Return to Transcripts main page


Obama: Turning Point for Global Recovery

Aired April 2, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the touching moment that has the whole world talking.

When the queen reached out, was Michelle Obama wrong to reach back?

The cuddle-up that's created a front page fuss. Former palace insiders give us the scoop.

Plus, Barack Obama's big test on the ultimate stage and did he succeed?

Can he rebuild America's image in the world?

And was this week a first critical step?

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We're going to talk about the touch later. Right now, joining us from London, Anderson Cooper, the anchor of CNN's "A.C. 360" and Richard Quest, CNN anchor and correspondent.

The president said the agreements reached today are somewhat of a turning point. Watch, guys, and give us your thoughts.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we've learned the lessons of history. I know that in the days leading up to the summit, some of you in the press, some commentators confused honest and open debate with irreconcilable differences. But after weeks of preparation and two days of careful negotiation, we have agreed on a series of unprecedented steps to restore growth and prevent a crisis like this from happening again.


KING: Anderson, was today a turning point?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, certainly, the Obama White House likes to say that it is. And they certainly hope that it is. You know, the devil is in the details. And how -- you know, there's been a lot of conferences and a lot of communiques signed by countries in the past. And in the end, it doesn't really amount to much.

They say this time is different. They say, look, this is the most important economic summit since World War II and that, at the end of the day, they put aside whatever differences that they had -- and there were severe differences, certainly, at the start of this -- and still to this day. But they were able to come up with a -- with a joint communique. They're standing side by side. And they say this is what is needed to -- to address the global crisis.

We'll see. But they certainly believe that this was a good day.

KING: Richard, Obama mentioned unprecedented steps.

Give me some.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR, CORRESPONDENT: I think the clear unprecedented step was they were in the same room at the same time and didn't have a massive falling out and someone storm out. Add into that a trillion dollars of new money that they were putting into the IMF and into trade. Add into that, for the first time, they've agreed on something approaching a larger form of regulation. Throw into the mix, as well, the general agreement that they -- that the old rules of capitalism, as has survived since the Second World War, cannot be allowed to survive into the future.

Those were the historic steps that President Obama talked about. And those are the steps that he now, along with the other G20, have to flesh out. Because so far, Larry, all they've really done is make the suggestions of what they want to do. Now they've actually got to go and do it.

KING: All right. Anderson, in the details, what -- on a scale of one to 10, what did he get?

COOPER: Well, he didn't get everything that he wanted to get. I mean they came into this, Secretary Geithner -- Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and President Obama had wanted specific spending targets that a number of these countries -- Germany and France -- were going to add, where fiscal spending to add to stimulate their own economies.

Those countries are reticent to -- to name those kind of targets, to spend more than they already have.

So the Obama administration did not get those specific targets. They did get a pledge to spend what was necessary down the road if their economies don't -- don't improve in the short run. But it's clearly not what they wanted a few weeks ago, perhaps even coming into this.

But they -- but they did get this sense that President Obama was successful on the world stage, that he was able to meet with these world leaders. They got an agreement with Russia that they're going to pursue talks on reducing nuclear weapons. That occurred yesterday. That was a big deal and sort of a thawing of the U.S.-Russian relations.

And they also got this massive infusion into the IMF, which will help developing countries -- those countries' markets for American goods. So that is a -- is a plus for the United States. KING: Richard, personality aside, what are the -- any great differences between this president and President Bush in handling a summit?

QUEST: Absolutely huge differences in the way that they were handled. President Bush was always exceptionally good one-on-one. He was always -- he had a great rapport and a great camaraderie with those people. And those who met him and negotiated with him said he was very personable and likable.

However, what you have here, aside from just the personality of President Obama, is a policy difference -- a multilateralist, a man who believes that the only way forward is through these large negotiations with many different parties.

The Republicans, under the Bush administration, were much more bilateral. They shied away from doing these sort of large deals, whether it was Kyoto on the climate control or whether it was through the IMF or whether it was through the World Court. They always wanted to do it bilaterally rather than multilaterally. And the prime ministers and ministers that I spoke to all said the same thing. There was a different -- you could feel the difference in the room.

KING: All right. Anderson, now the president goes to France for NATO's 60th anniversary. It's the NATO summit.

What are we expecting there?

COOPER: You know, there's a lot of questions about the future of NATO -- exactly what NATO will look like, how it's going to be run, what issues they are going to focus on. You know, the model of NATO that we've seen over the last 60 years is evolving. It's got new challenges dealing with terrorism, dealing with cyber crimes, dealing with a whole host of issues.

And so the organization itself is under pressure in new ways. They're going to have to look toward the future of NATO and see what that holds, as NATO has traditionally wanted to sort of move east, take -- and include some of the Eastern Bloc -- formerly Soviet Eastern Bloc countries. That's a great concern to Russia.

Obviously, NATO's role in Afghanistan is incredibly important. There has not been -- the Obama administration has not been able to get a greater -- a greater level or greater pledges of troop involvement for some of these European countries that they wanted to get.

So there's a lot on the table there to deal with NATO.

KING: Richard, any nation, any leader come out of here unhappy?



QUEST: Oh, that's a good one because none of them would ever admit to being unhappy. And, in fact, President Obama was actually asked at the press conference, what were the compromises he made and what compromises did he get from others?

And he wouldn't answer that directly. He simply sort of said that everybody had given a little bit of ground.

I suspect that tonight that the Americans are feeling very pleased with what they got in terms of the general feeling of President Obama stepping onto the world stage the way he did.

I think that the French will be a little unhappy on certain issues, but they will be glad that they got their regulation through.

And tonight, I suspect Gordon Brown is very pleased. The British prime minister pulled it off. There weren't -- there wasn't a fallout. There wasn't a walkout. And, actually, there's a lot of money on the table.

KING: Anderson Cooper and Richard Quest, thanks so much.

Anderson, of course, will be with you at "A.C. 360" at the top of the hour.

Penn Jillette, James Carville, Terry Holt and Stephanie Miller join us next. And we can't wait to hear what they've got to say about all of this.

Stick around.


KING: Joining us now in Washington, James Carville, the Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor.

In Las Vegas, Penn Jillette, the taller and definitely more talkative half of the comedy illusionist duo, Penn and Teller. He's the libertarian and he has a commentary, "Is Obama Skidding or Crashing?." That's right now on

In Los Angeles right here is Stephanie Miller, talk radio host of her own very popular program.

And in Washington, Terry Holt, who was spokesman for the Bush- Cheney 2004 campaign, former senior adviser to the Republican National Convention.

Guys, let's take a look at another excerpt from the president's news conference at the end of the summit.


OBAMA: While here in London, I had the opportunity to hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of Russia, China, South Korea and Saudi Arabia and India, as well as Great Britain. And these discussions were extraordinarily valuable and productive. Of course, we spoke about additional steps to promote economic recovery and growth.


KING: James Carville, I know you're not objective, but how did he do?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Well, I thought he had -- I thought he had a terrific summit, I mean. And I think what he said was kind of -- was, you know, kind of boiler plate stuff that presidents and world leaders say after this.

But I thought he filled the stage. And they've got to be very pleased. He had a good day today. I don't think there's any doubt about that.

Now, how much it's going to be worth in the future, one can only surmise. But he had a -- this was a good trip for him. It was a good day. I wrote a blog on CNN and said I thought this was the best day he had since the inauguration.

KING: Penn Jillette, politics aside, is he making an impressive beginning?

PENN JILLETTE, ACTOR, COMEDIAN, LIBERTARIAN: Well, you know, I -- I think he's fabulous. I think he's really smart. He's a fabulous speaker. And I think he's a really good guy. I mean I think he's trustworthy and everything.

My only problem is should anyone have that much power?

Should anybody be making the decisions he's making?

I mean I think -- I can barely make decisions for myself.

And I think the libertarian position is can anybody be 300 million times smarter than individuals?

Shouldn't there be -- shouldn't there be more -- less top down stuff and more people just doing the best they can?

KING: Stephanie Miller, what's your outlook here?

STEPHANIE MILLER, TALK RADIO HOST: Well, first of all, you know, Penn, I don't think the president wanted to inherit all these problems. I don't think he wanted to have to do as much stuff as he's doing. I don't think he wants to run G.M. I don't think he wanted to have to spend this kind of money. I think that's what was required.

But this trip, I don't see how it be any better, unless the queen French kissed him and Gordon Brown did a back hand spring.


MILLER: They were thrilled to see him. Thrilled.

KING: And what does he have? What's -- what's the gravitas?

MILLER: You know, I don't know. All I know is Gordon Brown there going Barack is absolutely right.

Isn't he great?

He was beaming at him. It was -- it was like a Nancy Reagan sort of smile, like...

KING: So is it personality over...


KING: ...over quantity or...

MILLER: Yes. But I mean, I also think, Larry, you know, it's like the American people -- what is it, 80, 90 percent think that we -- they're proud -- we're proud to have them represent us around the world. And the rest of the world feels the same way. We're repairing our image in the world.

KING: Terry Holt, as a Bush guy, what's -- what's your view of this?

TERRY HOLT, FORMER ADVISER, RNC: Well, this was opening night for Barack Obama on the world stage. And, ultimately, Barack Obama's skill is stagecraft. It's the drama of the moment. It's being articulate. And I think he accomplished that.

But in terms of policies, it was decidedly a mixed bag. I mean, you know, the last time I checked, jobs and the economy were the number one issue. Trade and the international environment for selling American goods and services overseas -- that didn't get the kind of attention that I think a lot of economic conservatives or people in my camp would have hoped.

We need to open up markets. We need to fight protectionism, which is a real threat during tough economic times. And I feel like Barack Obama didn't seize the moment to force those free trade policies that American workers and American businesses need to get out of this economic slump we're in.

KING: James?

CARVILLE: Well, I don't -- again, I mean he went -- he went to the G20 and it was specifically trying to do some things to stimulate demand in the world economy. They certainly didn't interject any protectionist measures in there. And I have no -- I mean, look, he filled up the stage. His wife was a hit over there. They got an agreement out of there. I think he had a terrific summit.

I mean, look, it's opening night. And, you know, you can win the first game and it doesn't mean, you know, how are you going to do in the next 161. But he -- I think he chalked a big W here. And we'll wait to see where we go from there. But this was a good day for him.

KING: Let me get a break and come right back.

Is President Obama maybe riding too high?

Back in 60 seconds with some answers.


KING: President Obama explained today why he thinks the steps taken at the G20 summit will work.



OBAMA: So there are always risks involved. I have no doubt, though, that the steps that have been taken are critical to preventing us sliding into a depression. They are bolder and more rapid than any international response that we've seen to a financial crisis in memory. And I think that they will have a concrete effect in our ability individually, in each nation, to create jobs, save jobs that exist, grow the economy, loosen up credit, restore trust and confidence in the financial markets.


KING: Was this Barack Obama's best day ever as president?

James Carville says it is. He's got a great opinion piece about that right now on our blog -- Check it out.

And don't go away.


KING: Penn Jillette, I hope we're correct with this quote. You have said you feel one of the worst things for the United States to have is a smart, charismatic president.

JILLETTE: Yes. I just think that...

KING: You want a dumb dull one?


JILLETTE: Well, yes. I think that whenever the...

MILLER: You want George Bush back.

JILLETTE: Whenever the -- whenever the American people are really, really behind the president, I don't like it. I think the president should have much less power. I mean Obama...

KING: I know that but it's... JILLETTE: a continuation of Clinton...

KING: He's got the same power Bush had.

JILLETTE: And Bush. I'm sorry. He has more -- he's grabbing even more power because, I mean, whether you say, like Stephanie did, that it was forced upon him, there's a lot more power. And I always get worried when a whole mass of people agree on anything.

I'm -- I'm very much for individuals.

MILLER: Listen...

JILLETTE: And I like more argument.

MILLER: You know, Penn, we've got to have, you know, help around the world in the war on terror. I mean I know after the Bush administration, it's kind of a low bar for an overseas trip. As long as, you know, he didn't throw up on someone, chew with his mouth open or give someone an unnecessary back rub, I guess we're happy.

But I do think that his popularity around the world is going to help us, you know. I mean he said something startling for an American president. He said I'm going to listen. I'm here to listen and not just talk. And I -- and I think that's really important.

KING: Terry, don't you think...

JILLETTE: Well, I mean, but...

KING: I mean sorry. Go ahead, Penn.

JILLETTE: I was just going to say, but Bush didn't say the opposite. I mean it's not -- that's not a very profound thing to just say that you're going to listen. I mean, yes, people like him more. He's better looking. He's a better speaker. And I guess that's OK. But the whole country rallying behind somebody is always a bad idea.

MILLER: Listen, Penn the only people that are in bad shape after George Bush is gone are people in the effigy business, because he was burned in effigy more times...

KING: Right.

MILLER: ...when he went on all those (INAUDIBLE) trips...

KING: Terry...

JILLETTE: But you can't...

KING: Terry...

JILLETTE: You can't pretend I'm pushing for Bush. I'm not. I'm just saying...

(CROSSTALK) KING: All right, Terry...

JILLETTE: ...that the president shouldn't...

KING: I understand.

JILLETTE: ...have that much power.

HOLT: Yes, Larry?

KING: Terry, do you think that this overseas success -- apparent success -- is going to help him a lot at home?

HOLT: Well, he doesn't really need much help at home. As Penn said, he's pretty popular. People are following him over a cliff on some issues. If it's a government grab of health care, if it's huge new tax increases in his budget, trillions in new spending. He doesn't -- he's got people following that line right now -- or at least until we get more serious thinking applied to it.

I feel like Barack Obama does have an obligation to represent us well on the world stage and we ought to unite to the extent we can behind him on that.

But I'm going to fight him tooth and nail when he tries to wreck the American -- the American way of life and where he's going to try to impose new taxes, new protectionism, huge new spending increases. We've got to be critical of him, even if he is more popular than maybe Republicans would hope for at this point.

KING: By the way, James -- by the way, I wanted you to respond. But the House did pass his budget today.


KING: Pretty much on party lines.

CARVILLE: Yes. I mean I'm not surprised at that. I actually think Penn makes a provocative point here, is that the president is popular and, you know, they're involved in a lot of things, I think out of necessity. I mean these are pretty serious times.

But, you know, these things tend to -- to tighten up a little bit as they go along. And, you know, we have a Congressional election scheduled in 2010. And he has to run for re-election. So there are inherent things that he has to maintain his popularity.

But I think right now, as I said today, today was a very good day for him.

But Penn, don't worry, he'll -- he'll have some stumbles and his power will diminish somewhere along the way. But, yes, he just had a good day today.

JILLETTE: You're making me feel so much better.



HOLT: As with most politicians...

JILLETTE: You're just saying that to make me feel good.



CARVILLE: I don't want you to make me disappear, you know.


JILLETTE: I can only use my powers for evil. That's the deal I made.

CARVILLE: That's it. OK.

KING: Penn, do you...


KING: Penn, do you want him to succeed?

JILLETTE: Well, the nice thing about -- about hoping is that it doesn't work. So that you don't have to worry very much what you're hoping. Of course I want him to succeed if that means helping people and making them happy. If what succeeding means is taking away -- giving too much of a safety net so we can't live like Vegas, there's no reason to gamble if you can't lose. And I think it's -- it's really important that people have -- have a chance to win and to fail. And I think if you get too -- too much of a safety net, it's just less fun to live.

KING: Stephanie, success?

Do you want him to succeed no matter what -- no matter what the success brings in?

MILLER: At the risk of Penn making me disappear out of my little box here, yes. You know, Rush Limbaugh said the other day, if -- if Barack Obama fails, America wins.

How does that make sense to any rational person?

I mean how -- you know...

JILLETTE: Well, it depends on what you want. I mean people can have a disagreement...

HOLT: I'd be happy to explain it to you rationally.

JILLETTE: ...on how they want to live.

MILLER: Well, yes. But I mean we're all in this mess together. You know, like the president says...

JILLETTE: Well, not -- no, we're not.

MILLER: ...when the house is on fire, you don't ask who's a Republican or who's a Democrat, you grab a hose. You know, we're -- if he fails, we all fail.

KING: Now who's had -- Terry...

JILLETTE: Well, yes. But you could...

KING: Terry, did you say we're not...

JILLETTE: could argue about what that hose is. You could argue. I mean to extend the metaphor, you could argue...


JILLETTE: ...about the best way to put it out.

KING: If his programs, Penn, brought about health insurance that pleased all, taxes that pleased most, a better way of life for a lot of people, then that's the kind of success you would think you'd like.

JILLETTE: I would think that...

KING: I mean...

JILLETTE: ...if you please everybody on anything, you're doing something wrong. But, luckily, there's no chance of that. I just think that individuals are more important than a whole kind of group thing and that individuals can do more than a top down kind of thinking. I don't think the government can solve all of our problems or should try.


HOLT: Amen.

KING: OK. But, Terry, we do have 300 million people, Terry.

CARVILLE: Right. Yes.

HOLT: Well, and...

KING: And you can be individuals as much as you like.

HOLT: We do...

KING: Somebody has got to think for the masses.

HOLT: We do. But we -- but the government shouldn't be in the business of picking winners and losers. Penn's right. We should all be in a system of liberty where people can succeed and fail and where merit plays a certain role. If you're going to help everybody, then what about the guy that worked hard enough -- I mean, in some cases, in this -- in this budget that Barack Obama is promoting, the small businessman who succeeds, grows the business, hires people, is going to get slapped with the highest tax in the country.


HOLT: In other words, because he succeeded, he's going to be punished. And there's something wrong with that kind of policy.

KING: Well, you might have that wrong.


JILLETTE: Larry...


KING: Hold it. James...


KING: Hold it. Hold it, guys -- James?

CARVILLE: Excuse me here, but I don't really -- I think that he's kind of left with the -- he's not picking winners and losers. These banks are not winners. They're underwater. They can't let them go under. These car companies are not winners. They're not making money. We've got to make these kinds of decisions. AIG is decidedly not a winner. It's a loser. These guys made big bets and lost and are about to destroy the financial system...

HOLT: But if...

CARVILLE: ...and people keep talking about dealing he is dealing with the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, for crying out loud. And they're actually making decisions. Penn may -- it may make Penn uncomfortable that they're involved in too many things, but they don't want to be in the banking business and they don't want to be in the car business. They're there because they're left with losers.

HOLT: But they are picking winners and losers...

JILLETTE: But if you really...

HOLT: ...because General Motors is going to be allowed to get billions more money. And they decided for some reason, because Chrysler didn't have enough "Consumer Report's" stars next to its name, that it's going to be allowed to fail.

The fact is, they pick winners and losers everyday when they...


HOLT: ...when they tinker with the tax code and reward some and punish others.

KING: All right, let me get a break, guys.


KING: We'll come right back.

If you've got something to say about the Obamas, the queen, the G20 Summit, go to and tell us.

Our blog is your blog. And while you're there, take our quick vote -- how will President Obama do with foreign relations?

Cast your ballot.

We're back after this.


KING: Here's another sound bite from the president today.



OBAMA: You know, it's hard for 20 heads of state to bridge their differences. We've all got our own national policies. We all have our own assumptions, our own political cultures. But our citizens are all hurting. They all need us to come together. So I'm pleased that the G20 has agreed to meet again this fall, because I believe that this is just the beginning.

Our problems are not going to be solved in one meeting. They are not going to be solved in two meetings. We're going to have to be proactive in shaping events, and persistent in monitoring our progress to determine whether further action is need.


KING: Stephanie, they said this about John Kennedy. How much of the president is substance? How much is style?

MILLER: Well, I think with Barack Obama, you've got both. I mean, I really do. I think that he is clearly a very smart man. I think he, you know, has some really -- he has some new solutions to some really big problem, like we talked about. No offense to my friends like Terry on the right, who -- and I say friend, Terry, in a really, shallow kind of television way. All I hear from you guys is no. All I hear is that you're against what President Obama is trying to do. I still don't hear how you would solve the auto crisis, the health care crisis, this economy.

This Republican budget that had no numbers and just pretty graphics, it's the same ideas that got us where we are now. The tax cuts to the rich -- HOLT: If this is an invitation to be on your show, I'd love to come on any day of the week. And I'll give you a positive, proactive view of the world.


HOLT: And the fact is, there are some bipartisan opportunities.

MILLER: -- that got us here. This budget the Republicans put forth is the same policies that got us where we are now.

HOLT: Well, there are trillions of reasons why the Republican budget is better than the Obama budget. Some members of the United States Senate, I think, have correctly called it generational theft. We're spending money we haven't even printed yet.

MILLER: That's weird. Because I didn't hear that phrase when George Bush left a 1.3 trillion dollar deficit that they helped leave.

HOLT: You know what? And Barack Obama didn't think 1.2 trillion dollars was good enough. He tripled down on that one. So if spending money was a bad thing, we're going to make it triple bad.


KING: Terry, hold on. Are you saying a plague on both they houses?

HOLT: Well, this town got out of control after September 11th. In fact, this country spent way more money on Homeland Security and on increasing a safety net, the perceived threat that maybe we went overboard. I certainly think that we could have done better than spending 1.2 trillion dollars. But we did it. But we did try to address a threat that everybody agreed on at the beginning. It's just that when the politics changed, the Democrats left the stage.

KING: We're running short of time. James, do you think the president is going to succeed?

CARVILLE: In a shallow, television way, yes, I do. I think we're seeing some hopeful signs. You have to be cautious, don't want to get too encouraged. But I think he's had a good day. I think he's a smart man. I think he's trying. And let me assure you, they want to get out of the banking business and car business as fast as they can.

KING: And, Penn, you want him to do well, don't you?

JILLETTE: Of course I do. But I want to stick up a little bit in front of Stephanie for the generation that wants to tear down without building up. I think that was a really good, important generation. And I'm all for people that want less government. Also, Larry, no one has to think for the masses. The masses should think for themselves individually.

KING: But collectively, you've got to do something, right? JILLETTE: I'm never happy with a collective idea. I like individuals.


MILLER: Let everybody figure out their own health care plan, Larry.

JILLETTE: I would think so. Yes, sure.


KING: Cheaper and a lot more people would die.

JILLETTE: The number of people dying, Larry, is 100 percent.

KING: That's right, the death rate in this country is one per person. It's the talk of the town, the country, the planet; get this, I'm horrified, Queen Elizabeth and Michelle Obama in a display of affection. What in the world is going on? Brits who know are here, next.


KING: We welcome three distinguished analysts of the passing scene. In London is Colleen Harris, the former press secretary to his royal heinous, the Prince of Wales. In London is Dickie Arbiter, the former spokesman for the Buckingham Palace. He was press secretary for her majesty, the queen. And in New York, June Sarpong, the founder of Politics and the City, the famed British personality, awarded an MBE, by the way, on the queen's 2007 new year's honors list.

OK. The embrace between Queen Elizabeth and Michelle Obama at Buckingham. Was it a gaffe or a good thing? Watch and judge for yourself.

OK, there it is. They are touching again. They touched and they -- that was the same touch we were just showing you a lot. All right. Colleen, is this a horror show or what?

COLLEEN HARRIS, FMR. PRESS SECRETARY, HRH PRINCE OF WALES: I don't think it's a horror show at all. I think it's a lovely, spontaneous show of affection. And I think we've all been caught up in this Obama-rama at the moment in London. And we all love to see Michelle and the president. And they are so relaxed and friendly and warm. And it seems very sincere. So everybody has responded very well to it. And I think what happened at the palace between her majesty and Michelle Obama was very natural, very spontaneous. They were obviously having a very lovely chat. And, you know, the queen responded to it. I think it's wonderful.

KING: I like Obama-rama. Dickie, what's the big deal? Is it that the queen doesn't touch people?

DICKIE ARBITER, FORMER SPOKESMAN, BUCKINGHAM PALACE: The queen's not in a touchy, feely generation. You've got to remember that in three week's time, she's going to be 83. So she is an (INAUDIBLE). The people who were brought up in that period, they just don't touch. They don't feel. And she's not used to that sort of thing.

So as Colleen said, it was a spontaneous gesture. What you've got to remember is that the queen had been with the Obamas, prior to walking into that reception, for about half an hour. The body chemistry and the body language had already been well-established. When they first meet, normally the queen sticks her hands out and you grab her fingers as a sort of shake your hand. This time, it was a very firm handshake. You can see right from the word go that this was a meeting that was going to click. Absolutely, Larry.

KING: June, what was the fuss?

JUNE SARPONG, FOUNDER POLITICSANDTHECITY.COM: Yes, I think what was the fuss? I think actually we might as well forget the monarchy is lot more modern now. The queen has her own channel. She had a reality show. And -- she did. And the thing is, you know, you can tell she really liked Michelle. There was genuine respect between the two of them.

Also, what was very interesting is that the queen wasn't wearing any gloves when she met the Obamas. That is very key again. That, again, shows just how welcoming she was. And I've met -- like I said, she doesn't let anybody touch her if she doesn't want you to. So that wouldn't have happened if the queen didn't want it.

KING: Buckingham Palace issued a statement calling the contact a mutual and spontaneous display of affection and appreciation. Are you surprised, Colleen, the palace responded at all?

HARRIS: I think they probably responded because they've had so many calls about it. I think everyone was a little surprised, because it is quite unusual to see that kind of behavior from the queen. And I think they were inundated with calls and felt that they needed to put something out to address the questions.

But I think it -- you know, it was a great show of affection. It was something that was a little unusual, but nothing negative about it.

KING: All right, Dickie, you were a spokesman for Buckingham Palace. Are you surprised that they've issued a statement?

ARBITER: No, I am not surprised. We have moved on over the years. We've modernized. The monarchy has been evolving for hundreds of years. This particular monarch has been evolving for 57 years. What is interesting to note is that the queen is a lot more relaxed in the way that she does things since the death of her mother in 2002. It's almost as if she's taken on the mantel vacated by her mother, as that of Britain's favorite grandmother.

So wherever she goes, she's a lot more relaxed. She's a lot more communicative with people. And if there's a joke to be shared, she will share the joke and she will laugh. I'm not surprised that they issued that statement. It really did set the record straight, Larry.

KING: All right. We're going to show you a video, I think. There were headlines back in 1991 when the queen visited a low-income home in Washington, D.C. She went with Barbara Bush, the First Lady. The homeowner hugged both of them. Was there -- that was a big deal, apparently, about this homeowner in Washington actually hugging the queen. Is there anything wrong with that, June?

SARPONG: In the UK, I don't think that would happen. You just don't do that. In general, you know, the royal protocol is you don't touch the queen. You shake her hand or you courtesy. But, again, like Dickie said, they've gotten much more modern over the years. I think she really likes the Obamas. Like I said, I saw her flirting with Barack.

KING: All right. Let me get a break. By the way, today is World Autism Day. Jim Carey and Jenny McCarthy will be here tomorrow night, together, to talk about this issue. They know it pretty well. If you've got a question or a comment for them, e-mail them at Jim Carey and Jenny tomorrow night. See you in 60 seconds.


KING: We're going to have a little fun tonight talking about the royals and that embrace seen around the world. But back here at home, someone has been working anonymously in her neighborhood, far from the world stage, to make her city a better place. Here is tonight's hero, Suzette Steinhardt on her community crusade.


SUZETTE STEINHARDT, CNN HERO: We're an organization that works with families who are homeless or on the verge of becoming homeless.

KING: And what specifically do you do for them?

STEINHARDT: One of the criteria is that they must be working. We provide a three-year rental assistance program, where they pay 31 percent of their income towards their rent. And then during that period, we work with them to stabilize the family.

KING: You said you also help those in danger of becoming homeless.


KING: With the economy the way it is, are there a lot of them?

STEINHARDT: We are getting a few more calls than usual. We started out with two families, and now we're up to helping six to eight families a year.


KING: Suzette, you deserve more than any recognition we could give you. But we want to say thanks, well done. The world could take a cue from you. Back after this.



KING: As Anderson just mentioned, beyond Buckingham Palace, the First Lady's itinerary included a visit to an all-girls school in North London. She had this personal message for the students.


M. OBAMA: Nothing in my life's past would have predicted that I would be standing here as the first African-American First Lady of the United States of America. There was nothing in my story that would land me here. I wasn't raised with wealth or resources or any social standing to speak of.

And my brother and I were raised with all that you really need: love, strong values, and a belief that with a good education and a whole lot of hard work, that there was nothing that we could not do. I am an example of what's possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by the people around them.


KING: Colleen Harris, how do you imagine those girls felt today?

HARRIS: Well, I think they were overwhelmed, actually. I think they were very emotion. It was so fabulous to see them enthusiastic for a positive role model. A black woman out there doing something very special and very superior, rather than -- and not to denigrate -- but rather than the usual pop stars and sports people. It was just great to see someone who has worked hard, achieved academically, and gone on to this great success. Even as a black woman here in London, I feel it incredibly proud of her. And I'm sure those young girls were really looking up to her and feel quite inspired by what she had to say today.

KING: Dickie Arbiter, some suggest the British public has embraced Michelle Obama in part because she fills a void left by the passing of Princess Di. Do you buy that?

ARBITER: I don't quite buy that. Yes, they've certainly been swept by the Obama tide. And going to the school today, what was interesting about the school, it was in North London, which is not a rich area, and Michelle Obama was actually talking to students who probably had a similar kind of background that she had when she was their age.

So she was sending out a message that if you work hard, anybody can do what she has done, not necessarily become First Lady, but they can reach to, you know, great heights in a career.

But as far as the void left by Princess Di, no, there's nobody around that will fill that void today, tomorrow, or even in the near future. KING: All right. It's maybe a stretch, June, because one came from a background of wealth and one came from a background of much less than wealth. Is it fair to compare Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama?

SARPONG: I think that Michelle Obama is a sort of modern-day incarnation of Jackie Kennedy. I think, also, we need something else. You know, Jackie Kennedy was quite mysterious and aloof. She was always on a pedestal. And I think a lot of people probably would have been intimidated by Jackie Kennedy. Whereas Michelle Obama, she's definitely of the people. She's one of us. She wears J. Crew.

And I think that's what's brilliant about her. And talking about that school, I know that school very well. I have a friend that teaches there and my cousin went to that school and I've visited that school on numerous occasions. I cannot even begin to explain what that would have done for the self-esteem of those girls. I think Michelle Obama is a great role model for all women of all races, because she shows us actually that if you work hard and you have your own identity, you can achieve so much.

She's not only special because she's married to Barack; she's special because of everything she's also achieved in her own rights.

KING: Well said. Go to for our daily podcast and other great web features, email, text alerts, a guest list and, of course, our blog. Back after this.


KING: France's First Lady Carla Bruni made a hit last year when she visited London. And Today the "London Times" asked, "Carla Who?" Will Michelle Obama be forgotten do you think, Colleen?

HARRIS: Oh, no, I don't think so. I think this is a very special time for us. We're all really depressed at the moment. We're all worried about money. The financial crisis has hit us all. And these two people have swept into town, so sincere, so natural, so honest and open. And I think we all feel we can relate to them. And that's good for us, just at this moment in time. I think it really works and we're not going to forget them.

KING: Dickie, how did the British press -- or the British in general regard George W. Bush and Laura?

ARBITER: They've kind of forgotten about George W. and Laura since they left office at the end of January. There was a lot of rhetoric in the British media in the way that the economy was going. It was affecting us, what happened in America. Things that happen in America come across the pond very quickly and affect us all.

But they've been largely forgotten by the British media and by the British people. When you got two charismatic people like the Obamas, everything else pales to insignificance, Larry.

KING: Kind of sad in a way, isn't it? ARBITER: It is kind of sad in a way, because every president has contributed to history, whether you agree with their policies or not. They've contributed to history and they probably contributed to what the world is undergoing today. But it was going to happen anyway. It didn't matter who was going to be in the White House.

KING: June, what about the reaction to Michelle's wardrobe?

SARPONG: Oh, well, it's been a fantastic reaction. I was speaking to some fashion critics back home, and they're seeing it as win-win all the way. She's wearing really stylish clothes that really work with her figure. And again, wearing clothes that are accessible. And I think in this current economic crisis, that's what people want. They want clothes they can afford.

Also in the UK, we're very good at doing high street, good, affordable, fast fashion. And I think she's doing that very well. So she's doing you Americans proud. You should be very proud.

KING: Will this carry over back home, Michelle? Do you think that popularity -- she's more popular than her husband. Colleen, do you think, speaking from overseas, that will continue in the United States?

HARRIS: I hope so, because she's a very good ambassador to the United States. It's been a few years for the U.S. where they've been down in the opinion poll, so to speak, in the world opinion polls. So it's good to have a bit of joy and a bit of color, and that's what she's bringing. And I think that's a good message for the U.S. to send out. And I hope that they take it on board back home.

KING: Apparently, Dickie, the general opinion is she's quite easy to like.

ARBITER: Easy to like, very charismatic, electrifying. There's everything positive about her and everything positive about him. When they arrived, the day before yesterday, and we had the first picture of them meeting the Browns on Downing Street, you had the Obamas looking like they came on a toothpaste commercial, big beaming smile, looking absolutely relaxed and happy. And the Browns looked like they came out of a funeral parlor, very dour.

But I'm pleased to say that the Browns did improve as the day went on.

KING: So, June, they not only helped themselves, but they've helped the opinion of the United States overseas, have they not?

SARPONG: They have. But I disagree with Dickie; I think the Browns looked very nice. I completely disagree with that. And they have helped the opinion polls. I think what's happened is Americans should feel proud of themselves. The rest of the world now likes America again. And I think you shouldn't underestimate how significant that is. Because in Obama, we feel you have a president that actually listens. And the rest of the world feels that we haven't had that from America for the past eight years. It's very significant.

KING: You have all been terrific. It's great talking with you. I thank you very much for joining us, Colleen Harris, the former press secretary to his royal highness the Prince of Wales, Dickie Arbiter, the former spokesman for Buckingham Palace, press secretary to her majesty, the queen, and June Sarpong, the founder of, a famed British TV personality, awarded an MBE on the queen's 2007 New Years honors list.

Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carey here tomorrow night. Now more on the G-20 summit with Anderson Cooper in London. Here's Anderson and "AC 360."