CNN Lou Dobbs Tonight - Transcript
Monday, July 11, 2005
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DOBBS: Tonight, who will replace Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor? My guest tonight wants to see O'Connor's seat filled by a hard-line conservative. He recently asserted, "I would hope that President Bush's nominee will swing the court back toward the Constitution and away from an era of self-indulgent judicial activism."
Just what is self-indulgent judicial activism? My guest tonight, Senator Tom Coburn, will help define it. He is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joining us tonight from Capitol Hill.
Senator, good to have you here.
SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: Good to be with you, Lou.
DOBBS: As a member of that committee, a president faced with critical choices to move forward, to replace Sandra Day O'Connor and likely, one, perhaps more, other justices, what is a self-indulgent judicial activist?
COBURN: Well, I think what I would describe it is somebody who takes and finds something in the Constitution that's not there or promotes things. And I would actually clarify the quote. I never mentioned Judge O'Connor at all in my press release.
COBURN: I was talking about the court as a whole. And I think there's a lot of -- just this last Kelo case is a great example of what's happened. But I think, you know, we look at character -- you mentioned character in your earlier segment. That's probably the most important quality -- recognizing what the Constitution says, rather than try to find something new out of it. And I -- that's the thing that concerns me -- using international law as a basis to make U.S. Constitutional decisions. That concerns me greatly.
DOBBS: Judges with whom I've talked, Senator, attorneys who are -- whom I respect greatly, cannot for the life of them understand the Kelo decision, that is giving imminent domain power full vent for private developmental interests over the rights, the individual property rights of Americans. I understand what you're saying there.
But the issue of -- the two issues that are seemingly being used to excite both the base of conservatives and liberals -- that is abortion and affirmative action. Do you really think either of those issues should be a litmus test for any -- anyone who seeks to become a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court?
COBURN: Not at all. And I -- you know, this was a big issue in our campaign in Oklahoma, in terms of the judiciary. And I said that in that campaign and Oklahoma is an adamantly pro-life state.
It's character and quality of the individual. It's commitment to the Constitution. And it's a world view that says we understand what our founders had in mind.
And it's not our judge. It's not our obligation, nor our responsibility to change what that is. We're here to interpret the Constitution, rather than make new law. And I believe there's a big problem with creeping judicial activism where we make one little small step and the next case that comes over, we make it again. And when you try to tie that back to the Constitution, you can't find any basis for it.
And I think the American people are ready for people, that'll just -- not liberal conservative -- people who will say here's what the Constitution says and we're not going to take a new step, on a new area that isn't in the Constitution and that -- it should be left to the legislature.
DOBBS: Strict constructionism, if you will.
DOBBS: Senator, the issue of the nuclear option versus filibuster: Is it A: First your judgment -- is it your sense that the Democrats will filibuster against a nominee that they do not want to see on that court.
And secondly, should they filibuster should the Republicans -- the Republican majority respond with a so-called nuclear option? An unfortunate choice of names for basically changing the rules of the Senate?
COBURN: Well, Lou, first of all, we don't know who the president's going to nominate. So, we -- the speculation, I think, is not helpful right now in the process and it builds a frenzy up.
I think there ought to be a very peaceful and very cogent and manner-like process to this. And if the Democrats or even Republicans, for that nature, feel that they can't support this nominee, they ought to vote against them. I don't believe that they should be filibustered.
The filibuster has been changed several times. It wasn't in the original Constitution. The Senate ran for a hundred years without it and it's been changed most recently in terms of the Budget Reconciliation Act. So, you know, I don't want to go there specifically. I think that...
DOBBS: But you're willing to?
COBURN: Well, I -- look, if we have -- if in fact it's filibustered, I -- you bet. I'm all -- I'm for doing a Constitutional option that Senator Byrd did two times in recent history, to change the rules of the Senate. And that's what I believe the American people would like to see done.
But let's not have to go there. Let's not filibuster it. Let's do it in a proper way and...
DOBBS: Straight up and down vote.
COBURN: Straight up and down vote. And then, you know -- one of my Democratic friends, a congressman, said this. He said, if you don't like his nominees, win the presidency.
You know? Vote them down or vote them in and then, if you vote them down, let's have another one.
DOBBS: It sounds like a -- sounds like a very familiar process we have in this country. Senator Tom Coburn, we thank you for being with us.
COBURN: Lou, good to be with you.
DOBBS: Thank you.
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