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U.S. Blasts Nuclear Bully; North Korea's 'Dr. Evil'; President Obama to Visit Saudi Arabia

Aired May 27, 2009 - 15:59   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a new and direct threat by North Korea against South Korean and U.S. warships. The U.S. is promising consequences for the regime's nuclear tests and taunts of the world.

Plus, General Motors now on a much more likely road to bankruptcy. The automaker facing a looming deadline and a rebellion against its government-ordered restructuring plant.

And is your treadmill putting your kids in danger? New questions about the question of safety of exercise equipment after that bizarre death of boxer Mike Tyson's young daughter.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The Obama administration today is portraying North Korea as an attention-grabbing bully trying to pick a fight with the world. The trouble is, this bully is developing nuclear weapons. The communist regime is building on a series of provocative acts, moving from missile and atomic tests to threats against U.S. and South Korean warships.

Let's begin our coverage with our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian.

Dan, the U.S. is promising consequences, although the Obama administration is unclear what those consequences are going to be.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's true, but certainly some tough talk by the Obama administration. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemning North Korea for what she called provocative and belligerent threats.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice-over): The Obama administration is so concerned about North Korea's missile launches and nuclear tests, that senior administration officials are holding regular meetings on the crisis. That's behind the scenes. Publicly, the White House says it's not frustrated by the saber rattling but by the broken promises.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The North Koreans don't seem to want to live up to the obligations that they have previously made to the international community.

LOTHIAN: North Korea is also threatening military action against U.S. and South Korean warships. White House officials are pleased that the global community, including China, has been so vocal in its condemnation of the North Koreans. There's also mounting pressure for the Security Council to turn up the heat on the North, from tightening sanctions to cutting off financing for its nuclear program.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There are consequences to such actions. In the United Nations, as we speak, discussions are going on to add to the consequences that North Korea will face.

LOTHIAN: Experts warn that this problem requires a global solution unwise for the U.S. to tackle alone.

NICHOLAS SZECHENYI, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: It's not only the United States that's affected by this issue, it's all the other countries in the region and the world. Because if this continues, North Korea could easily support terrorists and rogue states around the world, and that's to no one's benefit.

LOTHIAN: It's unclear what North Korea is really trying to do or what they'll do next.

QUESTION: Is there a sense that North Korea will back down before this escalates any further?

GIBBS: Well, you know, I think we are, again, ,strongly hopeful that they'll understand that this is not doing them any good.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: I asked Robert Gibbs if anything much tougher like military action was being considered. He said if it was, he wasn't about to discuss it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, this is a real sensitive, sensitive issue.

All right, Dan. Thank you.

Let's get to the man behind all the saber rattling. That would be North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il. Some liken him to Dr. Evil. Others think he's simply crazy. Few, however, would dispute that he's very, very dangerous.

Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Lots of mystery surrounding Kim Jong-il, and I know you have been taking a closer look at him.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have, Wolf. We've been talking to U.S. intelligence officials and others, and a defense official told us today that what motivates Kim Jong-il is his desire for North Korea to be recognized as a powerful nation, an international player. This official says Kim believes he needs nuclear weapons to get that status. It all seems to play into another motivation that we're told this man has, a desire to gain personal attention.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Once again, he leads us down an ominous road. Kim Jong-il, reclusive leader of a hermetic, bankrupt nation, accused of allowing millions of his own people to starve to death, is forcing the world's only superpower to worry, calculate, react.

JERROLD POST, FORMER CIA PROFILER: And that brinksmanship, really, for the most part, has worked for him. He's crossed red line after red line.

TODD: But how far will he go? This is a man who cut his political teeth from the father of modern North Korea, his own father, Kim Il-sung, himself a brutally repressive dictator. Before his father's death in 1994, Kim Jong-il was known for his erratic behavior, a fast-driving, chain-smoking, binge-drinking playboy. After his father died, observers say he at least temporarily cut back on the smoking and drinking, but his eccentricities are legendary.

POST: He recruits at junior high school level attractive young girls with clear complexions and pretty faces to enroll in his joy brigades, and the joy brigades' function is to provide rest and relaxation for his hard working senior officials.

TODD: And U.S. officials say he once ordered the kidnapping of a South Korean movie star and her director husband. He's only 5'2, but has been known to wear four-inch lifts in his shoes.

U.S. intelligence officials say he likely suffered a stroke last year, and recent video appears to show significant weight loss.

Most agree the country that now claims a nuclear arsenal is controlled by an insecure, paranoid tyrant. But diplomats, journalists, others who have been to his capital say don't fall for the Dr. Evil comparison.

PETER MAASS, "NEW YORK TIMES" MAGAZINE: He's not crazy. He might be emotional, he might be somewhat eccentric, but crazy, absolutely not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: The danger here, experts say, is not that Kim Jong-il will get irrational and set off a major conflict, but that he will do it by miscalculating. Even on that possibility, one expert said, "Kim Jong- il may draw his guns, but they'll simply be on safety" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And there have been reports, as you know, in recent months that he's ill, that he's not feeling well, that he has had had some medical issues. Succession right now, potentially, could be a serious issue.

TODD: That's right. And a U.S. intelligence official told us today that the succession question here is murky. His sons are a possibility there, but one of them as apparently fallen out of favor. There are other elites in the bureaucracy, especially tied to the military, but they could be in line to succeed Kim. But the U.S. intelligence official says right now he appears to be in full control of this regime.

BLITZER: And they think he's healthy, at least right now?

TODD: They think he's at least healthy enough to make decisions, but even that is unclear, Wolf. There's so much we don't know. It's very hard to get in there and get actionable, real good intelligence on Kim Jong-il.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thanks very much.

We're going to have much more on this story coming up, because the consequences of what's going on are enormous right now.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Republicans in yet another tough spot, this time when it comes to the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court. Chalk up another brilliant bit of political strategy to our new president. He's got them boxed in here, I think.

President Obama's nominee would be the first Hispanic justice, only the third woman in the history of the high court. Conservative critics already branding her as a liberal activist judge, pointing to her past comments.

In 2001, Sotomayor said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Well, Rush Limbaugh jumped all over it, calling Sotomayor a "reverse racist" and "affirmative action case extraordinaire." Both quotes. Limbaugh says she puts down white men in favor of Latina women.

The White House is defending the judge's comments, as you might expect, saying taken in context, what she says is very much common sense in terms of different experiences, different people.

Another comment getting attention came in 2005, when Sotomayor said, "A court of appeals is where policy is made." Republican senators say she'll need to prove her commitment to impartiality, but RNC Chairman Michael Steele warns that if his party hopes to include more Hispanics and women, they better be careful about how they approach Ms. Sotomayor.

The bottom line here is, barring something unforeseen in the way of a scandal we don't know about, Sotomayor's confirmation will likely sail through the Senate with the Republicans scared to death to challenge her for fear of alienating women and Hispanic voters.

Here's the question: Will Republicans dare to vote against the first Hispanic woman nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, and you know how to do the rest.

BLITZER: They certainly do, Jack. Thank you.

Pakistan says its enemies are trying every way possible to destabilize the country. This time, bombers reduce a police building to rubble.

Also, is President Obama bowing to Saudi Arabia? Just ahead, his efforts to repair a relationship strained during the Bush era.

And the story of a U.S. warship sunk on purpose.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Next week President Obama turns his attention to the Middle East. Among his stops, a stop that has just been publicly announced, Saudi Arabia, which has a long and complicated relationship with the United States.

Let's bring in our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty. She's taking a closer look.

Lots of implications on what's going on in the Middle East, Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. You know, when President George W. Bush left office, relations with Saudi Arabia were sliding. But can President Barack Obama find the keys to the kingdom?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): President George W. Bush strolled hand in hand with Saudi King Abdullah, but when he asked the king to increase oil production in order to lower gas prices for Americans, that friendly gesture didn't work. President Barack Obama appeared to bow to the King, the White House denied it, yet Saudi Arabia's oil minister now is predicting oil prices could soon more than double to $150 a barrel.

But when President Obama meets with King Abdullah in Riyadh, June 3rd, Obama's priority will be Mideast peace. And King Abdullah has a plan -- the Arab peace initiative. Israel gives up occupied Arab land and all Arab states normalize relations. Bush ignored it, Obama praises it.

One Saudi watcher says the king likes Obama's approach so far, but wants to see action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have already said that their peace plan is not on the table forever. They have begun hinting at a hardening of their line unless some progress is made. DOUGHERTY: And another Obama priority, stopping Obama's nuclear program, President Obama has an ally in the Saudi king, who is pushing for stronger economic pressure on Iran. And Saudi Arabia's crackdown on terrorism is improving relations with Washington. Although the majority of 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, the kingdom since then has killed hundreds of homegrown terrorists, put others on trial, and put thousands through re-education camps.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: And there could be another payoff to improved relations. Saudi expert David Ataway (ph) says that if there is progress on Middle East peace, conceivably, Saudi Arabia might be willing to work with the U.S. on oil pricing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Lots going on over there. We'll have complete coverage next week, obviously, Jill. Thank you.

In Pakistan today, a van filled with explosives killed at least 24 people, wounded 250 others, and leveled a police station. The attack occurred in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city.

CNN's Reza Sayah is in Pakistan's capital of Islamabad with more details -- Reza.

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, with this deadly attack in Lahore, Pakistan's militants once again showing not even the most sensitive government buildings are out of their reach.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAYAH (voice-over): A massive suicide blast rocks Lahore and delivers a blow to the heart of Pakistan's security apparatus. The attack, well coordinated. The weapon, according to police, a passenger van packed with 100 kilograms of explosives. The militants inside armed with guns and grenades, aiming to penetrate a compound housing Lahore's police and emergency response headquarters and the offices of the ISI, one of Pakistan's intelligence agents.

Police tell CNN the van got by the initial barrier before the blast, an explosion so powerful, it brought down the two-story emergency response headquarters and damaged several buildings nearby. Rescue crews and bystanders pulled bodies from piles of crushed concrete, bloody victims were loaded into ambulances and taken to nearby hospitals.

Amid the chaos, police say they took three suspects in custody. The daytime attack in Pakistan's second largest city comes as the Pakistan military continues its month-long offensive against the Taliban in the Swat Valley. Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, says no one has claimed responsibility for the blast in Lahore, but according to Malik, Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, recently issued a general threat, saying if the military offensive continues in Swat, militants will target major cities.

Lahore has been the scene of some of Pakistan's most brazen attacks by militants. In March, at least seven gunmen stormed a police academy, killing seven cadets. Earlier that month, more than 10 gunmen ambushed the Sri Lankan cricket team. And now the third attack in three months has once again put Lahore in the forefront of Pakistan's fight against militancy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAYAH: In the meantime, the military offensive against the Taliban in the Swat Valley continued on Wednesday. Military officials now saying they have killed nearly 1,200 militants in the past month. A spokesperson for Lahore police telling CNN he suspects the attack in Lahore is, indeed, payback for the operation in Swat. "Swat is reaching Lahore," he said -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Wow. All right.

Reza Sayah in Islamabad, Pakistan, for us.

And as Reza just mentioned, the building that was flattened in the Lahore attack also housed Pakistan's intelligence service. It's considered by some to be the country's equivalent of the CIA.

It was established in the early days after Pakistan's independence. The agency has been accused of having links to the Taliban in Afghanistan. It also assists Pakistan's military with the capture and interrogation of al Qaeda suspects.

General Motors running out of options and running out of time. Company bondholders rejected debt for stock proposal. Now bankruptcy for the troubled automaker appears to be only a few days away.

Plus, the child stars of the Oscar winning film "Slumdog Millionaire" left homeless after the Mumbai demolished their neighborhood. Now they're getting some help from the movie's director.

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, President Obama hits the road on a mission to raise support and cash for Democrats, but will the star-studded political fund-raisers carry a political price?

We'll have a live report. We're going out to the West Coast.

Boxer Mike Tyson is in mourning right now after his 4-year-old daughter dies in a treadmill accident, a personal tragedy that's raising public concern over the safety of these popular exercise machines.

And an Afghan civilian is killed, shot by American contractors. The U.S. military is investigating, but the contractors involved say the shooting was justified. They give their side of the story exclusively to CNN.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

On her second day as a Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor already is the target of a Web video attack. And in the U.S. Senate, Republicans are aggressively digging for ammunition against her. But for now, they're mostly holding their fire.

Let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

All right, Dana. What's the latest in terms of the opposition that's developing for her in the Senate?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I talked to a senior Republican aide today who was involved in the confirmation process here who did concede that for now, the Senate Republican strategy is to be intentionally low key. But this GOP source also said just because Senate Republicans aren't coming out of the gate with their hair on fire, that doesn't mean they're going to roll over.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Behind these doors the formal opposition has begun. Some one dozen Republican Senate lawyers are now combing through Sonia Sotomayor's dense legal record, starting with 3,625 published opinions from her 17 years as a federal judge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are some troubling things that are going to have to be inquired into for us to do our job.

BASH: Still, the lead Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee does not think they'll try to block her nomination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't sense a filibuster in the works if the nominee has serious problems.

BASH: That's not stopping conservative activists from trying to stir up public opinion against Sotomayor, releasing this new Web video with her instantly familiar quote about making policy from the bench.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, WEB VIDEO)

ANNOUNCER: What is she saying?

JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: The Court of Appeals is where policy is made. And I know -- and I know this is on tape and I should never say that.

ANNOUNCER: Equal justice under law or under attack? America deserves better.

(END VIDEO CLIP, WEB VIDEO)

BASH: One prominent conservative moved beyond attacking Sotomayor as a judicial activist and flat-out called her a racist. Newt Gingrich said on Twitter, "White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw."

That's a reference to Sotomayor's now widely distributed 2002 Berkeley La Raza law review article suggesting her Latina roots impact her judicial decisions. "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

No senators and few other conservative activists have gone as far as Gingrich, but many are trying to make the same point more subtly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I see from her comments about a female nominee and a woman of Hispanic descent be in better position to make statements and considerations on cases is concerning. It's outside of qualifications that anyone controls.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Despite that line of attacks, there are some Republicans here on the Judiciary Committee who say they are weary of the optics of these upcoming hearings. One GOP aide involved in her confirmation told me that they are concerned about "seven white guys questioning..." -- on the Republican side, at least "... questioning a Latina judge" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana. Thanks very much.

Let's get some perspective now from a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, the former chairman, Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Senator Hatch, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Nice to be with you. You're just great.

BLITZER: Oh, well, thank you.

Let's talk about your -- your 33 years sitting on the Judiciary Committee. So, you will review what she -- what she brings to the -- potentially, to the United States Supreme Court.

Let me ask you bluntly, do you agree with Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, she's a racist?

HATCH: No, I don't agree with that. And -- and, frankly, I think it's a little premature and early, because she hasn't had a chance to explain some of these comments that she's made.

And they are -- some of her comments are very troubling. And some of them do smack of -- of a potential of, you know, a judge who -- who wants to make law from the bench.

But I think we have to be fair. I think we have to do what is normally done. And that is scrutinize the record, look at the opinions, the unwritten opinions, the articles, the speeches, the various comments that have been made and so forth, and do it fairly. (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You voted for her confirmation twice before, when she was nominated many years ago by the first President Bush to -- to the federal bench, and then she -- when she was nominated by former President Bill Clinton to the court of appeals. Both times, you voted to confirm her.

HATCH: Well, the first time, it was by unanimous consent in the Senate, because we didn't have a vote. We didn't do much of that back then.

BLITZER: But you could have -- you could have opposed her.

HATCH: Yes, but I wasn't going to oppose her.

And, frankly -- frankly, she was Senator Moynihan's choice. He and Senator D'Amato had a one-for-one ratio that one would pick one, one time, another would one the next time. And President -- then President George Herbert Walker Bush of course was going to put on whoever Moynihan wanted on. And, so, he put Sonia Sotomayor on then.

Then, in the second time, he had -- she had 29 Republicans vote against her. There were some troubling aspects there. I was troubled by it.

But I come from these things from the aspect that, you know, the president -- the president won the election and he deserves consideration and deference with regard to his -- his or her -- judicial picks.

On the other hand, we're talking about the highest court in the land, the court of last resort, the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

And so, naturally, there will be a thorough-going examination, much more so than the circuit of appeals. And I -- I'm withholding judgment, and, of course, come from a tendency to usually support whoever's president and their picks to the court.

BLITZER: Because -- because I remember you voted to confirm Stephen Breyer, who was Bill Clinton's nominee for the Supreme Court. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg, even though you may have disagreed with her judicial philosophy, you voted to confirm.

So I guess the question is, the same standards you used then, are you still going to use now, or have the standards changed over these years?

HATCH: Well, most people voted for both Breyer and -- and Ginsburg. I was the one who recommended them. And to his credit, the president had other choices at that time, but he decided that that's the way he should go. And they were both eminently qualified people.

If you look at Sonia Sotomayor, look, she has a very compelling life story. She's an interesting personality and -- and certainly has spent 17 years in the federal courts. There are some things that are questionable, some things that are troubling about her.

I believe she will be treated much better than Miguel Estrada, for instance, was treated. He was being picked just for a circuit court of appeals, the D.C. Circuit, and they didn't so much as give him the time of day on the Democrat side. And I hope the people remember that.

In the case of Sonia Sotomayor, I think she'll be given every deference, and certainly she will be by me. But these are important positions and we have to look at them. And -- and it shouldn't be a question of race or ethnicity or -- or any other number of things that really shouldn't be part of the process.

BLITZER: How -- I know we're almost out of time, Senator, but how worried should Republicans be about going after her too hard because of the growing -- and it's the fastest growing voting bloc out there, Hispanic Americans -- how worried should Republicans be in going after her as a result of Republicans already losing some of that Hispanic vote?

HATCH: Well, you're talking to the fellow who started the National Republican Hispanic Task Force, senatorial task force, who's worked with Hispanics throughout my whole Senate service.

And I think they know that if I go against somebody, it's got to be for good reason. And I think -- I think they'll -- I think they realize this is a very important position. And I don't think that should even enter into it. I think -- I think the members of the Judiciary Committee ought to look at this objectively. They ought to look at it honestly.

If they come to the conclusion that this is a person who will not obey the law; if this is a person who will not stand up for what the law ought to be and who is going to substitute her own predilections, her own personal values for what the law is, and act as an activist judge, usurping the powers of the -- of the other two branches of government, then I think anybody -- I think Democrats should vote that person down.

So I think we'll have to see. I doubt that she fits that category, but the fact is, there are some statements that she's made that are questionable, that are troubling, and -- and they have to be gone into, as Senator Sessions has indicated.

And I certainly am going to treat her fairly. I intend to do that. I always intend to do that, and will.

BLITZER: I know you will, Senator Hatch. As always, thank you very much.

HATCH: You bet.

BLITZER: The White House contends that the best advocate for confirming Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court is the judge herself. But the Obama administration and Democrats will be right there with her, helping her every step of the way. Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here looking closer at this part of the story.

How do they plan on their strategy in getting this nomination confirmed?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, a decision has been raid not -- made not to go the route of picking an outside lobbyist to be her Sherpa, to take her on all these courtesy calls you make and...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You mean like a Sherpa, a guide.

BORGER: A guide.

Instead, they have -- they have gone the route of choosing somebody who is currently sitting in the Senate. That is Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who will be taking her as she makes her courtesy calls next week in the Senate, much the same way that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan did with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They have decided they don't want to go to a K street lobbyist to do that.

Also, they believe -- and I have been talking to people who are involved in this process with her in the White House -- they believe that, when people see her in these hearings, she's got 17 years of experience, Wolf, on the federal bench. They believe that she is used to dealing with public advocates, that she will be a great witness for herself before the committee.

BLITZER: You're also learning more details of the decision- making process...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ... that led to this.

BORGER: Yes. You know, conventional wisdom said that the president was -- was looking for somebody on the court to balance the flamboyant conservative Justice Scalia.

Well, as it turns out, he wasn't. He was looking for somebody who could actually convince Justice Kennedy, who's a swing vote on the court, to change his mind once in a while. And I was speaking with somebody in the White House who said -- quote -- "He was very struck when he met with her about how thoughtful she was as a judge. And he believed that she had a precise approach to cases that would be effective in winning over Justice Kennedy."

BLITZER: Interesting stuff.

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: All right, nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court, and each one of them is critically important. Thanks very much.

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: A dramatic rescue at sea -- how the U.S. Navy saved refugees adrift for four days.

Plus, James Carville is standing by to talk about his face-off with Karl Rove -- the clash of the political titans. We will discuss that in our "Strategy Session."

And rivals in the Supreme Court showdown between George W. Bush and Al Gore, they are now uniting -- how the battle over same-sex marriage is bringing them together.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The largest industrial bankruptcy in U.S. history now seems all but certain.

That's because General Motors' bondholders rebelled against the carmaker's plan to swap bond debt for company stock -- GM now running up against its government-ordered deadline to restructure or file for Chapter 11 protection.

Let's bring in our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi. He's on the scene for us in Detroit.

All right, Ali, set the scene for us. When is the ax going to fall?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: All right, Wolf, I'm here in front of General Motors' world headquarters in downtown Detroit.

You and I have talked about this company for years and its struggles. It was the largest public company in the world, certainly the largest automaker until 2008, for 77 years. But now the dye is just about cast.

Sometime between now and Monday, we will hear from the White House that General Motors will be forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy -- bankruptcy protection. There's very much -- there really aren't any more options for this company.

Here is what happened. You sort of mentioned it. The bondholders, the people who have lent this company money, General Motors has to pay them interest. So, as part of this restructuring that they were trying to do, they offered the bondholders shares, ownership in the company, which meant they would haven't to pay that interest. The bondholders in return would get a stake in the company and all the upside or downside risk that goes along with it.

The bondholders says, forget it. They will take their chances in bankruptcy court to see what they can get. As a result, General Motors can't achieve what it needed to achieve. The government will force it into bankruptcy protection to break certain contracts, to renegotiate, to sell off some of its assets.

This could happen at any time. It made deals with the Auto United Workers. It made deals with other constituents. It closed some dealerships. But the bottom line is, it needed the bondholders. The bondholders are not on board.

So, General Motors will, at some point between now and Monday, probably announce that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from its creditors.

Quite a story, Wolf. This was -- this was the story of American industrial success.

BLITZER: It's unbelievable, if you think about the history.

Give us some further perspective, Ali, on how this upcoming bankruptcy -- and we assume it's almost a done deal by now -- compares to other...

VELSHI: Yes.

BLITZER: ... major U.S. bankruptcies.

VELSHI: Well, when you think of bankruptcies, you think of the value of the company when it went into bankruptcy.

By far, the largest happened right at the beginning of this financial crisis. In fact, it was the trigger of this financial crisis. It was Lehman Brothers. That was the biggest one of all.

The second biggest was Wachovia, which involved bankruptcy and an immediate sale to Wells Fargo. So, the top two bankruptcies in this country have been financial companies. Number three was back some years ago. That was WorldCom, a telecom company which suffered both from scandal and from the fact that there was this telecom burst.

And running up now a pretty close fourth will be General Motors, supplanting Enron for the number-four spot. So, at almost $100 million, it's the fourth largest bankruptcy in American history once it gets filed.

But here's the important part, the largest industrial company to ever file for bankruptcy in the United States -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I -- I just want to make sure, because I think maybe our graphic is wrong, because we had Lehman Brothers as the -- the largest bankruptcy. We had second Washington Mutual. But you say it was Wachovia, the takeover from Wells Fargo?

VELSHI: I'm sorry. I -- I -- thank you. Thank you for correcting me. That was -- the -- it got all blurry.

It is, in fact, Washington Mutual which was the second largest bankruptcy. Wachovia was subsequently taken over by Wells Fargo, which is why it's not on that list.

BLITZER: Right. That's what I thought, but I just wanted to make -- make sure we...

VELSHI: Yes. Good catch.

BLITZER: ... didn't confuse our viewers.

Ali, thanks very much.

VELSHI: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Ali Velshi reporting from Detroit. He's going to be there. We're going to watch General Motors every step of the way, because the implications for all of us are enormous right now, what goes on with GM.

A match of political heavyweights -- James Carville and Karl Rove go toe-to-toe over President Obama -- President Obama and Bush.

And she was convicted and jailed in Iran for spying, but journalist Roxana Saberi is enjoying her freedom back here in the United States. And she gets a special welcome home from the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, our CNN political contributors the Democratic strategist James Carville and the Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.

James, it was billed as the clash of the political titans at Radio City Music Hall yesterday, you and Karl Rove, the top political strategist for President Bush.

I'm going to play a little clip of one exchange you guys had. Charlie Rose was the moderator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BUSH: Look, he's from Texas. And let's be honest. A certain part of the country doesn't like people who speak with an access.

(LAUGHTER)

CHARLIE ROSE, MODERATOR: I'm from North Carolina.

(LAUGHTER)

ROVE: Yes. But -- but, you know, you have largely lost that.

But -- but, look, there are people who did not want this president to succeed. They wanted him to fail, Bush.

(CROSSTALK)

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I -- I thought Bill Clinton was from Arkansas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, that was just one exchange.

But give us your thoughts. How did this exchange with Karl Rove go?

CARVILLE: You know, it -- it was interesting. It was lively, fun. You know, I think people had a -- I think people enjoyed themselves. It was -- it -- was -- it varied. I think it had what -- what you -- what you want to have.

It had some very passionate moments. We had moments of great disagreement. We had some -- some things we agreed on, not very many. And, you know, we're doing it again tonight in Boston. And, you know, it was at -- it was at -- it was at Radio City Music Hall. It was kind of a historic venue there.

It was -- it was -- it was almost an honor to be on the stage there, and so many other people had been on that. It was -- it was...

BLITZER: No Rock...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: It was quite an event.

BLITZER: No Rockette -- no Rockettes there live?

CARVILLE: No Rockettes.

BLITZER: No Rockettes.

CARVILLE: No Rockettes. No, I wish they would have been there.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: But, on the substance -- on the substance of the charge that was made by Karl Rove -- Alex, I want you to weigh in -- that a lot of folks never liked former President Bush because he spoke with a Southern accent, you buy that?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Golly, gee, no, Wolf, I really don't. I don't think a Southern accent is something -- I mean, I -- I love Mr. Carville, and he comes from Louisiana.

CARVILLE: Right. Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

CASTELLANOS: No, I think there's a lot of reasons that -- that some people did not want George Bush to succeed.

You know, George Bush was a man of strong principle. He had a core, a center. And people like that are much easier to disagree and often to dislike than leaders, political leaders, say, with a softer center, with a more pragmatic center.

Often, those politicians, like a Bill Clinton and like an Obama, they're easier to like. They're a little harder to respect sometimes, because you don't know exactly where they often stand.

But I think George Bush was a man -- you know, you knew who he was you knew what he believed. And you could either agree or disagree, love or hate. And, so -- yes, so, a lot of people, I think, did wish him ill.

BLITZER: And in the midst of all of this stuff that is going on right now -- as I say, it's never dull covering Washington -- but, if you're president of the United States, you have got a major issue with North Korea right now.

And we can't overemphasize how significant what is going on is right now. I want you to listen to Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: It continues to act in a provocative and belligerent manner toward its neighbors. There are consequences to such actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: James, Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, the president, they all say there are consequences, but they don't spell out what the consequences are.

CARVILLE: Right.

BLITZER: And North Korea, and Kim Jong-il, he seems to be going forward, even more aggressively than so many experts predicted.

CARVILLE: Well, the first thing is, you're exactly right. You can't overestimate how important or how big this story is.

This -- this is, I think, the most frightening thing, or potentially -- I should say potentially one of the most frightening things I have seen in my lifetime.

My sense is, in -- in just listening to the secretary of state, and listening to what people are saying, I think it's going to be something more than just your normal kind of saber-rattling or sort of arguing over the position of the five-party talks.

I -- I think that the administration and, to some extent, the other members of the five-party coalition there, are going to be very, very serious about this. I -- I -- I think this is a very serious situation. And I don't think that -- I think the North Koreans are underestimating the response to this.

BLITZER: Yes.

And my deepest fear, Alex, is that Japan, for example, despite the history of Hiroshima, they say to themselves, you know what? We need a nuclear umbrella. And then South Korea says they need it. The Chinese then go, you know, crazy because of -- of their historic fears from the Koreans, from Japan.

The potential for, not only an international crisis, but a disaster, is out there.

CASTELLANOS: This is one of the first big foreign policy tests, real ones, for the Obama administration's new policy of, let's talk to everyone, but carry a smaller stick.

One of the things that the -- the Obama administration is doing is releasing the missile defense shield, the piece shield that -- that America needs to protect ourselves from rogue states with nuclear weapons. They have cut it, I think, 16 point, $1.4 billion, which I know is small change in the bailing-out-GM world -- that's like a tip for them.

But, you know, just when we should be showing the world that America is -- is taking steps to strengthen its ability to secure itself from attacks like these, other people are seeing holes in the line that -- that they can run through. And I think the North Koreans are -- are taking advantage of that.

You know, they have fired five short-range missiles, one long- range missile. They have started a plutonium factory again. They're -- they're laughing at the U.N. resolutions. So, I think the -- the first -- the Obama administration is going to end up having to overreact...

BLITZER: Yes.

CASTELLANOS: ... because they have under-reacted, I think, to...

CARVILLE: No.

CASTELLANOS: ... what the first steps the Koreans are doing.

BLITZER: All right, well, hold your thought, James, because...

CARVILLE: I -- OK.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: ... because we have got to go.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But...

CARVILLE: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: But, unfortunately, the story is not going away.

And we're going to have much more on it coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Guys, thanks very much.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Good luck tonight with Karl Rove in Boston.

CARVILLE: You bet. Thank you.

BLITZER: While pundits place odds on Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation, their pronunciation leaves something to be desired. That's coming up.

And new concerns about treadmills and the dangers to kids -- we're investigating after the accidental death of Mike Tyson's 4-year- old daughter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A Supreme Court nominee for only two days.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has a "Moost Unusual" look at Judge Sonia Sotomayor's debut.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Courting Supreme Court-style involved handshakes and pats, handshakes and kisses, kisses and whispers, advice from the vice president.

(APPLAUSE)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't be nervous.

MOOS: "Don't be nervous," followed moments later by:

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: I think they like you.

MOOS: And, then, when she finished her speech:

BIDEN: Told you. Piece of cake.

(APPLAUSE)

MOOS: But what isn't a piece of cake is pronouncing her name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge Sotomayor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a moment for Sonia Sotomayor.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sonia Sotomayor -- mayor. You know, we're all learning to pronounce her name.

MOOS: Even the president seemed to vary his pronunciation.

OBAMA: Judge Sotomayor.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

MOOS: Not to be confused be that other Sotomayor from Cuba, perhaps the best high-jumper ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A new world record for Sotomayor.

MOOS: The supreme authority on pronouncing a Supreme Court's nominee name:

JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: That person is my mother, Celina Sotomayor.

MOOS: Ms. Sotomayor was repeatedly applauding.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Sonia's mom has been a little bit choked up.

(LAUGHTER)

SOTOMAYOR: I am all I am because of her, and I am only half the woman she is.

MOOS: But tears weren't the only thing to get in eyes. The nominee's hair seemed to lash her eyelashes.

SOTOMAYOR: Violent crimes that devastate our communities.

It is a daunting feeling to be here.

MOOS (on camera): Nowhere else will you hear in-depth analysis quite like this. May we introduce you to the umbrella that shielded the latest Supreme Court nominee as she entered the White House?

And, we warn you, it has feminist tendencies.

(voice-over): We only caught a glimpse of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, that might be her, guys.

MOOS: But we managed to track one down, an umbrella featuring female literary luminaries, from Jane Austen to Emily Dickinson.

But it will take more than poets and authors to protect her as the confirmation spin comes raining down.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's go right back to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, will the Republicans dare to vote against the first Hispanic woman nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States?

Nat writes: "Republicans have no choice but to confirm this exceptional jurist as the next U.S. Supreme Court justice. If, for some insane reason, they choose to follow their leader, Limbaugh, into the wing nut world of the conservative base, they can then assume a permanent minority status."

Allison in Vancouver says: "This is going to be fun to watch. Although I believe Obama has recommended Sotomayor for the right reasons, as of course he would, it was a brilliant move. How can the Republicans oppose her without alienating yet more Hispanic voters? Yet, if they don't, they could lose much of the only support they have left. That would be the right-wing conservative base. Which will they choose? Checkmate."

John writes: "Yes, the old political correctness bug bites again. It has gotten to the point where one can't even have an honest disagreement without race or gender being brought into play and the risk of being labeled a racist. Obama says she's qualified. We should take his word for that? Did she attain her position based on merit and qualifications, or was she simply another product of an affirmative action quota system?"

Paul in Texas writes: "Unfortunately, they will, and it will further alienate the GOP from the mainstream. It has already begun with the accusations of racism. As a Republican, I am disheartened. My party is dying right before my eyes."

Sarah writes: "Identity politics isn't brilliant, Jack. It is a divisive step backward. It is no wonder this race situation is perpetuated in America. It seems to be helping one political party tremendously."

And Tom in Maine writes: "They dare to go out in public without aliases, without plastic surgery, and without apologies for the past eight years. They have often raised stupidity to an art form. They dare, Jack. Believe me, they dare."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile, and look for yours there.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.