Sen. Brownback on Alito's Nomination

Ed Gordon speaks with Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), about Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito. Brownback talks about Alito's record on civil rights and why he thinks the nominee is a good choice for the high court.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ED GORDON, host:

With us now, a colleague of Senator Kennedy's on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas joins us, Senator, welcome.

Senator SAM BROWNBACK: (Republican, Kansas): Thank you. It's good to join you.

GORDON: Senator Kennedy obviously had a great reservations about Judge Alito. The Senator's view represents a number of Americans' true concern about this nomination, particularly African Americans. You're an active supporter of this confirmation. What do you tell people who have true reservations about this man?

Senator BROWNBACK: Study his actual writings, look at the individual carefully, and I think you will come away with the opinion that this is an usually well qualified jurist. I think you'll come away with the opinion that this is a great intellect. And I think you will also, if you watch the confirmation hearings, see a very strong judicial temperament, that he wants to decide cases fairly.

Now, they can be colored one way or the other by an advocate on one side or the other, but I think if you looked at the totality of the record that we have on this candidate, you would say this is an outstanding person with a great temperament to go on the bench.

GORDON: Yet, Senator, that hasn't happened. The civil rights community has in lock step been against this nomination. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund spoke to your committee about why they had reservations based on what you suggested, and that is reading the writings of this man, the decisions of this man, and they have to this date suggested that this is not a man who should sit on a high court.

Senator BROWNBACK: I believe they took the same position with John Roberts. I think what they're looking at is saying, look, the President of the United States said that when he was running for office, he would nominate people that were not judicial activists. And I think you have a community in some places and in some cases are looking for judicial activists, people to act from the bench and to legislate from the bench, rather than trusting the people to legislate through their legislative bodies. I have great reservations about Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the bench and being an activist judge.

But I think if one looks at the true nature and what the role of the Supreme Court is, versus the role of the legislative bodies and the executive bodies, we need a judiciary that will show once in a while some judicial restraint, and also be willing to look at areas of the law where they have not ruled appropriately in the past, and overturn those cases.

Like what was done in Plessy v. Ferguson, that was overturned in Brown v. The Board of Education, that happened in my home town in Topeka, Kansas. We've still got cases on the book that need to be overturned, and we need a court that will be willing to look at some of those cases.

GORDON: Is it worrisome, bothersome to you at all when you talk about cases that are looking to be overturned, the one that has seen the brightest light shown obviously is Roe v. Wade. When you look at the schism between how African Americans and other minorities are viewing this jurist, does it at all bother you to see this kind of chasm in America?

Senator BROWNBACK: Well, it does bother me to see this chasm in America. But the way to resolve it is the way it was resolved prior to 1973 when the court said, and they found somewhere in the Constitution, that there's a constitutional right for a woman to abort her child. That is no where in the Constitution. It is no where written in the Constitution. And legal scholars of all stripes across the country say that this is not in the Constitution.

So then it returns to the states for the states to resolve it. But you also have cases like Buck v. Bell. This is a case where you have a young woman that was to be sterilized, and the court said that that is fine to do. Well, that's not right. That's a case that has, and some other cases, need to be really looked at again.

GORDON: Talk to me, if you would briefly, about the idea of whether or not this entire process, on both sides of the aisle, has become, frankly, too political.

Senator BROWNBACK: Well, I believe it has. And you're going to see that probably today in a strong party line vote on the Democrats' part, have voted against a clearly qualified nominee. Ruth Bader Ginsberg comes up when she was nominated, she's general counsel or has been for the ACLU. She gets a broad bipartisan vote because she was qualified. I think what the Democrats are putting into this now is a political calculation that's going to be hard to remove from this process in the future. There's a future Democrat president.

It's really going to encourage a number of Republicans to say if they don't agree with the philosophy put forward, not the qualifications, not the judicial temperament, not the ABA rating, but the judicial philosophy put forward, that they just vote against the person. And I think that is politicizing a court. That should not happen.

GORDON: Senator, with about 30 seconds remaining, what do you tell those Washington watchers, particularly, those veteran Washington watchers who suggest that this environment of Washington, D.C., of the nation's Capitol, is more partisan than they've ever seen before, and that doesn't bode well for the American people?

Senator BROWNBACK: I don't know that one could say it's more partisan, but it is a partisan atmosphere, and you've got a closely divided country on a number of very core issues, whether it's something like life, or it's the definition of marriage. You've got a country that's divided, and that gets then reflected in the legislative bodies. I think that's what people are seeing more than anything.

GORDON: All right, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, Republican Senator. Thank you so much for joining us.

Senator BROWNBACK: Thank you.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: