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Watching Health Status of Attorney General Mukasey; Gas Falls Below $2; Following Lincoln's Model

Aired November 21, 2008 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: We're coming up on 59 minutes after the hour. Here's a look at the top stories this morning. Coming on the heels of the Dow's 445 point lost yesterday, the major indices overseas actually held tough. In Asia, the markets were able to bounce back after early losses, Hong Kong closing up nearly three percent. Japan's Nikkei up more than two percent. And in Europe where trading is now underway, the markets are mixed.
Help is on the way for Americans who have lost their jobs in this tough economy. In fact, this morning, President Bush signed a bill that would extend unemployment benefits for up to 13 weeks. It comes after the government announced yesterday that initial claims for unemployment insurance hit a 16-year high.

And can you believe it? Gas prices falling below $2 a gallon. According to AAA, the current national average now, $1.99. The last time we saw gas this low was March of 2005. And you may remember back in July, we were paying more than $4 a gallon.

Returning to breaking news now, and a dramatic scene involving America's attorney general, Michael Mukasey. He is in the hospital this morning after he collapsed last night while giving a speech in Washington, D.C. and we do want to warn you that the video is tough to watch.


MICHAEL MUKASEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL: And that the country is safer as a -- as a result -- as a result.





CHETRY: Someone quickly rushed to his side, making sure that he didn't fall and that he was whisked, quickly, of course to the hospital. He's being kept now in George Washington University Hospital. He spoke with the president this morning. And according to the White House press secretary he sounded well. Last night, the Justice Department spokeswoman said that his condition is improving.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GINA TALAMONA, JUSTICE DEPT. SPOKESWOMAN: The attorney general is conscious, conversant and alert. His vital statistics are strong and he's in good spirits.


CHETRY: So we get the latest now on his condition. CNN's Jeanne Meserve is in Washington. Also, chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, live for us at the CNN Center.

First, though, we'll go to Jeanne. Have you heard anything else this morning from what we last heard about his condition?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Kiran, we have not gotten an update on his condition. We still do not know the diagnosis. However, a Justice Department official did say last night that there was no reason to believe that the attorney general had had a stroke.

You've seen the video. This happened at a speech last night before the Federal Society, a conservative legal group. It happened at a Washington hotel. One witness described it this way.


AARON SILLETTO, EYEWITNESS: He was giving a very impassioned speech. He was fairly well into it. It seemed like he was kind of winding down, like it was near the end of his speech, near the end of his remarks. He started kind of stuttering and repeating himself a couple of times and kind of lurched forward and hit the rostrum. And before he could fall to the ground, someone came to his aid.


MESERVE: Dana Perino at the White House said that the president had called the attorney general this morning. She gave this statement, "Just before 7:00 a.m. President Bush spoke to Attorney General Mukasey. The attorney general sounded well and is getting excellent care."

Last night, Justice officials, of course, were getting peppered with questions about his condition. And this is how they described him. They said, "The attorney general is conscious, conversant, and alert. His vital statistics are strong and he is in good spirits. He is receiving excellent care and appreciates all of the good wishes and prayers he has received. The doctors will keep him overnight for further observations."

They went on to describe him as being very feisty, joking around with reporters.

An interesting side note to all of this. There were people in that audience last night who also appeared to be faint. The D.C. Fire Department was alarmed enough that it brought in a hazardous materials team to do some testing just to make sure that nothing was awry. They did those tests, everything was absolutely fine. The people in the audience were just reacting to what they'd seen on stage, the attorney general having trouble with his speech and then falling to the ground -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Wow, that certainly is an interesting aside as well. All right. Hopefully we'll get more details about his condition. Everyone is of course hoping and praying that he makes a full recovery.

Jeanne, thanks.

ROBERTS: We expect to hear more about what happened to Michael Mukasey once his doctors run some tests. We want to bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's live at the CNN Center.

You're a neurosurgeon, Sanjay, you have watched that video many times. What do you see?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are a couple of things that sort of jump out at me. And of course, we're diagnosing from a far a little bit here. But as a neurosurgeon, you rarely get an opportunity to see something like this taped, as it happens.

If you play that particular video, if you look at it and you listen to it, there are a couple things that jump out.


MUKASEY: And that the country is safer as a result -- as a result -- as a result.


GUPTA: What is important here -- what is important here is that he started to slur those words, John. He seemed to have some word- finding difficulties, sort of slumped a little bit to his right, and then passed out. So three things there.

Those word-finding difficulties could be an indication, was there some lack of blood flow to the speech areas of his brain? That's typically on the left side of his brain, could cause some weakness on the right side of his body. Left side of the brain controls the right side of the body. And then just passing out, maybe because of inadequate blood flow overall to the brain. That's sort of what jumps out here.

The fact that -- Jeanne Meserve saying that he is conversant, he is awake, his vitals are back to normal, obviously very good signs. But important signs as well to suggest that whatever it was was transient. In fact, one of the things as a TIA, which is a transient ischemic attack, that could be one of the things that we're talking about here.

If you take a look of this animation of the brain really quick, John, we've talked about this before but sometimes you can have bleeding from some of the small blood vessels in the brain here. You can have clots that form in these blood vessels, or you can have blockages in some of the blood vessels that lead to the brain. That sometimes will cause symptoms like this, John.

ROBERTS: What else could it possibly be, Sanjay? Could it be dehydration, low blood sugar, maybe even low potassium level?

GUPTA: Yes, certainly all those things I think are still possibilities. Someone who's simply dehydrated could develop blood pressure so low that they're simply not getting enough blood flow to the brain. Low blood sugar, sort of the same concept. It's not a blood pressure problem, but you're just not getting enough nutrients to the brain for a period of time.

Typically in people like that, they have more global problems. You're -- both left and right side is sort of weak or they just feel sort of faint. He seemed to have these word-finding difficulties, which I think are a little bit of a clue, at least something for the doctors to pay attention to and focus in on.

There are symptoms of T.I.A. And a lot of people know this at home. But if you're watching this right now and you think, well, could something like that happen to me? You do get slurring of speech, you get difficulty with weakness on one side of the body or another, loss of balance. Again, all those symptoms seem to fit.

ROBERTS: Well let's hope that everything is fine with the attorney general.

Sanjay, thanks for that.

GUPTA: Thanks, John.

CHETRY: Breaking news this morning as well regarding one of the top posts in Obama's administration. The president-elect could nominate Senator Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state. We've known about that for some time, but now it could come after Thanksgiving. The new word comes amid talk that the path might finally be clear to her nomination.

Our Jessica Yellin has been working her sources and joins us live from Chicago.

So what is the latest?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest, Kiran, is that Obama's aides tell me they feel this thing could happen in late November.

Senator Clinton, as you know, has been the center of this focus for the past week. This is the first time that the Obama team has publicly acknowledged that she is being considered for the secretary of state role and that the vetting process in their view is going well. It comes after her husband, former President Bill Clinton, made some extraordinary concessions, agreeing that if she should become secretary of state, for example, he would be willing to give up day- to-day responsibility for his foundation and submit all speeches and paid activities to a strict ethics review before the State Department review board.

Now, all of this is significant because, obviously, they would need to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest, if she is to hold a cabinet post. And while all this does bode well for a union between Senator Clinton and the Obama administration, all is not done yet.

What we don't know is where Senator Clinton stands on all of this, does she want to accept it. I've also spoken with a number of Democratic aides who say that the Senate -- Democratic leaders in the Senate -- are prepared to offer Senator Clinton a new leadership role there if she should choose to stay.

So she's got a couple of options open to her it looks -- it seems.

CHETRY: Yes, it sure does.

Well, you're also following another developing story this morning. You say there are a records of a cell phone that Barack Obama used to use, I think it was earlier in the year, breached by Verizon employees.

What do you know about that?

YELLIN: That's right. It's a phone that Barack Obama no longer uses. But it is one of his past phones, so they would have a record. They say several Verizon company employees were able to look at his phone records. They would be able to see who he called and maybe keep some of those phone numbers.

We're told by the company in a statement that, "... all employees who have accessed this account, whether authorized or not, have been put on immediate leave with pay. Employees who have accessed the account improperly and without legitimate business justification will face appropriate disciplinary action."

One of Obama's aides tells us also that they were not able to access voice mail, as far as they understand, or listen in on calls, for example, but just look at his records and see what numbers he has dialed.

CHETRY: I got you. All right. Jessica Yellin for us in Chicago this morning -- thanks.

ROBERTS: The disastrous Dow like a wild roller coaster that you just want to get off. But have we taken our last plunge? We're minding your business.

And he was John McCain's competitor in the Republican primaries and surprised everyone by outlasting some of the GOP's big names. Mike Huckabee joins us to talk about what's next for the grand old party.

Nine minutes now after the hour.



JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": And in a stunning announcement, the Office of the National Drug Control Policy reports that San Francisco now has more medical marijuana dispensaries than it does Starbucks.

Well, yes, that's because marijuana is a lot cheaper than Starbucks. All right? Thank you. Thank you.


CHETRY: In some cases; the caramel macchiatos can be pricey. That's why I don't drink them.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In fat, in calories and in dinero, right?

CHETRY: Christine Romans is here and -- one good spot, Dow future's up 219.

ROMANS: They are, they are up 219. OK, yes, we had to go down 10 percent over two days to get a bounce today. But we are getting a bounce. And Asian markets have actually turned around and rebounded quite sharply. The idea in Asia is that things are going to be better here today for us.

A two-day decline of 10 percent is just unheard of. And we've gotten numb to all the volatility in the stock market, right. It's been so crazy over the past four or five months that you kind of can get numb to a two-day downdraft of 10 percent. Where's the bottom? Who knows no. How much longer can it go? How much lower can it go? Who knows. But we do know that the markets are perking up a little bit here today.

The big problem is the gloom in the financial sector -- the banks. How are the banks going to handle it? Is the TARP money, that bailout money even working? We keep saying that since they got the money, or they agreed to get the money, the banks have just been going down, down, down. There's a report in the "Wall Street Journal" that Citigroup is having a big, important meeting with its CEO and all of its executives this morning. We're trying to see what's going to happen with that company and what they're going to do. But that stock has been just hammered since it took money --

ROBERTS: And earlier this week, they announced laying off 53,000 people.

ROMANS: Right. After getting public money and --


ROMANS: Because it means -- (CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: We're searching this cloud for the silver lining --

ROMANS: There are little silver linings, but we need to be aware that we are in an unprecedented, difficult situation. That in the pantheon of crises, this is a very, very big one and we don't know how it's going to play out. And it's all about confidence. And where I get hope from people, it's that somehow next year the new president and his team are going to be able to figure out a way to turn things around or at least stop the bleeding.

I keep asking, has the financial system stabilized? And the answer I get, the best answer I get, is barely, barely is it stabilized. So we are still kind of holding on. And once the financial system stabilizes, that's going to take confidence, then you can start rebuilding from there. But it's just important for people to know that it's really an historic situation. More people are going to lose their jobs, we've got a housing problem that's going to continue, we've got the government starting to do things about it. Fannie Mae and Freddie are going to have a moratorium on foreclosures.

ROBERTS: That's some good news.

ROMANS: That is some good news, and that is a start. That's going to keep people in their homes while we try to figure out just the depths of all of this.

CHETRY: And hopefully they can then try to figure out a way to restructure their loans, so that they can afford it.

ROMANS: In the meantime, if you're exposed to the stock market, we can hope for a big rally today.

CHETRY: And if you're out of a job -- unemployment methods are being extended for a few more weeks.

ROBERTS: You can also hope that it starts raining gold coins. But that's not likely to happen.

ROMANS: No, not likely to happen.

CHETRY: That would be impressive.

ROMANS: That would be impressive.

CHETRY: Well Madonna's divorce, it's almost a done deal. How much would her being single cost her? We'll we're going to tell you what happened in divorce court today.

Also, Barack Obama is taking some lessons from Abraham Lincoln. We'll talk to history buff, writer and former governor, Mario Cuomo, about it. Fifteen minutes after the hour.





CHETRY: Well, you know, nothing makes kids sing like that, a picture of the McDonald's fries. It's McDonald's new marketing pitch that French fries are actually pretty good for you. But will nutrition-conscious mothers actually buy it? Our Carol Costello is live this morning.

They say French fries have fiber. Hey they are potatoes, after all, before they get deep fat fried several times and doused with salt.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And whatever else they put in those French fries, who knows.

Actually, Kiran, McDonald's is using moms to sell other moms on their fries. Most companies, by the way, are tanking right now -- you heard Christine Romans -- but not McDonald's. In the words of the company, we're doing great. Two reasons why, bad economic times means you've got to buy cheaper food. And maybe, just maybe, the McDonald's moms are making a difference.


COSTELLO: Pity the McDonald's fries, arguably delicious, yet so bad for your waistline. And worse...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got my two sacks of McGoodness right here.

COSTELLO: What are they, really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some fantastic fries. We're just going to dump right in this jar.

COSTELLO: Morgan Spurlock, who made the documentary, "Supersize Me," famously demonstrated McDonald's fries never seem to decompose like other foods, even after three weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right! Some kind of fluke of nature.

COSTELLO: That would give any mom pause. Until, perhaps, now.

Meet the McDonald's moms. Gilda, Joanna, Tonya and the rest are all real moms who volunteer as ambassadors for McDonald's.

MONICA FUENTES, MCDONALD'S "MOM": The most important thing that I learned from the last trip was that McDonald's really wants to know what moms want. They are giving us a voice....

COSTELLO: The moms visit the actual farm where McDonald's spuds are grown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had the opportunity to actually ride on a potato digger.

COSTELLO: And they followed those potatoes through the factory all the way to the restaurant.

TARA HAYES, MCDONALDS: It's really giving them that transparent, all-access opportunity. So, you know, they can ask questions about everything along the way.

COSTELLO: The moms then use that transparency to visit moms across the country, extolling the natural in McDonald's food. Some health experts worry this marketing campaign will give parents the wrong impression, that McDonald's fries are actually good for you.

Remember, a jumbo McDonald's fries has 500 calories and 25 grams of fat.

Most of the parents we talked with say they're not fooled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If a mom told you that McDonald's French fries would be good for your kid, would you believe her?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would never eat it; I would never feed to it a child.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would say McDonald's is out of its mind.

COSTELLO: Still, the thought that McDonald's fries really are real, and yes, they do have good stuff in them too, like fiber and potassium, that is hard to resist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to eat there regardless. So it doesn't matter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do your kids like it?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They ask for it?



COSTELLO: They certainly do.

I did talk with a McDonald's mom. Her name was Gilda. She says she's not saying that Mickey D's fries are ultranutritional, but she does feel better about them now that she's been out to that potato farm and she has seen how the French fries are made. Her kids by the way, Kiran, get a French fry treat once a week. And she has also seen the chickens, you know the chickens that make the McNuggets.

CHETRY: They have made some good strides with those too. I know because we go once a week too and the babies just love it, unfortunately. But you know yourself, there is nothing like a McDonald's French fry.

COSTELLO: Honestly, I cannot eat them anymore. They don't sit well with me. So I'm not a --

CHETRY: They sit fine with me.

COSTELLO: But I liked them when I was a kid.

CHETRY: And they're right about not decomposing. There's tons of them back in my minivan, and they must have been there for months. And they are still fine. You know, if I get hungry, I might pop them in the microwave later. Who knows?

All right, Costello. Have a great weekend.

COSTELLO: You too.

ROBERTS: A little secret here, when it comes to Kiran and food, everything sits well.

Barack Obama looking at a team of rivals for his cabinet. Could he be boring the strategy from another president from Illinois. We'll discuss the Lincoln-Obama link with former New York governor Mario Cuomo.

Twenty-two-and-a-half minutes now after the hour.



CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": Oprah Winfrey just announced that she's planning to attend Barack Obama's inauguration. Oprah's going to go, yes. Oprah says she's very excited to see Obama become the second most powerful person in the world.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most Politics in the Morning. Both from Illinois, both ground breaking, many people have already compared Barack Obama to Abraham Lincoln. Obama says that he has read a lot about America's 16th president. One book that he may have picked up, "Why Lincoln Matters Today More Than Ever." Its author, former New York governor, Mario Cuomo, joins us now with some advice for the president-elect.

So, Abraham Lincoln died 143 years ago. Why is he so relevant today? Why are so many people talking about him?

MARIO CUOMO, FMR. NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Well everybody -- when they pick famous presidents, he usually comes out at the top. And if you're a politician and you want to find a role model, then why not Lincoln? And the truth is, people have been using him for years as a role model. It's easier for Obama because of certain similarities that are obvious. Lincoln was brilliant, so is Obama. Lincoln was a great communicator, so is Obama. Lincoln started as an underdog, so did Obama. Illinois, et cetera.

But there are much more important -- at least one similarity that's really important and one very great difference between them. The difference is that Lincoln had only one big issue, slavery. And in his inaugural, he said so. He said, all the other issues have neither -- produced neither anxiety or excitement. So it was slavery and disunion as a potential. Obama faces more big problems than, I think, any new president in modern history.

ROBERTS: So a lot more on his plate than Lincoln, even though the Civil War was a huge issue.

CUOMO: Sure, it was a huge issue indeed. But you've had 148 years of globalization since then. You have this complicated world, and we're the superpower and he is the leader of the superpower of the world. That's an awesome, unprecedented degree of responsibility.

ROBERTS: So what are the similarities then?

CUOMO: Well, the biggest similarity, and I'm pleased by this, is not that they both speak well; neither of them was an ideologue. They are not -- they're too intelligent to be ideologues. There is a place for ideology in politics. It's not first place. First place should go to common sense and benign pragmatism.

Now, I say benign pragmatism because my name is Cuomo. If I leave out benign and say just pragmatism, you'll think I'm talking about Machiavelli. Benign pragmatism means that it works, but it works for most of us. SO they're not -- that's even better than bipartisan. So that's what he's like and that's what Lincoln was like.

ROBERTS: So, if he's looking to Lincoln for influence during this transitional period, what would you suggest should be his biggest influence? A lot of people have said this idea of a team of rivals that Doris Kearns Goodwin the noted historian wrote about.

CUOMO: The team of rivals is not unusual. Doris Kearns Goodwin is a genius. She's wonderful. It was a lovely book.

And he did put people on the staff, et cetera, and in the cabinet who rivaled him. But most presidents had before then. It was common place. And it's an intelligent thing. And Obama will do it. It might not be Lou Gar, it might not be Hagel, probably will be Gates. And he'll find them. And he'll find more than just one. So -- and that's an intelligent thing to do.

But it gets back to not being an ideologue. What he's really saying is, you're not going to hear me say things like President Bush did. I can't do stem cells because my religion says to me, that's murder, to take an embryonic stem cell. He's going to say that. He's going to say, look, let's take each problem as it rises, this terrible economy, let's study it, let's see what the common sense, intelligent answer is, and then let's do that.

And -- as long as it helps most Americans, that's the test. Not, is it liberal enough, is it this enough, is it that enough. And I don't even like bipartisan, because that takes too prejudices and says, let's have them both. I would rather you just did common sense and benign pragmatism.

ROBERTS: It's a very interesting book. We thank you for being here this morning to share your thoughts.

CUOMO: Thanks for bringing me.

ROBERTS: It's good to see you, Governor.


ROBERTS: Kyra --

CHETRY: Coming up on half past the hour. A look at the top stories right now.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey is reportedly alert and talking after collapsing during a speech in Washington last night. Witnesses say that Mukasey appeared awake when taken from the stage and he was kept at the hospital overnight as a precaution.

Now President Bush talked to Mukasey earlier this morning and said the attorney general sounded well and is getting excellent care.

CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, says that the Justice Department will continue to function.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: The United States Justice Department is a large and very successful bureaucracy that will certainly be able to function without a great deal of involvement from the attorney general on a a day-to-day basis. So I don't think there's any immediate jeopardy to law enforcement or antiterrorism in the United States.


CHETRY: Three members of the President-elect Obama's transition team tells CNN that Hillary Clinton is on track to become secretary of state. There's been no formal offer, but the process is reportedly moving forward and that offer could come sometime after Thanksgiving.

Now, the President-elect Barack Obama's personal cell phone records have also been breached, we're learning this morning. Obama's transition team says that Verizon Wireless employees accessed his account. Verizon says they're investigating whether the information was sent to anyone outside the company. The company has placed the employees on leave and apologized. Obama has not used that cell phone since earlier in the year. Well so banks got some bailout relief, the big three auto makers are pushing to the front of the line to get some for themselves. But what about homeowners buried under huge mortgages or those that are steps away from being in foreclosure, where's their relief? CNN's personal finance editor Gerri Willis joins us now because we've seen a few things happen on the federal level that may make a difference for people who are struggling.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Right, exactly. Well you know I know you talked about the Freddie Mac story this morning, that some folks are going to get helped by that, but that's a temporary program. It's only going to last 6 1/2, seven weeks, maybe, maybe 10,000 people are going to get new loans. But I have to tell you when you sit down and you look at the people who are being helped, it's not impressive.

Let's start by talking about a little bit about how many people are in foreclosure right now, some 2.6 million, maybe as many as three million next year. You look at the number of people being helped by the programs that are out there, it's actually some 2.3 million people being helped by the Hope Now program right now. We have additional programs from banks as well. So as you can see, the need is bigger than what's going on out there.

A recent and very impressive statistic from Sheila Bair in one of the congressional testimony last week. She said, only four percent of mortgages that are seriously delinquent are being renewed or changed or made new right now. So four percent. It's not impressive at all. And I think people out there are starting to realize that these programs are not getting traction.

CHETRY: Right. OK. Going back to the Freddie and Fannie situation, about this temporary - they're going to halt them, as well as eviction proceedings, but then how are you going to ensure that you can try to you know get your mortgage restructured or whatever you need to do to stay in your home?

WILLIS: Well, Freddie is telling servicers they have to contact these people and actually start rewriting these loans. So there's going to be something down for those folks. That's 10,000 people. We could have three million people in foreclosure next year. The worry is that these programs are not helping them. I wanted to take a look at some of the money in T.A.R.P. and are people, are homeowners actually being helped? You look at T.A.R.P., there's no money going to homeowners right now out of T.A.R.P. Billions of dollars for banks and AIG, nothing for homeowners.

ROBERTS: You know, it rolls downhill, and unfortunately, it's not rolling downhill far enough.

CHETRY: Agreed. All right. Hopefully we see some changes and we'll see something take place, because you're right, there's going to be millions more in the same boat.

WILLIS: Absolutely.

CHETRY: Gerri, thanks so much.

WILLIS: Thank you.

CHETRY: Well, we talk about big things all the time on the show and get reactions from your guys, but who would have thought that John Roberts without a tie would trigger so much response from our e- mailers. AMERICAN MORNING etiquette, tie or no tie? The fashion police are coming. Are they making an arrest? We're going to find out.

ROBERTS: We'll definitely find that out.

Mike Huckabee, by the way, made the GOP primaries a competition. Now he's out doing his own thing. He's crossing the country. We'll be talking with the former governor coming up on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.


CHETRY: Well, he went from GOP dark horse to a rising star when he won the Iowa caucuses and now former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is trying to revive the Republican Party and he has a new book out as well. "Do the Right Thing," inside the movement that's bringing common sense back to America. Governor Huckabee joins me now from Kansas City, Missouri. It's a stop on the book tour that started in Iowa.

Thanks for being with us this morning.


I hope it's warmer where you are. Kansas City has a frosty start, we're off to 56 cities over the next couple of weeks. And wonderful crowds in Iowa. We're off to a great start.

CHETRY: Yes. And we all know what Iowa means. First of all, it was no warmer for you in Iowa, it was no warmer for you in Iowa when you actually won the caucus, from what I read in your book.

HUCKABEE: No, it was cold.

CHETRY: But, of course, Iowa equals, you know, presidential ambitions. What's going on for 2012 with you?

HUCKABEE: Well, nothing is going on for 2012. A lot of people have speculated, why were you in Iowa? Well, the first chapter in the book is called "I love Iowa." And it's about the Iowa caucuses and the significance of that. But quite frankly if you're trying to do a book tour and you're trying to find the customers who are likely to want this book, for me it makes a perfect, I guess, opportunity to go to Iowa, because we've got a lot of friends there and some great people.

And we had a lot of them show up in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines. So that's where the book tour will focus. As you can see behind me, we're on this great big bus. And so we have to make sure we can do the book tour in places where that bus can go. But people are responding, I think, very favorably. The book is not just about what happened in the past. It's really more of a windshield version of where does the Republican Party and the conservative movement need to go.

CHETRY: And speaking of that, you write about that in your book. You say, the Republican Party must now reassess where it is and where it's going. What are the lessons learned from this presidential election and from the fact that you guys suffered heavy losses both in the House and the Senate? Where does the GOP go from here?

HUCKABEE: Well, Kiran, the Republicans didn't lose because they stuck to Republican principles. They lost because they didn't. When you see Republicans pushing these government bailouts, saying, let's take taxpayer money off some guy that worked real hard today and turn and give it to some corporate executives so they can fly gulf stream jets and go to California and have tennis games and massages on you know the tab of the taxpayer.

You know the Republicans lose their credibility when we don't balance the budget, when we take our kids and grandkids further into debt, when we spend money like crazy, when we don't really have clarity on our positions on things like the second amendment, the sanctity of life. When we don't come up with big ideas like we ought to be doing with the fair tax which jettisons this whole crazy thing of taxing people's productivity, we ought to be taxing their consumption, if we tax anything and create a productive economy. That's when Republicans can start winning again.

CHETRY: You talk about the economy. There's more bad news out there today. We have the Dow plummeting to its lowest levels since, I believe since 2003. We also have increasing fears in the auto industry. That industry also asking for a bailout, also possibly on the verge of collapse right now. And then you have people filing for unemployment in rates we haven't seen for 16 years. What does the incoming Obama administration need to do right now? Many say we're in unprecedented times and notions of conservative or liberal policies are not - they don't really fit right now. That we're in times that we have not seen since the depression.

HUCKABEE: Well, in many ways, that's correct. And in the book I talk about that we need to move to vertical politics. And here's what I mean by that. We're no longer in the world in which we can just say, things are left, right, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican. What people need to know, is are you going to take us up or down. And the vertical direction is what's going to save this country.

Now I think if we lower tax rates, if we increase the productivity of our people by letting them keep more of what they earn, that is going to take us up, not down. But the real issue is, we have structural problems in our economy, not cyclical. This is not going to be fixed just by time, that normally repairs and heals things.

We've got to change the structure of the economy, because we're operating in a global world, no longer a local economy. And that means jettisoning the IRS and its very complicated tax structure, having a simple structure that actually encourages people to work, to earn, to save, to invest, to buy and sell and make profit on it.

When we have that kind of economy, here's what's happens. You get more of what you reward, you get less of what you penalize. Our current system, penalizes work, productivity, advancement. It penalizes savings, investment. Change that model, you might save this country.

CHETRY: OK. I want to ask you about this. You wrote a lot about the primary race and everything like that. You had some tough words for your former competitor, Mitt Romney. You said he changed his position so much on issues like gay marriage, gun control, in fact, you said he was only one that could fit I believe in John Kerry's flip-flops.

But one of the things that happened with John McCain is that his poll numbers started plummeting when we saw the economic crisis growing and his selection of Sarah Palin also appeared to hurt him. Do you think that John McCain might have fared better in this general election had he chosen Mitt Romney as his running mate?

HUCKABEE: Well, you know I don't think so, necessarily. But I think Sarah Palin was a good choice. She revived a lot of excitement in the base of the party, restored hope that there would be someone who is pro-life, pro second amendment, and pro traditional family there. She took a lot of hits from lots of sources, but she was still standing at the end and I think she you know has brought a lot to the ticket and certainly took the wind out of Obama's sails after the Democratic convention.

So it's easy to speculate on, gee, what should have done. I think Senator McCain was up against enormous headwinds and I still find him to be and I talk about him in the book as a very honorable and decent human being. And so there's a long line of people that want to criticize what he did wrong. I always look for the short lines, which, by the way, I hope don't exist at our book stops along the way on this tour.

CHETRY: You're right about John McCain for sure. And I want to thank you for joining us today. Good luck on the book tour. Jump inside the bus. I'm sure that's toasty warm for you.

HUCKABEE: Thank you, Kiran.

CHETRY: The book is called "Do the Right Thing" and former Governor Mike Huckabee, always great to see you. Thanks.

HUCKABEE: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Did you notice too that even the governor lost the tie today.

CHETRY: He hasn't been wearing it on his show either, not that I've been watching. No offense, I've been watching this channel, but I'm saying, this is his new look.

ROBERTS: I know. I'm telling you. It's casual Friday

CHETRY: It's catching on.

ROBERTS: Looks can be deceiving. Look closely, President Bush is the only one who's not shaking hands. What's going on? Was it the ultimate global snub? The truth behind the world leader handshake video.

And after eight years, the split, the big split, almost complete. Madonna just days away from being single. We'll tell you what went on in court today. It's 43 minutes now after the hour.



ROBERTS: Coming up on 46 minutes after the hour. Breaking this morning, a London judge granted the first step in Madonna's divorce from her husband of eight years, Guy Ritchie. Our Atika Shubert is live in London this morning.

And Atika, this is big news. Madonna's back out on the market again.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, she will be in six weeks and a day. That's how long they have to wait before they apply for their final divorce decree. And then their almost eight-year marriage is officially over. In the meantime, however, the tabloids have been running with news that a divorce settlement is already in place. Some of those details have leaked across the papers and reportedly, even though Guy Ritchie is entitled to almost 50 percent of Madonna's earnings in the years that they were married, he apparently is taking a lot less money.

Instead, he's focusing his efforts on making sure his sons, David and Rocco, will split their time between the U.K. and the U.S.. As for Madonna's daughter, Lourdes, from a previous relationship, she will stay with her mother in the United States. So by celebrity standards, this is a very very quick and easy divorce. One divorce lawyer we spoke to said that she was very surprised at how quick it went and it was probably bad news for divorce lawyers. There are, still, however, plenty of other celebrity divorces going around.

ROBERTS: Typically the divorce process there in England is complicated. It involves two or three different decrees (inaudible) it's a mess over there. But another American celebrity invading the British courts. What's that all about?

CHETRY: That's right, the king of pop, Michael Jackson. He'll be at the courts on Monday. Basically, it's a contract dispute. The prince of Bahrain is suing him, saying that he gave Michael Jackson $7 million to do an autobiography, screen play and a new album, but it didn't appear. Michael Jackson says it was just a gift. We'll hear more on Monday. ROBERTS: All right. Atika Shubert with all of the latest celebrity news for us from just outside Carnegie Street there in London.

Atika, great to see you. Thanks.

CHETRY: Well, CNN NEWSROOM is now just minutes away. And our Heidi Collins is at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead.

Good morning, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Kiran.

Here's a check of what we've been working on in the NEWSROOM. World markets bounced back after Dow's two-day dive. We'll see if Wall Street makes a rebound as well.

Lawmakers say no for now. What Congress wants from the big three before writing a bailout check.

And he never saw it hit him. Bullet flies while a homeowner mows. What saved his life, you might be surprised. We get started at the top of the hour right here on CNN. Kiran?

CHETRY: Thanks, Heidi.

Well tie or no tie? What do you say, Heidi?

COLLINS: I'm going to plead the fifth on that one.

CHETRY: That mean she doesn't like. You missed a surprise like that. All right Heidi, we'll see what everyone thinks. We've been getting a lot of e-mails. John Roberts here on AMERICAN MORNING didn't wear a tie yesterday. He's gotten the most e-mail in the morning over this change. 48 minutes after the hour. Your verdict when we come back.



CHETRY: News from the news. That was John Roberts yesterday shocked America by showing up here without a tie. AMERICAN MORNING viewers definitely had an opinion. In fact we got flooded by e-mails from our viewers. You guys - about things that we talked about, like gas prices and the economy but this, the tieless John Roberts. Christine from Staten Island wrote, "excellent program today. But, Mr. Roberts, in a brown-striped suit, white shirt, open neck, where's the tie or will more shirt buttons be opened? Gold chains next? Please, no!"


ROBERTS: By the way, the tie was - the suit was gray. It just had a little tiny brown pinstripe on it. CHETRY: All right. Also this one from John from East Liverpool, Ohio. He's a fan and he said, "perhaps I never noticed but I was watching this morning and you had a few buttons undone on your shirt. You looked very relaxed and made me want to lose my tie! You were looking great today. Keep it up."

Another one's hilarious. "Proposal for national tie day. It says, lose your shirt, lose your tie, can we make this happen?"

ROBERTS: No, it say open your shirt, lose your tie. Never losing the shirt.


CHETRY: All right. What is the proper etiquette these days when it comes to ties. Our Lola Ogunnaike, the fashion police and she found out for us.


DAVID WATSON, ASST. GEN. MGR. BROOKS BROTHERS: If you do wear a tie, you can know you that you're pretty much always going to be correct, no matter what. I have one of our newer striped ties on today.


WATSON: Thank you very much.

SIMON DOONAN, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, BARNYE'S: A tie is transformative. It can take a slob and make him into a competent, employable person. I think that whole, like, super casual, casual Friday thing is very last century, darling. I'm sorry.

OGUINNAIKE: John Roberts, without tie. John Roberts with tie.

Well I have to be honest. He looks great in both pictures. However, this sort of looks more afternoon kind of matinee idol to me in that picture. I mean here, he looks obviously much more serious. And he's really working it nicely here. He's got a great fashion color there.

OGUINNAIKE: Are ties comfortable?

KEITH MERREL, CFO, GENOSYS, INC.: They are, but they're about the only way I can accessorize. You know, wear a white shirt, coat, and ties are like women's shoes. It allows me to be able to be different.

OGUNNAIKE: How many ties do you own?

MERREL: I probably have 200.

OGUINNAIKE: 200 ties?

MERREL: Well, actually, I just bought one, so I have 201. CLARK MOWER, CUSTOMER BROOKS BROTHERS: My son goes out a lot without a tie and feels perfectly dressed up without it, with a suit coat and without a tie, just a casual shirt.

OGUINNAIKE: The first time you saw your son leave the house without a tie did you think, what are you doing kid?

MOWER: No, actually I was happy to see him in a jacket, or just see him leave, either way was perfect.

OGUINNAIKE: Now let's find a tie that matches my dress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have one in mind.

OGUINNAIKE: I'm feeling very presidential.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you look fantastic.

OGUINNAIKE: What are the rules for not wearing a tie?

LAWRENCE VASSALLO, CUSTOMER, BROOKS BROTHERS: Nice suit, dress nice, accessorize properly, leave the tie at home.

OGUNNAIKE: What advice would you give to our anchor John Robert's about not wearing a tie.

VASSALLO: Good for you, John. Keep it up.


OGUNNAIKE: And John is not the only who favors the no look tie right now. There has been an increase in sales of ties, Kiran, actually. Totally bungled that. Let's do that again. He's not the only one. Ahmadinejad doesn't wear a tie, Barack doesn't wear a tie sometimes, Sarkozy doesn't wear a tie sometimes. So you're in good company.

ROBERTS: So how do you like this. Can we get a close up of this here?

OGUNNAIKE: Love the gold chain.

CHETRY: The look is now complete! It certainly is a Friday.

ROBERTS: We're going to put that look away.

OGUNNAIKE: I think we should have a no tie Friday.

ROBERTS: Thanks to Phil who does all the microphones here.

CHETRY: And then we can have gold chain Monday.


OGUNNAIKE: Can we talk about my tie? Hello.

CHETRY: Very, very chic.

OGUNNAIKE: I feel very powerful, very confident in my tie.

ROBERTS: You look very powerful.

OGUNNAIKE: Thank you.

ROBERTS: I had somebody who e-mailed yesterday, her no tie is OK, but it's got to be done with separates. I know an awful lot of people some of them who work you know in the design industry here in New York, who definitely do the suit without a tie and they do it all the time.

OGUNNAIKE: I heard if you're going to do no tie, JUST make sure your shirt is really starched and you have collar stays and you're good.

ROBERTS: There you go.

CHETRY: He does.

ROBERTS: It's a whole thing.

CHETRY: 24 karat gold. Collar stays to match the necklace.


CHETRY: We're giving it right back to Phil after the break.

Thanks, Lola. It's 55 minutes after the hour.

ROBERTS: The summit snub.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He seems like the most unpopular kid in high school that nobody liked, you know, the one with the -


ROBERTS: The Internet buzz over a lonely looking President Bush. Jeanne Moos gets to the bottom of a most unusual moment.

You're watching the Most News in the Morning.


CHETRY: This video is all over the Internet right now. World leaders shaking hands with everyone but President Bush, it seems. Did he have a cold that he didn't want to spread or were they trying to tell him something? Well our Jeanne Moos found the real story behind what only looks like a global snub.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the story of the snub that wasn't. Take one unpopular American president, hosting a summit, surround him with world leaders shaking hands with everyone but him. Next thing you know, it's the diss heard around the blogosphere, linked back to CNN.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: I want you to look at this video. It seems almost sad.

MOOS: "The Daily Show" played it as the show-closing moment of then. The White House probably wasn't feeling so zen when it heard interpretations like this.

SANCHEZ: And he seems like the most unpopular kid in high school that nobody liked, you know, the one with the cooties (ph)?

MOOS: Cooties, you can't shrug off cooties.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How are you doing? Thank you very much.

Steven, how you doing?

MOOS: It turns out the president had already shaken everybody's hand earlier that same day. In fact, he'd shaken most of their hands twice, starting the day before.

Responding to the "where's the love" perceived snub, the White House noted, the president had already greeted all of those leaders prior to this picture, whereas the other leaders had not had the opportunity to greet each other yet that morning.

MOOS (on-camera): When it comes to diplomatic protocol, there is one unshakable rule, shake hands no matter how much you like or dislike a leader, unless you're outright enemies. The snub that wasn't occurred as the leaders were lining up for a group photo.

They took the picture and then had to turn around and do it again because Argentina's first female president arrived late. Oops, take two. Despite the snubber in chief talk, there was plenty of backslapping and patting at this summit. As for likening the president to -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The one with the cooties.

MOOS: Tell that to Italy's Prime Minister. He and President Bush palled around like a couple of old coots.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


CHETRY: All's well that ends well.

ROBERTS: They are friends after all.

That's going to do it for us. Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. Have a great weekend. CHETRY: And we will see you back here on Monday. Right now here is "CNN NEWSROOM" with Heidi Collins.