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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Judging Sotomayor; Health Care Reform; Florida Couple Murder Investigation

Aired July 15, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Thank you, Wolf. Good evening, everybody.

Judge Sotomayor deflecting senators' questions for a third day of her confirmation hearing -- Republicans saying she's failing to provide clear answers, Democrats saying she's doing great. We'll examine her performance in our "Face Off" debate tonight.

And President Obama making a new effort to sell his controversial health care plan to a rising number of skeptics -- critics say his plan will lead to crippling new taxes in the midst of recession. And rising concern at the rapid and continuing expansion of our government under the Obama administration -- three of the country's best economic thinkers join us to assess the economic impact.

We begin tonight with Republican senators who bombarded Judge Sotomayor with tough new questions today, but many expressed frustration and disappointment at her unwillingness to give specific answers on issues such as abortion. The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Jeff Sessions, said Judge Sotomayor's testimony has been muddled, confusing and backtracking. Judge Sotomayor defended her reluctance to provide detailed answers, saying she can't give direct answers without knowing the specifics of a particular case -- Candy Crowley reports now specifically from Washington.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This round of questioning...

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Senate Judiciary Committee finally got around to the questions of its most junior member and clearly he's a quick study.

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: Judicial activism has become a code word for judges that you just -- you don't agree with. Judge, what is your definition of judicial activism?


CROWLEY: Fine questions but Senator Al Franken was no better than more seasoned senators in getting direct answers on simmering issues, on whether abortion law can be limited in certain circumstances. SOTOMAYOR: I can't answer your hypothetical because I can't look at it as an abstract without knowing what state laws exist on this issue or not. And even if I knew that, I probably couldn't apply them because I'm sure that situation might well arise before the court.

CROWLEY: On gay marriage...

SOTOMAYOR: The ABA rules would not permit me to comment on the merits of a case that's pending or impending before the Supreme Court.

CROWLEY: Even on whether the legal system would be better served if the Supreme Court took on more cases.

SOTOMAYOR: Well, perhaps I need to explain to you that I don't like making statements about what I think the court can do until I've experienced the process.

CROWLEY: The non-answers were frustrating to them and the repetitive questions seemed frustrating to her.



SOTOMAYOR: I heard what he said, sir, but I don't know what he intended in that description.

CROWLEY: They knew she wouldn't answer. She knew they'd ask and just about everything figures she'll be confirmed and it sure sounds like she'll get some Republican yeas.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Elections do matter and that's the point. That the president has earned the right to pick somebody different than I would have picked, and the balance of power, the court's not going to change dramatically if she gets on the court.


CROWLEY: Sotomayor was also asked, Lou, about her famous wise Latina remark. She responded pretty much as she did yesterday. Saying it was bad, and certainly people took it not in the way she intended. Lou.

DOBBS: So this was a matter of a foregone conclusion, carried out over what will be four days. Is that correct?

CROWLEY: Now you're going to -- next you're going to ask me if I wasted my time.

DOBBS: No, no, I wouldn't want to press you for specifics in a hypothetical with abstractions that you don't want to contemplate.


DOBBS: But I do appreciate the report.

CROWLEY: Yes, thanks.

DOBBS: Thanks, Candy Crowley. Our Second Amendment right to bear arms was again a big issue in the judge's confirmation hearing today, but she sidestepped questions predictably on whether that right applies to states as well as the federal government. As a result the National Rifle Association today declared it opposes her confirmation as a Supreme Court justice. Bill Tucker reports.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After 222 years the right to keep and bear arms may turn out to be an acquired right not a fundamental right even though many say the guarantee of that right is explicitly stated in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It's a school of thought unnerving to gun rights advocates and one senator from Oklahoma in particular.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: And so what does the law say today about the statement. Where do we stand today about my statement that I have -- I claim to have a fundamental, guaranteed, spelled out right under the Constitution that is individual and applies to me the right to own and bear arms. Am I right or am I wrong?

SOTOMAYOR: The precedent says as the Second Circuit interpreted the Supreme Court precedent...


SOTOMAYOR: ... that it's not -- it's not incorporated.

TUCKER: Sotomayor was one of three judges on the second court panel. In layman's terms she's saying that the Supreme Court has never ruled that the Second Amendment is a fundamental right. Meaning the constitutional guarantee does not apply to the states, a small distinction with profound implications.

PROF. JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIV.: What if we had a right to free speech but it only bound the federal government and that the states could silence you. What if you had a right to assemble but that would only mean assembling in federal areas, not state areas. What if you had a right to choose but states could still ban abortion. That's the difference between an individual right and a fundamental right.

TUCKER: Sotomayor did not state her position as to whether or not the Second Amendment is a fundamental right, noting that the Supreme Court will likely take up just that question in the coming months. Many gun owners believe their rights were assured with the decision last year in U.S. v. Heller, where the Supreme Court ruled that the residents of Washington, D.C. do have a right to gun ownership.


TUCKER: But legal scholars say they're wrong. Because Washington, D.C. is not a state, it's a federal district. Now, the Second Amendment is not the only unincorporated amendment. Neither are the third which deals with the quartering of troops and homes. Parts of the Fifth mainly the right to a grand jury and then the Seventh, the promising a jury trial in any case over $20. Lou.

DOBBS: And why would those not be fundamental rights? We all think of the Bill of Rights as fundamental. Why would the Second, the Third, Fifth and Seventh or parts of the Fifth not be fundamental?

TUCKER: Because they're largely procedural and the states have covered those for the most part.

DOBBS: In other words because that's the way it is.


DOBBS: All right. Bill Tucker, thank you very much. We'll see what the Supreme Court decides in the upcoming months. Thank you very much.

Well there was a humorous moment during the hearing today of Judge Sotomayor on the issue of gun rights and it came when Republican Senator Tom Coburn asked the judge whether the Second Amendment does give Americans a right to personal self-defense. Here's how Judge Sotomayor responded.


SOTOMAYOR: If the threat was in this room, I'm going to come get you and you go home and get -- or I go home -- I don't want to suggest I am, by the way. Please -- I'm not -- I don't want anybody to misunderstand what I'm trying to say. If I go home, get a gun, come back and shoot you that may not be legal under New York law because you would have alternative ways...

COBURN: You'll have lots of explaining to do.


SOTOMAYOR: I'd be in a lot of trouble then. But I couldn't do that under a definition of self-defense.



DOBBS: Senator Coburn's comment about explaining was apparently a reference to the 1950's situation comedy "I Love Lucy", in which show Lucille Ball's husband, Desi, would frequently say Lucy, you've got some explaining to do -- much more on Judge Sotomayor's confirmation hearing ahead -- also rising outrage about the explosive growth of the federal government, out of control spending and higher taxes on the way -- President Obama giving Congress a pep talk on health care legislation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need to buck up people a little bit here. The American people are on board. It's now up to us.


DOBBS: We'll tell you why the president's assertion may not be entirely correct.


DOBBS: Good news to report tonight on the economy. The stock market is soaring today, all three major stock indexes up at least three percent on the day. The Dow Jones industrials gaining almost 260 points, the S&P 500 rose 27 points almost, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 63. Credit for the rally going to the Federal Reserve's forecast at the end of this recession may be in fact on the horizon, as well as better than expected profits for Intel.

On Capitol Hill today the Senate Health Committee voted along party lines to approve a $600 billion health care bill. The top Republican on that committee called the legislation a prescription for disaster. At the White House, the president was celebrating and he continued his campaign for health care legislation. Dan Lothian has our report.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If the health care overhaul were a baseball game, President Obama would now have two runners on base. But it's a long way to the ninth inning.

OBAMA: It's time for us to buck up. Congress, this administration, the entire federal government, to be clear, that we've got to get this done.

LOTHIAN: House Democrats have unveiled a plan that would tax wealthy families making more than $350,000 a year. A popular target that garners little sympathy, but some say the rich could cry foul.

DARRELL M. WEST, VP AND DIR., GOVERNANCE STUDIES: They're going to work over the following years to undermine public support for this program. It doesn't crave a firm foundation for long-term success and health care.

LOTHIAN: In the Senate, a key committee voting along party lines passed a $600 billion measure but senators haven't worked out how to pay for it. At a Rose Garden event described by a senior aide as the drum beat to get health care reform done the president chided so- called naysayers that both praised and prodded Congress.

OBAMA: This progress should make us hopeful but it can't make us complacent. It should instead provide the urgency for both the House and the Senate to finish their critical work on health reform before the August recess. LOTHIAN: That means convincing some skeptical Democrats and centrist Republicans like those from these eight states where the Democratic National Committee is now rolling out a 30-second ad of testimonials.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's time for health care reform.

LOTHIAN: Earlier this week the president applied pressure himself meeting privately at the White House with the Democratic leadership. Those lawmakers say he was firm stressing a common theme that inaction is not an option.


LOTHIAN: Now the president also met privately today here at the White House with four Republican senators. It was a chance to discuss health care reform. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs characterized the meeting as a chance for the president to lobby the senators, but also to listen to their ideas and concerns. Lou.

DOBBS: All right, Dan. Thank you very much -- Dan Lothian from the White House.

President Obama today is saying this about his health care plan. "The American people are on board." But a recent CNN/Opinion Research poll finds that a bare majority, 51 percent, are actually supporting it. And that is less support than President Clinton's plan back in 1993.

Only one in five Americans say their families would be better off with the Obama plan and actually the president's own doctor from Chicago, opposes the plan and a recent Gallup poll on the issue shows a majority of Americans say they trust their physicians over their politicians.

President Obama's health care plan is already drawing fire from critics who dispute his claim that it will save taxpayer money. And they say it's another example of a troubling shift toward government involvement in the economy -- Casey Wian with our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama promises his health care reform plan will save American consumers money but a recent study of the government's track record on controlling health care costs raises serious questions about that claim.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: I think one word can sum this up is unprecedented. One question, I think they could accurately reflect what we're asking is who is going to pay for all of this.

WIAN: The Pacific Research Institute, a free market advocacy group says per patient spending on the government's existing Medicare and Medicaid programs since 1970 has grown 35 percent faster than spending for private health insurance, although other experts have pointed out that Medicare and Medicaid have lower overhead costs than private insurance. The divisions reflected in the Senate.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Here we are with the highest deficit in the history of this country in peacetime with a bill that is going to top over a trillion dollars with no way of paying for it. The bill has an employer mandate that will tax small businesses who can't afford to pay more and will lead to job losses.

SEN CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: People ask why do we need health care reform and why should we make sure we get this done? And we have focused -- there's been a lot of talk of the uninsured who definitely need coverage, but what hasn't been talked about is if we leave things alone how even people who are covered are going to pay and pay and pay.

WIAN: Opponents view the health care plan as one example of the expanding role of government in the U.S. economy. Others include government majority ownership and companies such as General Motors and AIG, government job creation through economic stimulus spending and the fact that federal, state and local government jobs grew faster than private sector jobs before the recession and have declined more slowly since.

PROF. PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: The state and local governments for all their crying and all of Mr. Obama's expectations weren't laying people off. Employment was growing through the time the stimulus package was signed.

WIAN: Even in California which faces a $26 billion budget deficit the state lost only 5,600 government jobs since December.


WIAN: During the same period, California has lost about 560,000 private sector jobs. In other words for every government job lost here, 100 private sector employees found themselves looking for work, Lou.

DOBBS: And nationwide about seven million jobs have been lost and nearly all of them in the private sector. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Casey Wian.

Well I have a few thoughts about all of this and I hope you'll join me on the radio Monday through Friday for "The Lou Dobbs Show" 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. each afternoon on WOR 710 here in New York City. Go to to get the local listings in your city for "The Lou Dobbs Show" and you can follow me on, loudobbsnews. Please join me.

And the space shuttle "Endeavour" is in orbit after a smooth launch just a little while ago from Cape Canaveral. "Endeavour" lifting off just past 6:00 p.m. Eastern, carrying a crew of seven astronauts.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four, three, two, one -- booster ignition and lift-off of "Endeavour" completing Kibo (ph) and fulfilling Japan's hope for an out-of-this-world space laboratory.


DOBBS: The launch of "Endeavour" delayed five times for technical problems and weather. This mission includes delivering a final piece of Japan's space laboratory to the International Space Station. Thunderstorms had delayed that mission three times. Hydrogen links causing two of the delays before today's outstanding successful launch -- Judge Sotomayor's Supreme Court confirmation hearings just about over, but tonight the divide over her nomination as wide as ever.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think her answers gave me great comfort today that she will follow the intent of Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think the nominee's answers are any clearer today than they have been.


DOBBS: And we'll see how the nominee handled questions today on abortion and discrimination -- also new information tonight in the murder of that Florida couple who were the parents of 17 children. It is a humdinger.


DOBBS: Well gunfire erupted today on Capitol Hill. There was a shooting near the Capitol building. Police shot a man and they killed him after he drew a weapon on those officers. They briefly closed off part of the Capitol as a precaution.

Police, however, say the incident began during a routine traffic stop. The suspect then tried to drive away and escape, striking and injuring one police officer. The suspect refused to drop a gun that he had drawn. Police officers opened fire. They shot and killed him.

In Pensacola, Florida, police still searching for another person in connection with the murder of those parents of 17 children. Seven people have been arrested and they will be charged, we are told, with murder. Today federal drug agents joined that case. Investigators say they believe the suspects spent 30 days training for this crime. Ed Lavandera has our report tonight from Pensacola -- Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, as investigators appear to be winding down this investigation they say they have the seven suspects they believe were on the property the night the Billings' couple was murdered. This investigation seems to continue to grow and move in various different directions.

We've been hearing about federal law enforcement agency involvement for several days, but the DEA coming out today and confirming that they are involved, so that seems to suggest a new aspect of this investigation at this point. And also authorities say that they were looking for two people of interest. One of them, they identified this afternoon, a woman they believe had been in contact with the alleged ring leader of this group.

She was found in Orange Beach, Alabama, about 40 miles west of where we are here in Pensacola. We understand that authorities have been speaking with her. And now we've been told that authorities are planning yet another press conference for later on this evening, so whether or not that has to do with this woman, we don't know yet at this point.

And they also opened up a new wrinkle and a twist and a peek into one of the theories in this investigation is and they believe that there might have been yet an eighth person involved, whose job would have been to turn off the elaborate security system that essentially helped authorities unravel this crime. And they say that they believe there was one person who was responsible for turning off those video cameras in that surveillance system but did not do so. What happened to that person and why that person chose to do that is something investigators are still trying to nail down. Lou.

DOBBS: Now the sheriff there said that this would be from the outset a humdinger of a case, obviously extensive detective work going into this case. Do we have yet an understanding, a clear understanding, have we been told of the motives for this -- these two murders?

LAVANDERA: Well, there is a lot of speculation floating around as to exactly what is going on, to say the least. But one of the things that investigators still say is that I think -- they believe that at the heart of this -- that this was a robbery and -- but they also suggested there might have been other motives involved. So we still haven't been able to kind of put it -- that final nail into that part of the story, but authorities say they believe the main gist of what has happened here is a home invasion/robbery.

DOBBS: And yet the Drug Enforcement Administration is joining the investigation?

LAVANDERA: Exactly and you know there -- we had heard from one federal law enforcement source today, some of our colleagues had spoken with and said that this isn't a mafia-related or drug-involved killing that this had something to do with money. Now that's perhaps something that DEA investigators will continue to follow up on. And it's, you know it's again another twist in this story that continues to add to the intrigue as to exactly what is going on with this family and this murder investigation.

DOBBS: All right. Well Ed, we thank you for keeping us up-to- date as these developments break. And it's been a remarkable investigation to this point as it unfolds. We'll learn obviously a great deal more. Ed Lavandera from Pensacola -- thank you very much.

Tonight we have astonishing new video that you likely have never seen of Michael Jackson. This video taken on the night he was severely burned filming a Pepsi commercial in 1984 -- never before was seen today. Take a look at this videotape. It was posted on "Us Weekly's" Web site. And it starts with Michael Jackson with his back here to the camera.

The pyrotechnics go off on stage but the timing is all wrong and they explode near Jackson, his hair on fire. You see those flames rising from Michael Jackson. He was apparently so focused that he didn't realize that his hair was on fire until stage hands rushed toward him to help him to use fire extinguishers to smother those flames. It is literally chaos as Jackson was surrounded by those who eventually carry him off to get medical help. The accident has long been blamed for leading to Jackson's reported addiction to painkillers.

Up next here, Judge Sotomayor, new demands to explain her position on racial discrimination and affirmative action and the Senate's newest member giving Judge Sotomayor something of a quiz on the Constitution.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are the words "birth control" in the Constitution? Are the words "privacy" in the Constitution?


DOBBS: We'll tell you how the judge did next and in our "Face Off" debate should Judge Sotomayor be confirmed? We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Judge Sonia Sotomayor today facing questioning on this third day of her confirmation. One of the top issues today, abortion, but the Supreme Court nominee, of course, didn't answer the questions, frustrating Republicans who should be used to that. Dana Bash has our report from Capitol Hill.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sonia Sotomayor returned to face a slew of questions on one of the most divisive issues for any Supreme Court nomination, abortion. Staunchly anti-abortion Tom Coburn, an obstetrician, gave several examples in his search for answers.

COBURN: Let's say I'm 38 weeks pregnant and we discover a small spina bifida sac on the lower sacrum. Would it be legal in this country to terminate that child's life?

SOTOMAYOR: I can't answer that question in the abstract because I would have to look at what the state of the state's law was on that question.

BASH: Sotomayor deflected a number of attempts to elicit her position on abortion and it wasn't just anti-abortion conservatives who tried. The committee's newest Democrat asked perhaps the most specific questions.

FRANKEN: Do you believe that this right to privacy includes a right to have an abortion?

SOTOMAYOR: The court has said in many cases, and as I think has been repeated in the court's jurisprudence in Casey that there is a right to privacy that women have with respect to the determination of their pregnancies in certain situations.

BASH: Again, Republicans asked over and over about her wise Latina comment pushing her on what they called contradictions. Her promises now to strictly follow the law, but half a dozen speeches suggesting her gender and race could lead to better decisions.

SOTOMAYOR: My rhetorical device failed. It was a bad choice of words by me. Because it left an impression that has offended people and has left an impression that I didn't intend.

BASH: As another long day grinded on. She sparred with a frustrated veteran. She also showed her lighter side. Especially when Al Franken quizzed her about the 1960s TV show Perry Mason.

SOTOMAYOR: I know I should remember the name of it. I haven't looked at the episode.

AL FRANKEN: Didn't the white house prepare you for that?

SOTOMAYOR: You're right, but I was spending a lot of time on reviewing cases.


BASH: Reviewing casing from same-sex marriage. Senators tried but almost entirely failed to get some hint of judge Sotomayor how she would rule on decisions on issues certainly likely to come up on the stroke, Lou. If she were to become a justice there and on that note, even after this grilling she got today, and she got yesterday. Even after we expect will be another tomorrow. Both parties say they will not see anything that will alter her path to almost certain confirmation.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: To be clear, we've only seen, matter of fact, one nominee. Actually a confirmation over the past quarter century. We shouldn't be surprised. I notice a number of Republicans are suggesting they are very frustrated at her refusal to answer questions. Wouldn't they be more shocked if she did answer them given the past quarter century?

BASH: I definitely think they would. I had a conversation with senator Grassley who asked her about same-sex marriage. I said did you really expect her to answer? He sort of smiled and said no, I didn't expect her to answer. I think that's true for all of these senators.

DOBBS: On Capitol Hill. Dana, thank you very much. Dana Bash. Judge Sotomayor facing questions today about her views on racial discrimination, affirmative action and specifically the New Haven firefighter case. Ines Ferre with the report.


INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the audience on Capitol Hill today, the New Haven firefighters, the plaintiffs in the case Judge Sotomayor ruled against in the appellate court only to be reversed by the Supreme Court.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Don't you think these firefighters deserve a more detailed explanation for why you ultimately deny their claim?

SOTOMAYOR: The Supreme Court, in its decision, set the -- a new standard by which an employer, and lower court should review what the employer is doing by the substantial evidence test. That test was not discussed with the panel.

FERRE: The firefighters claimed discrimination after the city threw out test results because no black candidates would have been promoted. According to the Equal Opportunity Commission, race discrimination cases filed by white workers are on the increase, raising to 3,559 last year. That's 10 percent of all race claims. Overwhelming majority filed by African-Americans and in a state court in Detroit, Michigan four white paramedics with 60 years of collective experience recently claimed they, too, had been denied promotions because they are not African-American.

MICHAEL KEARNS, CENTRAL EMS WORKER: Make the level playing field for everybody. If I come up for everybody, he's a better candidate for me, I'm all for him having that position. If the best candidate gets the position, and all of the games are taken away, that's what is important.

FERRE: The paramedics say they took promotional exams and believe they scored higher than their colleagues. For years they've requested their test scores. The city resisted those efforts. Detroit does not release exam scores for EMS workers though it does for other positions. Lou Dobbs reached out for the city of Detroit and its fire department numerous times. They told CNN they do not comment on pending litigation.


FERRE: And across the board of all of the race case discrimination claims filed to the EEOC. 66 percent no merit. Last year that amounted to $80 million in lost wages, front pay and compensatory damages, Lou.

DOBBS: All right. The idea we're talking about racial preferences that, frankly, are straightforward the policy of courts over time as well as congress. Is there a sense that's about to end?

FERRE: There's a sense that these kind of cases are going to continue.

DOBBS: This kind being the reverse discrimination or discrimination?

FERRE: Both, actually. But what this tells me, tells me that municipals will not be challenged on the test they administer.

DOBBS: I'm sorry it means what?

FERRE: Municipal won't be challenged on the test they administer. What the Supreme Court was saying there was not sufficient evidence that the municipal would have been sued.

DOBBS: All right. Ines. Thank you very much. Ines Ferre.

The new questions are raised about the president's eligibility to be president. THE Latest from U.S. army reserve major Stefan Cook who refused deployment to Afghanistan, proclaimed his orders were illegal because President Obama wasn't born in United States which makes him ineligible to be president and commander in chief. The major's orders for deployment to Afghanistan were rescinded. An army spokeswoman told us the major volunteered to go to Afghanistan and could rescind his request at any time up to his deployment. This is what the army said. Based on the fact that he no longer wished to serve on active duty and at the request of central command his orders were revoked on July 14.

Now the major's attorney is challenging the legitimacy of the Obama presidency in court. She joins a lawsuit by former presidential candidate Alan Keys who wants documentary proof the president was born in the United States. President Obama was born in Hawaii according to state officials and copies of his certification of birth,, investigating those circumstances prior to the election and they have a copy of what they say is the original birth certificate posted on their website. It is in fact the so-called short form, not the original document. It is really a document saying that the state of Hawaii has the real document in its possession. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs in May said Hawaii provided a copy of the birth certificate with the state seal that's posted on the internet.

Documentary proof need to run by office, by the way, varies from state to state. The Federal Election Commission, you may be surprised to learn, does not require any kind of certification or proof of citizenship in running for president. They leave that to the state. And in the state of Illinois, for example, where President Obama first ran for office, proof of citizenship is not required prior to the state legislature or to run for congress or for the United States senate.

Up next, attacks on wealthy Americans, won't be enough to pay for the president's trillion dollar health care plan, and some say it may doom it to failure.

Should judge Sotomayor be confirmed? That's the topic of our face-off debate here tonight, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Should Judge Sotomayor be confirmed as the next justice of the Supreme Court? That's the subject of the face-off debate. Rejoining us, Wendy Long, council with the Judicial Confirmation Network, who opposes the judge's confirmation and constitutional attorney Floyd Abrams who said Sotomayor should indeed be confirmed. Thank you both for being back with us.

Wendy let me start with you. We began this conversation with her first day of hearings, how is she doing so far?

WENDY LONG, COUNSEL, JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION NETWORK: She's still reading from the John Roberts confirmation transcript is what it sounds to me. Everything she's saying is at odds with the record in the last 30 years or an avoidance of answering the question. The senators should judge her on the record not what she's saying in the hearing.

DOBBS: You don't expect they'll do that, do you?

LONG: I sure hope they well. We get them to do everything they can to focus on the record. Some will, yes.

DOBBS: Floyd, how is she doing?

FLOYD ABRAMS, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY: She's doing great. I think they should focus on her record, her record as a judge, her 17- year record as a judge. She's a well respected, serious person who has done all sorts of things that one should do before going to the Supreme Court and has done them all well.

DOBBS: One of the folks that weighed in is Georgetown law professor Michael Seidman who wrote for the federalist society. He said he was disgusted with the judge's testimony. Said, quote, "If she was not perjuring herself, she is intellectually unqualified to be on the Supreme Court. If she was perjuring herself, she's morally unqualified." I talked with the professor today and he's a liberal. He is so taken by her recanting her previous positions and this business of applying law rather than making law, which he finds disingenuous at best. Your reaction?

ABRAMS: Look, applying law rather than making law is what everybody says, everyone. Every candidate, liberal, conservative, it's become a cliche.

DOBBS: A lie?

ABRAMS: That's not a lie?

DOBBS: No. Is it the truth? Is it the truth?

ABRAMS: No, it's -- it's a definitional problem. The problem is this. Judges, to an extent, make law. They read a piece of paper written 200 years ago. And they try to apply it.

DOBBS: It's a simple question. ABRAMS: It's not a simple question. They try to apply a document written 200 years ago that uses the words due process of law. There's no question or no answer to that. But good judges do a lot of work, do a lot of studying, study the facts of a particular case, and come out with a verdict. There's nothing wrong with that.

DOBBS: I didn't say there was anything wrong.

ABRAMS: It's not duplicitous.

DOBBS: It's not?

ABRAMS: It's not duplicitous at all for a judge on one hand to say, in effect. Look, I try. I try to --

DOBBS: May I, may I, seriously?


DOBBS: We are watching hearings that have taken three days.


DOBBS: The duplicity that's being suggested by Professor Seidman is this. First, she is distorting what she has said over a period of type. Secondly, that that is either a misconstruction on her part, we won't call it lying. I'm not suggesting she's lying, I'm suggesting, along with the professor, that the whole process is a political theater, without any --

ABRAMS: The process is a kabuki dance. The process is members of the senate ask questions.

DOBBS: It does not reflect reality?

ABRAMS: I agree with that. The process as a whole does not.

DOBBS: Impartiality but it's still true? We'll work on that.

LONG: I think Floyd is right it's a definitional problem of what is law. What Professor Seidman and some other liberals who are intellectually honest are upset by is Judge Sotomayor has not held up and has not defended the liberal progressive view of the law and the constitution which is what Justice William Brennan advanced. It's the living constitution. It's what are the sources of law. She has not done that. She has not held that up.

DOBBS: Let me be clear. Professor Seidman is as unhappy with the hearings and the responses of the chief justice, John Roberts as well as Justice Alito during their confirmation hearings. He is absolutely balanced in his revulsion of this process.

LONG: He doesn't like the substance of what's said but he likes it even less when it comes from the mouth of someone who he knows and disagrees with it. ABRAMS: I don't think it's that at all. I really think what he's saying, and I share a sense on this, is that the process itself doesn't work. People ask questions in good part, because they're on television and seen, and the candidates, all of them are told, answer as narrowly as possible. Say as little as you have to. Try to stay out of trouble. That doesn't mean the person won't be a good or even a great Supreme Court justice. It does mean the process we have now doesn't work.

DOBBS: I'm sorry, go ahead.

LONG: I think it means judge somebody on their record not what they say in the hearing.

ABRAMS: I agree.

DOBBS: Probably that's the last thing anyone wants to do give, if you will, the shortcuts available.

DOBBS: And, Floyd, we appreciate you being with us. Wendy, thank you so much and we look forward to talking to you again, soon.

ABRAMS: Thanks.

DOBBS: Up next, a new talk of a new economic stimulus package would be our second. The results of the first are in question. No time for it to have impact, but why should that slow anyone down?

And the federal deficit, well, it's not slowing down. Topping a trillion dollars for the first time in the country's history. There's a much bigger number that no one is talking about. One that will lead generations of Americans with tremendous debts and make certain that this is a debtor nation in perpetuity.


DOBBS: Today the Federal Reserve reported the latest forecast for the economy. Predicting that it will continue to shrink this year, but not as fast as expected earlier. The fed said unemployment, however, could rise past 9 percent. Joining us now to assess whether that's a daring prediction given it's 9.5 percent now, three of the country's best economic thinkers, Harvard economics professor Jeffery Miron, Allen Sinai, global chief economist and president of Decision Economics, Michael Holland, president and founder of the Holland balance fund. Thank you all for being here.

Professor Miron, let's start with the fed outlook which seemed to bolster investors on Wall Street. What's your reaction?

PROF. JEFFREY MIRON, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: They seem to think things are going to improve. I think that's where the consensus of the forecasters out there. But there's also a lot of worry that the growth is going to be relatively slow, even when it starts to turn up, and that the unemployment picture is going to still get a bit worse before it gets better. That seemed sort of reasonable to me. So although the market was incredibly cheered. I don't know why they were cheered at least not by the Fed's forecast.

DOBBS: Michael Holland knows these markets intimately and can tell us why the market does what it does. Why were they cheering?

MICHAEL HOLLAND, HOLLAND BALANCE FUND: The reason for the -- the reason du jour in addition to the fed was more specifically Intel Semiconductor Company came out with an earnings report that said the top line growth was particularly surprisingly good. And that is something -- we've had a few numbers come out where the companies have been able to manage their expenses and get better earnings but the top line is -- they had more -- this follows on a couple Asian companies who said similar things in these semi conductor areas.

DOBBS: And the fed, as we look at this forecast, 10 percent unemployment when it's 9 1/2, that's hardly -- I mean, what would they expect.

ALLEN SINAI, ECONOMIST: You know it understates the jobs from -- it's going to be the biggest political problem we've had in decades. When you add in people who want to work more and can't find jobs, you're talking about 12, 13, 14 percent. We're going to see numbers, if we corrected them, that were since the 1930s. Going to be a huge problem, and Washington is going to do more stimulus whether we need it or not.

DOBBS: Let's assume we do need it just for the sake of argument here. Why would we assume we need a second round when the first round hasn't even been spent?

SINAI: It's way too early to think about giving up on this round of stimulus, because it really shouldn't be doing much of anything now. It's -- the tax cuts take time for people to respond to. And the outlays, only a very small amount that shows up directly. So it's way too early to give up on it.

DOBBS: At what point does it become unconscionable for a government with a trillion dollar deficit already on the books, facing, you know, with an economy of 14 trillion dollars, with about 13 trillion dollars in national debt, mounting trade debt of excess of 7 trillion dollars. Is there a point which it's unconscionable for a government to continue to spend money? Professor Miron?

MIRON: I think we reached that point. We reached it a while ago. Things we're spending money on per good for the economy in the long haul. The things that are going to make it less efficient. We're spending all this money in a way that's going to guarantee slower growth. I agree that's totally unconscionable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could I ask you a quick question about the comparison with China and their stimulus program? Some people are saying that's how it should have been done here? Does that make any sense to you?

MIRON: No. I think that basically, they're in a luckier position, they haven't seen negative effects. They're also starting from a much, much lower level of infrastructure and things like that. Much more plausible in China, additional roads, hospitals, schools make sense much it's far less plausible here where it's basically throwing some bad money after good with all of the additional spending in the stimulus package.

DOBBS: The Republicans, in the tenure of George W. Bush spent recklessly, foolishly and disastrously, as it turned out. The administration of Barack H. Obama, spending at an even higher rate. What is the conclusion of this? Why do we not hear independent-minded economists, from academia, from the private sector saying, wait a minute. These are policies that have to be debated, considered and thought out. We are hearing nothing in the way of public hearings, we are hearing nothing in a way of public discussion or debate. I mean, we are being grave enough on this show to be dull and actually talk about things of substance here. But we're not -- the public at large is not being well served by this. We're --

SINAI: Why are you smiling? We're here. It's -- you're asking -- Jeffery said it's unconscionable. It's going to take down our dollar big time, hurt interest rates and standard of living will suffer immensely. It's because the majority of party of power --

DOBBS: Who is the party --

SINAI: The thing that the Bush administration did right was they did do tax cuts, across the board tax cuts.

DOBBS: This administration is going to correct that.

SINAI: That was a plus. That was a plus.

DOBBS: All right.

MIRON: But the -- part of the reason nobody is standing up and fighting back against all of this. Because the previous party in power, Bush administration did a dismal job of defending markets, and thins like that. So they have now zero moral or intellectual standing to stand up to what the Democrats are proposing. At the same time the Democrats are saying two words, great depression and trying to terrify everyone, if we don't go along with everything as proposed we'll get the great depression again. I don't think that's all accurate but that's their tactic.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Professor. Got to run. Michael Holland. Allen Sinai, Jeffery Miron, thank you gentlemen for daring to be dull with us.

Up at the top of the hour Campbell Brown. Campbell?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Lou, there are late developments in the killing of parents of 17 children. This afternoon, authorities located a woman they as a pen of interest in this case, and they are briefing reporters at the top of the hour. We're going to take that news conference live and update you as it happens, that and of course the mash up with all of the headlines at the top of the hour. Lou, we'll see you then.

DOBBS: You've got a deal. Campbell, thank you.

And we'll be right back.


DOBBS: We got time for a quick e-mail.

Bob in Virginia said, "One way to solve unemployment is for the president to appoint a few million more czars."

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