Democratic radio address - July 9, 2005, 1:33PM

Democratic radio address - July 9, 2005, 1:33PM
by Harry Reid

Good morning.

I'm Harry Reid, the Democratic Leader in the Senate.

This past week, we celebrated the Fourth of July with fireworks and parades and backyard cookouts. I spent the day with my family and friends in my hometown of Searchlight in the high desert of Nevada .

On the 4th, Americans remembered why we love our country so much and what makes this nation special. But this week, we were also reminded that the freedoms we hold dear are a threat to those with a very different view of the world.

On Thursday, terrorist extremists -- fueled by an ideology of cowardice and hatred -- struck the people of London. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. Our strength must be devoted to rededicating ourselves to the effort of eradicating these murderous thugs.

We need to bring to justice those responsible and thus bring greater justice to the world. We need to finally bring Osama bin Laden to account for his crimes. And we need to get much more serious about protecting America from attack, about securing our roads and rails, our borders and bridges, our seaports and airports, our nuclear and chemical plants. On Monday, the Senate will have a chance to do just that. I hope we take this chance to do much more to protect Americans and our American way of life.

That American way of life is built on the foundation of our Constitution. It's more than a piece of paper behind glass in Washington D.C. It lives and breathes. Its promise of a more perfect union is guarded and shaped by the decisions of the Supreme Court. And as you know, last week Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement from the Court.

As the first woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice, she blazed a trail that hopefully many will follow. Justice O'Connor decided cases the old fashioned way -- based on law, not politics, and I salute the people of Arizona for giving us such an inspiring public servant.

But now comes the challenge of finding her replacement. A Supreme Court Justice has a lifetime job. Their decisions last for generations. And on many important questions, Sandra Day O'Connor has been the deciding vote in favor of moderation and in defense of our basic rights.

Her vote made all the difference when it came to letting patients get a second opinion when an HMO tries to deny them care, in making sure students from all backgrounds can have access to a college education and in stopping polluters from poisoning the air we breathe. In all this and more, Sandra Day O'Connor held the balance, and with her retirement, all this and more is at stake.

That's why I hope that President Bush and the Senate can work together to nominate and confirm a Justice who lives up to that word: someone who can build on our national consensus on important issues. Someone with a deep respect for the Constitution. And someone with enough common sense to know that Supreme Court justices should not impose a narrow partisan ideology, but make rulings with an open mind and a big heart.

We need an independent thinker who will follow the Constitution, not a knee-jerk conservative crusader who will march in lock-step to the tune of partisan pressure groups.

But radical right activists are hungry for something else. President Bush's far right allies are spending millions of dollars to pressure him to pick not just a conservative, but an extreme conservative, someone out of the mainstream, someone who will impose their narrow partisan agenda from the perch of the highest court in the land, instead of faithfully interpreting the law.

America deserves better. Today marks the anniversary of the passing of former Chief Justice Earl Warren. When he was appointed in 1953, the Supreme Court -- and our country -- was bitterly divided on the issue of racial segregation. But Earl Warren -- the son of a railroad car repairman -- used the arguments of Thurgood Marshall -- the son of a railroad dining car waiter -- to end the division and bring unity to the Court.

In Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court said that we could not be both separate and equal. When Chief Justice Warren read the ruling from the bench and announced that the decision had been reached unanimously, a wave of emotion and excitement spread across the courtroom. On one of the most difficult issues America has ever faced, Earl Warren was able to forge a consensus that today is our national consensus.

Mr. President, that's the kind of justice we hope you'll nominate; someone who will bring us together; a mainstream justice who won't use their judicial robe as a cloak to impose their political ideology on the country.

That's what Ronald Reagan did when he chose Sandra Day O'Connor. Both parties cheered the decision. That can happen again if President Bush says no to the far-right and instead follows in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan to choose a Supreme Court Justice who will unite the country. I hope President Bush will seize this opportunity to bring us together and give America a Supreme Court Justice we can all be proud of.

This is Harry Reid.

Thanks for listening.