Return to Transcripts main page


Jackson's Mom Gets Kids; Michael Jackson's eBay Frenzy; Iran Officials: Election File "Closed"; Hondurans Protest Military Coups

Aired June 29, 2009 - 17:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: He joins us live this hour with new details of frantic efforts to save the superstar's life.

And it's just now midnight in Iraq. The deadline for U.S. troops to leave the country's towns and cities has arrived.

We're going to take you there live for a major milestone in controversial war.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.


We are now getting answers to some of the biggest questions surrounding the death of Michael Jackson -- questions about what becomes of his children, his estate and what exactly happened yesterday afternoon at the Los Angeles mansion where the superstar collapsed and stopped breathing, with his personal doctor at his side.

Well, there are new details that are emerging right now, as the doctor breaks his silence.

Our CNN Ted Rowlands is joining us live -- and, Ted, what are you picking up in Los Angeles?

Obviously, there's a lot of talk -- a lot of interest about this.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And a lot to do, especially for the family, Suzanne. They're planning a memorial service for Michael Jackson. They're dealing with the legal issues, not only the kids, but the estate. And still, they have a lot of questions as to the circumstances surrounding Michael Jackson's death.


ROWLANDS (voice-over): New photos of Michael Jackson rehearsing just before his death for his upcoming concert series -- the pictures seem to affirm what those in attendance have said publicly, that Jackson appeared to be in good health. Outside the Jackson home, Michael's father Joe says he still has questions about his son's death.

JOE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S FATHER: Well, the autopsy and the kneads and all that stuff -- anyway, you know, we're waiting on the second autopsy. We're waiting on that one.

ROWLANDS: Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician with Michael Jackson when he died, broke his silence, flatly denying, through his attorneys, that he may have somehow contributed to Jackson's death by giving him a shot of the prescription drug Demerol. His lawyers say Murray never gave him that drug or OxyContin.

As the investigation continues, Jackson's mother, Katherine, asked for and received temporary custody of Jackson's three children, saying in a petition filed in a Los Angeles probate court that: "The minors had no relationship with their biological mother."

JACKSON: We're going to take care of them and give them the education they -- they're supposed to have.


ROWLANDS: And also, Suzanne, Katherine Jackson filed another motion in another court today, asking to control the estate of her son Michael, in helping provide moneys for his grandchildren and paying off any creditors.

MALVEAUX: And, Ted, has anybody else come forward to file a motion to get custody of his kids besides the -- the family here?

ROWLANDS: Not yet. But, of course, that is on the table -- possibly, specifically, Debbie Rowe, the mother of two of the children, who does have some parental rights that were re-established by a court of law here. But nothing's been filed. And there's been no solid indication that she would do that. The children are older now and it's very -- and nobody has real solid information on how much time, if any, she's actually spent with these kids.

But it's something that everybody's following, obviously.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you so much, Ted.

Beyond the grief and disbelief that have come with the sudden death of Michael Jackson, there are inevitable legal questions that follow -- custody of the singer's three children, for instance.

And his parents say that the children belong with them.


JACKSON: (INAUDIBLE). We're the parents and we've got other kids of their size. They love those kids. And we love those kids, too. We're going to take care of them and give them the education they -- they're supposed to have. We can do that. And we have the area enough in the -- the (INAUDIBLE) large enough to be able to extend all kind of help that they might need.


MALVEAUX: Joining me now from New York is CNN's senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin -- and, Jeffrey, I want to ask you, first and foremost, is it -- is it likely that Joe and Katherine Jackson are going to get custody of these kids?

How does that work?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly, it is likely, but it is not certain. They are the first ones to ask the court to get -- give them custody.

The document that they filed today is not a full-fledged custody request. It's simply guardianship for the time being. Children need help -- you know, to have someone with custody of them every day. This is to essentially preserve the status quo.

And it does seem likely that they will get custody if no one else steps forward.

Obviously, Debbie Rowe, the mother of two of the children, is another possible person who might seek custody. But the grandparents do seem the most likely people to get them.

MALVEAUX: Jeff, you looked at the latest legal filings.

What are you seeing about a will?

Is there a will here?

TOOBIN: Well, the second document filed today, which is the one which asked Katherine Jackson, Michael's mother, to have temporary financial control of his affairs -- of his estate -- says very clearly that Michael Jackson died intestate, that is, in plain English, died without a will.

Now, a will may surface. But the fact that his mother signed a document saying he did not have a will suggests perhaps he didn't have one.

That would virtually guarantee chaos for years regarding his future -- the future of his estate, because people who die without wills, especially with complicated financial affairs, have a great deal of trouble getting their estate settled.

MALVEAUX: And, Jeff, I'm going to ask, why would -- why would his doctor hire a criminal attorney?

Does -- does that seem odd to you?

TOOBIN: Not really. Given the interests here, given the fact that the robbery/homicide division of the L.A. Police Department has been asked to investigate this situation, frankly, I think it would be irresponsible of the doctor not to hire a lawyer in these circumstances. I don't think we should draw any bad conclusions about him based on the fact that he hired a lawyer.

Anybody who's going to be interviewed by robbery/homicide detectives, if they can afford a lawyer, would be smart to hire one.

MALVEAUX: OK. Jeff, thank you so much. Jackson's death is sending sales of his music soaring. On, Jackson's albums were the top 15 best-sellers on Friday, the day after his death, with "Thriller" in the number one spot. And his videos were nine of the 10 fastest moving DVDs. One Amazon executive says that he has never seen anything like it.

And over at iTunes, 13 of the 20 best-selling albums Friday were by Jackson, along with 40 of the top 100 songs.

Well, this newfound popularity is extending to eBay, as well.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, watching all of that -- Abbi, what are you seeing?

And, obviously, a lot of movement here.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Right. If you want some Jackson memorabilia right now on eBay, you've got about 50,000 choices. And some of it's going to cost you. More than $50,000 is the current bid for a platinum disc of "Thriller" right now or for about $10,000 there's a "Thriller" jacket. Some of it's just a couple hundred dollars -- the CDs or LPs, as people, in some cases, just seem to be clearing out their closets of anything Michael Jackson related.

In some cases, you've got no bids at all. There's a seller that -- a seller in Australia who would like to unload a Michael Jackson- themed ventriloquist dummy that they would like $950 for. But right now, no bids.

For the rare collectibles, though, the interest extend well beyond eBay. There was an auction in Las Vegas on Friday of 21 items, including some Michael Jackson clothing -- an auction that had been previously planned and went ahead anyway. That, they thought, was going to reach about $6,000 to $10,000. Actually, that auction went for more than $200,000. So there's a huge amount of interest right now.

MALVEAUX: Well, I have albums, too, but I'm holding onto them. So I'm not going to let them go on eBay.

TATTON: You should.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Abbi.

Jack Cafferty in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: At the risk of further alienating my bosses here at CNN, who are kind enough to let me do this stuff every day, somebody has got to ask this question.

It has been pretty much impossible to avoid news coverage of Michael Jackson's death since last Thursday afternoon. Cable TV, network news, prime time specials, the tabloids, special editions of the newspapers, the blogs, eBay -- you name it.

And as is often the case with these celebrity stories, it seems like there's not going to be any end to this anytime soon. This one may be especially lengthy because of new questions that keep popping up every day, it seems, including how Jackson actually died. The family wants a second autopsy. They are "quite clearly troubled" about the circumstances surrounding the singer's death. And an autopsy performed by a county medical examiner was inconclusive. It could take four to six weeks to get back the results of the toxicology test that he did.

Jackson's doctor's role in all of this immediately questioned, as you heard Jeff Toobin talking just a minute ago; although his lawyer insists he did not inject Jackson with any painkillers.

The story will also drag on to the questions surrounding what happens to Jackson's three children. His mother has been given temporary guardianship of those kids, but there are hearings set in the upcoming weeks for permanent custody. And you can bet that will be a circus.

Not to mention worldwide media attention that will be focused on a rumored possible global memorial service, as well as Jackson's funeral.

A big story, but coverage that's even bigger.

So here's the question: How much Michael Jackson coverage is too much?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

I probably got myself in trouble again.

MALVEAUX: That's OK, Jack.

CAFFERTY: That's OK for you.

MALVEAUX: We're used to it. That's all right.

CAFFERTY: That's -- you're not in trouble. I am.

What do you care?


MALVEAUX: I'll stick up for you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: All right.

MALVEAUX: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking out for the first time about the killing of Neda Soltan, the young protester now a martyr to Iran's contested election.

Will his words soothe the outrage over his death?

Also, a president arrested and forced into exile -- a coup in Honduras stirs American outrage and puts President Obama in the same camp as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez when it comes to criticizing the coup.

Plus, an autopsy sheds new light on the mysterious death of an American TV pitchman -- what killed Billy Mays?


MALVEAUX: Iran's election oversight body says that the file on the disputed presidential election is closed. The Guardian Council today said that a partial recount of the 40 million votes cast on June 12th supports victory for sitting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

CNN's Reza Sayah is at our Iran Desk today.

He is following all of the latest on post-election protests and the subsequent government crackdown -- Reza, what has Ahmadinejad said today?

What do you think this means?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Ahmadinejad has not commented on the results of the Guardian Council's partial recount. But clearly, in the past week or so, based on what he said, he's been very confident that he is the re-elected president and he believes that the elections have been fair.

But he did comment today on Neda Agha-Soltan's death. That's the 26-year-old who was shot and killed a couple Saturdays ago in the streets of Tehran during a protest.

Today, President Ahmadinejad called her death suspicious and he wrote a letter to the judiciary looking for an investigation. But based on what he said, President Ahmadinejad has concluded that Neda was not killed by Iranian security forces.

And here's President Ahmadinejad's statement: "The massive propaganda of the foreign media, as well as other evidence," said the president, "proves the interference of the enemies of the Iranian nation who want to take political advantage and darken the pure faith of the Islamic Republic."

It's interesting to note, government officials have now offered three explanations as to who killed Neda. They've blamed the CIA. They've blamed a terrorist group. They've also blamed the protesters themselves -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, also, police in Iran are saying that some people are posing as the Basij -- this Iranian militia.

Can you explain that?

SAYAH: Yes, Suzanne.

One of the most lasting images of the turmoil following the elections in Iran have been these beatings delivered by members of the Basij. These are the plainclothes voluntary militiamen charged by the government to maintain security by any means necessary. And they've done it with brutal force. They've come under tremendous criticism by members of the international media. You're looking at some of the pictures over there now.

According to Iranian state-run TV, police officials have come out and said they've arrested some who have been impostors -- they posed as the Basijis. Also, the commander of the Basij has come out and defended his men.

Here's how the report played out on Iranian state TV today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Iran says it has arrested individuals who are wearing Basij and police uniforms and were involved in violence during the recent street violence. The commander of Iran's Basij, Hussein Taleb, says the force has contributed to maintaining security in recent riots without resorting to arms.


SAYAH: That was Iranian state TV and the commander of the Basij defending members of the Basij.

But there's a mountain of evidence, Suzanne, that it is, indeed, members of the Basij who delivered some brutal beatings. And no one really knows who they're accountable to.

MALVEAUX: Reza Sayah, thank you so much for the very latest on what's happening on the ground in Iran.

The sound of gunfire and then armed soldiers enter the home of the president, whisking him away to Costa Rica. Soon, a new president is put in his place. Well, that's what happened during a military coup in Honduras yesterday.

But what does such a takeover look like?

We have some pretty remarkable video of all this and I want you to see it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are not sons of rich people. You are of the people. You are (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thieves! Thieves!

Pull out your weapons!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Calm. Calm, brother.


Pull back, everyone.


MALVEAUX: Joining me now is CNN foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty -- and, Jill, can you tell us -- you know, looking at these very dramatic pictures, how is the administration responding to this?

What is the impact?

What does this mean for Americans?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Suzanne, just looking at those pictures, that is the bad old days. You remember that Central America, for years, was hit with military coups on a regular basis. This is actually the first coup since the end of the cold war.

And the United States is trying to head off or return to what President Obama just this past hour called the dark past of political instability.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): (AUDIO GAP) the military and put on a plane to Costa Rica. He says he's still the democratically elected president of Honduras.

President Barack Obama joining the Organization of American States in calling it a coup.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras, the democratically elected president there.

DOUGHERTY: But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hints the U.S. had problems with Zelaya.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: All parties have a responsibility to address the underlying problems that led to yesterday's events in a way that enhances democracy and the rule of law in Honduras.

DOUGHERTY: Those underlying problems include Zelaya's call for a referendum to end presidential term limits. Honduran courts and the Congress charge he was trying to remain in power illegally.

The Obama administration's criticism of the coup puts the U.S. uncomfortably on the side of Venezuela's leftist leader, Hugo Chavez, who's threatening to overthrow Roberto Micheletti, the head of the Honduran Congress, who's been installed in President Zelaya's place.

ROGER NORIEGA, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: We have been too passive in the last several months. DOUGHERTY: President Bush's former top official in the region says President Obama should have been tougher with the Honduran president.

NORIEGA: In this case, Zelaya was following Chavez's playbook, running roughshod on the other democratic institutions in the country. And the U.S. reacted too little, too late and the OAS didn't react at all.


DOUGHERTY: So what's next?

Well, tomorrow, Tuesday, the OAS is holding an emergency session on what is going on in Honduras. They're sending a delegation there to work on the restoration of order.

And the U.S. meanwhile, is hoping that all of this coordinated, concerted action will convince Honduras to end the impasse -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Jill, thank you very much.

Well, the question is, what is your connection to Honduras?

There is a chance that the coffee, the shrimp or the bananas that you buy actually come from that country. Those products are the main exports from Honduras to the United States. In fact, Honduras is the fifth largest banana exporter to the United States. Trade between the two countries totaled almost $9 billion last year.

Honduras is also a popular destination for scuba divers. And it has the second largest coral reef in the world.

Michael Jackson's doctor is speaking out for the first time about the superstar's death and his frantic efforts to save Jackson's life. His attorney joins us.

Plus, hundreds of protesters gather near White House. We'll have their message to President Obama.


MALVEAUX: Betty Nguyen is monitoring the stories that are coming in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- and, Betty, what are you watching?


The wife of one of the longest serving members of the U.S. Congress resigning from office. Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers, the wife of House Democrat John Conyers, submitted her letter of resignation today after admitting to taking cash bribes in exchange for her vote on a city sludge contract. Now Conyers faces up to five years in prison.

Her resignation takes effect July 6th. Hundreds of protesters gathered near the White House today to demonstrate against a free trade agreement between the U.S. and Colombia. Look at that. Ten protesters chained themselves together on the streets. Police used a saw to cut the chains apart and then dragged them to the sidewalk. The protests were timed with today's meeting between President Obama and Colombia's president. Mr. Obama says he is confident that the two leaders can come together on an agreement. A free trade agreement between the countries stalled in Congress for years due to fears of human rights abuses.

And bones housed in Rome's Basilica of St. Paul are actually the bones of the apostle Saint Paul himself. That's according to results of new scientific tests announced by Pope Benedict yesterday. Saint Paul was originally a zealous persecutor of the early church. But his dramatic conversion to Christianity is chronicled in The Book of Acts.

So very interesting there -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Betty.

Their father is dead and their futures are in flux -- the Jackson family's attention turns to the children of Michael Jackson. But it was someone other than the family who broke the sad news to his children -- how they learned of their loss.

It is after midnight in Baghdad and the Iraqis have taken control of their capital from U.S. and coalition forces. We'll find out how it's going.

And America's best known pitchman dies suddenly. Now we know what silenced Billy Mays.


MALVEAUX: New details of Michael Jackson's final moments are emerging as the doctor who was with him breaks his public silence on the star's mysterious death. He is speaking out through his attorney, Ed Chernoff.

You say that the doctor was hired to make sure that he was healthy enough for the tour that he was going to engage in. And tell us a little bit about his condition.

Did he -- did he express that he was in pain or how much did Michael Jackson weigh?

You had said before he was very small and that he was frail when the doctor was administering CPR.

ED CHERNOFF, ATTORNEY FOR JACKSON'S DOCTOR: I don't -- I can only base his weight on the reports that I've heard. But yes, he was a very small man. I know the doctor has said -- has said -- and I have said that Michael Jackson didn't eat very much. He really didn't drink very much. He didn't hydrate very well.

He -- when he rehearsed, it was very strenuous exercise. But his general health, as far as we knew -- or as far as Doctor Murray knew, was good.

MALVEAUX: Was he fasting at the time?

CHERNOFF: Not that we know.

MALVEAUX: And so the doctor didn't see him as being unhealthy in any way?

He saw him in good enough shape to conduct this tour -- to go on with the tour?

CHERNOFF: Yes. He -- absolutely. Dr. Murray -- his job and his goal was to see to it that Michael Jackson was healthy. And that was what he was hired to do. And, of course, if he thought that he was unhealthy in a way that would jeopardize his -- his health further or his life by embarking on this -- this tour, he would have done something about that, surely.

MALVEAUX: So for the last two weeks, he was a -- he was healthy man, the doctor believed?

CHERNOFF: The doctor believes he was healthy -- he was a healthy enough man to -- to do the things he was doing on a daily basis and the plans that he was -- he made, he would have been capable of -- of doing.

MALVEAUX: Did he complain of chest pains or any kind of pain or stress that he was experiencing over the last couple of weeks?

CHERNOFF: The stress he complained about, certainly. He was very stressed. He was concerned and anxious about the tour and about his performances and about the rehearsals. But he never complained about heart pains or any physical ailments that would suggest that he had a heart condition.

MALVEAUX: Give us a sense of how much time the doctor spent with Michael Jackson in those days. Was he around 24/7, or was he only on call, or how did that work?

CHERNOFF: Yes, the doctor had been -- the doctor did not live there. He was on call. His job description was to be available to Michael Jackson whenever he needed him. And on occasion, and this is one of those evenings, Michael Jackson wanted his doctor to be with him during the night. And he was. He stayed there that night. He was there that night, as has been reported.

MALVEAUX: And how did he discover that Michael Jackson was in distress? He was called the night before when Michael Jackson was complaining of pain, was there that evening, and then discovered him in the morning?

CHERNOFF: Suzanne, there was no call made that he was in pain. I'm not sure where you get that. But there's been lots of rumors, so perhaps that's been reported somewhere. But that wasn't why he was there. He was there because Michael Jackson wanted him there. He went in to check on him sometime before noon, and Michael Jackson was not breathing, and that's when he discovered that there was a problem.

MALVEAUX: Certainly. Did anyone invite him into the bedroom or he simply walked in and discovered Michael Jackson in this way?

CHERNOFF: No. He walked in and discovered him this way. The room that Michael Jackson slept in was not open to everyone.

MALVEAUX: And there was no nurse or no one around. It was just the two of them.

CHERNOFF: It was just the two of them, yes.

MALVEAUX: And security, where were they?

CHERNOFF: They would have been throughout the house, perhaps, but I don't know exactly where they were at the time. But they were certainly not in the room with the doctor and Michael Jackson when the doctor found him.

MALVEAUX: So, when the doctor retired for the evening and Michael Jackson went to bed, was there anybody who saw him during that period of time before dr. Murray discovered him that morning?

CHERNOFF: Not that I know of. I mean, maybe. I can't speak for everyone, but not that I know of.

MALVEAUX: The Jackson family, we heard from Joe Jackson in particular saying that he was concerned about some things, he was bothered by some things. The family has asked for a second autopsy. Have you spoken to Joe Jackson? Has he reached out to you or Dr. Murray and expressed concern about what happened between Jackson and Murray in those final minutes?

CHERNOFF: No, he's never called. The doctor was at the -- first of all, the doctor rode with Michael Jackson to the hospital in the ambulance. He was in the hospital, with him in the hospital room, worked with the doctors at UCLA to try to revive him. After he was pronounced dead, the doctor stayed in the hospital. I spoke with the family members that were there.

MALVEAUX: Who did he speak with?

CHERNOFF: He spoke to LaToya, he spoke to Jermaine, he spoke to Mrs. Jackson.

MALVEAUX: And what did he tell them?

CHERNOFF: He also spoke to the children. Well, he comforted La Toya and talked with Jermaine, as well, about Michael and helped Jermaine with a press release, a legal press release that they wanted to put out. He talked less to Mrs. Jackson. He did advise the doctors that Mrs. Jackson had a heart condition and suggested that they break it -- the death of her son generally to her, and they did that.

MALVEAUX: Was it the doctor who broke the news to the children? CERHNOFF: No. It was -- yes, it was Dr. Murray that did that with Michael Jackson's agent. Dr. Murray was very close to the children as he was very close to Michael Jackson. It just -- and he cared very deeply for them and he wanted to break it to them as gently as possible. The children asked to see their father, and Dr. Murray talked to the psychiatrist there at UCLA, the caseworkers and determined whether that was appropriate for the children, considering their age, and worked with them in that regard. And ultimately, he spoke to the police and then he left.

MALVEAUX: Did the children -- were they able to see Michael Jackson, their father, when he was there at the hospital, deceased?

CHERNOFF: My understanding is that they did.

MALVEAUX: Why was it that Dr. Murray hired you? You're a criminal attorney dealing with criminal matters. Is there any concern that after the second autopsy that in some way Dr. Murray is going to face criminal charges of some sort?

CHERNOFF: No, that wasn't the concern. But Suzanne, one of the most famous men in the world literally died in the arms of Dr. Murray and then he wants to be interviewed by LAPD. I would think -- you have a lot more faith in the justice system than I do if you think he doesn't need a lawyer under those circumstances. Most of us would get a lawyer. He doesn't have any concerns. He's not hiding out. He has nothing to hide. We've cooperated fully with LAPD. We'll continue to do that, cooperate with the M.E.'s office. We want to get to the bottom of it just like the family does, and hopefully that will be soon.

MALVEAUX: And where is Dr. Murray now?

CHERNOFF: He's in L.A. he niece L.A. he's been there ever since. There were some statements made, I don't know by who, but that he was hiding out. He wasn't hiding out. He was available. He'd given his information to the police. They knew where he was. They knew that we were representing him. We had set up the appointment as soon as we could fly in. He's been available. And the police I think would back me up on that.

MALVEAUX: Final question. Is there anything from the Jackson family that they have asked either of you or Dr. Murray in these days?

CHERNOFF: No. Nothing. And we -- we would certainly like to help them if possible, and hopefully we're doing all we can to help the investigating agency determine what happened to Michael Jackson. And if we can help the family, we would do that as well.

MALVEAUX: And is there anyone in the family that's reached out directly to the doctors, of the Jacksons to ask the circumstances beyond that initial meeting at the hospital?

CHERNOFF: Suzanne, the only information we've gotten is through intermediaries, television. Just -- we've seen it on television. That's it. But to the degree we can be helpful, we will be there for them.

MALVEAUX: Thank you very much, Ed Chernoff. Appreciate your time.

CHERNOFF: Thank you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: A hard landing followed hours later by a mysterious death. What really killed the country's best-known TV pitchman? Now autopsy results shed new light on the death of Billy Mays.


MALVEAUX: It's now past midnight in Iraq and the much anticipated deadline for U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraqi town and cities has arrived. The U.S. commander in charge in Iraq tells CNN's John King that he believes the country's military is up to the new challenge.


GEN. RAY ODIERNO, CMDR. MULTI NATIONAL FORCE IRAQ: I do believe they're ready, John. They've been working towards this for a long time. And security remains good. We've seen constant improvement in the security forces. We've seen constant improvement in governance, and I believe this is the time for us to move out of the cities and for them to take ultimate responsibility.


MALVEAUX: Let's bring in our CNN's Michael Ware, who is in Baghdad on the ground. Michael, is the general right about this? What do you think? Are they ready?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a yes and there's a no answer to this. In a vacuum, in the ultimate truth, no. No. Iraqi security forces as they exist could not hold this stability together as we've come to know it. What's important here is that the general's right to the degree that, yes, they can do it with 130,000 U.S. combat troops still here in this country, albeit retreating to their pre-approved bases. It's the U.S. forces who are still underwriting the relative security we have now here in Iraq. And it's the U.S. forces that provide what the general calls enablers. Now, that's going to be the helicopters, the heavy artillery, and the other things that will allow the Iraqi security forces to move forward. But certainly, the responsibility now for running this war, because, as of 40, 50 minutes ago, the American-led war in Iraq is over. This is now the Iraqi war in Iraq. Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki is now in charge, and this evening, Iraq has celebrated. There's been parties across the country. I was at one at a park in central Baghdad. Hundreds of families, Suzanne, gathered picnicking. There was singing, chanting, bands strolling about. There was even a concert. And we've seen this in other cities, too. State TV has been running a daily countdown to this moment, and 16 seconds to midnight they started ticking down literally to the handover. The anchors were draped in Iraqi flags. And as the font said, this is a day when the will of Iraq has won, Suzanne. MALVEAUX: Michael Ware, our guy on the ground in Baghdad, thank you so much, Michael.

Joining us to talk about the turning point in Iraq and much, much more, Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Paul Begala and Republican strategist Kevin Madden. Thanks for joining us.

I want to first start off, we heard from the former vice president Dick Cheney really expressing a great deal of concern for this very moment, this deadline that has come and gone, the withdrawal of these U.S. troops and what is this going to mean for the situation on the ground. I want you to take a listen.


DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would look like, one might speculate, that the insurgents are waiting as soon as they get an opportunity they'll begin to launch more attacks. I hope that's not the case. I hope certainly that the Iraqis can deal with it.


MALVEAUX: Kevin, what does this turning point mean?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think that this means that we're seeing a transition towards greater security. We're seeing an ability by the Iraqi security forces to stand on their own. And it's a decision that's been made with military metrics in mind rather than political metrics, and I think that's a very encouraging sign. I don't see this -- I think a lot of people will look at the vice president's remarks or the former vice president's remarks and think it's criticism, but I think it's concern. And I think that concern is on the Republican side and the Democrat side here. I think everybody's being vigilant as we see this move towards a new day in Iraq.

MALVEAUX: Paul, criticism or concern here? Does he have a point that this is a time when these guys might decide, hey, you know, this is an opening here, we're going to go for it?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, the next time Dick Cheney says something about Iraq will be the first time Dick Cheney has ever said anything that's right about Iraq. He ought -- concerning these issues, treat them with enormous humility. We say General Ray Ordierno who knows a bit more about the situation on the ground and he's right. But for Dick Cheney, 4,316 U.S. troops killed in that war, in large measure because of Dick Cheney. It's a little pathetic that he's on the "Washington Times" morning radio show. I mean, good lord. Is there nothing smaller that he could be flapping his jaw on? He's kind of pathetic.

MADDEN: I think that criticism is too strong. I think he showed a tremendous amount of deference towards General Ordierno and I think that's consistent with what those in the Bush administration have said before, they're going to let the facts on the ground and the military commanders on the ground dictate the movements and terms of troops.

MALVEAUX: Paul, is this something President Obama and his administration now -- this is no longer going to be the Bush war?

BEGALA: Well, this is -- he's the commander in chief. And it was President Bush's war and I think he and Mr. Cheney deceived us getting into the war and yet there we are. The president has real responsibilities. President Obama does. I think he's exercising them in a prudent fashion. John McCain has essentially endorsed the Obama approach. I think President Obama has been really scrupulous in discharging his responsibilities as commander in chief. He knows 130,000 American souls are dependent on him and his decisions and he's responsible about that.

MALVEAUX: I want to turn the corner to the scandal of Governor Sanford who admitted to an affair here. There's been a lot of reaction to this and very mixed. I want to start with Governor Pawlenty who was critical of him.


GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R), MINNESOTA: Anytime you have leading figures who are engaged in behavior that is sad and troubling and hypocritical, other people are going to look at that and say, hmm, they don't walk the walk, so their words and actions don't ring true.


MALVEAUX: Megan McCain had this to say. Oh, it's -- let me read it to you. It's with the Daily Beast. It says "was Governor Sanford wrong to have an affair? As a husband, of course he was. But should we burn him at the stake and make him leave office? I don't believe so because sex and politics are two very different things, even if sometimes they seem hopelessly entwined."

What direction does the Republican Party, the conservatives go in? Do they listen to the Pawlentys or do they listen to the Meghan McCains now when they look at a sex scandal of this kind?

MADDEN: I think when you look at somebody like Governor Pawlenty, he's bashing his career around being a reformist and it's been about issues. It hasn't been about the trivial personal politics. I would disagree with the premise of the argument that this was anybody's out there looking to burn anybody at the stake. I think the controversy here right now has to do with the discharge of a public office. It has very little to do with somebody's personal affair. Instead, it has to do with the governor who essentially left the state. I think that ultimately that decision that's going to be litigated by the people of South Carolina based on whether or not Governor Sanford lived up to his duties as governor. Nothing to do with the personal battle.

BEGALA: I didn't think John Ensign should resign. Nothing to do with being a senator. I didn't even think Larry Craig or David Vitter, who potentially were committing crimes, allegedly hanging out with hookers and Craig in the bathroom, it's disgusting, but it has nothing to do with being a senator. I didn't want them to resign. Nor should Sanford resign for having an affair. But I think Kevin's right. When you're responsible for 4.5 million South Carolinians and you don't tell the lieutenant governor where you are, you're abandoning your state, not just your wife, and for that, I think you've got to go.

MALVEAUX: OK. We'll leave it there. Kevin, Paul, thank you so much.

The sudden death of Billy Mays is no longer a mystery.


MALVEAUX: Time now to check back in with Jack Cafferty and Jack, you've been listening to folks. What are they saying about Michael Jackson?

CAFFERTY: For one thing, we're getting thousands of e-mails. This question has also been posted on and we're getting a huge response. They're all over the lot. The question is: How much Michael Jackson coverage is too much?

D. writes: "Jack it was over for me when they had Jackson's father mumbling about his new recording company on BET last night. Pity the poor children. The lawsuits will begin to fly! He was the family meal ticket. They'll all be vultures with lawyers. Stop the nonsense and take old Joe off the air. Let M.J. rest in peace."

Janet says: "You're forgetting that you live with the news. Many of us are busy with our everyday lives and grab the news when we can get it. When your viewers start tuning out, that's when you've had too much coverage. So for now, please continue your broad and professional coverage."

Mary F. writes: "This is big news. It won't last forever. Please let us mourn."

Steve writes: "Enough already. If this guy didn't have fame and fortune and was your next door neighbor, you and your kids would be terrified. It just shows that fame allows you to be weird."

Ken in Colorado writes: "Great topic, not only the Michael Jackson story but the many other topics that are beat to death day after day. I have a son in Iraq, like many other parents. Others have children in Afghanistan. While coping with the daily story, we are lucky to get 15 minutes of information about our children and what they are coping with. This is just shameful."

And John in Houston writes: "Mr. Cafferty I'm watching you because of CNN's coverage of the passing of Michael Jackson. Mr. Jackson was a musical icon, philanthropist and humanitarian. If you are not interested, please feel free to take a vacation." You don't have to be hostile, John.

You didn't see your e-mail here, go to my blog at There is a ton of mail coming in on this. The appetite for news about the gloved one hasn't disappeared yet.

MALVEAUX: Obviously it looks, certainly looks like a lot of folks are weighing in on this and want to know more, perhaps. All right.

CAFFERTY: They want me to go on vacation.

MALVEAUX: Hey, good vacation's not a bad idea, Jack.


MALVEAUX: All of us need a vacation. All right. Wolf's on vacation. That's a good thing. Thanks, Jack.

A TV pitch man dies suddenly and mysteriously. Was it related to a hard airplane landing just hours before? Now the autopsy results on Billy Mays are in.


MALVEAUX: His signature shouting style and thick, dark beard made him an infomercial mainstay for years. Billy Mays died yesterday in his sleep from his home in Florida. CNN's John Zarrella tells us officials now have determined what it was that killed him.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pitch man Billy Mays does not appear to have died from a hit on his head. An autopsy revealed Mays may have died from a disease he didn't even know he had. At 50 years old, Billy Mays' career was at its height. He was the king of the pitch men. You know the face and the booming voice from commercials for products like Orange Glo and Oxiclean. Preliminary results from an autopsy revealed Mays' death may have been caused by heart disease. The official cause won't be announced until final tests are in six to eight weeks. Mays' death was not the result, the medical examiner said, of a piece of luggage that fell from an airplane's overhead storage.

DR. VERNARD ADAMS, HILLSBOROUGH CO. MEDICAL EXAMINER: There has been some speculation about the possible role of an impact to the head that Mr. Mays received in a hard aircraft landing a few days ago. The autopsy revealed no evidence of any external or internal evidence of head trauma.

ZARRELLA: Mays was on a US Airways flight from Philadelphia that blew a nose gear tire during a hard landing in Tampa Saturday. Afterwards, a Tampa television station talked with him briefly.

BILLY MAYS, TV PITCHMAN: All of a sudden, as we hit, you know, it was just, I mean, the hardest hit. All the top, you know, things from the ceiling started dropping and it hit me on the head but I got a hard head.

ZARRELLA: Mays' wife Deborah found him unresponsive Sunday morning and called 911. He was pronounced dead by paramedics a short time later. Mays had become a pop culture celebrity, appearing on the "Tonight" show.


CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST "THE TONIGHT SHOW": I hear your voice when I try to go to sleep at night.


ZARRELLA: He also co-hosted a discovery channel series appropriately titled "Pitch Men."

MAYS: Wow. What an entrance.


ZARRELLA: People with big dreams would bring them products and Mays and his co-hosts would decide whether the items were worthy of a pitch. From the best pitch man in the business. The autopsy revealed a thickening of the left ventricle and the artery that leads to the heart. These two things are consistent, the medical examiner said, with sudden death -- Suzanne?


Happening now, Michael Jackson's father adding to the controversy after the pop star's death. This hour, Joe Jackson's strange public appearance and his claim that he is crying on the inside.