Public Papers

Remarks on the Nominations of Robert M. Gates and Clarence Thomas and an Exchange With Reporters


The President. Let me just welcome everybody back and, before we get to our business at hand, make a comment on a couple of nominees. One, Bob Gates -- I continue to strongly support him. He's a good man. I defer to the Senate in terms of the scheduling, but I think he's done well on his calls.

As far as Judge Thomas goes, I'm told that the Senate has now set a date for the hearing. I think he's seen something like 32 Senators. It's my judgment that the more people see him and get to know him, they'll understand why we are so convinced that he will be an outstanding Justice on the Supreme Court. He's another good man. So, I just hope these will move forward after this break -- --

Senator Thurmond. August the 10th is the date set for the hearings.

Q. September.

The President. Well, that's important information -- --

Q. Mr. President, are you getting worried about the Gates nomination?

The President. I'm not worried about it a bit, because I think fairness will out in the end, and I think that the man deserves to be confirmed. And I've seen nothing, other than innuendo and reports that he must have known this or something -- I don't want to get started. I told the Cabinet yesterday how strongly I feel about this, and so I will stand by this man.

There's a system of fairplay in this country, and I think it should apply to both nominees, frankly. And I think the way this country is handling it, I think that's exactly what's going to happen. So, I'm not worried about them, but I wish the system had been able to take care of both those nominations more rapidly. But that's not -- that's not my argument. The Senate has every right to set its own timing. But I don't like it when there's a lot of innuendo and suspicion.

On the Thomas nomination, now, there is a kind of a flurry of outrage and predictable smearing of the man. But if people get to see him, they get to know his record, they get to know his background -- I have this feeling this country is strongly behind him. And it's not just in the -- I think it's also in the minority community. The survey yesterday showed that -- strong support for Judge Thomas in the black community. This is a good thing. I think that's a very good thing.

So, I think on both cases the merits are on their side, and I just am pleased that they seem to moving right in spite of the fact that the Gates nomination, I'd hoped it had been over for -- but Bill Webster has been very -- I think you all saw that -- and very generously agreed to stay on through August, and then I expect the Senate will act, having had plenty of time then to run down some of these -- try to catch some of the phantoms out there -- the shadows.

It's sorry when this country -- if somebody is known to have said that maybe the guy above him should have known this, and apparently people are saying, hey, what's fair here? What's right? What's honorable? And I think the Senate will get to the bottom of all of that on Thomas, and the man will be confirmed.

Q. Do you think it's right that all those questions should be looked into?

The President. Every question should be looked into, yes. But what you shouldn't do is have a guy guilty until proved innocent in this country. It's just backwards -- 180. I'm afraid -- --

Note: The President spoke at 9:15 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House, prior to a meeting with Congressional leaders. Robert M. Gates was nominated to succeed William H. Webster as Director of Central Intelligence. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.