CBS’s Smith Sees No Liberal Activism In Sotomayor Record

Harry Smith and Jeff Sessions, CBS Responding to Senator Jeff Sessions describing Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor as a "typical liberal activist judge" CBS Early Show co-host Harry Smith argued: "You feel like her record indicates that? I mean, she gets a glowing review from the American Bar Association. Her record doesn't seem to necessarily match up with her – what – some of the things she said."

Later in the Monday interview, Smith defended Sotomayor’s record, particularly her decision in the New Haven firefighter case: "But basically, she was following precedent. I think people who would actually look at it would agree she was kind of acting as any judge in that position probably would – most judges would have acted in that position. Do you really believe – you really believe her words indicate that there are – she's a different person than her record would indicate?" Sessions replied: "I think philosophically her – her statements indicate an approach to judging that's outside the mainstream so far as I can tell."

Smith began the interview by asking Sessions: "Is this confirmation hearing, is this a foregone conclusion?" Smith later followed up by depicting Republican opposition to Sotomayor as purely political: "...there's a front page story on The Washington Post this morning that basically said the hearings are not just about Sotomayor, but sort of a platform for Republicans to kind of say, ‘this is who we are. This is what we're about. And this is a way we can differentiate ourselves from the people across the aisle.’ Is that what this is really about?"

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: Sonia Sotomayor makes history today. The first Hispanic woman to face a confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court.

JONATHAN TURLEY: The only thing standing between her and confirmation is herself.

SMITH: We'll tell you why some people are saying her past could catch up with her.

7:01AM TEASE:

SMITH: It's going to be a busy morning in Washington this morning as the hearings finally get under way – the confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor. The first female Hispanic nominated to take a seat on the Supreme Court. We'll get to more on that in just a little bit.

7:08AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Senator Jeff Sessions is the ranking Republican member of the Judiciary Committee. He joins us now. Good morning, sir.

JEFF SESSIONS: Good morning, Harry. How are you?

SMITH: Very well. Is this confirmation hearing, is this a foregone conclusion?

SESSIONS: Well, I think the Democrats would certainly like to be supportive of President Obama's nominee, and she's met with a lot of Senators, and they've enjoyed meeting with her, as I have. But I do think there's some very real questions, fundamental questions about the nominee, and I hope that people will consider all the background and record fairly. And I think you just don't know. Any – odd things happen at hearings, and there are moments that you don't expect.

SMITH: The nominee does, in fact, have to speak for herself. And in certain situations in past nomination processes, that has gone awry. On the other hand, there's a front page story on The Washington Post this morning that basically said the hearings are not just about Sotomayor, but sort of a platform for Republicans to kind of say, ‘this is who we are. This is what we're about. And this is a way we can differentiate ourselves from the people across the aisle.’ Is that what this is really about?

SESSIONS: Well, I think there's some truth to that because I believe we are in this country debating about the directions our courts could go and should go. I believe this nominee, from what I've seen so far, is the typical liberal activist judge who will push the law, who believes that – in identity type politics and seeing people as groups more than individuals. Who is-

SMITH: Would her record – you feel like her record indicates that?

SESSIONS: Harry, you know, she-

SMITH: I mean, she gets a glowing review from the American Bar Association.

SESSIONS: I understand-

SMITH: Her record doesn't seem to necessarily match up with her – what – some of the things she said.

SESSIONS: Right. There is a disconnect there, I will agree. Her record is better than her speeches. Her speeches tend to reflect, I think, her philosophy. And if confirmed to the Supreme Court, I think we have every reason to believe that philosophy will flower more than when she's in a lower court position bound by the authority of the Supreme Court and even her other colleagues. That's the pattern for Justice Ginsburg. She had a pretty good record as a lower court judge but has now become the leading activist on the Supreme Court. So I do think that this is an important issue, and the American people truly want that neutral judge, that neutral umpire, who will not allow their political agendas to infect their decisions. I think the American people strongly favor that, and we need to move our court back to that view.

SMITH: Because it's interesting, we talk about the Supreme Court case the other week with the New Haven fire department, people have brought that out as an example. But basically, she was following precedent. I think people who would actually look at it would agree she was kind of acting as any judge in that position probably would – most judges would have acted in that position.

SESSIONS: Harry, the one thing I would say-

SMITH: Do you really believe – you really believe her words indicate that there are – she's a different person than her record would indicate?

SESSIONS: I think philosophically her – her statements indicate an approach to judging that's outside the mainstream so far as I can tell, and that I think that it would allow her to do things like – she’s a leading exponent – maybe one of the leading in the country – of utilizing foreign law to interpret American law.

SMITH: Well, and Judge Ginsberg has talked about-

SESSIONS: I think that's fundamentally unsound.

SMITH: Yeah, yeah.

SESSIONS: Yeah, those are the kind of-

SMITH: Very quickly, will you – right now, if you had to vote this minute, would you vote against her?

SESSIONS: Well, I think we should give her that hearing and a fair hearing. I'm committed to that. And I think that's the right thing. I hope people will say, this is the best hearing we've had in many years.

SMITH: Senator Sessions, thanks so much for your time this morning. Do appreciate it.

SESSIONS: Thank you.

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