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THE SITUATION ROOM
Last Day of Grilling for Sotomayor; President Obama's Message to NAACP; The Launch That Changed History
Aired July 16, 2009 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Rick, thanks very much.
Happening right now, Sonia Sotomayor walks away from her confirmation hearings leaving at least one Republican "bugged" and some others confused. But she seems to have avoided any meltdowns that might keep her off the United States Supreme Court.
President Obama shows some tough love. He's set to hold African- Americans to a higher standard in remarks before the NAACP later tonight.
And how drug abusers go shopping for dentists willing to pull out their prescription pads. We're digging deeper into a problem getting new attention after Michael Jackson's death.
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.
Republicans gave Sonia Sotomayor a few final digs before showing her the door of the Senate hearing room earlier today. But in the end, everyone acknowledged that she's firmly on track to become the first Hispanic member of the United States Supreme Court. A full Senate vote on her nomination is expected next month.
Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, has watched every minute of these hearings some of them very, very grueling. Tough questioning.
Dana's joining us now live with the latest -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's right. And on this last day of grilling for Sonia Sotomayor, it was clear the Republican strategy was already to look ahead.
BASH (voice-over): Republicans know Sonia Sotomayor's path to confirmation is clear, so those leaning against her focused where they see her as out of the mainstream and on political issues for the next election.
SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: My constituents in Oklahoma understand, as do most Americans, that the right to own guns hangs in the balance. SONIA SOTOMAYOR, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I can assure your constituents that I have a completely open mind on this question.
BASH: One Republican made quite clear he believes that.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You're able, after all these years of being a judge, to embrace a right that you may not want for yourself, to allow others to do things that are not comfortable to you but for the group. That's what makes you, to me, more acceptable as a judge and not an activist.
BASH: Lindsey Graham also said this...
GRAHAM: You have said some things that just bug the hell out of me.
BASH: He was, of course, talking about her "wise Latina" comment and, leading the witness, asked her to explain it yet again.
SOTOMAYOR: I regret that I have offended some people. I believe that my life demonstrates that that was not my intent, to leave the impression that some have taken from my words.
GRAHAM: You know what, Judge? I agree with you. Good luck.
BASH: After Sotomayor was thanked and dismissed, outside witnesses were ushered in, including Frank Ricci, a New Haven firefighter. Conservatives have seized on his race discrimination case, criticizing Sotomayor for ruling against him and 19 other mostly white firefighters without explanation.
FRANK RICCI, NEW HAVEN FIREFIGHTER: Despite the important civil rights and constitutional claims we raised, the Court of Appeals panel disposed of our case in an unsigned, unpublished summary order that consisted of a single paragraph.
BASH: Now, Sotomayor seems like such a shoo-in, one Republican senator accidentally addressed her as "Justice," as if she already has the job. And, you know, even the lead Republican on the committee said right here behind me, in front of everybody, he sees no reason why Sotomayor can't have a full Senate vote by the time Congress leaves for August recess -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It looks like it's happening. That train is leaving the station.
All right, Dana. Thank you.
Sonia Sotomayor told senators today she's lived on a judge's salary for 17 years ever since she left the lucrative practice on Wall Street at a law firm, and that if she's confirmed to the Supreme Court, she can, and I'm quoting now, "suffer through more of it." She took a huge pay cut to become a federal judge. Right now, associate justices earn $208,100 a year. That's slightly less than the chief justice, who makes more than $217,000 every year. Sotomayor currently earns more than $179,000 a year as an appeals court judge. Senator Jeff Sessions put the pay issue into perspective.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: I think that it's about four times the average family income in America. I hope that you can live on it. If not, you probably shouldn't take the job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: She said she could certainly live on it and has for 17 years.
Federal judges, by the way, haven't received a substantial pay hike since 1991, and they can earn considerably more if they practice in the private sector, especially for those big Wall Street law firms.
President Obama goes before the nation's oldest civil rights organization a few hours from now, and it may not be the full-out celebration some people are expecting. We're getting an early read on the message he'll deliver promoting responsibility and warning against mediocrity.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux. She's already in New York.
Suzanne, what are you learning about the president's address before the NAACP later tonight?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're actually waiting for the excerpts, and one senior administration official says that the president is still tinkering with his speech, so we don't have those excerpts yet, but it is something that he's been working on for the last two weeks.
The bottom line to this speech, he is going to say it's not just the government that should take more responsibility, but individuals who should also take responsibility, that that is what made the civil rights movement so successful, and particularly when it comes to education and to raising our children, no matter what their race, their faith, or their place in life.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): One hundred years after the birth of the NAACP, a major address by the first African-American president.
BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, it is always humbling to speak before the NAACP, because it's a powerful reminder of the debt that we all owe to those who marched for us and fought for us and stood up on our behalf.
MALVEAUX: Just last year as a candidate, Barack Obama was both deferential and defiant before the civil rights group.
OBAMA: I know there's some who have been saying I've been too tough talking about responsibility.
NAACP, I'm here to report I'm not going to stop talking about it.
MALVEAUX: Taking on some of his African-American critics, Mr. Obama delivered a message of tough love, echoed just last weekend in Ghana.
OBAMA: We all know that the future of Africa is in the hands of Africa.
MALVEAUX: The historic election of the United States' first African-American president highlights the NAACP's role in fighting for equality and opportunity.
BEN JEALOUS, NAACP PRESIDENT: This is a big step that we've taken, having a black family in the White House and ending that 233- year-old color barrier, but there's a lot more work that needs to be done.
MALVEAUX: This, after former President Bush kept the NAACP at arm's length, declining their invitations to address them for five years.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks very much, Bruce. Thanks for your introduction.
Bruce is a polite guy. I thought what he was going to say, "It's about time you showed up."
BUSH: And I'm glad I did.
MALVEAUX: Now a new president, a new dynamic.
CLARENCE PAGE, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": I think his big challenge now is going to be in talking to them about issues that have concerned him in the past, like problems with teen pregnancy and black-on-black crime that the NAACP hasn't been that eager to deal with.
MALVEAUX: And Wolf, the president did something rather rare today. He invited seven journalists who represent predominantly the black media aboard Air Force One to take their questions. It lasted about 21 minutes or so.
We got a full report from that session, and he was asked about a racial incident that had happened in Pennsylvania. He said just because we have a black president doesn't mean that these racial incidents are not going to happen.
And he also pretty much stuck with the script. He was asked about whether or not he had pressure, facing pressure as the first African-American president. And he said, "Well, I have pressure basically being a president to serve all of America." That is something that we consistently hear, that he downplays the issue of race -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll be watching that speech closely, together with you, Suzanne. Thanks very much.
The Republican Party's first African-American chairman is urging the NAACP to give the GOP a chance. Just ahead, I'll be speaking with Michael Steele about the president's message to African-Americans and a lot more.
And such a serious matter leaves little room for fun and games. But over at the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings, the newest senator finds ways to lighten the mood a bit. Wait until you hear how Senator Al Franken mixed some serious questions with comedy.
And death and disaster mars Madonna's concert tour. You're going to find out how The Material Girl's schedule is being impacted after a man dies amid concert preparations.
And 40 years ago today, Americans blasted off on a course that forever changed history.
BLITZER: It's the day that forever changed history. Forty years ago today, man set off on a new frontier. On July 16, 1969, the Apollo blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center. Destination: the moon. It's where no human had ever gone before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The target for the Apollo 11 astronauts, the moon. At liftoff, will be at a distance of 218,096 miles away.
We just passed the two-minute mark on the countdown. T minus one minute, 54 seconds, and counting.
Our status board indicates that the oxidizer tanks on the second and third stages now have pressurized and we continue to build up pressure in all three stages here in the last minute to prepare it for a liftoff.
T minus one minute, 35 seconds, and the Apollo mission, the flight to land the first men on the moon. All indications coming in to the control center at this time indicate we are go.
One minute, 25 seconds, and counting. Our status board indicates the third stage completely pressurized.
Eighty-second mark has now been passed. We'll go on full internal power at the 50-second mark in the countdown. Guidance system goes on internal at 17 seconds, leading up to the ignition sequence at 8.9 seconds.
We're approaching the 60-second mark on the Apollo 11 mission. T minus 60 seconds and counting. And we past T minus 60. Fifty-five seconds and counting.
Neil Armstrong just reported back it's been a real smooth countdown. We've passed the 50-second mark. Power transfer is complete. We're on internal power with the launch vehicle at this time.
Forty seconds away from the Apollo 11 liftoff. All the second- stage tanks now pressurized.
Thirty-five seconds and counting. We are still go with Apollo 11.
Thirty seconds and counting. Astronauts report it feels good.
T minus 25 seconds. Twenty seconds and counting. T minus 15 seconds.
Guidance is internal.
Twelve, 11, 10, 9 -- ignition sequence starts -- 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0.
All engines running.
Liftoff! We have a liftoff 32 minutes past the hour. Liftoff on Apollo 11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neil Armstrong reported back when he received the good wishes, "Thank you very much, we know it will be a good flight."
Good luck and Godspeed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You get chills watching that. Exactly 40 years ago today they took off for the moon.
Let's go to John Zarrella. He's joining us now over at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
No matter how many times you see that clip, it is really, really amazing when you think about it. It's hard to believe, John, that it's only 40 years already. My, time has gone by pretty quickly.
First of all, tell us exactly where you are on this historic day.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm at the Apollo Saturn V Center -- Apollo Saturn V Center, which is out at the Kennedy Space Center. And behind me there is an actual Saturn V rocket.
It was one of the three Saturn Vs that were built but never flew after they ended the Apollo program with Apollo 17. They had made three more of these massive rockets but never flew.
So, there's one here, there is one in Alabama, and one at the Johnson Space Center -- Wolf.
BLITZER: How are they commemorating this historic moment? And obviously, it's looking forward to Monday, the actual 40th anniversary of man landing on the moon and walking on the moon.
ZARRELLA: You know, they had a huge ceremony here this morning right here in this room, underneath this Saturn V rocket. They had about 500 guests and they had eight astronauts.
And I was very fortunate to be able to host the panel discussion with those eight Apollo astronauts. Among them, Buzz Aldrin was here. Al Worden of Apollo 15, command module pilot was here. Charlie Duke, Apollo 16, who walked on the moon. Edgar Mitchell from Apollo 14 walked on the moon.
We had Walt Cunningham here, Apollo 7. They were the ones that tested out the lunar module. Didn't go to the moon, but orbited 163 times around the Earth.
And, you know, during that panel discussion, I asked Buzz -- I said, "So, tell me, Buzz, what was it like in those final moments as you and Neil Armstrong were descending to the surface of the moon?"
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUZZ ALDRIN, APOLLO 11 ASTRONAUT: There was a time when the low- level light came on and we were still a hundred feet off the ground, and Charlie says, "Sixty seconds." I was beginning to wonder.
But I didn't want to disturb the guy to my left, because he was concentrating on what he was doing. All I could do is give him the numbers. But when 30 seconds came, we were descending to 10 feet. And, yes, we had it made by that time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZARRELLA: Of course the guy to his left he was talking about is Neil Armstrong. And the "Charlie" he was talking about was Charlie Duke, who was capsule communicator back in Houston, CAPCOM, who famously said, "You know, you had a bunch of guys turning blue down here waiting to hear the word that the eagle had landed."
BLITZER: Hard to believe. There was a lot of nervousness going on, understandably so.
John Zarrella, thanks very much.
A Web site, by the way, from the JFK Presidential Library is recreating every minute of the Apollo 11 mission online, launched this morning, literally.
Let's bring in Abbi Tatton. She's watching this.
All right. So, what's happening right now?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, right now, if it was 40 years ago, at this very moment, Apollo 11 would have been almost 30,000 nautical miles away from the Earth heading towards the moon. And this is all being recreated on the Web site WeChooseTheMoon.org.
Seven hours into the journey right now. The launch time this morning was 9:32a.m., and this is what it looked like on this Web site from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
These animations are going to be going on for the next four days of the Apollo 11 mission, 40 years on, being recreated. You can follow along all weekend. Even the transmissions that were being sent out from Apollo 11 are going to be resent out every minute or two via Twitter.
Take a look at some of the archival footage they've got there, as well.
All the people who were crowded around, a million people headed to see this event happened. If you move across here to this other video, you'll be taken inside Apollo 11 as well.
These are some of the chores that the astronauts were doing. That's astronaut Michael Collins having a shave.
Eleven key moments from this mission are going to be recreated over the weekend. Some of the key ones that happened just a couple of hours ago, the command module breaking away, performing a maneuver before joining back.
Wolf, all of this going through Monday, where it turns into an archive.
BLITZER: Now, precisely at the minute on Monday, the 40th anniversary of man landing on the moon, what's going to happen?
TATTON: It's all going to be recreated right there, and it happens at 4:15 p.m. You're going to see one of the key moments when they're looking for the place to land. 4:17 p.m., that's going to be the actual moon landing. I know we're going to be doing a lot here.
BLITZER: We certainly are, 4:17 p.m. Eastern on Monday, the 40th anniversary to the minute of man landing on the moon.
Abbi, thanks very much.
It was called one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. Monday, as we've been pointing out, will be the 40th anniversary of the landing of the first man on the moon. On that day, this coming Monday, we're going to have a very special hour of THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're going to look back at that historic day and talk to experts about how it changed the world. All that, it will be right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, 4:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday.
There are more twists involving a shocking double murder of that Florida couple, a mother and father of children with special needs. We're standing by to talk to the sheriff leading the investigation.
And a woman on the moon. The female pilot who made history flying around the president is taking a hard turn in another direction.
BLITZER: He's been imprisoned, arrested for having crack cocaine, convicted of tax evasion. Now the latest scandal cloud over Washington politician Marion Barry, giving his former girlfriend a big-city contract because she was losing her car and home. Wait until you here his feisty defense of what he did.
And Al Franken. The funny-man-turned-senator turns into a job interviewer for a Supreme Court nominee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I'd like to ask a much more general question and one that I think is a really good question in job interviews. And that is, why do you want to be a Supreme Court Justice?
BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: ugly infighting among members of a group of young Republicans sparked with some racially charged writings on the Web site of the group's leader. This comes as the GOP is trying to reach out to minorities.
The party chairman, Michael Steele, he is our guest. He will be joining us live. And thousands of people may have been exposed to hepatitis C by a medical center technician in Denver. The technician is accused of stealing syringes filled with a powerful narcotic for her personal use, and then replacing them with used syringes. We are going to give you all the shocking details.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But, first, we want get to -- back to our top story, the confirmation hearings today of Sonia Sotomayor to become an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.
One of her big supporters has testified in -- on her behalf, and he is joining us now, the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg.
Thanks very much, Mayor, for coming in.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Wolf, thanks for having me.
BLITZER: All right, lots of criticism from -- from the right especially for some of her more controversial statements, like the "wise Latina" comments and others, but you believe she would be an excellent Supreme Court justice.
Make the case, briefly, for her.
BLOOMBERG: Well, what you want in a justice is somebody that listens, somebody that's smart, somebody that the lawyers have a chance of convincing, somebody who understands the broad context of what civil rights mean and the temper of the times.
And I think this woman has the intellectual content. She has the drive. And her decisions, some of which I have disagreed with -- sometimes, she's ruled against New York City, and I really disagreed with her on those cases.
But we don't know what things this justice is going to have to confront in the next couple of decades while she serves, assuming she gets appointed -- and -- or gets -- gets approved.
And, so, you can't look at any one case and say, well, I agree with her or disagree with her on that. The question is, is she -- does she have the intellectual capacity to really look at the facts, understand the law?
And, sometimes, Wolf, you and I may disagree with what -- the results, but the judge's job is to look at the law and see what the law says. If we want to -- don't like the law, you go back to the legislature and say, change the law. Sometimes, I think we ask these judges the wrong kind of questions.
BLITZER: Here's what Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, a very thoughtful senator, at one point at the end of his questioning earlier, he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You have said some things that just bug the hell out of me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, he was pretty blunt about that, but he did go on to praise her. And he left open the possibility he might actually vote to confirm her.
BLOOMBERG: Well, Lindsey Graham is a very smart guy.
And, you know, he's going to have different views as to how he would like cases to turn out than you and I or -- or, in fact, the judges themselves. But it shouldn't be what we want to have happen. It's got to be what the law says. And, if we don't like what the law says, go back to the legislature.
This is a woman who really does deserve to be a Supreme Court judge. And I think we should not forget that the founding fathers said nine judges. Why? Because they wanted a diverse group of views, so that the judges can work together and craft a decision, an interpretation of what the law means, but coming at it from many different points of view.
And this woman has lots of experience. If you take a look at her academic record, it's very impressive. She's worked very hard. And, in fact, she has been upheld by -- 90 percent of the time by the Republican-appointed judges in New York who have reviewed her cases.
And I think that says a lot for crossing party lines, and really not having an ideology, but looking at the law and doing what a judge is supposed to do.
BLITZER: You obviously like her a lot and make a strong case for her. It looks like she's not going to have any trouble getting confirmed.
Let -- let me pick your brain on a couple other subjects while I have you, Mayor, this proposal in the House of Representatives to dramatically increase the tax rates for the wealthiest Americans to help pay for health reform, health insurance for a lot of other Americans.
"The New York Post" had a headline on the front page, "Sick Joke: New York's Risk-Takers Would Pay 57 Percent Tax Under Obama Care."
Is this a good idea, to increase the tax rates for those Americans making more than $250,000 or $300,000 a year, in order to pay for health care for everyone else?
BLOOMBERG: Well, number one, that's the House version. And the Senate version really is very different.
I think what we really have to do here, however, is step back and say, why do we pay $2,000 or $3,000 more per capita for health care than they do in Western Europe, and Western Europe's life expectancy is two or three years greater than we have?
What we need is tort reform. We need to have people understand we just cannot afford every single test every time for everybody. And we're going to have to make some very hard decisions, how many hospitals we have, where they're located, who gets paid what.
We don't focus in this country on preventive care. And, if we did, we would have a lot fewer people going to hospitals or going to doctors and needing emergency care.
What you want to do is pay attention to how you can, for example, improve your own personal health, watching your weight, and not smoking, and eating intelligently. Those are the kinds of things -- and I think that's one of the things that gets lost in all of this business of trying to be to decide who's going to come up with more money.
Throwing more money every time at the problem is not necessarily the right solution. And where that money comes from, that's something that I think will take a long time to be worked out between the House and the Senate. This is just the start of the process.
BLITZER: And, so, don't forget exercise. That's very important, as well.
BLOOMBERG: Exercise is very important.
BLITZER: Let me just try to pin you down, though. So, do you oppose a tax increase to pay for health care?
BLOOMBERG: Well, I -- somebody's going to have to pay, or we're going to have to have fewer services. And that could be -- taxes is one possibility, and then the question is on whom.
Another thing is, you can have businesses be required to provide services. Or you can have, as the case in New York City, if you don't have health care, and you need emergency care, you come to one of our 11 public hospitals, which keep getting rated right at the top for quality, and the city will provide emergency services.
That, in the end, is all New York City taxpayers paying to take care of the people in New York City who don't have their own health care plan, either because they're not working or they work for a company that's not providing it.
BLITZER: Mayor, thanks very much for coming in.
BLOOMBERG: You're welcome, Wolf. Nice to see you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And, as we reported, Sonia Sotomayor faced her last questions from senators, among them, the newest senator. That would be Al Franken, the former funny man turned legislator. And he managed to mix up his questions with a little bit of comedy.
Let's bring in our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin. She's been tracking Al Franken for the past few days.
How did it go today?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's been fun to track, Wolf. This is the role of a lifetime for the comedian turned inquisitor, Al Franken.
YELLIN (voice-over): The Senate's newest star seems comfortable in front of the cameras, but less at ease with congressional procedure. Here, Senator Al Franken looks to his committee chairman to approve a request.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I would ask that it be entered into the record. So, can I enter it into the record? OK. Thank you.
YELLIN: Franken's national debut seems to be amusing his old peers on the comedy circuit...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": I just kept expecting him to go, "Live from New York."
STEWART: You know what I mean?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: ... and his new peers in the Senate, here earning chuckles after switching seats with Committee Chairman Leahy. Franken also hit some serious notes, reading from a pocket Constitution.
FRANKEN: Section one, the right of citizens of the United States to vote.
YELLIN: Asking Judge Sotomayor about the Voting Rights Act, whether Internet access should be protected, and for the definition of an activist judge. He even went where the administration did not want Democrats to go, pressing the judge on abortion rights.
He argued that abortion rights don't have to be written into the Constitution to be protected.
FRANKEN: Are the words birth control in the constitution?
JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: No, sir.
FRANKEN: Are the words privacy in the Constitution -- or the word?
SOTOMAYOR: The word privacy is not.
YELLIN: But the watercooler moment of the hearing came when Senator Franken asked the judge, who had revealed that she's a lifelong fan of the TV show "Perry Mason," to name one case Perry Mason lost. She couldn't.
FRANKEN: And -- and you don't remember that case?
SOTOMAYOR: I know that I should remember the name of it, but I haven't looked at the episodes. I...
FRANKEN: Didn't the White House prepare you for...
FRANKEN: ... for that?
YELLIN: Now, Franken says that he was pleased with Judge Sotomayor's answers, and he does plan to vote to confirm her.
And, Wolf, we did our due diligence. We checked. And, according to "The Perry Mason TV Show Book," which does appear to be comprehensive, Perry Mason in fact lost three cases. Did you know that? Three.
BLITZER: Yes, I did.
YELLIN: Oh, you did?
BLITZER: I -- of course. Doesn't everybody?
BLITZER: Doesn't everybody know that?
YELLIN: In one of the cases, despite a guilty verdict, the guy got off because of a plot twist.
BLITZER: The case -- was that "The Case of the Witless Witness"?
YELLIN: No, "The Terrified Typist."
BLITZER: "The Terrified Typist." I love the alliteration.
BLITZER: Al Franken, he's a very smart guy. You know, he went to Harvard.
YELLIN: I have heard that.
BLITZER: You went to Harvard, too.
YELLIN: No comment.
BLITZER: Many years after he went to Harvard.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much -- Jessica Yellin reporting.
Authorities say they have found some valuable in murder of a Florida couple that adopted lots of children with special needs. The sheriff is standing by to tell us what he has been learning.
And it may be the most famous hotel and apartment complex in political history, and it may soon be going, going, gone.
BLITZER: Marion Barry was the four-time mayor of Washington, D.C., but he's been -- he's seen some drug and alcohol abuse, also a jail term for possessing crack cocaine. Now he's a city councilman under investigation by the city council for giving his former girlfriend a $60,000 city contract.
His spokesman says she was about to lose her home and car. And, in a twist, police recently arrested him for allegedly stalking her. That charge, though, was dropped.
In an interview with CNN's Carol Costello, Marion Barry was defiant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's go back -- let's go back to your girlfriend...
MARION BARRY (D), WASHINGTON, D.C., COUNCILMAN: Wait a minute.
COSTELLO: ... and -- and how she was paid.
COSTELLO: Because you have a discretionary fund as a councilman, correct?
BARRY: No, we don't. We don't -- we don't -- we don't have a discretionary a...
COSTELLO: How was she being paid? Where did the money come from to pay her?
BARRY: Yes. What happens is, each of us has a budget.
BARRY: And you can put personal services contracts on -- hire people part-time.
She has done a wonderful job. I have a 30-page document which indicates that she was highly qualified. She has a bachelor's degree and working on a master's degree, has done extensive research and writing.
And, so, I -- what I resent is that people would not look at the fact that there's no law against this. City officials have said that. The mayor has said this. The city council
COSTELLO: But, Councilman...
BARRY: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a second.
COSTELLO: ...there may be no law against it, but do you understand why some people might be a little upset about your hiring your girlfriend at a time so many people need a job?
BARRY: Well, that didn't happen just until last September.
But I had to obey the law. Now, those people who are raising questions about it are detractors of mine. They're enemies of mine, political enemies of mine, people who -- who never supported me for anything.
My constituency understands this situation. I got 94 percent of the vote last November, which means that I have done something, 16 years as mayor, means that I have done a wonderful job of uplifting Washington, D.C., giving jobs to young people, to adults, taking care of seniors, making African-American middle-class people even more comfortable.
That's what I have done. Come to Washington, which you have done.
COSTELLO: And a lot -- a lot of your constituents would certainly agree with that.
BARRY: Yes. Yes. That's right.
COSTELLO: There's an HBO special coming out about you.
BARRY: That's right. Right.
COSTELLO: And it starts with that incident that so many people, unfortunately, know you for.
BARRY: It does not -- it does not start there.
COSTELLO: Well, the promo does. And -- and I'm going to show it to you right now.
COSTELLO: So, let's pause for a moment and watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, HBO)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You have the right to remain silent.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (INAUDIBLE) set me up like this. Set me up. Ain't that a bitch?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I live in the third district, see? Dig it? I work in the third district, dig it. For people out there, live out. They deserve the right to be here. They go come in here as long as I'm in here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: So, this HBO special shows -- still shows the worst of times for you and also the best of times.
BARRY: No, it does not either. It does not.
COSTELLO: But it shows a lot of the best of times for you. And you have...
BARRY: Have you seen it? Have you seen it?
COSTELLO: I have not seen it in its entirety. It's not out yet.
BARRY: All right.
Well, it is -- it is 78 minutes long.
BARRY: And that scene you just showed is about a minute-and-a- half of it. There's 78 minutes. It's a balanced approach. It took four or five years to get it together. It centers on my '04 election.
And, so, I would hope that you all, who make these allegations and -- and things about trouble and et cetera -- and you have been a fair person -- I watch you most mornings -- and not do that, not take the little snippets out of things. There's 78 -- my life has been balanced.
If you look at the good that I have done...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Marion Barry speaking with our Carol Costello earlier today.
We're going to talk a little bit about this in our "Strategy Session."
Also, the nation's first African-American president will be speaking to the oldest civil rights organization later tonight. We will discuss that, President Obama giving a speech to the NAACP. Will he speak mostly in positive terms, or will he practice some so-called tough love?
BLITZER: You just heard Carol Costello's interview with Marion Barry, the former mayor of Washington, D.C., now on the city council.
Let's talk a little bit about that and President Obama's upcoming speech later tonight before the NAACP in our "Strategy Session," the Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Donna Brazile, and the Republican strategist John Feehery.
There's no doubt that Marion Barry, in fairness to him, he's done some good things for the nation's capital over these many decades, but he's also gotten himself into deep trouble.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: These allegations, if they are true, Wolf, should throw Marion Barry off the city council.
And I say this as somebody who, over the years, have -- have given Marion Barry a lot of advice. He's -- he's been a friend and somebody I admire for his work in the civil rights movement.
But, when you start paying your personal friends D.C. taxpayers' money for personal favors, the city council should investigate, the inspector general. And, if he did something wrong, he should be thrown off the council.
BLITZER: Well, let's let -- let the investigation go forward.
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, yes.
In the broader context, Marion Barry does represent the politics of the past. He's kind of the old-time civil rights leader who has kind of overstayed his welcome. On the city council, there's a lot of corruption.
When I was living on the Hill in the early '90s, I had to move off, because it was so bad. But there are so -- new political leaders out there who are much more unifiers. And I think Barack Obama is one of them.
And I think that -- that for the politics as a whole, it's better off if Marion Barry kind of exits the stage, exactly what Donna Brazile said. BRAZILE: But the D.C. -- the D.C. Council should investigate all of these contracts, these personal contracts.
They also investigate these earmarks, because this -- this investigation is going to demonstrate that it's not just Marion Barry who might be using taxpayers' money for personal use, but maybe others. So, I don't think -- I don't know if he's done anything wrong. All I'm saying is that it doesn't look good.
BLITZER: D.C. does have a popular mayor right now, Adrian Fenty, who seems to be the new generation, shall we say, of -- of activist leader.
Cory Booker, Adrian Fenty, there are so many African-American politicians who are -- can appeal to a wider audience. And I think that those -- that's the future of the country.
BLITZER: How far, Donna, should the president go tonight be -- before the NAACP in offering some tough love?
BRAZILE: Well, first of all, this is a night of celebration, 100 years of progress in trying to make this a more perfect union.
So, I think the president should, first of all, highlight the fact that it took courage to form this organization, 100 years, to talk about the road that they have -- have given us all toward equality, and then talk about individual responsibilities, get into the -- the whole topic of health care, education, and, of course, job creation. That's what his administration is all about.
BLITZER: This is an important speech for the president tonight.
FEEHERY: Well, in putting my political hat on, he also has to manage explanations.
One of the things he has got to explain is why his stimulus package is not creating jobs. And jobs are impacting -- the jobless recovery is really impacting the African-American community the hardest. They're...
BLITZER: Unemployment among African-Americans is the highest among any group in the country.
BRAZILE: You don't have to tell me, Wolf, because I know just based on my own personal experience in dealing with family members and people in my community every day losing their jobs.
We saw this week in New York, where unemployment among African- Americans is just so high right now. So, I think the president is going to give a little bit of tough love, but also a little bit of celebration for the successes of this great organization.
FEEHERY: But also managing the expectations, because I think -- I think the -- the expectations for a lot of liberals and a lot in the African-American community was that he was going to take care of all the problems.
And I think that's got to be part of his message that he's got to give, which is, you know, we all have to work together. We all have to take, as Donna said, individual responsibility. And then he's got to manage those expectations, because I don't think that the jobs are going to come back as quickly as...
FEEHERY: ... people thought.
BLITZER: Is this the first speech he's given -- is giving tonight before a predominantly African-American group in the country since be...
BLITZER: ... since becoming president?
BRAZILE: I don't recall him speaking before such a large audience. And this is a very historic moment for the NAACP.
But I want to say something. He's not just speaking to the NAACP and speaking to black people. He's speaking to the country, because he's the president of the United States of America. And, so, when he speaks, he is going to talk about these issues, not just in light of what's going on with the black community...
FEEHERY: Well -- well...
BRAZILE: ... but what is going on with America.
FEEHERY: And I agree with that.
And I think that he can send the same message to a bigger group about managing expectations on the jobs, because jobs are not coming back. And that's a real problem for the president.
BLITZER: You know, Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican Party, the first African-American to lead the RNC, he spoke before the group as well.
Is there any hope for Republicans that they could do better in attracting African-American support?
FEEHERY: Well, they have got to -- they have got to try. They have got to go and they have got -- one of the biggest problems, the biggest mistake that George Bush made was not going to the NAACP. And...
BLITZER: He waited six years.
FEEHERY: And that was way too long.
He's got to go -- you have got to go and try. You have got to ask for the votes. And you have got to offer a program that is compelling to every community. But if you -- you have got to ask for votes, if you're going to get them.
BRAZILE: The NAACP is a nonpartisan organization, so I -- I would hope every president would address an organization of this -- this importance.
BLITZER: What, you think he, the president of the United States, President Obama, should do it every year?
BRAZILE: I -- if -- if -- if time permits -- if not, the vice president. I'm sure Joe Biden, with a 100 percent NAACP voting record over the lifetime of his career in the Senate, he would also be a good stand-in.
BLITZER: Joe Biden? Well, he likes to speak, right?
FEEHERY: He's a good speaker.
FEEHERY: He speaks a lot. Let's put it that way.
But I do think that, to answer your question, yes, we can get African-American votes. But we have got to try harder. And if we have -- come up with a program, we will get them.
BLITZER: We will leave it on that note.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
FEEHERY: Thank you, Wolf.
A stolen safe and guns found in connection with the murder that shocked Florida, indeed, much of the nation. The sheriff is standing by to help us put the pieces together in that killing of a couple with a brood of adopted kids.
And hundreds of surgery patients now possibly at risk of getting a dangerous virus, the spreading fear about hepatitis C, and the woman who authorities say started it all.
And she was the oldest woman in the world to give birth. What happens to her young children, now that she's died?
BLITZER: Here's a look at some "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.
In Pakistan, displaced children from the Swat Valley gather at a refugee relief camp.
In China, security forces line up as they try to contain Uighur protests. In Turkmenistan, the president digs a breach for the opening of the manmade Golden Lake.
And, in London -- look at this -- a 70-year-old turtle named Dirk eats an apple alongside 14-year-old Dolores -- some of this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures worth 1,000 words.
On our "Political Ticker" today: President Obama on the campaign trail this hour for the New Jersey governor, Jon Corzine, the first rally the president has attended for a fellow Democrat since his January 20 inauguration. And it's a high-profile bid to rescue Corzine's ailing reelection bid. A new poll out today shows Corzine is trailing Republican challenger Chris Christie by 8 percentage points among likely voters in the state of New Jersey.
An early, very early, measure of Mitt Romney's possible support in the 2012 Republican presidential contest -- the former Massachusetts governor's political action committee says it raised $1.6 million during the first half of this year. That's more than double the cash raised by Sarah Palin's PAC during the same period.
Two familiar faces are making a comeback in the battle over health care reform, but they're on a different side than they used to be. Many of you remember those "Harry and Louise" ads that helped kill the Clintons' efforts to overhaul the medical system back in the early 1990s. Now Harry and Louise are starring in a $4 million TV campaign supporting health care reform.
The spots begin airing this weekend on national cable and network news shows.
And it's the hotel made famous in one of the most scandalous episodes in U.S. political history. We're talking about the Watergate. The landmark hotel is expected to be auctioned off next week. An auction group says it's -- it will take bids starting on Tuesday. Of course, the Watergate complex played prominently in the 1972 burglary that eventually led to President Richard Nixon's resignation.
And, remember, for all the latest political news any time, you can always check out CNNPolitics.com.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.