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Day Two of Judge Sotomayor's Confirmation Hearings; Southwest Inspects Fleet After Football-Sized Hole Found; Small Business Lender Continues to Struggle; Suspects Arrested in Florida Couple's Murder; Recession Consumerism: We're Spending Less

Aired July 14, 2009 - 07:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And we're just coming up on the top of the hour, on this Tuesday. It's the 14th of July. As you said it's Bastille Day. It's also -- it's also one of our tireless working staff members -- Naila's (ph) birthday today.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Is it? How old is she?

CHETRY: That's right.

ROBERTS: Do we dare we say?


ROBERTS: Happy birthday to you, Nalia (ph).

CHETRY: 21 forever.

ROBERTS: Here's what's on the agenda, the stories that we're going to be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes here on the Most News in the Morning.

In just a few hours, Judge Sonia Sotomayor heads back to the Hill. The Supreme Court nominee is pledging fidelity to the law, but Republicans who have been critical of her past remarks on race are expected to give Sotomayor a grilling today. Our Candy Crowley is looking at what we can expect.

CHETRY: Well, with 131 people onboard, at 34,000 feet, a hole the size of a football rips through the fuselage of a Southwest Airlines jet. That plane then made an emergency landing in West Virginia. This morning, though, that terrifying accident that's leaving officials with more questions than answers. We're going to be looking into that.

ROBERTS: Plus, a Florida couple shot to death in their home, while nine of their adoptive children were also inside the house. This morning, police say they expect to make more arrests and they admit they don't think that robbery was the only motive in this crime. We're live from Pensacola with the very latest on this tragic case.

First, though, in just a few hours time, the judge makes her case, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor takes her seat in front of 19 lawmakers with lots of questions. It's day two of confirmation hearings for the judge. And we've got a good idea of what lawmakers will be asking her from their opening statements on day one. Republicans want to know if the woman tried to be the first Hispanic to sin on the high court will think too much about race.

Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is covering the confirmation hearings. And she is live in Washington for us this morning.

Good morning, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. We do expect to be -- see a second day. But a lot more give and take this time as Sonia Sotomayor sits before 19 members of the Senate and tries to ease the concerns mostly of the Republicans.


CROWLEY(voice-over): Her turn.


CROWLEY: Sotomayor on Sotomayor:

SOTOMAYOR: Many senators have asked me about my judicial philosophy. Simple: fidelity to the law. The task of a judge is not to make law. It is to apply the law.

CROWLEY: It is the crux of the matter. How does the judge judge?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Nothing less than our liberty is at stake. Must judges set aside or may judges consider their personal feelings in deciding cases? Is judicial impartiality a duty or an option?

SOTOMAYOR: I want to make...

CROWLEY: The legal and political framework for the week was set from the get-go. Republicans, suspicious that a nominee who says a wise Latina woman can make better judgments than a wise white man is a judicial activist who will factor race and gender into her decisions.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: Call it empathy, call it prejudice, or call it sympathy. But whatever it is, it's not law. In truth, it's more akin to politics.

CROWLEY: Democrats intent on defending a judge with heavy duty credentials and a record they see as mainstream.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: There's not one law or one color or another. There's not one law for the rich and a different one for poor. There's only one law.

CROWLEY: Democrats were solicitous of her background and credentials. Republicans tough but polite. The nominee took it in with her best poker face judge look and laid the groundwork for Tuesday.

SOTOMAYOR: My personal and professional experiences help me to listen and understand with the law always commanding the result in every case.

CROWLEY: All in all, a fairly high-minded discourse on judicial philosophy. But the 19 lawmakers on the panel all feel the strong undertow of politics. That includes the newly minted senator from Minnesota who appears to have lost his standup comic team.

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: Their definition of an activist judge is one who votes differently than they would like.

CROWLEY: Politics, philosophy, and one more thing, reality.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Unless you have a complete meltdown, you're going to get confirmed. And I don't think you will.


CROWLEY: She has lasted through 17 years on the court. And yesterday, three and a half hours in listening to senators, more of that today. So it really seems unlikely, John, that we're going to see a meltdown from the nominee.

ROBERTS: No, no. I wouldn't think so. But I mean, it's a foregone conclusion.

So, what really is the strategy for Republicans? Are they trying to set up doubts about this nominee or they may be laying down markers for future nominees?

CROWLEY: I think there is a part of that, not so much markers as, you know, a real understanding that putting Sotomayor on the court doesn't change what's basically been a 5-4 balance, mostly the conservative side. So, this is not a go-to-the-mat kind of nominee.

But I think there's other balances going on. One is that when you look inside the poll numbers of the approval ratings and those who want to see Sotomayor confirmed, you will see that much of the opposition comes from conservative Republicans. And so -- and many of them also sit on this -- in this panel. So, what they want to do is obviously voice those questions and those concerns.

On the other hand, we all know that the fastest-growing part of the electorate is Hispanic.


CROWLEY: So, you don't want to go so hard that you look like you're picking on her. So, I think you're seeing a balance of people that want to make a point without going over the line and being nasty about it.

ROBERTS: Well, we'll watch how they engage in that today. Candy Crowley for us this morning from Washington. Candy, it's always so great to see you. Thanks.

CROWLEY: Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: And coming up in the next 20 minutes, we're going to talk with two of the senators who will question Judge Sotomayor today.

At 7:10 Eastern, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York joins us. And at 7:30, we're going to talk with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.

And do you support Judge Sotomayor's confirmation? We want to hear from you. Tell us what you think at

CHETRY: It was a hole the size of a football, and it forced a Southwest Airlines jet to make an emergency landing last night. This happened out of nowhere at 34,000 feet. No one onboard was hurt. But the most terrifying thing may be that this morning, no one knows why it happened.


CHETRY (voice-over): Once Southwest Flight 2294 landed safely in Charleston, West Virginia, this is what officials at the airport found. On the top of the plane near its tailfin, a hole through the fuselage. From the inside, you can see light coming in from outside.

Right now, officials have no idea what caused the damage. The plane had been airborne about 30 minutes and was climbing through 34,000 feet, and then...

STEVE HILL, PASSENGER (via telephone): There was a loud pop. No one really knew what it was. Looking up at the ceiling, if you will, that's where we noticed one of the ceiling tiles was being sucked into, if you will, or against the fuselage.

CHETRY: The plane lost cabin pressure, the oxygen masks dropped. No one was hurt. Flight 2294 took off from Nashville on its way to BWI Airport in Baltimore. Instead, the plane, carrying 126 passengers and five crew members diverted to Charleston, West Virginia.

Once on the ground, a local pizzeria gave the passengers food while Southwest sent another plane to take them to Baltimore. Southwest issued a statement saying, "There is no responsible way to speculate as to a cause at this point. We have safety procedures in place, and they were followed in this instance to get all passengers and crew safely on the ground. Our pilots and flight attendants did a great job getting the aircraft on the ground safely."

Federal investigators will try to figure out what happened to the plane and to keep it from happening again.


CHETRY: Well, right now, Southwest is finishing an inspection now of all 181 of its Boeing 737-300 jets. And the airline says as just a precaution, they don't expect any delays or cancelled flights today because of it.

And stay with us. Ahead, we're going to be talking more about this with Ben Berman, a former investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board and a former airline pilot. That's coming up at 8:30 Eastern here on the Most News in the Morning.

Again, one of the things that you talked about in the meeting this morning, back in the late '80s, this happened on that Aloha Airlines.

ROBERTS: I think it was '85. Yes.

CHETRY: A little higher. It literally looks like the top was stripped off.

ROBERTS: I was actually on Maui the day that it landed there at the airport. It was just -- it was unbelievable to see that plane.

CHETRY: People were still strapped to their seats, but there's just no top to the plane.

ROBERTS: Yes. One of the flight attendants got sucked out of the plane, too. A terrible tragedy.

New this morning, hold your breath. Here it comes. The federal deficit has officially topped $1 trillion for the first time ever. And the Treasury says it could grow to nearly $2 trillion by the fall.

The soaring deficit is intensifying fears about higher interest rates, inflation and the strength of the dollar. President Obama has said that the U.S. is committed to bringing down the deficit once the economy and financial sector recover.

CHETRY: Well, the biggest Wall Street swindler in history now has a new home, according to a government Web site. Convicted con man Bernard Madoff has been transferred to a medium-security prison in Atlanta. Now ironically, Madoff's new home once housed Charles Ponzi, the namesake of the scheme that Madoff had perfected. How's that for a little bit of irony?

ROBERTS: A little bit of irony there. You just can't make this stuff up.

Senator Chuck Schumer called Judge Sotomayor's story a great New American story, a great New York story. But should race and class play a part on her work in the bench? We'll ask the senator when he joins us live coming up next.

It's eight minutes now after the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. The president of the United States is nicknamed POTUS for short. And then there's TOTUS, the teleprompter of the United States. And this POTUS loves his TOTUS. Travels with it everywhere. So, what do you do when POTUS is smack in the middle of talking about pulling our economy back from the brink, and TOTUS topples over it?


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We took swift and aggressive action in the first months of my administration to pull our economy. Oh goodness -- sorry about that, guys.


ROBERTS: Ah, yes. Not to worry, though, there is another teleprompter, a backup TOTUS, if you will. Wow.

CHETRY: There it goes. It's still running, though, you know? It takes a licking but keeps on ticking.

ROBERTS: It does. Well, you know, they have the television sets on the floor and then that's like a one-way mirror or two-way mirror. Whatever they call it.

CHETRY: So is ours.

ROBERTS: It reflects it. Yes. Same thing, a little bit different configuration. Ours, thankfully, have not been known to fall off.

CHETRY: That's right. Firmly glued to the cameras.

Well, meantime, Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor is headed back to Capitol Hill in just a few hours. It's day two of the confirmation hearings. And she's almost certain to be confirmed at the high court but not before a tough round of questions from Republicans.

Yesterday while introducing her, New York Senator Chuck Schumer got a little emotional. Check it out.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: In 2009, there are many more role models for a young Cardinal Spellman student to choose from, with Judge Sotomayor foremost among them.


CHETRY: And Senator Schumer joins us live now from Capitol Hill. Great to have you with us this morning, senator.

SCHUMER: Good morning.

CHETRY: Tell us what got you so emotional at yesterday's hearing.

SCHUMER: Well, it was the thought. The beginning was when she went to Cardinal Spellman High School, one of the few people from the housing projects, her idol was Nancy Drew. There were no women, no Hispanics for a young Hispanic lady to -- or girl -- to model herself on. And now she's become the role model of one generation and the theme of my little remark was what a great country America is. You know?

They called us when we started, when they wrote the Constitution, "God's noble experiment." And if you look at Sonia Sotomayor's story, we're God's noble experiment still today.

CHETRY: It is amazing. And one of my best friends actually went to Cardinal Spellman as well. A great school. It's something for New York to be proud of.

I want to ask you about the type of questioning she's going to undergo today, because we know that it's going to happen. And one of the things that one of your colleagues said, Senator Jeff Sessions, was, "I will not vote for, and no senator should vote for an individual nominated by, no governor should vote for any president who believes it's acceptable for a judge to allow their personal background, their gender, their prejudices, or sympathies to sway their decision in favor of or against parties before the court."

And one of the things, of course, that's sure to come up today is the "wise Latina" comment that Judge Sotomayor made back in 2001. What does she need to say today when that comes up to convince those who are listening that she will be impartial?

SCHUMER: You know, these are such stretched charges against her. When Judge Alito talked about his Italian background influencing him, when Judge Thomas talked about -- Justice Thomas talked about how prejudice had affected him and would affect him, they didn't raise a peep.

Of course everyone's background affects them. How could we not? We don't want nine justices with icewater running through her veins.

But if you look at the record, she has a record for 17 years. So, we can see if she chooses her own sympathies over the law when the law dictates going in a different direction. She never has. In 80 percent of all cases involving immigrants, she decided against the immigrant because the law wasn't on their side. And 83 percent of all cases involving discrimination, she decided against the party claiming discrimination, even though she's been a victim of it, because the law wasn't on their side.

So, the record is so clear. And the best way to judge a nominee is by their judicial record. And fortunately, she has an extensive one.

CHETRY: Right.

SCHUMER: And it shows one thing above all, she's careful and puts rule of law first above all else.

CHETRY: Well, one of the things and you say she has the judicial record that they're going to focus on, especially critics, is the New Haven firefighters case and that's where she ruled against the two white firefighters who were claiming reverse discrimination.


CHETRY: Now the interesting is that this then went to the Supreme Court and was overturned. And I want to know, do you agree with Sotomayor's original decision on the appellate court or with the Supreme Court?

SCHUMER: Well, you know, again, our friends on the right can't have it both ways. She was following the set precedence of the Second Circuit. There were two cases before that were directly relevant, the Hayden case and the Bushey case. They said you had to side with New Haven.

And so all of a sudden now, the same people who are saying they don't want an activist judge don't like the outcome in the case, and they say she should have ruled the other way.

Now, the Supreme Court changed the rules but not when Judge Sotomayor was ruling as a Second Circuit judge and showing fidelity to law. If she were on the Second Circuit today, she'd probably have to rule the other way.

CHETRY: But let me ask you...

SCHUMER: But if you want a judge -- if you want a judge who follows the rule of law, you can't say, well, they should do it in this case because I like the outcome, but they shouldn't do it in this case because I don't like the outcome.

CHETRY: So, let's be real here, the bottom line now, I mean, as a Democratic senator, you want the court -- you want somebody on that court who's going to balance out the more conservative justices on the court, right?

SCHUMER: Well, you know, we want somebody who's going to follow rule of law above all. And what's happened on this court, when Justice Roberts came before us, he said he'd follow rule of law. And according to Justice Breyer, he's changed the law nine times in a more significant way in two years than anyone else.

We just want somebody who's going to follow the rule of law and we think that will work out best for America.

CHETRY: You know...

SCHUMER: We don't want somebody who has a radical vision to change America.

CHETRY: Right. The interesting thing, though, is then what does it say about the Senate confirmation hearings? Because Justice Roberts, by all accounts, did pretty well. And he enjoyed some bipartisan support. He talked about the fact that he wanted to -- what -- call strikes and balls as you saw him, sort of being an umpire.

SCHUMER: Yes. Yes.

CHETRY: And now you're saying that that's not really what happened. So, how do you know based on what people say in these Senate confirmation hearings that they're going to follow through?

SCHUMER: You know, if Justice Roberts is any indication what people say and then what they do is not always a direct predictor, the best way to predict someone's record, and this has been proven over the years, is not at the hearings but their judicial record. And her judicial record doesn't have a blemish on it. They can't find a single case where they can say that she put her own views ahead of the law.

So, I think she's going to do very, very well. She's careful, she's thoughtful, and she's moderate, frankly. Politically, she's not too far right and not too far left.

"BusinessWeek" said she's a moderate on business issues. Bob Morgan, a fellow prosecutor, say anyone who thinks she's a liberal ought to have seen her as a prosecutor. She is thoughtful, moderate, rule of law person. And with an amazing story, I think it's going to be very hard for anyone at the end of the day to vote against her unless they come in with just a predisposition.

CHETRY: All right. Well, you said you though she might get 78 votes. So we'll see how it turns out.

SCHUMER: Let's hope.

CHETRY: But I want to thank you for your point of view, Senator Charles Schumer. It was great to have you on the show.

SCHUMER: Nice to talk to you.

CHETRY: And just ahead, we're also going to talk to one of the Republicans who will be questioning Judge Sotomayor today. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch joins us in just 15 minutes here on the "Most News in the Morning."

ROBERTS: You know, all this talk about empathy and impartiality, and whether or not she'll use her background in making decisions, but at least a couple of Republican-nominated judges have said virtually the same thing, you know.

CHETRY: Right.

ROBERTS: So, see how it goes.

It's 18 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Ah, the windmills are cranking over this morning. It's cloudy and 70 degrees in Des Moines, Iowa. Later on today, it's going to be 83 with some strong, strong thunderstorms. So, be very aware of that. If you got a weather radio, make sure you got it on because who knows what might happen.

Checking news across the nation. It is apparently -- and the reason why we're playing "Footloose" -- illegal to dance in public after 2:00 in the morning if you live in Des Moines or you're just visiting, just like the movie "Footloose" all over again.

The obscure city ordinance got extra attention after a nonprofit tried to hold a late night dance and was told, no way. City officials are working to have that law repealed.

CHETRY: Well, NASA is hoping that the sixth time will be a charm. The launch of shuttle Endeavour rescheduled yet again. Tomorrow is the fifth delay over the past month.

Thunderstorms forced NASA to scrub last night's attempt. Endeavour is trying to deliver the last part of a billion dollar space lab for the International Space Station as well as food and supplies, and as we said, a front porch.

ROBERTS: They're trying to put the front porch out there with the bloodhound, the rocking chair and the shotgun leaning up --

And on the southern end of the Las Vegas strip, tourists lining up for snapshots found red graffiti across the famous "Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada" sign. The city's mayor told the local television station, "This deserves off with their head."

He's an outspoken sort of fellow. Officials say they think that a red marker and not spray paint was actually used. And so, maybe it will come off.

CHETRY: All right. Well, Christine Romans joins us now. She's "Minding Your Business" this morning.

And -- so some small -- big, small business lender.


CHETRY: I had a little bit of trouble. And we talked about this because small businesses are so vital to creating jobs. And when they can't get money...

ROMANS: That's right. You're going to be hearing a lot about CIT Group. And a lot of you are going to think this is just some big, you know, New York finance company. Why do I care?

You care because for nine years running, this company has been the biggest issuer of loans for small businesses and midsized companies in this country. So, this is the source of funding for a lot of entrepreneurs or small businesses, everything from restaurants, Dunkin' Donuts, some franchises, private restaurants, family-run restaurants, also trucking companies, department stores, construction companies, a lot of different kinds of companies. They are in advance talks with the government about what kind of aid, if any, they are due and should get. The financial situation for this company has been declining for sometime, and it already has taken $2.3 billion in taxpayer aid. That was in December. It's got $1 billion in debt due next month and $10 billion in debt due through the end of 2010.

So far, it has not been allowed to participate in an FDIC-backed program to issue debt. It would like to but it has not been allowed to yet. So we're going to keep watching to see what happens with this company.

But it matters because this is seen as a bridge between Wall Street and Main Street. This is supposed to be one of those big finance companies that helped the guy with the idea in Des Moines to come up with the money so that he can or she can get their business off the ground. So far, that bridge almost all the lanes have been closed in the financial crisis.

ROBERTS: Small business loans, very, very difficult.

ROMANS: Very difficult. Absolutely.

CHETRY: You have a "Romans' Numeral" for us this morning?


CHETRY: This is a number that Christine brings us everyday that's driving a story about your money. And today it's 34.

ROMANS: Number 34 has to do with small business. You know, you guys know -- I am captivated by small business stories. But I feel like this is so much where the energy and the entrepreneurship of the American economy comes from. It generates the bulk of the jobs generated by small business.

"34" is the number of jobs created with every $1 million lent to small business franchises in this country. Think of that -- 34 jobs created with a $1 million loan just like that. $3.6 million pumped into the economy just like that.

That's why companies like CIT and the people who loan money to small business matter. That's why the credit crunch has hurt people up and down, not just the big New York banks but why it hurts on -- you know, right down there on the level of the people who were creating the jobs and running the towns, really -- the business owners.

ROBERTS: All right. Christine Romans "Minding Your Business" this morning. Good to have you back. We missed you yesterday.

It's 24 minutes now after the hour. Senator Orrin Hatch is going to be questioning Judge Sonia Sotomayor a little bit later on today. We're going to be talking to him next about the concerns that he has and whether or not he thinks that he might vote for her confirmation.

Stay with us.


CHETRY: Now a developing story this morning. It's a murder mystery unfolding in Florida. A disturbing home invasion and killing of a Florida couple known for adopting special needs children. Nine of the couple's kids were actually in the home at the time.

Our Ed Lavandera is live in Florida now with new information in this case. Good morning, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran. What remains baffling in this case is that authorities are saying that a robbery is perhaps just one of the motives. But piecing together why this family was targeted is still a mystery.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Surveillance cameras showed two groups of men dressed like ninjas bursting into the Billings home. Two men come from the wooded area behind the house, and three men rush in through the front door. A few minutes later, Byrd and Melanie Billings were shot to death while nine of their adoptive children were also inside the house.

SHERIFF DAVID MORGAN, ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA: It leads me to believe that this was a very well-planned and methodical operation.

LAVANDERA: Monday night, authorities announce the arrest of a fourth suspect. Gary Lamont Sumner was pulled over in a routine traffic stop two counties away. Authorities say he's one of the men seen in this picture on the left buying dark clothing in a Florida Wal-Mart store days before the killings. He's now charged with murder.

Wayne Thomas Coldiron and Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr. have also been charged with murder. According to arrest warrants, Patrick Gonzalez Sr. was the getaway driver in the red van.

Law enforcement sources tell CNN that Coldiron and Gonzalez Sr. had done odd jobs on the Billings property in the past. Both men worked as day laborers in the Pensacola area. But authorities say they haven't positively determined what drove the intruders to murder the Billings couple.

MORGAN: We have identified a motive. A motive is robbery. But there are other motives we believe that will develop.

LAVANDERA: The sheriff says he expects to arrest a fifth suspect on Tuesday, and that there are still three other persons of interest that authorities want to question. The Billings home is filled with surveillance cameras that the family uses to monitor the adopted children throughout the house. Federal authorities have been enhancing those video images to learn what happened during the four minutes that five men broke in to their home.


LAVANDERA: Now, several of the suspects have already made their first initial court appearances. We have not heard any pleas on their behalf. So they're just in the process of being appointed attorneys or finding attorneys in these cases.

As for the Billings's adopted children, we're told that they are being kept with family in a secret place and that they are being counseled and helped through family members that are close to them right now -- Kiran.

CHETRY: That's very upsetting. You know, the other thing as well, is that that sheriff said that we believe there are other motives that will develop. I mean, any indication of what he could be talking about?

LAVANDERA: You know, that's really what has so many people confused about what is going on here. There are many people who just don't believe that this was a random crime. So the appearance of it, a daytime intrusion like this and a camera in a house that's heavily fortified with a security system and cameras, you know, there is reason to believe that they were targeted. But for whatever reason that might have been, we don't know yet and authorities aren't saying much if they've been able to discover what that might have been at this point.

CHETRY: I know. Sixteen kids without their parents. It certainly is a tragic story and one that's captured a lot of attention.

Ed Lavandera for us this morning. Thanks.

We're coming up at half past the hour now. Here are the other top stories.

In just about two hours, Judge Sonia Sotomayor will be back on Capitol Hill. It will be the second day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and Republicans are likely to take her to task over some comments she made about race to tell us exactly what to expect. We're talking to Senate Judiciary Committee member Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.

ROBERTS: We're learning about a Bush-era CIA program. One that some members of Congress say Vice President Dick Cheney kept secrets, reports out this morning say for nearly eight years the country's top spy agency was working to take out Al Qaeda leaders with specially- trained assassins. But the reports say the plans were vague and were never executed.

CHETRY: And a football-sized hole rips through a Southwest Airline jet at 34,000 feet. All 131 people onboard are safe. They made an emergency landing in West Virginia. And investigators are working this morning to figure out why this happened. Southwest also saying it is inspecting all 181 of its Boeing 737-300 jets as a precaution. ROBERTS: Well, with day two of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings begin in a couple of hours, senators will start questioning her on what she means when she says her goal is "fidelity to the law." Out next guest, republican Senator Orrin Hatch said on Monday's opening statement that, "there must be a vigorous debate about the kind of judge America needs because nothing less than our liberty is at stake." Is judicial impartiality a duty or an option? Senator Hatch joins us now from Washington. Senator, it's great to see you this morning. Thanks for being with us.

HATCH.: Nice to be with you again.

ROBERTS: You saw Judge Sotomayor yesterday at the committee pledge that a judge's job is "not to make law but it is to apply the law." Does that put your mind at ease over any concerns that you might have?

HATCH: Well, you know, that's fine except that's not the way she's acted from time to time nor is that the way she's spoken from time to time. So, we need to get in to that and make sure that that's not just a slogan but something that literally she believes in. You know, when she made that comment down at Duke University, well, you know, judges can make law, that was - and then joked about it.

You know, I can understand that. I think she's going to have to have to distinguish that. But it was a serious comment that shouldn't have been made by any circuit Court of Appeals judge.

ROBERTS: So, will you be asking her about that today?

HATCH: Actually, I think what will be covered here today by and large will be questions about, you know, affirmative action, questions about the second amendment, questions about property rights in our society today. At least that's what are the main areas. There'll be a lot of questions about what the word empathy means, whether it means she's going to allow her sympathy for people to override what really ought to be done.

Actually, her cases don't seem to do that. So - but, you know, some of her statements indicated that maybe she will.

ROBERTS: Yes, I mean, let me ask you about that. Because that does promise to be a big issue today, particularly since the ranking republican on the committee, Jeff Sessions, said call it empathy, call it prejudice, call it sympathy. Whatever it is. It is not law. Where do you come down on this whole issue of empathy?

HATCH: Well, the whole of the judge's pick is to be impartial and not allow empathy or emotions or anything else to get in the way of the law. Now, at the end of her opening remarks, she said that she would apply that particular standard. But, in her speeches around the country and in some of the cases that she has written, there's some indication it may be - that she has not done that in the past.

So, this is something that nationally has to be gone in to. And, you know, when we get judges, we - look, we don't expect President Obama to appoint a conservative judge or a moderate judge. We expect him to appoint somebody who's pretty liberal and she is. But the fact of the matter is, we expect that judge to be fair. We expect her to be a person who will apply the law, and not make the law. We expect her to not allow her own personal sympathy or empathy or her approaches towards life to color decisions in ways that are not really just or right. And so those are the issues that come up. You take the Ricci case...


HATCH: There are really some really interesting facts there. For instance, if she and her other two judges issued what was called a summary order, that's an order that doesn't have to be shared with the rest of the people in that circuit. The only way that it was found out about was when Judge Jose Cabranos read it in the newspaper. So, he asked to look at that case and then realized, my gosh, this is a case of first impression.


HATCH: This ought to have at least an opinion written about it. And it shouldn't be swept aside like there's nothing to it.

ROBERTS: We should just point out for folks at home that the Ricci case is the Stefano vs. Ricci. It's the firefighters case in New Haven.

HATCH: Yes, it's the case involving reverse discrimination. We shouldn't have discrimination against anybody. And that includes these firefighters who paid the price and took the test and did real well and should have had the job but were stopped from getting the job because the mayor and others were afraid they would be sued for what you call disparate impact.

ROBERTS: Senator, let me just go back to this issue of empathy. Because you said it's unacceptable for a judge to use empathy in influencing a case when it comes down on one side or another, if I could paraphrase you - I hope I got it correct there. But back in his 2006 confirmation, Judge Sam Alito said, "when I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about the people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. I do take that into account. Justice Thomas during his confirmation said that he thought that he could walk in the shoes of the people who are affected by what the court does.

Those are both republican presidential nominees. They were voted on by republicans. They were confirmed to the bench. Republicans seem to be pretty comfortable that they wouldn't use their background or their empathy to unfairly judge a case. Why do you think Judge Sotomayor would?

HATCH: Well, they both made it very clear that they were not going to allow personal empathy or personal sympathy to color their opinions with regard to various cases in the law. And I suspect that Judge Sotomayor will distinguish that herself and say that look, I will have empathy. I can't get rid of the fact that I feel deeply about people. And I don't think she should. But if she allows her empathy to turn cases that should be decided otherwise into cases for, you know, reasons that are not applicable in the law, then that's what we're concerned about. And in the case of both Alito and Thomas, they haven't done that.

ROBERTS: You voted for her confirmation to the second Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998. Do you expect in the end that you will vote for her confirmation here as well?

HATCH: Well, I lean towards voting for and supporting the president's nominees. And I think the presidents deserve that. That's what we get when we get a president. Like I say, President Obama is not going to appoint somebody who isn't liberal. So, we've got to expect that. So I think we need to at least try to give every opportunity we can to his nominees. But she's going to have to answer some of these questions and if she doesn't answer them in an appropriate way, yes, I could vote against her.

But frankly, you know, I do lean in favor of supporting the president and supporting her. I like her. She has a wonderful life story. And, you know, her cases, though liberal in many respects, are still well written and I think plausible decision making.

ROBERTS: Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. It's always great to talk to you. Thanks for stopping by this morning. We look forward to the hearings later on this morning.

HATCH: Thank you.

ROBERTS: All right. Good to talk to you.

And remember, you can watch Judge Sotomayor's confirmation hearings live right here this morning. It all begins this morning at 9:30 Eastern live on CNN and 38 1/2 minutes after the hour.



ROBERTS: A shot of the Mississippi River this morning. And good morning, Minneapolis, where it's overcast at 69. Later on, today, we got some bad, bad, bad weather moving in. Very strong thunderstorms. A high of 76 degrees. Not too much different than Des Moines, Iowa.

CHETRY: Except you can dance there.

You can dance in Minneapolis.

ROMANS: You can dance if you want to in Des Moines.


ROMANS: You can dance a lot...

CHETRY: That's right. You just ignore that 2:00 a.m. rule. ROBERTS: Lucky you didn't end up in jail.

CHETRY: Well, it seems like the kid just got out of school, right? And now already the back-to-school ads are out. But it's always that way. Only this year, there's something different about the back-to-school shopping and the back-to-school spending. The economy has parents looking more sharply at that annual end of summer splurge. There's a study out today that says spending is expected to drop eight percent for elementary school kids and four percent for college kids.

Our Christine Romans is "Minding your Business." She's with us now with more on not just what we're buying but what we're choosing not to buy in these tougher economic times.

ROMANS: And we're changing - we're changing what we buy. You can call it recession consumerism. The financial crisis is changing the way you think about your money, the way you spend your money, the way you feed your family, even the way you're raising your family. Listen to this.


ROMANS (voice-over): No question, you're spending less. You're shopping smart and hitting the discounters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a good shopper. I'm an educated consumer. I don't have to have the best of everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we've been cutting down on just about everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm more conscious in terms of getting what I really need Instead of just kind of splurge.

ROMANS: Thirty-two percent of Americans say spending less is the new normal, according to a recent Gallup poll.

PACO UNDERHILL, AUTHOR "THE WAY WE BUY": The American consumers fundamentally are scared about their jobs. They're scared about their homes. They're scared about the future and they've slammed their wallet shut.

ROMANS: Slammed them shut for teen apparel, high end baby products, cameras, even bottled water. And believe it or not, analyst say Americans may be toilet training their toddlers a little earlier. Disposable diaper sales are down four percent from last year. But what you are spending your money on may surprise you.

(on camera): When the going gets tough, the tough buy lipstick.

We're hitting the discounters for the basics. But call it vanity, call it escapism, retail tracker NPD Group confirms high-end cosmetic sales are up.

(voice-over): We're also buying iPhones, specialty pet supplies, romance novels, vitamins, insect repellant, and vegetable seed.

ROBBIE BLINKOFF, ANTHROPOLIGIST, CONTEXT-BASED RESEARCH: People are looking at purchases that do give them an experience. When you purchase those seeds, and you raise those tomatoes and share them with somebody else. That's a very simple experience.

ROMANS: But for a society that has long valued bling, is the shift in shopping here to stay. Trend watchers and retail analysts say conspicuous consumption is now seen as bad manners.

UNDERHILL: What do we really need for many of us, particularly in the baby-boomer generation, we could live the rest of our lives on fruit, vegetables, pasta, wine, olive oil, yearly doses of socks and underwear and maybe a little chocolate.

ROMANS: But what can we afford. That's the new shopping reality.


ROMANS: So, we had the folks at the Nielsen company run some numbers for us. Sells of canning and freezing supplies are also up. So are baking supplies, varnish, and Shellac too. A lot of do-it- yourself items. The shoppers are buying the products for experience as the anthropologist we spoke to pointed out but also to save cash in the long run. And it's interesting, some of the studies are showing that people are putting off elective surgeries for a couple of reasons.

The output of money for the - even if you have insurance, for the co-pay and the deductibles. Also they don't want to be out of work. So it's interesting some of the trends that you're seeing, people choosing not to spend money on things they don't have to but canning and fewer diapers, that's deciding you do not want to buy the expensive pull-ups. You know what? You want to potty train the three-year-old because you can't afford to shell out $50 every three days for a box of diapers.

CHETRY: A bunch of money you don't realize you save.

ROBERTS: Everybody is tightening their belt in different ways.


ROBERTS: Christine, thanks so much.

Forty-five and a half minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Jacqui Jeras this morning in Atlanta watching all of the extreme weather. Most of it across the midsection of the country today. Jacqui, we've given the weather forecast for Des Moines and Minneapolis, they're expecting some pretty heavy stuff today.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: They are. That will probably happen later in the day. As we start out this morning, we're seeing the real nasty storms focus especially across the state of Missouri. Kansas City right now getting hit really hard with some strong thunderstorms. You know they're not at severe levels but we still could see between 40 and 50 mile-per-hour wind gusts just as long as it moves through.

If you have travel plans along I-35, be aware of that threat. Also, a lot of lightning and very heavy downpours. Here's that main severe weather threat as we head towards the rest of the day today. As you mentioned, Des Moines, Minneapolis, that will likely spread into western parts of Wisconsin and also into western Illinois. Otherwise, we're dealing with a lot of heat across parts of the south here. South of that system, we're going to continue to see that big bubble up of those temperatures, heat advisories in effect from Kansas City all the way down to Dallas where it's going to feel like 105 to 110 at times this afternoon. Dangerous conditions here as a result of that.

But the good news is finally after weeks, really, we're going to get a break come Friday. So hang in there for another couple of days. If you're traveling today, we have some airport delays. About 15- minute departure delays at Washington Dulles Airport at this time. Later today, we can see delays in Atlanta due to haze, delays in Boston, New York City because of winds and Memphis and Minneapolis due to those thunderstorms. So pack a good book with you as you head off the doorstep.

CHETRY: Yes, I know, not going to be an ideal day to fly at all. All right. Jacqui Jeras for us. Thanks so much. It's 49 after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. And now to a story that you'll see only here on CNN. CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on a special assignment. Sanjay's uncovered a real heart breaker. Little children being forced to live the harshest life imaginable. And this morning, we're "Paging Dr. Gupta" to find out what these kids are going through.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, I am reporting to you from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. As many people know, Haiti is the poorest and least developed country in the western hemisphere. While there are some beautiful spots in this country, much of the country looks something like this. What you're looking at here is a slum market where a lot of people buy and trade and sell their goods. This is what life is like for so many people that live in these slum areas inside Port-au-Prince.

There is a bleak irony here, as well, as we were doing some investigating. We found that Haiti, a country that was the first free black republic in the world, a country that was essentially formed out of a slave revolution still has a modern day form of slavery in Haiti today.

You have children known as restavek (ph). If you ask people what that means, it's means they are child laborers. Some say they are child slaves. For example, a girl here, Dina, a girl who is forced to carry these five gallon tubs of water which weighs almost 40 lbs. straight up into the mountainside as you see here. She does this over seven times a day. She is on her hands and knees, mopping floors, washing dishes, cleaning out chamber pots and that's just her side job. That's when her owner lends her out and she goes back to her owner and does some of these same duties over and over again.

All of this under the possible threat of mental and physical abuse. She told me that she had never received a hug until the age of 14. As far as the physical abuse goes, it seems to be a way of life here. Come to a marketplace, you'll see a whip like this. They tell me this one is used for small children, it's made out of cow hide. But they also sell these, largest whips, also made out of cow hide, designed to inflict pain, to leave markets, and to discipline a restavek. It is just awful to hear the stories that they tell us about. But I can tell you this as well, there is some hope here in Haiti. People trying to fix the situation. We're going to have much more on that later on this week. John and Kiran, back to you.

CHETRY: It's heartbreaking to listen to. Again, Sanjay's special reporting and the possibility of some hope for that situation. You can read more about it on Dr. Gupta's blog from Haiti, it's on

ROBERTS: How would you like to be flying about 34,000 feet and suddenly hear a big pop and the air pressure goes out of the plane and the oxygen masks drop down and you wonder what the heck, then you find out there's a football-sized hole in the top of the plane. How did it happen? And could other planes be at risk? We're talking to a former investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board coming up. It's 54 1/2 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: This morning, growing outrage from many democrats over the Bush administration's war on terror. It's triggered by reports that former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the CIA not to tell Congress about a secret counterterror program.

Earlier this morning I spoke with California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo about why she is calling for a full-scale investigation.


REP. ANNA ESHOO (D), CALIFORNIA: I think that this is serious. And in listening to the program before this one, I loved the words of Judge Sotomayor. And that is fidelity to the law. We are a nation of laws. And the CIA has laws that they must comply with. And there's a very good reason for that. A balance between the executive and the legislative branch, and this goes straight to the heart of the responsibility that we have at the House Intelligence Committee, as members of Congress, to investigate.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: So that's the Democratic side of the argument. Republicans accuse Democrats of putting politics before national security. The program reportedly never ever got passed the planning stage.