CBS’s Smith: Is Sotomayor Confirmation ‘All Theater’?

Harry Smith, CBS While discussing the Sotomayor confirmation hearings with former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, CBS Early Show co-host Harry Smith wondered: "Senator Lindsey Graham said, ‘unless you have a meltdown, you're going to get confirmed.’ So is this all theater then, or is this a process that should literally be paid attention to?"

Gonzales responded by describing the importance of a Supreme Court seat: "This is a lifetime appointment. She will be making decisions that will affect the lives of millions of Americans for decades. And so I think the members of the Senate have taken an oath of office to the Constitution and to the American people to ensure this is a person that should serve on the Supreme Court. So it's more than theater. I think it's – it’s a learning experience, a teaching experience."

Earlier, Smith asked Gonzales if Sotomayor’s assurances of objectivity would be enough for Republicans: "Because she pledged her fidelity to the law. She said, ‘my personal and professional experiences help me to listen and understand with the law always commanding the result in every case.’ Is that going to make any difference to Republicans? What she says and her track record?"

Gonzales replied: "Not that one single statement. The next few days, I think, Republicans are going to really inquire into the comments that she's made in the past, in terms of the ‘wise Latina’ comment. I think there’s – they have a serious question that she, in fact, can be impartial."

On Monday, Smith saw no liberal activism in Sotomayor’s record and downplayed her controversial "wise Latina" comments.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:16AM SEGMENT:

RUSS MITCHELL: Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is braced for tough questions from Republicans this morning in her second day of Senate confirmation hearings. Yesterday in her opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Sotomayor sought to blunt concerns she'd be an activist judge.

SONIA SOTOMAYOR: In the past month, many senators have asked me about my judicial philosophy. Simple, fidelity to the law.

MITCHELL: Republican senators say they plan to try to raise doubts about her impartiality, but most concede she will likely be confirmed.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Unless you have a complete meltdown, you're going to get confirmed.

MITCHELL: And if confirmed, Sotomayor becomes the court's first Hispanic justice. It is now coming up on 7:18. Here's Harry.

HARRY SMITH: Alright, Russ. Joining us now to discuss how Judge Sotomayor did on her first day is former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Good morning, sir.

ALBERTO GONZALES: Good morning.

SMITH: Did you get a chance to watch?

GONZALES: I watched part of it, yes.

SMITH: Yeah, and what did you think?

GONZALES: Well, yesterday was really a day of speeches. I think you had an opportunity to see the road map, I think, Republicans intend to follow in questioning Judge Sotomayor. And obviously, it's the first time that the public has heard from Judge Sotomayor, with respect to some of the comments that have been troubling to some Republicans. And so I think the next two days will be – will be quite revealing. We'll see what happens.

SMITH: Because she pledged her fidelity to the law. She said, ‘my personal and professional experiences help me to listen and understand with the law always commanding the result in every case.’ Is that going to make any difference to Republicans? What she says and her track record?

GONZALES: Not that one single statement. The next few days, I think, Republicans are going to really inquire into the comments that she's made in the past, in terms of the ‘wise Latina’ comment. I think there’s – they have a serious question that she, in fact, can be impartial. In one speech she talked about the fact that ‘impartiality is an aspiration, perhaps it's an unrealistic aspiration.’ And I think that is troubling to some Republicans.

SMITH: Should she – can she divorce who she is from the judgments she makes while sitting as a judge?

GONZALES: I used to be a judge. I know that we're all affected by our experiences. As – a good judge, I believe, comes to the bench very sensitive to those biases. And when they – when they analyze a case, they try to set those biases aside and make sure that they're applying the law. That should be the reality in every case, not an aspiration.

SMITH: Senator Lindsey Graham said, ‘unless you have a meltdown, you're going to get confirmed.’ So is this all theater then, or is this a process that should literally be paid attention to?

GONZALES: This is a lifetime appointment. She will be making decisions that will affect the lives of millions of Americans for decades. And so I think the members of the Senate have taken an oath of office to the Constitution and to the American people to ensure this is a person that should serve on the Supreme Court. So it's more than theater. I think it's – it’s a learning experience, a teaching experience.

SMITH: I want to talk about Dick Cheney and this news of the last couple of days that he actually – it's not clear. Asked the CIA to keep quiet a notion of trying to find a means to which to assassinate certain members of – of Al Qaeda. The CIA – Leon Panetta basically dis – dismembered the program as soon as he learned about it a couple of weeks ago. But there's this notion that there was this sort of secret program that was kept under a cloak on purpose. Did you have any knowledge of it?

GONZALES: Well listen, it's very difficult to talk about classified activities in an unclassified setting. I believe that General Mike Hayden, who was the most previous recent head of the CIA, and was head of the National Security Agency in 2001, has come out and said that no one ever told him never to go brief the Congress when there was legal requirement to do so. And so my experience in dealing with the last administration was that we tried to work as hard as we could with Congress in making sure they understood what was going on within the executive branch, subject to the need to protect the national security of our country.

SMITH: Alberto Gonzales, thank you for your time this morning. Do appreciate it.

GONZALES: Thank you, Harry.

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