The President. It's not just in fulfillment of my constitutional duty but with great pride and respect for his many years of public service, that I am today announcing my intention to nominate United States Circuit Judge Anthony Kennedy to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Judge Kennedy represents the best tradition of America's judiciary.
His career in the law, which has now spanned the better part of three decades, began following his graduation from Stanford University and Harvard Law School when he joined a prominent San Francisco law firm. Later, after the death of his father, who was himself a well-respected attorney in Sacramento, Tony Kennedy took over his father's law practice. He devoted himself to a wide range of matters including tax law, estate planning and probate, real estate law, international law, and litigation.
In 1965 he began a teaching career on the faculty of the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific. He has been teaching continuously since that time as a professor of constitutional law. In 1975 President Ford appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals, where he has established himself as a fair but tough judge who respects the law. During his 12 years on the Nation's second highest court, Judge Kennedy has participated in over 1400 decisions and authored over 400 opinions. He's a hard worker and, like Justice Powell, whom he will replace, he is known as a gentleman. He's popular with colleagues of all political persuasions. And I know that he seems to be popular with many Senators of varying political persuasions as well.
I guess by now it's no secret that Judge Kennedy has been on the very shortest of my short lists for some time now. I've interviewed him personally and, at my direction, the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the Counsel to the President have concluded very extensive preliminary interviews with him. Judge Kennedy's record and qualifications have been thoroughly examined. And before I submit his formal nomination to the Senate, a full update of his FBI background investigation will have been completed.
Judge Kennedy is what many in recent weeks have referred to as a true conservative—one who believes that our constitutional system is one of enumerated powers—that it is we, the people who have granted certain rights to the Government, not the other way around. And that unless the Constitution grants a power to the Federal Government, or restricts a State's exercise of that power, it remains with the States or the people.
Those three words, "We the People," are an all important reminder of the only legitimate source of the Government's authority over its citizens. The preamble of the Constitution, which begins with these three powerful words, serves also as a reminder that one of the basic purposes underlying our national charter was to ensure domestic tranquility. And that's why the Constitution established a system of criminal justice that not only protects the individual defendants but that will protect all Americans from crime as well.
Judge Kennedy has participated in hundreds of criminal law decisions during his tenure on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In that time he's earned a reputation as a courageous, tough, but fair jurist. He's known to his colleagues and to the lawyers who practiced before him as diligent, perceptive, and polite. The hallmark of Judge Kennedy's career has been devotion—devotion to his family, devotion to his community and his civic responsibility, and devotion to the law. He's played a major role in keeping our cities and neighborhoods safe from crime. He's that special kind of American who's always been there when we needed leadership. I'm certain he will be a leader on the Supreme Court.
The experience of the last several months has made all of us a bit wiser. I believe the mood and the time is now right for all Americans in this bicentennial year of the Constitution to join together in a bipartisan effort to fulfill our constitutional obligation of restoring the United States Supreme Court to full strength. By selecting Anthony M. Kennedy, a superbly qualified judge whose fitness for the high court has been remarked upon by leaders of the Senate in both parties, I have sought to ensure the success of that effort.
I look forward, and I know Judge Kennedy is looking forward, to prompt hearings conducted in the spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship. I'll do everything in my power as President to assist in that process. And now I believe that Judge Kennedy has a few words to say.
Judge Kennedy. Thank you, Mr. President. By announcing your intention to nominate me to the Supreme Court of the United States, you confer a singular honor, the highest honor to which any person devoted to the law might aspire. I am most grateful to you. My family, Mary and the children, also express their deep appreciation for your reposing this trust upon us.
When the Senate of the United States receives the nomination, I shall endeavor to the best of my ability to answer all of its questions and to otherwise assist it in the discharge of its constitutional obligation to determine whether to give its advice and full consent to the appointment. I share with you, Mr. President, and with each Member of the Senate an abiding respect for the Supreme Court, for the confirmation process, and for the Constitution of the United States, which we are all sworn to preserve and to protect.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Q. Mr. President—
The President. No, it's limited, and I think you know that, to two questions—Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International] first and then Terry [Terry Hunt, Associated Press].
Q. Mr. President, throughout this whole process, Senator Hatch says there have been a lot of gutless wonders in the White House. Do you know who they are, who he is referring to, why he would say such a thing since he is such a devoted conservative?
The President. Helen, when these ceremonies here this morning are over, I'm going to try to find out where he gets his information because, you know something, I haven't been able to find a gutless wonder in the whole place.
Q. Do you know why he was so upset?
The President. I don't know. I don't know, unless he's been reading the paper too much.
Q. Mr. President, you said that Judge Kennedy is popular with people of all political persuasions. What happened to your plan to give the Senate the nominee that they would object to just as much as Judge Bork?
The President. Maybe it's time that I did answer on that, where that was said and why—and it was humorously said. I was at a straight party organization affair, a dinner. And when I finished my remarks, which were partisan, a woman, down in front, member there, just called out above all the noise of the room, "What about Judge Bork?" And she got great applause for saying that. And then the questions came. Was I going to give in and try to please certain elements in the Senate? And I made that—intended to be facetious answer to her. And so, as I say, it was—sometimes you make a facetious remark and somebody takes it seriously and you wish you'd never said it, and that's one for me.
Q. Mr. President—
The President. I said only two questions now. And I want Judge Kennedy's family to come up here.
Q. Can't you take some more questions, sir?
The President. What?
Q. Can't you take some more questions?
Q. Can't you take one or two more, Mr. President?
Q. Just one or two?
The President. No, because there would be no such thing as just one or two.
Q. Judge Kennedy, can we ask you, are you concerned about this intense scrutiny that seems to go to a Supreme Court nominee now?
Judge Kennedy. I'm looking forward to the scrutiny that the Senate should give any nominee in its discharge of its constitutional duty.
Q. And you're not concerned about how you'd stand up, sir?
Q. Judge Kennedy, are you worried or upset that you are, in effect, the third choice for this seat?
Judge Kennedy. I'm delighted with this nomination. [Laughter]
Q. Mr. President, why didn't you nominate Judge Kennedy the first time?
Mr. Fitzwater. Thank you very much.
Q. Well, Marlin.—
Q. Would you like to answer that, sir?
Q. —to preselected reporters.
Q. That's a good question, Marlin.
Q. Can't the President answer for himself?.
Q. Do you like where the dollar is?
The President. I—all three. We came down to a final three and that all three were so close and so well-qualified, you could have almost thrown a dart going by that decision.
Q. Mr. President, do you believe that the Senate Democrats may try to stall this nomination in order to prevent you from being able to fill that seat?
The President. I'm counting on Pete Wilson to see that doesn't happen.
Q. Mr. President—
Q. Did you cave into the liberals, Mr. President? Some conservatives are saying you caved into the liberals, appointing someone who can be confirmed, but not appointing someone who is going to turn the Court around.
The President. When the day comes that I cave in to the liberals, I will be long gone from here. [Laughter]
Q. Judge Kennedy, did they ask you if you'd ever smoked marijuana?
Q. Did you ever smoke marijuana?
Q. Did they ask you?
Judge Kennedy. They asked me that question, and the answer was no, firmly, no.
Q. Mr. President, do you think conservatives, sir, will back this nominee? You know, Senator Helms, at one point, is alleged to have said, "No way, Jose," to Judge Kennedy.
The President. We'll find out about that in the coming days ahead.
Q. How can you be confident of the background check by Attorney General Edwin Meese's Justice Department when he blew the last one? [Laughter]
The President. He didn't blow the last one. We were talking the last time about a man who had been confirmed and who had been investigated four times for positions in government.
Q. Are you going to fire the FBI?
Q. Who did blow it?
Q. Do you blame Ginsburg for not telling
Q. Mr. President, who do you blame?
The President. I can't, Andrea. [Andrea Mitchell, NBC News]
Q. Mr. Meese or Mr. Baker?
Q. Do you think the Russians are stalling on an INF agreement, sir? There's a story that— [laughter] —there's a story that
The President. Bye. [Laughter]