This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", July 2, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The nation deserves, and I will select, a Supreme Court justice that Americans can be proud of. The nation also deserves a dignified process of confirmation in the United States Senate, characterized by fair treatment, a fair hearing, and a fair vote.
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FRED BARNES, HOST: I’m Fred Barnes.
JUAN WILLIAMS, GUEST HOST: And I’m Juan Williams, in for Mort Kondracke. Tonight, we’re "The Beltway Boys."
BARNES: And Juan, the hot story is, rightward tilt. I’m obviously referring to the Supreme Court after the retirement announcement on Friday by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (search). You know, it actually can be, as the president suggested, a dignified process, this confirmation process of a replacement for O’Connor. It doesn’t have to be a pitched battle. It wasn’t in ‘92 and ‘93.
Back then, President Clinton named two liberals, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (search) and Stephen Breyer (search), who moved the court significantly to the left, and yet it happened in a process that lasted 53 days. Republicans didn’t trash them or anything, because they were respected jurists, widely acclaimed, only liberal. They didn’t agree with their liberalism, but they didn’t turn it into a free-for-all.
It was Democrats who turned the confirmation process into a pitched battle back in 1987 when Robert Bork (search) was picked by Ronald Reagan to be a Supreme Court justice. Of course, he didn’t win. You will recall, I bet, Juan, that famous statement, over-the- top demagogic statement by Senator Edward Kennedy (search ), which tended to hang over the hearings as they went on.
And it went like this. "Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women will be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, school children could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens."
Now, you know, when it sounds like Senator Kennedy is headed in that same direction again. Here’s what he said after Sandra Day O’Connor retired.
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SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: If the president abuses his power and nominations someone who threatens to roll back the rights and freedoms of the American people, then the American people will insist that we oppose that nominee, and we intend to do so.
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BARNES: Now, my suspicion is, and maybe it’s yours as well, that Kennedy and many of these Senate Democrats are going to say that any conservative picked by President Bush is someone who’s going to roll back freedoms and all that hysterical stuff.
And Bush, I believe, is going to name a conservative. And we’ll get to some of the names in a minute. But, you know, the president has styled himself, he’s a different kind of Republican, he’s a guy who came to Washington not to just ratify the status quo or the convent, or follow the conventional wisdom, that he’s someone who takes on the big issues. He’s going to produce conservative change.
This is the opportunity he can do exactly that, opportunity for it perfectly.
WILLIAMS: Well, I don’t think there’s any question. In fact, I would argue that the legacy of this Bush administration, two terms in office, is going to be Iraq and these judicial appointments. The Supreme Court is going to be a key part of the way that we remember George W. Bush.
But, you know, Fred, I think I disagree with you when you say that the Democrats are the ones who politicized the process. Let’s think about this for a second. Seven of the nine members of the court have been appointed by Republican presidents. Without a doubt, the president’s going to nominate a conservative. That’s what he said he’s going to do. I think he’s a man of his word. I think he will do it.
But just remember, this is a Sandra Day O’Connor, who sat on the court and voted to put this man in office. And let’s not pretend that Sandra Day O’Connor’s some moderate. I mean, Sandra Day O’Connor was a, appointed by President Reagan and was a conservative, and maybe she reasoned differently than some of the members of the far right, but I don’t think that’s any reason to think that Sandra Day O’Connor should be diminished.
Let me also say that the GOP is the one who I think in recent years has politicized this court. Think about the Terri Schiavo case. Think about even the recent eminent domain case. You may disagree with the ruling, but it’s not a reason to undermine the credibility and standing of the court in American life. I think that’s very dangerous.
But in this fight that’s coming up, you can bet it’s going to be a tough fight, $18 million already put away by the president’s friends to defend whoever the nominee may be. You’ve already got names on the left, like Carter Askew...
WILLIAMS: ... Joe Lockhart (search ), people who were working with President Clinton, who are all geared up, they’re sending out mass mailings...
WILLIAMS: ... already getting ready to attack whomever the president’s nominee may be.
WILLIAMS: So what we come to now is the process. Senator Specter, the head of the Judiciary Committee, possibly Orrin Hatch (search), if Specter’s cancer flares up or something like that, say they can -- want to get this thing done in about six to eight weeks. That means the president’s going to have to have a nominee in place pretty quickly...
BARNES: Yes, indeed.
WILLIAMS: Some are saying he wants to narrow the window of time that his nominee could be attacked. So maybe mid- to late July. Then you have hearings beginning in August. And the idea is that the person, whoever it might be, will be able to sit in on the court that first Monday in October.
BARNES: You know, well, let’s turn to some of the names that have come up, and ones that are clearly on the president’s list of possibilities.
The first is Alberto Gonzales (search), who was his counsel at the White House, now his attorney general. You know, conservatives oppose him. I think they’re a little exaggerated in it. And Bush, as Senator John Cornyn (search ) told me, loves Gonzales. I don’t think he’s going to pick him, though.
WILLIAMS: I think he might pick him, and I tell you why. He’s young, he’s 49. I don’t, I think he’ll be 50 in August sometime.
This is a guy who, it seems to me, has the president’s trust, has a track record.
BARNES: Yes, yes.
WILLIAMS: He’s going to be attacked by Democrats especially on those torture memos, no doubt about it.
WILLIAMS: But I think lots of people like Alberto Gonzales and trust him.
BARNES: And he is Hispanic. And that’s not nothing.
WILLIAMS: That’s right.
BARNES: And Michael Luttig and Jay Wilkinson, both on the Fourth Circuit of Appeal, solid conservatives. You know, Luttig is the guy to watch, I think. Been on the court 14 years.
WILLIAMS: And only 51.
WILLIAMS: Again, we come back to this issue of age because the president wants someone who’s going to be there for a while and have influence. And there’s also the possibility, Fred, that replacing O’Connor, the first woman on the court, the president may go look for a woman, Edith Jones, Edith Clement, both on the Fifth Circuit.
WILLIAMS: Jones is a former general counsel of the GOP in Texas.
WILLIAMS: She has been reversed recently on a death penalty case in this court just last month.
WILLIAMS: But I think either of those would have a -- you know, I, Clement, I think, more than Jones will have a good time.
BARNES: Juan, you’re leaving out the name, the big name of a woman, Janice Rogers Brown.
WILLIAMS: Oh, Fred.
BARNES: Recently confirmed for the U.S. Court of Appeals here in Washington, one of the most impressive nominees I’ve ever seen.
WILLIAMS: Fred, if you want to see this town...
BARNES: And African American as well.
WILLIAMS: Fred if you want to see this town go ballistic try that name.
BARNES: All right. Who do you think will be the pick of President Bush? I think it, my best guess is Michael Luttig from the Fourth Circuit, a very solid conservative.
WILLIAMS: He is certainly a conservative, even more conservative than Wilkinson, arguably, especially when it comes to the Endangered Species Act. They recently had a big fight.
BARNES: So who do you think?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think it’s going to be Gonzales.
WILLIAMS: And I think, and I think that’s a choice that, you know, is not going to discomfort.
WILLIAMS: It’ll discomfort Democrats, but ultimately he’ll win.
BARNES: Now, if you were the president, who do you think he should choose?
WILLIAMS: I think Gonzales, because you know what?
WILLIAMS: If I’m also Karl Rove (search ), looking at the politics of having the first Hispanic on the court, it’s a just, you know, it’s a gimmick.
BARNES: Should be Janice Rogers Brown (search ), easily.
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