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Breaking News: President Bush to Nominate Federal Judge Samuel Alito for Supreme Court; 'Suicide Killers'

Aired October 31, 2005 - 06:29   ET


ANNOUNCER: From the Time Warner center in New York, this is DAYBREAK with Carol Costello.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you.

In about 90 minutes we're expecting to hear from President Bush about his new Supreme Court nominee. CNN has confirmed it is 3rd Circuit Appeals Court Judge Samuel Alito.

Our White House correspondent, Dana Bash, joins us now.

What do we know about Judge Alito?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, his nickname could tell you a little bit about what we know. And his nickname is "Scalito," because people think that he is a lot in terms of his judicial perspective and philosophy a lot like Antonin Scalia.

And, you know, the mantra among conservatives has been that they want the president to pick somebody in the mold of Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Now, the conservatives believe that that's actually something that the president promised on the campaign trail. The dirty little secret is he actually said he admired him, but didn't necessarily promise in the mold.

But nevertheless, that is sort of the reputation that Samuel Alito has. He has been on the federal bench for 55 years (sic). But interestingly, you know, when the president picked Harriet Miers, the first thing that he and his aides said is that the reason why they wanted her is because she had real world experience.

Well, the problem for many people on both sides of the aisle is that she may have had some real world experience, but she had zero in terms of judicial experience. And Alito certainly brings judicial experience, but he also has experience as a prosecutor. And that is certainly something that one of many things, I think, that persuaded the president to pick him.

COSTELLO: Well, Dana, one controversial ruling that he made while he's on this federal court, it was a case called Planned Parenthood v. Casey. He was the sole dissenter on the 3rd Circuit. It had struck down a Pennsylvania law that required women seeking abortions to consult their husbands.

Very controversial. Do you know more about that?

BASH: Well, what I do know politically is that that is probably going to -- I'm looking at my e-mail in-box right away, and I can imagine that that is probably going to be one of the first things that we hear from Democrats; that that is going to be one of the things that they are most upset about when it comes to Samuel Alito.

First of all, I should just correct something that I said. I think I said that he served on the bench for 55 years. He is 55 years old.

COSTELLO: Understood.

BASH: He's served for 15 years -- for 15 years, and he actually is quite young. That's probably another thing that sold the president on Samuel Alito.

But, look, that is something, again, you know, there is sort of a term that is used around town, and that's "threading the needle." That when the president picks somebody, you've got to make your base happy, but you also have to get the nominee through the Senate. And when...

COSTELLO: Well, let me interrupt you, because I want to go into more about this Planned Parenthood v. Casey. We have our legal analyst, Jeff Toobin, on the phone.

Jeff, hello.


COSTELLO: OK. So tell me about this case.

TOOBIN: Well, this is probably the most important abortion case since Roe v. Wade. It was -- it came out of Pennsylvania, which is included in the 3rd Circuit. And Samuel Alito dissented in the 3rd Circuit.

Let me just simplify it. He tried -- he believed that the parental -- the notification by husband, which was part of the Pennsylvania law, was permissible. He thought it was OK that Pennsylvania insisted that a woman get her husband's permission before she got an abortion. That part of the ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court. So, the court disagreed with him about that.

Now, that doesn't mean he's a bad judge. It doesn't mean, you know, that good judges don't get their opinions overruled by the Supreme Court now and then. But, you know, not only did he rule in a way that, you know, pro-life forces will like, pro-choice forces will dislike, but it was overruled by the Supreme Court in this very important decision in 1992.

COSTELLO: Why legally would you uphold something like that? That a woman would have to check with her husband first in order to get an abortion? TOOBIN: Well, the way abortion law works is that the courts have established various kinds of balancing tests. It's the interest of the woman versus the interest of the fetus versus the interest of the family versus the interest -- all of these factors come into play.

Judge Alito ruled that Pennsylvania's interest in family life, in preserving the institution of marriage, was enough of a consideration to merit this restriction on a woman's right to choose abortion on her own. The Supreme Court disagreed. But that's generally the reasoning. Pennsylvania had a...

COSTELLO: Well, I guess what I'm trying to get at is this is a very conservative judge, and he's going to be against legalized abortion. I mean, you could draw that conclusion from this, couldn't you? Or could I?

TOOBIN: I think it's a very good indication that this is a judge who will want to overturn Roe v. Wade. I mean, I think that is a very fair logical inference from his record on the bench; that this is a judge who believes Roe v. Wade should be overturned. I mean, undoubtedly that question will be the center of his confirmation hearings, as it has been for every judge appointed to the Supreme Court since the '70s.

But this judge we have a lot more data on his feelings about legalized abortion than we do on many of the others.

COSTELLO: So, when he's asked a question -- if it gets that far -- when, you know, the senators are posing him questions, will he have to answer specific questions, unlike John Roberts did?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, that's really a political question rather than a legal question. The confirmation process is about getting to 51 votes. And if Samuel Alito and his advisors think that, you know, he can get to 51 votes without answering the question, he probably won't answer the question.

I think you're right that he will have a harder time than Roberts did in completely avoiding the issue of Roe v. Wade, because of his own record and because of Sandra Day O'Connor's crucial role on that question. After all, Judge Roberts was replacing the chief justice, who already was a vote against abortion. Judge Alito will be a candidate to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, who was the swing vote.

Just by the way, I mean, his nickname on the bench -- and I expect you'll be hearing this a lot -- is "Scalito." In other words, it's sort of a little Scalia.

Now, no one is suggesting that a nickname is grounds for voting for or against someone. But I think that gives you some clue about his judicial philosophy that he's known as "Scalito."

COSTELLO: OK. Let's go back to Dana Bash.

In light of what all Jeffrey just said, Dana, this isn't going to be easy, is it? Is this going to get nasty?

BASH: Well, I would not be surprised if it gets nasty. There is no question, because, look, first of all, just look at the political atmosphere right now. Democrats understand that they couldn't have a weaker president right now to deal with. And the fight is probably theirs to have.

And the big question right now is whether or not they will use their filibuster option, and whether or not it will come down to that. I think we're probably far from the Democrats actually making that decision. But that could potentially doom this nominee.

I think that the calculus, again, here at the White House is that they believe that if they put up somebody who is qualified, who is clearly qualified on paper, and somebody who the Democrats will be hard-pressed to say simply should not be serving on the bench, it will be hard for them to vote against Samuel Alito.

Similarly, it's sort of a similar way they put up John Roberts. A lot of Democrats did not like John Roberts, certainly wouldn't have put up John Roberts if they had the choice. But they ended up voting against him because it was hard to say that he was not qualified to sit -- voted for him, I should say, because it was hard to say he wasn't qualified to sit on the bench.

COSTELLO: And, Jeffrey Toobin, this guy is evidently qualified. Fifteen years on the bench. No more Toobin. Jeffrey Toobin went away.

But let me ask this question of Dick Uliano from CNN Radio. He's on the Hill this morning.

No question about this guy's credentials. Fifteen years on the bench. Went to Yale Law School. He's mild-mannered, people say. He's family-oriented. He's got, what, one kid in college and one in high school. He's married, et cetera, et cetera.

DICK ULIANO, CNN RADIO: Yes. He's a New Jersey native. He has plenty of experience on the federal appeals court. Also worked in the Reagan administration. He has a family. He is well-known among conservatives. People know Judge Samuel Alito.

And as the analysts point out, I think it's clear from this pick that he will have Republican support in the Senate, and he will have Democrat opposition when all of this goes before the Senate.

And this is probably going to be the brouhaha, the major confirmation battle that the John Roberts' nomination was not.

COSTELLO: Interesting. The other interesting thing that I saw -- and maybe Dana Bash can answer this question. No more Dana. People are just leaving me left and right, actually are preparing for...

ULIANO: Maybe I can help.

COSTELLO: Well, maybe you can help, Dick. I hope so. But Judge Alito worked in the Reagan administration.


COSTELLO: And I was wondering if he knew John Roberts or they worked together.

ULIANO: Their careers would have overlapped at that time at the Justice Department. That would be the same timeframe. He was an assistant deputy attorney general. And he was responsible -- Alito was responsible for considering which cases the Reagan administration would challenge before the Supreme Court.

And unlike Harriet Miers, who withdrew on Thursday, there is a tremendous paper trail with Samuel Alito. He has many decisions. I'm sure you're becoming familiar with a few of them. He's the one who ruled in favor of a city being allowed to have a religious display at Christmas time, as long as it included a Santa Claus, secular symbols. Ruled in an abortion case and took an anti-abortion stand.

Clearly, Democrats have -- in the Senate have said that they would oppose conservative nominees like Alito. They didn't mention Alito at the time. But he's absolutely expected to draw a fight with Republicans supporting him, and Democrats no doubt will oppose this nominee.

But, you know, we're a step ahead here. Certainly the first step is the president needs to name him. That's what we expect later this morning. Sources are telling us that it will be Samuel Alito, federal appeals court. And this is the third time the president is trying to fill the seat of Justice O'Connor, who is trying to retire, Carol. And she's been trying to retire since July.

COSTELLO: I know. Well, we'll see what happens; 8:00 a.m. Eastern is when the president is expected to officially name his nominee, Judge Samuel Alito.

Of course, we'll be following that all day long.

Let's move on now. It's proving difficult for the White House to move past the CIA leak investigation. One of the reporters central to the probe, "TIME" magazine's Matthew Cooper, has written an exclusive report about a phone call he had with Scooter Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, in July of 2003.

Cooper says -- quote: "I was surprised last week that the Libby indictment even mentioned me. But apparently his recollection of the conversation differed from mine in a way that led the prosecutor to think he was lying."

Cooper goes on to say: "As for me, I still have no idea if Libby or anyone else has committed a crime. I only know that if there is a Libby trial I will testify truthfully and completely as I did before the grand jury."

Cooper will be a guest later this morning on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING." Former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson is also speaking out. He's the husband of the CIA agent at the center of the leak investigation. He wrote in an "L.A. Times" opinion piece -- and I quote: "The attacks on Valerie and me were upsetting, disruptive and vicious. They amounted to character assassination. Senior administration officials used the power of the White House to make our lives hell for the last 27 months. But more important, they did it as part of a clear effort to cover up the lies and disinformation used to justify the invasion of Iraq. That is the ultimate crime."

Wilson says he and his wife anticipate no mea culpa from the president for what the administration aides did. But he says President Bush does owe the nation both an explanation and an apology.

You can hear directly from the former ambassador, Joe Wilson. He'll join Wolf Blitzer tonight on a special edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM." That airs at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 Pacific Time.

Still to come on DAYBREAK, more on the president's expected announcement of the Supreme Court nominee, Judge Samuel Alito.

Also, a new film looks at the method and the madness behind suicide bombers. We'll talk to the filmmaker.

But first, here's a look at what else is making news this Monday.


COSTELLO: We've been telling you all morning that we know who the president will nominate as the next Supreme Court nominee. He is Samuel Alito, Jr., a federal judge at the Philadelphia circuit court.

We want to find out the congressional reaction, if any, already this morning.

Ed Henry is on the Hill.

Good morning, Ed.


COSTELLO: Any reaction yet at all?

HENRY: Well, the Democrats are going to wait until the president actually brings Samuel Alito out. They want to make sure that he actually is it. They don't want to trust our word for it obviously. But they do -- I can bet you that the Democrats are going to be very tough on this nominee.

They were going to be very tough on this nominee almost regardless of who it was going to be, because Democrats on the Hill basically feel that the only reason that Harriet Miers withdrew was because conservatives were beating the drum saying that she was not good enough. And they feel that, in their words, the right wing of the Republican Party won their beat back President Bush's nominee. And that the president now had to go hard right, in their words, in order to please the right, in order to make up for what happened with Harriet Miers.

And so that's why they're expecting someone fairly conservative. And regardless of who it was, they were going to take a pretty tough stand. That's what we're expecting. And here you go.

Samuel Alito is known as someone who has some firm views on issues like abortion. That is going to please conservatives, because they felt like Harriet Miers was a blank slate. That was their big problem with her. They didn't know where she was on these key issues.

With someone like Samuel Alito, conservatives will not feel like they're in the dark. They'll feel like they have a solid nominee.

Democrats, on the other hand, of course, are going to feel like this is someone who might vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, who might tilt the court on this most important seat, the fifth vote on so many issues that Sandra Day O'Connor was so pivotal on. That's why you're doing to see Democrats being very, very tough.

COSTELLO: Well, you know, you think back to when the filibuster was politically damaging for the Democrats. But in this instance, it probably will not be since the president and his administration is in such a weakened state.

HENRY: Well, that remains to be seen. You're right that Democrats have been having a lot of fun with the fact that this was almost, not technically a filibuster, but it was almost a filibuster or an obstruction, whatever you want to call it, on the part of conservatives by pushing Harriet Miers aside. And Democrats are saying, we weren't the ones who pushed the button.

Well, in this case, the word "filibuster" -- you're right -- has already been invoked even before the nomination is official. Over the last couple of days, over the weekend, we've heard Democrats throwing that word around.

I'm just not certain yet the Democrats can get away with that. That remains to be seen. We'll have to see how this plays out. It's obviously very early.

But using the filibuster on a Supreme Court nominee is still something that's untested. It's something that could still backfire on the Democrats politically. And, in fact, while the president is in a very weakened political position, this is just the kind of fight for him to pick that could actually rally his base obviously, and also give him a cause to all of a sudden turn this around on the Democrats.

So, the Democrats -- and by the way, the Democrats are not yet saying they will filibuster. They were just throwing that word around. But keep in mind that this is something that really could be the ideological battle we were expecting with the Harriet Miers' nomination. Instead, it became a Republican Party fight. Now, we're going to get it on. It's going to be a harsh Democratic versus Republican battle. COSTELLO: Fascinating. Ed Henry reporting live from the Hill this morning.

Still to come on DAYBREAK, a new film looks at the motivation behind those who choose to become suicide bombers. We're going to talk to the filmmaker next.


COSTELLO: Breaking news we've been reporting for, I guess, the last 20 minutes or so. At 8:00 a.m. Eastern, President Bush will name his Supreme Court nominee. And we now know who that is, a federal judge from Philadelphia. His name is Samuel Alito.

He's been on the bench for 15 years. He's 55 years old. He was a former U.S. attorney. Lots of experience.

He's also quite conservative. So it seems as if President Bush has made this pick to please his conservative base, which means there will be quite a fight.

Of course, we'll be reporting on this all day long right here on CNN.

It's a disturbing moment from a timely new film. "Suicide Killers" asked the question so many of us have struggled with: What makes suicide bombers do what they do?

Let's listen to one survivor describe her experience.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I fell on the floor. I don't remember the explosion. I just remember that I woke up, because I felt that something was burning next to my hand. And I felt like I was in the fire. Like the smell was terrible, the smell of blood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The massacre of the Dolfinarium (ph) was a shock. Most of the victims were children. It was part of a long series of bloody attacks. And for the first time, the world learned the phrase, "suicide bomber."


COSTELLO: Pierre Rehov is the director of "Suicide Killers," and he joins us now live.

Thanks for being with us this morning.

Geez, where do you start? You know, you try to understand what makes someone want to become a suicide bomber. And you've interviewed a lot of would-be suicide bombers.


COSTELLO: Are you any closer to understanding? REHOV: Well, Carol, it's hard to say, because, you know, I've been spending a lot of time with those kids in jail (INAUDIBLE) in jails, but also with the families. And you cannot understand the kids without understanding their families.

In one, for instance, a mother said to me once, thank God my son is dead. When you hear that from a mother, you understand that it's much deeper into a psychopathology than anything else.

I came to the conclusion that it's like a general neurosis. It's not political. It's not social. It has nothing to do with being desperate. It is a culture which is worshiping death, collecting people to be behaving this way.

COSTELLO: When you say it's a culture worshiping death, what do you mean by that?

REHOV: Well, extreme Islam is worshipping death more than anything else. And those kids (INAUDIBLE) they do what they do. They believe they are the hand of God, of Allah. And their purpose is to destroy impurity. They've been raised in a society where women and men are completely separated from each other. And they cannot accept the idea of a world where women would be equal to men. And this is the basis. This is what I've always heard.

You know, they are proud of having never dated a girl. They are 16 years old, 18 years old. This is a period of time when they have a strong libido. And they have no access to any pleasure that you would find in the world.

COSTELLO: So, you know, we always hear that, you know, they do this because they're going to go to a place where they're going to have virgins.

REHOV: Seventy-two.

COSTELLO: Seventy-two virgins. So, I don't get the connection. Why wouldn't they just want to wait until they got married to experience that?

REHOV: Well, this is the absurdity, and also it's understandable, because first of all, in order to get married in this society, you must have money. You must have a future. And right now it's not a time for that. So, they have no real hope for, you know, having a family who is going to accept them to marry a daughter, to marry a girl.

In addition to that the rules are not the same as in our world. They cannot date a girl and be introduced to a girl. They just need a family to accept, and then there is a lot of ritual before they get to the point where they can hold her hand or anything like that.

So, it's completely taboo. But whatever is taboo on this materialistic world is completely allowed in the other world.

COSTELLO: Well, but surely it's more complicated than that. Surely -- but it all stems from this sense that there is no hope. There is no contact or love from women. I mean, it's more complicated than that obviously.

REHOV: Yes, it is more complicated than that. But you are dealing with kids who have been raised in this on a daily basis from television, from, you know, schoolbooks, in the streets. And they want to become heroes. An American boy would like to become a fireman or a doctor. They want to become Shahidi (ph). They want to become this guy that everybody is going to respect.

It's really a part of this culture. And at the very second that they are going to blow themselves up, it's once again of absolute power, and they are...

COSTELLO: Yes, because you say they're actually smiling before they push the button, so to speak.

REHOV: Yes. Well, for them, it's the equivalent of an orgasm. It's something very sexual. And I've been talking a lot to them, and it always comes down to the same point.

What they want to experiment is this absolute power beyond humanity, beyond any kind of fooling in the meantime. They are so close to God. And they are so close to what we would accept as pleasure between a man and a woman. At this very second it's their fantasy.

COSTELLO: Interesting. Pierre Rehov, I wish we had much more time to talk to you. And your documentary is called "Suicide Killers." Thank you for coming in this morning. We appreciate it.

The president has a new nominee for the Supreme Court. More on the choice next.


COSTELLO: "Now in the News."

We're following breaking news. One hour from now, President Bush is expected to name his new Supreme Court nominee. Sources familiar with the decision tells CNN it will be appeals court Judge Samuel Alito. Some of his past rulings lead some legal experts to believe he favors overturning legalized abortion. We'll bring you the announcement live at 8:00 Eastern.

Nearly a half-million Philadelphia commuters have to find another way to get to work this morning. Thousands of city transit workers went on strike just after midnight, bringing buses and trolleys and subways to a halt.

In Washington, lines are again forming at the Capitol Rotunda as people pay their last respects to civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. This is a live picture you're looking at. Her body lying in honor from 7:00 to 10:00 Eastern, and then there's a memorial service at a D.C. church at 1:00 this afternoon.

From the Time Warner center in New York, I'm Carol Costello. "AMERICAN MORNING" starts right now.


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