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President Obama Names Supreme Court Pick; Interview With Presidential Adviser Valerie Jarrett: Why Judge Sotomayor Was Chosen; Supreme Court Nomination Battle Begins; North Korea Vs. the World; Rioters Protesting in India After Sikh is Murdered in Austria

Aired May 26, 2009 - 15:00   ET



RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): South Koreans take to the streets to protest the North's reported nuclear test estimated at 10 to 20 kilotons more than the last explosion.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I strongly condemn their reckless action.

SANCHEZ: What will the president do? What will the U.N. do? What will he do next for attention?

Riots, break out in India. We'll tell you who's squaring off this time and why.

The president makes his pick. And the Supreme Court nominee is a self-described New Eurikian (ph).

OBAMA: I've decided to nominate an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice, Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

SANCHEZ: A Latina who conservatives say will allow her feelings to stand in the way of basic fairness.

JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I find endless challenge in the complexities of the law.

SANCHEZ: Let the fight begin. But just how nasty will it got? News happening on several fronts during your national conversation, which begins right now.


SANCHEZ: And hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez with what we call the next generation of news. This is not -- this is a conversation, I should say. It is not a speech. And it's your turn to get involved.

We're awaiting a White House briefing to begin any moment now. And we're going to bring it to you as soon as it does. Obviously, there's a lot of stuff that they're going to be talking about, really two big issues today. In North Korea, what some are now describing as a 10- to 20-kiloton explosion has President Obama having to draw a line in the sand, while the president here at home drops his own bombshell today, announcing that the next Supreme Court candidate is a woman from the Bronx whose parents are from Puerto Rico. She is federal appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor.


OBAMA: Judge Sotomayor was nominated to the U.S. District Court by a Republican president, George H.W. Bush, and promoted to the Federal Court of Appeals by a Democrat, Bill Clinton.

Walking in the door, she would bring more experience on the bench and more varied experience on the bench than anyone currently serving on the United States Supreme Court had when they were appointed.

Judge Sotomayor is a distinguished graduate of two of America's leading universities. She's been a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator. She spend six years as a trial judge on the U.S. District Court, and would replace Justice Souter as the only justice with experience as a trial judge -- a perspective that would enrich the judgments of the court.

During her tenure on the district court, she presided over roughly 450 cases. One case in particular involved a matter of enormous concern to many Americans, including me: the baseball strike of 1994 and '95.


OBAMA: In a decision that reportedly took her just 15 minutes to announce -- a swiftness much appreciated by baseball fans everywhere...


OBAMA: ... she issued an injunction that helped end the strike. Some say that Judge Sotomayor saved baseball.


OBAMA: And even as she has accomplished so much in her life, she has never forgotten where she began, never lost touch with the community that supported her.

What Sonia will bring to the court, then, is not only the knowledge and experience acquired over a course of a brilliant legal career, but the wisdom accumulated from an inspiring life's journey.

It's my understanding that Judge Sotomayor's interest in the law was sparked as a young girl by reading the Nancy Drew series.


OBAMA: And that when she was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 8, she was informed that people with diabetes can't grow up to be police officers or private investigators like Nancy Drew. In essence she was told she'd have to scale back her dreams. Well, Sonia, what you've shown in your life is that it doesn't matter where you come from, what you look like or what challenges life throws your way, no dream is beyond reach in the United States of America.

And when Sonia Sotomayor ascends those marble steps to assume her seat on the highest court in the land, America will have taken another important step toward realizing the ideal that is etched about its entrance, equal justice under the law.

I hope the Senate acts in a bipartisan fashion, as it has in confirming Judge Sotomayor twice before, and as swiftly as possible, so that she can take her seat on the court in September and participate in deliberations as the court chooses which cases it will hear this coming year.


SANCHEZ: I want to introduce my two guests who are going to be taking us through this segment.

And, by the way, as we do so, I should let go ahead and get that picture up there that we have of Robert Gibbs' news conference that's coming up. Let's make that a little bigger, if we can. All right, there's the setting for it. And sometimes we take this. Sometimes we don't. Sometimes we take parts of it. Today, we're going to go full blow. And here's why.

The North Korea decision by the president is extremely important, and the world is watching to see what this president will do and say. So, expect some news on that front.

And also this decision to name Sotomayor as the next candidate or nominee for the Supreme Court is also considered in some circles to be hasty, if not controversial. She's being called an activist judge in some circles.

Here's who we're going to be talking to. We're going to be talking to Kenji Yoshino. Here's why he has a part in this story. He's an NYU law professor who has known her, Sotomayor, professionally for the past 10 years. And there you see A.B. Stoddard, who we have had in the past, who we talk to from time to time. She's a columnist who covers politics for the newspaper "The Hill."

This is going to be interesting, guys.

A.B., I guess you can interrupt yourself as soon as Robert Gibbs comes out.


SANCHEZ: But is -- could this thing get ugly? Are Republicans going to press this thing? And how big a problem might that be for them?

STODDARD: We should start by saying that President Obama definitely, barring something unforeseen at this point and quite dramatic, introduced to us today the next Supreme Court justice of the United States, without a doubt.

The Republicans do not have the numbers in the Senate to wage a filibuster that would be successful that could block her. So, unless something, like I said, comes out in the confirmation process that we don't know about now, she is going to make it through, no problem.

That said, they are going to wage a fight. They are going to engage in a healthy questioning of her past comments. You know she's been on tape in 2005 saying that the court of appeals is where policy is made, obviously, about her ruling in this controversial affirmative action case...


STODDARD: ... in Connecticut.

SANCHEZ: Yes, the firefighters of New Haven.

STODDARD: And they are already beginning. They want to reserve comment right now and talk about process. So, what you're hearing from Senate Republicans today is, we need a lot of time. This might not make -- we might not make the October deadline. We're going to take a long time to review her 400 court of appeals decisions, her -- I mean -- excuse me -- her 200 court of appeals decisions, her 400 district judge decisions.

And they're going to be combing over her long record. But you can expect that, in the coming weeks, we're going to hear a lot of criticism of Sotomayor from the Senate Republicans.

SANCHEZ: Professor, let me bring you into this.

You know, some Americans may be cautious about immediately accepting a Hispanic woman from the Bronx that -- simply because it's so different from what we have seen in those positions in the past. I think there have been, like, 110 justices, and the grand majority, grand majority, have been white guys.



SANCHEZ: What would you say to allay the fears of Americans who look at this and say -- hold your thought, professor. Let's see what Robert Gibbs says when he's probably asked the same thing. And we will come back to you on the other side.


Before we get going here, let me start with a couple of quick announcements. On his trip next week, the beginning of the trip, President Obama will make a visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. While there, the president will meet with His Majesty King Abdullah to discuss a range of important issues, including Middle East peace, Iran, and terrorism. That's the front end of the trip.


GIBBS: That would be -- we leave here -- I don't know all the time differences. We leave here the evening of June 2, so I guess that's the evening of June 3.


GIBBS: The president believes it's a chance to discuss a lot of important business, and he thought it was a good opportunity to do that.

QUESTION: Will that be the place (OFF-MIKE) outline the peace process he's going to try to reinvigorate in Cairo?

GIBBS: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Will that be the place where he will discuss the outlines of the possible peace proposal he might outline in the speech in Cairo?

GIBBS: Well, as I said last week, I think he's going to discuss elements of how to bring about peace in the Middle East. But the Cairo speech is not intended to lay out some detailed map for how one gets to that.

QUESTION: Is it something that can be all press included? Because last I heard, it was just pool.

GIBBS: That's something they're working on, though I -- the schedule that I have seen, I think, includes a dinner, an overnight, and then a fly to Cairo, so there's not a -- there's not a public -- there's not a public event at the -- at the stop.

Secondly, the president will release the 60-day cyberspace policy review report at the White House on Friday, May 29. The administration recognizes the very serious threats public- and private-sector networks face from cyber-crime and cyber-attack. Recognizing these threats, the president has elevated cybersecurity to a major administration priority, undertaken early, comprehensive interagency review.

The administration has also committed to establishing the proper structure within the government to ensure cybersecurity issues continue to receive top-level attention and enhanced coordination. The report is an important first step towards securing our nation's cyber-infrastructure.

And let me get organized. With those announcements... QUESTION: Thank you. Can you talk about the role that the president himself will play in the confirmation process going forward? Does he plan to visit with senators, talk with senators? What is his personal involvement going to look like?

GIBBS: Well, he has been on the phone -- was on the phone earlier this morning before the announcement of the pick talking to a few senators. I don't know exactly the number of calls he's made since then or whether he's going to continue to make calls.

Obviously, the president believes that he has put forward a very well-qualified individual with rich experience in a number of different areas and that the confirmation can be done in a timely way in order to ensure that this justice is in place for the next court's business.

QUESTION: Well, then, who -- who is the point person for making the case personally with the members of the Senate?

GIBBS: Well, obviously, starting next week, I think that you'll see the nominee go and make her case to members of the Judiciary Committee, and then to the Senate, members of the Senate, as a larger body.

QUESTION: Typically some Washington wise person from outside the administration is brought in to guide a nominee through the process.

GIBBS: Are you volunteering for...

QUESTION: No, no, no. But...

GIBBS: I -- I think that -- that Senator Schumer is going to play a role in doing that, as somebody who obviously has been around a number of court confirmations.

QUESTION: So - but Schumer, we know, is going to introduce the nominee...

GIBBS: As the senior senator...


GIBBS: ... I also think will help shepherd the nomination around, as well.

QUESTION: What does the president think is her greatest quality for the job?

GIBBS: Well, I think the president picked Judge Sotomayor largely based on three criteria, the first being experience, and when I say that, experience as a prosecutor, experience as a litigator, and then experience as both a circuit and an appellate court judge. In fact, we pointed out that she will bring more experience on the federal bench than anybody that's been appointed to the Supreme Court in 100 years.

I think, secondly, obviously, the president believes strongly in her approach to judging, following precedent and the rule of law.

And I think, lastly, obviously, the president believes that her life story is a compelling one and that her -- her voice will be an important addition to the Supreme Court.

QUESTION: Did she pay her taxes?

GIBBS: Pardon me?

QUESTION: Did she pay her taxes?

GIBBS: I have not seen anything on that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) schedule yet...


QUESTION: ... set up already?

GIBBS: Not that I know. I know that they'll...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) next week.

GIBBS: I was told they would begin next week. I don't know in what order they'll happen. And we'll get that to you as soon as they're locked in.

Obviously, some of that is dependent -- we've got to get a few of those -- Senate's out right now. We've got to get those guys back in order for her to go door to door.

QUESTION: Shifting quickly to -- to General Motors, can you say where things stand on the debt-exchange plan that's on the table? The bondholders seem very likely to reject that overwhelmingly. And is there a plan for a counteroffer?

GIBBS: Well, I don't -- as we've done both in the G. M. case and certainly in the lead-up to the deadline on Chrysler, I don't want to do that from here. I don't want to be a negotiator in this process.

Obviously, we are -- we've got about a week to go. Obviously, a lot of the stakeholders are making sacrifices. And I think this is a process that will continue, as it did in the Chrysler situation, right up against the deadline. But, again, I don't want to get into the back-and-forth on some of this.

QUESTION: If I could, just a quick question about North Korea.

GIBBS: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: What is the administration's goal other than some sort of piece of paper from the United Nations expressing disappointment with the nuclear bomb going off? What does the administration want to have happen concretely in terms of action?

GIBBS: Well, look, I think that the -- the Security Council is currently meeting. I think they're likely to discuss next steps as far as that goes. Let me -- though, let me address the initial part of your question.

I think the uniform and unified international criticism that we've seen since the reports of this testing demonstrate the outrage that countries around the world have for these actions. I think North Korea continues to deepen its isolation from the international community and continues, as we've said all along, to take steps in the wrong direction.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. You didn't answer my question.

GIBBS: Well, no. I would say I think the Security Council is involved in some of these discussions.

QUESTION: You don't want to tip your hat as to what you...

GIBBS: I don't want to get into -- yes.

QUESTION: OK. In terms of Judge Sotomayor, some of the conservative groups that have been involved in these fights in the past have said that she is radical, that she is a liberal activist, that she shows all indication that she wants to legislate from the bench. And I'm wondering what your response is.

GIBBS: Well, my sense is that they -- my sense is that that is based on the fact that they have get had -- have not had any time to read what she's written and the way she's acted as a judge for the previous 17 years. I don't think anybody could reasonably argue based on looking at her cases that she's somebody that legislates from the federal bench.

I think that is, in some ways, from interest groups, the rhetoric is, regrettably, predictable. I think a fair and honest hearing, which we believe that she'll get, will demonstrate somebody who understands and respects the law, somebody that honors and respects...

SANCHEZ: OK, here we go.

We have got other news that is developing right now, as a matter of fact. There's not a lot of news being made in that press briefing, which we expected there might.

Let's take you now to Minnesota. This is where there is a case of a young man whose -- there he is right now -- whose parents had taken him away from a clinic where he was supposed to be treated for cancer. This has been a huge controversy.

See if we can re-rack that, possibly, Dan. I know that this tape is just out. We're watching this raw with you. The tape is just now coming in to us. It's a story of a young man whose mother had chosen to fight his cancerous condition, not through medical means, but through other means. And she had taken him away.

It's a huge controversy now in that part of the state. We're going to be dipping into this from time to time. Let's see if we have got that picture once again. Just, it's -- the reason I want to show it to you, it's the first chance that we get to actually see him.

We're expecting there might be a decision on this within the next couple of minutes, and we're probably going to be able to take that, too.

All right, here it is. All right, there's the young man. This is the story that we have been following for you for quite some time now. We expect that there might be a decision on this. And the question really here is quite simple.

If you are a parent of a child, are you mandated to follow what the doctors are telling you they think will save your child's life, even if they say there's a chance that if you don't follow what they say, your child could expire, could die? What is the obligation, then, for a parent?

It's a case that could end up in the courts, or will, or has, and we're going to be on top of that. We expect that this might happen in just a little bit.

By the way, this decision to name Sonia Sotomayor as the -- possibly the next Supreme Court justice, a woman from the Bronx whose parents hail from Puerto Rico. We have got two guests lined up. Kenji Yoshino is an NYU law professor who has known her professionally for the past 10 years. He's going to bring us his update on this, or his -- his experiences with her as her friend and colleague. And also A.B. Stoddard is going to be joining us.

And we should tell you that Valerie Jarrett, perhaps the most influential of advisers to the president, is going to be joining me live in just a little bit as well.

So, there's a lot going on. Stay with us. We will be right back.


SANCHEZ: Here we go. This is this video that we were showing you just moments ago. We expect that a review hearing may have its decision in -- any moment now. In fact, it could happen within the next 10 or 15 minutes.

A 13-year-old cancer patient fled from Minnesota with his mother in an attempt to avoid chemotherapy. Colleen Hauser and her son Daniel were last seen in the hometown of Sleepy Eye. Now they're showing up for this hearing. He has Hodgkin's lymphoma. And, as most of you know, Hodgkin's lymphoma can be fatal.

If there's a -- if there's a ruling in this hearing, we're going to take you back to that decision any moment, or I should say as soon as the decision comes in, and break the news for you.

In the meantime, let's go back to our guests, the discussion having -- having a lot to do with Sonia Sotomayor.

Pardon me, guys, for putting you guys on delay here for a little while.

Let's go back to the professor.

Professor, let me restate my question to you.

Can you assure Americans, who might be uncomfortable with her, because they're simply unfamiliar with someone from the Bronx, who's a woman, who's from Puerto Rico, who's just very different from most of the justices that we have seen in the past, that she will be no different than many of them as far as how she judges?

YOSHINO: Well, I really think I can, Rick. So, thanks for the question and thanks for having me on.

I think, first of all, this is somebody who, let it be said, is a Yankees fans. So, that should reach Americans, first and foremost. Second of all, I think that she is someone who is a great American success story, in that this is someone who has touched the bottom of American society with one hand and the top of American society with the other.

She teaches us that anything is possible in this country. And that is what makes our country great. So, I really think that is going to be something that is very positive about her.

SANCHEZ: Doe it bother you when you hear the talk of her being perhaps an activist judge? I mean, I know that term gets bantered about an awful lot. I'm not frankly even sure what it means anymore, but both sides use it.


SANCHEZ: What does it mean to you?

YOSHINO: I think it means that somebody who just colors outside of the bounds of the law, who actually takes the law into their own hands and...


SANCHEZ: Does she do that? Do any judge do that, that you know?

YOSHINO: Actually, many judges do that whom I know. I would prefer not to name them. But she is certainly not one of them, in the sense that I have been sending clerks to her from both Yale Law School, where I used to teach, and NYU School of Law, where I now teach for over a decade.

And one of the reasons I send students to her is because she is such a judge's judge. She's not only a wonderful mentor to her clerks, but she has such deep respect for her own judicial role and for the rule of law.

SANCHEZ: A.B., one quick question to you before we go. I got Valerie Jarrett hanging out on the backside.

These quotes today from some of her critics saying that they're afraid that her feelings will get in the way in her ability to make decisions, what does that mean? Sounds sexist to me. STODDARD: Well, and that's what the Democrats are hoping, that it will appear sexist, and that -- that the Republicans will be on a fool's errand trying to run up against the first Latino woman justice to the Supreme Court.

But they are going -- this is going to be a major issue for their own base, a chance to really reengage. And they, like I said, really don't plan on blocking her. But they want to -- in the -- to quote one of them, who said to me on Friday, they really want to make the Democrats own this person, this empathetic -- quote, unquote -- you know, from President Obama, liberal judge.

And they are going to paint her as an activist, because she has been quoted in her own speeches and in her own comments as saying that her life -- her perspective plays a role when -- when she interprets the law. So, that's -- that is going to be -- they're going to look at her own record. And that's...

SANCHEZ: We -- we -- we -- by the way, and I should tell you and I should tell our viewers that we have that snippet, that controversial snippet, when she actually said something that is probably going to create fodder for her during the confirmation hearings as to whether judges interpret the law, make the law, or something in between.

And you're right. This is -- this is one of those stories where you have got to be real careful with the language you use when you're describing someone, because when you talk -- most of the women friends I have, including my wife, when you talk about women and you highlight the word feelings, that usually doesn't go over very well when comparing them intellectually to men, but we will see how -- we will see how this transpires.

My thanks to both of you.


SANCHEZ: All right, when we come back, Valerie Jarrett, arguably the most influential of the White House advisers, she's good enough to join us in just a little bit.

And you bet we're going to be talking about this decision to nominate Sonia Sotomayor to the highest court in the land.

Stay with us. We will be right back.


SANCHEZ: Valerie Jarrett is that influential person who works in the White House who usually doesn't get out in front of the cameras, but often makes very important decisions, or helps the president to make some of those important decisions. We've been wanting to talk to her for quite some time and she's good enough to join us here today.

Miss Jarrett, thanks so much for being with us. VALERIE JARRETT, ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT ON INTERGOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS AND PUBLIC LAISON: It's my pleasure. It's a very important day, I'm delighted to be with you.

SANCHEZ: Why "important day"?

JARRETT: Well, because the Supreme Court has a lot of power and set the laws of our country. And so, having the president announce justice -- Judge Sotomayor today is an important day and I'm here to talk about her and her extraordinary qualifications for the job.

SANCHEZ: Was there ever -- were you in on the meetings, by the way, with the president and other advisers to consider candidates including Sotomayor?

JARRETT: Of course, I participated in a lot of the discussions. But keep in mind that our president is a constitutional scholar. He taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. This is an area where he's very comfortable and in the end he made his own decision. And of course, we think he picked the absolute, most qualified person for the job.

SANCHEZ: Is this the person you had voted for as well?

JARRETT: It's the person who I quietly voted for on my own. I think that her track record, her career being a prosecutor, working in the private sector, doing complex litigation, being appointed first by President Bush to the district court, then by President Clinton to the appeals court as well as her track record as she's been on the bench are all exemplary.

Not to mention her life story. I think the president made it clear today, he was looking for someone who was very intelligent, who had intellectual rigor, but who also had life experiences that would prepare them for the kind of complicated decisions that come before the court.

All of that wrapped up into one is the judge that we have put forward today.

SANCHEZ: Was there any consideration -- was there any political consideration to perhaps pacifying some of those on the other side of the aisle and naming someone more moderate than Sotomayor?

JARRETT: The president was looking for the most qualified person that he could find, and that's who he selected. It wasn't a political decision. It wasn't based on anything other than the merits. He looked very hard at her record, her long track record, both in terms of, as I mentioned, being a prosecutor, in the private sector and on the bench. And when he compiled that entire career, he thought she was absolutely the best person for the job. That's it, simply put.

SANCHEZ: You said something interesting that piques my curiosity, and I know as one of the closest advisors to the president, you must have your finger on the pulse of this. Do -- does this president make most of his decisions without thinking of the policy -- political implications? And be honest with me, I mean I know you...

JARRETT: It's a very fair question.

Listen, the reason why I think he was elected and the reason why I think he's an outstanding president, is he makes every decision based on what he think is in the best interests of the American people. That's why he resonated so broadly around the country and his election was unprecedented. That's why he's been the outstanding president he has been over the course of the last several months. He puts the American people first. He does what he believes is right. And in the end I think that the politics follows.

SANCHEZ: But you can't be a purist in that way. There are times -- you know, Miss Jarrett, there are times when you have to make decisions or not make decisions because you just don't want to get the heat for that

For example, immigration reform is one of those real dicey, controversial issues that if the president was to step into that right now, he'd be called the guy who's for amnesty and this and that, and he's got a lot of other issues out there that he's got to weigh.

So, at the very least will you give me at least there's a weighing involved?

JARRETT: Of course, there's a weighing involved. He wants to make sure that he not only can make the right decision, but he can get things done.

He came into office with two wars, the global economy crumbling, a health care crisis, an energy crisis, a public education crisis. He's tackled an awful lot at one time. And now he has the Supreme Court vacancy come before him.

I think what we can count on is that every day President Obama's going to get up and he's going to work as hard as he can on behalf of the American people. Of course, there are weighings of priorities. But he has an enormous amount that's moving forward all at one time. And I think that's what the American people want. We can't pick and choose between health care and energy policy and public education and the economy. We have to have a president who can tackle everything at once, as much as possible and move the agenda forward. Does he prioritize? Of course, he prioritizes.

SANCHEZ: The influential Valerie Jarrett good enough to talk to us. We looked forward to having this conversation. I'm glad we had a chance to catch up.

JARRETT: Yes, good to see you as well.

SANCHEZ: I appreciate it.

JARRETT: Take care.

SANCHEZ: All right, now, that the president has made his choice for Supreme Court, critics have started making their voices heard. And you're going to hear from one of them. Ed Whelan is going to be joining us next, and he's going to tell us why he doesn't necessarily think that Sotomayor was the best pick.

And, oh, have we got some tape of Sotomayor that you will want to see, and she will probably wish you didn't. We'll explain. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: All right. Ed Whelan's going to be joining us here. We'll be talking about what's going on with this decision to nominate Sotomayor.

There's the video today of the president and the vice president along with Sonia Sotomayor going over to the podium to accept the nomination. We're going to play you a bit of that in a little bit, because it was -- it was very -- it was a very sentimental response that she provided. But there's something else I want to show you now as we follow this story.

A few minutes ago we showed you what the president said today. Now, we want to show you something she, Sotomayor said, in a panel discussion. I'm taking you back to Duke University. This is four years ago. Normally this kind of stuff doesn't see the light of air, but suddenly this becomes salient and news worthy.

Two reasons for this. First, you probably won't hear her saying much about her judicial philosophy until her confirmation hearings now, because they're going to be very careful, and the White House is going to make sure she's very careful.

Two, she says something when she's talking to students at Duke here that could come back to haunt her during the confirmation process.

See if you pick it up. Let's listen to it together.


SOTOMAYOR: If you're going in to academia, if you're going to teach or Judge Locero just said, public interest law, all of the legal defense funds out there, they're looking for people with Court of Appeals experience, because it is Court of Appeals is where policy is made. And I know, and I know this is on tape and I should never say that, because we don't make law, I know.


OK. I...


SANCHEZ: "Court of Appeals is where policy is made." Court of a -- I'm writing it down for myself, "Court of Appeals is where policy is made." Ed Whelan is a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and served as a deputy assistant attorney general in the administration of George W. Bush. Right now he's the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Ed, thanks so much for being with us.


SANCHEZ: How big a problem you think that's going to be for her? How big of a problem is it for you to hear her say those words, "Court of Appeals is where policy is made"?

WHELAN: Well, that one statement is one piece of a broader mosaic that President Obama himself has embraced when he says that he wants judges who will indulge their own values in deciding what the law means. That was the standard he set forth. I think he's abided by that standard, carried through on his threat in picking Sonia Sotomayor and we see that in the prepared speech she's given talking about how the fact that she's a Latina, will and should affect her judging. We've seen that in a decision that's now in review by the Supreme Court, where she threw out, and indeed, tried to bury the claims of white firefighters that they'd been discriminated against on the basis of race because they weren't subjects of her empathy.

SANCHEZ: Well, let me ask you a question about that. That's interesting, cause I was reading up on - you served or helped or worked with or for Antonin Scalia, right?

WHELAN: I was a law clerk for him for one year, yes.

SANCHEZ: He's considered a textualist, right? A guy that goes by the literal definition of whatever the Constitution and the law says.

WHELAN: Textualist and originalist, yes.

SANCHEZ: Is he really? I mean, when he decided, for example, that -- and this is not to get on Scalia. I'm just trying to say we're talking about a lot of gray matter here. And when you say, for example, that -- when you suggest, for example, that because she's a Latina, that many of her thought processes come through the prism of who she is as a Latina, can't you say the same thing about the 108 white men who were Supreme Court justices before her? Didn't all their decisions come through the prism of white guys and how they think?

WHELAN: Rick, what I said about her wasn't my words, those were her words about herself. Look, the role of a judge...

SANCHEZ: But isn't she just being honest when she says that? Wouldn't you -- couldn't I argue, and I'm just curious here -- and I'm not a lawyer. So, I'm trying to -- trying to -- I'm curious. Couldn't we argue that a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant male who were the majority of the judges for 100 years made their decisions based on the fact that they were white Anglo-Saxon Protestant males?

WHELAN: Look, everyone has biases. The traditional understandings of what is a judge to is protect against your own passions and your own biases. What Judge Sotomayor is doing is coming up with excuses to indulge them.

So I think this is dramatically different from the traditional understanding of the role of a judge. And when we look, for example, at what judges have done in the past, we can see those who readily indulge their own biases and those who don't. So, I think there is a dramatic difference.

And again, the problem with the empathy standard is that President Obama and Sonia Sotomayor are coming up with justifications for indulging their own subjective senses of empathy rather than saying objectively what the law means.

SANCHEZ: Would you be able to prove that? If you were called to the senate confirmation hearing, would you be able to prove that she's allowed her -- that she's indulged in her empathy and let it cloud her view of the law?

WHELAN: Rick, she said in her own words that that's how it should be, so I think that's sufficient proof. And then again, I mentioned this firefighters' case where she buried the claims of white firefighters that they'd been discriminated against on the basis of their race. There was another Clinton appointee, another Hispanic judge, Judge Hibrans, that wrote a withering disent from the denial of rehearing on...

SANCHEZ: Oh, no, look, I'm familiar. We did this story. We did this story here on this show twice. And there's obviously a questionable decision there. I obviously don't want to get into the legal dicta of it. It would take a while.

WHELAN: It's shenanigans, though. It's beyond a procedural question. It's procedural shenanigans being unfair to the litigants in front of her. It's not a matter of abiding by the rule of the law and treating people with fairness, she tried to bury her claims.

SANCHEZ: Ed, you know what? I really enjoyed my conversation with you. I thought it was intellectually stimulating, if nothing else. I appreciate you.

WHELAN: Thank you, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Al right, we're going to be talking about North Korea with Jim Clancy - he's to the right over here to the right of me - in a little bit. Talking about intellectual stimulation, what's going on? What can the president possibly do when it comes to North Korea? And what's the potential of this 10 to 20-kiloton explosion in North Korea becoming a crisis for the United States and the United Nations? We need to talk about that. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: OK, we're moving fast. Trying to. We took up so much time with that Robert Gibbs' news conference which provided so little.

The president of the United States has a potential foreign relations crisis on his hands. North Korea says it has fired off an estimated 10 to 20-kiloton bomb. I can't show you the reaction, because it was underground. But I can show you the reaction to it from people.

Now, this video comes in to us from Seoul. This is about an hour from the border. Let's look at it together. Let's go ahead.

All right, we'll stay -- as you watch this video, you need to know why the South Koreans are so upset. They say they are not safe. You need to know why President Obama calls North Korea reckless. And you also need to know why diplomats are picturing a full-blown crisis with that country.

And now we hear of two more missiles today, short-range missiles. That's what North Koreans reportedly shot into the sky, two short- range missiles. This is either a legitimate test launch or either way North Korea is sticking its middle finger up to the rest of its world. You know what we mean by that. The sign of defiance as some call it. Our ambassador to the United Nations says, look, this is unacceptable.


SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: North Korea's actions over the last several days are provocative and destabilizing and do pose a threat to international peace and security. That's why you heard the entire international community yesterday, from various capitals and from the Security Council, come out swiftly, forcefully and in unity to condemn this. And we agreed yesterday that we are going to pursue in the Security Council a new resolution, a strong resolution, with teeth. Now, those teeth could take various different forms. They are economic levers. They are other levers that we might pursue.


SANCHEZ: Jim Clancy is a veteran international correspondent who anchors his own daily show on CNNi, and Doug Bandow is here from the Cato Institute. He's good enough to join us. He's written books about the Koreas and our relationships with them.

Gentleman, let's start with this. Let's start looking at some of these pictures once again. Put up the pictures, if you can, Dan (ph). These people say they are afraid. They're afraid that they're going to get nuked by this "crazy leader," as some have referred to him, in North Korea.

Is it safe to say that they are unsafe, and this is a real threat? Or, is this just another one of this guy's bluffs?

JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it is a real threat to the South Koreans, but they're already within 20 seconds of artillery from the north.

SANCHEZ: Of being annihilated. CLANCY: Right there in Seoul. Yes, well, I mean, heavy damage. But, no, it's a greater threat to them.

At the same time, it's a threat to me and to you, because North Korea is a major weapons proliferator. They sell the missiles to Pakistan. They sell the missiles to Iran. And they're hungry, they're angry and they could sell a nuclear weapon to another state. Or even to a terror group.

SANCHEZ: You know, Doug, at what point do you say to Kim Jong- Il, look, no more bluffs? You do it again, we're taking action? And here's the -- I guess here's the $60,000 question to you -- if you do decide to take action, what action? What can we do to this guy?

DOUG BANDOW, SENIOR FELLOW, CATO INSTITUTE: You see, that's the whole problem. It's a nasty regime. It's probably, you know, the worst government on Earth. We don't have any good options. I mean, a military strike against the North could easily trigger a war. Seoul is well within artillery and SCUD missile range so, you know, you could have South Korea ruined as well as North Korea.

SANCHEZ: But you can't let them make a 10 to 20-kiloton bomb, right?

BANDOW: Well, he already has the nuclear materials. The point is he has no way to put it on a missile. He doesn't have the capability to project it anywhere. And he's not suicidal. He's evil, he's not suicidal.

The problem here is, what do you want to do? You know, the real key is China. China provides food and, you know, oil, energy. The question is, is China willing to go along with tougher steps?

SANCHEZ: China is on the record saying, look, they're truly upset at the North Koreans. They not defending them by any stretch of the imagination.

BANDOW: Absolutely, but are they willing to do anything? And that's the challenge. A month ago, after the missile test, we came up with a nonbinding resolution.

SANCHEZ: So you're saying - so - go ahead, Jim.

CLANCY: We're sitting here, we're back to, let's have China do it. Let's have the six-party talks. Let's go to the U.N. Security Council. Rick, none of this has worked. The U.S. needs to sit down one on one with the Korean leadership and convince them that we know you're hungry. We know you're angry, but look you've got to stop...

SANCHEZ: Madeleine Albright did that to what avail?

CLANCY: But, you've got to convince them to stop making missiles, stop making nuclear weapons and start making something we can sell in the aisles of Wal-Mart.

SANCHEZ: Maybe then their people would be happy, after all. CLANCY: Then they would have -- you know, there's got to be a way out of this.

SANCHEZ: Out of time. My thanks to you.

CLANCY: All right.

SANCHEZ: My thanks to Doug. We're going to be right back. We appreciate you.

By the way, Joe Sestak joins us now. Admiral/Congressman with his view of the North Korean crisis.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez, here at the world headquarters of CNN.

A 10 to 20 kiloton bomb has a way of getting the world's attention. Certainly it gets the attention of the President of the United States. Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania is good enough to join us now. Former admiral -- I guess once you're an admiral, you stay an admiral, right?


SANCHEZ: Yes. Hey, you know what's interesting about this situation with the North Koreans? I just listened to Robert Gibbs a little while ago and it doesn't sound like the administration really has a plan.

Can you fathom some kind of plan to deal with this? Because it seems every single president goes through this scenario.

SESTAK: You're right.

I don't think we've in come with an exact consensus. Either in the administration or with Congress of how to approach this. And so we should take advantage of what has to be a tactical pause right now because internally, North Korea is going through a pretty tough political succession process to where the leader is trying to have one of his three sons take over.

And the military, Rick, if you've noticed over the past three months, totally different than the past decade, is actually out in front with very strong belligerent statements. It's actually executed a person who was involved in some of the reapproachment over the past year or two. And it's moved the former chief of staff of its army to the western border to be in charge of its forces.

So people are playing for influence over the next four to five months. So what the president, I would recommend should do, is to work with China. I'm not opposed to direct negotiations. But China has similar goals as us. But different priorities.

We both don't want a nuclear North Korea. They're more worried about too much pressure on North Korea and refugees overflowing their border. Well now, all of a sudden, it's a little more concerned, I believe, about South Korea or Japan pursuing a nuclear capability. He needs to use this leverage to move China to our priority as well as our goal.

SANCHEZ: Does this guy scare you? I mean is this guy truly a nut job or is he acting like a nut job? And if he is a nut job, how do you deal with someone like that? Unstable?

SESTAK: You know, I don't think there's hardly anyone in America that really knows the answer to your question. But, my assessment would be that he's not a true nut job. My assessment is he's playing wisely for his third son, Kim Il Un (sic) to be powerful.

And we know right now, Rick, they have several hundreds, thousands of missiles that can cover all of South Korea. Those two missiles they shot yesterday, or today, only goes 80 miles. They have ones that go a couple hundred miles that can cover all South Korea.

So, what they did in that case isn't that important. What's real important here is, can we get China, Japan, South Korea on the same priority and that priority for us is no proliferation of the technology because they are years away from miniaturizing a warhead to make into a missile which you have seen twice, in the longer term attempts have failed.

It's got to be waiting for this succession to end and then we have someone to deal with and that has to be under U.S. leadership, not China's.

SANCHEZ: That's interesting because it may be at least signs of that possibly happening we're seeing for the very first time in the harsh reaction that we're seeing from the Chinese, toward the North Koreans. I'm sure a reaction that you at this point, Congressman, embrace.

Thank you sir, for taking time to talk to us once again.

SESTAK: Good to be back, Rick. Thanks.

SANCHEZ: We've got rioting and we've got destruction in India, after a Sikh guru was shot to death at a temple. And we've got the video and we're going to let you see it uninterrupted. It's pretty crazy.


SANCHEZ: We tell you throughout this newscast about all the problems in the world. Look at this. This is a mess -- it's India. And look what crowds of people are doing in the streets of Punjab. They're rioting, smashing bus windows, setting trains on fire, fighting police. I'll tell you why in a second. First, watch the video for yourself.

(VIDEO OF PROTESTORS RIOTING IN INDIA) SANCHEZ: These are mostly ethnic Sikhs. They're reacting to some unbelievable news that a Sikh cleric was murdered in Austria, of all places, and killed by other Sikhs. Indian police say at least three people died fighting police and each other, just yesterday.

A lot of news today. Glad we have a chance to get it all in for you. Taking you now to the "SITUATION ROOM." Wolf Blitzer, back from a three-day leave -- Wolf.