Pat Buchanan and Rachel Maddow Debate Sonia Sotomayor

One of the sad byproducts of journalism's decline is that you rarely see a great debate on television anymore between a liberal and a conservative without it devolving into a lot of yelling, name calling, and folks talking over each other.

On Thursday night, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow invited Pat Buchanan on to talk about the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

What ensued was a surprisingly civil and respectful ten minute discussion that should give viewers faith that it is still possible for folks on opposite sides of the political spectrum to converse like adults about controversial subjects (video embedded below the fold with transcript, file photo):

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: One prominent Republican who believes that the Republicans did not make enough of the issue of race at the Sotomayor confirmation hearing is my MSNBC colleague, Patrick J. Buchanan, who argued in his column this week that the hearings should have been seized even more by Republicans to try to win over white conservatives who feel aggrieved by racial issues.

He says, quote, "These are the folks that pay the price of affirmative action when their sons and daughters are pushed aside to make room for the Sonia Sotomayors. What Republicans must do is expose Sotomayor as a political activist whose career bespeaks a lifelong resolve to discriminate against white males."

"Even if Sotomayor is confirmed," Pat says, "making the nation aware she a militant supporter since college days of ethnic and gender preferences is an I assignment worth pursuing."

Joining us now is my MSNBC political colleague, Pat Buchanan.

Pat, it is-it's been far too long since you've been on the show.

It's so nice to see you.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you, Rachel.

MADDOW: So, your argument is that Republicans could reap political rewards by making the argument that Sotomayor essentially doesn't deserve to be on the supreme court, that she's only there because of her race. Is that-is that-did I understand your argument correctly?

BUCHANAN: Well, I think I would vote no on Sonia Sotomayor the same way I would have voted no on Harriet Miers-and I said so the first day she was nominated.

I don't think Judge Sonia Sotomayor is qualified for the United States Supreme Court. She has not shown any great intellect here or any great depth of knowledge of the Constitution. She's never written anything that I've read in terms of a law review article or major book or something like that on the law.

And I do believe she's an affirmative action appointment by the president of the United States. He eliminated everyone but four women and then he picked the Hispanic. I think this is an affirmative action appointment and I would vote no.

MADDOW: And what do you-what do you think that affirmative action is for?

BUCHANAN: Affirmative action is to increase diversity by discriminating against white males. As Alan Bakke was discriminated at the University of California at Davis; As Brian Weber, that worker in Louisiana was discriminated against; As Frank Ricci and those firefighters were discriminated against; As Jennifer Gratz, was discriminated against and kept out of the University of Michigan which she set her heart on, even though her grades were far higher than people who were aloud in there.

That's the type-affirmative action is basically reverse discrimination against white males and it's as wrong as discrimination against black females and Hispanics and others. And that's why I oppose it.

MADDOW: I obviously-I have a different view about it, but I want to give you a chance to explain what you.

BUCHANAN: But why do you have a different view? Why is it OK to discriminate against white males?

MADDOW: Well, let me-let me just-let me ask-let me ask you this.

BUCHANAN: Sure.

MADDOW: Why do you think is that of the 110 Supreme Court justices we've had in this country, 108 of them have been white?

BUCHANAN: Well, I think white men were 100 percent of the people that wrote the Constitution, 100 percent of the people that signed the Declaration of Independence, 100 percent of people who died at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Probably close to 100 percent of the people who died at Normandy.

This has been a country built basically by white folks in this country who are 90 percent of the entire nation-in 1960, when I was growing up, Rachel-and the other 10 percent were African-American who had been discriminated against. That's why.

MADDOW: But does that mean that you think that there are 108 of 110 white Supreme Court justices because white people essentially deserve to have 99.5 percent of those positions? That there's nothing-that doesn't reflect any sort of barrier to those positions by people who aren't white. You think that's what they've-you think that's just purely on the basis of what white people have deserved to get?

BUCHANAN: I think a lot of people get up there for a lot of reason, but my argument would be: get the finest mind you can get. Get real scholars. Whether you agree with Bork or Scalia or not, they're tremendous minds and I think there are other minds. I'm sure the Democratic Party, I'm sure has women there that can stand up head-to-head with Scalia and make the case, who have got tremendous credential, knowledge, background.

But this one doesn't have that. She was appointed because she's a Latina, a Hispanic and a woman.

MADDOW: She's also.

BUCHANAN: I mean, look at.

MADDOW: She is also the judicial nominee who has more judging experience than any judge has gone up in, say, in the past, I don't know, what is it, 70 years? She has been an appellate court judge of some distinction for a lot longer than Judge Roberts was, Judge Alito was. I mean, it's not like she was-she was picked out.

BUCHANAN: Rachel.

MADDOW: . she was like picked out of the minor leagues and brought up here, Pat.

BUCHANAN: Listen, it certainly is. Look at her own words in "The New York Times," from the tapes. It's in "The New York Times," June 11th. She said, "I'm an affirmative action baby."

MADDOW: Yes.

BUCHANAN: I got into Princeton on affirmative action. I got into Yale. I didn't have the scores that these other kids did.

How did she get on Yale law review? Affirmative action. How did she get on the federal bench by Moynihan? Moynihan needs a Hispanic woman just like Barack Obama needs a Hispanic woman.

That is not the criteria we ought to use, Rachel.

MADDOW: But, Pat.

BUCHANAN: ... for Supreme Court justices, conservative or liberal.

That's why I opposed Harriet Miers. I said I know she's going to vote with me. She's a good Christian woman. She's probably a fine lawyer, but she's not Supreme Court material, and neither is Sonia Sotomayor.

And I think-I think you know that, Rachel.

MADDOW: I don't know that at all.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: And I would say that if you and I agree that what our country needs is to be able to choose from the largest possible pool of talent in order to be able to pick the people who are going to have to function at the highest levels so that our country can compete and our country to do all the hard things we need do, I would hope that you would see that picking 108 out of 110 white justices.

BUCHANAN: Rachel.

MADDOW: . to the Supreme Court means that other people aren't actually being appropriately considered. And the reason that you have affirmative action is that you recognize that the fact that people were discriminated against for hundreds of years in this country means that you sort of gained the system, unless you give other people a leg up.

BUCHANAN: It is not. It does not.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: . the best schools and the best jobs-hold on, I let you talk for a while.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: She was put into the best schools. She was put into the best schools.

MADDOW: That's right. She was.

BUCHANAN: Of affirmative action, not because of ability, Rachel. She was put there, she said herself, because of where she came from. She's a Hispanic woman. She's from Puerto Rico. That's why she was passed over. Other students who applied there with better scores who were denied the right to go to Princeton.

MADDOW: Do you think that she got the grades that she got at Princeton on the basis of affirmative action, too?

BUCHANAN: I think what they do in the Ivy League, and you know it as well as I do, that half the class graduates cum laude these days.

MADDOW: How did you do at Georgetown compared to how she did at Princeton?

BUCHANAN: I'll tell you, I graduated higher in my high school, I will bet or as high as she did. And I certainly say, in Georgetown, I did. And I'll tell you, I will match my test scores against her-but I'm not qualified for the United States Supreme Court.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: But, Pat, for you to argue that there's no basis on which the United States benefits.

BUCHANAN: Right.

MADDOW: . from having Hispanics be among the people who we choose the best and brightest from defies belief.

BUCHANAN: I don't.

MADDOW: The idea that you think we'll best serve by only choosing among 99.9 percent white people.

BUCHANAN: Hold it. No, no, no.

MADDOW: . to hold these jobs, I don't believe you believe it, Pat.

BUCHANAN: I-hold on-I believe everybody should get a chance to excel and be on the United States Supreme Court. But if I look at the U.S. track team in the Olympics, and they're all black folks, I don't automatically assume it's discrimination. I will say, "I think maybe those are the fastest guys we got, that maybe they're the fastest guys in the country, maybe they're the fastest in the world. If they're all-our Olympic team in hockey is eight white guys from Minnesota, I don't assume discrimination.

Why do you assume discrimination simply because you got one component on the Supreme Court? Where is the genius you think who's a woman and a feminist who sure ought to be on that Supreme Court? Go for her. Don't go for an affirmative action person you know was picked because she's a Latina and because she's a woman.

MADDOW: Pat, when I look at the United States Supreme Court and I see 108 out of 110 white people, I see 108 out of 110 men. I'm-I don't look at that and think, "God, white guys are naturally better at this type of work than other people who aren't getting these jobs." I don't think that way.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: I want to hear you-I would love to hear your answer as to whether or not you think that is what explains it, too. Because, I think, what the more obvious explanation is, is that you have to be a white guy in order to get considered for these jobs and has been true since the dawn of time in this country.

BUCHANAN: No.

MADDOW: That's starting to break up now so that we can tap a bigger pool of talent. You should be happy about that for your country, Pat.

BUCHANAN: I do. I do. I'm happy when you got all 78 firemen can take a test, but if all the guys that win in the test are all white guys and one is Hispanic, I don't say, automatically, the test was fixed, bias, bigoted against black people, because I don't know that, Rachel.

And those guys did well in that test and they are victims of this evil affirmative action policy which says in effect that everybody's covered by the 14th Amendment and the civil rights laws unless you're a white male and your parents and ancestors came from Europe. Then we can discriminate against you. That's what I am against.

MADDOW: Pat, do you-do you-are you happy that we've got a Latino on the Supreme Court for the first time or we're about to? Does that seem like a positive thing for the country?

BUCHANAN: I would-I think the Republicans had an outstanding Latino who had outstanding grades, who was brilliant and was gutted, Miguel Estrada.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: Let me just ask you a question before going to talk about some other Latino who's not in question here. Are you happy for the United States of America for our prospect as a nation that we'll be the best that we can be, that there is a Latino on the Supreme Court for the first time ever, that that glass ceiling is broken. Do you see it as a positive thing?

BUCHANAN: If you say, be the best question we can be. We're not being the best we can be with Sonia Sotomayor and I think you know it.

MADDOW: Pat, I couldn't disagree with you more. I tribute-I credit you sticking to your gun. I think you're absolutely wrong about this and I think that by advocating that the Republican Party try to stir up racial animus among white voters.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: You're dating yourself.

BUCHANAN: I say, you know, I think what they ought to do-they ought to defend the legitimate rights of white working-class folks who are the victims of discrimination, because that's the right thing to do and because it's the politically right thing to do. It so happens that here, that doing the right thing is the right political thing, standing up for Frank Ricci. We saw the face of-the face of a victim of these policies.

Rachel, you and your friends admire up there and in New York and you never look at these guys who are working class guys with their own dreams, just like Sonia Sotomayor.

MADDOW: Pat, I don't need a lecture from you about whether or not I know what working class.

BUCHANAN: You certainly do, Rachel.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: I really don't need a lecture from you about what I think about working class Americans or what anybody else in New York, including Sonia Sotomayor who grew up in the Bronx thinks about working-class Americans.

BUCHANAN: What do you think?

MADDOW: A lot of things divide us, Pat. Race is one of those. But there's a lot of other ways in which we just gratify as a country, and for you to privilege race and say that what we really need to make sure we tap, politically, is white people's racial grievances, you're playing with fire and you're dating yourself. You're living in the 1950s, Pat.

BUCHANAN: Maybe I'm dating-I'm dating in the 1960s when the civil rights act was passed. Do you think Frank Ricci and those guys were treated justly when they were denied that promotion because they were white?

MADDOW: Pat Buchanan, MSNBC political analyst-I'm very sorry that we're out of time. It's nice to have you back on the show, Pat. Thanks.

BUCHANAN: I've enjoyed it. As I always do, Rachel.

Say what you will about Maddow, but she's the only thing of close to redeeming value featured by MSNBC during prime time. 

Regardless of her far left-leaning views, she not only invites conservatives on her show, but also typically treats them with far more respect than do her colleagues.

Nice debate, folks...and thank you.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.