Bill Kristol: Mrs. Bush said this week that she hoped her husband would name a woman. I think that was her way of gently letting down Attorney General Gonzales, signaling that he probably wasn't going to get the pick.Interesting that he mentioned law schools second, before state courts. How stunning it would be to pick a lawprof. Who are the female constitutional law professors who are not only "at distinguished law schools," with the highest level credentials, but whose writings will stand up to the intense political scrutiny that all sorts of people will subject it to? I think it's much easier to find judicial candidates among judges, because judges behave like judges. Lawprofs don't seem judgely enough. There's too much personal freedom in the lawprof game. One plays with ideas and enjoys intellectual exercises too much not to lay the basis for a formidable attack by your opponents.
Brit Hume: So the President suggested she do this?
Bill Krisol: I think... well... The President afterwards: Gee, she said that? I wasn't aware of that. I talked to her on the phone yesterday, but I didn't know she was going to say it in public. She's pretty careful, and they're pretty close. I think he wants to pick a conservative woman. There are plenty of conservative women -- on the federal appeals court, at distinguished law schools, on state supreme courts...
But what's really interesting in that dialogue is the notion that this seemingly off-the-cuff statement by Laura Bush was deliberately planned. I'd assumed Laura really had influence with her husband about the substance of the choice, but Kristol portrays her as a brilliantly useful mouthpiece. I wrote that Laura's influence would be in favor of Gonzales, based on what I presumed was her concern about preserving abortion rights. But that doesn't conflict with what Kristol said: her behind-the-scenes influence and her public statements are two different things.
In the NYT, Elisabeth Bumiller confirms Kristol's take:
When Laura Bush said in a television interview last week that she hoped her husband would name a woman to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, a lot of people saw it as a top item on the first lady's "honey-do" list. But Republicans close to the White House said that people had it reversed. Mrs. Bush, they said, was not so much nudging her husband as reflecting his thinking.Kristol didn't seem to mind blabbing.
The current consensus among Republicans with close access to the White House is that President Bush is interested in picking a conservative woman for the court. Mrs. Bush's words, they said, were the most powerful evidence so far.
"It says that they're looking very carefully at a woman," said a Republican with longtime ties to the White House. "I don't think she would have said it without knowing something." This Republican, like a number of others interviewed, asked not to be identified because the White House had ordered its allies not to talk about a Supreme Court selection process that it is trying to keep confidential.
By the way, Bumiller's article includes the name of one woman lawprof: Mary Ann Glendon.