Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

McCain's Supreme Court Judgment Calls

By Juliet Eilperin
ABOARD THE McCAIN CAMPAIGN PLANE -- While Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) agree on many different policy issues, they apply a different test to voting on judicial nominations, they told reporters Tuesday.

While flying to Colombia, McCain said that he believes senators should approve any qualified Supreme Court nominee who comes before the chamber for approval, regardless of his or her ideology. Explaining why he had backed Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, even though he repeatedly criticizes their decisions, McCain said, "I voted to confirm the judges Ginsburg and Breyer because I thought they were qualified, and so did the majority of the United States Senate."

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), McCain said, was different because he judged nominees by their philosophical outlook.

"Senator Obama wanted to filibuster against Justice [Samuel] Alito and voted against, spoke against Justice [John] Roberts. That is a radical departure against what has been the normal procedures of the United States Senate since its beginning," he said. "He didn't argue that they were qualified. He argued that he was afraid more conservative decisions would come down. That was his argument, not mine."

When asked whether his vow to nominate only judges who strictly interpret the Constitution amounted to an ideological test, McCain demurred, "because I think strict interpretation of the Constitution is not an ideological position. I think strict interpretation of the Constitution is in keeping with the views of our founding fathers, and I can show you writings in the Federalist Papers that show you exactly that."

Lieberman, joining in to support his friend, made the point that presidents are free to make ideological judgments about federal bench appointees in a way that senators might not be: "There's a fundamental difference between the judgment that a president makes, and the judgment that the Senate makes in carrying out its duty of advise and consent."

But then Lieberman acknowledged he had opposed Alito for ideological reasons, since he disagreed with his rulings on regulatory matters.

"It was a close call," the senator said. "He was very qualified."

Then, Lieberman added, there was an easy way to distinguish between the two men. McCain had backed both Alito and Roberts, he said. "But John McCain is better than me."

By Post Editor  |  July 2, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Politics Stops at Water's Edge, but Not Above It
Next: McCain Travels South, Searching for Message


Joe Opinion. If you are going to take cheap shots, at least be informed. Obama's middle name is Hussein, not Hussain. Also, certain doesn't need to be repeated.

Posted by: blackie1 | July 3, 2008 3:15 AM | Report abuse

Wm Tate. Judge Bork wasn't the first SC judge to be disqualified due to ideological reasons. That would be the conservative's trashing of Abe Fortas during LBJ's administration... but a good talking point for Repubs.

Posted by: blackie1 | July 3, 2008 3:06 AM | Report abuse

Different day, different choice. If Barack Hussain could vote now I am certain he would go the other direction.

Posted by: Joe Opinion | July 3, 2008 2:59 AM | Report abuse

What exactally what does Lieberman mean when he says that McCain is better than him? Is McCain more honorable(?), smarter (?), more trustworthy(?), or is he just trying to bolster the old guys vanity. I used to think that Lieverman was a man of all seasons, but lately he tends to favor the twilight of winter. Why is it that he hitches his wagon to falling stars. He seemed happy with Kerry a very Liberal Democrat, and now he has switched horses, really since he lost that primary for his Senate seat, he has been thumbing his nose at the Democrats and now he is supporting an opportunistic Republican who was also on the verge of running as a Independent. Maybe that's what they have in common. They both just want to thumb their nose at the establishment.

Posted by: Casper | July 2, 2008 6:28 PM | Report abuse

McBush is looney tunes on his support of the "Gestapo Gudges". It just goes to show that his comments are another sign of his increasing senility...

Posted by: Daddio on the Paddio | July 2, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Alito and Roberts are both unabashed (that is to say, "shameless", not "blameless") statist yes-men. Any would-be tyrant should be happy to have them in the judiciary of his nation; all or nearly all successful tyrants have enjoyed and relied upon the services of just such lackies. We can only pray that they will get no additional support from like-mindless appointees in the future.

Posted by: Iconoblaster | July 2, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

McCain's support for Alito and Roberts is the major reason he should not be in the White House. Strict Constitutionalists and "original intent" judges are just as dumb as Literal Bible Fundamentalists. Inflexible, dogmatis, narrow-minded...inability to change and adapt is what leads to extinction, unless you don't believe in evolution. It's time to take back America.

Posted by: thebob.bob | July 2, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

For this reason, the following are true:

It grants the Federal government the authority to create an army and navy, but makes no mention of an airforce. Therefore, there should be no federal airforce. Instead, each state should have its own.

It also makes no mention of the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. As none are branches of the military, their existence clearly violates the constitution and should be disbanded immediately.

Hey Matt, you got this Con law stuff down pretty good. Excellent grasp of the legal subtlies. Yo need to move on to headier stuff. Have you considering becoming a brain surgeon or maybe even a rocket scientist?

Posted by: Humpty Dumpty | July 2, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Do either one of thse two bozo's know what they are talking about??

And why doesn't someone take Leiberman away and sit him down in front of a Spongebob video and let him drink some Ovaltine. Maybe he can dip some Zwiebach toast in it and get some gooey crumbs on his face.

Posted by: Humpty Dumpty | July 2, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight, McCain is criticizing Obama for scrutinizing two of the worst Supreme Court nominees in hostory? These two brain dead anti-abortion Bushophile Neocon Justices will serve the US well? Keep up the good work, Barack.

Posted by: Jim | July 2, 2008 12:33 PM | Report abuse

John McCain is all over the place. He criticizes Barack Obama for rightfully opposing Sam Alito, but reports earlier this year revealed that privately McCain opposed John Roberts nomination. Roberts is far more extreme than Alito. Will the real John Sydney McCain please stand up? Its no wonder democrats and republicans alike don't trust the guy's word.

Posted by: Jimmie | July 2, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I agree with McCain. The Constitution should be interpreted strictly. For this reason, the following are true:

The Constitution says any authority it does not grant to the Federal government is within the purview of the states. It grants the Federal government the authority to create an army and navy, but makes no mention of an airforce. Therefore, there should be no federal airforce. Instead, each state should have its own.

It also makes no mention of the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. As none are branches of the military, their existence clearly violates the constitution and should be disbanded immediately.

The constitution doesn't give the federal government a whole lot of power, so anyone who argues that it should be strictly interpreted merely for the sake of strictly interpreting it, but supports the existence of most Federal government organizations, is being rather hypocritical.

Posted by: Matt | July 2, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I disagree with McCains opinion,but I'll give him this.

He has an opinion and he voted that way.

Posted by: Tra la la | July 2, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

That is not the lesser of two evils. It voting for an evil that is a certainly instead of one that may turn out to not be an evil at all. In medicine you often choose a cure that is uncertain but you never choose one you know will kill the patient.

I'm afrais it's come to voting for the lesser of two evils, therefore I'll pull the lever for McCain.

Posted by: KathyYou know what s | July 2, 2008 10:23 AM

Posted by: Anonymous | July 2, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

And while you're reading the Federalist Papers, note this:
"The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies which may happen during the recess of the senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session."

It was supposed to be about filling vacancies which HAPPEN during the recess, but Bush filled long-standing vacancies just to avoid advise-and-consent. I don't recal McCain waving his copy of the Federalist Papers then, do you?

Point: This is why the next President should be a constitutional law authority. That would be Obama.

Posted by: Tom J | July 2, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse

dI can see why McCain graduated at the bottom of his class - he clearly wasn't paying much attention when the federalist Papers were being discussed. This is actually one of the better Wikipedia articles:
Note the 'Judicial use' section, particularly.

Posted by: Tom J | July 2, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, but I think the Democrats are on pretty firm ground when it comes to treatment of SC and judicial appointees in recent years. The Republicans did basically the same thing to Clinton's federal judges, and it seems to me that it makes perfect sense to block someone from a position of that power who might have an ideology far outside the mainsteam either direction. Judges should be more middle-of-the-road (although not necessarily neutral gray), in keeping with the mixed nature of the country. Obama was on-target for being against certain folks because of the strength of their political ideology, and I would hope that Republicans would similarly block anyone a potential Pres. Obama submits who may be far far to the left.

Posted by: Bronxx | July 2, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I'm afrais it's come to voting for the lesser of two evils, therefore I'll pull the lever for McCain.

Posted by: KathyYou know what s | July 2, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse


Couldn't agree more. I am an Obama supporter. The biggest issue I have with McCain is not him personally, but the deals he has had to make to get to this point.

When he makes points like this one, McCain shames Obama's talk of new politics and sounds refreshing and I assume his voting record on appointments through the Clinton years backs up his comments.

Unfortunately, these flashes of the old "McCain with Integrity" are stunningly absent while the list of backtracks from previous positions is astounding and keeps me comfortable with my decision to back Obama.

Can't we just let Obama and McCain be on the same ticket? We all know that Cheney is still going to run the country anyway, we are never getting out of Iraq, the Immigrants drive our country and are never going home, and creationism is not science. Social Security is not going away. I am not a woman or gary and care less about abortion or marriage rights.

There really is general consensus on most major issues despite what the media says. We just need leadership at the top to help us accept the tough decisions and effectiveness in the ranks to carry out plans.

Posted by: askme233 | July 2, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

John McCain does not understand anything relating to the Constitution and is not able to make judgements that will enable our country to get out of the morass that King George has created.

He is simply an confused and angry person who would serve us better retiring and tending the barbecue at one of his wife's luxurious homes.

Viet-Nam Veteran. U.S. Air Force 1963-1968

Posted by: Luke Gilmore | July 2, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

But is McCain - Lieberman what America wants? go to to find out.

Posted by: emerce | July 2, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, but is McCain suggesting all justices be approved just because they are 'qualified'?

Like his assertions about military service, this all sounds pretty hollow to me.

Rubber stamping is a mistake, and Mr. Experience should know better.

Posted by: Susan | July 2, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I missed the part of the Constitution that specifies what rationale the Senate is allowed to use in exercising its right of advise and consent. Maybe it's in the same section that takes habeas corpus rights away from non-citizens.

Posted by: Thomas Moore | July 2, 2008 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Lieberman's principles and integrity continue to get trampled by political expediency. Trying hard for Veep...

Posted by: matt | July 2, 2008 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Lieberman is OK in my book. He knows we can never surrender to the terrorists. Yes McCain is "better", bit many conservatives still miss trust him. WAKEUP AND SMELL THE ROSES.

VJ Machiavelli
ps This election is all about shoes, yes shoes, silly but true. Do we keep on taking them off, or put them on for good, and never take them off again every time we board a plane.

Posted by: VJ Machiavelli | July 2, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

"He didn't argue that they were qualified. He argued that he was afraid more conservative decisions would come down...."

Senator McCain is right. Until the Democrats borked Bork, the prevailing factors in Senate confirmation hearings were experience and qualifications.

-Wm Tate,

Posted by: Wm Tate | July 2, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Re: McCain's Score

As long as Senator McCain keeps cool, speaks in his own words, and delivers his own voice, he is doing great. Voters see that--conviction and belief--as a sign of commitment. As long as Senator McCain does not "appease" or "please" voters by telling-the-truth, he will win this election.

Make sure such words are consistent with your positions and principles. Your values and principles are not negotiable--something you have to defend no matter what happens. The FISA Compromise, as I predicted, will sink the Democratic Party in the fall.

Posted by: peace4world | July 2, 2008 8:43 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company