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AMERICAN MORNING

U.S. and Iranian Diplomats Meet in Egypt

Aired May 4, 2007 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- polished forceful performance.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Did they leave a mark on the minds of the voters.

Plus, heightened security. The secret service called in to protect Senator Barack Obama. The cause for concern on this AMERICAN MORNING. Good morning to you, it is Friday, May 4th. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kiran Chetry. Thanks so much for joining us today. We want to tell you about a lot of things that on our radar today and one is another black eye for the Veteran's Administration. Turns out it looks like all the while that some of these veterans were waiting in long lines and waiting for doctor's visits and dealing with the substandard conditions at hospitals, the big bosses were getting some bonuses.

ROBERTS: Yeah, it's fine for big bosses to get bonuses as long as the company is doing well and the clients are being handled correctly. When you have companies that are failing and these bosses get huge paychecks, that's when it really starts to grate against the public.

CHETRY: And budget shortfalls. So we're going to talk more about that a little bit later.

ROBERTS: The Iraq conference continues in Egypt. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Syria's foreign minister about helping to stabilize Iraq. Will she sit down with Iran next. Does this represent a real shift in American policy? It's beginning to look like it.

CHETRY: A royal visit from the queen. It's been 50 years since she has been to Jamestown, Virginia, the first English settlement. There she is yesterday, quite a hat, by the way. She looks great. That tangerine color does wonders. She is also headed to the Kentucky Derby a little bit late. So we'll going to talk more about that. There's some etiquette you have to follow.

ROBERTS: Oh, absolutely. And you know what I'm looking for too, there's a betting website that has odds on what color hat she's going to wear tomorrow. The favorite right now is blue and white silver at 5 to 2, purple is sort of in third place there, 3 to 1 and the odds are that she's not going to have a feather on her cap.

CHETRY: How about that.

ROBERTS: At this point.

CHETRY: When you're at a horse race, you bet on everything. You just throw the money out no matter where you go.

ROBERTS: I wonder if she'll put a little wager down tomorrow.

CHETRY: We'll see.

ROBERTS: Ten Republican candidates on stage, did any of them stand out at their first debate last night. Senior political correspondent Candy Crowley live in Los Angeles for us. Candy, I watched this whole thing last night, I actually quite enjoyed it, what did you think?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I thought they went over a broad range of subjects and it was really interesting, unlike the Democratic debate, there were some real differences here among the candidates. What was interesting is, you're right, there were 10 candidates on that stage, all of them running for president. But the two most influential figures on that stage weren't there. The late President Ronald Reagan and the current President George W. Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): They talked Iraq, abortion, immigration, taxes and the legacy of Ronald Reagan and the greatest of these was the war.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to get our troops home as soon as I possibly can. But at the same time I recognize we don't want to bring them out in such a precipitous way that we cause a circumstance that would require us to come back.

TOMMY THOMPSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe the al Maliki government should be required to vote as to whether or not they want America in their country.

CROWLEY: Of all the candidates' muscular talk John McCain struggling to fire up his campaign was the fiercest on Iraq.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we withdraw, there will be chaos, there will be genocide and they will follow us home.

CROWLEY: On Osama bin Laden.

MCCAIN: We will do whatever is necessary, we will track him down, we will bring him to justice and I'll follow him to the gates of hell.

CROWLEY: Of the 10 Republican presidential candidates debating at the Ronald Reagan Library, nine supported the war effort and warned against leaving too soon and then there was one.

REP. RON PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Go to war, fight it and win it, but don't get into it for political reasons or to enforce U.N. resolutions or pretend the Iraqis were a national threat to us.

CROWLEY: In a party where opposition to abortion is an article of faith, the group was nearly unanimous that it would be a good day if Roe versus Wade were overturned, and then there was one. Rudy Giuliani struggled with the issue saying it would be ok if Roe were repealed but later conceded while he is personally opposed to abortion, he is pro-abortion rights.

RUDY GIULIANI, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Since it is an issue of conscience, I would respect a woman's right to make a different choice.

CROWLEY: Debating in the shadow of Ronald Reagan's legacy yards from his final resting place, the 10 candidates all sought to pick up his mantle, a tough foreign policy, smaller government and tax cuts.

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would work for the fair tax which meets the four criteria, flatter, fairer, finite, family friendly, we get rid of the IRS.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd put forward an alternative flat tax and allow people to choose between the current tax code and system which doesn't work which ought to be taken behind a barn and killed with a dull ax.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: In a party where conservatives can still make or break a candidate in the primary season, Ronald Reagan remains the iconic figure so much so that none of the candidates could turn down his widow's invitation to debate. And John, by the way, Ronald Reagan's name was invoked 19 times during this 90 minute debate.

ROBERTS: Everybody wanted to reflect the legacy of Ronald Reagan. What did you think of McCain? He seemed wound a little tight there at the beginning, did find his footing after a few minutes though.

CROWLEY: Well I think part of this was, the complaint about McCain has been where is the passion? Where is that 2000 candidate that was out there really showing some spark? So, I think one of their goals last night, I know one of their goals last night was to show his passion for the race and he may have over modulated that a bit at the beginning.

ROBERTS: Later on he came back to say that he would follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell. So definitely a lot of passion there. Candy, thanks very much.

CROWLEY: Sure.

CHETRY: And Senator Barack Obama is now being protected by the secret service. It's the kind of protection that's usually offered to major candidates three months before the general election. CNN's Jim Acosta is with us now, it's the earliest a candidates gotten this type of protection, why?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's the earliest, but he's also the first major African-American candidate who could actually win the presidency. There is no specific threat that prompted this move, but the secret service said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff made this request after consulting with a congressional advisory committee that handles these issues. That Homeland Security committee is not discussing exactly why they wanted the protection for Obama, but Illinois Senator Dick Durbin confirmed that he made the request to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying, Obama was drawing larger crowds than what's expected at this stage of the campaign and that there were concerns about what was being said about Obama in hate mail and on certain websites.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) MAJORITY WHIP: Unfortunately, some of the information that we found was racially motivated. And it is a sad reality in this day and age that Mr. Obama's African-American heritage is a cause for very violent and hated reactions from some people.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Hillary Clinton already has secret service protection being a former first lady and Joe Lieberman had extra protection during his 2004 run. And just to draw the contrast, John Kerry and John Edwards had protection in February of 2004, that's nine months before where we stand right now.

CHETRY: You said the campaign didn't really want to make a big deal about this and it's not what they wanted the focus to be, but it looks like his wife, Michelle, did weigh in.

ACOSTA: She did make some public comments yesterday talking to "The New York Times" and said that she is worried about this. She realizes this is a concern, but that this is a part of what's going on here is taking this campaign to the next level, as she put it.

CHETRY: And the crowds for Barack Obama really are astoundingly big.

ACOSTA: I think they've surprised a lot of people and, particularly, Dick Durbin. I mean he did say publicly that these crowds are a big worry. Now, the campaign does have its own private security, but there's nothing like having secret service protection, not only is it about putting a couple of extra guys on Obama. They do a lot of intelligence work behind the scenes that people don't know about and that's basically what's required at this point. This is major campaign and they're concerned that, you know, there could be threats down the road.

CHETRY: Jim Acosta, great seeing you, thanks. ROBERTS: Eight minutes after the hour now. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has yet to meet with the Iranians at the international conference on Iraq. She did spend 30 minutes with Syria's foreign minister yesterday though. And she spoke with our Zain Verjee who is traveling with the secretary in Sharma el Sheikh, Egypt and joins us now. Zain, this outrage to Syria, is that a real shift in U.S. policy? It certainly looks like one.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it absolutely is. You can characterize it that way. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a fairly significant and rare meeting on the sidelines of this conference at Sharma el Sheikh. She met for about 30 minutes or so with the Syrian Foreign Minister Wayed Mualem. She described the talks with him to me as substantive, business-like and professional. She said they really concentrated though on what Syria can do to stabilize Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I talked to him about the foreign fighters across that border, a major source of suicide bombers, we believe. He said that he understands that Syria has no interest in an unstable Iraq, but, of course, actions speak louder than words and I'm hoping that they will carry through.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: Also at that meeting, John, the Syrians asked Rice to send back the U.S. ambassador to Damascus. The U.S. has pulled their ambassador there out. Secretary Rice responded by saying, look, let's just focus at the issue at hand, which is Iraq. As I said, the meeting was significant, especially because Syria has been isolated by the United States for the last two years, since the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Raafiq Hariri. And the reasons that the U.S. says is because they have a role in destabilizing Lebanon, which is a fragile democracy, destabilizing Iraq and (INAUDIBLE) Syria for supporting terror groups like Hamas, like Hezbollah. John?

ROBERTS: Zain, something just crossing the wires right now, it says United States and Iran met at expert level at Sharma el Sheikh Conference on Friday. I take it that would not include Condoleezza Rice, is there any hope that she'll have a meeting with Iran's foreign minister before the day is out?

VERJEE: Not really. That hope really has dimmed --

ROBERTS: Well, obviously, somebody didn't want to hear her answer to that and pulled the plug on the satellite, but Zain will be with us throughout the morning, we'll get her back, no question about that. Kiran?

CHETRY: Technical difficulties.

ROBERTS: Yeah, you get them in live -- this is live TV, you get them. CHETRY: That's right, don't be in denial because she's in Egypt.

That was bad, sorry. Vice President Cheney heading on a six-day visit to the Middle East next week for meetings with Arab leaders. He's scheduled to stop in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. He's also going to be meeting with U.S. military commanders, as well as the troops.

Well, after all we've heard about Walter Reed and veterans being tangled up in bureaucratic red tape, now we're hearing about the Veterans Administration paying millions of dollars in bonuses to senior V.A. officials. The total payday $3.8 million. V.A. budget officials got an average bonus of $33,000 each, all the while overseeing a billion dollar budget shortfall. The top bonus went to the deputy under secretary for benefits while the average vet waits five months for their benefits. The chairman of the House Oversight Committee is planning to investigate.

Coming up lightning strikes and starts a house fire.

Plus, the latest on the extreme weather again in Texas.

Why does Barack Obama need secret service protection and what does his new security detail mean for him? You're watching AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning is on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning here on CNN. Extreme weather still pounding Texas, lightning reportedly sparking a house fire outside of Houston. Severe weather is blamed for three deaths across Texas. Two people were struck by lightning and a third person drowned in a flood-swamped car.

(WEATHER REPORT)

ROBERTS: Tommy Thompson got into a little bit of controversy in last night's Republican debate. The former Wisconsin governor was asked if it would be fine for a private employer to fire someone just because they're gay. We have Governor Tommy Thompson on the telephone now. Governor Thompson, good to talk with you. Thanks very much for joining us.

TOMMY THOMPSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good morning, John, how are you?

ROBERTS: I'm very good. I understand you're at O'Hare Airport this morning.

THOMPSON: Yes, I am. I am flying into Iowa and I just flew all night so I just got here and I just called in. How are you?

ROBERTS: I'm very good, thanks. Thank you for taking the time. Hey, let me ask you about this. Last night you were asked by John Harris of "The Politico," this was a write in question. You were asked if a private employer should be able to fire a gay or lesbian employee just because of their sexual orientation. You basically said, yes, which, if my research is correct, would be against the law in 15 states and the District of Columbia, 180 cities and counties and also inside the federal government. What do you say about that?

THOMPSON: I made a mistake. I misinterpreted the question. I thought that I answered it yes when I should have answered it no. I didn't hear, I didn't hear the question properly and I apologize. It's not my position. There should be no discrimination in the workplace and I have never believed that. And, in fact, Wisconsin has one of the first laws, which I supported.

ROBERTS: Right.

THOMPSON: So, I just made a mistake and that's all I can say. I'm sorry and I misinterpreted the question and I answered yes, when it should have been no.

ROBERTS: What did you think he said?

THOMPSON: What?

ROBERTS: What did you think he said?

THOMPSON: All I was thinking was that it was a question that came up and I did not hear it, I should have asked to have it repeated. I didn't and I answered it and I answered it wrong. It's not my position, it never has been. I have always been against discrimination and prejudice. In fact if you would have listened to the debate, they asked me a question about racism and I said that the president of the United States, whoever he is, has to take the point and has to be the person that does not allow discrimination or racism in any degree, whatsoever.

ROBERTS: Governor, I did listen to the debate, actually I liked your ideas on what to do with Iraq. Particularly this idea of sharing oil revenues with the Iraqi people, third to the federal government, third to the provinces, third to the Iraqi people. Well let me ask you this question, if the so-called surge doesn't work by, let's say the end of August when David Petraeus said he'll know whether or not it's working, would you concede that it's time to get out of Iraq?

THOMPSON: I think that's too early to say at this point in time. I think a lot of things are going to happen, but I think that my plan that I laid out last night, I think it's probably the best plan. In fact, I think it's the only plan out there. First, I would require the al Maliki government to vote, whether or not they want the United States in their country. If they vote, yes, it gives us legitimacy for being there, if they vote, no, we should get out. And secondly, we should split the oil revenues and third we should have the state governments elected in the 18 territories, just like we do in the United States. That's the plan I think that the United States should go to.

ROBERTS: Governor Thompson, thanks very much for taking time. I know that you're taking off for Iowa this morning, have a safe trip. We'll talk to you again soon. THOMPSON: Thank you John, thank you for calling me.

ROBERTS: All right, take care.

CHETRY: Senator Barack Obama woke up under the watchful eye of the secret service today. Joining us now from his radio show on WVON is CNN contributor Roland Martin. Are we on the air Roland?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, we're on the air in Chicago so say hello Kiran.

CHETRY: All right good, hello to the windy city. Well you're close to the campaign, what are you hearing about why they wanted this to happen?

MARTIN: Well they made it clear that it was not based upon a very specific threat. Everything has changed with Obama. When he spoke in Los Angeles 12,000 people were there. When he spoke in Atlanta, 20,000. And so the security force they had, they said it could handle mid-size crowds but because he's generating so much attention and so many different people, it's taken his campaign to a whole new level. And so they said that look, it made a lot of sense, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the senior senator, he approached Senator Obama and said I'm very concerned about this, also talked about some letters they've received also some chatter on the internet. And so Obama gave him permission to go to Senator Harry Reid to take it further and that's what got this ball started for the secret service to come on and provide protection and, of course, the earliest in presidential campaign history.

CHETRY: It is. The interesting thing, you painted the positive side which is that he is drawing so many crowds because he does have some star power around him, but it's also a sad commentary that he's been getting threats based on his race, because he's black.

MARTIN: Well, of course. Look, Reverend Jesse Jackson, he experienced the exact same thing when he ran in 1984 and '88. He also received earlier protection from the secret service. That is the reality in America. This is not 1956. You don't have dogs being sicked on people or African-Americans around cities, but we still live in America. There are still people who are racist, who are bigots. And, so, it was the fact, it is a reality. Michelle Obama and Senator Barack Obama talked about this before the camp, before he even announced. They knew what was actually going to happen.

CHETRY: I was just going to ask you that because Alma Powell, as well, Colin Powell's wife said this was one of the reasons that she didn't want him to run. She was very worried about it. You spoke to Michelle Obama, what's her reaction?

MARTIN: Well again, Michelle Obama has said consistently, look, Barack Obama, it's tougher for him being a black man on the south side of Chicago than it possibly is running for president. They understand the reality of everyday life. A couple months ago I ran into Senator Obama in the sporting goods store in Chicago, didn't have any security around him, this was right before he announced. And you know he bought his stuff, went out to his car and I remarked to someone else, I said this is going to change. So, his life is going to completely change and, keep in mind, when you're in that bubble, when you're talking to that many people, security is a whole different ball game and the secret service, they bring a different type of protection. They have advance teams so it goes beyond just here is the day of the speech, let's have protection. They are assessing all kind of threats, any kind of threat and making sure that everything is straight beyond just the general perimeter of where he's speaking, but much further beyond. So, that's why they wanted to do this. And, look, all the candidates, if you've reached that point you're going to have it. Senator Clinton, because she's the first lady, she already had secret service protection.

CHETRY: That's right and Joseph Lieberman got it earlier partly because he's Jewish.

ROLAND: Right, because again, the secret service, they anticipate threats. They don't wait for something to happen. They want to prevent something from happening and so that's why you do this. But it is a sad reality. It makes us realize that this is a different kind of ball game, different kind of candidates. You have Obama who is African-American, Clinton who is a woman, you have Bill Richardson who is Hispanic and so we have four of the three United States presidents, all of them white men, and so some folks don't want to see a person of color, don't want to see a woman in the White House and so you have to take the necessary precautions as it relates to security.

CHETRY: All right, Roland Martin, always great to talk to you. Thanks for joining us today.

MARTIN: Thanks a lot Kiran.

ROBERTS: Coming up, the trend is your friend. The Dow keeps going up, but troubles continue for General Motors. Ali Velshi back "minding your business" in just a couple of minutes.

Queen Elizabeth gets the royal treatment here in the United States. But just what is the royal treatment? Up next the right and the wrong way to meet, greet and dress and not hug the queen. Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Family feuds, rocky times and the making of a legend. This weekend get the real story on the controversial life of Godfather of Soul James Brown. It's a CNN special investigation's unit program, it's hosted and reported by CNN's Don Lemon who joins us this morning. Good morning to you Don. This had to be a really interesting program to do.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, it was amazing. And when you said controversy and all that, you have to be talking about the Godfather of Soul. John, nobody but you and the Godfather of Soul could make me get up this early in the morning. But yes, I hear Kiran laughing back there too. This is a real story of James Brown. We go all the way back John and Kiran to his birth in a shack in Barnwell, South Carolina where James Brown, according to legend, was born dead, meaning he was stillborn until his aunt wouldn't give up on him, blew in his mouth and he started screaming that wow!!! that you hear now, it's probably a lot like that. So we take you inside all the controversies. We go all the way, all the way up until now how his family is doing and how the Godfather of Soul, this is really timely, felt about rap and hip-hop music lyrics. In fact, I talked to a lot of people about that, one of them R&B superstar Usher. He talked to me about that just a couple of days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

USHER, SINGER: He talked to you about putting a positive message in the world for our youth. I had to get real close to him in order to hear each and every word. I was, like what is he saying. You know, we have to teach the kids, the babies, we have to, you know, teach the kids. He used his music, truly, to speak to the masses.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And all the folks we talked to, the Reverend Al Sharpton, Usher, you saw there, said James Brown, even at a time, John, when we were with more racially conscious he said, you know what, I'm black and I'm proud, he didn't say I'm the "n" word and I'm proud.

ROBERTS: Right. Hey, you know it's obvious that you would want to do a special on James Brown, but as you peel back the layers of this onion, doing the research Don, was there anything you found that you really didn't know about or anything that really surprised you?

LEMON: Well a lot of it. I mean do you have all day? You know, this is James Brown --

ROBERTS: How about a minute, as Kiran likes to say.

LEMON: This is James Brown. I think, you know, a lot of us knew James Brown, we looked either at his music or at his politics or at his controversies and we sort of compartmentalized it. But what I found out about this man, just as multi-talented as he was, he was just as multi-faceted and just as controversial, just as interesting. So I think the big thing that I got out of all this, John, is that you don't have to come from riches. He came from humble beginnings. Wasn't a traditionally good-looking man but very talented and made his way and I think that's a lesson for all of us.

ROBERTS: All right Don, looking forward to that. Should be an interesting special.

LEMON: It's going to be great, John.

CHETRY: Can I tell you a little secret about Don?

LEMON: Oh, come on!

CHETRY: He has --

ROBERTS: Oh wait a minute, you're peeling back the onion on Don now?

CHETRY: Yeah, well he's talking about James Brown, Don has the largest tie collection I have ever seen on a man. And we used to try to color coordinate when I filled in for a week for Kyra Phillips when she was in Iraq. He used to come in with handfuls of ties in every color.

LEMON: She said bring red and I would bring 20 red ties and she go, oh my gosh, are you nuts.

ROBERTS: I wish I had that many ties.

CHETRY: See, we don't match.

LEMON: Kiran, it's good to see you.

ROBERTS: Thanks for getting up early, appreciate it Don.

LEMON: Yeah thank you, good to see you, Kiran.

CHETRY: You too, it's going to be a great special.

ROBERTS: And don't miss the CNN special investigations unit, James Brown, the Real Story, Saturday and Sunday 8:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN.

CHETRY: Now, 28 past the hour and Ali Velshi is here "minding your business."

ALI VELSHI: You told me to wear red.

CHETRY: Look at that. You must have a tie collection.

VELSHI: I wouldn't take instructions very well.

ROBERTS: He's coordinated it with the shirt and everything.

VELSHI: Don's got it on me, but we like our ties.

CHETRY: Yeah, but I laugh because Don has a ton of ties, you also are able to mix polka dots with stripes and checks like no one I've seen.

VELSHI: I read somewhere that overdressing is a sign of insecurity, so that might be changing very soon. Markets, what goes up must come down or maybe just keeps on going up. That Dow another record, 22 out of the last 25 sessions this Dow has been up. If it closes up today it beats the record from 1944 which was 23 out of 26 sessions. Look at that, 29 points higher, 13,200. The NASDAQ is up to a 6 1/2 year high. The S&P 500 broadly based, 500 stocks, 25 points from its all-time high. Now, what's driving this market?

I know everybody doesn't always love what mergers have to do with the market. The market loves mergers and we have four major media mergers possibilities right now. We heard about Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation bidding for the "Wall Street Journal" publisher Dow Jones. Now we hear new rumors about the "New York Post" is reporting strengthened rumors about Microsoft bidding on Yahoo!. Reuters has reported that it has suitors looking for it and music publisher EMI says it's on the block, as well. So lots of merger news. Right now futures are pointing to a positive open, but in about an hour we'll get that jobless report. We're expecting unemployment to tick up just a little bit. We'll see how that does for markets.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: We'll see if it affected it. Ali, thanks.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Typically we go to a little bit of a break at this point in the game, but we've got an important interview that has just been lined up for us that we want to bring to you right now and it's breaking news this morning. CNN has learned that U.S. and Iranian diplomats did meet on the sidelines at the international Iraq conference in Sharm el sheikh (ph), Egypt, this morning. That and of course Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spending a half an hour with the Syrian foreign minister. Is this a new direction for the Bush administration? The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker is with us from Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. Ambassador Crocker, you just came back from a meeting with the Iranian ambassador. How did that go and what did you talk about?

RYAN CROCKER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Well, the context for the discussions we had today was the conference. The Iranians were at the table, so were we and the point is support for Iraq. It's not about meetings with Syrians, Iranians or any other particular delegation. It's how all this comes together to support Iraq. Now, in the context of the discussions over the last few days, there were a couple of brief encounters between U.S. officials and Iranian officials, as well as with officials of virtually all of the other delegations. As I said, these were brief. They touched on the agenda items before the conferees and I wouldn't read too much into them.

ROBERTS: I don't think you can down play the significance of you having a meeting with the Iranian ambassador on the subject of Iran. I am wondering with all of the accusations, particularly the U.S. military has leveled in Iran lately about it's meddling involvement in Iraq, supplying weapons and fighters across the border. Are you making any headway here or are you getting the Iranians on board?

CROCKER: Again, I would not characterize these brief contacts as in any way a median. The key question now, though, is coming out of this conference with a good communique that commits all the neighbors to doing everything they can to prevent terrorists, weapons, explosives and munitions from moving into Iraqi territory across our borders, with that undertaking there, the question now is, will they actually make a difference on the ground? That's what we'll be watching to see.

ROBERTS: Did you get any sense of that, that they were willing to do that?

CROCKER: Well, again, everyone in that room, all of Iraq's neighbors without exception signed on to a communique that committed to doing just exactly that and they all said that in their oral remarks. What we have to do is see that what was said in this conference is then translated on the ground and that's what we'll be watching.

ROBERTS: Ambassador Crocker, yesterday's meeting between Condoleezza Rice and the foreign minister of Syria, the first time that contacts like that have happened in at least a couple of years, does this represent a new policy of engagement with Syria?

CROCKER: Well, once again, what this represents is our desire to do everything we can to support Iraq and to use all of our influence to see that Iraq's neighbors support Iraq, instead of the opposite. So, the issue isn't a new step in a bilateral relationship between us say, and Syria. That's not what this is about. It's about focus discussions on what can be done to help Iraq, instead of hurt it. That was very clearly expressed by the secretary in her meetings, in her meeting with the Syria foreign minister.

ROBERTS: I get the sense it's one step at a time. Ambassador Ryan Crocker in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. Thanks very much for being with us, appreciate it.

CHETRY: Coming up next, one of the Republicans on stage last night calling into our show within the last few minutes, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson and apologizing for one of his answers last night. We're going to show you more of that, coming up.

Also, getting the royal treatment this morning. Queen Elizabeth, she's in America and so is our own Richard Quest.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm in Jamestown, where there are hats, there are flowers and there are crowds, now all we need is the queen. We're in Jamestown. AMERICAN MORNING continues in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Thanks for being with us on this Friday. It's May 4th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

ROBERTS: And I'm John Roberts, a surprising bit of substance last night at the debate. I quite enjoyed it. I liked the one or one or the format where you've got maybe four or five people. But for 10 people, they managed to get an awful lot in.

CHETRY: They sure did. They cut people off. I mean the second their time ran out, move on.

ROBERTS: And one of the most controversial moments of last night's debate happened when Tommy Thompson said that it would be all right for a private employer to fire a worker because they're gay. Earlier I talked with Thompson who said he misunderstood the question and misspoke himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TOMMY THOMPSON (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I made a mistake. I misinterpreted the question. I thought that I answered it yes when I should have answered it no. I didn't hear it. I didn't hear the question properly and I apologize. It's not my position. There should be no discrimination in the workplace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: There are 15 states across the nation where it would be illegal to discriminate against a person because of sexual orientation or also ordinances against it in 180 cities and counties across the country and it would also be illegal to do it if it were a member of the Federal workforce. So a lot of protections out there, but still 35 states without any specific protection.

CHETRY: It is great that Tommy Thompson called in to our show this morning. He was making a campaign stop and heading to Iowa.

ROBERTS: After a red eye all the way back from Los Angeles too.

CHETRY: Glad we could clarify.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is now in the U.S. to mark the 400th anniversary of the first English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia. That's where we find CNN's Richard Quest. He is over here as well across the pond to give us a visit. Hi, there.

QUEST: Good morning to you. Just look, they are already starting to line up. There are ladies arriving. They're giving us a wave over there. They are some of the crowds that are hoping to see Queen Elizabeth II when she pays her visit to the Jamestown settlement and this historic Jamestown here in Virginia. The queen is going to be looking and going to be getting to grips with the original settlers. She's going to be seeing something of the archaeological digs.

Now, this is very important because when the queen was here 50 years ago, the common view was that the settlements, the original force of 400 years ago had been washed away many years ago into the Jamestown River. Well, that wasn't the view of one man. He was Dr. Bill Kelso, is Dr. Bill Kelso. He was of the opinion that the force still existed and it was his persistence that finally found it. Dr. Kelso explained to me what it was that he found and why it was significant.

Now, as we continue to talk about what the queen is going to be doing later on today. After she finishes here in at the Jamestown settlement, she will be visiting William and Mary College and once again, Kiran, an enormous amount of fuss and palaver over what it is you can do, what it is you can say, how it is you should treat the monarch when you meet her. Let me just tell you, you just say hello.

CHETRY: You do? You certainly aren't suppose today hug, right? That's a big no no.

QUEST: We do know one thing. I can tell you one thing, a little bit of privy to you this morning. We do know that John Roberts is not qualified to meet her majesty, the queen. I do believe he has admitted in the last half hour, Mr. Roberts said he didn't have many ties. Oh, dear, guess he won't be getting invited to the garden party.

ROBERTS: I have a few ties, Richard. Just not handfuls of them.

CHETRY: He doesn't need a tie box.

QUEST: So he says, so he says.

ROBERTS: So he says. Richard, it's always good to see you.

QUEST: Thank you, John.

ROBERTS: Talk to you later.

CHETRY: Thanks, Richard.

ROBERTS: Who won and who lost last night's GOP presidential debate. The blogosphere is buzzing about it. Internet reporter Jacki Schechner takes a look coming up.

And they've separated from their spouses, so is there more to an Amy Fisher Joey Buttafuoco reunion than just a television special? Are the seeds of love blooming? You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Forty five minutes now after the hour. A week ago we were surfing the Internet checking on the blogs for reaction to the Democratic debate. Today everybody is talking about what the Republicans did last night at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley California and Jacki Schechner is here with all of that reaction.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We got to go with the conservatives, first right. We'll hit the liberals in the next hour. But as for the conservatives, we've got some really cool behind-the- scenes photos from (INAUDIBLE) . That's how we know this blogger and it's not as glamorous behind the scenes.

ROBERTS: Wow, that is an exciting photograph an empty table and two chairs with nobody in them.

SCHECHNER: It's not as exciting behind the scenes as it is on stage.

ROBERTS: Hey mom, look at what I saw in the debate last night.

SCHECHNER: This is official live blogging on scene there at the Reagan presidential library. As for who won and who lost online as you look at these fabulous photographs, split decision. Good portion of conservatives online felt that Romney had an excellent night, that he was relaxed. He showed warmth. He answered the questions well and (INAUDIBLE) we can switch over to her blog -- or go to --

ROBERTS: Those pop-up ads, don't you hate them.

SCHECHNER: My screen didn't fit in the overhead bins. We're going to have to use the one here and I don't have as much control. But (INAUDIBLE) a conservative blogger called Romney cool, controlled, passionate, says that he looks ready to be the candidate that Republicans would be well advised to take advantage of that preparation on his part. Dean Barnett, admittedly, a huge Romney guy but he says that more forums like this would be good for Mitt Romney, that he'll show well.

ROBERTS: Anybody like Giuliani or McCain?

SCHECHNER: Well, here's the thing. McCain we got some of that over at power line. They were split over there actually, two bloggers at that blog.

ROBERTS: More pop-ups. (INAUDIBLE)

SCHECHNER: Anyway, so, John thinks that Romney came out on top. Paul thinks that McCain had a good night. He started off slow ((INAUDIBLE) people a lot, but then he picked up speed and he showed that he was ready to fight, that he was strong, that he'll appeal to a broad range of Republicans.

ROBERTS: When he came back and said I will follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, pretty strong comment.

SCHECHNER: Same thing at (INAUDIBLE) basically that he is willing to bring the fight. But the biggest winner people are talking about and that's actually funny that this is showing up. If you can scroll back down, I'm talking to the board as if it can hear me. Fred Thompson, that's interesting, they said he was a big winner last night because he wasn't there. Nobody impressed so much that there is going to be a frontrunner at this point.

ROBERTS: Imagine if he can win a debate just by not showing up.

SCHECHNER: The big loser of the night they're saying is Giuliani. We have an unofficial, unscientific straw poll where Giuliani has a good portion of it, he didn't do well. He came across as too liberal. They didn't like his stance on abortion. Those clips about how he felt about Federal funding or public funding rather for abortion are now circulating on youtube. People are saying that he is just not as charming and as engaging as they expected him to be.

ROBERTS: I think Romney definitely made an impression on a lot of people. Last night you were looking for him to do that.

SCHECHNER: He's been vying for the name recognition, we saw when he looked at his public funding. He spent most of his money on media trying to get his name out there. This is a forum that is really good for him.

ROBERTS: Jacki, thanks very much for browsing the blogs and talking to the screen. That's got to be the first sign of some disorder creeping in. Kiran.

CHETRY: You guys are playing a dangerous game with those pop-ups. You never know what's going to pop up. You're lucky it was Applebees.

All right, well, let's get a quick look right now at the weather across the nation. For that, we go to Chad Myers. Good morning to you Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. I didn't see the pop-up, did they win dinner for two? That always pops up on my screen. Win dinner for two.

CHETRY: Act now.

MYERS: Exactly. Past hour, 2,400 lightning strikes on this screen, talking about New Orleans and westward back up toward Baton Rouge and then one big cell that has been all the way down the bottom of the Mississippi, all the way down the end of the river, big time weather there for the overnight hours last night, but now it's calming down. It will fire up again today and it will, not so much for the east coast. We're having some showers here from the mid-Atlantic down into North Carolina, but the story here is going to be the weather in eastern Colorado, into Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma for today and for tomorrow. This is going to be another tornadic outbreak for today. It will slow down tonight and it'll pop back up tomorrow right here in this darker red zone right through the plains. Even some rain, some strong storms down across New Orleans and Mississippi and Alabama for today, but another day of tornadic weather all the way from Omaha down through Dallas, Texas tomorrow. I suspect there could be 20 to 50 tornadoes on the ground at some point in time tomorrow. John it's going to be a big day, another spring storm day.

ROBERTS: Chad, thanks very much and of course, CNN will keep an eye on all of that weather for you throughout the weekend. Forty nine minutes after the hour.

It's David Hasselhoff (ph) like you have never seen him before. Caught on camera in a truly startling, well, that's a light word to use, startling state. Find out what happened to him and how his daughter feels about it coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Last week it was Alec Baldwin, today another celebrity father has got a red face this morning.

CHETRY: It is embarrassing to see this video, feel bad for David Hasselhoff. He's a recovering alcoholic and apparently the former "Bay Watch" star's 16-year old daughter shot video of him as she's telling how bad it is to be this inebriated. This is three months ago. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell me if you're going to stop.

DAVID HASSELHOFF: I am going to stop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Promise?

HASSELHOFF: Yep.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Apparently Hasselhoff has asked his daughter the next time I get inebriated like this, falling down drunk, actually, videotape me so I know what it looks like, I know what you're going through. Hasselhoff told the Associated Press he's doing far better now, although that was only three months ago, that that tape was never meant to be made public.

CHETRY: Well, blaming the (INAUDIBLE) again for these embarrassing things that get out there in the public.

Well, have you been waiting patiently for Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco to get back together?

ROBERTS: Not really, no.

CHETRY: Me either.

ROBERTS: ....hasn't really crossed my mind.

CHETRY: But it's interesting because they had this long history together and now it looks like the former Long Island Lolita and the man that she once had an affair with and then shot his wife have both separated from their respected spouses. In a recent interview, Buttafuoco even let on that he may be interested in having dinner with Fisher. Run. Run, girl, run.

ROBERTS: How would you like to be a fly on the wall during that? They will be re-teaming up for a television interview where Fisher will reportedly walk Buttafuoco through the scene where she shot his then wife, Mary Jo. I mean that will really be a tasteful moment in television.

CHETRY: Let's think. You don't need to be a fly on the wall, because they're going to get paid to do it on television.

ROBERTS: I just meant the dinner.

CHETRY: They'll probably videotape that, too.

ROBERTS: They just might.

Buyer's market or not, rapper 50 cent is putting his up 52-room mansion for sale, $18.5 million. This estate in Hartford, Connecticut, was once owned by boxer Mike Tyson, of course.

CHETRY: He ran into some money troubles and 50 cent got it for a steal. I think he got this thing for $4.1 million. He put some more money into it though, added $6 million in renovations, put in a helicopter pad and also, apparently, has a 40-person hot tub. At that point, don't you just call it a pool? Forty people you can fit in that thing. That's probably where he makes his questionable movie videos. Also a movie theater, casino, tennis court, basketball court and recording studio. What do you think?

ROBERTS: $18.5 million, I think it's a little gaudy, though, don't you think? Just a tad. What is that going to be his candy shop?

CHETRY: Yeah, exactly.

ROBERTS: Los Angeles made the list and so did Cook County, which includes Chicago. What are we talking about? Ali Velshi is up next to explain. You'll be surprised.

CHETRY: Also Barack Obama, he is under secret service protection now. We're going to talk more about why it happened quite early. Up next on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: It's two minutes until the top of the hour and Ali Velshi is here "minding your business." He is telling us where we should move.

VELSHI: Here's the thing. We know there are a lot of millionaires in America and we've seen that number grow. When you take out the home, which is your biggest asset, we've got a list here of the top 10 millionaire counties in America. This is not counting your money, not counting your home, which is why Kiran was surprised to find out Manhattan is not on that list. New York County, which is where we are, is not on that list. There is a county in the state of New York, it is Nassau County on Long Island, which has a lot of millionaires in it. But California has four of the top 10 counties. The richest I suppose you could call it, is Los Angeles County where the city of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, 268,000 millionaires not counting their home. It's 23 percent of the state's millionaires. The biggest proportion of the state's millionaires live in Phoenix. Arizona has 62 percent of their millionaires in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, Maricopa County. Here in Nassau County, Long Island, a paltry 80,000 millionaires not counting their house and it's 13 percent of New York's millionaire households. So interesting little idea. Florida has got one, West Palm Beach, Seattle, Washington is one of them. Houston.

CHETRY: And then also, King County is like the Seattle area, right?

VELSHI: A lot of money around there, exactly, a lot of rich folks out there. There you go, not counting your house. Without your house we're not all as rich as we think we are.

CHETRY: Thanks for pointing it out.

VELSHI: No problem. The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING begins right now.

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