OTR Interviews

Rush Limbaugh Reacts to Miers Nomination

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," October 4, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: President Bush defends his nominee for the United States Supreme Court, trying to convince America that he made the right choice. Many members of his own party are furious over his nomination of Harriet Miers, making the president a target for friendly fire.

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh joins us live on the phone. Welcome, Rush.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Greta, great to be with you. How are things in New Orleans?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's getting better is all I can say, but it's not great here, Rush. Rush, let me start first with your thoughts about the nomination.

LIMBAUGH: Well, I'm like a lot of people — I had such high hopes. And it's based on many things. I have no beef against Harriet Miers. I have nothing against the woman. I don't know who she is, and I really don't know anything about her, which is one of the curious things that upsets me a little bit. There are others so eminently qualified for this that we do know a lot about, that we have been to war with. They have withstood all the pressures brought to bear on them because they're conservative jurists. You don't have to worry about whether they're going to change their minds in five or ten years and be affected by the Washington culture.

I said something last week and the first part of this week that has been taken and run with by the media. I said the pick appeared to made from a standpoint of weakness. And let me clarify this for people, because a lot of my own audience has misunderstood this.

We're in a war politically in this country, which is probably usually the case, but the Democrats have lost so much. The Democrats are reeling. They used to have a media monopoly. They used to run the House of Representatives. They used to run the Senate. They basically ran Washington and ran the country. They've lost all that the last 20 or 30 years, and they haven't the slightest idea how to put themselves back together. They are reeling.

And because of this war they are waging for control of the country, they have one refuge left, and that's the Supreme Court. They have turned the Supreme Court into a place where liberalism is institutionalized and taken out of the arena of ideas and public debate. You have liberal activist judges instituting personal policy preferences and calling it law, finding things in the Constitution that aren't there, calling it law, looking at foreign law to determine what U.S. constitutional law ought to be, seeing things in the Constitution and ignoring it.

And they're doing this because liberals cannot win at the ballot box. They simply cannot convince enough Americans to vote for them. So you have control of the court system, you can institutionalize your beliefs, if have your people as judges to go ahead and make laws that are basically liberalism. And once they're laws, I mean, they're laws. You can't do anything about it. You can't have your elected officials debate these issues.

And so one of the things that's crucial here, and I think pounding the final nail in the coffin of the left as a dominant force in this country, is the Supreme Court. And there are people who have been working in the basements and behind the scenes of conservativism for 40 or 50 years, and they have been through a lot. They have really worked hard to do what we were told to do, go out and convince as many people as possible of our positions, explain them, turn them into informed voters and then win at the ballot box. And when you win at the ballot box, you have control of the political process, so your president gets to name judges to the courts.

And we must turn around this court. We must change the direction that it's on. And so much hope has been invested in this president because he's said various things during the campaign that assured people he was going to populate the Supreme Court with certain kinds of people. The Democrats are reeling, and there's no reason to appear frightened of them or to want to avoid a fight with them. And I think when you're wage a war with people — and they're clearly the aggressors in the war — any sign of weakness that is shown — if they interpret it as a sign of weakness, it's only going to embolden them.

And so if a pick that is made that is non-confrontational — No, we're not going to send up somebody who is readily identifiable as a conservative or we're not going to have this debate — Democrats are going to get uplifted and think, Aha, we have been able to intimidate the president into not confronting us on this. And the Court is really the last refuge they have. And so to me, this is an opportunity that may yet — I mean, she may be fine. As Vice President Cheney told me on the phone yesterday, in 10 years we'll be relatively confident and assured that she was a great pick.

VAN SUSTEREN: Rush, let me ask you a quick question, though. I mean, in terms of the bench, two things. One is, if my math is correct, out of the nine there, the eight who are sitting there and the one who's going to be sitting there, seven are picked by Republican presidents. We have President Clinton, who has two of the others. So we've got two Democrats and seven Republicans. Plus, why in the world would President Bush ever be seen by his supporters as picking anyone other than consistent with his ideology?

LIMBAUGH: I'm not sure I understood everything you said. Were you asking me about previous choices, Republicans have made, presidents, that didn't turn out the way everybody thought?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, there are two things. Let me talk about President Bush's choice for a second. Why would you think President Bush would ever select someone who isn't consistent with his ideology?

LIMBAUGH: Well, that's a good question. And up until now, he hasn't. His choices for the circuit courts and the district courts have been right on the money. But we know that because we know who they are. And we know that he's been bold because the Democrats filibustered three to four of them, and he fired right back at them and said, Here, I'm going to send these people back up because I believe in them.

This is his first pick of significance that we don't know anything about. It's not that we're not confident in this case that she may work out. It's just that there are so many other choices that would have been a slam dunk and no questions at all would have been asked, and those choices would have created a debate. I firmly believe that — go back to what I said a moment ago about how we must educate and inform the American people so that they vote and make this a truly democratic majority that exists, be it conservative or Republican or Democrat — we're looking for the Republican majority here. We want it to happen legitimately. We don't want to have to hijack a court and force our views on people that may want not want them.

We want to understand what we're about. We want them to understand what the left in this country is all about, and the only way that can happen is if there's a debate. So in this case, you send up your rock-ribbed conservative. You shock and outrage the left. You send Ted Kennedy off the deep end. You send Patrick Leahy and Chuck Schumer off the deep end, along with Dick Durbin and Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy and Harry Reid, and you make these people have a cow and let the American people see who they are and what they oppose and what they're for.

One of the greatest problems and challenges that we have is that the Democrats are continually able to camouflage and mask who they are. They're able to present themselves as something they're really not. They don't have the guts to tell us who they really are because then nobody would really vote for them. If they ever told us what their real agenda for America is, they wouldn't have a chance, so they have to mask themselves in certain ways and hide that. A debate will flush them out and bring them — and I really believe that we're close to taking them out for a considerable number of generations as a dominant force in shaping the future of the country. And to me, that's crucial.

This is just a squandered opportunity. Not to say that it's the last opportunity, but people have been working for this for 30, 40 years, Greta, and that's why this is such a letdown to so many people.

VAN SUSTEREN: But here's what I don't understand about people who are right now complaining about the choice. Number one is that nobody really knows much about her. Presumably, we're going to learn a lot about her at the hearings. Number two, President Bush's supporters are strong supporters of him. They voted because they trusted his judgment. So I don't quite understand why there's such a challenge from his supporters of his judgment now because he knows this woman. He's been working with her closely for 10 years. And so I'm not so sure I understand why people are slinging arrows at him who are his supporters.

LIMBAUGH: Let me distance myself from those people. I'm not questioning his judgment here. I'm not questioning his credentials. I'm questioning this choice. I mean, I'm not out there every day complaining about what this president does. I'm the eternal optimist, and I want to look at this in an optimistic fashion.

Greta, look, you're a lawyer. You know that the great percentage of lawyers in this country are not qualified to even argue cases before the Supreme Court, much less sit there.

The Court is a culture. It's not just a place where you vote and tally votes. You don't just send people up there because they're going to vote a certain way. Not only do you change the culture, or the votes of the Court, but you got to change the culture. Give you a quick example, Stephen Breyer...

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me stop you right there because we're going to take a quick break because I don't want to interrupt you. Do hold that thought, Rush. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: President Bush says he wants Harriet Miers confirmed by Thanksgiving, but it may not be smooth sailing for the Supreme Court nominee. Rush Limbaugh joins us again live on the phone.

Rush, I interrupted you, so you were going to give me an example.

LIMBAUGH: Yes. Well, the Court is more than just a place where you tally votes. The Court is a culture. The Constitution is a science, Greta. It takes remarkable people. It is a miraculous document. It takes remarkable people to understand that, to interpret it and to maintain it. And people that are just going to be sent to the Court because they're going to vote the right way, yes, that's fine, as far as it goes.

Stephen Breyer, a sitting judge, hawking a book on the Stephanopoulos show Sunday, got to talking about original intent. He said, Well, we can't mess with that because the Founding Fathers had no clue that we would have automobiles and television and the Internet. They didn't dream of these things, so we can't be bound by original intent.

And I was shocked because Stephen Breyer is a man who believes that if we have to go to Mars to find law, we should. It's OK to find foreign law, foreign custom if it'll inform us on American constitutional law. That's absurd! Dangerous! The Constitution's brilliance is...

VAN SUSTEREN: Rush, wasn't that Justice Kennedy who started that fuss about the foreign law, who's a Reagan appointee? Am I confused with those? Justice Kennedy who cited the foreign law.

LIMBAUGH: Kennedy has, too. That's my point. There's a culture there. It needs to be changed. We need to have originalists. We don't need to be looking at foreign law, and we don't need to say the Founders didn't know what they were talking about because they couldn't anticipate life as exists today.

They certainly did anticipate that. They allowed for the process of the Constitution to be amended. You don't amend the Constitution by sending liberal judges up there to put their own personal policy preferences in the law and call it the law. That's not how it's done. You allow the people.

Breyer made the point that the Constitution's first three words are, "We the people," and he's right. But right now it's, We, the Supreme Court judges. Nine lawyers in black robes are determining the law, whether it's in the constitution or not. Most of them are liberal. We got to change that culture. You have to have people who have studied it, who have researched it, who consider the Constitution sacred in order to keep the glue that holds this country together.

There are so many people that qualify for this, and they've worked hard and they've done their best, and they have maintained their conservativism in the midst of 20 years of vicious attacks against them. We can trust that they're going to get to Washington, not be impacted by the culture there.

So to me, it's just a missed opportunity. It's not to say the opportunity won't come along again, but you have to understand that people have been working so hard for this opportunity. It hasn't been easy to get the liberals out of the House of Representatives or the Democrats out of the White House and to keep them out since 1994. It has not been easy. It's taken a lot of work and education of the American people.

VAN SUSTEREN: What would you have preferred President Bush to do? I mean, is there some other person you would have preferred him to select?

LIMBAUGH: There's host of them. I mean, for one — I would have loved Janice Rogers Brown being sent back up. I would have loved for the Democrats to filibuster this. We've got to get rid of this thing too. This filibuster is still hanging out there, and they're still going to do it. We need to expose them for who they are. Send somebody out there that they detest. Let the American people find out how great and fine these people are and let them find out why the left does detest them and it'll move this country forward... There are countless numbers of them, and there are people that know them better than I do.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think President Bush didn't want a fight?

LIMBAUGH: I don't know that he didn't want a fight. If you go to — one possibility is if he's going to war, he's got some pretty lame Senate Republicans there in his army and they might defect, and he doesn't want to lose this. I don't know that he doesn't want to fight, but I don't really know.

All I know is that if we did have the fight, we could win it. That's the point. We can win the fight with the left. We have been winning it for years. There's no reason not to continue it and keep, you know, mounting up victories. This is about the future of the country, we think. This is about making this country a genuine constitutional republic. And there's a lot of...

VAN SUSTEREN: I only have one minute left, Rush, and I'm curious — and this is completely random, if you don't want to answer it, don't — but who do you think would be the best nominee for the Republican Party in 2008?

LIMBAUGH: Oh, I have no clue right now. I'm not even thinking about 2008. But I'll tell you, this is the kind of thing that could have boosted chances in 2006. This is the kind of thing that if it lasts and the base ends up dispirited and disappointed — you know, there's a reason the Democrats are smiling about this, Greta. It is because they're at war and they're trying to get the control of the country back, and they think that this is a setback for the Republicans.

But it's way too early to start handicapping '08. I mean, I couldn't even tell you that Hillary's going to survive the process, given the way the Democratic Party's going. She may be too pro-war for them. I mean, that's curious. I just know this about Harriet Miers. She is eminently more qualified as a lawyer than Hillary ever was, so I don't want people thinking that I'm down on her.

VAN SUSTEREN: And with that, you have the last word on that, as you do always. Rush, thank you for joining us. Hope you come back soon.

LIMBAUGH: Thanks, Greta, very much. Enjoyed it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you.

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