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Media Stakeout With Senator Lindsey Graham

Press Conference

Location: Unknown

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SEN. GRAHAM: Thanks for coming. Good meeting, very nice person. I was as direct as I knew how to be. A lot of the questions about case law and judicial temperament will be covered in more detail when we get more information and I've had time to study. This was sort of a get-to-know-you meeting. She is a(n) impressive person. She's accomplished a lot in her life.

And I was very direct, and I said that -- I've got to decide how to play this game, quite frankly. And I indicated to the -- to her and the White House, if I used President Obama's standard, Senator Obama's standard, I would never vote for her. He voted against Alito and Roberts, and he basically said -- and you can look it up for yourself -- that some people believe that, once the president wins the election, they should have complete authority to appoint the nominee, and the only thing you look for is whether they're intellectually capable and they're a nice guy.

And he went on to say that you have to do more: "You have to look at the judge's philosophy, ideology and record, and when I examine the philosophy, ideology and record of Sam Alito, I'm deeply troubled." Well, when I look at her ideology, record, and philosophy, I'm deeply troubled, if that's my standard.

A talented person, but there's no way, as a conservative Republican, I would have ever picked her to be on the Supreme Court. And I think that's what Senator Obama was trying to basically say: "My base doesn't like Alito and Roberts, and I'm thinking about running for higher office, so I'm not going to vote for him, because the people I'm trying to please here don't like the nominee."

And he used a standard that would make it impossible, I think, for a person of the opposite party to be able to confirm a nominee of someone of the other party.

There was a different day when we didn't do it that way. Justice Ginsburg: 96 to 3. The general counsel/executive director, I believe, of the ACLU. Ninety-six to 3.

Justice Scalia: pretty conservative. Ninety-eight to nothing.

What happened to those days? That's not the Senate I've been part of. I would like to go back to that, but I live in a world where it may be very difficult to do that. And if I use the Ginsburg-Scalia standard, she has a chance of getting my vote. If I use the Senator Obama standard, there is no way she will get my vote.

The hurdle that she would have to overcome, if I used the Scalia- Ginsburg standard -- is this temperament problem overstated, overblown, or is it fundamental to who she is? And is she more than just a liberal judge? Is she an activist advocate wearing a robe and has used the bench as a way to advocate her causes, rather than decide the law?

She said all of the things that I would like to hear. She said the things that Alito and Roberts said, that I'm bound by the law. Well, there's some cases that I'm going to look at as to -- to challenge her a bit as to whether or not that withstands scrutiny.

At the end of the day, the president has chosen someone who's accomplished a lot, is very educated, and has a long judicial record. At the end of the day, he's asking me to do something he couldn't do himself, and that is to look at the complete person and understand that elections matter.

Quite frankly, I think when Senator Obama voted against Alito and Roberts, he lost sight that elections really do matter. And now he's in a different spot. I'm in a different spot. So we'll see what happens.

Any questions?

Q Yes, Senator. Can I just make clear -- (off mike) -- when you were quoted as saying, "I want to look at her ideology and her record, and I'm troubled," were you saying that on behalf of Lindsey Graham, or were you quoting Senator Obama?

SEN. GRAHAM: I'm saying that if I applied the Obama standard -- and let me just be direct -- let's see -- "I believe that it calls for meaningful --" this is advice and consent -- "and includes an examination of a judge's philosophy, ideology and record. And when I examine the philosophy, ideology and record of Sam Alito, I'm deeply troubled." Well, if I apply that standard to her, I am deeply troubled, because she doesn't share my judicial philosophy. She doesn't share my ideology. And her case decisions -- the judge I would appoint would have probably come out differently. Does that mean she's not qualified to be on the Supreme Court? Well, there was a day where, no, it didn't mean that, because no Republican could have voted for Justice Ginsburg believing that she shared their philosophy. And there could be no mystery as to where she's going to come out on these cases.

Every now and then, there is a mystery. Souter was one of those cases -- probably was a bit of a mystery. But not with her, and not with Scalia. No Democrat could have ever doubted one bit as to where Justice Scalia would come out in the 5 percent of the cases.

And how did he vote against Roberts, one of the most qualified people in the history of the United States? Senator Obama said judicial experience, following the case law, understanding the law, character, temperament, intellect get you 25 miles of a 26-mile marathon. That last mile is how you'll decide that 5 percent of the cases -- the cases where Scalia and Ginsburg differ.

And here's what he said. That "last mile can only be determined on the basis of one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspective on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one's empathy."

Now, if I used that standard, she's not going to get my vote.

Q Senator Graham, when you think about misgivings, what do you think about the fact that Newt Gingrich wrote an op-ed today and he's explicitly saying that he's wrong, backing off --

SEN. GRAHAM: I think it speaks well of Newt, because my criticism about her comments in the speech that she gave wasn't that I think that this lady is a racist. I don't. And the reason I don't is because all the people who've worked with her throughout her life, all of the people who agree with her and disagree with her, no one's ever said that about her. There is no evidence of that.

But this statement is troubling. And I did tell her this. If I'd said that, it would be over for me. No matter how well intentioned I was and no matter how much I tried to put it in context, that would be it. And you all know that, and America knows that.

Q What did she say? What did she say about it?

SEN. GRAHAM: I think she was somewhat moved. You need to ask her about this, and I'm not going to put words in her mouth. But I do believe that it's not fair to call her a racist based on that statement. I do think she needs to explain herself. I do think she needs to understand she has offended some people. And I'll let her speak as to what the appropriate response is.

Q (Off mike.)

Q Senator -- Senator -- while there -- is there any chance that --

SEN. GRAHAM: And I'm glad Newt has taken it back.

Q Did he hurt your cause? Did he hurt the Republicans' cause?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I think any time that you get words like that -- really do hit hard. And she didn't deserve that. I think she deserves to be challenged; I think she needs to prove to me and others -- not just me, but anybody out there who's looking for an independent judge -- that, if they found themselves in litigation with a Latina woman -- you fill in the blanks -- that she would give you a fair shake.

That's up to her. It is fair to make her address that question and prove it. It is not fair to say that she's a racist.

Q Senator, can you -- can you -- (off mike) -- said that she would -- said she'd discriminate -- you're concerned that she might discriminate against somebody who's not a Latino, and calling her a racist. How -- what is the -- what is the difference between --

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I think the way you've lived your life. I mean, she made a statement. She was trying to articulate that -- "all the things I've gone through in life as a Latina woman -- of which I'm very proud -- I've come a long way, and I've had a hard struggle. I think that makes me a little better than the average, everyday white guy."

Well, being an average, everyday white guy, I don't know. Does it make her better than Roberts or Alito? That's not exactly -- makes me feel good to hear a sitting judge say that. But do I think in her heart that she hates white people? No. I think it was a misspoken statement. I think it was offensive. I think it needs to be corrected.

But I'm looking at who she is, and there's no doubt in my mind she's a good person.

Q How would you correct it?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I'll leave that up to her. It's for her to correct it, not me.

Q Did she correct it with you?

SEN. GRAHAM: I'll not put words in her mouth about this whole line of inquiry.

Q Did she apologize?

SEN. GRAHAM: You need to ask her.

Q Did you ask for an apology?

SEN. GRAHAM: You need to ask her.

Q But did you ask for an apology? You said you would.

Q (Off mike.)

SEN. GRAHAM: No, I didn't ask for an apology. You need to ask her.

Q Senator?

Q Senator, what are -- can you give us a sense of what conversations are like now between yourself and Republican members of the Judiciary Committee on how to proceed?

SEN. GRAHAM: We haven't had any yet. I think you know what I'm going to do. I mean, what I've got to decide is what standard am I going to apply? And I think I've laid out pretty clearly what I'm doing.

Q Senator, is there any chance you'd vote for her at this point?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, if I adopt the Ginsburg-Scalia standard, yes. But she's still got some mountains to climb.

Q What are you waiting for? (Off mike.)

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, one, like looking in her cases and having five minutes to think about her record. And she's been in this for a win. So I have I.

This is a big deal. I mean, the only reason you wouldn't vote for someone appointed by a president that you lost to is if they put someone who was not qualified, just doesn't have the intellectual capacity. I don't believe that about her at all. I mean, she does have the intellectual capacity to do the job, but there's a character problem; there's the temperament problem; that they -- during the time they've had to be a judge, that they were more of an advocate than an impartial decider of the law. And I've got to find out in my own mind am I comfortable saying that she -- her temperament problem is not a basic -- it's not who she is; that these evaluations by the people that were in front of her court represent a small slice of the pie.

Q Senator, how -- (off mike) -- are you looking at the -- (off mike)?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I mean -

Q Do you think the Lawyers Almanac ratings are credible?

SEN. GRAHAM: Yes, generally speaking. I mean, it's six or eight people. But the fact that they all said the same thing -- there are other judges on that court too, and no one seemed to come out from a lawyer's perspective -- I just don't like bully judges. I don't mind being challenged, and if I screw up in court, the judge can hammer me -- nobody to blame but me. But there are some judges that have an edge, that do not wear the robe well. I don't like that.

From what I can tell, her temperament and demeanor, she seems to be a very nice person.

Scalia is no shrinking violet. He's tough. There's a difference being tough and a bully. And I don't know what those evaluations mean, in her entire -- context of entire legal career. And that's part of the process here. What do other people say who have been on the other side of her as an advocate?

What do the people say that worked in the office with her? What do the other judges say who served on the bench?

Q Senator, if you vote no, would it be a case of tit for tat, essentially, and because Obama voted against the justices you favored, you're going to vote against the judge that he picked?

SEN. GRAHAM: I'm not doing the country any good if looking back and trying to play a game for tit for tat. But I am not going to put my party at a disadvantage. If this is the way the game is going to be played, if this is the way we're going to do it, then this is going to be the way you go forward.

Then I'll have to -- I'll have to consider that. I mean, this is a -- you know, he's basically asking me to do something he didn't do himself; the vice president do, I think, for either one of these people.

And I'm just really astonished that we've come from Scalia and Ginsburg getting 96 and 98 votes to Alito and Roberts; would lose a lot of votes. In Alito's case, he only got 58. And he actually got filibustered for a while. And we haven't even started talking about Miguel Estrada.

Q When you talked about hearing from other people, do you hope, at her confirmation hearings, there are people who question her temperament?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, yeah, we know what the almanac says. But I'd like to hear the other side too. I mean, just meeting her, I mean, obviously she's going to be nice to me. I mean, she's not going to come in here and give me a hard time. But you could -- you know, from what I can tell, from the people that I know, that know her, that she seems to be a very, very decent person. But I just wonder why all the lawyers said the same thing.

Q (Off mike.)

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, the one thing I can tell you, this is going to be a big deal. This is more about than just her confirmation. We've got some big issues to resolve here. This comment she made, this speech she gave, that needs -- that needs to come to a conclusion, in a way that makes us a better country.

Maybe this is sort of what Eric Holder was talking about, that we just need to put these things on the table. It's not fair to say that that one speech would end her hopes and dreams of being on the Supreme Court. But is it true that it would have ended someone else's? I think so. And she's got an opportunity here now to explain that. And maybe actually we can come out of this thing stronger as a nation.

Q Does that mean the hearings need to happen in July?

SEN. GRAHAM: That means that I think the hearings ought to happen in September. And she ought to be voted upon, if everybody feels that there's no extraordinary circumstance here justifying a filibuster. And I can't find one right now.

Q (Off mike.) But then she has to wait until September to answer.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, all I can tell you is that there's a lot to look at.

There's 3,000, almost 4,000 cases. You get one shot at this. Justice Roberts was voted on September the 29th. And if you used Alito- Roberts timetable, that put's us in September.

I have no desire to make this hard for the sake of making it hard. I have no desire to make it quick for the sake of making it quick. And she deserves to be challenged, firmly and fairly so, and she also needs people like me to acknowledge that she's come a long way and has got a lot to be proud of.

Thank you all.

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