'This Week' Transcript: Sens. Leahy and Hatch

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you one of the liberals who wants a big fight?

KRUGMAN: I'm not sure I would make a fight over this. But there are people certainly who do. You know, Obama is having problems some problems with people, progressives who expected him to be more dramatically different than he is. You know, in some sense, people who are disappointed over Tim Geithner are going to be depending on a more liberal justice appointment. Obama has not -- you can say lots of good things, even progressives will, but he's not been quite the crusader for liberal causes that a lot of people had hoped he would be.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Jerry, I was talking to a White House official over the weekend who said the president is not looking to throw a grenade into the middle of this process, but he did lay out an interesting series of criteria, very deliberate on Friday afternoon. Everyone is focusing on the empathy, but he also talked about integrity, excellence, and respecting the rule of law.

SEIB: Right, and he used the term independence of thought as well. And you're right, everybody is focusing on empathy because nobody is quite sure what that means. It may be a code word for liberal activists, which I think Senator Hatch told you just a few minutes ago. It may mean, other people think, a sign that he wants somebody who is not out of the judicial system now, somebody with more real-world experience, a governor perhaps, or somebody who's got a sort of a nitty-gritty feel for what's happening in America today, not a judicial feel for it.

WILL: What is a liberal activist these days? Because until January 20th at noon, liberals wanted someone who would rein in presidential power. I'm not sure that's what this president wants anymore, so liberals can be situational constitutionalists too.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And then the president has said in the past if you look back at his service in the Senate, also during the campaign, that he does value people who come from outside the judiciary, on the one hand, but also that he wants someone especially who will stand up against overreaching executive power. So it's going to be a fascinating series of hearings.

But, Gwen, it also will I think set up a series of possible traps for both Democrats and Republicans. For Democrats, the risk is overreach. Trying to do too much, trying to go too far with the pick. For the Republicans, could be put in a real box especially if President Obama picks, as some people think he will, the first Latino for the Supreme Court, who happens to also be a woman. Sonia Sotomayor is only one possibility.

IFILL: And actually, that would be very tempting for the president to do that, just to put them in that box.

I find it kind of -- the whole situation to be kind of nice. It's nice to have a different litmus -- a code word, empathy instead of litmus test, which has always been a code word before, and we really never knew what that meant either. That was also one of those words or terms that was used depending on where you came from.

So yes, they're both in a box. I do agree with Paul that the liberals really would like an opportunity to push this president a little bit more, because they don't think he has been sufficiently liberal to suit their tastes, but I don't think they'll object to anything that he comes up with.

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