On the same day that President Obama sent apparently contradictory signals about his expectations about the abortion views of his next Supreme Court nominee, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs struggled to explain how the president could say that he will not have a “litmus test” on abortion, but then go on to say that he expects his nominee to uphold the right to abortion.
During yesterday’s press briefing, reporters queried Press Secretary Gibbs on how the two apparently contradictory statements could be reconciled.
“The President just said when asked about the issue of abortion that he wants somebody who’s interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women’s rights. Isn’t it artifice to say that this is not a litmus test?” asked one reporter, to which question Gibbs responded simply: “No.”
The reporter continued to press the issue, asking, “So he’d be open, for example, to choosing somebody who didn’t believe in a woman’s right to choose?”
Gibbs attempted to avoid the question, saying, “I think we’re playing the Washington game again. If I say this, then I don’t –“
“We’re in Washington,” shot back the reporter.
“I know, I know.”
Again the reporter asked, “But I think it’s a fair question. I mean, here’s the question, would he be open to –“
Gibbs responded, “No, I think … again, the President has some familiarity with the Constitution and constitutional law and I think he can, while not having an explicit litmus test, can talk to somebody about a full range of their beliefs.”
The reporter the pointed out, “But if he rules out somebody who doesn’t share that belief, isn’t that de facto a litmus test?”
To which Gibbs could only say: “Again, I’m not going to get into the ‘if this, does it mean that; if that, does it mean this’.”
The issue came up again several minutes later, when a reporter asked, “If it turned out that the person [Obama] appoints to the court someday provided the fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, would Barack Obama be upset about that?” The White House transcript records “laughter” in response to the question.
Gibbs again demurred from answering the question, saying only that he would not deal in “hypotheticals.”
During a session with the press on Wednesday, a reporter had asked President Obama if he would be willing to nominate a justice to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens “who did not support a woman’s right to choose.”
Obama acknowledged that abortion has been “a hugely contentious issue in our country for a very long time,” but said he would take the approach of other U.S. presidents and not require candidates to pass a “litmus test” on that issue. However, he then added that he wanted to see “somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women’s rights.”
In response to Obama’s remarks, Dave Andrusko of the National Right to Life Committee quipped that, “If there is a difference between not having a ‘litmus test’ and setting specific demarcations within which prospective nominees must adhere in order to be nominated, it escapes me.”
Bill Saunders, the Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs, told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) in an interview that, “I think that this is standard operating procedure out of Obama’s playbook. First you acknowledge there’s a disagreement, then you purport to be fair-minded, and last you signal to your base that you’re going to push ahead with this left agenda. This is exactly what he did yesterday.
“There is a litmus test, and it’s what he said second, which is that a right (so-called) to privacy and abortion comes from interpreting the Constitution – that’s what he’s looking for in a nominee. And if he thinks it’s not there he’s not going to nominate them.”
“So I think it’s meaningless,” said Saunders about Obama’s assurances. “I think the litmus-test language is used simply to fool the public and make them think that he’s really going to be fair with this.