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Tough Love For Auto Companies; President Obama's Catholic Problem?

Aired March 30, 2009 - 20:00   ET


ROLAND MARTIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, folks. Hi. I'm Roland Martin, a CNN analyst for the last couple of years. And I will be filling in for Campbell Brown over the next eight weeks.

As a professional journalist for 18 years, covering all kinds of stories across this country, I have had one standard. If you do good, I will talk about you. If you do bad, I will talk about you. At the end of the day, trust me, I will talk about you.

But, look, I'm not going to bother with the silly notion of who's a liberal or a conservative on this show. I voted for Obama and also for George H.W. Bush, Republicans and Democrats. On some issues, I might be called a liberal, on others, a conservative.

I judge people based on the issues and refuse to be pigeonholed and wedded to the ridiculous notion of ideology. Our goal on this show is very simple. That is to speak the truth to the power, no matter the party or the person.

And with that, we turn to what were once two mighty American companies that have been brought to their knees by this economic downturn. President Barack Obama says General Motors and Chrysler haven't done enough to jump-start their own survival.

Tonight, we will hear from the president in his own words and we will walk through his plans and debate whether the man leaving as head of GM deserves basically to be fired.

Let's start with the president.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot and must not and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish. This industry is like no other. It's an emblem of the American spirit once a future symbol of America's success.

And we cannot continue to excuse poor decisions. We cannot make the survival of our auto industry dependent on an unending flow of taxpayer dollars.

These companies and this industry must ultimately stand on their own not as wards of the state.


R. MARTIN: To make sense of all of this, we turn to chief business correspondent Ali Velshi.

And, Ali, the president's tone is different today than it was just a month ago. Here's what he said last month.


OBAMA: We are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it; scores of communities depend on it; and I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.



R. MARTIN: But, Ali, is it a real possibility that we could actually walk away?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly what the president was saying.

His tone has been tempered a little bit by the idea that we might actually have to walk away. Here's what he said about the Big Three right now. There are changes that have to be made.

Number one, you alluded to it. We will talk about it a little bit more. And that's the CEO of General Motors has been ousted. He was asked to leave by the White House as a way of continuing this deal. GM's Rick Wagoner is out of a job.

The other thing is he's asking these companies to take that plan that they were instructed to give the White House and work on it again. They have got to reduce their debt and their labor costs.

You remember, when they first got money at the end of December, they were told they had to have a plan for viability. The White House has gone through with that plan and said you're not likely to be viable. We're going to have to keep on coming back with money. So, they want them to look at that.

Number three, there's sort of a deal that is being worked out between Chrysler and Fiat. The administration has said Chrysler has 30 days to get its stuff in order. And that's part of the problem. This is supposed to be Fiat and Chrysler, by the way. Chrysler has got 30 days to get that deal going.

And number three -- number four, they are saying that they will honor warranties. So, for those people who were going to buy a car who are now reconsidering it simply because they are thinking those car companies might be out of business, remember that the warranty business at these car companies and in electronics and other things like that often runs as a separate business.

The government is saying they will handle that. So, if you were going to buy a car, don't wait just because of this new deal. R. MARTIN: All these years, we always talk about the Big Three. The reality is, it's down to the big one. That's what it's looking like.


VELSHI: Well, this is the problem.

You mentioned that. One of the companies we don't tend to talk about all that much, even though we had the graphic there, is Ford. Ford is in the healthiest position of all of these three automakers. They did go to Congress with the other automakers and say that they wanted a $9 billion credit facility, but they probably wouldn't use it.

Ford hasn't touched it, here or in Canada. General Motors is the one that in big trouble. It's the biggest. It has always been the world's biggest automaker. It has a lot of employees. Chrysler is in real trouble. Chrysler is on the ropes.

They have got problems with quality. They have got problems sort of across the board. So, there's some chance that this could go. Now, one thing that Ford has always told us is that if the other carmakers go, the difficulty is that it could set off a change reaction, put suppliers out of business. And that could take down Ford with it. But right now Ford is the one to watch. They are likely to be the big survivor.

R. MARTIN: All right, Ali, I appreciate it. And hold tight. We're going to chat with you later in the show.


R. MARTIN: But, folks, I want to hear from you. So start calling any time. Call us toll free 1-877-NO-BULL-0. That's 1-877- 662-8550. Or go online. You can send an e-mail to, or drop me a line on Twitter or Facebook. We certainly want to hear from you tonight.

Right now, we turn to the Motor City, where a couple of prominent media voices have opposing views on Rick Wagoner.

With me now is Nolan Finley, editorial page editor for "The Detroit News," and Nancy Skinner, whose nationally syndicated radio originates from Detroit. She also ran against Barack Obama in the 2004 U.S. Senate primary in Illinois.

Now, Nolan and Nancy, here is what the president had to say about GM's now former CEO.


OBAMA: After broad consultation with a range of industry experts and financial advisers, I'm absolutely confident that GM can rise again providing that it undergoes a fundamental restructuring. As an initial step, GM is announcing today that Rick Wagoner is stepping aside as chairman and CEO. This is not meant as a condemnation of Mr. Wagoner, whose devoted his life to this company and has had a distinguished career. Rather, it's a recognition that will take new vision and new direction to create the GM of the future.


R. MARTIN: So, Nolan, what is going on here? Is Rick Wagoner the fall guy?

NOLAN FINLEY, "THE DETROIT NEWS": Well, of course he is the fall guy.

And the issue, Roland, really isn't whether Rick Wagoner deserved to go or didn't deserve to go. General Motors is still a private company. It's owned by shareholders. Those shareholders elected a board of directors. That board has the oversight and fiduciary responsibility to fire and hire executives.

And this is an extraordinary reach by the president in to a private company to remove the head -- the head of the organization. And it stands in stark contrast to the way he's treated the banks. The banks have received 35, 40 times more money than these auto companies have asked for. And they have gotten it with no questions asked, no rules.

R. MARTIN: Nancy, what about that? Is it a smart move by the president to force Wagoner out or is it a bad decision on their part to really go this deep into private business?

NANCY SKINNER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, that's the thing about tough love, you know? The bad news, it's tough. The good news is the word love is in there.

The president said fundamentally restructure this industry so it survives. And that's what he intends to do. And Rick Wagoner is not going to be the guy to do it. So what? So be it. You know what? A lot of people, a lot of apologists like Nolan in Detroit who for a lot of time have not really called them on the carpet on this.

The good news is this, is that President Obama realizes that the technology is in the pipeline with GM, with Ford, not so much with Chrysler. They didn't have the great green advanced technology. But these other companies do.

And he realizes that. And he's going to get his team and the resources of the government to mine that, restructure the whole industry. And it's beyond even the technology for the automotive, Roland. We're talking the technology that comes out of Michigan is in multiple industries.

The president understands the stakes. He's not walking away from this industry. If Rick Wagoner has to go and we have to find new players to do this, so be it. We will move on and so will this country. R. MARTIN: Now, Nolan, you heard all of that. And you heard Nancy talk about the technology. First of all, she also called you an apologist for the Big Three.


FINLEY: Well, that's kind of her.

R. MARTIN: But, look, even the White House, they have come out and said that, look, all the technology thus far is not going to make a difference in terms of the vote, because it's going to cost too much money. And so what about that? If they're even saying that, then what's left to really save?

FINLEY: Well, that assumes that this administration and this auto task force knows more about making cars and knows more about automotive technology than the Big Three do.

It's interesting to note, and it should be noted, that of the 22 auto panelists and their top staff, only three drive American vehicles. They almost all live on the coast. They don't know -- they don't have a clue what's going on in Detroit's research and development operations.

These companies spend more than $12 billion a year on research and development, and they're constantly being jerked around by the government. First, it's ethanol.

R. MARTIN: Right.

FINLEY: Then it's hydrogen. Now it's electric. All that money going into research and the government can't make up its mind which technology it's going to support. And we expect it to do a better job of running these companies?

R. MARTIN: Nancy, about 30 seconds. Look, GM had the car of the year. They have all kinds of accolades left and white. Buick tied first place in terms of quality. So, they're making great cars. They're making quality cars.


R. MARTIN: And the president alluded to that. Well, then, if they're already doing that, what's left to do? Who's going to buy the cars now? What's going on?

SKINNER: We have got to incentive -- you have got to incentivize it, just like the credit markets. You have got to make it -- you make it leaner, greener, meaner, and then have incentives for people to buy American cars. You have got to get that going again. and we will, and we will survive this and be the big comeback story of this entire global meltdown. I assure you of that, Roland.

R. MARTIN: Nolan, Nancy, we appreciate it.

By the way, Rick Wagoner is going to pick up $20 million as well. So, he's not going away...


R. MARTIN: He's OK. He's OK.

Folks, remember, we're going to hear from you tonight, so call toll free at 1-877-NO-BULL-0. That's 1-877-662-8550.

And I certainly want to hear from you about GM and everything else we're talking about tonight. You can also send in your I- Reports, like this one.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My questions are, what the heck took so long? B, what about the 100 or so other top execs that helped form the strategy that helped drive GM in to the ground? And last question, how much is this platinum parachute actually going to cost the taxpayers?


R. MARTIN: That in a minute.

Plus, Madonna is back in the news. What she's doing overseas has a lot of people back here scratching their heads.



R. MARTIN: Familiar song, huh? That's Notre Dame's fight song, a huge part of a school steeped in tradition, especially Catholic tradition.

Tonight, we ask, does President Barack Obama have a Catholic problem? The new president is booked as Notre Dame's commencement speaker this May, but he's not wanted by some. The issue, should the nation's preeminent Catholic university welcome a president whose record on abortion and stem cell research conflicts with church teaching?

Joining me now is William Donahue, president of the Catholic League, and the Reverend Jim Martin, a Jesuit priest who is culture editor of "America" magazine, a weekly Catholic publication.

Now, Bill, look, exit polls show that the Notre Dame community voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. We also saw that Catholics nationwide by a 10-point margin voted for Obama. So, who's out of step here? Is it some Catholics or is it Notre Dame recognizing Catholics are supporting this president?

WILLIAM DONAHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: Well, Bush actually won the practicing Catholic vote. And it was about a five-point split on the others -- 80 percent who voted for it on the economy.


DONAHUE: But, look, the bishops put out a statement in 2004 saying any person who's going to get an award or get a platform at a Catholic institution shouldn't be in contrary to some of its major teachings.

Now, abortion, like racism, is intrinsically evil. Liberal Catholics would be against a racist getting an award. They're not against giving an award to somebody who is pro-abortion. And that's a shame on them.

R. MARTIN: Jim, I think he's talking to you. He's talking about liberal Catholics.



I want to say I'm pro-life, like a lot of liberal Catholics. But I think that they're clearly not honoring Barack Obama for his positions on abortion. They're honoring for being the president of the United States. And I think it's very appropriate to honor the president of the United States.

Catholics didn't have trouble when people like Dick Cheney would speak at universities and other political figures. So, I do think that abortion is the preeminent sort of problem in the Catholic Church in terms of its issues, but I don't think it's the only issue that we should be looking at.

R. MARTIN: Well, here's the deal here, Bill. You have had Presidents Eisenhower, Carter, Reagan, Bush, both Bushes, the father and the son, all have spoken at Notre Dame.

And one of the critical issues when it came to Bush speaking in 2001, death penalty. I have heard Pope Benedict, as well as Pope John Paul II talk about the death penalty, and they rank it just right up there with abortion.

But you flew on Air Force One with the president. So, explain to me how you can sit here and criticize when it comes to Obama and abortion, but you were there on the death penalty when the Catholic Church is dead set against that.

DONAHUE: The Catholic Church doesn't regard the death penalty as intrinsically evil. It's presumptively opposed to it. It does leave the door open. It's not the exact same thing.

Obama not only is in favor of partial-birth abortion. He was critical of the Supreme Court on this issue. When he was in the Illinois State Senate, he said, a baby born alive as the result of a botched abortion, no health care for that kid. He found an exception to his universal health care.

This guy is off of the charts, 100 percent record with NARAL. Planned Parenthood loved this man. If this man doesn't disqualify himself at a Catholic institution, nobody does.

R. MARTIN: Jim, is Bill dancing around the issue? Because Obama, when he was in the state senate, he voted to get rid of the death penalty, supported Governor Jim Ryan then?

So, what about this whole notion of, well, death penalty is little bit different than abortion?

J. MARTIN: Bill never dances around any issues. I think that's important to say.

No, I think death penalty is just as important a life issue. I think a lot of Catholics say that abortion is really the only issue. But, death penalty, let's face it, is a life issue, too.

So, I think it's inconsistent to say that you can have someone who's against abortion, but you cannot have someone who is against the death penalty. You really have to be consistent with these things.

R. MARTIN: Bill, don't you really think the Catholic Church, though, has a problem in terms of when its members have embraced this president in terms of at the polls, where all of a sudden, you're saying, hey, he should not come to Notre Dame?

DONAHUE: Look, I do think he belongs at Notre Dame to give a speech, to be on a symposium, to be a panelist, to be a discussant. I'm all in favor of that.

They're giving him the commencement address, which is divisive to the Catholic community. The ultimate losers are the kids, the parents, and the grandparents on their special day. And not only that. They're giving him an award. So, this is kind of an in-your- face situation.

President Jenkins, I'm sure, is a good man. He made a lousy decision on this.

R. MARTIN: Who is driving this? You think students there or do you think outside forces are driving this whole conversation for the president and Notre Dame?

J. MARTIN: Who's driving the conversation? I think outside forces.

I think Notre Dame, it's traditional, when you give a commencement address, that you get an honorary degree. I think that's part of tradition. And I think, as Father Ted Hesburgh said, the former president of Notre Dame, Barack may not change Notre Dame, but Notre Dame may change Barack. So, that's what I'm hoping.



DONAHUE: You have five bishops and one cardinal already against him, all right? There's nobody lining up the other way. You're not going to dialogue with Obama. He's already made up his mind. There's not an abortion he couldn't justify.

R. MARTIN: Well, again, though, I like how you talk about the abortion piece. But, again, Catholics are just as vigilant when it comes to the death penalty.

And so all I'm saying is, if it's good for one, it should be good for the other.

DONAHUE: It's not intrinsically evil, like racism. The liberal Catholics say, I don't want a racist and I don't want somebody who is pro-abortion. They will always say no to the racist getting an award. When it comes to being pro-abortion, they say, let's go with it, buddy.


R. MARTIN: But life is life.

Bill Donahue, I certainly appreciate it.

Jim Martin, thank you so very much.

Thank you very much for a great conversation.

Folks, the president and the first lady are about to take their charm offensive on the road. They're heading off to Europe tomorrow, where a lot of the conversation will be about money. And the question is, will the rest of the world's leaders buy a global economic stimulus plan? That's what we want to talk about.


R. MARTIN: Well, President Obama is headed across the pond to London tomorrow for the start of a weeklong trip to Europe.

It was just eight months ago that hundreds of thousands of people welcomed then candidate Obama with open arms. But, this time, when he sits down with their leaders, things could be very different.

Zain Verjee is here to tell us where the president is going and who he's seeing.

And, Zain, he has got a lot of ground to cover.


And jolly good show. He's finally headed across the pond, Roland.


VERJEE: President Obama is going to be wheels up tomorrow afternoon, Washington, D.C., time.

Let me show you a little bit of the road map, Roland. He's going to be in the United Kingdom for a couple of days, two full days, Wednesday and Thursday. Of course the main order of business there is going to be the G-20 summit.

And then, on Friday, he's going to head to France for meetings with leaders of the various NATO countries. Then, on Saturday, he's going to take a quick stop in Germany, basically so that he can walk back across the border into France. Well, why would he do that?

Well, the thing is, Roland, it's a pretty symbolic gesture, essentially to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the NATO alliance. That afternoon, the president will head to Prague, where he will be until Monday afternoon.

And then he's going to depart to Turkey. That's a pretty important stop. He's promised the Muslim world a major visit, his first visit. And he's going to be delivering a major speech to the Arab and Muslim world. And he's going to be back in the United States, Roland, a week from tomorrow night.

R. MARTIN: Now, of course there's a lot on his plate. And take us through some of the highlights of this weeklong trip.

VERJEE: Well, the main highlights, one of them, at least, is going to be having tea with his majesty, the queen.


VERJEE: That's always one.

But the real critical thing here, Roland, is going to be the G-20 summit. What he's really got to do is try and get all these leaders on board. As I mentioned, too, there have been a lot of criticisms of the economic stimulus plan.

And the key is going to have them all say, yes, we're on the same page. And then Turkey is the major speech for the Muslim world. The other important thing to keep in mind here is that he's so popular around the world. People are really pulling for him to succeed. But they want to see results.

And this is a trip that they're going to be looking for those results. Otherwise, he's going to be all sizzle, and no steak.

R. MARTIN: Also traveling with a small town, if you will. Security is off the charts here.

VERJEE: Yes, it really is. There have already been protests.

If you take a look at one of the protests we want to show you just ahead of the G-20 summit, now, this is a peaceful one. But it could always get ugly. You have got things like the whole social networking thing and people can time themselves and plan their movements and things like that.

But he's taking 500 people with him, Roland, 200 of whom...

R. MARTIN: Small road trip, small gathering.


VERJEE: Yes. Yes, 200 are Secret Service, and he's even taking some chefs with him, just like how you travel.

R. MARTIN: Yes, right, right, yes. I don't think so.


R. MARTIN: All right, well, Zain, we certainly appreciate it. We will be chatting with you a little bit later in the show.



R. MARTIN: And nice job rocking the...



R. MARTIN: It's a safe bet the president will get a warm welcome on his trip, but that doesn't mean world leaders will be on board with his proposals on the economy.

CNN International's Richard Quest is outside of 10 Downing Street tonight, where President Obama will have a working dinner with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Wednesday.

Richard, how you doing?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening from Downing Street, middle of the night here in London.

But this is a capital city that is truly preparing, Roland, to welcome the 20 members of the of the Group of 20. It's an extraordinary feeling in London, because, substantially, we know that the entire city is about to hit G-20 gridlock.

Think about it, 20 motorcades moving round London at different times, all trying to get to this to their bilaterals. But, for President Obama, let's put some perspective on his visit. What can he expect from the other members?

We can pretty much group the countries, Roland, like this. You have got the reliable allies, those that will go along with the U.S. on most things most of the time. For that, of course, it's Australia, or it's the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, who is -- I better keep it quiet -- probably sleeping upstairs.


QUEST: We have got countries like Canada and Japan.

Then you have got those that will be maybe playing big power games, certainly, China with the question of the dollar and the position of U.S. bonds, and Russia on the question and the issue of oil and energy, and, of course, security in parts of Eastern Europe.

And then you have got what I call the principled objectors. These are countries that will go along with the U.S. most of the time, but they will have key objections, not because it's the U.S., but because, for example, in Germany's case, Angela Merkel doesn't like big deficits, never has done, never will do. And so when she talks about not wanting more stimulus packages, it's not unto anti-U.S.. It's principled.

R. MARTIN: Well, and, Richard, and, of course, we know you're a big-time business guy, but you're also a social and cultural animal. And the visit of first lady Michelle Obama is also garnering lots of attention.

And, look, I wasn't alive then when Jackie Kennedy accompanied the president there. But are we going to see shades of that in terms of how she is received in Europe?

QUEST: Well, I shall ignore the offensive comment that I might have been alive during that particular time.


QUEST: No, in fact, I think that was just -- it was even before I was born.

But I can tell you, because I have been looking in to this, that, yes, I mean, it's the arms. People are wanting to see what she's going to have on those arms of hers as she's in London.

But, remember, she's got stiff competition here, because Nicolas Sarkozy of France's wife, Carla Bruni, she is a former supermodel. And into this maelstrom, one has to wonder what Mrs. Brown will be doing through all of this.

And as for Angela Merkel, she's the most powerful woman in the world at the moment. But I think Michelle Obama gives her a run for her money.

R. MARTIN: All right, well, Richard, we certainly appreciate that.

And you are about to start a war with the magazines there between Bruni, as well as Michelle Obama. We certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

Folks, you have heard about the latest celebrity adoption. Madonna wants to adopt her second child from the African nation for Malawi. And I'm all for anybody who wants to provide a loving home for a child in need. But there are thousands of American kids waiting to be adopted. So, what about them?

We want to know what you think. So, call us toll free at 1-877- NO-BULL-0. That's 1-877-662-8550.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) R. MARTIN: Ninety-plus miles an hour, well, that's what I drive when I'm in the car in Texas. But, on a train, that's the future. At least, that's the way President Barack Obama sees it.

He's putting $8 billion in stimulus money towards building a cross-country high-speed rail network. Well, some people think that's money on the fast track to being wasted.

Drew Griffin of our Special Investigations Unit is following the money.

Now, Drew, the money isn't even out of the door yet, and folks are already complaining.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Roland, over what they say this money will not do, and that's stimulate much of anything.

The problem is, $8 billion may sound like a lot of money, but not when you consider we have already spent $8 billion on high-speed rail, without having any high-speed rail to show for it.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): It's all riding on the rails, according to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a futuristic America and a president about to make it come true.

RAY LAHOOD, U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: President Obama will have as his transportation legacy the development of high-speed rail in America.

GRIFFIN: The president wants to spend $8 billion of your tax dollars on high-speed rail projects. And next month, the transportation secretary is expected to lay out his plan for how governments can bid on the billions. And if you think we've been down this track before, we have. And it's gone nowhere.

PROF. JIM MOORE, USC INDUSTRIAL AND SYSTEMS ENGINEERING: I don't think he wants to be known as the high-speed rail president. That would be the equivalent of being the failure president.

GRIFFIN: Why such pessimism about the future? University of Southern California engineering professor Jim Moore says look to the past. 1965 was the year Congress passed the high-speed ground transportation act. To date, the Federal Railroad Administration estimates $8 billion has already been spent on high-speed rail projects, and, to date, not a single true high-speed rail has worked.

There are Amtrak Acela trains in the northeast corridor. They do go fast. Some lines average speeds over 100 miles an hour but nowhere near European or Japanese speeds. And most Amtrak trains do not run fast. And for 40 years, they have run in the red.

(on camera): It will cost billions, maybe tens of billions to build it. And in the end, critics say all we'll have is a government- run railroad losing money, going a little faster.

(voice-over): Want an example? In Illinois, Senator Dick Durbin and Governor Pat Quinn announced their plan for the stimulus money. Upgrade the current lines, increase speeds to a whopping 110 miles an hour and hopefully cut a baseball rail trip by one hour.

GOV. PAT QUINN (D), ILLINOIS: Chicago Cub fans, to get to St. Louis a lot quicker with high-speed rail. Same way with Cardinal fans.

GRIFFIN: In New York, Congressman Jerry Nadler admits it's a stretch to think the U.S. will have bullet-train type high-speed rail any time soon.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: I don't know if it's technically feasible to build a bullet train. I do know where I'd like to put the first major investment of high-speed rail money, though that would probably be improving the current tracks more or less along the current line. It wouldn't be a bullet train.

MOORE: If this was a good idea, it would already exist.

GRIFFIN: Professor Moore who directs the transportation engineering program at USC has studied all the ideas and concludes they are all too expensive, would never be as fast as planes and would never attract enough riders to make them pay for themselves.

MOORE: The fundamental problem is indeed that high-speed rail is not a cost-effective alternative. Where we get into trouble is when we let our emotions get in the way of our decisions.

GRIFFIN: And the decision to spend another $8 billion on the futuristic idea of high-speed rail, he says, is really just a return trip on a track record of waste.


MARTIN: Drew, look, I love trains. My dad worked for Amtrak for 20 years and so I really like riding trains. You're right. And I can't stand riding these very slow trains.

But look, we sit here and talk about public transportation only when gas prices skyrocket. And so at what point do we get serious about this? Or is it basically a question of it's just too expensive, forget about it, it will never happen? What's going on?

GRIFFIN: Well, when are we going to get serious about, Roland, I love trains too. My grandfather was on the Burlington northern line so I share that. And I think a lot of these decisions may be emotional. But when we're trying to solve city's congestion problems, it's not high-speed rail between cities that's going to solve the problem, it's that rush hour traffic and we're living (ph) that kind of congestion.

I mean, we're both Chicago guys. The problem is the congestion on the Dan Ryan, not whether you can get to Chicago to St. Louis an hour quicker by train.

MARTIN: Great point there but also four years from now, I mean, basically, what are we going to have here? Are we actually going to have something moving faster than 110 miles an hour, or do we actually think we're going to be back in the same place dealing with the same thing, and as you said having spent $16 billion?

GRIFFIN: Yes. In terms of high-speed rail, we'll probably be in the exact same spot. We will not have any new lines laid down. We'll have some Amtrak trains going faster with some improvements, but California has been trying to do this since 1996. They're still in the environmental and engineering planning phase.

MARTIN: Wow. Well, Drew, we certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot. Look forward to your reports for the rest of the week.

Now, folks, all he wanted was one last moment with his mother-in- law before she died. Instead, he got a traffic ticket.

You saw this NFL player, the drama played out on tape. We've all been talking about it. Just ahead, what that player had to say about it today.

If you want to talk to me, give me a call at 1-877-no-bull-0. That's 1-877-662-8550. Also e-mail You can also check me out on twitter as well as Facebook.


MARTIN: In a minute, I want to know what you think about this. Should it be easier to adopt American children?

Start calling again now at toll-free, 1-877-no-bull-0. That's 1- 877-662-8550. You can reach me at

And right now, Zain Verjee is back with "The Briefing." And, Zain, we did not plop you out.


MARTIN: No, folks, I don't do that.

VERJEE: You don't?

MARTIN: No, I don't.

VERJEE: You never do?

MARTIN: I don't. I don't do that.

VERJEE: It's a coincidence.

Well, Roland, tonight, we know a lot more about the man accused of killing eight people during a nursing home shooting spree in North Carolina. The suspect, 45-year-old Robert Stewart, is the husband of a woman who worked there. But there is no word yet on whether she was in the building yesterday. Seven patients and a nurse were killed before a police officer stopped the alleged gunman, wounding him with a single shot to the chest.

North Korea's news agency says two American journalists entered the country illegally, and now they're going to be tried for hostile acts. Laura Ling and Euna Lee were taken into custody March 17th along the China/North Korea border. They're reporters for the former vice president Al Gore's online media venture, Current TV.

Fargo, North Dakota is bracing for a new storm that could threaten the levees holding back floodwaters. The Red River is still almost 22 feet above flood stage, and the storm is expected to bring gusty winds that could whip up dangerously high waves.

Meanwhile, that same storm has already dumped more than a foot of snow across the northern plains just shutting down highways for hundreds of miles.

And we've got an update tonight on the NFL player who couldn't reach his dying mother-in-law in time because a Dallas police officer detained him in the hospital parking lot for running a red light. The incident was on March 17th and was caught on the patrol car's dashboard camera.

Houston Texan's running back Ryan Moats says that he accepts the officer's written apology, though he told ABC's "Good Morning America" that he hopes Officer Robert Powell was sincere. Powell is on paid leave and pending an internal investigation.

MARTIN: Well, we'll see (INAUDIBLE) Texas. And Moats is really a good guy.


MARTIN: Zain, we certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

You know, it's good to be the king -- that's Larry King. And, of course, he's coming up in a bit.

Larry, give us a preview of "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Roland, it's good to have you aboard. We've got more on the General Motors crisis. Is President Obama getting the government into the car business? What about all those people whose livelihoods depend on a healthy auto industry? We're going to talk about it.

Plus, Madonna. Why is the whole world talking about her now? It's all next on "LARRY KING LIVE" -- Roland.

MARTIN: Thanks a bunch and, of course, we're talking about her as well, and she wants to open her heart to another child. She's back in the African nation of Malawi hoping to adopt a 4-year-old girl. So what about the thousands of children in this country and who are waiting for loving homes? We want to know if you think it should be easier to adopt American kids. Call us toll free at 1-877-no-bull-0. That's 1-877- 662-8550.


MARTIN: Pop star Madonna is back in the news, this time heading back to the African nation of Malawi to adopt her second child. You might remember all of the drama two years ago when Madonna adopted a Malawi boy. Now she wants to adopt a girl, and the judge said she will have to wait until Friday to see if she has the go-ahead.

It seems that any time we hear about celebrities like Madonna or Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt adopting a child, it seemed to be from another country. I'm not all opposed to children being adopted from Africa, China or any other country, but it does raise the question, what's wrong with adopting American children?

According to various adoption and governmental agencies, more than 500,000 American children are under foster care. Now, it will be easy to blast these celebrities by saying it's the hip thing to walk around with an international child. But truth be told, we've got a serious adoption problem in this country.

Single mothers have a difficult time adopting a child and several I know personally have gone overseas. Let's not even talk about the red tape and bureaucracy.

We can sit here and criticize Madonna all day. Enough with ripping her. Our energy should be put into a call for massive adoption reform.

If you think it should be easier to adopt American children, demand that your local, state, and federal election officials clear the path to make the process easier. The goal of adoption is to put children in loving homes and not have to be the responsibility of the state. Making it harder to adopt affects you and your pocketbook because state money is spent to care for them, so changing the laws not only help the child, but also is fiscally prudent. The question is, what are you prepared to do?

All right, folks, we're just about to take your calls on this topic and others. Patrice and Lashonda are standing by, and we'll get to their calls right after the break.


MARTIN: We're also covering all kinds of topics tonight. We've got a lot to talk about. We also want you to participate in this conversation so time for you to give us a call. And we're taking your calls, we're reading your e-mails as we bring in Ali Velshi as well as Zain Verjee.

A lot of folks talking about GM, of course, the adoption story as well. But first, let's go to the phone lines to South Carolina.

Patrice? What say you?


MARTIN: Yes, what say you?

PATRICE: How are you?

MARTIN: Doing great.

PATRICE: I would like to say two words for Madonna. It's a publicity stunt if you ask me?

MARTIN: OK. Publicity stunt.

PATRICE: It's a publicity stunt.

MARTIN: So you don't think she's serious?

PATRICE: There are thousands of children here in the United States that need to be adopted. I know for a fact. My husband and I are going through the process right now, and we're having a really hard time with it.

You know, she has the money to go over there and adopt this child. I really feel like they should be adopting children from the state. I cannot believe that they're even allowing this again.

MARTIN: OK. Well, Patrice, we certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

That's one of the things that frankly a lot of folks have been talking about, Ali, in saying that is, look, it's a question of cost and also the red tape folks have to deal with in this country.

VERJEE: Well, the two main countries, the U.S. has adopted from in the past has been China and Vietnam among others. It had been in the past very difficult to adopt from the U.S. but more and more people are beginning to find it a lot easier. I did a story just a few weeks ago and spoke to one woman who said exactly that.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Not a bad deal. If this helps people understand the difficulty here and maybe get rid of some of that red tape. But you know, it's not a relative thing. If you're adopting a child or you're bringing up a child, whatever one might think about it, she's doing some good by doing that. There's a child who is in need of a mother and an upbringing, and I think she should still be applauded for that.

MARTIN: All right. Folks, here's an e-mail. Meredith -- people are talking about the dire situation in Africa. How hard is it to adopt in the U.S., et cetera? Could it be that they simply don't want the hassle of dealing with birth parents who are geographically closer and more aware of their legal rights? Why can't Madonna help a child on her own doorstep?

Also Jonyalan (ph) wrote, "As an adoptive parent of two children, I can attest that these are not accessories or fads of the moment. These are children and they deserve a chance they wouldn't get elsewhere. Instead of condemning, try to understand what the process is like and know that only if one is into self-inflicted emotional torture, it's not an easy and pleasant process to take part in. If you do it to open your heart and your home to a child, the pain is worth all of the glory."

Let's go to Texas, Lashonda is on the phone lines, to my native state.

Lashonda, what's going on?

LASHONDA, TEXAS: How are you?

MARTIN: Doing great.

LASHONDA: Great. I do believe that I have to agree with the last call that Madonna is doing it only for a publicity stunt. Now Angelina Jolie, to me she seemed more apt at, you know, more caring to do it. But as far as Madonna, like you said, I do believe that we do have a lot of children here who need the help as well as being, you know, adopted to.

Like you said, I do believe that they don't want to deal with a lot of the parents, you know, having to go through all of that. But to me, I just -- I do believe it is just a publicity stunt and I do believe she's just trying to get noticed out there for doing that because she didn't do it until Angelina Jolie started going and doing -- you know, adopting children from there.

MARTIN: All right. Appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

Ali, these folks are cynical.

VELSHI: Yes. I think if these were C-list stars or something, that that might make some sense. I mean, I understand where the sentiment comes from.

MARTIN: If they were C-list stars, would we talk about it?

VELSHI: No. You see, I'm not sure that they need that sort of publicity stunt. You know, I think we can be tough to judge. But the bottom line is, it is more complicated. We know that it's essentially more complicated to adopt a child here, particularly if you're a parent of different circumstances other than what we judge to be normal. So, I don't know but --

VERJEE: The important thing here to say about Madonna too is that in the past she has given a lot of money for orphanages to help children in Malawi.

VELSHI: Right.

VERJEE: There are two main issues here. The first issue is that groups like Save the Children in Africa they'll say, you know what? If you really want to help African children, donate a lot of money and help a village.


VERJEE: Invest in Africa, do that. You know, they say Madonna is doing good.


VERJEE: On the other hand, you know, a lot of people in Africa, Ali knows because having been there, I'm from there, they'll say, you know what? Because of poverty, because of corruption, because of the extended family we can't really look -- look off the children.


VERJEE: Why not give the child a Harvard education paid for by Madonna?

MARTIN: Great point. One of the other issues that we're talking about tonight was General Motors. And Tim in South Carolina, he has something to say about that.

Tim, welcome to the show.

TIM, SOUTH CAROLINA: Hey, Roland, how you be?

MARTIN: Doing great.

TIM: GM is a victim, not the culprit.

MARTIN: A victim.

TIM: Only after greedy corporations like AIG, Goldman Sachs and the Merrill Lynches of the world destroyed our economy and faith, did then GM and Ford fall into dire straits.

Let's face it. We all quit buying cars when we heard all these bad news and sales plummeted 20 to 40 percent. If you have checked Wagoner's record, he was positioning GM for the 21st century economy. Why not fire the CEOs and top brass of the criminal corporations that got us here?

MARTIN: Tim, that's a great point there.

Ali, I haven't heard that one, GM is a victim.

VELSHI: I think it's a very good point. I mean, the bottom line is if Rick Wagoner had left this company a year and a half ago, he'd been seen as one of the best CEOs around. And the fact is everybody has lost sales right now because people are not able to buy cars either because of the economy or the credit situation. So I think GM did a lot to get itself into this pickle but Tim has something of a point there. There's an interesting kernel in there that's true.

MARTIN: We appreciate it. Zain, Ali, thanks so much.

VERJEE: Thanks.

MARTIN: Folks, we're taking you inside the White House for a little extreme makeover Obama style. For once, you will not be footing the bill.


MARTIN: All right, folks, time for our "Political Daily Briefing." It was a very different take on Guantanamo Bay and trust me, you never heard anybody describe it like this.

Erica Hill is here with our "PDB." First with Erica, it's on foreign policy. President Obama is not the only person who's traveling overseas?

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. In fact, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now in the Netherlands just arriving there for tomorrow's U.N. conference on Afghanistan. Iraq's deputy foreign minister will also be in attendance. In fact, more than 80 countries and organizations scheduled to be a part of that meeting.

Now while Secretary Clinton did say she hopes Iran's presence will set a good tone for a future engagement, don't expect the two countries to sit down for tea. Last week the State Department ruled out any substantive meetings between the U.S. and Iran. And I think that is still the line.

MARTIN: She also hopes that no awkward moments like we just had in Mexico. I mean, we had a little --

HILL: Nobody ever wants an awkward moment. That one was a little bit awkward. It's too tad bit uncomfortable.

The secretary made an impromptu visit, of course, to one of Mexico's most popular shrines, it's our Lady of Guadalupe. She brought flowers with her and after placing them next to the image, asked who painted it. The answer she was given -- God. That's because according to traditional accounts, the image miraculously appeared on the cloak of a native Mexican peasant in 1531.

MARTIN: OK. All right. Shifting gears to the Obama's White House, redecorating and they're coming out of their own wallet.

HILL: Yes, the people's house, not the people's money. It means the $100,000 in federal money allotted to each incoming president not going to be used in this case. The Obamas turned down that money as well as money from the White House Historical Association. That's the same group that helped to pay for the $74,000 worth of China the Bushes ordered just before leaving office. And the Obamas have said, Roland, they don't want any donations either.

MARTIN: That means those book (INAUDIBLE) is going very, very well.

HILL: I think so.

MARTIN: I got to read this, folks, because trust me, this is crazy.

Finally, Miss Universe, she called Guantanamo Bay beautiful and relaxing.

HILL: She did. It's an interesting description to many. She was recently there. The reigning Miss Universe, Dayana (ph) Mendoza of Venezuela, she was sent to the base by the Miss Universe organization basically part of the USO Armed Forces entertainment tour. And it really did make an impact.

This is an excerpt from her blog. "I didn't want to leave. It was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful."

She also apparently bought a necklace from a lady that, in her words, will remind her of Guantanamo Bay. Now she was talking about the beaches but she also said when she was in Gitmo, she sort of had some interesting descriptions there too. So, it's all in her blog.

MARTIN: That will be an interesting YouTube moment. We certainly appreciate it, Erica. Thanks so much.

Folks, we couldn't avoid this whole financial mess we're in. No, it's true. It turns out all we had to do was look to the north. We'll explain after this.


MARTIN: If you're looking for some good news about banks, all you have to do is look a little bit to the north. Canada's banks are going strong, and chief business correspondent Ali Velshi is back to tell us why.

And, Ali, you know, Americans always like to make fun of Canada.

VELSHI: Right.

MARTIN: So the northern (ph), but when it comes to the banks, they're doing a great job. Tell us about it.

VELSHI: Quite remarkable, actually. Back in the '90s, Canadian banks were clamoring to do what the U.S. banks were doing because U.S. banks were making so much more money. The government of Canada said no way. We're going to stick to a more conservative way of doing things. It has really paid dividends in this whole banking crisis.

I sat down with the prime minister of Canada today to discuss what -- he's headed over to G-20 to talk about amongst other things the banking system. Here's what he told me about them.


VELSHI: Back in Canada, you're seen as a conservative and yet your support of some of these regulations fly in the face of what conservatives in the U.S. tend to think about regulation.

STEPHEN HARPER, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: A few years ago, Canada was being criticized but we didn't deregulate as much as some others. But right now, the government is not running all or part of our financial sector as is the case with so many -- so many other systems. Our banks were actually for the most part underleveraged in terms of their maximum allowable ratios when this crisis began. And now we have, you know, as you may know four of the top ten banks in North America are now Canadian. Five of the top 50 in the world are now Canadian banks.


MARTIN: Ali, Stephen Harper is going to have a lot of tough things to say to President Obama and others in the G-20.

VELSHI: Yes. One of the things he's saying with all these companies are putting in -- countries that are putting in stimulus programs, so many of them are trying to get clauses to have people buy things locally. And he was saying he's going to go out there and be a real voice against protectionism. He says right now we have to look at this as a global problem, not a "my country first problem."

MARTIN: All right. Ali, we certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot. We'll see you tomorrow night.

Folks, hey, that's it for us tonight. We'll see you again tomorrow. Be sure to e-mail me or hit me on twitter.

Let me know about tonight's show. And if you still have ideas, we'd love to hear from you.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.