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THE SITUATION ROOM
Reacting to Day One of Alito's Hearings
Aired January 9, 2006 - 15:04 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: But I want to bring a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator -- Senator Ted Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. He is taking a break from the hearing to join us now as well.
Senator Kennedy, thanks very much.
BLITZER: It sounded, based on your opening statement, as if you have already made up your mind. You are going to oppose this nominee. Is that -- is that right?
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: No, that's not true.
I do think there's a steep hill for this nominee to climb. He's been on the Circuit Court of Appeals now for 15 years. He's written more than 300 cases. He has made numerous speeches. He has written articles. And I think, when you read those articles, read those speeches, and read the cases, you come to the conclusion that he has been, basically, hostile to individual rights before his court.
He has been very favorable to special interests. And he has also bent over backwards, in terms of executive power and police power. Those -- that's the -- that's not only my analysis. That's the analysis of "The Washington Post," the Knight Ridder, the Alito Project up in -- up at Yale.
So these are the -- going to be the areas we are going to inquire of him.
BLITZER: You have already -- you also said in your statement you believe he broke his word on the issue of recusing himself on this mutual fund, this Vanguard case, in which he -- he made a decision, although he has explained that there was a technical problem there. The computers apparently didn't come up with the notion that he should have brought himself out of -- of this case.
You are smiling right now, but this is a very serious business. And the Republicans are already saying that you -- you have -- you have got a double standard, that, when Stephen Breyer had a conflict, a potential conflict of interests, you were supporting him, but, in this particular case, you are already accusing Alito of breaking his word.
KENNEDY: Well, there's two things. First of all, we have to get the facts straight, don't we? And that is, on this particular issue, on the Vanguard, on the page which Vanguard authored -- which Alito authored, Vanguard is printed three times. So, he didn't need a clerk to tell him that -- that -- that Vanguard was involved in this case.
Now, I'm just interested in his answer. Was it an oversight? What was the situation? I think he owes that to the committee, because the -- this concept of recusal is as old as our legal system. It's to give the assurances to individuals that they are going to be fairly treated. So, we're going to want to hear from him on that.
We're going to want to hear from him on his association with what -- the CAP organization. That was a student organization at Princeton that -- whose policy was to be anti-black, anti-women, and anti- disabled. And distinguished graduates of Princeton University, like Senator Bradley, like Bill Frist, condemned that organization, condemned that structure, and got themselves out of that organization.
And Judge Alito puts this down as a matter of pride on his application. So, we want to hear...
BLITZER: All right.
KENNEDY: ... from him on this.
On the question of Steve Breyer, that is completely inaccurate. There was no conflict of interests, absolutely none. There is absolutely no conflict of interest whatsoever on it.
The -- the issue is a question that he had interests in insurance stocks. And the question was, at some time, if he made a judgment with regards to various environmental consideration, and there have to be -- the insurance has to reimburse those that are affected by it, will that somehow influence his decision?
And you know what he did? He said, then I will get rid of them. And that's exactly what he did. There's no -- no similarity whatsoever, in spite of what our Republican friends are trying to say.
BLITZER: That was the investment that he had in Lloyd's of London.
KENNEDY: That's it.
BLITZER: Senator, Jeff Greenfield, Jeff Toobin are here in THE SITUATION ROOM with us as well.
Jeff Greenfield has a question.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Hi, Senator.
When your brother, President Kennedy, appointed Arthur Goldberg to succeed Felix Frankfurter, that -- the shifted the balance of the court substantially, to a more judicial what we would call activism or broader sense of constitutional rights. When Bill Clinton appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to replace Justice White, that clearly shifted the balance of the court in a more liberal direction. If, after the election of a conservative president and a relatively conservative Senate, is there anything wrong with a president and Senate confirming a justice who will shift the balance of the court the other way?
GREENFIELD: I mean, does it -- does it only count when it shifts the wrong way, in your view?
KENNEDY: Well, there is a number of important points to consider.
First of all, we had the -- President Clinton checking with a Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee to try and find who would be acceptable to those on the other side. And they -- the -- those two were acceptable to the Republicans.
It wasn't just being jammed, which is a process issue, but, nonetheless, I think is a very reasonable process. I voted for 170 -- I voted for 95 percent of this President Bush's nominees for the -- for the courts. And I have voted for more Republicans nominated by Republicans than I have for Democrats.
The question is, where do these nominees stand? We are not going to be a rubber stamp. The -- the Constitution requires that we not be a rubber stamp. And I am not going to vote for someone that believes that the president has unfettered powers in the areas of torture, or in terms of wiretapping, or denying American citizens their rights to counsel, being put in jail, and being kept isolated.
We ought to be able to ask questions. We should not accept it. This judge is going to have an influence over the well-being of your children and your children's children. We have one time to get it right. There's no issue that is more important, outside of sending men into combat, than who we vote for to the Supreme Court of the United States.
And every nominee that comes up here ought to understand it, because it is one of the great honors, to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Senator, this so- called gang of 14 senators, who preserve the rule on filibusters, said there can only be a filibuster in extraordinary circumstances. Do you think these are extraordinary circumstances...
KENNEDY: We will certainly know...
TOOBIN: ... in the Alito nomination?
KENNEDY: We will -- we will -- we will certainly know at the end of the -- end of the hearings, won't we? I always feel that the nominee either wins it or loses it. There is a great deal of chatter and talk about the expressions of different members of the Judiciary Committee or outside groups. It is basically, this nominee has to -- to earn the -- the ability to sit on the Supreme Court by the American people. And I hope they are going to pay attention.
And if he is responsive, if he answers, if he demonstrates that he believes and understands that we have made the most extraordinary march to progress over the period of the last 50 years, and we're not going to go backward, we are going to continue that march for progress, he will be approved overwhelmingly.
BLITZER: Senator Kennedy, thanks for spending a few moments with us from this hearing.
BLITZER: Senator Ted Kennedy, Democrat, Massachusetts, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee.
Let's bring in the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, right now. He's joining us from Capitol Hill.
Mr. Leader, thanks very much for joining us.
Is it appropriate, and is it necessary, in your opinion, for this nominee to explain what he wrote in 1985, when he said, the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion? The Democrats and some Republicans are going to press him on that, including the chairman of this committee, Senator Arlen Specter.
Is it appropriate for him to go and explain what his personal views are on abortion?
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Wolf, I think anything is fair game, in terms of -- of questions.
And I think a lot of people are -- are waiting, with appropriate anticipation, to see how well he does in the questioning which is playing out behind me right now and will over the next several days.
I think it is clear, because he has not just this most recent American Bar Association recommendation of -- of -- of its highest rating, but, also, 30 years, as you point out, of public service in various capacities, which leaves a lot of room for Democrats and Republicans and the chairman of the committee, as you mentioned, to look at, what is this man's character? What is his -- his -- his integrity? What are his qualifications? What is his mastery of the law, which, I can say it is -- it is of the highest level, but we are going to see it play out in the next several days.
And I think, yes, and people go back to the 19 -- early 1990s, 1980s. And, as you know, over the last several weeks, people are going back into the late '60s and early '70s. And I'm sure all of that will be brought up. I am confident, because of his qualifications, his integrity, his judicial temperament, that his colleagues that we will hear about over the next couple of days, people like Judge Becker, who know him the best will lay out. He will -- is imminently qualified.
And, as Senator Kennedy just said, as he closed, he is -- he is competent, believes he will be confirmed if he answers those questions in an appropriate fashion. And I believe he will.
BLITZER: You -- you graduated from Princeton University.
You also heard Senator Kennedy cite you and Bill Bradley and other Princeton alum as having rejected this organization that -- that Samuel Alito apparently supported, supposedly was anti-African- American, anti-women.
Give us your perspective. What do you remember from your days at Princeton about this organization that Samuel Alito touted on one application as having been a member of?
FRIST: Well, now we are going back to the late 1960s and early 1970s to some thoughts by 18-year-olds and 19-year-olds and 20-year- olds at the times.
I think we have to be a little bit careful with that. And I think the American people understand it. All I remember of those years -- and I was about two years behind him at Princeton -- was the issue of ROTC. And Samuel Alito, even in -- in those days, at a time was very -- that was very trying for this country, was a strong advocate for keeping ROTC on campus.
And it may have not been popular at a lot of the -- the liberal Ivy League schools at the time. But he stood up for that. And it is true that CAP, or this Concerned Alumni for Princeton, also supported that position.
That is all that I recall at -- at the time, in terms of Samuel Alito and that particular organization.
BLITZER: Jeff Toobin has a question for you, our senior legal analyst, Mr. Leader.
TOOBIN: Senator, when you are at home in Tennessee and the voters ask you, would you like to see Roe v. Wade overturned, what do you tell them?
FRIST: I tell them -- I tell them, in terms of philosophy, that I disagree with Roe v. Wade and that it is -- it is an issue that is hotly debated here, will be hotly debated.
I think people's view, such as myself, it is fine for people to ask and to explore. I think that, for Samuel Alito, we will see how he actually handles the question.
What is important is that he will handle it with judicial temperament, with a -- a philosophy that shows he is not going to be legislating from the -- the bench, that his job is to interpret the law, based on -- on -- on precedent and what that law actually is.
TOOBIN: But isn't the reason why he was nominated and why you support him is because he will overturn Roe v. Wade?
And, you know, you're trying -- and I -- not -- not you, but I think many people -- and you will see it among some of the Democrats questioning -- is trying to capture a single issue and -- and use that as a litmus test, in terms of determining whether or not an individual who is highly qualified, demonstrated the utmost integrity -- his mastery of -- of legal opinion and legal judgment have been demonstrated -- that all of that should be negated or supported because of a single issue.
And I disagree with that. And I think the American people disagree with that.
GREENFIELD: Senator, it's Jeff Greenfield.
Back when Clement Haynsworth was defeated, 17 Republicans voted against him. More than a dozen Democrats voted for him.
As you approach the possibility of a filibuster, isn't it realistic to say that -- that the body that you lead, the Senate, has become way, way more politicized on both sides, that independent judgment is almost an endangered species now?
I can say that, only because I -- I have been disappointed in the United States Senate, in the extreme partisanship that continues to emerge, as we address issues like foreign relations, international relations, war, and our nominations of -- of our justices. The fact that, in the past, filibusters have been injected into the system on a routine basis by the Democrats, really, for partisan reasons, really has been very disappointing to me and to the American people.
In terms of how a filibuster might play out with Samuel Alito, I think it shouldn't even be talked about. We are just beginning now, two or three hours into the most important or among the most important constitutional responsibilities of the United States Senate, which isn't Republican, and it isn't Democrat, and it isn't liberal or conservative. It is American.
And that's the way we need to treat it, with civil discourse, with good debate. All issues are on the table. And, with that, let it play out.
I am absolutely convinced that, if we do -- do this in a civil and a dignified way, and give him an up-or-down vote on the floor of the United States Senate, that this well-qualified man of high integrity will be confirmed.
BLITZER: Senator Frist, thanks very much for joining us, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader in the U.S. Senate. Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, is wrapping up his introduction of Samuel Alito before the committee. He's going to be followed by the former Governor of New Jersey Christie Todd Whitman -- Whitman.
Let's listen in.
SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D), NEW JERSEY: ... every member of the committee takes that obligation seriously.
And I trust that Judge Alito will be forthcoming and cooperative in this process. I've had a chance to meet him. I know that he responds to the questions that I put to him. Maybe they were too easy, but he responded very well to them.
And I thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm pleased to be here with our former governor, Christine Whitman. And we haven't sat at a table together for a long time, but it's a good opportunity to do so.
SPECTER: Senator Lautenberg, do you care to make a recommendation on the nominee?
LAUTENBERG: I care to present the evidence, just the evidence, Mr. Chairman, and we'll let the record speak for itself.
SPECTER: Our next presenter is Governor Whitman, distinguished, two-term governor for the State of New Jersey, Cabinet of President Bush as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
We welcome you here, Governor Whitman, and look forward to your testimony.
WHITMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It's a pleasure to be here today with Senator Lautenberg to introduce Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. I do urge your support for his nomination to the Supreme Court.
I won't go into his family background -- Senator Lautenberg has done that -- save to mention one member of the family that he didn't, which is that the judge's sister, Rosemary, is a nationally recognized employment attorney, and someone who's recognized as part of a family that has devoted itself to public service and continues to do that.
Judge Alito personifies the motto of his -- the civic pride embodied in the slogan of his hometown: "Trenton makes, the world takes."
And with the consent of the Senate, one of the most important bodies in the world, the United States Supreme Court, can take a proud product of Trenton, New Jersey, into their chambers.
But I'm not here to discuss President Alito's family background or his state ties. I'm here to discuss his own history of achievement and his potential to be a great associate justice of our Supreme Court.
Sam Alito has excelled at everything he has undertaken. He was an exceptional student at Princeton University and Yale Law School, an outstanding young attorney at the Justice Department, an accomplished United States attorney, and for the past 15 years has been a respected and exemplary federal appeals court judge.
The American Bar Association just gave him their highest rating for his seat as justice. And in his past two appearances before the Senate for confirmation, he has received unanimous support.
There is, however, more to my support of Judge Alito. Like other Americans, I have read many articles dissecting positions Judge Alito has taken throughout his career trying to discern how he might decide on issues likely to appear before the Supreme Court that he would confront as a justice. I, too, have examined the record.
In the final analysis, my decision to support Judge Alito for this position is not based on whether I agree with him on a particular issue or set of issues, or on his conformity with any particular political ideology. In fact, while we may agree on some political issues, I know there are others on which we disagree.
Nevertheless, one's agreement or disagreement on political questions is after all ultimately irrelevant to the issue of whether or not Judge Alito should serve as an associate justice of the Supreme Court.
The court's role is not to rule based on justices' personal persuasions, rather on persuasive arguments grounded on fact, those facts presented in that particular case, and on their interpretation of the Constitution.
Those decisions are, of course, grounded in the hard reality of disputed fact and the messiness of the real world. But they are also guided by principles of law and justice which have long been treasured by the people of this country.
We should look for justices who understand that instinctively in the very core of their being.
I saw this trait on Judge Alito when he served on the appeals court during my terms as governor. And I have every reason and every confidence that he will exhibit the same as a Supreme Court justice.
Policy in the United States is defined through the laws crafted by the legislative branches of government and carried out by the executive. Our judges make decisions based on their interpretation of the intent of those laws.
We don't want justices to conform their decisions to ideologies. We do want justices whose opinions are shaped by the facts before them and by their understanding of the Constitution.
We should also look for justices who possess the necessary qualities of intellect and humility desirable in those with great responsibility and who can express their thinking clearly and in understandable language.
While we should expect that justices will hold philosophies that will guide their decisions, we should equally expect that they will not hold ideologies that will predetermine their decisions. That is the genius of our system.
Mr. Chairman, some have suggested that Judge Alito has an ideological agenda. I believe that an honest and complete review of his record as a whole will find that his only agenda is fidelity to his judicial craft.
If Judge Alito has a bias, it's in favor of narrowly drawn opinions that respect precedent and reflect the facts before him.
Members of the committee, yours is an extraordinary responsibility. Decisions by our Supreme Court will affect the lives of Americans for generations to come.
As politicians, whether current or retired, we all have deeply held positions we want to protect. When I was governor, it fell to me five times to appoint members of the New Jersey State Supreme Court.
One thing that experience taught me was that it is virtually impossible to find judges who will act as you would act were you in their position. That's as it should be.
Your responsibility is, to the extent possible, to determine whether or not the nominee before you has the legal background, intelligence and integrity to be a credit to the court.
Sam Alito has been a model as a federal appeals court judge. He has shown that he has the intellect, the experience and the temperament to serve with true distinction.
I have every confidence he will be a balanced, fair and thoughtful justice. I urge this committee to favorably report his nomination to the United States Senate.
Thank you very much.
SPECTER: Thank you very much, Governor Whitman. Without objection, the statement of Senator Corzine will be made a part of the record.
We appreciate your coming, Senator Lautenberg.
We appreciate your coming, Governor Whitman.
And now, Judge Alito, if you will resume center stage.
We now come to the -- you can remain standing. We've come to the...
BLITZER: Samuel Alito is about to be sworn in. And he is then going to be making a statement.
SPECTER: ... the formal swearing-in of the nominee. I count 41 cameras in the well.
And, just behind you, a grouping of cameras of seven in number. And I see three more, so you're well up to 50, which exceeds the number present, only 28 for Chief Justice Roberts, so that may be an omen.
I'm stalling for time a little bit here to allow the photographers to position themselves.
SPECTER: They have sat patiently -- impatiently all day.
We may move the swearing in to the beginning of the ceremony in the future so they can all go out and do something productive.
But if you would raise your right hand.
Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you will give before the Committee of the Judiciary of the United States Senate will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.
ALITO: I do.
SPECTER: Thank you, Judge Alito. You may be seated.
And we welcome whatever opening comments if you care to make them.
ALITO: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I am deeply honored to appear before you.
I am deeply honored to have been nominated for a position on the Supreme Court. And I an humbled to have been nominated for the seat that is now held by Justice O'Connor.
Justice O'Connor has been a pioneer, and her dedicated service on the Supreme Court will never be forgotten. And the people of the country certainly owe her a great debt for the service that she has provided.
I'm very thankful to the president for nominating me, and I'm also thankful to the members of this committee and many other senators who took time from their busy schedules to meet with me. That was a great honor for me, and I appreciate all of the courtesies that were extended to me during those visits.
And I want to thank the Senator Lautenberg and Governor Whitman for coming here today and for their kind introductions.
During the previous weeks, an old story about a lawyer who argued a case before the Supreme Court has come to my mind, and I thought I might begin this afternoon by sharing that story.
The story goes as follows.
This was a lawyer who had never argued a case before the court before. And when the argument began, one of the justices said, "How did you get here?," meaning how had his case worked its way up through the court system. But the lawyer was rather nervous and he took the question literally and he said -- and this was some years ago -- he said, "I came here on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad."
This story has come to my mind in recent weeks because I have often asked myself, "How in the world did I get here?" And I want to try to answer that today and not by saying that I came here on I-95 or on Amtrak.
I am who I am, in the first place, because of my parents and because of the things that they taught me.
And I know from my own experience as a parent that parents probably teach most powerfully not through their words but through their deeds. And my parents taught me through the stories of their lives. And I don't take any credit for the things that they did or the things that they experienced, but they made a great impression on me.
My father was brought to this country as an infant. He lost his mother as a teenager. He grew up in poverty.
Although he graduated at the top of his high school class, he had no money for college. And he was set to work in a factory but, at the last minute, a kind person in the Trenton area arranged for him to receive a $50 scholarship and that was enough in those days for him to pay the tuition at a local college and buy one used suit. And that made the difference between his working in a factory and going to college.
After he graduated from college in 1935, in the midst of the Depression, he found that teaching jobs for Italian-Americans were not easy to come by and he had to find other work for a while.
But eventually he became a teacher and he served in the Pacific during World War II. And he worked, as has been mentioned, for many years in a nonpartisan position for the New Jersey legislature, which was an institution that he revered.
His story is a story that is typical of a lot of Americans both back in his day and today. And it is a story, as far as I can see it, about the opportunities that our country offers, and also about the need for fairness and about hard work and perseverance and the power of a small good deed.
My mother is a first generation American. Her father worked in the Roebling Steel Mill in Trenton, New Jersey. Her mother came from a culture in which women generally didn't even leave the house alone, and yet my mother became the first person in her family to get a college degree.
She worked for more than a decade before marrying. She went to New York City to get a master's degree. And she continued to work as a teacher and a principal until she was forced to retire.
Both she and my father instilled in my sister and me a deep love of learning.
I got here in part because of the community in which I grew up. It was a warm, but definitely an unpretentious, down-to-earth community. Most of the adults in the neighborhood were not college graduates. I attended the public schools. In my spare time, I played baseball and other sports with my friends.
And I have happy memories and strong memories of those days and good memories of the good sense and the decency of my friends and my neighbors.
And after I graduated from high school, I went a full 12 miles down the road, but really to a different world when I entered Princeton University. A generation earlier, I think that somebody from my background probably would not have felt fully comfortable at a college like Princeton. But, by the time I graduated from high school, things had changed.
And this was a time of great intellectual excitement for me. Both college and law school opened up new worlds of ideas. But this was back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
It was a time of turmoil at colleges and universities. And I saw some very smart people and very privileged people behaving irresponsibly. And I couldn't help making a contrast between some of the worst of what I saw on the campus and the good sense and the decency of the people back in my own community.
I'm here in part because of my experiences as a lawyer.
I had the good fortune to begin my legal career as a law clerk for a judge who really epitomized open-mindedness and fairness. He read the record in detail in every single case that came before me; he insisted on scrupulously following precedents, both the precedents of the Supreme Court and the decisions of his own court, the 3rd Circuit.
He taught all of his law clerks that every case has to be decided on an individual basis. And he really didn't have much use for any grand theories.
After my clerkship finished, I worked for more than a decade as an attorney in the Department of Justice.
And I can still remember the day, as an assistant U.S. attorney, when I stood up in court for the first time and I proudly said, "My name is Samuel Alito and I represent the United States in this court." It was a great honor for me to have the United States as my client during all of those years.
I have been shaped by the experiences of the people who are closest to me, by the things I've learned from Martha, by my hopes and my concerns for my children, Philip and Laura, by the experiences of members of my family, who are getting older, by my sister's experiences as a trial lawyer in a profession that has traditionally been dominated by men.
And, of course, I have been shaped for the last 15 years by my experiences as a judge of the court of appeals.
During that time, I have sat on thousands of cases -- somebody mentioned the exact figure this morning; I don't know what the exact figure is, but it is way up into the thousands -- and I have written hundreds of opinions.
And the members of this committee and the members of their staff, who have had the job of reviewing all of those opinions, really have my sympathy.
I think that may have constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
I've learned a lot during my years on the 3rd Circuit, particularly, I think, about the way in which a judge should go about the work of judging. I've learned by doing, by sitting on all of these cases. And I think I've also learned from the examples of some really remarkable colleagues.
When I became a judge, I stopped being a practicing attorney. And that was a big change in role.
The role of a practicing attorney is to achieve a desirable result for the client in the particular case at hand. But a judge can't think that way. A judge can't have any agenda, a judge can't have any preferred outcome in any particular case and a judge certainly doesn't have a client.
The judge's only obligation -- and it's a solemn obligation -- is to the rule of law. And what that means is that in every single case, the judge has to do what the law requires.
Good judges develop certain habits of mind. One of those habits of mind is the habit of delaying reaching conclusions until everything has been considered.
Good judges are always open to the possibility of changing their minds based on the next brief that they read, or the next argument that's made by an attorney who's appearing before them, or a comment that is made by a colleague during the conference on the case when the judges privately discuss the case.
It's been a great honor for me to spend my career in public service. It has been a particular honor for me to serve on the court of appeals for these past 15 years, because it has given me the opportunity to use whatever talent I have to serve my country by upholding the rule of law.
And there is nothing that is more important for our republic than the rule of law. No person in this country, no matter how high or powerful, is above the law, and no person in this country is beneath the law.
Fifteen years ago, when I was sworn in as a judge of the court of appeals, I took an oath. I put my hand on the Bible and I swore that I would administer justice without respect to persons, that I would do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I would carry out my duties under the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
And that is what I have tried to do to the very best of my ability for the past 15 years. And if I am confirmed, I pledge to you that that is what I would do on the Supreme Court. Thank you.
SPECTER: Thank you very much, Judge Alito, for those opening comments.
We will adjourn at this point and we will resume tomorrow morning at 9:30 when we will start the first round of questioning with each senator on round one having 30 minutes.
BLITZER: Day one ends the Senate confirmation hearings of Samuel Alito to be the next associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court wrapping up with Samuel Alito speaking off the cuff, if you will, without reading formal text for about ten minutes, maybe eleven minutes.
Shaking hands now with Senator Bill Frist. And then you see his family surrounding him. It's become part of the tradition, Jeff Greenfield and Jeff Toobin.
And we saw John Roberts do this quite effectively as well, come in, get sworn in, listen to all those opening statements from the senators and then speak from the heart, if you will. Although you have to believe that speech was rehearsed and rehearsed, but it was a very compelling story he told.
GREENFIELD: And this is a direct consequence of the Robert Bork rejection. When Robert Bork appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee there was a lot of criticism that he was cold, he was distant, he was too intellectual. He was asked why he wanted to be on the court, and he said it would be an intellectual feast.
And ever since then nominees from both party's presidents have come with their story preferably a story of coming up from modest backgrounds, developing a love for the law, caring about their family.
I'm not in any way suggesting they were insincere. But I think your point is right. These are often speeches that are worked on by professional political operatives who are assigned to these nominees in an effort to take the robe, the mystique of the court off it and make it much more like a personal story.
I have to wonder when I listen to some of these things, what would Oliver Wendell Holmes have said? He came from an aristocratic WASP family. He had no story to tell about working his way up. I don't know if he could have survived such a test, but this is indeed -- you are quite right. This is now the most obviously political part of confirmation process is to sell yourself not as a learned justice but as a regular down to earth human being.
BLITZER: This is really the first time that the American public has had a chance to listen to Samuel Alito to hear his words -- to hear his words personally, to speak from the heart, and it is a very, very sensitive moment for any Supreme Court nominee.
TOOBIN: Those eleven minutes were longer than the sum total of all of his public statements on the record since he's been nominated.
But there was, I thought, an explicitly political part of one of the things that Judge Alito said when he said I changed when I became a judge. I was different. I had a different responsibility, different set of obligations.
What that is laying the groundwork for is trying to take the sting away, perhaps, from some of those statements he made in the mid '80s when he was working for the Reagan administration, highly partisan, against legalized abortion, against racial quotas. For the past 15 years, he says he's been a judge. It's a completely different set of responsibilities.
We'll see whether the senators buy that distinction as clearly as he made it, but that's certainly something we're going to hear a lot about over the next few days.
BLITZER: It sounds like it could be a pretty effective line during the course of the tough questions presumably going to be asked.
GREENFIELD: One more quick one that I thought also was political where he says he went to Princeton at about the time when student tumult was still at a height.
BLITZER: He mixed in the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations.
GREENFIELD: He didn't any responsible behavior, I have a feeling he may be talking about controlled subjects, perhaps and sexual excess. How he contrasted the irresponsible behavior at this elitist ivy league Princeton with the sensible people he'd grown up with in good old regular American New Jersey.
That's the kind of speech that that is also I think a very political appeal to say I'm one of you. I'm one of -- I'm not an elitist, you know, that somehow got conned by these fancy ivy leaguers with their two last names and their Chablis and Brie.
TOOBIN: He mentioned Princeton. He didn't mention Yale Law School. He never let the words Yale Law School pass his lips. Yale Law School is known for producing flaming liberals like Jeff Greenfield, but Sam Alito noticeably didn't associate himself with that renegade institution.
BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield a graduate of Yale Law School and Jeff Toobin a graduate of the Harvard Law School. We have our share of elitists right here at CNN. We'll take a quick break much more of our special coverage. Day one of this confirmation hearing wrapped up, but we are going to continue to assess what has happened, and then we are going to have all of the day's news coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We are also standing by to speak to the former chairman of the Republican party, Ed Gillespie, among many others. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We have been covering the hearings, the Senate confirmation hearings of Samuel Alito to be the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice. He's now wrapped up his opening statement. He went 10 or 11 minutes, a very moving personal story of his family, his roots in New Jersey, how he got to where he is right now.
Joining us is Ed Gillespie from Capitol Hill, a former chairman of the Republican party. He is one of those political operatives who has been helping Samuel Alito prepare for this ordeal that he's about to go through this week.
I understand the rehearsals have been quite intense. Give us a little bit of flavor. What goes on? How do you prepare someone like Samuel Alito for the questioning that is about to come from Ted Kennedy and Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden?
ED GILLESPIE, SPECIAL ALITO ADVISER: To their credit in the courtesy visits, the senators on both sides of the aisle tend to say this is what I'm going to ask you about. They give the judge an opportunity to think in advance of the hearing about how he wants to respond to a certain line of questioning.
You learn a lot from watching CNN and reading the newspapers as well by what the senators are saying, and so by the time the hearing rolls around, it is a pretty good sense of where the hearing's likely to go in terms of questions.
With Judge Alito, who is the most experienced nominee for The Supreme Court in more than 70 years, it's really a matter of marshalling all of his knowledge, and he has the depth of knowledge on constitutional law, on case law, on stari decisis and precedent like few that have gone before him.
It's been a vigorous preparation for the hearings, but I think as you saw in the judge's opening statement, he is clearly one who is prepared for these hearings and very well qualified as the American Bar Association said for The Supreme Court seat he's been nominated to take.
BLITZER: Ed, how did you prepare him to answer the question about Roe versus Wade and a woman's right to have an abortion in this country? What is he going to say since he is on the record in 1985 in saying he opposed Roe versus Wade?
GILLESPIE: As Senator Specter, the chairman of the committee, noted in his question relative to that statement, as I understand he said to Chairman Specter, actually I was there, so I know, he noted that in 1985 he was a staff attorney advocating a position for the Reagan administration that was the stated position of the administration.
It was a position he was comfortable advocating and agreed with, but you look at things differently as a staff attorney, as an advocate than you do as a judge as he noted in his opening statement. As a judge you are required and you must look at the pros and cons, both sides of the case, take those into account as opposed to putting forward only one side of the case.
In addition to that, it was 1985. Since then there has been 20 years of case law that has developed around the issue of abortion. That has to be taken into account for any justice, not only on The Supreme Court, but obviously he has taken it into account as a sitting judge on the Third circuit.
In fact he has ruled in favor of those who have sought to limit abortions. He has ruled against those who have sought to limit abortions, and obviously you saw Governor Whitman in her introduction note that this is a man who applies the law, doesn't impose his own personal views.
GREENFIELD: Ed, it's Jeff Greenfield. This process you are a part of, humanizing these nominees, and everybody does it now. What really does the family background of a guy who is supposed to interpret The Constitution and apply the law on an impartial, non- emotional way, have to do with weather anybody is a good justice?
It seems to me this is further evidence of the degradation, the politicization, of the process of picking a Supreme Court nominee.
GILLESPIE: Well, that's one way of looking at it, Jeff. I think it's also true that the American people want to know a little something about Supreme Court nominees. I do think that in the past some nominees to the Supreme Court and to other levels of the bench have been demonized and I do think that telling a little bit about the personal story.
Look, we're all shaped by our background. I, like Judge Alito, am a first-generation American. My father came here on a boat too. Those of us who grow up in that environment and who know people who came to this country and lived as immigrants, especially as far back as Judge Alito's father did, understand a little something maybe first-hand about the importance of laws protecting people from discrimination.
I think that kind of thing is appropriate, and the senators on the committee want to hear a little bit about that, and the American public wants to hear a little bit about it. I suspect you are a little bit interested in it.
BLITZER: All right, Ed Gillespie the former chairman of the Republican Party, obviously doing a good job trying to help Samuel Alito get confirmed. Ed, thank you very much for joining us. We'll take another quick break here in THE SITUATION ROOM. When we come back, we'll see if the Dow Jones is going to wrap up today about 11,000 for the first time -- the first time since 9/11. Much more of our coverage right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our coverage of day one of the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is wrapped up for this day, but starting tomorrow morning around 9:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m. Eastern, the formal questioning of Samuel Alito will begin.
Joining us now for some analysis is Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan, our CNN political analysts. Donna, how do you think Samuel Alito did today?
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, you know, I was struck by how short it was. At first he started talking about his parents and his humble beginning, the excitement of the '60s. And I was sitting back, waiting for him to talk about how he resolved some of the conflict and his reaction to the so-called irresponsibility -- and then nothing.
And all of the sudden, it came to an end. I was looking for substance in his opening statement, something that would give us some idea. I mean, he knows some of the questions out there, and he didn't share with us anything.
BLITZER: What do you think?
BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: I think what he did today will make the Democrats jobs far much harder. They are going to try to say he's out of the mainstream. We've heard it repeatedly now in these opening statements.
In order to do that, you have to have a person that becomes convincing that he could possibly be. When we saw him today, he is mainstream. He's by definition your next-door neighbor, he's got a fine family. He's mild, he's -- in his approach, in his temperament. He is humble and sincere.
And we will see how smart he is, as well. I think they have a real job ahead of themselves if they think they can make the American people believe that this fine man who could be your next-door neighbor could possibly be a threat.
BLITZER: He set the stage, Donna, for what I suspect will be the theme in a lot of his answers on the tough issues like abortion rights and other sensitive issues, affirmative action -- in that 20 years ago when he was a lawyer representing the then-Reagan administration, certainly he had to take certain positions. But over these past 15 years as a federal judge, he's come to a different attitude, a different perspective, and you can't hold him to what he said then.
BRAZILE: I don't think Democrats will just question his years working in the solicitor general's office. He's given us a wealth of information over the last 15 years of serving on the court, so we have a lot of information. I mean, Dianne Feinstein raised one of them today, the Commerce Clause, and one of the decisions he made saying that Congress had no right or no authority in regulating firearms. So I think this is going to be a very interesting confirmation battle. You will see over the next few days as Democrats begin to get out of him some responses to some tough questions on affirmative action, on job discrimination, they will figure out ways to ask.
BLITZER: Do you think all 55 Republicans will hold firm and vote to confirm this nominee?
BUCHANAN: As of right now, I certainly do. And I think you will get some Democrats as well. Wolf, you know, you get Senator Kennedy out there and also Senator Schumer, it becomes more and more clear to the viewer, to the American people, that they are angry.
They are angry that this is -- the court's going to be taken a notch to the right, and that that's what they are angry about. There's no reason why you wouldn't vote for Roberts and this man. They are philosophical twins. So why? What's the difference?
The difference is this one moves the court to the right. And Democrats are angry that Bush has this opportunity. That will not win you support with the American people. That is not fair, and I think that's where they are going to have real trouble.
BRAZILE: Well, I disagree. I think the Democrats are doing their job. And their job is to investigate and to really ask tough questions and not to rubber stamp him and to narrowly apply the Ginsburg standard to this nominee, as if he cannot respond to questions about what he's written about or what he's said in the past.
BLITZER: We are going to have much more on this day one of the confirmation hearings coming up. Donna and Bay are both going to be back with us in the coming hour. We are going to have our "Strategy Session."
We're also standing by to see if the Dow Jones winds up on this day, above the 11,000 mark. If it does, it would be the first time since 9/11. Much more of our coverage of day one of the confirmation hearings, plus all the day's other news, including the latest on the vice president. Dick Cheney was in the hospital this morning, and the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. We'll be back in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.
BLITZER: Day one of the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings has now wrapped up. We heard from Samuel Alito, he spoke for about 10 or 11 minutes. We'll have a complete wrap-up of what happened on this day one, coming up.
But we're also approaching the end of the markets on this day. Let's bring in our Ali Velshi, he's in New York. Ali, 11,000 potentially. What's going on? ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the DOW crossed 11,000 for the first time in a long time today, getting as high as 11,020. But we haven't seen it close above 11,000, since as you said, before 9/11. June of 2001 was the last time the DOW was above 11,000. By October of 2002, it was down around 7,200. And I remember financial people used to tell us back then, Wolf, you'll see the DOW trading between 8,000-and-12,000 for the next few years.
It's a bit of a cop out, but look at what we're looking at right now: 11,010 right now, 51 points high on the DOW when the closing bell's about to start ringing.
I mean, it's going to take a few minutes to settle in, but we'll have to see whether that happens. There is a lot of volatility in this market. But at this point, we are 10 points higher than that mark. The markets generally are strong right now. NASDAQ's up 14 points as well. Wolf, I'll keep an eye on that for you and see if we have a new 11,000 mark.
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