Sunday, July 17, 2005

Fox News Sunday: Specter and Landrieu

Here's a brief (or not-so-brief) rundown of Brit Hume's interviews with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter and Sen. Mary Landrieu. Regular host Chris Wallace is off this week.

Specter was up first. Hume asked first when hearings for the nominee would be scheduled, adding in the question the assumption that a nominee would be named "this week, or in the next few days." Specter replied that the committee was "flexible," and that hearings were possible in the last weeks of August but that September is "preferable." He said that he thought September hearings would allow plenty of time to confirm a nominee prior to the opening of the Court's session in October.

Hume then asked Specter for names of people he would like to see nominated, "or the type of nominee." Specter said that he has not recommended specific names, but that as a type he would like to see someone nominated with a good educational and professional background, good character, and preferably does not come from the ranks of current appeals court judges. He said that someone with more "breadth of experience" would be beneficial to the Court.

The next question to Specter was over whether it is appropriate for senators to ask any questions they want of the nominee, and whether the nominee should be required to answer. Specter responded, as he has from the start of this process, that senators can ask whatever questions they want, but the nominee is not required to answer, and that it's "inappropriate for a nominee to give an answer on how they would decide a specific case."

Hume then launched into a very lengthy question about the nuclear option, which I thought was actually quite nasty. I missed the direct quote, but in effect it was a longer version of "Senator, a lot people out there say after all the help you received from the president, from Rick Santorum, from other Republicans in your reelection bid last year, that it would be unthinkable for you to oppose the nuclear option if it came up for a vote." Specter responded by saying that he was very grateful for all the support he's received from all corners, but "I'm mindful of my duties as a senator." He briefly recapped the filibuster's role in Senate history and its importance to the institution.

Sneeringly, Hume said that based on Specter's "history lesson," it sounded like he would be a no vote if the nuclear option came to the floor. Specter reminded the host that he had encouraged his colleagues to "throw off the strait-jacket" earlier this spring so that the Senate could operate, and that he was pleased that a result had been reached. Hume went after him again, trying to get him to say how he would vote on the (now-hypothetical) invocation of the nuclear option, and Specter finally said that it was a very "fact-oriented" question and "I'm not going to say any more about it on this program."

Finally, Hume asked whether Bush has a responsibility to maintain an ideological balance on the Court (i.e. appoint a centrist to fill O'Connor's seat). Specter called that "a very weighty factor for him to consider," and Hume immediately jumped in with a derisive "Why?" Specter noted that the Court has to rule on many important hot-button issues in American politics, and that a level of judicial restraint is very important. He said that he thought while the president's election may be credited to "any number of groups," that Bush can now be "above the fray," and that it would be "helpful to the country as a whole to have a swing vote and retain the balance" on the Court. He added "it's important to have somebody who's not ideologically bound to one camp or the other camp."

I thought Specter's answers were right on-target. He will get tremendous amounts of flak from the right, particularly for his refusal to get in line and say that he will support the nuclear option under any circumstances what forever and for his calls for a centrist nominee. But from my perspective, he did very well. I hope that President Bush is listening.

Mary Landrieu followed Specter for a short interview. She also declined to mention the names of specific people she'd prefer to see nominated, and Hume quickly moved on to questioning her about the role of the Gang of 14. She said that members of the group are "very proud of our work to keep the Senate working," noted that they did not want to become some sort of shadow judiciary committee (she gave Specter and Leahy much credit for their leadership), and noted that the Gang has "encouraged the president to consult with all senators" over the nomination.

Hume jumped in to ask whether she thought Bush has been consulting, and Landrieu said flatly "Yes, I think he's doing that; the question is the sincerity." She added "the proof is in the pudding," and when questioned on that point, said that the proof would be in whether the president nominates someone who can unite the country and gain wide support in the Senate.

Landrieu said that while she and the rest of the Gang of 14 expect the president to nominate a conservative, they should be someone who will interpret the law, not make the laws (recognizing, of course, that activist judges can come from right or left). If you want to write laws, she said, run for office. She said that she hoped the nominee would be someone who could inspire confidence and could make good decisions in a "not-so-aggressive" way (a little jab at Scalia, perhaps).

Finally, Hume asked about the role of Roe v. Wade (and the abortion question in general) in the overall calculus over the nomination. Landrieu said that this would be a legitimate question to nominees, and that most Americans, including herself, would like to see the number of abortions reduced, but not criminalized. Most are looking for some sort of balance here, she said, echoing Specter and other centrists on this issue.

Both Landrieu and Specter answered quite well, and were good spokespeople for centrism today. From their lips to the president's ears.

I was writing up their appearances and missed Jane Harman's interview, but did catch a bit of the panel discussion. At the end, Brit Hume asked each panelist who they thought the nominee will be. I'll document those here so we can check back in once a name is out.

Fred Barnes - Edith Brown Clement (5th Circuit)
Bill Kristol - Edith Jones (5th Circuit) or Maura Corrigan (Mich. Supreme Court)
Juan Williams - Alberto Gonzales (AG)
Nina Easton - Gonzales


At 11:01 AM, Anonymous PhilS said...

Nice to know we can get great recaps, and even better analysis, when we miss some of these interviews. Sounds like Spector was reminding the WH that he might again be the centrist that he has been before.

At 4:03 PM, Blogger RealValues said...

anyone who cares about the Supreme Court should PRAY that Bill Kristol is wrong and that Edith Jones is not the nominee... she has a long long record of outrageous dissents and outlandish writings and speeches... she is the text book definition of a judicial activist (one who the right will LOVE tho)... she is terrifying... think Bork in bad drag...

At 7:47 AM, Blogger Heiuan said...

Hmmm. It appears that this thread ate my original comment.

Ah well, suffice it to say that I heartily approve of the Centrists in our government coming out of hiding and standing up for what they believe in.


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