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Politics of Chaos: Who's Behind Health-Care Protests?; Sonia Sotomayor Confirmed by Senate; Soldier is Laid to Rest; Tattered U.S. Flag Gets Replaced As Soldier Returns Home
Aired August 6, 2009 - 14:58 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: More health care town halls turning into tea parties with a constant theme.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to open it up to the free markets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Isn't that who runs health care now?
This lawyer has made millions buying up health care facilities. Is Rick Scott, as accused by the left, orchestrating these so-called angry anti-government mobs? We'll ask him.
Guess who showed up in court where the John Edwards case is being heard? His alleged mistress. And her baby.
This is the cold cash in the freezer. And now the video. Congressman William Jefferson taking the bribe. You will see it. And the tattered flag and the father who would not take it down.
LOUIS HAROS, FLYING TATTERED FLAG TO HONOR SON: They keep knocking on my door and demanding it to be removed.
SANCHEZ: Today is the day it changes on your national conversation for Thursday, August 6th, 2009.
Hello, again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez with the next generation of news. This is a conversation, it is not a speech. As always, it is your turn to get involved.
As we begin this newscast, there is news being made in Washington, D.C. Some would say it is all but a formality that she is going to be confirmed. Sonia Sotomayor, the next Supreme Court justice. But the vote is now being taken there on the Senate floor.
As you can see, we're going to keep a little box up for you as the votes come in. We're going to tally them. In fact, we have a confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor, which all -- by the way, everything seems to lead in that direction unless there's a huge surprise. We will bring it to you, and we'll tell you what possible surprises there may have been, either from Democrats or from Democrats [SIC], because it's not official until they actually cast their ballots. So again, we're going to be following the Sotomayor confirmation.
In the meantime, big story that's being followed all over the country is the health-care debate, the screaming, et cetera. Well, guess what, folks? It's getting uglier.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now suggests the loud opponents of health-care reform are not legitimate. This is what Nancy Pelosi came out and said today. And she goes on to say that some are bearing swastikas. Swastikas.
We've been checking and have been unable yet to confirm any instance of someone actually wearing a swastika. But obviously, that doesn't mean that she hasn't seen the evidence of it. And of course, we've called her office to have her explain to us exactly what she meant and where she's seen the specific swastikas. And when she does, we will share that with you.
Again, these town-hall meetings, central to the Democrats' plan to sell health-care reform, are being assailed by angry opponents, who are drowning out speakers and, in some cases, even shutting down the debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop taking our money!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the rest of the people in Congress and the Senate, are they going to be willing to be on the same plan they're asking us to be on?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: In fact, several Democratic members of Congress now have canceled their town-hall meetings, we learned. At least one, Representative Brad Miller of North Carolina, is saying he's gotten a death threat. That's what he's saying.
Now, if you were with us here Tuesday, when we first started following the story, you heard a charge by a congressman, this is Congressman Lloyd Doggett who joined me here. He's a Democrat from Texas. On video there, you see him being virtually chased from this forum last Saturday onto a parking lot. Doggett told us that this isn't some groundswell of grass roots rage. He says it's being coordinated, scripted, he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D), TEXAS: The script, I think the this disseminated through the Republican Party, through Web sites that they're going through and through some of the -- the private organizations that are helping orchestrate all this.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SANCHEZ: Now, I should say that there does seem to be some evidence that the congressman may be right, at least in some part. I and my staff have watched video after video of some of these meetings, as they start to get out of control. And we do hear many of the same slogans repeated again and again and again. As a matter of fact, here's some.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Read the bill! Read the bill!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Read the bill! Read the bill!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Read the bill! Read the bill!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a direct assault on our personal liberties, our personal freedom, our personal privacy. You need to open it up to the free markets. You need to get the government the hell out of our...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: There you go. Some of the themes: socialized medicine, give us back our government, let the free market work, euthanasia and, quote, unquote, "read the bill."
There are instances where you hear people sound like they're reading from, in fact, the same script. And that's what the White House is now saying, as well. But they're even taking it to another step. They're taking it a step forward. They're accusing a specific conservative health-care executive of orchestrating these protests.
That's why we've invited that executive, Rick Scott, to join us here. And he's going to be here in just a moment to try and defend himself.
But first, let me bring in Eric Boehlert of the liberal media watchdog group, Media Matters.
Good afternoon, Eric.
ERIC BOEHLERT, MEDIA MATTERS: Hey, Rick.
SANCHEZ: Is this thing orchestrated?
BOEHLERT: There's no question. I mean, there's -- there's nothing wrong with activism. There's nothing wrong with rallying people for a point of view and having your views heard.
But it's ironic. Here we have a town-hall forum and, basically, the entire premise is to shut down any conversation, shut down any debate; yell and heckle and scream and sort of chase congressmen to their cars. That's being orchestrated and it has really nothing to do with health care. It's tapping into, you know, sort of a radical minority which has a deep-seated hatred of Barack Obama. These town- hall forums could be, really, about any topic, and you could fill in the rhetoric.
SANCHEZ: Is it that -- is it this -- I mean, look. Look historically, it's the United States. Isn't this what our descendants did who founded this country in Boston? I mean, you know...
BOEHLERT: This is not the New England town-hall meeting.
SANCHEZ: Why not? Why not?
BOEHLERT: Because the whole point of that is not to get up as have as many loudmouths in one room and scream and yell and shout and, you know, insult congressmen. The point of town-hall meetings, as certainly we've seen in the last few decades, is to have an actual civil conversation and to have different points of view.
This idea that you're going to have these mini-mobs run the congressman out of town, what's that have to do with democracy, and what's that have to do with, you know, any sort of public debate?
So the irony is, you know, these town-hall forums are supposed to be for debate, and you know, and sort of the right wing has decided, "Well, we'll use it to -- to put the kibosh on any actual debate." No one is really talking about health care. No one is really talking about, you know, what's in the bill and what the country is going to do going forward.
SANCHEZ: Yes, no, there is a lot of slogan earring. You're right.
You mentioned right wing. Look...
SANCHEZ: ... to be fair, aside from the conservative media, which is obviously -- and we know who they are -- they're going to push back on anything that Obama suggests, no matter what it is.
It goes further, because now the White House is involved in this. And Robert Gibbs is saying -- he said it Tuesday -- that this thing is being orchestrated by a big-buck health-care executive. And he didn't name that executive, but he said enough about him that we were able to construe that he's probably talking about our next guest, who's coming on in just a little bit, which is Rick Scott. Is that what you heard him saying? There's Rick Scott's picture, by the way.
BOEHLERT: Well, yes, I mean, Rick Scott is in the business to make money off people who are uninsured or underinsured. I mean, his whole business model in terms of his, you know, walk-in clinics is to have a huge population in America that is either underinsured or has no insurance.
So obviously, you know, he's got a horse in this race, and he created Conservatives for Patients' Rights, CPR. And they've been -- you know, they've been actively in the press, trying to take credit for these town-hall forums, trying to take credit, you know, for these mini-mobs. And sure, of course they're behind this. Of course -- of course, the health-care industry wants to see no health-care reform enacted. And you can't really -- I know you want to sort of set aside the right-wing media, but it's impossible. That is at least half of the story here, and that's the noise machine at work.
SANCHEZ: I'm looking at his Web site, though.
SANCHEZ: Where he actually -- if you go to his Web site, and you know, he has been interviewed on some of those media that you and I don't need to mention. But very one of our viewers knows exactly who they are.
And look -- go ahead. Bobby, go ahead and put that up. I'm looking at his Web site right now. There, he lists Alaska. He tells people exactly when the town-hall meetings are going to be.
SANCHEZ: If you go through this enough, and it's hard to do it on this one right there, there's all the town-hall meetings for everyone to see. I'm going to ask him in a minute. I mean, this is something he's probably proud of. I mean, he's an American, and he's telling other Americans what they can do. He also has videos here, showing what they've done so far. What do you make of that?
BOEHLERT: Yes, that's great. And you know, now a lot of liberal groups are letting everyone know when these town-hall meetings are, because they want representation there, too.
The point is, and there's nothing wrong with getting people to town-hall forums. The point is, he's running, you know, these $1 million ad campaigns. You know, he hired the Swift Boat for Veterans' publicist, and now he's hiring -- you know, spending millions of dollars on misinformation.
SANCHEZ: Where's the money coming from, from this, you think? I mean, he started it by himself.
BOEHLERT: Well, he is. He got a bunch of money when he was running Columbia, you know, Health Care in the '90s.
SANCHEZ: Which was an empire. I mean, that thing was huge.
BOEHLERT: Which pled -- which pled guilty and had to pay a $1.7 billion fine for defrauding the government. His company systematically over-billed the government on Medicare, and now he's warning people about if the government gets involved in health care, it's going to cost too much. There's a little double standard there.
But look, you know, the whole movement is built around scare tactics. The right-wing, you know, media is absolutely -- I mean, these people at these town-hall forums are nervous and angry. They're literally being -- they're literally being told the federal government is going to be in the business of selecting -- selectively choosing which old people to kill. I mean, who wouldn't be freaked out, if you believe that stuff?
SANCHEZ: That is something that's been out there.
Eric, I'm going to let you go. Rick Scott is going to be coming up in just a little bit. We thank you for that perspective. As usual, my best to you. Come on back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hear the voice of the people!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: There it is once again. So here's the question again. Who is behind these angry town-hall demonstrations? Some on the left have been pointing to Rick Scott specifically. In fact, it certainly appears like the White House is pointing to Rick Scott specifically. Who is he? Is he responsible?
Well, Rick Scott's good enough to join us. He's going to be here, and he's going to answer our questions and what appears to be the White House's accusations, as well. You'll see this exclusive interview with him in just a little bit, since he's been named by the White House.
And also, speaking of anger, have you heard this one? Several Dallas police officers are being suspended for having a real good time with some racist -- I mean, dirty racist e-mails aimed at the president of the United States. I'll tell you what they got and what they did. Stay with us.
Let's listen in, as well, to what's going on with the confirmation proceedings of Sonia Sotomayor. The vote is on. They're wrapping up the vote now. Let's go ahead and pick that up, Raj.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Vitter? Mr. Vitter, No.
Mr. Voinovich. Mr. Voinovich, aye.
Mr. Warner. Mr. Warner, aye.
Mr. Webb. Mr. Webb, aye.
Mr. Whitehouse. Mr. Whitehouse, aye.
Mr. Wicker. Mr. Wicker, no.
Mr. Widen. Mr. Widen, aye.
Mr. Bennett of Utah. Mr. Bennett of Utah, no.
Mr. Bayh. Mr. Bayh, aye. Mrs. Hutchinson. Mrs. Hutchinson, no.
Mr. Inhofe. Mr. Inhofe, no.
Mr. Beckett. Mr. Beckett, aye.
SANCHEZ: There's that famous up or down vote that we had told you or that the Republicans had promised Sonia Sotomayor. You're hearing it now. We're staying with it here for a few minutes to see if they have an actual confirmation. That's file video you're looking there on the right of Sonia Sotomayor.
But by all indications, she will be confirmed. What we're looking for here is -- what's the vote up to, Angie? Tell me that number again. Have they passed 60? OK. Well, I'm being told by my executive producer that while we were doing that segment, she was, in fact, all but confirmed, because they've passed the magic number of 60. Of course, it would be difficult for her not to be confirmed, given who's controlling the Senate at this point. The Democrats' hands.
But regardless of that, there could be as many as three, four, maybe five Republicans who cross over and actually vote for Sotomayor. The biggest resistance that they're getting at this point, at least the last reports that we read, was that the NRA was threatening to actually reduce their rank if they did vote for her, because they're not sure that she's going to be pro-gun. So that may have been something that was hanging over their heads.
Obviously, there's a lot of news that still has to be gotten out on this story. We're following it for you. It does appear at this point that Sonia Sotomayor has been confirmed. Because as you just heard -- want to listen in a little more? Let's listen a little more, see if we can catch some names.
All right. I was just told that...
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: Are there any senators wishing to vote or change their vote?
SANCHEZ: Al Franken, from the great state of Minnesota.
FRANKEN: I'd like to make a statement about the galleries. You are reminded that expressions of approval or disapproval are not permitted.
On this vote, the yeas are 68, and the nays are 31. The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor of New York to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States is confirmed.
Under the previous order, the motion to reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table. The president will be immediately notified of the Senate's action, and the Senate will resume legislative session.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Mr. President. FRANKEN: The senator, the majority leader.
REID: I suggest the absence of quorum (ph).
FRANKEN: Call the roll.
REID: Harry Reid rising now.
SANCHEZ: So there you have it. What is really history in the making for the first time, the United States of America, it does appear -- of course, she still has to be sworn in -- has a confirmed Supreme Court justice, who is not only a woman, which has certainly been a minority in the past, but also a Hispanic woman. A proud Latina is the term that she has used in the past when describing herself, a term that from time to time gave her some problems during her confirmation proceedings.
Nonetheless, I think, as I saw the vote there -- and correct me if I'm wrong, Angie -- I saw 68-31. Sixty-eight to 31 is correct. Thank you.
We understand, as well that, the president, President Obama is going to make some comments shortly, as a result of this confirmation vote. And as soon as that comes up, we'll bring it to you, as well.
Stay with us. We're going to take a quick break. Rick Scott will be joining us in just a moment. Speaking of the White House, Rick Scott was all but named by Robert Gibbs as the person who was orchestrating some of these protests that we've been seeing at the town-hall meetings for health care around the country. He joins us. We'll see this in just a moment. Stay with us.
SANCHEZ: Welcome back. Here's the breaking news that we've been following for you. We saw it just moments ago as the vote was taken and the vote was announced, in fact, by Al Franken from the great state of Minnesota and my alma mater, shall I add, that Sonia Sotomayor has been confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court by a vote of 68-31.
That 68 is a pretty big number. It would mean several Republicans would have to -- would have voted for her. Some -- by the way, were expected to vote for her. I'm not sure exactly what the number is here. Probably something like nine, I'm being told. But we'll -- we'll track that down for you and let you know.
Again, Sonia Sotomayor, confirmed by the Senate. Still, she has to be sworn in before she officially becomes the next Supreme Court justice, one would think. We'll be on it.
Also this. I want to take you back now to our lead story. The chaos engulfing these health-care forums that we've been telling you about. These town-hall meetings are a cornerstone of a plan by Democrats to try and sell reform to the public over the upcoming congressional recess. Now many planned events are being canceled. And you heard the accusation aired right here. The disruptions are planned. They are funded. They are scripted, as part of a high-stakes corporate and political effort to kill reform of the nation's health-care system. That's what Eric Boehlert of Media Matters was pointing out. That's why, in some -- that's what, in some measure, as well, the White House is saying. I mean, it's a serious accusation.
Joining us now from New York, a man who finds himself in the middle of all of this. He is a former health-care executive, Rick Scott, chairman of the group, Conservative for Patients' Rights.
Good afternoon, Mr. Scott.
RICK SCOTT, CHAIRMAN, CONSERVATIVES FOR PATIENTS' RIGHTS: How are you doing?
SANCHEZ: I'm fine.
Listen, I want you to listen to what Robert Gibbs said just two days ago while we were airing it here at 3 p.m. on CNN. And I got the sense that he was talking about you. But let's listen to it together, first.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think what you've seen is they have -- they have bragged about -- about manufacturing to some degree that anger to -- I think you've got somebody who's very involved, a leader of that group, that's very involved in the status quo, the CEO that used to run a health-care company that was fined by the federal government $1.7 billion for fraud. I think that's a lot of what you need to know about the motives of that group.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: It sure looks to me like he's pointing his finger right at you. Do you think he is?
SCOTT: I think he was.
SANCHEZ: Yes, yes. Do you -- do you take credit -- I was just having a conversation with Eric Boehlert and they said, look, this guy has got this Web site. In fact, I'll show it to the viewers again. There's your Web site right there. We'll take it all the way to the very top. People can see it. It's CPR, Conservatives for Patients' Rights.
And there, you tell people where they can go, to these town-hall meetings. You tell them what they can do. You show them videos of what's been done so far.
Some people have used the word "orchestrated." I'm not sure what word you would use. But do you take credit for making sure this is going on? SCOTT: It would be nice to, right? But -- because I believe that people ought to show up to these meetings. They ought to be nicer about it. But they ought to show up to these meetings and tell them what they think.
I think they ought to show up whatever side you're on. You ought to let people know. I mean, we're going through a significant debate about what ought to happen in health care. Show up and tell them what you think.
SANCHEZ: But -- but you're -- but -- but let's be fair about this. You're not trying to get everybody to go. You're trying to gin up the people who are going to be on your side. I mean, you've got a lot to gain from this, don't you?
SCOTT: Well, I believe -- I clearly believe that government-run health care will be bad for you as a patient. It will be bad for you as a taxpayer. It will be bad for our country. But most importantly, bad for you as a patient.
Now, would I rather people show up that care about the debate on -- the way I believe? Absolutely. But when I'm on radio -- I'm on a lot of talk radio. I say show up, read the bill.
SANCHEZ: But you know, let's talk about this, though. I mean, the accusation that the White House was essentially making, one that you haven't challenged yet to my knowledge. Maybe you will here now.
Columbia Hospital Corporation, which you founded...
SANCHEZ: ... which later became HCA, which made you, from my understanding, incredibly wealthy, was charged with defrauding the government for more than a decade and had to pay a record fine of $1.7 billion.
I mean, some would argue, and it would be hard to say they're wrong, that you would be the poster child for everything that's wrong with the greed that has hurt our current health-care system. People would ask, why should they listen to you?
SCOTT: Well, you don't have to listen to me. You should look at the facts. You should read the bills.
If you want to go back and look at Columbia HCA, you should look at what we accomplished. Health-care costs when I got into the industry in '88 were 16 percent a year inflation. When I got out in 1997, they were less than 1 percent. We had the highest patient satisfaction; we had the best outcomes.
Now, if you were in the hospital business in the late '80s, you went through Medicare investigations. President Clinton expanded the investigations. They said, "If you made a mistake in your filing, that was called fraud." Not only did Columbia HCA... SANCHEZ: But one point -- but $1.7 billion? That's the highest ever paid in the history of the United States that your company ended up having to pay as a result of what you did by defrauding the government?
SCOTT: The -- no one went to jail. I was never accused of anything. Now let's think about it: $1.7 billion sounds like a lot. We had 343 -- 343 hospitals, 150 surgery centers, over 100,000 patients a day.
Now, let's look at the industry. Cleveland Clinic paid big fines. Mayo paid big fines. Yale paid big fines. Now, were they as big? No. How many hospitals did they have?
SANCHEZ: But you're the guy who's sitting here telling us that we can't allow the government to do this because it won't work, and they might take over or do some things that are -- that are wrong. How much more wrong can you be than what you just said? Not only has your company screwed up, and you just admitted to it. But you're saying, "And look at all the other companies, they did the same thing."
SCOTT: No, I don't believe that at all.
SANCHEZ: It doesn't sound to me like a sterling system that we have, does it?
SCOTT: I think -- that's right. You ought to fix the system. You ought to say, why do we have 135,000 pages of Medicare regulations that people work their tail off? The hospital industry to this day works its tail off to do the right thing.
But don't believe me. Read the bill. Beside, do you want your taxes to go up? Do you want a UK system? Do you want a Canadian system?
SANCHEZ: Some people would answer, yes, they do. As a matter of fact, in Canada, I think they pay one half of what Americans pay for health care. And most of them are proud as pudding of their health- care system. They write me here every day, saying, "I can't believe Americans don't like our system. We think it's absolutely fantastic."
By the way, let me ask you a question. Your company was accused of something called upcoding. That means they treated patients for something minor but charged the government, the taxpayers, for something expensive. That was the accusation. Is that true?
SCOTT: I have -- Rick, I have no idea. Rick, I have no idea. I was -- I never did anything with Medicare. I started a company. I bought hospitals. I bought HCA. I bought all the Humana hospitals. Let's go back to...
SANCHEZ: All right. Let me ask you this one then. Here's the other accusation, as I was reading about what some people say your company may have been involved in. Your company would go into a region. They would buy up all the hospitals, and then they would shut them all down except for one to make that one hospital very powerful. I mean, I guess that's a good business plan. But is that good for patients?
SCOTT: Absolutely. Now, first off, that didn't happen. We did buy 20 hospitals that we consolidated. It goes on every day, and -- not every day. It goes on throughout the country, all the time. It's happened since before I got into the business and afterwards.
But here's the reason why you want that to happen as a patient.
SCOTT: You want to make sure -- you want to make sure that your hospital has the best equipment. So if you have a hospital that has more patients and can afford the best equipment, you want your hospital to be successful. They have the right equipment. They can hire the right employees.
SANCHEZ: Well, I'm reading a report here, though, from "The Post and Courier" that says -- they say your hospitals had consistent dirty facilities. The doctors say the gloves they were asked to used to operate were so cheap they would break. And nurses say they had to treat so many patients they weren't able to handle the demand.
SCOTT: Well, let's look at the numbers. How could I have the lowest cost to a patient? I did. You look at the studies. I had better patient satisfaction in the industry by a long shot, and I had better outcomes. Because we measured everything.
So -- so who probably put that out? No different than what's happening today. The unions put these things out, because they want to unionize your hospitals. But if you look at the facts...
SCOTT: ... lower prices, better outcomes and better patient satisfaction.
SANCHEZ: But you're not saying all of these things are true? I mean, you're copping to the fact that your company had to pay $1.7 billion, which is still the most ever paid in the history of the United States, right?
SCOTT: After I left, the company paid those fines. The company did not pay those fines when I was there. When I bought -- when I bought...
SANCHEZ: But hold on. No, no, no, no. You're playing -- you're playing with the facts, sir. Let me tell you what happened.
SANCHEZ: These charges were charged against your company while you were there, while you were the boss, and it happened over a period of ten years. Yes, they were paid after you left, but the accused -- but they accused them of happening while you were leading the company? You know that.
SCOTT: And, Rick -- and, Rick, it was covering time frames before I bought those companies, and it covered time frames afterwards.
SANCHEZ: I guess the point I'm making is, though, look, people are going to look at you as the guy who's telling all these people out there, which is your right as an American and good for them for wanting to get out there and have a point of view and be passionate about their money and their tax money.
SANCHEZ: But some people are going to look at your record and some of the things that you and I just talked about and say, "This is the guy who's leading this charge. Is he the one that we should be listening to?" Not exactly a perfect past when it comes to what's right for taxpayers and patients?
SCOTT: Absolutely. If you care about patient satisfaction, if you care about cost, if you care about quality, you absolutely do.
SANCHEZ: All right. Rick Scott, you know what? Thank you, sir, for taking the heat and taking the questions. We appreciate having you on.
SCOTT: All right. Thank you.
SANCHEZ: All right. Rick Scott there.
We're going to continue to follow the very latest on what's going on with the president of the United States. We understand that he's going to be coming up shortly. We are told he's going to be coming up at 3:30 to talk about the Sonia Sotomayor question.
We now know, in fact, that Chief Justice John Roberts will be swearing her in Saturday morning at 11 a.m. That information just now coming in to me. Is this the president or is it somebody else? I can't tell. That monitor is too small for me.
Oh, yes. OK. That's what they do. They come up to the mike to check the sound levels, to make sure that everybody in the media has a shot.
Let's do this. See if we can sneak in a break, and we'll come right back. Stay with us.
SANCHEZ: All right. We're waiting for the president of the United States. We see some of the pics. There you see the White House.
Again, the big news as we are following it right now or at least the breaking news is that that Sonia Sotomayor has been confirmed by the Senate. The vote was 68 to 31, which some -- I mean, everybody had a guess in this game as to exactly how many Republicans would vote for Sonia Sotomayor. Most of the counts I saw weren't quite that high. It means a few more Republicans than expected actually voted for President Obama's choice to be the next Supreme Court justice.
Speaking of President Obama, we understand that the president is going to be coming up any moment now to the podium there and he's going to make his first comments after this Senate confirmation.
As to what the process is now, well, that's pretty much it, except for Saturday morning, we now understand, she will actually be sworn in. As her swearing in continues, we here at CNN will follow it, obviously, from beginning to end.
More commentary, we'll be joined by more guests as we await the president of the United States arrival. And we do remember, we are going to be following several other stories for you today, including the very latest on what's going on with the health care debate.
And that story we brought you yesterday about the man who said he wouldn't take down his tattered flag until his son came home. Well, guess what? His son has come home and he's going to be calling us and we're going to hopefully see the reunion between father and son -- both veterans, both proud, both here.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, WEDNESDAY)
LOUIS HAROS, FLYING TATTERED FLAG FOR SON: My son, before he left to go to Iraq, he came and brought me the flag and he raised it up. And I -- at that time, I told him, I will not replace that flag until you come and you bring it down yourself. And -- so, I made him a promise. I didn't realize that the flag would get in the condition that it's in right now.
SANCHEZ: Your son has done not one but two tours from Iraq. And I have been told by a little birdy after doing some research that your son has just arrived in the United States. Is that right?
HAROS: Yes, sir. My son has done two tours in Iraq and he is due to come in to Fresno tomorrow at 8:30 in the morning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: All right. That's not the clip I would have picked. You should have seen the beginning of that interview, because essentially, we started the story out by letting you know about this man. This Louis Haros, a man who was getting so much grief from all of his neighbors because he had this tattered, torn flag that he was flying. And neighbors would talk to him, "Take it down, take it down." So, we started the interview talking about that and finally, we said, "Sir, why won't you take the flag down?"
And then, he seemed to put all of us in our place, including his neighbors and everybody who's been criticizing him. He said he loves his son. He's a veteran, by the way, from Vietnam. He told his son, "When you come back from your second tour of duty in Iraq, I will take that flag down and not a moment sooner."
Well, suddenly, everybody had a love affair with this guy because he was so real, so patriotic, loved his son, loved his country, loved his flag. Well, guess what happened? As you just heard, his son is home. And the two of us -- the two of them are going to be getting together with us. They are getting together and sharing some of their moments with us.
Look at all the comments by the way that we've gotten on this, since yesterday when we did this story, it like exploded. Thad wrote to us, "Mr. Haros appears to be a man who does the right thing because it is right, not because it is popular. We need more men like this in our nation."
Steve says, "My family flew the same flag every day when I was deployed in Desert Shield/Storm and now that ragged flag is in my office, a constant reminder of the love and support of my family and community."
And, finally, J.A. says, "I support this father in keeping his promise. I salute him!"
By the way, Dan Lothian standing by.
Oh, you know, I should let you know that we're going to be joining the son in a little bit. Stand by. He just came back from Iraq. He's on the phone and he wants to talk to us about his dad and his dad's flag and that controversy.
But the president of the United States is going to be speaking in about a minute and a half now. Dan Lothian is standing by at the White House, our White House correspondent, to set us up on what he expects the president's going to say.
Dan, are you there?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I am here.
And as you mentioned, the president should be addressing the nation shortly. This was something that was added to the schedule at the last minute, a chance for the president to comment on the confirmation of Justice Sotomayor.
You know what's interesting, Rick, is -- I'll take you back a little bit to last week when I approached the senior administration official to talk about the marking of the second 100 days in this administration, which, by the way, he was surprised that he had reached that point. But, nonetheless, I said, "You know, what is the one thing that stands out to you as perhaps a big achievement in this second 100 days?" And he immediately thought about it and then said, "You know, Sotomayor. The confirmation had not yet happened. There were certainly all indications that she would be confirmed."
This White House really believes that this was: A, an important choice that the president made for the Supreme Court and they are very pleased by what happened today. You know, on the other hand, they would have loved to have seen this as a big bipartisan effort. There were some Republicans that came on board for her confirmation, but certainly not what they would have loved.
But here is the president coming out now to say some remarks.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am deeply gratified that the Senate has voted to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor as our nation's 111th Supreme Court justice. I want to thank the Senate Judiciary Committee, particularly its chairman, Senator Leahy, as well as its ranking member, Senator Sessions, for giving Judge Sotomayor a thorough and civil hearing, and I thank them for doing so in a timely manner so that she can be fully prepared to take her seat when the court's work begins in September.
The members of our Supreme Court are granted life tenure and are charged with the vital and difficult task of applying principles set forth at our founding to the questions and controversies of our time.
Over the past 10 weeks, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate have assessed Judge Sotomayor's fitness for this work. They scrutinized her record as a prosecutor, as a litigator, and as a judge. They have gauged her respect for the proper role of each branch of our government, her commitment to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand, and her determination to protect our core constitutional rights and freedoms.
And with this historic hope, the Senate has affirmed that Judge Sotomayor has the intellect, the temperament, the history, the integrity and the independence of mind to ably serve on our nation's highest court. This is the a hole that role that the Senate has played for more than two centuries, helping to insure that equal justice under the law is not merely a phrase inscribed above our courthouse door but a description of what happens every single day inside the courtroom.
It's a promise that whether you are a mighty corporation or an ordinary American, you will receive a full and fair hearing. And in the end, the outcome of your case will be determined by nothing more or less than the strength of your argument and the dictates of the law.
These core American ideals -- justice, equality and opportunity -- are the very eye deals that have made Judge Sotomayor's own uniquely American journey possible. They are ideals she has fought for throughout her career, and the ideals the Senate has upheld today in breaking yet another barrier in moving us yet another step closer to a more perfect union.
Like so many other aspects of this nation, I am filled with pride in this achievement and great confidence that Judge Sotomayor will make an outstanding Supreme Court justice. This is a wonderful day for Judge Sotomayor and her family. But I also think it's a wonderful day for America.
Thank you very much, everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you happy with the 68 votes, sir?
OBAMA: I'm very happy.
SANCHEZ: And there you have the very first question after the president's speech about the confirmation of Sotomayor, about the 68 votes.
Dan, let me come back to you if we can on that -- on that question, itself. Oh, apparently, we've lost Dan Lothian.
Again, the president just coming out and making his remarks about the fact that Sonia Sotomayor has been confirmed. Again, the number is 68 to 31. By my count, it's a little higher number than most of the pundits have expected, especially after the comment by the NRA earlier today that they would downgrade the status of some of the representatives -- pardon me -- some of senators if they, in fact, voted for Sotomayor because of her gun record.
So, we'll analyze this for you a little bit more. We'll stay with this story.
We'll take a quick break and we'll be right back with a soldier who's just returned from Iraq and is going to explain to us his dad's cantankerous attitude about his ripped and tattered flag. It's a great story. We want to share it with you.
Stay with us. We'll be right back.
SANCHEZ: Boy, a lot moving parts during this newscast. Thanks so much for being with us. I'm Rick Sanchez.
This week, I promised you that I'd be focusing on Afghanistan and the U.S. mission there. And that is why I'm about to let you hear from that country's ambassador to the United States.
But first, I want to share with you the story of Sergeant Anthony Lightfoot. I've been touched by this story personally. His mother wanted me to tell her son's story. I've shown you part of it, and since then, so many of us who've been moved by it and asked us to show this story again.
So, you know what? OK, we will -- in large measure because his mother is giving all of us the opportunity to see something this week that we have rarely been able to see over the last decade. Here is a respectful look at the return of a soldier killed in action.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): There is an official military term for this process -- this slow-motion removal of U.S. military caskets from an airplane. It is not a macho fighting term or a clever acronym. It is just two words, "dignified transfer."
It's not a performance. It's done for the benefit of cameras or a television audience. In fact, most dignified transfers happen without a camera anywhere near, middle of the night, in the rain, in the snow, honor guards, silent, rigid, strong, disciplined, dignified.
Lots of people in this country believe you shouldn't see video or pictures of these caskets when they arrive at Dover Air Force Base. That's a debate for another day.
Today, we can see them when and if the family of the fallen man or woman gives permission.
And the man inside that flag-draped coffin, buried today at Arlington, his mother gave us permission to let you see this. She wants you to see this.
LYVONNE LIGHTFOOT, MOTHER OF FALLEN SOLDIER: I don't see why we can't share our loved ones to the world. Some people may want it private but I want my son to be remembered.
SANCHEZ: Her son, her soldier, Anthony Lightfoot. Two months and one day after his 20th birthday, he died, July 20th, in Afghanistan.
LIGHTFOOT: They told me that Anthony had got hit by improvised explosives and then some rounds went off and then a grenade just shot through the vehicle.
SANCHEZ (on camera): Did they say that he died instantly?
LIGHTFOOT: I'm pretty sure he did die instantly.
SANCHEZ: Is that important to you?
LIGHTFOOT: Yes. He didn't. I don't believe he suffered. He died instantly, because I was told he don't have his lower extremities.
SANCHEZ: How often do you cry?
LIGHTFOOT: I cry every now and then, at night. I don't get much sleep. And then, sometimes I'd be thinking I'd be hearing somebody saying, "Mom," but I don't say anything but I just turn.
SANCHEZ: His voice?
LIGHTFOOT: Yes. One night I thought I saw him sitting in the chair and I guess I was seeing things. I don't know. But, like I said, when his coffin came back to Dover, Delaware, I saw a little puff of smoke saying, "Mom, I'll be all right, don't cry."
SANCHEZ: A lot of people have been affected by that story. We want to thank Lyvonne for letting us come to her home and talk to us about that and share that moment with her.
Joining me now is Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, Said Jawad.
Mr. Jawad, thanks for being with us, sir.
SAID JAWAD, AFGHANISTAN'S AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Sure.
SANCHEZ: What do you say to a mother who has just given your country her son's life?
JAWAD: I am struggling to find the right words to say how grateful we are for this sacrifice. I am telling to the family that Anthony and many others, who are putting their lives on line to make Afghanistan, the world, and the United States a safer place for us and our children, are true heroes. There will be no way for us to pay our gratitude for those putting their lives on line, leaving the comfort of their homes, of their families and of their mothers, fighting in Afghanistan and dying for a cause of freedom and safety of Afghanistan and the United States.
SANCHEZ: I'm sure parents hearing that message from you appreciate that, sir. Is the war in Afghanistan winnable? And let me put a caveat on that question as well. What's a win for you?
JAWAD: Winning is to build the security institutions in Afghanistan in a way that we will be able to ensure the safety and security of Afghanistan ourselves. There will be no need for Anthony and people like him to sacrifice their lives in Afghanistan -- and that objective is doable. Despite the security challenges, today, Afghanistan is a lot more secure than the post-surge Iraq.
We will win this, but we will also remember forever those who have helped us to obtain this objective.
SANCHEZ: Unfortunately, the polls aren't showing that Americans are too into this anymore, maybe because of the experience in Iraq in particular. There's a new CNN/Opinion Research poll that says 54 percent of Americans now oppose the war in Afghanistan.
How do you convince them that this war will not be like Iraq, which, for too many Americans, polled and otherwise, has at times seemed like an endless quagmire?
JAWAD: This war was never like Iraq from the very beginning. Al Qaeda attacked the United States from the bases operating in Afghanistan. The Afghan people and the international community were -- we were partners in getting rid of the Taliban and al Qaeda. Therefore, if the attention and resources would have not been shifted from Afghanistan, we would not have been in this situation.
Today, with McChrystal and military operations and renewed focus, we see the results very quickly.
SANCHEZ: We see the elections are August 20th. We're looking forward to that date. We'll get you back as we get close to that, and we'll see if, in fact, things go as expected.
Good luck, sir. My best to you and thanks for being with us.
JAWAD: Thank you very much.
SANCHEZ: Thank you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAROS: I will not replace that flag until you come and you bring it down yourself. And so, I made him a promise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: He did. Love that guy.
Now that his son is home, is the tainted, tattered, ugly flag finally coming down? Can it really be ugly, as some of his neighbors described it?
Also, remember the after show, CNN.com/live at 4:00. No twittering today. Guess what? Twitter's down, totally down all over the world. Down. Bug. Something. Not sure.
Stay with us. We'll be right back.
SANCHEZ: Getting lots of comments, as you might imagine, about a lot of the news we've been following for you, the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor, my interview with Rick Scott, and obviously, the story that we've been following about this father who's decided he won't take his flag down until his son comes home.
On the Scott interview, Nikki just emailed me, writing into me, telling me, "Boy, I bet Rick Scott now knows what it's like to get tased." Kind of interesting comment on that.
And now, let's go over to Facebook, over here on the right can if we can. Robert, see me pointing right over there. Lisa Pederson says, "That was a lovely story. Bless the hearts of that father and son." "This is awesome, chilling, heartwarming story. Thank you, Rick." "My hat goes off to the man and his family. They have sacrificed more than most people can imagine, protecting that flag."
You know, that is interesting that people would want to take it down. It meant something to him. And think of "Star Spangled Banner," that old glory. Anyway, that's me talking now.
David, finally, says, "Good lesson in holding your opinion until you know all the facts." I guess it is a lesson for all of us.
We're going to be right back. When that man who said he wouldn't take his flag down until his son came home, well, his son's home. And guess who's joining us after the break? Mr. Haros.
We'll be right back.
SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez.
What I'm about to show you thrills me to the bone, because every once in a while, a story comes around that just gives you, you know, tingles.
Corporal Paul Haros returns today to his father home in Fresno, California. Corporal Haros, two tours of duty in Iraq. His father, Louis, a Vietnam veteran, who got grief from some of his neighbors for flying a tattered flag, the Stars and Stripes, a flag he promised his son he would not take down until his son came home from that second tour of duty alive.
You, our viewers, responded in mass when we talked to Louis yesterday. At the beginning, some of you said he should take that thing down. But then when you heard his story, you changed his mind -- you changed your mind, I should say. And he's good enough to join us now once again.
Hey, Louis, are you there, sir?
HAROS (via telephone): Yes, I am.
SANCHEZ: Hey, good to talk to you. You know, it's amazing, but yesterday, there were so many people who are critical of you, and after they heard your story on TV -- man, I got to tell you, sir, if I got 10, I got 10,000 e-mails, letter, tweets, comments, everything you could possibly imagine from people saying they love what you had to say. How does that make you feel?
HAROS: Well, it makes me feel proud to have stayed my ground.
SANCHEZ: You sure did. Your son came home today, didn't he?
HAROS: Yes, he did, and he brought the flag down and put a new one up.
SANCHEZ: How is young Corporal Paul?
HAROS: Well, he lost a lot of weight...
HAROS: ... and we're trying to fatten him up again.
SANCHEZ: Boy, is that your wife I hear in the background laughing?
HAROS: Yes. She's the one that's cooking up some beans right now.
SANCHEZ: Good for her! I imagine, he had something to say about his dad being on national television and becoming a bit of a celebrity with people from all over the world e-mailing and commenting on him. What did he say?
HAROS: He says, "Man, he didn't expect this kind of homecoming."
SANCHEZ: Is he embarrassed?
HAROS: Well, he was kind of set back, yes. He didn't realize what was going on.
SANCHEZ: All right. Well, father is back with son. He's home safe. We're all proud of him and grateful to him. And the flag, the old battered one, has come down to be replaced by a new one.
Thanks so much for being with us, Mr. Haros.
Here now, Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."