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CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS

Judge Roberts Makes Rounds in Washington; Who is Judge John Roberts?; Religious Schools in Pakistan Blamed for Radicalism; Indian Prime Minister Discusses Key Issues; Hatch and Boxer Opine on Roberts; James Doohan Beams Up

Aired July 20, 2005 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, the making of a Supreme Court justice. John Roberts' charm offensive has begun.
Stand by for hard news on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): Confirmation campaign. The president's pick for the Supreme Court makes the rounds on Capitol Hill. Will he have to fight a few rounds?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I urge the Senate to rise to the occasion, provide a fair and civil process, and to have Judge Roberts in place before the next court session begins on October the 3rd.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: His slate is pretty blank on this, and the American people want to know whether they are going to have someone that is going to protect their rights and liberties.

BLITZER: Attack aftermath. London investigators look for links in Pakistan, where security forces raid Muslim religious schools. Are they graduating extremists?

Pakistan's nuclear neighbor. I'll have an exclusive interview with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

ANNOUNCER: This is WOLF BLITZER REPORTS for Wednesday, July 20, 2005.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us.

The president's pick to be the next Supreme Court justice is courting Congress. Judge John Roberts is meeting with key senators to try to shore up support for his nomination to the country's highest court.

CNN's Dana Bash is standing by live at the White House with details of why the president picked Roberts. But we begin with our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry with details of the nominee's day on Capitol Hill.

Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's been less than 24 hours, but John Roberts has already racked up endorsements from pivotal senators. It may not be a cakewalk, but it's close.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): Mr. Roberts came to Capitol Hill and was welcomed with open arms by beaming Republican leaders.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: He is the best of the best of legal minds in America.

HENRY: More importantly, two key swing senators who helped divert a nuclear showdown over lower court judges flatly declared Roberts should not be filibustered.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I am a member -- a card carrying member of the gang of 14. And one of the criteria of the gang of 14 is that we would not filibuster a nominee to a court or the Supreme Court if -- unless it was, quote, "extraordinary circumstances."

I think that Judge Roberts deserves an up-or-down vote. And I hope that the other members of that group would also agree with me. So I think this is a good day for America.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: But in the end, I repeat, I do not think that there will be any body of fact that will give rise to invoking the extraordinary circumstances clause. This man has the right stuff and would do the right thing for America.

HENRY: More good news for Roberts from the Democratic leader of the gang, Ben Nelson, who doesn't see a filibuster coming either.

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: Well, I'm certainly not thinking about it right now, and I'm not hearing anybody. Sometimes there's hallway whisper. None of that today. It's still new. But I'm not hearing it.

HENRY: Democratic leaders vowed they won't be a rubber stamp.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Presidents come and go. Senators come and go. The Supreme Court justices tend to be there a lot longer than all of us. I want to make sure we do our job the right way.

HENRY: But far from demonizing Roberts, top Democrats are heaping praise on him.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: There's no question about this man's legal skill. None at all. Nor has there been any serious question of any kind raised about his integrity, his honesty.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Senate Democrats admit privately that, barring some sort of political cataclysm, John Roberts is going to be confirmed easily -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Ed Henry on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.

The nominee started the morning with coffee over at the White House and more words of praise. Our White House correspondent, Dana Bash, is joining us now live with more on why Roberts was the president's first pick.

Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Wolf, Bush aides understand that this is just the beginning. It is certainly not over, far from it, but for now they feel very good about the way they've rolled out their nominee. They say they're off to a good start.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): He drove himself, looking like your average commuter. Never mind there's nothing average about having coffee with the president when he's just picked you for the Supreme Court.

BUSH: He's highly qualified for the job.

BASH: All these images, Rose Garden to the Capitol, part of a long-planned, meticulously choreographed rollout for any nominee. But why did the president choose him?

First, to conservatives, he's a known quantity: worked for the Reagan legal team, argued cases for the first Bush White House under Ken Starr, and unlike David Souter, an unknown from New Hampshire whom conservatives call his father's mistake, John Roberts is Washington establishment.

But like Souter, his paper trail of writings and rulings is thin, harder for Democrats to use against him. Another reason tapping Roberts disarms Democrats preparing so long for battle: many know him and respect him.

Jack Keeney worked with Roberts his entire 13 years at Hogan & Hartson law firm and always asked Roberts for help on appeals case, many on civil rights.

JACK KEENEY, FORMER COLLEAGUE: He's a conservative politically, but he is an incredible legal intellect.

BASH: This is the president and this is the candidate Keeney supported.

KEENEY: I'm telling my friends in the Democratic Party and my friends in the interest groups who are opposing him that they have created a caricature, and they're opposing a caricature rather than the actual person. The actual person will be a very good justice.

BASH: But does Roberts meet the president's own standards? A strict constructionist, someone like justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia?

BUSH: He will strictly apply the Constitution and laws. He will not legislate from the bench.

BASH: The president hopes so, but the limited number of rulings and writings leaves that question murky. What aides say Mr. Bush is sure of, he picked someone he's personally comfortable with, something his father's friends encouraged.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: There is some irony in somebody who tries to paint himself as the consummate outsider turning, perhaps, to the consummate Washington insider. But Bush aides say personal comfort level was key here and, in many ways, Roberts is like the president, a conservative, affable Ivy Leaguer, somebody with a down home affect -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Dana Bash at the White House, thank you very much.

Over the next few weeks, we're going to be hearing a lot about Judge John Roberts, both from supporters and opponent.

Our Brian Todd has been taking a closer look into the judge's background. Brian is joining us now live with more -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, over the past 24 hours, we've taken a closer look at the positions that John Roberts has taken on those explosive issues that he'll be asked about in the coming months.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): John Roberts is a conservative heavyweight in Washington who should be ready for a tough confirmation fight. For his current position on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, he endured three rounds of bruising confirmation hearings over 11 years.

The first, in 1992, never got to a Senate vote. The second, in 2001, stalled when the Democrats took control of the Senate. By his third nomination in 2003, Roberts had strong feelings about the injection of politics into the selection of judges.

JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: If it all came down to just politics in the judicial branch, that would be very frustrating for lawyers who work very hard to try to advocate their position and present the precedents and present the arguments.

TODD: John Roberts can't avoid judicial politics now. But because he's only been on the court of appeals for two years, in the view of one expert, Democrats won't have a lot to shoot at regarding Roberts' record as a judge.

There's nothing tangible to indicate his position on the death penalty. But he does seem to have sent strong signals on abortion rights, signing off on a 1990 Supreme Court brief that said, --quote -- "We continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled." But he later made clear that he argued that case on behalf of President George H.W. Bush while serving as deputy solicitor general. And at his 2003 confirmation, Roberts stressed the importance of following previous court rulings.

ROBERTS: There's no role for advocacy with respect to personal beliefs or views on the part of a judge. The judge is bound to follow the Supreme Court precedent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now in the end, John Glover Roberts' nomination, its success or failure, may be influenced by the ideological battle that now looms over abortion rights, or maybe even a bit political payback, as Democrats and Republicans are reminded now that Roberts played a key behind-the-scenes role in the legal battle over the 2000 Florida recount, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd reporting for us. Thanks, Brian, very much.

And coming up later this hour, two key U.S. senators will weigh in on the Roberts nomination. Democrat Barbara Boxer, Republican Orrin Hatch, both of the judiciary committee, will be our guests. That's coming up later this hour.

Up next, connecting the dots in the London terror attacks. A man with ties to Oregon is on investigators' radar screens right now. We'll tell you why.

Plus, religious school or terror recruiting ground? We'll look into those madrasas in Pakistan.

A new warning out today for Americans in Saudi Arabia. We've got details on the advisory. What's going on?

And later, farewell to a Star Trek original. The man you'll always think of when you hear those words, "Beam me up, Scotty."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A man sought by British investigators looking into the London bombings was previously implicated in an American investigation. Officials familiar with both probes tell us the man, a Pakistani national, is an unindicted co-conspirator in the earlier case, which involved an alleged plan to build a terror training camp in Oregon.

They say he's known either as Rasheed Haroon Aswad or Haroon Rasheed Aswad.

The British government today released a list of all the people known to have died in the London terror attacks. That would be 52 commuters and four bombers. Another list was unveiled by Britain's home secretary: proposed anti-terror measures. These include a ban on indirect incitement, which would target extremist clerics. Also to be outlawed, attending terrorist training camps and researching bomb making on the Internet.

Meantime, British investigators have asked Pakistan to detain a number of men for questioning in connection with the transit bombings and have passed on the telephone numbers that they want checked out. Airport entry records show two of the bombers visited Pakistan from last November to February.

Pakistan is carrying out a nationwide crackdown on banned militant groups, though officials say the raids have nothing to do with the London bombings. The interior minister says the number arrested so far exceeds 200. Among the targets, some religious schools which have been accused of promoting violent extremism.

CNN's Zain Verjee reports these schools have emerged where mainstream education is weak, leaning the rigid religious establishment to fill the void.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's called a madrasa, Arabic for school. In some respects, they can be comparable to parochial school for Catholics, or yeshivas for Jews.

Seen as a sign of devotion and meditation, these students rock back and forth as they chant religious verses.

Students of all ages memorize their holy book, the Quran, and learn Islamic law. Some madrasas teach philosophy, maths, geography. Other madrasas have a different agenda.

Not here, say these students from Britain and the U.S. They're studying at this madrasa in Karachi. They say the attacks in London were un-Islamic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a disgrace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Islam does not teach this, killing Muslims and ladies and men and children. They also have a heart. I don't know how these people do this.

VERJEE: Pakistan estimates it has about 10,000 madrasas, and more than a million students attend.

In the 1980s, many became recruiting grounds for jihadis fighting the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan.

Today, alarm that madrasas indoctrinate students with extremist views, and they're just a front for local jihadi groups. Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has tried to reform the madrasas, and on Monday acknowledged some breed extremism.

Afza Sheikh (ph) is a foreign student at this madrasa and says he's no radical.

AFZA SHEIKH, MADRASA STUDENT: I'm sitting here. I've been studying here. I haven't ever known anyone to do something like this. I think of it as something really just disgusting.

VERJEE (on camera): Madrasas in Pakistan teach a conservative brand of Islam. A handful preach hatred. Pakistani scholars say those are the ones President Pervez Musharraf needs to crack down on in a meaningful way.

Zain Verjee, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Americans in Saudi Arabia are being urged to keep their heads down. The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh today warned that it had received indications -- and I'm quoting now -- of "operational planning" for terror attacks in the kingdom. The embassy says there's no specific information about the target or the timing. But it notes that in the past, terrorists have bombed housing compounds and staged ambushes.

Saudi Arabia today announced the resignation of its long-serving ambassador to the United States. For two decades, Prince Bandar bin Sultan has been one of the most influential diplomats here in Washington, with close ties to the White House. He's used his influence to maintain strong Saudi-U.S. ties in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and he's been a go-between in various Middle East conflicts.

The Saudi foreign ministry says the new ambassador will be Prince Turkey al-Faisal, who is currently the Saudi envoy to Britain. A former intelligence chief, he resigned a month before the 9/11 attacks. Turkey is the brother of the Saudi foreign minister.

Up next, how much concern is there about radical extremism in India? I'll talk one-on-one with the prime minister of India about that and much more.

Are you tempted to run up those credit card bills? A warning today from America's top money man, Alan Greenspan.

And so long, Scotty. A special tribute to a "Star Trek" favorite. All that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As Pakistan cracks down on extremists, India, Pakistan's nuclear rival, is nervously eyeing events right next door, and there are also growing concerns about the role of al Qaeda in the region.

Earlier today, I sat down for an exclusive interview with the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, at Blair House, the official residence for foreign guests across the street from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Prime Minister, welcome to the United States. Thanks very much for joining us on CNN.

MANMOHAN SINGH, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much for having me on CNN.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the nightmare, the nuclear nightmare. How worried are you about the possibility of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan?

SINGH: I think the possibilities of such a development are grossly overstated.

BLITZER: Overstated?

SINGH: Overstated. Both our countries are nuclear powers. And as far as we are concerned, we have an impeccable record of not in any way contributing to proliferation of these nuclear technologies.

BLITZER: Are you committed to a non-first-strike policy?

SINGH: Yes, that is very much our policy.

BLITZER: Pakistan has not committed to that, though.

SINGH: That's certainly true. But I have often felt that outside India and Pakistan, the possibilities of a nuclear clash between India and Pakistan are somewhat exaggerated.

BLITZER: Are you worried, though, that there could be a change of government in Pakistan, that President Musharraf, who has been working more closely with you recently, that there could be a coup, there could be a change that could escalate these tensions?

SINGH: Well, the security of assets which are under control of Pakistan, I think does worry us. And I hope that credible solutions can be found today with that problem.

BLITZER: What specifically worries you about the security of the nuclear assets in Pakistan?

SINGH: Well, if they get into the hands of the jihadi elements, that could pose a serious problem.

BLITZER: And is that possible, do you believe, given what you know? Obviously you watch the situation very closely.

SINGH: Well, I'm not an astrologer, but I hope that this does not happen. And I pray that it will not happen.

BLITZER: Are you concerned -- as you call it the jihadi or the Islamist fundamentalists, the extremist elements in Pakistan could take charge?

SINGH: Well, there is always a danger. And we would like Pakistan to emerge as a moderate Islamic state, and we have a vested interested in the stability and progress of Pakistan.

BLITZER: Is it your opinion that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda still have a base, a significant base in Pakistan?

SINGH: Well, I think there's no doubt about that.

BLITZER: Where?

SINGH: Well, in the tribal belt of the northwest frontier province of Pakistan, the al Qaeda elements are quite active. And also, the whole infrastructure of the madrasas in Pakistan, the belief that these madrasas can shift away from the teaching of fundamentalism to more modern discipline I think has not materialized.

BLITZER: The madrasas are the religious seminaries and schools in Pakistan. And do you -- what are you saying, that these madrasas are training grounds or spiritual centers for al Qaeda operatives?

SINGH: Well, I think -- I'm not saying that they are deliberately doing it, but I think jihadi elements have taken advantage of these schools, and they can take greater advantage of that phenomenon in years to come.

BLITZER: There are more Muslims in India than there are in Pakistan. I think there are more Muslims in India, with the exception of Indonesia, than any other country in the world. You really haven't had a problem with Islamists or jihadi terrorists.

SINGH: Well, I take pride in the fact that, although we have 150 million Muslims in our country as citizens, not one has been found to have joined the ranks of al Qaeda or participated in the activities of Taliban.

BLITZER: Why is that?

SINGH: This is because India is a functioning democracy. We are a secular state where all sections of the communities, regardless of religion, caste and creed, they may belong to -- they can participate in our mainstream national activities. Being a democracy, being a secular democracy where all religions are free to practice their respective faiths without fear, without favor. I think that's something which has prevented that sort of eventuality.

BLITZER: Do you trust President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan?

SINGH: Well, I have had two important meetings with President Musharraf, and he and I both have committed our two countries to make the peace process between India and Pakistan irreversible.

BLITZER: So the answer is yes, you do trust President Pervez Musharraf?

SINGH: Well, I do trust. But I think there is an old saying of President Reagan: trust and verify. And I sincerely hope that the commitments that Pakistan has made, that the territory of Pakistan will not be allowed to be used for planning terrorist acts against India, that commitment is honored in letter and in spirit. And we have some worries on that score, that the infrastructure of terror is largely intact in Pakistan. BLITZER: It looks like U.S.-Indian relations right now in the aftermath of your visit here to Washington are very strong, very solid, better than they've been in a long time. And yet U.S.-Pakistani relations are also very good right now, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, what happened here in the United States. Is this -- is that your assessment, that there can be good U.S. relations with both India and Pakistan?

SINGH: Well, we are not against the United States having good relations with Pakistan. As I've said, a strong, stable, prosperous Pakistan is in our interests. If -- Pakistan admits the jihadi elements are under control is in our interests.

So please, make no mistake, we welcome stronger relations between the United States and Pakistan. And I hope that the United States' influence can be exercised to ensure that the commitments that Pakistan has made about the control of terrorist activities, they are honored in letter and in spirit.

BLITZER: Since India violated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, there are some members of the U.S. Congress who don't want to see India right now rewarded for violating the NPT, the Nonproliferation Treaty.

SINGH: Well, we didn't violate it. We were never a member of the NPT.

BLITZER: But in effect -- in effect -- in effect, you went ahead, you tested a nuclear bomb.

SINGH: But we were never a signatory to the NPT.

BLITZER: But should India be rewarded now, in effect? Let me read to you what Congressman Ed Markey said the other day. He said, "We are playing with fire by picking and choosing when to pay attention to the existing Nonproliferation Treaty."

There was a Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. India never signed it, but went ahead and tested beyond that. Should India be rewarded now with nuclear technology from the United States?

SINGH: Well, there's no question of dividing (ph) us. The plain fact is that we had nuclear capabilities. But we didn't go the road of testing nuclear weapons at a time when there was no NPT.

Now, we have a situation in our region, despite all the regimes that are in position, our region has seen reckless proliferation of these sensitive technologies. So we had to take some defensive action in the interest of our national security. You know what I am talking about, the activities of North Korea; the activities of other industry and the A.Q. Khan phenomena.

So therefore our defensive action of developing nuclear weapons was a response to a situation where reckless nonproliferation (sic) was taking place in our region. It poses no threat to anybody else. We have an impeccable record of not contributing in any way to the unauthorized proliferation of these sensitive technologies. And therefore, I think the world must acknowledge this exemplary behavior of our country. Our nuclear weapons are totally under civilian control. We have a democracy. And that democratic structure ensures that these weapons cannot be misused.

BLITZER: Let's shift gears briefly and talk about U.S.-Indian economic relations. What do you say to Americans who are concerned about American jobs, good-paying jobs, in effect, going -- being exported to India?

SINGH: Well, let me say that if you are referring to outsourcing and all that goes with it, it is not a one-way street. Indian enterprises benefit, but so do the U.S. enterprises. The fact that outsourcing opportunities exist, the U.S. companies are able to procure goods and services at much lower cost, this increases their competitiveness. That increases their ability to compete against their competitors both in the U.S. market and in third countries.

So, if you look at the picture in a holistic way, it is a win/win situation. India gains, but also the U.S. competitiveness also goes up in the process.

BLITZER: That's in the big picture. But in the specific and the smaller picture, there are Americans who are losing their jobs because those jobs are moving to countries like India.

SINGH: But one has to look at the big picture. We are talking about two economies as diverse as big as India and the United States. If we were to look at every I and every T, I don't believe I think we could -- I think we could develop a relationship which befits our capabilities and our needs and our aspirations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And the prime minister was also effusive in his praise for President Bush and for what he described as the excellent state of U.S.-Indian relations right now.

From Washington, he heads back to India.

Some say it's a growing threat to the U.S. economy, and one that could hit millions of Americans at home. Why your debt may soon become even more dangerous.

Also, Hurricane Emily slams ashore as a powerful category 3 storm. We'll show you where.

Plus, a man accused of throwing a live hand grenade at President Bush. There are new developments in that story. And we'll have the latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: From our studios in Washington, once again, Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Welcome back. New Supreme Court nominee John Roberts isn't wasting any time. He's making the rounds on Capitol Hill today. Is he picking up support? I'll speak with two key senators. That's coming up.

First though, a quick check of some other stories "Now in the News".

Tropical Storm Emily is now swirling through northeastern Mexico after making landfall earlier today as a hurricane. The storm crashed ashore near San Fernando just south of the U.S. border with winds of 125 miles an hour. And the big concern now is flooding and landslides as Emily dumps heavy rain on the region.

In the Republic of Georgia, police have arrested a man accused of throwing a grenade in a rally where President Bush was speaking in May. The live grenade did not explode. The suspect was captured today after a shootout near Georgia's Capitol city of Tbilisi.

And joining us now on Capitol Hill with their take on Judge Roberts and his nomination to the Supreme Court, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah -- he sits on the Judiciary Committee -- and Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California. Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Senator Boxer, let me read to you what the "Washington Post" wrote in an editorial today about John Roberts.

"Judge Roberts is a conservative, but he has never been an ideological crusader. He has admirers among liberals. If confirmed as the successor to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, it is likely that he will shift the Supreme Court toward the right, but his nomination is not a provocation to Democrats as some other possible nominees would have been."

Are you inclined right now to have an open mind about Judge Roberts?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER, (D) CALIFORNIA: I have a wide open mind on all of this. My mind is concentrating on the fact that we are losing Sandra Day O'Connor who has been a good fighter for the people in terms of their rights: their privacy rights, their right to have a clean environment, and a number of other rights. And that to me is the most important thing.

It's really about the American people. And we want to make sure that they continue to have the protections, the rights and the freedoms that they deserve because we have them in the Constitution.

BLITZER: There was some criticism, a little criticism, Senator Hatch, from the right. Ann Coulter, the conservative writer, has a column out in which she says, "we don't know much about John Roberts. Stealth nominees have never turned out to be a pleasant surprise for conservatives. Never. Not ever."

So, what do you make of that criticism?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH, (R) UTAH: Well, that's a criticism a lot of conservatives feel. But we know a lot about John Roberts. I know him well personally. This is one of the best attorneys in the world. And as a matter of fact, was the probably the premier appellate lawyer, Supreme Court lawyer in the country.

You know, he has all the intellectual credentials, graduating first in his class at Harvard, of course working for Judge Friendly, one of the great circuit judges, then Justice Rehnquist, the solicitor general's office, associate White House counsel, top partner in one of the major law firms in this country, 39 cases he argued before the Supreme Court, has the highest rating from the American Bar Association.

You can't get any better than that. Plus, there's no doubt he's a conservative who is a good thinker, a reasonable person, who'll go down the middle, and one who'll abide by constitutional principles.

BLITZER: Senator Boxer, the conventional assessment -- nearly 24 hours after the nomination has gone forward, the conventional assessment here in Washington that he'll have pretty much smooth sailing up on Capitol Hill. Is that accurate?

BOXER: I have to say this -- I don't know whether Orrin will agree with me -- you cannot predict these things. We have to really take our time, look at the record, look at the writings. There are some concerns that have been raised about some of his decisions: one involving veterans, one involving the environment, some of his -- some of his arguments before the court in which he signed a brief and said that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. And that raises the issue of where does he stand on the right to privacy, which is so important to Americans.

I don't think you can predict. We just don't know. And that's the beauty of our process. I know people like to have an answer in a second. This is just too important. This is a man who's 50 years old. He could be on the court for 20 years, 25 years, 30 years. It's a lifetime appointment at good pay. And we have to do our due diligence. So, we don't know yet whether it will be smooth or not.

BLITZER: Senator Hatch, as a long-time member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, how appropriate will some of these questions be trying to get into his mind on such a sensitive issue like abortion rights for women?

HATCH: Well, I would go back to the Scalia rule, the Ginsburg rule. In both cases, both of them refused to answer any questions regarding matters that could possibly be brought up before the court. And they should. That's in accordance with the canon of judicial ethics.

Now, I think senators can ask any questions they want, but these justice nominations really don't have to answer them. And all they have to explain is that this is a matter that could possibly come before the court. You would not want to vote for me if I would start opining on those issues beforehand. And so I think that's the way the process has to go.

We did not press Justice Ginsburg. We all knew that she was pro- choice. We all knew that she was very liberal. And we all knew that she was one of the leading feminist appellate lawyers in the country. But we also knew that she was qualified. And so she passed I think, 96-3. I suspect Roberts ought to be treated exactly the same way.

BLITZER: Will he be treated the same way, Senator Boxer?

BOXER: All I can say is that people keep switching their opinion. I'm not saying Orrin Hatch does that at all. But others who once said I demand you answer questions are now saying on the other side you don't have to answer any questions.

Look, the American people do have questions. Sandra Day O'Connor protected our rights. I don't think it's too much to ask a nominee this question -- do you think that Americans have a right to privacy? I mean, I think that's a question that needs to be asked, that must be asked. Do you think that Congress has the right to protect our children from child pornography? And so on. Do you think that Congress has the right to ensure that there's a minimum wage?

These are important questions. And I think that any nominee that ducks them is not going to have an easy time from the American people, let alone many of us here.

BLITZER: Senator Boxer, we're almost out of time, but a quick question on a possible filibuster. There are 55 Republicans in the Senate. I assume all of them will support this nominee based on what we know right now. Is it in your opinion, even remotely possible that a filibuster you could -- that the majority, that they could avoid those 60 votes to break a filibuster.

BOXER: Well first, I don't believe at all that you can say every Republican is voting yes. But that's just a disservice to all the senators. Some of them may learn some things about this nominee and they don't feel comfortable. I don't think we can prejudge anybody's vote. And I don't think we should prejudge how this is all going to come out, Wolf. I know you like to do it, but in my view, everything has to be on the table, because we have to do our work, and a filibuster is on the table. Hopefully we don't have to use it. But if we do, we do.

BLITZER: All right. A final thought from you, Senator Hatch, on that issue of a filibuster. Go ahead.

HATCH: Well a filibuster shouldn't be on the table. We've never had a leader-led partisan filibuster in the history of the Supreme Court and the history of any federal court judicial nomination, and it would be ridiculous in this particular case.

And by the way, I think any senator can ask any question that senator wants to on the judiciary committee. He doesn't have to answer them, just like Justice Ginsberg refused to answer them, like now- Justice Scalia refused to answer them. And I've said they can ask any question they want no matter how stupid the question may be. And sometimes we really get some stupid questions. I've been known to ask a few myself.

BLITZER: I've been known to ask a few stupid questions myself, as well. I think all of us have. There are no stupid questions, I have to say this, but there are stupid answers from time to time. Thanks to both of you, Senators, for joining us.

BOXER: Thanks a lot.

HATCH: You bet.

BLITZER: Time is running out on low interest rates. Were they too much of a good thing? Just ahead, why some experts think American consumers have fallen into a trap.

And another member of the original "Star Trek" cast has died. We'll remember James Doohan and Scotty.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's been a lot of talk lately about what some say is a bubble emerging in the U.S. housing market. But there's more immediate financial threats that could impact many more people, and that would be debt.

CNN's Mary Snow is joining us live from New York with more on the story -- Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan indicated that interest rates are going to be going up for the foreseeable future, and economists are concerned that consumers are flirting with trouble.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice over): For consumers, the attraction is irresistible -- low mortgage rates for homes, zero percent financing for cars and easy access to credit cards. Americans have gone on a shopping spree. Some economists are worried consumers have gone overboard.

DAVID WYSS, STANDARD & POOR'S: We're in debt up to our ears, but thanks to the miracle of low interest rates, we seem able to keep up with the monthly payments.

SNOW: The question is, can people keep up with their bills? A source of concern, the ratio that measures debt to income hit a record high in the first part of this year, which means a bigger chunk of paychecks is going toward paying debt.

That makes financial planner Gary Schatsky nervous. He says an increasing number of people are asking him how to pay off their bills and deal with rising interest rates.

GARY SCHATSKY, OBJECTIVEADVICE.COM: Many people who have adjustable rate debts are seeing dramatic increases in their interest rate. They, of course, want to know how do we deal with it? Should we refinance it? SNOW: But borrowing based on the red-hot housing market is rattling nerves. Economists say it doesn't just mean individuals paying hundreds of dollars more each year in mortgage payments. They say it has a much bigger effect.

WYSS: It has a real impact on future consumer spending and future home sales. For example, right now, a lot of the strength of the housing market is people trading up to buy a bigger house. They can afford to do that because mortgage rates are so low.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (on camera): One economist we spoke with said worst case scenario, home prices could drop by as much as 20 percent nationwide, 40 percent in cities like New York. He doesn't see that happening immediately, though.

Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. That could be pretty bad. Thanks very much. Mary Snow reporting for us from New York.

Coming up at the top of the hour, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT. He's also in New York. He's standing by with a preview -- Lou?

LOU DOBBS, CNN HOST: Wolf, thank you. Coming up in just a little under 12 minutes, three senators, all members of the Judiciary Committee join me tonight. We'll be hearing their assessment of the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court.

The Bush White House opposes a federal shield law for journalists, even though 31 states and the District of Columbia already have such protection of your right to know. We'll have a report from Capitol Hill.

And China declaring its hostile bid for Unocal will continue despite Unocal's acceptance of the Chevron bid. We'll have the special report.

All of that and a great deal more coming up here, in just a few minutes at the top of the hour. Please join us. Now back to Wolf Blitzer.

Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll be joining you. Thanks very much. Lou Dobbs coming up.

And when we come back, devastating death tolls in one of the world's poorest countries. The famine in Niger continuing to threaten thousands, but was this humanitarian crisis preventable? We'll go there. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Relief workers in Northern Africa are making an urgent appeal. They say famine conditions in Niger are growing increasingly more desperate.

Neil Connery has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEIL CONNERY, ITV NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At this clinic in Niger's Maradi province, dozens of children are dying from severe malnutrition every week. Some of them are more than a year old but weigh only three kilograms, the same as at birth.

Aid agencies estimate more than 150,000 children are now facing life-threatening malnutrition. Doctors fight to save those who make it to the few clinics there are, but they fear this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Severe drought has devastated Niger's food production, leaving nearly four million people hungry. But all of this could have been prevented. The United Nations first appealed for assistance for Niger last November and got almost no response. It needs at least $30 million, but so far, only three-and-a-half million has been pledged.

Niger is one of the world's poorest countries. Last year, it was devastated by an invasion of locusts and was then hit by the drought. The lack of rain and crops has caused many animals to starve to death. People are so desperate they're forced to eat the weeds the camels normally survive on.

Rains have slowly started to fall. But without seeds and money for livestock, tools, fees, the October harvest will fail. Admission rates to the clinics are rising dramatically because of the food shortages. Unless aid gets here quickly, it's feared thousands of lives will be lost from a famine that could have been prevented.

Neil Connery, ITV News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And a U.N. official says if the world had responded to the famine promptly, the cost of preventing malnutrition would have been about $1 a day per child. Now he says the focus has shifted to saving lives and that costs $80 per child.

Today's edition of "Then and Now," also focusing in on Africa. Here's Jeff Koinange.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was only 31 years old when he seized power in what he called a people's coup in Ghana, in 1979.

JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS, PRESIDENT OF GHANA: Ghana is looking up to you.

KOINANGE: Air Force Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings, the man known to many simply as J.J., later installed himself as president and would go on to rule Ghana for the next decade as a strong-armed dictator.

RAWLINGS: You can buy someone's loyalty.

KOINANGE: Early in his second decade of power, Rollins changed course, looking to the West for aid and introducing a series of economic reforms. He was elected and then reelected as president before he gave up power voluntarily in 2001.

The flamboyant Rawlings, a qualified helicopter pilot, still takes pleasure in flying himself around and continues to play an active role behind the scenes, rallying Ghana's fledgling opposition.

RAWLINGS: I don't have any regrets, because by our intervention and the sacrifice that we made, as painful as it was, I know that's what saved the nation.

KOINANGE: He's also busy writing his memoirs and says he'll soon be publishing his account of his sometimes-turbulent rule.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: "Star Trek" fans have lost an old friend. James Doohan, who played Scotty, died at the age of 85 of pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMES DOOHAN, ACTOR: Stand by.

BLITZER (voice-over): Scotty wasn't a Scott at all. In fact, actor James Doohan was Canadian, but mastered multiple accents during his early years in radio.

When he was offered the role of the engineer in "Star Trek" in 1966, he's quoted as saying he chose a Scottish accent because it was the most commanding.

DOOHAN: Scotty is, you know, 99 percent James Doohan and one percent accent.

BLITZER: And the iconic command routinely given to his character, "Beam me up, Scotty," became part of the American lexicon. It was the title of Doohan's autobiography and even the catch phrase of the eccentric former congressman, Jim Traficant.

SEN. JIM TRAFICANT (D), OHIO: Beam me up. Beam me up.

BLITZER: When "Star Trek" ended in 1969, Doohan found himself type-casted, but he said he was advised to go with it and once he did, everything was fine.

DOOHAN: It's really emotional because I've learned to love the character very much.

BLITZER: He revised the role of Montgomery Scott in a series of "Star Trek" movies and often appeared before devoted fans at "Star Trek" conventions. And when asked several years ago if he ever got tired of hearing "Beam me up," he replied, "not at all, it's been fun."

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: That's it for me. LOU DOBBS TONIGHT starting right now. Lou's standing by -- Lou?

END

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