Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the presumptive Republican nominee for governor, was on the PBS NewsHour program Tuesday night to discuss his new book, “The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for American Liberty,” his legal battles with the federal government, and his views on entitlement programs.
Some highlights of Cuccinelli’s interview with anchor Judy Woodruff:
Cuccinelli was asked about global warming, an issue that has been the heart of some legal fights during his term as attorney general. He argued that Obama administration policies are hurting coal-producing regions, including Southwest Virginia:
“I have serious concerns about how it’s being addressed,” Cuccinelli said. “The proposed reactions — and, by that, I mean government policies — are phenomenally expensive. They’re phenomenally restrictive of opportunities in the economy. They make poor people poorer. And if you go down to Southwest Virginia with me, you will find one industry, the coal industry.
“It’s Appalachia. It’s probably the poorest part of America. This administration is attacking that industry and that region of Virginia. Those are the poorest people in Virginia. And when you have this kind of incredible cost — and there are times when huge regulatory costs properly should be absorbed, but we need to be sure before we do that, because these have crushing effects in real people’s lives.”
Woodruff asked Cuccinelli what he might have done differently if he could have looked over the shoulders of the nation’s founders as they tried to balance power between the federal government and the states. Cuccinelli said he might have suggested term limits for members of Congress and for federal judges:
“If you look at one of those two changes, it’s the lifetime judges, actually, Cuccinelli said. “Because, gradually, in the end of the 19th century and as we moved into the 20th century, the court, particularly in the New Deal era, really opened up the power of the federal government relative to what it had been perceived to be for the 150 years before.”
“And that opened the door to much more expansive executive power,” he added. “And we have seen that continue to happen and to grow. And what we talk about in the book is example after example where they’re breaking the law, or where they’re trampling the Constitution. And the states have a role to play. And I’m obviously an attorney general. I represent a state. And we pushed back. And the founders expected us to do that. That part is working.”
On Chief Justice John Roberts’ role in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling preserving the federal health care overhaul, which Cuccinelli challenged in federal court:
“The only reason the law is still standing is because the chief justice read the taxing power what was considered by any of us to be incredibly expansively, and upheld the law with four other votes,” Cuccinelli said.
“And, in fact, you say he may have done irreparable harm to the independence of the court,” Woodruff interjected.
“I think that he did,” Cuccinelli said. “I think that — I suspect — and I’m speculating here and not applying motives — I think he was very concerned about the view of America of the Supreme Court. And in his desire to have the court be viewed favorably by America and Americans, he overthought where this ought to end up, because really what a judge ought to do is walk through a process of how to analyze it, is it constitutional or isn’t it on any of a number of bases. And I think what he ended up doing was doing great damage to the view of Americans of the court.”
In a portion of the interview that appeared online, Cuccinelli talked about “scare tactics games” that politicians play with entitlement programs such as Medicare.
“Look at the Medi-scare ads with (U.S. Rep. and Republican vice presidential candidate) Paul Ryan,” Cuccinelli said. “Paul Ryan was guilty of actually proposing a substantive path forward to keep Medicare sustainable. God forbid we actually let it be sustainable. For that, he gets punished by the Democrats with a wave of these ‘pushing granny off the cliff’ ads. Well, that’s exactly how these programs are used politically in very negative ways, and by people who have got to admit that Medicare has to change to be sustainable.”
– Michael Sluss