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State of the Union: Best Political Team on Television

Aired May 17, 2009 - 11:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Here's what's still to come in our STATE OF THE UNION report for this Sunday, May 17th.

The president is heading to Notre Dame University, where he'll be confronted by students and others protesting his views on abortion. CNN will have live coverage later this afternoon.

Straight ahead, a couple of strong opinions on our this controversy from our James Carville and Bill Bennett.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in the center of a firestorm over what she was told about the CIA's use of torture and when. We'll get the latest from three members of the best political team on television.

Plus, a look back at Bloody Sunday, the day in 1965 when civil rights marchers were tear-gassed and beaten in Selma, Alabama.

We'll talk to a man who has preserved those historic days in the newspaper headlines. It's a fascinating window into the past. That's all ahead in this hour of STATE OF THE UNION.

Republicans are out in force this Sunday intensifying their criticism of the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. One pressure point, the speaker's assertion that the CIA misled about her about the Bush administration terror interrogation tactics.


BOEHNER: Accusing the CIA and other intelligence officials of lying or misleading the Congress, then she should come forward with evidence and turn that over to the Justice Department so they could be prosecuted. And if that's not the case, I think she ought to apologize to our intelligence professionals around the world.


KING: The former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich said there should be a congressional investigation of what the speaker knew and when she knew it. But that call gets little support from the current Republican leadership.


SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: I am less interested in investigating whether her memory was correct or she lied about it than I am in the policies that flow from the debate that we're having. I am not one who thinks we ought to have true commissions and all the rest of it and keep looking backward. I agree with the president, we have enough on our plate.


KING: And when it comes to the economy here at home, the question everyone is asking -- when will the recession end? The latest numbers aren't very encouraging but the president's budget director sees reason to be optimistic.


PETER ORSZAG, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: The freefall in the economy seems to have stopped. I guess the analogy is there are some glimmers of sun shining through the trees but we're not out of the woods yet. We do have more work ahead. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: As you can see, as always, we've been watching all the other Sunday shows. Maybe so you don't have to. Let's bring in the best political team on television as we do most Sundays at this hour and break down the issues.

Joining me in our Washington studio, CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist James Carville and CNN political contributor and radio talk show host Bill Bennett. Gentlemen, thank you very much for being here.

I want to start with this firestorm, call it what you will, that the speaker is in the midst of. She has given different answers about when she was told about water boarding, whether she did anything about it, whether the Democrats should now that -- now there's a big question whether Democrats want to look back and view more of this. You heard John Boehner, the Republican leader there. He says if she thinks the CIA lied to her, she needs to put up the evidence. I want you to listen to a little bit more of what Leader Boehner told us this morning.


BOEHNER: That if, in fact, she believes she was lied to, that is against the law, she ought to make that information public and turn it over to the Justice Department so they can prosecute these people. But if she does not produce this and she changes her mind, well, then she ought to apologize.


KING: Speaker needs to apologize, Republicans just stirring up dust?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I'm a little bit like Senator Webb is. I'm not sure I see the big deal, but it's a dust-up. She's in the box. They can't attack Obama so she's there. One of the things I think they could do is seven years ago she says, Senator Graham says, who has notes, Rockefeller says it was one thing and the CIA says another.

I think that she and Director Panetta ought to sit down, come out. I don't think the Democrats want to be like the Bush administration and be at war with the CIA. And it might be that they have different recollections here. And if there are different recollections, we're not going to resolve what was said in a meeting seven years ago.

I don't think that's going to happen. It could be that people remember something differently. I have no idea. But it look like something we can get to the bottom of without a lot of trouble.

KING: And the current Republican leadership says they have no interest in a congressional investigation of what the speaker knew and when she knew it, so why don't we move on and deal with the policy issues, not the political debate.

BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we were moving on, we were on the policy issues until she was nailed on this. She nailed herself, as Roger Simon said earlier in the show. You know, why didn't she just put a sign on saying I am lying? It was a really bad performance.

Now, what she has said about the CIA hurts the CIA. We've had this large kind of general abstract discussion, are we less safe than we were? It's not good to talk about the CIA as people who lied. That undercuts their credibility, undercuts their ability to do their job. That's why a Democrat, Panetta, slapped her back so hard. She's in bad shape on this, and I know it, Democrats know it, too.

Obviously, they do. I mean, there's long been problems with Nancy Pelosi and this is just bringing it to the surface. And I imagine a lot of people are calling Steny Hoyer urging him forward.

CARVILLE: I don't think she's in, first of all, a big friend and admirer of the speaker. She's a terrific parent, she's a very good Catholic mass and communion every week. And people very likely can have different recollections of something that happened seven years ago. I'm a big fan of Director Panetta's, I just can't sit down and say this is a different recollection.

KING: So, what do we do about it?

CARVILLE: Again, she said she was misled. It's not like the CIA never misled anybody in history. But we don't want to go back. I don't think Democrats want to do the way with Republicans at the war with the CIA and setting up their own offshore intelligence group. I don't think that's what we want to do here. I think this thing can be resolved in a relatively short period of time.

KING: What does she need to do to resolve it?

CARVILLE: I think she should call Director Panetta or someone and say this is my memory, this is your memory, let's agree we have a different memory here but I want to establish a good relationship with the CIA. I don't want to have a thing where we're setting up offshore intelligence agencies where we say the CIA doesn't get this. We don't need a war with the CIA.

BENNETT: Show the records. Show the records of the meeting. And what we've seen so far. It makes it plain that she was told. So, what she's now doing is fibbing. Mass or communion or not, she is fibbing to put it mildly.

CARVILLE: That would be -- if assumed that she thought she wasn't told and assume that Senator Graham's notes were copious and exhaustive and said that they were, it was a meeting seven years ago. She did not lie to start a war. That's very clear.

BENNETT: But she's waging war again the Bush administration. This is all just a substitute for waging war against the Bush administration, which -- about which they need to be careful because now we find out that President Obama as president is a little more sympathetic to some of the things of the Bush administration.

KING: Let's move to an issue of this day. The president of the United States, a supporter of abortion rights, a supporter of embryonic stem cell research, will gave a commencement address at probably America's best-known Catholic university, Notre Dame University. And some students, some parents, a lot of the Catholic Church think this is a horrendously bad idea. He's the president of the United States. Should he be welcome on that campus?

BENNETT: Important distinction. Yes, he should be welcome on the campus. Yes, he should be able to come and express his views. Should he receive an honor for his views? No, he should not. When you go against fundamental moral principles, fundamentally teachings of the church, then you should not be honored. Should there be a debate on campus on this as there can be, sure.

KING: So your issue is with the president of the university, not the president of the United States.

BENNETT: No. The president of the United States got a great invitation to a place. Maybe he can get them to play better football, encourage them on other things, fine. When you get the president, that's a great thing.

But the honorary degree, this is why Mary Ann Glendon, former ambassador of the Vatican, professor at Harvard Law School, turned down the opportunity to be the other speaker because she said this to honor someone who is not just pro-choice, this is the most pro- abortion president we have had.

I mean, he could not sign on to things such as the partial birth abortion act. This is way over the line. These are not suggestions to the Catholic Church. This is fundamentally --

CARVILLE: Let's be clear there are very few students that object to this.

BENNETT: All right.

CARVILLE: And the valedictorian -- very few. KING: We're going to have one on.

CARVILLE: But 90 percent of students, and by the way, Obama carried the Notre Dame student body. If Notre Dame is serious and they're serious, this is what they need to do. They need to get every member of the faculty, particularly the law school -- I understand that there are law school professors teaching at Notre Dame that say Roe v. Wade is set law. Now, how can you -- why don't they go through and see if their biology teacher, see if anybody on that faculty is pro-choice?

BENNETT: Missing the point.

CARVILLE: I'm not missing the point. It's much more relevant to a university what a teacher is teaching in the classroom than somebody gets an honorary degree. I know people who have gotten 40 honorary degrees. That's another issue. Are you willing to have them go and make every law professor sign a statement saying that they overturn Roe v. Wade? How can you teach students that?

BENNETT: Free inquiry at the university is entirely appropriate. But the point of honoring someone who is the most pro-abortion president for his life and his work is inappropriate. I have one of those honorary degrees from Notre Dame, by the way. It ain't worth much.

KING: Let me jump in for one second.

BENNETT: Let me just say the embarrassment here is not to the president. It is to the university.

CARVILLE: What would you do if there was a building named after him on a Catholic university that was named after a pro-choice person? Would you say you can't have that?

BENNETT: Pro-choice person, a person who's not president? No. They can -- they can give their money. To say that --

KING: My name's on a coffee mug. I'm going to interrupt here.


CARVILLE: But we'll take money from him.

KING: I want to ask you politically about this. This is a fascinating debate. It's a fascinating debate. Politically, when you're the president of the United States and you accept this, you know this discussion is going to happen, the very debate we're having right here. So you're President Obama. You get the invitation. You look at it, you say, good university, it's an important state, boy if I go there, there's going to be a dust-up. Why did he say yes?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, he probably wanted to. And it's a state that he carried, by the way. He carried the county. He carried the university. It's not like he -- everything that you can win, he carried the Catholic vote. All right? And, you know, I'm not too sure, you know, a university has to -- and these people have a right to start a protest and everything.

CARVILLE: I'm -- I know that Condoleezza Rice spoke at Boston College. She was pro-choice. She was pro-war. I think that some of this, albeit not all of it -- I want to be clear -- but a good bit of it is being agitated by Republican -- by Republicans...


CARVILLE: ... by Catholics.

BENNETT: I'm more interested in this as a Catholic.

KING: Can he say anything -- can he say anything that makes you think, all right, OK?

BENNETT: Well, I hope he does better than he did in the -- early on in that debate out at the church where he said this was above his pay grade. I don't think he's going to get into the theology of this.

The day I got my honorary degree at Notre Dame was the same day Mario Cuomo gave his speech about abortion. And there was a lot going on, on campus.

What this may stimulate is a discussion of what it means to be a Catholic. I remember, when I went to Rome as secretary of education, a former president of Georgetown University told me, "You know, when I became president here, I used to have dinner with the president of Fairfield and Catholic University. Now I have dinner with the presidents of the Ivy League.

Well, you know, what does it profit a man? They need to re- examine what it is they believe. This is not a suggestion in the Catholic church. This is fundamental. You have a president who could not sign a bill that prohibited partial-birth abortion. I think the discussion has to take place at Notre Dame.

I'm not surprised that students don't object. There are students who graduate from Georgetown who don't know they went to a Catholic university. They don't even know it's Catholic.

CARVILLE: I think...


CARVILLE: I think these Catholics ought to get serious...

(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: ... and get these statements down to these professors. You go in there, in the classroom, and be sure that you eradicate pro- choice professors from the law school, from the biology department...


BENNETT: Totally irrelevant.

CARVILLE: No, it's not irrelevant. How can you -- you can't say...


BENNETT: That's not what we're talking about.

CARVILLE: ... that it's more important...


BENNETT: ... a debate on abortion, but you do not give this highest honor to someone who holds this...

KING: A cease-fire -- a cease-fire in this debate between Professors Bennett and Carville, a cease-fire.


Both of you please stay right here. We've got a lot more to talk about. Hope it's just as interesting.

You know, the front pages of The Washington Post and the New York Times -- I've got them right here. If you take a peek at these, both talk about the conservative map strategies for court fights. "Gay Marriage Issue Awaits Court Pick." The president's Supreme Court vacancy on the front pages of the big national newspapers.

This program is called "State of the Union," though, for good reason. We want to know, what are the top stories in your paper, all across the United States?

We bring you as many local papers as we can. But help us out. Go to CNN's "State of the Union" page or Facebook and tell us what's the headline in your local paper today. We'll be right back with Bennett and Carville, in just a moment.


KING: And we're back with CNN political contributors Bill Bennett and James Carville.

We've talked before about whither the GOP and how does the party rebuild with Barack Obama in the White House.

Yesterday, a remarkable event over at the White House. The governor of Utah, Mr. Huntsman, comes to this president. He's going to be, now, ambassador to China. This was a guy who, just last week, Bill Bennett, was talking about putting together an organization to perhaps run for the Republican nomination for president in 2012.

Now he's going to be a Democratic president's ambassador to China. Let's listen to President Obama making the announcement.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I knew that, because Jon is not only a Republican but a Republican who co-chaired my opponent's campaign for the presidency, this wouldn't be the easiest decision to explain to some members of his party.

But here's what I also know. I know that Jon is the kind of leader who always puts country ahead of party, is always willing to sacrifice on behalf of our nation.


KING: A big deal here? This is a guy, again, who was thinking about running for the presidency, was uninvited from an event in Michigan because the county chairman in Michigan said, you know what, this guy has voiced support for civil unions so he can't come speak to us.

BENNETT: It's a medium-sized deal, I think. I think it's a good appointment, actually, for the Barack Obama administration, pretty good appointment for the country.

The guy speaks Mandarin Chinese. He's something of a friend of mine. Actually, he was starting to teach -- have Chinese taught in the Utah public schools.

You said about that the Republican Party needs to go off somewhere. Maybe this is the point, send them off to China and we'll think about where they're going.

I think it's good for -- a good appointment for the administration, probably a very good ambassador to China. Whether it's good for Jon Huntsman remains to be seen. Let's see what he is called upon to say and defend as a member of the Obama administration. But it's a very interesting choice.

CARVILLE: Yes, I'd make a political point here. This is -- you know, there's a question that -- "Is this good for the Jews?" This is good for the Mormons.

And Romney had this, and there have been Mormons in the (inaudible) during the campaign that have served honorably without any direction from the church. I think Romney got a very bad rap.

I think, for future Mormon politicians, this is going to be a very good thing. And I suspect that Governor, soon-to-be Ambassador Huntsman understands that.

I think the administration -- I think what you're seeing is part of something that you're going to continue to see. I think that they're looking for other Republicans, maybe ex-governors and things like this to take this.

And this is a very high position. Remember, President George H.W. Bush held this position at one time. This is probably the most important, after the secretary of state -- could be one of the most important diplomatic appointments that this president makes. I mean, he's not shuffled off somewhere to host receptions and, you know...



KING: And so, as we assess what this means to the Republican Party, I should note for our viewers that Carville has a new book out, "40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation."

BENNETT: How many?

KING: Forty. He's asking for 40, there.

The current chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, was on another program this morning, and he was asked about the high profile of former Vice President Cheney and whether that's helpful or hurtful to the Republican Party. Let's listen to Michael Steele.


REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN MICHAEL STEELE: The man expresses his opinion. You know, that's his view. As the chairman of the party, I want Rush Limbaugh. I want -- I want, you know, Colin Powell, and I'll even take Tim Kaine. I mean, he's pro-life. He's pro-business. You know, he's pro-Second Amendment.


KING: Tim Kaine happens to be the Democratic governor of Virginia, who is Barack Obama's choice to be the leader of the Democratic National Committee. But Governor Kaine is all those things that Chairman Steele just said.

Mr. Steele trying to say, look, stop fighting; Dick Cheney tried to shove Colin Powell out last week. He's trying to say, let's do the group hug here.

BENNETT: Yes. Well, I mean, you need the group hug. You need a big party. You need to have lots of people in it. James and I were talking about it in the green room. And if the party is going to build, it's going to build from one end to the other.

And there is now some fairly prominent races for Republicans. We've got a shot in New Jersey with this candidate for governor. So we shall see.

But, obviously, Michael wants to embrace everybody. He doesn't want any more fights with any of these guys. He can't afford to have them. And I do think there's, right now, more unity in the Republican Party than there is in the Democrat party, which is fracturing on some things like health care. Fifty Democrats didn't support the appropriation for the war. There's some interesting things happening.

CARVILLE: The vice president of the United States has every right to go out and speak.

CARVILLE: We just completed a poll with people by a 2-1 margin think that President Obama is better on national security than President Bush. (INAUDIBLE) working very well, but he has every -- then you had the vice president saying, well, Colin Powell shouldn't be in the party, then you had Rush Limbaugh saying that they should kick out John McCain and his daughter from the party, and then he was attacking Senator McCain's 97-year-old mother.

As a Democrat, I encourage them all. Let me tell you, when it comes to the Republican Party, they have no more of a First Amendment defender than James Carville. I want them all like that.

KING: Well, if you stayed up late last night, you could see some of this debate play out about who should be out talking or not on "Saturday Night Live." I want you gentlemen to watch this.


WILL FERRELL, "GEORGE W. BUSH": Here is my regret, that I didn't have me a vice president like Joe Biden. I mean, look at those two, going out for burgers, laughing it up. I needed that kind of V.P., the kind that did dumb stuff to make me look smarter.


FERRELL: Instead, I got the one guy that scares me more than my dad.



KING: Good to have a laugh, right?

BENNETT: A laugh. We have to be able to take a joke and smile and we certainly can. But I think every week I've been on the show we have talked about Rush Limbaugh, every single time.

Rush Limbaugh is a friend of mine. He's the biggest name ever in talk radio, biggest audience ever. He's not the future of the Republican Party, he doesn't want to be the future of the Republican Party.

It is many the interest of some to obsess on Rush and Dick Cheney, who is out there I think making sense. And by the way, you may not like him and the credibility issue may be going the Democrats' way now, but the issues he has raised are important and, again, before you build that gallows, find out who you're going to hang.

I don't know where this is going. But I just want to say there are other people in the Republican Party, there are members of the House, we have governors, we have some really fine people who I think are going to be in leadership positions.


CARVILLE: ... talk about kicking John McCain...

(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: ... that's pretty big.

BENNETT: I don't know who said kick her out of the party. Rush doesn't really give that much of a hang about the party. He's concerned about the conservative movement. He doesn't want any -- really much to do with any kind of position in the Republican Party.

But the point I'm saying is that the media's obsession with Rush is part -- it gets obsessed with Rush, that's all it reports, and it's just where the rest of your guys.


BENNETT: Well, let's talk to Bobby Jindal, let's talk to Paul Ryan, let's talk to Michelle Bachmann, let's talk to others of these governors.

CARVILLE: No, Secretary, it was me that brought it up. It wasn't -- it was me.


KING: Well, we bring it up sometimes too.

CARVILLE: And the reason that I bring it up is I acknowledge...

BENNETT: You know you are a media star, James?

CARVILLE: Again, the reason I brought it up is, is that he wants to purify the Republican Party. There are some people that say it. Senator DeMint says that he would rather have 30 really conservative Republicans than 50 that are not. That's a debate that's going on in your party, sir.

BENNETT: That is a debate. That is a debate. That's absolutely a debate.

CARVILLE: And it is a debate -- and it is a debate we should discuss and talk about.

BENNETT: Perfectly fine, but there are more than two or three participants in this debate.

(CROSSTALK) KING: We'll have them all. We had Mitt Romney here and Eric Cantor last week or the week before.

BENNETT: Good, good.

KING: I'm losing track of my weeks. And we had Leader Boehner on this morning. We will continue the debate, we're about out of time. But I want to close on a subject because I know it is close to your hart.

You were the drug czar in the Reagan administration. This president's new drug czar says he doesn't want to use the term "war on drugs." They've already said in the past they don't want to use the term "war on terror." Does it matter?

BENNETT: Well, if terms are followed by behavior, if they decide not to use law enforcement as a major part of their effort, then it will matter big time. People who celebrate treatment, and I -- you know, I went all around the country and saw some great treatment centers, have to understand that the -- treatment works the longer you are in it.

And most people stay in a long time because of coercion. If you go to treatment centers and find out why people are there, many of them are there because of the law. Until they saw the law, they didn't see the light.

So, these things have to work together. If you say, well, let's just take the soft therapeutic approach, it doesn't work. Drugs are hard and they need a hard hand on the back of the -- a hard grip on the back of the neck often, and that is the role of law enforcement.

I hope they don't make that mistake. If they do, they're going to drive the numbers up. But we have not had a war on drugs here for about 10 years. We have not been serious about this issue at all for about 10 years. And that's why the numbers are going back up again.

KING: It is an issue that's sort of fallen off the radar. Does the language of it matter, James?

CARVILLE: You know, I don't know. And I tend to think that the secretary is right, is that you have got to -- most things is, there's not a single solution. It's a combination of things. I do know that there's a lot of controversy about sentencing here and that there's a big thing in a lot of conservative parties, there's something called a "Missouri plan" and other things, there is probably a way to do this.

BENNETT: Powder and crack disparities, you know.

CARVILLE: Right. There are some things. But I -- you know, I agree I'm not for legalization. I think that -- unfortunately -- or fortunately most things work in tandem, not one answer.

BENNETT: Small point, there are things you can do. We drove drug use down by more than 50 percent in the late '80s. You can fight this problem and you can make some real progress. KING: All right. Gentlemen, Mr. Carville, Mr. Bennett, thanks for coming in as always.

And straight ahead, the view from the Downtowner (ph), Selma, Alabama. And in just a moment, I'll be joined by three CNN reporters to talk about Speaker Nancy Pelosi's changing story about being briefed by the CIA. That was a big headline this week in Washington, D.C.


KING: In our travels this week, we want to go to a place that is among the hardest hit by the recession. We went down here to Alabama and we went to Selma. We show you some pictures of the city here. Here's the gateway into the city, Selma, Alabama, in the black.

This is the Edmund Pettus Bridge, famous in the civil rights movement for the Selma-to-Montgomery march. You see the bridge there. So race always an issue as you discuss things down here. The economy also critically important now. Selma is in Dallas County, 18.1 percent unemployment. In next county over, Wilcox County, 22.5 percent.

So, in our weekly diner segment, we went to the Downtowner Restaurant. We had a fantastic meal, and the topics of conversation, as you might expect, were the jobs and what about race relations?


KING: The unemployment rate in this state has doubled in the last year from 4.5 to 9 percent. But if you come to this county, it's 18.2 percent. If you go to the next county, it's 22 percent, why? What's happening here?

CALVIN GRIFFIN, SELMA, ALABAMA: Well, the jobs are just leaving. I don't know why. But they're leaving. We need to get some more here. We need some tax cuts for the industry to come back to Selma, is what I think.

MARY HORTON, SELMA, ALABAMA: It's like a domino effect and people move away. And most people in Selma have lived here all their lives and we want our children to go to college and come back here, but there's no future here.

JERRI SERMAN, SELMA, ALABAMA: It's hard. I mean, we're working -- my husband and I both work. Sometimes I work two jobs. And our daughter is in college. But we still can't -- it's hard to find the money. We've had to take out loans -- student loans, and she's -- you know, she's going to come out owing money just to go to college.

GRIFFIN: Living here all my life, and I started off at the cigar factory -- no, battery plant, it shut down. Went to the cigar factory, a locker (ph) plant, it shut down. Then I went to the cigar factory and it shut down. So it looked like everywhere I go, it shuts down.

KING: One of the things they're debating in Washington right now is health care reform. If you have health insurance, raise your hand for me. Two out of three. You do have health insurance.

OK, now do you want the government fixing it, helping you, or do you want the government to stay out of this?



KING: Why?

JERRI SERMAN, SELMA ALABAMA: Because the other countries where the government's in, it's terrible. KING: So, you don't think the government can make it more affordable or make it better for you?

SERMAN: I really don't.

KING: Do you feel the same way?


KING: How about you, sir?


KING: Keep the government out of it.

GRIFFIN: Most of it, yeah.

KING: There's nothing the government can do with health care reform that you think will make it less expensive or --

GRIFFIN: Well, you can't help the ones that are less fortunate, you know.

KING: Let me ask you finally, this city has a place permanently in our history because of the civil rights movement, because of what happened on that bridge just up the street. How are things here now, 40-plus years later, between whites and African-Americans? Better, worse, about the statement?

GRIFFIN: It's a lot better. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's better.

GRIFFIN: It's a lot better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, that was a theatrical thing then. It wasn't bad as it portrayed. It made the news.


KING: You think that was overdone?

GRIFFIN: It was. It was overdone. Yeah. Because, you know, at the time it happened, you know, it was not affecting me at all. I was doing what I wanted to do at the time.


GRIFFIN: You know, it just came from up north and just blew it up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it did. And that's where they came from. Bus after bus came here. And we were taken by surprise, weren't we?

SERMAN: We get tired of that. Because there are so many of us that -- you know, I went to a public high school, and, I mean, I have always had friends that are all different races. And we get tired of a lot of people, you know, coming out from the outside of Selma and always bringing up the color thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it makes money.

SERMAN: It makes money. It makes the news and it makes money. And then there are some here that are, you know, on the different side and they're always wanting to bring it up, and then there's the majority of us that are like, go away, drop it, and leave it alone.


KING: Our thanks to our guests at The Downtowner. If you like mac and cheese, good place to get it. Straight ahead, our reporter panel in here to talk about CIA interrogations, the hot water facing Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the president's upcoming speech at Notre Dame. Also, your thoughts about what's on the front page. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I'm John King and this is STATE OF THE UNION. Here are stories breaking this Sunday morning. The United Nations says Pakistan's offensive against the Taliban has displaced 1 million civilians since it began two weeks ago. And Pakistan says it has killed more than a thousand militants.

House Republican Leader John Boehner says he wants Speaker Nancy Pelosi to come clean on allegations she was misled by the CIA about the Bush administration's use of waterboarding. Earlier this morning on STATE OF THE UNION, Boehner said Pelosi should come forward with evidence to support her allegations or apologize to the intelligence community.

President Obama faces protests when he delivers the commencement address today at Notre Dame. The president's visit has divided the Roman-Catholic university. Nineteen protesters were arrested yesterday. None were students. Protesters disagree with the president's support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research. The graduation ceremony starts at 2 p.m. Eastern. We'll of course have live coverage right here on CNN. That and more ahead on STATE OF THE UNION.

Live picture of the White House on a beautiful May day in Washington. Joining me now, CNN senior correspondent Joe Johns, senior White House correspondent Ed Henry and senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash. I guess I've used the senior moment line too many times in the past, so I'll pass on that today.

Let's start with the big controversy continuing this morning about Speaker Pelosi. What did she know, when did she know it about enhanced interrogation tactics. Dana, you were at the news conference earlier this week where the speaker conceded for the first time I was told in 2003 by an aide who was at a briefing that they were doing this. Many people say she opened it up even more there. She's trying to put this behind her, she was having that event to try to close this one down, and now Republicans say there are even more questions. DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They do say there are even more questions, but the question in the big picture is where does this go from here now because look, she did establish a bit of a contradiction, and she definitely changed her story, but I think at the end of the day, the only way to really know what happened in that briefing of September 2002 is to see highly classified notes.

Now, the speaker has called for them to be declassified. Republicans have, too, but the vibe that we're getting is that they likely won't be because everybody, particularly I think it looks like in the intelligence community, they want this to just calm down. Certainly, I imagine Ed thinks the same at the White House. So if those are declassified, it's just going to make this erupt even more.

KING: I assume that is the case. As you jump in, you saw what's been playing out this morning. People say, well, Mr. President, who were you with, Leon Panetta, your CIA director, or Nancy Pelosi, your Democratic speaker?

ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he doesn't want to touch this, basically. When we talk to senior White House aides, they sort of roll their eyes about what's happened with Speaker Pelosi.

And they believe this is further evidence about why the president doesn't want any part of a truth commission or any sort of investigation because he thinks it is going to spin out of control, it's going to be all kinds of finger-pointing, it's going to be partisanship, what did you know and when did you know it? And it's not really necessarily going to get at the truth about what really happened with waterboarding.

The problem for the White House, though, is that this timetable is sort of out of their control about all these things popping up. Speaker Pelosi makes another comment, they have to deal with that.

You have over 240 detainees at Guantanamo Bay. They're going to have to come the trial at some point, the case of whether they were water boarded or not, whether or not the evidence can be used, et cetera, et cetera. All of that is going to keep coming up. So as they kind of keep saying, we're looking forward, not backward, but backwards keeps coming up.

KING: And Joe, as Ed made that point, I was reminded there's the headline in the Sunday edition of the "Idaho Statesman," "Towns leery of holding Gitmo terror suspects." We've had political theater over what the speaker knew and when she knew it and there are some very legitimate questions there. But behind it is a big policy debate about what to do.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT: Right. And it's very hard for the people in this administration to figure that out, because there's this real sense of not many my back yard. Do what you will. As to the speaker, she has a very serious problem here in that it's a question of condemnation. Did you condone by your silence or otherwise this type of behavior by the government? Now, the fact of the matter is she wasn't the one making the policy decisions. But the question is whether she objected or not, and if you don't object at the time it's going on, it's very hard to go back at a later date and say there was something wrong with that.

BASH: And one thing that I thought was very interesting that Leader Boehner said to you was we Republicans know that she had objected in the past in these classified briefings to other issues and that she had some success with those objections.

BASH: Now, privately, very privately, I have heard the same thing from other Republicans but, because these are classified bits of information that we're talking about, it's going to be -- it's not clear whether or not we're actually going to know what happened in these situations.

But I think the other very important thing to note about what happened on Friday, with this war of words between the CIA director and Nancy Pelosi is the way she clearly tried to calm things down.

You know, she released a statement, after Leon Panetta just basically blasted her, saying, you know, we don't lie to Congress, saying, you know what, I wasn't really directing it at you; I was really directing it at the Bush administration.

Because we know from covering the Bush White House, when people and politics get into a tiff with -- with the CIA, it sometimes doesn't end well.


HENRY: This is what allies of the White House can't understand, is how, important as the questions are about whether Nancy Pelosi essentially condoned this or not, they can't believe that the debate has now -- the center of it has become, what did Nancy Pelosi know and when did she know it?

Why is it not about what the former president, the former vice president, what the lawyers in the Bush Justice Department did?

All the focus has shifted against the Democrats. Big political problem.

JOHNS: It's a Republican trump card. That's really what it is. All the Democrats say, hey, let's go after this issue, but the question is whether the speaker herself was involved in it, too. So they can actually shut it up. And there are a lot of people on the Hill, as you know, as you spoke -- a lot of people on the Hill are saying, let's let this thing go because it's going to, sort of, damage everybody.

KING: All right. A lot more to talk about. I want to ask all of you to stand by. I'm going to give you a little teaser, as we go to break, "Gay marriage issue awaits court picks." Speaker Pelosi may be hoping the subject will change, here in Washington, because the president's got a big choice to make, picking his Supreme Court justice.

We'll be right back with our panel. Stay right there. And out on Facebook -- I want to tell you before we go, Reggie Mattocks writes this, "In The Washington Post this morning, they have an article on an increasing number of college graduates who cannot find work. It's amazing," he writes, "the tons of money spent to graduate from college and the reward is unemployment."

That's not just in The Washington Post. We've got another headline here, as well, with that same -- Idaho Statesmen -- "Congrats, Grad. Now What?" and it shows somebody working in a restaurant after graduating from Congress (sic).

So the economy on the front pages and on your mind. Tell us what's in your morning paper. Go to CNN's "State of the Union" page on Facebook. We'll be right back.


KING: We're back with CNN's Joe Johns, Ed Henry and Dana Bash.

Before the break, we showed you The Washington Post headline about the upcoming battle for the Supreme Court. Here's the New York Times, "Conservatives Map Strategies on Court Fight."

Conservatives trying to get together, Ed Henry, to decide, first they need to know who, but what their strategy should be in finding this pick.

The White House, of course, is planning its own offensive.

HENRY: They're getting ready. This is a "State of the Union" exclusive. We learned that the president is pulling Stephanie Cutter out of the Treasury Department. She's a Democratic political operative, very well-known in this town. She's been a top adviser to Treasury Secretary Geithner during the financial crisis.

She's going to be leading the White House effort, there, for the president, about strategy, getting votes in the Senate, pushing back in the media when allegations come out about this pick.

It tells us something about how the White House is preparing, two things. Number one, it shows us that they realize, even though they probably have a lot of votes in the Democratic Senate, as you know, Dana, that they are preparing for a big battle; Stephanie Cutter known for very sharp elbows, number one.

And, number two, it shows that picking her now, they're getting ready to make this pick. It's not likely to be this week, I'm told, but probably the week after, end of May, beginning of June.

They want to do it, White House aides say, before the president leaves for Egypt for this Muslim speech. As you know, they've got to get it to the Senate and get that process going. Because, as you said, conservatives are gearing up for a fight here. KING: Gearing up, but when you walk the halls in the Senate, do Republican senators think, A, they have any chance of beating any nominee, and B, is it worth having to fight to somehow advance some agenda politically?

BASH: To answer your first question, absolutely not. I mean, nobody will tell you, at all, that they think that they can beat back and actually block any of President Obama's picks, no matter who he picks.

But there are some who do think that this will be a way to galvanize their party, a way to, you know, kind of, help them, as an issue to bring along some kind of unity on some kind of message.

However, you have other Republicans, you know, the, sort of, Steve Schmidt wing of the Republican Party, if you will, who say this is exactly what we don't want, because what you see -- what you tend to see with court fights is a fight over socially conservative issues, about abortion and about guns and about gay marriage and things like that.

And those are some of the issues that some in the Republican party, as they struggle to find their way -- they don't want that to be the center...


KING: So if you're at the White House and you know this environment, you know same-sex marriage; you know abortion and you know terror policies, the terror because there's so many cases making their way up through the courts.

And you're looking at this. What's the climate we're in, right now, for this pick?

JOHNS: Well, the climate has a lot to do with the special groups, the outside interest groups. And there are a lot of conservative groups, right now, that are very much advocating, pushing hard, telling these senators, "You guys better work hard. You better get up early in the morning. You better be out on the floor giving speeches. You better hit our points, because we need something to talk about."

So they do want, as you said, gay marriage. They want to talk about presidential power, the -- and, obviously, they want to talk about whether we're going to have a strict constitutionalist, which we're not.


More likely, we're going to have some type of a liberal, certainly, selected by this president, who is very much interested in pushing a number of agendas that the liberals...

(CROSSTALK) HENRY: And that's why the Notre Dame speech has become a big flash point, because abortion, obviously, always a very divisive issue.

JOHNS: Right.

HENRY: But this president has been sending signals that he wants to be more pragmatic on that, and not necessarily, you know, far left. And when I asked him, at the last news conference, about the Freedom of Choice Act, a very liberal legislation, something he had promised to sign as his first thing, he said it's no longer a top legislative priority.

And we expect today, in his remarks at Notre Dame, for him to again move toward the middle. Certainly he still supports abortion rights. Make no mistake about it. But that's why the court pick is going to be very interesting, as well.

He could go pretty far left with a pick because he has a lot of votes in the Senate, as you mentioned. But he might surprise some of the liberals and go with somebody more pragmatic, the way we saw him go on the war on terror this week. They expect him to go left on some thing. He's going toward the middle.


KING: Well, you had this strategy change "State of the Union" exclusive this week. Come back next Sunday...



KING: So, let's -- no pressure at all. Let's close -- let's close on health care. Interesting conversations this morning. We had the president's budget director in and the Republican leader in the House in. You might not be surprised to hear they have very divergent views.

But this is the president's top legislative priority, right now, in terms of domestic policy.

KING: It's beginning to make its way through Capitol Hill. Republicans are saying, how are you going to pay for this? You're going to have to raise taxes. The president's budget director insists this will be neutral. Listen to this exchange.


ORSZAG: We are very committed to making sure that health care reform is self-financing and also brings down costs over time, both for families and for the federal government. So, you're not going to see a deficit increasing health care reform.

BOEHNER: Deficit neutral. In order to put their government run health care plan together, they have got to raise taxes in their budget, already $634 billion over the next 10 years and that's only about half of what is expected to cost.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: The Republicans were able to change this debate enormously, back in '93, '94 when the details of the Clinton plan were put on the table. It was all about that. It was about limiting your personal choices, too much government power, probably raising taxes. Do they have that this time?

BASH: They could. They definitely could. You know, they don't have the same kind of support from the groups that they had and the money that those groups had to make that point very effectively on the airwaves.

But not to go all green eye shade here, but what they talked about in terms of the deficit, making sure that it's deficit neutral, that is kind of the rule now, because that's what passed when it comes to the budget. So what that means in all practical purposes, it is entirely likely and in fact you are hearing much more talk on Capitol Hill, maybe even possible, probable that the way they're going to pay for this is by taxing benefits in some way, shape or form. Now the president during the campaign promised he wouldn't do it. Lashed out at John McCain, the Republican ironically for saying that he would. But they'll be able to say well Democrats in Congress, they say this is the way to do it.

KING: And so in the next campaign, we have the tax raising big government liberal.

JOHNS: Right, and in a lot of ways, World War III. You'll bring out a large group of senior citizens and people who are about to be senior citizens who wouldn't like that idea at all, taxing benefits. In the big picture, so many people on Capitol Hill are saying quietly the president's argument has a flaw in it, you've got $630 some billion set aside for this thing. How in the world are you going to spend so much money in order to save money? It just doesn't seem, it doesn't seem consistent.

If you're going to save money, start cutting the amount of money you're using for health care off the top and then we can talk. So it will be a very interesting health care discussion down the road and people say there is going to be a lot more money spent at the end of the day.

KING: A lot more money spent. All right, we're out of time here. I want to thank you all, Joe Johns, Ed Henry, Dana Bash, thanks for coming in. And remember, President Obama will speak at Notre Dame in the face of protests against his views on abortion. CNN will carry that speech live. You see the president there making his way to Marine One to make the trip out to Indiana.

In a moment, we're going to introduce you to Zannie Murphy, who is using local newspapers to bring back a dark moment in American history into the president.


KING: Images there from March 1965, Selma, Alabama, the scene of a historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. A march for voting rights that was, at times, quite violent. You see the troops there, the marchers, Alabama State troopers tear gas, violence, beatings. We were in Selma this past week and we met a man who was asked years ago to clean out a garage.

He said, what do you want me to do with what's in there? He said anything, just get it out of there. What Zannie Murphy found in that garage was an eye on history, front pages of the "Selma Times Journal" from that historical period, march time set for 10 a.m. King, Dr. Martin Luther King, lost 14 miles today for the marchers. He found all these papers, a snapshot on history. So we wanted to take some time while in Selma, Alabama, to have Zannie Murphy take us back in time.


KING: About 400 marchers led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. broke camp at a frost-covered cow pasture today and started trudging along the highway on the second leg of a 50-mile voter crusade to Alabama's capital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Selma sprang overnight from an obscure southern town to the front pages of world newspapers. This church was headquarters in the negro tribe for the right to vote.

KING: Do you remember that?

ZANNIE MURPHY, SELMA: Oh yes, I was at Bloody Sunday. I was at the march. The whites, the white children I say, we were told you don't get involved because my daddy had a business, the crowd could make it rough on him if you didn't pay attention to what you did.

We had to watch from the side where the press was and watch them march down and then the tear gas and go back over, run back over the bridge. When they walked up to the troopers they said disperse and go back to the church. The best I can remember is they didn't give them a chance to do that.

In other words, don't give them a chance because they might go back, let's charge them quick. Something that was really memorable about this thing, my boss man was a big closer. That February 1st morning, we came in to work and he said did you register to vote yet? And he said, well your job today is to go to the court house and register to vote.

I still have my poll tax receipt on February 1, 1965. So I go and I pull out February 2nd which is a day later and I find out that King and 257 marchers were locked up in the city jail trying to rescue the vote and King wrote the Selma jail letters.

I'm thinking all we're doing is using me for a pawn. They weren't really interested in me voting as much as they wanted me up there taking the number to fill that spot. And I said, well, I was being paid to register while somebody else was being denied.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the halls of Congress to the smallest crossroads, people can understand the plea that no American can have freedom and justice unless there is freedom and justice for all. In Selma, there is a lesson to be learned.


KING: This is a reproduction of one of these newspapers. March 1965, a fascinating look back in time. If you want to see more of this and learn more of what Zannie Murphy uncovered in that house he cleaned up, you can go to his Web site. It's And we thank Zannie for sharing this with us, this past week.