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Remembering President Reagan; Meeting of Leaders; Interview With Patrick Graham

Aired June 7, 2004 - 9:00   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Nine o'clock in our nation's capital. Flags at half staff at the White House. On Friday, at the end of this week, the first state funeral in our nation's capital will take place in more than 30 years.
Welcome back, everyone. Live here in Simi Valley, California, aside the presidential library of Ronald Reagan, the late 40th president of the United States. Good to have you with us today. I'm Bill Hemmer. Soledad O'Brien continues our coverage in New York, as well.

Soledad, good morning to you there.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning back to you, Bill. Lots of other stories making new this morning as well.

World leaders on their way to the coast of Georgia this week for the G-8 summit. President Bush has a lot riding on these meetings at Sea Island. We're going to take a look at that this morning. Also, whether protesters are expected to play a major role in this story as they have in years past.

Also this morning, we're talking to a man with a unique perspective on the fighting in Iraq. Canadian journalist Patrick Graham joins us. He spent time with insurgents in the course of his reporting. He knows who they are, he knows what really motivates them to cause havoc in Iraq. We're going to find out about that -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right. Soledad, here's what we understand for the scheduling. In about four hours' time, in a funeral home in Santa Monica, 45 minutes away from our location here, a procession will continue today, bringing the body of the late President Reagan back to his library here. A private ceremony for the family will take place. And after that, for a period of about 30 hours, the public will be able to come and visit and pay their last respects. And a closed- casket ceremony here at the presidential library.

It's not quite clear how many people will show up today, or tomorrow on Tuesday. But we'll probably get a better indication of that as the day grows older.

On Tuesday, again, it will continue. Then on Wednesday, Ronald Reagan's body flown to Washington, D.C., taken to Andrews Air Force Base.

Then on Thursday, you will have his body lying in state in the nation's capital, the Capitol Rotunda building. Estimates are huge there in Washington, too. Maybe 100,000 people to visit there and pay their final respectness in our nation's capital. On Friday, the cathedral, the National Cathedral, that's where the funeral will take place before the president's body will be taken back with his family here to the presidential library in Simi Valley.

There are about 50 million documents in the library building behind me. Said to be 100,000 artifacts, things like the Berlin Wall -- a chunk of it is here. Also, an Air Force One, an actual jet here, a 747, that will be assembled and given its own wing to open up in the summer of 2005.

And again, as we await the body of the late former president, I want to bring in now Duke Blackwood. He's the library director here in Simi Valley, California.

And good morning to you.


HEMMER: As you get ready for this day today, what is the sentiment here at the library among the other workers? And, again, as they have awaited this day for so long.

BLACKWOOD: Well, I think it's anticipation. And there's a sense of history. Everybody is walking around knowing the importance of this. And it's just a very special time right now.

HEMMER: I want to put up on our screen here a family statement here that we can read. "It's been a really hard 10 years for her," meaning Nancy Reagan. "She really appreciates the love and the prayers and the support that have been extended to her by so many people." That's from the spokesperson, Joanne Drake. Is it possible to put into words the reports we're getting about the sense of relief the family had on Saturday after the long struggle ended and Ronald Reagan was taken to a better place?

BLACKWOOD: Well, I can't speak for Mrs. Reagan at the library that there is a -- it's a sense of loss is what it is. The finality of it, there are so many pictures and images and statues here at the library. And until yesterday, you would expect him to be back. And now you know that he's not coming back. So when you see it, you pause a little differently, when you look at that picture, or that image, and it kind of hits you.

HEMMER: What can we expect when the public comes in later today?

BLACKWOOD: I think you're going to see an outpouring of support unlike America's seen in probably decades. Ronald Reagan had a broad reach across, you know, all 50 states, and, quite frankly, the world. And I think people need to come up here and feel a part of it and thank him and pay their respects.

HEMMER: I mentioned earlier, they expect in Washington maybe 100,000 to show up there. Do you have any idea at this point how many will show up here? BLACKWOOD: There's going to be many, many thousands. But Bill, it's so difficult to say. The site is a little bit of a challenge to get up here, but the reality is here.

There's a lot of people around here. And I've heard people are already driving in from other states. So suffice it to say, we're going to have a full House.

HEMMER: Is there one artifact in there, one piece of documentation that strikes you the most?

BLACKWOOD: I would say it's our 1823 copy of the Declaration of Independence. Ronald Reagan was a great American. Without the Declaration of Independence, we wouldn't be a nation.

HEMMER: Duke Blackwood, good luck today.

BLACKWOOD: Thank you.

HEMMER: And good luck throughout the week. Again, on Friday, at the end of the week, at sunset Pacific Coast Time, we expect the late president's body to return here and the final ceremony will take place then. Thanks again.

BLACKWOOD: Thank you, Bill.

HEMMER: All right -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: For family and friends of Ronald Reagan, his decade- long struggle with Alzheimer's was truly, as Nancy Reagan called it, the long good-bye. Dr. John Hutton was Reagan's White House physician and close friend. And Dr. Hutton joins us this morning from Washington with thoughts on the president's life and legacy.

Nice to see you, doctor. Thanks for being with us this morning.


O'BRIEN: When did you realize that the president had a neurological disorder? Did you know well before that dinner where it seemed to become very public to many people that there was something wrong with him?

HUTTON: No, that was about the first indication that I had had that it was becoming a physical problem. Interestingly, when he was thrown from a horse back in 1989, his wife noticed that he got a little dizzy one morning and he had a little bit of what they called a subdural hematoma. It was sub-clinical, meaning there was nothing you would do about it. But on a subsequent examination at the Mayo Clinic months later, we found that the hematoma had actually grown in size and required surgical drainage.

But even at that point, he seemed very brisk. And that -- and he -- they started doing -- the neurologists started doing psychometric testing and whatnot. And he was well above average in all parameters. Now, as the years went on, we would take him to the Mayo Clinic for his yearly evaluation. And he noticed himself that he was having a little more difficulty with these examinations, which were reading and answering questions and things of that sort.

And finally, the last time before he had that public speech that he made in Washington, we noticed that there was a slight bit of vagueness, and he would have to be reminded about things. But it really was not clinically what I would call Alzheimer's.

Then at that speech that he made, indeed, the first 30 seconds, to me, he was visibly changed. And I thought he was lost. And then suddenly as the switch went on, he gave this magnificent speech and he was his old self.

Later that evening, going back to the hotel, he admitted that he was lost, that he didn't really know where he was, and somebody else would have to lead the way into the room, which he had just left hours before. And that's when it started to be telling. And, of course, it did progress.

And in subsequent visits out there to the Reagans' home, I could see this developing, the forgetfulness, sometimes being confused as to the day, the hour, what was on the schedule. And finally, he was trying to make some tapes for political friends, for their elections, et cetera, and he couldn't get through it. And he was a perfectionist. And finally, he just looked at the press -- his press secretary and to me and said, "I don't think I can do this anymore."

O'BRIEN: It was not his first major illness. He also -- you told him about his diagnosis with colon cancer. What was his reaction then? It was so serious that he had to go to the hospital and have surgery immediately.

HUTTON: Well, it wasn't one of these things where it was life or death immediate. We suspected there may be something growing because he was having a little of what we call a cult bleeding. That's bleeding into the intestinal tract in very small amounts. But there was laboratory evidence of it, so we proceeded with the colonoscopy. That is the large tube that goes in and visualizes the entire colon.

And it looked beautiful until we got to the very end. And here was this enormous tumor that looks -- kind of a yellowish tip to it. Clinically, it looked like a cancer if I had ever seen one.

And we told the first lady, subsequently, and she said, "Well, let me be the one to tell him." And we walked down the hall, and you could see from the expressions on our face that really something was wrong.

And Mrs. Reagan put an arm on either side of him, sat on the side of the bed where he was recovering, and simply said, "Ronnie, the doctors have found a large mass in there, a tumor that they can't get out through the instrument. And they think we ought to have an operation tomorrow." And he looked as if he was really shocked by this. But then to add, and get everybody relaxed, he simply looked up to Nancy and said, "You mean I don't get to eat any supper tonight?" And with that, of course, we all laughed. And he was very much with the explanation that we gave him, and said, "Doctors, whatever you say is what we'll do."

O'BRIEN: We don't have a time, but I do want to ask you about a much different reaction when it was Nancy, in fact, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. He was utterly devastated, wasn't he?

HUTTON: Yes, he was. I walked into the office, and he could see the expression on my face. And I explained that we had mammographic evidence that there may be a cancer, a high suspicion, and that we thought we needed to proceed with biopsy and surgical procedure.

It was really -- he was stunned that something was going to happen to his Nancy. He felt he could handle cancer, and he had. But this was different.

And interestingly, he simply sort of dismissed me and said, "Well, I know you doctors will take care of it," which was totally atypical for his behavior. And the next day he came and said, "Gee, you should have pushed me harder. The whole night we never discussed it for a minute."

And I said, "Well, sir, I think today, if you want me to come up and be with you..." and he says, "No, I think I can do it alone." But it was probably the worst news that he had had during his administration.

O'BRIEN: You will be a pallbearer at his funeral. It really is, I think, a huge honor for a friend and a former doctor as well. What do you remember most about President Reagan? What do you take away from all the time that you knew him?

HUTTON: Well, that he was far more intelligent than many people gave him credit for. I think he had some approximation of a photographic memory because he had a huge ability to comprehend anything that he read. And he sometimes would read scientific things, for instance, about macular degeneration, and he would ask me about it. And really, he seemed to know more about it than I did.

I was just always amazed at the enormous grasp of life and of history. He was a great historian. He was a great poet. He loved to read poetry. And I well remember sitting on the hillside between chopping logs, when the two of us would contest each other who knew the most poetry.

And I was with Kipling. He was with Service, and "The Shooting of Dan McGrew," which he loved dearly. His spectrum of knowledge was just what was to me, I think, the most incredible thing.

O'BRIEN: Dr. John Hutton joining us this morning. Thanks for sharing your recollections with us. We certainly appreciate it, doctor. HUTTON: You're very welcome.

O'BRIEN: The funeral, of course, for the former president will be held later this week. Also this week, President Bush hosts the first G-8 economic summit to be held in the U.S. since 1997. The meetings get under way tomorrow in Sea Island, Georgia. White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is in nearby Savannah this morning for us.

Hey, Suzanne. Good morning.


Well, President Bush is already at Sea Island, Georgia. As you had mentioned before, of course, the G-8 summit begins officially tomorrow. And that is when many of the leaders who will sit down one on one with the G-8 leaders to discuss, first and foremost, that U.N. Security Council resolution to endorse Iraqi sovereignty.

From what we understand, it is pretty close to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, as well as Germany's Gerhard Schroeder, both of them saying that the differences are miniscule in the language. We have seen letters that have been exchanged between Iraq's leadership, as well as Secretary Powell, over issues of security. It seems like that is something that we can actually get some news out of in the next 24 hours or so. But the president will have those one-on-one meetings, sitting down with the leaders of Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy and Russia.

And then, of course, another priority is the greater Middle East initiative. This may be more difficult for the administration. Essentially, it is a declaration that hopes to bring about democratic reforms within the Middle East region. But noticeably absent -- there will be some Arab leaders here, but noticeably absent will be the leaders from Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

There is some debate that is going on in terms of whether or not this seems as the U.S. imposing its own brand of democracy on these countries. That is something that is going to be discussed in earnest. And finally, on Thursday, there is going to be a group of African nations, leaders from those countries who will sit down with the president, and they will talk about ways of combating AIDS and developing their economies, being held accountable for democratic reforms as well.

A lot on the president's plate here. But Soledad, all of that to begin in earnest on Tuesday.

O'BRIEN: Suzanne Malveaux for us this morning. Suzanne, thanks.

It is now quarter past the hour. Time to look at some of today's other news with Daryn Kagan in Atlanta.

Hey, Daryn. Good morning, again. DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. How about we start in California. That is where Laci Peterson's half sister will be back on the stand in the Scott Peterson murder trial.

Amy Rocha told jurors last week that Laci often became sick when she walked. Her testimony counters statements from Scott Peterson that Laci was getting ready to walk their dog before she disappeared. Scott Peterson is accused of murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn son.

Overseas now, the British Broadcasting Corporation says that a drive-by shooting in the Saudi capital of Riyadh claimed the life of a freelance cameraman. According to a police chief quoted in the Saudi press, "The attack is blamed on unknown gunmen." A BBC correspondent was also injured in that attack. An investigation is under way.

Back to California now. Fire officials have lifted an evacuation order for the Santa Barbara area. A massive wildfire blackened more than 7,500 acres there. Firefighters say that cooler temperatures could slow down the flames.

And speaking of hot, word that singer-actress Jennifer Lopez has tied the knot for the third time this weekend. Reports say that J. Lo exchanged "I dos" with singer Marc Anthony at her Beverly Hills home on Saturday. The marriage comes less than six months after Lopez's engagement to actor Ben Affleck ended and just one week after Marc Anthony's divorce from his ex-wife was finalized.

Much more on this ahead in "90-Second Pop." But I can't wait. Soledad, I have to ask you some girlfriend advice here. When you get married for the third time, do you get to register again?

O'BRIEN: Yes, you do.

KAGAN: You do? OK.

O'BRIEN: You can always register for anything you want, whenever you want. And you get to wear the white dress. Not that I've been married several times. But that is my advice.

KAGAN: No, I wasn't going there with that, friend. That's not where I'm going. OK.

O'BRIEN: All right, Daryn. Thanks.

In other news now, on a much more serious note, of course, nine Iraqi militia today announcing that they would disband and become part of a larger security force. But that agreement does not include the Mehdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr, which has been battling U.S. troops. A mosque holding ammunition for that group exploded and burned today in Kufa, Iraq.

Journalist Patrick Graham has had extensive experience with Iraqi resistance members. And he writes about his experiences in the June issue of Harper's Magazine. And he joins us here in the studio this morning as well. Nice to see you. Thanks for being with us.

You spent a year with the resistance fighters in Iraq. Who are they? Where do they come from? And who do they follow? And what do they believe?

PATRICK GRAHAM, JOURNALIST: Well, the resistance is a bunch of different groups. In fact, what's strange about Iraq is there's a war going on and nobody actually knows who they're fighting because there's so many of them. So you've got people doing the car bombs, you have the Mehdi Army, and then you have this strange amalgam of people in the Sunni Triangle that are fighting. And no one really knows who they are.

The people that I was with were basically kind of tribal partisan fighters. Small villages, very religious. They were not big followers of Saddam. In fact, a lot of them hated Saddam.

Some of them liked him after the war. Suddenly Saddam became very popular when he didn't -- when he didn't cave in, and sort of ran away. And they had some admiration for him. And then he was caught and they said, well, he was an American agent all along. So, I mean, it was a very complicated -- it's a very complicated tribal world.

O'BRIEN: All united, though, in disliking U.S. forces in Iraq?

GRAHAM: Yes. I mean, there's a profound dislike of occupation in general. A lot of them believe that the Koran tells you to find against foreign non-Muslims.

And there was a dispute inside the villages, inside what they called the duwan (ph), the living rooms where all the men get together and talk politics. And some people said, no, let's work with the Americans. You know, they've got money. We want contracts.

A lot of the Sunnis are just businessmen and they want to get ahead. But they're also very proud. And particularly the Army, when it came in, particularly the 82nd Airborne, didn't understand the culture of the place and kicked down a lot of doors. And bombs started going off and you had a cycle going where, you know, the resistance would blow up something and then the Americans would hit back hard.

O'BRIEN: You talk about not understanding the culture. And I think many Americans don't really have a good grasp of the culture in Iraq. I was surprised to see you say that actually Iraqis are far more western as we might think. Americans think of them being very religious and very insular and very isolated. That's not the case?

GRAHAM: Well, they're isolated in the sense that for 20 years they've been living in a box. And they're religious. In the '90s, they went back to religion because life was so terrible in the sanctions.

O'BRIEN: They watch "Friends." GRAHAM: But that's the other side of it, is that the Ba'ath Party was a secular society in the beginning. Not at the end. But also, they're amazed by western culture. And they know a lot of it.

They watch "Friends." They talk about "Braveheart." They loved Kevin Costner's "The Postman."

You know, they're very aware of the world and really curious use about it. So it's a funny amalgam of being very up to date, but also very traditional. I don't think that the Americans really understood them in the way that they should have.

Have you seen "The Fog of War," the McNamara movie? It's a great moment because we won the Cuban Missile Crisis because we understood our enemy. But we lost in Vietnam because we didn't understand our enemy. And I don't think Americans understood the tribal relationships and religion and the politics of the country in good enough detail.

O'BRIEN: That's critical. Patrick Graham is a journalist. Nice to see you. Thanks for joining us.

GRAHAM: Thanks.

O'BRIEN: Really amazing. I mean, I think fascinating insight into a culture that so many people don't know and don't have an opportunity to learn about first hand.

GRAHAM: Iraqis are great.


Still to come this morning, what if you could take a pill to fight cancer? Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to stop by to take a look at that question.

Also ahead this morning, the final hours of Ronald Reagan. One of his children is writing about those hours. We'll tell you what a new article says about that.

And the early years of the Reagan White House. We'll talk to Reagan's first secretary of state. What does he think was Reagan's greatest achievement in foreign policy? All of that is ahead as we continue right after this short break.


O'BRIEN: At a major conference in New Orleans, doctors are discussing new cancer treatments. The treatments include promising targeted therapies to fight skin cancer. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us from the CNN Center with the dailts on that this morning.

Hey, Sanjay. Good morning again.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Yes, this is one of the world's largest cancer conferences. A couple of the key words coming out of this conference are "targeted" and "individualized."

Listen, a lot of people think of chemotherapy or radiation therapy as a one size fits all. The problem is that a lot of these therapies oftentimes can't distinguish between healthy cells and tumor cells. And that's been a rate-limiting (ph) step for quite some time.

So targeted therapy is gaining some traction here, specifically in the form of a pill. This pill called BAY-3 -- the number is BAY-3- 43-9006. Now, the name's obviously not that important. But this is a targeted pill to actually look at melanoma and to try to treat it.

Now, specifically, what it does is it's a pill that has very few side effects. So people can take this pill for quite some time. They don't get the other side effects often, such as losing your hair, such as GI upset, the nausea and vomiting.

Again, this pill is now in clinical trials at the University the Pennsylvania. It's going to be some time to see if it's going to be available for mass use. But gaining some promise there.

Also, another interesting one, and coming sort as an individualized therapy, a melanoma vaccine. You don't typically think of vaccines when it comes to cancer. But you do in this case.

This vaccine now, what they do is they actually take some tumor, some of the melanoma tumor from a patient, and they actually insert a specific gene into that tumor, and then put it back into the patient. Now, what that does is sort of boosts the body's own immune system in an individualized way to fight off the tumor cells. This is an individualized form of therapy.

Again, it's going to have very few side effects. It may be very effective. These are some of the big developments coming out of this very large conference -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Sanjay, thanks for the update. Appreciate it.

GUPTA: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, "90-Second Pop." It's a wrap for season five. "The Sopranos" go out with a big bang. So who survived to see another day? Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING to find out.


HEMMER: We're about four hours away from the procession to begin today. The body of the late President Ronald Reagan to be brought here to the library in Simi Valley. Later in the afternoon here, Pacific Coast Time, the public will get an opportunity to view and pay their final respects in a closed-casket ceremony of the former president -- Soledad. O'BRIEN: Bill, here in New York, the stock exchange is going to observe two minutes of silence this morning. It's happening right now in memory, of course, of President Ronald Reagan.

The Dow Jones industrial average starts the week at 10,242. It's up nearly 47 points on Friday. We are told that futures are showing a strong opening for the market today. And there are questions about whether the exchange, in fact, will close on Friday in memory of President Reagan as well.

Over at the Nasdaq market site, the composite index there opens at 1,978. Up more than 18 points on Friday. And you can see the sign there that says, "Remembrance of Ronald Reagan, 1911-2004."

Let's go back to Bill.

HEMMER: It is not often when they pause down there on the floor of the stock exchange. You remember the events of 9/11, September 17th, when the exchange had been closed for about a week, only to reopen with a moment of silence, and so many tears at that point.

They remember the life of Ronald Reagan today. In fact, on Friday, the first state funeral in Washington in more than 30 years will take place, Soledad. And listening to the description we're getting from the park service and other federal officials in Washington as they get ready for this momentous task of not only carrying this out and making sure it's safe and secure, but getting the security up to date to enable a successful, not only viewing on Thursday, but also the funeral that will take place on Friday before the body returns here to California for sunset and the burial ceremony late on Friday.

In a moment, we're going to talk with Alexander Haig, the former secretary of state. He'll be our guest in a moment. His thoughts and reflections. But for now, back to New York and Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. And we'll tell you what's coming up here. On a much lighter note, "90-Second Pop." We're talking about the season finale of "The Sopranos." Was it everything it could be?

And what's left for the suburban mobsters as they head into their final season? We'll look at that ahead as we get our pop panel together with us this morning.

But let's head it back out to Bill Hemmer in California -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right. Soledad, thanks for that.

Here's the schedule as we understand it. About three and a half to four and a half hours from now, the procession will begin from the funeral home in Santa Monica. About 500 people turned out last night when the body of the late president was brought to that mortuary.

Once it arrives here, a private family ceremony will take place. Then the public will be able to come here and pay their final respects in a period of about 30 hours. That takes us into Wednesday then. Monday, then Tuesday, and Wednesday, Ronald Reagan's body taken to Andrews Air Force base in the nation's capital.

There will be a funeral on Thursday evening in the nation's capital, in the Rotunda Building there. And then on Friday, at the National Cathedral in Washington, another funeral will take place. Heads of state expected to turn out in great numbers for this ceremony. Then late on Friday, the body flown back here to California to the presidential library here in Simi Valley, where Ronald Reagan will be laid to rest in a grassy knoll that overlooks the sunset here in the western direction here in Simi Valley at the presidential library.

Let's talk about his life. Let's talk about the man. Let's talk about what kind of a leader he was. Alexander Haig, former secretary of state, our guest now from Washington, D.C., to help us recollect his memories and recollections today.

And we welcome you here to AMERICAN MORNING. I want to take you back to 1981, day 70, when Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr. As secretary of state, you made a very famous quote, saying, "I am in control here." After that point, how much did you or Ronald Reagan discuss that comment that you made?

ALEXANDER HAIG, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, we discussed it several times. And, of course, what wasn't announced at that time, which will some day be announced, because it was classified, had to do with the fact that the Soviets at the time of that, because of the alert measures taken in the Pentagon, were at the highest state of readiness in their nuclear inventories.

And the minute that we did what we did -- and it wasn't to say, I'm in control here; it was to say, I'm in control of a cabinet group here pending return of the vice president. But that was snipped neatly by Dan Rather at the instigation of some insiders right around the president. So that was the background of the misunderstanding.

When I gave that press conference, the readiness of the Soviet nuclear forces immediately dropped to normal. And so that was the purpose of it. And I would have done it again under the same circumstances. Now, Ronald Reagan never, never...

HEMMER: Knowing...

HAIG: ... questioned that. He knew what was at stake. And I'm confident he supported it.

HEMMER: Was there ever a time, knowing the great sense of humor that Ronald Reagan had, did he ever give you a hard time about it?

HAIG: No, he didn't on that subject, probably because he realized that I was a little touchy about it. He was a very thoughtful, very intelligent man.

And some people thought I had differences with him. That's not true. I always very much supported his positions. The problem was that some of his palace guard had other axes to grind, including the presidency itself at some point. HEMMER: But his relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev, the former -- yes, that's true -- the former Soviet leader. On our screen, a statement, part of a statement from the former Soviet leader. "The personal rapport that emerged between us over the years helped to appreciate Ronald Reagan's human qualities. A true leader, a man of his word and an optimist, he traveled his journey of life with dignity and faced courageously the cruel disease that darkened his final years."

If you were to sum up the relationship between these two men, how would you describe it to us from the moment they first met and to how things progressed toward the end of his second term?

HAIG: Well, I would describe it as a manifestation of the true conservative values of Ronald Reagan. Not some of the more modern twists of conservatism.

He believed in the infallibility of man. But he also recognized that the Soviet Union was in an advanced state of decay, and that the best way of achieving successful termination of the Soviet Marxism was by talking and negotiating, by arms control, while the process itself proceeded and the union and the Soviet system collapsed of its own internal contradictions. And that's what brought it to its feet.

And Ronald Reagan knew that. He used it. And we saw Eastern Europe fall from the Soviet sphere without a shot fired. And believe me, that took a very brilliant and intelligent application of Americans' assets to the task.

HEMMER: Thank you. Alexander Haig, former secretary of state, served in the cabinet with Ronald Reagan. Appreciate your thoughts today.

HAIG: Thank you.

HEMMER: Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Bill, thanks.

Ronald Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis, was at his bedside when he died. Davis has written an essay about her father's final days, which will appear in People Magazine later this month. And Patrick Rogers is editing that piece. He joins us this morning to talk about that.

I have to say, I thought this was one of the most beautiful, moving, and just remarkable pieces being written about a family's loss, really as it happens. Did you have to convince her to write the piece? Because it's so personal. And he's such a public figure.

PATRICK ROGERS, SENIOR EDITOR, PEOPLE MAGAZINE: Absolutely. Patti told me, you know, "I'm a writer. This is what I do." And she's published novels and had her hand in all kinds of writings over the past few years.

So I think this is partially her way of going through what she and her family are going through and letting the public in a little bit. But also just processing some of the pain and the grief that they're feeling right now.

O'BRIEN: Some of the quotes from this article -- and I'll read some -- are I thought just heart breaking. For example, this one.: "Here is a snapshot of waiting. A daughter holding her mother while she weeps. Tears staining skin, a body shaking with so much pain you think if you were at the center of the Earth, you could probably feel it."

"My mother is tiny. Her weight against me light. The back of her head is cupped in my hand. But her grief is huge and so heavy, it pulls on the joints of my body. It will be OK, I tell her. But I have no idea if it will be."

It's interesting, I think, the grief. I mean, she describes so well the grief of her mother, who everyone, of course, knows, but does not know, Nancy Reagan. Was it surprising to you to read how emotionally Patti Davis writes about her father, when she actually had a long time of distance, and estrangement from him?

ROGERS: I wasn't surprised by that so much, Soledad, as just the grief that they did feel after a 10-year wait in which...

O'BRIEN: Expected, to some degree.

ROGERS: Expected, and clearly there's scenes of relief. Patti said to me, you know, "The journey is coming to an end," right before her father died. And yet, what she writes about is just heart- wrenching grief.

You know, right at the very end, Nancy Reagan sobbing like that. Fortunately, at the very end, the president looked up at Nancy Reagan, opened his eyes for the first time in five days, looked at her, closed his eyes, and that was it. That was the end of his life.

O'BRIEN: I'll read you a small chunk of that. "At the last moment, when his breathing told us this was it, he opened his eyes and looked straight at my mother. Eyes that hadn't opened for days did, and they weren't chalky or vague. They were clear and blue and full of love. And they closed with his last breath. If a death can be lovely, his was."

To me, that just spoke about a love affair between a couple that was married for more than half a century. I mean, that moment -- and I think it's Patti Davis who says that was the best gift, the only gift he could give my mother.

ROGERS: That was Nancy Reagan who said that. As she held his hand, as his eyes closed, she turned to him and she looked at him and said to her husband, "That's the best gift you could have given me right at that moment."

O'BRIEN: It speaks volumes about their love affair.

ROGERS: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: I mean, I was reading this and I was getting all teary. And it's so moving.

ROGERS: Michael Reagan, the president's son, who was also there at the time, said to his mom, you know, "Well, lucky dad. His last earthly look is at you, the woman he loves." And now he opens his eyes and he is where he is now. And these are people of faith, so he's in heaven.

O'BRIEN: When do people get to read this? Because I have to tell you, I mean, I think this is must read.

ROGERS: This is in our next issue. It will be on the newsstands starting on Friday.

O'BRIEN: I would absolutely encourage everyone to read it. It's so moving, it's so beautiful. Patrick Rogers, from People Magazine, nice to see you. Thanks for coming in to share some of it with us.

ROGERS: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: We really appreciate it.

ROGERS: You're very welcome.

O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, let's turn a big corner and talk about J. Lo. She's the marrying kind. Just apparently not with Ben Affleck. "90-Second Pop" is just ahead this morning.

Also coming up, a little song and dance. Was "The Boy From Oz" one of the big winners at the Tony Awards? We'll look at that just ahead in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Talking about "90-Second Pop" with our "90-Second Pop" panelists. They're eager to weigh in on last night's season-ending episode of "The Sopranos." Was it worthy? That's the question today.

Also, a boy wizard at the box office. And Hollywood's serial bride. Joining us this morning -- that's not mean to say, is it, Toure? It's a nice way to put it.


O'BRIEN: Nice to see you, Toure, Sarah Bernard. And B.J. Sigesmund is the senior editor for US Weekly. Let's get right to it. Sopranos...

SARAH BERNARD, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: It's so good. It was really excellent.

O'BRIEN: I didn't see it.

BERNARD Well, "Sopranos" is known always for its interesting juxtapositions, right? You have someone...

O'BRIEN: Look at you with the big words today. What does that mean?

BERNARD: Well -- OK, so last night, Tony kills -- Tony S. kills Tony B. Then in the next scene, we have him worried about his son being an event planner and being worried that he's gay. And in the scene after that, he's running through the woods, the back woods of New Jersey, for his life from the FBI.

So it's changing directions constantly. And it ended with a raid on the New York mob family. Not Tony's family from New Jersey.

B.J. SIGESMUND, US WEEKLY: The thing (UNINTELLIGIBLE), he had to kill his cousin, right? Tony S. Had to kill Tony B. And that made him -- you know, the typical contrast in "The Sopranos" is you have weigh the business with being a mobster with his family ties. He feels all bad.

O'BRIEN: Like everyone. It's a work-life conflict.


SIGESMUND: But it's not going to be until the '60s, where you see someone close to Tony die. Like Meadow (ph).

BERNARD: I don't know about that.


O'BRIEN: There are lots of loose threads in this season. I mean, it ended with a lot of sort of like, well, what's going to happen here?

TOURE: But it's amazing. Like Tony and Carmela are back together. And the fight that they had at the end of last season was so knock-down, drag-out, you would never think that they could get back together.

BERNARD: Because Carmela's enterprising, and she said...


TOURE: But it took a whole season of like melding it and mending it. And now they're back together. And it's...

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's move on to another drama.

TOURE: Unbelievable.

O'BRIEN: J. Lo, congratulations, J.Lo.


O'BRIEN: I didn't get invited. Did you guys go? Did anybody go?

BERNARD: We couldn't make it.


O'BRIEN: What's up with that?

SIGESMUND: Well, this is the thing. J. Lo -- US Weekly broke the story. We actually predicted it last Wednesday. We put it on our cover because we knew that J. Lo had a big diamond honker on her finger.

O'BRIEN: Eight karats. Ooh.

SIGESMUND: And we knew that Marc Anthony had run to the DR to get a quicky divorce. What could be next but a wedding this week? And that's exactly what happened.

O'BRIEN: I don't understand it.

BERNARD: She's a marriage junkie. I mean, this is ridiculous. It's just -- she doesn't have to be married. But she can't stand not being married.

O'BRIEN: I predict -- here, put this in US Weekly. I predict within six months...

SIGESMUND: Soledad says...

O'BRIEN: Pregnant, expecting their first child. That's what I said.

BERNARD: She leads such an unconventional life, though. Why does she have to be so conventional in that way?

O'BRIEN: Do you not know any Catholic Puerto Rican women? Hello. As a Catholic Cuban woman, I can talk after the show about it.


O'BRIEN: That would be boring. You guys, as always -- I can't breathe. I'm laughing so hard, I can't breathe.

As always, thank you so much, Toure and Sarah and B.J. Appreciate it. I want to see my name in US Weekly next week.

SIGESMUND: We'll get it in there.


O'BRIEN: Finally, finally, finally. Thanks.

Bill, back to you.

HEMMER: All right, Soledad. Thanks for that.

In a moment here, 15 years after he left office and completed his second term, why Ronald Reagan is still a strong political force today. We'll get to that live in Simi Valley and live in New York City when our coverage continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Time to check in with Jack and the Question of the Day.

Good morning again.


How will President Reagan's death affect the campaign is the question. Dave in Orlando writes, "President Reagan's death will initially appear as advantage GOP. Especially if Nancy Reagan appears at the Republic National Convention. But in the end, the Reagan factor will become a non-issue."

Robert in Richland Hills, Texas, "I think it's a terrible question, but I know that polls all over D.C. are asking it. No, I don't think Reagan's death will help Bush. The fact that George Bush also is a Republican doesn't make him Ronald Reagan. There was only one of those."

Peggy in California: "Kerry can boost his visibility by buying commercial time on the American Movie Channel. They'll be showing "Bedtime for Bonzo" for the next three months."

And Christopher writes...

O'BRIEN: You like that one, huh?

CAFFERTY: Yes. "On the passing of President Reagan, I was living in France when Ronald Reagan delivered this address on the 40th anniversary of D-Day. I consider it one of the greatest, most moving speeches I have ever heard by an American president. I wondered how it would affect the French."

"When Reagan concluded, the French anchorwoman on television, Christine Auckland (ph), came back on the air. She had tears running down her cheeks."

This guy had an impact all around the world. And for the most part, I think a positive one.


CAFFERTY: Much beloved.

O'BRIEN: Interesting to hear the same words said over and over again, charming, optimistic, good humor funny, storyteller, all that.

CAFFERTY: I never hear those words personally.

O'BRIEN: We always say that about Jack Cafferty, too. A good way to end our...


O'BRIEN: I'm trying to say it with a straight face, you know.

Still to come on CNN this morning, more on Ronald Reagan's legacy. We'll take you live to Simi Valley as Americans pay their final respects to the late president. That's coming up in the next hour with Daryn Kagan on "CNN LIVE TODAY."

AMERICAN MORNING is back in just a moment.


HEMMER: As we say good-bye on this Monday morning live in Simi Valley, about three hours away from the funeral beginning, the procession leaving the funeral home in Santa Monica. Four hours away with a private ceremony for the family. Then in about five hours from now, at about 3:00 Eastern Time, 10:00 out here on the West Coast, you're going to get the public procession to come through here.

Buses will be taken in from about three miles away. Not quite sure how many people will show. Some expect several thousand. We'll find out later today for about a 30-hour period, as Californians come to pay their final respects to the late Ronald Reagan here in Simi Valley.

A large part of our broadcast throughout the week will originate from this location, the presidential library. We'll see you again tomorrow, on Tuesday morning.

Soledad, back to you now in New York.

O'BRIEN: All right. And that's it for us as well here from New York. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning as well. For Jack Cafferty and myself, and all of us in New York, let's hand it over to Daryn Kagan, who's been kind enough to fill in for us this morning...

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