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MSNBC The Situation - Transcript

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MSNBC The Situation - Transcript
Wednesday, September 14, 2005


TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Thank you, Joe. It's a very busy news day. We're live with the latest, including an update on Hurricane Ophelia, now rocking the Carolina coast.
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A U.S. congressman involved in a Hurricane Katrina scandal, and details from the amazing performance of John Roberts at his confirmation hearings today.

But first, more fallout from Hurricane Katrina. It's going to be expensive. $62 billion, from the federal government, and that's just so far. Those are your tax dollars, and many are sent to a state that is widely regarded as one of the most corrupt in the nation.

That worries our next guest. He's cosponsored legislation in the Senate to make sure federal aid in the Gulf does not become a pork laden pinata party. Joining me now, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.


Senator Coburn, thanks for coming on.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: Glad to be with you, Tucker. It's been a long day.

CARLSON: I bet it has been. You've been in the Roberts hearing all day long. I think you're doing-this legislation is a great idea. Somebody needs to oversee how this money is spent. But why should the federal government rebuild the battered area in the first place, philosophically? Why is it the federal government's responsibility?

COBURN: I don't think that that's what we are talking about right now, rebuilding. What we are talking about is meeting the needs of those people who have just been tremendously overwhelmed by the greatest natural tragedy that this country has ever seen, so I don't think that the decision to rebuild by your tax dollars yet has been made.

CARLSON: But $62 billion, I mean, that's not just food and water.

That's going to be going to infrastructure.

COBURN: Well, I think it raises the whole question, is nobody knows. And nobody knows where it's going. Nobody knows where we got this estimate. And the idea is that we need to know, and we need to know how the money is going out. And it needs to be watched as it goes out rather than looked at after the fact.

And so myself and Senator Obama put together a bill that both the majority leader and the minority leader of the Senate support, and hopefully will come through, and it creates a chief financial officer and overseer for all this money, working for the president. The president nominates him. They have to be confirmed by the Senate. We'll do that quickly if we can get this legislation through, and we'll watch this money.

It's not to say that there hadn't started to be some transparency and accountability in the federal government. But there certainly hasn't with FEMA, based on the last hurricane expenditures they made.


COBURN: And we want to make sure that that money is watched as it goes out and it's there to help the people who have a need, not to help the people who are helping the people that have a need.

CARLSON: Amen. But it's not even clear where the figure $62 billion came from.


CARLSON: I mean, that's a little scary.

COBURN: It is scary, and it's exactly the wrong response, to throw money at something before you know where the money is going. So if we're going to throw the money, No. 1, we got to know where it's going ahead of time. No. 2, is we ought not to be throwing the money without making cuts somewhere else in the budget.

CARLSON: Well, that's-well, the people of Bozeman, Montana, I got a wire story right in front of me.

COBURN: I saw that.

CARLSON: You saw that. That's right. They petitioned the city council to give back $4 million that was earmarked for a parking garage from this enormous highway bill, embarrassingly large highway bill, and give that money to the people of the Gulf Coast. What do you think of that?

COBURN: I think it's right. And as a matter of fact, I think all the earmarks of all of the members of Congress this year out to be rescinded, and those monies ought to be given back.

It's not to say that the earmarks aren't for some very good projects, but the problem we have in Washington is politicians are now using earmarks to benefit themselves politically, and it takes that money out of the order of what is in the most important priority in the country.

And we shouldn't be spending a dollar at a time we're at war, at a time we have record deficits, now with Katrina, the time we have this national-this tragedy that has struck the Gulf Coast. We shouldn't be spending a penny on anything that isn't absolutely necessary.

CARLSON: Well, yes, because some of these-I mean, just for edification of our viewers want to put up a short list on the screen. We could have made it pages and pages long. Two hundred and twenty-three million dollars for an Alaska bridge linking 50 island residents to the mainland; $231 million for a Don Young bridge in Anchorage; $5.9 million for a Vermont snowmobile trail. Why can't people of Vermont pay for their own snowmobile trail?

COBURN: Well, who pays for it is important, but more importantly, those aren't priority projects compared to the things that we're facing today.

And we need leadership in Washington that says-and what we really need, Tucker, more than anything, is we need the American people to start demanding of their elected representatives to start making the hard choices we were sent up here to make.

It's easy to spend $62 billion of your grandkids' money. And that goes totally contrary to the heritage of our country, of making sacrifices now for the next generation. We're asking our grandchildren to sacrifice to take care of this, because the politicians in this country don't want to make the hard choices of making spending priorities.

CARLSON: Good for you for saying that. I wish more people in the Senate felt that way.

Now, you have spent all day in the Roberts hearings. What did you make of his comments yesterday that he thought that Griswold vs. Connecticut decision in 1965 that created the right to privacy, really, out of nothing, paved the way for Roe vs. Wade eight years later, that he thought that was a good decision? What do you think of that?

COBURN: Well, I don't think he said it was a good decision. I think he said it was settled.

CARLSON: Well, he said-no. He said he believed in the right of privacy and said nice things. Unfortunately, I don't have it right in front of me, but about Griswold vs. Connecticut. What do you think of his statement, that he believes in the right to privacy in the Constitution?

COBURN: Well, I think what he said is what he said. I can't recall exactly what he said. But more importantly is how he will adjudicate cases...


COBURN: ... which is he outlined for us a very methodical way in which he will look at them. He defends stare decisis at times, but he also recognizes that 176 times, the Supreme Court affecting 226 cases has totally reversed precedent. So...

CARLSON: I guess the reason I'm asking is there are so many Republican appointees to high court, starting with David Souter-we can go back and have quite a long list-who have been confirmed as conservatives, supposedly, and become quite liberal, in some cases very liberal. Aren't you worried Judge Roberts could become one of those?

COBURN: No, I'm not, and the reason I'm not is because his position is to-I have had long discussions with him in my office. His position is that they're not to make law, but they're to interpret law.

And when you look at things like Griswold type cases, cases that really what happens in our country should be decided in legislatures, not the courts. I think he finds that that deference to the legislature will trump any of that. And so he understands their job is not to make policy.

And so I think we wait and see, but-and I wouldn't take that as one indicator that he is not a conservative. I believe him to be a conservative, but again, I would make the point for all Americans we don't want a conservative or a liberal. What we want is judges that try to separate from their ideological basis to make clear and concise decisions according to our Constitution and our laws recognizing that they should have some limitation in terms of how far they go, and that the only thing they reference is our law and our Constitution and policy is not their job.

CARLSON: I hope you're right. I hope-I very much hope you're right. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, thanks a lot for joining us.

COBURN: Glad to do it. Tucker, God bless you.



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