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John King, USA

The Next Supreme Court Justice; Arizona Lawmakers Get Creative; Interview With Sen. Jeff Sessions

Aired April 21, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: New details tonight of the president's Republican outreach on immigration reform and new talk from the president tonight on the issue of middle class taxes.

But our "Lead" is the Supreme Court and you -- as the Court considers some big cases, one of them is your government and your e- mail. Are your text messages and your e-mails governed by any privacy rights and does the current Court have a disconnect with the technology that so dominates our lives?

We'll also go "One-on-One" tonight with the Republican who has the biggest say in the president's next pick for the Supreme Court. Senator Jeff Sessions will join us. We'll ask him does he have a litmus test as the president prepares to make that big choice?

In "Wall-to-Wall" tonight, you won't want to miss this, how did the government redesign the Benjamin. There's a new $100 bill and it's designed to defeat the counterfeiters. A lot of fun, you'll want to see that.

And in my "Radar" tonight, the latest on financial reform, a big meeting of Republicans tonight to decide the way forward and again we'll also listen to the president talk about how he thinks you can reduce the deficit without raising middle class taxes.

Many Americans think their government is broken, doesn't understand their day to day lives. We have those conversations often in the context of our elected officials, the president, the Congress, maybe your governor or your mayor, but what about the Supreme Court? It is after all the final arbiter on some pretty big questions. Abortion rights is one and as the president searches for a new Supreme Court justice, he said something interesting on that front today, going a bit beyond what is customary.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's going to be something that's very important to me, because I think part of what our core Constitution -- constitutional values promote is the notion that individuals are protected in their privacy and their bodily integrity, and women are not exempt from that.


KING: We'll look closely at the president's remarks, including a conversation with the top Republican who met with Mr. Obama at the White House today. But first the current Court and the big issues it is deciding, like this, if you have one or two of these and that phone or BlackBerry is issued by your employer, do you have any privacy protections when you send a personal e-mail or a text message?

The Court's decision will affect millions of Americans, but will it be written by justices who have any understanding of how much technology is changing our daily lives. During oral arguments, Chief Justice John Roberts asked this: What's the difference between the pager and the e-mail? And both Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia seemed surprised to hear that text messages are recorded in a computer server.

You mean it doesn't go right to the other thing, Justice Scalia asked. There was laughter in the Court when he asked that. But is it funny and is it relevant now as this young president, a president who insisted on keeping his BlackBerry gets another chance to reshape a court whose average age is just shy of 69 years olds.

Before we get to President Obama's search for a new justice and his criteria, let's talk about the big issues before the current Court and whether the justices are shall we say plugged in enough to the technologies reshaping all of our lives. With me tonight Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Rachel Brand who was White House counsel and helped select federal judges during the George W. Bush administration and in Boston, the Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree who was a mentor for both Michelle and Barack Obama.

Let me start with a simple question, Congresswoman, to you first. As you watched this from the Congress, is it relevant that the justices, they don't -- they're not issued BlackBerrys by the Court? Most of them, most of them still write their decisions out on long form. They don't have these pagers. Is that relevant in terms of the president talks sometimes about an empathy test? Do they understand average Americans? Do you think they do?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: I do. I think they surround themselves with people who -- with clerks who help keep them informed just like members of Congress surround ourselves with staff that have expertise. I don't think per se it's relevant whether or not Justice Scalia knows what a text message is.

And what is important and is relevant is that in Congress we're updating the laws to meet the technology that we're capable of utilizing today so that we can ensure that when the Supreme Court does have to rule, that the law is applicable to the facts and that's what I think is incredibly important, but, you know, any policymaker or a justice on the Supreme Court isn't going to know everything. And it's important that they be able to surround themselves with people who can bring them up to speed on the issues that they're making decisions on.

KING: Rachel, you were a clerk on this Court. You obviously -- then also went into the Executive Branch, two very different worlds when it comes to the use of technology. Is it your sense, as the congresswoman says, do the justices, if they have to make these decisions, do they understand whether it's a working mother or a police officer whose hours may get extended by a sudden crime, may have to use that work device to send a personal note. Can they understand the challenge?

RACHEL BRAND, FORMER G.W. BUSH W.H. COUNSEL: You know they may not understand the ins and outs of the technology, but they'll know enough, they'll learn enough to decide the case. They're not going to be able like the congresswoman said to experience the facts of every case that comes before them. When I clerked there was a case about taxation of types of gambling in Iowa, they didn't have to go out and gamble in a river in Iowa to decide that case, so they'll learn the facts. They'll learn the law and they'll be able to make a decision.

KING: And Professor Ogletree, in your sense you have been a professor at Harvard Law School, your students have included Barack Obama sometime ago, you have lived this in the classroom, the evolution of technology in our lives, how important is it, if the Court is the final arbiter of our society, there are 400 million users worldwide on Facebook, none of the current Supreme Court justices has a Facebook page. It's the third most populated country. If you took the Facebook universe, it's the third most populated country next to China and India. Do the justices need some technology training, some modern day training in your sense?

PROF. CHARLES OGLETREE, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: I don't think so. The Supreme Court is the Jack and Jill of all trades and really know a lot about a lot of topics. And I think about I'm not on Facebook, but I get information everyday from people on Facebook. I think this Court -- any Court that we've seen is very smart in hiring people like law clerks who have a lot of contact. They'll read information.

They'll be well prepared. I don't think you'll see even an ounce of lack of knowledge about what to do. And I think they'll do the right thing analyzing these cases about tweeting, twitters, about text messages, about e-mail. They know what the law requires, what the Constitution permits. I don't think there will be any barrier to those decisions.

KING: Rachel, when you look at that particular case, it's called Ontario vs. Kwan (ph). Is it a ground breaking privacy case? There's a written policy that police officers get, they're essentially told the government owns this and anything you do (INAUDIBLE) the government, but their take is that you know they've also been told that in the rush of their job you can do so -- you know if you have to send a family message and they want that to be private. Is it ground breaking or is it pretty straight forward?

BRAND: It will all depend on how the Court decides it. If they decide expansively, it could be ground breaking, but not necessarily. It really depends on where they decide to go.

KING: And in terms of the Congress often reacts to what the Court says, if we don't like that or we do like that and we're going to write statutes, how much of that comes up in your own life and then you take it to work in the Congress in the terms of as technology changes our lives how many laws do you think you need to go back into and say look this is different, we do it different now?

SCHULTZ: Well I mean as a representative, I can tell you just the way I look at things like that is it's very different. When I type an e-mail on my BlackBerry to my child's teacher, that should be treated I think very differently than when I have a correspondence with a colleague or with a member of my staff. They all happen on the same technological device. The question is, is whether or not my child's teacher's e-mail is private. And I think that's an appropriate area for us to legislate. I know as a mom, I would want to make sure that my personal communication about my own child would remain private.

KING: What is your sense, Professor Ogletree, of the biggest issue before this current Court? We're going to talk in a minute about the president's choice in trying to reshape the court, but as you look at this current Court, the privacy decisions, the big First Amendment decisions this Court has made in expanding it, what do you look for between now and the end of the term that you think is a significant opportunity for this court to perhaps put its last imprint on American society before it's changed.

OGLETREE: I think the big issue is still going to be national security, you know how much power should the Executive Branch have, how much power does Congress have. And this Court with conservative majority has been pretty clear about giving the Executive Branch and Congress some discretion to make sure things go forward. So I think that's going to be the big issue, even though there will be a lot of cases like the animal cruelty cases, cases about technology and privacy. But I think the real issue is going to be how far can the government go in protecting its citizens without violating the rights of individuals? I think that's going to be the recurring issue for this Court and the next as well.

KING: We'll continue this conversation in a moment, including comparing what the president said today about abortion to what other presidents said in the past, but before we take a look here's our look behind the numbers on Wall Street today. The Dow industrials closed slightly higher today. The real headline though is the combined first quarter profits of the nation's six biggest banks -- $18.7 billion -- with a B -- in just three months.


KING: President Obama keeps dropping little hints, not big hints, but little hints about who he might nominate for the Supreme Court. Back again to discuss this big choice, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, former Bush White House counsel Rachel Brand and Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree. I want to go through a litany of listening to president's talk about the issue that always comes up; every president is asked will you ask the candidates about their views on abortion rights. And every president says no, I would never specifically ask that question. But they always do give hints about their beliefs. Let's go back in time. Here is a then young President Bill Clinton in early 1993 asking -- answering the question do you have a litmus test on abortion.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not ask any potential Supreme Court nominee how he or she would vote in any particular case. I will not do that. But I will endeavor to appoint someone who has certain deep convictions about the Constitution and I strongly believe in the constitutional right to privacy.


KING: And so there's your hint. He strongly believes in the constitutional right to privacy. That tells you where he is anyway. Now let's listen to George W. Bush, this is July 2005. Read into this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will be no litmus test. I'll pick people who one, can do the job, people are honest, people are bright, and people who will strictly interpret the Constitution and not use the bench to legislate from.


KING: Strictly interpret, not legislate. That is the conservative code for he doesn't think the word abortion or the right to privacy is in the Constitution. Now listen to President Obama today who sounded a bit like President Clinton but went a bit further.


OBAMA: I want somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women's rights. And that's going to be something that's very important to me because I think part of what our core Constitution -- constitutional values promote is the notion that individuals are protected in their privacy and their bodily integrity and women are not exempt from that.


KING: Rachel, you've been through this process. And you've studied the other guys when they make the process, protected in their privacy and their bodily integrity. Have you ever heard a president use those words before?

BRAND: No. And my question is how will the president determine whether the nominee believes the same way that he does, because during the hearing, the nominee is not going to want to answer any questions that would say how he or she would decide the case if it came before the Court. And therefore, a president doesn't ask the nominee those questions.

If the president says do you think there's a right to abortion in the Constitution, then it's going to be fair game for the Senate to ask the nominee the same question which the nominee will not want to answer. So the president has to look for other ways of finding that out besides asking it straight out.

KING: Now there are some fans of transparency who wish all these questions were inbound. Why not?

SCHULTZ: Well because I think it's inappropriate to ask potential Supreme Court justices direct questions. Because they -- that takes away essentially their neutrality, if they're deciding where they would come down before a case is in front of them. I think President Obama is going to be able to discern. He's already demonstrated his ability to nominate a very qualified person with a lot of legal -- incredibly important legal experience who has made those kinds of decisions. Individual rights is and the rights of privacy is something that he'll talk to each potential nominee about and that's appropriate.

KING: Professor Ogletree, you not only graded his papers but you've talked to him as president, so your former student who is now the president, when he uses words like that and more broadly, when he looks at this decision, take us inside what you know he thinks about.

OGLETREE: Well this is breaking news right now, John. Let me tell you this, Barack Obama is a Democrat. He's a liberal. He believes in the woman's right to choose. All of those things are Barack Obama. He has been that way as long as he's been alive. It says nothing about who he's going to pick or who he thinks will be qualified.

He's telling us as he's told us over and over and over again his views. He will not as no president in my knowledge has ever asked a candidate about their views on specific issues. On the other hand, I think the Senate has an opportunity, an obligation responsibility to ask those tough questions even though the candidate may not answer them. They make their vote based on what the candidates say. But President Obama didn't say anything unusual. It's a slow news day when you're saying Obama the liberal Democrat said he believes in a women's right to choose -- come on John --

KING: No, I know --


KING: I know he believes in the woman's right to choose and you know that's a factor in his thinking --

OGLETREE: Absolutely --

KING: -- but I've never heard a president --

OGLETREE: -- but it will not have a factor --

KING: -- answer to that question --

OGLETREE: I think it's good.

KING: Most presidents would shut it down. OGLETREE: I think that's good. That's perfect. I think he's having the conversation that we should have as a country, but you can't say or imply oh, Obama is going further than any president in the nation's history in telling us who he's looking for, for a candidate. You know what -- the reality is most of the people he's looking for and thinking about have never even decided a case or been on the bench deciding a case about a woman's right to choose or not even are judges.

So it's a throw-away question. It will generate 24 hours of news, but when you see his nominee, you'll say I don't know how he or she fits that question or whether that really is the question that President Obama's concerned about. I think it's other things that the Executive Branch is concerned about and I think that his nominee will reflect the other things that are important to him but won't be a litmus test.

KING: I just want to say as close the segment, we don't take sides here, but I'm always on the record for presidents saying more not less about what they're thinking. I would say that. Professor Ogletree --


KING: Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, Rachel Brand, thanks so much for coming in tonight. In a little bit, I'll go "One-on-One" with the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. We'll see what Jeff Sessions thinks about the next Supreme Court nominee.

But up next, high tech hundred, we'll go "Wall-to-Wall" to show you how the government is trying to fool the counterfeiters.


KING: In "Wall-to-Wall" tonight coming soon to a bank or a Vegas ATM near you, a new $100 bill, the government trying to fight the counterfeiters who like to copy our $100 bill. Let's take a look at Ben Franklin here, this is the new bill. And let me use some arrows to show you some of the new features -- look at this blue strip in the middle.

I'll show you in a bit just how this works. But when they tilt it, it's 3-D, the blue strip here. Also look here at this ink well right here. I'll show you when -- in just a minute just how that works, but that's new to this feature. Look at more colors on the bill here as well and if you pull out a bill right now any bill you have, you'll see the Treasury secretary signature over here. On the new bill look at that -- the signature has moved over to this side.

So let's clear the screen of the new Ben Franklin. Let's hit clear that and get that to clear and then we'll bring you to the back of the bill here. All right, let's get these arrows out of the way -- doesn't want to work -- there we go. Here's some new security features on the back as well. This is the most striking one here if you look at this bill, the colors. If you look at the current money you have, there's not so much color in the bill. This is all designed again so you can take a closer look under the light to see what's real and what's fake. A bigger image here of the Independence Hall, all of these features added because counterfeiters with all the new copying technology we have these scanned, they copy these and they make them especially overseas. This is what you see here. Let's go to the magic wall and take a closer look -- we will show you some of the features of the new $100 bill and how it matches up with some of our other currency.

Again here's what we talked about, here's what the new bill will look like when it's in circulation. And now let's show you some of those features. So you get this bill -- you are not sure is this real or not -- you use a light table. You can check it out. You can tilt it under a light. Watch how this plays out -- you see some of these features if you give it the light -- let me stop for one second.

You see the color code come out here. You see the 100 number is highlighted. You come further across you see a water mark coming up on this side of the bill. Inside this ink well, there's the Liberty Bell, crack and all right in there. If you come on over further, again, more colors in the bill. So if you tip it under the light, you get a sense, the real deal or a counterfeit. Now let's take that off and let's match this up with some other bills.

You've seen all these bills change recently, the 100 is the last bill to be changed in the cycle. They have bigger pictures on the front, more details on the back. If you pull this out, you look here at the $50 bill, Ulysses S. Grant has got a little red in here and you see it. You see the colors as well.

Water marks are different on all the new bills (INAUDIBLE). Down in here, you see more color here as well, the torch of the Statue of Liberty. Colors on the 10, all again so you can tilt them under the light to see what's real and what's not. Now how do these things work? Here's how the cycle works when you create a new bill.

First you have to design it, then it goes to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and they print it. Then it goes into circulation, you spend them. That's what they're for and then eventually they wear out. The average lifespan of a $100 bill is about seven and a half years. Keep them in good shape if you've got them. And one more thing, who is involved in all of this?

Well it is the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. They determine how many of these do we need, how long do they circulate. It is the Department of the Treasury, that's why his signature is on there, they design them and print them up, but it is these guys here, the United States Secret Service, they are on the prowl around the world, not just here in America, around the world looking for the counterfeiters.

So as we end, let's head back over here and look at the Secret Service has a special counterfeiting lab and they go back years. If you visit it, it's fascinating; you can go back dozens of years and look at old bills and how they've been copied over the years and you see here one of the inspectors and they go through all these case files, as you see, and you'll see the real deal and you'll see some great copies.

And again, in recent years, because of all the new color copies, all of the evolution in our technology, their task is so much harder which is one of the reasons they have asked, and they'll be in your pocket soon, to redesign them all, including the Benjamin.

Up next, I go "One-on-One" with Senator Jeff Sessions; his reaction to the president's upcoming Supreme Court nominee will say a lot about how big of a fight we expect come confirmation time.


ANNOUNCER: It's time to go "One-on-One".

KING: Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama is the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will pass judgment of course on President Obama's upcoming nominee for the United States Supreme Court. The senator's tone and his take on that nominee will go a long way in determining whether the president makes the sale.

That got him an invitation to the White House this morning and an invitation to go "One-on-One" with us tonight -- Senator, welcome.


KING: The president invites you down. He's trying to say I'm going to reach out to everybody, Democrats and Republicans. Did he give you any hints on who he's going to pick?

SESSIONS: No, he didn't. He said that he considered a number of these nominees before. He felt like he knew them and some new ones were added to the list and that's about where he said he was in the process.

KING: Any discussion of names back and forth?

SESSIONS: No, no names were mentioned.

KING: Did he say to the ranking Republican, Senator Sessions, is there anybody on my list who you know of that you would say absolutely positively not, Mr. President. Did he ask you that question?

SESSIONS: No, he didn't. He did say that of course he was open, if we felt that we wanted to call and discuss any of the matters further, he would be delighted to talk with us about it, which I thought was a nice offer. You know he gets to the point. The president gets to a point. We have to objectively evaluate it. And it's the only opportunity the American people have -- have any real play in the process when their elected representatives review the president's choice. And it's a serious responsibility and I think it was a nice meeting today.

KING: As we wait for the choice, let's not dwell on names but let's focus on what you think the country needs right now. One of the interesting things that always comes up is do you pick a judge, do you pick someone with judicial experience, do you pick a prosecutor, do you pick an everyday American or maybe a politician. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, Democrat of Nevada, came out of the White House and he has always been one to say go outside of the world of robes, if you will. Let's listen to Senator Reid.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I hope that we have someone who is not a circuit court judge. I personally feel it should be someone who is an academic, someone who has held public office, someone who is an outstanding lawyer. And the president said that he'll take that into consideration. I felt very, very good about the meeting.


KING: So the Democratic leader felt good. The Republican -- ranking Republican feels goods. I want to put up a picture, a class photo of the current Supreme Court. Justice John Paul Stevens, of course will be leaving and you see Justice Stevens here. How important -- you're a former state attorney general; you're a former federal prosecutor. You were considered once for a federal judgeship yourself and had a hard time in your confirmation hearing and I know you try to put that one behind you.

When you look at this picture, how important is it in this day and age, people say the Court should look like America or you've sparred with the president a little bit when he uses what you call the empathy test, the Court should understand America. What factors when you look at this Court, one could argue, for example, as you look at the picture there are no Asian Americans on this Court? Should there be an Asian American on the Supreme Court?

SESSIONS: I don't think that should be the primary thing. I don't think the ethnicity or the background of an individual should be the primary thing when they're selected to the Court. Really, it requires good judgment. I believe a good judge has to have real experience in the legal world. They don't have to be a judge, but I don't think we want a politician. We don't want somebody who has been maybe a part- time lawyer and a politician, and that kind of thing. I think we want somebody who has been experienced arguing before judges, practicing law, or actually serving on a bench and they have a record. And that they're good at it. People -- some people are better than others at this business, just like any other. And I think we can select people who are really good at it.

KING: But is diversity at all a priority for you, in the sense of whether it is somebody's race, whether it is their religion or their gender, sexual orientation. Are any of those factors in your mind in whether somebody is qualified or not qualified?

SESSIONS: I think that can be a factor, a positive factor for somebody, certainly. I really do. And I don't object to a president or someone seeking to try to have diversity in a court. But the most important thing is, and it cannot be that just because this person fills an unfilled ethnic position, so to speak, that they are not, therefore, accountable for their judicial philosophy or their skill or their background. That simply cannot be. And I don't think that's what any of the nominees would want. I think they would feel that they should be judged by the same rigorous standards anybody else would be judged by.

KING: Let's talk about some other big legal issues in the country that could well end up before the United States Congress. One is immigration reform. The president has started calling -- he's called a handful of Republicans in recent days, trying to test whether he would have any Republicans to stand with him if they tried to push comprehensive immigration reform that included some sort of legal status for millions in this country illegally. Would you be prepared to let that happen this year or would Republicans fight the president?

SESSIONS: Well, I opposed the last comprehensive bill. I thought it was just utterly unworkable, unprincipled, and would not do what they promised it would do.

So the question is what is in it? Yes, we need to reform our system. Yes, we need to make it serve our national interest. I would like to see a system much more like Canada's, for example. We can do those kinds of things. But if it's simply going to be another political program hatched up by secret meetings promoting special interests, I'm not for that. And so I would be worried about the nature of the bill that we might see.

KING: The committee also overlooks election laws in the country. The state of Arizona, the House of Representatives has passed a piece of legislation that would require candidates for president to show the state a birth certificate before they could be put on the ballot. Now, it still has to go through the senate, so there's no certainty that this would actually become the law. But do you want that happening from state to state around this country?

SESSIONS: What's wrong with that? I mean, I don't know that there's anything wrong with saying you're supposed to be a citizen, so I don't know there would be a problem to produce a birth certificate. If you didn't have one, I guess you could explain why you didn't, but I don't see a problem with that.

KING: Is there any problem with doing it on a state by state basis? Is that up to the states, or do you think there should be some sort of a national requirement or something like that?

SESSIONS: Well, you know, that's an interesting legal question. I don't know if the states have the authority to do that or not. I guess they could -- are attempting to say they are, that you can't be on our ballot unless you do that. So I guess they could attempt that, but then again, that may be a federal constitutional question that they're not able to pass legislation on. I don't know.

KING: Maybe that's a question you can raise when you finally get the president's nominee before the Judiciary Committee. Senator Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. Thank you, sir, for your time.

SESSIONS: Thank you, John. KING: Thank you.

After the break, we'll go to Arizona for our most important person you don't know. Then we'll talk about the president's latest push to get immigration legislation.


KING: For better or worse, today's most important person you don't know is putting Arizona's legislature on the national radar, State Representative Judy Burges just gave the birther movement and late night comedians something to cheer about. She wants to require Arizona secretary of state to inspect the presidential candidates birth certificate to see if they're a natural born citizen before that candidate is allowed on Arizona's ballot. It's not a done deal yet. The state senate hasn't voted, but Burges, a Republican from the picturesque sounding town of Skull Valley, Arizona, is no newbie when it comes to creative legislation. She has co-sponsored a bill I didn't pay enough fund for any taxpayer who wants to pay more.

Bring our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash into the conversation. The white house was asked about this, because this is an issue that came up in the past about President Obama and Bill Burton said it's a question that's been answered exhaustively, I can't imagine Arizona taxpayers are well served by a legislator less focused on their lives than infringe right wing radio conspiracy theories. A bit of an irony that this is in Arizona.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is because the senior senator from Arizona John McCain of course was the president's opponent in 2008. You remember back then, you were on the campaign trail and so was I following him. When these kinds of things would come up, he would brush them off and say this is ridiculous. Now he's in a pretty tough primary battle against J.D. Hayworth who is very conservative and a supporter of things like this and he's sticking to what he was saying when he was running with Obama saying this is ridiculous.

KING: On a different issue, some new details tonight on the president trying to feel out the Republicans trying to see if they would in any way stand with him in a big immigration bill.

BASH: Last night we talked about the fact that the president called Scott Brown, the newest Republican senator from Massachusetts. Turns out when the president was making calls, dialing around from air force one, he called several Republicans. We have some we can show you, a handful of them trying to get somebody to sign on with the Democrats on immigration reform, because as we talked about last night, the fundamental goal of the Democrats is to try to at least pick off one more Republican to say that this is bipartisan to move forward, but I can tell you in talking to Democratic sources just before coming on here, they still insist, even if they don't get Republicans in the next three weeks or so, they are going to move forward, try to move forward with Democratic votes. Nobody thinks they can actually achieve this. They want to show their constituencies they are trying. KING: That was my point. So the point here is even if they don't have the votes to pass it, to show their base which has been demanding they do this that they tried.

BASH: Demanding they do this, many of them mad as hell at the president for not keeping a campaign promise and another sub plot here is that the Democratic leader in the Senate happens to be running in a very tough re-election battle in Nevada where he needs as many Hispanic votes as he can get. So that is the whole concept of saying that they're going to do this is absolutely critical politically going into November. The real deal, peeling back the curtain, they don't think they can get this done realistically unless they find one of those Republicans but right now, not happening.

KING: Don't hold your breath. Dana Bash, thanks so much.

Next, some stories on my radar, including the president's latest comments on Wall Street reform and whether the white house was tipped off about the Security and Exchange Commission's suit against Goldman Sachs.


KING: It's the part of the show where I talk about stories on my radar, we bring in some smart political players to get their take on that. With me today in person for a change CNN's contributor Erick Erickson. He's the editor in chief of the conservative blog And Ilyse Hogue, the director of political advocacy and communications for the left leaning Let's go through what's on my radar. We start with this. President Obama is in New York tomorrow for a big speech on Wall Street reform. For today's pre-game you might call it, he sat down with CNBC. He said the SEC never gave the white house any heads up about the fraud suit against Goldman Sachs. A lot of administration push back today against some republican questions about whether the fraud suit is politically motivated. The SEC chairman Mary Schapiro says in a very rare statement, "I cannot think of any instance where politics was a consideration in bringing an enforcement action nor should it ever be."

Erick Erickson, you're among those who are saying maybe there is a nefarious plot here.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think there was something.

KING: You think the white house pressured the SEC to file a suit against Goldman Sachs?

ERICKSON: I don't think the white house pressured the SEC. I think the SEC is trying to make itself look good in light of all the other accusations that have been heard around the SEC and the fact that they knew financial regulation was coming. You can't tell me these people don't talk to each other. If this had happened in the Bush administration, there would be protests outside the white house tomorrow.

KING: To his point, if this happened in the Bush administration, wouldn't Move On be protesting outside the white house tomorrow?

ILYSE HOGUE, POLITICAL ADVOCACY & COMM. DIR., MOVEON.ORG: I think Erick is doing his job which is to make anything the administration does to look a little tyrannical, a little suspicious. The problem is it distracts from the real debate, which is most Americans are deeply skeptical of Wall Street. There is evidence of fraud. The SEC is doing its job by pursuing the investigation over the Republicans at the SEC who would like to kill it. That's the kind of thing that diminishes most Americans' trust that government can work for them.

KING: All right. We'll watch this one play out. Back to the radar. Another headline from the president tonight, he was given a chance to shoot down rumors that his administration would consider some kind of sales tax or value added tax. Instead he called the idea novel but he did make clear, he wanted to get a better picture of what the options are before he rules anything in or anything out. Do you think this administration is prepared to go down the vat tax route or any other revenue route, especially given the president's promise during the campaign, if you're an American and make $250,000 a year or less, I will not raise your taxes?

HOGUE: Well I think let's get really clear John. The one thing this administration has done is lower taxes for 98% of Americans. Those Americans will be feeling that in their pocketbook. That is an important thing. Now, we're set to see that Bush tax cuts for the top 2% expire in this term. We need to take a look at what revenue that generates and how it can be applied to programs to help Americans who are struggling today.

ERICKSON: I love how folks on the left and the Democrats say that this administration has cuts taxes for 98% of Americans when 48% don't pay taxes. This administration --

KING: Those who don't pay taxes, many of them are very poor.

ERICKSON: Absolutely. That's not to deny that, but to say 98% of Americans have gotten a tax cut is a fallacy. This administration said, this president said when he was on the campaign trail, no American who makes less than $250,000 will see their payroll tax or income tax go up. I guess because he didn't say create new tax, that's his loophole in this.

KING: One of the things the president did say in the CNBC interview with John Harwood is he wants to see what the commission comes up with and the commission is a deficit reduction commission who is doing going to look at all these things. We have representatives of the left community and the right community here. You talk to your people all the time as they post on your site. Is there any chance in this country, maybe after the election that everybody could actually say kumbaya, time-out. Let's look at what these guys say and have a nonpartisan discussion about some very tough choices to reduce the federal deficit.

ERICKSON: We have this commission because Congress can't make a decision. Congress and the president, they love to create these commissions. Republicans and Democrats both do it where they push the tough decisions to the people who aren't elected to make the decisions for the people who were elected so the people who are elected don't get held responsible. After the election nothing is going to change.

HOGUE: I think most Americans can already agree that corporate influence in Washington has meant that people or corporations like Exxon Mobile pay too few taxes and that they can support the Obama administration in making sure that corporations are paying their fair share so that ordinary hard-working, middle class Americans get a fair shake.

KING: My translation is that's probably not in the kumbaya part. Let's call a quick time out.

When we return, one senator gives a pretty blunt warning to his colleagues on the job they're doing to clean up Wall Street.


KING: Just like on the sports shows, play by play is where we do an analysis, we play the tape and break it down. Still with us CNN contributor Erick Erickson of and Ilyse Hogue of Jeff Sessions was just here. I asked him about this controversial proposal in the state of Arizona. It has passed the house. It will require presidential candidates to have a birth certificate to prove to the state they were born in the United States of America. I asked him, are you okay with that.

SESSIONS: What's wrong with that? I mean, I don't know that there's anything wrong with saying you're supposed to be a citizen. I don't know that it would be a problem to produce a birth certificate. If you didn't have one, I guess you could explain why you didn't but I don't see a problem with that.

KING: Erick, in a year where the wind seems to be in the back of the conservative movement, do you want to be a part of this discussion?

ERICKSON: You know I've been trying to get away from this discussion and to be fair, the folks in Arizona who are pushing this in the legislature, they're pushing it to get away from the discussion, not to have a discussion. They're tired of the rabble and call me and send me threats because I've dismissed them on this birther issue. Okay, show your birth certificate and stop -- I mean --

KING: They're trying to give people who they think are outrageous something to calm them down?

ERICKSON: Just make them go away. These people are crazy.

KING: Is that the way we legislate in this country?

HOGUE: I think this is exactly the kind of thing that frustrates middle class Americans who are struggling to make ends meet. The birther conspiracy is up there with death panels in terms of being dismissed by the media. The French element that the right is trying to satisfy with this kind of legislation are only going to be whipped up if you give them a bone. We need to focus on what most Americans care about, actually getting jobs and the economy back in shape.

KING: And financial reform is one of the things they care about. I spent some time on Capitol Hill talking to Democrats and Republicans. One of the Democrats was Mark Warner of Virginia, more of a centrist Democrat, a former businessman, a former governor, I asked him to help me understand the political stakes in this debate.

KING: To your point that it's been 18 months since the collapse. Put aside senator, governor, politician, if you were still a businessman or an average Joe out there in America and 18 months later your Congress had done zero, what would you do?

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: I would be upset. I would say something doesn't feel right if we're still struggling, high unemployment and Wall Street is back with record profits. Something doesn't feel right. There's a lot of reasons how we got there. I'd say guys, we hired you to fix it, if you don't fix it, we ought to fire you all and find a new group.

KING: Are the stakes that high? Is that one of the reasons, there's some discord tonight that Republicans are back at the negotiating table, do they worry again in a year with the wins at their back that they'll fire them all if they don't get something done here?

ERICKSON: All the polling, the Pew poll is astonishing on the level of incumbent sentiment. The issue is I'm impressed on how message he and the Democrats are bringing up Wall Street again on this. The Democrats, they passed the stimulus bill, it created a lot of jobs, but they were government jobs. They've done very little for small businesses which in the Pew poll is the one instance that rates very high and the Democrats are dismissing.

KING: I want to get one more thing in. The governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell is a colorful guy and as you know at you have dealt with some of the tensions in the Democratic Party, and is the president doing enough, are the Democrats doing enough with their big majority. Governor Rendell apparently thinks not.

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I think to some degree, we don't have a battle for our soul. I think we've lost our soul. We've been cowed into stop talking about the things that have made us Democrats in the first place, that we believe that government can and should make a difference in people's lives and the quality of people's lives, that we can protect the most vulnerable in our society, that we can in fact give opportunities to people who haven't had any.

KING: Have the Democrats lost their soul?

HOGUE: I think some Democrats have lost the soul, just like the majority of Republican leadership whose meetings and secret meetings with Wall Street. There are corporate Dems and Republican Dems. What I will say is that absolutely voters and especially Democratic voters are looking for courage right now, so on that, Ed Rendell is absolutely correct.

KING: On that, we end this today. We'll have you both back. Ilyse Hogue, Erick Erickson, thanks as always.

Coming up, our off beat reporter Pete on the street. He's out in search of money, a new $100 bill. Pete would like more than one.


KING: Let's check in with Campbell Brown in New York for a sense of what's coming up at the top of the hour. Hi Campbell.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey John. We're covering that massive oil rig explosion off the coast of Louisiana. 11 people still missing tonight. We're going to have a live report from the coast guard on the continuing search at this hour.

Also tonight, the fierce political debate over immigration. Arizona's governor is expected to sign a bill that critics charge would essentially give police carte blanche to pull over motorists for driving while Latino. Supporters say it's the only way to secure our borders. You're going to hear from both sides. A heated debate on that issue, all coming up at the top of the hour.

KING: We'll see you then. Thanks, Campbell.

You know, there's a new $100 bill. We showed it to you earlier in the program. Our off beat reporter, Pete Dominick know if there's money, he's going to find it. Hey Pete.

PETE DOMINICK, OFF BEAT REPORTER: John, I immediately counterfeited it and brought it out to the street to see what people thought about the new $100 bill.


DOMINICK: This is the new $100 bill. You can't counterfeit this one. Can you? I mean I just did.


DOMINICK: Obama is not on it. No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then it's not new.

DOMINICK: You don't care?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to see more of those for me. People who need it.

DOMINICK: What do you think of the new $100 bill?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think your whole money system is a bit behind. Our technology's way in front of you guys. DOMINICK: You counterfeit a lot, don't you, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could never counterfeit that. I wish I could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't seen a $100 bill for so long, it looks legit to me.

DOMINICK: Do you think it's time for an African-American woman on the $100 bill?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An African American woman.



DOMINICK: You would like to see Oprah?


DOMINICK: Who would you put on there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know, someone political.

DOMINICK: Sarah Palin, someone like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely not.

DOMINICK: Sarah Palin?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not Sarah Palin.

DOMINICK: Martin Luther King?


DOMINICK: How about a woman or a black American?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now you want to be politically correct, is that it?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Franklin is just perfect because everybody knows Benjamin Franklin.

DOMINICK: How many Benjamin Franklins do you currently have in your pocket?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zero. In New York City, you don't carry money in your pocket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Obama should be on there.

DOMINICK: Do you have a lot of $100 bills, young man? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

DOMINICK: You guys look like guys who counterfeit money on the side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told you he would recognize us. We got to go.

DOMINICK: Get on the bikes.


DOMINICK: Maybe they could put a bald man on a bill for once.

KING: Let's test that out. Pete, I need you to do me a favor here. I need you to put both elbows out and your fists up and give us a smile. Hands away from your head.

KING: No, fist up. Look at that, separated at birth. Let's show that on the screen. Look at that, Pete Dominick, Joe Biden, one of them coming soon to a dollar bill near you. Pete, have a great night. That's all the time we have tonight. We'll leave you laughing. Campbell Brown starts right now.