Bush to name court pick tonight
Jul. 19, 2005 10:25 AM
WASHINGTON - President Bush has decided whom to nominate to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court and was poised to announce his pick in a prime-time Tuesday night address.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the Bush administration was asking television outlets to broadcast the speech live. Bush's spokesman would not identify the president's choice. But there was intense speculation that it would be Judge Edith Clement of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
The televised speech was scheduled for 6 p.m. Arizona time.
The tension was palpable in the West Wing of the White House; after a day of intense speculation, McClellan walked into the press briefing room and said bluntly: "The president has made a decision and will be announcing his nominee to the Supreme Court at 9 o'clock." McClellan said the American people expected that the Senate confirmation process would be a dignified one.
Bush said he has considered candidates from all walks of life for the Supreme Court but refused to tip his hand on whom he will name.
He had said ever since O'Connor's July 1 announcement that he wanted to move with some speed and that he wanted the new justice to be seated before the court begins its fall term in October.
The dynamic might have changed a bit when Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist last week put out word that he had no intention of stepping down and that he would continue on the court despite his battle with thyroid cancer.
Bush, at a news conference Tuesday, would not even say if he had finished interviewing candidates. Though Washington was abuzz with speculation about Clement, the president ignored a question about what he thought of her.
"I guess the best way to say it is, I'll let you know when I'm ready to tell you who it is," the president said. He jokingly acknowledged that he was trying to dodge the question.
"I'm comfortable with where we are in the process," the president said. He said he has considered a variety of people from different walks of life, some of whom he knew before and some he had never met.
"I do have an obligation to think about people from different backgrounds that have shared the same philosophy, people who will not legislate from the bench," Bush said. He spoke at a press conference with visiting Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
At Clement's office in New Orleans, a man who identified himself as a law clerk said the judge was not available. "That's what I've been instructed to say," he told a caller who asked if she were in Washington.
Interest groups say another female candidate thought to be under consideration was Edith Hollan Jones, who also serves on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
There was no word from the White House on when Bush would disclose his selection, but officials familiar with the process said it appeared an announcement was imminent. White House press secretary Scott McClellan would say only: "The president is closer today than he was yesterday on naming a nominee."
Asked whether he expected an announcement, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Tuesday, "I don't know, but I don't think so."
In a sign that Bush was getting close to naming his pick, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was called to the White House on Monday. Specter, who would lead the confirmation process in the Senate, has said he hopes Bush selects a moderate jurist.
In anticipation of a selection, officials said the White House had contacted selected Republican senators they hoped would serve as advocates for the nominee in media interviews in the initial time following an announcement. Democrats scoured the rulings and writings of leading contenders, including Clement, a 57-year-old jurist who was confirmed on a 99-0 vote by the Senate when she was elevated to the appeals court in 2001.
White House officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about the process, said Bush's timetable appears to have been accelerated and that a choice could come as early as Tuesday. They said Clement is a leading candidate, but cautioned that the president had not made a final decision and that there were other prospects still in the mix.
Any announcement would turn the spotlight in Washington toward the Supreme Court vacancy and away from news about Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, and the ongoing federal probe into who leaked the name of a CIA officer.
White House officials have refused to discuss the names of top prospects being considered as a replacement for the departing O'Connor, who was the first woman appointed to the court.
Other possible candidates are conservative federal appellate court judges Samuel Alito, J. Michael Luttig, Michael McConnell, John Roberts Jr., Emilio Garza and J. Harvie Wilkinson III; and former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson.
Other names thought to be under consideration were: Maura Corrigan, a judge on the Michigan Supreme Court; Cecilia M. Altonaga, a U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of Florida; Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law School professor; Karen Williams from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.; Janice Rogers Brown, recently confirmed by the Senate for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; and Priscilla Owen, who was just confirmed for a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.