Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

The last topic Little Scottie would wish to discuss in any gaggle is Roe v. Wade (Drinking Game: shots each time Scottie says “Litmus Test”).

Q Scott, if the President has never discussed with Harriet Miers her personal views on abortion, and if he never talked to her about it as a litmus test during their conversations about her going on the bench, how does he know that she shares his view?

MR. McCLELLAN: Shares his view on what?

Q On abortion and whether abortion should be legal in the United States.

MR. McCLELLAN: The President doesn’t have a litmus test.

[snip]

Q So the White House has no idea what her position is on whether Roe versus Wade is the settled law of the land?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President doesn’t have a litmus test. Some people want to impose a litmus test; the President does not believe there should be a litmus test for judges. A judge should rule based on the law.

[snip]

Q Scott, I asked the President this morning, but it would appear he didn’t hear me — does he believe Roe v. Wade is settled law?

MR. McCLELLAN: John, he was making a statement this morning, first of all, and second of all, that’s a litmus test question. There are some out there that want to impose a litmus test on —

Q It’s not a litmus test question. Does he believe Roe v. Wade is settled law?

MR. McCLELLAN: Do you believe I should be able to respond to your questions?

Q Yes, but it’s not a litmus test.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me respond to your question, and I’ll be glad to answer it, as I just was. It is a litmus test question. You’re asking it in the context of a Supreme Court nominee. There are some out there that want to impose a litmus test on judges. The President does not believe we should have litmus tests for judges. The American people want judges that are fair and open-minded and that will rule based on our Constitution and our laws. That’s what Harriet Miers is committed to doing, and that’s why the President selected her to fill this vacancy.

Q I understand your comments about litmus tests and your whole position on that, but I’m just asking what the President thinks. Does he believe it’s settled law?

MR. McCLELLAN: And he talked yesterday about his views when it comes to issues of life, and he expressed his view. You’re asking this in the context of the Supreme Court, and I’ll repeat again that that is a litmus test question.

Q No, you’re putting it in the context of the Supreme Court. It was just something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

MR. McCLELLAN: And something that you’re putting in the context of the Supreme Court nomination. I guarantee you’ll be working on a report tonight for the Supreme Court. So let’s not pretend that it’s not a litmus test question.

Q You know, I might take that bet.

And closely following abortion as a topic for Scottie to avoid is the Assministration’s policy of torture.

Q Let me ask one other question. Why does the President oppose Senator McCain’s legislation to establish standards for interrogation of terrorists?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are already laws on the books, and so I think part of this, if you go back and look at the statement of administration policy that we put out, it would be unnecessary and duplicative. And it would limit the President’s ability as Commander-in-Chief to effectively carry out the war on terrorism.

Q And will the President veto Senator McCain’s legislation?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we put out the statement of administration policy, which stated our concerns about that and stated — let me specifically refer you to it — our views when it came to if those amendments were part of the final legislation. It said, if it’s presented, then there would be a recommendation of a veto, I believe.

The Set-Up:

Q Scott, does the President ask tough, challenging questions of the military generals who come to brief him?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.

The Take-Down:

Q What’s the difference, then, when the President gets briefed, like he was last week by General Abizaid and General Casey, today, again, with General Petreaus, he comes out very encouraged; yet, when those generals go to Capitol Hill and brief lawmakers, the lawmakers seem almost — Republicans and Democrats alike — Susan Collins, Senator McCain — so what’s the difference? Are they getting different information on the Hill?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President is optimistic because the Iraqi people have shown they are determined to build a free and peaceful future. And he knows that we are making important progress on the ground to train and equip Iraqi security forces.

And finally, how to confuse Scottie in one easy lesson.

Q I’m just trying to fully understand the urgency of the President’s major address tomorrow. How would you characterize the current threat of terrorism emanating potentially out of Iraq? Is it at historic levels?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?

Q I said how would you describe the current threat of terrorism in and potentially emanating out —

MR. McCLELLAN: I think our commanders have described that over the last few days. I would encourage you to go back and look at their comments.

Q But what would the White House say? Is it at historic levels?

MR. McCLELLAN: This is a speech — this is not a speech on Iraq. This is a speech on the broader war on terrorism. But he will talk about Iraq in the context of the broader war on terrorism. So I think the way you’re looking at it is a little misguided.

Q Well, I’m just wondering — I’m wondering, though, about the potential threat. If you’re talking about them trying to kick us out of the Middle East and all of that, what’s the potential threat —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he’s talking about their strategy. That’s part of their strategy.

Q Right. But what’s the potential threat of terrorism coming out of Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: They think — they think they can shake our will. They cannot shake the will of this President and the American people.