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MR. MacNeil: Good evening. I'm Robert MacNeil in New York.
MR. MUDD: And I'm Roger Mudd in Washington. After the News Summary we go first to President Clinton's decision to name Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court. We hear about her background and qualifications and about the politics behind the nomination. Then we turn to the attacks against a Somali warlord. We have a Newsmaker interview with Madeleine Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. NEWS SUMMARY
MR. MacNeil: President Clinton today nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a 60 year old judge on the Federal Appeals Court in Washington, to become a Justice on the Supreme Court. If confirmed, she will replace retiring Justice Byron White and become the second woman on the court. Mr. Clinton's selection was the first by a Democratic President in 25 years. He praised Judge Ginsburg for her pioneering work on women's rights and said he expected her to be a consensus builder, a healer, and a moderate on the high court. The President and the Judge spoke to reporters in the White House Rose Garden this afternoon.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: In the months and years ahead, the country will have the opportunity to get to know much more about Ruth Ginsburg's achievements, decency, humanity, and fairness. People will find, as I have, that this nominee is a person of immense character. Quite simply, what's in her record speaks volumes about what is in her heart. Throughout her life she has repeatedly stood for the individual, the person less well off, the outsider in society, and has given those people greater hope by telling them that they have a place in our legal system, by giving them a sense that the Constitution and the laws protect all the American people, not simply the powerful.
MR. MacNeil: We will have full excerpts from the announcement and analysis of the President's choice right after the News Summary. When the next Supreme Court term begins in October a case involving abortion protesters will be on the agenda. The Justices have agreed to decide whether racketeering laws most often used against organized crime can be used to stop groups from blockading abortion clinics. Roger.
MR. MUDD: United Nations forces continued their attacks against Somali militia targets today. A U.S. Cobra helicopter fired on a rocket launcher in Mogadishu, wounding 12 Somalis. The raid was the first to take place in daylight. It followed three nights of attacks after the killing of 23 Pakistani peacekeepers nine days ago. Serbian forces in Bosnia continued mortar and artillery attacks on the Muslim enclave of Gorazde today. About 70,000 people are trapped in the besieged region which is one of six so-called "safe havens" declared by the United Nations. Serb guns also fired on the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. Despite the shelling, the U.N. was able to resume the humanitarian airlifts suspended yesterday when shells hit the airport runway.
MR. MacNeil: U.N. Sec. General Boutros Boutros-Ghali today argued for international intervention to stop human rights abuses. He said claims of sovereignty by authoritarian regimes should not keep the international community from taking action. His comments came at the opening of a major conference on human rights in Vienna. Sec. of State Christopher also attended the meeting. He used the occasion to reject requests from some Asian and Middle Eastern states that they be held to less rigorous human rights standards. A group of Haitian refugees infected with the AIDS virus arrived in Florida this morning. They are the first of a hundred and thirty-eight people to be released from the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Some were held there for almost two years. The refugees fled their country after the overthrow of Haiti's elected leader in September 1991. They qualified for political asylum but were prevented from entering the U.S. under rules barring AIDS-infected immigrants. Last week, a federal judge ordered that they be allowed into the country and given access to medical care.
MR. MUDD: Canadian Prime Minister-Designate Kim Campbell began preparations today to take power. Campbell, the 46 year old defense minister, was selected by conservatives last night on the second ballot to succeed Brian Mulroney as party leader and prime minister. She'll be the first women to lead Canada. Mulroney announced his resignation inFebruary and will leave office on June 25th. That ends our summary of the day's top stories. Ahead on the NewsHour, President Clinton's Supreme Court nomination, and the fighting in Somalia. FOCUS - JUDICIOUS DECISION?
MR. MacNeil: President Clinton's choice for the Supreme Court is our lead story tonight. After a weekend of uncertainty over the two front runners, whose names the White House has been leaking, a third candidate was nominated this afternoon. She is Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a federal appeals judge appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. She attended both Harvard and Columbia Law Schools and later taught at Columbia. Before that, she was a professor at Rutgers University Law School in New Jersey. In addition to teaching, she was an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, where she was co-founder of the Women's Rights Project. Judge Ginsburg personally argued six cases before the Supreme Court, all of which were women's rights cases. President Clinton spoke of her qualifications in a Rose Garden Ceremony.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I told Judge Ginsburg last night when I called to ask her to accept the nomination I decided on her for three reasons: First, in her years on the bench, she has genuinely distinguished herself as one of our nation's best judges, aggressive in outlook, wise in judgment, balanced and fair in her opinions. Second, over the course of a lifetime in her pioneering work in behalf of the women of this country, she has compiled a truly historic record of achievement in the finest traditions of American law and citizenship. And finally, I believe that in the years ahead, she will be able to be a force for consensus building on the Supreme Court just as she has been on the Court of Appeals, so that our judges can become an instrument of our common unity in the expression of their fidelity to the Constitution. During this election process we reviewed the qualifications of more than forty potential nominees. Among the best were the Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt, whose strong legal background as Arizona's attorney general and recent work balancing competing interests of environmentalists and others in the very difficult issues affecting the American West made him a highly qualified candidate for the court. I also carefully considered the chief judge of the First Circuit, Judge Stephen Breyer of Boston, a man whose character, confidence, and legal scholarship impressed me very greatly. I believe he has a very major role to play in public life. I believe he is superbly qualified to be on the court, and I think either one of these candidates, as well as the handful of others whom I closely considered, may well find themselves in that position some day in the future. Let me say in closing that Ruth Bader Ginsburg cannot be called a liberal or a conservative. She has proved herself too thoughtful for such labels. If, as I believe, the measure of a person's values can best be measured by examining the life the person lives, then Judge Ginsburg's values are the very ones that represent the best in America. I am proud to nominate this path breaking attorney, advocate, and judge to be the 107th Justice to the United States Supreme Court. [applause]
JUDGE RUTH BADER GINSBURG, Supreme Court Nominee: Mr. President, I am grateful beyond measure for the confidence you have placed in me. And I will strive with all that I have to live up to your expectations in making this appointment. I expect to be asked in some detail about my views of the work of a good judge on a high court bench. This afternoon is not the moment for extended remarks on that subject, but I might state a few prime guides. Chief Justice Rehnquist offered one I keep in the front of my mind. A judge is bound to decide each case fairly in accord with the relevant facts and the applicable law even when the decision is not, as he put it, what the home crowd wants. Next, I know no better summary than the one Justice O'Connor recently provided. The remarks concern the enduring influence of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. They read: When a modern constitutional judge is confronted with a hard case, Holmes is at her side with three gentle reminders: First, intellectual honesty about the available policy choices; second, disciplined self-restraint in respecting the majority's policy choice; and third, principled commitment to defense of individual autonomy even in the face of majority action. To that I can only say, "amen." I have a last thank you. It is to my mother, Celia Anster Bader, the bravest and strongest person I have known who was taken from me much too soon. I pray that I may be all that she would have been had she lived in an age when women could aspire and achieve and daughters are cherished as much as sons. I look forward to stimulating weeks this summer and if I am confirmed to working at a neighboring court to the best of my ability for the advancement of the law in the service of society. Thank you. [applause]
MR. MacNeil: Now we have four views on Judge Ginsburg's suitability for the high court. Michael Sovern has been president of Columbia University since 1981. Before that, he was dean of the Columbia University Law School where he hired Judge Ginsburg to teach law from 1972 to 1980. Kathleen Peratis worked with Judge Ginsburg as a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union in New York, where they co-founded the Women's Rights Project in 1971. She argued several cases with Judge Ginsburg before the Supreme Court. Kate Michelman is the executive director of the National Abortion Rights Action League in Washington. Stuart Taylor is a senior writer for the American Lawyer & Legal Times for which he covers the Supreme Court. Michael Sovern, you wrote very warmly to President Clinton about Judge Ginsburg in April. Describe the qualities you think she would bring to the court.
MR. SOVERN: Intelligence, judgment, wisdom, balance, integrity, and easy to miss collegiality, her capacity to bring people together. You saw it in her acceptance remarks. I don't suppose she chose by accident to quote from two of her new colleagues. It's a winning way to begin the assignment.
MR. MacNeil: You wrote it in your letter about her ability to harmonize differences. Can you give us some examples of how that comes to mind.
MR. SOVERN: Well, she was the first woman on the Columbia Law faculty, and that can't have been an easy assignment under the best of circumstances. I immediately appointed her to the committee that makes new appointments. And I still recall with some pleasure that the old boys had not yet come quite up to speed and would, for example, talk about how we've got to get the best man for this post. And she knew that they were perfectly willing to consider women, and she never nailed anybody for that. She just made sure that women got a full and fair shot at everything that was open to them.
MR. MacNeil: Why is that important on the court, somebody with an ability to harmonize? The President referred to it too as a consensus builder. I mean, might that not be argued by some who -- just looking at it in the abstract -- would think that would be something too willing to compromise their own feelings or views?
MR. SOVERN: Well, there's a difference between being soft or flabby and being willing to work with one's colleagues to find a common ground. It's very important that the Supreme Court not write nine answers to the fundamental questions that this nation faces. So the ability to find a group that will coalesce around a, a resolution that gives guidance to the citizenry and the judges in the lower courts is very, very important.
MR. MacNeil: Where does she rank today, in your view, in sort of intellectual and judicial stature in the country?
MR. SOVERN: She's in the very first ranked. She's one of the smartest people I know. She's not a show off. I forgot to mention among the great qualities she would bring to the court is that she will not write unnecessarily long opinions. But she's absolutely first class, and you will see it.
MR. MacNeil: Yeah. Stuart Taylor, does the rest of the world you move in agree with that, that she is ranked in the very first class?
MR. TAYLOR: I think so, yes. I think this is, this appointment has been and will be widely applauded by, by legal scholars, professors. Among those writing letters on behalf of Judge Ginsburg before her nomination, for example, were Gerald Gunther, who half the lawyers in the country remember her as the author of the leading constitutional law case book when they were studying in law school. And I think she -- she does have the quality of a consensus builder. She, I think, has a unique advantage in that in her early days she was a pioneering lawyer for women's rights, and the Thurgood Marshall of the women's rights movement, as some have put it, as the President put it today. However, on the bench she has won the confidence of conservatives, including Justice Scalia, for example, of the Supreme Court, who I'm told would be delighted by an appointment like this, as a careful, judicious, smart person who will not legislate from the bench.
MR. MacNeil: Thurgood Marshall was a pretty tough act to follow in, in his stature as an advocate for civil rights and the famous case that, cases that he argued. Is that comparison a reasonable one, I mean, in her work for women's rights?
MR. TAYLOR: In the 19, the early -- women's rights as a matter of constitutional law came during the Burger court beginning about 1971 in a series of decisions during the 1970s. And as the President stressed today, she was by far the most prominent and conspicuous advocate before the court arguing, making the arguments that they accepted. She argued, she was involved in all of the major cases. She was the person arguing before the court in five or six of them, and she won five of the six, I believe it was. And so although no one of them stands as a historic landmark the way Brown vs. Board of Education, which Thurgood Marshall argued in 1954 did, it's not too much, I think, to call her the Thurgood Marshall of the women's rights movement in the sense that she was the leading lawyer for that movement just as he was the leading lawyer for the civil rights movement.
MR. MacNeil: There is one, Kate Michelman, one landmark decision, and that is Roe V. Wade, which has given some people in the women's rights movement and elsewhere reason to ask some questions about Judge Ginsburg, and you're one of them, and you've expressed some reservations again today. Will you explain them.
MS. MICHELMAN: Yes. Well, first of all, I too acknowledge that Judge Ginsburg has been an extremely important woman judge and litigator on women's rights. She's been a strong advocate and a pioneer. And so that's absolutely her history. Her, her criticisms, specific criticisms of Roe versus Wade do raise some concern however, concerns about whether she used the right to choose as a fundamental right or some lesser right that would leave women exposed to the intervention of state legislatures, whether she'd leave the decision about whether or not to terminate a pregnancy in control of state legislatures. And I think we just need to have these concerns raised and have her talk about them, talk about her views about the constitutional right to privacy and whether that right does, indeed, include a woman's right to choose.
MR. MacNeil: What is your anxiety about her, Ms. Michelman, that if she's on the court that her somewhat narrower view of Roe V. Wade would have a negative effect on the, on the right of a woman to have an abortion?
MS. MICHELMAN: Well, we --
MR. MacNeil: What, concretely what do you fear?
MS. MICHELMAN: Okay. And that's an important questions, so I can elaborate. And by the way, I might add that I don't like being in the position as a woman having to raise concerns, but I have an obligation to do so, because her writings do raise questions about her views of the constitutional right to privacy and a woman's right to choose. But specifically, the issue, you know, and we have to talk about her views and her criticisms of Roe in the context of where the court is today. Remember, we have had a very serious erosion of our right to choose after Reagan and Bush have really reconstituted a court and made it much more hostile to Roe. In fact, in the Pennsylvania decision last summer we lost the strict judicial scrutiny, we lost the strict scrutiny standard of protecting a woman's right to choose from state intervention. The court opened the door to states to intrude once again and to impose difficult burdens on women, some that are very dangerous and so, so difficult they can't overcome them. My concern about the criticism that Judge Ginsburg has leveled at Roe raises the question about whether she would uphold the state's right to intrude, to, to pose burdens on women that deny her the most strict protection that a court can afford. I mean, the question is, as I said, ether this is a right. I mean, this isn't a right like a speed limit that can change from state to state. This is an inalienable, fundamental right that is, that is a federal constitution right. And what all we need to know from Judge Ginsburg is whether she views this as a constitutionally protected fundamental right, or whether she would give over to states the right to intrude and make it, you know, make it their business to decide whether a woman can terminate her pregnancy or not.
MR. MacNeil: Okay. Let's have another view on this. Ms. Peratis, do you share that anxiety?
MS. PERATIS: No. And I think the anxiety is totally groundless. And I'm concerned that this kind of tea leave reading and attempts to speculate by reading between the lines might have come close to causing us to lose this first rate and spectacular nominee.
MR. MacNeil: Explain that just for a moment.
MS. PERATIS: Well, concerns that -- I have enormous respect for Kate. I think she's a very important advocate for choice, but these concerns are based upon not something that Judge Ginsburg said or wrote but something that is speculated from what she might have meant by what she wrote and clearly did not mean in the light of her 20 year history of, 30 year history of supporting choice and supporting reproductive freedom, the suggestion in the speech that Kate is referring to --
MR. MacNeil: Speech at New York University last March.
MS. PERATIS: Yes, and an article that preceded it was that it might have been strategically a wise idea for the Supreme Court, rather than knocking down all abortion laws in one fell swoop, to knock down one at a time so that the political reform that was going on in state legislatures would continue, which it didn't have to do because the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional virtually every abortion law.
MR. MacNeil: One more piece to that. She also said that Roe V. Wade might have had the unfortunate effect or the negative effect of creating much more political divisiveness in exacerbating that.
MS. PERATIS: That's right. Her goal, her goal was to preserve and protect privacy and the right to choice. She was suggesting there might have been a better way to do that. By Ms. Michelman and others suggesting that this raises questions about her commitment to choice suggests that Ruth Ginsburg might not have been the appropriate nominee, and it's really just another example of how the only difference between liberals and cannibals is that cannibals only eat their enemies.
MS. MICHELMAN: Robin, could I respond?
MR. MacNeil: Sure, yes.
MS. MICHELMAN: I appreciate the fact that there is some concern about my and others raising concerns, but we didn't write the articles. And I don't -- I think that it is very important just to have an opportunity to hear Judge Ginsburg's views. I'm not questioning Judge Ginsburg's personal view that the right to choose is fundamental to women's equality. I agree with her about that. What I think is important is, is what analysis she's going to bring to the table or to the court and whether she is going to protect this right with the rigor of Roe. And I hope that Kathleen is correct. I, I hope to find that she is, and I don't -- I mean, in some ways, as I said, it's difficult for me to raise these questions, but I think they have to be raised, but I look forward to knowing from her that she does, indeed, believe there is, the right to choose is a fundamental right and would not join O'Connor and Kennedy and Souter in allowing the states to make more difficult this fundamental decision that women must make. That's all. And so I think, I think her articles and her speeches just need to be addressed.
MR. MacNeil: How do you, Michael Sovern, view this, that she chose to argue that abortion rights should have been advanced as a question of equality between the sexes rather than through a right to privacy and what impact that might have now?
MR. SOVERN: Well, first of all, I would say I regard it as a further evidence of her extraordinary integrity and commitment to principle. No court of appeals judge under the age of 70 has given up hope of being appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States. So when she wrote that piece, I'm sure somewhere in the back of her mind there flickered the idea that somebody might one day use it against her, and she wrote it nonetheless. I think it's a very thoughtful speculation on the interrelationship of the branches of government. I think it's a first class piece of scholarship. It doesn't, to me, give much indication of how she will vote when the next cases come.
MR. MacNeil: Stuart Taylor, is that article regarded, I mean, did that nearly derail this nomination, this issue?
MR. TAYLOR: I don't know the answer. It is clear that in the speculation coming into the press and the leaks from the White House during the first eighty days or so of this period since Justice White announced his retirement that Ruth Bader Ginsburg's name was not as prominently mentioned from the White House as one might have expected. And that leads one to speculate whether they were worried that Kate Michelman and others would, would oppose her or would be unenthusiastic, because she is not a strong supporter of Roe versus Wade. I think there are two things clear about her views, and there are some questions. One is she is generally pro- choice, she believes in the woman's right to have an abortion. She believes it should be enforced by the Supreme Court through the Constitution. Two, she thinks Roe versus Wade in 1973 went too far, too fast down that road by striking down every law in all 50 states in the country. She thinks it should have been done more gradually, that it would have won more acceptance had it been more gradually, that we wouldn't perhaps have had the legislative battles we've had in the last 20 years over this. What does that mean she would do now about things like 24 hour waiting periods and a state law which were upheld by the Supreme Court last summer in the O'Connor/Souter/Kennedy opinion that Kate Michelman criticized earlier? That's a little bit less clear. Her speech seems to indicate she sort of likes that middle approach, that gradual let's not be too absolutist attitude, and in that respect, one can see why the Kate Michelmans of the world are a little bit worried about her. On the other hand, it's very clear that she's going to be an improvement from Justice White --
MS. MICHELMAN: Absolutely.
MR. TAYLOR: -- for that side of the debate.
MR. MacNeil: All right. We must leave it there and move on. Don't go away because we're coming back. Roger.
MR. MUDD: The appointment of Judge Ginsburg marked the second times in ten days that the White House nominating process has been exposed to intense political and press criticism. The first was President Clinton's decision to withdraw the nomination of Lani Guinier to be assistant attorney general, and the second to replace the retiring Byron White first revealed the President as leaning toward Interior Sec. Babbitt. Then when environmentalists objected to losing Babbitt from the cabinet, the President moved toward Circuit Court Judge Stephen Breyer of Boston. Then over the weekend when news reports indicated Breyer had failed to pay 13 years of Social Security taxes for a part-time cleaning woman, the President dropped Breyer and went to Judge Ginsburg, whose name had not been mentioned as a front runner. It was this apparent indecision that caused ABC News Correspondent Brit Hume to ask this question today at the start of what had been scheduled to be a Rose Garden press conference following Judge Ginsburg's statement accepting her nomination.
BRIT HUME, ABC News: The withdrawal of the Guinier nomination, sir, and your apparent focus on Judge Breyer and your turn, late it seems, to Judge Ginsburg may have created an impression, perhaps unfair, of a certain zig zag quality in the decision making process here. I wonder, sir, if you would kind of walk us through it and perhaps disabuse us of any notion we might have along those lines. Thank you.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I have long sense given up the thought that I could disabuse some of you from turning any substantive decision in anything but political process. How you could ask a question like that after the statement she just made is beyond me.
MR. MUDD: With that exchange, the President abruptly ended the news conference. We get more on the President's search for a Supreme Court Justice now from Jeffrey Birnbaum, who is the White House reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Good evening.
MR. MUDD: Brit Hume's question hit a tender spot, did it?
MR. BIRNBAUM: I think so. Afterward, when President Clinton's staff was asked whether that was planned, they said, no, but there was, we wonder really whether the President really wanted to make a point of making the press the enemy, even after, just after, right after having a dinner for the press on the south lawn of the White House.
MR. MUDD: Well, from what the President said, are we to believe that the 88 days that has been consumed looking for White's successor has been all substance and no politics?
MR. BIRNBAUM: If he tried to give that impression, it was certainly untrue. In fact, the process, itself, began with an affirmative effort by the President to get a politician to be the Supreme Court Justice.
MR. MUDD: Babbitt.
MR. BIRNBAUM: It ended up in Babbitt.
MR. MUDD: No, no, Cuomo.
MR. BIRNBAUM: That's right. It ended up in Babbitt. It went through a few incarnations before that. It was an 88 day ordeal of some magnitude that began first with Mario Cuomo of New York. President Clinton called him, the only person he called just a couple of weeks after Byron White announced his retirement, and Cuomo after not first taking the call, finally took it and said he really wasn't interested even before Clinton asked him. Along the way, Education Sec. Richard Riley was also felt out by Clinton on the subject. He's a former governor of South Carolina. And Riley said no, he didn't want to do it either. And there were other public political figures, national figures, who we are told were on the list. We don't know all of their names. And eventually they ended up with Babbitt, who was among the group they were looking at from the very beginning.
MR. MUDD: When I left work here on Friday night, the White House was said to be on the cusp of nominating Judge Breyer of Boston.
MR. MUDD: What happened?
MR. BIRNBAUM: Well, I'm not sure we have a complete answer to that question yet. What we do know is Babbitt's fall. That can I think be important to understanding what happened. Sunday night, before you left on Friday, that Sunday, Babbitt was clearly the front runner, and --
MR. MUDD: This is a week ago.
MR. BIRNBAUM: A week ago. Had every intention, President Clinton had every intention of nominating him, but then he was deluged by these complaints from environmentalists, which he really took seriously and some would say sided against taking him. Others would say he buckled, which ever way you want to spin it. In any case, when Babbitt declined about mid week, his, the President's staff looked for somebody else, because the President's preference in decision making is always to have two. And so in a preliminary way, they started to work for, at Judge Ginsburg, who is very popular on Capitol Hill among other places. On Friday night, when you left work, Judge Breyer had already had lunch with the President. And there were many reports that clearly he was the front runner. And, in fact, he was.
MR. MUDD: That lunch was supposed to have been successful, at least according to the briefings.
MR. BIRNBAUM: It went very well, but apparently not as well as the lunch on Sunday that President Clinton had with Judge Ginsburg.
MR. MUDD: Oh really?
MR. BIRNBAUM: That's right. So -- but let me get to Friday night. After you went home, the White House staff met --
MR. MUDD: I didn't go directly home.
MR. BIRNBAUM: Wherever you went as soon as you left, they, they had a long series of meetings, and they decided to move ahead secretly with Judge Ginsburg as the option to, to Judge Breyer. And President Clinton, if we are to believe what we are told today in the background briefings, simply was more impressed by Judge Ginsburg on Sunday. Now, I think that we should be a little skeptical of that. Clearly, from Friday over the weekend, CBS had a story that talked about the Social Security problem --
MR. MUDD: Right.
MR. BIRNBAUM: -- that Judge Breyer had, and there was a great deal or there was the beginnings of a swell of opposition or at least serious reservations in the Senate, even though the White House didn't tell us that they believed they had this problem out there and completely settled and were confident that Judge Breyer would be approved even with the Social Security almost Zoe Baird- like problem.
MR. MUDD: What -- he got cold feet then, did he?
MR. BIRNBAUM: I think it entered the mix.
MR. MUDD: And what about -- if I may interpose -- what about the report that, that the lunch, in fact, didn't go as well as they said it did because President Clinton was surprised by Breyer's rather conservative views in the anti-trust field?
MR. BIRNBAUM: I think their discussion was almost exclusively on philosophy, and I think that most people are surprised by how conservative, almost Chicago school, very free market Judge Breyer is when it comes to the issue of business law. I don't think that was as important as we might think, however, because Judge Ginsburg's history is also very conservative on business matters and maybe even more conservative on criminal matters.
MR. MUDD: In the story that you and Paul Barrett wrote for the Wall Street Journal this morning you said that the, that the whole period was marked by vacillation and indecision. He says, the President says it was one of careful reflection. Straighten me out, sir.
MR. BIRNBAUM: Well, I, I'm sorry to disagree with the President of the United States sometimes, but clearly they thought very hard and very long about this, very, very long about this. And the objection, the objections about Clinton are political in the sense that he allowed two extremely well qualified people to hang out, first, his own interior secretary, Babbitt, and then one of the best respected judges in the country, Judge Breyer, to hang out there and be shot at without any support from his essentially or even acknowledgment until today that he was looking at them, and then he just pulled away from them and found somebody that basically his own staff almost never acknowledged to anyone publicly. It was just today basically that, that the Washington Post and the Journal mentioned her very prominently as a possible candidate. Now in the ways, in the folk ways of Washington, which is obviously a sort of perverse town, this kind of mistake, this is a mistake, because it deals with political insensitivity to some very prominent political national figures. But those outside of Washington might not understand that as a, as a mistake. But people who have seen the handling of, of confirmations and of decisions about appointments this very long delay, this fingering of somebody as a front runner and then backing way, front runner backing away, is, is really the way to damage people's political public reputation. And that's why this sort of criticism is being leveled at the President.
MR. MUDD: Let me ask two of our guests who are not in Washington but are in New York. Mr. Sovern, how, how does the handling of the Ginsburg/Babbitt/Breyer nomination come across to you 220 miles away?
MR. SOVERN: Well, I should begin by saying that while people appearing before the Supreme Court are entitled to due process, those who hunger to be appointed to it are not. Now having said that, I'm inclined to agree with Mr. Birnbaum that this was a mistake. The President doesn't look good in a process that has been visible in the way that it has certainly over the last several days, and it's something less than humane to put the Misters Babbitt and Breyer through a process like that.
MR. MUDD: How about you, Ms. Peratis?
MS. PERATIS: I agree with that, but there's also another point, and that is floating names, and Judge Ginsburg's name was floated up until two or three weeks ago, causes comments to be made, questions to be raised, concerns to be raised, which then have to be dispelled by supporters. And almost a political campaign becomes necessary. I don't know if that has always been the case for Supreme Court nominees. I've never been involved in one before, but it seems to me that this kind of campaign is not exactly seemly for the Supreme Court process.
MR. MUDD: Mr. Sovern, you remember, I know, what the process was like when Judges were nominated and in four days they were scheduled for hearings. The hearings lasted two and a half days. They raised their right hand, and they vanished into the court. There was never this. What changed it all? Was it Bork, Judge Bork?
MR. SOVERN: I think Bork had a lot to do with it, and I think also the, the politicization of the process by the decision of President Reagan to shape the court. If you think back to previous Presidents, Teddy Roosevelt thought he was getting something with Oliver Wendell Holmes. It was different from what he got. But nobody cross-examined Holmes and then the, the Roosevelt appointment was much as you've described it. You remember the famous Eisenhower quote that the biggest mistake of his administration was the appointment of Earl Warren. Presidents used to appoint people well regarded whether as elected officials or sitting judges or academics and did not seek to learn their views himself before making the appointment. Once the President says that I'm going to make appointments with a particular end in mind, then it's fair game for everyone to ask the same question and seek to push that appointment in the direction of whatever their agenda may be.
MR. MUDD: Let me ask Ms. Michelman if you agree with that. Did the politicization of the court begin with Ronald Reagan's nomination of Bork?
MS. MICHELMAN: Certainly in my experience absolutely. I mean, I agree with Mr. Sovern very much. He really did politicize these appointments. Ronald Reagan, it was with his election that the Republican Party, in fact, embodied in its platform the commitment to reframe the whole, the whole federal judiciary to appoint people who were hostile to Roe, that would, you know, encode into law views that were, that would say that the Constitution protected a person from the moment of conception, and he went about politicizing it in such a way that it was, it became a nightmare really. I, I can see where President Clinton sort of at this stage in his life trying to bring balance back to the court, trying to restore some of the integrity that has been lost I think after Reagan and Bush have politicized the court so badly. It made it more difficult for him. Even though it might have taken a long time, it made it much more difficult because I think it was begun all those years ago, and it has had a very difficult history.
MR. MUDD: What -- give me your impressions of the 88 days, Mr. Taylor.
MR. TAYLOR: I think history will judge this appointment by whom he appointed, not so much by the 88 days, but some of us are writing journalism, not history, and it was a very messy 88 days. And I think one of the questions is why did they -- it's a heretical thing for a reporter to say, why did they leak so much, couldn't they keep a little bit more to themselves? About every, every week, it seemed, they were hanging someone else out the window for inspection. Now to some extent that serves a purpose, which is, well, let's float a little trial balloon and make sure there isn't going to be somebody who comes forward with a skeleton from the closet. But it seems to me it was carried to extremes in this case. There were statements from White House officials last week that made it seem first that Babbitt had a lock on it, then that Breyer had a lock on it. Either they were, either they were very undisciplined or the President was very undisciplined in authorizing them to be so public about the process they were going through.
MR. MUDD: Good. Well, thank you all in Washington and in New York. NEWSMAKER
MR. MacNeil: We turn now to the Somalia story and the new fighting there. In Mogadishu, United Nations peacekeeping forces relying on U.S. Army helicopter gunships have attacked the arms caches and radio stations of a major Somali warlord, Mohamad Farah Aidid, and there have been dozens of civilians killed when Pakistani peacekeepers fired on civilian demonstrators. In a moment we'll hear from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, but first a report from Mogadishu from Jeremy Thompson of Independent Television News.
JEREMY THOMPSON: For a third night air strikes picked off suspected arsenals and supply depots. The United Nations maintaining pressure on local militia leader Gen. Aidid, the targets were only yards from his headquarters. But among the twisted and smoldering remains, there was again little evidence that these were significant military compounds as claimed by the U.N. As the Somali casualty list rises, Operation Continue Hope is becoming more of a gamble for the United Nations. It could either break or make Gen. Aidid, his support undoubtedly strengthened by the public outrage of yesterday's shootings by Pakistani U.N. soldiers. The actions of the Pakistanis have attracted widespread local hostility. Though they're under orders to show restraint, they have been quick to fire on Somalis since the attack in which 23 of their own troops were slaughtered or mutilated nine days ago. A rocket attack by U.S. helicopters on a crowded residential area today has done nothing to improve the U.N.'s image. As more casualties were taken to hospital, Mogadishu residents were beginning to view the U.N. as aggressors rather than saviors. Some 800,000 who depend on U.N. handouts haven't received any food for over a week. Twenty thousand tons stockpiled at the port can't be moved because the U.N. troops aren't available to protect the convoys. Relief workers are worried the hold up could damage the humanitarian program.
MR. MacNeil: Charlayne Hunter-Gault interviewed Amb. Madeleine Albright at the United Nations late this afternoon.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Amb. Albright, thank you for joining us. I understand that you've just come from a meeting with some of the officials in charge of the peacekeeping operations in Somalia. What is their latest assessment of the situation on the ground there?
AMB. ALBRIGHT: Charlayne, their assessment is that what you are seeing on some of these reports is really a piece of the picture, that, in fact, most of Mogadishu is peaceful and their feeding stations have been reopened and the markets are reopened and people are going about their business. Obviously, everybody is concerned about the loss of life over the weekend, and they are investigating the aspects to do with the Pakistani response to the mobs. What they have come up there, Charlayne, is that basically they have investigated and found out that it was a staged mob scene, that there was shooting by snipers and also some shooting by automatic weapons at the Pakistanis. Clearly, this investigation will proceed by it --
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: By the United Nations?
AMB. ALBRIGHT: Yes, by the United Nations, because obviously they are concerned when something like this happens, and I can assure you that a great deal of time has been spent in deploring the loss of life. That is of concern to everybody.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Well, given the credibility problem that the U.N. is starting to have because of all of this, is a U.N. investigation of this going to be accepted, because Gen. Aidid, for example, has called for an independent international investigation of the incident of the, over the weekend, because there's some concern that the U.N.'s findings wouldn't be credible?
AMB. ALBRIGHT: Charlayne, I think we have to keep in mind here what the United Nations is doing, while it's in Somalia in the first place, and what Mr. Aidid has at stake here. First of all, you have to keep in mind that the situation in Somalia earlier was a disaster. Three hundred and fifty thousand people were starving or dying, and thanks to the action of the United Nations and the United States, law and order was restored, some agreements were signed, and Aidid was a part of those agreements, and those agreements were done in order to disarm the population and bring some law and order. As President Clinton said over the weekend, prior to the attack last week on the Pakistanis, life was, in fact, returning to normal. Crops were being put into the ground, hospitals were open, children were going to school. Now, what happened was that Mr. Aidid found that he had no stake in that kind of a victory, and he was disturbed obviously by the fact that life was beginning to resume, and he was not the leader. I think where there has been a major misinterpretation is Aidid is not a national hero. He's a thug. He is one of these factional leaders who has a stake in disrupting a process that is trying to restore law and order to Somalia, and the United Nations is, in fact, the group, the force that is bringing that about.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: But what exactly are the U.N. and U.S. forces trying to accomplish with the helicopter attacks?
AMB. ALBRIGHT: Well, the whole order here is a result of a United Nations Security Council resolution to try to restore law and order and initially it was to knock out this radio monitor that was inciting the mobs with false information and also --
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: That was Aidid's radio station.
AMB. ALBRIGHT: Aidid's radio station -- and also to try to get at these arms caches which are the basis of the problem. As you remember, since you've covered this so much, is that there really were more arms in these technical vehicles in Somalia that were just terrorizing the population and part of the agreements were to try to control these heavy, these, all these weapons. And what Aidid is, what the U.N. was trying to do was to make sure that the population as disarmed, and Aidid did not want this to happen.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Well, are you interested in going just after the weapons or after Aidid, himself?
AMB. ALBRIGHT: Now this is a matter of trying to make sure that the reconciliation talks go forward, that those who are involved in having incited these, this violence are, in fact, brought to justice, and part of the Security Council resolution has to do with that, that it is set up in a way to have a legal process whereby either the people, the leaders that are involved in inciting this would be arrested and then tried in a totally legal way. And that is what, really the reason for this whole effort.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Well, when will the military, the U.S. forces and the U.N. have decided that they have achieved a success in this current round of military operations?
AMB. ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that when they determine that there is a possibility of not this outbreaks of violence, and when law and order in this particular part of Mogadishu is restored. It's impossible to give you an exact time frame on that, but I think the part that is also getting a little out of focus here is what it is that the United Nations is trying to do through these peacekeeping operations.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: But let me just say that whatever its objective which initially was humanitarian, even the Italian government said today that some of the killings by the Somalis, killings of Somalis by the Pakistanis in the last couple of days is discrediting the United Nations and undermining all of the efforts.
AMB. ALBRIGHT: Well, I disagree with that. What I think is that clearly the loss of life is dreadful, and everybody deplores that. But what we are trying to do here as part of an international community is to begin to develop the rules of the road of how, in effect, an international organization can bring some peace to an area. Now, I think that what needs to happen is that we all need to work to fortify the whole peacekeeping operation. I think what people have lost track of is that the United Nations force at the moment is composed of 20 different countries. And frankly, the problem is that many of them have not trained together. They have not -- they don't all have the same kind of way that they deal with mob violence. They haven't had training in that. And what I would like to see is instead of saying that the U.N. is discredited is to say that this is exactly the time that the United Nations needs to be assisted in creating really effective peacekeeping forces that know how to operate together under the command of a United Nations commander.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Well, is there, for example, any investigation into the death of the civilian Somalis? You said a few minutes ago that the attacks on the Somalis were provoked, and that's why the Pakistanis fired, but many journalists, for example, who reside in the hotel right near where this attack took place were quoted at least in the Washington Post today saying that those were unarmed civilians and suggesting that this was sheer retaliation on the part of the Pakistanis for the 23 who were killed in ambushes last week.
AMB. ALBRIGHT: Well,Charlayne, you don't expect me to really question the veracity of journalists, do you?
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: But I thought you might have some information.
AMB. ALBRIGHT: I think that what we do know for a fact is that in that earlier incident a week ago that this was a staged demonstration in which women and children were set up as shields for armed people behind. This is a tactic that Aidid uses, and if you look at those crowds, that is what they look like. Now, I am not going to make excuses for wanton shooting, but what -- the information that we are getting is that this was a provoked attack and that the Pakistanis were defending themselves. And obviously, we would all favor the investigation of this incident. But what I would hope --
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Who's going to investigate?
AMB. ALBRIGHT: The United Nations and probably there may be other ways, and I think that -- but this -- I think the important point here is that this is not the main thing that is going on in Somalia.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Right. But let me ask you this though, because while the Pakistanis were the ones who pulled the trigger and news reports could be wrong on this too, but the United States has started to get the, is starting to get the blame for it. Is that worrisome to you?
AMB. ALBRIGHT: Well, the truth is that I think obviously that that's misplaced, and Aidid is a, somebody who likes to incite mobs, and he thinks that this is an exciting message. We have to keep in mind that Aidid has his own agenda and his own agenda is to rule Somalia by whatever means, and I think that what we have to be looking at is a process which, in effect, brings some kind of a democratic government to Somalia.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: With the level of force that you've had to bring to bear on this situation, are the U.N. and U.S. forces risking getting directly involved in a Somali civil war and getting involved in that quagmire that everybody, including the former ambassador to Kenya, Smith Hempstone, was warning about at the very beginning of this operation? Is that a worry?
AMB. ALBRIGHT: I don't believe so, and I think we have to keep in mind that until a week ago everybody was saying that the Somalia effort of UNOSOM II was a big success, and what happened was one person, one faction that thought that they weren't winning out of the success had decided to go directly at it by instigating violence. And we have to keep in mind the larger picture of the fact that this was a successful effort, nowhere near any quagmire as you describe it, that, in effect, an approach by the United Nations to try to restore a failed society and to bring law and order and to disarm it, and this is what the work of the United Nations is.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Well, Amb. Albright, thank you very much for joining us.
MR. MUDD: Again, the other major story of this Monday, President Clinton nominated Federal Appeals Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court. He called her a consensus builder, a healer, and a moderate. Good night, Robin.
MR. MacNeil: Good night, Roger. That's the NewsHour for tonight. And we'll see you again tomorrow night. I'm Robert MacNeil. Good night.
The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
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Episode Description
This episode's headline: Judicious Decision?; Newsmaker. The guests include PRESIDENT CLINTON; JUDGE RUTH BADER GINSBURG, Supreme Court Nominee; MICHAEL SOVERN, Former President, Columbia University; STUART TAYLOR, Legal Reporter; KATE MICHELMAN, National Abortion Rights Action League; KATHLEEN PERATIS, Former ACLU; Lawyer; JEFFREY BIRNBAUM, Wall Street Journal; MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, United Nations Ambassador; CORRESPONDENT: JEREMY THOMPSON. Byline: In New York: ROBERT MacNeil; In Washington: ROGER MUDD
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