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What might liberals look for in a nominee?

Archive: Tucker and liberal activist talk about a possible Court retirement
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During the June 24 edition of 'The Situation with Tucker Carlson,' host Tucker Carlson talked with Ralph Neas, President of The People for the American Way, about what kind of Supreme Court nominees that liberal group would find acceptable in case of a retirement on the court

Although Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and his possible retirement, was a large part of the discussion, with Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement on Friday, the discussion is still relevant.

TUCKER CARLSON: Chief Justice William Rehnquist hasn't announced his retirement from the Supreme Court or even his intention to announce his retirement.  That day will come, possibly sooner rather than later.  And when it does, People for the American Way will be ready.  The liberal group has spent the last four years preparing to oppose President Bush's first nominee to the high court, whomever that nominee turns out to be. 

With us tonight, the president for the People for the American Way, Ralph Neas. 

Ralph, thanks a lot for joining us. 

RALPH NEAS, PRESIDENT, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY:  Thank you, Tucker.  It's great to be back with you. 

CARLSON:  Thanks.  So, shouldn't you find out who the nominee is going to be before you prepare to oppose them? 

NEAS:  We've been preparing for a possible Supreme Court vacancy.  But, hopefully, we don't have to oppose who the nominee might be.  If Chief Justice Rehnquist does decide to retire, to resign, we hope, pursuant to that memorandum of understanding with the gang of 14, that there will be some bipartisan consultation, which could lead to a bipartisan consensus, sort of a Sandra Day O'Connor-type nomination that wouldn't warrant any opposition. 

And in this time of war, in this time of great uncertainty, it would great to have a unifying moment like this and have a person supported by both Democrats and Republicans. 

CARLSON:  So, what would you do at that point?  Apparently, you have got all these researchers working on preparing for this battle, if it should occur.  Would you just shut down and go home at that point? 

NEAS:  Tucker, we've been preparing, as you know, every day since I took over in January of 2000 for possible Supreme Court vacancies. 

And, of course, we just came through a tremendous effort with respect to defeating the nuclear option.  And George W. Bush said back in September he would have -- and we didn't know about Rehnquist at the time-- but he said on a particular luncheon program that he would probably have a late spring appointment and three others before the end of his second term if he were reelected.  For once, he and I were in agreement. 


NEAS:  Every 15 or 20 years, there are three or four vacancies. 

CARLSON:  So, how, Ralph, will you know if the nominee the president puts forward is unacceptable?  What specifically is unacceptable to you? 

NEAS:  What the president has said on various occasions, before he became president and after he became president, is that his favorite justices were Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. 

Those were code to his friends on the radical religious right, like James Dobson and Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, for justices who would have a right-wing philosophy, who would want to turn back the clock on civil rights and equal opportunity. 

CARLSON:  Well, right.  I know all the slogans.  But let's get really specific.  What would a justice or a potential justice, a nominee put forward by Bush, have to believe for him to be acceptable to you?  And what would be unacceptable, specifically on issues?

NEAS:  He, as I was about to say, would have to have a commitment to equal opportunity under the law  He or she would have to have a commitment to privacy, to protecting clean water and clean air, to reproductive rights. 

But it's a judicial philosophy, Tucker.  It's really not one issue. 

CARLSON:  But, but, Ralph ... look, nobody is for dirty water.  Nobody is against civil rights.  This boils down to abortion, doesn't it?  ... You don't want to see a nominee who is opposed to Roe vs. Wade. 

NEAS:  Nothing could be further from the truth, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Then would you accept a nominee who was opposed to Roe vs. Wade?

NEAS:  Tucker, we would look at the nominee's public record.  We would look at all of the issues and his judicial philosophy.

The right to privacy and reproductive rights would certainly be one of the most important issues we would look at, as would be equal opportunity laws, as would be environmental protections, as would be religious liberty and separation of church and state.  We don't have a litmus test.  What we look at is a person's judicial philosophy, how he or she would interpret the Constitution.  That's what the battle is about, not one issue. 

CARLSON:  Then, can you name a single sitting judge right now who is opposed to Roe vs. Wade who would be acceptable to you? 

NEAS:  Tucker, I have mentioned Sandra Day O'Connor, because she is safely ensconced on the court.  And I would love it if there was a possibility to get a Reagan conservative like Sandra Day O'Connor to be chief justice. 

If I mentioned a lot of Republicans who would have a good judicial philosophy, who would not turn back the clock, it would be the equivalent of a political kiss of death.  So, I'm not going to mention any names on television.