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U.N. Responds to 'Grave Threat'; Most Powerful Nuke Test Yet; Terror Suspects May be Freed in U.S.

Aired May 25, 2009 - 15:59   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the United Nations confronts North Korea about its nuclear defiance. This hour, the Security Council responds to a second bomb test that President Obama calls a grave threat to the world.

Plus, something most Americans, well, would like more of -- more time off with pay. But in the midst of a recession, is this the wrong time for a proposed law to guarantee vacations?

And a royal embarrassment, how two men managed to breach palace security and sit in Queen Elizabeth's car.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Well, the United States is calling it a direct and reckless challenge to the international community. This hour, the U.N. Security Council meets to discuss North Korea's second nuclear bomb test in defiance of U.N. resolutions. It is a powerful new blow to President Obama's efforts to reach out to the communist nation.

Let's go directly to our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty.

And Jill, what are the details? What do we know now?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, quiet, patient diplomacy, that's the way it was supposed to work. But President Barack Obama's outreach to North Korea is being put to the test.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): North Korean TV trumpets what it calls its most powerful nuclear test so far. The political shock waves reverberating at the White House.

BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs pose a great threat to the peace and security of the world, and I strongly condemn their reckless action.

DOUGHERTY: As candidate, Barack Obama charged President Bush made things worse by refusing to talk with North Korea.

OBAMA: North Korea quadrupled its nuclear capability.

We've got to try to have talks, understanding that we're not taking military options off the table.

DOUGHERTY: But on Mr. Obama's watch, North Korea has launched a long-range ballistic missile, angrily pulled out of talks, kicked out international inspectors, and restarted plutonium enrichment. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks tough.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There will be consequences.

DOUGHERTY: But not only did the administration fail to get the U.N. to condemn North Korea, experts on North Korea warned this test pushes the North closer to having a nuclear weapon that could be launched on a ballistic missile. The president's top adviser on weapons of mass destruction thinks that North Korea is rejecting talks because it now sees itself as part of the so-called nuclear club.

GARY SAMORE, WHITE HOUSE ARMS CONTROL ADVISER: I think the North Koreans would like to be recognized or accepted as a nuclear weapons state, and we're not going to do that. We've made that very clear.


DOUGHERTY: But what isn't clear is what more pressure Barack Obama can put on North Korea. He can go to the U.N. for new sanctions, talk with the Russians and the Chinese. But officials admit there's sanctions fatigue, and his tools are increasingly limited as talk, diplomacy with North Korea is coming up empty handed -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jill. A real challenge for this president.

But we're getting new information about how North Korea's new nuclear bomb test compares to the one it conducted back in 2006.

Our CNN's Brian Todd is here to map all of that out for us.

And obviously a lot of people looking very closely at this, very concerned. How does it compare to before?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, some new details we're getting, Suzanne, from experts who monitor these things, comparing the explosion that they launched in 2006 to the one that is reported today. Let's first start with the Google Earth Map.

The location, first of all, that's the one in 2006. Now, what Google Earth and the U.S. Geological Survey calculate is that the one that was engaged in today is about five and a half miles away from the location from 2006, with a tunnel entrance somewhere in the middle. It's all roughly in the same mountain range, according to the U.S. Geological Survey and Google Earth, the way they've kind of calculated where the seismic activity is.

Now, as far as how deep in this mountain it goes, we have talked to experts from one former weapons inspector, David Albright, and other experts who say that it's impossible to know how deep in the mountains this particular test or the 2006 test were. But David Albright says that you only need to go about 300 meters in to a mountain range to conduct a nuclear bomb test underneath the ground because of the density of the mountain, the rock that might be above it. You don't need to go that far in.

Now, let's talk about the actual seismic activity compared to 2006. We're going to put up kind of a chart here.

Two organizations that have monitored this, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization, here are their figures. The USGS says this test today registered about a 4.7 on the seismic scale, compared to 4.3 in 2006. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization registered it at 4.52 today, compared to 4.1 in 2006.

Now, this does not mean, though, that it only went up maybe .4 of a percent today from 2006, according to the USGS. If you use a logarithmic scale, experts tell us that this means it could have gone up maybe 10 to 12 times in strength, meaning today's test by the North Koreans was a much stronger blast than the one in 2006.

Now, we're going to illustrate how they can detect that this even happened with an animation. We're going to show that to you. This is also from the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

This is a gas called Xenon-133. It's a minutely traceable radioactive gas. They were able to detect that coming from the site in 2006.

And this is how the radioactive fallout moves. Every second you see it moving is a day that it expands across the northern Pacific.

Now, it's important to realize, this Xenon-133 is a very kind of low-grade gas. It only comes out when there is a nuclear test underground, and it is not dangerous.

David Albright says it's really not any more radioactivity than you're exposed to normally, but it does show you the spread of it in 2006. Again, for each second that you see the spreading, it was a day. By the time it got to Canada, they could tell that this was a nuclear test in 2006. So it tells you that maybe in a couple of days, a few days' time, they will able be able to verify some new information about this particular test today -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, Brian, you have been talking to experts all day about this. We're taking a look at these graphics. Are they any closer today to coming up and developing a deployable nuclear weapon?

TODD: Experts say it's still probably years away before they can actually put it on kind of a miniature device. And by miniature, they mean kind of a missile device, not equivalent to what the U.S. made in World War II. Years away from that, if they can put it on a possible rocket.

They're not really close that yet. But again, these kinds of tests really make you want to monitor that a lot more.

MALVEAUX: Sure. And President Obama calling it a "grave concern" today.

Thank you so much, Brian.

TODD: Sure.

MALVEAUX: Now to the debate over closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. A group of Chinese Muslim detainees could be the first Gitmo prisoners released in the United States. Their fate has been in limbo since 2003, when they were cleared for release.

Well, the U.S. won't send them back to their homeland. They are fearing they'll be tortured by Chinese authorities. Now they may wind up in the president's back yard.

Our CNN's Brianna Keilar reports from Fairfax County, Virginia.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, this is a suburb right outside of Washington, D.C., and it's also the heart of the Uighur exile community in the U.S. There are hundreds of Uighurs in northern Virginia who say they want to welcome these 17 detainees into their neighborhoods, but the Fairfax County residents we spoke with have mixed feelings.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They got here because we brought them, yes. So we own them. I'm not afraid of them. You know? What's there to fear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why should we bring them into our country, into our neighborhoods? Leave them in a safe place where they can be looked upon safely by troops.

KEILAR (voice-over): Nuri Turkel came to the U.S. in the 1990s. He is urging the U.S. government to release his fellow Uighurs. He says they are harmless and misunderstood.

NURY TURKEL, UIGHUR ADVOCATE: The oppression is very similar as the Tibetans. Just because the Uighurs did not have a charismatic leader like the Dalai Lama and the Uighurs didn't have the grassroots movement leader that the Tibetans have, the West literally don't know about the Uighurs. And so it's very easy for politicians and certain groups to label them and (INAUDIBLE) about the Uighurs.

KEILAR: Republican Frank Wolf represents Fairfax County and is a strong advocate for its Uighur community, but insists the detainees are dangerous and should not be released in the U.S.

REP. FRANK WOLF (R), VIRGINIA: Under the law, a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist. You do not want to take this chance of having people who have spent seven years down in Guantanamo, who perhaps have gone to a training camp, whose leader of the group is on the terrorist list. When they're released, they should be released outside the United States.

KEILAR: Democrat Jim Moran disputes the Uighurs ties to terrorism.

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: It's just appealing to people's fear instinct of the other people that they don't know whose name they can't even pronounce. But that's not who we are as Americans. We are a haven for people who want individual freedoms, the right to practice their own religion, to speak, to assemble, whatever, as long as they don't threaten any physical violence to anyone else.


KEILAR: For now, the Uighurs are in limbo. The Supreme Court is deciding whether to hear their appeal to be released. But even if the justices decide to take up the case, it could be more than a year before the men learn their fate -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Brianna.

We are standing by for a news conference on the return of a 13- year-old cancer patient. He just returned home after fleeing chemotherapy with his mother.

Just ahead, we'll tell you what we know right now about his fate.

Plus, President Obama's last-minute deliberations before naming his Supreme Court choice. James Carville and Ed Rollins share their inside knowledge in our "Strategy Session."

And off the coast of Louisiana, we're drilling down on major factor in gas prices this summer.


MALVEAUX: The battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party is getting more heated by the day. It is pitting some of the GOP's biggest names against one another in a struggle over whether the party should pull to the center or lean right.

Here's our Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider.

Bill, tell us about how moderate Republicans are reacting to, say, Dick Cheney or Rush Limbaugh, for example.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Suzanne, they're ready to rumble, and they've got a soldier to lead them.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): It looks like moderate Republicans have some fight left. Two weeks ago, Dick Cheney read Colin Powell out of the party.

RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My take on it was Colin had already left the party. I didn't know he was still a Republican.

SCHNEIDER: Rush Limbaugh joined in.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Colin Powell represents the stale, the old, the worn-out GOP that never won anything.

SCHNEIDER: Now Powell is pushing back.

GEN. COLIN POWELL (RET.) U.S. ARMY, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Rush will not get his wish, and Mr. Cheney was misinformed. I'm still a Republican.

SCHNEIDER: Let's see how the contenders stack up.

Only 30 percent of Americans have a positive opinion of Rush Limbaugh. Dick Cheney, 37 percent. Colin Powell, higher than Limbaugh and Cheney combined. But inside the party, where the real fight is, the three men are evenly matched.

The conservative movement now claims to define the Republican Party. In a movement, you have to agree on everything. If you don't, you're not part of the movement.

LIMBAUGH: He's for more spending. He's for higher taxes. He's against raising the social issues. He's for affirmative action.

SCHNEIDER: Political parties in this country are coalitions. To be part of a coalition, you only have to agree on one thing -- you're for the party's candidate. No further questioned asked. But Powell was not for the party's candidate last year.

CHENEY: He endorsed the Democratic candidate for president this time, Barack Obama. I assume that that's some indication of his loyalty and his interest.

SCHNEIDER: Powell's response? That was just one time.

POWELL: For the previous 20 years I voted solidly for Republican candidates.


SCHNEIDER: So where does that leave the Republicans and the Democrats? Former Republican Congressman Tom Davis described his party's problem this way in an interview with Politico: "We're driving out the heretics and they're looking for converts."


MALVEAUX: OK. Bill Schneider, thank you so much.

President Obama is heading to Las Vegas to support the top Senate Democrat. He'll headline a fund-raiser for Majority Leader Harry Reid tomorrow, and Mr. Obama's trip comes at a time when Vegas is really hurting. Officials there are still smarting over the remark by the president linking the city to corporate excess. Well, John King of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" reports from Las Vegas.


JOHN KING, HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION" (voice-over): Luck of the Irish is the theme of Fitzgeralds Casino. But these are not so lucky times. Room prices as low as $26.00 a night tell you the recession is taking a toll on Vegas tourism.

It was here, at a cashier's booth, where Judy Bagley learned firsthand.

JUDY BAGLEY, FORMER CASINO EMPLOYEE: My supervise came and said to -- I had to close the booth and she was going to count me out, and I was to go and meet with the manager and the director. When I went up there, they told me that my services were no longer needed and my job was eliminated.

KING (on camera): You had had it for how long?

BAGLEY: I've had it for a little over 28 years.

KING (voice-over): Yet, not even a two-week notice, Judy was out the door and in Nevada's growing unemployment line.

BAGLEY: It felt like I was, you know, ,more or less stabbed in the back after all the years that I had been there. And I've been very loyal to the company, I never called in sick, and I had very little discipline. And it felt like a betrayal.

KING: But as more and more friends suffered similar fates, the sting became a little less personal.

BAGLEY: It's probably on the economy, with the banks in bad trouble and things like that. You know, this is not any fault of the casino. It has not been this bad before. With all the foreclosures that's going on in the city and all over the state, with people being laid off and jobs eliminated...

KING: By the numbers, hardly a lucky time. Nevada's unemployment rate is more than 10 percent. The number of visitors arriving in Las Vegas by plane in March down nearly 12 percent from a year ago. And Vegas convention attendance down a whopping 30 percent.

Mayor Oscar Goodman is his city's biggest cheerleader. His office, a colorful history of a tenure in which Vegas has thrived as one of America's fastest growing cities.

MAYOR OSCAR GOODMAN (D), LAS VEGAS: These are times which are completely different than anything I experienced in my lifetime. I didn't see this coming. And when it hit, it almost hit virtually overnight.

KING: Things got worse, the mayor believes, after a remark by the president three months ago during a dustup over how banks were spending federal bailout money.

OBAMA: You can't get corporate jets. You can't go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers' dime.

GOODMAN: I think that was a big mistake on his part.

KING: The mayor sees a presidential visit this week as a chance to make amends.

GOODMAN: If I ask him the question, "Mr. President, isn't Vegas a great place to do business?" as he's standing here in Las Vegas, I hope he says yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have your health card, right?

KING: This union hall, a big part of President Obama's victory, is now where Judy Bagley comes for job search help.

BAGLEY: How are you doing, Linda?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you doing?

BAGLEY: Oh, I'm doing pretty good. Hanging in there, anyway.

We used to go out to eat a couple of times a week. We don't do that anymore. I clip a lot of coupons to try to save money that way.

I put in applications at some of the grocery stores here in town for cashier work. You put in an application, and you've got, like, 150 to 200 people applying for the same job.

KING: Three months now. And while Judy Bagley says she's an optimist, she sees no signs her luck is about to change.


MALVEAUX: New government figures show that six states have a higher unemployment rate than Nevada. Michigan tops the list with a 12.9 percent jobless rate last month, and North Dakota has the lowest state unemployment rate, just four percent in April. Well, remember the boy who ran off with his mom to avoid chemotherapy? Well, there is now a new twist. A sheriff's office says that he is back, and we're awaiting a news conference.

Plus, an entire country blocked from using Facebook. A possible reason why and what Iran's president is now saying about the ban.




Happening now, a big embarrassment at Buckingham Palace. How did reporters get by security and into the queen's limousine? Plus, an outspoken leader who's been in the news lately for his personal troubles. Now Italy's prime minister says he is willing to do a big favor for the United States.

And President Obama and Israel's prime minister. What happened after their big meeting, that's raising some big questions. A possible deal-breaker?

I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

For many Americans, this Memorial Day is a day to reflect and to be with family. And for a lot of people, it's paid time off, something one congressman is pushing to give Americans more of.

CNN's Kate Bolduan has the story -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, you could think of it as an interesting stimulus idea -- give employees more time off, get higher returns and less sick days, and a generally happier office. That's at least what one congressman is pushing.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): As millions hit the roadways this holiday, Americans definitely have vacation on the brain. And days away from the office are something Congressman Alan Grayson says people need more.

REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: Study after study has shown that people with vacations not only have higher productivity the week afterward, not even the month afterward, but for the whole long here.

BOLDUAN: Grayson, a Democrat whose Florida district is home to popular tourist destinations, including Disney World, has introduced legislation that would require at least one paid vacation for all workers of companies with 100 employees or more.

GRAYSON: A hundred and forty countries around the world have paid vacation laws, and we still don't.

BOLDUAN: You won't find any argument here in Orlando...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a great idea.

BOLDUAN: ... or on Hollywood Boulevard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just good business, though. You take care of your employees, your employees take care of you.

BOLDUAN: But that would come at a cost, and some say an unfunded mandate from Congress is one businesses large and small can't afford right now.

Mike Aitken is with the Society of Human Resource Management.

MIKE AITKEN, SOCIETY FOR HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT: We have employers struggling to continue to provide health care to their employees. You have employers struggling to continue to provide pension benefits and other types of leave proposals. There's only so much compensation money out there to do all of those things and continue to stay in business.


BOLDUAN: According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a partially union-backed think tank, 28 million Americans don't get any paid vacation or paid holidays. It gives you something to think about this Memorial Day -- Suzanne.


Most drivers don't expect to get a break at the gas pump anytime soon, but is there a D.C. (ph) solution?

Our CNN's Sean Callebs is here to explain why.


Yes, we had a chance to go out to an offshore rig. You have clearly noticed that gas prices have spiked. And many people expect they are going to get a lot higher before they go down, if they ever go down.


CALLEBS (voice-over): One hundred and thirty miles off the coast of Louisiana, over the last decade-and-a-half, tremendous advances in technology have allowed oil companies like Marathon to venture nearly two miles into deep Gulf water in search of crude.

It's not cheap, but drilling chiefly limited to the western part of the Gulf of Mexico is the best alternative, according to Marathon Oil.

WOODY PACE, ASSET MANAGER, MARATHON OIL CORPORATION: Over 60 percent of our oil from foreign sources, and, if we stop doing that, we do not look for -- explore more for oil and gas here at home, then we're not going to be able to decrease our dependence on foreign oil.

CALLEBS: The price of gas has spiked this past month, and many fear gas at $3, $4, even $5 a gallon could be just around the corner.

(on camera): There are a lot of factors for the reason gasoline is going up in price, not in any small part because it is expensive to look for this stuff. Marathon Oil will spend about a million dollars a day just in exploration. They have spent over $230 million so far and haven't even got a drop of oil.

(voice-over): Still, spending that much money at just this field (INAUDIBLE) Marathon believes eventually will pay off in a big way. But get this. In just three years, the company expects to have drained all the oil from this one reserve. PACE: We're always fighting the natural decline of oil and gas. You have got a container that you're producing this oil and gas from. It's sort of anomalous to drinking a can of soda out of a -- out of a can with a straw. There's only so much there. And, once it's gone, it's gone.

CALLEBS: On a different site, a production rig a half-hour away by helicopter, this is what everyone is after. This oil is straight from beneath the ocean floor, unfiltered, untreated. Instead of running pipe through thousands of feet of water far out in the Gulf and then through miles and miles of earth, the industry has its eyes on low-hanging fruit, cheaper and easier to access.

CATHY LANDRY, AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE: We have untapped oil and natural gas off the Atlantic Coast, Pacific Coast, and even some places onshore.


CALLEBS: But any discussion about tapping that oil is politically sensitive. And many politicians and environmentalists have been fighting that, saying they should look for alternative forms of -- of energy.

And, meanwhile, the industry continues to press forward. And they expect -- that all the deep wells that they drill out there, Suzanne, only one in five actually becomes commercially successful. Costly, but, in a nation so dependent on oil, they can just pass that cost on to us.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Sean.

Now, you heard Sean touch on this. People already think that they know where the price of gas is headed. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows that 91 percent of people think it's likely gas will cost $3 a gallon this year. Seventy-three percent think the price will hit $4 a gallon, and 27 percent expect gas to jump up to $5 a gallon this year.

Well, imagine getting up close and inside Queen Elizabeth's car. It is not on a tour that you're going to find. It's a shocking breach of security, and it's caught on video.

Also ahead, the president may be just hours away from naming his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. James Carville and Ed Rollins standing by to share their insight into what is going on inside the White House right now.

And why laying a wreath on Memorial Day is stirring up controversy for the president.


MALVEAUX: President Obama could make his Supreme Court pick as early as tomorrow. Well, what is he looking for? And what kind of deliberations are going on behind the scenes? Well, joining us for today's "Strategy Session" are CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican strategist Ed Rollins, also a CNN political contributor.

Thank you for joining us here on THE SIT ROOM.

First of all, obviously, James, you were close to President Clinton, Ed, President Reagan.

What is going on now behind the scenes for President Obama in making decisions such a critical decision in these days to come?

Ed, I will start with you.

ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I assume the choice has been made.

Usually, what you do is, you narrow it down to three or four people. I would argue very strenuously that Souter is the model not to -- not to use. Souter was recommended by one senator, Warren Rudman, who Souter had been his assistant attorney general. We knew nothing about his background. And, for 18 years, he has never once cast a vote sort of on the Bush side. So, it was sort of a throwaway vote.

So, I think you want someone who shares you temperament, someone who's going to be there for a long period of time, because obviously the court is closely divided. And, in a period of four years or eight years, if the president is there, he may be able to change this court dramatically.

MALVEAUX: Ed, what makes you think the decision has already been made, reading the tea leaves here, or anything that the president has said or done or his aides, do you think?

ROLLINS: No, I just -- I just think that it's been a process they have looked at for several weeks. I think they have narrowed it down.

I would imagine, this weekend, there was some final interview that went on, particularly if he's going to make the decision tomorrow. You don't just walk in and interview someone and put them out on the lawn. It's too important a decision to make at this point in time.

MALVEAUX: Maybe tomorrow, obviously in the days ahead.

James, what do you think, in your experience, is happening during this really critical moment?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, first of all, we start with he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. So, he has -- he has a pretty good idea of what he wants himself.

And I think he's going to put someone out there that the Republicans are already geared up to oppose the person. And the country generally gives a lot of credence to the presidential appointee to the Supreme Court.

And I think they would like to put someone out there with -- who's obviously well-qualified and scholarly and everything, but also somebody that the Republicans are going to have to pay a very heavy price for a big campaign against that person. It might be for a legal reason, or ethic reason, or gender reason, or -- or -- or who knows, but I suspect that's a political calculation here also.

MALVEAUX: Well, let's talk about that a little bit, because, obviously, there has been some pressure from groups, from women's groups.

We had Senator Barbara Boxer and others, who have been weighing in, saying it should definitely be a woman, other Hispanic groups as well. Is -- is he in a position where he has to go in that direction now? Does he have to listen to those voices?

ROLLINS: I don't think he does.


ROLLINS: I think he can appoint -- I'm sorry, James. I think he can appoint anybody...



ROLLINS: The critical -- the critical thing is that the person's credentials can't be challenged.

I think, at this point in time, we -- we expect big fights, but, at the end of the day, this court needs people on the -- on the other side who can drive an agenda. And you have got Alito and Roberts and Scalia, who are great scholars, so you need someone on the other side who can be an equal scholar and drive -- drive the agenda.

MALVEAUX: Is he in a lose-lose position here, James? I mean, obviously, there are some...

CARVILLE: No. I think -- I think the president starts out -- and I don't say this because I'm a Democrat -- I think he starts out with great advantage, because, whoever he appoints, people are going to give a great deal of deference to that. The public will. A lot of people will.

And, so, if -- the Republicans are the out party and have to, like, make a credible case against a person where it raises doubts. If it looks like they're just opposing that person on an ideological or something that they don't like, they're not -- they're not going to look very good in the public.

So, I think this is not a lose-lose situation for the president. Certainly, it's one that you can lose. Some of these things have gone down. But it's very ugly and it doesn't look good when that happens, but, by and large, the public starts out with the president, regardless of the party.

MALVEAUX: Well, let's -- let's take a listen very quickly to what the president said to C-SPAN in his interview about what he is looking for in a nominee.


OBAMA: I want somebody who has the intellectual firepower, but also a little bit of a common touch and has a practical sense of how the world works.

STEVE SCULLY, POLITICAL EDITOR, C-SPAN: And that's what empathy is?

OBAMA: Well, that -- that's -- that's what empathy is to me. And -- and I think that that's those criteria of common sense, practicality, a sense of, you know, what ordinary Americans are going through every day.


MALVEAUX: Ed, when he says common touch, is that code for perhaps a judge who does not look at the letter of the law, but says, times have changed, and interprets the law? What is your take, your read on -- on that expression that he's using?

ROLLINS: Well, my -- my -- my -- my take is that, exactly.

You know, obviously, as a -- as a conservative, we want people to interpret the Constitution -- not to interpret the Constitution, just to basically make sure the Constitution is enforced, and not rewrite legislation.

To me, common sense means some events may be different, and you may want to change the circumstances, and take on more of a role that the legislature, that the Congress should have.

MALVEAUX: James, do you agree?

CARVILLE: Well -- well -- well, first of all, I think to this thing that all these judges do is -- quote -- "interpret the Constitution" -- end quote -- they do a ton of statutory interpretation also on how statutes come down.

And I completely think that a judge should be someone who has an appreciation of what it's like to -- to lead a life, and that these decisions have enormous ramifications to people's lives. I mean, if you look at all the really great decisions of the Supreme Court, they involve human beings.

And when a -- when something comes down, if you're interpreting a statute one way, a sexual harassment statute or pay equity statute, or something like that, that there are human consequences to your -- to your actions, and it doesn't all revolve around a constitutional construction. There's also a statutory construction here.

MALVEAUX: I want to turn the corner, if I could, just on a little bit of a lighter note, there is an RNC video on their Web site that seems to be causing quite a bit of controversy. This is a takeoff of a "James Bond" movie. There is a character kind of plays a femme fatale, if you will, who is being compared to Nancy Pelosi.

I want you to take a listen and watch this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: They mislead us all the time.

The CIA, their business is deception.


MALVEAUX: All right, Ed, we will start -- we will start with you here.


MALVEAUX: I mean, a lot of people are talking about this, obviously. They're looking at this, and they're saying, this is gender politics here, that there's a ring of sexism and chauvinism in this.

ROLLINS: It's -- it's -- it's a silly commercial. And, obviously, it's overstepping the issue. The issue is a legitimate issue. But when you sort of make -- try and make it too cute by half -- I have known Mrs. Pelosi. We grew up in California politics together.

And she could have been a Bond girl at one point in time, a villainess or -- or one of the superstars, because she was attractive and smart, and still is attractive and smart. I think you have cheapened the issue here, and I think it's ridiculous.

MALVEAUX: This one is actually -- she's being portrayed as a villain, instead of a Bond girl.

Does -- did it cross the line here, James?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I'm -- presumably, I'm not allowed to say who the analogy is that they're trying to draw here, so I'm not -- I'm not going to do it on CNN.

I think Ed showed a lot of courage. I think it's hideous. And -- and the fact that the RNC put this out, they must not want another woman's vote for the rest of the time the Republican Party exists. I mean, there's any number of ways -- even a conservative congressman from Utah saw his (INAUDIBLE) and people like Ed Rollins.

You know, look, people will say things they shouldn't say, but the fact that the RNC has put this out and continues to do it is -- it's hideous. And I think they're going to pay a political price for this. This is just utterly poor taste.

MALVEAUX: Ed -- Ed, obviously, there is some strife within the Republican Party. We have heard a lot of very prominent Republican figures, especially over the weekend, strong voices, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, as well as Tom Ridge, all of them really debating, where does this party go?

And I want to show you this poll here, the Republican -- the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, that shows a favorable rating for Colin Powell, 70 percent, unfavorable 17 percent, Dick Cheney 37 percent, unfavorable 55 percent.

Who should the Republicans be embracing? Should Colin Powell leave the Republican Party? Or should the Republicans be trying to essentially gravitate towards him and move in his direction?

ROLLINS: This -- this is one of the things that James and I will both agree on. We lost by nine-and-a-half-million votes in this last presidential election. We need every vote we can get.

And Colin Powell, as he described himself yesterday, has been a swing voter. He has voted for some Democrats, some Republicans. We have got to get him back supporting Republicans and every other person who may have gone off the reservation this time. MALVEAUX: James...

ROLLINS: It's all about -- it's all about building.


ROLLINS: And I think, to a certain extent, he's a -- he's a tremendous asset to any party.

MALVEAUX: Take a quick listen to what he said just -- just -- just this past weekend.


POWELL: Rush will not get his wish. And Mr. Cheney was misinformed. I am still a Republican.

And I would like to point out that, in the course of my 50 years of voting for presidents, I have voted for the person I thought was best-qualified at that time to lead the nation.


MALVEAUX: James, going to let you wrap this up.

Should he -- should he actually change, should he switch parties here? Or is he -- is he right on course when he says, "I'm sticking around"?

CARVILLE: Well, I would...

(LAUGHTER) CARVILLE: I -- I wish he would change. We would be glad to have him.

I think that -- that the former vice president and -- and -- and Rush Limbaugh confuse an ideology with a political party. And Rush, to his credit, says: "I am a conservative. I am necessarily a Republican."

And I'm sure the -- the vice president feels the same way. That's -- that's destructive to a political party in a two-party system. You have to have a coalition. You have to have different people in it. And, apparently, Rush and the vice president or, to some extent, it appears other people there would prefer to have a pure party.

Senator DeMint said he would rather have 30 real conservatives than 51 moderates. And -- and that's their choice. But all of you people who ware Republicans that don't follow Rush and Dick Cheney, we -- we're glad to have you. We will take you. We will -- we will -- and try to accommodate your views as best we can.


MALVEAUX: We will have to leave it right there.

James Carville, Ed Rollins, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ROLLINS: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Happy Memorial Day.


CARVILLE: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: A wreath sent from President Obama, it's a Memorial Day tradition, so why is there controversy surrounding the tribute?

And going behind the scenes with the first lady in pictures.


MALVEAUX: Now a behind-the-scenes look at first lady Michelle Obama with the help of "TIME" magazine and our own Wolf Blitzer.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now, one of the reporters from "TIME" magazine who interviewed the first lady, Michael Scherer.

Michael, thanks very much for coming in.

MICHAEL SCHERER, "TIME": Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: She hasn't done a whole lot of interviews with the news media. And you got one.


BLITZER: And we're happy to say that "TIME" magazine's our sister publication.

I want to get some insight on this woman, because you spent some quality time with her.


BLITZER: And I want to do it through some photos.


BLITZER: Callie Shell, your -- your -- your photographer, who's often been a guest on our program, she -- she got some exclusive access.

Tell us what we're seeing here in this picture.

SCHERER: This is the scene from the movie theater at the White House.

One of the things that Michelle was concerned about before she came to Washington was that she would leave her network of family and friends that supported had her and supported her family. And, if anything else, this illustrates that, you know, she's been able to bring that with her. Her mother lives with her at the White House. A number of her longtime friends from Chicago are now working with her at the White House.

And she's able to have time to just eat popcorn with the girls.


BLITZER: You can see she's having some popcorn, getting ready for a movie with her good friends.

SCHERER: Exactly.

BLITZER: All right, let's go to the next picture. This is a little bit different. We see, at least in this still photo, some moves there.

SCHERER: Yes, that's right.

This is from a woman's history event that she had at the White House. She brought over a group of teen girls from D.C., you know, from one of the local high schools. And -- and she had them meet with a number of -- of women leaders. And -- and her message to the girls and her message to the women leaders was, let's have fun. Let's -- let's -- let's, you know, hang out.

You know, one of the things she talked about with us is that -- and you can see it here -- she's a very touchy person. She touches the people she -- she talks with. She touches -- you know, she hugs students a lot when she meets with them. And she says one of things she's trying to do there is break down the walls, make people realize that...

BLITZER: Did you get the sense she is having fun?

SCHERER: Yes, I definitely got the sense -- you know, for the first time in 10 years, she is living in the same city as her husband full-time. She has her family there. She has her mother helping her take care of the kids. She makes her own schedule.

She has, you know, the -- the food cooked. She doesn't have to worry about who's doing the dishes. And she's able to do work that she's -- she clearly sees as very meaningful...


BLITZER: All right. Now, this next shot is a poignant moment. She's at a synagogue in Prague in the Czech Republic, the Pinkas synagogue. And she's obviously reflecting.


And I -- I followed her on this day. This was during the president's trip to -- to the Czech Republic. She took time off, with David Axelrod and -- Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, to visit the synagogue.

You see there behind are the names of people from the Czech Republic who died at concentration camps during the Holocaust. For her, I think it was a very -- a very moving day.

BLITZER: Yes. And she took two of the president's Jewish aides with her.

SCHERER: That's right.

BLITZER: So, that was -- added to that moment.

All right, let's take a look at the next -- the next picture, a very different kind of picture. This is when she's with the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg. But tell us what she's laughing about.

SCHERER: You know, she -- she often is -- is -- you know, one of the roles she plays with the -- with the president, and with, you know, other people, she -- she doesn't want to be involved in the heavy policy stuff. She doesn't want to be, you know, brought down by the seriousness of events.

She kind of prods people, makes people feel like, you know, like -- like this is meaningful, this is fun. And I think that's another example of that happening here.

BLITZER: It was at the opening of the -- the reopening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

SCHERER: That's right, on Monday. BLITZER: And she loves to go to that kind of stuff, doesn't she?

SCHERER: She does.

BLITZER: She's done a lot of it.

SCHERER: She does. She's been to the Kennedy Center here in -- here in D.C. You know, she's gone to New York a couple times for -- for various events as well.

BLITZER: And here's the next picture is at the American Ballet Theatre opening at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. That was on May 18.

SCHERER: That's right, and a private moment. It's one of the things that Callie's able to capture that a lot of people aren't able to capture.

BLITZER: Callie's the photographer.

SCHERER: Callie's the photographer. She -- she...


BLITZER: She really gets incredible access...


SCHERER: You know, she's known the Obamas for awhile. They're very comfortable with her. She's comfortable with them. And she's able to capture them in these -- in these -- in these quiet moments off stage, when -- when, you know, the rest of the cameras aren't trained on them.

BLITZER: She's showing her trademark arms, I guess. That's -- that's -- I guess that's pretty common nowadays. And you've seen a lot of her. And she's a great dresser, obviously, as well.

SCHERER: A great dresser, sometimes a controversial dresser. You know that people have complained that she wore a sweater to meet the queen. And her response to that was: It was -- it was a nice sweater. You know, I will wear what I want.

BLITZER: Here's the next picture over at the -- she's meeting some of the performers at the American Ballet Theatre. And she's got two friends, two special guests with her, as well.

SCHERER: You can see Jill Biden, the wife...

BLITZER: All the way to the right.

SCHERER: Yes, all the way to the right, the wife of Vice President Biden. And Caroline Kennedy is -- is also there behind her. They're longtime friends from the campaign trail.

BLITZER: What did you learn when you -- when you interviewed the first lady? What did you learn about her, something unique, something that you didn't know and certainly our viewers in the United States and around the world probably don't know?

SCHERER: You know, one thing that struck me about our interview was that she said a couple times, you know: This is not going to be my life. I'm a 45-year-old woman. In a few years, in four or eight years, my children are going to be grown. And I don't know what's going to happen next.

She -- she -- you know, she sees herself as a professional woman who's taken this detour into the White House. She's able to do this work now.

The -- the other big takeaway I took from -- from the time I reported on her and spoke with her is that, you know, for her, there's something -- every -- every first lady has this power of symbolism. You know, the cameras follow her. What they do, you know, is noticed.

For her, there's -- there's sort of almost a radical element to that, because she's able to go into, you know, inner city schools, see people who may not feel like they will ever get to be somewhere at the White House, and say: I'm not supposed to be here. There's no reason I'm here.

She's able to bring those same voices into the White House. And, for her, it's very meaningful. And I think it is -- it is powerful. It's something we haven't seen before.

BLITZER: And she's on the cover of our sister publication, "TIME" magazine, this week.

SCHERER: That's right.

BLITZER: Michael Scherer, the reporter -- thanks very much, Michael, for coming in.

SCHERER: Thanks for having me.


MALVEAUX: And we are standing by for a news conference on the return of a 13-year-old cancer patient who has been on the run from chemotherapy.

And security breached at Buckingham Palace -- all captured on video.


MALVEAUX: President Obama today sent wreaths to the Confederate War Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery and the African-American Civil War Memorial. Our Abbi Tatton is following the story.

And, Abbi, I understand that there was some controversy behind this.


A group of 60 or so professors had called upon President Obama to stop the tradition of honoring Confederate soldiers. They argued in a letter to the White House that the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery is offensive to African-Americans, glorifies the Confederacy, and the president shouldn't send a wreath there.

But, today, President Obama continued the tradition and started a new one. Aides sent flowers here, to the Confederate Memorial, but they also went one here, to the African-American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C.'s historic U Street neighborhood. That memorial, opened in 1999, honors the more than 200,000 black troops who fought in the Civil War.

Sending two wreaths was a compromise suggested last week by another historian as a message of reconciliation -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Abbi.