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CNN Live Event/Special
Tempers Flare at Alito Hearings; Analysts React to Hearings
Aired January 11, 2006 - 16:35 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. Let's take another look now at what's happening inside the Samuel Alito hearings. Except for a few breaks, the Supreme Court nominee has been answering senators' questions virtually nonstop since 9:30 a.m. this morning Eastern. You can you watch all the action, by the way, live online right now. Go to CNN's pipeline at CNN.com. We're going to go back there live soon.
Right now, though, let's talk to a key player in the Alito hearings. Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: The issue of abortion rights for women. We're now getting word that a GOP political group that's associated with several moderate Republicans who support a women's right to have an abortion, including some senators like Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Lincoln Chafee, Arlen Specter.
They've now formally -- this group called the Republican Majority for Choice -- come out against Alito, saying he's out of step with mainstream Americans on the issue of abortion and maintaining the legal right to choose. Now, none of those Republican senators have done that. But what do you make of this development?
SESSIONS: Well, I would hope that's not true because he certainly is a moderate force in many ways. He recommended against in the Justice Department a frontal assault on Roe vs. Wade. He's had three opinions, one of those a very strong pro-choice, pro-abortion opinion.
I think his record is very, very good and very mainstream. I couldn't imagine why people would feel differently. Yes, he personally probably opposes abortion, does not think it's a good thing. But he's first and foremost a restrained jurist who says he will give the highest consideration to the percent of the Supreme Court.
BLITZER: So you don't think he would necessarily move to overturn Roe vs. Wade if he become an associate justice of the Supreme Court?
SESSIONS: Well, actually, some of the things he said about precedent and how much weight should be given it would probably cause some of those who oppose Roe vs. Wade to be a bit nervous. He certainly discussed it quite strongly, the value of precedent, why you should not lightly overturn cases. But he also explained that precedents can be overturned. So it was, I think, just a very, very fine intellectual legal analysis of exactly what's at stake legally with these issues.
BLITZER: So basically, it's fair to say, you've made up your mind. You're ready to confirm?
SESSIONS: Well, I absolutely am. It would take something really dramatic. You know, who is John Roberts. He has done just a terrific job. He has been in many ways more forthcoming than John Roberts was. He very seldom has said, "That may come before me. I won't even discuss it." He's not done that. He's been careful in what he says, and very, very knowledgeable on almost any question of law that came before him.
BLITZER: Does his explanation of his involvement with this concerned alumni of Princeton, this organization he cited 20 years ago in a job application, now he can't remember anything at all about it. Does that sound credible to you?
SESSIONS: Well, he just was never active. There's no doubt that he never participated in terms of going to meetings or writing anything for it or anything of that nature. But it was a group had a number of concerns, the primary one appears to be their concern about the kicking of the ROTC off campus. He was a member of ROTC. He had to go to another campus to complete his obligation. He did not think that was good. And that was one of the issues that kicked it off during the '60s.
BLITZER: But this notion that he can't remember anything at all about it. A smart guy like him, a brilliant guy in many respects, remembers nuances of every little case that he's ever associated with, and he can't remember this?
SESSIONS: Well, what he said was if he'd done anything, gone to a meeting or participated in any way, he would have remembered it. But it was -- apparently, they're out seeing if they got any record of his participation. "The New York Times" has already examined those records and did not find his name mentioned in any way in the records of the organization.
BLITZER: Senator Sessions, thank you for joining us. We'll have you back.
SESSIONS: Thank you.
BLITZER: Appreciate it. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, much more of our coverage of the Supreme Court hearings. We're going to go back live to Capitol Hill. The questioning of Samuel Alito continues.
Plus, check this out. A dramatic robbery all captured on videotape. We're going to have those details and a look at some of the other stories making headlines right now. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're watching the hearings unfold on Capitol Hill. And remember, if you want to watch it all uninterrupted by commercials or anything else, go to CNN.com. Our pipeline service there will be feeding it all as it happens, live to you. CNN.com/pipeline. In the meantime, let's check in again with Zain at the CNN Center for a closer look at other stories make news -- Zain?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, authorities in Colorado say they've gained some control over a wildfire burning near Denver. But they say that they're still worried about winds. No one's been reported hurt because of the fire which has consumed 2,700 acres. More than 100 people were evacuated from the area.
It looks like a movie, but it's all too real, Wolf. And police are still looking for this man. It happened in the early hours of Tuesday morning in Las Vegas. An armed robber displays a gun and demands money from a casino cashier. Then he just runs off, flees, firing several shots. A security guard was wounded in the leg. Look at that.
Also in Las Vegas, what goes up must come down. Fifty years ago what went up was the Showboat Casino. Today, known as the Castaways, it came down thanks to 195 pounds of explosives. The building, as you see, imploded, and that took just about 18 seconds in total. The owners of the site haven't said what they're going to do with the land.
And the author of the best selling memoirs "A Million Little Pieces" defends his book on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight. James Frey and his publisher Doubleday are standing by his work. Now, The Smoking Gun Web site says its investigation shows that Frey fabricated or embellished some details of his gritty account of crime and drug addiction. Frey shot to prominence after Oprah Winfrey picked his memoir for her book club last fall. Frey talks to Larry King at 9:00 Eastern on CNN -- Wolf?
BLITZER: That's a good exclusive for Larry. It's his first interview since this whole uproar began. Zain, thanks very much for that.
On our political radar this Wednesday, the Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco is calling another special legislative session next month to deal with the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This comes a day after some residents filed a recall petition against Blanco saying the state needs new leadership to recover from the devastating storms.
The Los Angeles Police Department is asking the city attorney to decide if Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor, should be ticketed for driving his motorcycle without a proper license. Schwarzenegger's Harley Davidson collided with a car over the weekend, leaving the governor with 16 -- or it's 15, to be precise -- stitches in his upper lip. Authorities say Schwarzenegger's failure to get his license updated is considered just a minor traffic infraction. The Israeli government is firing back at Pat Robertson. As you may remember, the religious broadcaster suggested that prime minister Ariel Sharon's stroke last week was punishment from God for withdrawing from Gaza. Israel's tourism minister says the nation will no longer do business with Robertson. That may jeopardize construction of a $15 million Christian Heritage Center in Israel. It's planned by a group headed by Pat Robertson.
And check this out. The former congressman turned inmate James Traficant has a new financial endeavor, even as he continues to serve time in prison for accepting bribes. He's selling his artwork online. Our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner is joining us now. She has more on this -- Jacki?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, you can you buy that artwork at Beammeupart.com. It's a take on the catch phrase from "Star Trek" the congressman himself used often. It features mostly saddle-bred horses, which the congressman bred.
And you can also find this on auction on eBay.com. I will, we went to the Web site today, and many of the paintings are already taken up. But you can go to eBay and bid on two of the paintings, one around $200 right now, the other at $500. It comes with authentication documents. That would be the letter and the envelope that Traficant sent these from jail -- Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Picasso, Rembrandt? I'm not sure what he is. He's James Traficant. He can do whatever he wants. Thanks very much for that, Jacki.
Up next, compelling questions or trivial pursuits? Senators are questioning Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. It's going on right now. But are they doing it to your satisfaction? It's Jack's question of the hour. Coming up, your e-mail.
And he's being called a whistle-blower. He's a former officer with the National Security Agency, the NSA. And he says he told Congress about the domestic spying program. We're going to have more on this story, as well. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a member of the Judiciary Committee, has just apologized to Samuel Alito for some of the questioning by Democrats, questioning that Lindsey Graham considers to be inappropriate. He's now questioning Alito on Roe vs. Wade, abortion rights. Let's listen in.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The government increased spending and intruded upon or steered a choice. Roe had ranked as a woman's fundamental right. The public funding of abortion decisions appear -- denying a requirement of public funding appear incongruous following so soon after the intrepid 1973 ruling.
The court denied to adequately explain why the fundamental choice principle and trimester approach embraced in Roe did not bar the sovereign, at least at the pre-viability stage of pregnancy, from taking sides and being required to provide funding for the abortions of poor women.
If that writing doesn't suggest an allegiance to Roe, that writing doesn't suggest from her point of view as the author of that article, not only is Roe an important constitutional right, the government ought to pay for abortions in certain circumstances.
If she were here today and a Democratic president had nominated her, and we take on the role that our colleagues are playing against you, not only would she not have gotten 96 votes, I think she would have been for a very rough experience. And what's changed? Justice Ginsburg openly expressed a legal theory about Roe v. Wade.
My question to you. If I am arguing a case that would alter Roe v. Wade, would I have the ability, because of her prior writings, to ask her to recuse herself based on those writings?
JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I don't think you would, Senator. I think it's established that prior writings of a member of the judiciary do not require the recusal of that member of the judiciary.
GRAHAM: I think you're absolutely right, Judge. And let me tell you, what she says at the hearing when it was her time to sit where you're sitting, "You ask me about my thinking on equal protection..."
BLITZER: All right, we're going to break away from this hearing, once again. Senator Lindsey Graham referring to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the justice, what she said on Roe vs. Wade. We'll continue to monitor the hearing. Remember, CNN.com/pipeline. You want to watch it uninterrupted, go there.
Let's go up to New York. Jack Cafferty has been going through your e-mail -- Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Is "incongruitous" a word?
BLITZER: "Incongruent" is a word.
CAFFERTY: "Incongruent" is a word, and "incongruous" is a word. But my question is, is "incongruitous" a word?
BLITZER: Only if you say it is.
CAFFERTY: I didn't say it. One of those senators just did. The question is, how good of a job are the senators doing in the Alito confirmation hearings?
Dale in Anadarko (ph), Oklahoma, writes, "The senators would receive an F. The only thing that's interesting is Judge Alito's constant moving of his head. I realize the head bobbing is used to hypnotize the senators, and it's working.
Chris in Cincinnati writes, "What are you talking about? I find these hearings fascinating. I enjoy hearing Alito talk about law. I just wish you would stop interrupting it."
Andrew in Monroe, New York: "The senators are doing as well as can be expected when the nominee refuses to say anything substantive."
James writes in Jefferson, Maryland, "As to the question of whether or not Alito was ever a member of CAP (ph), either he was and he can't remember, or he was not and he lied on his resume. Is either possibility a positive for a potential Supreme Court justice?"
And A.J. writes, "Mr. Cafferty, I'm a student at the University of Texas in Austin, and I love your tidbits." My tidbit? "Here are my thoughts. I agree with most of your analysis and do not think I hear any groundbreaking new information on Judge Alito. However, have you noticed he sort of looks like Bill Gates?"
I guess he sort of does, doesn't he?
BLITZER: I guess if you stretch it.
CAFFERTY: Look, this stuff is as interesting as the hearings. I'm not apologizing for this material.
BLITZER: I like this kind of stuff, but I'm a nerd. Thanks very much, Jack, for that.
Still to come, the former Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry has a high-profile -- at least he had a high-profile drug problem in the past. Now some reports say he could still have a problem. We're going to have details. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry has been through more dramatic ups and downs than most politicians. Now, more than a decade after he was caught in an FBI drug bust, a new report suggests Barry may be using drugs again. Out national correspondent Bruce Morton is standing by with more -- Bruce?
BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, "The Washington Post" reports Marion Barry tested positive for cocaine last fall after pleading guilty to tax charges. As Yogi Berra once said, it's like deja vu all over again.
MORTON: A life he's had here. Out of the civil rights movement, first national chairman of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, into a career as a Washington activist. Elected mayor in 1978, again in '82, again in '86. Enlarged the black middle class by hiring blacks for city government. Worked on jobs programs. Did some good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I was a teenager, I got a summer job every summer. And I liked that about Barry.
MORTON: He made a lot of people middle class. One man who knows him said, "He put a lot of people through college. He paid a lot of rent." But bad management too, financial problems for the city, a prison riot, and in his third term busted for using crack cocaine. Served his time, got elected mayor again.
MARION BARRY, FORMER MAYOR OF WASHINGTON, D.C.: Get over it. I am the best person for Washington.
MORTON: But Congress took most of his powers away. Now, he's on the city council from the poorest part of the city. And last week, word that two young men who had been helping him unload groceries had robbed him at gunpoint.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel, though? Robbed, Marion Barry, right here in his own neighborhood?
BARRY: Thank God I wasn't hurt. It praise God for that. Could have been worse.
MORTON: He also said he was a little hurt because the hustlers and these other guys should know that he's their friend. Probably true. He's been at the heart of life in this city for good and for ill, for a very, very long time. Wolf?
BLITZER: Bruce Morton reporting for us. Bruce, thank you very much. It's 5:00 p.m. here in Washington, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where news from around the world arrive at one place at the same time.
Happening now, grilling and scorching of the Supreme Court nominee. Right now, senators questioning Judge Samuel Alito, while Democrats are nibbling on what they call inconsistencies in his past writings. Some Republicans say they are just hungry for red meat.
Commander-in-chief versus one of his troops. An Iraq war veteran-turned-congressional-hopeful taking on President Bush and his war policy. Now the president's traveled to the Marine's own backyard to try to blunt the criticisms.
And the furor over body armor. The U.S. military launches a counter-offensive against claims the Pentagon is not providing troops with adequate body armor. This after a Pentagon report suggesting better armor could have saved lives.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito still in the witness chair this hour after a full day of being cross-examined by senators. Whatever you may think of his performance, Alito has remained unflappable. The same cannot be said for Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter and Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy.
Tempers flared earlier when Kennedy asked the committee to subpoena records of a Princeton alumni group that has been a source of controversy during the questioning. Check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: My request is that we go into the executive session for the sole purpose of voting on a subpoena for these records that are held over at the Library of Congress. That purpose and that purpose only.
And if I'm going to be denied that, I would want to give notice to the chair that you are going to hear -- have it again and again and again, and we are going to have votes of this committee again and again and again until we have a resolution.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, Senator Kennedy, I'm not concerned about your threats to have votes again, again and again. And I'm the chairman of this committee, and I have heard your request, and I will consider it. And I'm not going to have you run this committee and decide when we're going to go into executive session.
We're in the middle of a round of hearings. This is the first time you have personally called it to my attention, and this is the first time that I have focused on it. And I will consider it in due course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's get some more on what exactly is going on. And for that, we'll turn to our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry.
Pick up the story, Ed. It was I guess sort of resolved, at least temporarily.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Senator Specter ended up trying to call the Democrat's bluff, if you will, and sent some staffers over during the lunch break to the Library of Congress to get the records that Kennedy wanted. There is obviously a serious issue here.
I mean, this group at Princeton accused of all kinds of bigotry, clearly trying to shut out women and minorities. And the Democrats are seriously trying to get to the bottom of that.
But what Republicans see from across the aisle, they think that Democrats are just running out of options. They think that Democrats sense that Judge Alito has really been turning away their questions, has been sailing along, and that this is desperation.
You heard Republican Senator Chuck Grassley a little earlier say, look, Judge Alito says he doesn't recall, you know, really being an active member of this organization. And he likened Judge Alito to a quarterback, and he said the Democrats are trying to sack you, but they haven't been able to get you. And they're getting frustrated, and they're going to keep throwing Hail Marys until they finally score -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We've learned a lot about Judge Alito's style over the course of these past three days.
HENRY: That's right. You know, it's interesting. If you think back, I mean, the White House right now, if you see them off camera here, the White House advisers are almost beaming. They feel like things have gone almost perfectly.
And what's interesting, if you think back before the hearings, the White House was quite nervous that he was no John Roberts. He was not as polished, that maybe he would crack under pressure. But instead, what we've seen, Judge Alito, in his own quiet, methodical way, has just been turning back one question after another. And that's also why Kennedy flared up a bit there.
He's frustrated. Other Democrats are frustrated because they think he's been evasive, but he's getting away with it. He is just staying calm and cool and remaining above the fray.
And you heard Republican Senator Jeff Sessions say in the last hour, "John Roberts who?" So, you know, a lot of people likened him to trying to follow Elvis on to the stage, but right now it looks like Alito is doing almost as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. Ed Henry on Capitol Hill for us.
More on the hearings coming up. But let's move on to the Iraq war right now.
A CNN -- a new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll finds 19 percent of Americans believe within the next 12 months there will be a democratic Iraqi government that can maintain order without U.S. troops. Seventy-five percent of Americans say there will not be such a government.
Meanwhile, President Bush traveled to Kentucky today to talk about the Iraq war and his confidence in winning the overall war on terror.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Things are good. I'm confident we'll succeed. And it's tough, though.
The enemy has got one weapon, I repeat to you, and that's to shake our will. And I just want to tell you, whether you agree with me or not, they are not going to shake my will. We are doing the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's go to the White House. Suzanne Malveaux is standing by. She is following this story.
What's the president really trying to accomplish today, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, at face value it looks like it's the same message, different venue in Louisville, Kentucky. You see a friendly audience, prescreened, asking questions on a variety of issues.
Of course the president trying to promote the war on terror. But really, the back story is what makes today so interesting, and that is fast forward to about nine months or so, the congressional midterm elections. Home of the seat here, of course, Republican Congresswoman Anne Northup. And she was greeted by the president, the two of them talking.
She's been supported by the president. She's raised about a million dollars for her campaign so far.
Who is going to be challenging her? Well, that is Democrat Andrew Horne. And he is somebody who is a veteran of the Iraq war. He spent about seven months there, as well as the Persian Gulf War.
He has no political experience to speak of, no name recognition, very little money, but he is being promoted by the Democrats because he's been very outspoken against U.S.-Iraq policy. And this is really part of a larger Democrat strategy nationwide to see if they can put veterans in those positions to essentially challenge those Republicans -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House.
Thanks very much.
And a would-be assassin sentenced to life in prison for trying to kill President Bush last May during his visit to the Republic of Georgia in the former Soviet Union. The man was also found guilty of trying to assassinate the Georgian president by lobbing a hand grenade at the platform where the two leaders were standing. The device, though, failed to detonate.
He's being called a whistleblower. He is a former officer with the National Security Agency. That's the super-secret spy organization here in the United States. And he says he told Congress about the domestic spying program that the president has authorized.
Our national security correspondent, David Ensor, has been checking this story out. He has got new details -- David.
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Russ Tyce is a big man who worries that his phone may be bugged since he became a whistleblower.
ENSOR (voice over): Tice, a former NSA intelligence officer who was fired in May after losing his security clearance, says he knows of possible law breaking in secret black programs he worked on, and he wants to tell more to the right people in Congress. On the domestic surveillance program revealed last month by "The New York Times," he questions what the government is saying.
The attorney general and intelligence officials say it has only covered a limited number of communications since it started in 2002 and only covers Americans when they are communicating with someone suspected of terrorist ties.
RUSSELL TICE, FMR. NSA OFFICER: The American people may not know the full extent of what's involved. It's been reported that only maybe a couple thousand, you know, communications have been involved. But are you talking about communications that have been winnowed down from millions, and ultimately these are the communications that were looked at by analysts? At which case, you know, are talking about a haystack that's been -- that's been filtered to get a shoebox full of straw.
ENSOR: Tice was not involved in the domestic surveillance program, and he did not know about it, he says, until he saw it in the newspaper. But he says some at the NSA are angry about it.
TICE: The few that I have talked to, most of them are very disappointed. Some even to the point of feeling betrayed that because this is drilled into our heads continually that you do not spy on Americans, it is gospel.
ENSOR: And Wolf, Tice wants to talk to Congress this week about the other matter, the law breaking he says he knows about and what are called special access programs. NSA officials say whatever Tice has got on that he hasn't told them about it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: David Ensor reporting for us.
Thanks, David, very much. Let's go back to New York. Jack Cafferty standing by with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: That's just -- that's going to be potentially a huge story this off-year election year, isn't it, that NSA stuff?
BLITZER: Huge. Huge.
Another -- another subject, Americans up to their eyeballs in debt, and it's getting worse. A survey out shows the number of personal bankruptcy filings reached another record high last year, 31.6 percent increase. That's two million households, one in every 53 American households filing for bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy filings went up in all parts of the country. The biggest increase came in California. It all happened as a new law went into effect last year which makes it much harder for individuals to declare bankruptcy.
The question this hour is this: What do Americans have to do to stay out of bankruptcy? You can e-mail your thoughts to email@example.com. We'll read some of your answers in about 40 minutes or so -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty in New York.
Jack, thank you very much.
Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the controversy over better body armor for U.S. troops. Experts say it could save lives. So why is it taking so long to get that body armor to Iraq?
Also, new details of that West Virginia mine disaster and just how close the men were to a possible escape route.
And we heard from a Republican last hour. Now Democrat Joe Biden of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he's standing by to join us to talk about the tension at today's Alito confirmation hearings. They are still going on.
If you want to watch it uninterrupted without commercial breaks, go to CNN.com. Our Pipeline service there will bring it to you: CNN.com/pipeline.
We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Our producer on Capitol Hill, Ted Barrett, sending us this information, quoting a Judiciary Committee aide saying that, "Samuel Alito's wife Martha, Mrs. Alito left the hearing room just a little while ago distressed." You see her empty chair there right now -- distressed perhaps, perhaps in tears, according to this Judiciary Committee aide while Senator Lindsey Graham was questioning her husband.
Despite the fact that Lindsey Graham was defending Judge Alito, Mrs. Alito was apparently disturbed by the line of questions which he was quoting some of the critics as suggesting her husband was a bigot.
"You are not a bigot; right?" One of the questions that Lindsey Graham was asking.
Mrs. Alito is now in a holding room outside of the committee hearing room. According to this Judiciary Committee aide, she is not expected to return.
We are going to watch this story unfold. Clearly distressing words heard by Mrs. Alito during the course of that questioning.
We are going to play some of that tape for you as well. What Lindsey Graham was saying apparently disturbed Mrs. Alito as much as it did.
Meanwhile, other news we're following.
The U.S. military is launching a verbal offensive against those who say the Pentagon is not sufficiently protecting the troops by not providing them with enough body armor. Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, is joining us from the Pentagon with more.
What a story this is -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: This has been a huge story since the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology put out a report that suggested that maybe some injuries in Iraq could be prevented by better body armor.
Today, top army and Marine Corps officials were on Capitol Hill, making the case that they are giving the troops everything they need.
MCINTYRE (voice over): Soldiers and Marines sometimes call protective body armor happy gear, a sarcastic reference to the fact that they are not always so happy to wear it. It is heavy, hot and hampers mobility.
SGT. JARED MCNERNEY, U.S. MARINE CORPS.: If I put those arms actually on, I can barely extend my arms over my head. I can't climb a six-foot wall, hop over -- hop a fence, jump through a three-foot window. There is a lot of stuff I have to do with my arms. That's the reason I choose not to wear my shoulder pads, sir.
MCINTYRE: Top Army and Marine Corps officials told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee it's a myth troops are not getting all the body armor they need.
MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CATTO, U.S. MARINE CORPS.: We are fielding the best armor and protective equipment available we think in the world today.
MCINTYRE: What set off some members of Congress, especially Democrats, was an Armed Forces of Pathology report showing that in the case of 89 Marine deaths in Iraq, 68 might have been prevented with additional body armor on the sides, shoulders, and lower torso. But the doctor who wrote the report insists the study was intended as one factor to consider as the military makes decisions on how much body armor is enough but not too much.
COL. PAUL CORDTS, ARMY SURGEON GENERAL'S OFFICE: It was designed as a medical report only. It was not designed to give all the answers.
MCINTYRE: Now, today the Army showed off the kind of armor that's available to every soldier in Iraq. They claim they include extra shoulder protection, side protection, extra protection in the lower torso, and also a new thing, big, thick plates that can go on the side to provide additional side protection. They are being shipped now.
But the problem is, you add all this up, it weighs over 30 pounds. You add that to what some infantry soldiers have to carry, they could be carrying up to 80, 100 pounds of equipment. And that really becomes a factor, especially in the heat in Iraq.
BLITZER: Jamie, thanks very much.
Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon with that report.
Coming up, we have some new details on the West Virginia mine disaster that killed a dozen men. We're learning there may have been a way out.
Also, the Reverend Pat Robertson rebuffed. We will show you the fallout over his controversial comments over the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and his stroke.
Stay with us.
HENRY: ... asking questions and directly asking about whether or not to respond to these questions about the Concerned Alumni of Princeton and whether or not the judge is a bigot.
Take a listen to what Senator Graham said to spark all of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: Are you really a closet bigot?
ALITO: I'm not any kind of a bigot.
GRAHAM: No, sir, you are not. And do you know why I believe that? Not because you just said it, but that's a good enough reason, because you seem to have a decent, honorable man. I've got reams of quotes from people who have worked with you, African-American judges.
I have lost my quotes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: So you can see right there that, again, this was not a confrontation with Senator Graham. Senator Graham was trying to point out that he does not believe that Judge Alito is a bigot.
But with all these charges flying back and forth about bigotry with the Princeton Alumni group, also the Vanguard, questions about the nominee's integrity, it is easy sometimes to forget and think that it's just a political game. But there obviously are feelings involved here. And clearly, Mrs. Alito has had enough of some of the questions about her husband's integrity -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And we're showing our viewers the tape. Look at this.
She is sitting right behind Samuel Alito. The tears were rolling down her cheeks. Clearly, she is distraught. She is very, very upset. We've been watching this tape behind her -- she is sitting there. And she just sort of just gets up right there and she leaves.
What a moment. I don't remember a time when the wife, the spouse of a witness in this kind of a situation -- I've been up covering Capitol Hill for a long time, a lot longer than you, Ed, but it got pretty emotional there. And she took it very, very seriously, very personally.
When you hear a senator ask -- and he was doing it as a supporter, Lindsey Graham, he was doing it as someone who likes him. But saying, "Are you a bigot?" And it obviously got to Mrs. Alito. She couldn't take it anymore. She started to cry, and she left the room.
HENRY: And you can see her talking to an assistant attorney general who has been helping move this nomination along, advising Judge Alito, who clearly looked surprised at that turn of events and helped her into the holding room. And it's unclear as well from those pictures whether Judge Alito even knows that his wife left the room.
He is obviously still under questioning behind me in the room. We are efforting more details to see whether she's still even here in the Hart building or whether she's left. We're going to try to obviously continue to update this story -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And we'll get that tape. I want to queue it up.
But I want to go back to the hearing room right now, Ed.
Senator Cornyn of Texas is questioning Alito. Let's listen in briefly.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You know, listening to the back and forth about whether you've been responsive to questions reminds me of a saying that I heard recently. I can answer the question, but I can't understand it for you.
In other words, I think you've done to the best of your ability and to the limits of your ethical responsibility, tried to be responsive to the questions here.
Obviously, no one can make that decision but the senators who will ultimately vote on that. But certainly the public and the world, people all across this great country, who may be listening to this hearing and will be judging for themselves both the fairness of the proceeding and your responsiveness to the questions, I believe, that they will conclude that not only have you been responsive, but that you have been very forthcoming in answering the questions that have been asked of you, but that like Justice Ginsburg and others before her, you believe that it's important to maintain the independence of the judiciary, that you're not willing to make the judiciary subservient to the Senate or the Congress in order to get a vote for confirmation. And I applaud you for that. You know, yesterday I made a mistake. I know Senator Sessions confessed a mistake, and as it turned out I went over and talked to Senator Biden, because I quoted him, and it turned out I didn't quite quote him accurately. But I told him we've corrected the record to make sure it reflected his words, because it's important to me to make sure that we're accurate and we're clear.
But yesterday I made a mistake and referred to you as Judge Scalito, and I was embarrassed by that, and I beg your pardon for that.
And for those who may not be in on the joke, I mean, the idea is the argument by some is somehow you're a clone of Judge Scalia.
Well, I've found for myself everything we've heard, everything I've come to learn about you is that you're a clone of no one, that you're an individual who is particularly gifted and talented and experienced and someone who is, notwithstanding the abuse that you suffer during the confirmation process, willing to offer yourself for public service in a very important role. And that is as a member of the United States Supreme Court.
But yesterday I heard my colleague from New York put up some quotes. Now, it was late in the day. And I think most of the press had gone, and maybe that's a good thing. People had gotten tired, but you had to still sit here and listen to the questions and respond to those.
But he put up a quote, which was relatively innocuous on its face, and it asked about things like: Do you believe that continuity in the law is important? And you said yes. And it seems unarguable to me. But then he said: Well, that was a quote from Clarence Thomas.
And I suppose that was going to attribute to you all of the baggage that those on the left feel that Justice Thomas carries and all of the views that he has espoused and all of his performance on the bench.
Later he asked whether you agreed with another quote -- and here again it was a sort of black letter law, good government quote. And you agreed that, yes, you agreed with that quote. And he said, "Aha! Judge Bork said that" -- meaning somehow that you are carrying whatever baggage people on the left feel that Judge Bork carries and you somehow embrace or subscribe to everything he believes.
I want to give you an opportunity, Judge Alito, to tell us whether you feel like you're a clone of Judge Scalia, Judge Thomas, Judge Bork, or whether you believe that you are your own man, you come to your own conclusions based on careful study and your experience in the law.
Would you comment on that for me, please?
ALITO: Yes, Senator. I am who I am. And I'm my own person. And I'm not like any other justice on the Supreme Court now or anybody else who served on the Supreme Court in the past. I have my whatever abilities that I have, but they -- they are my own.
BLITZER: A personal statement from Samuel Alito, making a statement in response to questions from John Cornyn, the Republican senator from Texas.
This comes on the heels only a little while ago of questioning by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, questioning, quoting some of the earlier Democratic critics of Samuel Alito.
I want you to watch this videotape right now. Samuel Alito was answering questions. Sitting behind him, right to the left, you see, that's his wife, Martha. She's consulting with Rachel Bran, an assistant attorney general, but she just simply left the hearing room.
You didn't see the tears coming down her cheeks in that particular clip, but she was clearly distraught at some of the questions that had been asked of her husband, questions quoted, cited by Lindsey Graham, ironically, someone who is a strong supporter -- strong supporter of Samuel Alito.
But during the course of those hearings, the questions, she just couldn't take it anymore. And you are looking at that seat that's empty now behind Samuel Alito. His wife is now in a holding room outside the hearing.
We are going to talk about this and more with Senator Joe Biden. He is a senior member, a Democrat, from Delaware of the Judiciary Committee.
And, by the way, if you want to watch all of the hearings interrupted, go to CNN.com/Pipeline. You can see it all there without any commercial interruption.
We will get back to Joe Biden and the hearing shortly.
In the meantime, let's get back to Zain at the CNN Center in Atlanta for a closer look at other stories making news -- Zain.
VERJEE: Wolf, the State Department says it's more likely than ever that Iran will be called before the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear program.
Now, yesterday, Iran announced that it would resume research and development into producing uranium fuel. The White House calls that a serious miscalculation.
In a symbolic act of stoning the devil, tens of thousands of pilgrims threw pebbles at the stone pillars near the holy city of Mecca today. The ritual is part of the annual hajj pilgrimage to the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad. About two million Muslims gathered for the hajj this year.
Police in San Francisco think that they know who planted a bomb in a Starbucks bathroom on Monday. They haven't charged him yet, but they are holding him on unrelated drug charges. Police say that they think the man acted alone. They say that they recognized him from a surveillance video.
According to police, had the bomb gone off, it was powerful enough to kill.
And we're learning more about the final hours of the 12 miners who died after an explosion in a West Virginia mine last week. Government officials tell CNN that the miners were less than half-a- mile from breathable air, and they could have followed a conveyer belt to safety, but the miners just didn't have any way of knowing it. One miner survived, and he's been hospitalized and is in critical condition -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Zain, for that -- Zain Verjee reporting.
Some of the most illuminating details of the Sago Mine rescue were revealed today online.
Abbi Tatton, our Internet reporter, has that -- Abbi.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, a first look at just how this rescue attempt went down at the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
This is the map of the mine and also a step-by-step look there from the first team that entered, right along to the discovery of the bodies at the end there, a timeline on lots of information and details.
One other thing that I wanted to bring to your attention. The FBI today has put out a press release warning about an e-mail scam that is going around related to the Sago Mine, an e-mail going around purporting to be from a West Virginia hospital asking for financial assistance. This is a scam. The FBI is asking anyone that receives this e-mail to contact them -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, thank you very much.
More now on this afternoon's top story, the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings.
Last hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we heard from Republican member -- Republican member Jeff -- Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
Let's get a Democratic perspective now from Joe Biden of Delaware. He's joining us live.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Happy to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: You see -- I don't know if you heard that Mrs. Alito had to leave the hearing room during the course of questioning from Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, when he was citing all the criticisms, at one point saying, you are not a bigot, are you?
And the tears were simply coming down her cheek. And -- and, eventually, she simply had to get up and walk out and go into a holding room. She clearly couldn't take it anymore. That's a very poignant, sad moment.
BIDEN: Yes. No, I think it is.
You know, Wolf, you have been covering these hearings a lot, and I have been engaged in them over the many years. And, you know, there's got to be a better way here to give the American people their opportunity to find out what a nominee thinks, because they are entitled to know what they think.
This has sort become such a -- I have a feeling, if Alito was inclined to -- you know, or whether they told him go ahead and say what you think, I don't think anybody thinks he's a bigot. I think most people think that he -- and I didn't hear anybody say that, by the way. Nobody in the committee called him a bigot.
But I -- you know, people are trying to figure out, why would you say, you know, in a job application -- tell me what organization you belong to that would give me some insight into what you think, and he lists this outfit that was roundly criticized for a 12-year period.
My guess is, he probably did that because it helped the job application. He thought it would appeal to people who were, you know, the people who were going to hire him. But I don't know. But this -- this -- this situation doesn't allow him to just look at the senator and say, Senator, you know, on reflection, I probably shouldn't have listed it.
I, quite frankly, thought it would help me get the job because of the people who were doing the hiring, but you know what? I didn't know what they were doing. If I had known all that was going on, I wouldn't have been there.
But, instead, you know, he gives explanations which sort of stretch credulity. I mean, mean it's kind of hard.
BIDEN: I mean, you have -- you have been watching it.
BLITZER: But he says he doesn't remember anything about it, doesn't -- he assumes he was a member, since he listed it, but he has no recollection whatsoever, may have something to do with ROTC being banned from the Princeton campus early on, although, by then, it had come back. Are you suggesting -- you don't believe him, do you?
BIDEN: Well, no. I mean, look, it is kind of hard -- this is one of the brightest guys you are going to meet. This is a guy who really knows his way around. This is a guy who, as a member of the Princeton alumni, was getting letters from the president of the university disavowing this organization, as every alumni member did.
This is a guy who's getting letters from the guys who wrote this magazine called "The Prospect." This is an outfit that Bill Bradley disassociated himself early in the '70s. This is an outfit that Dr. Frist, the majority leader of the Senate, disassociated himself.
This is an outfit I was aware of. I was -- I went to the University of Delaware. I went to Syracuse Law School. But everybody knew that there was this debate at Princeton about everything from eating clubs to admission of women and how many women, etcetera.
So, it's kind of hard to believe that there was just -- that he would list it and not have any knowledge about anything that it had to do with.
BLITZER: And then we saw this really testy exchange between Senator Kennedy and the chairman, Arlen Specter, over whether or not to go subpoena documents from the Library of Congress.
It has been resolved. They are going to go get these documents, if they haven't gotten them already.
BLITZER: But I don't remember an -- usually, you guys are pretty collegial in the Senate, especially in the Judiciary Committee.
BLITZER: You remember a little angry exchange like that in the past?
BIDEN: There probably have been. None comes to mind. But I think that was a consequence of misunderstanding.
Senator Kennedy said he sent a letter asking for this information, got a letter back from Specter, saying, you can't have it. And then Senator Specter said, you never sent me a letter. And it turns out, after lunch, Senator Specter came back and said, yes, as a matter of fact, I did get a letter from you, and I will reconsider it and all is well.
And I think the way they both handled it at the end was, OK, you know, all's forgotten. Let's just get on with business.
BLITZER: A quick question, because we're almost out of time. Are you almost done -- are you almost ready to decide whether or not there should be a filibuster?
BIDEN: Oh, I think that -- I think that's not likely.
But I'm sure there are a lot of people making that decision, but, as far as I'm concerned, it seems to me that that -- I don't think that's likely, is my guess.
BLITZER: One final question. And you probably saw the stories in "The New York Times," elsewhere.
BIDEN: I sure did.
BLITZER: You have been getting some grief because...
BIDEN: I sure have.
BIDEN: ... of the lengthy questions, shall we say, that you have asked.
BLITZER: "The New York Times" said that you used 3,744 words, and Alito, during your half-hour, only had 1,022 words.
BIDEN: That's right.
BLITZER: You want to comment on that?
BIDEN: Well, yes.
Look, I -- I made a mistake, in the sense that I spent the first 10 minutes trying to explain what -- that no one was trying to pick on him here, that this wasn't about whether he was a bad guy or a good guy. This was about how he viewed the Constitution.
And what I should have done, instead of doing that, is just not try to put him at ease. I should have just gone straight to my questions, and which I did the second round here. But, as my mom would say, if that's the worst thing they have to say, I guess it's OK.
BLITZER: All right, Senator, thanks very much.
BLITZER: You go back to the hearing.
You think you are going to wrap it up today, or are they going to go again tomorrow?
BIDEN: Well, I don't know.
I spoke to Senator Specter an hour-and-a-half ago. Anybody who has questions, he is going to stick around. I have a few more questions that I am going to ask the judge. But I don't know. Wolf, I can't tell you that now, without talking to Specter. BLITZER: Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
BIDEN: Thank you.
BLITZER: And, still ahead, we are going to go back to the hearing -- much more coverage coming up.
Remember, Pipeline, CNN.com/Pipeline, brings to you uninterrupted on your computer screen.
Also, other news we are following. He suggested Ariel Sharon was being punished for that stroke. Now Pat Robertson gets rebuffed as a result. We are going to have the details of the fallout -- much more here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: They have just taken a break once again in the committee hearings, the Senate Judiciary Committee. We will continue to cover it once they resume the confirmation process for Samuel Alito.
Let's go up to New York now. Lou Dobbs getting ready for his excellent program. That begins right at the top of the hour -- Lou.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf.
At 6:00 Eastern here on CNN, we will have much more on these confirmation hearings, at least the substance of them. And, tonight, we will report on outrage on Capitol Hill -- new charges tonight the Pentagon is failing to adequately provide body armor to our troops. We will take a look at why a military with nearly half-a-trillion- dollar budget can't provide our troops with protection.
Then, a deadly new threat to Border Patrol agents along our border with Mexico, as President Bush compares illegal immigration crisis to a failed prohibition program.
And communist China's aggressive attempt to seize important natural resources and challenge U.S. vital interests in Latin America, that special report.
And I will be talking with the governor of Minnesota and the police chief of Minneapolis. They're on opposing sides of sanctuary laws for illegal aliens. We will tell you why. They will tell us themselves.
All of that and a great deal more coming up at 6:00 here on CNN -- now back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou. We will be watching.
Stocks, meanwhile, are rallying on Wall Street. So are the bonuses. They hit a record in 2005.
Ali Velshi joining us from New York with the "Bottom Line" -- Ali.
ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Things should be so good for us, Wolf.
It doesn't seem like it, but the market did very well last year, particularly revenues for a lot of the Wall Street firms, so bonuses for Wall Street folks hit a record in 2005. This is based on the New York state comptroller's forecast, but the forecast says that the bonuses will amount to $21 billion in 2005.
That surpasses 2000, where they were $19.5 billion. The average bonus for an employee, $125,000 on Wall Street. You can see there, that's the -- that's the chart of how bonuses have been doing after markets hit a good level, the highest levels that they have been in, in 2000. They dropped off for a few years, but it's been a good year, and it looks like it is going to be another one, based on the week that we have seen so far in the markets.
We have still got that Dow above 11000, the Nasdaq above 2300. These are levels we haven't seen since 2001.
So, Wolf, if you get a little tired of standing, and you decide you want to start up a new career, Velshi & Blitzer, some kind of financial firm maybe?
BLITZER: Well, let's just see what the markets do.
VELSHI: Let's see.
BLITZER: You know, they go up. They go down. We will watch.
VELSHI: And you're still there.
BLITZER: Thanks, Ali, very much.
Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, you will recall that, last week, the religious broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon brought his illness, his stroke, on himself. Now Israel says Robertson has his own self to blame for an important deal gone bad. We are going to stand by for details.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Doctors are reporting a slight improvement in Ariel Sharon's condition one week after the Israeli prime minister suffered a major stroke. They are still gradually bringing him out of an induced coma. And they say his recovery will take months.
Mr. Sharon has been able to move both his hands and his right leg, but doctors say they still don't know the extent of damage to his brain. Pat Robertson's controversial comments about Mr. Sharon's illness aren't going over well with many people in Israel. Robertson suggested on his "700 Club" show that Mr. Sharon's stroke may be divine retribution. Now Robertson is facing some retribution for that remark.
CNN's Mary Snow is joining us from New York with details -- Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Israeli officials who were angered by the televangelist's comments say they are ending a business partnership with Robertson.
SNOW (voice-over): It was to be Pat Robertson's piece of the Holy Land, a $50 million joint venture with the state of Israel to build a Christian heritage center near the Sea of Galilee. But Israel's Tourism Ministry has reconsidered.
Robertson has been cut out of the deal. The ministry's decision is directly linked to Robertson's comments suggesting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke because he was dividing God's land.
RAMI LEVY, ISRAELI MINISTRY OF TOURISM: From our perspective, such a statement made for a person that is lying in a hospital is outrageous.
SNOW: Robertson headed the group of evangelicals planning the center.
In a statement, his spokeswoman said -- quote -- "We do not respond to media reports on a relationship with other governments. And we have not talked to the Israelis on this topic."
But other evangelical leaders are talking. The president of the 30-million-member National Association of Evangelicals, the Reverend Ted Haggard, says the controversy -- quote -- "is a blow to evangelical-Israeli relations and the situation is unfortunate."
Israel says, with millions of evangelical Christian visitors every year, it plans to press on with the project, just not with Robertson.
LEVY: The same joint venture. Just the players are going to be changed.
SNOW: Israel's Ministry of Tourism says the joint venture had only been reached in the past few months -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary Snow, thank you very much.
Up next, a tearful moment at the Samuel Alito hearings. We are going to bring you the latest on Judge Alito's wife, what happened. As a thief made off with her car -- check this out -- with a child inside, a mother says a cell phone company threw bureaucratic roadblocks in the way of a rescue. We will tell you what happened.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's sum up what we have seen today in the Samuel Alito hearings.
Jeff Greenfield, Jeff Toobin here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
I guess we have got to talk about that dramatic moment when Samuel Alito's wife just started to cry. We will show the videotape to our viewers. And eventually she had to leave this room because the questioning -- and, ironically, it was a Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, who was referring to some of the criticism, asking whether or not he's a bigot; are you a good man? And, oh, you can see her crying right there. Look at her right behind him. It's just a dramatic moment, Jeff.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I also think we sometimes forget that, you know, here are people who out of the public spotlight, spouses, children, and they are asked to -- to come to a situation like this and sit hour after hour perfectly composed, knowing that there are people on the blogs and in the gossip columns who will pick apart everything from their dress to their expressions, which has been done.
And then to hear even a friend start to say, well, answer these terribly unfair accusations -- these are human beings.
BLITZER: And he's not a politician, and she's not a politician's wife, who are used to being hammered, if you will. This is an emotional moment.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: He's been on the Court of Appeals for 15 years.
It is unusual when a Court of Appeals decision even gets written up in the newspaper, much less a television camera. This is just a very private job. They are apparently very private people. And it became too much for her. From the looks of things, though, she will have 30 years as the wife of a Supreme Court justice to make up for her difficult day. So, I think it is probably a pretty good deal.
BLITZER: And we are happy to report -- a look at this. He's walking back -- they had just taken a break. And Mrs. Alito has now come back. She is sitting down behind her husband. She has obviously composed herself.
It's a tough -- it's a tough ordeal to hear senators suggest to your husband that maybe you are a racist and that you don't like women, you don't like minorities, you don't like gays. GREENFIELD: I have never understood, you know, how -- the temptation for some of these witnesses must be enormous, particularly if it is a more hostile situation, to just lean over the table and just let some of these senators know what you are really thinking about their intellectual capacity, their hypocrisy.
If they attack him for, I don't know, being a member of a club -- well, really, where did you spend your time? How many restricted clubs have you golfed at?
They can't do that. It is not part of the ethic. I have a lot of sympathy for these people, no matter where they come from on the ideological scale, because it is tough.
BLITZER: On the substance, so far, how has Alito done?
TOOBIN: I think he's done very well, especially considering how there were previews that this was going to be an inflammatory hearing.
I thought, today, the Democrats at least tried a sustained argument, which was, John Roberts was conservative. You are more conservative, Judge Alito, especially when it comes to the issue of abortion. I don't know if the evidence supports that, but that at least seems to be the argument that the Democrats are putting forward today.
BLITZER: We will continue this conversation.
BLITZER: We can't continue it right now, because we have got to take a commercial.
But, Jeff and Jeff, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Up next, trying not to go for broke. Jack Cafferty has your ideas on staying out of bankruptcy.
You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We are happy Mrs. Alito is back in the hearing room right now.
Let's go to our Ed Henry for an update -- Ed.
HENRY: ... last break, I actually caught up with Judge Alito as he was heading to an office that Vice President Cheney keeps here on Capitol Hill.
And we were wondering whether he even knew about what happened. He did not. He said -- quote -- "I'm not even aware of what happened" to his wife. I said, are you upset at the questions from Democrats?
Quote: "I'm happy to answer any questions the senators ask."
Then he went into the room with his wife. They spoke for a brief time. They came out. I caught them on the way out.
Mrs. Alito said I'm doing -- quote -- "good, thank you. I got emotional." And, then, when we asked and pressed her husband about all of this, he said -- quote -- "We are not used to what we have been through, but she is fine."
And she's back in the room behind me, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, good for her.
Thanks very much.
Let's go back up to New York and Jack Cafferty -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: What do Americans have to do to stay out of bankruptcy? The number of them filing for bankruptcy up exponentially last year.
John in Oxford, Connecticut: "Get rid of the credit card companies' ability to charge us 29.9 percent interest if I miss a single payment. I can never recover from that penalty, yet they won't give me a lower interest rate, even if I pay on time for years."
Maggie in Downers Grove, Illinois: "Move to China, where you can get a job, maybe even with a former employer."
Jim in Las Vegas, Nevada: "I have no idea what we need to do to prevent bankruptcy. I have been there myself, due to no fault of my own. Our Congress seems to think punishing those who need to file will somehow reduce the problem. The answer lies in the reasons people file. And if Congress studied the reasons, maybe they could find a few solutions. Current banking, medical and insurance laws might hold a few clues."
And Don writes from Grand Island, Nebraska: "For a man, cut up all your credit cards, sell 20 percent of the things you have that you don't need, and never, ever use, make women pay for half of all dates, since they make as much as men do, get a vasectomy and a prenuptial agreement, and you will never, ever be broke."
You know, you don't get this kind of financial advice from Maria Bartiromo, Wolf.
CAFFERTY: It's -- you have got to come to THE SITUATION ROOM to learn this junk.
BLITZER: It is good stuff. Jack, see you in one hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
CAFFERTY: Yes. All right.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File."
BLITZER: We are here weekdays 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Back in one hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We will have more on the Samuel Alito hearings and all the day's important news.
Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Lou Dobbs getting ready to pick up our coverage -- Lou.
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