Supreme Reaction

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," July 19, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The decisions of the Supreme Court (search) affect the life of every American. And so a nominee to that court must be a person of superb credentials and the highest integrity, a person who will faithfully apply the Constitution and keep our founding promise of equal justice under law. I have found such a person in Judge John Roberts (search), and tonight I'm honored to announce that I am nominating him to serve as associate justice of the Supreme Court.


VAN SUSTEREN: Joining us live in Washington is South Carolina's senior Senator Lindsey Graham (search), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Welcome, Senator.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C., JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you. Now senior citizen, just turned fifty.

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, congratulations on that, as well.

All right, how'd you hear about this?

GRAHAM: I heard about it through FOX News, honest to goodness. I knew that Judge Roberts was in the mix, but I had no idea until I heard it on FOX News. You report, we've decided, it's Judge Roberts.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Any consultation with the White House with you about this?

GRAHAM: I got a call several weeks ago about, What are you looking for in a nominee? Do you have any suggestions to the president? They didn't run any names by me. I suggested Judge Wilkins from the 4th circuit. But I know Judge Roberts. I understand very early on, he was in the mix. I voted for him once and intend to vote for him again.

VAN SUSTEREN: When you say you know him, you know him because you're on the Judiciary Committee? Is that how you know him?

GRAHAM: Yes. Yes. He came into the office. We met. We talked. He got a 16-to-3 vote in Judiciary Committee (search) in 2003, during one of the most contentious times. And he got a voice vote on the Senate floor. When Estrada was being filibustered, when other people were being filibustered, the Senate thought enough of this man to allow him to be voted by voice, which is very unusual in these days and times. So that speaks well of him.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. The way you describe it, it sounds like a done deal. But when you get to this level of the United States Supreme Court, it's not quite the same, is it.

GRAHAM: It's not a done deal at this leave. But to be honest with you, it's a long way from giving someone a voice vote to filibustering them. I just don't really see any reason for that to happen. He's a solid conservative. He's a man of great legal mind and intellect — 39 cases being argued before the Supreme Court. He was asked to represent the governor of Hawaii, I believe, who was a Democrat at the time, about a matter that they had in litigation. He's advised Democratic attorney generals about some Microsoft (search) litigation.

So he's a well-respected lawyer, 153 lawyers in the D.C. area supporting his nomination to the D.C. circuit court of appeals. I think he's exactly what the country needs and what the president was looking for, a solid conservative who's very mainstream and well respected.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it sounds like he has the intellectual prowess for it. I mean, he's got a fine background.

GRAHAM: Yes. Absolutely.

VAN SUSTEREN: And but you know, it's interesting how, here's another choice out of the United States court of appeals for the D.C. circuit. We have Justice Ginsburg, Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas. You would almost think that the people, oh, you know, in another part of the country, would say, What about us?

GRAHAM: Well, I don't think there's a quota system. One of the reasons that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is someone that — a group the president goes to is because it's the second highest court in the land. It's right below the Supreme Court.

VAN SUSTEREN: But all the appellate courts are.

GRAHAM: It's the greatest among equals. And everyone will tell you that when you put someone on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, you're looking for someone maybe a notch higher. But there are plenty of good people in the country. There are plenty of good conservatives, plenty of good liberals. Scalia's a conservative. Ginsburg was a liberal. They both got through the Senate with 96 and 98 votes.

The point is, the president won the election twice. He said he was going to send conservatives to be on the Supreme Court. He has lived up to his promise, and he's sent us a very good man who will serve this country well, and I expect he'll be confirmed.

VAN SUSTEREN: But even if you look at this candidate, you know, it's sort of interesting. They're all judges. I mean, the only one who's not a judge right there is Justice Rehnquist, who came out of the Justice Department (search).

GRAHAM: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, we seem to pick them out of the same place.

GRAHAM: Well, the bottom line is he's the president's pick, and he picked from a good place. He picked from a place where people deal with issues very similar to the Supreme Court, a place that's considered the second only to the Supreme Court in terms of status. So I think he's picked wisely here. Some people said, Pick a politician.

VAN SUSTEREN: That would have been interesting.

GRAHAM: Well, it would have been interesting. But you know, at the end of the day, our Constitution gives the authority to the president. And what he was looking for was someone with a great legal mind, with a judicial disposition and temperament that would serve the country well. So I think he chose wisely.

VAN SUSTEREN: And with that, of course, you put the lights out in our studio, so we're going to talk for a second in the dark, as we look at John Roberts' picture up on the screen...


GRAHAM: Did you all pay the power bill here?


VAN SUSTEREN: I think our viewers missed that. We get the pleasure of the lights going on and off. All right, the schedule. When is it likely going to get a hearing?


VAN SUSTEREN: First Monday in October's the big day.

GRAHAM: OK, here we go. The first thing that has to happen is that he has to be vetted. There'll be a background check by the Justice Department and others. He'll go before the American Bar Association (search). They will get to comment on whether or not he's qualified or well qualified or not qualified.

VAN SUSTEREN: President Reagan didn't care about that.

GRAHAM: Well...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, nobody really cares about that one.

GRAHAM: Well, you know, I care about that.


GRAHAM: I think the American Bar Association input used to be the gold standard under Democratic administrations. I think he'll fare well, but that takes 30 to 40 days. So we're looking at early September. Ginsburg and Breyer, from the time they were nominated to the time they became judges on the Supreme Court, took 58 days, on average. So we got plenty of time to do it by October. The hearings lasted five days. So we're looking at early September for hearings and a vote out of committee. There's plenty of time to do this. The average during the Clinton period was 58 days. The average in the modern era is 72. So we have the time to do this, if we choose to do it, and I hope we will.

VAN SUSTEREN: So we don't have to miss a beat and he can be at work the first Monday in October, should he make it all the way through that. Nice to see you, Senator.

GRAHAM: Should do it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you, sir.

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