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Supreme Choice; Hurricane Wilma: The Aftermath

Aired October 31, 2005 - 12:03   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Supreme choice. President Bush makes another try at filling a vacancy on the bench. Will this choice make conservative supporters happy?
Honoring the woman known as the mother of the civil rights movement. A memorial service for Rosa Parks set to get under way. This hour, we'll explore her powerful, but simple legacy. One person can make a difference.

From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Kyra Phillips. This special edition of CNN's LIVE FROM starts right now.

Just four hours after President Bush announced his new choice for the Supreme Court, the debate over Samuel Alito is already raging. And unlike the conservative offensive that doomed Harriet Miers and her short-lived nomination, it's the Democrats who are mounting this challenge. It's Alito's conservative record that's drawing fire, not his qualifications.

Alito now sits on the 3rd Circuit Appeals Court in Philadelphia. The 55-year-old was put there by the president's father, George H.W. Bush. He's a former U.S. attorney.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Judge Alito's nomination received bipartisan support, and he was again confirmed by unanimous consent by the United States Senate. Judge Alito has served with distinction on that court for 15 years and now has more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years.


PHILLIPS: Well, CNN's crews have fanned out all over the place on this story, as you can imagine. CNN Chief National Correspondent John King is in our Washington bureau. And in New York, we have CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

But let's begin with CNN Congressional Correspondent Ed Henry on Capitol Hill -- Ed.


You're right, the contrast of Harriet Miers is striking. Conservative skeptics of Miers now welcoming with open arms this nomination of Judge Alito, who has already been on Capitol Hill this morning, greeted by Republican leaders.

Also, a very interesting bit of stage craft and political symbolism. The very first spot in the Capitol that the majority leader, Bill Frist, took Judge Alito to was the rotunda in the Capitol. Of course that's where, as you mentioned, Rosa Parks now lying in honor.

The fact that they went and paid homage to the civil rights pioneer, very interesting. It's coming as Democrats here on the Hill are pounding away at Judge Alito, claiming, in fact, that he is no friend of civil rights, that he is also no friend of privacy rights, specifically zeroing in on the issue of abortion.

He's Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Judge Alito's visit to Rosa Parks this morning was appropriate. His record, as I'm sure Rosa Parks would agree, is much more important. A preliminary review of his record raises real questions about Judge Alito's judicial philosophy and his commitment to civil rights, workers' rights, women's rights, the rights of average Americans which the courts have always looked out for.


HENRY: Democrats clearly laying the groundwork here for the possibility of saying at some point later in this process that they need to launch a filibuster to try to stop this nomination. That could lead Republicans to invoke the so-called nuclear option, that fight we heard about a couple of months ago, whereas they would change the Senate rules in order to stop filibusters.

Asked a short while ago whether or not that would happen and we would have a nuclear clash if Democrats launched a filibuster, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch saying, "You bet your life we would." But Republican leaders, like Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, suggesting that everyone should hold their fire, we're only a few hours into this nomination, and at the very least this nominee should get the basic fairness of an up-or-down vote.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: What we guarantee you is a dignified process here, a respectful hearing. And at the end of that process, an up-or-down vote, as has always been the case on Supreme Court nominees throughout the history of the Senate.


HENRY: And Democrats could, in fact, take a political hit if they launched a filibuster. And it's not even clear that they would be able to sustain that filibuster if some moderate Democrats jumped ship and did not agree to support it. Moderate Democrats like Ben Nelson, of Nebraska, who's up for election next year. A short while ago, he put out a statement. He's a key member of the gang of 14 moderates that averted that nuclear showdown I was talking about a few months ago. His statement was basically not really saying very much, holding fire, saying he wants to hear more about this nominee, he's withholding judgment at this point.

But the bottom line is moderate Democrats like Ben Nelson not issuing the harsh rhetoric we're seeing from Chuck Schumer, Edward Kennedy and other Democrats. Instead, they're saying hold your powder for now, let's learn more about this nomination.

That's a good sign for the nominee at this point -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Ed Henry on the Hill. Thank you so much.

Let's go to CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. He's in our Washington bureau now.

And let's talk about just the diversity for a second, John. I was talking even to a former clerk to Sandra Day O'Connor, and he said Hispanics and women are going to be upset. Even the president of the United States, his wife said that a woman should have this spot.

What do you think the fallout will be from that perspective?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wouldn't mind being at dinner at the White House tonight, would you, Kyra?

There will be some fallout from that. There will be some criticism from that. But that was, if you will, lower on the president's priority list given the long list of problems he faces right now. He will take some criticism for not naming a woman or reaching out to a Hispanic, perhaps, or another African-American. But what the president wanted most of all to do is heal what you might call the disruption in the force, if you will, to his political right.

Conservatives were angry with this president over the Harriet Miers nomination. That disruption has been healed. The conservatives, they are rushing out to praise this pick. And as Ed just noted, it is the Democrats who are most angry at the president right now, most upset.

So, when you're a politician, especially the chief politician of the United States, the president of the United States, you have to decide which problem you need to heal first, or which problem you're willing to create as you go to try to heal another one. The president clearly deciding that this is the man he wanted to send up to Capitol Hill at this very sensitive moment.

Abortion, as Ed noted, will be one of the key debates. And I know you have Jeff Toobin standing by. It's quite interesting. I'm reading many of the decisions of Judge Alito, and one of the things most interesting to me -- and I'm sure Jeff can shed more light on this -- is that none of the language is really provocative.

He has taken some positions that liberals don't like, that interest groups like those who favor abortion rights don't like. But it's not very provocative language.

In the case of one abortion decision, yes, he sided with those who favored notification. A wife or a woman would have to notify her spouse before receiving an abortion. But he didn't say anything about abortion itself. He said the Pennsylvania legislature should have that right; the courts should not make that decision, the legislature should.

From the Bush White House perspective, this is a conservative with respect for judicial restraint. We are about, though, Kyra, to have a very big political fight.

PHILLIPS: John, just -- political fight, and a quick question. I'm going to get to Jeffrey Toobin in a minute. You raised some good questions. We'll talk about Alito's background with regard to decisions that he's made.

But I'm just curious, when you talk about this healing process, has anyone -- how involved was Harriet Miers in this pick? Do we know?

I know you have a lot of sources. Do we know how she's doing? Is she talking? Will we hear from her? I just think it would be so interesting hearing from her about not only this, but what she went through and how she goes forward.

KING: I'm going to put that one in "Kyra wants the first lady and then Harriet Miers to on and explain all this as soon as possible."

PHILLIPS: I want two exclusive interviews, John, right after this. OK?

KING: I have a funny feeling you're going to have to wait. The White House counsel -- Harriet Miers is back in her job as the White House counsel. The White House counsel very rarely speaks. And I don't think you'll hear from Harriet Miers.

She was involved in the selection process. She went to Camp David with the president over the weekend.

What is most interesting, though, Dana Bash and our other White House correspondents reporting the president did this quickly last week. So, Harriet Miers was involved to the agree that she built the list that brought us to John Roberts, now Chief Justice Roberts. She built the list that the president was looking at in addition to her, if will you, when he picked Harriet Miers.

Judge Alito was on that list. The president wasted no time. This was in the back of his mind. When he realized he had a problem, he went with someone he was comfortable with, someone whose record he supports. So I'll put the request in for the first lady and Harriet Miers, but I think for now you're going to have to settle for Jeff Toobin.

PHILLIPS: Well, you know, I know you talk to both of them. So I'm coming back to you, John King, our chief national correspondent. Thanks, John.

All right, Jeffrey Toobin. We'll turn to now -- we were talking a little bit about Judge Alito's background. And you and I have picked a couple issues to sort of focus on.

Let's start with abortion. John King brought that up also. And this ruling requiring women seeking abortions to notify their husbands. Let's talk about -- well, it's, of course, an interesting talker. But it also -- you can misinterpret this ruling, right?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's right. I mean, I think Justice King's (sic) analysis of the opinion was right on the money.

PHILLIPS: Justice King.

TOOBIN: It was -- Pennsylvania passed a law, that said, among other things, if a married woman wants to get an abortion, she is required to notify first her husband. And Justice Alito, then Judge Alito, did something interesting. He actually anticipated correctly that the Supreme Court would use a new test.

The law has changed since Roe v. Wade. And Justice O'Connor proposed a test on abortion -- she said if the law imposes an undue burden on a woman's right to choose, then it's unconstitutional. Well, what Judge Alito did in his own opinion is he said, well, as far as I can tell, this imposing this notification of the husband requirement was not an undue burden.

Well, the Supreme Court said, well, you got the test right. The test is undue burden, but the result was wrong. We, five justices on the court -- and it was a 5-4 decision in 1992 -- said, we believe at that notification of the spouse requirement is too much, too much of an undue burden on the woman, and we strike it down as unconstitutional.

John is right. The language is not particularly inflammatory, but the substance of the decision is one that pro-lifers will like and pro-choicers will fear a great deal.

PHILLIPS: So, bottom line is, husband should know. But husband does not make the decision for the wife on what to do?

TOOBIN: Well, the law only said no to notification. The law didn't give the husband a veto power.


TOOBIN: But the Supreme Court said, even just a notification requirement was too much of an undue burden. And that -- they struck that law down.

PHILLIPS: All right. So considering how Judge Alito went forward with that, how could that impact? Because there are a number of cases waiting to be looked at, correct? How could that -- I guess his mentality impact an upcoming case? TOOBIN: Well, you know, the Supreme Court hasn't dealt with the issue of abortion in five years. It's been a pretty long time. But the court has at least one, and probably two abortion cases.

One is going to be argued on November 30, while Justice O'Connor is still sitting. Although, she won't get to vote until the opinion is rendered.

But there's a case coming out of New Hampshire, it's up there on -- Ayotte versus Planned Parenthood, which is about the parental notification law. It's somewhat of an obscure corner of abortion law. It's not dealing with all parental notification laws.

But basically, New Hampshire tried to tighten the law, tried to make it more difficult for young women to get abortions. And this is the first time the court is going to deal with one of these issues in five years.

Perhaps even more dramatic is, later in the term, the court almost certainly will deal with the issue of partial-term abortions or late-term abortions. In 2000, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to strike down Nebraska's law with Justice O'Connor in the pro-choice majority. The court will probably have new membership, and it seems very likely if Judge Alito is on the court, the court could switch 5-4 the other way, allowing the partial-birth abortion law to stand.

So, I mean, this is going to have a big impact and soon if a pro- lifer, if that's what Judge -- if that's what Judge Alito turns out to be, if he's appointed, could have a big impact very fast.

PHILLIPS: It's hard. Scalia, Scalito, Alito. I know, it's a big tongue twister.

TOOBIN: This is the first Supreme Court nominee whose nickname will be an issue on his confirmation, because his nickname is Scalito, little Nino Scalito.

PHILLIPS: Oh, boy.

TOOBIN: I know.

PHILLIPS: All right. Trying to keep it all straight. Jeffrey Toobin.

TOOBIN: Keep it all straight.

PHILLIPS: Thank you so much.

TOOBIN: See you, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, at the bottom of the hour, we are going to check in with Allan Chernoff for a look at Judge Alito's life outside the courtroom.

Now, not considering any of his actual opinions, Judge Alito's experience on the federal bench is likely to sit well with most Americans. In a new CNN "USA-Today"-Gallup poll, half the respondents said that it was essential that the president nominate someone with experience as a judge. Another 36 percent thought it's a good idea.

Just 14 percent thought it essential for the president to nominate a woman to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Thirty-three percent said it was a good idea. Half said that it just doesn't matter.

Now, mourners are gathering at a Washington church this hour for the memorial service honoring civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. That service begins next hour.

As you know, Parks help to inspire the civil rights movement half a century ago when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. Earlier today and last night thousands and thousands of mourners filed past her casket at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. Parks is the first woman to lie in honor at the rotunda.

And of course we're going to talk a lot more about her life and legacy throughout the next three hours.

Well, straight ahead, the CIA leak case. Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, now under indictment. What's next in the case? That's just ahead on LIVE FROM.


PHILLIPS: Now for the latest in the CIA leak probe, Lewis "Scooter" Libby scheduled to make this first court appearance Thursday morning. He's vowing to fight the charges against him. Libby resigned as Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff on Friday, after being indicted on five counts in this case.

Presidential adviser Karl Rove still under investigation in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. And the special prosecutor in the case says that more charges could be coming. Plame's husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, told CBS "60 Minutes" about her reaction when she learned her identity had been exposed.


JOSEPH WILSON, VALERIE PLAME'S HUSBAND: She felt like she had been hit in the stomach. It took her breath away. She recovered quickly, because of course you don't do what she did for a living without understanding stress. And she became very matter of fact right afterwards and started making lists of what she had to do to ensure that her assets, her projects, her programs and her operations were protected.


PHILLIPS: And you can hear more from Joe Wilson on a special edition of CNN's "THE SITUATION ROOM." That's tonight at 7:00 Eastern.

"TIME" magazine reporter Matthew Cooper says that Karl Rove told him about Valerie Plame. Cooper says that he then tried to follow up on that information with Scooter Libby. Cooper told CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" today what happened next.


MATTHEW COOPER, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I had asked him, I heard the day before from the president's political adviser, Karl Rove, that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and that she played a role in sending him on this mission to Africa. And so I basically ran that by Libby.

I asked, did he know anything about Wilson's wife sending him? And he said, "Yes, I've heard that, too." But there was none of his other elaboration that I guess he went ahead and testified to.


PHILLIPS: And if the case against Libby goes to trial, Cooper says he may be called to testify.

Well, the Scooter Libby indictment has not affected President Bush's overall approval rating. In the latest CNN "USA-Today"-Gallup poll, 41 percent of Americans say they approve of the way the president is handling his job. That's the same as before the indictment. And more than half, 56 percent, disapprove of the president's performance. The same percentage, 56 percent, say that the president cannot manage the government effectively.

It's a week after Hurricane Wilma hit south Florida, and residents are sill recovering. More than a million customers are still without electricity. But because of those power outages, public schools in three counties are closed today. Key West is reopening to visitors today, but visitors may still find debris in the streets.

CNN's JJ Ramberg joins us now from Golds (ph), Florida, south of Miami, with a look at what residents are facing there.

Hi, JJ.


Well, there are a lot of bright spots also besides some of those other things you were talking about. One is that the gas lines don't really exist anymore. We saw a lot of people lining up for hours for gas last week. Now, a lot of gas stations are working. So that's not a problem.

Also, they've closed down some of the ice and water distribution centers because people weren't coming to them anymore because a lot of stores started opening up. But there's one area where people are really going to be feeling the repercussions of this hurricane for a long, long time, and that's here where I am right now.

I'm at a farm here that grows beans. And this is just one of the areas that was completely destroyed. We see this scene here. We're seeing it actually all over this area.


RAMBERG (voice over): Walk through Larry Dunagan's avocado farm in southern Florida, and it looks like a wild forest...

LARRY DUNAGAN, FARMER: Looky here. This tree here...

RAMBERG: ... overgrown weeds, broken branches, toppled trees. There are few signs of the organized grove Dunagan and his family have planted over the past three generations.

DUNAGAN: The trees would be standing up straight. Avocados would be hanging. You could just reach out there and grab them. It would look nice.

RAMBERG: Hurricane Wilma's fierce winds tore through his farm last week, killing nearly all of the avocados, beans and squash he was growing, and creating a ripple that could extend throughout the country. Southern Florida is the top producer of winter vegetables at this time of year.

DUNAGAN: These won't make it. There won't be beans for Thanksgiving this year.

RAMBERG (on camera): Will we have them for Christmas?

DUNAGAN: We'll have some for Christmas. Yes, we will.

RAMBERG (voice over): Early estimates are that agricultural damage from Wilma will top $1 billion. For farmers here, the timing of the storm couldn't have been worse.

DUNAGAN: These won't come back. In other words, they are too far gone.

RAMBERG: Dunagan's neighbor Eric Torrese grows tomatoes, squash and beans.

ERIC TORRESE, FARMER: We should have money coming in, in another 30 days. Now we won't see any income for closer to 90 days. So it definitely puts a damper on Christmas, so to speak. You know, you don't have the money coming in that you would of had coming in, so it tightens up the belt.

RAMBERG: With the land in this part of the state in high demand for housing development, agriculture officials worry about the long- term effect of the hurricane season on Florida's farming industry.

KATIE EDWARDS, DADE COUNTY FARM BUREAU: I think we're going to see a lot of pressure on farmers to sell. I think that developers will come after the farmers with increased pressure, knowing that it's hard enough to be in agriculture as it is.

RAMBERG: Larry Dunagan says his land is not for sale. He's been farming it his entire life and has seen tough times before.

RAMBERG, (on camera): Does it make you sometimes want to throw up your hands?

DUNAGAN: Well, yes, but we're resilient. We'll be back in business before you know it.


RAMBERG: Now, Kyra, let me just give you an example of some of the work these farmers have ahead of them. I'm at a pole bean farm. There are thousands, hundreds of thousands of these beans. They have to lift each one of these sticks up, take the beans off of it because it's dead, and then replant the beans, and then replant the sticks.

This for hundreds and hundred of acres, something they've already done. And now because the crop is destroyed, they're going to have to do all over again -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Impacting them and the economy. JJ Ramberg, thank you so much.

Well, straight ahead, remembering Rosa Parks. We're going to take you to the memorial service and talk to one of her long-time and dedicated friends, Representative John Conyers.

Stay with us.


PHILLIPS: Just last hour at the United Nations, the Security Council unanimously approved a resolution demanding Syria's cooperation in a U.N. probe. At issue, the assassination of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria has denied any involvement in that killing. Hariri was a vocal critic of Syria and its influence in Lebanese politics.

Six U.S. troops were killed in separate instances in Iraq today. Four Task Force Baghdad soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck -- was struck, rather, by a roadside bomb. Two other soldiers were killed in a bombing just north of Balad. There have been 90 American military deaths in Iraq this month. That's the highest number since January when 107 Americans were killed.

Two U.S. soldiers are charged with assaulting captives in their custody in Afghanistan. The military says the alleged incident took place at a forward operating base in the Oruzgan province. The soldiers are accused of punching the detainees. The military says the captives did not need medical care.

Live pictures now in Washington where mourners are gathering for a memorial service honoring the woman known as the mother of the civil rights movement. This service for Rosa Parks is under way right now at the Metropolitan AME Church, and the public includes tributes from Oprah Winfrey, the NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, and members of Congress. As you know, Parks died last Monday at the age of 92. Her memory never forgotten. Congressman John Conyers of Michigan was a dear friend of Rosa Parks. He is with us now from Washington to talk more about this remarkable woman. Congressman, great to have you with us.

REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), MICHIGAN: It's an honor to be here. Glad you're here.

PHILLIPS: Well, we're going to talk with you as we listen to the singer's amazing voice at this memorial. I've got to ask you, eight years, I think it was, right, that Rosa Parks could not find employment after she refused to give up her seat on that bus. Yet, you took her in, you hired her. You made her an aide. Why did she remain unemployed for so many years?

CONYERS: Well, of course, she was put on a blacklist, that is to say, no one would hire her in Montgomery, Alabama, after her initiation of the bus boycott, and the beginning of the new modern civil rights movement in America. And because of that and the death threats, it became very important that she leave Alabama.

And she came to Detroit because she had relatives there. And that led her and I back together. And, of course, I promised myself that the first person I would offer a position on my staff when elected to the Congress, would be Rosa Louise Parks.

PHILLIPS: Now, Congressman, I want to just set the stage for our viewers. You're actually not far from this incredible woman who is singing right now, right? Are you actually in the same room, is that why we're just hearing this incredible voice? You're right there, aren't you?

CONYERS: Yes, we're in the church. Yes, we're right here at the Metropolitan AME Church.

PHILLIPS: Absolutely amazing. And so, I wanted to sort of explain to our viewers, because it's sort of hard to hear you, but you're right there, right there in the middle of this memorial service. I can't think of a better person to be talking to, as we're watching this live. And talking to you as you are in the actual room where the service is taking place. You talked about bringing Rosa Parks on as your aide. Tell me how she made an impact in your office, made an impact on you. Did she actually get involved in writing legislation with you? Did she say to you, John, my dear friend, I've got some great ideas, and this is what we should do?

CONYERS: Well, of course, she was in constant contact with the civil rights leaders. She never lost touch them, with Martin King, with Andrew Young, Julian Bond, Reverend Abernathy and John Lewis. So she facilitated the many ideas that came out of our office, including the Voter Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act that came out in the early and mid '60s.

She never -- as a matter of fact, her celebrity grew because it was clear that in sitting down on that bus on December 1st, 1955, she brought the 26-year old untested minister named Martin Luther King into a great leadership position, which he discharged perfectly. And it led him to become the leader of this new civil rights movement. So that's why she's called the mother of the civil rights movement. PHILLIPS: Well, Congressman, was there ever a moment where you had a heart-to-heart, or she said something to you that really made you sit back and think, wow, Rosa, you're right, I need to do that, or I never thought about it that way?

CONYERS: Well, she was constantly bringing to me new information about the struggle particularly in the South which she had many connections going to, more than I did. And, of course, she was working with the leaders. So there were occasions where there was activity that I began to move toward legislative, the whole idea of a Voter Rights Act we were talking about.

And you can remember that Lyndon Johnson at first told the civil rights leaders that he couldn't do it because we had just done the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But after those pictures of the brutal beatings by police and others, when they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the television pictures stunned the nation, and it changed Lyndon Johnson to go for two major civil rights bills one year after the next.

And Rosa Parks was counseling me on the developments and the incidents that were going on and frequently putting me in touch with some of the leaders during that period of time. She was invaluable. But more than that, she was such a quiet, dignified woman that never raised her voice. I've never seen her in an argument in my life. I've never seen her angry in my life.

She had this Mother Teresa aura, if I can use that term, that quieted people, that brought people together. And that's what she did in the office. That's what she did in the city of Detroit. And that's what she did as she went around the country and indeed the world collecting all of the commendations that came her way as a leading figure in the civil rights movement.

PHILLIPS: Congressman, you're so right, she had a quiet strength that was unbelievable. And she never wanted any recognition for what she did. She was such a humble, humble warrior. Congressman John Conyers, right there at the Metropolitan AME Church, as he, along with many others, are honoring Rosa Parks. Sir, thank you so much for your time.

CONYERS: Well, it's a pleasure because she's now received all the honors that can go to a citizen. And I think that's the legacy that she leaves behind.

PHILLIPS: Well deserved. John Conyers, thank you, sir.

CONYERS: You're welcome.

PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, President Bush nominates a third person to the Supreme Court. Will this one get confirmed? Just ahead on LIVE FROM, hear from nominee Samuel Alito. Plus, CNN political analyst Carlos Watson on what Alito's nomination could mean to the highest court in the land. There he is with that million dollar smile.


PHILLIPS: Just four days after outraged conservatives help force the withdrawal of a Supreme Court nominee, President Bush has presented a new choice, 55-year-old Samuel Alito has two rallying points that Harriet Miers did not. Alito has spent 15 years as a federal judge and a documented conservative philosophy.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sam Alito has shown a mastery of the law, a deep commitment of justice and a -- and he is a man of enormous character.

SAMUEL ALITO, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Federal judges have the duty to interpret the Constitution and the laws faithfully and fairly to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans and to do these things with care and with restraint, always keeping in mind the limited role that the courts play in our constitutional system. And I pledge that if confirmed I will do everything within my power to fulfill that responsibility.


PHILLIPS: Democrats who largely just observed the Miers nomination implode are already voicing concerns about Alito. Some fear that he is an extremist who would limit abortion rights. So what does the Alito nomination mean for the power struggle brewing on Capitol Hill and the possible impact on the court's balance of power? We turn to CNN political analyst Carlos Watson.

Hi, Carlos.

CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Kyra Phillips, good to see you.

PHILLIPS: Good to see you. All right, so, second choices, have they ever backfired on a president?

WATSON: Oddly enough, Kyra, they have over the last 50 years prior to Harriet Miers, there have been six nominations that have withdrawn or have ultimately failed. And if you follow them, they come in pairs. So Lyndon Johnson had two successive defeats back in '67 and '68. You follow that up with two successive defeats for Richard Nixon in '69 and '70. And then if you go back in 1987, Ronald Reagan stumbled not only once, but twice before ultimately nominating Antonin Scalia to that seat. So we'll see whether or not the curse of twos shows up once again following Harriet Miers. Will there be a struggle in terms of Judge Alito?

PHILLIPS: We'll see if history is any indicator. All right, let's talk about the dynamics in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

WATSON: Three people to look out for and to follow their roles. Number one, what does -- the chairman, Arlen Specter, Republican from Pennsylvania, but liberal Republican, what kind of referee will he be? Will he be the kind of referee who is aggressive but ultimately gives Alito, if you will, a kind of stamp, a positive stamp? Or given that he opposes Alito, at least on the question of abortion, as we currently read it, will he be much more negative than that, in many ways play the kind of role he did during Judge Bork's hearing almost 20 years ago?

Number two, what will Sam Brownback, the new darling, if you will, of movement conservatives, who was very aggressive in opposing Harriet Miers, what kind of role will he play? Will he silently suggest that he supports Alito or will he be very active and very aggressive?

And last but not least, I'd watch Dianne Feinstein, the senior senator from California, the only woman on the Judiciary Committee. Given that abortion rights are likely to be a hot topic not only within the committee but across the country, how aggressive will she be? Will she in effect do what her fellow senator from California, Barbara Boxer, has done over the past year, which is a really be a get-in-your-face kind of senator during these various hearings? Three people to watch among others in the Judiciary Committee.

PHILLIPS: What about when you look at the dynamics in the Senate at large? Probably, you'll be keeping your eye on the younger Democrats, right? They'll feel, we have to fight here.

WATSON: Well, you know what, Kyra, this is the absolutely interesting one to watch. I mean, you saw Harry Reid, the leader of the Senate Democrats, he's got 45 votes, including his own. Can he hold them together? Because make no mistake about it, those activist Democrats, whether those on the blogs or whether some of the young Senate and congressional staffers, they're picking a -- they want a fight here. They're saying if you're not going to aggressively oppose Judge Alito, what's a Democratic Party for?

They will say that he's opposed to abortion rights, he's to the Family Medical Leave Act, he's opposed to a whole litany of things that they see as fundamental progressive values. And -- but a number of the Democrats who are from red states, whether it's Mark Pryor or Kent Conrad or Mary Landrieu or others, maybe a little bit more reticent. So I think it's going to be interesting to see whether or not they stick together in opposing President Bush like they did on Social Security and consequently pursue a filibuster, or whether or not they ultimately allow this choice through.

PHILLIPS: Carlos Watson, let's talk more this week as things develop, sound good?

WATSON: Look forward to it, sounds good.

PHILLIPS: Terrific. All right. We're going to talk more about Samuel Alito, the father, the husband, behind the man right after LIVE FROM.


PHILLIPS: Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito is married, he has two children. In fact, he says that almost on a daily basis his son and daughter make sure that being a judge doesn't go to his head. CNN senior correspondent Allan Chernoff in Newark, New ,Jersey where the family is.

Allan, we should know, the children always keep the parents humble, right?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And, Kyra, the truth is, every colleague that I've spoken to this morning, every friend, they all say the guy is humble. He really is. He's not full of himself, even though Judge Sam Alito clearly is a brilliant person. That's pretty obvious, people say, when you talk to him.

But most of all, the initial impression you get is that this is really a Jersey guy. He was born in Trenton, went to school in Princeton, lives actually in West Caldwell, New Jersey, with his two children and his wife. And he keeps his office here in downtown Newark in the courthouse right behind on the third floor, even though the 3rd Circuit Court, on which he sits, is actually based in Philadelphia.

The court hears cases here in Newark only twice a year, two weeks a year. The rest of the cases are heard in Philadelphia. But he keeps his chambers right over here in Newark. And in fact, he worked across the street when he was U.S. attorney in New Jersey.

By the way, Michael Chertoff had worked underneath him, the current chief of Homeland Security. So Sam Alito, no question, very much of a Jersey-based person. People say, as I said, he's quite humble, unassuming, very smart. And everyone says he's very thoughtful.


LAWRENCE LUSTBERG, FRIEND OF SAMUEL ALITO: There's no question that this is a very conservative nomination. As a person, I think Sam Alito is terrific. He's generous of spirit. He's got a great sense of humor. He's very smart. And he's a kind and open-minded human being.


CHERNOFF: Also quite active in his community. Not only does he judge the mock court over at Seton Hall Law School where he teaches as an adjunct professor, but he also, Kyra, coached the mock court team James Caldwell High School in West Caldwell. Two years they won the national championship at a competition sponsored by Duke University. So he lends his expertise to the kids.

PHILLIPS: All right, Allan Chernoff. Thank you so much.

Of course, we'll be talking a lot more about Samuel Alito. But we're going to sort of shift the focus here. Coming up after the break, we're actually going to talk royalty, Camilla and Charles heading to the U.S. We'll tell you why after a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS: Royal alert. Prince Charles and Camilla, duchess of Cornwall, arrive in the U.S. tomorrow for and eight-day visit. They're going to lunch with the president, of course, and Mrs. Bush, among a number of other things. It's the royal couple's first official overseas tour since their wedding in April.

Good news for drivers, gas prices are on the decline. Susan Lisovicz has more now live from the New York Stock Exchange.

Hi, Susan, good to see you.


And this is good news for all drivers. According to the latest AAA report, gas prices have dropped below $2.50 a gallon. So fill 'er up. The average for self serve unleaded is $2.49 a gallon, that's about 57 cents below the record that was set over Labor Day weekend. Gas prices have steadily fallen during the past two weeks on signs that soaring energy costs are finally starting to force people to cut back on consumption here in the U.S. But many analysts still expect prices to rebound as winter weather fast approaches.

Crude oil prices today down more than a dollar, back around $60 a barrel, that is after OPEC said it has enough spare capacity to cover expected global demand this winter. Stocks are higher on oil's decline, and some merger action.

Right now the Dow industrials are up about 50 points or half a percent. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, is adding 23 points or more than 1 percent. In economic news, personal spending rose half a percent last month. That was mostly due to high gas prices. However, when you take out energy prices, spending was actually down nearly half a percent. So it puts it in perspective.

Incomes, meanwhile, jumped due to insurance payments from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But the saving rate, which is the percentage of after-tax income Americans sock away, remained in negative territory in September for a fourth straight month. So a mixed bag on economic news. And that's the latest from Wall Street.

Kyra, back to you.

PHILLIPS: All right, Susan. Thank you so much. We'll see you again next hour.

Also, next hour, reaction continuing to come in to President Bush's selection of Judge Samuel Alito as his news Supreme Court nominee. Our coverage of today's big story out of Washington continues in the second hour of LIVE FROM.

Also, honoring a pioneer, a memorial service for the woman known as the mother of the civil rights movement, about to begin in Washington. Oprah Winfrey, among those speaking. We're going to bring it to you in the second hour of LIVE FROM which begins right after a quick break.