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Supreme Court Nominee; Value of an Education; Icelandic Volcano: Ash, Ash, Ash

Aired May 10, 2010 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Presidents come and go, but Supreme Court justices stay as long as they like, or as long as they live, which is why Supreme Court nominations are some of the biggest decisions that any president ever makes and why we on this program want to answer the question, who is Elena Kagan?

She is President Obama's nominee for the position of associate chief justice, replacing John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Now, she is exactly 50 years old, which makes her 40 years younger than the person she is replacing, John Paul Stevens.

She is Jewish, which is noteworthy, because Stevens is the last of the high court Protestants. So, if Kagan gets in, the court will consist of three Jews, six Catholics.

Also, three women and six men if she gets the appointment. That is the most gender diversity the court has ever seen.

Kagan is from New York's Upper West Side. She is single with no children.

And check out these degrees: a Bachelor's from Princeton; a Masters in philosophy from Oxford; a law degree from Harvard. Harvard plays a big role in the story of Elena Kagan. She joined the law faculty in 1999, and by 2003, she had become dean, the first woman dean at the law school. She also taught at the University of Chicago, alongside Professor Barack Obama. And you know what he's doing now.

Before that, she clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who referred to her as "Shorty," and federal judge Abner Mikva. She was a White House aide to President Clinton. Under President Obama, she became the first solicitor general who was a woman in U.S. history.

And a solicitor general is the person who represents the U.S. government in Supreme Court arguments. If the U.S. government has a position on a Supreme Court argument, the solicitor general is the person who represents the government in court.

All right. One job that you don't see on Elena Kagan's resume is judge. She has not been a judge, ever. And, in fact, you don't actually have to be a judge to be on the Supreme Court. But she would be the first non-judge if she were appointed since 1972.

Our senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin, joins me now. He, more than anybody else -- well, not more than anybody else, but he knows Elena Kagan well. He was in law school with her.

And you can confirm that she is short, but it is difficult to get your hands around a lot else with Elena Kagan, because she hasn't been a judge. That's going to be a bit of a trucking struggle.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, not only hasn't she been a judge, but she hasn't been an outspoken scholar or political activist. She has been very successful in the areas where she has been -- dean of the law school, White House aide under President Clinton. The last year, solicitor general. But she has not been a person who has been outspoken on the issues that we really associate with the Supreme Court -- abortion, affirmative --

VELSHI: That's a tough call, isn't it, Jeff? Because on one hand, if you are outspoken about these issues, it comes back to bite you in the ankle when you're getting appointed to the Supreme Court. On the other hand, if you haven't written and been outspoken about them, everybody is worried about where you're going to come down on some of these issues.

TOOBIN: Well, that's true. And Elena Kagan seems to have threaded the needle very well in the sense that she has become known as an outstanding legal mind, which she has become known without taking stands that disqualify her in the view of one side or the other.

It's a pretty careful line that she has walked, but she has done it very successfully. And that's not surprising, as I can say as someone who knows her, because she has been someone who is a consensus builder, who does get along with people of varying ideological perspectives. So that's been the key to her success so far, but if she gets confirmed, we'll know a lot more about what she thinks.

VELSHI: All right. You've been in the business of prognostication. Many weeks ago on this show you said that you thought she was going to be the nominee, and you said at the time you weren't sure whether that was an informed prediction or because you knew her. So I'm going to ask you for another prediction.

Is she going to turn out to have been a liberal, a conservative, or in the middle on the Supreme Court?

TOOBIN: I think presidents wind up appointing justices who are a lot like them. And I think, like President Bush, like President Clinton, President Obama's nominations, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, will wind up a lot like him. They will be Democrats. They will be on the liberal side, but they will also be on the moderate liberal side, and people who try to build consensus, rather than engage in ideological fights.

VELSHI: One of the big issues that the Supreme Court will tackle, and courts in this country tackle, have to do with national security and the rights that we accord people who are charged with crimes that fall into the realm of national security. On that topic, this has not been as liberal an administration as some people might have thought. And that's been -- that may come into play with Elena Kagan. TOOBIN: I think that's right. This administration has reversed some, but not all, by any means, of the Bush administration's war on terror policies. This administration has said it's going to close down Guantanamo, but it certainly hasn't done so. It has not figured out a way to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

So, just yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder said he wants to change the rules on Miranda warnings to make it easier to question terrorism suspects. Elena Kagan has been at the forefront of that movement within the Obama administration. And I expect --

VELSHI: But by virtue of the fact that she has been the solicitor general, by virtue of the fact that she argues those cases in front of the Supreme Court?

TOOBIN: Correct. And I think as a justice, she will likely be somewhat more solicitous of the executive branch than a lot of liberals would like.

VELSHI: Let me ask you this. When you are the solicitor general, and you argue cases on behalf of the government at the behalf of the Supreme Court, can you then, in your hearings, be held responsible for the position that you have taken there, because is that her position or is that the government's position?

TOOBIN: Well, the senators can do what they want. That's the great thing about being a senator. You don't have to abide by any rule. You can vote for or against someone for any reason.

But it is the responsibility of the solicitor general. And when you take that job, you take the obligation of defending the laws of the United States against constitutional challenge if you think it's at all possible to do that.

So, even if Elena Kagan, as a member of Congress, wouldn't have voted for a specific law, she had the responsibility of defending its constitutionality, and she did it. So, yes, it is basically true that you should agree with the position you hold, but it is not always true that a solicitor general will agree personally --

VELSHI: Right.

TOOBIN: -- with the positions that she has to defend.

VELSHI: And I imagine that will come out in the hearings, right? They'll ask her about things like that -- "You took this position on behalf of the government. Where do you stand on it?"

TOOBIN: You can be sure.

VELSHI: All right. We'll be in touch with you very closely throughout the whole process.

TOOBIN: OK.

VELSHI: Your batting average is excellent on this. Jeff Toobin, who also, by the way, is an accomplished author on the Supreme Court. These are always great opportunities to read up on it, and Jeff makes us all a little smarter on that.

So, good to see you, my friend.

TOOBIN: Thanks, Ali.

VELSHI: All right. How much is an education worth? Not Elena Kagan's education, just generally speaking an education?

Well, in this type of job market that we're in, an education is worth a lot. We're going to be adding up the value of a diploma in real dollars and cents, and we'll talk about how to make our high school seniors smarter and better prepared for the real world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: If you've been watching us for the last week, you noticed we've introduced a number of new segments that we're going to be hitting every day for some of the most important issues that you face. And one of them is education. So this is an issue that we take very seriously here, and we have for several months.

Every day we're going to have a segment called "Chalk Talk." Now, in today's, we want to talk about the more than 15 million Americans who are still unemployed, and we want to talk about solutions. Who's hiring? What are employers looking for? And what can set you apart on a resume?

Let me tell you, one thing that can make a remarkable difference in your ability to get a job is an education. We took last month's unemployment numbers just to see how much a high school diploma or a college diploma is worth.

Now, take a look at this. Here is the jobless rate among groups of people with varying levels of education. Look at the top one.

If you do not have a high school diploma, your jobless rate is 14.7 percent. If you have a high school diploma, it's 10.6 percent.

If you have some kind of college or Associates degree, it's 8.3 percent. And if you have a Bachelor's degree or higher, look at that -- your unemployment rate is half the national average, 4.9 percent, less than half the national average. So, the next time somebody tells you -- and, by the way, I'm in this brand new studio and we've got a whole bunch of students who are watching us right outside.

Go back to school. Get an education. Make sure you're doing that.

If anybody tells you that your education is not worth it, the numbers speak for themselves. But there is a problem, and that is education at the high school level in this country is not consistent. So, an employer may want you to have a high school diploma, but they may not know exactly what they're getting. I've got a guest with me right now, Ronnie Musgrove. You'll know him. You'll look at him and you'll know him. He's the former governor of Mississippi. He joins us now from Jackson. He's the chairman of the High School Achievement Commission and involved in a national report card that comes out grading, basically, how well we're doing in our education system.

Governor Musgrove, thank you for being with us. Give us your take on this.

RONNIE MUSGROVE, FMR. MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: Ali, thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be with you.

High school students today need more than just a diploma. They need the critical skills and the thinking that colleges, universities and businesses expect. And particularly today, when the United States faces both high unemployment and a shortage of skilled workers and professionals.

No single issue is more important than preparing high school students to meet the demand of the global economy. So what we want to do is, we want to clearly and effectively communicate to businesses, employers, universities and colleges what it is that they're getting when a student graduates from the 12th grade. We think that's critically important.

VELSHI: And I can't imagine that -- I mean, I think the issue with consistency on that varies probably from township to township, or county to county within a state.

What is it that we need to do to make that something that no matter where you are in the country, an employer knows what they're getting if you've got a 12th grade diploma?

MUSGROVE: Well, the commission which I'm chairing was appointed by the National Assessment Governing Board, which has the NAEP, which is the America's or the United States' report card. What is significant today is that there is no common guide or measurement across the country that tells the stakeholders like universities and colleges and businesses, you know, how many students we're preparing and sending out from high school who are academically prepared for college or for job training. And we believe that that's critical. The second component is that the state school superintendent's offices across the country and the National Governors Association both are working on common core curriculum that we believe is important to have at least a minimum standard, so that when someone is looking for a student, say, from either West Virginia, from Michigan, Mississippi, or Colorado, they know that they have met and meet the rigorous requirements that's necessary for them to graduate.

VELSHI: But let me ask you -- you've been the governor of a state. How likely is that to happen, and how will it happen? How will we get a national standard? Because, really, given the numbers that I just showed my audience about the danger of not having a high school diploma in an economy like this, we kind of need this to happen yesterday. MUSGROVE: Well, we believe that control will ultimately be with states, which is the way that it should be. But if we continue to improve and move up the accountability and the standard to which a student would need to be able to meet the demands of the workforce, we believe that we can get across the country the minimum requirements that's necessary.

It's our job as a commission to effectively communicate the importance of this research that NAEP is doing, and what that means. And your figures, Ali, absolutely point out the difference between a college education and a high school dropout in terms of unemployment and in terms of income and potential.

VELSHI: All right. And Governor, who -- you were known as the education governor in Mississippi. Who in a state, if you communicate that message adequately, is supposed to take this on?

Are these supposed to be school boards? Are these supposed to be governors, state senators, legislators? Who is supposed to do this?

MUSGROVE: All of the above, Ali. It's that important.

We believe that the policymakers need to know this information and what the information means. Again, I can think of no issue that's more important than making sure that we train and educate our young people, and we believe it's important for the policymakers to know that.

Also, it's important for the educators to know that. And if they communicate that theme that you just said by looking at the young people and saying, don't drop out of school, make sure you get further education, we know and believe that that is the important message that we need to send to all students across the United States.

VELSHI: Let me ask you this one thing. There are some people who come on the show and say the big problem in public education is parents and parent involvement.

What do you think of that?

MUSGROVE: Well, again, we believe that there are a lot of different factors that measure into why students do not perform as well. We believe that that's one of them. But, of course, you can give many examples, Ali, of people like myself whose parents did not graduate from high school, but yet I had the opportunity to go on, finish college, and then also to graduate from law school.

So, there are opportunities, and we need to make those opportunities and recognize what you get from that opportunity. By your contribution into studying hard, this is what you can get. And that is a good job opportunity, but more importantly, the opportunity to provide for your family.

VELSHI: Ronnie Musgrove, pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for the good work you're doing. And we look forward to talking to you again.

MUSGROVE: Ali, thank you very much. A pleasure to be with you.

VELSHI: Ronnie Mussgrove is the chairman of the High School Achievement Commission, former governor of Mississippi.

All right. Honey and bourbon, with a teasing trace of lemon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CABIN IN THE SKY")

LENA HORNE, ACTRESS (singing): What have I got that the others --

(END VIDEO CLIP, "CABIN IN THE SKY")

VELSHI: That voice will live on even as we mourn its owner. Remembering Lena Horne, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Checking our top stories for you.

President Obama has announced his latest Supreme Court nominee. Elena Kagan is the administration's solicitor general, and she represents the White House before that very same court. She had been the dean of the Harvard Law School, but she has never been a judge. The president calls her a consensus builder in the mold of departing Justice John Paul Stevens.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is kicking off a four-day visit to Washington. He's due to meet with the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, tomorrow, and the president and vice president Wednesday. Mr. Karzai hasn't been the administration's most popular ally lately after provocative comments about foreign interference and potentially joining the Taliban.

And singer, actor and activist Lena Horne has died. As a teenager, she danced in the chorus at Harlem's Cotton Club. Later, she became the first black performer to get a big deal from a big Hollywood studio. In the '60s, she lent her passion and prominence to the civil rights movement.

Lena Horne was 92 years old.

All right. Catching a flight in Europe is proving to be a challenge again. The culprit? That big volcano in Iceland. In today's "Off the Radar" segment, Chad is going to tell you if all that ash could be clouding up your day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: OK. Usually we go "Off the Radar" with Chad, but this is -- to me, because I've been away for a week, everything is off the radar to me.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You are.

VELSHI: And I had a friend who is trying to plan a trip to Europe, telling me that there are all sorts of problems in Europe because of ash and a volcano.

MYERS: Right. Same --

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: Same volcano.

MYERS: The volcano we can't pronounce.

VELSHI: Yes.

MYERS: Here is the map and model of the Iceland volcano. Here is Europe. And this model is bringing in this smoke.

VELSHI: OK.

MYERS: It's bringing in the ash from this volcano again. It's going to continue to do that for the next few days. We're not going to lose this flow from the northwest. It's going to start pushing down and then eventually get into the Mediterranean.

Here is the jet stream pushing all the way down and --

VELSHI: Oh, OK. So it's hitting everything.

MYERS: It's going to hit everything. Let me show you how this works.

This is still Flight Radar 24, what we used weeks ago. There are still planes flying around.

Let me show you how a flight from Miami to Dusseldorf had to get there. It flew from Miami over Newfoundland, over Greenland, around the volcano to miss the ash, which is here, because it couldn't fly this way, and it flew into Dusseldorf, all the way around. Think of the added expense to fly that far.

VELSHI: Right. The added fuel and time and that kind of stuff.

MYERS: Right?

VELSHI: Wow. But what are we looking at in terms of cancellations? I mean, how many cancellations do we have?

MYERS: Today, 500 cancellations out of 26,000 flights. That's not bad. That's not bad.

But let me show you. We have some pictures. We have brand-new video of this from the -- I guess we could call it an explosion, the new eruption that happened.

VELSHI: And we categorize this as a new eruption? It's not a continuation of the old eruption, or do we know?

MYERS: It never stopped, but most of the old eruption from the past two weeks only went up to about 12,000 feet. This is back up to 35,000 feet, back up into the jet stream, back up where the jets fly. VELSHI: Right. Right.

MYERS: And so that's why it's a problem, because now the ash is way up in the sky and you can't fly over it. You must fly around it. You can't fly through it, because it will melt and it will get in your jet engine and it will stall your engine, and you will be crashing. So you can't do that. It's not like this is a precautionary thing.

VELSHI: Right. You can't do it. Although, there were all these debates, particularly with British Airways and the U.K. government, because they sent out a test plane and they said it came back squeaky clean and they felt that the government was overly-cautious in these flights.

But I've got to tell you, Chad, I think I'm with you on this one.

MYERS: Don't get me started about Mr. Richard Branson -- or Sir Richard Branson.

VELSHI: I think I want to just be safe.

MYERS: I want to be safe.

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: All right. Chad, thanks very much for "Off the Radar."

All right. So, listen. You probably heard everything you need to hear about this bailout in Europe. What does a trillion dollars get you? Well, in your case, it probably got you a little bit of a boost in your 401(k).

After last week's disaster on the markets, the Europeans have come up with a plan, and it's going to benefit you. On the other side of this break, we're going to tell you all around Europe and tell you exactly how Greece's problems are your problems.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: OK. If you want to get a sense of what's happening in Europe right now with its economy, the way to describe this is to go back in time a little bit to 2008, when Congress agreed to bail out Wall Street, even though a lot of Americans were dead set against it. There are some differences, but there is a starting point for you. And in this case, the stakes and the dollar are -- the dollar figures are even higher than they were in the United States, because the European economy is bigger than the U.S. economy.

Now, after working all weekend, European finance ministers and central bankers reached an agreement designed largely to stabilize the euro, which has been falling because of all these problems initially in Greece, but in other countries, too -- Portugal, Ireland, Italy Spain. They wanted to reassure investors before the world markets opened on Monday and stop the massive stock losses that we saw last week.

Well, did it work? The DOW is up a lot today. We've got reports from all over Europe. But first, in fact, we've got -- let me show you who we've got lined up. We've got Diana Magnay who is in Athens. We've got Phil Black who is in Berlin.

Let's start with Christine Romans with the details here in New York. Christine, what has happened that has caused the DOW to be up? What are we looking at, 350 points right now?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well what's happened is essentially Europe is standing up and saying, we have an unlimited war chest here to stop the debt crises that we saw beginning in Greece spread to other places, too.

So a few days ago, we had heard about Greece's bailout. Now this is essentially a bailout for all of Europe. It reminds me back, actually when these countries were starting -- about joining together in a monetary union; sharing the same currency.

They had said that together they would be stronger than separate. And now that theory has been tested by Greece's problems and concerns that those problems could spread to Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Spain and other countries, as well.

So how much is in it? Well, it's $750 billion euros. Some will come from the IMF. Some of it will come from an EU economic stabilization fund, and the rest -- more than $500 billion, some $570 billion -- will come from the euro's own countries in the form of guarantees.

These are all basically loans and guarantees, a huge package all together worth almost a trillion dollars. The difference between what we saw in the United States and this is that this is a bailout plan for countries. For sovereign debt crises.

VELSHI: Right. Not for banks.

ROMANS: Not for banks and not for companies. So the stakes here, quite a bit higher.

VELSHI: OK. Let's just discuss for a moment why Greece is a little different than those other -- by the way, you can see I've got Ivan Watson here. He decided this was such a fun conversation, he'd get into it.

Let me give you a sense of what Greece does that's different from a lot of other countries. Greece has some very particular problems. The first is that its government spends substantially too much money. When you join the European Union, there's a limit on how substantial or how big your debt can be.

In Greece's case, it is four times the official limit on what the debt can be. As a result, the cost of borrowing money for Greece has increased, but just like sub prime borrowers here in the United States, there's always someone available to lend you money if the rate is high enough.

And a lot of the loans came from France and from Germany, and now those two countries are on the hook, because Greece can't pay up its debts. It also has a bloated public sector. In Greece, one in 10 people works directly for the government.

The public in Greece, as we'll hear in a moment from Diana Magnay, does not support some of the reforms that are being undertaken. Greece has a massive problem with tax evasion. One-third of the country does not declare that it has any income whatsoever. And there's a term in Greece called "fakelaki", which is the Greek word for envelopes, because you need bribes to get a lot of things done, a lot of things that we think are just normal things you do here.

Let's go to Diana Magnay who is in Athens. I don't want to represent this as being riots all through the streets of Athens, but some people are really, really upset with the measures the Greek government has taken.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very, very upset. I mean, the Greek -- there is austerity reforms that the Greek government is trying to push through are essentially cutting people's spending massively, wild simultaneously, raising the cost of living. And as you've said, they particularly target this very bloated public sector.

So you have seen a lot of public servants coming out on the streets, protesting against these reforms. A general strike on Wednesday last, which turned extremely violent, as you say. There were serious riots going on in all of the streets around me here, ending in three people actually losing their lives.

But I think the loss of life, the tragic loss of life as a result of those riots has to a certain extent changed the sentiment here, and that people are beginning -- the latest opinion polls show, to sort of accept that these reforms are actually necessary, and that they're just going to have to shoulder them, Ali.

VELSHI: All right. So Greece is the epicenter for this. Phil Black is in Berlin, which in many ways is the other part of show here. Greece -- Germany, the largest economy in Europe, the one that is most tied to what happens in Greece on some levels, Phil, the most reluctant to get involved, and yet the one that needed a solution more than anyone else. You're in Berlin. What's the sense there?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ali. As you say, as the region's biggest economy, Germany has played a huge role in thrashing all of this out. And this deal, this package to stabilize the euro has been well received here; the analysts like it.

There is, however, very much mixed feelings about that other package we were talking about agreed last week to bailout Greece. Germany, alone, is contributing more than $28 billion to that package, and the chancellor, Angela Merkel, is really suffering politically as a result.

She's trapped between opposing arguments; those who don't like the idea of bailing out Greece at all, and those who believe the chancellor has dithered. She's acted indecisively. She's put off tough decisions and as a result perhaps made the situation a bit harder. That feeling is said to be a decisive factor in some state elections that were held in this country yesterday, where the parties that make up the chancellor's ruling coalition suffered a big defeat. The result of that is that the chancellor has lost her majority in Germany's Upper House.

It means that all legislation she wants to pass from here on now has to be negotiated. Governing gets much harder. We're talking about fears of an economic contagion from this Greek crisis.

VELSHI: Yes.

BLACK: Well, here in Germany, there has already been significant political fallout.

VELSHI: So Germany and France are sort of financing their companies. They're the ones that lent money to Greece and are on the hook for it. But there are a number of companies where this contagion is particularly danger. We refer to those as the PIIGS company -- Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and the S in that is Spain.

Let's go to Spain -- Madrid where Ivan Waston is, because this was one of the countries where there is real fear that if Greece didn't fix its issues, or the European Union didn't fix these issues, it was going to spread to Spain and almost take down that economy.

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And just last week, there were these real fears that the panic would spread here and to neighboring Portugal. But Ali, what we saw today is reaction to the European aide package was remarkable.

The record high gains in the Spanish main index, the IBEX 35, more than 14 percent in a single day. That's the highest it's seen since it was created in 1992. The same thing goes for the Portuguese main index across the border.

One of the problems is that both Spain and Portugal have been battling recession. They are some of the weaker economies in Europe right now, and they've seen government spending ballooning in recent years to try to battle the very high unemployment that's been taking place here. And that's really concerned people that Spain and Portugal could go the same way that Greece has gone.

So now we have a moment of confidence, protecting Spain and Portugal from the economic crisis in Greece. But fresh calls for the Spanish and Portuguese governments to cut government spending. And that is going to be a big concern for the people here, especially the armies of unemployed Spaniards.

VELSHI: Yes.

WATSON: You've got the highest unemployment right now in Europe, right here in Spain, Ali. 20 percent, and that number goes up to 40 percent if you're between the ages of 18 and 30 -- Ali.

VELSHI: Wow. This is why this is an important story, because what is happening where Diana is in Athens, other European countries are concerned about if this financial contagion spreads.

Here at CNN, we are committed to covering this for you and making it relevant to you, what's going on in Europe. Thanks to Ivan Watson in Madrid, Diana Magnay in Athens, Phil Black in Berlin, and Christine Romans in New York. All right, a crisis can put people's true colors on display. It happened just last week in the Tennessee flood disaster here in the United States. I'm going to introduce you to one of the heroes in our Mission Possible segment, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: OK, one of those segments I've been promising you that we are introducing to this show daily now is something called "Mission Possible." We've have talked about big ideas. Now we're talking about people who go out and make a difference.

People you can take some inspiration from, who really sometimes put themselves or their livelihoods at risk to promote a better way of doing things. I want to introduce you to a filmmaker who put down his camera to save some lives, and then he picked it right back up again to document the disaster that was gripping Tennessee.

One of the faces of last week's devastating flooding that -- by the way -- so many of us have trouble getting our head around. Rob McDonald is joining me now live from Nashville.

Rob, thanks for joining us. Tell our viewers a little bit about your story. You're a filmmaker. What were you doing, and what made you get out there and become part of the rescue effort?

ROB MCDONALD, FILMMAKER: Well, I saw, obviously, it was raining, and I was pacing around the house and nervous and thought I would just drive and look around, and initially tried to get through my creek, and it was maybe a little bit dangerous, and I went home, and thought I would wait a little bit, and decided I've got to go out and was driving around and looking for the fire department.

And I could not find the fire department, and I turned on the Sawyer Brown Road and there they were, in force, working where the roads had flooded. And I went up to a couple guys and said, do you need a boat? And they said, yes.

And I rushed home, got my boat, took it into the water, and there were just -- it was just devastating what you saw. Houses flooded up to the roofs, Young people in sweatshirts, t-shirts out there serving. It was quite an event of people from everywhere, every walk, coming in to serve.

VELSHI: I want to ask my producers to just put some of these pictures on you're looking at right now. These are photographs that you took. Tell me what -- how did you sort of decide you wanted to take these photographs? I know this is part of what you do for a living, but there is something more important behind this.

MCDONALD: Well, number one, it's a bit instinctive. But two, my daughter encouraged me to carry this camera, and it's her camera, and I thought well I'm going to ruin it in the rain, but it's probably worth it.

And so trying to drive the boat, it's a tiller handle boat, in the current, and picking up that camera was a bit of a trick. And I really didn't intend to do a film with this. I just -- I was doing this for my own benefit.

But when I got home, my daughter said, some of your pictures are as good as what I've seen, and Bonnie encouraged me to write the story and so I know how to put it together. So I did.

VELSHI: And tell me about the story. Where is this going to be?

MCDONALD: Well, where's it going to be? I put it on Facebook and YouTube, and that's all I expected to do with it. I'm as shocked as anybody I'm sitting right here talking to you, Ali.

VELSHI: And by the way, I know you told our producer, you're still sort of not past it. You're not beyond this. This still feels current to you. And by the way, to people in Tennessee.

MCDONALD: Well, it is. By the way, thank you again for covering this disaster. It's really still quite awful. Even though our rivers have a lot of water, the sewage systems are just devastated, and there is a real danger that we may not have good drinking water. But I think so far we do.

But we're still in a mess. Yesterday, I drove through the area, where I boated. And there were people's household items for well over a mile on either side of the road, stacked up 15, 20 feet high. It's a sight you'll never, ever see again.

VELSHI: And your point in documenting this again, because, it is instinctive, but your point is that what? What did you see that most moved you?

MCDONALD: Well, the people's faces. There was any range from being stunned to this 90-year-old lady we picked up at the very last, and she was happy. We lifted her into the boat. She made us all cheerful. I don't know if you've seen that picture yet or not, but it's probably the favorite of all that I took.

VELSHI: And you -- you felt that -- you also saw other people doing what you did. You saw other people that were not in harm's way as much as somepeople were, going out and coming together and helping their neighbors and helping other people out.

MCDONALD: Yes, and it was a great mix of -- there were four or five other fishing boats like mine. There was a rescue crew that came in from Knoxville, Tennessee that did heroic work. And it was just a great experience of the private sector and the public sector coming together. Nobody really, you know, in command of the situation -- we all knew we just had to go out and help people.

VELSHI: That's the way it works. Rob, thanks very much. And we're glad that's the way it worked. It doesn't always work that way. Thanks very much, and our hearts are with you all in Tennessee. It was quite remarkable to see all that happening. And thanks for being with us.

MCDONALD: Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI: Rob McDonald is a filmmaker who went out and not only took percent pictures, but rescued lots of Nashville residents from last week's flood.

VELSHI: All right, Ed Henry standing by for the "Ed Henry" segment. Ed, by the way, has not been able to say a tone about the Supreme Court nominations, but now that he knows he's not the nominee, we'll find out what he has got to say.

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm in the weeds on this story.

VELSHI: He's getting into the weeds. very nice. We'll see what he has got lined up for us in a minute.

HENRY: We'll explain it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: I love the deejay on this show. Ed Henry. I've missed my friend, Ed. It's my first time with him in this brand-new studio.

HENRY: Ali, I've missed you, as well.

VELSHI: It's nice to see you, Ed.

HENRY: You were running around the country. But, you know, T.J. and Don were growing on me.

VELSHI: No, they were very good. I was watching. Every day, like our viewers do, I made an appointment to be here for the Ed Henry segment and I saw you guys were getting along well.

HENRY: And you were tweeting about it.

VELSHI: I was.

HENRY: The best part was tweeting how you were getting disturbed about the abnormally good relationship between Ed and T.J. I sensed a little jealousy.

VELSHI: No, I was. That's why I'm back. I was going to be off for two weeks, but now I'm back to take control of the situation. What are you doing? What are you standing next to?

HENRY: My friend Donald back here is clipping the bushes, and you know, they've got to do that to keep the grounds really nice here. So you park the truck right in front of the spot where we do the Ed Henry segment.

A lot of other photojournalists from other networks everyday around 2:40 say are you doing the segment or what? And today Donald parked his truck here, so I think I might have to ride off into the sunset at the end of the segment. But it's a big Supreme Court day obviously.

VELSHI: Let's talk about it. You were in the press conference where I guess that came up a little bit afterwards. We just heard beginning of that.

HENRY: Yes. I mean, look, the bottom line is that one of the interesting facets of this is some time ago, Elena Kagan wrote a paper that basically laid out the notion that in a lot of these nomination hearings of fights on Capitol Hill, the nominees don't say a lot. They said they're pretty hollow and substance-free, and that nominees should do more like Robert Bork did back in the 80s when his nomination failed for the Supreme Court, because he got really specific about where he was on issues like abortion.

Since then, in part because his nomination failed, nominees in both parties have not said a lot about where they are on abortion and other issues. So now republicans are saying, look, let's have the Kagan standard. Let's have her lay out the positions.

I was just there with Robert Gibbs, and one of my colleagues asked, are you going to follow the Kagan standard? Is Ms. Kagan going to go out there and tell us a lot about our views? You're not suppose surprised to learn that the White House is starting to say well, we're not so sure we're going to do that.

And they're also pointing out that when Chief Justice Roberts and other Bush nominees for the high court went before the Senate, and a lot of republican senators didn't demand that they speak out on abortion and other issues, as well. It's sort of a handshake agreement between both parties to not say a lot at these hearings. But we'll see if she gets pushed on that.

VELSHI: The issue, though, is that it is not -- it's not that it hasn't been seen before -- but she doesn't have a paper trail you would normally have from someone who is a judge.

HENRY: Yes.

VELSHI: So she doesn't have rulings. She doesn't have decisions.

HENRY: You're right. She does not have decisions, she doesn't have rulings, but I was in a briefing earlier with the president's chief lawyer, Bob Bauer who was basically saying, let's remember that she served in the White House counsel's office of the Clinton Administration.

And there is all kinds of legal memos about abortion and other hot button issues. And Bob Bauer is pledging that the White House is going to release some of those memos, so look for that in the days ahead. There could be some political minefields in those Clinton papers. So she doesn't have court decisions, but she may have other memos and whatnot. But you know what, I'm going to ride off. I think I'm getting the wrap sign.

VELSHI: Yeah, we're out of time. You're really going to drive that thing off?

HENRY: They said we could start it up.

VELSHI: Did they say you could take it away?

HENRY: You know -- it's not starting.

VELSHI: Ed, Ed, you've the got --

HENRY: I better not start it up.

VELSHI: Your rake is sticking out.

HENRY: I better go fix that before I take off.

VELSHI: OK. Ed Henry. Always --

HENRY: See you tomorrow, Ali.

VELSHI: Great to see you. Don't drive off. The rake is sticking out of the car. Look out the window.

HENRY: I'm worried I'm going to break something.

VELSHI: I would be worried about that too. It is a nice ride you got there. All right, straight ahead, word play to court. Word Play is a new segment we've got where we break down a word that you are going to be using a lot or hearing a lot.

We are not being sued, but we are about to boost your vocabulary. So stick around for this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: OK, time again for our Word Play segment. The idea is we take a term that keeps popping up in the headlines that might be unfamiliar to a lot of people. We'll explain it so you can tell other people.

Today our term is a title. Solicitor General. First off, we better know what a regular solicitor is. Basically, a synonym for lawyer here in the United States. In the U.S., however, the solicitor general is the administration's chief counsel.

They represent the president and the administration in cases before the Supreme Court when the government has a position. So how are the solicitor general's duties different from the attorney general's, who heads up the Department of Justice?

Well, officially, according to the Department of Justice, except for rare authority exercised by the attorney general, the solicitor general has had sole discretion to decide which government cases involve issues important enough to justify appeal to the Supreme Court, and to make the final determination whether the government's case is good enough to win there. That's the solicitor general's job. And why this term is in the headlines, of course. Well, President Obama has just nominated his solicitor general, the U.S. solicitor general, to the Supreme Court. If confirmed, Elena Kagan would be seated in the very court where she has been arguing cases for the past year.

And as solicitor general, she is familiar with the Supreme Court be the government's representative there. All right. Take me out to the ball game. Take me out to the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks, pitch me a perfect game, and I'll XYZ about it when I come back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: And now it's time for the XYZ of it. Last night was a special night for baseball. 27 batters came up, and 27 batters struck out. For only the 19th time in the last 134 years, a pitcher in major league baseball pitched a perfect game.

Not a single batter got a single hit. Last night, Oakland A's pitcher Dallas Braden threw himself into the history books in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. You don't have to be a baseball fan to understand what a big deal that is. Just watch as Braden wound up for what was the final pitch of the game, and the fans knew it was coming.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The umpire knows what's going on.

Three-one pitch. Swing and a ground ball to short. Picked up by Penning, and the throw to first. He did it. Braden has thrown a perfect game.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: And with that, the unlikely Braden surprised everyone and joined a small club with members like Cy Young, now famous Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning, Sandy Cofax, Kenny Rogers, David Wells, David Cone and Randy Johnson.

What makes a perfect game in baseball so special is that it's a sport designed not to have that sort of thing happen. We've seen great examples of teams with excellent, highly-paid players not being able to pull off big acts in a game like that, because there are so many players in baseball and so many ways to stymie a perfect game.

In the end, in baseball, the pitcher gets the crdit or the blame for the way the game goes. And last night, an unlikely guy, Dallas Braden, showed what a great combination of skill and leadership can accomplish - inspiration.

That's my "XYZ" -- gonna pitch it over to RICK'S LIST.