This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," May 30, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
STUART VARNEY, FOX GUEST HOST: This week on "The Journal Editorial Report," as both sides gear up for a Supreme Court confirmation fight, Sonia Sotomayor may be in for a tough summer. And she'll have Vice President Joe Biden to thank for it.
G.M. on the brink. Bankruptcy is imminent. Get ready for government motors and all that implies.
The case of the missing millionaires. We'll tell what happens to states that sock it to the rich when the rich fight back.
Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Stuart Varney, in this week for Paul Gigot.
Both parties are gearing up for the summertime confirmation battle over Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. As the White House assemblies a team to push her through, critics are going over past speeches, her writings and her record with a fine-tooth comb. If the prospect is nasty, she may have none other than Vice President Joe Biden to thank.
Here with the preview of the fight ahead, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; opinionjournal.com editor James Taranto; and senior editorial writer, Collin Levy.
Collin, to you first. How is this battle going to shape up? And what does Joe Biden have to do with it?
COLIN LEVY, SENIOR EDITORIAL WRITER: Well, I think the battle is going to be tough, there's no question. And people have really been talking about Joe Biden as a help to President Obama in this process because he has so much experience. He was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and served on that committee for about three decades.
And during that time, the confirmation process became increasingly thorny. There was a time when nominees could get deference and the senate would confirm them after a thorough hearing. But, during Mr. Biden's chairmanship, particularly with the nomination of Robert Bork, that that process became something that was much more contentious. And so Vice President Biden really brought the idea that judicial philosophy was adequate grounds of rejecting a nominee.
JAMES TARANTO, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM EDITOR: Although there was a more recent time when Supreme Court nominees got deference. That was 1993 and '94, when Bill Clinton made nominations. The Republicans basically held — Republicans were in the minority, but the hearings were perfunctory and they got a dozen "no" votes between them. So I would not advise the Republicans to just roll over on this. We've seen that appeasement can't work because as soon as there was a Republican president, the Democrats were back with smear campaigns.
I will say this. If Barack Obama accomplishes nothing else with his presidency, he deserves credit for getting Joe Biden off the Judiciary Committee once and for all.
VARNEY: They're being — the Republicans are being dared to give a Latino woman a hard time in the hearings, Dan?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Well, you know, what Collin was talking about was a period with — that started with Robert Bork and which they turned these nominations into a version of get the guest, get the nominee. And you had these special interest groups out there combing through the nominee's past for any peccadillo. It came up obviously in the Thomas hearing, a total fiasco.
That's a lot different than sitting there impressing the nominee to talk about her judicial philosophy. In this case, I think it's very, very important that they ask Sonia Sotomayor what her judicial philosophy is, because it is in fact an idea called legal realism, which is extremely different than what most of the justices currently on the court believe in.
VARNEY: James, you looked at her record. How does that come through in the record?
TARANTO: There are things in her record that I like and don't like. One case that I liked, Papas versus Giuliani, was a First Amendment case. She wrote a dissent on behalf of a New York policeman who had been fired for sending anonymous racist letters to people who had solicited him for money on his own time. It had nothing to do with his duties on the force. And I'm not sure I agree with the outcome on this case, but she sided with the policeman on First Amendment grounds. I like that instinct of hers. That's an instinct that has faded among judicial liberals. On a lot of issues, conservatives have actually favored a broader interpretation of the First Amendment on issues like hate speech, campaign finance and so forth.
And so if she's bringing the instinct to expand the First Amendment from the Warren court, that's something I would approve of.