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Mixed Bag For President Obama at G-20 Summit?; Israel and Iran

Aired April 2, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: The powerful leader of the free world can't always get what he wants. President Obama seems some success at the G-20 summit. But one hope to stimulate the economy could go bust.

How likely might Israel attack Iran's nuclear facilities? "The New York Times" columnist and author Thomas Friedman, he has a startling answer. He is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And she's 9 years old and an unwitting accomplice to a crime. Wait until you hear how her father allegedly used her in a robbery, then left her stranded -- all of that, plus the best political team on television.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Win some, lose some. President Obama is wrapping up his first major test on the international stage. He's hailing an unprecedented plan of attack on the global financial mess. But he's leaving the G- 20 summit in London with a mixed bag of success.

Let's go straight to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's in London watching all the drama unfold.

Ed, tell us what happened.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president got a good chunk of what he wanted, but he also learned very quickly that during negotiations at these international summits, you almost never get the whole loaf.


HENRY (voice-over): Striding into an overflow room of reporters from around the world, President Obama declared his first summit as success, even though he didn't get all he wanted.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We finished a very productive summit that will be, I believe, a turning point in our pursuit of global economic recovery. It was historic because of the size and the scope of the challenges that we face, and because of the timeliness and magnitude of our response.

HENRY: The magnitude, $1.1 trillion the G-20 agreed to pump into the global economy, which Mr. Obama was pushing over the objections of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But it's directed to the International Monetary Fund to help developing countries, so it may not have the stimulative effect the president wanted.

OBAMA: I think we did OK.

HENRY: Mr. Obama suggested expectations were too high, noting it was easier to find consensus at summits led by British and American leaders in decades past.

OBAMA: Well, if it's just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy, you know, that's an easier negotiation. But that's not the world we live in.

HENRY: Also a mixed bag on financial oversight, with Mr. Obama stopping the French president's demand for a powerful, new, overarching financial regulatory body. Instead, the leaders agreed to establish a new financial stability board as an early warning sign for future crises. But it has little teeth to actually crack down on risky investments like hedge funds.

OBAMA: I think the steps in the communique were necessary. Whether they're sufficient, we've got to wait and see. This group, once again, will respond as needed.


HENRY: And this group will get another chance to respond in September, when they meet again in New York -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And let's talk a little bit about what's coming up in the immediate, tomorrow, the next day. The trip overseas is by no means over, is it?

HENRY: No way.

Tomorrow, they continue in France, in Strasbourg. They have got the NATO summit, obviously, the war in Afghanistan at the top of the list, the president sending more than 20,000 more U.S. troops on the ground there. He's been trying to push NATO allies to put up more troops of their own, some money and aid to Afghanistan. They have been reluctant to do that. He's got to try to push them along, another big test for this president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry is on the scene for us in London.

Let's turn to another issue now that will affect so many Americans. That would be the federal, the federal budget. Right now, the House and the Senate, they're debating it. They have been casting votes on it.

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

It's supposed to be the highlight, if you will, of what's going on. And today was, what, do or die as far as the budget's concerned? What's going on?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, definitely do or die. And we do expect the budget to be finished, both in the House and the Senate, later today.

It could be a very late night with regard to the Senate. But what is very interesting, the dynamic that I have found in spending a lot of time today talking to senators and lawmakers on both sides is the dynamic with the Republicans. And this is very interesting.

In talking to Republicans, both in the House and the Senate, Wolf, it seems as though it is entirely possible that not one Republican, not one Republican in all of Congress may vote for the Democrats' budget, which largely tracks along the president's budget lines.

Now, you know, I want to put up pictures. There you see pictures of three Republican senators, Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins of Maine. Our viewers probably remember them because they actually helped President Obama in passing his stimulus package.

But this actually really illustrates the divide here. Those three Republicans, they all say that they are going to vote no against his -- what effectively is his blueprint for his economic plan for the next several years.

So, that just gives you a sense of this. Now, the president, Democrats, they don't need those votes. They just need a simple majority. But it just shows that you the kind of bipartisan tone that everybody was talking about just a couple of months ago, it is not here. And we are probably going to see that as starkly and as sharply as ever once we see these votes tonight, Wolf.

BLITZER: There's no doubt, as you say, that the Democrats are going to get their way, certainly in the House, and almost certainly I assume in the Senate. They have got the votes to pass what the president wants.

BASH: That's right.

We do believe that they have the votes, because, again, particularly in the Senate, which is really where we focus, because you never know there. Because they only need a simple majority, they probably will -- almost definitely will get the votes.

But we still are looking at a couple of Democrats. And I want to put them up on the wall as well. They are Senator Evan Bayh and Senator Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh of Indiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Now, we were talking a lot -- about over the past couple of weeks about the Democrats' divide, because there are fiscal Democrats, fiscal conservatives who think that there is simply too much spending. Well, these are two Democrats who we think it is entirely possible that they will defy the president simply by saying that the budget that is being put forward, which again is basically his, is still too much spending and does not do enough to lower the deficit. BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dana Bash, up on the Hill.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: All right, he's already facing conspiracy and fraud charges. There are more charges now being leveled against the ousted Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich.

Let's go to Susan Roesgen. She's in Chicago getting the latest information.

This guy facing a mountain of additional problems, right now, Susie (ph).


We have just got hot off the presses, Wolf, the actual indictment now, 16 counts against former Governor Rod Blagojevich. If you remember, he was only charged with two criminal complaints when he was arrested back on December 9.

And then, as you know, he appointed Roland Burris to be U.S. senator in Barack Obama's seat. Then he was impeached here by the Illinois State House and then kicked out of office at the end of January by the state Senate.

Now we have the actual indictments that have come down. Both Governor Rod Blagojevich and his brother are indicted in this, also, two former top aides and two businessmen. The big one that I think everyone's going to be talking about, Wolf, is certainly the one that we have talked about for a long time, and that involves Senator Burris' appointment.

The charge here is efforts to obtain personal financial benefits for Blagojevich in return for his appointment of a U.S. senator. So, the charges, Wolf, the actual named charges range from racketeering, conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion, extortion, extortion, attempted extortion, making false statements.

If they list the -- they list the possible prison terms here, Wolf, if there's a conviction on these. Just for the wire fraud and racketeering and extortion conspiracy, each of those would be 20 years. So, he's looking at 60 years if the former Governor Rod Blagojevich were to be indicted on just three of these 16 counts -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The AP says he's not in Chicago right now, the former governor. He's actually in Disney World right now. Don't know what he's doing there, but I assume he's there with kids. Is that what you're hearing?

ROESGEN: Yes, he's there with kids. Apparently, a couple of tourists took his picture a few days ago, and he posed for the pictures.

I actually called the hotel where he's supposed to be staying. The hotel operator said, oh, yes, Rod Blagojevich, here you go, and put me right into the voice-mail. Wolf, not many people are named Rod Blagojevich. I can't even spell it without looking at it every time.

I went straight to his voice-mail and said, hey, if you would like to give us a call at CNN, let us know -- and have not heard back. So, we're fairly certain that, yes, he is at Disney World, which, Wolf, follows the pattern. He's smiling. He's happy. He goes on national talk shows at the same time that he's being impeached, kicked out of office and now today he's at Disney World while the federal prosecutor has indicted him.

BLITZER: Nineteen counts, we're told, 16 of them potential felonies.

All right, thanks very much.

Susie Roesgen is in Chicago.

From that, let's go to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File."

You're smiling.


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the guy's nuts. He's soon to have a whole new circle of friends is my guess. And when he wants to go jogging, it will be around the track inside the barbed-wire fence.

First lady Michelle Obama, she's more popular than her old man, and he's doing pretty well. Her -- Gallup poll, her approval rating 72 percent. His is 69. Michelle Obama's unfavorable ratings much lower than the president, 17 for her, 28 for him.

What a difference a year makes. The campaign trail last winter and spring, remember? Michelle Obama, at times considered a political liability, some Republicans especially portraying her as angry black woman, while others didn't like the way she talked about things like her husband's dirty socks, and many questioned Michelle's patriotism when she said she only recently became proud of her country.

Well, that has all changed. Boy, has it. Another recent poll shows the first lady's favorability ratings are up 28 percent since the summer. The most striking part of the Michelle Obama surge is she's made the biggest gains -- Ready? -- among Republicans, who viewed her negatively last year.

People are drawn to her. She's the real deal. I have a crush on her. And they get it. They like her focus on kids and family, her devotion to her own daughters and husband, her visits to schools, soup kitchens, federal government agencies, and, of course, planning the first vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt.

Michelle Obama is rapidly moving to displace a couple of the more revered women of our recent past. The British media are positively beside themselves over Mrs. Obama's visit. And the British media knows something about how to get beside themselves. They're comparing Michelle Obama to both Princess Diana and Jacqueline Kennedy. Actually, she's cooler than either one of them.

Here's the question: What's behind Michelle Obama's remarkable surge in popularity? Go to, post a comment on my blog.

Oh, and the one thing I forgot, Wolf, she's hot.

BLITZER: You know that video that was very popular during the campaign, that very attractive young woman, "I have got a crush on Obama"?


BLITZER: You could do a video like that now, Jack, because I believe you just said you have a crush on Obama, but not Barack Obama, Michelle Obama.

CAFFERTY: No, no, no, no, I'm a heterosexual guy, but I think she's terrific. I really do.

BLITZER: Yes. A lot of people agree with you.


BLITZER: We're going to try to get her here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

CAFFERTY: That would be great.


BLITZER: And you know what? We will bring you down to Washington and you will join in the conversation.


BLITZER: How would you like that?


CAFFERTY: That might be enough for her to cancel her visit right there.


BLITZER: Well, then we won't do it then. Never mind.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty will be back.

A day after meeting the queen, Michelle Obama is talking about her own working-class roots. The first lady in her own words, you're going to hear what she had to say. And new warnings that Israel's new government may launch a military strike at Iran. I will be asking the journalist and author Tom Friedman about the odds.


THOMAS FRIEDMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think if the Israelis perceive that the Iranians have passed the tipping point in their development of a nuclear weapon, they have already got some long-range missiles that can hit Israel, there is a chance they will go.



BLITZER: After decades of hostility between the United States and Iran, the Obama administration is right now reaching out. But is Iran ready for a new relationship?


BLITZER: And joining us now, Tom Friedman. He's "The New York Times" columnist and the author of the bestseller "Hot, Flat and Crowded," still a "New York Times" bestseller.

I assume it will be for a long time to come, Tom.

FRIEDMAN: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be here.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in.

Let's talk a little bit about what's happening in the world right now. Iran, this week, Richard Holbrooke, the special U.S. representative, shakes hands with the Iranian deputy foreign minister. The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, at this conference in the Hague says it was a positive development.

Are expectations being raised falsely?

FRIEDMAN: It's hard to tell.

I think both sides are in kind of still a feeling-out phase here, what's real, what's Memorex, Wolf. But I still think it comes down to one big question, which is, what are the intentions of the Iranian regime, from my point of view?

And the way I phrased it is this way, Wolf. These guys have built their power base by opposing the United States, by maintaining a hostile relationship.

BLITZER: For 30 years.

FRIEDMAN: For a long time.

And the question is, after 30 years of kind of ruling through that mechanism, that we're protecting you from the American hegemon, are they really ready to give that up and to move to a different kind of relationship with the United States that would still work for them domestically, at home?

BLITZER: But are they really ready to walk away from a potential nuclear bomb? I think that is the key issue.


FRIEDMAN: Yes. Well, the bomb is a symbol of this, because the bomb is all about regime survival. It was Bush insurance. You know, and now you could call it America or Israel insurance from the Iranian point of view.

Are they ready to trade that insurance for a new relationship with the United States? I don't know. I think it's too early to tell. But I think that is the key question.

BLITZER: But this reaching out by the Obama administration to the regime in Tehran, is that a good idea to try to probe to see if there's an opportunity, or a waste of time?

FRIEDMAN: No, I think it's absolutely a good idea. You have got to see what's there, because I think the Iranian intentions are not in a vacuum. They're in the context of what the United States is offering.

BLITZER: And there's more than one voice in Iran...


FRIEDMAN: Absolutely. And that's the key thing. You're trying to -- you know, these regimes, like Iran's or like the Soviet Union, they tend to break from the top, not the bottom.

They tend to break when there's a split in the very top leadership. And I think that's a little bit what we're trying to foster, not a breakdown of the Iranian government, but a kind of split between less radical and more radical.

BLITZER: There's a new prime minister in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, a man you know. You have covered him for many years, just as I have.

He says that this potential of an Iranian nuclear bomb, potentially aimed at Israel, is an existential threat to the very state of Israel. And there's a lot of suspicion out there the Israelis might preemptively launch a strike to destroy the nuclear facilities in Iran.

How worried should the world be about that?

FRIEDMAN: I think it's a 50/50 bet, Wolf, that Israel will do that.

I think if the Israelis perceive that the Iranians have passed the tipping point in their development of a nuclear weapon, they have already got some long-range missiles that can hit Israel, there is a chance they will go. I don't know.

What they have to weigh, Wolf, is that striking Iran now, what it might do to the global economy, at a time when it's just getting recovered, does Israel want to take that on its head? Does it want to really abandon the idea of containing Iran? I don't know. I think this is going to be a really, really hard decision for Israel. That's why I would call it a 50/50 right now.

BLITZER: Because some have said that, within a matter of months, they're going to have to make a decision.

FRIEDMAN: Well, part of I think what Israel is trying to do is to step up the pressure on the United States. It's sort of stop me before I kill again. I'm crazy.

And so I think they're trying to step up the pressure on the United States to deliver something very tangible from the Iranians.

BLITZER: The peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians, with Netanyahu now as the prime minister of Israel, what do you think?

FRIEDMAN: I think it's really broken, Wolf, more broken than at any time in our lifetimes.

Wolf, go back to when we started as reporters in the Middle East, Henry Kissinger doing the shuttle diplomacy after the 1973 war. Think about Kissinger's challenge. He had to just get agreements from three leaders, one Egyptian pharaoh, Anwar Sadat, one Syrian dictator, Hafez al-Assad, and one overwhelmingly popular Israeli prime minister, Golda Meir.

And each of those three could deliver their -- their whole countries. Flash-forward to today. There are two Palestinian governments, Hamas and Fatah. One is in the West Bank. One is in Gaza. Even the Hamas government is split between a military wing and a political wing. And no Israeli political party today has, what, like a quarter of the Knesset?

So, the ability of either side to deliver a deal is so much weaker today than ever before. It's not a hospitable environment for diplomacy.

BLITZER: And so we shouldn't hold our breath? On the Israeli- Palestinian front, it seems very, very problematic.

What about this Israeli-Syrian dialogue through Turkey that has been going on?

FRIEDMAN: Well, again, it goes back to the point about Iran.

The Syrian government has really made a good living by basically justifying their leadership and the militarization of Syrian society as necessary to oppose Israel.

Are they ready to give that up and move to a different base of legitimacy, like the Iranian government? I don't know. I don't know. I think it's good to explore. It's not like the old policy was producing anything.

BLITZER: What about in Afghanistan right now? The Obama administration announced another 17,000 combat troops, another 4,000 trainers going in, billions of dollars. Is this a mission that you see having a successful outcome?

FRIEDMAN: I'm very wary about Afghanistan. I think we should be reducing our footprint there, not increasing it.

I really don't see the happy ending there. And I'm worried that this is going to be throwing good money after bad. I don't see, Wolf, who is our partner? Who is the leadership there -- where's the leadership there that truly shares our values?

I know there are a lot of Afghani people do. But I'm not sure we have a government there that's really our partner.

BLITZER: Is there a partner in Pakistan right now?

FRIEDMAN: I think you have got a similar problem. I think the Pakistani government is very weak. It's predisposed, I think, to be a partner, but it's so weak that its ability to deliver I think is really constrictive.


BLITZER: We're going to have more of my interview with Thomas Friedman tomorrow and then the full interview Saturday right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the weekend edition of THE SITUATION ROOM, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

We're following the breaking news out of Chicago, the ousted Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, indicted on 16 more felony counts. We're following the latest developments.

Also, a lot of star power over at the summit in London, but among those stars, one is standing out. You won't believe who asked President Obama for his autograph.

And caught on camera -- a desperate father robs a store with his young daughter at his side. There are new developments coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

And from quarterback to convict to construction worker -- ex-NFL star Michael Vick may have a new job lined up when he gets out of prison.



BLITZER: One of the world's most powerful leaders is apparently a fan of President Obama's. And it was supposed to be a happy moment, a marriage proposal, but it wound up involving a falling ring, a running groom-to-be, and the police.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: a huge surge up on Wall Street once again today giving the Dow Jones its best four-week rally since 1933. The Dow broke through the 8000 mark, but closed just below.

The State Department has a message for North Korea: Don't launch your missile. North Korea claims it will launch a communications satellite in the coming days, but U.S. leaders say North Korea is trying to improve its ballistic missile program.

And the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, on a two-day visit to Iran, meeting with the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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

President Obama on the global stage, urging Americans to think outside the borders. But, with the American dream under economic threat, can the president convince Americans that their fate is tied up with the larger world?

Here is the president of the United States, in his own words.


OBAMA: Look, I'm the president of the United States. I'm not the president of China. I'm not the president of Japan. I'm not the president of -- of the other participants here. And so I have a direct responsibility to my constituents to make their lives better. That's -- that's why they put me in there. That -- that counts for some of the questions here about how concretely does me being here help them find a job, pay for their home, send their kids to college, live what we call the American dream. And I will be judged by my effectiveness in meeting their needs and concerns.

But in an era of integration and interdependence, it is also my responsibility to -- to lead America into recognizing that its interests -- its fate is tied up with the larger world, that if we neglect or abandon those who are suffering in poverty, that not only are we depriving ourselves of potential opportunities for markets and economic growth, but ultimately that despair may turn to violence that turns on us.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; David Brody, the White House correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network; and our CNN political analyst, Roland Martin -- Gloria, has the president, on this trip, so far, done a good job convincing the American people back home that what happens over there really could have an impact over here?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think -- I think as you heard in that little clip we played, Wolf, he is doing a pretty good job. I think he did it during the campaign. I think he's done it since he's become president. He's made it very clear that we live in a global economy and that if -- if our fate is to improve in this country, we've got to work together with these other nations.

I would also -- also say that while he didn't get exactly the kind of stimulus package he wanted over there, he did get, you know, $1.1 trillion in loans and guarantees through the IMF, which is a very big deal.

BLITZER: You were there at that news conference, David, in London. You know, he showed a lot of confidence over there. And this is his fir -- his debut on the international stage.

DAVID BRODY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: Yes, Wolf. It's been pretty impressive. No stumbles whatsoever. You know, it's interesting because that line really was the -- what you just played: "I am president of the United States." I mean to say that on European soil and really to show back to Americans back home to say, look, you know, I mean we're not going to necessarily buy into all of the European arguments about why so many Europeans potentially, you know, do not like America.

And I -- you know, I think it's a balancing act for him. But so far, you know, so good.

I think that the danger here and, of course, it's early, Wolf -- but, you know, is he going to sell the store?

The White House says he's not going to, you know, sell the store down the road in some of these negotiations, as he tries to balance this. So I think that's worth watching.

BLITZER: He certainly showed throughout these couple of days, three days, if you will, Roland, he's a rock star over there. And look at this. We've got a picture, I think, of the prime minister of India, Prime Minister Singh, asking for Barack Obama's autograph.

How often -- how often does that happen?

ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, frankly, it doesn't happen a lot. And so it -- look, the bottom line is this here. Here -- here's an individual who was a candidate, who also now, as being president, folks have been captivated by his story. Obviously, the first African-American president. You know, two-thirds of the world -- two-thirds of the world, frankly, are people of color. And so they do see him as an international citizen.

But, again, I think what is important -- I think it's very early to say how the American people are going to react. But I think it is important for our president to make it clear, yes, over there, that I'm president of the United States, but also to Americans, as Gloria said, we do operate in a global world. The economic output of other countries plays a large part in terms of our ability to export goods, in terms of other economies being able to purchase things from us, us purchasing things from them, is all critical. And so we're in this thing together. And we can't say it's just us and then everyone else.

BORGER: And, you know, Wolf, the other thing that's really been interesting to me is this sort of lack of arrogance we've seen displayed, that the president and his Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, have both come out and said look, we bear a lot of the responsibility for what's going on in the world. But we have to share with the rest of the world the responsibility for cleaning it up.

We didn't just go over there and try and blame other folks for this.

BLITZER: You know, David, there was a story...


BLITZER: ...that the president even was a peacemaker, sort of breaking up a little argument going on between the French president, Sarkozy, and China's Hu Jintao.

BRODY: Right. And I mean I guess that was the Sarkozy meltdown moment, right?

I mean it happened. It just -- you know, he just didn't just walk out.

But, yes, and you know what's -- I mean, is this classic Obama or what?

He gets both guys in a corner and he plays the Rodney King card -- can't we just all get along?

And, indeed, that's -- that's exactly what happened. I mean the White House is jumping for joy tonight to have that story peddled out there, as you might imagine. So, sure -- you know, it's interesting, real quick on the rock star status of Barack Obama. Here in London, the British tabloids are all over Gordon Brown for fawning all over Barack Obama.

BORGER: Absolutely.

BRODY: I mean if you've noticed, every shot of Gordon Brown, Barack Obama is right there with him. It's like they're text messaging themselves or something along those lines.

BLITZER: Roland, do you want to add another point before I make you go back to work?

MARTIN: Well, sure. I mean, first of all, if I'm Gordon Brown and I'm looking at trouble, frankly...

BORGER: Right. MARTIN: the next election and the citizens of my country like the American president, yes, that's going to happen. Look, it's no different in the U.S. When the president comes and a governor is in trouble, they're standing right next to them, locking in arm, because you want to be in every photo so it goes out.

So the press may not like it, but if it's playing well with the public, that's what you want.

BLITZER: All right...

BORGER: And, by the way, Wolf, the prime minister of India said he was asking for the autograph for his daughter.

BLITZER: Yes, that's what they always...

BORGER: You know how that goes.


BRODY: That's what they always say.


BLITZER: Roland is going to give me his autograph when I see him the next time.


BLITZER: But it's for my daughter, Roland.

BORGER: For your daughter.


BORGER: For your daughter.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.

I want to alert our viewers. Roland is going to go back to work because he's got a show coming up at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, a little bit more than an hour from now. He's hosting "NO BIAS, NO BULL." Among the stories you'll want to see, the debate over childhood vaccines and autism. A lot more coming up, 8:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

A desperate father caught on tape committing a robbery, saying he's doing it so his daughter can survive -- and she's standing right next to him. New there are new developments -- how authorities have now found the girl.

Plus, the first lady's message to young women around the world -- Michelle Obama telling her story in her own words. And you're going to hear it right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: A desperate unemployed father apparently robs a store with his young daughter at his side. There's videotape of what happened.

Let's go out to California.

Dan Simon is working this story for us.

What's going on -- Dan?


As we all know, convenience store holdups happen all the time.

But what perpetrator brings along his child?

It happened 3:00 in the morning in Washington State on Tuesday. The incident captured on surveillance video, with the suspect blaming his problems on the economy.


SIMON (voice-over): A father taking his little girl on an errand -- except the errand was to rob this convenience store about two hours southeast of Seattle. Watch as the man pulls a gun on the clerk -- his 9-year-old daughter behind him.

CNN is blurring her face because she's a victim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to put me on gas on number two.

SIMON: Police say the robber is 42-year-old Robert Daniel Webb, a recently unemployed optician.

ERIC OWENS, CLERK: Why would you commit a crime with a child next to you?

Why would you do that?

SIMON: But at the time, the clerk, Eric Owens, doesn't ask any questions. He empties the register -- less than $200. He wonders whether any more customers would enter and raise the level of tension.

OWENS: What's he going to do, grab the kid and use her as a hostage?

You know, I was worried about the child.

SIMON: Webb later utters that he's out of work and that his daughter needs to survive. The store has 16 cameras and this one catches him ranting about the economy.


SIMON: Webb also threatens to kill the clerk if he called the cops. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly, this child is at risk being in his care -- being in his vicinity.

SIMON: But his daughter is apparently oblivious to it all. She's later seen skipping to her dad's car in the parking lot.


SIMON: Well, the primary concern, of course, was with the daughter. But we can tell you, she was found along the Northern California coast. She was found safely.

The bottom line here, Wolf, this is really a strange situation. We can tell you that the suspect -- the father is still at large. He led police on a chase. They're looking for him right now -- back to you.

BLITZER: Do we know anything about the mother, Dan?

SIMON: We know that the father and the mother were married, apparently they lived altogether as a family. We know that the daughter is going to be reunited with her shortly.

BLITZER: Dan Simon in San Francisco for us.

Thank you very much.

All right. There are new developments involving General Motors coming in.

I want to go to Mary Snow. She's got the latest for us.

What are we just learning -- Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, G.M. is coming out with its business update plan. We're getting some of the details. This, of course, just a few days after the administration had pressured G.M.'s CEO to step down if the company wanted more government money. And one of the things in this business plan, G.M. is asking the U.S. government for $2.6 billion -- this in order to build hybrids. This would be for several lines of new hybrid vehicles and is part of the Energy Department's program that would -- is designed to support development of fuel-efficient vehicles -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Another $2.6 billion.

All right. Thanks very much, Mary, for that.

The first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, visits a girls' school in England -- shares the story of her own humble beginnings. You're going to hear what Michelle Obama had to say to an audience there.

And good -- when good marriage proposals go awry -- CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "Moost Unusual" look at a story you're going to want to see. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The spotlight shines on the president of the United States in his first major appearance on the world stage. The world is also watching his wife Michelle Obama.

In London today, the first lady visited an all girls' school and let the world know about her truly American-made success story.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Nothing in my life's path would have predicted that I'd be standing here as the first African-American first lady of the United States of America. There was nothing in my story that would land me here. I wasn't raised with wealth or resources or any social standing to speak of. I was raised on the South Side of Chicago. That's the real part of Chicago. And I was the product of a working class community.

My father was a city worker all of his life. And my mother was a stay-at-home mom. And she stayed at home to take care of me and my older brother. Neither of them attended university.

My dad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the prime of his life. But even as it got harder for him to walk and get dressed in the morning, I saw him struggle more and more. My father never complained about his struggle. He was grateful for what he had. He just woke up a little earlier and worked a little harder.

And my brother and I were raised with all that you really need -- love, strong values and the belief that with a good education and a whole lot of hard work, that there was nothing that we could not do.

I am an example of what's possible when girls, from the very beginning of their lives, are loved and nurtured by the people around them.


BLITZER: The British press is calling Michelle Obama the new Jacqueline Kennedy.

Do you think the first lady is outshining her husband?

Submit your video comments to then watch the program tomorrow to see if your video makes it on the air.

Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up at the top of the hour -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

Tonight, we're going to be reporting on the president and world leaders agreeing on a plan to rescue the global economy. They're throwing a trillion dollars of pledges at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. They're pledging to tighten world market regulations. Also, they're going to be against protectionism. But they're mostly pledges.

And tonight, Congress putting Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona under the gun, investigating his enforcement of immigration laws. Tonight, we try to answer the question why.

And the Obama administration receiving $4.5 million in campaign contributions from the United Auto Workers. We'll tell you what that may mean for the industry bailout.

And some of the nation's stop auto industry experts will join me. We'll be talking about whether the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler is a good idea.

Join us for all of that and more at the top of the hour.

THE SITUATION ROOM continues in just a moment.

BLITZER: All right. Lou, thanks very much.

In fact, it's going to continue...

DOBBS: It continues right now.

BLITZER: It's going to continue right now.

Lou is coming up for our domestic viewers at the top of the hour.

DOBBS: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: What's behind Michelle Obama's remarkable surge in popularity?

Tom writes -- from Switzerland we get this letter: "A big open heart, intelligence, sincerity, compassion, knowledge, charm, straightforwardness, a great sense of humor, a committed mother, a natural beauty..."

OK. OK. I'll stop.

Richard in McKinney, Texas: "Jack, Michelle Obama is popular right now because she's a new and novel thing that has not yet made major mistakes. Give her a little time. This, too, shall pass."

Kevin in Dallas: "I think Mrs. Obama's surge in popularity is that she's not acting like a politician. Her power doesn't come from who her husband is, so she's free to be her own woman. At the same time, she doesn't seem to feel the need to prove herself to anyone. She seems genuine and is a good role model."

C. writes: "Jack, Michelle Obama looks great. We're all tired of looking at old white guys in Washington."

Mark in Oklahoma City: "The hyped up, ultra, over the top national media slobbering all over her bare arms and her overblown fashion sense is the main reason, Jack. Her touching the queen is something even an Okie backwoods hick like me would know better than to do."

Kate in Dallas: "People feel like they can relate to her. She could be your next door neighbor. She is refreshing."

Louise in Alabama: "Humans are mostly water. She is pure electricity."

And Star in Auburn, Ohio: "Jack, it all began when you told the world you had a crush on her. From your lips to the global ears of the many who now appreciate our brightest first lady in over four decades. One person can make a difference."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there among hundreds of others.

We got a lot of mail today on all of these questions, Wolf.

BLITZER: They're excellent questions. But especially this hour on Michelle Obama, the woman that you have a crush on.

CAFFERTY: Did I mention she's hot?

BLITZER: Yes, enough.

CAFFERTY: Because she is.

BLITZER: She's also very happily married.

CAFFERTY: I understand that.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you.

See you tomorrow.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Thank you.

A marriage proposal on the Brooklyn Bridge started out so beautifully. But then...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw it fall and I heard it bounce. And then I watched it fall through.


BLITZER: What happened next really captured all of our attention. And Jeanne Moss has the "Moost Unusual" ending.

And a joyous day in Baghdad -- pictures often worth a thousand words -- that's coming up in our Hot Shots. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Mary Snow is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Mary, what's going on?

SNOW: Well, Wolf, we're learning the pilot of that plane that crashed in Montana last month asked twice to divert, but didn't give a reason why. Fourteen people, including seven children, died when the plane plunged into a cemetery short of the Butte airport. An NTSB report says that the pilot twice requested permission to land in Butte without explanation. Investigators are now looking into whether and if the plane was overloaded.

And the enthusiasm is visible in Chicago, but does the city have what it takes to win over the International Olympic Committee?

An inspection team arrived today to grade the Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. Chicago is competing against Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good luck to Chicago.

Thank you very much, Mary.

Popping the question on the Brooklyn Bridge -- it probably seemed like a great idea full of romance. But as CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us, this proposal and engagement ring took a "Moost Unusual" turn.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Guys get so creative these days about proposing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every floor, floor by floor, and I turned the lights on in some rooms, off in others.


MOOS: Whether it be putting the proposal up in lights or doing it at a marathon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you do me the honor of being my wife?

MOOS: But what could be more picturesque than proposing on the Brooklyn Bridge?

Why, then is the bride to be aghast and the greed to be so gloomy?

He dropped the ring.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw it fall and I heard it bounce. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: It fell down into the traffic lane. So Don Walling went climbing down to get it, looking like a suicide jumper.


DON WALLING: And that's when a bunch of people were like oh my God, he's going to jump.


MOOS: The police stopped him, but then let him run against traffic to get the ring.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How romantic is this?


MOOS: Guided by relatives.



You got it?

Yes! he got the ring. You finally got your ring and it fell off the Brooklyn Bridge.


MOOS (on camera): OK, dropping the ring on the Brooklyn Bridge is bad. But things could have been worse. Ask this couple.

(voice-over): They got pranked at a Yankees game by Streeter Sidell's buddy. The two guys work for the Web site CollegeHumor. Unbeknownst to Streeter and his girl Sharon, the buddy arranged for a marriage proposal on the JumboTron and Streeter had no intention of getting married.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dear Sharon, I love you forever. Will you marry me? Your Streeter.

MOOS: And when Streeter protested that he didn't order the proposal...


MOOS: Sharon slapped him.

(on camera): Did it hurt when she slapped you?

STREETER SEIDELL, COLLEGE HUMOR: It did. I had a huge red mark. MOOS: We wish we could say they lived happily ever after, but...

SEIDELL: Sharon and I -- we're no longer together. We are friends and we did not -- we did not break up because of that prank.

MOOS: But Streeter did counter prank his buddy, fooling him into thinking he sank a half court basket blindfolded for a half million dollar prize. The crowd had been instructed to cheer when he missed.


MOOS: But for love's every strikeout...


MOOS: ...someone else manages to get the ring.




MOOS: Kiss him for not kissing that ring good-bye.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And congratulations to the loving couple.

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

In London, the first lady, Michelle Obama, hugs students during a visit to a language school.

In Afghanistan, a man gives money to a woman before crossing a bridge.

In Iraq, Baghdad University students toss flowers in the air to celebrate their graduation.

And in Germany, a baby chimpanzee gestures behind a window at the zoo.

Some of this hour's "Hot Shots" -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Don't forget THE SITUATION ROOM, Saturday 6:00 p.m. Eastern, six days a week.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou. DOBBS: Wolf, thank you.