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Jackson Memorial; Sarah Palin to Resign

Aired July 4, 2009 - 18:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUMALVEAUX: Michael Jackson's fans are clamoring for tickets to his memorial service. The king of pop will fill a huge arena one more time. Plus, the custody that may be brewing. Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe is keeping her options open. This hour, legal experts analyze Jackson's will and look for loopholes.

And Sarah Palin's shocking news. The Republican star and political lightning rod is quitting her job as Alaska governor. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer's off. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It may be the hottest Michael Jackson ticket ever. And they are going for free. 11,000 fans will get through the doors of the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday for a massive public memorial service. Also in the week ahead, a judge will consider whether the executers named by Jackson in his will make or take control of the estate. Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe says she hasn't reached a final decision on whether to fight for custody of the two oldest children. Right now, Jackson's mother Katherine is the temporary guardian of all three of his children.

Joining us now, Ashleigh Banfield, host of "Open Court" on TruTV and University of Southern California law professor Ed Mccaffrey.

Thanks for joining us here on THE SITUATION ROOM. I want to start off, first and foremost, Debbie Rowe's intentions. We don't know yet what they are. But how will they figure into this? Because she could become a major player if she decides that she wants custody over these kids. Let's start with you, Ashley.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, HOST "OPEN COURT": Well, she certainly has a stake. She's the biological mother. And in California, as in many states, it's important. That matters a lot. So she could certainly come forward.

But this is not an average case. This is an extraordinarily unusual case in which she has stated on the record in court before that, you know, you have to earn parenting or the role of a parent needs to be earned and I have not done that. So it's going to be extraordinarily difficult for her to prove she can provide, and these are the key words, a stable environment and wholesome environment for these children, and that she's had an ongoing relationship with them. Katherine Jackson, on the other hand, has had an ongoing relationship and maybe very easily can prove that she has a stable environment for them.

MALVEAUX: Professor McCaffrey, how will she do that? What are the things that will take place either that Katherine Jackson is doing to prepare for this hearing, or Debbie Rowe, or the family members?

ED MCCAFFREY, LAW PROFESSOR, UNIV. SOUTHERN CALIF.: Well, I think that Ashleigh was exactly right. That was a very helpful overview. And what the judge is going to be looking at is what is in the best interests of these children. And Ashleigh actually gave some of the legal language.

Now, I think preparing for trial, I think it's a two-pronged thing. One is getting your lawyers and your legal arguments and your facts down for court. Another thing is acting like a good parent. Acting, providing from day one, a good, stable, safe environment for these children. Making things continuous and smooth and easy at a time that must be tremendously stressful for them with the death of their father and all the hoopla surrounding it.

MALVEAUX: At this point, does Debbie Rowe, does she have a case? Does she make a case that she as good parent from what we've seen in the history of her involvement with the children? Or would the judge be looking for more?

MCCAFFREY: Well, I think the judge would be looking for more, but I think she has to start making that case. And one thing to clarify ripping off Ashley's comments is this doesn't have to be an all or nothing thing that Debbie can step forward and say, look, I am the mom. I personally am not sure if she's the biological mom or just the surrogate mom. I don't know if we know that. But certainly if she is the biological mom, that's an important fact. She hasn't been involved with the children. She better start showing that she wants to be involved with the children. And maybe what we will see is she gets limited visitation and can sort of build her way back into playing more of a role with these children. If that's what she wants. If she's just looking for...

BANFIELD: And Suzanne, on top of that, she has twice now accepted money for walking away from these children. And I don't think a judge is going to look too kindly on that.

MALVEAUX: And what is the role Diana Ross plays in this? Ashleigh, I want you to address this, because obviously Katherine Jackson getting up in age, that that may be the case which she cannot take care of the children, that those children would go to Diana Ross. Does that seem like that is plausible? Or can somebody actually contend that?

BANFIELD: That is an excellent question because as you mentioned, Suzanne, she's almost 80. "A," the trust that's been set up by Michael Jackson may actually provide for assistance for Katherine which would make things easier on her, but you can't get away from that age issue. So it's a bit of a question right now. If Katherine gets custody of these kids, then she better lickety-split start working on her will to establish appropriate guardianship as well for the kids, because...

MALVEAUX: Would it not be Diana Ross automatically?

BANFIELD: Not necessarily because that's the original will that Michael provided for. Once the guardianship switches to Katherine, it's a bit of a question as to whether her will and her wishes for guardianship might take precedence over his original will, and that secondary guardianship. And P.S., we really don't know how much of a stable environment Diana Ross could provide, or how much of an ongoing relationship she's had with those kids. So it is a bit messy going forward.

MALVEAUX: Ed Mccaffrey, Ashleigh Banfield, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BANFIELD: Thanks, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Sarah Palin is taking the political world by surprise for a second time. She announced Friday that she is stepping down as Alaska governor at the end of the month about a year after she became John McCain's unexpected vice presidential pick. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley has more on Palin's bombshell.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The governor of Alaska flummoxed the political world from her backyard in Wasilla, going out Palin-style.


CROWLEY: She's quitting her job. What's that about? Pretty much a dealer's choice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sounds like perhaps trying to keep options open for 2012. CROWLEY: Free of her job, Palin could bulk up her coffers with speaking fees and a book deal and roam freely in the lower 48, making friend and meeting people with influence in the political system.

Or she could be doing a 180. A source close to the family thinks Palin's done with politics and wants to be with her kids, a hint of that when the governor mentioned her youngest son, Trig, who has Down syndrome.

PALIN: I know he needs me, but I know that I need him even more. And what a child can offer to set priorities right, know that time is precious.

CROWLEY: It was a curious, unreadable event, a holiday weekend press conference called so hastily, most reporters couldn't get there in time.

PALIN: I just want to say hi to Alaska.

CROWLEY: Palin was expected to say she wouldn't run for a second term. But to walk away with a year and a half left in your first is something else altogether, though it's unclear what.

TONY BLANKLY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Since she's made this announcement, Washington politicians are both parties have gone nuts. It suggests to me she's probably done something pretty smart.

CROWLEY: Or not.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think this is a stupid, stupid move. It's going to cause speculation that she got chased out for some reason.

CROWLEY: The governor offered multiple reasons for her abrupt departure, first that she was the victim of, quote, "superficial, wasteful political blood sport distracting from state business and spawning costly ethics investigations."

PALIN: You are naive if you don't see a full-court press from the national level picking away right now.

CROWLEY: And then said she doesn't want to be like all of those other lame duck governors.

PALIN: They hit the road, draw a paycheck, they kind of milk it.

CROWLEY (on camera): Despite the reasons she offered and the multiple theories thrown into the swirl, at the end of the day, it still seems like a piece of the puzzle was missing.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


MALVEAUX: As the often folksy Palin might put it, what the heck is she thinking? Many Republicans and Democrats are asking that right now.

I want to bring in to talk about Sarah Palin and much, much more, Democratic strategist Karen Finney, former communications director for the DNC, Republican strategist Tony Blankley, a former spokesman for Newt Gingrich, and Republican strategist and CNN political contributor Ed Rollins.

First, let me start with you, Tony. This is a bombshell. This is absolutely a bombshell. Nobody expected this coming. What does this do for her chances in 2012?

TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I mean, it's a little early to actually have a sense of what it's going to do. And I think we're going to split on our judgments. I think it's an interesting move. I think it frees her up. It's very unconventional. All the Washington polls are going nuts over it, which suggests to me as mentioned earlier maybe it's a smart move.

The normal rules don't seem to apply to her. She's a fascinating character. She's going to do things her own way. I think the key for her from here on out is she's got to get a solid team of advisers that she can trust and follow. My sense is she's bouncing around without that. And that's the next step...

MALVEAUX: I want to bring in another Republican strategist, Ed Rollins. Is this is a smart move for her? Do you agree with Tony?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Tony are and I are old friends, but we disagree on this one. She was a shooting star who dimmed obviously in the last few months. And now she's crashed to earth. It's nothing more than just quitting the job because it's too tough, or she wants to do something else? I think it's a liability. As a great fighter, a boxing fan, Roberto Duran, one of the greatest fighters of all time, he quit against Sugar Ray Leonard. And his term that he used was no mas, no mas. If you don't have no mas, if you don't have the courage to go fight the media, to finish the job, like every other governor in this country, there's a tough task ahead for her in Alaska. She's now walked away. And how does she have credentials to go out...

KAREN FINNEY, FMR. DNC COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR: I was going to say, Ed is kind of doing my job for me, but I'll come in somewhere in the middle here and say, I think it remains to be seen whether or not this was a good decision. It really depends on how she uses the time. If as Tony suggests she puts together a smart team and kind of gets her message under control, she's had a lot of back and forth and bizarre, she's coming, she's not coming to various Republican events, it may turn out to have been a good move.

MALVEAUX: But is this a cause for celebration for Democrats if they take a look at the 2012 and they say, okay, perhaps we've got Obama back in here, and Palin, you know, who knows what she's doing? She's too unpredictable.

FINNEY: No, because look, she is very popular with the core of the Republican base. And you can't underestimate that. And now she's got actually more time to sort of cultivate that base. But the problem is, you know, over the weekend, there will be a lot of gossip and chatter. And the rest of us are going to fill in the narrative about what this really means. She should have done a little bit more, I think, to define why she's doing it.

BLANKLEY: Let me suggest that Ed, and I have such respect for Ed because he was the master of running the Reagan campaign and I was a mid-level guy. But I think that she is not a quitter. She just doesn't look like a quitter. Some politicians look like quitting. But she is such an aggressive and assertive personality. So I don't think people are going to think of her as a quitter. I think they're going to see her as a fighter.

FINNEY: But it is a little bit of erratic behavior, you have to admit.

MALVEAUX: Ed, why do you think she's a quitter? Why to you see this as quitting as opposed to moving on to something else?

ROLLINS: I think -- no, no, no. If she wanted to move on to something else she'd do that in 2010. The problem is that the state is in terrible shape. She had the glory years. She had two years in which she could give money back, big oil revenues. Now is the time she's got to prove her mettle. And the idea that you're going to walk away from a job midterm because I have some bigger ambitions I don't think works for you.

I could tell you as a strategist, I would beat the daylights out of her every single day in Iowa, New Hampshire, anywhere else. And I think the reality -- I have great respect for her. I have praised her on this show over and over again. And I feel badly about this. But I think at the end of the day, she's going to end up like Katherine Harris, who was also a darling of the right wing. A woman named Katherine Harris, who's campaign I ran...


.MALVEAUX: You have some boos over here.

ROLLINS: Katherine Harris was a hero of this party. I ran her Senate campaign. By the end of that campaign, she was viewed as a flake and went down to roaring defeat.

MALVEAUX: New video surfaces showing Michael Jackson at dress rehearsal. Does it contain any clues about his mysterious death? Plus, the vocal coach for Jackson's tour joins us. Did he notice anything unusual?

And the largest offensive in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion eight years ago. 4,000 Marines on a mission against the Taliban.


TIME STAMP: 1815:16

MALVEAUX: This video caught everyone by surprise. It shows Michael Jackson in a dress rehearsal at the Staple Centers for his comeback concert. This is Jackson less than 48 hours before his sudden death.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold for applause, hold for applause, slow umbrella, fade out.


MALVEAUX: Well, what might these images of Michael Jackson two days before his death tell us? One man who had a front row seat to Jackson in the final hours was Dorian Holly. He was the vocal director for the tour Jackson was planning.


Dorian, first of all, my condolences. I know you were intimately a part of this concert planning. Can you take us back to that last rehearsal, what that evening was like?

DORIAN HOLLEY, VOCAL DIRECTOR FOR PLANNED MICHAEL JACKSON TOUR: Well, Suzanne, it is a -- a very emotional time for all of us that were there on the stage with Michael. And I have to say that -- that everyone that -- the first thing people ask me, my friends who call and ask, "Was Michael sick? Was he weak? Was he ill?" -- was the absolute opposite of that.

He was very energetic. He was happy. He was even more playful than he normally was as rehearsal. Everybody in the band has ear monitors, so we could hear Michael talking, you know, through his microphone when he was backstage or changing clothes.

And, you know, he was kidding around with -- with his wardrobe people, with the makeup people. He was just -- he was in a very, very up mood. And this was...

MALVEAUMALVEAUX: What was he saying? What was he saying?

HOLLEY: You know, he would tease -- Karen Faye is the woman that's dressed him ever since I have known him, which is about 22 years.

And he -- he calls her Turkle. And he would just tease her and -- and poke fun at her. And Michael Bush is the guy who makes Michael's clothes and always has for these many years. And he would -- you know, he was just full of jokes and -- and full of life. And -- and that's why, when I heard the news, I thought it was a mistake or a hoax.

It took me until I got -- because we were due at rehearsal at 4:30 on Thursday. And it was Thursday afternoon when I found out. And it even took me a couple of days to actually believe it and accept it.

MALVEAUMALVEAUX: When you were with him and you were rehearsing on that evening, what -- what was he like? Was he tired? Was he lethargic? Was he upbeat? Can you describe for us what it was like to be with him?

HOLLEY: He was -- you know, we started rehearsal about a month- and-a- half ago. And he was great.

I was told when I came on, and I started auditioning singers, that he was working out every day. He was dancing -- his schedule was, he would work out in the morning, he would get with the dancers, and then he would do -- do vocal lessons. And he was there every day, which is different from the way it's been since I have worked with him.

We wouldn't come together until the last few weeks. You know, he would be off with the dancers and the band would be off with the band, and the singers off doing their thing.

Michael was there. He was present. He was completely in it. And the...

MALVEAUMALVEAUX: How many hours was he rehearsing? How many hours did he rehearse a day?

HOLLEY: He would rehearse with us a couple of hours, with us, with the band a couple of hours a day. As to his other...

MALVEAUMALVEAUX: Would he take breaks? HOLLEY: Oh, yes. Everybody -- we would take breaks after -- after every couple of songs, we would take a break, because all of us needed it, because it was hot.


MALVEAUMALVEAUX: We were in the Forum for a couple of weeks, and we were in Staples a couple of weeks. And, you know, so it was boiling.

The lights -- we had -- you know, we had the biggest LED -- LCD screen you -- that has ever been used. So, under that, that was like sitting under a -- a tanning -- sitting in a tanning salon. So, we would have to take a break.

You know, every other song or so, we would take a break.

MALVEAUMALVEAUX: And you have worked with him for so long in his career. He's now 50 years old. Did you notice anything different? Was it tougher for him to go through these kinds of rehearsals? Was it more taxing? Or has he changed in any way?

HOLLEY: Well, yes.

When you -- when you -- when you're over 50, yes.


HOLLEY: I'm sure that he was in pain...

(LAUGHTER) HOLLEY: ... after some rehearsals.

But I got to tell you something, the guys on the stage dancing with him, the guys and girls dancing with him, were all in their 20s. Michael's 50. When Michael was on stage with them, there was only one person that you could watch. And that was Michael Jackson.

MALVEAUMALVEAUX: And what was his relationship -- what was he like with -- with the dancers?

HOLLEY: He was great. He was always hugging people. He was always saying: "I love you. I love you more."

This -- the thing about Michael is -- is that he is absolutely, without question, the sweetest person I have ever met in my life. I mean, Michael was such a gentle spirit. When he would be on stage performing a song, and the cameraman would bring the camera up, he would kick at the cameraman. He would punch at the cameraman.

And, after we would finish the song, he would apologize. He would say, "It was all in love."


HOLLEY: I mean -- I mean, if somebody made a -- the most innocent off- color joke, it would embarrass him, and he would blush. And he would always -- he would even -- he would apologize for me sometimes. I mean, he was just -- he was just sweet. And, I mean, even when something went wrong in rehearsal, and he had to say, "I want the lighting this way," as opposed to that way, he would -- I mean, it was just done in the most gentle, sweet manner that your feelings couldn't be hurt at all.

MALVEAUMALVEAUX: Dorian -- Dorian, I also want to ask you, what was he saying to you? Why -- why was this his final tour? Did he have a message? I know that he talked about -- a little bit about helping the Earth and how important that was.

But what -- what did he give to you? What -- what was the point of all of this?

HOLLEY: Well, I hope this doesn't sound too -- too syrupy, but he had a message of love.

And he was very, very concerned with the environment. And -- and -- and that was part of, you know, a theme, a thread through the show. But his main message was one of love and -- and of people coming together.

And he was extremely serious about that, and not in a preachy way, but, I mean, you know -- you know his song "Earth Song," and "Heal the World," and "We are the World," you know, those were the things in the -- in the show. And they were -- they were elements that he reiterated all throughout rehearsal, how important it was to get this out.

You know, he didn't really talk about -- to us about this being his last show and why that may have been, you know, so I can only speculate about that. But I do know that the bottom line, Michael wanted -- he just wanted to send a message of love and to peace to people.

And -- you know, and that's me presuming to speak for him. I'm saying what he said to us. What he said for us, it -- these -- these things were important, and these were things that he wanted to get across.

MALVEAUMALVEAUX: And, Dorian, for the dancers or for those who are so intimately involved in these final days with Michael Jackson, I understand, when you got the news, when they got the news, that you couldn't dance, you couldn't play a song, like so many other people were doing.

How -- how is the group handling it? Are they going to be a part of the memorial service? Or what are they going to do? What are you going to do?

HOLLEY: Well, it's very difficult.

You know, I called -- you know, I called the singers, and I called Travis Payne, our choreographer. Talked to Kenny Ortega a couple of days ago. And -- you know, and my wife and I, we stood around. And it's -- it's very -- it's very hard even to talk to you now, just to think about it, just to watch him. You know, everybody's just struggling to get through it, because it's -- it's hard to believe that somebody so vibrant and so talented and so amazing -- you know, I mean, we -- we were together up until nearly midnight on Wednesday night. And, then, on Thursday, the afternoon, he was gone. And I think everybody -- everybody's having a real tough time with it.

MALVEAUMALVEAUX: What -- what was the last thing he said to you? Do you remember?

HOLLEY: You know, he looked at me as I walked by him off the stage and said, "I love you." That was the last thing he said to me.

You know, we -- you know, the -- the -- the thing that I want people to remember is, in rehearsal that night, he was extremely happy. He was seeing the show come to life, you know, go from his vision to being the actual physical parts of the show being put up there. And, you know, he was just like a kid in the candy store, because he was -- he was seeing his vision come alive.

And that's the memory that I will -- I will try to keep with me as I think about this tragedy.


Dorian, thank you so much.


MALVEAUX: A rare look inside Neverland. Michael Jackson's sprawling ranch, it's a home like you've never seen before. Plus, who are Michael Jackson's fans? A breakdown by politics that might surprise you.


TIME STAMP: 1827:00


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The aim of the air assault was to put Marine Corps forces back expeditionary wise out behind enemy lines. We dropped into a few places that nobody had been.


MALVEAUX: A U.S. Marine Corps captain details the battle being fought in a Taliban stronghold. It is the first major operation in President Obama's new Afghanistan strategy. It is known of "strike of a sword." A U.S. Marine has died in this combat. It involves some 4,000 troops ready to fight and enduring heat that one said feels like sticking your head into a roaring oven.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is here in Washington and senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in Islamabad. Nic, I want to start with you. Obviously, you are in the region where this is taking place. Give us a sense of what this new mission is about?

NIC ROBERTSON: Well, it's about going into a part of Helmand province, which is one of the most lawless Taliban-ridden, poppy- ridden provinces of Afghanistan right now. We were with Marines there last summer. This - and exactly this time of year it is incredibly hot, incredibly tough to fight in those conditions.

The Marines then got into a month-long firefight to take an area of Helmand province called Gamseer (ph). They couldn't push any further because they didn't have the troops to do it. These Marines have gone in and they're pushing forward from those lines last year. And that is important because the local population of the time were telling us they have to go further, the troops, the Marines have to go further because that's where the Taliban are hiding. And that's what's happening right now, but it's going to be very tough because the Marines have to win support of the population. They have to hold the area. And we've seen troops in Afghanistan try and do this before. And without strong civilian support, agricultural experts, doctors, vets and the like, it is hard to win over the local population. You beat the Taliban in battle. They seep back, they intimidate the local population, and they plant roadside bombs, pressure plate IEDs where troops are walking. And this is exactly what we saw a year ago. And this is what the Marines are going into right now, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And Chris, how is this mission any different than what we saw the last go-round, the U.S. mission inside of Afghanistan? Because as we know, the U.S. successfully routed out the Taliban. But they are back in full force now. How is this going to change?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, in several ways. One is the sheer size of the mission. You know, you had nearly 4,000 Marines dropped into these areas in less than eight hours, about half of them by helicopter. So in some ways, the speed and the size of the force. Also, what's happened since they have taken control of at least one of those cities down in the south. They're bedding down with the permission of the locals, bedding down within the cities, living in the cities instead of behind big walls and bases, trying to show them that they are a part of that community, trying to engage the community.

And also, another way is the tactics. In this attack, the Marines only used the 20 millimeter gun from their Cobra helicopter. Now we know they are anti aircraft weapons down there in Helmand Valley.

And so, you take a real risk because the helicopter has to fly low altitude. So you're exposing your troops to more risk. But it is a more controlled fire. They did not drop the bombs from the airplanes because they are much more concerned with the civilian casualties. And the new directive is we will take more risk to ensure there are fewer civilian casualties.

MALVEAUX: And Nic, obviously it is very hot where you are. We have heard from the troops saying just how scorching hot it is. Why now? What is the timing, the purpose of the timing of this operation now?

ROBERTSON: Well, it seems to be - it's something that's been waiting to happen. It's something that's been waiting to get the number of troops, Marines in place to make it happen. You have maximum daylight hours at this time in the summer which allows you to perhaps fight more effectively in those evening hours when it's a little bit cooler.

But it is a very, very tough fight because it is so hot. When we were on patrol with Marines in this area last summer, after three or four hours, and this was just patrols going to visit villages, going to pay for damage that had been caused by air strikes, all these sorts of things. Just patrols, never mind fighting, combat, over these very rough farm fields. Soldiers were soaked through with sweat, were suffering from the heat. So you need a lot of water to resupply them.

But the reason for now is, it very much seems to be is this has been waiting for happen. And as soon as you get there, the men on the ground, the boots on the ground capable of doing it, is get out there and do it because you need to, to get the momentum back from the Taliban who are continuing to influence and take control in other parts of Afghanistan as well, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And Chris, we understand that President Obama wanted more support from NATO allies in terms of troop numbers. He's now going overseas to Russia, Italy, and Ghana in the coming week here. Is the administration satisfied that they have the kind of support they need for this mission? If you could wrap that quickly.

LAWRENCE: Well, we've heard over and over again from some senior Pentagon officials that of course they would want more support. And in privately, they have expressed, you know, some concern that NATO hasn't been contributing the kind of troops that they need. When I spoke privately to some people in the Pentagon, they said really the key is finding out what these NATO troops will do.


LAWRENCE: Establishing exactly what they'll do and then get those numbers in there.

MALVEAUX: Okay, Chris Lawrence, Nic Robertson, thank you for joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Michael Jackson gets a shout-out from the fan in chief.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I grew up on his music. Still have all his stuff on my iPod.


MALVEAUX: The president praises Jackson's talent, but also says the king of pop had a tragic life. You'll hear President Obama explain what he means. And for Jackson, it was the place where dreams came true, Neverland. We have new pictures of the place that was a source of joy and scandal.


MALVEAUX: Just three days from now, thousands of fans will pay tribute to Michael Jackson in a way that captures his life as an entertainer. They'll pour into a huge arena, the Staples Center in Los Angeles, for a service that is likely to be a mix of performance, emotion, and spectacle. It should be quite a finale, but there is no end in sight to the likely legal wrangling over Jackson's estate, a possible custody fight over his kids, and the unanswered questions about his sudden death.

If anything symbolized the lavish and often bizarre life of Michael Jackson, it might be Neverland. CNN got a rare inside tour of the ranch where Jackson lived for many years. Take a look around the home and listen to Jackson's former spokesman Stuart Backerman share his memories.


MALVEAUX: How many floors are inside of this home?

STUART BACKERMAN, JACKSON'S FORMER SPOKESMAN: There was three. There was the main floor, and there was one level up, and then an additional level. So three floors in the main house. And just kitty-corner to the main house was four beautifully appointed cottages, where I stayed when I was there and Elizabeth Taylor and his parents and various close people and associates stayed. Right adjacent as I say, kitty- corner to the main house. They we are. We're now looking at the main house. And the cottages were just on the other side of this picture. And it was, you know, just really beautiful.

I'll just never forget -- just very, very briefly, the night of his 45th birthday or actually about a week after his actual official 45th birthday, we rolled out a big birthday cake. And make a long story short, we had an incredible food fight where Aaron Carter took a piece of Michael's 45 the birthday cake and rubbed it in Michael's face. And then Michael said "you're not going to get away with that" and he rubbed it back into Aaron Carter's face. And then I got involved. And there was about 60 people who had just sung happy birthday to Michael in this huge food fight. I remember looking over to him and saying, this is the way it should always be because e was squealing with joy. And it was really quite a memory for me.


MALVEAUX: Neverland now stands empty, but it was once teeming with Jackson's ornate and sometimes bizarre collectibles. The main living room was dominated by a grand piano and this replica French castle. The other rooms stuffed with thrones, canopy beds and a godfather clock. Life-size statues of butlers and policemen greeted visitors in the hallways. And several dozens of arcade games filled the game room. Neverland was emptied last year for an auction, but that auction was later called off.

Well, reflections of Michael Jackson's life and death splashed across the covers of celebrity magazines. Even President Obama is sharing his fond memories of the Jackson's music. He was asked about the music superstar during an interview with the Associated Press.

(BEGIN CLIP) OBAMA: I think that Michael Jackson is -- will go down in history as one of our greatest entertainers. I grew up on his music. Still have all his stuff on my ipod. You know, I think that his brilliance as a performer also was paired with a tragic and, you know, in many ways sad personal life. But you know, I'm glad to see that he is being remembered primarily for the great joy that he brought to a lot of people through his extraordinary gifts as an entertainer.


MALVEAUX: The death of Michael Jackson is a story that reaches far beyond the entertainment world. Senior political analyst Bill Schneider takes a look.


BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Suzanne, you may be surprised to hear that there was something political about Michael Jackson.


SCHNEIDER: Michael Jackson was not just an amazing talent, he was also a cultural phenomenon. More than half of all Americans describe themselves as Michael Jackson fans. Who are they? Jackson's appeal is racially ambiguous. 42 percent of whites call themselves Jackson fans, and almost three-quarters of minorities.

His appeal was gender ambiguous. Nearly half of men call themselves fans. A majority of women do.

Older Americans didn't get Michael Jackson. They were probably offended by his defiance of cultural norms. Young people got him, although the post-"Thriller" generation -- his greatest album that came out 27 years ago -- may have known him more as a curiosity than as an entertainer.

Was Jackson political? Not really. His closest known connection to politics was to accept an honor from President Reagan in 1984 for supporting the campaign against drunk drivers.

MICHAEL JACKSON: I'm very, very honored. Thank you very much, Mr. President and Mrs. Reagan.

SCHNEIDER: But here is a surprise. Jackson's fan base can be defined more than anything else by politics. 63 percent of Democrats are Jackson fans, but just 35 percent of Republicans. Of course, you might say African-Americans are overwhelming Democratic, but it is not just race. White Democrats are far more likely to be Jackson fans than white Republicans.

In his music and his behavior, Jackson pushed the boundaries of convention, and that in itself was a political statement. Michael Jackson was a cultural icon who defied racial and gender categories. That made him a partisan in the nation's culture wars without uttering a political word. Suzanne?


MALVEAUX: Thanks, Bill.

A notorious dictator speaks from the grave. Saddam Hussein gave multiple interviews to an FBI official after his capture. What he said about Iran and weapons of mass destruction is shocking. Hussein even slams Osama bin Laden.

And sex, lies, and videotape. All of it's caused scandal for South Carolina's governor and other married men. Now a magazine ponders, is infidelity eroding our most sacred institution. And how to make marriage matter again.


MALVEAUX: Saddam Hussein's words echo from the grave. In newly declassified FBI records, the late dictator tells why he falsely let the world believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Briana Keeler has been looking into this.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): June 11, 2004. Six months after U.S. troops captured Saddam Hussein, he sat down with an Arabic-speaking FBI interrogator. Newly declassified documents reveal what he told agent George Piro, that he considered Iran to be the most significant threat facing Iraq, much more than the U.S.

Wanting to keep Iran in the dark about his weapons capabilities or lack thereof, Hussein said he stopped inspectors from checking Iraq for weapons of mass destruction because he feared U.N. inspectors would have directly identified to the Iranians where to inflict maximum damage to Iraq. Convinced Iran intended to annex southern Iraq, he bet that keeping the U.N. out was safer than showing Iran he was bluffing.

The new information scares with what Piro told CBS's "60 Minutes" in 2008.

GEORGE PIRO, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: He told me he initially miscalculated President Bush and President Bush's intentions. He thought the United States would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1998.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some kind of an air campaign.

PIRO: Yes. And he could survive that. He survived that once. KEILAR: Hussein told Piro the United States used September 11 as an excuse to invade Iraq and had lost sight of the cause of 9/11: al Qaeda. He called Osama bin Laden a zealot, and despite U.S. claims Iraq had contact with al Qaeda, Hussein said the Iraqi government did not cooperate with bin Laden, that he did not have the same belief or vision as al Qaeda's leader.

(on camera): In these documents, Saddam Hussein confirms this image we have of him as a secretive and elusive dictator, saying in the 14 years before he was captured, he used the telephone just two times. Preferring instead to use a courier or to talk in person. About reports that he would sometimes use a body double to avoid being assassinated, he said they weren't true, but he did say he slept in a different bed every night for safety reasons.

Briana Keilar, CNN, Washington.


MALVEAUX: Well, the title is "Lovesick." Its author disputes the myth that men don't want to get married and reveals the hypocrisy between politicians and marriage.

And what a thrill "Thriller" was and still is. Nine of Michael Jackson's albums hit the charts again.


MALVEAUX: A gloomy assessment of the state of marriage on the cover of "TIME" magazine this week. It contends that infidelity is eroding the world's most sacred institution. It's a premise very much in the news after South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's acknowledgment of an extramarital affair.

Well, joining us now, CNN deputy political director Alex Wellen. He is the author of a new novel, "Lovesick." You are cutting-edge here. This is something that everybody is talking about. Whether it's infidelity, whether it's the Sanfords and just seeing their marriage dissolve in that way, and how they get over it. You address many of those things in your book. And one of the things you talk about, you debunk this myth that men don't want to get married. Talk about that.

ALEX WELLEN, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, in the book, I decided that the character on page one would want to get married. You see all these movies, all these stories about men who are kind of kicking and screaming going to the altar, and that they resist marriage or they do it for the wrong reason or they start off in a relationship and they lose the girl and then get the girl back at the very end.

But I did interviews with dozens of men. I originally was interviewed as nonfiction but it was more fun as fiction. And I met with so many men who talked about wanting to pop the question, wanting commitment, having that relationship, doing those type of things. And what we did is we talked about that moment that they went from like being in NEVILLE: e relationship to the light switch going off and saying, this is it, forever. You know, whether it was money, or whether it was just a moment looking across one another at the table, whatever it was. I wrote this article that's coming out next week on


WELLEN: ...that talks just about that very notion, that light switch of wanting commitment.

MALVEAUX: Now put on your political hat if you will, political analyst hat. How important is it for politicians -- we've been following stories about Sanford and many others who get into trouble in their marriages. How important is it to have a good, solid marriage? Man or woman, if you're a politician? Is it a double standard there?

WELLEN: Well, as more and more women are in positions of power in the government, I think that we'll see that it's not necessarily a man or woman thing. But what we definitely have determined is that like in the Sanford case, you know, they both indicated they want to reconcile to some extent.

But then we see these kind of mixed messages about him saying to the Associated Press that this woman that he had an affair with was his soul mate. So I think it's still to be determined.

What comes down to the issue for me and what we see throughout kind of the political world is credibility. What do they get elected on? What kind of values do they have? Why do they -- was marriage an important thing to them? Is that something that they actually ran on? And then ultimately, what kind of credibility do they have if at the end of the day they compromise that or sacrifice that?

MALVEAUX: Is it about hypocrisy?

WELLEN: It is a little bit to some extent. I mean, you look at South Carolina, you look at it as a red state. It's voted for Republicans all the way back. And last time was 1976 with Carter.


WELLEN: McCain won it easily. That constituency has certain values. Those people want certain things from their governor. And they may very ultimately determine he didn't come through, that he didn't guarantee what he promised.

MALVEAUX: You take a case like Stanford. Do you think that people say, well, you know, we understand if this is his soul mate, this relationship isn't working for him. Why not get divorced? Is that such a political liability people feel they can't end their relationships?

WELLEN: Well, I guess we're going to have to see how that relationship plays out. I mean, in the Sanford case, it's really unclear. They're spending the weekend together. And they're going to try to work it out. And that's for them personally to determine. But we see now with the Obama administration very kind of public image of marriage, family, relationships. And frankly, even though these kind of awful stories, these heart-breaking kind of, you know, aching stories, the people that I talked to, the people I come across now, the president is talking about family, relationships, and very solid foundations. This article which was brilliantly written in "TIME" magazine does talk about marriage and what it takes to make it happen, but it is a bleak assessment.

MALVEAUX: Okay. I have to ask you this question. You've been married for six years. How are you guys doing? Do you have any advice for the rest of us? You know, Beyonce says if you like it you should put a ring on it.

WELLEN: That's right.

MALVEAUX: Any advice for those out there?

WELLEN: Well, I don't have the key to marriage. We have a - like I fell in love with Chris, we were like at an arcade playing videos, '80s arcade games. And she was like - she was romping because she was beating me in Pac man and Donkey Kong and all these other games. And I was like, this is the girl for me, I need to have this girl.

But at the end of day, I think it's really about having an ally, somebody like you know is on your team when you get home that you kind of approach the world with. And it doesn't hurt to have a baby either. That can be a lot of fun too.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, congratulations to your father as well.

WELLEN: Thank you, yeah.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Alex.

WELLEN: Thanks.

MALVEAUX: Well, his music was back on top of the charts. Stay tuned for the most popular Jackson songs.


MALVEAUX: Sales of Michael Jackson's music are soaring.

That's "Thriller" from the best-selling album with the same name, the best selling album in history. According to Billboard, it sold more than 100,000 copies last week more than a quarter century after its release.

In all, nine of the top ten spots on Billboard's top pop catalog lists are Jackson albums. For more in-depth coverage of Michael Jackson, be sure and watch the CNN presents special "Man in the Mirror." a look at a childhood, his music, his finances and his influences. That's tonight and Sunday night at 8:00 Eastern only on CNN.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux in for Wolf Blitzer. Join Wolf 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 on CNN.