Ruth Bader Ginsburg represented what 'is best about America': Bill Clinton

George Stephanopoulos interviews former President Bill Clinton on "This Week."
6:10 | 09/20/20

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Transcript for Ruth Bader Ginsburg represented what 'is best about America': Bill Clinton
(Upbeat pop rock music with bright vocals) If I believe the measure of a person's values can be best measured by examining the life a person lives, then judge Ginsburg's values are the very ones that represent the best in America. I am proud to nominate this path-breaking attorney, advocate and judge to be the 107th justice to the United States supreme court. President Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be on the supreme court back in 1993. President Clinton joins us this morning. Thank you for joining us, Mr. President. You wrote that when you chose Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she had the potential to be a great justice. Did she turn out to be the justice you imagined? Different in any way? Well, she was only different in that I never anticipated she would become late in her life a cultural icon, and we would all be doing her exercise routines, but I must say the more I think about it, the less surprised I am because in a time where people were so cynical, Ruth Ginsburg symbolizes everything that was best about America, and she was always completely on the level, and people need that. They need to be able to hang onto something that's on the level. You know, I remember when she came to Arkansas to give a speech for me a couple of years ago, there were -- we couldn't fit the people who wanted to come in the library or in the convention center. We had to move to the basketball arena and 15,000 people came and almost that many wanted to come, and this was in a very red state even though the capital city is still democratic, and she just seemed to be authentic and a person first, and she never disappointed on that. I remember when you were thinking of choosing her, one of the great selling points was that she -- everybody believed she would be able to work with different justices of different points of view. She maintained cordial relationships with justices like Antonin Scalia, but later in her career, she became known for those dissents. She did, and, you know, the country became more and more but she maintained her relationship with Antonin Scalia and cordiality with the others, even when she was clearly in deep disagreement with them over a variety of cases, and I think that's important, you know. If we quit talking to each other, it's going to be very difficult to ever knit the country back together again. Presidential elections haven't turned on election years. Is this different now? Well, it depends on what happens. I think it's interesting that Mitch Mcconnell seems to -- he said we had to trust the American people and give the voters a voice, and the last supreme court, the election when Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland ten months before the election. There was never a rule on that, but there is when the election comes in doubt and you're closer and closer to the election. When Abraham Lincoln had a vacancy in early October in 1864 when justice Roger Taney died, he did not nominate anybody to succeed him until after the election, until he saw whether he won or not because he thought it was so close it was important not to. Today it seems that senator Mcconnell has lost his faith to the judgment of the American people and wants to hurry up and put somebody else on the court, and the president does too. So they -- their position is, do whatever maximizes your power, and if it's totally inconsistent with what you said before, don't worry about it. Ruth Ginsburg was just the reverse. She was on the level. Same set of rules for everybody, and she would be saying today, just wait until we see what happens in the election, and see if people think that we should move the court even further to the right or as somebody who represents all views fairly should be given a chance to serve. As you said, president trump and senator Mcconnell made it clear what they want to do. How should Democrats handle it? Well, they're going to nominate somebody, and we should see if anybody cares that several people including some who are up for re-election are clearly going to violate what they said they believed before. Lindsey graham has said he wouldn't vote this C to the election no matter what president was there. Chuck grassley, senator grassley said the same thing, and of course, you have a number of others who -- who went along with it before not giving justice Garland even a hearing much less a vote. It would be very interesting to see whether their position could only be justified as, if my party can do it, then we're for it. If their party can do it, then I'm against it and if that's the rule of life in America, then who knows what the consequences will be? Mr. President, thanks very much for your time this morning.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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