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Warm-up for Supreme Court Fight; New Rules for Hospitals

Aired April 16, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thank you Wolf. A fascinating conversation with the former president, we'll talk more about that in the hour ahead. Also a bid day here in Washington in the big debate over financial reform, but our "Lead" tonight, you might call him the trial judge. One of president Obama's nominees for the federal bench was before the Senate today, a bit of a warm-up act for the big Supreme Court battle still to come.

We'll also go "Wall-to-Wall" tonight; we call it the eruption disruption. A volcano in Iceland causing travel chaos for days, you'll be fascinated at the images.

In our "Pulse" tonight, out to Seattle, we'll introduce you to a woman who took a phone call from Air Force One, her conversation with the president expanding rights for gay and lesbian Americans to see their loved ones when they have health problems.

And also tonight it's Friday. You get to "Make Your Case" and we'll get you to come on out here. You "Make Your Case", the Supreme Court battle, what qualities do you want the president to consider as he prepares to make a huge consequential pick -- all that and more in a packed hour ahead, but first, as always a few observations.

Supreme Court nomination battles are in sports lingo Washington's version of a heavyweight championship fight. Today, to keep the metaphor going, we saw the under card, a feisty middleweight battle and a warm-up for the bigger one to come. Before we take the sports too far, this is not a game, and it matters to you.

Gun rights, gay rights, terrorism policy and the new health care law are just some of the big issues making their way through the federal courts. And those courts from top to bottom are being reshaped by a Democratic president whose views on the law are quite different, very different than those of the Republican (INAUDIBLE) White House for eight years before him. Today, Federal Appeals Court- nominee Goodwin Liu was Washington's test case.

Liu was a liberal law professor with a long and provocative paper trail. He says, for example, the Supreme Court decision that made George W. Bush president had no foundation in the law. And he opposed elevating Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court because Liu finds him too sympathetic to police and not sympathetic enough to racial minorities.

That's just the beginning and more than enough for an interesting confirmation hearing even if the president wasn't on the verge of making a Supreme Court pick, but he is and so as we go inside today's hearings, here are important lessons to be learned.

A quick primer first on Goodwin Liu, 39, Yale Law School, Rhodes scholar, now a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Berkley. The president wants to put him on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco. The larger stakes were made clear today in a joke early on.

Democratic Senator Ted Kaufman welcomed Liu to the committee and the Supreme Court nomination process. Republicans weren't making jokes, but did make clear, crystal clear, this is more about the president than any one nominee. Alabama's Jeff Sessions is the committee's lead Republican.


SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: And the president, out of all of the fine lawyers and professors in the country and in the Ninth Circuit, has chosen Professor Liu and I think it says something about his approach to the law, his philosophy of the law and we'll be looking into that today.


KING: So what did we learn about Goodwin Liu and more broadly about the bigger fight to reshape the nation's courts including its highest? Here for tonight's question time Neera Tanden. She vets people for judgeships and recommends possible nominees to the White House from her perch at one of Washington's leading think tanks. Also here Carrie Severino, a former law clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, now chief counsel to the conservative Judicial Crisis Network. And if you tweet, you might already know she was at today's hearing.

Thank you for coming. I want to quickly to a little bit of the hearing. The challenge was the question of Bush v. Gore, but it was bigger than that because this nominee has a long paper trail. And often nominees with a long paper trail once they get before the committee and before the cameras get a little reluctant to discuss what they wrote some time ago. Let's listen to this exchange. He's being asked about why do you disagree with that big decision that made George W. Bush president.


SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Are you saying the court had no legal principle basis for the decision that it made in Bush versus Gore?

GOODWIN LIU, APPELLATE COURT NOMINEE: Well, Senator, I guess the only import of the phrase that I chose there was that it was my thinking that a legal principle should be something that applies in more than one case because it's a principle.

KYL: So you don't think they used a principle but simply used some kind of pragmatic decision making in the case?

LIU: Well, Senator, I won't -- I guess I won't try to characterize it further here but I've written what I have written and said what I've said.


KING: I've written what I've written and I've said what I've said. Neera to you first, if you're a Democrat on that committee and more importantly, somebody on the president's search team at the White House as you consider a Supreme Court pick, how important is that, the paper trail? How many times do you want any nominee whether it's for the Court of Appeals or for the Supreme Court to say I've written what I've written, I've said what I've said, but I really don't want to talk about it anymore because I know it's political controversial.

NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well I think Goodwin has a very long paper trail and he's produced all his papers and he defended his comments a great deal today. I mean I think it was a kind of one could argue a little bit of a ferocious hearing. There were a lot of attacks and as I recall, Senator Feinstein said, you know you're amazingly keeping your cool, so I think there was a (INAUDIBLE) give and take for the most part, and he was actually very good at holding forth and defending his views.

KING: I was reading a lot of you tweets and you have a very different opinion. You said your view was that he was backtracking day all long.

CARRIE SEVERINO, JUDICIAL CRISIS NETWORK: Absolutely, Goodwin Liu is an extreme nominee even for the notorious liberal Ninth Court of Appeals and he knew that. That's why he spent all day running as fast as he could from everything he's ever said or written. He actually said everything I've written in books, the articles that has no bearing on my role as a judge. What has he been doing all this time at Berkley then?

KING: Well others have said what they have written in the academic world would not affect them on the bench because they'd have to judge the cases. I want to get to this -- I want to get some other points because I want to make this conversation not so much about him, but about the bigger issues facing the judiciary. But on one of the things I found striking to your point is that at any time we have a high stakes court nomination at this level, the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court which we're about to go, there are two issues that always come up, sometimes raised by Democrats, sometimes raised by Republicans and on these two Mr. Liu had very little to say. One is God.


KYL: A federal judge has ruled that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. Obviously, neither you nor I have read this decision, but can you any of any determinative constitutional argument that would support that ruling?

LIU: Senator, I'm going to confess that I have spent hardly any time in my career studying the religion causes of the Constitution and so I am not familiar with the relevant precedence in that area.


KING: That was the nominee on God. Here he is on guns.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your view on the Second Amendment?


SESSIONS: Do you hesitate to say that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, is that ambiguous.

LIU: Senator, I confess I have not thought about, written about the Second Amendment in any great detail.


KING: I guess you could ask is it plausible that somebody with the depth of his experience would not have more to say on those issues but I think it's more a snapshot, and this is not just a Democratic administration, this short word -- short -- I was going to call it amnesia, but that's not fair, the nominees don't want to say much about these particular issues. And again, it's not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue; it has been -- become the norm. Is that what we expect, Neera, just on the big controversial ones to say, you know I don't really know?

TANDEN: Well, I think what's happened in this process was demonstrated today. You know you take one sentence, a few sentences from thousands and thousands and thousands of pages of writing and contort them and make them into something they don't -- they don't necessarily mean. And Goodwin is a person who has Ken Starr support, (INAUDIBLE) support, you know very conservative. Judges and yet people are labeling him a conservative activist or labeling him extreme when he has a very, you know he's a mainstream judicial philosophy.

And so I think as we go forward you'll see everyone's vetting right now a number of nominees and we're looking at all -- everyone is looking at all of the things they've said on the right and the left, and it's a little bit of an unfortunate thing that one sentence someone writes can be taken out of context and used to you know destroy a nominee. And hopefully that won't happen in this process and we'll have a good fair debate as we go forward --

KING: We're going to continue the conversation in a minute. I want to talk more broadly about the stakes here for the American people but when you left that hearing today, what did you learn about the mood of the Republicans in terms of the people who you want to stand up to this president's nominees? Do you see them just poking and prodding at the hearings, or do you see them trying to block?

SEVERINO: Oh the battle lines were clearly drawn today and I think Goodwin Liu's nomination is definitely in jeopardy. We already saw Dawn Johnsen's nomination (INAUDIBLE) legal counsel go down in flames not even just because of the Republicans, but because moderate Democrats, especially an election year don't want to be seen voting for such an extreme candidate. So if the president chooses someone who is similarly extreme, and that's what his short list seems to look like so far, that's the kind of fight we're going to be seeing this summer.

KING: I want you to hold on. We'll continue this conversation in just a minute. Before we take a break, here's a quick look behind the numbers today on Wall Street. The Dow industrials fell almost 126 points, some of it was profit taking, some of it, though, a reaction toward regulators are charging Goldman Sachs with defrauding investors.


KING: Let's resume our conversation with two people closely plugged in to major judicial confirmation battles -- Neera Tanden on the left leaning Center for American Progress and Carrie Severino of the conservative leaning Judicial Crisis Network. Let's help everybody at home understand. This is not just about Goodwin Liu or about the president's pick for the Supreme Court. This president right now has made 57 nominations to the federal bench so far. But there are 103 pending vacancies.

He has in his power a chance to reshape the American judicial system and I just want to give these numbers out. President Bush had 100 in his first two year. Over his eight years in office, 328 judges confirmed to the federal bench. President Clinton, 127 in his first two years. Over eight years 379 judges confirmed to the federal bench.

Let me start with you Carrie. In the sense of after eight years of a Republican president, when you see this president, who you disagree with philosophically, gun rights, gay rights, terrorism policy, the new health care law, we could go on and on and on, what are the stakes?

SEVERINO: The stakes are huge because the Supreme Court is where all these issues are going to be decided. You've seen the president and the Democratic Congress pushing through an agenda of expanding government exponentially, we've got bailouts, buyouts, health care -- new health care laws. A lot of those issues are going to go before the Supreme Court, and who he nominates are going to be the people determining whether this gets by the Constitution or not.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) but how much -- they won the election. And as you know used to -- both parties used to say you won the election, Mr. President, as long as you don't send up someone who has done something terribly wrong or has said something terribly tragic that I'm going to say I disagree but you get your picks. Should that be early in the Obama administration the Republican philosophy?

SEVERINO: The president of course gets to pick the judges but we need the president to choose judges who aren't just going to rubberstamp an agenda but who will faithfully apply the law. There are Democratic appointed judges who can do that, but unfortunately most of the Supreme Court short list that we -- that people are talking about seems like they'd be more agenda driven, more rubberstamp type judges.

KING: And so Neera, when you're looking at people saying let's send this name over to the White House, let's recommend this one. Let's -- when we see somebody telling this person, what is your goal, after eight years of George W. Bush, where do you see this in the long term? where do you hope to be after four years and I assume you want eight years of an Obama presidency, how do you want to change, change America's judicial system and its impact on society?

TANDEN: You know I think this is a very big difference between progressives and conservatives because you've seen the most activist judges be conservative judges. We have a Supreme Court that just had a major ruling that undid 100 years of precedent. You have -- I mean basically the nominees are progressives, the ones we're putting forward. The ones that have been in the mix, the ones that my colleague here says are radical are very mainstream nominees (INAUDIBLE). Nobody thinks these people are radical. There's no mainstream views of these people that people would argue is so out to left center. And that's why I think the president has a tremendous advantage as he moves forward in this process --


TANDEN: -- because his nominees are mainstream.

KING: I want to ask you some more broad as we close. You used the word mainstream, radical, conservative, liberal. This is fine. It's a polite confrontation. It's about issues. It's about cases in the law. There's a broader conversation in our society right now that, in some cases, a limited number of cases, I want to be clear, goes over the line. Wolf Blitzer interviewed the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, today and he offered some observations on this in the context that he was the president when Oklahoma City happened and that anniversary is coming up on Monday. I want you to listen to the former president.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Obama is different and symbolizes the increasing diversity of America. And both of them, for him, it's like a symbol of he symbolizes the lost of control of predictability, of certainty, of clarity, that a lot of people need for their psychic well-being, and so I worry about it.


KING: Do you sense that, as you talk to the conservative community? Are you worried about -- he was very complimentary of the Tea Party people. He said I don't disagree with them, but they're just protesting it and that's a God given American right and God bless them, but he does -- he senses a bit of a tension that he's afraid is going to get more militant. Do you sense that?

SEVERINO: I think -- I think the people are getting fed up with the expansion of government, and I think we've heard some people talk about Supreme Court should be finding things for the little guy. I think the little guy is worried about the government expanding, getting into all of the day-to-day lives of Americans in ways that the Constitution really, it should be limiting.

KING: Debating that like this is healthy. Do you sense -- Neera, do you see that a growing number of people or do you worry like President Clinton that there are people want to go over the line.

TANDEN: Absolutely and we're very honored to have the president at the Center for American Progress today and I think part of what he was saying is you know when he had these debates they're important. But when they grow -- go over the line and get into the politics of personal destruction, when we go into labeling people who are moderate radicals and extremists and there's rhetoric that people want to take over and take over people's lives, I think you know that gets -- that crosses the line.

Everyone respects the right to protest your government. I strongly respect that right. But the idea of attacking people personally and saying they want to do something to you, they want to take your rights away, they want to attack you, when you make those people in government the enemy, I think we do -- we do actually have to worry about where that will go.

KING: Well, I appreciate the polite disagreement here. We will continue this conversation. We have particular nominee, Mr. Liu. We also have a big Supreme Court case coming. We'll keep in touch as that goes on. Thank you so much, Carrie and Neera, for coming in.

And you've heard our guests' thoughts on the upcoming court fight. Later, we'll hear what you have to say, but first, we'll go "Wall-to-Wall" and look at the amazing cloud that is bringing air traffic to a halt.


KING: In "Wall-to-Wall" tonight I am sure you have seen these images and if you haven't take a close look. This is a cloud of volcanic ash coming up from Iceland and it is disrupting air travel. The biggest disruption to air travel since 9/11. The pictures themselves are breathtaking just to see this play out. But the chaos this is causing is stunning.

Let's go over to the magic wall -- we'll take a closer look. Again, it is the biggest disruption in travel -- excuse me for crossing over -- since 9/11. Here's the video here of the volcanic ash and the big cloud it has caused. We're going to take you in close to show you where it's coming from as this plays out. You see Iceland here out in the Atlantic, you see the red dot.

Watch us as we zoom in. Where is all of that black smoke coming from? Well it's coming from right down in here. We're going to take you right in close. You look in here; you see the top of the volcano here, some of the smoke coming up. Come in -- zoom right in -- we'll get a look at it now. This hole right here this volcano erupting is sending this massive cloud that is coming up. And as you watch it play out you see the areas affected -- here's Ireland, England, Spain, France, Germany, all of Europe across like this. And so here is the issue -- now we'll take you in to and show you this -- we want to show you some satellite images. This is from space. And this is what this looks like on a satellite image, the black cloud moving through here, more of it coming out behind from Iceland. You see Norway here, the British Islands here.

So what is this doing to air travel? Here's a look here as you watch these yellow flights down here, southern Europe. The yellow airplanes, those are all flights in action. Up here, see all these little blue dots -- you've got to come in close to see. Those are all airports across Europe that have been shut down, flights grounded because of this travel ash. Now look, this is what it looks like today. This is what forecasters expect as the cloud continues to move the ash cloud.

You see Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom here, coming out over central Europe. Now I want to come back to this and show you this. I want you to remember all this blue. See all these airports grounded? This is the normal activity. It looks like swarming bees. This is the United States here. These are the flights back and forth across the Atlantic. Here is the affected area right up here.

Now, why, why, why are they so nervous about this? Well let me show you just what could happen here. The volcanic ash if it gets into a jet engine, can frankly just gum up the works. It can get in there and get sticky, and shut down and destroy the engines. And they know this of course because this happened, this happened back in the 1990's on flight -- British Airways flight -- in the 1980's -- excuse me. All four engines failed. Imagine being on this flight and hearing this over the P.A.

The pilot coming on, good evening ladies and gentlemen, it's Captain Eric Moody (ph) here. We've got a small problem in that all four engines have failed. We're doing our utmost to get them going and I trust you're not in too much distress. Not sure I'd be comforted by that message. But to Captain Moody's (ph) credit they did get some of the engines restarted and they landed that plane safely. Because of that example though, 17,000 flights have been canceled because of this disruption.

Travelers stranded up for up to five to seven days, $200 million cost per day on the economy. You can understand people are angry, people are cranky. But we also looked into the Twitter verse and we find a lot of people actually are staying pretty level-headed. Let's take a look at some of this. @Leaworth (ph), "Why are people moaning about being stranded at airports? Hello, what would you prefer, falling out of the sky?"

Or @Sandyrn (ph), "So sad, just met a stranded couple trying to get to Paris! They're going to Disney World instead."

So as we continue to track these pictures over the coming days, and it is fascinating, I think that's the most important point, nobody was hurt here. Next we take "The Pulse" of the nation and we look at an important change --


KING: This is the part of the show where we go outside Washington to take "The Pulse" of the nation. Our focus tonight, President Obama's order that hospitals must grant visitation rights to the partners of gay and lesbian patients. The order applies to any hospital that receives Medicaid or Medicare funding, which means nearly everyone across the country.

And before the president told the country about his big change, he placed a call from Air Force One to apologize to my next guest, a Florida hospital kept Janice Langbehn in a waiting room rather than allow her to visit the bedside of her dying partner. Janice thanks so much for joining us. This is a little backwards, I guess, because I do want to hear your story but not many Americans get a call from the president of the United States from Air Force One. Take us through that.

JANICE LANGBEHN, WASN'T ALLOWED TO SEE DYING PARTNER: A gentleman from the White House said he was an aide and that the president would like to speak to me and would I take his call, and I said, absolutely. And about a half hour later than that at 4:32, Pacific Time, a gentleman got on the phone and said he was from the office of the president and asked if I would speak with the president and then handed the phone over and it was like I was talking to a neighbor. He just said, hello, this is Barack Obama, and I'm so sorry for what happened to you and your family.

KING: And in the president's order, he says this, when our loved ones are in the hospital, quote, "all of us would hope to have a hand to hold, a shoulder on which to lean." Until the final seconds, you were denied that. Take us back and share your story.

LANGBEHN: That's true. We were in Miami, my partner and I and three of our four adopted children, to go on a Rosie O'Donnell cruise as a celebration of our 18 years together, and before we departed port, Lisa completely healthy, collapsed. She was rushed to Ryder Thomas Center (ph) there in Miami, and the first contact I had was with a desk clerk who I was trying to admit her (INAUDIBLE) information.

I was told we don't need anything from you, and then probably maybe 10 minutes later a social worker Garnet Frederick (ph) came out and told me pointblank I was in an anti-gay city and state and would not get to see Lisa nor know of her condition. And he turned to walk away from me and I called him back and I said I have those legal documents, I have a power of attorney, so he gave me his fax number and those were faxed to him -- faxed to the hospital within 20 minutes of Lisa's arrival.

KING: And at the time this was a case involving you and your partner, you later, because of the sad circumstances, became an activist in the case. How common is this practice across the country? LANGBEHN: Well, I know of a case here in Washington State where a nurse barred a partner after the doctor had allowed it, so that one's going to court. I know of another very close friend who lost her partner in a bad flood here in Washington and was kept apart for a short amount of time until they could reach a blood relative of her dying partner, but ultimately she was there for when her partner did pass away from her injuries. So, it's a lot more common than I think is reported, and there's a lot of people who don't know who to go to tell them that this is happening to them.

KING: And you have heard the political debate just in the 24 hours since the president made this big decision. Some say, some critics say, this is a slippery slope, that by recognizing this right for gay and lesbian Americans you're creating another brick in the foundation toward establishing same-sex marriage. Others say just the opposite that the president is giving you this right allowing you this access in a way that keeps it completely out of the marriage debate. What do you think?

LANGBEHN: What I believe is that it is one step towards marriage equality, but more importantly, to me, hospital visitation, as I've said all along, to hold my partner's hand as she was dying is not a gay right, it's a human right. It shouldn't even be the issues under gay and lesbian, it's just a issue of human compassion.

And while we have to make it a gay right because gay and lesbian rights, because we're prohibited, yes, I'm absolutely for it, I believe it will help us reach the ultimate of equal for all, but to me it's a absolute human right. I don't know how anyone can look at me in their eyes and say it's OK that Lisa died completely alone with her children and me 20 feet away locked behind another door.

KING: Janis Langbehn joins us from Seattle. Janice, thank you for your time tonight.

LANGBEHN: Thank you.

KING: Thank you. A lot more ahead in the second half of our show. Next, in "Make Your Case," you get to weigh in on the qualities you'd like to see in the next Supreme Court justice.


KING: This is the part of the show we introduce you to the most important person you don't know, and on Fridays that is you. As part of our commitment to bring you into the conversation we always read FaceBook postings, our Tweets and comments sent to blog. And every Monday we ask a question and give you all week to make your case by posting a video on our Web site,

This week's question: What qualities would you like to see in the next Supreme Court justice? A cross-section of comments from views are together with a couple of people you might recognize.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOHNNY BRADY, VIEWER: Hey, John, I'd like to see the next Supreme Court justice we need a conservative that believes in our rights, our gun rights.

DEBBIE BRADLEY, VIEWER: Hi John, my name is Debbie from Alexander, Virginia, qualities I look for in a Supreme Court justice are honesty, someone who is strong and can vote the right way.

CLARENCE THOMAS, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I don't think any of us would come out and say to you we have a formula for what the next membership looked like, just as long as the person is a capable, good person.

STEVENSON SMITH, VIEWER: An intelligent, tolerant mind. We're seeing a new civil rights movement in United States and that's among homosexuals and transgenders.

NIGHTA DAVIS, VIEWER: I believe that we need another woman on the Supreme Court, a conservative woman. I think that we need to equal that panel out.

STEPHEN BREYER, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: You have to think yourself on the room into the lives of the people whom these decisions will actually affect and you have to have a realistic imagination so you'll understand what the impact of this decision is going to be on those people.


KING: A guy spending a lot of his reporting time on just who the president will pick for that vacancy is our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry. You hear from our viewers that they, of course, have a split opinion on this, liberal, conservative, where they live in the country, what issue matters most. What's in your notebook? Where is the president on this? What is it he is looking for?

ED HENRY, CNN SR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's still early, but if you think back to the track record of his first pick, it was all about the "E" word -- empathy and he wound up with Sonia Sotomayor because he largely felt like she'd got it with middle class people around the country, she could get beyond just the law and make it work for real people and understand how it affects real people. And the guidance we're getting from top officials is to look in the same area, that he's not just going to get somebody, you know, who's the best ivy league candidate. He's going to consider all of those and he's...

KING: But, he knows it's an election year.

HENRY: Absolutely. And he's got to be a little bit more careful than going a little further to the left and sort of antagonizing the conservative base while also, you know, you're walking a fine line. But nevertheless, at the end of the day, when you talk to White House aides they say the Republicans are leaving open the option of filibustering practically anybody. So, in the end it's going to be the person he's most comfortable with. KING: And lastly, do we know when?

HENRY: By the beginning of May we're going to see the pick, because if you game it out they've got to get these hearings going essentially in July to make sure they have somebody on court by the first Monday in October. So, I would say the next two to three weeks.

KING: All right, Ed is going to stay with us. Next, our top CNN reporters assemble for the forum. We'll talk about what our sources are saying and the stories on our radar that might not be getting enough attention.


KING: This is the part of the show we call "The Forum." Every day we bring in our great reporters, sometimes smart political players, they're involved maybe in the big campaigns. We share things we're hearing from our sources. Here are a few things on my radar, tonight.

Here's something to try when you're out with friends this weekend, ask if they're feeling more optimistic about the economy, because their answer may give away their politics. Our CNN Opinion Research Poll shows 19 percent of Americans think the economy's beginning to recover, 46 percent think it's stabilizes, 34 percent say we're he going down.

Now look at the party breakdown. More Democrats than Republicans think things have stabilized or are getting better. And a whole lot more Republicans think we're still in a downturn.

Mitt Romney jumped on the Marco Rubio bandwagon, today, endorsing the conservative who's threatening to taking down Florida governor Charlie Crist in the state's Republican Senate primary. File this one under political payback. Crist toyed with endorsing Romney for president back in 2008, but instead went for John McCain. What goes around in politics comes around.

We've heard a lot of things, mostly negative, some unrepeatable about President Obama at this week's Tea Party rallies. The president says one thing he should be hearing is "thank you." Here he is at a Miami fund-raiser last night.


OBAMA: I've been a little amused over the last couple of days where people have been having these rallies about taxes, taxes. You would think they would be saying thank you. That's what you'd think.


KING: A little bit of a disagreement there. And that disagreement among stories on my radar. Joining us now to get some other radar, senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry is back with us and CNN senior correspondent, Joe Johns.

Joe, let's start with you. What's on your radar, tonight?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SR CORRESPONDENT: Heat in the coal fields. You know, I keep up with what goes on in West Virginia and these mining accidents, and a couple weeks ago we had a real bad one. Well now there's a lot of heat there, the president's been very critical of Massey Energy, the company that had the accident. There have been inspectors all over Massey Energy's mines and not just the one in West Virginia. There's one in Pike County, Kentucky where they've just gotten slammed with all kinds of violations. So, it looks like the federal government is really taking this whole business very seriously.

KING: Something to keep an eye on.

Ed, what's in your book?

HENRY: Tonight, White House aides are signaling that the president's ready to drop this sort of $50 billion bank liquidation fund in the Wall Street reform bill, and the reason why is they're trying to call the Republicans' bluff. Senator McConnell and others have been building their case against this reform bill by basically saying it's going to bring more bailouts and it's going to sort of have endless government bailouts. They're essentially saying look, we're going to take out the fund that will be a bailout fund, now will you say yes. Because they saw in the health care debate again and again Republicans said we just don't like, we don't like this. Change after change was made and in the end, the Republicans weren't there. They think in the White House that Wall Street reform is a very potent political issue for them right now because they've got the Republicans looking like they're defending Wall Street.

KING: Let's talk more about that, because if there were any day where you think Washington would think, OK, let's get together and do this it would be today because early this morning we see Goldman Sachs facing charges from the SEC. I'll show our viewers some of the charges against Goldman, charged with defrauding investors on real estate securities, likely that Goldman knew likely to go bust, caused losses of $1 billion, with a "B," for investors, didn't tell investors a hedge fund hand picks mortgages that were bundled into a securities and hedge fund paid Goldman approximately $15 billion for structuring and marketing what the government says is a crooked deal.

Now, Goldman says not true, we will prove our innocence. But, when you see something like that, you think Washington would have the collective will to say we need to prove to the American people we're not going to let this happen again, and yet Joe, we're still stuck in the D.R. divide.

JOHNS: Yeah, it's amazing, too because I mean, if you break down really what they're saying, could have happened there, the allegation that's basically that these guys threw together this really bad investment and then went out and found a sucker to buy it, even though they knew it was going to fail, they bet that it was going to fail, it failed and then they walked away with their money.

I mean, if that's true, it's really serious and it's the kind of thing that could actually create some heat, some anger out there among the Obama constituents, the sort of anti-corporate crowd.

KING: And you mentioned the White House wants to tap that. At the White House today, tough, the president also seemed to signal he wasn't thrilled completely with the democratic plan. I want our viewers to listen. There was one question, the president was with his economic team, and asked would you veto the bill under what circumstances, listen to this.


OBAMA: I will veto legislation that does not bring the derivatives market under control and some sort of regulatory framework that assures that we don't have the same kind of crisis that we've seen in the past.

KING: Republicans jumped on that saying, look the president doesn't like the democratic bill in the Senate, either.

HENRY: Right. And the White House is saying look, it's not perfect, he wants to make some changes, but at the end of the day he wants reform and they're not sure Republicans do. And we're just a few months away from not just from the midterm elections, but the eve of those elections in September, October will be the second anniversary since Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and the White House feels confident that if, come this fall, and we're on the second anniversary, where we almost went into a great depression again, and it looks like the Republicans are obstructing Wall Street reform.

It's pretty remarkable that two years after that crisis Washington collectively, not just Republicans, but with a democratic Congress, a democratic president, we have not seen reform yet.

KING: And so I guess now everybody's testing each other because the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell released a letter today, all 41 Republican senators signed it essentially saying, "We are united in our opposition to the legislation as it now stands. As currently constructed, this bill allows for endless taxpayer bailouts, establishes new and unlimited regulatory powers". Democrats dispute the language in that bill, but it's clear Joe, there are some of the Republicans who signed this said they're not saying they'll vote no next week, the week after that, week after that. What they're trying to do is get everybody back in a room to try to cut what they think would be a better deal.

JOHNS: Yeah, and you know you think about that word, bailout, bailout, bailout. That's a word Americans really don't like.

KINGS: You're right about that.

JOHNS: The tea partiers riled up, you know? It's a word that makes people angry, so if you use that word you can probably keep your group united. But, the question is, you know, is that just sort of changing the subject and are people finally going to catch on.


HENRY: ...cynical, political strategy...

KING: No cynical, political strategies. All right, everybody hold on. Next, we're going to have a little "Play-by-Play." Former president Bill Clinton warning about the mood of the country now compared to what he saw as president back when Oklahoma City happened.


KING: You get it, "Play-by-Play," like on the sports shows we do deep analysis, we break down the tape, sometimes a little instant replay. Back again, CNN correspondents Ed Henry and Joe Johns. And I want to start with some serious stuff tonight, sometimes we have a little fun in "Play-by-Play," but Wolf Blitzer sat down with former president Bill Clinton, today. Monday's the 15th anniversary of Oklahoma City. I was covering the White House in those days and I remember how the country went into shock and the president had to lead in a crisis at a very difficult time. He says he sees some parallels to the trouble the militancy that caused Oklahoma City in some of the political discourse today. Let's listen.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I think all of those folks and a place in our political debate we just have to know where to draw the line. And I -- and we have enough threats against the president, enough threats against the Congress that we should be sensitive to it. The 15th anniversary of Oklahoma City, I'm not trying to draw total parallels, I'm just saying we should be aware of this. This is a vast echo chamber, this Internet and there's lots of folks listening and as I say, some are serious, some are delirious, some are connected, some are unhinged.


KING: And as a guy who covers the president, and I still keep in touch with old sources in the Secret Service and they do say that the noise is louder. Some of the threats are not so serious, some are. Do they view this in the White House as -- that worried about a militancy out there?

HENRY: They honestly don't when you probe senior people about this, they say look, we're watching this we hear the noise, et cetera, as you mentioned. But they compare it to it other times in American history where you remember covering Bill Clinton, you know, he was -- there were charges he was a drug dealer, that he was involved in murders, there were all kinds of outlandish, crazy charges. And you know, this stuff festers out there, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to lead to violence. So, the White House they don't add to it by, you know, bringing more attention to it.

KING: And part of the conversation, Joe, is that the president is talking about an act of domestic terrorism. And I'll just say this as an aside. If you've never been to the memorial in Oklahoma City, it's a breathtakingly wonderful dedication and tribute to the people who perished that day. Do we spend so much time worrying about international terrorism that maybe we don't look as much here at home? JOHNS: Well, you know, the first thing you got to say is that you hope that words and deeds are two different things, you know. And you hope that what happened during Oklahoma City was an aberration with a very unusual set of circumstances. That said, you know, during the Bush administration, there were some really tough things said about him too and it didn't degenerate into anything more than that.

So, we know Nancy Pelosi has talked about this very same danger. And as long as it stays talk.

HENRY: And every White House aide made the same point Joe just did about President Bush, he was called a war criminal.

KING: And when the Iraq war got ugly and...

HENRY: And he said look, you know, President Obama sharply disagreed with President Bush over Iraq, but it would never go so far as to call him a war criminal.

KING: And Ed, it's a perfect point to make, because then, yes, there were some threats against President Bush during that. Most of the people we encountered when we traveled covering Bush in those days, had their signs, had their voices loud, but they were doing it as civic protests. And the former president wanted to make a distinction, even as he talks what he says is worrisome signs, he wanted to make a distinction that he does not include the Tea Party people in that. He thinks they're doing what every American has a right to do.


CLINTON: It's really important to be able to criticize your government and criticize elected officials. That never bothered me. Most of them have been well within bounds and they're harsh, but limited criticism, in other words they're not advocating violence or encouraging other people to do it.


KING: An interesting take. I covered him for so, so long, I spent 10, 12 years of my life covering Bill Clinton and he was often catching the harpoons, as he would use the language. But he's saying, you know what, it comes with the territory, go out and do it even if I don't like it or you don't like me.

JOHNS: You look at that and it brings back the word triangulation.


HENRY: Well yeah, and you know, in the health care debate we did see the good parts of protest where there's an honest debate, exchange of ideas, et cetera, and then there were ugly moments directed at people like John Lewis, racism, you know, alleged epithets that were thrown out there. It did get ugly at some points, but I think the former president is right that by and large we've seen peaceful protests and what is wrong with that?

KING: And we'll get more of that in probably a pretty heated election year.

JOHNS: Yeah, you certainly will. I mean, I fully expect it. I remember during his midterm election, his first midterm election where everybody was so riled up and we're traveling around the country, I ran into some moments of ugliness out there, people in my face. You know, all that anger, it's part of the process.

KING: That was a tough year. Joe Johns, Ed Henry, thanks for coming in.

Everyone's guessing who's going to fill that vacancy in the Supreme Court. You heard us talking about it. We've got a special reporter out there. Pete's on the street finding supreme indifference. No way, Pete.


KING: Jessica Yelling is filling in for -- Jessica Yellin, excuse me, is filling in for Campbell Brown tonight. Let's get a preview of what is coming up at the top of the hour.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: You aren't the first, John. Good to see you.

KING: Friday night. I can't speak.

YELLIN: Yellin, yeller. Tonight John, the government, as you know, went after Wall Street's original too big to fail firm Goldman Sachs. Well, in a 22-page complaint, the SEC has charged Goldman with defrauding investors on real estate securities likely to go bust. Tonight we'll dig into exactly what happened and what it may cost them.

Also ahead, my interview with the one-time governor moonbeam, California's Jerry Brown. Is he headed back to the governor's mansion? All that and more is coming up at the top of the hour. Now back to you, John.

KING: Always a colorful character. Look forward to it. Thanks, Jess.

One person we know is not on the president's short lift for the Supreme Court is our offbeat reporter Pete Dominick. Pete is shrugging and shaking. There he is in New York.

Hey, Pete.

PETE DOMINICK, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: No, I'm way too judgmental to be so unbiased on the Supreme Court. John, you guys, all you Washington insiders are all talking about the Supreme Court. I wanted to go out and see what regular people thought about this. It's not quite a story to them yet. We'll see what they think.


DOMINICK: You know how many justices there are on the Supreme Court?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine. That's how much I pay attention in school, man.

DOMINICK: What are you studying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Criminal justice.

DOMINICK: Now, we're New Yorkers, we judge people all day, right?


DOMINICK: Like, I'm judging your friend saying it's not raining yet, and yet she has her umbrella up, but I wouldn't say that out loud.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The most important thing is someone who is going to have an unbiased interpretation of the Constitution.

DOMINICK: Is that realistic?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, then a liberal.

DOMINICK: You guys care about the Supreme Court appointment? Do you have the best hair on Fifth Avenue? I think so. Let's see, he has to choose from Judge Wapner, Judge Judy, or Judge Joe? Who do you like?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Neither. He was looking at Hillary Clinton and I thought would be excellent.

DOMINICK: Does it matter gender, race, ethnicity or religion for a Supreme Court justice?


DOMINICK: It does matter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to be one of those.

DOMINICK: You clearly have to be one of those.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just know about Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, I know Obama was pretty cool.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know he's our president.

DOMINICK: OK, well, that's something. We all judge people in real life, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You take somebody for what they are.

DOMINICK: You take somebody for what they are? So what am I?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're very approachable and you like to talk.

DOMINICK: Maybe a little creepy, though, would you say?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. No, no, just because you have no hair? You got a buzz cut?

DOMINICK: I wouldn't call that a buzz cut. I would call that hopeless.

GIRLS (singing): If we are wise, we know that there's always tomorrow.

DOMINICK: Very good. You may not know about government, but "American Idol" maybe. All right.


See, young people aren't paying attention. Young people aren't paying attention, yet. It's the older people are paying attention, John, but that's about it right now. That's where we're at.

KING: I like the music at the end better than what you were doing when we were playing Van Halen before the break. That was a little scary.

DOMINICK: It's Friday, baby. Friday, John King, Friday.

KING: Friday it is. Pete Dominick for us. Pete, have a great weekend, we'll see you Monday. That's all for us tonight. Thanks for spending some time with us tonight and all week long. We'll see you Monday. Jessica Yellin standing by right now in New York.