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Burden of Proof

Reform Party Presidential Candidate Pat Buchanan Discusses Election 2000 and the Future of the Supreme Court

Aired July 26, 2000 - 12:30 p.m. ET



PAT BUCHANAN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country! God bless you, and God bless America.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CO-HOST: Past Republican convention halls echoed with Pat Buchanan's doctrines of moral fiber, but as the GOP plans its first convention of the millennium, Buchanan won't be attending the party.

Today on BURDEN OF PROOF: an interview with Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.

ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF with Greta Van Susteren and Roger Cossack.

VAN SUSTEREN: Hello and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF. Roger is off today.

For much of the past four decades, Pat Buchanan has been part of the old guard of the GOP's conservative ranks. But last October, he broke ranks and left his Republican past and fled to the Reform Party. Buchanan is vying for the presidential nomination and is suing to gain access to this fall's debates.

Pat Buchanan joins us today here in our studio. And also Joining him in the front row are Marilyn Martin (ph) and Laurie Thibodeau (ph). And in our back row, Stephanie Inks (ph) and David Sirolly (ph).

Pat, you have filed a lawsuit, which in essence you want to get on the schedule to do the debates in October. Why aren't you on that debate schedule now?

PAT BUCHANAN (REF.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the reason we're not is the Presidential Debate Commission, which is dominated completely by Republicans and Democrats, when I joined the Reform Party suddenly added a new criterion to get into the debates, you have to reach 15 percent in five polls taken by good friends of mine at NBC and CBS and the "Washington Post." And this was arbitrary and capricious.

And what we argue it is, Greta, is basically is a two-party conspiracy to keep the third recognized party out of the event that is going to decide the presidency of the United States. It is unfair, it is unjust, it is illegitimate, and we believe it is illegal.

VAN SUSTEREN: When did this 15 percent rule come into effect. Was it really after you left the Republican Party and joined the Reform Party?

BUCHANAN: Yeah, it didn't even exist. All you had to do to get into the presidential debates before was, you got to be on the ballot in enough states to win, you got to be 35 of course, you have got to be a recognized national party, which Reform is. And you got to qualify for federal funds, which we've done.

So we had all the qualifications, but as soon as I moved to the Reform Party, immediately the debate commission met and imposed this new criterion, quite simply, just to keep us out.

Now they are funded. the Presidential Debate Commission gets a million dollars in funds from corporations, soft money, and they take tax deductions for that because it is supposed to be nonpartisan. But this isn't nonpartisan, it is bipartisan, and it makes a whale of a difference to us when we are the third party.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me be a little bit flip, is it safe to say that everyone thinks you are important enough to give you federal funds, taxpayer money to be in the election, but just you are not important enough to make the debates; is that what it is?

BUCHANAN: That is really, when you get right down to it, Greta, what Mr. Fahrenkopf (ph), who is a lobbyist for gamblers and heads the commission, is saying is, even though Mr. Buchanan and the Reform Party qualify for taxpayers' dollars, we don't think the taxpayers ought to see his ideas and issues in those debates. So we are going to keep him out.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, since we are talking about presidential politics, we want to show you these live pictures from Casper, Wyoming. The presumptive Republican nominee George W. Bush and his new running mate, Dick Cheney, are holding their first campaign rally there.

Dick Cheney grew up, of course, in Casper and represented the area in Congress for six terms. You can get a complete wrap-up of all the event and all the other campaign news today on CNN's "INSIDE POLITICS" coming up at 5:00 Eastern, 2:00 Pacific today on CNN.

Pat, let me go back to your lawsuit. Where did you file it?

BUCHANAN: We are going to file it in federal court. I don't know if we have yet. We want to get the final, formal rejection from the Federal Election Commission. which was unanimous. But, again, that is entirely Republican and Democrat.

I'm not sure where they're going to file it, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: What have the Gore and Bush ticket said?

BUCHANAN: We have not gotten a response from either of them yet formally, whether they're even going to debate, I understand Mr. Bush. I think they're just waiting.

What's going to happen here, Greta, is I think you are going to have a firestorm of protests that Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader be included. A national poll showed that 64 percent of the American people wanted Buchanan and Nader in the debates, 25 percent were opposed. And when the country wants that, and really many journalists, liberal and conservative and Democrat and Republican, they agree we ought to be in the debates, I think the two-party monopoly, that cartel is going to have a hard time keeping us out.

VAN SUSTEREN: And so 64 percent of the people want you in the debate. But tell me if I'm correct that, right now, that you have about a little bit less than five percent of the voters behind you, in terms of being president.

BUCHANAN: Well, some polls show us now moving back up to six percent, and we hope, after I get the nomination and we run hard, to get back into double-digits before the deadline, before the cutoff poll. But that is an enormously difficult, almost impossible task. Jesse Ventura had only 10 percent when they let him into the debates. Ross Perot, in '92, had seven percent. They let him into the debates and he got 19 percent. The debates are where the people decide who they want as president.

We don't want -- the Republicans and Democrats telling us we can't see people who are running for president. That is just putting a mortal lock and. frankly. a conspiracy to control the presidency forever.

VAN SUSTEREN: One of the arguments that you make in your court filing, which I don't know if it's been filed yet or not, is that you have a certain percentage, maybe a little bit more than five percent -- I don't know what it is -- of the American vote now, but that you believe that after the debates that you would persuade enough Americans so that you would hit that 15 percent threshold. Why do you think that?

BUCHANAN: Well, I not only think we would hit 15 percent, I think we can turn it into three-way race. As I said, Ross Perot went up from seven points, almost tripled his support, to 19 percent, by being in those three debates.

I believe we have a different agenda than the other Democrats. We are going to talk about the Supreme Court. I will name justices just like Antonin Scalia to the United States Supreme Court. Gore accuses Bush of doing it, and Bush won't say anything. I'll do that. I'll bring those troops home from Kosovo and Bosnia. I will give America a new trade policy that puts our workers and families and our national economic independence first.

VAN SUSTEREN: And you think that will lift it to go past the 15 percent, if that is sort of the magic number?

BUCHANAN: What you will get is -- I think you will get is two boring candidates, basically, who are driven by polls and focus groups and consultants, trying to say the same thing. And you have Pat Buchanan saying something dramatically different, and America first foreign and trade policy, and we will be bringing them out of their chairs at that convention hall, and they will be scalping tickets to that debate.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, we're going to take a break, and we are going to change gears from your lawsuit to issues involving the race, legal issues, including the Supreme Court and the potentially changing face. Stay with us.


ABC says it may challenge the FCC in court if it can't run lengthy profiles on Bush and Gore without offering equal time to other party candidates such as Buchanan.

TV networks get several exceptions to the equal time rules. On Tuesday, the FCC ruled that A&E's "Biography" will not have to adhere to the rules.



VAN SUSTEREN: Good news for our Internet-savvy viewers: you can now watch BURDEN OF PROOF live on the World Wide Web. Just log-on to We now provide a live video feed, Monday through Friday, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time. If you miss that live show, the program is available on the site at any time via video-on-demand. You can also interact with our show and even join our chat room.

The next president of the United States could end up nominating several justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. The potential for a vastly changing face on the court puts more legal emphasis on this year's presidential and congressional elections.

Pat, how important do you think it should be to the American people who's in the White House, in light of the fact that the Supreme Court may have so many vacancies?

BUCHANAN: I think the Supreme Court is the most powerful institution of government, in terms of determining how you and I live, Greta. It has usurped enormous amounts of power and authority from states and from the Congress of the United States.

I would put the U.S. Supreme Court and the probable vacancies as the most important domestic issue that will be decided in the presidential election in the year 2000. On this one, I agree with Al Gore. I mean, he says it's the most important issue or right up there. I agree 100 percent.

VAN SUSTEREN: And if you were elected president, who would be your model justice?

BUCHANAN: My model justice, obviously, would be Antonin Scalia.


BUCHANAN: I think Clarence Thomas has done a good job. I think Chief Justice Rehnquist has. I think Scalia is intellectual. He is Tough. He has got a deep, moral grounding. He has an understanding of the Constitution. He writes beautifully, and he has courage. And that's what we need.

And frankly, I've got a couple of people in mind, myself, whom I would consider for the Supreme Court. And as I'm going to say, in a Buchanan White House, no liberal judicial activists need apply.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, before I get to the names, let's talk about activism.

BUCHANAN: You are not going to make it, Greta. You are not going to make it, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: I am not -- I thought I was on your short list.

But let me talk about the activism. I mean, that is actually sort of -- that is a comment that we lawyers oftentimes make about judges we don't like. Take Justice Scalia, he does not consider himself an activist, and neither do the Republicans. But the truth is is when it comes to creating, inventing exceptions to the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, Justice Scalia is one of our greatest writer, one of our greatest inventors, one of our greatest activist justices. Why isn't that bad?

BUCHANAN: Well, here is what, I think Scalia is an original intent man in the Constitution. In other words, he's a justice who has the courage to take a look at a precedent put down by Warren and Brennan and that group, or a precedent in the 1970s, to look at it and say: This precedent does not conform to the Constitution, and we will overturn it, that decision, and we will go to the original Constitution intent.

Now that kind of judicial activism, which I think is constitutionalism, I agree with. As a matter of fact, I would not appoint justices who did not have the courage, for example, to overturn Roe v. Wade.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me take that one step further, when you talk about the Fourth Amendment and these exceptions that Justice Scalia and other conservative justices have created, those that I consider activism. The original intent, when the Constitution was created and the amendments, was to keep the British outside of people's homes without warrant. That was the original intent. If Scalia is going to be a strict constructionist, the last thing he is going to do is create these exceptions that he has.

BUCHANAN: Well, look, I'm not sure exactly which of his decisions you are referring to right now. But I believe that the Supreme Court -- let's take the case in South Carolina of the Citadel: 150-year tradition, all-male cadet corps, everybody in the Citadel, parents, faculty, alumni, women, wives, everyone supported it, in South Carolina supported it. And the Supreme Court overturned it and said it's got to be sexually integrated.

Now, we didn't pass the Equal Rights Amendment. If we had, I'd understand that. And so I think that's judicial activism.

And what I would like to see is a justice who is a conservative and a constitutionalist who would say VMI and the Citadel can do what they darn well please when it comes to single-sex schools, just as Smith College can. That may be judicial activism in overturning liberal precedents. Those are the kinds of justices we want.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I may have broadly spoken when I said that Justice Scalia invented them, he has endorsed many of these exceptions to the warrant requirement in the Fourth Amendment.

Let me just change gears a little bit. Give me an idea, do you have a short list? I mean, who are the types of people that would be at least on your list?

BUCHANAN: There is one individual I know, it is Mike Ludic (ph) on the Fourth Circuit. I think he is a 10-year appointee. He was a Bush appointee. He is a bright, courageous, young, energetic, conservative, and a traditionalist. And he is someone I would look at.

I would look at Judge Moore down there in Alabama. If he goes on the Alabama Supreme Court, which he's running for. He stood up and said: Look, we're not going to take down the 10 Commandments. I don't care what that court said over there in wherever it was, Montgomery. He is someone I would certainly look at.

I would go to these judicial -- the bench and see individuals with records. Then I would bring them into the White House. You know how I would question them? I would say: What did you think of Plessy v. Ferguson, was that wrongly decided? Why was Brown v. The Board of Education, was that wrongly decided?

VAN SUSTEREN: What is the answer? What is the answer you are looking for?

BUCHANAN: What I want to know is, are they willing to tell me why that was wrong or right. And secondly, would you be willing to overturn one of these decisions, if you felt it was wrongly decide 20 or 30 years ago?

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, Brown v. Board of Education overruled Plessy versus Ferguson, which stood for the...

BUCHANAN: But I want to know what their thinking is, what they are willing to overturn. Those are legitimate questions for a president.

You and I know when Abe Lincoln brought in those justices, he said: What did you think of Dred Scott, fella? And if the guy didn't I am going to overturn it, he wouldn't have been on the Supreme Court.

And I think that kind of strong president is what we need. You know, Jefferson himself took the Alien and Sedition Acts, which were passed legally, approved by the court, sent people to jail, threw them all out, let everybody out of jail, and said the president's got a right to interpret the Constitution of the United States.

We need a strong president. The Supreme Court should not be deciding the things it's deciding for the American people, legislators and executives should, and I think Antonin Scalia agrees with me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who do you think is a Supreme Court justice on the bench you would like to see leave?

BUCHANAN: I would like to see -- There's a number of them whom I'd buy houses for and retirement centers and I would name buildings for them if they would please get out.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who do you think are the justices we should see go?

BUCHANAN: Let me tell you a story, I was in the Oval Office with Gerald Ford, January 1, 1976, when he said: John Paul Stevens is just the kind of guy I'm going to appoint. I think he got 100 percent approval in the Senate. I left that room and endorsed Ronald Reagan. I think Justice Stevens has been a disaster, from the point of view of constitutionalism. I think Mr. Souter has been a profound disappointment.

Republicans 97-3 voted for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that is beyond me, she did not disguise the fact that she was an ACLU activist who believed that judges, if state legislatures fail, judges should step in and do the job. Why did they vote for her? What is the matter with this Republican Party? That's why I'm a Reformer.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, we're going to take a break.

Up next, more of Pat Buchanan's take on the legal issues facing this election. Stay with us.


Q: A Sarasota woman was found dead in a house she and her ex- husband were allegedly fighting over. Investigators say they are looking for the ex-husband and his girlfriend. What TV show did the three appear on before the death.

A: "The Jerry Springer Show."



VAN SUSTEREN: Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan joins us today. The Reform Party's national convention is slated for August 10 in Long Beach, California. And one of our panelists, Marilyn Martin (ph), has a question for you, Pat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Buchanan, yes, the issue of tort reform has seemed to somewhat diminish recently on our list of priorities. And how do you feel? Is that a pertinent issue to our country? And as president, what do you feel is the best way to implement change in the civil justice system?

BUCHANAN: Well, I agree with tort reform. What was the discussion we just got on General Motors? How much was it, $124 billion?

VAN SUSTEREN: As soon as you answer her question, how bad are you in this?

BUCHANAN: But it seemed to me that that's absurd, frankly. And I do agree with a measure of tort reform where, obviously, you get your compensatory damages, and I would take a look at what you could do in terms of punitive damages. But the idea of a hundred and -- that you give a jury a right to destroy a company which, after all, belongs to its shareholders is preposterous. I think that's the theft of private property and I don't think you can allow them to do that.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you know what, but let me talk to you about that, Pat. First of all, is that everyone talks about states' rights in the Republican Party, and you were...

BUCHANAN: You don't have a conflict of interest here do you, Greta?

VAN SUSTEREN: No, no, no, no, and I did this work. You know I did this work. But you talk about states' rights. National tort reform takes it away from states, and that was typically a Republican, maybe a Reform Party issue.


VAN SUSTEREN: Secondly, the issue of the damages: We read about the huge damage victories -- verdicts because they're sensational and the media picks up on the sensational. And finally, when are people going to realize that every single judge who presides over a civil case has the authority to reduce the verdict if the judge who sits through the evidence thinks it's too high?

BUCHANAN: OK, those are very good -- that's a very good point, but look: The federal government would have an interest -- if you've got General Motors, or let's take Microsoft, you're talking about a strategic national asset. So I think there is a national interest.

On the federal judges, you're right. I do believe this: I believe we should set term limits on all federal judges of eight years, and they would have to be reconfirmed by the Congress of the United States to make sure that good judges continue to serve. But some of these people, quite frankly, who fail in their jobs ought to be held accountable and be removed. My problem... VAN SUSTEREN: We'd have to change the Constitution for that.

BUCHANAN: No, no, not for the federal judiciary below the Supreme Court. You can't do that with a Supreme Court justice without changing the Constitution. But as you know, the federal courts are the creation of Congress. Put term limits, and, frankly, I would go for recall of federal judges in the federal district. And if judges are going to make decisions and impose them, then the people ought to have some recourse. You believe in small-D democracy. You don't believe in a rule of judges or a rule of kings, Greta. You'd probably be all for that.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let's let Laurie Thibodeau (ph) ask you a question.

Go ahead, Laurie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Buchanan, hello.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In what ways has developing technology, specifically the Internet, impacted the electoral process and your campaign?

BUCHANAN: Well, the Internet has become an extraordinary, powerful tool of communication for candidates, especially grassroots candidates like me. And, frankly, it is becoming a way that, eventually, I think might replace direct mail. You know, I raise all my money, virtually, by sending out tremendous mailing lists. And if you can just put something on the Internet, I think John McCain was more successful than anyone, and you can communicate.

The good thing about the Internet is it is small-D democracy and, frankly, you know, the big media doesn't like us -- I mean, CBS, NBC, they don't cover us. But on the Internet, our people can communicate with one another. It's like talk radio, which was small-D democracy where the people can get involved in making their own news and participating. I think it's a very, very healthy thing, this -- the Internet and -- but there's got to be some little regulation about pornography and things like that, you know, and these guys using it to pick up little kids and stuff.

VAN SUSTEREN: Pat, this is the anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. It's about 10 years old, I think.


VAN SUSTEREN: ADA. What's your view on the ADA?

BUCHANAN: My view on the ADA? It's one of the reasons I ran against Mr. Bush, is I favored the ADA, but he let it go too far. And I know the story of the woman that came into a movie theater, about 400 pounds. They didn't have a seat for her so she complained under the ADA, and she owns the theater now. I mean, she sued them. And -- but that was preposterous. There are things with regard to ADA I would have supported. By and large, my view, though, is this, Greta: The American people are a good people. They don't discriminate and brutalize against people who are handicapped. I think a lot of good has been done by ADA, but some harm. And, again, Congress should have gone back and defined it far better than it did.

VAN SUSTEREN: But, you know, Pat -- and, of course, I'm going to get the last word on this because we don't have much time left...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... but the truth is that many of these cases go to juries and the American people make judgments about what they think is fair, which is essentially so important.

BUCHANAN: Yes, but it is -- it should be the law as written. And, frankly, with regard to small businesses, very small, they're not in interstate commerce. Let the states deal with small businesses.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which is states' rights, and that goes back to torts again.

BUCHANAN: States' rights. But General Motors...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's why no national tort reform.

BUCHANAN: Well, General Motors is interstate commerce.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, that's -- unfortunately, you get the last word.

That's all the time we have today. Thanks to our guests and thank you for watching.

Tonight on "NEWSSTAND," Dick Cheney's addition to the Bush ticket also thrusts his wife into the political spotlight. Are Lynne Cheney's political views relevant? I'll be taking your phone calls and e-mails. That's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. And today on "TALKBACK LIVE," why should other people's children be your problem? That's today at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, noon Pacific.

And, tomorrow, tune in for an interview with O.J. Simpson. He'll be discussing his new controversial Web site. Join us then for another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF.



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