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CAMPBELL BROWN: NO BIAS, NO BULL

President Obama Visits U.S. Troops in Iraq; Spirituality in America

Aired April 7, 2009 - 20:00   ET

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


ROLAND MARTIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, folks.

As President Barack Obama heads home from his eight-day European trip, he makes an important pit stop from Iraq. In a moment, we will break down his time on the ground in Iraq.

And, folks, this is day two of week-long series "Test of Faith," an in-depth look at spirituality in America. And we will take you inside the president's search for a church home, which is part praise and worship and part political.

And why in the world would anyone cheer an accused batterer, especially as he heads into court to face charges?

I certainly want to know what you think. So, start dialing in now, 1-877-NO-BULL-0. That's 1-877-662-8550. Or you can e-mail me Roland@CNN.com. Or look me up on Twitter, as well as Facebook.

But, first, President Obama's surprise visit to visit the troops and Iraqis leaders. Right now, Air Force One is headed home a bit later than planned because of a detour few knew was in the works. It's the president's first visit to Iraq since becoming commander in chief, his biggest audience, 600 of our troops at Baghdad's Camp Victory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have performed brilliantly in every mission that has been given to you.

AUDIENCE: Hoo-ah.

OBAMA: Under enormous strain and under enormous sacrifice, through controversy and difficulty and politics, you've kept your eyes focused on just doing your job. And because of that, every mission that's been assigned -- from getting rid of Saddam, to reducing violence, to stabilizing the country, to facilitating elections -- you have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement, and for that you have the thanks of the American people.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: A big whoop there. Our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin, is here with more on the president's dramatic finish to his time abroad.

Now, Jessica, this was more than a photo-op. So, what was the president trying to accomplish with this visit?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Roland, as you know, the president could not go to the region without visiting the troops.

So, it was going to be Iraq or Afghanistan. In Iraq, he had three main goals. First, he wanted to pressure the Iraqis. And he met with Iraqi the leaders and told them essentially we need a more stable democracy before the troops get out.

Then, he went, he thanked the troops. And as you said, he got more than a big whoop. In fact, the hugest round of applause he got was when he said it's time for the Iraqis to take over and for us to get out.

And then, finally, there's the symbolic gesture. He's commander in chief. And basically he's saying, look, I ran against the war before, but guess what? I'm the decider now.

MARTIN: And obviously this whole issue of symbolism and having this photo of the president with the troops is obviously important to project to the rest of folks in America.

YELLIN: Absolutely. As we have seen with the rest of the trip, he's drawing a clear line from the Bush administration's policies abroad.

Think about it. The last time a U.S. president was in Iraq, he got a shoe thrown at him. Very different reception today.

MARTIN: Now, also, this was an undercover visit, if you will. A lot of folks didn't know about it. All of a sudden, we got word that, hey, the president is dropping in, in Iraq.

We had some issues because he was on the ground traveling. Now, that's -- we keep hearing these stories about cars blowing up and tanks. What was he doing on the road?

YELLIN: Right. It sounds a little odd.

Well, first of all, let's look what he did. He came from Turkey. Then he flew over Iraq with this corkscrew landing that they do, this very secretive, careful way of flying in.

MARTIN: OK.

YELLIN: And then when he landed, there was a dust storm. And apparently, you talk to folks who are in Iraq, it happens all the time. They just couldn't fly. So he took a convoy. And he was on the ground.

But it was secure and he's out of there safely now.

MARTIN: And also, of course, throughout all the reporting throughout the day, they were saying, hey, letting us know what not to say in terms of him being on the ground traveling in vehicles as well, because it's not like Iraq is such a safe country to travel on the roads.

YELLIN: Right. The reporters are very careful not to leak anything in advance.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: All right, Jessica. We certainly appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Now, folks, just a short time ago, we received video of President Obama in Baghdad meeting with top U.S. commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno. The president also told reporters there is still a lot of work to be done in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We've made significant political progress. You've seen a greater willingness on the part of all the factions in Iraq to resolve their issues politically and through non-violent means. But with the national elections coming up, many of the unresolved issues may be brought to a head. And it's very important for us to use all of our influence to encourage parties to resolve these issues in ways that are equitable and fair. And I think that my presence here can help do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: And, folks, we're breaking it down with Jamie Rubin, a former assistant secretary of state under President Bill Clinton. He now teaches at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. Also joining us, Cliff May, director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative think tank.

Now, Jamie, I want you to listen to one of the president's biggest applause lines today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It is time for us to transition to the Iraqis.

(CHEERING)

OBAMA: They need to take responsibility for their country and for their sovereignty.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: Jamie, what about that? How confident are you in the Iraqi government assuming control of this country?

JAMIE RUBIN, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, it's come a long way. I think it's been six years. There have been times when it's been very, very troubling, deep civil strife, civil war.

Things have improved. The Iraqi government has improved. But the big decision here by the president is, as commander in chief, he's doing what he promised the American people, which is come in, look at the situation, and make a decision that the real threat is in Afghanistan. We need to transition out of Iraq and focus our intense efforts on Afghanistan.

MARTIN: Hey, Cliff, what about that? Are the Iraqis holding up their part of the deal here, in terms of being able to take control of this country, alleviating the United States of so much authority?

CLIFF MAY, PRESIDENT, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Well, they're doing better and better. I think we can say that and that they want to take control. They want to run their own lives. They want us to be able to leave. We want to be able to leave.

I have got to give credit where credit's due. I'm very glad that Obama went to Iraq. He had campaigned, as you said, against this mission. He had campaigned against the surge. General Odierno was the key commander under General Petraeus who was responsible for that surge, which provided the security that you had to have in order to begin to have some kind of political reconciliation, which we have seen.

Now, because we have done as well as we have in Iraq, we can move to Afghanistan and attempt to succeed there as well. Had we lost in Iraq, had we been defeated, had we left with our tail between our legs, we would not be going into Afghanistan and trying to solve that situation as well.

MARTIN: And, of course, Jamie, some say, if the situation was reversed, we should have been in Afghanistan first, then Iraq second, if you will.

Now, what about this issue? The president says that he wants troops out by 2011. Is that still a realistic goal?

RUBIN: Well, it's a realistic goal. It is a goal.

And I think it will depend on how things evolve whether that goal occurs with chaos in Iraq or some stability. And the fact of the matter is that the Iraqi government, the Iraqi military has gotten better.

But I think everyone who understands the situation knows it's going to be a tense, difficult transition to a full Iraqi control. There is going to be violence. And the test is not going to be, are there suicide bombers? There are going to be suicide bombers. The test is whether the Iraqi military can handle that.

And the test that is most important is whether we have the resources to do the job against al Qaeda and the Taliban, which are still in Afghanistan.

MARTIN: About 30 seconds left, Cliff.

Jamie talked about that violence. We have seen seven bombings in the last 48 hours, some 50 folks killed. And so, how does that play into our decisions if we have that level of violence? Would you call that acceptable violence for the Iraqis to control? Or should we still stay?

MAY: It's not acceptable, but the Iraqis more and more will be able to handle it. And we're helping them handle it rather than trying to do it for them.

After all, they are the ones who know who the bad guys are in their country. Where we help is with logistics, with airpower, with strategy, with training the higher levels of the military.

We will be doing that for the next three years. Jamie's right. As someone who has been against timetables, the idea of having a goal to get out by the end of 2011 is a good goal. And we can do it. That part of the world may not be peaceful anytime soon, the entire Middle East, but that's what we're working towards.

And, again, kudos to Obama for praising the troops for the hard work they have done under terrible conditions with a lot of opposition. They have succeeded in the missions they have been asked to do.

RUBIN: Wow. We're all...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Watch it, Cliff. All those kudos, watch it now.

RUBIN: Kudos all around.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Cliff May, always a pleasure.

Jamie Rubin, thanks so much.

MAY: Thanks, Roland.

MARTIN: I want you guys back one day again.

So, folks, parents, I want you to listen to how a group of young women responded to Chris Brown as he walked into a Los Angeles courtroom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: What is wrong with this picture? To me, plenty.

Call me now, 1-877-NO-BULL-0. That's 1-877-662-8550. Or e-mail me. I'm also on Twitter and Facebook.

Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN: In the spotlight tonight, another big victory for supporters of same-sex marriage.

Today, the state legislature of Vermont overrode the governor's veto of a bill legalizing the unions. And just last Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a same-sex marriage ban that had been on the books since 1998.

So, now four states, Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, have given the green light to same-sex marriage. Two others, New Hampshire and New Jersey, allow civil unions and are each considering bills making marriage legal.

The question tonight is the tide turning on the state level in support of gay marriage? And will we see the forces against gay marriage renew their efforts to get a federal law banning gay marriage passed by a Democratic Congress?

Joining me now is Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King, a strong opponent of same-sex marriage, and, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights group.

Now, Joe, Iowa is the latest state to approve gay marriage. But, at the end of the day, you have a president, a vice president, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton all saying marriage belongs between a man and a woman. Now, what kind of a message is that sending to the rest of the country?

JOE SOLMONESE, PRESIDENT, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: Well, I think the important message, really, to take from the last week is the message that we got from the heartland state of Iowa, where the Supreme Court made very clear that same-sex couples and their families there face the same life circumstances as all Iowans, particularly in situations when we are at our most vulnerable, whether it's around health care decisions or end-of-life decisions or the care and welfare of our children, that we are the same as all families.

And we ought to be afforded the same responsibilities and protections that go along with the civil institution of marriage, not the religious sacrament of marriage, but the civil institution of marriage.

MARTIN: OK.

SOLMONESE: And the court made that distinction very clear in its ruling today. MARTIN: Congressman King, I remember during the whole debate when you had Senator John McCain, who was saying leave it up to the states, no federal ban. A lot of people were saying that, hey, this was not going to spread across the country.

Now I'm reading blogs and other columns saying, hey, this is the fourth state. It's picking up steam. Is this the time, in your opinion, for a federal law to be introduced to ban same-sex marriage?

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Well, we do have the Federal Defense of Marriage Act that is in law, and that says you don't have to recognize, other states don't have to recognize a marriage within a state that has passed same-sex marriage.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: We have also 29 states that have passed constitutional amendments to protect marriage.

MARTIN: But, Congressman, obviously, that's recognizing. But the question still comes, and that is invalidating or saying to no same-sex marriage. Do you think that's going to be pushed in the Congress, even though Democrats are in control?

KING: I don't think we have very much chance of passing such legislation today. No, I don't think...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: You said no chance?

(CROSSTALK)

KING: ... the battle goes back to the states.

I wouldn't say no chance to anything, because sometimes things happen dramatically in the public arena that compel legislatures to act. And I think something's happened here where I'm standing in Des Moines that compels this legislature to act to defend marriage in Iowa, because we're now part of seven very activist Supreme Court judges.

MARTIN: Joe, go right ahead.

SOLMONESE: Roland, on the question of the federal marriage amendment, we have taken that fight on in Congress twice, and we have defeated it by increasing margins. There's no appetite either in Congress or with the American people to take this fight on again.

On the issue of activist judges, I think we all know that there's a tradition in this country of the courts deciding sweeping civil rights issues sometimes before the American people are there. That certainly was the case in the Loving decision that legalized interracial marriage at a time when more than 60 percent of the American people were not there on the issue. But if you want to look at how this plays out, just look to Massachusetts. When the courts ruled in favor of same-sex marriage there, a plurality of the people of Massachusetts did not support same-sex marriage. Five years later, more than 60 percent of the people in Massachusetts support same-sex marriage.

Why? Because of the passage of time and the opportunity to live with this institution and to see that, quite frankly, nothing in Massachusetts has changed, particularly not the circumstances or the lives of heterosexual couple in that state.

MARTIN: OK.

Congressman, I read a poll where it said 62 percent of the folks in your state are against same-sex marriage. Do you believe that what Joe just said is going to happen; after a period of time, that number will reverse in Iowa?

KING: Well, Joe's talking about Massachusetts and Vermont.

I'm standing in Iowa. It's far different here. Iowans are opposed to same-sex marriage. But it's more important that we not allow judge-made law. Whenever we have judges that make the law and insert themselves into the legislative practice, we have conflict and stress across America until such time as the legislature acts.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: If Joe is going to move his agenda, we need to do it in the legislature, and not by the courts.

MARTIN: Congressman, real quick, I have got to ask you the question, though. This was the court's ruling the law unconstitutional. And, so, what more do you want to happen? That's what judges are there for, to rule on laws.

KING: I want to amend the constitution of the state of Iowa as quickly as we can. And I want this legislature to pass a residency requirement, so that we don't proliferate this policy that is judge- made law on the rest of the country.

Those two things will be adequate in the state. As the other 29 states have passed constitutional amendments, Iowa needs to do that. Let's allow some federalism here and let the states make this decision.

I think Joe's right on Congress. The appetite is not there, not to impose this on the states, but the appetite is there to protect the right of the states to set the policy by their legislatures, and not this judge-made law. If they want to pass laws, they should resign from the bench and run for the legislature.

MARTIN: Joe, real quick, final thought, about 15 seconds.

SOLMONESE: Well, I think, as you mentioned at the opening of this segment, we are seeing states move in record pace towards marriage equality, whether it is the Vermont legislature that overturned the governor's veto, states like New Hampshire, New Jersey poised to move in the direction of marriage equality.

We're seeing it in key states all across the country. And I think that's a trend that's going to continue.

MARTIN: Joe Solmonese, Congressman Steve King, we certainly appreciate it. Thank you so very much.

Now, folks, tonight, we continue our series "Test of Faith." And for some churches in our nation's capital, it means a whole new kind of test, as they compete for some very important worshipers.

Plus, I want to hear from you about all of those people cheering for Chris Brown when he's facing serious charges for what happened to his girlfriend, Rihanna.

Listen to this I-Reporter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED I-REPORTER: This is problematic because we're living in a society where a man could allegedly get nearly close to killing somebody, and many of us are acting as if it's OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: I know you got something to say about this, so dial me up, 1-877-NO-BULL-0. That's 1-877-662-8550. Or e-mail me at Roland@CNN.com. And look for me on Twitter or Facebook.

It's time for you to join the conversation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN: Well, this week, we're talking with people of many faiths about how they live their beliefs.

It's a special series we call "Test of Faith."

And we all know about President Obama breaking away from the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's Chicago church during the campaign. We're not going to rehash that here. Been there, done that.

But it's been almost a year, and the president still doesn't have a church.

And, tonight, Randi Kaye is here to take us inside the first family's search for a new spiritual home.

Now, Randi, what's going on behind the scenes, because folks have been writing about this, talking about it, all this drama over what church he's going to?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They sure have. Everybody wants to know. But, Roland, a source inside the White House and close to this whole process told me there's a low-key vetting process going on. It's quiet, calculated, and they told me it has nothing at all to do with the president's history with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and the controversy over their relationship that could have ended his campaign.

They say, it's just about finding the Obamas the right place to worship. I visited some of the churches that seem to be on the short list, including Nineteenth Street Baptist. And here's the pastor there, Reverend Derrick Harkins, told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: Do you know if you have been vetted?

REV. DERRICK HARKINS, NINETEENTH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH: You can use the term vetting, I suppose. It's probably helpful to have some people who can at least bring to them some awareness of those churches and their histories, their ministries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: Now, Randi, I have gone through this process of choosing a church home. And so folks have different reasons and rationale what they're looking for.

Any idea what the first family is looking for in terms of where they want to worship?

KAYE: We have some idea.

I will tell you that the White House, they will not say how many churches are on this short list. But there are must-haves for the first family and the White House. In fact, there's four of them. And if you take a look, we have them for you here.

The White House wants the Obamas to join a church that's family- oriented. They have children. They want them to feel comfortable there and maybe meet other families and other children.

They want to find them a church that serves the needy and really reaches out to the community and those who need something in the community. They're very concerned that the church that they choose will be able to handle high security. They may even need metal detectors at the church, because they will need Secret Service. And there will be lots of people who will want to maybe come to the church and see the Obamas.

And they also, of course, want a church that is close to the White House. In fact, one of the churches that we visited, the First Baptist Church, is just about six blocks from the White House, Roland. And Harry Truman used to just walk over. He would just stroll over to worship there. And Jimmy Carter actually belonged there as well, just a short little walk away. He taught Sunday school there.

So, location is key for the first family's church.

MARTIN: Well, it's unlikely they're going to be stopped by lights or being late for church. They probably can get there on time.

(LAUGHTER)

KAYE: Yes. They can probably get there pretty quick.

But of course they probably won't be walking to church, but they do want it close by.

MARTIN: Now, we all know about colleges and universities, even some high schools now, recruiting blue chip athletes. So, do you have a little competition here among churches, saying -- because, look, having the first family at your church, that's a big deal.

KAYE: Yes, there's a little bit of lobbying going on. I guess you could say that, though some are laying low. Reverend Harkins from Nineteenth Street Baptist told me he is not going to write letters or call or strategize. He's just going to trust the hand of God.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: So, some folks have been doing that?

KAYE: Yes.

MARTIN: Yes.

KAYE: But other churches, believe it or not, they have been lobbying for the first family's spiritual business, if you will. We will call it that.

First Baptist has actually been touting a basketball court. Take a look at this. They have an inside basketball court. And they want President Obama to come and play on that court. Another pastor wrote a blog post addressed to Michelle Obama, telling her that she should bring her family there to visit and inviting the first family to pray, hoping that will sway them.

The White House says it's received hundreds of invitations. And, of course, with Easter right around the corner, a lot of people want to know, where will the first family go?

MARTIN: And also churches don't mind big tithers. And so with the money they make, I'm sure they won't mind that 10 percent.

KAYE: There you go.

And actually the churches do really well, as a result. They get a lot of attention. A lot of people join.

MARTIN: Right.

KAYE: And, actually, it benefits them.

MARTIN: All right, Randi, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

KAYE: Sure.

MARTIN: Joining me now are two pastors who regularly pray with President Barack Obama.

Pastor Jim Wallis is executive director and founder of "Sojourners" magazine and the author of "The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in a post-Religious Right America." And the Reverend Kirbyjon Caldwell is the senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, my hometown, the largest Methodist congregation in the country. He's the author of "Be In It to Win It: A Road Map to Spiritual, Emotional, and Financial Wholeness."

Gentlemen, we certainly appreciate you being with us.

Pastor Caldwell, I want to start with you. You also served as spiritual adviser to President George W. Bush. And I have got to ask you, what do you make of all of this talk about where the president goes to church? I don't even recall where President Clinton or even President Bush went to church.

REV. KIRBYJON CALDWELL, UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: Absolutely.

Well, first of all, Roland, let me say during this Holy Week, blessings upon you and the CNN family and the viewers and of course my buddy Jim Wallis on the other end there.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: I appreciate it.

CALDWELL: I will tell you, my word of wisdom, with all due respect, may very well go to the churches which think they want the president and his family to visit them.

I need to tell you, you know, they're going to take every vowel of every word of every sentence of every paragraph of every sermon the pastor has ever preached in recent memory and dissect it and analyze it and bury it and may very well resurrect within the next three years or so.

So, I would suggest that go out and find a good third party objective person to vet the sermons. It's a big deal being...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Now, Reverend Wallis, I want to go to you.

And when it comes to praying with the president, let's just be honest. You're dealing with a different kind of person here. And so you're one of the folks the president has said he prays with regularly, also Pastor Caldwell.

So, talk to our viewers. How do you pray with the president of the United States? How do you approach that? REV. JIM WALLIS, PRESIDENT, CALL TO RENEWAL: Well, we have been -- I have been talking with the president for about 10 years.

And we actually talk more about how our faith shapes our primaries in the world. His faith isn't just private. It's public. And so he wants his faith to shape his vision, his direction for the country. So, I was just all day at the White House with a whole range of interfaith leaders and secular leaders talking about the issues of faith, like how this economic recession can -- how we can reach the people who are most vulnerable. Poverty at home and abroad is a faith issue.

Fatherhood, strengthening fatherhood, family, abortion reduction, finding common ground, the environment, we talked about that. We talked how interfaith dialogue and action could change the country's sense of religion.

MARTIN: OK.

WALLIS: So, it's less important -- I hope he goes to church in a good place for the girls and the family.

More important is how his faith can shape his priorities and his leadership. And that's what I'm looking for.

MARTIN: Pastor Caldwell, your calling is to serve God first and man second. Now, if there was a decision the president has to make that goes against your beliefs, are you willing to convey your prophetic voice, as opposed to thinking about it through a political prism?

CALDWELL: Oh, absolutely.

We are obligated to do that. And, as you know, Roland, the New Testament even suggests that we should pray for persons who are in authority, parenthetically, whether we voted for them or not. So, praying for the president and authoring a prophetic voice to the president, those are just nonissues. Those are necessary, have to do it.

MARTIN: Well, look, I certainly appreciate it. Look, I know both of you are busy. It is Holy Week. We certainly appreciate it. And, again, you can pray with the president, but also pray for all of us, because folks all need it at this time, with so many different wild things happening in this world.

(CROSSTALK)

WALLIS: He's actually asked us this. In the Oval Office, when he met with his new counsel, he said, I want you to feel free to disagree with me when you do, and do it publicly.

MARTIN: Well, that's biblical, because you have people who are prophets who also criticized those who were kings.

WALLIS: Exactly. (CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Gentlemen, I certainly appreciate it. Reverend Wallis, Pastor Caldwell, thank you so very much.

CALDWELL: Thank you, sir.

WALLIS: Thank you, Roland.

MARTIN: Folks, we're getting some amazing survivor stories from the earthquake zone in Italy. You won't believe what one woman did during the 42 hours she was waiting to be pulled from the rubble. Her story is just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN: A lot of folks talking online about Chris Brown. And the question we've been asking is, why would a group of young women cheer him as he headed into court, even though he's charged with attacking his girlfriend Rihanna? That's our big question for tonight.

So give us a call now, folks, at 1-877-no bull-0. That's 1-877- 662-8550. But right now, time to turn to Jessica Yellin who's back with "The Briefing" -- Jessica.

YELLIN: You know, Roland, Italy is not out of the woods yet. Strong aftershocks keep rumbling across the earthquake-devastated region of central Italy. But rescue crews are still finding survivors. And listen to this.

As Italian news agency reports, one 98-year-old woman who was rescued today actually passed the time by knitting while she waited to be saved. Monday's magnitude 6.3 quake killed at least 207 people and injured more than 1,500.

In Cuba, three members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with Fidel Castro today. That happened one day after Cuban President Raul Castro met with the delegation. Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California who was at the meeting, described Fidel Castro as "talkative and energetic."

Today, a federal judge in Washington threw out the guilty verdict against former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. The judge cleared Stevens of any wrongdoing and he ordered a criminal investigation into alleged misconduct by the prosecutors. Stevens, a Republican, lost his bid for re-election in November.

And, Roland, take a look at this. It is the latest thing on the road. The personal urban mobility and accessibility vehicle. P.U.M.A. for short, made by GM, and you guessed it, Segway. The two- seater is powered by rechargeable batteries and can reach a top speed of 35 miles an hour. And I just don't know how you could be dignified driving around in one of those.

MARTIN: Who would drive at 35 miles an hour? YELLIN: You know, the police officers in Washington, D.C. drive around on those Segways. And what are they going to do? Like chase after you in one of these things?

MARTIN: I'm just -- OK, I'm sorry. I'm with the innovation but I'm --

YELLIN: I want to see you on one.

MARTIN: No, you're not going to -- no, I'm from Texas, 35 miles an hour. OK, whatever. I can't remember driving at 35 miles an hour.

All right, folks. Jessica, we appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

She's in more magazines these days than a supermodel. First Lady Michelle Obama, this time, she's got some company on the cover. We'll show you up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN: Politics, baseball, they seem to all go together. That was the case in Boston where Senator Ted Kennedy, who's been battling a brain tumor, threw out the first pitch of the season. He also told Jessica Yellin that he was sitting in the stands with Caroline Kennedy who's wearing a Red Sox jacket. She won't be running for senator for New York. Not going to happen.

All right. More politics with Jessica Yellin in our "Political Daily Briefing."

YELLIN: That's right. Today, a big interview with Vice President Joe Biden. He sat down with our own Gloria Borger and Wolf Blitzer. And he strongly condemned a rape law in Afghanistan. He slammed Afghanistan's U.S.-backed president for supporting this law that allows women essentially to be raped. But he made it clear it's not up to the U.S. to fix that law. It's a big change in the last administration which wanted to export American values to the Middle East.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has signed into law, an edict, in effect, allowing men to rape their wives if they don't want to have sex on that day. And a lot of people are outraged that a U.S. ally like Hamid Karzai, who now says he's looking at this law, could go forward. Is this what U.S. troops are fighting and dying for in Afghanistan?

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is an outrageous -- an outrageous, outrageous law, number one. Number two, we are not in Afghanistan to make the point to see to it that we make everything right in Afghanistan. Why are we in Afghanistan? This is the difference between us and the last administration. We're there to defeat al Qaeda.

(END VIDEO CLIP) YELLIN: And on the personal stuff, the vice president says what surprises him most about his new job is the constant Secret Service presence. You know, politicians they're always complaining about that entourage. Not sure I buy it.

MARTIN: Yes, yes, that also. Switching gears here, new career, politics and Hollywood, talking about baseball. Those two seem to go together?

YELLIN: These days, they really do. You remember that actor Kal Penn? He's probably best known for playing a stoner in the movies "Harold & Kumar." Well, he's giving up the bright lights of Hollywood to actually become a mid-level White House staffer.

Now Penn was also a star in the TV show "House" that is until last night when the show's creators killed off his character with a suicide. Penn is going to work in the Office of Public Liaison at the White House, doing outreach to Asian Americans and arts group.

And I actually met him as a former campaign volunteer when he worked for the Obama campaign. He was a runner on the floor during the Democratic convention, directing traffic. He wore one of those dorky reflective vests. You can see him right there.

And honestly, Roland, he did not want to be interviewed. He didn't want to be treated like a celebrity. Just another volunteer.

MARTIN: Yes. Let's see if he left the White House checked.

All right, then. Also, Michelle Obama, another magazine cover, one that I'm a little familiar with.

YELLIN: Yes, big one. This one's all in the family. In the May issue of "Essence" magazine, we will see Michelle Obama and her mother, Marian Robinson, on the cover. It is, as you know, Robinson's first interview since she moved into the White House to help take care of the Obama children. And in keeping with the theme of dressing for the recession, the ladies are featured wearing Talbot's. How do you like that?

MARTIN: Well, I like it a lot. Also, I got a column in "Essence" so got to pump it up.

YELLIN: I'll be reading.

MARTIN: Also, there's talk about this new statue. What's going on with this new look for the first lady?

YELLIN: Oh, my gosh. OK. Well, it is an honor.

Mrs. Obama is joining that elite club of first ladies who are immortalized with the wax figure in the famed Madame Tussaud's museum. It's a life-size statue. You could see it. It's in Washington, D.C.

MARTIN: It doesn't look like her.

YELLIN: Right. I mean, it's just so upsetting. I think this is just not the right person. Look at those eyebrows, right?

MARTIN: I'll send that one back to the factory.

YELLIN: Yes.

MARTIN: Yes.

YELLIN: Jackie Kennedy and Hillary Clinton are the other first ladies who also have wax statues.

MARTIN: All right. Well, we certainly appreciate it, Jessica. Thanks a bunch. We'll work on the statue.

Folks, what Chris Brown is accused of doing to Rihanna, that's an outrage. There's no excuse for what some of his fans did yesterday either. We'll show you that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN: We've been talking politics and religion here on this show, and that dialogue continues on "LARRY KING LIVE" at the top of the hour.

Larry, you got a little Texas bible belt going on today, right?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Yes, we got it all covered. First, though, coming up, President Obama's surprise stop in Baghdad. We've got reporters, and a one-on-one with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to tell us all about it.

And then mega preacher Joel Osteen and his co-pastor, wife Victoria. We'll get their take on the new president and a whole lot more. All at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE."

You may now continue, kind sir.

MARTIN: I appreciate it, Larry. Thanks a lot. That's a big church they've got.

Folks, I couldn't believe it when I saw it yesterday. Check this out.

(screaming)

This is Chris Brown walking into court, but is not the one I have issue with here. What's wrong with this picture? I'll tell you when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN: Folks, yesterday, Chris Brown walked into a Los Angeles court to plead not guilty to beating his girlfriend Rihanna. But I want you to listen to the worshipful screams of teenaged girls.

Now, look, I believe in innocent until proven guilty, but, folks, there is no way in hell that I will allow my daughter or my niece to scream and squeal for anyone accused of beating a woman. I don't get it.

So, joining me to try to explain what in the world is going on, Jane Velez-Mitchell. She is host of "Issues" on HLN, and psychotherapist Robi Ludwig.

And, Robi, the Boston Health Commission did a survey and it was very interesting. It said that 46 percent of teenagers in that city blame Rihanna. Explain to me what's going on here.

ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: I know. It's hard to imagine, right? Well, I think in part, they're protecting their idol, Chris. They also might be protecting a boyfriend who is behaving in an abusive way or a father or stepfather who might be abusive. And I think also, they are -- this kind of generation is ensconced in a hip- hop culture which minimizes this kind of misogynistic violence. So they may not see it as bad as we do.

MARTIN: But, Jane, is it really a question of hip-hop culture?

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST, HLN'S "ISSUES": No.

MARTIN: Because I don't care what celebrity you have, I mean, folks are just clamoring in terms of their screaming and cheering. And people, I mean, whether it was O.J., R. Kelly, Michael Jackson...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, yes.

MARTIN: ... I mean, is this just a celebrity culture who say, forget what they're charged for, it's a matter of we love him?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We have a culture that worships celebrity, but beyond that, we have a culture, Roland, that accepts male violence as business as usual. And there is this myth of the swaggering male who is so testosterone-filled that he cannot control his violent images and violent urges. And if a woman is stupid enough to provoke him, then she deserves what she gets.

And that is a very sick mentality. That is a mentality of abuse, and it is classical conditioning.

Where do we get it from? We get it from TV, the movies, the Internet, video games. Just click a television and see how long it takes you to get to an image of a man beating, abusing, terrorizing, intimidating a woman. It doesn't take you very long.

LUDWIG: And look at the hip-hop videos as well that is also modeling this. So I think I'm in complete agreement with you.

MARTIN: I don't see the (INAUDIBLE) stuff in country videos and rock videos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.

MARTIN: So that is the question of hip-hop.

LUDWIG: And that's where teenagers are getting a lot of their information from, from these music videos. If they don't have education to counterbalance that, it's dangerous.

MARTIN: Now, here's the deal, at what point, though, do you have parents who step in and say this is an individual who is charged with beating a woman? R. Kelly was charged with having sex with underage woman. I just don't see, somebody said, oh, sure, go ahead to the courtroom, cheer for him, make a sign and say that he should be free. Where do they come in?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think it's our whole culture of violence. We're asking parents to not condone violence, but they also use violence for entertainment. We're saturated and dripping in violence in this culture. And so what happens is, we become conditioned to it. It's like classical conditioning, like Pavlov's dogs. So we begin minimizing it.

And I think at a certain point, we become callous and numb to it. So when we see something like this, this isn't as violent as some horror scene in a movie where a woman is slashed up and tortured.

MARTIN: Right. Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So it's like that.

LUDWIG: Listen, my young daughter asked me when she saw me talking about this very case, she says, "Why is Rihanna and Chris Brown in the news?" She said -- she goes, "Did he break up with her?" And I said, no, he actually beat her and hit her. And that's never allowed.

MARTIN: First of all, look, he's been charged, allegedly beat her up.

LUDWIG: Roland, I think I said allegedly, all right?

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: OK. All right.

LUDWIG: I don't remember.

MARTIN: Just making it clear.

LUDWIG: The point is, I used it as an opportunity to teach my daughter that violence is not to be expected in a relationship. And that it is not allowed. You start from the very beginning...

MARTIN: Right.

LUDWIG: ... when your kids want to listen to you.

MARTIN: Well, again, first of all, we're really out of time. Let me be clear, innocent until proven guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

MARTIN: But I'm not cheering anybody who's been accused of a crime. So hold tight one second, folks. Some fans are so quick to forgive Chris Brown. Here's Les from California. He thinks he knows why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LES, FROM CALIFORNIA: Well, about the teenage girls supporting the pop star, it's the idol machine. Media builds up these stars to the point where they can do no wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: That's his take. You get to have yours next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN: We've been talking about Chris Brown and why so many teenage girls were cheering him as he headed into court yesterday. I say it's nuts. But I want to know what you think. It's "Your Turn, Your Voice." And I'm bringing back Robi Ludwig and Jane Velez-Mitchell and we're taking your calls.

Let's go to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Allie (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, TULSA OKLAHOMA (via telephone): Good afternoon, good evening.

MARTIN: Yes. What's your comment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My comment, you know, Chris Brown beating Rihanna, that does not make him a hero. You know, and after he beat her and he was found out, he was like he was seeking spiritual guidance.

MARTIN: Again, Allie (ph), he has not been convicted. He's only been charged, so that's allegedly. Go right ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He wasn't seeking spiritual guidance when he was beating her. I mean, the fact is, he needs help. He should, you know, be made responsible. He should take responsibility for his actions.

I was appalled because I have teenage girls. And I would not even allow my children to attend that type of hearing. He has -- Rihanna needs to love herself. You know, people are made to believe once they've been abused that it's something that they've done.

MARTIN: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rihanna has done nothing wrong.

MARTIN: All right. Allie (ph), I certainly appreciate it. Thank you so very much.

Now, I want to go to Georgette who is in Arkansas. And, Georgette, what's on your mind?

GEORGETTE, ARKANSAS (via telephone): Well, I'm against domestic abuse, no matter if the abuse is male or female. I just think that Chris and Rihanna are being charged by the media before they even go to court.

MARTIN: Good point.

GEORGETTE: Chris Brown is -- Chris Brown is an immature kid who needs counseling. Rihanna is an immature kid who needs counseling. Prison will do absolutely nothing for that kid. And as far as those kids that were there cheering him on while he was going to court...

MARTIN: Right.

GEORGETTE: ... immature kids. They were fans. Immature kids. You couldn't expect any more.

MARTIN: All right.

LUDWIG: Roland --

MARTIN: I certainly appreciate it, Georgette.

Robi, go ahead.

LUDWIG: I disagree. I don't think we can minimize it and say that they're immature and this is why it's going on. Chris Brown has a problem and he needs treatment. And I don't think that we should minimize that it's not going to go away just like him becoming older with no --

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but Robi --

MARTIN: Great point. Jane -- Jane --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: He's 19 years old, and he told Tyra Banks that he saw his mother being abused in the home. Studies and statistics show that a kid who sees that is automatically predestined to become an abuser him.

MARTIN: Got you.

LUDWIG: And I said it's not going to go away naturally.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So why not early intervention?

LUDWIG: I agree.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why don't we teach peaceful, nonviolent conflict resolution in schools so kids like these have an opportunity instead of just becoming convicted?

MARTIN: And that to me is how we learn out of this whole situation. They just talk about the celebrity factor.

To New Jersey, Tiffany. How are you doing?

TIFFANY, JERSEY CITY (via telephone): Hi, how are you?

MARTIN: Great. What's on your mind?

TIFFANY: OK. Well, basically, I feel that the severity of Chris Brown's situation and Rihanna, you know, I feel that it's just getting blown out of proportion. I was a fan before this whole situation occurred, but I'm not anymore.

I'd like to make it known that I'm 19. And disagreeing with the young lady in the black, I don't believe that, you know, you're predestined if you've seen your mom or your dad abused. You know, I don't think they're predestined for any abusive relationship.

MARTIN: Well, first of all -- first of all, I thank you for your phone call.

Robi, but we do have the stats, though, that show that people who have witnessed that, a very likelihood.

LUDWIG: Yes. Actually -- you know, kids can go either way. They either can model what they see and they become the abuser or likely abuser in order not to feel like a victim. Or they can go the other way and say I'm not going to be anything like my parents and I'm going to learn a new way of behavior. It can go either way.

MARTIN: I want to go to Cherith in Indiana -- Cherith.

CHERITH, INDIANA (via telephone): Hi, Roland. How are you?

MARTIN: Great. What's your comment?

CHERITH: My comment is that this is a great teachable moment. Parents need to sit down and need to parent with this moment and teach your young women, female children that they ought to be valued.

MARTIN: But, Cherith, you know -- Cherith, young women and young men, you can't leave the guys out.

CHERITH: You're absolutely right. I'm the mother of a 26-year- old male. And I say to him all the time, you never, ever lay your hands on a woman. Even if she hits you, there is a moment you can escape, you can walk away.

MARTIN: Good point.

CHERITH: A woman can seldom be an abuser. She can be aggressive. It is typically in this country where males are the abusers.

MARTIN: Great point.

CHERITH: So both, but we have to let our young women know that they ought to be valued and they need to be taught and mend their self-esteem.

MARTIN: Hey, Cherith, great point. I certainly appreciate it.

Jane, I want to go to you real quick. And that is, we talk about with men laying the hands on women. In this case, according to the report, Rihanna hit him after reading a text message. I say there's no place for violence, man or woman, in any relationship.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely not. And this is a teaching moment. And you know, we're so focused on this country on crime and punishment, crime and punishment. Lock him up, lock him up. Why can't we as a society use this as an opportunity to learn, hey, this is being repeated in homes across America?

MARTIN: Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let's do something to prevent it happening rather than just finding somebody who's done it and then sticking them in jail and waiting for the next --

MARTIN: Great point.

LUDWIG: And let's redefine what masculinity is. It's not beating somebody up.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right.

LUDWIG: That's not cool. That's not stub (ph) like.

MARTIN: And real quick, folks, and simple. Don't just tell your kids don't listen to Chris Brown and Rihanna. Teach them about domestic violence.

Stay right there, folks. We've got lots more of your comments just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN: Hey, folks, we're back talking about Chris Brown and Rihanna, and why some of his young fans don't seem to get it. Her fans as well.

A lot of phone calls, e-mails and iReports on this. Psychotherapist Robi Ludwig as well as Jane Velez-Mitchell, they are here with us discussing this.

What about a voice mail from Mark in Ohio?

MARK, OHIO (via telephone): People are still supporting the pop star because he is human just like the rest of us. Keep in mind, that people are just human and that they do deserve second chances. Now, if he does it three or four or five times, then we're talking something different.

MARTIN: There's a twitter. This one says, "For many, violence is a way of life. They see the same thing at home. It is now acceptable to be mean."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There are ways out of violence. I myself, as a recovering alcoholic, have gone to anger workshops where I have hit a tennis racket on pillows and taken ways, steps, methods to learn how to redefine your relationship with violence. There are techniques out there.

MARTIN: Robi, how do you teach someone to get them to reach that point to say violence is not the answer?

LUDWIG: Well, first of all you say it's absolutely wrong. It doesn't feel good to behave violently. There are other ways to operate. You show them through modeling. And also, we as a culture have to redefine how we see relationships. And I think that will help tremendously.

MARTIN: Also, I think that we also need to recognize that we can just say this is Chris Brown and Rihanna, because it affects you.

We got, first, John from Michigan wrote, "There's a real victim here. The next one could be your sister, daughter, or a close friend's beautiful, loving, talented, young daughter that was brutally murdered."

And so we got to recognize it's not just a distant thing.

LUDWIG: No, and anyone can be a victim of domestic violence who are in abusive relationships. Anyone.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And let's say this. Everybody involved in violence is victimized -- the victimizer and the victim.

LUDWIG: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It ruins everybody's life.

MARTIN: All right, great conversation. Jane, Robi, we certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

LUDWIG: Thanks.

MARTIN: Hey, folks, look, show is over but you can also twitter us. You can send us an e-mail. Give us a phone call. We'd love to hear from you.

We may play your voice mail tomorrow. And again, keep those e- mails and tweets coming because we love hearing from you.

That's it for tonight, for your calls and comments.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.