Return to Transcripts main page
Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Supreme Battle Begins; North Korean Nuclear Worries; Recession Ending?
Aired May 27, 2009 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, perhaps the most dangerous word in American politics: racist.
The question, why would opponents of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor want to use it, even come near it? Why oppose the historic choice of a popular president if, in so doing, they risk offending the nation's fastest-growing voter group.
The opponents, who began with words like liberal and radical, say Judge Sotomayor's own words and rulings support their escalation to racist. The White House calls it a false charge and an incendiary strategy. And some Republicans are cringing tonight.
But racist is the word now front and center in the early debate over the nation's first Latina Supreme Court nominee.
The politics, as raw as they come, from Candy Crowley.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outrage from familiar voices.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW")
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Obama is the greatest living example of a reverse racist. And now he's appointed one.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
CROWLEY: At issue is a sentence in a 2001 speech by Judge Sotomayor about diversity on the bench.
She says she tries to her own assumptions and conceded it's possible for someone of one background to understand the needs of someone from another. She also said: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was tweeting this morning: "White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw."
Unlikely, but her words are being studied, as are 17 years of decisions, from the bench. A case now before the Supreme Court involves the city of New Haven, which threw out a promotion test for firefighters after whites scored better than African-Americans. The whites sued, but, when the case got to federal appeals court, Sotomayor joined colleagues ruling against the white firefighters.
TOM GOLDSTEIN, SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Does she have the perspective of someone who is attentive to claims of discrimination or the possibility of police misconduct? Is she aware that that's a possibility? Yes. But she's not out there ruling for one side in all the cases, by any means.
CROWLEY: In the case of a New York City cop fried for making anonymous racist remarks, Sotomayor dissented from the majority, arguing that the First Amendment was applicable and the fired officer should be allowed to take his case against the police department to trial.
Tom Goldstein has argued 21 cases before the Supreme Court and studied her record.
GOLDSTEIN: Judge Sotomayor is on the moderate left. There's no question that she's a liberal, but she's not on the far left. She's not an ideologue.
CROWLEY: There are few hints in the paper trail about how she would come down on the death penalty, abortion, gay rights.
Ken Duberstein helped shepherd four Supreme Court justices through confirmation hearings. He advised each to punt legal and social flash point issues with the following.
KEN DUBERSTEIN, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: "As a judge, I must be impartial. I need to look at the facts of every case. I don't have a predestined personal view. My ideas don't matter. What matters is the law. I will judge it as it comes, based on the facts of the case."
CROWLEY: Duberstein's best advice: Don't embellish. Don't shovel. tell the truth.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.
KING: And one late detail: The Senate Judiciary Committee this evening released a bipartisan questionnaire Judge Sotomayor will complete. When she does, they will post the answers online.
"Digging Deeper" now, CNN contributor Alex Castellanos. He's a Republican consultant. Also, former Clinton White House Deputy Chief of Staff Maria Echaveste.
Alex, let me begin with you.
As a Republican in this battle, the first Latino nominee, the fastest-growing segment of our electorate, how comfortable are you to have two leading voices in the party, Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich, come out and use the term racist?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I don't think this is an attack, by any means, actually on Judge Sotomayor.
She's -- she seems to be qualified. She's intelligent, capable, a ton of experience. However, this is a...
KING: How is it not an attack on her to call her a racist?
CASTELLANOS: Because what this is doing is -- what I think you're seeing the Republican right do is attack the Democratic left here for hypocrisy, for saying for years -- and, you know, Barack Obama, in this last campaign, said, look, we have moved America to a better place; we have moved America to a place beyond rational politics; we have moved America to a place where no one is better qualified or less qualified for a job because of their race, their gender or their ethnicity.
Guess what? Obama has now nominated someone who said exactly that. And I think this is a chance for Republicans -- it's a win for Republicans in the sense that they are pushing back on the hypocrisy of the left. It's a political win for Obama because he has nominated a Hispanic, the fastest-growing ethnic group in the country. It's up for grabs in 2010 and 2012.
Usually, when you have a win-win like this politically for both sides, debates tend to extended. So, this one may go for a long time.
KING: I want to come back Maria in. But I want to come to this. They used a specific word, racist. Are you saying, in agreeing with their strategy, that you agree she's a racist?
CASTELLANOS: No. I -- you know, I think she's -- I think what -- you know, that's a pretty big and powerful word. And I think you want to look at someone's entire career and how they have lived their life.
But she said has that race is something that a judge should consider; it's important to a judge in administering the law.
You know, a judge is a referee. A judge is somebody -- in the NBA finals -- in the semifinals tonight, would you hire a referee who said, by the way, I can call a better game because of my ethnic background or because of my gender?
You wouldn't do that. And, so, she has explaining to do. I think it's a big leap to go from there to say that someone is a racist.
KING: Maria, let's come in on that point. Does she have some explaining to do? She's a federal judge who said, because of her background, because of who she is, she thinks, in that one quote, she thinks it made her better prepared to deal with certain issues than, say, a white man. MARIA ECHAVESTE, FORMER CLINTON DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think, when you -- what you will look for at this level of the judiciary is the application of the best legal analysis, but also wisdom.
And what is wisdom, but knowledge and experience, and experience that comes from being who you are. That's all she was saying. And I think that taking that quote and -- and blowing it up, and using such an incendiary word, is, I think, really mis -- misguided, and, frankly, doesn't do this country and the public any good.
KING: Well, let me ask you -- let me play...
ECHAVESTE: I think that she...
MATTHEWS: Let me jump in and play devil's advocate for just a second.
KING: If George W. Bush were still president, and he were nominating a white man Republican who said, "As a white man, I think I better understand the big issues before the country right now," I assume you would be screaming.
ECHAVESTE: I can't imagine that any president would pick someone who would say something like that.
That's not what Judge Sotomayor was saying.
CASTELLANOS: But if we're...
ECHAVESTE: She was saying she was bringing all of who she is.
And, frankly, America is a big, rich, diverse pot. And having a woman of her caliber, her qualifications on the bench can only enrich. Corporate America, one of the reasons they are so big...
ECHAVESTE: ... on diversity is because they understand that the richness of the table ensures that you make better decisions. That's all she was saying.
KING: Alex, help me understand the political risks here for your party.
I get that there may be very principled reasons, reasons in the law that conservatives think they should stand up to this judge. I want you to come up to the raw politics. Two out of three Latino votes in the last election went to President Obama. In the Southwest, it was huge. It's the fastest-growing segment of the population.
KING: How big are the risks? CASTELLANOS: Well, you know, this is the segment of the electorate that people expect to go from 15 percent to 30 percent by 2050. It is the fastest-growing, as you have said.
For Republicans, I think, at this point, the risk is, in a way, minimal. You know, we have already broken that china. Breaking the remaining pieces at this point is not going to hurt.
Also, Supreme Court justices, judicial nominees, unfortunately, people don't see the immediate effect on their lives. That's we, in fact, we have so many, I think, left-of-center justices, judges in this country. And people are -- don't see the effect on their lives. So, we tolerate that.
So, I doubt it has much direct political impact on Republicans. And, you know, certainly, Republicans are not going to make the case that they are opposing her because she's Hispanic. In fact, they're opposing her in spite of the fact that she's Hispanic, because she seems to say that, again, the -- the America that Obama offered us, an America beyond racial politics, is not the one he's giving us.
KING: We're out...
CASTELLANOS: In a way, this is really more about the Democratic Party and President Obama than it is about the judge.
KING: OK. I need to call time-out here for time. But this debate will continue for weeks and a couple of months. And we will have you both back on.
Maria Echaveste, Alex Castellanos, thank you very much tonight.
And you can learn a lot more about this story online by going to AC360.com, where you will find links to a fascinating set of tips on getting through the confirmation process. And if you take a look at the white space at the bottom of your screen, you will see other information about the judge's key cases and rulings. We will be showing it to you throughout the program tonight.
As always, you can join the live chat going on now at AC360.com.
Up next: new threats from North Korea, new signs of life in its nuclear plant, and a new warning for the United States -- two views, one from a top retired general, the other from a veteran correspondent with more experience on the ground and the region than just about anyone around.
Also tonight, with the housing market showing signs of life, a bold new prediction about when the recession will end. Ali Velshi joins us, taking your questions.
Text them to 94553. Listen now. The message must start with the letters A.C., then a space, then your name, and the question.
Then, two strange bedfellows in the fight for same-sex marriage -- the lawyer who helped President Bush win and the Florida ballot battle back in 2000 and the lawyer who argued Al Gore was the real winner allies in arguing banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
KING: New signs tonight of nuclear activity inside North Korea. Though it's hard to top a nuclear test explosion, these new developments potentially even more worrying, because they concern North Korea's capacity to make more bombs, a U.S. official telling CNN of steps -- early ones -- to restart processing of plutonium for warheads, and, today, tough talk from Secretary of State Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: North Korea has made a choice. It has chosen to violate the specific language of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718.
It has ignored the international community. It has abrogated the obligations it entered into through the six-party talks. And it continues to act in a provocative and belligerent manner toward its neighbors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Secretary Clinton went on to say that choices have consequences. Right now, the United States, China and other regional leaders are weighing a response.
But, as you will see, there aren't many good options.
Joining us now, retired General and CNN military analyst David Grange, also Mike Chinoy, former CNN correspondent, one of the world's foremost experts on North Korea, and author of "Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis."
Gentlemen, I want to you stand by for just a second, so I can walk our viewers through the threat, potential threat, posed by North Korea. We have at the map here -- and excuse me for reaching across, but I want to go through the missile capacity.
And we will begin with the basic Scud missiles, if I can get the tap to work here. The wall is playing with me a little bit tonight. Here we go. Here's the basic Scud missile. This, we know, anyone familiar maybe from the first Persian Gulf War, relatively crude short-range missile.
You can see by looking at the map here, from North Korea, it cannot reach Japan, but it can reach Seoul, the South Korean capital, and most of the country of South Korea.
Let's stop the wall here and we will switch this over to the Nodong missile here. This is a slightly longer-range missile, if we can get the tap to cooperate. And here's the Nodong missile here. You see the range of 621 miles. So, let me shrink the map down a little bit more. It can reach most of mainland Japan, most likely Tokyo, also could reach conceivably as far into China as Beijing.
Now we will move it up to the more serious missiles. The Taepodong-1 is the next missile we will look at, range of 932 miles, perhaps a little more than that. You see here the greater threat. It can certainly reach all of Japan, all of South Korea, and reach into China here, out into the Pacific across.
And here is the missile people worry about the most at the moment. Tests, so far, according to the United States, have been not so successful. But the Taepodong-2, a long-range missile, if they perfect this technology, could touch the tip of Alaska, could reach some of the Hawaiian islands, and, of course, a much larger projection around here.
A couple more quick facts before we bring our guests in. Let's look at troops right here in the region. There are 34,000 U.S. troops in Japan, about 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, a modest amount in the Philippines, a modest amount in Singapore, and, at sea in the region, 7,400, roughly, U.S. troops.
I want to start with you, General Grange.
Having looked at the missile threat, looking at the posture of the United States militarily in the region, how much of a threat are we talking about here?
BRIGADIER GENERAL DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, North Korea has always been a threat.
They're a threat because they're unpredictable. They have got a crazy leader. They have got a fierce -- they are a fierce army. They are tough guys. They are depressed economically. So, that's always a danger in a closed society.
And -- and, again, this is a very powerful, large military, not only the nuclear piece, if they have, depending on how advanced their capability is, but their conventional capability.
And the other is, you have got a leader, Chairman Kim, who is like a couple other goofballs, like Chavez of Venezuela and Ahmadinejad of Iran. And you don't know what this guy is going to do near the end of possibly his life, you know, his health and -- and -- and who is going to succeed him in that.
So, you have to take it seriously, but it's something that I think we can handle.
KING: Mike Chinoy, let's come in on that point, the unpredictability of the North Korean leader. You have reported on this region so extensively.
When the North Korea regime says if the United States, say, interdicts what they believe to be a missile shipment out of this region, that North Korea might attack, how seriously do you take those words?
MIKE CHINOY, AUTHOR, "MELTDOWN: THE INSIDE STORY OF THE NORTH KOREAN NUCLEAR CRISIS": I think, if the United States actually got involved in interdicting North Korean shipping, it is entirely possible the North Koreans would respond.
But it's important to bear in mind, the North Koreans aren't suicidal. And their political style over many years has been in which these threats are as much political theater as they are meaningful military posturing.
You have to keep in mind what's going on inside North Korea right now. There's a political transitional process under way. The leader, Kim Jong Il, had a stroke last August. He's trying to let -- set things out so that his youngest son will succeed him.
And I think a lot of this muscle-flexing is designed both to send an internal signal to the people to the North Korean people that regime is strong and powerful to rally the people around this leadership, as there is a transition, and to signal to the rest of the world, leave us alone while we do this, and don't think that you can pressure us.
KING: And, General Grange, let's look, again, at the threat.
To go by the official numbers, North Korea's military, compared to the rest of the world, is actually large, fourth largest in the world, behind China, the United States, and India.
When you look at the -- just by the numbers -- the capabilities are a different question, but, by the numbers, the U.S. military posture in the region is more symbolic, right? If anything were to escalate, the United States is there to say, if you attack, if you come south, you are at war with us, too, but not to do much in the short term.
GRANGE: Well, that's true.
I mean, the United States military, South Korea is outnumbered. South Korean army is a very good army. We have trained them for over half-a-century. That's a good army. Now, our troops are there with some very sophisticated weaponry. And, of course, the way we operate against this type of conventional threat, we are very well-versed at that.
But, you know, Seoul, Korea, the capital, is in range of rocket and artillery fire. It is -- it is a danger. When I served in Korea, I thought about that every day. This is a tough enemy. They are hardened.
But, again, with our air and sea -- and sea power, which I think would be the predominant force to take them on, especially with Iraq and Afghanistan going on at this time, they understand the prowess of the United States of America.
But don't get me wrong. We have to draw a hard line, realizing the deception, the propaganda, the things that were just outlined internally and externally with -- with -- with Korea, they have to understand that we will not put up with a threat to our allies or our own forces.
KING: So, Mike, help close this up. Kim Jong Il has the world's attention. What is the world's response? What are the options?
CHINOY: Well, it's a very tough situation, because all the research I did for my book "Meltdown" made very clear that when the North Koreans are subject to pressure and coercion and sanctions, the effect is often the opposite of what's intended.
They dig in. They get tougher. They more provocative. They have a playbook, from missile test, to nuclear test, to restarting their nuclear reactor. And they're just going through it step by step. So, the challenge is going to be to simultaneously be tough and signal that the North can't coerce the United States back to the bargaining table.
But, ultimately, the best chance of sorting this out is to have some way of ultimately talking to them. But it's going to be very tricky, given the complicated internal politics in North Korea, with an uncertain leadership situation.
KING: General Grange, Mike Chinoy, great to see both of you, gentlemen. Thank you so much.
GRANGE: Our pleasure.
KING: And you heard the general call him goofball, Mr. Kim. Up next, we will expand on that. We will have a fuller picture -- fuller picture of the "Dear Leader" and the possible reasons for all the nuclear activity lately.
Later, your bottom line on the economy -- a new prediction of when the recovery could get here. Ali Velshi is taking your questions.
And later still, how a top lawyer went from criminal defense attorney to criminal defendant and the murder he's accused of making possible -- all that and more ahead on 360.
KING: Not a madman, a very smart man, that's how one expert tonight describes Kim Jong Il. Not mad implies not random. Not random means a strategy. So, what is the strategy behind the saber- rattling?
Randi Kaye takes us "Up Close."
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At just 5'2'', the leader of North Korea is casting a large shadow over much of the world. But the question is, why now? Charles Armstrong heads Columbia University's Center for Korean Research.
CHARLES ARMSTRONG, DIRECTOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY'S CENTER FOR KOREAN RESEARCH: They are trying to send a signal to the United States, in particular, but the rest of the world in general, that they need to take North Korea seriously.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ARMSTRONG: They want to get on to the U.S.' radar screen, as it were.
KAYE: Remember, the "Dear Leader," as North Koreans call him, is believed to have suffered a stroke last summer, and, these days, looks frail and thin. That, Armstrong says, is part of the reason for all the saber-rattling.
ARMSTRONG: Kim Jong Il, in particular, wants to demonstrate that he militarily in charge of the country, and he is bequeathing a militarily powerful nation to his successor -- his successor, who may be his son.
KAYE: Of his three sons, the youngest, in his mid-20s, appears the likely successor. Pictures of Kim Jong-un are hard to come by, and little is known about him, except that he studied in Switzerland.
Another reason for all the noise from North Korea maybe be that Kim Jong Il is trying to shore up his own legacy and, once and for all, break out from under his father's name. Kim Il-Sung founded the totalitarian regime and died in 1994. He was considered godlike among his people.
BRUCE CUMINGS, AUTHOR, "NORTH KOREA: ANOTHER COUNTRY": From the moment of his birth, he never could measure up to his father. He's had very -- very, very difficult shoes to fill.
KAYE: Bruce Cumings has studied Korea for 40 years. He says the elder Kim was ruthless, a former guerrilla fighter, but he was also charismatic and loved to be around people, unlike his son.
(on camera): Kim Jong Il may be best known for womanizing and his love of Hollywood films. He's a big fan of "James Bond" and "Gone With the Wind." A self-described news junkie, he once stated publicly he watches CNN. North Korea's official newspaper reported he published 15 books in college and shot 38 under par the first time he ever golfed.
Such exaggerations and eccentricities define him.
CUMINGS: He wears a very bizarre outfit, a kind of 1970s pantsuit, with sunglasses, elevator heels. And he can't control his hair. So, he reputedly even puts it in rollers.
KAYE (voice-over): World leaders who have let Kim say he's lucid, well-informed, and enjoyable to be with. (on camera): Is he a madman?
ARMSTRONG: No, he's not a madman. I think he's a very smart man. He's very capable. He's well-trained in the art of politics. And he's very shrewd at how he operates.
KAYE (voice-over): Shrewd enough to keep the whole world wondering what he might do next.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
KING: It's a fascinating drama. And there's more online. Go to AC360.com -- AC360.com -- to see satellite images of North Korea's nuclear facility.
And stick around. In our next hour, Christiane Amanpour takes a rare look inside the so-called hermit kingdom.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We are greeted by our official minder, Mr. Song (ph), who never leaves our side.
(on camera): We're looking forward to -- to seeing it. It's my first time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to Korea.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Song (ph) gathered up our cell phones and BlackBerrys, to be held until we leave the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
AMANPOUR: Visitors, like North Koreans themselves, are cut off from the outside.
KING: Restrictive as it sounds, Christiane traveled to North Korea last year during a bit of a thaw to witness the North Koreans destroying pieces of their nuclear capability.
The full story in our next hour.
And next on 360: Is the recession ending? Ali Velshi with the surprising news.
He also wants to hear from you. So, send us a text-message with your question to 94553. Listen here. The message must start with the letters A.C., then a space, then your name and question. If you do not include A.C. first, with a space, we will not receive your text.
Also tonight: rivals in the battle over the 2000 election now teaming up to fight Proposition 8. The unlikely partnership to bring same-sex marriages to California -- coming up.
And, later, laugh lines at the White House -- President Obama's press secretary sets an amusing new record.
KING: We have important news to tell you about the economy tonight, and on several fronts.
First, the encouraging reports from leading economists, who say the recession may end this year -- more on that in a moment.
Also today, the National Association of Realtors says home sales were up in April -- that's right, up -- but, along with the hopeful signs, a sobering reality check from Detroit. Last-minute efforts to save General Motors from bankruptcy have apparently failed. And now it may just be a matter of days before GM is controlled by the government, an end of an era.
Chief business correspondent Ali Velshi joins us from GM headquarters in Detroit.
So, Ali, you're at GM headquarters. This bankruptcy filing is scheduled for Monday, unless there's some dramatic change. What does that mean for General Motors, the government, and the economy?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it looks like, as you said, those latch -- last-ditch efforts for General Motors to try and come to some arrangement with the bondholders, the people it owes money to, have not succeeded.
Without there, there's no likelihood that they can escape the inevitable. And the inevitable is the government-sanctioned bankruptcy protection that they will go into.
Monday is the deadline. It could happen sooner than that, if there's no likelihood that anything will change. That means that General Motors will have to become a smaller company. That means more people will lose their jobs. And that means that General Motors will have to try and recraft itself as a competitive company.
In the end, there is likely to be a company called General Motors, and it will still make cars. It will probably one day be a strong company again. But it will never be the company that it was, the company that for 77 years was the No. 1 automaker in the entire world. And for some time, the biggest company in the world, John.
KING: Sobering news there, Ali.
Matt (ph) set up with this new report by 45 economists. He says the recession will end in 2009. Good news on paper, but the effects of that won't be felt for a while. So how much solace can we take in a prediction that it may end this year?
VELSHI: You know, John, a few weeks ago, we brought you this news from one of the key economists that we use, who said that this recession will end probably as early as late summer but definitely by the end of the year.
And since then, Bernanke has -- has said something similar. Now, these 45 economists at the National Association of Business Economics has said the same thing. But it's not like a switch being turned on or off. What it means is things will get less worse more slowly, if you will, John.
Let's look at unemployment. That's the thing that really hits people most closely. When we started this recession in December of 2007, unemployment was 4.9 percent. Right now, it's 8.9 percent. And most predictions are that it will get up to almost 10 percent either sometime at the end of 2009 or early 2010.
Even under the best predictions, it won't get back to the rate that we're at now by the end of 2010. So on the job front we've got that.
You also talk about housing. Sure, housing sales have picked up. But prices haven't. This is because people are taking advantage of low interest rates. They're buying a lot of those houses that are in distress or in foreclose.
KING: And Ali, all night long, we've been asking viewers to text in their questions about the economy. Let's go to one. Jennifer Orrell (ph), Orange County, California, says, "What is the main indicator that a recession is nearing its end?"
VELSHI: Well, that's a very good question. Markets are usually the first indicator. We've already seen markets up about 30 percent since March 9, which a lot of people thought was the bottom of it.
And some people think the markets start to improve about six months ahead of the rest of the economy. So markets are generally your first indicator. Again, then it will start to be jobs and housing. But those things tend to be lagging. They -- they recover after the recession is over, John.
KING: Ali Velshi for us tonight in Detroit. Thanks, Ali.
Accusations the voting on "American Idol" was rigged. That story coming up.
But first, Erica Hill joins us for the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Erica.
HILL: John, three suspects are in custody today after a deadly suicide attack in Lahore, Pakistan, the country's second-largest city. A van packed with explosives reduced a police building to rubble, killing at least 27 people and wounding more than 250 others.
In western Baghdad and American soldier and four Iraqi civilians killed when a bomb exploded as a U.S. military patrol drove past a roadside market. This brings the May death for American troops toll to 20, the highest in eight months.
The FBI sees a list of troubled banks at risk surging to 305 in the first quarter of 2009. Now, that's up 21 percent from the previous quarter. It's a 15-year high. Three dozen U.S. banks have failed so far. Compare that with 25 total for all of 2008.
Maryland is replacing state lawn mowers with goats. That's right. Forty bearded goats brought in to eat grass along Maryland state highways. Not sure how the goats feel about it. But it's all part of the state's effort to reduce its carbon footprint, while protecting a threatened species of turtle in the area, the bog turtle, apparently.
The goat was a good option, because it's smaller than a cow and apparently the goats don't eat moving things. They're not really totally bizarre (ph).
KING: I spent a lot of time driving on the highways in Maryland and haven't seen goats yet, Erica.
HILL: They're in an enclosed area, we're told. So hopefully, they won't be running out to meet you on the road.
KING: Yes, OK. Well, we'll see how that one plays out.
Join the live chat happening on AC360.com right now.
And now next up on "360," gearing up for the next round over Proposition 8. Meet the lawyers hoping to overturn the ban on same- sex marriage.
Also tonight, a former federal prosecutor now charged with murder. The high-profile ordered the execution of a government witness.
And jokes from jail. Accused wife killer Drew Peterson call as radio talk show host. This is serious, he thinks he was funny. You be the judge.
KING: In California tonight, the fight over Proposition 8 is heading to federal court. Opponents of the state's ban on same-sex marriage want it overturned. They say it's unconstitutional.
Leading the charge, two people that played pivotal roles in the contested 2000 presidential election. Back then, they were on opposite side of the battle. Now, they're joining forces.
Tom is "Uncovering America."
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The outcry over the California Supreme Court upholding the ban on same-sex marriages rages on unabated. The latest pushback, a request for a federal court to block enforcement of the ban on grounds that it denies gays and lesbians a basic right.
TED OLSON, ATTORNEY: They work hard, they pay their taxes, and they want to get married, just like many of the rest of us.
FOREMAN: Leading the charge and united by the cause is an unlikely duo. Attorneys who argued against each other in the famous Florida presidential election recount: Ted Olson as for George Bush, David Boies for Al Gore.
DAVID BOIES, ATTORNEY: When you have people being denied constitutional rights today, I think it is impossible, as a lawyer and an American, to say to them, "No, you have to wait."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hear now for Mr. Starr.
FOREMAN: In the state Supreme Court, the issue Drew another legal heavyweight, Ken Starr, the man who paved the way for President Bill Clinton's impeachment and now a California law professor, argued for the same-sex marriage ban. And supporters have blanketed the Internet with praise, saying the court upheld the rights of voters.
REV. MILES MCPHERSON, FOUNDER, ROCK CHURCH: We had over 7 million people support traditional marriage. And for the record, we need to understand that 29 states have voted on this issue, and 29 states have voted to uphold traditional marriage.
FOREMAN: Older voters coast-to-coast have largely torpedoed efforts to legalize same-sex marriage. No wonder back in California, many believe federal courts are the only recourse.
(on camera) But even there, this latest setback is raising a caution flag. Indeed, a prominent coalition of some of the biggest groups in favor of same-sex marriage has already come out opposing this latest lawsuit, saying they just don't want to risk another unfavorable court ruling right now.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
KING: Rivals in 2000, now teaming up to try to reverse Prop 8.
Joining me now are former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson and Al Gore's 2000 campaign attorney, David Boies.
Ted, let me start with you, because so many will identify you as a Republican. You were the solicitor general in an administration that wanted a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. How do you end up in this position now, supporting the right of same-sex marriage?
OLSON: I never supported a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
KING: The president -- the president you represented did.
OLSON: Well, I understand that. I just thought it would be important to make my position clear. I have had the same view all along. But I think the important thing to emphasize here is that this is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. The fact that David and I are together representing the plaintiffs in this case is intended, in part, to send that message. This is a message about justice, equality, fairness and decency to all individuals and to help individuals who wish to be married to be in a stable, committed relationship, to do so as the Constitution permits.
KING: And David Boies, as you know, even those who support your goals here don't think it's the right tactic. They think you should keep this at the state level.
I want to read you one quote from a same-sex advocate. "In our view, the best way to win marriage equality nationally is to continue working state by state, not to bring premature federal challenges that pose a very high risk of setting a negative U.S. Supreme Court precedent."
How would you answer those who say you could possibly here do more harm than good?
BOIES: I think it's great to work state by state. I think people accomplished a great deal working state by state.
But at the same time, there are federal constitutional rights that have got to be vindicated. I don't believe that we should say to the plaintiffs in this action or to gay and lesbian couples anywhere that you have to wait, that your constitutional rights have got to be put on hold.
In California, Proposition 8 has prevented people from getting married. That is a right we believe was guaranteed by the federal Constitution. We just don't think it's possible to say to these clients, "No, you have to wait. You have to put your interest, your willingness, your ability to have a marriage on hold until additional work is done."
This is a constitutional right today. We believe it needs to be vindicated today.
KING: Ted Olson, come in on that point, especially from the perspective of someone who argued the Bush administration cases before this Supreme Court. You know the court quite well. Is this Supreme Court prepared to make this decision, or maybe are those who say leave this to the states for now, right?
KING: Well, you can imagine Martin Luther King standing at the Lincoln Memorial saying let's do it on a state by state basis. Let's have equality on hold until we have a state-by-state basis, whether we will allow children to go to the same school. This is not an acceptable solution, as David very, very aptly points out.
With respect to the United States Supreme Court, David and I have studied this matter very, very carefully. We've listened to the arguments that the people who have said, "Wait, don't do it now." We are convinced we will prevail up to and including the United States Supreme Court.
KING: David Boies, you compared this case, potentially, to Brown v. the Board of Education, Loving v. Virginia. Is that type of a precedent; you see this as potentially the most important case of your career.
BOIES: I think it could very well be. Because marriage is a fundamental right. There is no right that's guaranteed by our Constitution that's more fundamental than to be able to marry the person that you love.
And this is something that is important not only to gay and lesbian couples; it's important to all of us. Because when any of these basic civil rights are diminished, we're all diminished. This is something that I think and I would hope that we would -- if it goes to the United States Supreme Court, this would be decided 9-0, the way many civil rights cases have been decided in the past.
KING: And Ted Olson, you say from a legal standpoint this is not a conservative or liberal issue, not a Republican or Democratic issue. But we both spent a lot of time in Washington. You know the politics.
I just wanted your personal thoughts on, when you look at either opponents or proponents, saying consider the irony. George W. Bush's solicitor general is now more pro-gay rights than President Barack Obama, a Democratic president who opposes same-sex marriage.
How's that feel personally?
OLSON: Well, I hope that he'll catch up.
KING: David Boies, Ted Olson. Gentlemen, thank you very much.
BOIES: Thank you.
OLSON: Thank you.
To see how long the battle over same-sex marriage has been waged, check out the time line at AC360.com.
Next, an attorney who once represented famous rappers and U.S. soldiers, is now accused of murder. The incredible story of justice that may have gone terribly wrong.
And tragedy at a New Zealand Wildlife Park. A rare white tiger turns on its keeper. And it's not the first time it's happened there.
And inside North Korea. Christiane Amanpour gets a rare look at the inside of a closed society.
KING: A high-profile defense attorney known for flashy suits and famous clients is accused of murder tonight. Prosecutors say the victim was a government witness. That witness was to testify against a drug dealer represented by the lawyer, who authorities believe made sure he never took the stand.
Joe Johns has more in tonight's "Crime & Punishment Report.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As a defense attorney, Paul Bergrin grabbed headlines with his high-profile clients like rap stars Queen Latifah and Little Kim. He's also known for defending an Army reservist convicted in the Abu Ghraib prison investigation.
PAUL BERGRIN, ACCUSED OF WITNESS INTIMIDATION: What the government should be doing at this time is supporting these soldiers who have dedicated and devoted their lives and risked their lives for Americans abroad and in the theater of Iraq.
JOHNS: But earlier in his career, Bergrin was a federal prosecutor. He worked in the same office as this man, Ralph Marra, who is now acting U.S. attorney for New Jersey. But now Marra is charging his former colleague with 14 counts, including conspiracy to commit murder and racketeering.
The allegation is that, as a defense attorney, Bergrin was intimidating witnesses against his client. At least one of those witnesses wound up dead.
(on camera) It doesn't happen a lot, though.
RALPH MARRA, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY, NEW JERSEY: With a lawyer, you mean? No, that doesn't. But witness intimidation is an everyday occurrence, frankly. It really is.
JOHNS (voice-over): Prosecutors say when it came to certain witnesses against his client, Bergrin had a unique strategy.
MARRA: There's clearly evidence and it's alleged in the papers that that was his mantra, if you will. No witness, no case.
JOHNS: Five years ago, Bergrin popped up on the government's radar. DEA agents had locked up a guy from this neighborhood named William Baskerville. They said they had Baskerville on cocaine distribution charges.
A court document asserts that, in a jailhouse visit Baskerville told his defense attorney, Bergrin, that an informant named Kemo had given him up.
MARRA: Bergrin had discussions with Mr. Baskerville's associates, and that's where he uttered the famous line, "No Kemo, no case."
(on camera) Baskerville's buddies went looking for Kemo and found him here, near the intersection of South Orange Avenue and 19th Street in Newark. One of Baskerville's buddies walked up behind Kemo and shot him in the back of the head three times. He was dead.
(voice-over) If true, it's more than witness intimidation; it's witness elimination.
Baskerville was convicted on drug charges and conspiracy to murder a witness. Yet, Bergrin's lawyer says his client did nothing wrong.
(on camera) Though he would not do an interview on camera, his lawyer told me Bergrin denies all the charges against him. And any statements like "no witness, no case," or "no Kemo, no case," were referring to impeaching the witness, destroying the witness' credibility on the stand, not killing the witness.
(voice-over) But there is one current running through it all. Paul Bergrin is a former assistant U.S. attorney. His job was to prosecute the bad guys.
MARRA: Are we somewhat ashamed of it or troubled by it? Of course we are. And do we wish it wasn't one of us? Yes, we do.
JOHNS: Now the former prosecutor faces judgment.
Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.
KING: Next, was the "American Idol" finale rigged? Why some Adam Lambert fans say winner Kris Allen got the upper hand.
Plus, he's accused of killing his wife. Why is Drew Peterson making jokes? He called into a Chicago radio station today, debuting a standup routine. We'll let you judge his sense of humor for yourself, coming up.
And inside the secretive state of North Korea. Christiane Amanpour gets an up close look at the nuclear nation.
KING: Coming up, a battle involving cheese. We can't make this stuff up. It's tonight's "Shot."
First, though, Erica Hill joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.
HILL: John, being held on $20 million bond for the murder of his third wife has not silenced Drew Peterson. The former cop called a Chicago radio show collect today to share what he said is a comedy routine he's working on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, live from the Will County Jail, it's Drew Peterson. Give it up! Yay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody's clapping.
DREW PETERSON, CHARGED WITH WIFE'S MURDER: Hey, Mancow. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
PETERSON: I know we can't do the Date with Drew anymore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
PETERSON: But I'm thinking what we should do is, like, win a conjugal visit with Drew. Let's do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: There you have it.
A rare white tiger at a New Zealand wildlife park mauled its keeper to death in front of horrified tourists. The man is the second employee attacked by a tiger at the park this year. He helped rescue a co-worker in February.
AT&T admits some of its employees in Arkansas did bring phones to viewing parties where they helped Kris Allen fans do so-called "power text." That's 10 or more text messages being sent at once, a practice which is against "Idol" rules. But the company insists that did not help Allen beat Adam Lambert.
One hundred million votes were cast in that final showdown. The breakdown of votes, though, is not made public.
And turns out, all the laughs in the White House briefing room really add up. Politico's says current press secretary Robert Gibbs is putting his predecessors to shame. Looking at White House transcripts in the past four months, there were 600 moments of laughter when Gibbs was at the microphone, compared to 57 laughs for Dana Perino in her first four months, Scott McClellan cracked up 66, Tony Snow logged 217.
Now, it's also important to point out here, John, those transcripts don't distinguish always between the type of laughter -- nervous, funny, reporters laughing. There's a lot of laughs.
KING: I spent a lot of time in the briefing room over the years, not for Robert Gibbs, because that's not my day job any more. And I would agree, you can't always tell from the transcript whether it's "funny" funny...
KING: ... funny strange, tension. A lot of things happen in the room.
HILL: Yes, they do.
KING: Funny place.
Just ahead, why are these people flinging themselves -- look at this -- flinging themselves down a hill? What is it they're chasing? Anybody hurt? All the answers, just ahead. That's the "Shot." Plus, a rare look inside North Korea's notorious top-secret nuclear facility at Yongbyon. Christiane Amanpour reports "Notes from North Korea." It's the back story you need now more than ever.
KING: Erica, tonight's "Shot," cheesy shot, you might say, Gloucestershire, England. The town held its annual cheese rolling this week. What is cheese rolling, you ask? Well, that's why we have pictures. Take a look.
Pretty straightforward. Four races. Contestants chase an eight- pound roll down of double Gloucester cheese, an eight-pound roll down an incredibly steep hill. Rules are simple. Wow. The first one to the bottom gets to keep the cheese.
But it's not easy. It's not easy. The hill is so steep, very few people stay on their feet for very long.
HILL: Two hundred people competed. There are thousands showed up to watch. The BBC reported 58 people need medical treatment.
The tradition, in case you're wondering, dates back to at least 1826. It is always held at Cooper's Hill. Anderson may want to take note. Also, since 1988, according to the Web site of the event, the cheese has been handmade.
And they already have a countdown on for 2010, John, if you want to put it on your calendar. Three hundred 68 days to go until the big day.
KING: And contrary to what many of you are saying on the blogs right now, no, Anderson is not there. Not at Cooper's Hill. That's not where he's supposed to be.
I'm thinking maybe crash helmets?
HILL: I think helmets may not be a bad idea. Perhaps some padding would come in handy.
KING: I love cheese but...
HILL: Maybe not that much.
KING: Not that much, no.
HILL: That hill's pretty good for flip and flop.
KING: Up next, a 360 special presentation. Christiane Amanpour's rare look inside North Korean society, culture, and the secretive country's nuclear program.