CBS ‘Early Show’: David Souter ‘Evolved’ to Liberal Views

Wyatt Andrews, CBS While reporting on the announced retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter on Friday’s CBS Early Show, correspondent Wyatt Andrews explained: "Souter quickly stunned conservatives in 1992, casting the crucial fifth vote to uphold Roe vs. Wade in the landmark abortion case Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. Souter evolved into one of the court's more liberal justices."

Andrews went on declare that: "Obama specifically promised to appoint justices who are pro-abortion rights." A clip of Obama on the campaign trail was played: "That's why I am committed to appointing judges who understand how our laws operate in our daily lives, judges who will uphold the core values of our Constitution, that's why I won't back down when it comes to defending the freedom of women." Andrews concluded: "In the search for his replacement, the President will face significant pressure, not just to name a liberal justice, but also to appoint a woman justice."

Following Andrews’ report, co-host Harry Smith spoke to John Dickerson, of the left-leaning blog slate.com, and asked: "It's so interesting, here is David Souter who was brought to the bench by the first President Bush, thought to be a centrist to conservative judge. Turns out to sit on the left side of the bench. He's not going to be replaced in an ideological sense. But might he be replaced gender-wise or ethnicity-wise?" Dickerson replied: "...this would be a chance for Obama to expand the -- the makeup of the court, and it's something he talked about, or hinted at, when he was a candidate on the campaign trail."

Later, Smith wondered about possible Republican opposition: "Democratic majority in the Senate. Do Republicans have any chance at slowing down a nomination?" Dickerson saw little chance, automatically assuming Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe would approve a female nominee: "But they lack the votes, and particularly if it's a woman, you have two Republican female senators who are unlikely to vote against a woman. So, the President may likely have 60 votes by the time this nomination comes up, and then you would add those additional two Republican women, so the betting in the Senate is that this will go through."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Breaking news. High drama in the nation's highest court, as Supreme Court Justice David Souter reportedly decides to retire. We'll show you who may be in line to replace him.

7:01AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: But first, breaking news overnight, Supreme Court Justice David Souter reportedly plans to retire at the end of the court's current term. CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews joins us from Washington with the latest. Wyatt, good morning.

WYATT ANDREWS: Good morning, Harry. Justice Souter told the White House he plans to retire at the end of the court's term in late June. An announcement that effectively gives the President and the Senate five months to choose his successor. Souter is perhaps best-known as one of the most surprising justices to hold the office.

DAVID SOUTER: I, David Hackett Souter do solemnly swear-

ANDREWS: Justice Souter was appointed to the court in 1990 by the first President Bush, who'd been assured that Souter was a conservative, a tough law and order kind of attorney general and judge in New Hampshire. But Souter quickly stunned conservatives in 1992, casting the crucial fifth vote to uphold Roe vs. Wade in the landmark abortion case Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. Souter evolved into one of the court's more liberal justices, which means when he's replaced by the President and the Senate, the courts ideological split will not change. During the campaign, candidate Obama specifically promised to appoint justices who are pro-abortion rights.

BARACK OBAMA: That's why I am committed to appointing judges who understand how our laws operate in our daily lives, judges who will uphold the core values of our Constitution, that's why I won't back down when it comes to defending the freedom of women.

ANDREWS: Souter made no announcement himself on this retirement. But he's frequently told associates he loves his job, just not his life in Washington. In the search for his replacement, the President will face significant pressure, not just to name a liberal justice, but also to appoint a woman justice. Harry.

SMITH: Wyatt Andrews. We're going to talk more about that right now. Thank you so much. John Dickerson is chief political correspondent for slate.com and a CBS News political analyst. Good morning, sir.

JOHN DICKERSON: Good morning.

SMITH: It's so interesting, here is David Souter who was brought to the bench by the first President Bush, thought to be a centrist to conservative judge. Turns out to sit on the left side of the bench. He's not going to be replaced in an ideological sense. But might he be replaced gender-wise or ethnicity-wise?

DICKERSON: Sure. Absolutely. The President will be under some pressure to name a woman, in particular, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the other woman on the court, is older, and she's had a little bit of a cancer scare recently. And this would be a chance for Obama to expand the -- the makeup of the court, and it's something he talked about, or hinted at, when he was a candidate on the campaign trail.

SMITH: What are some of the names that are being thrown out already? Because this conversation actually has been in progress for a couple of months already.

DICKERSON: Sure, exactly. Sonia Sotormayor is one of the appeals court judges being -- whose name is floated out there, Pamela Wood, an appeals court judge in Chicago, who knows Obama, is also being floated. Elena Kagan who's the solicitor general currently in the administration right now is another name being floated. Leah Ward Sears, who is the supreme court justice in Georgia, is another name that's out there. These are names being floated, not from inside the White House but on the left and the right, the legal community is putting names out, research is being done, and these are the names we're hearing.

SMITH: The pre-vetting vetting. Democratic majority in the Senate. Do Republicans have any chance at slowing down a nomination?

DICKERSON: They have a little bit of a chance. You know, the Obama administration has had some difficulties with vetting, so perhaps they would have an avenue there to go after one of these candidates. But they lack the votes, and particularly if it's a woman, you have two Republican female senators who are unlikely to vote against a woman. So, the President may likely have 60 votes by the time this nomination comes up, and then you would add those additional two Republican women, so the betting in the Senate is that this will go through.

SMITH: Alright. John Dickerson, thank you so much for your time this morning. Do appreciate it, sir.

DICKERSON: Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC