Video: New SCOTUS pick

updated 11/1/2005 11:33:15 AM ET 2005-11-01T16:33:15
TRANSCRIPT

President Bush's nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court had many on the right pleased and opponents on the left unhappy. Two political partisans -- conservative pundit Ann Coulter and Democratic former New York state Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder -- joined MSNBC's Dan Abrams on Monday evening's 'Abrams Report' to weigh in on the latest nominee.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

DAN ABRAMS: Ann, first reaction, Alito, a good choice? 

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  I'm totally relieved after Miers.  This is the anti-Miers, as you know, many of my people's opposition to Miers was that she may be a fine lawyer but you're talking about the highest court in the land.  And that just wasn't the sort of resume to be on the Supreme Court.  I don't care about his positions on the issues.  Judge Alito is imminently qualified to serve ...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  What do you mean you don't care about his position on the issues?  I mean there are a lot of people who are qualified on the other side who you'd say you do care about how they...

COULTER:  That's somewhat rhetorical.  I am saying I am so relieved ... that we have a qualified judge being nominated this time.  It is just such a sigh of relief.  And it was about qualifications and by the way, I haven't had time to read through all of his decisions, but I mean the one thing that has come out in the decisions, including the ones that seem to be the hot button ones, that abortion ruling and the machine gun case, I mean he was clearly following Supreme Court precedent as it existed.  That seems to be what he wants to do.  And in fact, he voted to uphold the partial birth abortion statute...

ABRAMS:  Well that was what I was going to talk to Leslie Crocker Snyder about.  All right, you know, everyone is going to talk about this one case in '91 that actually went up to the Supreme Court.  Alito's position was not the position adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court in that case, but-this is number one here.

He the only dissenter in this case  (in which) the Pennsylvania law said women have to notify, not get consent, notify their husbands or the man if they want to get an abortion.

2000, though, he joined the majority that founded New Jersey's ban on late-term abortions unconstitutional, saying that the mother's health was not provided for, no exception there, and as a result he voted to strike it down.  So is he really sort of the worst of the worst when it comes to abortion? 

LESLIE CROCKER SNYDER, FORMER NY STATE JUDGE: Well, it's very hard to say what the worst of the worst is.  I think it's a very frightening appointment because he appears to be in every way qualified in terms of, as you said, education and his experience, and yet the dissent you point out, you point to, exemplifies in a way what is really frightening. 

He actually pointed out that the only reason that he was upholding that law is because he was required to by the United States Supreme Court precedence.  This is the worst nightmare I think for the Democrats, really, because we are really worried about the Supreme Court moving tremendously to the right.  Of course, Ann is happy now because here's somebody who is qualified and embodies all the conservative philosophies. 

COULTER:  I like him more the more you talk about him.

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Let me just say, you say he's the worst nightmare but is he the worst nightmare because he's also confirmable?  Meaning...

SNYDER:  Well that's my point.  He may be confirmable ... because he's qualified, but he philosophically represents everything backwards.

ABRAMS:  But forget about qualifications.  I'm saying like a Judge Luttig, all right, someone who's even more conservative, sort of the -- he's sort of the hero of the right.  He might have had a harder time getting through...

SNYDER:  That's true.  That's true, so maybe I'm using hyperboles.  He's not the worst nightmare.  He is frightening to many of us who believe very strongly in women's rights and civil rights and the separation of church and state because he's going to move the United States Supreme Court to the right and may undermine some of these basic rights we've spent this last 50 years fighting very hard for.  This is a very dangerous appointment to those of us who believe in those rights because he may be confirmed.  He has qualifications but his philosophy is very undermining of rights. 

ABRAMS:  Ann, was your concern when Harriet Miers came out and you said, 'Oh boy, there's Harry Reid.  He's standing next to Harriet Miers.  She can't be all that good for us.'

COULTER:  No that was just icing on the cake that a mediocre candidate had been recommended by a Democrat.  But, no, it was purely a question of qualifications.  And, I'm glad to hear that Judge Alito is somewhat frightening to Judge Crocker.  I don't think his positions are going to be particularly frightening to Americans.  I mean the one case that is being cited here is where he said that a woman upheld a law that would require a woman to notify her husband if she was going to have an abortion.  In Gallup polls going back 20 years, 70 percent of Americans support that, so it's going to be a little hard to describe him ... as out of the mainstream. 

SNYDER:  Well I think it's out of the mainstream because most people in this -- many people in this country feel that the government should in no way interfere with a woman's right to choose.  It's not that Democrats are for abortion.  They are for -- very strongly for a woman's right to choose and not having to notify her husband.  I mean that is so antiquated and so retrogressive I think that most women in this country, and I don't have the figures... is pretty scary.

ABRAMS:  Here's what ... everyone is wondering, what would Judge Alito say about his own philosophy ... he described it himself,  ... the most enlightening comments ever.  Here he is Judge Alito. 

--Begin video clip--
SAMUEL ALITO, JR. : Every time that I have entered the courtroom during the past 15 years, I have been mindful of the solemn responsibility that goes with service as a federal judge.  Federal judges have the duty to interpret the Constitution and the laws faithfully and fairly, to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans.
--End video clip--

ABRAMS:  Yes, I was just sort of kidding that he's going to be -- no Supreme Court nominee is going to be forthright... But these are code words, aren't they, Ann?  I mean the bottom line is when we hear all this talk about interpret the Constitution, be careful about not legislating, that's supposed to be sending a message to you.

COULTER:  To some extent, I mean, Chuck Schumer claims to oppose judicial activism, so I mean I agree with you that you don't get much out of these speeches.  We're not going to get that much out of the hearings other than the usual fun of watching Senator Biden make a monkey of himself. 

And if I could go back again to the husband notification, if the vast majority of Americans don't want that, if it is archaic, they can vote for it.  I mean even in the doomsday scenario for liberals that Roe v. Wade is overruled all that means is the states decide for themselves.  And I'm quite sure husbands will never have to be notified ... in the state of New York.

SNYDER:  Well in the state of New York I agree with you, but it's a little frightening for the country.  But what I would like to say is this.  I think we're rushing.  I think President Bush is trying to take our attention off some of the disasters going on in his administration.  We have someone who is qualified.  We need to know a lot more...

ABRAMS:  But see -- Leslie, you know we're not going know a whole lot more. .., I mean we're going to know-look, we already heard that he lost some big mob case when he was a prosecutor in the '80's. ... That's sort of one the big things that's coming out.  You know as well as I do.  Judge Bork, all right, for example, in the hearings, he lost that nomination because of the hearings.  But he's like served now as the lesson in what not do when you're in front of the Senate.  Don't antagonize.  Don't condescend.  Answer the questions... You know I mean it's pretty basic... and easy to know what not to do. 

SNYDER:  No, but we're going to get into a political mess and I'm not a politician really... well, almost, but I meant that in the worst sense that I'm not a politician. 

But I think that are we going to get into a filibuster, are we going to get into this nuclear option?  Who knows what can happen.  It certainly sounds like Alito, because he's well qualified in terms of his education and his experience, his opinions are going to be torn apart.  We're going to get into this ideological battle ...

ABRAMS:  Are the Democrats going to have the ammo though on him?  That's the problem.

SNYDER:  That's close.  That's close.  I don't know. 

ABRAMS:  I don't see -- I mean I can see them being very unhappy and very dower about this, but I don't -- but you got to ... have more than that.  You got to have actual ammo. 

SNYDER:  But I mean this is the most divisive appointment I think.  I think that what is sad is I think the president could have appointed an African American, a Hispanic, a Latino person, a woman, and instead we're back to the old boy...

ABRAMS:  Priscilla Owen would have been better to you? 

SNYDER:  No, absolutely not.

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  OK.

SNYDER:  But what I'm talking about is a qualified person who instead we're returning to the old boy's club, which I really think is the Bush view. 

COULTER:  I don't think so.  We got a big farm team.  He could have found a woman or a minority ... with the same qualifications. 

ABRAMS:  Bottom line is, you know I'm predicting we're not going to learn a whole lot. There's some conflict of interest questions that are going to come up, and you know all of this is going to be discussed, but my prediction is that they're going to be very unhappy, Democrats, but the reality is that he's going to get confirmed.  We'll see. 

SNYDER:  You're usually right, Dan...

ABRAMS:  I am usually right...

SNYDER:  ... sorry to say. 

Watch the 'Abrams Report' for more analysis and interviews on the top legal stories each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV.

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