<i>FTN</i> Transcript - Oct. 1

face the nation logo, 2009

Bob Schieffer, CBS
News Chief Washington Correspondent:
Today on Face The Nation, Pat Robertson on the presidential campaign and a look at the Supreme Court after the election.

What does George W. Bush need to do to win in November? Is he neglecting the Christian right? We'll talk about that with the head of the Christian Coalition, Pat Robertson. We'll talk to Gore adviser Tad Devine about the upcoming debate this week.

Then we'll turn to the Supreme Court. The next president could choose up to three new justices. How would those choices affect the balance on the court? We'll ask Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and top Democrat Joe Biden. And we'll be joined by court watcher Stuart Taylor of The National Journal.

Gloria Borger is here, and I'll have a final word on growing up. But first, Pat Robertson on Face The Nation. Joining us now, Pat Robertson in our studio, and with us from Longboat Key, Florida, Tad Devine. We're going to talk first to Pat Robertson.

Reverend Robertson, you said last week - and I think you pretty much surprised and sort of shook up a lot of conservatives when you said that George Bush's election prospects were - and this is your word - 'iffy.' Why so?

Rev. Pat Robertson, Christian Coalition: As we know - and I'm not saying anything that isn't known to the media - he's blown a major lead, and the campaign has lost focus in these last several weeks, and people keep saying, 'Will he please get back on message?' Now he's closed the gap that was the so-called 'convention bounce' with Gore, but it's razor thin. And in some of the key states which are necessary for the Electoral College, such as Missouri and Florida, Gore seems to be edging ahead. And we're looking at Michigan as a toss-up and maybe Illinois gone and Pennsylvania in the balance. So we're talking about some very serious matters in these next several weeks.

Schieffer: Well, let me a - is he doing something wrong or is Al Gore doing something right? What's - what's happened here, in your view?

Robertson: Oh, I - I think Bush has gotten off message. You know, you cannot outspend Democrats if you're a Republican. And if you try to - to match the Republicans do - I mean, the Democrats dollar for dollar on Medicare spending or - or drug benefits for seniors and things like that, that really doesn't electrify the - the people in this country, I don't believe. It's important to some, very important, but it's not something that you need to be majoring on. And I think Bush went off message when he started debating that with Gore.

Schieffer: Well, is - is Lieberman the secret weapon here? I know you said at one point that you thought he might siphon off a lot of conservative Christian votes. I - is he doing that?

Robertson: Well - well, Joe's been on my program. He's a super guy and he's - he's made staements in the past that have resonated in the hearts of - of the religious conservatives. You know, Bob, the thing people have to remember is that a good portion of the religious conservatives are ex-Democrats. I'm an ex-Democrat. I used to be a member of the Democrat Party. I - I managed Adlai Stevenson's campaign on Staten Island, at least in the - in the primaries. And so, you know, they have to be careful that they're not wedded necessarily to Republican politics.

Gloria Borger, U.S. News & World Report: Well, Mr. Robertson, George W. Bush stayed away from your convention of Christian conservatives this week. He sent a tape to the convention instead.

Robertson: Right.

Borger: Why do you think he did that?

Robertson: Gloria, it's a strategic move. I'm sophisticated enough, I've been around the track enough, to understand what they're doing. They figure they've got the conservative base locked up and they don't have to worry about it. So the play is to the independents, the swing voters, that little sliver of 10 percent or 15 percent of the electorate that they think they've got to get a - a - a big portion of in order to win the - the election. It's a dangerous strategy just to ignore your base, especially to play like something you're not, and that's what that convention was. It was 'Democrat lite' in Philadelphia. You know, that - I mean, we were - we were sort of hiding the congressmen. They wouldn't let Dick Armey and people like that get on the platform.

Borger: So are you saying that this is a stupid strategic move?

Robertson: Well, no it - I mean, we'll only know in November what's right. But I do know what gets people energized, because I've been out there long enough, and I was working with George Sr. in '88 when he won decisively over Dukakis and I saw a winning strategy with Lee Atwater and I was part of a small group that was giving advice.

And the thing that I begged them to do in '92 against Clinton was to come on tough, and I think that's what George Bush has got to do now. He's got to begin hitting Gore where Gore is vulnerable: the big spending, the - possibly doubling the size of government. He's got to come out swinging like a fighter. And if he doesn't do it, if he continues this sort of 'be nice' sort of approach, I think he's going to lose.

Schieffer: I must say, Mr. Robertson, that I was - I'm a little stunned to hear you say what you're saying this morning. A lot of times a politician or somebody will make a statement like you just did...

Robertson: Yeah.

Schieffer: ...about - that it's iffy - his chances are iffy. It comes out in the paper and then we invite them on the program and they sort of back off of that.

Robertson: Yeah.

Schieffer: But you're not backing off that. In fact, I think you've gone further this morning...

Borge: Yeah.

Schieffer: ...than you did when you made that statement.

Robertson: Well, Bob, I - I want to say clearly on the record, I want very much for George Bush to win the election. I th - I - I do not wish to see a Gore presidency, because from the social point of view, I think it would be a disaster. Plus the spending proposals that he has advanced would be devastating to the federal budget.

Borger: But - but - but are you saying right now the Christian conservatives will stay home in this election...

Robertson: Gloria, I...

Borger: ...unless Bush gets out there and starts attacking Gore?

Robertson: I don't know what to say. Is - all I know is that they are not energized. We've talked to people and the word's coming back from Texas, not just other places. They're saying, 'Why doesn't he get in there and start really hitting Gore?' They - they understand - you know, in Flo - in South Carolina he was - well, it was iffy in South Carolina, and then they got tough and we got tough, and he won decisively against John McCain.

But he has to come through like a fighter. And we can't have these cutesy ads about rats and all that nonsense. I mean, I would have fired the guy that did those - those ads. They were terrible, you know? You - you don't make games out of a presidential campaign. But you have to take major issues where the opponent is vulnerable and point them out to the people so there's a clear-cut choice. Right now the people don't think they have a choice. They - they haven't delineated the positions of the candidates, at least in my opinion, as clearly as they need to be.

Schieffer: One question about this abortion drug...

Robertson: Yes.

Schieffer: ...that the administration or the Food and Drug Administration or whoever it is that does that sort of thing...

Robertson: Yes.

Schieffer: ...said is - could now be sold in this country. Do you think - were you stunned that - all of a sudden with three or four weeks to go in this election that suddenly this became legal? Is there some coincidence here or do you think there's any political motive here?

Robertson: Well, Franklin Roosevelt said, 'When something happens in Washington, you know it was planned.' There - there are no accidents up here. I never, in any way, diminished the skill of Bill Clinton. He is one of the most masterful politicians that's ever walked the planet. And I think without question this is a political ploy to try to entrap Bush into a rabbit trail, if I can use that term, in these closing weeks of the campaign.

And so far Bush has avoided the trap. He made a good statement. He says, 'Look, I'm against this thing. It'll lead to more abortions. If I were president, I wouldn't have allowed it.' But our - our staff at CBN have - have done some exhaustive research bout a year or so go about the effects of this thing on women. It is very devastating. This is a health problem to women. I think the FDA rushed to judgment and there needs to be an independent evaluation of what this can do for women. Forget the abortion issue right now. Just on the danger to women, of what would happen if you take this drug 40
days after - after pregnancy.

Schieffer: Pat Robertson, you always have something interesting to say when you come to visit.

Robertson: Thank you very much.

Schieffer: Thank you very much for being with us this morning. Well, let's now get maybe the other side of this story. Let's go to Tad Devine, who is down in Florida, where Al Gore is practicing up for this debate. We kind of thought that we'd hear Pat Robertson speak out for George Bush this morning, and certainly, he says he's very much for him. But he's also very critical. Do you have any response to what Mr. Robertson said this morning?

Tad Devine, Gore Campaign Adviser: Yes, I do. I find it remarkable. I actually agree with his assessment of where this campaign is that George Bush is in trouble. But I also find it remarkable that he is advising George Bush to take the low road, to try the campaign tactics that Bush used against John McCain in South Carolina, to use the tactics that they used in 1988, which was one of the worst negative campaigns in the history of American politics. I hope Governor Bush doesn't follow his advice and take the low road because the American people deserve a better campaign than that.

Borger: Mr. Devine, he also said that the FDA approval of this abortion pill was political, that its timing was purely political. What's your response to that?

Devine: Well, I disagree. I mean, he said it wo - they moved too fast. They spent years studying this. I don't think it was political at all. It was driven by science, as it should be. So I don't agree with that assessment at all.

Borger: Well, does Al Gore worry, though, that with this abortion pill, abortions will become more common and less rare?

Devine: Well, Al Gore has said that he supports a woman's right to choose. And that difference between Al Gore and George Bush is a fundamental difference in this campaign. He said the FDA should act responsibly, as it has, that science should dictate the terms of this debate, as it has. So that's his position on the issue. And I think it is a big difference between the two candidates.

Schieffer: Mr. Devine, let me ask you this question because I'm certain it's going to come up in the debate, and I'll just put it bluntly. Why does Al Gore continue to make these preposterous claims about the dog with arthritis and the medicine for the dog costing more than - or less than it costs his mother to buy her arthritis medicine, about claiming to be present for the beginning of the strategic ol reserve. What - what's going on with that?

Devine: Well, I think, you know, in a press environment where they latch on every word, it's easy for something to be taken out of context. In fact, the vice president was trying to illustrate an important point about prescription drug coverage, that people need it in America. That's why he has outlined a plan for everyone in America to receive prescription drug coverage under Medicare. He is trying to illustrate some of these points. And I can understand when people will grab on that, and our opponent certainly grabbed on it. But what the American people want and what I think they'll get Tuesday night, at least from our side, is a debate on the issues, the issues that matter to them: education, health care, Social Security. That's what they want. And - and I know Al Gore is prepared to deliver.

Schieffer: Well, do you all ever say to him, 'Look, Mr. Vice President, these stories have a nice point to them, but there are a lot of people out there checking facts, and you have to be real careful to sort of get it true.'?

Devine: No, I think the American people see through a lot of this coverage. You know, they want a debate on the issues. And they're going to get that from Al Gore. In the convention speech he spoke to a broad audience; he talked about the fact that it's an important moment in our nation's history, that we should use this incredible prosperity and surplus to enrich all families, not just the few, as a program of investment and education and health care and Social Security and retirement security and in tax cuts for middle class families. I think if he talks about those issues, that's what people will listen to.

Borger: Well, listen, let - let - let's talk about those debates a little bit. You're down there helping train, you know, Mr. Gore for these debates. What worries you the most about George Bush, as you head into these debates?

Devine: Well, I'd be concerned if he employs the tactics that Pat Robertson just talked about in your previous interview, if he is going to take the low road and just attack, attack, attack. And that has really characterized Governor Bush's campaigning in recent days. I hope we can have a real discussion and debate because, you know, these candidates have fundamental differences on issues like tax cuts. Al Gore wants to target them to middle class families. George Bush has targeted them to the wealthiest Americans. And the American people deserve to know these real differences on the real issues.

Schieffer: One - one - one quick question about this, because I don't think it deserves much more than that, but the - this - this controversy continues to go on about perhaps the Gore campaign has some sort of a mole in the Bush campaign. What's your take on all of that?

Devine: Well, there's no mole f - in the Bush campaign from us. I mean, ifact, what happened was Tom Downey, who was going to play George Bush in debate prep, received a package from th - someone who had access to this material. He immediately contacted his attorney. They turned it over immediately to the FBI. It is now apparently the subject of a serious investigation. I think Tom Downey acted very responsibly, did the right thing immediately, and we should let the law enforcement authorities find the truth here. That's what - all we're really interested in and that's what the people deserve to know.

Borger: Has anybody in the Gore campaign been interviewed by the FBI on this matter yet?

Devine: No, not to my knowledge, although I think they may have spoken to Tom Downey just to make sure the fingerprints and things of that nature from him or anyone else who handled these materials after he received it. So that - that's the only thing. He's not, obviously, in the campaign but associated with the campaign.

Schieffer: OK. Tad Devine, we'll let you get back to work prepping for that debate. When we come back, we'll talk more about Campaign 2000 and about the impact this election could have on the future of the Supreme Court in a minute.


Schieffer: We're going to talk a little bit about this election and the impact it may have on the Supreme Court. From Salt Lake City, Utah, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a frequent guest on this program, Chairman Orrin Hatch. Joining us from Wilmington, Delaware, another frequent guest, Senator Joe Biden, Democrat, of course. Here in the studio, Stuart Taylor of The National Journal, who watches the Supreme Court like a hawk.

Stuart, what is at stake here in this election regarding the Supreme Court?

Stuart Taylor, The National Journal: Depending on the outcome of the election and on r - Supreme Court retirements, which is a bit speculative, you could see the court move fairly dramatically either to the left or to the right on a range of very important issues, notably race, affirmative action preferences, religion and federal power. I think the l - effect on abortion has been a little bit overstated, but because the court is so balanced so closely on a vary - variety of other issues, and the lower courts, too, and because these candidates have such radically different philosophies of who they want on the court, I think it could be a very big election in terms of the future of law.

Schieffer: And this is because the - the - the next president will probably have a chance or may have a chance to appoint as many as three justices. Sandra Day O'Connor is 70. The chief justice is - what? - 75...

Taylor: Just turned 76.

Schieffer: And then that would be - who? - John Paul Stevens...

Taylor: John Paul Stevens is 80.

Schieffer: ...is - is 80.

Taylor: Yeah. Now a - little cautions here because non of them have indicated that they are about to retire and none of them are in poor health. So we could be having the same show four years from now. However, law of averages, somebody is likely to retire, and if a liberal is replaced by a conservative president or a conservative is replaced by a liberal president, it will make a big difference on a lot of big issues.

Schieffer: So let's go to Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Ju - Judiciary Committee. What does this mean to you, Senator Hatch?

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah): Well, it means that this is probably the single most important issue in the campaign. But if you'll notice, every issue that Stuart listed is an issue that would go the other way if Al Gore is - is put on - put in the presidency because every one of those issues happens to be a 5-to-4 decision. And that includes quotas, it includes the death penalty, it includes, you know, whether the Boy Scouts are going to be able to continue to exist as they are and whether they have a right of freedom of association under the First Amendment. You can go on and on. Almost everything that people are concerned about, except the issue of abortion, would be changed from 5-4 to probably 6-to-3 over the next eight years.

With regard to abortion, I doubt seriously that any change really is going to occur except the banning of partial birth abortions because six justices on the court have affirmed Roe vs. Wade - four Republicans, as a matter of fact. So I doubt that that's going to change whoever is president.

Borger: Senator Biden, you have been a great critic of this court. You have said that it has 'stood federalism on its head.' That's a quote from you. And that - you've said that the court has really been too activist. What do you mean by that?

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.): Well, I don't mean activist in like liberals haven't been activists. This is, as Walter Dellinger said - this is a court where all the members have a great deal of confidence. I agree with Mr. Taylor. This is a fundamental shift - is likely to take place on the issue of federalism. And it translates into everyday language to the American people about being able to set national federal standards on environmental issues, on the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, on - goes far beyond the issues that we're talking about.

For example, this court, by a 5-to-4 decision, declared that - that state employees in the state of Florida cannot sue based on age discrimination and national statute - cannot sue their state because of state sovereignty. This is very much moving in a direction I think most legal scholars and Mr. Taylor - I've read everything he's written about this - would not disagree. This is moving very much back toward the era of what they call the Lockner era courts, where the court substituted its judgment on matters of federal standards, national-federal standards, for a whole range of issues for the cour - thee's a - there's a famous case - the Alton Railroad case, where - that's where they set up a retirement plan in the - in - in the '30s - a mandatory retirement and a pension plan. And the court used a phrase that - that sort of rings out with this court. It says, 'We
do not agree with the motive.' In other words they questioned not whether or not there was the authority, but they didn't agree that what we did back then would in fact accomplish what it was stated. That's a fundamental shift in the way the court's been going the last 50 years. It's a big deal.

Borger: Well, Stuart - Stuart Taylor, isn't there always, though, this natural tug-of-war between the Congress and the judicial branch?

Taylor: There always is. Senator Biden is quite correct that the current majority of the Supreme Court is fairly conservative on this issue and has tended to cut back congressional regulatory power more than any of its predecessors since the 1930s. There might have been a little hyperbole there about how much was at stake.

But I think what complicates this election is if you're trying to appeal to moderate voters who might be on the fence as a--as advocates for both sides are, well, there are some issues where the current Supreme Court is to the left of public opinion, such as abortion...

Biden: That's true.

Taylor: ...and - and there are some issues where the current Supreme Court is maybe to the right of public opinion, such as racial preferences. And the others - there are others where there isn't much public opinion, such as federalism. So depending on emphasis, it can sound like this is a big court for your side or not.

Schieffer: Let me go to Senator Hatch.

Biden: Well, Gloria, look - let - let me - let - let...

Schieffer: Just a second, Senator Biden. Le - 'cause I want to ask Senator Hatch something.

Biden: OK. Excuse me.

Schieffer: Do you see this new abortion pill that has suddenly been made legal this week - will this issue reach the Supreme Court eventually, in your view, or what's going to happen on that before it gets to the court, I would say?

Hatch: I'm not sure it will, because the FDA has determined that it's safe and efficacious, even though I think there's plenty of scientific evidence to indicate otherwise.

But, you know, back to Stuart's point, Stuart just made the case that this is a very centrist court. And it really is. You can find all kinds of decisions that - that liberals are proud - proud of, and you can find a number of 5-4 decisions that conservatives are proud of. But I've got to tell you, the real question is, who's going to keep the court within the mainstream?

There's no question that Al Gore is much more ideologically oriented than George Bush. If you look at his appointments down - well, if you look at his appointments...

Biden: Well...

Hatch: ...Joe, down in Texas, you look at hat The New York Times has said about him, he's a centrist. And, frankly...

Schieffer: Senator...

Hatch: Frankly, I think there's - the answer to that question, 'Who's going to keep the court in the mainstream?' is going to be George Bush. That's the only answer.

Schieffer: Well - well, let me just ask you this question then, Senator, because George Bush is on the record as saying he wants justices like Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Those fellows are...

Hatch: Well, that's...

Schieffer: ...are kind of to the right, it seems to me.

Hatch: Well, it depends on what you're saying. Scalia overturned the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, to give you an illustration.

Schieffer: Wh...

Hatch: So - but if you look at the appointments Bush made - has made in Texas, they are centrist people. They even upheld abortion down there 6-to-3 and he appointed four of those justices. So to make a long story short...

Schieffer: But...

Hatch: ...if you want a mainstream judiciary, then you better vote for George Bush. If you want a radical judiciary that's going to change all the these 5-to-4 decisions from federalism decisions to - to quotas to - to criminal law to - to - to the death penalty...

Schieffer: OK.

Hatch: ...to whether Boy Scouts can camp in na - national parks, Gore is your man.

Schieffer: All right. I - I've got to let Senator Biden have a short response to that.

Biden: It's not - it's not hyperbole. I bet Mr. Taylor will agree with me. The next court will determine whether or not the Clean Air Act can be applied the way it is, whether the Clean Water Act can be applied.

Taylor: That's true.

Biden: That ain't hyperbole, baby. It's a big deal if a c - if you - if Bush appoints someone like Scalia, they will conclude that the ambient air quality cannot be set by the EPA. It'll be back to the states. Give me a break. This is a big deal issue and, Mr. Taylor, this is not hyperbole where I come from.

Schieffer: All right. We have...

Hatch: Stuart, you must have stung him a little bit there.

Schieffer: Give me a little break here, fellows. I've got to take a break here.

Taylor Hyperbole?

Schieffer: Thanks to all of you. We're at the end of the - end of the road here on this one.

Biden: Thank you, all.

Hatch: Good to be with you.

Schieffer: Back for a final word in a minute.


Schieffer: Finally today, watching these polls go back and forth, it is fair to say neither Gore nor Bush has captured the nation's imagination, not yet anyway. But have you noticed what I've noticed? That when one of them talks about the issues, he seems to edge slightly ahead. Think about it: Bush was ahead and coasting until Gore came out of the Democratic convention promising to do somethin about the high cost of prescription drugs and health care. Then he took the lead. Then Bush started talking about fixing the nation's schools and he bounced into an ever-so-slight lead in at least some polls.

So why is it that once either of them gets ahead by talking issues, they then seem to veer off into some kind of weird stuff? Once he was ahead, Gore began to reel off more of those preposterous claims, this time about being present at the creation of the strategic oil reserve, which, of course, a quick check showed he wasn't. Once Bush began making mileage, talking education, his own staffers pushed him off the front pages for a week with all that silly ranting about whether there was a Gore mole spying on the Bush campaign staff. Oh, spare us.

Well, here is a tip for both sides: those of us old enough to vote are, by definition, adults. We don't cast our votes on the basis of who can tell the tallest tales, nor do we have much interest in intramural squabbles over the loyalty of low-level campaign staffers. Stick with the serious stuff. It seems to work for both of you, and the rest of us are old enough to take it.

That's it from here. We'll see you next week on Face The Nation.