Supreme Court Strikes Down, Upholds Affirmative Action
Aired June 23, 2003 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left: James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right: Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE, affirmative action is affirmed, more or less.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The central principle is, affirmative action may be used.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The court made it harder for schools to take race into account.
ANNOUNCER: Which is it? What did the Supreme Court really say? And who really wins? Plus, are Democrats eating their own?
Today on CROSSFIRE.
ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.
ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. In one of the most anticipated rulings of the current term, the U.S. Supreme Court today both struck down and upheld affirmative action policies at the University of Michigan. In a minute, we'll debate what it means for the rest of us. But first the best political briefing in television our "CROSSFIRE Political Alert."
Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean seemingly has been running for president forever, but only today got around to announcing his candidacy the Democratic nomination. The governor had to pull his foot out of his mouth after his encounter with NBC's Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" yesterday.
Dean didn't know the strength of the U.S. armed forces, asked the citation of his 17-year-old son for allegedly helping steal liquor from a country club, Dean called it a little scrap. He couldn't remember advocating cuts in Medicare and Social Security, And back in the People's Republic of Vermont, more bad news. Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's ice cream endorsed Dennis Kucinich for president. Even Howard isn't radical enough for his fellow Vermontans.
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: My memo to the Dean campaign is if you want to let your guy make a fool out of himself on national television CROSSFIRE is the place. My goodness, he didn't do the best he could do on "Meet the Press". If he comes on here, I think at least, he'll be better.
NOVAK: You know what amazes me, everybody goes on meet the press, all these Democratic guys, they know they're going to get tough questioning from Tim Russert, who is very well prepared, I think they waltz on without real preparation.
BEGALA: They're studying under George W. Bush who still doesn't know how many people are in the military.
As we (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for attacking Iraq, President Bush said that Saddam Hussein had ongoing ties with al Qaeda's terrorists. He said that a top al Qaeda leader was in Iraq and said that Iraq might arm terrorists with weapons of mass destruction. Turns out his own intelligence agencies most definitive report on the matter concluded that all three claims were shaky or down right false. According to the Washington post, Mr. Bush's own national intelligence estimates said it was not, quote, "Any known continuing high-level relationships between the Iraqi government and Al Qaeda." Quoting "The Washington Post" there.
The post reveals that U.S. intelligence had disputed reports of an al Qaeda agent in Baghdad and Saddam Hussein arming terrorists. Of course, that didn't stop Mr. Bush from misleading us into a war, anyway.
NOVAK: You know Paul, I hope you didn't read the article by Walter Pinkus in the Washington Post, because if you did read you're misrepresenting it, and I don't think you did that intentionally. What the article says, is there was a divided opinion in the CIA, and President Bush took the side that supported his case. It wasn't that the CIA said one thing and he said the other thing. There was a division of opinion in the CIA.
BEGALA: It said that those items were untrue or very, very shaky. He didn't tell us that. He said it was absolutely the case. He said many things, as a matter of fact, that turned out to be fiction.
NOVAK: Mr. Pincus said it was a divided opinion.
Campaigning for president, senator John Kerry bellows like Paul Begala that President Bush misled the country into war. Now he was not supported by the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Republican Pat Roberts and Democrat Jay Rockefeller on Fox News yesterday. The intelligence committee has a reputation for nonpartisanship, and senator Rockefeller upheld it, he said, quote, I think that Pat Roberts and I make a distinction between people who are running for President and therefore need to capture attention, and what we on the intelligence committee have to do, which is to get the facts and get the intelligence, end quote. So much for John Kerry.
BEGALA: Oh, no, so much for George W. Bush, the thing he has to fear the most is American people will get the facts how he misled us. that's why Jay Rockefeller is very a dangerous man to George W. Bush, because he wants to get the facts and get them to the American people. NOVAK: You're a wonderful spinner, Paul. But as a matter of fact, that was a tremendous slap in the face for a leading presidential candidate, a top Democrat on the intelligence committee who said he's running for president, I'm giving you the facts, and there's a big difference.
BEGALA: When we get to the facts we'll see Bush was told these things are very shaky, but he told us they're solid, and that's misleading us.
Well now that President Bush has signed yet another tax cut for the idle rich, the caviar and cabernet crowd are celebrating. As a public service for those of our viewers whom the tax cut was designed to help, that is mega-millionaires and billionaires, here's a copy of IRS form 8302. I'm not making this up -- it allows you, this form, to receive by direct deposit your tax refund if it is of $1 million or more. So everybody go out and get your 8302s, of course, for the tens of millions of Americans who were promised a tax cut by Mr. Bush but then didn't receive one, I'm sorry, there is no form to cash in on a broken Bush promise.
NOVAK: You know, Paul, I hate to tell you this -- I hate to tell you this, but as usual, you've got it just a little bit wrong. This form applies only to partnerships and partners, it doesn't apply to individual taxpayers. And as I told you many times, the people who did not get tax cuts do not pay income tax. That's one of the old rules that old conservatives say. If you don't pay an income tax, you don't get an income tax cut.
BEGALA: That's not what Bush said, Bush said every family would get a tax cut. He didn't tell the truth. He did not tell the truth. Twenty million Americans who work and do pay taxes, Bob, they do pay taxes.
NOVAK: Income taxes -- they don't pay income taxes, they don't get an income tax cut.
BEGALA: Coming up, we will debate today's landmark ruling on affirmative action. The supreme court ruled out the University of Michigan's undergraduate affirmative action system calling it a quota but upheld the University's law school admissions program, calling the diversity there quote, a compelling State interest, unquote. A former United States attorney general and an influential member of Congress will debate both sides in just a minute. Stay with us.
NOVAK: The U.S. Supreme Court, today ruled, that the University of Michigan law school can give preferential treatment to minorities in the admission process. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was the swing vote in the 5-4 decision siding with the court's liberals. However, the court voted 6-3 to overturn an affirmative action program for undergraduate admissions program in Michigan under which points were awarded to minority applicants. Justice O'Connor and a Clinton appointed Stephen Breyer sided with the conservatives in this case. In the CROSSFIRE, a District of Columbia delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Reagan administration attorney general Edwin Meese, a Republican. He's current with the heritage foundation.
BEGALA: Thank you both for joining us.
Mr. Attorney General, thank you for joining us, you took time today on a very busy day. One of the things -- this will surprise coming from the left that I admire about your tenure in service of our country and President Reagan you is told us what you believed in. A far cry from our current president who issued this statement today. Quote, "I applaud the Supreme Court for recognizing the value of diversity on our nation's campuses. Today's decision seeks a careful balance between the goal of campus diversity and the fundamental equal treatment under the law."
He doesn't tell us if he's for or against it.
This naddy pandy poll driven focus group nonsense, isn't it Mr. Attorney General?
EDWIN MEESE, FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think what he was doing was reflecting this case. You had two different cases one went one way, one went the other. So, in a sense the supreme court set the pace by not being clear. I think, in one case, the Michigan undergraduate case, the outright racial discrimination which the college was engaging in is unlawful and unconstitutional. At the same time, they followed the Bakke which has caused uncertainty.
BEGALA: The case from the '80s.
MEESE: From the 1980s. And left in limbo the question of, they said diverse said a proper purpose for a university, but they left up in the air as to what constitutes the proper use to get to that diversity and so I think that's what the president was confused. I think that we're going to have much more litigation in the future, because the court missed a definitely opportunity there to say, look, judging people on the basis of race is wrong. We should have a color blind society, people should be judged on their merit. They missed that opportunity today.
NOVAK: Mrs. Norton, on the standpoint of full disclosure, I think we ought to tell the audience, that whether or not you like it you were my representative in Congress in the District of Columbia.
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), DC DELEGATE: And the way I vote in committee, I represent him very well.
NOVAK: But Mrs. Norton, you like to be a populist and be on the side of the people, but you're not. Let's take a look at the Gallup poll taken last week. Should colleges consider racial background admissions, 27 percent yes, no, 69 percent. It's not even close is it?
NORTON: That's why you have a Bill of Rights in the constitution of the United States to protect minority rights. If it took us 200 years and it was the Supreme Court that declared a 1954 the separate but equal was unconstitutional. We don't vote on those kinds of things in this country anymore.
NOVAK: So in other words, public opinion there how about what the people think doesn't matter, right?
NORTON: Not on constitutional matter, if the public thinks you shouldn't have the right to speak, it doesn't matter. If the public thinks you shouldn't have equal protection, it doesn't matter. That's what's the...
NOVAK: The constitution shouldn't have racial discrimination. It doesn't matter, right?
NORTON: And the court said you don't have racial discrimination, it's a wonderful decision, if repudiated. It said that diversity was not a quota, it did not violate equal protection, it was essential, for higher education, and it was a compelling state interest. That's a slam dunk.
BEGALA: Mr. Attorney General, the American people wanted Al Gore to be our president, the Supreme Court didn't and look what happened. We all have to live with opinions we don't like!
I still call him my president, I don't like, it I complain about it every day, he's my president, my commander-in-chief.
MEESE: And the country's better off because of it.
BEGALA: We can argue about that, that we cannot argue that more Americans wanted him to be the president. The question is, I get from Bob a lot, is get over the supreme court case that put Mr. Bush in office. When will conservatives get over and finally accept it now for over 20 years the Supreme Court said definitively that we can consider race in admissions in colleges for reasons of diversity.
We finally accept the constitutional principle?
MEESE: Remember what they said this in case, it has to be narrowly tailored in. But certain situations it's not unlawful. They did not endorse the principle. They said that diversity is a good idea. But you don't have to have racial discrimination as they did in the law school in order to have diversity. At one of our fine universities here, George Mason University, they have...
BEGALA: On which board you sit.
MEESE: As a matter of fact, I do. We have probably one of the most diverse university campuses, or three campuses anyplace in the United States, and we do not use racial preference as a means of getting people admitted to the student body.
BEGALA: That's your choice and your school's choice to decide how to set up their admissions. NORTON: I am still a tenured professor of law at Georgetown University. I teach one course there every year. To keep my tenure was harder -- to get tenure than to be elected. And I can tell you that I know for a fact that not only at Georgetown but every university in the United States. He tells me George Mason is an exception. White people and black people alike are not admitted by the numbers.
Only in countries like Europe and Asia do you have raw score numbers of admission. In this case, there were white students admitted with lower scores than the plaintiffs in this case because that is the way, that's the egalitarian American way. We want diverse student bodies. The only diversity that's been left out historically is racial diversity.
MEESE: Let me tell you something about Georgetown law school. A student recently graduated from there. And the dean asked if there were suggestions, and the student said yes, we need diversity here.
NORTON: Even more interesting.
MEESE: The dean said we have minorities and all that. He said, no, I mean we need diversity of opinion, diversity of thought. It's all liberal here. And unfortunately, that's the case.
NOVAK: Ms. Norton, this decision on the -- on the Michigan law school, a 5-to-4 decision. Not like the 1954 decision on the segregation, which was 9-to-nothing, this is 5-to-4. I'd like to read a dissenting opinion by one of the brilliant justices I've seen, Clarence Thomas. And said this, he the law school of its own choosing and for its own purposes maintains an exclusionary admissions system that it knows produces racially disproportionate results.
That's really incontestable, isn't it?
NORTON: There's not equality in supreme court decisions the majority rules. The majority repudiated that decision. This is not discrimination. The court so ruled, it said it is consistent with equal protection of the constitution. I don't know how much clearer you can be. And Thomas is never going to accept it. We got to understand why he doesn't.
BEGALA: He accepted when it benefited him.
MEESE: No, no, no. It never benefited him.
BEGALA: Mr. Meese, no.
MEESE: The idea that Clarence Thomas was admitted to law school on the basis of affirmative action is absolutely false.
BEGALA: He was admitted to the Supreme Court.
MEESE: And he was not admitted to the Supreme Court. (CROSSTALK)
MEESE: And his opinions -- his opinions -- his opinions proved it.
BEGALA: Mr. Attorney general, hold that thought. We're going to take a quick break. Wolf Blitzer will give you all the headlines and then, we'll have "Rapidfire" with both the left and the right get full and equal opportunity, provided we keep our questions short and keep your answers short.
We'll also ask members of our audience whether race should be a factor in college admission. Stay with us.
BEGALA: Wolf, thank you for the update. We look forward to your report at the top of the hour. It's time now for "Rapid Fire," where we take our own affirmative action to keep the questions and answers short. In the CROSSFIRE, Reagan administration attorney general Ed Meese and D.C. Delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton.
NOVAK: Ms. Norton, do you have any remorse, any feeling of sadness for the person who is denied admission to the University of Michigan because he or she is white?
NORTON: The court found that diversity had had almost no impact on whites getting into the University of Michigan.
BEGALA: Mr. Meese, do you believe that George W. Bush could have gotten into Yale and Harvard if there weren't affirmative action for the hard-drinking moneyed elite?
MEESE: I think he certainly could have. He's already shown that he has a great deal of skill, a great deal of smarts.
NOVAK: Ms. Norton, since the court ruled out the points system for admission into the University of Michigan, giving you racial points, does that mean that they'll find some subterfuge for giving African-Americans special advantages?
NORTON: The only reason they used the point system there is they have so many applicants, and I think if they just translate what the law school uses, they'll have a perfectly good system.
BEGALA: Mr. Attorney General, first captain of the corps cadets at West Point this year was admitted on affirmative action, rose to the top rank at West Point. Do you think that's un-American?
MEESE: He was not admitted on the basis that he was less qualified or that he was unqualified. He was definitely qualified, and he's done a good job, and I have no -- I just don't believe that a black person cannot be qualified for a top job in a college or anyplace else.
NOVAK: Ms. Norton, do you think that black people who are admitted under this program feel that they have a sense of inferiority, that they're not getting in the proper way?
NORTON: You know what, Bob, the only people who bring up the psychological effect on black people are people like you who are against affirmative action.
NOVAK: Thank you very much. Congresswoman Norton, thank you, Ed Meese. It's time for today's "Ask the Audience Question." Should colleges consider race in their admissions policies? On our voting devices, press one for yes, colleges should consider race. Press two for no, colleges should not consider race. We'll have the results after the break.
And in "Fireback," one of our viewers suggests Paul Begala, get this, drop a certain phrase from his vocabulary.
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. The affirmative action debate rages on even here in our studio audience. We asked the audience today, just now, after they watched the debate. What do you think? Should we use race in college admissions? Look at this, Bob, almost every Democrat, 73 percent Democrat say yes, but 81 percent of Republicans say no.
NOVAK: Party means something in this country on almost every issue.
All right. Our first "Fireback" is from Michael Harris of Purchase, New York. Says -- "The Supreme Court took a serious step back in the name of civil rights. Affirmative action is nothing more than a politically correct term for discrimination. Considering race clearly goes against the doctrine of equal protection under the law." I bet you're a law student at Purchase, New York, Michael, because you got it exactly right.
BEGALA: How about considering legacies, whether your daddy can give a lot of money to Harvard or Yale? That gets you in. That's against equal protection.
Kent Mastanich -- I think I butchered your name, Kent, I'm sorry -- of Denham Springs, Louisiana writes: "If you get admissions points for race, how many points do you get if you're a legacy? Does this not reward certain students based on criteria other than individual achievement?"
NOVAK: That's an irrelevancy, it's absolutely irrelevant. There's two different issues. OK, the next "Fireback" is from Gregory Myrtle of Saint Johns, Michigan. "Can Paul complete a show without saying, "Bush lost the popular vote." I'd bet Begala's most favorite is grapes, probably of the sour variety." As a matter of fact, Gregory, he's already said it in this show. He cannot go through a show without saying that because he's got a little indicator in his body that does it.
BEGALA: Sour grapes are for bitter losers, which is what the Republicans were in that last election. My side actually won. Estee Campbell of East Hampton, New York writes: "While watching George Bush swagger into camera range to explain once more why he took us to war in Iraq, I finally figured why the way he walks is as wacky as the way he talks. His pants are on fire."
Intelligent question. Question from the audience, I hope you're better than that one was.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, my name is Crystal from Shreveport, Louisiana. My question is, now that the Supreme Court has made the rulings on affirmative action, how do you feel that our presidential candidates will integrate this into their campaigns, and do you think it will have a positive or substantial impact on the direction that their campaign goes?
NOVAK: This is a very unpopular decision with everybody except the minority groups and they will stay away from it in the general election campaign, talk about it in the primaries.
BEGALA: The Democrats ought to, and I think they will, stand up firmly and say, I support affirmative action. Watch George Bush's political (UNINTELLIGIBLE) straight out of his polls (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
NOVAK: We don't have that much time. Go ahead, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. My name is Alex Wagner (ph) from Davis, California. And I was just wondering if you see any possibility of a joint Democratic ticket, say between Kerry and Dean?
NOVAK: That would be a wonderful ticket, and a sure loser.
BEGALA: I think it would be a terrific ticket, but I don't pick favorites. I want both of them to come on CROSSFIRE. As I said at the beginning of the show, Howard Dean, you want to mess up on TV, we're the place to do it.
From the left, I am Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.
NOVAK: From the right, I am Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts now.
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