Liberal? CNN Skips Far-Left Legacy of Supreme Court Judge John Paul Stevens

CNN’s John Berman talked to retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens on Tuesday and somehow never managed to call him a liberal, despite his unmistakably far-left positions. The New Day co-host instead asked, “Are you still a Republican?” 

Stevens, who just turned 99 and retired in 2010, is a vocal supporter of gun control, abortion rights, and still complains about the Bush vs. Gore case. Yet despite all this, Berman failed to label the ex-judge’s ideology. The CNN journalist said of Stevens’s annoyance at losses on the courts:  “He feels that most strongly on issues surrounding guns and the 2008 Heller decision which recognized an individual's right to bear arms.” 

 

 

Stevens referred to the historic 2008 Heller decision as “a really atrocious decision.” The only inference to his liberal ideology came when Berman noted, “Appointed by Republican Gerald Ford, he quickly found himself in the minority on many landmark decisions with the Court's rightward drift.” 

So others on the Supreme Court get labeled for ideology, but not the solidly liberal Stevens? Instead, Berman invited the retired justice to attack Trump: “What's your view of President Trump in regards to the courts?... Do you think he understands the role of the judiciary in the country?” 

The cable anchor also wondered whether Stevens was still a Republican: 

JOHN BERMAN: Are you still a Republican? 

STEVENS: I can say I do not expect to vote for the Republican candidate for president in the next election. I don't know if I'm a member of the party or not. I'm not active politically. 

BERMAN: Has the party changed from when you were more active politically? 

STEVENS: Well, yes. Everything has changed since then. 

On Sunday, the Washington Post offered an ideological label for Stevens, but somehow called him a “centrist.” 

A transcript of the segment is below. Click "expand" to read more. 

New Day
5/14/19
8:44:01 to 8:49:31

JOHN BERMAN: The Supreme Court making headlines on several fronts and today one prominent former justice is weighing in. In his new book The Making of a Justice, retired justice John Paul Stevens reflects on nearly a century in American life. I sat down with him to discuss President Trump, Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the future of the high court. What do you think your legacy is? 

JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Well, I don't know. I'd really like more people to think I was right on the important decisions than think right now. 

BERMAN: You want more people to come around to your views eventually. 

STEVENS: Yeah. 

BERMAN: I think what's that we all want in life. 

STEVENS: That's very nice. 

BERMAN: Retired Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens is reflecting on life a lot these days. First of all, happy birthday. 

STEVENS: Thank you very much. 

BERMAN: I understand we just missed your 99th birthday. 

STEVENS: You did. 

BERMAN: The third longest serving justice in the high court's history, he turned 99 just last month and discusses just about each of those years in his new memoir, the making of a justice. He recounts growing up a child of privilege in Chicago, personally witnessing babe Ruth's famous called shot in the 1932 World Series, serving in World War II. But most of all, his time on the high court. Appointed by Republican Gerald Ford, he quickly found himself in the minority on many landmark decisions with the Court's rightward drift. Do you think about the fact that in some ways your dissents may have had more impact or you might be better known for your dissents than your decisions? 

STEVENS: Well, apparently that's true, but I wish it weren't. I'd much rather thigh dissents had spoken for the majority. 

BERMAN: He feels that most strongly on issues surrounding guns and the 2008 Heller decision which recognized an individual's right to bear arms. 

STEVENS: It is really as a matter of history and as a matter of what the courts should do with the law, it was just a really atrocious decision. 

BERMAN: And also the case that decided an election, Bush V. Gore. 

STEVENS: Ever since then I think the Court has been adversely affected by that case. 

BERMAN: How exactly? 

STEVENS: People thinking of the court of more a political institution than it really is. 

BERMAN: That has been a theme for Stephens in his retirement. He sparked controversy last year when he spoke out against then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh whom he felt was too political in his confirmation hearing. 

STEVENS: He has demonstrated a potential bias involving enough potential litigants before the court that he would not be able to perform his full responsibilities. 

BERMAN: You caused quite a stir last year. 

STEVENS: Which is unfortunate because he's really a good judge. 

BERMAN: Judge Kavanaugh? 

STEVENS: Yes. 

BERMAN: Do you think he's doing a good job as justice? 
                         
STEVENS: Yes. 

BERMAN: Do you regret, then, saying during the confirmation hearings that you didn't think he should have been confirmed? 

STEVENS: Perhaps I shouldn't have said what I did, but I think his decisions will determine how good a judge he will be. 

BERMAN: So to be continued? 

STEVENS: Yes. 

BERMAN: What's your view of President Trump in regards to the courts? 

STEVENS: Well, I would not have made the appointments he has made, but I think he's getting advice from people that were knowledgeable about judges and I hope he won't do too much damage. 

BERMAN: Do you think he understands the role of the judiciary in the country? 

STEVENS: No. 

BERMAN: Why not? 

STEVENS: Well, I think he often speaks about them as Obama judges and other kind of judges, but I think John Roberts was dead right when he said that there are only one kind of judges and they are all working for the federal government. 

BERMAN: Are you still a Republican? 

STEVENS: I can say I do not expect to vote for the Republican candidate for president in the next election. I don’t know if I’m a member of the party or not. I'm not active politically. 

BERMAN: Has the party changed from when you were more active politically? 

STEVENS: Well, yes. Everything has changed since then. 

BERMAN: You're hearing some Democrats talk about court packing again, putting more justices than the nine. What's your view on that? 

STEVENS: I don't think they should do that. I think in time the Court will straighten itself out. It may take longer, but I don't think the answer is increasing the number of justices. 

BERMAN: Stevens stepped down from the court in 2010 when a mini stroke affected his speech while reading from the bench. He discusses the difficult retirement decision all justices face. Justice Ginsberg is 86. There is a lot of pressure on her from people in the Democratic Party and the left who desperately don't want her to retire while there is a Republican in the white house. 

STEVENS: Well, I think that is right. And I think she's really in better health than people generally assume because she has survived both the cancer and similar episodes some years ago. Apparently she has a trainer, too. 

BERMAN: Have you seen the movie? She is a big time movie star now. 

STEVENS: Yeah, yeah. 

BERMAN: As for Stevens himself how does he stay so spry at 99? 

STEVENS: I don't play tennis anymore, though, I play ping-pong instead. 

BERMAN: You play ping-pong still? 

STEVENS: Yes. 

BERMAN: Are you good? 

STEVENS: Yes. 

BERMAN: And modest also. 

STEVENS: Yes. No, I really am pretty good. I will be honest about that. 

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