CNN Inside Politics - Transcript

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: May 24, 2005
Location: Unknown


CNN Inside Politics - Transcript
Tuesday, May 24, 2005

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WOODRUFF: In the lead up to the Senate compromise on judicial nominees and filibusters, Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina came under intense pressure from conservative groups not to sign on to any deal. Well, he did anyway. And Senator Graham joins us now from Capitol Hill.

Senator, very good to see you.

GRAHAM: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We are hearing conservative activists are already very upset with you. Focus on the Family's James Dobson says this deal is a complete bail-out and a betrayal by a cabal of Republicans. What do you say to him?

GRAHAM: Well, I don't think he's on the fence about it. Bottom line is, I think it's a good deal for the United States Senate. I think it's a good deal for the American people. And more importantly, it will help restore some sanity when it comes to approving judges. The biggest loser in this whole process are the good men and women who have been called awful names who deserve better treatment. And if we continue filibustering, we're going to destroy the judiciary.

To my conservative friends, let's see what happens here. People are going to get a vote, Brown, Owen and Pryor are all good conservatives. They're going to be approved in a bipartisan fashion. I think the likelihood of filibusters in the future goes down. The American people won. We'll see what transpired the next month or two.

WOODRUFF: Well, Senator, some Democratic groups are saying they're thrilled with this. They're saying they preserved the right to a filibuster and they're saying that, yes, there are going to be some extraordinary circumstances when they can use it. Why isn't this a victory for them?

GRAHAM: Well, we know what extraordinary circumstances are not. Pryor, Brown and Owen are very conservative judges and they're going to get a bipartisan majority here. So being conservative in a few weeks here is not going to be an extraordinary chance. It should have never have been an extraordinary circumstance. So after these three judges are confirmed, I think we're going to have some standard around here about why you should be filibustered if at all.

Secondly, if a party believes that they are winning by doing this, they're not looking or listening to the American people as a whole unit. The left and the right loves this. The right is very upset that I didn't jam it down the Democrats throats. The Democrats are very upset that they didn't get every scalp they could get. Most Americans, Judy, saw the Congress, the Senate being in an ineffective body.

WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of listening to people, what are you hearing from your constituents today. Are they upset?

GRAHAM: Some people appreciate the opportunity to avoid a constitutional crisis that would have made the future agenda of President Bush and the party unattainable. Some people are upset thinking that we should pull the trigger. If you didn't have the votes, it would have been a disaster. If you did have the votes, it would have been a potential disaster. Not doing it and starting over was what I thought was best for everybody, conservatives, moderates and liberals. And if we're smart as senators, we'll take advantage as this chance to start over. And some people are mad, and I understand that. But I think over time this will be a very good way to resolve something that was very bad for the American people. WOODRUFF: Senator, it's not only James Dobson, but it's Concerned Women for America, it's a Traditional Values Coalition. They are all saying they are going to be political consequences, political fall-out for Republicans who signed on to this deal. Are you worried about your own political future?

GRAHAM: There are kids in Iraq today and Afghanistan who don't have to be there. They volunteered to serve their nation and some of them are getting killed and some of them are getting injured and they all are subject to being shot at. They did something they didn't have to do for the good of the country. I didn't have to change my vote but I changed my vote knowing that if we don't try to cool off here, we're going to destroy the Senate and ruin the judiciary.

And if your goal is for me to hate people and that's the test, I'm never going to do that. I don't hate my Democratic colleagues. I disagree with them over this issue. We got a chance to start over. And to every conservative group out there, these judges are going to get better treatment, we're going to have a chance to put a conservative on the Supreme Court. And if the deal comes undone, I've retained my right to exercise the nuclear option in the future. No one's given up anything other than a chance to start over.

WOODRUFF: Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. We appreciate it.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: It's always good to see you. Thank you.

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