In a push to move on from the political blows of the Miers withdrawal and the Libby indictment of last week, President Bush today announced Judge Samuel Alito as his new pick for the Supreme Court.
MSNBC-TVs Rita Cosby sat down with Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie about the new Supreme Court nominee, Scooter Libby's replacement, David Addington, and the mood of the White House.
RITA COSBY, LIVE AND DIRECT HOST: Ed, of course, you know, new Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito. Are you excited about this choice?
ED GILLESPIE, FORMER REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: I am. Judge Alito is well respected by people across the spectrum. He has a great deal of experience on the appellate court. He's someone who has the intellectual capacity, the integrity and the temperament to be a fantastic associate justice on the Supreme Court. I think you'll see that he'll enjoy the support of senators on both sides of the aisle at the end of this process.
COSBY: Of course, some Democrats — typical in Washington, both sides always putting in their two cents. Very quickly, some Democrats, particularly Chuck Schumer, wasted no time in criticizing this choice.
Schumer said, "It's sad that the president felt he had to pick a nominee likely to divide America, instead of choosing a nominee in the mold of Sandra Day O'Connor, who would unify us."
So Ed, do you think it's going to be a tough fight?
GILLESPIE: Well, this is someone, in Judge Alito, who has been passed by the United States Senate two times by unanimous consent, under the chairmanship of Senator Joseph Biden, Democrat of Delaware, on the Judiciary Committee and under George Mitchell's leadership of the United States Senate. Judge Alito hasn't changed since that time. I hope the process for confirmation hasn't changed in that time. The fact is, the public expects a fair process, a dignified process — one that ends with an up or down vote for nominees. And if that's the case, I think you will see Judge Alito get strong bipartisan support on the floor of the United States Senate.
COSBY: You know, first thing this morning, and of course the announcement comes down with the new nominee. Is this sort of a sense, let's get a fresh start? Last week, by I'm sure anyone's standards was a rough week for the White House, with Harriet Miers, with Scooter Libby. Is this a sense of, let's begin anew?
GILLESPIE: We're looking forward to a debate over the proper role of the federal judiciary in our system of government, and the president's philosophy is one of judicial restraint. He looks for nominees who apply the law as written, don't seek to make new laws based on their own personal opinions. There are some who want judges who are activists, who reach out and try to create new policies and seek to assure outcomes based on their own personal desires.
Most Americans I don't think share that point of view. We welcome a debate over judicial restraint, we welcome a debate over whether or not the Supreme Court of the United States should be looking to our Constitution in issuing rulings or looking at the laws of foreign countries in coming to those conclusions, whether or not private property should be taken from individual A and given to individual B in the name of the common good or the public good. Those are the kinds of debates that are very important in our system today, and we look forward to those debates as Judge Alito's nomination moves through the Senate process.
COSBY: Lots of announcements today out of the White House: also someone now replacing Scooter Libby as Cheney's chief of staff. Who is this guy?
GILLESPIE: David Addington is someone who is very well respected, long been close to the vice president, is a very well-regarded attorney in the administration, someone who is well known to the White House staff and well respected, and respected on Capitol Hill and in other parts of this town, and I think he'll do a great job as the vice president's chief of staff.
COSBY: And Ed, overall, what's the mood at the White House? You know, bumpy times, rough times, death toll in Iraq now 2000. What's the sort of the spirit there?
GILLESPIE: I as you know am very focused on the confirmation process for Judge Alito, which is my specific duty, volunteering. But I can tell you from having seen the folks at the White House and the staff, everyone is very focused on doing the public's business and making sure that the president's agenda is being implemented, working with members of the House and the Senate to pass a positive agenda for the American people.
Watch 'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' each night at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.