Turns out that White House counsel Harriet Miers is not the only Bush Supreme Court nominee to want some distance from the Federalist Society -- an influential conservative legal group founded in the early 1980s to counter a perceived leftward drift of the federal judiciary.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. had repeatedly said he didn't remember having officially joined the organization, although his name appeared in the group's 1997-98 legal directory. Even the White House called the media this summer to insist on Roberts's non-membership. Given his long association with fellow federalists, conservatives didn't cry foul.
But Miers, who distanced herself in 1989 from the esteemed group with a gratuitous slap -- under oath, no less -- is having a much harder time shoring up conservative support.
Miers, testifying in a voting rights case in Dallas, was asked about organizations she belonged to. She said: ". . . I have tried to avoid memberships in organizations that were politically charged with one viewpoint or the other. For example, I wouldn't belong to the Federalist Society any more than -- I just feel like it's better to not be involved in organizations that seem to color your view one way or the other for people who are examining you.
"I did join the Progressive Voters League here in Dallas during the campaign as part of the campaign," she said. That's a Democratic organization. Did she think the NAACP was "in the category of the organizations [she was] talking about?" she was asked.
"No, I don't," she responded.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan recently explained the unfortunate 1989 testimony. He said Miers had "been supportive of the Federalist Society, including participating in events" and speaking to them last spring.
McClellan adroitly non-responded when asked if this meant she'd changed her views. No need to answer, after all, since President Bush already told us she would never do that.
But the testimony is rattling around the blogosphere and e-mail circuit. And although much of the political chatter on Miers has focused on Roe v. Wade, Federalist Society types, already concerned about Miers's skimpy paper trail, are finding it difficult to climb on board when her judicial philosophy, from matters of property rights to civil rights to federalism, is so opaque.
Unpack the Lights
The Christmas tree legal battle appears to be over. The 2005 Capitol Holiday Tree, a beautiful 80-foot Engelmann spruce now in a Santa Fe, N.M., national forest, may be cut down after all, a federal judge has decreed.
Forest Service officials had read an earlier ruling by the judge, James K. Singleton Jr., to require public comment periods -- and potentially lengthy delays -- not just for major commercial activities but for hunting, fishing or even cutting down a single tree. Such a delay might have meant there would be no tree to light on Dec. 8.
Enviros, calling the broad interpretation a "scare tactic," went back to Singleton and got a clarification.
Was Judith Miller Listening?
The Bush administration put one of its top officials on a conference call yesterday to brief reporters on a recent news event.
Reporters asked how he should be identified -- by agency or as a "senior administration official."
"A former House staffer," he wryly suggested.
Toasting NAB's New President
Let's raise a mug to David K. Rehr, longtime president of the National Beer Wholesalers Association, has been selected from about 80 candidates to head of the National Association of Broadcasters. Rehr replaces Eddie Fritts, who will stay on as a consultant through April 2008.
Lobbyists' Deep Pockets
Speaking of Fritts, he's putting together a lobbyists-with-heart, $500-a-pop reception for the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund on Tuesday at the U.S. Chamber of Congress. Former lobbyist and now Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) will be back in town surrounded by virtually every major lobbyist in town -- from GOPers such as Nick Calio, Frank Fahrenkopf and Ed Rogers to Dems such as Bob Beckel, Lanny Griffith and Tommy Boggs Jr.