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Getting Control of Nuclear Material; Keeping Nukes Out

Aired April 12, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: We don't try to tell you what to think here, there are other places you can go for that. But I would hope we can agree that some issues shouldn't be reflexively political, like keeping nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists who want to kill us all regardless of who we supported for president or Congress or mayor for that matter.

Nuclear security is the topic of a major summit here in Washington. And it's scary stuff. One expert, Harvard University's Graham Allison believes it is more likely than not that a terrorist will detonate a nuclear bomb in the United States in the next four years. Many of you seem to share that fear; 55 percent of Americans consider it likely that the United States will be attacked by terrorists with some kind of a nuclear device in the next decade.

It's serious stuff worth serious conversation, and worth challenging, maybe even suspending your normal political reflexes. I make the point because of something in our polling that jumped out at me. One piece of the nuclear security debate is the new nuclear arms treaty President Obama negotiated with Russia.

At first glance it's not caught up in today's toxic political environment; 70 percent of Americans say they believe the Senate should ratify the agreement. But there is a divide when you take a closer look; 87 percent of Democrats favor ratification and 68 percent of independents, but just 49 percent of Republicans. Yes, our politics have been polarized for a long time, so maybe that shouldn't be a surprise.

But national security used to be different. Eight years ago, for example, when President Bush negotiated a similar agreement with Russia, 83 percent of Democrats, 89 percent of independents and 85 percent of Republicans supported it. That of course was back when memories of 9/11 were still fresh and before the Iraq war, a different time when for a bit the old adage that politics should stop at the water's edge was back in vogue, an oldie but goodie.

A busy hour ahead including new names on the president's list for the Supreme Court vacancy and a new effort in the Senate to get checks in the mail to unemployed Americans whose benefits were cut off last week but let's begin by exploring the players and the challenges at the big nuclear security summit. For that we go to the magic wall for a little help, there are 47 nations plus the European Union, the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency represented at the big nuclear security summit. Thirty-eight of those nations sent their head of state or government meaning kings, presidents and prime ministers.

It's a two-day summit, the largest gathering of world leaders in the United States since 1945 and it's been designated a national special security event which means the Secret Service takes charge of coordinating all the security and trust me Washington, D.C. has quite a bit of security at the moment. As the summit got underway, Vice President Biden invited some of the participants to his official residence for lunch and used stark and silver language in framing the agenda.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are hundreds of tons of nuclear materials scattered over 40 countries including the United States of America and many of the countries here and just 50 pounds of high purity uranium, smaller than a soccer ball could destroy the downtown of all our capital cities and kill tens if not hundreds of thousands of individuals so it's very much in our interest to gain control. This is the horrific threat that we all face together and one that we are determined we will defeat together.


KING: Right now President Obama and the national leaders are sitting down for a working dinner at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center. So what do they need to talk about and what do they need to accomplish? Wendy Sherman is here because she helped coordinate the Clinton administration's policy on North Korea and more recently served on a commission that studied ways to keep terrorists from getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction -- welcome.


KING: Talk is cheap -- I don't mean to say it that way. I don't question the goals of the summit, but what does this president and this world community need to come out of this meeting with in terms of tangible proof and steps that you think would take this problem down a notch?

SHERMAN: We saw one very important step today when President Obama met with President Yanukovych of Ukraine. Ukraine made a commitment that we have been trying to get them to make for 10 years. They have a very large stockpile of highly enriched uranium which is not the kind of material you want sitting around that terrorists could get their hands on and they agreed by 2012 to get rid of that stockpile, they have got to figure out where to put it. The United States is going to help with some technical assistance, but already this is a very important concrete result because as your intro said, there are tons, hundreds of thousands of tons of this material that we have to secure.

KING: The International Atomic Energy Agency says 100 nuclear smuggling incidents over the past decade or so, since 1993, 18 of them involving highly enriched uranium which is the most dangerous. Is it better now than it was after the fall of the Berlin Wall or is the problem getting worse?

SHERMAN: Unfortunately I think most experts think the problem is getting worse because we have had al Qaeda for many years now absolutely committed to getting its hands on some of that nuclear material. There's probably not a one of us who reads some of that great fiction that hasn't recently read a book where some group of terrorists got their hands on some nuclear material and a great U.S. intelligence officer just at the last moment kept them from setting off the bomb.

That's not so from reality and I quite agree with Graham Allison. We served on a congressional commission together looking at this. The greatest danger is making sure that material does not fall into the hands of terrorists and that's what the president and quite frankly these 47 leaders along with the U.N. and the IAEA and others are trying to make sure happens.

KING: Help us understand because you have had over the course of your career access to the intelligence. So I know you can't share classified information, but what don't we know that perhaps would help people understand, if you could tell us a little bit more about what we don't know that maybe somebody at home would go maybe I better care more about this.

SHERMAN: Well I think we have all read in the newspaper or heard you all reporting about things that have come over the border even from Canada that we got stopped, making sure that they didn't get transported. A ball of plutonium which is the other kind of fissile material that can be used in nuclear weapons, there's highly enriched uranium in plutonium. A ball of plutonium could be put in a suitcase and carried across the border, and nobody would even know it was there.

You might not even detect the radiation. So one of the things that actually President Bush began and President Obama has continued is the proliferation security initiative, stopping ships, making sure that we don't have loose nuclear material that's being transported unbeknownst to us or the elements or the tools that would be needed to take such material and create a bomb.

KING: The overwhelming bulk of this material, not all of it, but the overwhelming bulk is in the United States and in Russia. Do you assume Ukraine will go to Russia and part of the question is where are we now in that process, because the Russians tell us it's none of your business sometimes and we say you need to improve your security? You need to build a better protocol to make sure we're keeping track all this stuff.

SHERMAN: We actually all need to do that. We have highly enriched uranium in some of our research reactors at some of our universities and we have to make sure that's secure and in many of these situations, we can transfer to low enriched uranium and get the same results, so I think that the president's START Agreement which is on strategic arms reduction to really bring down our warheads and deployed warheads of nuclear weapons also will take us to a strategic dialogue with Russia to begin what Senator Nunn, Senator Lugar began was an (INAUDIBLE) initiative to try to make sure that their nuclear material is well secured and we really ought to take that Nunn-Lugar initiative, which we are, to the rest of the world and provide the technical assistance and support so that nations can make those commitments and we can make sure that all that nuclear material is secure.

KING: I want to talk to you for a minute after the break about who's not here and why they're so important. But of those who are here, obviously the president is talking to the president of China, he's talking to the president of Russia, you mention the agreement with Ukraine. The prime minister of Pakistan is here. That's a big part of this equation. Who else? Do you see him meeting like the leaders of Nigeria and Malaysia and people would say how do they play into this world?

SHERMAN: They play quite importantly because we want to make sure that people don't think that the only way to show that you're powerful is to have a nuclear weapon and if indeed those two countries, which I assume you want to talk about a little bit, North Korea and Iran are nuclear powers. It's going to encourage others to say well heck I better get a nuclear weapon too. And so we want to make sure that countries like South Africa and Korea and Brazil, which foreswore having nuclear weapons, actually had had nuclear programs and nuclear weapons program and gave them up that they are examples to the rest of the world that you don't have to become a nuclear weapon state to become powerful to be economically prosperous and to make sure that you have a strong nation.

KING: Ambassador Wendy Sherman is going to stay with us. We'll come back in just a bit.

While there are 50 leaders here for the summit, as we noted some important people are missing. Next we'll go "Wall-to-Wall" and we see who didn't come and just why that's important.


KING: If you look here, you'll see some of the challenges for the nuclear security summit here in Washington. Of course the leaders are concerned terrorists are seeking nuclear weapons and these materials are in bunkers in dozens of countries around the world, 18 documented cases of theft or loss of plutonium or highly enriched uranium have been made and you see here obviously many incidents also show evidence of security weaknesses. One of the things the leaders are discussing, how to increase security around the world for nuclear materials.

Now the list of world leaders and organizations here for the summit is quite impressive. But those who are not here are worth noting too, especially when you consider those most interested in the black market for nuclear materials. Listen here to the president's counter terrorism adviser John Brennan.


JOHN BRENNAN, W.H. COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER: Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups know that if they were to acquire highly enriched uranium or separated plutonium and turn it into a weapons they would have the ability not only to threaten our security and world order in a unprecedented manner, but also to kill and injure many thousands of innocent men, women and children which is al Qaeda's sole agenda.


KING: So you hear the stakes there from the president's counterterrorism adviser. Let's go over to the magic wall for a closer look at those who are not attending and why they matter. You see the map here already highlighting Venezuela. Venezuela is not a nuclear power, but it is working with Russia to develop nuclear programs and of course it's been the source of many diplomatic issues with the United States.

Now we turn the map around the world into more familiar territory when it comes to discussions of nuclear programs let's stop the map here for a second. Syria has only a very modest amount the United States believes of nuclear material but they are worried because it has had a dysfunctional relationship with the United States and was believed to be trying to develop a nuclear program several years back.

Israel of course is a U.S. ally and has quite a significant nuclear program. More than 100 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, a significant amount of plutonium and between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads, Israel's prime minister not at the summit but the United States enjoys relatively friendly relationships there on nuclear issues. Azerbaijan no nuclear weapons but a large amount of nuclear waste in storage, one of the issues the administration and other world leaders are so concerned about.

Iran, of course on everybody's list. It has some highly enriched uranium. It is believed to be developing a program -- it says it's a peaceful program, but the United States says it may be close to having a nuclear bomb and let's zoom in just a little bit on one of the facilities inside Iran. You're probably familiar with these satellite programs from time to time as the United States and other intelligence agencies have tried to figure out exactly what's happening at Natanz and other nuclear sites, and again the concern is using new centrifuges, how much nuclear and especially highly enriched nuclear material do the Iranians have.

And let's move over lastly to North Korea, again, another country of major concern, not invited to the summit because of course it has no good relations with the United States. North Korea already is believed to have at least 42 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, a significant amount of plutonium as well, excuse me, and it claims to already have weapons. That has been dispute in some areas.

And again as we did in the case of Iran, let's go back in and look at least one of the nuclear sites that has been of such concern to the world community in recent years where the North Koreans are believed to have those materials and if you pull this out a little bit you see in here, this is a reactor that was dismantled some time ago, but over here you have other nuclear facilities that are believed to still be online and the source is very delicate diplomacy with the United States.

So my guests and I will continue our conversation in just a minute and we'll ask them about why these people aren't here and what can be done and how important they are to the conversations underway here in Washington.


KING: Among President Obama's priorities for the nuclear summit under way here in Washington are preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons and putting a stop to North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Neither nation, of course, was invited to the gathering here.

Back with us again Ambassador Wendy Sherman who met North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Il when she was part of the Clinton administration and joining us now, Her Majesty, Queen Noor of Jordan. She is the co- founder of Global Zero, an international organization devoted to eliminating nuclear weapons. So let's continue the conversation, Your Majesty, let's start with you. In the context of those who are not here, what can this group of leaders who are here do to help deal with the North Korean problem or the Iranian problem, for example?

QUEEN NOOR, JORDAN: Well we at Global Zero believe and I personally believe that if we're able to achieve consensus, if we're able to bring the nuclear states and also the nuclear capable states and obviously this meeting is a group of states who have nuclear materials or access to nuclear materials, if we're able to bring as many of those states together as possible, and to agree, for example, as I hope this summit will, there will be concrete agreements made to safeguard nuclear materials, smuggling, nuclear materials crossing borders and nuclear materials within a country's borders. Then you're beginning to develop a global consensus, a certain momentum that is critical to achieving Global Zero and diminishing the threats of nuclear terrorism, of those materials that are so many of them in unstable parts of the world reaching the hands of those who would use them to wreak havoc on any of us anywhere in the world.

KING: Is there any risk in doing this in the sense that if you watch Iranian behavior over the years, North Korean behavior over the years, sometimes when they are lectured by the world community and especially the United States, they respond by saying essentially poke me, I will poke you back. Is there some risk that there will be a reaction from them after this?

SHERMAN: I think we've already started to see some reaction. We heard Ahmadinejad -- President Ahmadinejad of Iran basically say this was humiliating and that nations shouldn't take these kinds of actions. But in fact, I think that we'll hear the United States talk about the commitments it needs to make as well. We have an enormous amount of nuclear material as we were discussing before, some in our research reactors that we have to make sure is secure and move down to low enriched rather than highly enriched uranium so everybody has work to do including the United States.

KING: And in that context, we talk about this in terms of North Korea and Iran and weapons programs, but a lot of the nuclear material in the world is research, medical research, we have issues with the Canadians to our north and within the borders of the United States. How much is the technology of this business, the necessary nuclear business changed in the last 10 years or so, so that you can now go to these people and say look you don't need to do it this way anymore because you can get what you need in a safer way?

NOOR: Well I think perhaps Ukraine's commitment today announced today is an example. Here is a country that is now committed to eliminate all of its highly enriched uranium and it's going to move to low enriched uranium for its civilian nuclear research reactors. I think we're hoping that other states are going to move in that direction, that is one of the areas where technology is providing us an avenue to try to mobilize the global community to follow if you will, which will shift gears away from highly enriched uranium and those kinds of materials that present a greater danger.

KING: Of those who are -- of those in the world, never mind just who's here -- those in the world, who has the best safety, security of the nuclear materials in your view?

SHERMAN: Oh I think we do have excellent systems in the United States. And we have had long running, probably the best nuclear labs in the world. And we heard both Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates talk about that as the nuclear posture review was unveiled last week to really put $5 billion into really upgrading our own nuclear arsenal and make sure that all of our nuclear weapons are safe, secure, reliable, and ready for the future even as we reduce our stockpile as we have just agreed to do with Russia.

KING: And who's the worst?

NOOR: Well I would like to say that Wendy is absolutely right obviously about the United States and the level of technological and other resources it's been able to bring to its nuclear arsenal, if you will. On the other hand, this film "Countdown to Zero", which is produced by Participant Productions (ph) and Lawrence Bender, who produced "Inconvenient Truth" and a range of other very important documentaries on critical issues today, spells out very clearly the accidents that have -- and the almost catastrophic nuclear accidents that have taken place, even with all of those safeguards, and we look at the rest of the world where there are so many states where there is highly enriched uranium that pose -- maybe about 10 states that are of enormous concern I think who have quantities of highly enriched uranium. I do not want to pick out any one of those states.

KING: What is the temperature in the region of the world that you lived in for so long and you still visit so often, there was all this talk if Iran goes further, the further they get, that other people in the neighborhood will feel the pressure, that the Saudis who certainly have the financial resources would go out and develop a nuclear program, others have resources in the neighborhood. How high is that temperature?

NOOR: I'd say right now it's a very active and intense discussion and debate and the region, the Arab states have since the nuclear nonproliferation treaty committed to that treaty and to a weapons of mass destruction free zone and they're still calling for the Middle East to be a weapons of mass destruction-free zone. We of course at Global Zero call for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. That means that no country should acquire them such as Iran and all countries should eliminate them such as Israel.

And I think that if we achieved some progress on those two fronts and I don't want to sound Pollyannaish, but on the other hand, if we really want to look practically at the region, we would go a long ways towards diminishing a great deal of the tension in the region. Israel, for example, doesn't need nuclear weapons; it has conventional superiority over all of its neighbors. It needs peace with its neighbors. And I think that's what Iran needs as well, is a constructive dialogue and a reengagement on proper terms, if you will, according to international law and conventions, with the rest of the world.

KING: Your Majesty, Queen Noor, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, thank you both for coming in. It's a fascinating subject and you've taught me some things. I hope people at home learned a little bit as well.

And we'll take "The Pulse" of the country when we come back. Next, what it's like for somebody with the job of protecting us from dirty bombs.


KING: We make it a point here to take you outside of Washington, outside the beltway to take "The Pulse" of the nation. Tonight, someone who's on the front line when it comes to keeping all of us safe and keeping would-be terrorists from sneaking nuclear material into the country. Ronald J. Boyd is the chief of the Los Angeles Port Police. The port of L.A. spans 43 miles, 43 miles of water front, a lot of space for Chief Boyd. Chief, let me ask you this simple question now, we focus so much on this issue, so much attention on this issue right after 9/11, are we safer now than then?

CHIEF RONALD BOYD, LOS ANGELES PORT POLICE: I would say we are safer now than we were then, but we have still got a long way to go.

KING: And what do you need the most especially when it comes to the issue being discussed here in Washington, the idea that somebody with a softball size or a soccer ball sized amount of a highly enriched uranium or plutonium could come into this country and wreak havoc in your city or any other city large or small in America. In terms of the screening facilities you have, the technology you have the training you have, where are you?

BOYD: Well it's all the above that you mentioned. We have got to have better capabilities to detect, better capabilities to respond and we have been really working hard now to change the training acumen and to have our folks better prepared so that when we recognize these threats, we can mitigate them as soon as possible.

KING: Do you have the resources you need or has that been an issue? If you look around the country, especially in this recession, a lot of states are cutting back and I don't know the level of federal grants you're still getting, after 9/11 and all that, do you have from a financial standpoint of getting the equipment and the extra training you need, has that been cut back at all?

BOYD: Well I think we've made a tremendous amount of progress especially since September 11th. The past few years we've done a number of things that we're not traditional for local law enforcement to do, which would include adding additional detection equipment, to start to cooperate as operational teams with multiple agencies, all of the stake holders are involved at the federal, state and local level much better than it was in the past and there's still a lot greater level of cooperation. The final piece is to get the training and to have multiple agencies and also the other stake holders which include the private sector all reading from the same playbook and doing the same thing as we look at detection and mitigation.

KING: You have 5 million units come through your port on an annual basis, 7500 acres I believe you need to cover, what is it that wakes you up at night or keeps you up at night? What's the biggest worry?

BOYD: First off doubling those numbers because we treat the entire port complex which is comprised of Los Angeles and Long Beach as the threat or the vulnerable asset. It's making sure that we're looking at our brothers over in the Long Beach area and making sure that they're consistent with the efforts that we have. And remember, we're the local agency, we're depending upon the state and the feds to make sure that the big net is out there and we're catching the fine points. So it's making sure, are we truly collaborating in the best fashion, do we have the best equipment? Are we all trained on the same sheet of music? We're finally starting to work on getting all the state and local law enforcement officers trained in one facility here in Los Angeles. That's going to be very new and cutting edge for us, so that we make sure that the maritime supply chain is the best it's ever been protected.

KING: On a scale of one to ten, ten being certain you could stop it. Where is your level of certainty if somebody, of all those giant containers that come through your ports, if somebody had a briefcase size of nuclear material, how would you stop it?

BOYD: I would be afraid to cross that road and say that it would be a ten or a two. After 9/11, it was probably closer to a two, and now with the changes that we have made and the networks that have been developed and collaboration with federal, state and local agencies, we're closer to that eight or nine.

KING: And what don't we know? I assume there's things that happened in your port, things you've stopped or things you know your colleagues have stopped that we might know not about?

BOYD: There's a number of things, but those serve as benchmarks for us to actually gauge where we are as far as preparation and they give us something to look at. We have shifted from a very conventional type of thinking to asymmetric thinking which means we're continually having to go back and assess what we're doing and figuring out what we're doing and whether or not those tactics have been captured by a would be attacker and whether or not they have moved on to something new.

KING: Chief Boyd, we appreciate your help tonight and more importantly we appreciate the service of yourself and all those who work under you, sir.

BOYD: My pleasure.

KING: Take care. Thank you.

We mentioned that this is the largest meeting of international leaders that a U.S. president has hosted since 1945 and the guy in charge of keeping everybody safe is today's most important person you don't know.


KING: Today the most important person you don't know is coping with the biggest headache you don't have. Providing security for the massive nuclear summit here in Washington. That lucky person is secret service director Mark Sullivan, why him? Because the department of homeland security officially designated the nuclear summit as an NSSE, that's a national special security event which puts the secret service in charge of coordinating with some 50 police and government agencies. It should be old hat for Sullivan. Since he became secret service director back in 2006, there's been NSSEs for the political conventions, the inauguration, last year's GA summit in Pittsburgh and most recently, the state of the union speech. Sullivan brings three decades of law enforcement experience to the job. He joined the secret service in 1983. Best of all, he's from Arlington, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, a member of Red Sox nation.

Dana Bash joins me for the conversation. We covered the white house for a long time and these guys are just amazing, whether it's the uniformed officers or whether it is the undercover guys, especially at a big event like this when the president travels overseas, I remember the moment on the trip, what trip was it that President Bush had to go grab his guy and they wouldn't let him go one of their meetings? It's a traffic nightmare for people in Washington. There's actually been one fatality tonight. They're investigating it, the cyclist, but it's just remarkable.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right and many times when they've had these big events and of course nothing has been in this big in terms of world leaders gathering, they have given up on doing it in places like Washington. How many times did we go abroad to far, far away places, we had to get in boats sometimes to get to the site of these big summits for that reason and that reason only because that was the way they kept it secure.

KING: All right. Let's shift gears. I have spent the day trying to learn more about how the enriched uranium and plutonium and about the details and agenda of this summit, what have I missed?

BASH: What you are maybe missing is more importantly what about 400,000 people out there who don't have jobs may be missing right now and that is their unemployment benefits because that is basically where things are right now because Congress still has yet to pass an extension for that number of people for their benefits. We're talking about $335 a week which is very important money for people who don't have jobs. What happened tonight is that the Senate did vote to at least begin debate on it but there's still a really big philosophical divide. Everybody agrees that this should be done. The question is from Republicans is whether or not it should be paid for, they say yes, it should be, don't add to the debts and deficit, Democrats say no.

KING: Let me jump in on that. Let's listen to a little bit of the political argument, first you have the number two democrat in the senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois who says this is all the Republicans' fault.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), MAJORITY WHIP: If we could just get enough compassion from the other side of the isle for unemployed workers as we had for bank bail bailouts, we would have a chance of feeding these people and keeping their families together during one of the worst economic turns we've seen in America.


KING: And then the number two Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona, he's on the floor as well saying, hey wait a minute. We want to do this and we would have done it yesterday if you would just help us find the money to pay for it.


SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: For my money, if we can't find $9.5 billion somewhere in this government and say that it's a higher priority to extend these unemployment benefits and pay for it, then whatever that money is used for, then we're not doing our job.


KING: So will the politics of this get in the way of getting the 60 votes necessary to cut off debate and end this and get the checks in the mail by the end of the week?

BASH: I'm told tonight from Democratic and Republican sources that they are talking about trying to at least move faster on this, both Republicans and Democrats. Up until then, both Republicans and Democrats think it's harsh that this is not a bad political issue trying to portray Republicans as trying to block these benefits. And on the other side, Republicans are saying what better political issue than when people are concerned about record deficits, record debt, to say we want to actually act in Washington as everybody out there is expected to act. And that is balance your checkbook. If you're going to act, find something else in the budget to pay for it.

KING: One political debate, not the only political debate here in Washington. In a minute a behind the scenes strategy for picking a new Supreme Court nominee. Should the president pick a fight? Our reporters will tell us what's in their notebooks, we'll be right back.


KING: Dana Bash is still with us, we're also joined by Gloria Borger and Jessica Yellin. Let's focus on the big event the president is having in town, 47 nations represented, a big chance for him to be on to the world stage while at home, benefit, any down side, Gloria.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there's a real benefit to him. This issue of loose nukes as you have been talking about is not new, it's something that's been tried to be dealt with by both Republican and Democratic administrations, the president here looks like a leader, he's saying we're not just going to have a communique, we're going to come out of this with an action plan. Loose nukes is something people worry about, it's something they can understand, it's isolates terrorist countries so all in all, I think it's a win for him.

KING: And the Republicans have tried to get him on other security issues especially in this election years, but this particular issue securing nuclear materials around the world has gone all the way back to the fall of the Berlin wall has gotten pretty good bipartisan support.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes it makes him show that he's tough on terror. It makes him look that way and it's tough. There is a Republican argument that especially by the treaty that he signed that he's doing with Russia, that if we sort of give up some of our nuclear potential then we allow other Democratic states to feel more vulnerable and they'll want to build up. That's what the most conservative Republicans will say. But I do think that independents, even our poll showed it, and Democrats are going to be on board with him. This is a big winner with independents and it's also pretty impressive. We were saying he's taking on too much, he's taking on a lot and he's getting a lot done now so the momentum does seem to be shifting for him in terms of his agenda here in the U.S. It looks like he's in control right now.

KING: We'll keep an eye on what results come out of this and how they track all out but another big thing he has to do while he's doing all these other things, we mentioned the unemployment benefits. They're involved in that, this nuclear summit, they're involved in that. The president also has to make one of these big legacy picks, which is his second Supreme Court nominee in 14 months. Pretty remarkable for the president to get two in his first two years in office, he may well get another one before his first term is up. We have some new names today of some of the people that are on the short or the medium list, Diane Wood we knew about. She's a federal appeals court judge. She's from the president's hometown of Chicago, she's one of them. Merrick Garland also made the list last time when he picked Sonia Sotomayor, a judge here in D.C. Elena Kagan you're hearing a lot about potentially as the front-runner some say. She was in the Clinton administration, the former dean at Harvard law school, many conservatives have actually had nice things to say about Elena Kagan. Here's some new names that came up today, Sidney Thomas a federal appeals court judge out in Montana, put on the federal bench by President Clinton Martha Minow, a Harvard law school dean right now. Elena Kagan once had that job now Martha Minow has that job. And Elizabeth Warren, this one jumped out of the blue when I saw that list. She runs the T.A.R.P. program, which is not a very popular program itself, but Elizabeth Warren is in charge of keeping track of the money. And of late the government has been saying that money's coming back in, so maybe her story has gotten a little bit more favorable in recent days, on capitol hill, are they gearing up? Is this going to be a big fight or are people waiting to see who it is?

BASH: It's suspended animation right now because people are waiting, but obviously they're gearing up, as it happens with every single supreme court pick, we have the name, every interest group has the names and they're doing their home work just in case, there's no question. But what's so interesting to me is that from the perspective of Democrats, I have not talked to anybody who has not said that there is no stomach among Democrats for a big fight to gin up the liberal base. Just the opposite. If they have their way, it will be as noncontroversial as possible, it will get through and they can move on to the domestic issues that they really want to talk about like jobs.

KING: The Republicans say the same thing or do they want a fight?

BORGER: The outside groups want a big fight. But the Republicans in the is that -- Senate -- but the question that nobody can really answer yet is that if there is a fight, what kind of questions are going to be asked. We saw the Republicans gather last week, Sarah Palin spoke, Newt Gingrich spoke, did they talk about the Supreme Court nominee much? Or am I missing something?

KING: It's striking.

BORGER: It is striking, they didn't do that. It's not -- but states rights, states rights, you see someone from Montana there, what tease big issue out west? What's the big issue for tea parties? States rights, how influence should the federal government have over your lives, the constitutionality of health care reform. That's what we're going to be talking about.

KING: Take a quick timeout here. We've got more to come. As we go, we're determined to bring you into our weekly conversation. So we ask a question, ask you to make your case on around important topic. The president is about to decide as we've been discussing a new pick for the Supreme Court one of the most far reaching decisions any president could make. So this week's question what qualities are you looking for as the president picks the next U.S. Supreme Court justice. Record your opinion. Post it at and we'll play the best video on Friday and the winner gets JKUSA t-shirt. You really want one of those.


KING: And for tonight's play by play we're back with Gloria Borger, Dana Bash and Jessica Yellin. Scott Brown is one of the most fascinating players in town right now, the new Republican senator from Massachusetts. He came in and conservatives loved him. If he wants to win re-election back in Massachusetts, he has to be careful. There's a little Boston accent. So, Dana, you had a chance to interview him today. He decided to vote with the Democrats to move this debate about unemployment benefits along. He didn't promise how it would go in the end. He did offer you a taste of his independence streak.

SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: When I see a good vote bill, whether it's a good Republican or Democrat bill, I'm going to vote for it. But I would encourage my Democratic colleagues to do the same. I haven't seen the reciprocity.

KING: He hasn't seen the reciprocity. He's trying to figure out what?

BASH: He's trying to stand on that political balance beam which not a lot of people are on right now, frankly. He said sometimes I will be the 41st vote which is what Republicans were swinging from the chandeliers about when he was elected. But he also said sometimes I'll be the 60th vote. He walked right in there and the 60th vote for Democrats on an issue that is impossible for him to vote against right now which is helping people who don't have jobs.

KING: It's actually nice as a political reporter to have an unpredictable guy.

YELLIN: You never know which way he's going to go for now. He's up for re-election soon in the Kennedy seat as much as he said he doesn't want it to be called that. You know the constituents better than any of us. Do you think he's doing the right thing so far?

KING: I have a focus group, they're called the six king siblings. They actually like the guy so far. They don't love everything but if they had to vote today, he would get five or six votes right now. Long way to go.

BORGER: He's trying to visit both ways, honestly. Which politician doesn't? But it's pretty obvious here. We don't know how he's going to vote.

KING: Somebody who's back, I don't want you to get away with this one. Tina Fey doing what she does best.

BORGER: I love it.

TINA FEY, ACTRESS: Do you hate gotcha journalism? Get ready for, hey journalist, I gotcha. I make journalists look like they were the ones that were woefully unprepared. So, Katie, what newspapers do you read? It's an easy question, Katie. Well, better luck next time, gotcha.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The scary thing is that network would do so well.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it would be a ratings bonanza.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know what is going on with the Oprah Network?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You never know. You never know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just can't believe the pink jacket is back.

KING: And the leather.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the leather. Well, yeah. She had to wear the leather.

KING: She's got this down pretty good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the leather was not paid for about it Republican national committee.

KING: Does it help or hurt Sarah Palin who obviously is keeping a very high profile?

BORGER: I think, you know, I think it would hurt -- it only reifies what they think, the media is out to get Sarah Palin. It's funny and charming.

BASH: She is a pop culture figure. It's not going to change. And this just propels that image.

KING: All right. Keep watching on Saturday nights and any other night out there. Thanks. And next, Pete on the street with students who ought to have it made but are as worried as everyone else is about you know what, getting and keeping a job.


KING: Let's head to New York and check in with Campbell Brown and see what is coming up at the top of the hour. Hey Campbell.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there John. The big news on Wall Street today, the Dow finishing above 11,000 for the first time in 18 months. So why don't we feel better about the economy? Also tonight, the continuing furor over that Russian adoption gone very wrong. Tonight the Tennessee sheriff says he is reaching out to the state department. We'll tell you why. We'll see you at the top of the hour. John?

KING: Campbell, thanks.

So you think an Ivy League diploma would be a magnet for the job recruiters. These days, that's no guarantee. We wanted to find out why. So we sent our off beat reporter Pete Dominick up to Harvard to find out how the job search is going for the soon to be graduates. Hey, Pete.

PETE DOMINICK, COMEDIAN: Hey, John King. Yeah, headed up to my almost alma mater.

KING: Almost?

DOMINICK: Yeah. I ended up somewhere else. I found out that even the most elite among Americans are a little worried about their job prospect and even internships. We're trying to find out how people feel about their job prospect. You guys on your way to the job? What are you studying?


DOMINICK: Applied math? If I throw out a quadratic equation, you would be able to do it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: B squared plus or minus negative square root of negative?

DOMINICK: Research what about an internship for the summer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're out. There I feel like I could get one.

DOMINICK: You're very laid back. Are you heavily medicated?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm from the west coast.

DOMINICK: Whenever I come to a school like Harvard, I always feel like the students can look at me and tell what my S.A.T. scores were. Look at him, 800 combined.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My start-up company recently won the Harvard innovation competition.

DOMINICK: So did mine. What is your internship?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Northwestern Mutual.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you feel about job prospect?

DOMINICK: I'm concerned. I have a lot of insomnia. Even the squirrels are elite. He won't even go in the grass. I'm feeling hopeless.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sounds like everyone I know.

DOMINICK: That guy is filling out a job application right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot more older people have a lot more experience.

DOMINICK: So you're more charismatic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would hope. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I want to go to medical school.

DOMINICK: Can you take a look at this bump right here on my head?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I resisted temptation to sell my soul to the devil.

DOMINICK: Clearly, look at the bike. Have you invented any apps for the iphone?


DOMINICK: But you will.


DOMINICK: Then take over the world?


DOMINICK: Yeah, so I didn't end up at Harvard, John. It was nice to visit.

KING: Pete, you know, I have ins at the Kennedy school. You think you're getting good enough at this politics thing? Should I try to get you in?

DOMINICK: Yeah, absolutely. I think you could get me in for an hour and a half before I got removed immediately. But that will be interesting. I ended up at the University of Phoenix online with a full ride.

KING: Cambridge is a nice place. You would enjoy more time up there. You could learn and you can do just fine in other endeavors that you do off campus. Pete, thanks.

That's all for us. Thanks for spending a lot of time with us to night. Campbell Brown starts right now.