Return to Transcripts main page


More Bloodshed Ahead in Iran?; Obama Speaks at Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner

Aired June 19, 2009 - 20:00   ET



CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: (voice-over): Tonight, here are the questions we want answered. Will there be more blood on the streets of Iran? Massive demonstrations are planned, as the ayatollah warns protesters to back down, or else.

The "Great Debate," is the president doing enough to support reformers?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People who are through peaceful means trying to be heard

BROWN: Should he be more forceful? What are the White House options?

An, however this plays out, is this a turning point for women in Iran? Why they are the ones on the front lines.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On every single count, Iranian women have been fighting.


ANNOUNCER: This is your only source for news. CNN prime time begins now. Here's Campbell Brown.

BROWN: Hi, everybody.

All of that tonight, plus President Obama bringing a few laughs to our Friday night. Well, he is hoping to anyway. He's speaking at the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner in Washington. You're looking at a live picture of it right there.

And presidents usually come to this event ready to perform their best stand-up routine. It has just started. He's going to be taking the stage or taking the podium in about 40 minutes. Again, we're going to bring that to you live when it happens.

But we start tonight as always with the "Mash-Up," our look at the stories making an impact right now, the moments you might have missed today. We're watching it all, so you don't have to.

Tonight, though, it is the world that is on watch, waiting to see if Iran's people heed the words of their supreme leader.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, tonight, Iran along with much of the world is holding its breath, wondering if we have witnessed the end of this revolt or a start of a new dangerous chapter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These stage is set for a showdown on the streets of Tehran. Demonstrators angry over the disputed presidential election intend to go ahead with another massive rally tomorrow. That's in spite of today's warning from Iran's supreme leader.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A heaving sea of the faithful pack Tehran University's mosque, enthralled to find themselves so close to Iran's holiest man, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Thousands who couldn't squeeze in listened outside in the surrounding streets.

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The supreme leader came out today and said these elections were free, these elections were fair, and the winner was President Ahmadinejad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He saved his strongest words for the protesters. "The protests should be put to an end," he said. "If not, responsibility for the consequences will be shouldered by those who don't comply" -- a clear warning, many Iranians believe, to stop, or face bloodshed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we heard reports this morning that the crowd that was listening to the ayatollah broke into spontaneous chants of "Death to America."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: After night fell in Iran, opponents climbed to their rooftops and shouted "Death to the dictator." And they're planning a huge rally tomorrow, in open defiance of the ayatollah.


BROWN: A big chunk of the ayatollah's message, a full-on anti- American screed. He accused the U.S. of trying to destabilize Iran and trashed America's record on human rights, pointing to, of all things, the government's role in the 1995 siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.

Now President Obama under increasing pressure tonight to turn up the volume on Iran, Republicans urging him to denounce the ayatollah, the election, and the efforts to squash dissent.

Leading the charge, Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana, and he made the rounds today. He was very much on message.


REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: When Ronald Reagan went before the Brandenburg Gate, he didn't say, "Mr. Gorbachev, that wall is none of our business."

But just like Ronald Reagan did when he stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Chris, he didn't say, "Mr. Gorbachev, that wall is none of our business."

Ronald Reagan, you know, stood before the Brandenburg Gate. He didn't say, "Mr. Gorbachev, this wall is none of our business."


PENCE: He said, "Tear down that wall."


BROWN: We got it, Congressman.

In the meantime, President Obama not taking the bait. Here's his latest in an interview with CBS News today. He stayed faithful to his message of the week.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very concerned, based on some of the tenor of -- and the tone of the statements that have been made, that the government of Iran recognize that the world is watching, and how they approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard, will, I think, send a pretty clear signal to the international community about -- about what Iran is and is not.


BROWN: Now, let's see if that message changes after the weekend.

The feds threw the book at Texas billionaire financier Allen Stanford today, charging him with fraud, accusing him of masterminding a $7 billion scheme that put the financial markets at risk.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's accused of stealing as many as 30,000 investors in a scheme that for a time made him one of the richest people in America.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC ANCHOR: Prosecutors say his international banking empire was actually a Ponzi scheme, second only to Bernie Madoff's.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In an interview with ABC News in April, Stanford choked back tears as he denied the allegation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you hear them describe you as another Madoff, what do you say about that?

ALLEN STANFORD, FINANCIER: It makes me madder than hell, and it -- it touches the core of my soul.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If convicted, Stanford could face 250 years in jail.


BROWN: Stanford says he didn't do it.

We want to show you a piece of video that has gone viral in the political Webiverse, a rather snippy response today from California Senator Barbara Boxer to Brigadier General Michael Walsh, who was testifying before her committee. Check out that moment, and then check out John McCain poking fun at Boxer in an interview with FOX News.


SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, why has it been delayed?


BOXER: I -- you know, do me a favor. Could you say "Senator," instead of ma'am?


BOXER: It's just a thing. I worked so hard to get that title. So, I would appreciate it. Yes, thank you.

WALSH: Yes, Senator.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Senator John McCain.

Senator, thank you for being with us.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you. And thank you for calling me "Senator," and not sir.


HANNITY: If I called you ma'am, I would really be in trouble.


BROWN: Those senators can be so touchy.

We are just minutes away now from President Obama's big speech at the Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner. Always interesting to see a president try his hand at a little stand-up comedy. And, tonight, Obama competes with the JibJab guys, who whipped up a new video for the occasion.

Here's a little preview.



(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: All righty, then.

The president's own speech, his own attempt at humor coming up in just a few minutes. Watch it live right here on CNN.

And before we move on to more serious news, a little news about America's current obsession, no, not the Obamas, Jon and Kate Gosselin. They are promising a major life announcement on Monday's show. Today, they gave us a little tease.


KATE GOSSELIN, REALITY TV STAR: We can't go back now. We can only go forward. And that's what we're going to do. And we're going to learn a lot going forward. And I know that we will all come out of this on the other side hopefully stronger, better, wiser.

JON GOSSELIN, REALITY TV STAR: People think I have changed, and I have changed. But I'm now the person I know I am.


BROWN: So, will Jon and Kate stay together? Will they call it quits? For whatever reason, America cares.

And that is the "Mash-Up."

Again, we're standing by to bring you President Obama. That's going to be live from the Radio-TV Correspondents Dinner, always a great, fun night in Washington. You're not going to want to miss the president trying to be funny.

But, first, Iran's supreme leader is warning of consequences, but protesters don't appear to be backing down. Our big question tonight, will there be more blood in the streets of Iran?

We will talk about that when we come back.


BROWN: And you're looking at a live picture from Washington, D.C. the Radio-TV Correspondents Dinner. President Obama is supposed to speak there in a little less than half-an-hour. He's going to be doing his best stand-up routine tonight. We are going to bring that live when it starts.

But we're going to start right now with our big question for tonight. And it is a momentous question, indeed. Will there be more blood in the streets in Iran, more than we are seeing in some of these video images? How bad can it get?

Earlier today, Iran's supreme leader made a strong statement about the situation in his country. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI, SUPREME LEADER OF IRAN (through translator): If political elite want to ignore law and break the law and take wrong measures which are harmful willy-nilly, they will be held accountable for all the violence and blood and rioting.


BROWN: And then, of course, not long ago, the president weighed in as well. This was in an interview with CBS News. Look.


OBAMA: The last thing that I want to do is to have the United States be a foil for those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States. That's what they do. That's what we're already seeing.

We shouldn't be playing into that. There should be no distractions from the fact that the Iranian people are seeking to let their voices be heard.


BROWN: Joining me now to talk about what may happen next in Iran from Washington, Trita Parsi, who is the author of "Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States," also here, Geneive Abdo, who lived in Tehran as a journalist after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Gideon Yago here as well, host of IFC's "Media Project," and Parag Khanna, who served in candidate Barack Obama's -- then candidate Barack Obama's foreign policy advisory group.

Welcome to everybody.

And let me just throw out our big question here and get your take on it. Will we see more blood in the streets tomorrow, this weekend?

Geneive, how worried are you?

GENEIVE ABDO, JOURNALIST: Well, I think that's highly likely, because today what we learned is the direction -- position of the state, which is that the elections will stand and that they're not making really any compromises.

So, I think that because the demonstrators have said that they're going on to the streets tomorrow, that's -- definitely the regime's response is going to be to crack down.

GIDEON YAGO, HOST OF "THE IFC MEDIA PROJECT": And it's not just any demonstration.

I mean, let's be clear on this. It's Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, who is an esteemed politician and probably the second richest man in Iran, Mousavi, Karrubi, one of the other candidates, and the former president, Mohammad Khatami, as well. So, it's almost a critical mass of people taking sides. And how hard, not if they're going to crack down, but how hard they crack down on these disparate groups coming together and forming a kind of opposition, that's something I think we're all going to wake up and see in the morning.

BROWN: Do you agree with that?

PARAG KHANNA, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: But even though the regime -- even though the regime has taken a very hard line, it does realize that, with some of these key players that are in the opposition being out there, it go too far. This is even though -- even if there is as a lot of violence tomorrow.

BROWN: It sounded pretty tough, though, the language we heard today.


KHANNA: This is, though, just the end of the beginning, let's say. It's not going to end tomorrow, even if there is a bloodbath, right? It's going to carry on for days, weeks, months, potentially. That's the way it has been in the past in Iran and in other countries where we have seen this gradual bubbling of foment and revolution.

ABDO: But, given the conflict within the state, I think that now it's really sort of the Ahmadinejad-Khamenei side against the so- called reformers. And I think that that's why Khamenei really has to take a position tomorrow. Otherwise, he's been completely discredited.

BROWN: Trita, let me bring you on this. What's your take?

TRITA PARSI, NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL: Well, unfortunately, I do also agree that there's a great likelihood that there will be more blood tomorrow, and it will probably be much more than we have seen so far.

The response of the regime, although very brutal, the response of the government, although very brutal so far, has still been somewhat limited compared to what it could be. And one thing we have to remember, when you take a look at the images of the Friday prayers, it was quite astonishing to see how few of the very important clerics were there.

Most of them were not there. And it gives you an indication that Khamenei is actually more isolated than he seeks to give the impression of.

BROWN: So, what is the endgame here? I'm asking you all to look into the crystal ball a little bit. But is this going to build? Are we going to see increasing momentum on the side of the reformers and the protesters? Or with crackdown after crackdown, does it start to dissipate, and we go back to what we had before?


PARSI: Well, the pattern in the past has been...

BROWN: Go ahead, Trita. You start.

PARSI: Sorry.

The pattern in the past -- we have to remember one thing. These are people who themselves did a revolution 30 years ago. And they knew one thing, that when the shah used his brutality to clamp down on the demonstrations, instead of making people demoralized and go back home, it actually caused demonstrations to mushroom.

So, if Khamenei tomorrow does not back down, does not agree that there needs to be some sort of a compromise, then he knows that there's a likelihood that his clamping down may actually cause this to go in a much, much more intense and dangerous direction.

ABDO: But I don't think -- I mean, this isn't 1979. I think that this is a very different time. And if we look at, say, the demonstrations of 1999, what happened over five or six days is that people did go home, once threatened.

And I think that that's what he's counting on. And that's what -- that's where I would place my bets, even though obviously we don't want to get in the business of predicting what will happen.


ABDO: But I do think that people, out of fear, will -- will eventually stop demonstrating.


KHANNA: And, then, yet -- and, yet, though, in 1999, you didn't have so many of the most prominent figures of the opposition, so many of the most prominent figures in the entire country out there along the side of the opposition. So, this will most certainly be different.

If, after tomorrow, the tipping -- or it tips in the favor of the opposition, what you're going to see is, when you ask for an endgame, maybe not so far as to say what the final outcome's going to be, but you will start to see the opposition leaders trying to figure out how they're going to reform this entire regime, potentially the entire political structure of the country.

BROWN: All right, we have got to take a quick break.

Christiane Amanpour is going to bring you a much deeper look into what's happening in Iran with her special this weekend. Watch "Anatomy of an Election." That's Saturday and Sunday night 7:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

And our newsmaker tonight is a woman who lived in Iran after the mullahs came to power. Azar Nafisi is the author of "Reading Lolita in Tehran," an amazing book. She has a lot to the say about the place of women in the Islamic republic. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AZAR NAFISI, AUTHOR, "READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN": They have been the main targets of the Islamic regime. And that is why they have been so persistent.


BROWN: And then tonight's "Great Debate," should President Obama do more to support the reformers in Iran, be more forceful in his language? We will debate that.

Stay with us. We will be right back.


BROWN: Welcome back, everybody.

Tonight's newsmaker knows, firsthand, that as daring as the protesters have been this week in Iran, the most courageous may be the women of Iran. Little by little, in a place where they are considered far from equal, women have started making inroads. And, this week, they joined the men in openly defying their government.

Azar Nafisi is the author of "Reading Lolita in Tehran," in which she writes about inviting female students into her home to read forbidden Western books, giving them a way to open up, to speak freely about their lives and their country.

Her newest book is called "Things I Have Been Silent About." And she joins us from Washington.


BROWN: Azar, welcome to you.

NAFISI: Thank you. It's lovely to be here.

BROWN: Well, let me start by just getting your reaction to what's been going on, to what we have been seeing in Iran over the last week.

NAFISI: Well, it has been very encouraging.

And it has once more proved that the Iranian society, especially the civil society and the Iranian people, are far in advance of what the Iranian regime claims it to be. So, I -- I see that this is a continuation of the movement that has been going on for many, many years.

BROWN: Is it frustrating, though, that it may well end up that the regime remains in power and there isn't a lot of change that comes from this?

NAFISI: You know, Campbell, it would be very discouraging if this movement is suppressed violently. But, because the Iranian people are dissatisfied with this system, they will come back. And every time they come back, it gains momentum. And every time they come back, they create more divisions within the system.

BROWN: We have seen so many women on the front lines of these protests. Why do you think that is?

NAFISI: Well, I think exactly because women have had a history of struggle.

Iranian women are very advanced. At the beginning of this revolution, we had even a minister for Iranian -- for -- for women's affairs. And, you know, that past would not make them satisfied with what was imposed upon them.

And -- and I think that they have been the main targets of the Islamic regime, and that is why they have been so persistent in not just fighting for their own lives, but linking the fight for their rights to the rights of the rest of the society.

BROWN: If there is a crackdown tomorrow on protesters and in the days ahead, as many people fear, do you think that women could bear the brunt of that in terms of the backlash?

NAFISI: Campbell, women have been bearing the brunt of it for 30 years. And I'm afraid that they will be bearing the brunt of it alongside with, of course, many of the young people, especially the students, yes.

BROWN: There are so many misconceptions, I think, we as Americans have about Iran...

NAFISI: Yes. Yes.

BROWN: ... and Iranians have about us. What are we missing? What do you think the most striking thing is that we should know and we should be thinking about right now?

NAFISI: Well, you know, Campbell, I think that many Iranians have less misconceptions about America that's -- than Americans have about Iran, because Iran has been mainly shown to the world through the eyes of the Islamic regime.

It is a Muslim-majority country. But Muslim women, like Christian woman, Jewish women, secular women, come in all sorts of colors and beliefs.

My mother was a devoted Muslim. She never wore the veil. She was one of the first women to go into the parliament to Iran. My grandmother never took off the veil. And, yet, she was against religion being abused by the state.

It is like over here, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Sarah Palin are all Christians and churchgoing, but they're very different in the views that they present to America and to the world.

So, that is what I think Americans should understand, the plurality of the Iranian society, which is so well-demonstrated in the images of its women.

BROWN: Azar Nafisi joining us tonight, of course, her amazing book, "Reading Lolita in Tehran."

It's so good to have you here, during this time, especially. We really appreciate it.

NAFISI: I appreciate being here. Thank you so much.

BROWN: Thank you.


BROWN: And, on Monday, our newsmaker is Jason Jones of "The Daily Show." You have seen how tough it is for real reporters to cover the Iranian election. Imagine going to Tehran for a fake news show.


JASON JONES, "THE DAILY SHOW": I will tell you this about the Iranians. They will not let you go anywhere without drinking tea. So, what would take maybe three hours to shoot an interview took seven, because they wanted tea afterwards and before.


JONES: So, "Before you go, just have some tea."

"Like, I have -- I have already had 12 glasses of tea today. I need to move on."


JONES: They're like, "Don't insult me."

"All right."


BROWN: Don't miss Jason Jones. He's going to be here Monday night.

Coming up: Could Hawaii be the target of an attack? The Pentagon seems to think so. We are going to tell you why in tonight's download.

Plus, the story of the first federal impeachment since former President Clinton.

And we are just minutes away from President Obama speaking in Washington. We're going to bring that to you live.


BROWN: President Obama coming up in about 15 minutes, telling a few jokes. You're watching it live. We will bring it to you live.

But let's get a look right now at the other must-see stories of the day, Erica Hill here tonight with tonight's download.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, the U.S. military saying late this afternoon, while it does believe the use of airpower was appropriate, mistakes were made and civilians killed in an airstrike on Taliban militants in Afghanistan last month.

The Pentagon report out late this afternoon finds, at least 26 civilians died because a U.S. warplane didn't follow the rules. The report also says 78 Taliban fighters were killed.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates now taking action in response to reports that North Korea may be getting ready to test-fire another missile towards Hawaii. Gates has ordered a sea-based radar installation near the island beefed up. And also interceptor missiles in California and Alaska are standing ready, although Gates would not say if the U.S. would actually shoot down a test missile.

A federal judge today becoming the first man impeached in the House of Representatives since President Clinton. Judge Samuel Kent from Texas is already in prison for lying about the sexual assault of two women who worked in his courthouse. If convicted in the Senate, Judge Kent loses both the seat on the bench and the salary he's still collecting from behind bars.

The sun making a little comeback today at the U.S. Open. The big question now is, can Tiger Woods?

On Thursday, heavy rain disrupted the start of the first round on New York's Long Island. When play resumed today, the defending champ soon found himself ten strokes behind the leader. No golfer in U.S. history, the U.S. Open history has ever bounced back from such a huge first round deficit although it is Tiger Woods.

And one day, who knows. Maybe we'll all hop on spaceships headed to the moon, maybe headed to Mars. For now, though, we've got a model spaceship at what officials say will become a space port for tourists in New Mexico.

Virgin Galactic owned by Richard Branson says 300 customers have already made down payments to take the first flight. The company says they'll begin in December of 2010. So there you go, mark your calendars.

BROWN: Yes, I wonder what it costs. It can't be cheap.

HILL: I know.

BROWN: Yes, a lot -- a lot of very rich people. Erica Hill, we'll see you in a minute with "PDB."

Tonight's "Great Debate," should President Obama do more to support reformers in Iran? If so, what? That's the hard part. Stay with us. That's coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Again, we are waiting for President Obama's speech. We're going to bring that to you live as it starts from Washington coming up in a few minutes.

But first, our "Great Debate." Should President Obama do more to support reformers in Iran? The president and his former opponent, Senator John McCain, have been publicly debating this, starting with the president's Tuesday appearance on CNBC.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So what I've said is, look, it's up to the Iranian people to make a decision. We are not meddling.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The president has refused to speak out in support of these brave Iranian citizens, most of them young who are risking their very lives.


BROWN: And just hours after Senator McCain said that, the White House spokesman came back.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There are people in Iran who would love not to make it about one side in Iran versus another, but to make this about Iran versus the West, Iran versus the United States of America. It worked great for years. The president is not going to do that.


BROWN: Backing the White House in our debate, UC Riverside Professor Reza Aslan. His book "How to Win a Cosmic War." Opposed is Alexander Benard, former Defense Department Council. He's joining us, as well.

We want your opinion too. Vote by calling the number on the bottom of your screen there. First, we're going to have opening statements from each, 30 seconds on the clock.

Alexander, clearly, you think the president should be doing more to support reformers in Iran. Make your case.

ALEXANDER BENARD, ATTY & FMR. DEFENSE DEPT. COUNSEL: Right, Campbell, thank you. Campbell, I think that the United States is at its best when it promotes not just its interest, but also its values. And it has now in Iran an opportunity to do just that.

The Iranian regime has presided over a rigged election. It has clamped down violently on protesters, and the question now is whether Barack Obama is going to speak out forcefully against these human rights violations and in favor of the protesters or whether he's just going to sit on the sidelines.

BROWN: Reza?

REZA ASLAN, AUTHOR & U.C. RIVERSIDE PROF.: I can't believe that those who are saying that President Obama should have a more robust statement condemning the Iranian regime and reaching out to the protesters actually have the best intentions to be honest with you. Because if you ask the protesters, they're all united in this. They say leave us alone.

There's absolutely nothing that Barack Obama can say to help the reform movement in Iran. Every word that comes out of his mouth will be used by the regime, by the supporters of Ahmadinejad to bolster their argument that this whole thing is nothing but a western ruse.

BENARD: Well, Campbell, that's simply not right. In fact, many protesters have come out via e-mail and through Twitter communications and have said that they're waiting for the American president to make a statement for the leader of the free world to say something in their support.

Roger Cohen, who is no fan of a hard line policy and is in Tehran right now had a column in the "New York Times" today in which he said that what's surprising the protesters the most right now is just the silence from the White House. And it's no surprise, really. If you're a protester in Iran, you're fighting against a brutal regime, you want to know that the world is behind you. And it's the president of the United States who speaks on behalf of the world.

BROWN: So, Reza, what would happen if the president just gave stronger words of encouragement to these people?

ASLAN: It would be the end of the reform movement altogether. It's as simple as that. And, by the way, Roger Cohen has said no such thing. What he said was that he was surprised by the brutality of the regime.

But the truth is that for eight years the Bush administration constantly reached out to these very same people, the democracy activists, the protesters, the young people. And to a person they all said the same thing, stop reaching out to us, you're not helping the situation.

Campbell, as an Iranian and as an American, and as somebody who has studied this country and who has a real stake in what's taking place in Iran, I can tell you that almost the unanimous opinion of the people who are on the streets is that the more the United States stays out of this, the better chance that they have to actually succeed.

BENARD: Well, we can argue about credentials all day. I don't think that serves the viewers.

I would simply say that it's surprising for Obama supporters who believe, of course, that the president is very popular and he, in fact, is more popular than President Bush in the Middle East. It's surprising that they would say a statement by President Obama would not be in the interests of the protesters.

ASLAN: Well, the Middle East is a different place than Iran. I mean, we're not talking about Egypt here. We're not talking about a country in which the United States has been supporting for the last 30 to 40 years. We're talking about a country in which the United States has been nothing but a force for bad, for meddling, from 1953 to 1979, to, in fact, the Iran-Iraq war. Iranians do not forget the role that America has played.

BROWN: Let me -- let me stop you guys, because I want to try to cut through some of this and get to another issue, which is that the administration has made it clear that they are committed to negotiating with Iran over nuclear weapons. And that's part of the reason, Reza, I think you would concede this that they've been so quiet is they're afraid of alienating this regime. If it does, in fact, remain in power, and they have spoken out, then it puts those negotiations in jeopardy. Is that part of what's going on? And how does what's happening now affect that?

ASLAN: I think that's why the Obama administration remained silent during the elections. They didn't want to become an issue in that election and it was quite a sophisticated strategy, which is all the more reason why it's hard to believe that Ahmadinejad actually won because he couldn't use the United States as a pawn in his argument.

But now that the elections are over and now that we're seeing an obvious election fraud -- and by the way, this is now no longer just about a stolen election, this is about the future of the regime itself. The Obama administration is not necessarily thinking about who it's going to talk to next. It's waiting to see what kind of Iran comes out of this. And whatever Iran comes out of this, we can't do anything about. This is something for Iranians to decide.

BROWN: Alexander, do you agree with that?

BENARD: Well, I agree that part of the reason the Obama administration is sitting on the sidelines right now is that it doesn't want to antagonize the regime. I question the value of that.

What do we really think will emerge from negotiations with either Ahmadinejad or Mousavi or whatever government results from this right now? Ahmadinejad has already said in his first press conference that he's not going to become more moderate, but is, in fact, going to become more of a hard-liner as a result of these elections. So I think that's really not a good excuse for the president to not speak out about this.

BROWN: All right. Let me ask you both. I try to end all of these debates by finding a little common ground. Is there an area where you both agree? Where you think that the president should focus his energy right now? Where you can see eye to eye?

Reza, you first.

ASLAN: I think that he needs to condemn the acts of violence and especially in the rally tomorrow, which will probably be the largest rally so far of the week-long protest...

BROWN: Right.

ASLAN: ... if there's violence, then the president has to come out, very strongly condemn the use of violence.

BROWN: Do you agree with that, Alexander? I'm sure you do.

BENARD: Yes. I agree with that absolutely. Nobody's asking for a CIA coup. Nobody's asking for Obama to send funding...

BROWN: Right.

BENARD: ... or arms shipments to the opposition. We're really just asking for a more forceful statement, so I agree with that.

BROWN: Common ground. Like it. Gentlemen, thank you both. Appreciate your views tonight. Thanks for your time.

And let's see how you voted in tonight's "Great Debate." Thirty percent agree President Obama should do more to support reformers in Iraq. Seventy percent disagree.

This is not a scientific poll as always, just a snapshot of what we got from our viewers who did call in tonight. Many thanks to those of you who did.

We have some provocative questions lined up for next week's "Great Debate." Monday's question, are doctors paid too much these days? That's coming up on Monday.

Right now, "LARRY KING LIVE," though, coming up at the top of the hour. Wolf Blitzer is sitting in for Larry tonight.

Wolf, what are you working on?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're working on the story that's about to happen on your show, Campbell. We're going to go to the radio TV Correspondents dinner right here in Washington, D.C. where President Obama's sense of humor is about to be on display. We're only minutes away from his remarks. We know he can certainly take a joke, but how good is he at making those jokes?

Penn Jillette, Mo Rocca among others, they're here to tell us. And we'll also, of course, have the very latest on the turmoil in Iran. The ayatollah speaking out today and words of warning for protesters. Will the situation there boil over this weekend?

We're going to talk about all that and a lot more on "LARRY KING LIVE." That's coming up at the top of the hour -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Wolf. We'll see you in a few minutes.

Again, as Wolf mentioned, we will be going to that speech live as soon as the president begins. Also, coming up, news of the president's best friend in tonight's "Political Daily Briefing." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Again, President Obama about to speak shortly. We're going to bring that to you live from Washington. You're looking at a live picture there. He will be taking the stage in just a few minutes.

But first, we've got the "PDB," our "Political Daily Briefing." Erica is back with the senator who is probably breathing a little easier tonight.

HILL: Yes. I think, maybe a whole lot easier it may turn out. Senator Roland Burris appointed to President Obama's former Senate seat will not be charged with perjury.

The Illinois State prosecutors saying that while the circumstances surrounding his appointment may be controversial, there is simply not enough evidence to show that Burris promised former Governor Rod Blagojevich anything in exchange for his Senate seat. Blagojevich appointed Burris prior to his impeachment.

BROWN: All right. You've also got some presidential dog news, I know.

HILL: This is the important stuff, right?

BROWN: Let's do it.

HILL: This is the stuff that we all need to hear about. Along with Bo Obama's official portrait released today, which is a lovely picture, we also got a baseball card. And this is really what you want to know about.

In addition to the standard stats like where and when Bo was born, we got some new information like Bo's favorite hobbies, which include playing on the White House lawn and family walks. My personal favorite on Bo's baseball card, his goal as first dog, which is make friends with foreign dognitaries. Very good, and apparently Bo likes tomatoes.

BROWN: Oh, really?

HILL: Yes. I've never heard -- I mean, my dog likes carrots and apples.


HILL: But tomatoes?


HILL: He spits the great tomato right up.

BROWN: There is also some presidential Father's Day planning going on as well. HILL: That's right. Of course, Father's Day is on Sunday. And in advance of that, the president spent much of the day highlighting the importance of fathers with some other pretty well-known dads. Among them, skateboarder Tony Hawk, who managed to sneak in a ride at the White House and at the nearby old executive office building. Plenty of fathers and sons were also at the White House today where the president stressed the importance of being a good role model and also reflected on his life as a dad.


OBAMA: I mean this. Nothing is more fun than being a father. Now, my kids aren't teenagers yet. So I don't know --


HILL: And he's got two girls. Good luck with that. I think he's going to be all right, though.

A little later the president and celebrity chef Bobby Flay firing up a Father's Day barbecue on the South Lawn.


OBAMA: Now, if you're a true chef like Bobby Flay, do you use your hand or do you used your palm?

BOBBY FLAY, CELEBRITY CHEF: It's up to you. Nobody is watching.

OBAMA: No, no. I want to do what you do.

FLAY: I use my hands.



HILL: There you go. Being just like Bobby Flay.

BROWN: Yes. That looks like fun.

HILL: I think they probably had a good time today.

BROWN: Yes. It does look like a good time.

HILL: That makes me hungry. I'm ready for dinner.

BROWN: A good time tonight to be had, as well, Erica. Stick around for this. President Obama getting ready to tell a few jokes. We've got an advance copy of his routine. Can't tell you what's in there, but you will see for yourself right after the break.


BROWN: The president at this live event in Washington, D.C. in just a moment. But first, every night we do bring you a breakout story from around the globe, the kind of story that we believe breaks through all the noise.

Tonight's breakout, the story behind the story we've been bringing you all week. The massive protest in Tehran following last week's election.

It's important to understand what brought things to such a dramatic flash point and few reporters can explain that like chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. But I'm being told that the president is just coming to the mike right now. So we'll hold Christiane until a little later. Let's listen to the president.


OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Thanks to all of you. Thank you. Please everybody, have a seat.

Before I get started as the father of two girls, can I just say how incredibly impressive those three young ladies were?


Dad would be proud.

To Heather and all the others who have made this evening possible, thank you so much. It is wonderful to be here. I want to express my appreciation for the opportunity to tell jokes that weren't funny enough for me to use when we did this five weeks ago.




The jokes may not be as good, but neither is the guest list.


I'm just joking.

For me, there's no contest. Why bother hanging out with celebrities when I can spend time with the people who made me one?


I know where my bread is buttered. Plus, we have our own luminaries here in attendance. The junior senator from Wyoming, John Barrasso is here.


I'm sorry, John Barrasso skipped this evening.

(LAUGHTER) Let me tell you, though, for those who haven't met him, John Barrasso is the George Clooney of junior senators from Wyoming.


It is great to be here with so much talent from the world of TV and radio. Despite the flood of new media, I think your programming is more relevant than ever before. At least that's the impression I get when I read the blogs every day.


It's good to see a number of hard-working correspondents here tonight. Journalists like Chuck Todd. I think I spotted Chuck over there somewhere. At this dinner, Chuck, embodies the best of both worlds. He has the rapid-fire style of a television correspondent and the facial hair of a radio correspondent.


Mika Brzezinski is here, I believe, in the house. Mika and I have a lot in common. We both have partners named Joe who used to be in Congress and don't know when to stop talking.


And happening now, Wolf Blitzer is here. He's the only man, the only other man in America with his own "SITUATION ROOM."


People assume that mine is cooler, but this is not the case. As hard as we've tried, we have not been able to generate the bandwidth necessary to turn Larry Summers into a hologram. We can't do it.


Now, one person that you know could not be here tonight is Secretary Hillary Clinton. As most of you know, Hillary broke her elbow a few days ago on her way to the White House. And we all wish her a very speedy recovery. I do have to say, though, that while it's been reported as an accident, there were some suspicious circumstances.

Just before the incident, Secret Service spotted Richard Holbrooke spraying WD-40 all over the driveway. So now on top of the cost of health care and energy and the recovery plan, we've got another fiscal problem. Fortunately, the lawyers tell me that Hillary's ready to settle.

I have to admit, though, it wasn't easy coming up with fresh material for this dinner. A few nights ago I was up tossing and turning trying to figure out exactly what to say. Finally when I couldn't get back to sleep, I rolled over and asked Brian Williams what he thought.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE) Now, the truth is Brian Williams is actually a terrible house guest. He put an empty milk carton back in the fridge, leaves his wet towels all over the Roosevelt Room. We're pretty sure he clogged the toilet and didn't tell anybody.


Although, I must say the whole thing was worth it. "Inside the Obama White House" is my favorite new show. There's just something really compelling about the main character.


It's a wonderful narrative. In fact, the show has been such a hit that all of you guys now want to come and take one in my house.

ABC is planning a series called "dancing with the czars." TLC's got something called "Jon and Kate Plus Peter Orszag." That's going to be good.

"Nick at Nite" has a new take on an old classic "Leave it to Uighurs."


I thought that was pretty good. Of course, giving the fiscal crisis in California, these shows all will be competing directly with Governor Schwarzenegger's new reality series, "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here."


That's how I feel tonight.


Look, it's nothing personal, but this dinner conflicts with my date night. I was supposed to be going out with Michelle for Thai food in Bangkok.


But I have been doing a lot of traveling, I just returned from a trip abroad, as you know, in Egypt. We had an opportunity to tour the pyramids. By now, I'm sure all of you have seen the pictures of Rahm on a camel.

I admit I was a little nervous about the whole situation. I said at the time, this is a wild animal known to bite and kick and spit. And who knows what the camel might do.


But I have to say as I traveled to all these countries, I saw firsthand how much people truly have in common with one another. Because no matter where I went, there's one thing I heard over and over again from every world leader. No, thanks, but have you considered Palau?


Of course, most of my attention's been focused here back home. As you know, we've been working around the clock to repair our major financial institutions and our auto companies. But you probably wouldn't understand the concept of troubled industries working as you do in the radio and television industry.

Oh, we don't joke about that, huh?


That's not -- one problem we're trying to solve is the high cost of health care in America. And I'm pleased that in our quest to reform the health care system, I've gained the support of the American Medical Association. It proves true the old expression that it's easier to catch flies with honey. And if honey doesn't work, feel free to use an open palm and a swift downward movement.


Now, the challenges we face are many, and I'll be honest I don't have all the answers. When I'm not sure what's right, I often ask myself, WWLD. What would a wise Latina do?


I'm proud of my nominee, Sonia Sotomayor.


OBAMA: To all those who say that there's no place for empathy on the bench, I say this, I completely understand how you're feeling.


OBAMA: When you're upset, I'm upset.

Another difficult challenge is how to help our automakers thrive in the 21st century. We tried a number of different approaches and tonight I'm announcing a new one. It's a plan passed on to me by a close friend and adviser, Oprah Winfrey.

So if each of you will look under your seat, you'll find that...


OBAMA: get a car company. You get a car company. And Fox, you get AIG.


OBAMA: Enjoy.

The truth is, as I've said all along, I have no ambition to run an auto company. I'm not the salesman-in-chief and G.M. will rise or fall on the quality of its products, like the taut athletic design of the new Buick Enclave. Its French seamed leather and warm wood tones make the Enclave more than transportation, it's a modern driver's retreat.


OBAMA: Come on, work with me here. I've got cars to move, people.


OBAMA: In all seriousness, despite the jokes I've told, I'm here tonight because I appreciate the work that all of you do and the role you play. You report the news as it happens and you're covering history as it's made, with a handheld camera or a mike, or now even a cell phone or a blog, you bring the truth to people and allow people to bring truth to the world.

We're seeing that now as history is unfolding. In the sounds and images broadcast from Iran over the last week, we've seen professional and citizen journalists act as a voice for those who want to be heard, bearing witness to the universal aspirations of democracy and freedom -- and often at great risk, and sometimes with great sacrifice. And they do it because the rest of us need to hear the stories that they tell.

In recent years, we've seen the same courageous reporting in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the Congo and in every dangerous corner of the world and everywhere there's a story that needs to be told.

I think all of you understand these are changing times. And as journalists, you understand that better than anyone. But one thing that will never change is the need to report the news as it happens, whenever it happens. This is what you do and this is what will help us meet the challenges of our time. We are grateful to you for that.

Thank you.

God bless you.

And God bless the United States of America.