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Obama, McCain Reach Out to Latino Voters; Obamas Go Hollywood; Outrage Over Lavish G8 Meals

Aired July 8, 2008 - 18:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a new U.S. deal on missile defense prompts an ominous threat from Russia. The message, deploy the system and our military will respond.
Plus, an urgent new appeal to Latinos. Barack Obama and John McCain both have problems with this hotly contested group of voters.

And the Obamas go Hollywood. Their star turns on a show that usually dishes on celebrities. Even their young daughters are in on the act.

All that and the best political team on television.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, an angry Russia is threatening the U.S. with incredibly stark words.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This involves something intended to keep all Americans safe, a missile defense system in former Soviet bloc nations. The U.S. wants it, but Russia feels threatened by it.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joining us.

And, obviously, the threat is ramping up here. Barbara, what can you tell us?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, at this hour, nobody is really sure what Russia is talking about.

Earlier today, U.S. and Czech officials in Prague signed the first stage of that European missile defense shield. It will have the U.S. putting a tracking radar in the Czech Republic, signed on the U.S. side by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

That agreement has made the Russians very nervous. They are very upset about the agreement. They feel it is a threat to them. And, so, there was this very ominous statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry, in which they said -- quote -- "If this all goes through, we will have to respond using not diplomatic, but military-technological methods" -- ominous words. No one at this hour can say what the Russians are really talking about and what this threat may really mean for the U.S. -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, Barbara, how is the Pentagon responding to this?

STARR: Well, what the Pentagon and the State Department are both saying is, once again, trying to reassure Moscow, this is not about them, that it will not harm Russia, that the program is open, transparent, the Russians can look at whatever they want to look at, that this missile defense shield is all about the Middle East and the threat of missile launches from Iran -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Barbara, thanks for the latest developments.

In the presidential race, Barack Obama and John McCain reaching out to Latinos in separate remarks to a leading Hispanic group today. Now, both touted their support for comprehensive immigration reform. And it's an issue that is sensitive for McCain and divisive within his party.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Many Americans, with good cause, didn't believe us when we said we would secure our borders, so we failed in our efforts.

We must prove to them that we can and will secure our borders first, while respecting the dignity and rights of citizens and legal residents of the United States of America.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When there are 12 million people in hiding in this country, hundreds of thousands of people crossing our borders illegally each year because they can't make it, they can't support their families, when companies hire undocumented workers to avoid paying overtime or avoid a union, and when we have a government that just engages in symbolic raids, but isn't willing to solve this problem comprehensively, and a nursing mother is torn away from her baby during a raid, that is a problem that all of us, black, white, brown, must solve together as one nation.


MALVEAUX: Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

Bill, obviously, this is a hot contest for the Latino vote. Tell me why.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, because both McCain and Obama have problems with Latino voters. And both sense an opportunity there.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): First, NALEO. Now, LULAC. Next, La Raza.

Those are prominent Latino political organizations. Both John McCain and Barack Obama are speaking to all three. That's clout. How did Latino voters get so much clout? Latinos are 15 percent of the population, but they were only eight percent of the voters in 2004. Nearly half the nation's Latinos live in California or Texas, but neither is a battleground state.

Four battleground states do have large Latino communities: Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. But in exit polls going back to 1972, Latino voters have never voted Republican for president. Republican candidates have averaged only about a third of the Latino vote.

So, why are Latino voters so hotly contested this time? Because both candidates have problems with Latinos.

In the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton beat Obama nearly 2- 1. In the general election right now, Obama is beating McCain by 2-1. So, both candidates sense an opportunity with Latino voters.


SCHNEIDER: (AUDIO GAP) candidates are using their own personal stories to make a pitch to those Latino voters.

Obama talks about his father's origins in Africa and declares -- quote -- "America has nothing to fear from our newcomers."

McCain recounted the story of a fellow prisoner of war who was of Mexican descent and noted that many Latinos now serve in Iraq and Afghanistan who are not yet U.S. citizens -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Bill, thank you.

Check out the Latino vote by the numbers. In the last three presidential elections, Bill Clinton got 72 percent of the Hispanic vote in 1996, a bigger piece of Latino support than any Democrat over the past 20 years.

In 2000, Al Gore didn't do quite as well with Latinos, getting about 62 percent support. George W. Bush made some inroads for Republicans, pulling in 35 percent of the Hispanic vote. And Mr. Bush upped that percentage to 44 percent in 2004, leaving John Kerry with 53 percent of the Latino vote.

Let's go now to Kate Bolduan on Capitol Hill. There is a showdown over oil between Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Bush.

So, what is going on, Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, let me give you a little bit of background, because this involves the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that we have talked about recently.

Back two months ago, Congress voted to halt shipments to this reserve. This is an emergency stockpile that the country has. It was created back in the '70s. Well, Nancy Pelosi, House speaker, is taking it one step further, sending a letter to the president, calling on him to use his authority to start not only halting shipments, but start releasing some of that oil to make it more available, as she says, in hopes of reducing record-high gas prices.

No word yet from the White House. But we have already heard from House Republicans here on Capitol Hill, House Leader John Boehner, who says -- he doesn't knock down the Democrats' request, House speaker's request, but he is turning the argument on her, saying that -- calling this an admission that Democrats are admitting that there needs to be more supply.

And he that's why Democrats need to get on board with more domestic production, like drilling.

MALVEAUX: Well, Kate, thank you very much.

We know President Bush has been reluctant to do that in the past. So, we will see how he responds this time.

Jack Cafferty is off today.

Ahead, a woman ignored as she lay dying on a hospital floor. The video was shocking to most people, but to the victim's family, it is simply heartbreaking. You will hear from them ahead.

And these world leaders were discussing the global food crisis. Wait until you hear what was on the menu -- coming up.

And Barack Obama like you have never seen him. For the first time, we hear from his children about the man they call dad.

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


MALVEAUX: Tears, shock and outrage. For the first time, a grieving daughter is seeing how her mother died on the floor of a New York hospital, as people nearby apparently ignored her.

Now the woman's family is taking action.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow in New York.

You have been following the story, Mary. What is the family's plan?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, they intend to sue the city, the hospital where Esmin Green woman died, and the agency that oversees city hospitals. But the family also says they want to send a message, and they're pressing for criminal charges.


SNOW (voice-over): One week after this videotape became public showing Esmin Green's last moments of life, her daughter finally brought herself to look at it. TECIA HARRISON, DAUGHTER OF ESMIN GREEN: I did not saw that video until yesterday morning. And I wish I didn't see it because the image of my mom lying on that floor and dying, oh, God.

SNOW: The video shows Esmin Green falling to the floor as she waited for a bed at a psychiatric unit at a New York City hospital and hospital personnel repeatedly ignoring her.

Green's 34-year-old daughter, Tecia Harrison, lives in Jamaica, and came to the U.S. for the funeral. Harrison and her aunt Brenda James and attorney Sanford Rubenstein announced they plan to file a $25 million lawsuit against the city, Kings County Hospital and the New York Health and Hospitals Corporation. And they say they want to see criminal charges brought against hospital workers who neglected Esmin Green as she lay dying.

BRENDA JAMES, SISTER OF ESMIN GREEN: My sister, she was killed twice, first by those who neglected to offer her the needed health care. Secondly, she was killed by those who tried to cover up this criminal action.

SNOW: Medical records listed Green as being awake, even going to the bathroom at the same time she was seen on the video struggling. Several people are seen ignoring her, including two security guards and a man with a folder.

Seven workers have been fired or suspended pending termination, according to the city's Health and Hospitals corporation. They include doctors, nurses and security guards, not known, whether they are appealing the action against them.

HARRISON: Firing them is not enough. Firing them is not enough for me. It's not enough for my brothers. They don't know. This wonderful woman they took away from us, they don't know. We know. We want them to pay for it.

SNOW: CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin says while a civil case seems like a slam dunk, criminal prosecution will be more difficult, but:

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: If people at the hospital put false information in medical records, prosecutors could use that as evidence of just how willful, reckless and irresponsible their behavior was, perhaps amounting to manslaughter.


SNOW: Now, we asked for reaction from the city's Health and Hospitals Corporation, and released a statement saying -- quote -- "We failed Esmin Green and believe her family deserves fair and just compensation." It says they have referred this case to criminal enforcement and is cooperating with ongoing investigations.

Now, the city's Department of Investigations is looking into Green's death. It says it will turn over its findings to the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office. MALVEAUX: And, Mary, do we know how she actually died?

You know, the medical examiner says it is still investigating. Green's sister says she was told that her sister's heart had failed. But she said she had differing details from two different people, police and doctors,. And she said that is what made her suspicious about the circumstances surrounding Green's death.


Mary, thank you so much, a heartbreaking story. Thank you, Mary.

A cultural collide in suburban Atlanta, where a Pakistani immigrant is accused of killing his daughter because she wanted out of an arranged marriage.

CNN's Brian Todd joins us live.

And, Brian, what is the latest on this very controversial issue?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, a short time ago, this father was charged with murder in the case. That was at a courthouse near Atlanta. He has not entered a plea yet.

Based on what police are telling us, the father may have indeed believed that his daughter was trying to dishonor his family.


TODD (voice-over): According to police, this man kept hearing his daughter scream "Father" while he was killing her with his own hand.

Chaudhry Rashid is charged with first-degree murder in the death over the weekend of his 25-year-old daughter, Sandeela Kanwal. Police say he strangled her to death in their home in Jonesboro, Georgia. Police tell CNN the daughter wanted out of her arranged marriage, and her father told police he could not allow her to pursue a divorce.

TIM OWENS, CLAYTON COUNTY POLICE: Apparently, she and the father had argued over the marriage and the fact that it had been arranged. And at some point during the altercation, he did end up killing his daughter.

TODD: Rashid and his daughter both Pakistani. Police say the arranged marriage took place a short time ago in Pakistan. The daughter's husband lives in Chicago.

Based on what police say, this could be what's known as an honor killing, the murder of a woman often by a family member to punish her for shaming the family. Experts say this could be punishment for things like having affairs, pursuing divorce, or even being raped.

The U.N. estimates the number of women murdered around the world in so-called honor killings may be as high as 5,000 each year, with most of the killings taking place in western and southern Asia and Northern Africa.

AJAY NAIR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Overwhelmingly, women are the target in these cases. And I think the reason for that, unfortunately -- and it's unjustified -- is that women are oftentimes the carriers of the culture, are oftentimes the -- the folks that people look to that carry on the culture from generation to generation. And it's a way for men, in these cases to reaffirm and assert their masculinity.


TODD: How to stop it? The U.N.'s had a program in place for about 20 years to go into regions where honor killings are common and talk to traditional leaders in these communities who define what is right and wrong. These are often religious leaders.

U.N. officials appeal to them and get them to pass along to locals that this practice is unacceptable -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Brian, has this program actually worked?

TODD: A U.N. official believes it has. She estimates that, since the late 1980s, honor killings have been reduced 10 percent to 15 percent, but she does admit this is an underreported problem. Many of these cases go undocumented.

MALVEAUX: All right, Brian Todd -- thank you very much, Brian.

A gaffe that embarrassed the Bush administration overseas.

Plus, they're an all-American company that could be taken over by an overseas group. The makers of Budweiser aren't giving up without a fight. Find out what the beer company is doing to stay American- owned.

The U.S. government is getting tough with Iran, but Iran is getting plenty from America, hundreds of millions of dollars in American products, from cigarettes to vegetable seeds. We sort it out ahead.

And, later, they were discussing the global food crisis, but wait until you hear what these world leaders were eating. Let's just say no one left hungry -- the details ahead.



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An embarrassing gaffe by the Bush administration at the G8 Summit that could have driven a wedge between the president and a staunch ally. Now the White House is apologizing to Italy's prime minister.

CNN's Jennifer Eccleston reports from Rome.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Suzanne, Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, says he's George Bush's best friend in Europe. Imagine his surprise when he read this about himself in the Italian press.

(voice-over): "One of the most controversial leaders in the history of a country known for governmental corruption and vice." At least, that's according to the White House briefing book issued to journalists traveling with President Bush at the G8 Summit in Japan.

The backgrounder called the 71-year-old media mogul turned pro- American politician a dilettante who gained office only through use of his considerable influence on the national media. In fact, the flamboyant billionaire owns several media outlets. Italy's third richest man, he is no stranger to controversy, on trial for more than a dozen charges, like corruption and tax fraud, since entering politics in 1994.

On all of them, he was acquitted or convictions were overturned on appeal. He was reelected to a third term as P.M. in April. After Italian media printed the unflattering commentary from the U.S. briefing book, which one newspaper tepidly called a gaffe, the White House issued a rare apology.

From spokesman Tony Fratto: "The sentiments expressed in the biography do not represent the views of President Bush, the American government or the American people."

The White House said the erroneous flips were copied from an encyclopedia, and said -- quote -- "President Bush holds Prime Minister Berlusconi and the Italian people in the highest regard."

(on camera): For his part, Silvio Berlusconi speaking from Japan said, it's no problem, the bio was taken out of context by the media, and he's not looking for any apology -- Suzanne.


MALVEAUX: Jennifer, thanks.

John McCain's campaign is reaching out to Jewish voters with a new ad featuring Barack Obama and Iran's president. Is it good campaigning, or the politics of fear? Well, you judge for yourself. You will see it just ahead.

Plus, the list is getting shorter and shorter for the number two spot on the candidates' ticket. We will look at who's left.

And Obama and his family like few people have ever seen them. He may be a powerful candidate to most of the country, but wait until you hear what his children think.


MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, the candidates' search for running mates, their short list now getting shorter. We will show you who's in, who's out and how Hillary Clinton factors in.

Also, John McCain's web ads on an Israeli newspaper's Web site, is it a scare tactic or smart move? We will talk about that and more with the best political team on television.

Plus, a very rare sighting, the Obama children on TV. What's behind this family interview?

Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, let's check in on the great vice presidential search. Both Barack Obama and John McCain working behind the scenes on their short lists. And there is new evidence that Obama's list may be getting even shorter.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is here.

And some Democrats are saying, no thanks.


Virginia Senator Jim Webb, a betting pool favorite to be on Obama's short list, took himself out of the running. He says he's staying in the Senate. Add to that swing state Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio, who declared he doesn't want it, and General Wes Clark, who may have ended his chances by criticizing McCain's service. Well, the list of possible V.P.s seems to be narrowing.


YELLIN (voice-over): Barack Obama campaigns as the candidate of change, a Democrat who appeals to Republicans. If he wants a vice president who builds on those strengths, there's red state governors like Kansas's Kathleen Sebelius or Virginia's Tim Kaine, the son of an iron-worker who has blue-collar appeal.

On the other hand, Obama could pick a running mate who brings something he lacks, experience, particularly in national security.

Senate Foreign Relations Chair Joe Biden and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, once U.S. ambassador to the U.N., both check that box.

Then there's the big question mark, Hillary Clinton. There is a downside for Obama if he picks anyone with Washington experience.

AMY WALTER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE HOTLINE": If you are running as a change candidate, as an outsider no politics as usual, picking somebody who has been part of Washington or been part of the system runs right against that message. YELLIN: Turning to McCain, he has built his name as an iconoclast, so there's a strong argument for choosing a Washington outsider. The list of possible governors is long, Florida's Charlie Crist, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, South Carolina's Mark Sanford. All also have youth on their side.

Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty could bring along a purple state. Some consider him a two-fer.

WALTER: He comes from outside Washington. He's a two-term governor. But he also has a relationship with the Evangelical community.

YELLIN: On the other hand, McCain could try to beef up the ticket's credentials on the economy, with one time rival Mitt Romney, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and former Congressman Rob Portman, who was once Bush's once director of the Office of Management and Budget.


YELLIN: And, Suzanne, there is another big decision -- timing. The candidates could announce their pick in the next few weeks, before voters get distracted by the Olympics. And that, arguably, could give the campaign a bounce and sort of cement an image of the ticket. But it also gives the media more time to dig into the V.P. pick's background. And the rule in the V.P. game is first do no harm, so the candidates might decide to play it safe and wait until those conventions -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: I know you'll be digging on it.

So, thanks again, Jessica.

John McCain takes out on ad in Israel. And forget English only -- Barack Obama says bilingual is better.

Joining to us talk about this and much, much more, CNN's senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; CNN's senior analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; and CNN political contributor and Republican strategist, Leslie Sanchez, a former adviser to President Bush. They are all part of the best political team on television.

I want to start off with this ad, obviously, you guys. Take a look at this. This in "The Jerusalem Post" Web site. It shows Barack Obama and the president of Iran, Ahmadinejad, side by side.

Is it OK to unconditionally meet with anti-American foreign leaders?

You can press yes or no. Either way, the answer that comes up, elect a leader with good judgment. Sign up below.

Gloria, let's start with you.

Does this cross the line here? Is this fearmongering? GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's pandering. It's pandering to the Jewish community. It's clearly in "The Jerusalem Post." and I think he knows his audience. And I think any time you can put Barack Obama next to Ahmadinejad, that's a good ad for John McCain.

So it's -- he's doing what presidential candidates do, which is pander to constituencies.

MALVEAUX: Well, Leslie, it might be a good ad, but is it fair, to put him side by side with Ahmadinejad?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. I mean if you -- if you think about the fact there are many folks out there who believe Barack Obama kind of backpedaled his way into his foreign policy positions with respect to meeting with rogue leaders without preconditions. That he did on the CNN/YouTube debate. I think a lot of folks are really kind of going to take a look at this seriously.

And especially when you talk to voters in swing states like Florida. These are folks who are very concerned that he may be lacking in experience. And overall, that's where the question of patriotism comes in. Because it's not so much that you don't respect your country, it's as much you won't make poor decisions and have bad judgment on a global level.

MALVEAUX: Jeff, you wanted to jump in.

TOOBIN: I think this is a totally fair ad and a totally ineffective ad. Every four years we hear that the Republican Party is really going to reach out to African-Americans and really going to reach out to Jews. And they never make any progress ever. And they're not going to make any progress this time ever -- I mean this time, either.

This administration has done nothing to make the Middle East a safer place. Jewish voters know that. They're going to get nowhere with this.

BORGER: Well, but, you know, McCain...


BORGER: But, you know, McCain has Joe Lieberman next to him and he's in one of these ads, as well. And Joe Lieberman is a very effective tool to use in the Jewish community with John McCain.

TOOBIN: Yes. He's so effective, Gloria, that he couldn't even have -- make Al Gore win Florida in 2000.


TOOBIN: Joe Lieberman...

BORGER: And you know what... TOOBIN: a total zero in American politics.

BORGER: And you know what...


BORGER: I bet he's going to be (INAUDIBLE).

TOOBIN: He is a toxic thing.

SANCHEZ: I think that is exactly...

BORGER: He's going to be parked in Florida for John McCain.

SANCHEZ: I have to agree with Gloria here. That is exactly the type of thinking that works to Republicans' favor. I think the longer that people assume that there is not really a threat there, that -- and if there's a question in terms of the U.S. policy to Israel moving forward, that those are serious concerns and there's a lot of opportunity for Senator McCain in this space.

MALVEAUX: OK, immigration reform...

TOOBIN: Joe Lieberman couldn't even get elected in Connecticut today.

MALVEAUX: Oh, Jeff, we're going to move on...

TOOBIN: ...much less (INAUDIBLE).

MALVEAUX: ...real quick here. I know, obviously, there's a point to be made there.

But immigration reform critical; bilingual education, as well.

Take a listen to what Barack Obama said.


B. OBAMA: Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English, they'll learn English. You need to make sure your child can speak Spanish.


B. OBAMA: You should be thinking about how can your child become bilingual.


MALVEAUX: Jeff, I cut you off, so I'm going to let you weigh in on this. Obviously he's kind of turning it on its head here.

Is that effective?

TOOBIN: I think it is a classic example of Obama getting past the stale debates of the past. Of course he's right. We have to compete in an international economy. Our kids don't speak English -- I mean they do speak English, not so. But they don't speak Spanish.


TOOBIN: They should speak Mandarin. They should speak Russian. And I think he's pointing out that there is an economic interest in reaching out, not closing things off.

BORGER: But he's pandering, also, honestly. That's my word of the day...

SANCHEZ: Pandering. That's a big word.

BORGER: He's pandering to Hispanic voters, saying to them, you know, the conservatives, hey all want English to be the language. And what I'm saying to you is, you know, not so fast. Make sure your kids speak Spanish and then they'll -- then they'll learn English.

Now, this is about Barack Obama wanting to do better with Hispanic voters than he was doing in the primaries, because Hillary Clinton was beating him with Hispanic voters.

TOOBIN: Gloria...

SANCHEZ: You know that...

TOOBIN: it OK if the candidates'...

SANCHEZ: I have to say...

TOOBIN: Gloria, is it OK if the candidates campaign at all and ask people to vote for them or is that just too much pandering?


SANCHEZ: Well...

BORGER: Pandering.

SANCHEZ: Yes. This is border...

BORGER: Total pandering.

MALVEAUX: Leslie, jump in here.

SANCHEZ: This is borderline offensive. As a Spanish speaker, I will say that. He's -- you know, Spanish-speaking children, they speak Spanish. We get that. They're learning English. And we know that parents want them to do that. But he's telling all Americans, even though it's a Hispanic audience, that their children need to learn to speak Spanish.

You know, there's one thing to say speak a specific language, there's another to say look, we're in a multilingual, a global economy. Jeffrey, I think, cleaned up what he should have been saying -- this is a global economy, English is the language of opportunity. It's a benefit value-added for our country to speak more.

TOOBIN: You know, I...

SANCHEZ: But he's missing the point. It's another position -- drivers licenses for undocumented aliens, this issue with border fence and this flip-flop on immigration. He's really not consistent. The only consistent thing he is on is not understanding the Hispanic community.

BORGER: But McCain is not consistent on immigration, either. He used to talk about comprehensive reform all the time. Now he focuses on the border fence.

SANCHEZ: But, you know, I think there's a great example with respect to Senator Obama. That is that he talks about earmarks. He has a government solution for just about everything. $750 million presented in the last two years -- $400,000 to any type of Latino program. And that is only for a bilingual Latino program.

He's missing the point. Hispanic students are falling behind because they can't read.

MALVEAUX: Jeff, you got a point real quick?

TOOBIN: Well, no. I mean just -- big government.

I mean who do you want to build that gigantic fence? Who's going to build that? I thought -- isn't that a big government program?

SANCHEZ: Private contractors.


MALVEAUX: All right. We're going to come back to all of you guys in just a moment. More with the best political team ahead.

Lavish meals as world leaders discuss food shortages. There is outrage on the Web.

And the Bush administration is trying to squeeze Iran.

So why are U.S. exports there booming?


MALVEAUX: Living large at the G8 summit in Japan -- world leaders are feasting on lavish meals, including delicacies like sea urchin and champagne, while they discuss a growing world food crisis.

We are back with the best political team on television.

But first let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi, how is the world reacting to this? ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Suzanne, these world leaders have been discussing climate change and food prices. But it's the truffle soup and the caviar that's been making the headlines -- headlines like this one in the U.K. : "G8 Scandal: Leaders Talk Famine Over Eight Course Feasts." There's more: "G8 Hypocr-eats Slap- Up Dinner A Disgrace," say anti-poverty groups.

But around the world, from India to New Zealand, this menu being reproduced in newspapers. Some of the things on it -- corn stuffed with caviar and smoked salmon, a hairy crab bisque-style soup -- whatever that is. And the prime minister of Britain, Gordon Brown, is coming under particular scrutiny. It was he that told Brits to watch the food they waste right before he left for Japan. Now they're telling him, watch your waste, Gord.

Now, none of these papers are suggesting that these senior politicians shouldn't eat at all. They're just saying that the menu selection could have been a little bit better handled -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Abbi, thanks.

Gloria, I go to you first here.

Are they being hypocritical? Are you offended by any of this, this 18-course meal?

BORGER: What were they thinking, that's what I want to know?

I mean, obviously, the president of the United States and Gordon Brown did not plan the menu. But it would seem to me to be kind of a basic tenet of public relations, when you're talking about the global food crisis, it's a good idea to cut down on the champagne and caviar at your meals.

And so it's a ridiculous picture that they really didn't need.

MALVEAUX: Jeff, you look a little disturbed.

TOOBIN: Well, no. I was just saying that I don't think I can comment fairly on this story until I have eaten the same meal.


TOOBIN: So I'm volunteering to participate in a test of the wine and the food to see if it really does affect your judgment about the food crisis.

MALVEAUX: Sorry. We don't have that here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll have to increase the budget there.


MALVEAUX: Leslie, are these world leaders just out of touch or what?

SANCHEZ: No. I think they're -- it's a P.R. nightmare, there's no doubt about it. They should have passed the food to the hands that served it. It would have been a better gesture on their part. But, clearly, somebody made a mistake in putting these two concepts together. And I don't think we'll, hopefully, see that again.

BORGER: Well, you never know in politics. I mean let's be real.

MALVEAUX: Was it a mistake, Gloria, for them to even...

BORGER: Yes. I mean...

MALVEAUX: ...discuss this as part of the dinner or should they have simply separated the two events or...

BORGER: Yes, they should have. And, you know, look, you're discussing the global food crisis and you had an overzealous, award- winning chef who really wanted to strut his stuff. And, you know, you can't blame the poor fellow for wanting to do that. But this is -- this was clearly not the place, not the time, not the venue. Those public relations people really ought to just kind of get together and regroup and say next time we'll know a little better.

MALVEAUX: Do you think...

TOOBIN: It's like they stuck a piece of paper on the back of Gordon Brown's shirt that said "Kick me." I mean this was just, you know...

MALVEAUX: Well, do you think any of these guys should have to come out...

SANCHEZ: They should brown bag it.

MALVEAUX: ...and actually denounce this?

Do you think any of the world leaders should say something?

TOOBIN: You know what, I think they should just hope it goes away, which it probably will.

BORGER: Right. And they don't want to be rude to their hosts. I mean, you know, that's part of being a diplomat. But...

MALVEAUX: OK. Well, obviously, as Abbi knows, this might not go away any time soon. I mean, clearly, a lot of people are talking about this.

So, thanks again to all of you.


MALVEAUX: Thanks for being here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the best political team on television.


TOOBIN: All right. MALVEAUX: Business is booming. Even as Washington calls for more sanctions against Iran, a surprising surge in U.S. exports.

Barack Obama on an Olympic controversy -- would he attend the opening ceremony if he was president?

Plus, an Obama family affair where some would least expect it.


MALVEAUX: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show right at the top of the hour.

Lou, great to see you.

What are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Great to see you, Suzanne.

We're reporting tonight on alarming new evidence that our housing crisis is, in fact, worsening. Working men and women and their families suffering even more hardship. The White House, presidential candidates and our Congress apparently still have no clue as to what is going on or what to do about it.

And you won't believe this. A federal judge says illegal aliens who used fake Social Security cards didn't break the law. What in the world is this judge thinking? We'll be telling you about that.

And Senators Obama and McCain, what are they thinking? Pandering to illegal alien open borders audiences in every corner, with very different messages about illegal immigration and our border security crisis.

And Congress's dismal approval ratings -- well, they sink even lower. They're making it, believe it or not, President George W. Bush look like a very popular fellow. Those ratings for Congress have plummeted to single digits for the first time in history.

I'll be talking about that and a great deal more with three of my favorite radio talk show hosts.

Join us for all of that at the top of the hour here on CNN. We'll have all of the day's news and a great deal more with an Independent perspective -- Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Lou.

We're looking forward to it.

DOBBS: Right.

MALVEAUX: Our Carol Costello is monitoring the stories that are incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Carol, what are you looking at? COSTELLO: Well, Suzanne, cigarettes, makeup vitamins and bras -- they're made in the United States and they're increasingly getting shipped to an unlikely trading partner. That would be Iran. Even as the Bush administration is putting the squeeze on Iran's economy, U.S. businesses are boosting trade with Tehran. U.S. exports to Iran have soared from just over $8 million in 2001 to $146 million in 2007.

Mortgage lenders preying on confused homebuyers beware -- the government will do more to protect buyers from risky lending practices. The Federal Reserve is set to issue rules to prevent another mortgage mess. Among them, restricting lenders from penalizing subprime borrowers from paying off loans early and requiring borrowers to prove their income. Consumer groups say the rules aren't tough enough, while critics say they're too tough.

Confusing highway signs, driver error and a bus that needed more passenger safety features -- all of those things caused what the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board calls an accident that did not have to happen. An NTSB safety board released findings into last year's Atlanta bus crash that left the driver, his wife and five members of Bluffton University's baseball team dead. The findings could soon be approved.

And warning -- be extremely careful with certain antibiotics used for bacterial infections. FDA officials put out the most urgent warning on a powerful class of antibiotics, including the drug Cipro, that can cause tendon ruptures and leave you unusually unresponsive. Makers of those drugs must add a black box warning to their labels and patients are urged to immediately stop taking them should they develop pain, swelling or inflammation in their tendons.

And mark your calendar -- NASA has tentatively set May 31, 2010 as the day for the final shuttle mission. The shuttle fleet is scheduled to retire four months later, as ordered by President Bush. Five shuttle flights are set for this year, along with five more in 2009 and three in 2010. And then NASA will focus on other areas and also on the Orion capsule, to take astronauts to the moon -- back to you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Cool stuff.

OK. Thank you, Carol. We're looking forward to it.

Checking our Political Ticker, Barack Obama is taking issue with President Bush's decision to attend the opening ceremonies of Beijing Olympics. The Democrat told reporters yesterday that if he were president, he'd going Beijing only if Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, reported progress in China. Obama has called on Mr. Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies because of China's handling of unrest in Tibet and its human rights record.

The Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee have a 50-state strategy to develop the party platform in the lead-up to the Denver convention. Today, they are announcing a plan to hold meetings in every state to get voters more involved in drafting a statement of the Democrats' positions and principles. In the battle for Congress, assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian has collected enough signatures to be on the ballot as a Congressional candidate in Michigan. The Associated Press reports that the man once dubbed "Dr. Death" got about 3,200 signatures -- some 200 more than was needed. Kevorkian is seeking to run as an Independent against Republican incumbent Joe Knollenberg and a Democratic challenger.

And remember, for the latest political news any time, check out The Ticker is the number one political news blog on the Web.

Well, it is a family affair. Michelle and Barack Obama are no stringers to television. But now their daughters are the ones that are seizing the spotlight.

And face-off -- an Ecuadorian TV station manager versus government police. Today's Hot Shots are next.


MALVEAUX: Here's a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from our friends at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspaper tomorrow.

In France, human rights activists carry boxes with 160,000 signatures to the Chinese embassy, demanding the release of dissident prisoners.

In Ecuador, a TV station manager stays put as police and government officials take over the station.

In Germany, a cab driver shows the victory sign while demonstrating against soaring fuel prices.

And in Lesotho, Britain's Prince Harry helps rebuild a school for disabled children.

That this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Well, the Obamas up close and personal on a program that usually dishes on celebrities. The entire family did an interview with "Access Hollywood." Even 10-year-old Malia spoke up in an interview that touched on pop culture, fashion and, of course, her dad.


MALIA OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S DAUGHTER: I read the "People" magazines and everything. And they always have those sections with, you know, how much (INAUDIBLE) costs. And so I saw that magazine. And I was like, "Oh, mommy, you're in this." Because I've never seen mommy in that.


MALIA OBAMA: It's pretty cool, because I usually see people like Angelina Jolie.

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: So real important people.

MALIA OBAMA: You know, real important people. No offense.


MICHELLE OBAMA: I've always loved clothes. He knows that. I think it's funny that he's involved in this fashion icon stuff because these pants he's had for probably about 10 years.

MALIA OBAMA: And that belt.

MENOUNOS: The belt is a little worn, actually, now that I look at it.

MICHELLE OBAMA: And don't pan down to the shoes because we talked about getting new shoes for him. So I think --

MENOUNOS: I don't know. I think they've got you here. I don't want to jump on the bandwagon or anything.

MICHELLE OBAMA: Just don't look too closely.

B. OBAMA: Listen, I'm baffled by this whole thing myself, because I hate to shop.


MALVEAUX: Let's bring in our own Carol Costello. The -- you know, they're not shy about picking on their dad when it comes to his clothes here. These are girls who are usually pretty sheltered.

COSTELLO: I know, but they're right out there. They're little stars, aren't they?

Obama supporters can actually thank the Jonas Brothers for the Obama kids' debut. The girls love the Jonas Brothers that are on "Access Hollywood". And they asked mom and dad to be on the show with them, and mom and dad said yes.


COSTELLO (voice-over): It was billed on "The Today Show" as an "Access Hollywood" exclusive.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, CO-HOST, "THE TODAY SHOW": The first interview with the entire Obama family.

Good morning to you, Maria. Congratulations.

MENOUNOS: Thank you, Meredith.

COSTELLO: It is unusual. There's a reason you rarely see the Obama kids' faces. The senator's campaign has asked news organizations not to take pictures of his kids and they rarely do. Example, this soccer game. News organizations shot dad, but not daughter Malia dribbling the ball.

But on "Access Hollywood," a show that touts actor Matthew McConaughey's new baby and Christie Brinkley's lurid divorce, Obama's daughters took center stage.

MALIA OBAMA: Oh, mommy, you're in this. Because I've never seen mommy in that.

MENOUNOS: Is it cool?

MALIA OBAMA: It's pretty cool, because I usually see people like Angelina Jolie.

MENOUNOS: Well, they didn't choose me necessarily. They chose "Access Hollywood". My producer, Steve Forest (ph), worked really hard to get the interview with Michelle and the senator.

COSTELLO: Menounos, who also reports for "The Today Show" and NBC Nightly News -- and, yes, she's a spokesperson for Pantene Shampoo, too...

MENOUNOS: It made my colored hair more brilliant.

COSTELLO: ...says she was surprised when the Obamas allowed her access to their kids.

MENOUNOS: No one really expected them to open up so much. You know, I know the campaign and their family were all huddled around kind of surprised that the girls took over the full interview, as was I.

COSTELLO: She says her interview was meant only to show the Obama family dynamic, not to ask tough questions. And that's exactly why political observers say Obama chose this show to introduce his daughters.

DREW WESTEN, AUTHOR, "THE POLITICAL BRAIN": There is going to be a referendum on whether or not he's American enough to be president. And I think -- you know, and whether he's too different to be president. And I think what he really needs to show people is that he's a guy with a family. I mean you talk about family values, you sure saw them when you watched that clip.

COSTELLO: Westin says Obama should allow the media more access to his kids. Children can be powerful campaigners. But that's a decision difficult for any parent to make -- even when dad is running for president.


COSTELLO: You know, on the subject of the power of children campaigning, some say Chelsea Clinton was an effective campaigner and that's how she really helped her mom. But it was really her presence beside Hillary Clinton that most helped the candidate. It showed Senator Clinton to be a warm and caring mom. And that is something that voters can really connect to. MALVEAUX: Yes. I recently talked to Michelle and she kind of picked on her husband about his dress, you know, that he had old clothes and everything. A pretty safe topic, you know, for them to kind of go after a little bit. He's just like everybody else, I guess is what they're trying to convey.

COSTELLO: Right. And they picked the right venue in which to show that.

MALVEAUX: OK. Carol, thanks. Thank you so much.



Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.