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Supreme Court Rules on Race Bias Case; Madoff Sentenced

Aired June 29, 2009 - 18:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, Jackson's personal physician denies injecting the singer with powerful painkillers. The doctor is speaking out through his lawyer about the mystery surrounding the famous patient's death.

And a new Supreme Court ruling puts a different face on racial discrimination, and it could make Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the high court more complicated.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer's office today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

New video in to CNN from Michael Jackson's home in Los Angeles. We are told that four cars are parked outside, three from the L.A. Police Department, one from the coroner's office. We are monitoring the situation there, the ongoing mystery about Jackson's death, and a strange sideshow that is also taking place.

The singer's father, Joe Jackson, spoke out today about his son in an appearance that some people saw as self-promoting.

Our CNN's Don Lemon spoke to Joe Jackson again today.

And, Don, you have got a pretty good sense of what is going on there with him. What do you make of his behavior and what he has said?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, as most people would like to, saying that, you know, that it's just -- he may be just grief-stricken and not exactly sure of what he's doing.

But yesterday at the BET Awards, on the red carpet, I asked him about the family. And Joe Jackson said that he didn't really want to talk about the family that much, but then went on to promote his record company.

That press conference I want to show you was held just a short time ago right here in front of the family compound. You can see people are gathering here at a memorial they have put in front of the family compound here in Encino, California.

But Joe Jackson sought to clarify those statements he made yesterday just a short time ago. After that press conference, I spoke with him about it to clarify them even further.


LEMON: I wanted to talk to, Joe, about you felt compelled to come out and clarify the statements yesterday.

How you doing? Good to see you.


LEMON: Why did you feel compelled to come out and clarify those statements?

JOE JACKSON, FATHER OF MICHAEL JACKSON: Because it's my son, you know? And I wanted to make sure the whole world knows that -- what a superstar he was like that all over the world.

And I just wish -- I just wish he could have been here alive to see this happening...

LEMON: Right.

JACKSON: ... and not to wait until he's passed and then the recognition. Yes.

LEMON: And some people said they understood part of it, because, in your grief, that, you know, who knows what happens in grief, and you know, what state of mind you're in.

JACKSON: To who? To me or him?

LEMON: Yes, sir.


LEMON: Yes, sir.

JACKSON: I'm a pretty strong guy, but at least -- at least I suffer, I cry on the inside. A lot of people will see tears coming on the outside down the face. Not me. I take it in here. But I'm strong.


LEMON: And you heard Joe Jackson saying he is strong, he is grieving for his son, but he said the reason that he promoted his record company is because he says that's what he thinks Michael would have wanted him to do -- Suzanne.

LEMON: OK. Don Lemon on the ground there with us, for us, thank you very much.

As the world awaits answers to how Michael Jackson died, his personal doctor insists that he has nothing to hide. Jackson's physician is battling rumors concerning what he did and what he didn't do in moments before the singer's death.

Let's bring in our own Brian Todd. You have been following this, and, you know, a lot of unanswered questions still about this.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There still are, Suzanne. I know you have spoken with one of his attorneys. We have spoken to the other attorney for Dr. Conrad Murray.

Through those discussions and from records we have found, we are getting some new details about Michael Jackson's personal physician.


TODD (voice-over): Through his attorneys, Dr. Conrad Murray maintains he did nothing wrong in the death of Michael Jackson.

MATT ALFORD, ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY FOR DR. CONRAD MURRAY: Dr. Murray is not a suspect in the investigation of Michael Jackson's death. He is a witness.

TODD: Murray's attorneys tell CNN he did prescribe some medications to Jackson, but they emphatically deny rumors that he gave the star the narcotic painkillers OxyContin or Demerol.

Conrad Murray graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville 20 years ago. He's known Jackson since 2006. His attorneys say at that time, one of Jackson's kids became ill in Las Vegas and someone in his security detail recommended Dr. Murray. They say Murray didn't become Jackson's physician until early May, when he was hired to be with the star through his upcoming concert series in London.

According to the reputable health care ratings group HealthGrades, Dr. Murray was not board certified in either of his two specialties, internal medicine or cardiology. His lawyers acknowledge that. We asked experts about board certification.

DR. ARTHUR CAPLAN, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA CENTER FOR BIOETHICS: You're in absolutely no legal trouble for not being board certified unless you misrepresent yourself. It's a great thing to have, it's something to look for, but it's not legally required that you be board certified to practice medicine.

TODD: HealthGrades also has no record of any sanctions or malpractice claims filed against Murray in California. The groups says records from Texas and Nevada, where he also practiced, are not available.

There is evidence of some financial difficulty. Court records show Dr. Murray had at least two civil judgments filed against him last year by two financial companies totaling at least $250,000.


TODD: But none of that reflects on Dr. Murray's actual treatment of Michael Jackson. One of Murray's lawyers told us they don't know anything about his financial situation, but on those civil judgments, the lawyer said -- quote -- "Show me a doctor who's been practicing for 20 years and hasn't gone through something like that" -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Brian, you have new details as well about being hired, this doctor being hired for the concert series. What do you know?

TODD: That's right.

An official with the promoter AEG Live tells us that the original intent was to hire a doctor once they got to London for that -- that concert series.


TODD: They say that Michael Jackson insisted that Dr. Murray be brought with him, that they worked out a deal where they would advance Michael Jackson some money from the production budget to pay Dr. Murray. They were still making those arrangements when Michael Jackson died.

Interesting. One of Murray's attorneys said that Dr. Murray is still owed $300,000 by the promoter, AEG Live. And an official with that company wouldn't comment on that.

MALVEAUX: OK, Brian, thank you so much.

TODD: Sure.

MALVEAUX: Amid rumors over what he did and didn't do, Jackson's doctor wants to get his story out. Dr. Conrad Murray is talking through his attorneys. And one of them is here. Wait until you hear him describe Jackson's last moments before dying, the desperate attempt to save him, and what the doctor knew about any possible drugs.

Jack Cafferty joining us this hour with "The Cafferty File."

Jack, what are you following?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: A little different story.

U.S. combat troops have, mercifully, pulled out of Iraq city. Fireworks lit up the sky in Baghdad at the stroke of midnight. That was just about an hour ago over there. The Iraqi government has declared Tuesday a national holiday. More celebrations, military parades are planned.

But Iraqi citizens are reacting with mixed feelings. Many say they are glad to see the Americans gone, that they will feel freedom and liberation. But others aren't so sure. One Baghdad resident says she feels fear and horror and says that many Iraqis will be afraid of each other.

Others say they have come to depend on the U.S. soldiers. More than six years after this ill-fated invasion, the U.S. says Iraqi forces are finally ready to take control of security in the cities. We will see soon enough. The last 10 days have seen several bomb attacks and assorted violence, which has left more than 200 Iraqis dead, hundreds more wounded. Iraqi and U.S. officials had warned of a rise in attacks around the date of the U.S. troop withdrawal.

After the handover, as of right now, U.S. forces will have to get permission from Iraq to go back into the cities or carry out operations in urban areas. There will be a small number of U.S. troops that remain in the cities to train and advise Iraqi forces, but most of them will be in bases outside city limits.

We still have 131,000 troops, give or take, in Iraq. Most of them are supposed to leave the country by next summer. And all of them are supposed to be gone by the end of 2011.

Here's the question: What do you think life is likely to be like in Iraq without the presence of U.S. combat forces in the cities? You can go to and post a comment on my blog.

I imagine the citizens in those cities are as used to seeing U.S. soldiers patrolling as we are seeing a cop on the beat here in New York City.

MALVEAUX: Sure. Sure.

Thank you, Jack.


MALVEAUX: Read his lips. President Obama previously said no new taxes on the middle class. Well, will he break that promise to pay for something virtually everyone wants?

Issues involving black and white -- New Haven firefighters celebrate a major decision by the Supreme Court. But some African- Americans say it will set black workers back 45 years.

And the mastermind of the biggest investment scheme in history learns his punishment. And Bernard Madoff's victims are cheering.


MALVEAUX: Read his lips. President Obama previously said no new taxes on the middle class. But could White House priorities change that promise?

Let's go straight to our CNN senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry.

And, Ed, you have been following this. What are they saying?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, it's interesting, because, as you remember, the first President Bush did break a major tax pledge, the whole "Read my lips" situation. Now top White House aides are suggesting President Obama may have to break that pledge, too. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): The president is now leaving the door open to raising taxes on the middle class in order to pay for health reform.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We haven't drawn a lot of bright lines. We understand there's some flexibility on the part of Congress to work through some of these policy issues. And we're going to allow that process to continue.

HENRY: Spokesman Robert Gibbs was addressing whether the president will veto a bill increasing taxes on health benefits for people making less than $250,000 a year.

(on camera): He made a pledge. He said, I am not going to raise taxes on anyone under $250,000. Is that pledge still active?


GIBBS: We are going to let the process work its way through.

HENRY: Different from the president's rigid promise during the campaign.


OBAMA: I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase, not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.



HENRY: What's changed is, the cost estimates for Democratic health plans have been rising, and Republicans are warning, large tax hikes will be the only way to fund them.

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R), MINNESOTA: The president said not long ago in an interview -- quote, unquote -- "We are out of money."

With all due respect, Mr. President, if we're out of money, quit spending it. And, so, no, we can't afford it. This is a nation that's got a debt load and a deficit load that is unsustainable.


HENRY: Now, what's most significant is the president's senior adviser, David Axelrod, also seemed to leave the door open to breaking this tax pledge yesterday when he was asked about it on ABC.

So, for two top White House aides to do this two days in a row, it's not an accident. It suggests this White House realizes they may have to raise taxes to pay for health care and they are already starting to prepare the public for that possibility -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Sure, Ed. And is there any indication that the White House believes they can get this deal done without raising taxes?

HENRY: Yes, they are still hopeful they can do it without raising taxes.

Robert Gibbs was pointing out today, look, this is all still hypothetical. Things are changing quickly on the Hill. And the president has laid out a lot of savings through Medicare and other programs that he hopes will pay for health care without raising taxes.

But the bottom line, it's on the table -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Ed, thanks so much. See you soon.

HENRY: Sure.

MALVEAUX: A major U.S. Supreme Court ruling on racial discrimination today. The justices determined that white firefighters and one who identifies himself as Hispanic white were unfairly denied promotions in New Haven, Connecticut, because of their race.

In the 5-4 decision, the court reversed a ruling that high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed as an appeals court judge.

Our Mary Snow has reaction from New Haven.

Mary, what are you learning today?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you know, after a five-year legal battle, the firefighters here in New Haven say they are relieved by today's ruling, and they expect their court battle to have a wide-ranging impact on workplaces across the country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was worth it, every minute of it. Right, guys?


SNOW (voice-over): The so-called New Haven 20 celebrates the Supreme Court ruling in their favor. The plaintiff, Frank Ricci, says he feels vindicated for suing the city for discrimination after he was denied a promotion. The city ditched the results of a promotional exam because no African-American would have been promoted.

FRANK RICCI, NEW HAVEN FIREFIGHTER: This is just proof positive that people should be treated as individuals and not statistics, and that won out at the Supreme Court today.

SNOW: The city said it threw out the results for fear of being sued by minorities, but in a 5-4 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the "Fear of litigation alone cannot justify an employer's reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions." Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a dissenter who called the court's majority ruling troubling, adding, "Relying so heavily on pencil-and-paper exams to select firefighters is a dubious practice."

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano says he can understand firefighters on both sides of this issue, but adds...

JOHN DESTEFANO, MAYOR OF NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT: It's a continual erosion of civil rights law by the Supreme Court.

SNOW: The city viewed the test as flawed after they had already been conducted. A group of minority firefighters advocated using a system that would take into effect life and communication skills, not just written tests.

Ben Vargas is the lone Hispanic member of the New Haven 20. How does he respond to those who say the test wasn't fair?

BEN VARGAS, NEW HAVEN FIREFIGHTER: What I say to them is study hard, because we won this, and this was not only for us, but it was for them as well, for the entire country, not only in the fire service and police service and all public service, because this is going to help everyone out.


SNOW: And, Suzanne, the high court did -- made almost no mention today of the previous ruling in this case by a federal appeals court written by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. And it did not criticize her for not issuing a full -- full opinion in the case. That's something that some of her critics are now doing -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Mary, thank you so much.

This was the final day of the current Supreme Court session and the last day of David Souter's career on the high court. The 69-year- old justice read a brief statement from the bench, saying his colleagues had -- quote -- "touched me more than I can say."

While Sonia Sotomayor prepares for possible confirmation as his replacement, Souter says that he is looking forward to his retirement in New Hampshire.

The sentence is in for the man accused of the biggest swindle in history and for running a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. Bernard Madoff will spend the rest of his life in prison.

CNN senior correspondent Allan Chernoff joining us live.

And, Allan, tell us how the victims are reacting to this sentence. You got a chance to see it up close.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, the courtroom exploded in applause as Judge Denny Chin announced the maximum term of 150 years in prison for Bernard Madoff. As he was led off to a jail cell, some of those victims who have lost all of their money hugged each other. Even so, they say they feel little satisfaction.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): The fraud here was staggering, said Judge Denny Chin, moments before sentencing 71-year-old Bernard Madoff to 150 years in prison, the maximum term.

Judge Chin said the largely symbolic sentence was important to the victims and then referred to a letter he received from Norma Hill, who told of meeting Madoff two weeks after her husband had died.

NORMAL HILL, MADOFF VICTIM: He reassured me. He put his arm around my shoulder, and he said to me: "Don't worry. Everything will be fine and your investment will be safe with me."

CHERNOFF: Madoff in March pled guilty to running a massive Ponzi scheme for years, rather than investing client funds, as he reported in their monthly statements. The official tally lost so far is $13 billion, though, ultimately, it could be multiples of that figure.

Madoff told the court, "I live in a tormented state, knowing all the pain and suffering I have created. Then, he briefly turned to the victims, saying: "I'm sorry. I know that will not help you."

DEWITT BAKER, MADOFF VICTIM: He doesn't exhibit any emotion. There's no tears. There's no broken voice. It's just a recitation with -- inhuman recitation.

SHARON LISSAUER, FORMER MADOFF INVESTOR: I don't believe he even has any remorse. This would have never continued for God knows how many years if he had remorse.

CHERNOFF: Madoff's apology also rang hollow with the judge, who said, "I do not get the sense Madoff has done all he could or told all he knows."

After the sentencing, Madoff's wife, Ruth, released her first comment on the scandal. "I feel betrayed and confused. The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His wife was working right along with him. She's not stupid. She had to know.


CHERNOFF: Prosecutors continue to investigate Madoff family members and his employees, believing Madoff could not have pulled off this Ponzi scheme all by himself.

Now, because Bernard Madoff is going to be sentenced, is sentenced to more than 10 years in prison, he cannot serve at a minimum-security prison. It will be up to the Bureau of Prisons to determine exactly where Bernard Madoff will spend the rest of his years -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Allan.

And I want to bring this up. If Bernard Madoff were to serve out all of his 150 year sentence, that would amount to less than a second in jail for every dollar lost by the investors who have been identified so far. And Madoff would spend an average of more than 40 days in jail for each person or organization who invested with him.

The circumstances of Michael Jackson's death remain something of a mystery. Well, now the doctor who was with the singer in his final moment has begun speaking out through his lawyer.

And Jackson's death stirs speculation about what might happen at his longtime ranch called Neverland. Some say it could become this generation's Graceland.



MALVEAUX: The question, will Neverland become the new Graceland? Possible efforts to turn Michael Jackson's famous estate into a tourist attraction, like Elvis' home.

And we're starting to piece together Jackson's final minutes and how his personal doctor reacted to his sudden death. Stand by for my interview with the doctor's lawyer speaking out on his behalf.



Happening now: After four days, the death of Michael Jackson is sinking in. Now the family is moving to secure his estate and his children.

Comparisons drawn between the king of pop and the king of rock 'n' roll are spreading to real estate. Could Michael Jackson's Neverland one day rival Elvis Presley's Graceland?

And new polls examine President Obama's responses to issues ranging from the death of Michael Jackson to the crisis in Iran. As a leader, how's he doing?

All of this, plus the best political team on television.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Four days after Michael Jackson's stunning death, his mother, Katherine, has been granted temporary custody of his three children. The family also is asking that Mrs. Jackson be named administer of her son's estate.

Let's bring in Drew Griffin of CNN's Special Investigations Unit.

And, Drew, what have you learned today?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the papers were filed this morning. Katherine Jackson wants to raise Michael Jackson's three children. The papers were filed this morning in Los Angeles.

Let me just read you part of that. It says: "The petitioner seeking appointment as administrator is the mother of the decedent. She intends to marshal assets of the decedent for the executive use of the decedent's three children, her grandchildren, after payment of debts and expenses of administration."

These are the three children left behind, whom, you know, Suzanne, really have no other person looking after them. There is a nanny who has been their long-term nanny, but no other parent involved in this situation, as one of the parents, Debbie Rowe, gave up that right awhile ago.

And Joe Jackson this afternoon came out, in a -- a very interesting and sometimes confusing press conference, did say the children are there at the Hayvenhurst home, and that they are happy. Let's hear what he has to say.


J. JACKSON: They're happy, though. But they're -- they're happy with the kids that they're around, because we have kids over there -- back there, at least. We have kids back there that are small just like they are. And almost -- some of them are the same age and it's over there -- because, you know, they was never around other kids.

But they're -- they're happy.


GRIFFIN: Again, nobody has challenged this petition. But it's still early in what could be a very litigious season for the Jackson family as they deal with the aftermath of Michael Jackson's death -- Suzanne.


Thanks for the latest details on that.

Meanwhile, Jackson's personal physician, who was with him when he died, is now breaking his public silence. Dr. Conrad Murray is speaking out through his attorney, who says that Murray has no idea Jackson may have been abusing prescription drugs.

Why didn't he suspect that?

There were other people who have come forward who have said that Michael Jackson told them -- Deepak Chopra, who actually told us on CNN that Michael Jackson admitted that he not only asked for prescribed drugs from his friend, but that he also was receiving it from other people. Why didn't Dr. Murray know that or inquire about that?

ED CHERNOFF, ATTORNEY FOR JACKSON'S DOCTOR: Well, I -- I saw that interview with Dr. Chopra. And I -- and I was very interested in what he had to say about that. But he's talking about a period of time long before Dr. Murray ever got -- got on board to be Michael Jackson's private physician.

Dr. Murray has known Michael Jackson since 2006, but he hasn't treated him as a physician until May of 2009, when he was hired by the production company.

MALVEAUX: But isn't that the kind of information his doctor would want to know, even if he hired him late in the process here, whether or not he had been taking Demerol or OxyContin?

E. CHERNOFF: If you're asking should he have asked hey, Michael, just wondering, do you take Demerol or OxyContin, he had no reason to suspect that he -- that he had. It's not as if it was well-known that that was happening -- if it was happening, by the way. I mean let's not -- let's not rush to judgment here and say that Michael Jackson was a drug addict. We don't know that.


MALVEAUX: But isn't that part of the problem, is that that is not known?

Isn't that -- wouldn't that be a typical traditional question that a doctor who is treating a patient would ask, are you on prescription medications?

E. CHERNOFF: Oh. Of course.

Are you taking this, that or the other?


MALVEAUX: So -- so he would ask him...

E. CHERNOFF: Well, no, no, no, no...

MALVEAUX: So he would ask him, correct?

E. CHERNOFF: Not this, that or the other. He would ask him. And I'm sure that he did, you know, are you on any other prescription medication?

Are you -- you doing this?

Are you -- are these -- are you doing anything that would -- would interfere with -- with the medications I might give you or that might affect your health, especially since he was -- he was hired to make sure that he was healthy and -- and taken care of for the -- for the 50 concert tour that he was going to do in Europe. I'm sure he asked. But Michael Jackson never told him that he was taking any other drugs; certainly, not Demerol and certainly not OxyContin, if he was. If he was.

MALVEAUX: So you're saying he has asked?

You're confirming that he did ask Michael Jackson...

E. CHERNOFF: No, I'm not...

MALVEAUX: ...whether he was on those drugs.

E. CHERNOFF: No, Suzanne. I'm not confirming that. I'm agreeing with you that that's something that -- that you would expect him to have asked. And I -- and knowing what I know about Dr. Murray, I'm sure that he did ask him that or ask him if he's on other drugs or -- and I think that if Dr. Murray had known that he was using other drugs, then he would have taken that into consideration in -- in many respects.

MALVEAUX: How is President Obama handling the upheaval in Iran?

Americans are rating the president.

And do they like what they're seeing?

New poll numbers and what they mean for the White House.


MALVEAUX: President Obama is getting high marks from Americans on his handling of the situation in Iran.

Joining us to talk about that and more is CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; CNN senior political analyst, as well, is David Gergen; and Candy Crowley, as well.

They're all part of the best political team on television.

I want to start off first, David Gergen, in your blog today -- making quite a bit of buzz already over the president's leadership style and whether or not it's an appropriate one in influencing members of Congress, in pushing for legislation and getting his agenda done.

You say here: "It is too early to judge whether the president's leadership style will ultimately prove to be a major breakthrough for the country or whether it will bring changes that disappoint. But it is not too early to have a more vigorous debate about where these reforms are taking us. And for that, we should also welcome this questioning from our friends."

Your column reacting to some pretty well-known newspapers who -- who have criticized that president about -- about what he's doing so far. DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Yes, Suzanne. The -- it's been striking to me that after a long period in which the American public has been very favorably impressed with President Obama -- and we've heard much praise from overseas -- that over the last few days, two major international and highly respected publications, the "Financial Times" and "The Economist," have both come down pretty hard on his leadership style. And their essential argument is that the president is delegating so much authority to Congress, that is a way to get things through, but that the bills coming out of the Congress are deeply flawed.

They are pointing in particular to the energy climate change bill that passed the House of Representatives that was a milestone -- historic to actually have the Con -- one house in Congress say we need to put on mandatory limits on carbon emissions, but at the same time it was a very watered down bill. And these newspapers and others are now saying that this more passive style of the president is -- is leading to results that are -- actually aren't that good. And they are also pointing to health care -- the bill looks like it may well be -- be watered down, as well.

MALVEAUX: Candy, when it comes to energy, you know, we've heard these criticisms before, specifically from the Europeans, our allies, on that point, on that score.

Does this sound any different than what we've heard before?

Because they are -- they really do want tougher standards when it comes to dealing with climate change.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, true enough. But when you're talking about leadership style, it really has been the template for the Obama administration to sort of set out these big old goals and then say to Congress, here, you write up the stimulus package; you write up the energy package.

Now, you tend to get something more quickly that way. And it's not as though they sort of leave it at that. Certainly, the White House sends people up on Capitol Hill. But I think the fact of the matter is that here the president remains so popular that people tend to dismiss what criticism there is. And I think that's part of what these papers are writing about, like what's in the stimulus bill, what's in this energy bill.

Is this really the way we want to go, because it's a very different path than where we've been before?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Suzanne, I think there are two questions here.

The first is are you giving up quality for quantity. This is an administration that has clearly decided to proceed on all fronts. It had no choice but to proceed on the economic front. But it's also decided that it couldn't push its other agenda to the back burner -- that being health care and that being energy. And there are a lot of folks -- by the way, conservatives and liberals -- who are both disappointed in the energy bill and who are worried about the health care bill.

You know, and I think that there is a question of how much this president can get done and what the quality of that will be.

But, also, we should know that the White House, as Candy points out, is not sitting back on its hands and just saying let Congress -- let Congress do all of this. They're involved in lots of meetings. The White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is up there all the time, as are the Congressional liaison people.


BORGER: So quietly, they are signaling what they can live with and what they can't live with. And we don't have the results yet of these two major pieces of legislation to know what's really going to be in them when -- when the final thing is cooked.

MALVEAUX: I want to turn the corner to Iran, if we could.

We've got new poll numbers out here essentially asking the American people whether or not the president is playing it right when it comes to Iran -- how -- how has he responded to events in Iran.

Sixty-one percent say that they approve; 36 percent say they disapprove. The second poll numbers showing here that his criticism of Iran, that only 9 percent say that he's gone too far; 33 percent say not enough; and 56 percent say it's -- it's about right.

David Gergen, do you think that this indicates that he is striking the right balance here, somehow that the American people seem to agree with him on this, that he is -- he's not overstepping?

GERGEN: Well, it's certainly important that he has maintained the support of the people for his approach to Iran. I think, Suzanne, what's really happening here is that, is Iran's a hideously complex subject. It's hard for people to follow.

And the results we're seeing on Iran, you know, so that the approval rating for Iran is really a proxy for the overall approval of the president. I think that same poll has virtually identical numbers of approval and disapproval of the president's overall handling of the presidency itself.

So I don't -- I don't think it tells us very much, other than Iran is then placed in this broader context. And the overall approval for Iran is about the same as the approval for his presidency.

MALVEAUX: Candy, do you think it reveals at all whether or not the American people are paying attention to what's happening in Iran?

CROWLEY: I don't think it's that they're not paying attention. I totally agree with David. I have long thought that these high marks that he continues to get, at least over 50 percent in most things, really is a reflection of how popular the president is. At this point, he can't do much wrong as far as the American people are concerned. Let me add two other elements I think that kind of lead to this kind of overwhelming support.

One is that the American people don't want actual involvement in yet another country. That hasn't been on the table. But that's one of the things.

And the third thing is we don't know what's going on there. We have only seen grainy, cell phone pictures of the streets maybe a week ago. So lacking those pictures, it's very hard for us and for the American people to have something to react to.

BORGER: And, you know, we have watched the president's criticisms of Iran evolve, to put it nicely, which is that at first he really held back. And by his last press conference, he said he was appalled and outraged about what was going on in Iran and seemed to send a warning saying that -- that the world is watching.


BORGER: And Americans are watching the president. And because they like him, they agree with him.

MALVEAUX: OK. Great. Got to leave it there.

Thank you, all of you.

I want to quickly go to Lou Dobbs, who's preparing for his show -- Lou, what's on tap?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Suzanne, thank you very much.

Coming up at the top of the hour, we'll have the first on the legal decisions in the fight over Michael Jackson's children and his estate. A Los Angeles judge has ruled on the custody battle over Jackson's three children and the courts are now deciding who will control the dead pop star's millions of dollars.

Also coming up, new questions about the president's choice as the next justice on the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. The high court overturning a landmark civil rights ruling endorsed by Sotomayor.

And one of the biggest white collar crime sentences in history -- Wall Street con artist Bernie Madoff jailed more than 100 years. The judge didn't buy Madoff's act of contrition. He imposed the toughest sentence possible.

And his wife Ruth says she didn't know what was going on.

We'll have all of those stories, including exclusive interviews on the Supreme Court Sotomayor story.

Join us at the top of the hour for all of that, all the day's news and more -- back to you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Lou.

It's a home unlike any other in America -- so what will become of Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch?

Could it become the next Graceland?

A look at what could be in store.


MALVEAUX: Many parallels have been drawn between Michael Jackson and Elvis. Another one may be in the works. Questions are swirling about the fate of Jackson's Neverland Ranch -- a place where he famously indulged his inner child.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez has the story from Los Angeles.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, at Neverland today, a sheriff's car was spotted a short time ago leaving the ranch, while some fans were bringing flowers. There's a lot of speculation as to what will happen to Michael Jackson's former home.


GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Michael Jackson, the king of pop; Elvis Presley the king. Elvis' beloved estate, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee, is now a multi-million dollar tourist attraction where you can dine, wed and bed.

Can this be the same fate of Michael Jackson's 2,500 acre ranch, Neverland?


GUTIERREZ: That's because Neverland sits on unincorporated land in Santa Barbara County. Turning the ranch into a tourist attraction would require major changes in zoning. That's not going to happen, according to the managing editor of the local paper.

LANZ-MATEO: I can't imagine a politician who wants to last any length of time around here putting their political capital behind this idea. I believe Michael Jackson lived here for the same reason a lot of people live here, is to get away from everything.

GUTIERREZ: Fans have found their way there. Even though Jackson's possessions are no longer at the ranch, mourners left flowers and cards at the gates.

Billionaire investor Tom Barrack took partial control of the ranch last year, after Jackson nearly lost it to foreclosure -- shelling out about $23 million to get the property out of default. Barrack's spokesman says no decision has been made about Neverland's future.

Today, Joe Jackson said one thing is for sure -- Neverland will not become his son's burial site.


GUTIERREZ: Over the weekend, two of Michael Jackson's brothers spent time with Tom Barrack, its partial owner. We are told that they spent three to four hours walking the grounds, reminiscing and reflecting -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

We want to go to Betty Nguyen, who has some new information about the Jackson case -- and, Betty, what are you learning now?

NGUYEN: Well, we are learning that the assistant chief coroner has just left Jackson's rented home. And we've been told by him that medications were found in the house.

Now, a lot of us have medications in our home. There's this indication as to what exactly that medication is or how many of them there are. But we have been told by the assistant chief coroner there in L.A. County, which just left Jackson's rented home, that medications were found on the premises.

Of course, we're going to be checking to see exactly what those medications are -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Betty, thank you so much for the very latest.

I want to go to Jack Cafferty, who's joining us again -- Jack, and what are you watching?

CAFFERTY: The question this hour, it's an historic day in Iraq and so we're asking: What is life likely to be like in Iraq without the presence of U.S. combat troops in its cities?

They're withdrawing as of today, as per a written agreement with the government of Iraq.

Andy in Chicago writes one word: "Anarchy -- just like it would have been if we left six years ago or 10 years from now.

What a waste of time, money and, most importantly, lives."

Muyiwa writes: "We successfully removed the stabilizing factor in Iraq, Saddam Hussein. No matter what anyone says, he kept disparate groups in one country. Now, the place is a ticking time bomb."

F. writes: "Who cares? Crime is up in every major city in the U.S. We have to lay off police here because our cities are broke because we spend money policing over there. Hello, what's wrong with this picture?"

Mark writes: "It will be as chaotic as with every other vacuum left by colonial imperialists' exits that left few families without fatalities and life-long injuries. Life in Iraq will be poisoned for generations by the ignorant Christian zealotry of those that sent the troops there in the first place."

Hank in Montreal says: "The Iraqi government has settled nothing amongst themselves. Nuri al-Maliki is next to powerless and biased. It's not going to be pretty -- gradual descent into chaos, perhaps even civil war."

James says: "The Sunni will begin horrific acts to assume power throughout the majority of the country. It will most likely spiral out of control before the U.S. forces outside the cities can effectively put it to rest."

And David in San Diego writes: "There will be fewer American military casualties, at last. And that's all that should matter now."

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

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you so much, Jack.

New Yorkers have been looking up lately. It's because of a "Moost Unusual" sight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I've got to say I don't think I've ever seen anything like that.



MALVEAUX: What is that that is floating over the Big Apple?

Our CNN's Jeanne Moos will fill us in.


MALVEAUX: Here's a look at today's Hot Shots.

In Iraq, Iraqi soldiers march during a handover ceremony, as the U.S. prepares to wind down its presence.

In Switzerland, clerics sweep the floor in preparation for an ordination ceremony.

In London, a tennis fan shows his support during a match at Wimbledon.

And in Hungary, one dog leaps over another to escape the heavy floodwater.

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

Well, an odd and even creepy occurrence had New Yorkers looking up and scratching their heads recently.

What was it?

CNN's Jeanne Moos got her head out of the clouds and went to find out.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No wonder New Yorkers looked up and said...


MOOS: You'd be saying oh my God, too, if you saw this shot of Yankee Stadium in the sports section with the understated caption, "Under Ominous Skies." Ominous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mushroom aliens are going to come out of them.

MOOS: People came out on the street to stare. They posed with the clouds on rooftops. The crazy clouds floated into the blogosphere, with Web sites like Gothamist and Flicker featuring the apocalyptic photos. Shots came in from Harlem. Shots came in from Chelsea.

Remind you of anything?

The aliens arrival in the movie "Independence Day." At least New Yorkers didn't crash. They didn't flee. They did what any red- blooded New Yorker would do -- they made home videos.


I've got to say, I don't think I've ever seen anything like that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have seriously never seen clouds like this in my life.

MOOS: Yes, well they're nothing new for folks who live in areas where there's often severe weather.

(on camera): What do you call those clouds?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's pounced mammatus.

MOOS: From Latin for udder.

MYERS: The M-A-M-M-A -- mamma part -- it looks like an udder.

Well, what do you see there?

MOOS (on camera): I just want to milk them.


MYERS: Well, I don't think you're going to get anything out of them. MOOS (voice-over): Oh, some New Yorkers were milking them, all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, let's have another cocktail right now, because I don't know if I can handle this.

MOOS: The mammatus clouds that followed a thunderstorm Friday left some New Yorkers feeling downright romantic.

(on camera): But you didn't have to be a meteorologist to forecast this.

Guess whose face was spotted in the freaky cloud formations?

(voice-over): Michael Jackson's, say two New Yorkers who sent this photo into the local Fox station.

A trained meteorologist would debunk that, right?

(on camera): You didn't really see anything, did you?

MYERS: I really did.

MOOS: You really did?

MYERS: I did. I saw his nose, cheeks, fluffy hair.

MOOS (voice-over): The next thing you know, fans are putting clouds to music.


MOOS: Of course, not everyone saw Michael Jackson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It kind of looks like fibroids.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


MALVEAUX: We want you to check out our political podcast. To get the best political team to go, subscribe at

I'm Suzanne Malveaux in for Wolf Blitzer here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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