Stephanopoulos Badgers Breyer, SCOTUS IS Political, When Decisions Don’t Go My Way!

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ABC’s George Stephanopoulos badgered Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer on Tuesday’s Good Morning America, over whether or not the highest court in the land had become political. The liberal justice was on the program promoting his new book, which argued justices follow “the rule of law” not political parties’ demands. But Stephanopoulos didn’t believe it, and grilled him on decisions that did not go Democrats’ way, such as the Texas fetal heartbeat law and even Bush v. Gore in the 2000 election as evidence that the court was doing Republicans’ bidding.

The journalist started off demanding Breyer back up his claim that the court was acting as jurists, not politicians. Stephanopoulos was skeptical: “I couldn’t help but think as I was reading the book wondering, you describe the world as it ought to be, not as it is. How do you respond to that?”

Breyer argued that while the court has a history of “bad” and “good” decisions for the country, the process stays orderly: “You have to think of a rule of law and a rule of law means you sometimes follow decisions you don’t like.”

But that wasn’t satisfactory to Stephanopoulos, who complained the Texas heartbeat law was evidence that SCOTUS was political (aka Republican). He pressured Breyer to “question his conviction” that court was not a “political institution”:

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But you can see at least in recent years the court certainly has had the appearance of appearing to act in a more political manner than rather following the rule of law. Look at the recent Texas abortion case where the court upheld the ban in Texas. You know, Justice Sotomayor wrote that the court was ignoring its constitutional obligations and the rule of law. When you have rulings like that, no briefings, no oral arguments does it make you question your own conviction that the court is acting as an apolitical institution? 

Breyer wouldn’t cave, arguing that the justices “don’t trade votes,” citing how the high court’s decision to stop the Florida Supreme Court’s order to recount votes in the 2000 presidential election was supported by conservative and liberal justices. “Okay, so two of the dissenters were appointed by Republican presidents and two of the dissenters, I was one, were appointed by democratic presidents. It’s not what you would think of or I might think of,” he pointed out.

But Stephanopoulos, who at the time confidently declared Gore the winner of Florida just days after the election, again badgered Breyer about that decision. He whined:

Except the majority was appointed by Republican presidents and they said, even as they made the decision, ‘don’t even count this as a president, don’t even think about it.’ A lot of people looked at that and said ‘this is going to elect a president , it doesn’t set a precedent and it goes against what they had done before. That’s acting politically, not legally!’

In response, Breyer cited Harry Reid, who said that even though half the country didn’t like the decision, there wasn’t riots in the streets, like in less democratic countries because there was trust in the rule of law.

Ignoring last Summer’s riots from the left, Stephanopoulos immediately brought up the January 6 riot: “Are you worried that that may be at risk? You mentioned riots in the streets. We just came off January 6th. There were riots in the capital over the election so what are you worried about?”

Breyer said he was worried that if children aren’t being taught to understand how government works, and participate in it, they won’t trust it and that it will be difficult to coexist in such a diverse country. 

Stephanopoulos ended the interview asking a snide question about Breyer’s retirement, which the left has been pushing for:What is it important to consider, simply your health or who the President is who is in control of the Senate?” The justice gave a diplomatic response, saying he was considering all the options.

ABC pushing for SCOTUS to do what Democrats want was paid for by advertiser State Farm. Contact them at the Conservatives Fight Back page here. 

Read the relevant transcript portions below:

Good Morning America

9/14/2021

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:  You brought the book with you. I read it and in it you make a strong plea that citizens should believe that justices are loyal to the rule of law, not to the political party that secured their nomination. You say don’t think of them as junior varsity politicians, think of them as jurists and I couldn’t help but think as I was reading the book wondering you describe the world as it ought to be not as it is. How do you respond to that?

JUSTICE STEPHEN BREYER: ….And in thinking of that you have to think of a rule of law and a rule of law means you sometimes follow decisions you don’t like. They might be wrong so – 

STEPHANOPOULOS:  That’s one of the strengths of our system. But you can see at least in recent years the court certainly has had the appearance of appearing to act in a more political manner than rather following the rule of law. Look at the recent Texas abortion case where the court upheld the ban in Texas. You know, Justice Sotomayor wrote that the court was ignoring its constitutional obligations and the rule of law. When you have rulings like that, no briefings, no oral arguments does it make you question your own conviction that the court is acting as an apolitical institution? 

BREYER: I thought that that was a very bad decision and I dissented. And that’s what I should do. I think the problem is that the public doesn’t understand generally there are lots of cases, probably close to — used to be about half were unanimous, it used to be still it’s a third and count 8-1, 7-2, more than half, we don’t trade votes and members of the court have different judicial philosophies, some emphasize more text, some that was Scalia, some like me probably emphasize more purposes and the great divisions are probably much more along those lines than they are of what we would think of as political lines. After all, look at Bush V. Gore. Can you think of anything more political? 

STEPHANOPOULOS: No, I cannot. 

BREYER: Okay, so two of the dissenters were appointed by Republican presidents and two of the dissenters, I was one, were appointed by democratic presidents. It’s not what you would think of or I might think of. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: Except the majority was appointed by Republican presidents and they said, even as they made the decision, ‘don’t even count this as a president, don’t even think about it.’ A lot of people looked at that and said ‘this is going to elect a president , it doesn’t set a precedent and it goes against what they had done before. That’s acting politically, not legally.’

BREYER: And Harry Reid, democratic leader of the Senate, said the most interesting thing I heard about that case. Despite the fact that if affected a lot of people in ways they didn’t like and was wrong, I mean I thought it was wrong, they followed it. They followed it without guns in the streets, without throwing paving stones, without riots and when I told that to the students at Stanford, they were like–I just could see, I said, I know, a third of you think there should have been a few riots. Really? Turn on the television set, not this program, and see how people decide things in countries where they don’t have a rule of law. That’s a treasure and it’s been built up over many, many years and if you can read it twice, this book. 

STEPHANOPOULOS:  I read it only once so far. 

[chuckles] 

BREYER:  It’s short but you will see the complexity of what I think and why you said, politically.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you worried that that may be at risk. You mentioned riots in the streets. We just came off January 6th. There were riots in the capital over the election so what are you worried about? 

BREYER: I am worried that people don’t understand it. I am worried if children in the schools don’t understand their government. I am worried if they don’t teach what their government is about and I’m very worried if they don’t participate. If they don’t participate and practice working with other people, they won’t have trust in our institutions and that includes yours and if they don’t have trust in institutions, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to live in a society of 331 million people of tremendous diversity. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m going to close with your least favorite question, question about retirement. What is it important to consider, simply your health  or who the President is who is in control of the Senate?

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