CBSN

Morning Bulletin: Thursday, May 28, 2009

A roundup of news, schedules, and key stories from CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Obama returns from his western campaign-style trip which not only included fund-raisers but sales pitches for climate change, his economic recovery plan and - the week's big news - Sonia Sotomayor, his choice for the Supreme Court.

In Washington, however, the right and the left ratcheted up their grumbling over Sotomayor as Senate Republicans stayed their course and honored their leaders' wishes not to "pre-judge" or "pre-confirm" Sotomayor.

Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich raised the volume on conservative opposition with Gingrich going as far as suggesting Sotomayor is "racist" and should withdraw because of this comment she made in 2001: "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."

On the left, as CBS News Supreme Court correspondent Wyatt Andrews pointed out last night, pro-abortion rights groups are getting nervous about Sotomayor since she's not on the record anywhere regarding Roe v. Wade.

"Pro-abortion rights groups worried aloud ... that the President who promised an abortion rights nominee never asked Sotomayor - who is Catholic - where she stands," Andrews reported on the CBS Evening News last night. "We simply don't know Judge Sotomayor's view on the bedrock constitutional case of Roe vs. Wade," the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Nancy Northup, told Andrews.

Andrews added, "[T]he judge is widely presumed to favor abortion rights. But in 2002, she allowed the Bush Administration to block federal funds for abortions overseas. 'The government,' she wrote, 'is free to favor the anti-abortion position.'"

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
The Los Angeles Times' David G. Savage and Peter Nicholas report today, "Northup said she would be surprised if Obama, who as a candidate spoke in favor of abortion rights, selected a justice who did not feel the same way. 'But other presidents have been surprised before,' she said, pointing to Justice David H. Souter. Souter, whom Sotomayor would replace on the court, was nominated in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush.

"Although Souter had a limited judicial record, Republicans at the time said they were confident that he was a conservative and an opponent of Roe. In 1992, however, Souter upheld a woman's right to abortion in a 5-4 ruling -- an ideological split over the issue that remains on today's court. The White House added to the concerns of abortion rights advocates, saying that the president did not discuss the issue with Sotomayor before her nomination. 'The president doesn't have a litmus test, and that question was not one that he posed to her,' Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said."

The New York Times' Charlie Savage looks at the abortion-related cases Sotomayor has been involved with.

Regarding the GOP, The Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook writes, "Acknowledging that it will be difficult to defeat the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, Republicans in the Senate and beyond Capitol Hill are looking for other strategies to gain political yardage in the debate over President Obama's pick.

"They are spotlighting her decisions on wedge issues such as gun rights that could put pressure on Democrats from conservative states. And they are preparing for confirmation hearings that they hope will spotlight major differences between the political parties' legal philosophies. With Democrats controlling a commanding 59 seats in the 100-member Senate, about all the GOP could do to block the nomination would be to mount a filibuster, although the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee has downplayed that possibility."

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Gingrich, for his part, wrote on his blog yesterday, "Imagine a judicial nominee said 'my experience as a white man makes me better than a Latina woman.' Wouldn't they have to withdraw? New racism is no better than old racism. A white man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw."

Meantime, "The battle is on between conservative and liberal interest groups to define little-known federal judge Sonia Sotomayor before senators — away from the capital on a weeklong break — return to weigh in on the fate of the woman who would be the Supreme Court's first Hispanic," writes the Associated Press' Julie Hirschfeld Davis.

"Republican senators are speaking in cautious but measured tones about Sotomayor's qualifications and fitness for the court while Democrats join the White House in singing her praises. But the outside organizations that have a major stake in a high-court fight are taking up warring positions. Conservative groups brand her an activist who would impose her own views and ethnic and gender biases on her interpretation of the law and the Constitution. 'Equal justice under law — or under attack?' a Web ad by the conservative group Judicial Confirmation Network asks. 'America deserves better' than Sotomayor, it concludes.

"Liberal groups hit back with their own campaign to paint Sotomayor as an experienced and fair judge whose background gives her a better understanding of how the court affects real people and their lives. 'Principled. Fair-minded. Independent,' asserts a TV spot by the liberal Center for Constitutional Values."

"Sotomayor stayed out of public view yesterday but began contacting Democratic and Republican members of the Senate leadership and the Judiciary Committee, which will be the first to decide her fate," reports the Washington Post's Robert Barnes.

"While Sotomayor works through her list of introductions, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking Republican Jeff Sessions (Ala.) must negotiate a hearing schedule that aims to give Republicans the ample time they are seeking to review the nominee's extensive legal record while meeting Obama's Aug. 7 target for confirmation. At the moment, Democratic officials who are participating in the process view the week of July 13 as the earliest date that hearings could start, with the nomination heading to the Senate floor about two weeks later."

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
PRESIDENT'S FUND-RAISING: "President Barack Obama defended his Supreme Court pick and painted an upbeat vision of the economy Wednesday as he addressed major donors to the Democratic Party in Beverly Hills," reports the Associated Press' Charles Babington.

"'It's safe to say we have stepped back from the brink, that there is some calm that didn't exist before,' Obama told donors and celebrities at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. He said the stimulus bill that Congress passed three months ago is starting to improve the economy. He also addressed critics of his choice of federal judge Sonia Sotomayor for the nation's highest court.

"Sotomayor has stirred some controversy by saying her experiences as a Latina from a struggling, immigrant family make her more sensitive to certain cases than more privileged people might be. 'A lot has been made about the Supreme Court and my criteria,' Obama said in a 20-minute speech to 250 of the night's biggest donors. 'I want people who have a common touch, who have a sense of what it's like to struggle.' ...

"The president mixed optimism with caution as he thanked those who backed his campaign. He acknowledged that his young administration has had "some fits and starts."

"I've made some mistakes, and I guarantee you I will make some more," he said. But Obama said his November campaign victory and his administration's start has convinced many Americans they don't need to feel cynical about their government or society. There is now a sense 'that maybe that kind of idealism is fashionable after all,' he said. Tickets to Wednesday night's two-tiered event ranged from $1,000 to $15,200. The lower prices bought access to a ballroom where Obama made a second, much shorter speech. The bigger donors attended a dinner, where Obama spoke first, hosted by movie and music executives Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. Aides said the Democratic National Committee will net more than $3 million from the night's events, even though some ticket prices were slashed to $1,000 from $2,500 when initial sales were slow."

Spotted last night by CBS News producer Jeff Goldman: actors Kiefer Sutherland, Melanie Griffith, Antonio Banderas and Holly Robinson Peete.

Also in attendance, the newest Democratic senator Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.

TODAY'S SCHEDULE: The president returns from California and will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at 4pm.

(AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
"President Barack Obama will hear a direct appeal to ratchet up pressure on Israel to freeze settlements when he meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday as part of Washington's drive to revive peacemaking," reports Reuters' Matt Spetalnick.

"Wading into Middle East diplomacy early in his presidency, Obama will hold talks with Abbas 10 days after hosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, where they remained at odds over Jewish settlement expansion. Abbas will make his case for a tougher U.S. approach toward Netanyahu, who has not only rebuffed Obama's calls for a moratorium on settlement building in the occupied West Bank but has also balked at endorsing eventual Palestinian statehood. But it remains unclear how hard Obama is willing to push Israel, a close U.S. ally, to make concessions when his administration has yet to complete its Middle East strategy. Obama, who has reaffirmed U.S. support for a two-state solution, sees engagement in Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking as crucial to repairing America's image in the Muslim world and drawing moderate Arab states into a united front against Iran. In Thursday's talks, Obama's objective will be to shore up Abbas, a moderate backed by the West but politically weak with rival Hamas Islamists controlling the Gaza Strip."

SOTOMAYOR

NY Times' Peter Baker and Adam Nagourney, "Sotomayor Pick a Product of Lessons From Past Battles"

Washington Post's Alec MacGillis, "Rigorous Questioning Hasn't Fazed Nominee"

Wall Street Journal's Karl Rove, "'Empathy' Is Code for Judicial Activism"

BAILOUTS

Wall Street Journal's Damian Paletta, "Single-Regulator Plan for Banks Now Close"

Washington Post's Zachary A. Goldfarb, "Questions Delay Sale Of Toxic Bank Assets"

Detroit News' Robert Snell and David Shepardson, "GM bankruptcy closer as bondholders balk"

NY Times' Bill Vlasic, "Chrysler Cures a Bankruptcy, but Tests Loom"

HEALTH CARE

NY Times' Robert Pear, "Massachusetts, Model for Universal Health Care, Sees Ups and Downs in Policy"

CBSNews.com's Stephanie Condon, "Conservative Groups Mobilize Against Health Care Reform"

Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., op-ed in the Boston Globe, "Health bill would fix what's broken"

Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., op-ed in the Concord Monitor, "We have a better solution to health care"

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

Washington Post's Carrie Johnson, "Review of Government Secrecy Ordered"

Associated Press' Philip Elliott, "Obama nominates top diplomats to London, New Delhi"

FUTURE RACES

2009 NJ Governor: Newark Star-Ledger, "Mitt Romney to endorse N.J. gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie today"

2010 AK Governor: CQ Politics, "This Democrat Is Itching To Run Against Sarah Palin"

2010 CA Governor: Associated Press' Michael R. Blood, "McCain to back Meg Whitman in 2010 race"

2010 NY Governor: NY1, "Gillibrand Says Cuomo Won't Run for Governor"

2010 IL Senate: Chicago Tribune's Ashley Rueff, Rick Pearson and Jeff Coen, "Fundraising discussion was a ruse, Burris says"

2010 NV Senate: Las Vegas Sun's David McGrath Schwartz, "Sen. Amodei's actions may foreshadow run at Reid"

2010 PA Senate: Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler, "Sestak: Pending Blessing From My Family, I Intend To Run"

2010 PA Senate: Quinnipiac University Poll, "Specter Tops Toomey By 9 Pts. In Pennsylvania Senate Race ... New Democratic Senator Has Big Primary Lead"

ETC.

NY Times' Peter Baker, "It's Not About Bill"

  • Steve Chaggaris

    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.