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New Calls for Pelosi to Resign; Michelle Obama Dancing to Her Own Tune; Gibbs on Obama Versus Cheney; Larry King on His New Book

Aired May 23, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Prison camp, warning fear mongers are making a bad problem worse. This hour, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and the President's war of words with former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Plus new calls for the House speaker to resign. Does the top House Republican agree that Nancy Pelosi should go? Stand by.

For the minority leader in the House of Representatives, John Boehner, on Pelosi's bombshell claim that the CIA misled her.

And Michelle Obama dances to her own tune. "TIME" magazine takes us behind the scenes with the First Lady, refining the art of being a president's wife. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

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


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rather than keeping us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us on an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the cost of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it.


BLITZER: The future of America's security and the past, in direct conflict this week. President Obama defending his policies and warning critics to stop fear mongering. And former Vice President Cheney defending Bush-era tactics and warning his critics to stop moralizing.

I spoke with the White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.


BLITZER: Let's -- let's get right to the issue of the former vice president, Dick Cheney. Has the president actually read the vice president's speech, or did he hear the vice president's speech?

GIBBS: Well, as you know, Wolf, he spoke right after the president spoke. The president made his way back to the White House, had his daily intelligence briefing, and met with his economic advisers.

He asked somebody to print the speech off for him. But I don't know if he's had a chance to read it yet or not.

BLITZER: Is it in the cards that these two men might someday just sit down and talk about this? Because they do basically have the same goal, to defeat al Qaeda. But they have a very different strategy in mind. GIBBS: Well, look, obviously, the goal of the president of the United States, his first job is to keep our nation safe and secure. That's what he does every day. And that's what he thinks about when he goes to bed at night and when he comes to work.

So, obviously, that's our goal. And I assume -- and, obviously, that was the goal of the last administration. Whether or not these two men meet, I -- I don't know, Wolf. I was asked that today earlier in the briefing. Obviously, there are some philosophical disagreements about how we keep our country safe.

But I know the president is working every day to make sure that that is the case.

BLITZER: Yes, because he did recently sit down with Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House. He invited him into the White House. So, I -- I could see the day he might invite the former vice president into the White House, couldn't you?

GIBBS: Well, I can imagine you guys would want to be there to see that, right?

BLITZER: I'm sure we would.


BLITZER: Is that -- so, are you saying it's -- that's unrealistic?

GIBBS: Well, I -- look, I don't know what their plans are. Obviously, the vice president -- former vice president is a busy individual, as is the president of the United States.

But, look, the -- the president of the United States has talked about how he will -- he will meet with anybody and talk with people even that he disagrees with.

BLITZER: All right. You got slapped this week by fellow Democrats -- a lot of Republicans, too, all the Republicans -- when they voted against the funding for shutting down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

The Democrats and the Republicans say they want to see a plan, a specific plan. Now, that specific plan, a timeline, where the 240 detainees are going, that wasn't included in the president's speech.

When is that plan going to be ready?

GIBBS: Well, Wolf, that plan is being created right now by several task forces that were created by the president when he signed the executive order close -- to close Guantanamo Bay within a year.

Wolf, we didn't get here overnight. This is a seven-year plan. Guantanamo has been in existence for seven years. And we're working right now to make the decisions necessary to close it. The president last week made a decision to reform military commissions that have a long history in the United States, with how to deal with some people involved that are detained at Guantanamo.

The Justice Department today notified the American people that they're going to transfer an individual detained at Guantanamo that was involved in blowing up our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.

So, we're going through each of these cases case by case, because Wolf, I think your previous story about recidivism is tremendously important. This president wants to keep this country safe.

We're going to go case by case to do the best we can to ensure that swift and certain justice is brought to these people that have committed terrorist acts. And we're going to make sure that we do all that we can to ensure that nobody else gets out.

BLITZER: Were you -- were you caught by surprise by what the -- how the Democrats reacted in the House and Senate?

GIBBS: No, I don't think so. The president agrees that we have to give them a more detailed plan. That's what these task forces are working on. That's what the decisions the president has made in the past few days, that's what they illuminate, that we're making decisions about how to -- how to evaluate each of the cases at Guantanamo, how to seek justice for their families, and how to ensure the safety and security of the United States.

BLITZER: Listen to this clip from the former vice president.


RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the president will find, upon reflection, that to bring the worst-of-the-worst terrorists inside the United States would be cause for great danger and regret in the years to come.


BLITZER: His point is that they might be able to get legal rights in the United States that they might not necessarily be able to get if they remained on Cuban soil, if you will, in Guantanamo.

How do you respond to that?

GIBBS: Well, I would certainly disagree with that.

Obviously, if you look at -- we have some very bad terrorists already in our prisons. We have the 20th hijacker. Zacarias Moussaoui is in a federal prison because he was convicted on terrorism charges -- the individuals that tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. Wolf, I'm sure your network has done stories today on the four individuals that the FBI picked up last night, because they thought they were buying bombs to blow up synagogues in New York and purchase Stinger missiles to shoot down military aircraft. I don't think those people are any less dangerous than the people that are being held at Guantanamo Bay. They are going to be held -- those individuals, those four individuals, are likely to be held in the same pretrial facility in the Southern District of New York...

BLITZER: But what...

GIBBS: ... as the individual that will be transferred from Guantanamo to face charges of blowing up our embassies...

BLITZER: But would they have...

GIBBS: ... in Kenya and Tanzania.


GIBBS: Nobody is suggesting we send those four back to Guantanamo that were picked up in New York.

We have some very, very bad people in our prisons right now. And we can bring very bad people that seek to do people in this country harm to justice.

BLITZER: But would they have greater legal rights in the United States, as opposed to Guantanamo?

GIBBS: Well, understand that the Supreme Court -- Court already held in 2006 -- in invalidating the way that the Bush administration sought to deal with detainees, they already guaranteed them the right to challenge their detention.

But I think that's part of the problem, Wolf. We have an ad hoc patchwork of legal theories that were constructed in a prison camp that was centered in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that in some ways are coming home to roost for the United States of America.

Whether or not the president had ever decided to close Guantanamo Bay, courts are deciding each and every day whether or not our government has the evidence to hold these people at Guantanamo.

BLITZER: All right.

GIBBS: And let me give you one instance.

A George W. Bush-appointed federal judge ruled that a detainee that was transferred to France last Friday, that the United States didn't possess the evidence that it needed to hold him at Guantanamo Bay.

BLITZER: All right.

All right, one quick question, because the... GIBBS: Sure.

BLITZER: ... the vice president made a serious statement today. And I want to see if you believe it's factually accurate. Listen to this.



CHENEY: This might explain why President Obama has reserved unto himself the right to order the use of enhanced interrogation, should he deem it appropriate.


BLITZER: Is that correct, that the president has reserved the right...


BLITZER: ... to still use enhanced interrogation, if he deems it appropriate?

GIBBS: No, absolutely not.

The president of the United States signed an executive order doing away with enhanced interrogation techniques. The policy of this government, of the United States of America, is to no longer use those techniques. And they won't be used.

BLITZER: Robert Gibbs is the White House press secretary.

Thanks for coming in.

GIBBS: Thanks, Wolf.


BLITZER: President Obama, critics slam his policies as socialism, but one of his sharpest critics, the House Republican John Boehner doesn't necessarily agree. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM laying out his differences with Democrats.

Also, the man who helped Colin Powell prepare for his 2003 United Nations speech reveals what went wrong with the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Plus, CNN's Larry King speaking candidly about his private life, his seven wives and the son he never knew, and much more. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM this hour.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Four months ago today, we took office amidst unprecedented economic turmoil. And ever since that day, we've worked aggressively across all fronts to end this crisis and to build a new foundation for a lasting prosperity. Step by step, I believe we're moving in the right direction.


BLITZER: President Obama speaking about the very ambitious change he set in motion, change that some of his sharpest Republican critics assail as socialism. I spoke about that and more with the House Republican leader, Republican John Boehner of Ohio.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: Do you believe that the policies that President Obama is putting forward amount to socialism?

BOEHNER: I'm not sure that -- that that's a word that I would use. But clearly, his efforts and his policies are going to lead to much higher taxes, much bigger spending here in Washington and trillion dollar deficits, on average, for as far as the aye can see.

Now, I don't know how you can grow Washington's budget and grow the family budget or the business budget at the same time.

And so, at the end of the day, it's about how will American families react to this?

Do they want to pay higher taxes?

Do they want to see our businesses pay higher taxes with money that they can't invest in their businesses?

BLITZER: All right...

BOEHNER: ...and to create new jobs?

And so, as we get into these policies, we're -- we're in a position where sometimes we have to disagree...

BLITZER: Well...

BOEHNER: It's our job to offer a better solution. And we'll continue to offer a better solution.

BLITZER: So far, they're reacting -- if you believe the polls -- at least our brand new poll that Bill Schneider just reported on, they're pretty favorably inclined toward his policies, at least right now.

What is the Republican strategy to try to turn things around for the Republicans right now?

Is there a short -- a short version of what you have in mind? BOEHNER: Yes. I think so. I think you're going to see us take principled stands on issues like spending, on issues like taxes and deficits, because this is not good for our economy, short-term or long-term.

You'll see us take a stand on health care. We all want to make sure Americans have access to affordable, high quality health insurance. But we believe that maintaining the doctor-patient relationship is important. We're not in favor of a government-run plan or a government-run takeover of our health care.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk a little bit about the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

Here's what the former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, said earlier today on "Good Morning America."


NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I think the Democrats should get a new speaker. And the reason is the speaker is third in line to be president. She has a unique responsibility for national security.

If you were a CIA agent today and you were told go brief Nancy Pelosi, how could you have any sense of confidence?


BLITZER: Do you agree with Gingrich that Nancy Pelosi should resign?

BOEHNER: Wolf, the speaker of the House made a very serious charge that the CIA lied or misled her on purpose. And, well, I've made it pretty -- perfectly clear that if that's the case, she ought to present evidence that that happened and allow the Justice Department to investigate.

And if that's not the case, then she really ought to retract her statement and apologize.

And that's the position I've taken. I think it's a responsible position because at the end of the day, I want to get to the bottom of the truth -- what really did happen here.

BLITZER: Because, I take it -- so at this point, you're not going as far as Newt Gingrich and saying she should resign?

BOEHNER: No. I've been waiting since Sunday, when I did the CNN program and outlined this statement, that she should either come forward with documents that support her or she should apologize. And I'm waiting for Nancy.

BLITZER: Because she said she hopes the CIA will release all these documents. She says once they're released, that will back her up. She has no authority to declassify the information on her own, does she?

BOEHNER: She does not. But I've got my doubts about whether these documents will support her claim. I don't believe that to be the case at all.

But it's up to her. And I'm waiting for an answer from Speaker Pelosi.

BLITZER: Last year, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, he said this in response to a case that he was watching very closely -- an American citizen who was killed in a plane crash, a cover-up, he alleged, involving the CIA. He said these words

"We cannot have an intelligence community that covers up what it does and then lies to Congress."

That's what Pete Hoekstra said in 2008.

BOEHNER: Pete Hoekstra did say that. And the inspector-general of the CIA did an investigation. And it became clear that some CIA operatives did, in fact, cover this up.

This is not -- we're talking about two different issues here. All the facts in this case are on the table. And the truth is now known to all of -- to everyone. And (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: So based on what you know on that case involving Hoekstra -- the case he was interested in -- do you agree that the CIA then lied to Congress?

BOEHNER: I know a little -- I know as much about this case as Pete Hoekstra does. And the inspector general did, in fact, do an investigation, produced a report and, frankly, supported, I think, Pete's claims.

And all we're trying to do here, in both cases, is to get to the bottom -- get to the truth. And it's the truth that we want here. And the fact is, is that CIA Director Panetta issued a very strong letter to Speaker Pelosi making it clear that in his opinion, they did not mislead her or lie to her.

And so I want to either see the documents or I would like to see the speaker apologize.

BLITZER: I'm going to read to you four names of convicted terrorists serving time in the United States -- Richard Reid, the so- called shoe bomber; Zacarias Moussaoui, the supposed 20th hijacker; Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called blind sheikh who was involved in the conspiracy for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center; and Ramsey Yousef, another 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind. All of them are in prisons in the United States right now. If American prisons are good enough for them, why not bring some of those terror suspects from Guantanamo Bay to join them in maximum security facilities in the United States?

BOEHNER: Well, Wolf, what you didn't indicate is under what conditions are they being held?

Some of these prisoners they're -- the entire wing has been cleared out so that we can have one of these terrorist suspects in jail here. When you're talking about 240 prisoners, bringing them to the United States, you cannot provide that type of security -- and because here's the problem, Wolf.

You put these prisoners in a population with other prisoners, all they're going to -- all they're going to do is be in a perfect environment to recruit more people to their cause.

The bigger issue here, Wolf, is what is the plan -- the administration's plan for keeping America safe and dealing with this terrorist threat?

And they've made these announcements that they're going to close Guantanamo, bring those prisoners -- do some -- do something with them.

But how can you make that decision without knowing what you're going to do with the prisoners and what our overarching strategy is?

BLITZER: He's going to be speaking at...

BOEHNER: And I'm hopeful that the administration is going to talk about this tomorrow.


BOEHNER: I want details about what are their plans for keeping the country safe.

BLITZER: He says he's going to be speaking on that tomorrow. We'll find out.

One final question, Mr. Leader, before I let you go. This feud that has now developed between the former vice president, Dick Cheney, and the former secretary of State, Colin Powell -- they worked together for many years.

Colin Powell now saying this

"Rush Limbaugh says, get out of the Republican Party. Dick Cheney says he already left. He's already out. I may be out of their version of the Republican Party, but there's another version of the Republican Party waiting to emerge once again."

Here's the question -- who's right on this battle over the Republican Party, would it be Dick Cheney or Colin Powell?

BOEHNER: Nice try, Wolf.

I'm for all of them. Listen, I'm for expanding our party. I'm for bringing people together who believe in the principles of the Republican Party. And we're not going to get into -- we're not going to grow our party if we're trying to find ways to exclude people.

And so I'm for all of them. And I hope they'll all be active members of our party, because we need all we can get.

BLITZER: So it sounds like you're agreeing with Colin Powell.

BOEHNER: Listen, I'm for all of them.

BLITZER: All right. You want a big tent Republican Party just like Ron Reagan, is that right?

BOEHNER: I sure do.

BLITZER: Mr. Leader, thanks very much for coming in.

BOEHNER: Thank you.


BLITZER: President Obama and the Israeli prime minister are promising to seize an historic moment for Middle East peace.


OBAMA: The one thing that I've committed to the prime minister is, we are going to be engaged, the United States is going to roll up our sleeves. We want to be a strong partner in this process.


BLITZER: But the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn't tell the president everything he wanted to hear. We're going to get an insider's take on the talks.

And CNN's Larry King opens up about his personal life, the remarkable story about how he met the grown son he never knew, and how he's become the glue in his family.



OBAMA: It is, I believe, in the interest not only of the Palestinians, but also the Israelis, and the United States and the international community, to achieve a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians are living side by side in peace and security.


BLITZER: President Obama bluntly told Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week that it's time to get back to the negotiating table with the Palestinians. But how much is the prime minister willing to give to restart the Middle East peace process? I spoke with Israel's ambassador designate to the United States, Michael Oren.


BLITZER: We didn't flatly hear the prime minister say what earlier Israeli prime ministers have said and what the president presumably would have liked to hear that Israel accepts what's called a two state solution, a new state of Palestine living alongside Israel.

Why doesn't the prime minister simply say that?

MICHAEL OREN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR-DESIGNATE TO U.S.: What the prime minister did say, Wolf, is that he is deeply committed to peace, that he is eager to enter into peace agreements -- peace negotiations immediately with the Palestinians, that he seeks a peace arrangement that will provide for dignity, prosperity, security and, above all, peace with the Palestinians. He further said that Israel has no desire to rule over the Palestinians, that Israel is willing to give the Palestinians all powers that are consummate with people seeking to rule over itself, except for those powers that might threaten the state of Israel.

BLITZER: So why not simply say that at the end of the road, assuming that the Palestinians are ready to make the commitment and live in peace with Israel, Israel is ready to see an independent Palestinian state emerge?

OREN: The prime minister, I think, Wolf, wants to focus on substance. The substance is, will the Palestinians provide security for the state of Israel, will they recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, as a Jewish state? And if those substantive issues are addressed, and addressed successfully, then the semantics, I think, would be much more easily resolved.

BLITZER: So if the Palestinians say they accept, obviously, a desire to live in peace, alongside Israel, and make those commitments you want to hear, then in the end, Israel will accept an independent Palestinian state?

OREN: Israel is committed to this peace process. Again, if the substantive issues are resolved -- and those substantive issues are security for the people of Israel, recognition of Israel's status as a Jewish state -- then the semantic issues I think can be easily resolved.

BLITZER: Well, I think you're still dodging a little bit, but let's move on to Iran for a moment.

The president of the United States said basically there's not an unlimited amount of time for the Iranians to move towards easing international concerns about its nuclear program. He says by the end of this year, the U.S. will know whether or not the Iranians are sincere or they are not.

Is that timeline acceptable to Israel? In other words, between now and the end of this year, is Israel going to give the United States and its allies an opportunity to resolve this peacefully, diplomatically?

OREN: Israel supports President Obama's efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Israel also appreciates President Obama's statements, reiterated this week, that he keeps all options on the table.

Today, in his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the president said, again, that Iran poses a profound security threat not just to Israel, but to the United States and to the world. And that a nuclear Iran will trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Israel supports the president's efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

BLITZER: So let me just be precise. Between now and the end of this year, you're going to give the U.S. an opportunity to resolve this peacefully, diplomatically, and that no one should anticipate any unilateral Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities between now and the end of the year?

OREN: Again, Israel does support President Obama's efforts to address the Iranian initiative to prevent Iran from acquiring that nuclear weapon. And Israel, again, appreciates President Obama's commitment to keep all of those options on the table. I think that, Wolf, we are on the same page about the nature of the Iranian threat, not just to Israel, but to the entire Middle East, to many, many Arab countries, and to the entire world.

BLITZER: Because when I spoke to the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, the other day, he said that the estimate ranges from a year to maybe two years before there's a point of no return when the Iranians have enriched enough uranium to have a bomb.

Is that your assessment?

OREN: I think that it's very important that President Obama today talked about reviewing the situation again by the end of the year. And Israel will support the president's efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring those nuclear weapons.


BLITZER: Michael Oren, the ambassador designate of Israel to the United States.

Making the case for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.


COLIN POWELL: We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails.


BLITZER: How did the Secretary of State Colin Powell get it so wrong? I'll ask one of his key advisers, Richard Haass, the author of a brand new book "War of Necessity, War of Choice." Plus, the First Lady Michelle Obama in New York City. We go behind the scenes with very candid photos and details of a revealing interview.


BLITZER: As the United States pours reinforcements into Afghanistan right now, does it risk repeating mistakes made in Iraq, where it fought a pair of very different types of conflicts?


BLITZER: And joining us now, Richard Haass. He's the author of a brand new book "War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars. Richard is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Richard, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Congratulations on the new book. You were there on the NFC during the first Gulf War. You've worked with General Colin Powell as the -- when he was Secretary of State during his second Gulf War. Why did 500,000-plus U.S. troops deploy to liberate a small country like Kuwait and less than 200,000 deployed to liberate a huge country with 25 or 28 million people in Iraq? I was always confused by that, having covered both of these wars.

HAASS: Funny you should ask. The first war was the textbook case of the so-called Powell or Weinberger doctrine, overwhelming force, clear military objectives. That's what the liberation of Kuwait was and involved.

The second war it was if the people in the Pentagon wanted to prove they could somehow do it with fewer forces. And while they could do the battlefield phase of the war, they could not do the aftermath. There wasn't planning for the aftermath. Essentially they gambled, Wolf, and we lost.

BLITZER: The -- but the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney, he was the Defense Secretary during the first Gulf War. He understood the Powell doctrine and all of that. Where was he?

HAASS: Well, the second war, I think he was more than willing to back Don Rumsfeld. Even in the first war, it's not clear to me he was specifically involved heavily in the decision of how many troops to use. He didn't essentially care much.

What was also so interesting about the second war, and one of the reasons he and others were willing to go with so few troops is they assumed it was going to be easy. They thought the Iraqis were going to greet us as liberators. You remember all that talk, the kids were going to be throwing candy. Well, they were throwing things. but it was closer to grenades than candy. And people just didn't account for what was going to happen. BLITZER: You say the first Gulf War to liberate Kuwait was a war of necessity. The second Gulf War, the war in Iraq was a war of choice. But you say that was a blunder, that was a huge mistake, liberating Iraq.

HAASS: Right, it's not that all wars of choice are bad. They're not. But in this case, it was a bad call. The United States had alternative options that we could have done. We could have, for example, strengthened the economic sanctions that were in place.

More important, Saddam Hussein was not a particularly new or big threat at the time. He hadn't done anything in 9/11. He wasn't about to break out of anything, I thought, that threatened us. We thought he was hiding weapons of mass destruction, but what we learned was that he was hiding the fact that he did not have weapons of mass destruction. So we didn't have to go to war. We certainly didn't have to go to war the way we did it

BLITZER: Was it just bad intelligence about WMD going into the second war in Iraq? Or did the intelligence community, the national security apparatus, deliberately, as they say, cherry-pick and lie about what was going on?

HAASS: I thought the intelligence was bad, not because the intelligence community was cherry-picking simply they assumed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. and when you assume something, every piece of information that comes your way, you interpret through a lens of those assumptions. So they simply misread the situation. Policymakers though in several cases did cherry-pick the intelligence. And they can be criticized for that.

BLITZER: Were some people lying to the American public, to the international community?

HAASS: I don't believe they were lying. What they were trying to do was put together the best possible case for their preferences. But for example when Colin Powell went to speak to the United Nations, I was involved in the preparation of his statement. Everything he said that day, Wolf, in early 2003, he thought was correct. It only turned out later that several of the things he claimed were incorrect, but there was no lying by Powell. There was no attempt to mislead. It was simply that we were wrong.

BLITZER: Well, I guess the question is, did folks lie to General Powell in helping him prepare that speech that he delivered before the U.N. Security Council?

HAASS: The short answer is no. That speech was prepared by the intelligence community, working closely with my staff and Powell's staff. Indeed, when he began the process, he threw out the draft that had been provided to him by the vice president's office. That was seen as loaded. That was seen as using all these uncorroborated sources. So instead, we painstakingly put together a presentation that quite honestly, we were feeling good about. Sometimes in government the best things are the things you prevent. We thought we had prevented Powell going forward with the statement that couldn't be backed up. Again, it's one of the ironies of this entire episode that we were, in fact, wrong.

BLITZER: All right, fast forward to now. Is Afghanistan winnable?

HAASS: Well it's certainly a war of choice. What Mr. Obama has announced in late March is that we're going to take the war to the Taliban. Essentially now the United States is going beyond simply targeting al Qaeda. We're now becoming a participant in Afghanistan civil war. I only think it's winnable if you can eliminate or severely reduce the sanctuary in western Pakistan. I don't see that happening so far. And if you can build up the central government of Afghanistan, that would be a real change in Afghanistan's history. So it's potentially winnable, but we shouldn't kid ourselves. The odds are long.

BLITZER: Your book is entitled "War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars." The author Richard Haass.

Richard, thanks very much for joining us.

HAASS: Thanks for having me, Wolf.


BLITZER: The ultimate media insider finds himself on the outside.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: I got thrown out. It was a bum call. It's still a bum call, Wolf.


BLITZER: Why was Larry King ejected from a little league baseball game? It's just one of the surprisingly candid stories Larry's telling us. He tells us about his remarkable journey.

And it's your chance to tag along with the First Lady of the United States behind the scenes. We have the pictures. You're going to want to see them.


BLITZER: Well off a quarter century, he's been a fixture on CNN and a nightly guest in the homes of millions of people in this country and around the world. Now Larry King is revealing his personal life as he never has before.


And joining us now, Larry King is the author of a brand new book entitled "Larry King, My Remarkable Journey."

And it really is remarkable, Larry. I've known you for a long time. And you really decided to open up in this book about some of the most personal questions that face you. Why did you decide to do it now?

KING: Because, Wolf, I'm 75. Someday you'll be 75, God willing.

BLITZER: God willing.

KING: And a lot of people told me, you know, you're 75, you've written other books, you appear in movies, you've been on the air for 53 years. Why don't you really sit down and write an autobiography? And along with Cal Fussman, a wonderful writer from "Esquire" magazine, we joined together, spent hours and days together, and put this little trifle together. And I'm so glad you liked it, Wolf, because what you think matters to me.

BLITZER: It's really a fabulous, fabulous read. And I learned a great deal, Larry about you. Let's talk about some of these personal things you discuss openly, very candidly. You talk about you've been married what eight times to seven different women. And I'll ask you a Larry king kind of question. How did that happen?

KING: It happened first when my friends started going off to service and I was (INAUDIBLE) so I met one girl and then another. And I was raised both in the old Jewish tradition that if you love someone, you get married. So I thought I was in love. I got married. And then it didn't work out. And I got divorced and then met someone else and I didn't keep count. It just happened to happen until of course Shawn came along. And that's been 12 years now. So I don't really have a good explanation other than I gave it my all.

BLITZER: You also told a story and I know your son, Larry king Jr., he's a remarkable guy, but you really didn't even know him. You didn't know you had this son until he was in his 30s. How did that happen?

KING: It's an amazing story. I met this lovely lady, ten years older than me. I was very young. We had a relationship, got married. She told me she was pregnant with a child and that if it was a boy she was going to name it Larry King Jr. I guess she was kind of mad at me. And there he is. And it turned out to be that boy.

And I met him when he was 33. I got a call from her. She was dying of lung cancer. And her dying wish was that I should meet this boy I sort of knew I had. I never really had spoken to him. And we met. And I tell you, Wolf, it was incredible, as you know him. Hit it off immediately. And he's like a structure in the family. He's the glue in the Larry King family. And my little boys, his little brothers, his kids. It's almost an unbelievable tale.

BLITZER: Yeah, such a nice guy, too, and such a good person. He works with your foundation and the whole nine yards.

Let's talk about Larry King and money because you tell the story you were, what, down to your last $2, and you went to the racetrack.

KING: I went to Calder racetrack. I was flat on my back. I picked a horse, Lady Fourley (ph), I liked it. I bet the horse to win and then I used it in exactas. Remember, I got no money. And the horse wins. The exacta comes in, the trifecta comes in. And I go from no money to about $11,000. And I got no pockets. I got one of those jean suits. I don't know where to put the money. I dropped the money inside of my shirt. I went to what is now Joe Robbie's - what do they call it now? What's the name of it now where the Nationals play?

BLITZER: Here in Washington?

KING: Yeah.

BLITZER: Nationals Park.

KING: Oh, no, this is Florida so it's where the Florida, Miami Floridians play.

BLITZER: Right. Joe Robbie Stadium. Yeah.

KING: I went to Joe -- what was now Joe Robbie Stadium, then it was a field. And counted the money and went home and I did a couple of things first, Wolf. Paid my child support for a year, paid my rent for a year, and bought 20 cartons of cigarettes.

BLITZER: And that was probably the last thing you did, that was a bad mistake. We all know you had bypass surgery. The smoking was a horrible idea all those years.

KING: Very dumb. I started when I was 17. My father died when I was 9. He was a smoker. I smoked Phillip Morris. That was the cigarette he smoked. Did you ever smoke, Wolf?

BLITZER: In high school, I tried it. In college, a little bit, but I was never very good at it.

KING: I liked it. And I never had any bad times until a heart attack in February of 1987, and never picked up another one since. And that's 22 years.

BLITZER: And how are you feeling now, Larry?

KING: Never felt better. I keep in shape, I watch myself. I watch what I eat. I never go - I hate the smell of cigarettes. But I didn't complain when I smoked. I liked smoking. It didn't - I didn't cough a lot. I just now discovered it's a menace. I couldn't believe that any adult would take up smoking.

BLITZER: And I read that recently, you got two sweet, little young boys who love baseball just like their dad. You went to a little league baseball game.

KING: Okay!

BLITZER: And what happened? Because the word on the street is you got thrown out.

KING: I got thrown out. It was a bum call. It's still a bum call, Wolf. Anyway there was a play at second base to end the game in my kid's favor. And the umpire says I didn't see it. And I said you didn't see it? He said no so do it over. Do it over? Who ever heard of doing it over? And I started to yell at him. And you know what I said to me "go back to CNN." You're out.

And in Beverly Hills little league, you're suspended for two games.


KING: Honest to God. I had to sit out in the outfield in my car and have someone at the game tell me what was happening on my phone. I hope that does -- I'm a rabid fan. I see you at the Wizard games.

BLITZER: I'm just like you...

KING: Yeah.

BLITZER: ...but I've never been evicted from a little league baseball game. I got to tell thaw. Larry, all the interviews, the thousands of interviews you've done, one has to stand out in your mind as the best Larry King interview ever.

KING: That's hard to do, Wolf, as you know. If I had to pick out one, it would be Frank Sinatra. One, because he was hard to get. I tell a whole story in the book of how Jackie Gleason got him for me. And two, here's a guy very difficult to get. And then the interview was three hours. And it just flowed, Wolf. You know when you have it going?


KING: It just, wang, wang, wang! He was a great guest. He fit everything you want in a guest. You have passion, sense of humor, chip on the shoulder, could describe what it was like to be on the stage. So of all the people, the presidents, the kings, the major figures in the show business, sports figures, Frank Sinatra stands out.

BLITZER: Well, he was a unique guy.

KING: He was. You'd have loved him.

BLITZER: And so is Larry King, a unique guy indeed. Larry, the book is entitled "Larry King: My Remarkable Journey." Is the Larry King part of the title or is that just the byline?

KING: You know, we were going to call it "What Am I Doing Here" which really fits well. I think it's Larry King -- one thing, "Larry King" and then the rest just goes along with it.

BLITZER: "My remarkable Journey."

KING: "My Remarkable Journey." And I loved writing it. I'm so glad as I said that you like it. It's on sale today, which is also my brother's birthday.

BLITZER: Well, happy birthday. You know what? "The Remarkable Journey" will continue right here on CNN. Larry, congratulations.

KING: And what a thrill, Wolf, to be in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: You've work really hard, play by the rules, you'll come back one of these days, Larry.

KING: Go get 'em, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.


BLITZER: The First Lady of the United States as patron and promoter of the arts.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Our future as an innovative country depends on ensuring that everyone has access to the arts and to cultural opportunity.


BLITZER: Michelle Obama takes on New York high culture. You'll tag along with the behind-the-scenes look.

And pomp and praise. There are hats off for the U.S. Coast Guard cadets.



M. OBAMA: My husband and I believe strongly that arts education is essential for building innovative thinkers who will be our nation's leaders for tomorrow.


BLITZER: The First Lady, Michelle Obama, promoting the arts at the opening of the American ballet spring gala. "TIME" magazine got an inside look at her trip to New York, taking candid photos and getting a new interview with Mrs. Obama.

Joining us now, one of the reporters from "TIME" magazine who interviewed the First Lady, Michael Scherer.

Michael, thanks very much for coming in.

MICHAEL SCHERER, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: She went hasn't done a lot of interviews with the news media and you got one.

SCHERER: Yes. BLITZER: And we're happy to say that "TIME" magazine's our sister publication I want to get some insight on this woman because you spent quality time with her and I want to do it through some photos.


BLITZER: Callie Shell, your photographer, who's often been a guest on our program. She got some exclusive access. Tell us what we're seeing here in this picture.

SCHERER: This is the scene from the movie theater at the White House. One of the things that Michelle was concerned about before she came to Washington was that she would leave her network of family and friends that supported her and supported her family. And if anything else, this illustrates that, you know, she's been able to bring that with her. Her mother lives with her at the White House. A number of her long time friends from Chicago are now working with her at the White House. And she's able to have time to just eat popcorn with the girls.

BLITZER: See, she's having some popcorn, getting ready for a movie with her good friends.

All right, let's go to the next picture. This is a little bit different. We see at least in this still photo some moves there.

SCHERER: Yeah, that's right. This is from a woman's history event that she had at the White House. She brought over a group of teen girls from D.C., you know, from one of the local high schools. And she had them meet with a number of women leaders. And her message to the girls and her message to the women leaders was let's have fun. Let's, you know, hang out.

You know, one of the things she talked about with us is that you can see it here, she's a very touchy person. She touches the people she talks with. She touches, you know, she hugs students a lot when she meets with them. And she says one of things she's trying to do there is break down the walls, make people realize...

BLITZER: Did you get the sense she is having fun?

SCHERER: Yes, I definitely got the sense. You know, for the first time in ten years, she is living in the same city as her husband full time. She has her family there. She has her mother helping take care of the kids. She makes her own schedule. She has, you know, the food cooked. She doesn't have to worry about who's doing the dishes. And she's able to do work that she clearly sees as very meaningful.

BLITZER: All right, this next shot is a poignant moment. She's at a synagogue in Prague in the Czech Republic, the Pinkas (ph) Synagogue. And she's obviously reflecting.

SCHERER: Yeah. And I followed her on this day. This was during the president's trip to the Czech Republic. She took time off with David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel to visit the synagogue. You see there, behind are the names of people from the Czech Republic who died at concentration camps during the Holocaust. For her, I mean, it was a very moving day.

BLITZER: Yes and she took two of the president's Jewish aides with her, so this was added to that moment.

All right, let's take a look at the next picture, very different kind of picture. This is when she's with the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, but tell us what she's laughing about.

SCHERER: You know, she often is, you know, one of the roles she plays with the president, and with, you know, other people, she doesn't want to be involved in the heavy policy stuff. She doesn't want to be, you know, brought down by the seriousness of events. She kind of prods people, makes people feel like, you know, like this is meaningful, this is fun. I think that's another example of that happening.

BLITZER: It was at the opening of the - the reopening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

SCHERER: That's right, on Monday.

BLITZER: She loves to go to that kind of stuff, doesn't she? She's done a lot of them.

SCHERER: She does. She's been to the Kennedy Center here in D.C. You know, she's gone to New York a couple of times for various events as well.

BLITZER: And here's the next picture is of the American Ballet Theater opening at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. That was on May 18th.

SCHERER: That's right. And a private moment, it's one of the things that Callie's able to capture that a lot of people aren't able to capture.

BLITZER: Callie's the photographer.

SCHERER: Callie's the photographer.

BLITZER: She really gets incredible access

SCHERER: You know, she's known the Obamas for awhile. They're very comfortable with her. She's comfortable with them. And she's able to capture them in these quiet moments off stage when, you know, the rest of the cameras aren't trained on them.

BLITZER: She's showing her trademark arms I guess. That's -- I guess that's pretty common nowadays. And you've seen a lot of her. And she's a great dresser obviously as well.

SCHERER: A great dresser, sometimes a controversial dresser. You know, people have complained that she wore a sweater to meet the queen. And her response to that was it was a nice sweater. You know, I'll wear what I want.

BLITZER: Here's the next picture over at the -- she's meeting some of the performers at the American Ballet Theater. And she's got two friends, two special guests with her as well.

SCHERER: You can see, Joe Biden.

BLITZER: All the way to the right.

SCHERER: Yeah, all the way to the right, the wife of vice president Biden and Caroline Kennedy is also there behind her. They're long time friends from the campaign trail.

BLITZER: What did you learn when you interviewed the First Lady? What did you learn about her, something unique, something that you didn't know and certainly our viewers in the United States and around the world probably don't know?

SCHERER: You know, one thing that struck me about our interview was that she said a couple times, you know, this is not going to be my life. I'm a 45-year-old woman. And a few years in four or eight years, my children are going to be grown. And I don't know what's going to happen next.

She - you know, she sees herself as a professional woman who's taken this detour into the White House. She's able to do this work now.

The other big take-away I took from the time I reported on her and spoke with her is that, you know, for her, there's something -- every First Lady has this power of symbolism. You know, the cameras follow her, what they do, you know, is noticed.

For her, there's sort of almost a radical element to that because she's able to go into, you know, inner city schools, see people who may not feel like they will ever get to be somewhere at the White House and say I'm not supposed to be here. There's no reason I'm here. She's able to bring those same voices into the White House. And for her it's very meaningful. And I think it is powerful. That's something we haven't seen before.

BLITZER: She's on the cover of our sister publication, "TIME" magazine this week.

SCHERER: That's right.

BLITZER: Michael Scherer, the reporter. Thanks very much, Michael, for coming in.

SCHERER: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Marking an end and a beginning, a whole new generation takes part in an old tradition. Pictures worth a thousand words, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Here's a look at some of this week's hot shots, pictures coming in from our friends at the Associated Press. On the West Bank, boys jump into a pool to cool off during a heat wave. In New Delhi, a dancer performs outside the residence of Sonia Gandhi, whose party recently claimed victory in a nationwide election. In Pakistan, a boy waits while his father lines up for food at a refugee camp. And in Connecticut, graduates of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy toss their cadet hats in the air at the end of the commencement, some of this week's hot shots, pictures worth a thousand words.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern and every Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN, and at this time every weekend, on CNN International.

The news continues next, right here on CNN.