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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Congress Funds Iraq War Through July; Tony Blair to Step Down; Interview With White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino

Aired May 10, 2007 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Glad to have you with us tonight.
We continue that breaking news over the Iraq war.

Out in the open tonight: new defiance from Capitol Hill and a new concession from the White House.

Also out in the open: Rudy Giuliani's support of abortion rights, it's forcing Republicans to make a choice.

Plus: a Midwestern city where people are asking, how far should we go to make immigrants feel welcome?

We start with tonight's breaking news, round two in the showdown between President Bush and congressional Democrats over money for our troops in Iraq.

Right now on Capitol Hill, with tempers getting really short, the House of Representatives has just passed a bill to keep funding the Iraq war, but only for two months. It's a sure bet for a presidential veto, as the administration has threatened, and the president specifically.

Congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel has been watching the fireworks, and there have been plenty.

Bring us up to date on all that, Andrea. Good evening.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Paula.

That's right. The vote just happened. And the bill passed by a margin of 16 votes, 221 in favor, 205 against. What that means is that Democrats have managed to push through a bill that only gives the Pentagon less than half of that emergency money that they said they needed to keep the wars going in Iraq and Afghanistan. That money will last, as you said, until the end of July.

President Bush has to come back to Congress before then to report on the progress in Iraq, before there would be another vote to give the Pentagon the rest of that money -- Paula.

ZAHN: Let's talk a little bit more about, Andrea, how that would work, then. So, there would be go guaranteed funding until the point that the president did just that? KOPPEL: Well, yes. But it first has to get through the Senate. And, as we all know, that's not likely to happen. Even Speaker Pelosi has said that she isn't optimistic that it would get through -- get to the president's desk with this limited funding.

What's far more likely to happen is that the Senate is going to be the ones leading the way on that.

ZAHN: And what is expected to happen there, Andrea? How much will Democrats budge?

KOPPEL: Well, Democrats over in the Senate are going to budge quite a bit. They're not going to have -- likely not have that two- month or even three-month limited funding.

What they would do instead, they're negotiating with Republicans and with the White House on including sort of the Iraqi progress reports, those benchmarks, as they're known, in the final test -- the -- the text.

The question is whether or not there will be any consequences included. That's something that the White House and President Bush do not support.

ZAHN: The White House can't be surprised by this yes-vote tonight. Nancy Pelosi has been predicting it -- that it would go this way for some time. Have you heard anything from the folks there?

KOPPEL: Not yet. I mean, the vote just happened.

You're absolutely right. Everyone expected this to get through tonight. And I think what will be interesting to see is just how many Republicans may have crossed over, because, as you know, Paula, there were just a whole group of -- of moderate Republicans over at the White House earlier this week telling President Bush behind closed doors how anxious they are about the way the war is going, and telling him, really, they can only hang on -- or may only hang on until the fall.

ZAHN: All right, Andrea Koppel, thanks so much for the update.

KOPPEL: Sure.

ZAHN: Of course, the president has made it crystal clear he is dead set on vetoing what he calls the Democrats' piecemeal approach to funding the Iraq war.

And, at a Republican Party fund-raiser just a few minutes ago, he promised to keep working to get full funding for the Iraq war effort.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I will continue to reach out to Democrats and Republicans to come up with a way to get this money to our troops as quickly as possible. We're not going to agree on every issue. But we don't want to put the men and women who wear our uniform in the midst of a Washington, D.C., debate. These troops need the money, and Congress needs to get it to them.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Well, despite the applause at that Republican fund-raiser tonight, the president is in real danger of losing support from his fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill. And we're going to bring all that out in the open now.

Let's go straight to White House correspondent Elaine Quijano.

Always good to see you, Elaine.

And, against this backdrop, of course, the prime minister announcing that he will be leaving his post come the beginning of the summer. Did the Bush administration expect this of their closest ally?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly not unexpected. We have heard about this for quite some time now.

Something else, Paula, that we have heard for quite some time is the Democrats pushing back over the issue of Iraq. The White House has been fighting that for months.

But, now, what is striking, what is so unusual, the political pressure coming not just from Democrats, but now openly from some Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUIJANO (voice-over): Surrounding himself with top military brass at the Pentagon, President Bush did not mince words on Iraq.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are two clocks, one ticking here in Washington and one ticking there.

QUIJANO: That Washington clock may be ticking louder for the president, after what's been described as a candid and frank discussion Tuesday with 11 Republican lawmakers about frustrations with the war.

Illinois Congressman Ray LaHood was one of those in the room. He spoke by phone on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "AMERICAN MORNING")

REP. RAY LAHOOD (R), ILLINOIS: Members really told the president in, I think, the most unvarnished way that they possibly could, that things have got to change, that we're going to hang with him until September. (END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: White House Spokesman Tony Snow tried to downplay the meeting's significance.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's not a watershed moment. The president has heard real criticism before. He's heard vigorous criticism before. It hasn't all been in the press.

QUIJANO: But some say the Republicans' willingness now to make once private concerns public signals, their patience is wearing thing.

THOMAS MANN, SENIOR FELLOW IN GOVERNANCE STUDIES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: They are worried sick about how the war in Iraq may drag them down into a small, rather than a competitive, minority party.

QUIJANO: For now, Republicans are standing behind the president and his pledge to veto a two-stage war funding bill being pushed by House Democrats.

BUSH: Well, I will veto the bill if it's this haphazard piecemeal funding.

QUIJANO: At the same time, the president signaled his support for setting benchmarks, laying out political goals for the Iraqi government to meet. They include passing a law to share oil revenue, preparing for provincial elections, and progress on de-Baathification policy.

BUSH: I have empowered Josh Bolten to find common ground on benchmarks. And he will continue to have dialogue with both Republicans and Democrats.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUIJANO: The issue now, will those benchmarks be tied to consequences? President Bush did not answer that question today. Democratic leaders, meantime, continue to insist that benchmarks must have teeth. They say benchmarks without consequences or enforcement are meaningless -- Paula.

ZAHN: Elaine Quijano, thanks.

So, how much longer can the president hold out, before Republican support for the war completely crumbles?

As our reporters mentioned, including what you just heard from Elaine, earlier this week, some Republican lawmakers confronted the president during a secret White House meeting.

And, a little bit ago, I spoke with Deputy White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, Dana, there's been a lot of reaction to this meeting that was held with the president on Tuesday.

Let's take a listen to what one congressman had to say about how heated it got.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAHOOD: I don't know if he's gotten that kind of opinion before in such a frank and no-holds-barred way.

And -- but he was very sober about it, and he listened very intently. And, you know, frankly, he wasn't defensive. I think he appreciated the fact that people were willing to really open up and give it to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: So, Dana, does the president concede he has a political problem with members of his own party, and, if things don't change dramatically in Iraq, they could lose their seats?

PERINO: I think what the president thinks is that he agrees with the American people that there is frustration about the lack of progress and the pace of progress in Iraq, but it's starting to turn around.

He has meetings with members of Congress regularly. Earlier that day, he had met with a group of Democrats. And he likes to get unvarnished, very frank opinions. He likes to hear their advice.

And, as the congressman said, the president is not defensive about it. He wants to work together to see how we get the money for the troops and how we can move forward to make sure that the young democracy in Iraq can actually succeed.

ZAHN: But the president heard a chorus of cries from members of Congress, basically saying, without public support, this war is not sustainable.

PERINO: I think that the president understands that. I think that he has endeavored to try to explain to the American people the steps he took in order to change the policy and the strategy in Iraq.

ZAHN: So, what you're saying tonight, he heard what these members of Congress had to say, but he is not likely to make any significant changes between now and the fall to appease them politically?

PERINO: You know, I think that the president has to look at it in many different ways.

First of all, I don't think there were anyone -- there was anyone there who was telling the president to pull the troops out now. I do think that they want to give General David Petraeus a chance for the surge to work. Now, they expressed displeasure to the president. They expressed frustration, because of a lack of progress. The president understands that. He's right there with them on that. And I think that, if you look at our party, we are ones that like frank exchange of views. We have a big tent. And discussions like this are OK. They're good to have. And that's why the president was very happy to have them at the White House.

ZAHN: Tim Russert of NBC News reported that the president said that -- quote -- he doesn't "want to pass this off to another president. I don't want to pass this off particularly to a Democratic president."

What did President Bush mean by that?

PERINO: I wasn't in that meeting. I didn't hear the president say that. I don't know if he did.

I do know that the president very much would like to not have to pass it off to the next president, be it a Republican or a Democrat, that comes in, in 2009.

We -- we would really like to be able to see the surge work. And I think we -- everybody could just rally behind General David Petraeus, who did get, coincidentally, 100 percent backing by the United States Senate.

And, then, two months later, they're saying they're not going to give him the money he needs to his job. That just doesn't make sense. It's not good for the military.

But the president is confident that we will be able to get to conference and get a bill done.

ZAHN: Is the president worried that this war is going to cost the Republicans a lot of seats in this next election, and perhaps the presidency might move to a Democrat because of how things are going in that country?

PERINO: I have never heard him express it that way.

The only thing I hear the president express is his concern about the long-term security interests of this country and for Iraq.

ZAHN: Dana Perino, thanks so much for your time. Appreciate your joining us tonight.

PERINO: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Of course, tonight, the clock is counting down until President Bush loses his closest ally in the war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right. I may have been wrong. That's your call.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: The question we want to bring out in the open next: Is it President Bush's fault that Prime Minister Tony Blair is quitting?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Minneapolis, a series of culture clashes with Somali Muslims is raising the question, how much accommodation is too much?

I'm Keith Oppenheim. That story is coming up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And Rudy Giuliani makes a big decision about that issue of abortion that will force his fellow Republicans to make a hard choice.

We will be right back. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Minneapolis has become home to a wave of Muslim immigrants. So, how much do the people who were there first have to change to make them feel comfortable? We will bring you some rising tensions out in the open in just a little bit.

For 10 years, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has stood beside U.S. presidents as America's best, closest friend in the world. But, today, Blair announced his resignation. He listed peace in Northern Ireland and Kosovo among his accomplishments. And he defended his support of the U.S. war in Iraq, despite massive opposition from the British public.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLAIR: And I decided we should stand shoulder to shoulder with our oldest ally. And I did so out of belief, and so Afghanistan and in Iraq, the latter bitterly controversial. I may have been wrong. That's your call. But believe one thing, if nothing else. I did what I thought was right for our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Now, Blair will officially hand the queen his resignation at the end of June, after his party picks his successor.

Everyone expects that to be Blair's treasury chief, Gordon Brown.

Let's see what all this means for the U.S. and its only major ally in the war in Iraq with chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who joins us live from London to bring this all out in the open for us tonight.

So, Christiane, did the Iraq war cost Tony Blair his job? CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Without a doubt.

The unanimous view here and in -- amongst all political analysts is that, absolutely, the failed Iraq war did cost Tony Blair his job. He lost the popularity. He lost the credibility. He lost the support of the people. And he lost the support of his party. And, crucially, it enabled sort of a rolling situation, where supporters of Gordon Brown were able to launch almost a coup about a year ago, and basically forced him out, and forced him to say that he would step down.

ZAHN: Tony Blair had to face the criticism that he was President Bush's poodle. If Gordon Brown ends up being his successor, how might U.S.-British relations change?

AMANPOUR: Well, they're unlikely to change in substance, because Britain is, and always will be, and -- real Atlanticist power. It will stand shoulder to shoulder, in Tony Blair's famous phrase, but really in terms of policy, with the United States.

That has been the post-World War British policy. It's not a policy that's going to change. What might change, of course, s the style with which, if it is Gordon Brown, as we think, with which he deals with the United States, particularly because he's going to have to step back and sort of build back some credibility for Britain and for the Labor Party, which might mean putting some sort of distance, at least in style, between him and certainly the president of the United States, if not the U.S. policy itself.

ZAHN: And let's talk for a moment what the president might learn from Tony Blair stepping down, when he made it clear that it was up for, I guess, all of us to judge whether he made the right decision or the wrong decision, even though he said he did the right thing for his country.

AMANPOUR: Well, hard to know what President Bush might learn. Certainly, what he's lost and what he's losing is his most strong ally.

Tony Blair, over and over again, since 9/11 -- and he said it in his speech today: 9/11 changed the equation, really, for him. And he stood with, what he said, his oldest ally. And, of course, President Bush has benefited from that, and has said it publicly over and over again, that Tony Blair, when he says he will do something, does it, and, really, in the face of a very restless public.

You know, we had hundreds of thousands of people on the streets here in Britain before the war and after, as soon as it became so -- so clear that it was not going the way everybody intended. Blair was up for reelection several -- you know, at least once after the war, and -- and he won. But he made all these judgments basically despite what people were thinking and despite public opinion.

And I think that has endeared himself, certainly, to President Bush. But the truth of the matter is, the question is whether both of those leaders really have yet come to grips with what has happened in Iraq, and whether they think that it actually can be saved at this point, or whether it cannot.

Britain has made its choice. You know, it's already starting to pull back. It's already announced that it will be withdrawing. The question is how Gordon Brown handles that.

ZAHN: Well, we are certainly watching that heated debate, as that critical vote came down tonight in Congress, Christiane Amanpour, about increased funding until July for the troops.

Really appreciate that update. Thank you.

And we're going to move on to domestic politics here. Polls show that former Mayor Rudy Giuliani is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, but can his fellow Republicans live with this position on abortion?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I personally oppose it. I support a right of choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Out in the open next: Rudy Giuliani's new abortion strategy, will it cost him the nomination?

Then, a little bit later on: Muslim immigrants whose lifestyle is making their new neighbors pretty darn uncomfortable. So, the question tonight is, who should compromise?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Back with some politics now.

Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice. That is out in the open tonight, defying the conventional wisdom that has held for decades for Republican presidential candidates. And he's on top of the polls for the Republican nomination. The question is, can he stay there as it sinks in with conservative voters that he favors abortion rights?

Mary Snow has the story for us right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After taking heat for sending mixed signals, Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani is now reasserting his support of a woman's right to choose and explaining his position on abortion.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I personally oppose it. I support a right of choice. Some people say that that's inconsistent. I really disagree with that.

SNOW: That answer, according to one Giuliani campaign adviser, is part of a deliberate effort to firm up Giuliani's stand on abortion, a stand that sets him apart from other Republican '08 presidential candidates.

In the past few days, Giuliani has come under the microscope for at least six contributions he and his ex-wife made in the 1990s to Planned Parenthood, one of the nation's leading advocates of abortion rights.

And, at last week's Republican presidential debate, he was criticized for what was described as a muddy answer when asked about Roe v. Wade being appealed.

GIULIANI: It would be OK.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MODERATOR: OK to repeal?

GIULIANI: It would be OK to repeal. It would be OK also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as precedent.

SNOW: Conservatives were among Giuliani's harshest critics.

CHARLES DUNN, REGENT UNIVERSITY: They're saying that he has to deal delicately with this matter, because he handled it so poorly in the debate. He now probably has no other choice than to come down on the side of abortion, which has been his historic position.

SNOW: Giuliani acknowledges his support of abortion rights puts him at odds with Republicans, who have traditionally supported a nominee who has opposed abortion.

GIULIANI: Is that an acceptable position for them? There will be some who say it isn't. And I'm at peace with that.

SNOW: And the Giuliani camp is banking on Giuliani's core issues of terrorism and security to overcome Republican dissent on his abortion stance.

BILL PAXON, GIULIANI CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Having a Democratic president at this very crucial time in the global war on terror is one of the things that scares many Republican voters. And I believe it's one of the key reasons that they support Rudy Giuliani, and support him very vigorously.

SNOW (on camera): There have been suggestions that the Giuliani campaign would put more emphasis on states like New York and California, where Giuliani would have broader appeal with moderate Republicans. But the Giuliani camp dismisses that, saying it's fully committed to competing in early primary states like New Hampshire and Iowa.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Let's go straight to tonight's "Out in the Open" panel, political strategist and BET correspondent Jeff Johnson, Mona Eltahawy, a journalist and commentator on Arab and Muslim issues, and syndicated columnist Deroy Murdock, who is also a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

Glad to have all three of you with us tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: So, Deroy, I want you to take a look at one of these latest CNN polls which sort of ranks the issues that are of key importance to voters, terrorism topping the list, abortion about seventh on the list, when you ruled out over 17 different issues.

You're a conservative.

DEROY MURDOCK, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I'm a libertarian, but close enough.

ZAHN: All right.

(LAUGHTER)

MURDOCK: Will Giuliani's pro-choice stance cost you -- or cost him your potential support?

MURDOCK: Not mine. I very much support him, as a New Yorker who saw New York City before he got here, his -- during his mayoralty and afterwards. And what he did to turn around this city, I thought, was absolutely spectacular.

If I were Rudy Giuliani, I would say what he said, that he is pro-choice. I don't think he can back off on that, or he will appear to flip-flop on it.

But he ought to talk about what happened to abortion while he was mayor. In the United States, abortions fell at the time he was mayor by about 13 percent. In New York City, this pro-choice mayor, abortions fell about 17 percent. And taxpayer-funded Medicaid abortions fell 23 percent.

ZAHN: Yes, but did his policies have anything to do with that? Can he claim credit for that, when he's saying, look, I'm pro-choice; I gave money to Planned Parenthood, but, look, abortions fell?

(CROSSTALK)

MURDOCK: He ought to claim credit for this, that, as mayor, he could have launched any kind of pro-choice policy he wanted.

People in this city, which is a very pro-abortion city, would have applauded. He basically left it alone. He said, it's a woman's right to choose. Let them do it. I'm not going to get involved.

And, as a consequence, the abortion rate, which was falling nationally, continued to fall even more rapidly in New York City. I don't think he's going to get to the White House and suddenly implement some kind of a pro-abortion policy. I think he will do what he did at city hall, which is rhetorically be pro-choice, and basically leave the thing alone, and let other people decide to choose or not to.

And, essentially, for those reasons, abortions fells in New York City. I think they would continue to fall nationwide if he were president.

ZAHN: So, I think Deroy's response sort of reflects what we heard in the piece earlier, that there aren't that many single-issue voters, and what Bill Paxon thought driving support to Giuliani was his toughness in the wake of 9/11.

Will it make much difference to Republican voters, particularly conservative voters, that he's pro-choice? Or are they going to vote on the issue of terrorism?

JEFF JOHNSON, HOST, "JEFF JOHNSON CHRONICLES": I think there may be a small demographic of Republican voters that may say, now I'm not going to vote for Giuliani.

But I think I would have to agree. Despite the fact that I don't think Giuliani's involvement brought down abortions in New York, I do think that we're probably in a place where, if people believe that he is where they want him to be on these top three issues or four issues, they're not going to allow abortion to be the one thing that takes them out of the list for them.

ZAHN: How do you see the issue abortion playing out in his campaign?

MONA ELTAHAWY, JOURNALIST & COMMENTATOR: I think he's probably going to have a much bigger problem than he would face in New York and California, as your correspondent mentioned.

And, also, he has very big shoes to fill when it comes to abortion and the conservative base, because, when you look at President Bush's record, he was very pro -- against abortion, very pro-life during the campaigning. And, then, in office, he delivered on -- on that message by installing two conservative judges who are against a woman's right to choose. And we have seen what they have done on the Supreme Court.

So, I think that, for the conservative base, for the Christian evangelical conservative base in particular, and for the base that was called the moral values crowd, that did tip the elections, to some extent, last -- during the last elections, because they voted against gay marriage and they voted on these so-called family issues.

ZAHN: The Catholic vote will also be critical in this upcoming election.

And I want to put up on the screen something that the pope said yesterday in Brazil, when he was asked if politicians who support abortion subject themselves to excommunication from the church.

And he said -- quote -- "Yes. It is based simply on the principle that the killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with going in communion with the body of Christ."

All right. Giuliani is Catholic. What is the pope saying here about him?

MURDOCK: Well, I think the pope actually made that comment while flying down to Brazil, and he was referring to Mexican legislators who recently legalized abortion in Mexico.

"The New York Daily News" ran a headline today saying Rudy vs. the pope. In fact, the pope wasn't talking about Rudy. And Rudy said he's not going to debate the pope on this issue. So, I don't know...

ZAHN: I know. But...

(CROSSTALK)

MURDOCK: ... what that meant. But...

ZAHN: But, certainly, his being Catholic, it has to have some bearing on the way we look at this, no?

MURDOCK: I suspect it will.

But I don't think he's going to be taking orders from the pope. I think he is going to have to state his position and state his piece and imagine the pope is going to continue to say what he does and people have to make their decision based on what he said. And I hope he speaks with respect on this issue.

There are a lot of pro-lifers who - they understand he's pro- choice. They want to know that he understands even if he disagrees it's a serious issue and they want to be spoken to about it in a respectful way. I think that will help them a lot.

ZAHN: Stay right there. We've got a lot more to talk about with the three of you.

Most Americans cherish this country's image as the great melting pot, but in one Midwestern city a lot of new immigrants don't want to blend in completely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is America. We have freedom of religion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why can't they just come to America and assimilate?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: "Out in the Open" next, Muslim Americans at the forefront of a culture clash.

And then a little bit later on, a mother who overcame tragedy. See what she's doing to make sure it doesn't happen to any other families.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: "Out in the Open" tonight, disturbing signs of a growing culture clash over Islam.

And it's happening in Minnesota, which has always been tolerant of immigrants. These days that tolerance may be wearing thin. The first indication we had was a story we brought "Out in the Open" months ago. Some Muslim airport cab drivers in Minneapolis were refusing on religious grounds to take passengers who had alcohol with them.

Well, starting today those cabbies will face penalties. They could even lose their jobs. But that is only the beginning of the culture clash in the Twin Cities.

So we asked our Keith Oppenheim to take a look at this question. How far should Americans go to accommodate the religious needs of new immigrants?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's going on here?

(voice-over): Something strange has been going on at the Minneapolis Airport.

(on camera): If somebody is carrying alcohol, will you take them on Thursday?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cannot answer for now because I am busy.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): The cabbies weren't talking.

(on camera): Why are you so unwilling to talk to me?

(voice-over): It was just a couple of months ago that the cabbies at the Minneapolis Airport weren't nearly so shy.

ABDI AHMEN, MUSLIM CAB DRIVER: This is America. We have freedom of religion.

OPPENHEIM: Telling me with passion that as Muslims, if they picked up passengers carrying alcohol, it would be a sin against God.

ABDULKADDIR ADAN, MUSLIM CAB DRIVER: I would leave my job instead of doing something that's not allowed in my religion.

OPPENHEIM: After years of discussion, airport officials decided they could no longer accommodate Muslim cabbies largely from Somalia. Now cabbies who refuse to pick up passengers with alcohol will be suspended from their jobs.

(on camera): It's a simple question. Are people going to follow the rules? (voice-over): We ultimately realized the mood in Minneapolis had changed and a series of recent media stories had heightened tensions with Muslims. Last November, six Muslim clerics, imams, were ordered off a U.S. Airways plane in Minneapolis. Because passengers reported what they thought was suspicious behavior.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just because the way we look. It's terrible.

OPPENHEIM: In March, the imams filed a lawsuit against the airline, the airport and passengers. Also in March there were reports Muslim cashiers at Minneapolis area Target stores were refused to scan pork products. Target reassigned the cashiers were reassigned to other jobs.

That story brought attention to what's called "Minnesota Nice." The state's history of openness to immigrants and some people question whether religious accommodation had gone too far.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the customer whose are here to be served. It's not the cashier.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's an adjustment process that is going on as the Somalis learn how to be Muslim in a country that isn't a Muslim country.

OPPENHEIM: In recent weeks, a controversy erupted at Minnesota Community and Technical College which has about 500 Muslim students, many who pray while on campus. For some devote students, a requirement before prayer is to wash one's feet.

ABDIMALIK MOHAMED, STUDENT: It's to be clean when you go in front of God.

OPPENHEIM: Last fall, the school got a report that a female Muslim student washing her feet in a bathroom fell because of the water on the floor. So college officials have been mulling the possibility of installing foot baths on campus. But then conservative columnist Katherine Kersten wrote that her sources on campus complained about a double standard.

KATHERINE KERSTEN, COLUMNIST, "STAR TRIBUNE": They perceive that Christianity is barely tolerated on the part of students and Islam is welcomed.

OPPENHEIM: But others argued at MCTC and across the U.S., the majority religion, Christianity, does get an accommodation. No school on Sundays.

ELIZABETH BOYLE, SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: For Muslims the holy day is Friday and MCTC of course does hold classes and we don't see that as special treatment for Christians because we just take that for granted.

OPPENHEIM: Still, Kersten's columns got things fired up. The school says it got more than 3,000 e-mails and a whole host of conservative bloggers and talk show radio hosts weighed in. JAN MARKELL, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: My question is why can't they just come to America and assimilate. When you get on this slippery slope and when you continually cave to the Muslim demands, their demands are going to get stronger and stronger and stronger.

OPPENHEIM (on camera): It's important to understand the Somali immigration to Minnesota happened pretty fast. It began in the early '90s and today the community is estimated to be about 50,000 people. And several of the community have emphasized to us that they believe their relationships with their neighbors is far better than a series of controversies might suggest.

ABDI AYNTE, REPORTER, "MINNESOTA MONITOR": The issue being sometimes being taken out of proportion, being blown out in the media in the sense that it's being portrayed as people who are not willing to adapt to the society or trying to take over.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Still, there are clearly some Somalis who don't like all the attention.

MOHAMED: Every time I turn on the radio or read the newspaper ...

OPPENHEIM: You hear about it?

MOHAMED: I hear about it.

OPPENHEIM: Does it make you feel different?

MOHAMED: Yeah, it makes me feel different.

OPPENHEIM: For the moment, those differences are being noticed as Minneapolis decides what changes should or should not be made to make room for newcomers and their culture. Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Minneapolis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: The dispute over the imams on the U.S. Airways flight is still in the courts. Another prong of all of this. And a U.S. Airways spokesman gave us this statement today.

"U.S. Airways stands by the actions taken by its employees. We apologized for the inconvenience and opened a dialogue. We are now waiting for the legal process to go through."

Back to our "Out in the Open" panel right now. Jeff Johnson, Mona Eltahawy, and Deroy Murdock. Welcome back.

You're a practicing Muslim. Have you ever encountered any prejudice because of your choice of religion?

ELTAHAWY: No, I haven't, Paula. And I was in Minnesota in February to interview Keith Ellison, who as you know, is the first Muslim member of Congress, so it's quite ironic that the story is breaking out in Minnesota. Because what I see happening are two - basically, the conservatives on both sides of this issue are the ones that are being highlighted. Because you have someone like Keith Ellison who is a perfect example of being a Muslim and an American without having to choose. Which is what this country is about. You don't have to give up anything to be - anyone can be an American.

And what's happening here is you're not seeing what -- the two- way flow of tolerance. Which in my opinion, that's what makes this country great. You come here and become an American and the country absorbs you.

And Islam is not new to America. Keith Ellison's family has been here for generations. It's not a new religion. Btu what you're finding is a particularly strict interpretation of the religion is hitting the headlines and Muslims are being shown as monolithic. We're not monolithic.

There is an array of opinions among Muslims, some of which is very strict and conservative and would agree with the taxi drivers. But others like the driver that brought me to the studio, I asked him this question. I said to him, would you take a passenger who's carrying alcohol? He said, yes I would. It's business.

But if they wanted to drink that alcohol in my car, I wouldn't want them to do that next to me.

ZAHN: All right. But you use the word society "absorbing" them and that's what's being debated about who should bend here. The new immigrants? Should they assimilate into this new environment or should the folks that have been there forever bend to them.

JOHNSON: I think some of the questioning is problematic in itself. I think that we're finding an overwhelming and continual push to be anti-Muslim in this country. And people taking advantage of that.

I think when we look at this situation in particular, I think as it was already mentioned that it can't be painted with a broad brush. And so I think that those cab drivers who have accepted responsibility of being a cab driver need to be fined because they refuse to do the job they accepted to do.

Very similar to Target. But I think that when we start talking about being able to express one's religious views, that I don't think it's unrealistic to consider where there's a critical mass of Muslims being able to do feet bathing in a place where prayer is going to take place.

ZAHN: Which raises the question of a double standard here. We heard one of the guests talk about, of course, Sunday is considered a Christian holiday. A lot of businesses close that day. A lot of businesses honor the Sabbath and let practicing Jews leave before sundown. And in this case with so many Muslims in this community and 70 percent of them are strict practicing Muslims, should there be any accommodations to them? MURDOCK: I think it's interesting, this debate about whether there will be foot baths. You compare that to what happens at Christmastime, we always go through the big national conversation and debate and screaming match over well, is it appropriate to have a creche on the City Hall lawn or do you want to have this nativity scene somewhere and so on.

And very often you find Christians having to go into court and fight off the ACLU and so on. So I think that's an interesting. With the cab drivers, I'm glad that this fine is going in because they've been allowed to say we won't carry people with alcohol, where does it stop?

If they say, for example, well, we only want to carry women who have their heads covered. If a woman's head isn't covered, are they allowed to say, no, we won't pick you up? Or if Catholic priest is not Islamic, maybe it would be OK not to pick Catholic priests up. So I don't know where exactly that stops.

ZAHN: And that was a point that was picked up in this editorial from this conservative writer you just heard about. The columnist Katherine Kersten what she said about the next time around "when the Muslim cab drivers say they won't transport women wearing tank tops, they won't transport married couples. What about when Muslim bus drivers make that decision along with cab drivers?"

Do you acknowledge there could be a potentially slippery slope here.

ELTAHAWY: Absolutely. I don't think it's for someone who works in a supermarket to make a customer scan bacon. I think that's ludicrous.

What is a better solution is to ask to be transferred to another section of the supermarket where your conscience is at ease. If you have undertaken an agreement with a company or a store or a taxi company to perform a certain role, then I don't think you can sit there and along the way make the rules up. If you feel uncomfortable with this, ask to be a dispatcher.

So absolutely there's a slippery slope, but there's another slippery slope, Paula ...

ZAHN: Quickly, though.

ELTAHAWY: The other slippery slope is the need to make the Muslims into the other, the creatures that we're going to fear. They're all covered up. They're all angry and they're out to get me. Which is not the case. Millions of Muslims live in this country quite happily as Americans.

ZAHN: That's one of the unfortunate legacies of 9/11, I guess, that we debate in this country to this day. Jeff Johnson, Mona Eltahawy and Deroy Murdock. Thanks.

MURDOCK: Thank you. ZAHN: Coming up next, a woman who's become a modern-day Paul Revere.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to say to the community that there's a threat among us. I wanted to tell the community that we're losing our children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: She certainly is sounding a warning, but that's not all. See what makes her a CNN heroine.

Also ahead, someone else you'll want to meet. He's found a life after working looking for the next Thomas Edison. You'll meet him when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Over the past two years, several U.S. cities have experienced a spike in violent crime. Miami happens to be one of them. And it's home to a remarkable woman who lost a child to gun violence and turned her grief into action. She's tonight's CNN hero.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUEEN BROWN, ANTI-VIOLENCE ACTIVIST: My name is Queen Brown, I'm a mother of four. I lost my youngest son, Eviton, to gun violence. Eviton's shooting was a random act. He was basically in the wrong place at the wrong time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three men are gunned down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A barrage of gunfire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An overflow of grieving relatives crowd the emergency room at Broward General tonight.

BROWN: I moved my kids here from the inner city to provide a safer community for them. They all graduated from high school and all college educated.

It was a devastating blow to me to lose my son. I felt so helpless and I wanted to do something. I wanted to get people involved.

Good afternoon South Florida. And thank you so much for tuning in to what's going on. "The Violence Intervention Program."

We can stop the violence in the community. There is something you can do about it.

You can teach your kid what to do, but as you and I both know, your kid could be a victim to someone else.

My children and I, we all chip in and we paid for the radio air time.

We have a caller on line number one. You're on the air.

CALLER: I have three sons. One of my everyday fears is that I will go through what you've gone through.

BROWN: It's very therapeutic. I always feel like I've helped someone.

We're going to give you that information regarding how to get your sons involved in this program.

The community has been very supportive. They want this show to stay on the air.

I want the students, I want the parents, I want the community leaders. I think collectively we have to deal with the core of what's causing the violence.

My son's death was a call to service. I saw so many areas where I was needed and I felt that I had what it took to get in there and do it. It's because of Eviton that I'm doing this. His life is going to save other lives.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And if you know any community crusaders like Queen Brown, just tell us about them. Go to our Web site, cnn.com/heroes.

Right now we're going to take a brick "Biz Break."

Stocks closed sharply lower on Wall Street. The Dow dropped nearly 148 points. NASDAQ was down 42. And the S&P lost 21.

Nearly a half a million infant car seats are being recalled. The recall covers Evenflow Embrace infant car seat carriers sold between December 2004 and September of last year. 160 children have been injured because of a problem with handles that unexpectedly release.

The maker of the popular pain medication Oxycontin will pay 6$600 million in penalties for misleading doctors and patients. Purdue Pharma has agreed to a plea deal in a felony case. The government says the company falsely claimed Oxycontin was less addictive than other painkillers.

Meanwhile, jetBlue's founder and CEO David Neeleman is out. The company says it's replacing him months after the embarrassing flight schedule meltdown that stranded thousands of very angry passengers during a winter storm.

From cell phones to computers, new inventions keep changing our lives. And in a minute, you're going to meet a man who's out to find the next big thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I want you to do is to invent new things. As your primary job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Stay with us and meet a fascinating man who's putting his money behind things that may change your future. You'll meet him when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And now our "Life after Work" segment. We take technology for granted with cell phones, laptops and iPods just about everywhere, but someone has to come up with the idea for these new inventions. And Ali Velshi introduces us to a man who is devoting his life after work to reigniting America's inventive spirit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Discovery drives everything with Nathan Myhrvold. Discovery of dinosaur bones on the fossil hunts that he finances. Discovery of new subjects for the photographs that he takes. And his latest quest, discovering inventions.

NATHAN MYHRVOLD, FOUNDER, INTELLECTUAL VENTURES: Our basic idea is that we invest in invention. And we do this a bunch of ways. We make our own inventions and we also invest in others.

VELSHI: Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures is bankrolling inventors he hopes are the Thomas Edisons of the 20th century. He amassed a fortune during his 14 years at Microsoft, retiring as chief technology officer in 2000, and now the self-described hard core nerd wants to full what he called a void in the market.

MYHRVOLD: Almost no one has a business card that says inventor. Almost no business focuses people on saying, what I want you to do is to invent new things. As your primary job.

And so our ideas actually pretty simple. It's hey, if we focus on that full time, we've got to be able to do better as it then if we do it as a sideline.

VELSHI: Myhrvold has recruited 44 inventors so far. He says they're patenting about 450 ideas a year. He gave us a first look at the invention lab he's building in a Seattle suburb outfitted primarily with things he bought from online auctions.

MYHRVOLD: It's a Ford racing engine.

VELSHI: And he's still enjoying the discovery process even though they don't have a major hit yet.

MYHRVOLD: I love what we're doing right now. Because this is a long-term business. If it wasn't fun in the short run, none of that other stuff would actually matter.

VELSHI: Ali Velshi, CNN. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Got that right. Coming up at the top of the hour, LARRY KING LIVE, the latest on the wild weather all over the country. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: That's it for us. Thanks for joining us. Have a good rest of the night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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