Some noteworthy quotes from Tuesday's broadcast network evening newscast coverage of the Senate's confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. ABC's Linda Douglass saw civil rights through a liberal prism as, over a picture of Roberts with Ronald Reagan, she relayed how “Democrats hammered him about things he wrote as a young government lawyer 25 years ago, when the Reagan administration was fighting against expanding civil rights laws.” Conservatives would contend Reagan was just trying to ensure equal treatment of all races. Douglass also highlighted questions about the improper influence of Roberts' religious beliefs, as if anyone with them is disqualified: “Democrats made clear they suspect Roberts, a devout Catholic, will lower the wall between church and state. One Senator quoted John Kennedy.” Viewers then heard Senator Dianne Feinstein recite: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”
Over on CBS, Gloria Borger negatively framed Roberts' views on another topic: "The only woman on the panel grilled Roberts on his old legal memos, which appear to disparage women and their complaints about unequal pay." Borger repeatedly used the term “abortion rights” and Bob Schieffer hoped: “When he says today that Roe v. Wade is a 'settled legal precedent,' as he calls it, does that mean he supports abortion rights?"
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams trumpeted the liberal ideology of Arlen Specter, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and how Specter is "unafraid to act independently." Williams touted: “He says his brushes with death have made him hyper-aware of the life-saving possibilities of stem cell research. He brought an hour glass to a Senate hearing, he says, to point out time's a-wastin'." Williams soon championed how “from his earliest days in politics, on the staff of the Warren Commission, running for mayor of Philadelphia in 1967, to his 25 years in Congress, Specter has been unafraid to act independently. It's a virtue he believes will serve him well throughout these hearings."
Transcripts, compiled by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, follow.
# ABC's World News Tonight, September 13, picking up after Douglass reported on Specter's push to get Roberts to agree that Roe is protected by the right to privacy.
Douglass, over a still shot of Roberts with Ronald Reagan: “Democrats hammered him about things he wrote as a young government lawyer 25 years ago, when the Reagan administration was fighting against expanding civil rights laws.”
Senator Ted Kennedy: “I'm deeply troubled by a narrow and cramped and perhaps even a mean-spirited view of the law that appears in some of your writings.”
Douglass: “Roberts would not say whether he agreed with those policies.”
Roberts: “Senator, I was a staff lawyer. I didn't have a position.”
Senator Joe Biden: “His answers are misleading, with all due respect.”
Senator Arlen Specter: “Now, wait a minute, wait a minute. They may be misleading, but they're his answers.”
Roberts: “With respect, they are my answers and with respect, they're not misleading. They're accurate.”
Douglass: “Democrats made clear they suspect Roberts, a devout Catholic, will lower the wall between church and state. One Senator quoted John Kennedy:”
Senator Dianne Feinstein: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”
Roberts: “I don't know what that means when you say absolute separation. I do know this, that my faith and my religious beliefs do not play a role in judging.”
Douglass: “Several pressed him to reveal what kind of justice he will be.”
Senator Charles Grassley: “Well, is there any room in a constitutional interpretation for the judge's own values or beliefs?”
Roberts: “You don't look to your own values and beliefs. You look outside yourself, to other sources. This is the basis for, you know, the judges wear black robes, because it doesn't matter who they are as individuals.”
Senator Lindsey Graham: “What would you like history to say about you when it's all said and done?”
Roberts: “I'd like them to start by saying, 'he was confirmed.'" [laughter]
Douglass: “Now, most believe that Roberts was unscathed, that his answers basically had something for everyone. The Democrats are going to continue to try to pepper him on issues like the death penalty, and school prayer and other kinds of rights, but they think that there's very little chance they can defeat him.”
# CBS Evening News, September 13:
Anchor Bob Schieffer: "And now to the other major story of the day, the Senate confirmation hearings on the nomination of Judge John Roberts to be the next Chief Justice of the United States. The Judiciary Committee peppered Roberts with questions today, and it didn't take long for the subject to turn to the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on abortion. Here's Gloria Borger."
Gloria Borger: "For a lawyer little known to the public until this summer, John Roberts looked like a man who had prepared for this job interview his entire life. The first flash point, abortion rights. The key question: Is the precedent of Roe versus Wade so strong that Roberts would not vote to overturn it?"
John Roberts, Supreme Court nominee: "I do think that it is a jolt to the legal system when you overrule a precedent."
Borger: "The Republican Chairman, who favors abortion rights, continued to press."
Senator Arlen Specter, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman: "Would you think that Roe might be a super-duper precedent in light of-"
Borger: "Roberts refused to go any further, except to say:"
Roberts: "There's nothing in my personal views, based on faith or other sources, that would prevent me from applying the precedents of the court."
Borger: "The only woman on the panel grilled Roberts on his old legal memos, which appear to disparage women and their complaints about unequal pay."
Roberts: "I have always supported and support today equal rights for women."
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Senate Judiciary Committee): "You speak about modesty and humility, and yet none of these comments are modest or humble."
Borger: "Another point of contention, civil rights. In this case, a memo written by Roberts 23 years ago in which he argued for narrowing the reach of the Voting Rights Act."
Roberts: "It was the position of the Reagan administration for whom I worked."
Borger: "Roberts said he had always supported the anti-discrimination law, and fought back."
Roberts: "You have not accurately represented my position."
Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Senate Judiciary Committee): "These are your words."
Borger: "For a litigator who has argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court, Roberts proved just as unflappable in the Senate hearing room."
Senator Joseph Biden (D-Senate Judiciary Committee): "His answers are misleading, with all due respect."
Specter: "Well, they, now, wait a minute, wait a minute. They may be misleading, but they're his answers."
Biden: "Okay, fine."
Specter: "You may finish, Judge Roberts."
Biden: "Fire away."
Roberts: "With respect, they are my answers, and, with respect, they're not misleading, they're accurate."
Borger: "Watch for conservatives to start questioning Judge Roberts very closely on Roe versus Wade. They want him to vote to overturn it, and they're not sure he would, Bob."
Schieffer: "Okay, hold on just for a second, Gloria. We want to bring in Jan Crawford Greenburg, our legal analyst from the Chicago Tribune. Jan, you're the lawyer. When he says today that Roe V. Wade is a settled legal precedent, as he calls it, does that mean he supports abortion rights?"
Jan Crawford Greenburg, CBS News analyst: "No, it does not. There was a comma after that sentence. He said it was settled law subject to the legal principle that allows courts to rethink their decisions if there are compelling reasons to do so. He did not say he would not overturn Roe, despite question after question from senator after senator trying to pin him down on those views."
Schieffer: "Did we find out anything about him, Jan, that we didn't know?"
Greenburg: "Today, very much what we saw was the John Roberts that we've seen much of the summer, the John Roberts that the justices have seen when he argued before them before the Supreme Court. He's a man who is prepared -- we saw his humor -- we didn't really see him go off his points that he's made before."
Schieffer: "I thought he did very well, Gloria. Just from the politics of it, what's going to happen next? Do you think he picked up any votes today?"
Borger: "I'm not sure that he picked up any votes, Bob. You can see that the Democrats had the points that they wanted to make, and they made them about issues like civil rights and Roe versus Wade. But privately, the Democrats I speak with are telling me, 'We understand that Judge Roberts is going to get confirmed,' and lots of them are starting now to focus on just who the second nominee for the Supreme Court is going to be. There's lots of thought that that nominee could be more conservative and more controversial and they ought to start thinking about that one."
# NBC Nightly News, September 13:
Brian Williams: "We're back with NBC News 'In Depth' tonight, more on those hearings to decide this nation's next chief justice. They're being presided over by a 75-year-old man who, by the way, grew up in Russell, Kansas, not far from Bob Dole. Like Bob Dole, he has risen to the top of his power in the U.S. Senate. And this is his moment. It's almost incidental that, along the way, Senator Arlen Specter -- 'Mr. Chairman,' to most -- was told he had cancer. 'The work,' he said, 'must go on.' Senator Arlen Specter knows this one is for the history books. His last chemo treatment was in late July. You realize that you're something of a hero to a lot of people living with cancer. [Specter] The senator who looks so startlingly different than he did just months ago knows he could have instead put on a wig or remained out of the public eye. [Specter] This is not his first health scare. Back in 1993, Specter survived a brain tumor. Five years later, it was heart bypass surgery. He says his brushes with death have made him hyper-aware of the life-saving possibilities of stem cell research. He brought an hour glass to a Senate hearing, he says, to point out time's a-wastin'."
Senator Arlen Specter, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman: "I'm now engaging in a fierce battle, so there's a very strong personal note to my own view."
Williams: "From his earliest days in politics, on the staff of the Warren Commission, running for mayor of Philadelphia in 1967, to his 25 years in Congress, Specter has been unafraid to act independently. It's a virtue he believes will serve him well throughout these hearings."
Specter: "The activities that I have undertaken reflect my parents' values. Both were immigrants, and growing up on the plains of Kansas, I've been imbued with what I think has been accurately characterized as independence, perhaps fierce independence."
Williams: "That independence got him into deep trouble in his own party when he said publicly that he doubted the Senate would confirm a nominee who would overturn Roe versus Wade."
Specter: "Roe versus Wade and a woman's right to choose will be front and center. That is the big, big issue, but it is not the only issue."
Williams: "Unlike past hearings -- and this is his tenth confirmation -- Specter sees his role as Chairman as more of an umpire. [clip of exchange among John Roberts, Senator Joseph Biden, Arlen Specter] [Specter] The man they call 'Mr. Chairman,' Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the first of at least two confirmation hearings he is expecting to preside over."