Bob Schieffer asked Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain "[c]ould either of you ever nominate someone to the Supreme Court who disagrees with you on this issue? Senator McCain?" The question set up a nearly ten minute discussion of abortion that included McCain bringing up debunked attacks on Obama’s record on the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act.
Transcript (via CQ Politics):
SCHIEFFER: All right. Let’s stop there
and go to another question. And this one goes to Senator McCain.
Senator McCain, you believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Senator
Obama, you believe it shouldn’t.
Could either of you ever nominate someone to the Supreme Court who disagrees with you on this issue? Senator McCain?
I would never and have never in all the years I’ve been there imposed a
litmus test on any nominee to the court. That’s not appropriate to do.
SCHIEFFER: But you don’t want Roe v. Wade to be overturned?
I thought it was a bad decision. I think there were a lot of decisions
that were bad. I think that decisions should rest in the hands of the
states. I’m a federalist. And I believe strongly that we should have
nominees to the United States Supreme Court based on their
qualifications rather than any litmus test. Now, let me say that there
was a time a few years ago when the United States Senate was about to
blow up. Republicans wanted to have just a majority vote to confirm a
judge and the Democrats were blocking in an unprecedented fashion.
got together seven Republicans, seven Democrats. You were offered a
chance to join. You chose not to because you were afraid of the
appointment of, quote, “conservative judges.”
for Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg. Not because I agreed with
their ideology, but because I thought they were qualified and that
elections have consequences when presidents are nominated. This is a
very important issue we’re talking about.
voted against Justice Breyer and Justice Roberts on the grounds that
they didn’t meet his ideological standards. That’s not the way we
should judge these nominees. Elections have consequences. They should
be judged on their qualifications. And so that’s what I will do.
will find the best people in the world — in the United States of
America who have a history of strict adherence to the Constitution. And
not legislating from the bench.
SCHIEFFER: But even if it was someone — even someone who had a history of being for abortion rights, you would consider them?
I would consider anyone in their qualifications. I do not believe that
someone who has supported Roe v. Wade that would be part of those
qualifications. But I certainly would not impose any litmus test.
SCHIEFFER: All right.
Well, I think it’s true that we shouldn’t apply a strict litmus test
and the most important thing in any judge is their capacity to provide
fairness and justice to the American people.
And it is
true that this is going to be, I think, one of the most consequential
decisions of the next president. It is very likely that one of us will
be making at least one and probably more than one appointments and Roe
versus Wade probably hangs in the balance.
Now I would
not provide a litmus test. But I am somebody who believes that Roe
versus Wade was rightly decided. I think that abortion is a very
difficult issue and it is a moral issue and one that I think good
people on both sides can disagree on.
ultimately I believe is that women in consultation with their families,
their doctors, their religious advisers, are in the best position to
make this decision. And I think that the Constitution has a right to
privacy in it that shouldn’t be subject to state referendum, any more
than our First Amendment rights are subject to state referendum, any
more than many of the other rights that we have should be subject to
OBAMA: So this is going to be an
important issue. I will look for those judges who have an outstanding
judicial record, who have the intellect, and who hopefully have a sense
of what real-world folks are going through.
give you one quick example. Senator McCain and I disagreed recently
when the Supreme Court made it more difficult for a woman named Lilly
Ledbetter to press her claim for pay discrimination.
years, she had been getting paid less than a man had been paid for
doing the exact same job. And when she brought a suit, saying equal pay
for equal work, the judges said, well, you know, it’s taken you too
long to bring this lawsuit, even though she didn’t know about it until
We tried to overturn it in the Senate. I supported that effort to provide better guidance to the courts; John McCain opposed it.
think that it’s important for judges to understand that if a woman is
out there trying to raise a family, trying to support her family, and
is being treated unfairly, then the court has to stand up, if nobody
else will. And that’s the kind of judge that I want.
SCHIEFFER: Time’s up.
Obviously, that law waved the statute of limitations, which you could
have gone back 20 or 30 years. It was a trial lawyer’s dream.
me talk to you about an important aspect of this issue. We have to
change the culture of America. Those of us who are proudly pro-life
understand that. And it’s got to be courage and compassion that we show
to a young woman who’s facing this terribly difficult decision.
Obama, as a member of the Illinois State Senate, voted in the Judiciary
Committee against a law that would provide immediate medical attention
to a child born of a failed abortion. He voted against that.
And then, on the floor of the State Senate, as he did 130 times as a state senator, he voted present.
there was another bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the
state of Illinois not that long ago, where he voted against a ban on
partial-birth abortion, one of the late-term abortion, a really — one
of the bad procedures, a terrible. And then, on the floor of the
Illinois State Senate, he voted present.
I don’t know
how you vote “present” on some of that. I don’t know how you align
yourself with the extreme aspect of the pro- abortion movement in
America. And that’s his record, and that’s a matter of his record.
he’ll say it has something to do with Roe v. Wade, about the Illinois
State Senate. It was clear-cut votes that Senator Obama voted, I think,
in direct contradiction to the feelings and views of mainstream
Yes, let me respond to this. If it sounds incredible that I would vote
to withhold lifesaving treatment from an infant, that’s because it’s
not true. The — here are the facts.
There was a bill
that was put forward before the Illinois Senate that said you have to
provide lifesaving treatment and that would have helped to undermine
Roe v. Wade. The fact is that there was already a law on the books in
Illinois that required providing lifesaving treatment, which is why not
only myself but pro-choice Republicans and Democrats voted against it.
the Illinois Medical Society, the organization of doctors in Illinois,
voted against it. Their Hippocratic Oath would have required them to
provide care, and there was already a law in the books.
respect to partial-birth abortion, I am completely supportive of a ban
on late-term abortions, partial-birth or otherwise, as long as there’s
an exception for the mother’s health and life, and this did not contain
And I attempted, as many have in the
past, of including that so that it is constitutional. And that was
rejected, and that’s why I voted present, because I’m willing to
support a ban on late-term abortions as long as we have that exception.
The last point I want to make on the issue of abortion.
This is an issue that — look, it divides us. And in some ways, it may
be difficult to — to reconcile the two views.
there surely is some common ground when both those who believe in
choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say,
“We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing
appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is
sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and
providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want
to choose to keep the baby.”
Those are all things that
we put in the Democratic platform for the first time this year, and I
think that’s where we can find some common ground, because nobody’s
pro-abortion. I think it’s always a tragic situation.
OBAMA: We should try to reduce these circumstances.
SCHIEFFER: Let’s give Senator McCain a short response…
MCCAIN: Just again…
SCHIEFFER: … and then…
Just again, the example of the eloquence of Senator Obama. He’s health
for the mother. You know, that’s been stretched by the pro-abortion
movement in America to mean almost anything.
extreme pro-abortion position, quote, “health.” But, look, Cindy and I
are adoptive parents. We know what a treasure and joy it is to have an
adopted child in our lives. We’ll do everything we can to improve
adoption in this country.
But that does not mean that we
will cease to protect the rights of the unborn. Of course, we have to
come together. Of course, we have to work together, and, of course,
it’s vital that we do so and help these young women who are facing such
a difficult decision, with a compassion, that we’ll help them with the
adoptive services, with the courage to bring that child into this world
and we’ll help take care of it.