bum. They ought to see who he names. Then let's have a thoughtful civilized debate on the right and the left about who this person is and what their qualifications are like. I'm just amazed and a little bit horrified, how the machines are already cranking up on both sides, teh advocacy machines, the special interest group, spending millions of dollars. We don't have a name yet. So let's take a little bit of time.

BRAZILE: But we do know about is that she's 57. She's a native of Alabama. She's a graduate of Tulane Law School. She went to Emory Law School. She's been on the fifth circuit now, which includes my home city of New Orleans -- let me give my home state Louisiana a plug, of course.

CLARKE: And the Louisiana Democrats.

BRAZILE: And that -- she has, in, 1991 when, in 2001, when she was nominated for the fifth circuit, Mary Landrieu and others supported her so -- . But she has some controversial rulings that I believe will be pointed out during this confirmation process. And in all fairness to her, because she is someone that people admire and respect down in the south, I think it's important to look at her entire record, and the Senate get a chance to talk about it, if she's the nominee, of course.

BASH: If she's the nominee. Let's talk about something that we do know, or at least we have some evidence of. And that is what the American people want. When you ask them about whether or not it's important to have a woman on the bench, they say that only 13 percent of Americans, according to this CNN, USA Today, Gallup poll says it's essential. Sixty five percent say it's a good idea. Nineteen percent it doesn't matter, two percent, bad idea. Obviously the fact that Justice O'Connor is the one to go, everybody has been speculating recently that it should be a woman. How much do you think that has played into the president's decision making process? CLARKE: I don't know. Again, I go back to what I said earlier. I think it's less important to him, male, female what, color this person might be. It's more important how he thinks they'll perform on a Supreme Court. So I think it is less important the gender, and more important the qualifications.

BRAZILE: What we know about this president is that he listens to his mother and he loves his wife. And his wife has said that she hopes -- you know she didn't prejudge -- but she said she would hope that a woman -- . Look, we've had 109 justices on the court, two women, two minorities. It's important that the president consider diversity, a diverse background, and of course, gender. And I'm hoping that he did take a good look at divers candidates.

BASH: Ok. Well we're going to keep talking about this and talk more when the "Strategy Session" continues on INSIDE POLITICS about the activity that is going to spring up surrounding the eventual Supreme Court nominee. A lot of people are going to have something to say about that, they already are. Once the president names his nominee, we'll talk about that, when we return.


BASH: And the "Strategy Session" continues here on INSIDE POLITICS. With us still are Donna Brazile and Tori Clarke.

And speaking of strategies, there is a lot of strategizing going on, even before the president names his choice for the High Court. You can expect tremendous pressure from interest groups once we learn who the nominee is. And Republicans and Democrats in Congress are working to position themselves either for or against the eventual nominee.


SEN. MITCH MCONNELL, (R) MAJORITY WHIP: We owe the American people a respectful process during the committee hearings and the floor consideration that honors the finest traditions of the Senate.

SEN. HARRY REID, (R) MAJORITY WHIP: As to whether it's going to be a conflict and further animosity here in the Senate between parties depends on the president. So we're waiting to see what he's going to do there.


BASH: OK. They're trying to take it down a notch maybe in the Senate right now. But look, the reality is, we know what both sides have prepared, in terms of the millions of dollars they're ready to spend. We also know that the White House has been working with a Republican groups to make sure to get people ready, the former clerks, the third grade teachers, the neighbors, the friends of the nominee. So they can get out and define this person before the Democrats come out and define the person for them.

So given this machine that's ready to go, how can we possibly have what the senators just described?

CLARKE: I think it's going to be very difficult. There are people on both sides of the aisle who have been ramped up for months on this. You know, a friend of mine said the other day -- I won't say which side she was on -- hey, those press releases have been written for months. We're just waiting to plug in the name. And a lot of money is being spent and it is hard to bring that down.

But what we're going to need is senators and members of Congress and people in this administration, day in and day out saying the process here is as important as the nominee. And how we conduct ourselves is really going to be important for how this country moves forward. But they can't just say it once. They've got to really mean it, which is say it again and again, and act on it.

BRAZILE: I agree with Tori, because I also believe, in addition to the nominee, the Senate itself and the institution -- I mean, look, Congress -- and we don't have to pull out polls. We just know it from talking to friends. I mean, their numbers are down to you know what. And so, clearly, the Senate -- the institution itself is on trial, as well as the nominee.

I think the Judiciary Committee should take an in-depth review of this individual, Senator Thompson. Former Senator Thompson should take her around or take him around -- we don't know -- to meet all of the members of the Judiciary Committee and to establish a rapport and a relationship so that the process goes about in the correct way, where information is shared so people feel really good about the whole process.

BASH: Now, of course, the Gang of 14 is still on Capitol Hill. They still exist. The ones who sort of made this agreement to get some of the other judges through. One of those members, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a Democrat, tried to talk about the fact that he doesn't think it's as partisan as we think.

Let's take a listen.


SEN. BEN NELSON (R), NEBRASKA: I think there's also a general belief that the atmosphere is less politically charged. There's less talk about nuclear options and slowdowns and shutdowns, and more discussion about the process being orderly, moving forward with this nomination.


BASH: Is everybody hyperventilating a little too early here?

CLARKE: I hope he's right. I don't really detect that the tenor has come down, has quieted down a little bit. We'll know at about 9:03 tonight. We'll know. We've got to start checking the blogs, start checking the wires, and see who's out there firing what. And then see what happens in the next few days. Are they going to say, as Donna said, let's have people meet or let's have an in-depth look at her record and those sorts of things? Or his, because we don't know. We'll know a lot in the next 48 hours as to whether or not these people are serious.

BASH: Is there -- let me ask you, Donna, is there a danger for especially Democrats here, for this just becoming noise? And there's just too much for people to digest. And it would make it sort of moot, almost. It won't matter.

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I think Senator Reid should be given a lot of credit, along with Senator Durbin and others, in setting a tone for this, not only inside the Senate Democratic caucus but with so-called Democratic interest groups. Look, they've said let's not prejudge, let's not go out there and start throwing bombs, who let the dogs out, you know?

BASH: Victoria said that the press releases are written already.

BRAZILE: I haven't seen one. But I would love to have one before the end of the night. I have my opinions, of course. But I really do believe that the Senate caucus has really set the right tone. They say, look, here are our parameters, here are the principles. And I believe that the Democrats are going about it the right way this time. They want to talk to the president, they want to talk to Specter and the Republicans, and they want to find common ground.

BASH: Before we leave -- go to break, I've got to ask you about this 9:00 speech. I talked to somebody, strategist involved in this, who said that this plan to do this kind of speech at 9:00 tonight, as we were talking, maybe around the time the president usually goes to sleep, has been in the works for quite some time. Talk about that.

CLARKE: I don't know if it's been in the works for some time, but I think it is a very, very smart move on two fronts. One, it signifies the importance he puts on this decision as part of his presidency. It is important enough for him to talk about it in primetime. And, two, get on the offense early. All the good talk notwithstanding, this is going to be a very, very tough battle, and it will be won by inches. So get out there early, get on the offense.

BRAZILE: I think Tori's absolutely right. The president loves to go on the offense. He knows that if you put it on at 9:00, this is the last thing we talk about tonight and the first thing we'll think about tomorrow morning. So he's strategically trying to, you know, jump on the news cycle.

BASH: OK. Well, standby. We're going to take a quick break and we're going to talk up next about the naming of the Supreme Court nominee and how, as we've been talking about, that is going to dominate the news coverage for a couple of weeks. And that could mean a major change in all the attention that has been going on White House deputy -- White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove. Is that good, is that bad? Up next, our "Strategy Session" will continue about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": I'm Wolf Blitzer in Los Angeles. Coming up at the top of the hour: President Bush will nominate a Supreme Court justice tonight. We'll take a closer look at some of the likely candidates.

Will there be a confirmation fight in the U.S. Senate? We'll talk with two key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee: Republican Charles Grassley and Democrat Richard Durbin.

And Hurricane Emily picking up strength right now: Will it hit Texas?

All those stories, much more only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Now back to INSIDE POLITICS.

BASH: And the "Strategy Session" continues here on INSIDE POLITICS. Still with us: Donna Brazile and Tori Clarke. And let's take a...

CLARKE: She just told us we should go away: "Still with us."

BASH: No! We're very happy that they're here and we're going to take a look now at the timing of President Bush's naming of a nominee to the Supreme Court and what it means for Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove.

The spotlight had been focused on Rove, with Democrats calling on the president to fire him after Mr. Bush said he would terminate anyone who leaked the name of a CIA agent. It seemed like the controversy wasn't going to die down. But is the timing of this announcement meant to deflect attention from Rove? Well, this opinion from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid...


REID: I would say this, just changing the subject a little bit, it's interesting how the subject has changed from the White House administrative staff to the court today, isn't it?

QUESTION: Do you think the timing of that is deliberate?

REID: I don't know, but it's interesting how it's changed. I heard it was going to be next week.


BASH: He heard it was going to be next week. I mean, this is obviously a big announcement.

CLARKE: Sure. But a lot of us have heard for days it would be this week. So, I don't know where he's getting his information, but you know, if he's got a problem with this, then he ought to talk with the news media.

Because what is more newsworthy, the announcement of the Supreme Court nominee or Karl Rove? If you did a poll of the American people and said: Where do you want Congress and the news media spending their time? It would be on the Supreme Court nominee, not Karl Rove.

BASH: Let me just show you this poll that came out from "ABC News." Should Karl Rove be fired if he leaked classified information: 75 percent said "Yes;" 15 percent "No." And apparently 71 percent of Republicans also say "Yes."

So, is it perhaps that the White House knows what Tori just said, that the news media get, perhaps, the Supreme Court nominee is kind of a big deal and that perhaps the president was going to do it this week, but maybe pushed it up a teeny little bit to try to get this kind of thing off?

BRAZILE: Well, for the last two weeks, we've seen almost side- by-side stories of Karl Rove and the leak and the Supreme Court -- a possible Supreme Court nominee.

So, I believe that the light may be off of Karl Rove and the administration right now in terms of the leak, but the heat's still on Karl Rove and the administration, because the president set the bar so high back in October of 2003; that he would fire anyone who was caught leaking.

Now, whether or not he's changed his tune or changed the subject or even tried to change the subject, I don't believe any of that matters, because the grand jury is still meeting and prosecutor has a job to do and at some point, we'll know the truth.

BASH: All right. The jury is still out -- literally. Thank you. Tori and Donna, thank you very much.

CLARKE: We're finally leaving.

BASH: Very happy to have you here. Both of you, thank you.

And the bloggers are weighing in on a Congressman's comments about Muslim holy sites. We will rejoin our blog reporters next for the reaction online.


BASH: A Congressman's statements about Islamic holy sites are a big topic among bloggers. Let's rejoin CNN Political Producer Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner, our blog reporter -- Jacki?

SCHECHNER: Yes, Dana. It is Congressman Tom Tancredo, the Republican from Colorado, who is taking plenty of heat online for comments he made on a radio show. Essentially what he said is that if terrorists attack the United States with nuclear weapons, it would be OK to take out Islamic holy sites. (ph), one of many bloggers taking Tancredo to task saying that, "every media voice that spoke out against Dick Durbin and his comments regarding Guantanamo, now needs to do the same against Tancredo's speculation." Saying, "this sends the wrong message that we are at war Islam. We are not," and saying that, "the nomination news will sweep these comments under the rug," and saying that, "we need to keep them in the conversation and there should be reaction and an apology."

TATTON: And blogs on the left have predictably been attacking the Republican congressman for his comments, but it is interesting how blogs on the right like (ph), have been rallying around asking for this apology., this a prosecutor in L.A. County, another conservative, announces a new adjective today, which is "tancredulous: the state of disbelief upon hearing a national politician talking about bombing Mecca."

Another one over here, (ph), former U.S. Army, now a Methodist pastor in Tennessee. He is concerned about this story traveling overseas and the message it's going to send out, out there, saying al Qaeda already has an effective propaganda machine already. Congressman Tancredo's comments, comments like them just make their job even more easy.

SCHECHNER: Well, concern that the remarks may be picked up in newspapers or news reports abroad seems to be founded at (ph), saying they are linking here to news reports that the Turkish foreign minister condemned Tancredo's comments, by the way, saying he doesn't think that Tancredo speaks for all of the United States, but did condemn his remarks.

Dana, we will send it back to you and you have to use "tancredulous" in a sentence.

BASH: OK. Maybe tomorrow. Jacki, Abbi, thank you.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.



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