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Interview With White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod; President Obama on Iran

Aired June 23, 2009 - 20:00   ET



CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: (voice-over): Tonight, here are the questions we want answered.

President Obama's appalled and outraged by what's going on in Iran. But will there be consequences for the crackdown?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that, when a young woman gets shot on the street, that's a problem.

QUESTION: Then why won't you spell out the consequences that the Iranian...

OBAMA: Because I think that we don't know yet how this thing is going to play out.

BROWN: President Obama fires back at critics. Is his message loud and clear?

Plus, Iranian diplomats invited for hot dogs on the Fourth of July, it's the question that's leaving the White House tongue-tied. Does the invitation still stand?

OBAMA: That's a choice that the Iranians are going to have to make.

BROWN (on camera): That means, I'm guessing, the invitation does still stand.

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: It means lets see what happens in the next few days.

BROW (voice-over): Tonight's newsmaker, senior White House adviser David Axelrod.

Also, "Great Debate." Is the stimulus working?

OBAMA: I think it's pretty clear now that unemployment will end up going over 10 percent.

BROWN: Seven hundred and eighty-seven billion isn't doing the job. What will it take?

And Chris Brown gets only five years' probation for beating up his famous girlfriend? What kind of message does that send to our kids?


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

BROWN: Hi, everybody.

We're going to catch you up on everything you missed from the president's news conference today.

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

President Obama today firing back at critics who say he has gone soft on Iran, amping up criticism of the Iranian government, but leaving one thing crystal clear: He is still not going to meddle. Check out Obama on Iran today, the CliffsNotes version.


OBAMA: The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings and imprisonments of the last few days.

I strongly condemn these unjust actions.

Right after the election I said that we had profound concerns about the nature of the election, but that it was not up to us to determine what the outcome was.

I have made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran and is not interfering with Iran's affairs.

QUESTION: Then why won't you spell out the consequences that the Iranian...


OBAMA: Because I think, Chuck, that we don't know yet how this thing is going to play out. I know everybody here is on a 24-hour news cycle. I'm not.

All of us share a belief that we want justice to prevail. But only I'm the president of the United States. And I have got responsibilities in making certain that we are continually advancing our national security interests and that we are not used as a tool to be exploited by other countries.


BROWN: We're going to have much more on the president's Iran dilemma later tonight. The Iranian government, meanwhile, today squashed any hopes this election could be overturned and showed once again that protesters will be punished.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": Inside Iran, restrictions have gotten so tight on just about everything, we're told, it's starting to feel more like an old-fashioned police state now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Iran's powerful Guardian Council killed all hope of an election rerun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have witnessed no major irregularities. There's no reason to annul the election.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Iranian state-run media reports President Ahmadinejad will be sworn into a second term some time between July 26 and August 19.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For protesters who challenged the government, a new punishment today, confessions apparently coerced showcased on state television.

NORAH O'DONNELL, NBC NEWS: Kaveh Alipour, he was shot in the head Saturday during violent clashes between protesters and militia. Well, get this. When the teen's family went to claim his body, they were told that they would have to pay a $3,000 bullet fee -- that's right, a bullet fee -- before taking the body back.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Neda, the 26-year-old young woman who was killed on the streets of Tehran, "The L.A. Times" had some amazing pictures, the pictures of her, a striking, beautiful young woman.


BROWN: President Obama was asked about Neda today by CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Back to Iran, putting a human face on this, over the weekend, we saw a shocking video of this woman, Neda, who had been shot in the chest and...

OBAMA: Right, I mentioned...

MALVEAUX: ... and bled to death. Have you seen this video...

OBAMA: I have.

MALVEAUX: ... and what's your reaction?

OBAMA: It's heartbreaking. It's -- it's heartbreaking. And I think that anybody who sees it knows that there's something fundamentally unjust about that.


BROWN: As Neda becomes a true martyr in the eyes of the world, online memorials popping up during the day, more than 100 alone on Facebook.

The other top talker at today's news conference, health care. We all know one of the president's biggest things is prevention, which brought one reporter back to the question the White House has been dodging for weeks.

Mr. President, do you still smoke, or what?


QUESTION: How many cigarettes a day do you now smoke? Do you smoke alone or in the presence of other people? And do you believe the new law would help you to quit? If so, why?



OBAMA: First of all, the new law that was put in place is not about me. It's about the next generation of kids coming up.

So, I think it's fair, Margaret, to just say that you just think it's neat to ask me about my smoking, as opposed to it...


OBAMA: ... it being relevant to my new law.



OBAMA: But that's fine. I understand.


OBAMA: It's an interesting human -- it's an interesting human interest story.

Look, I have said before that, as a former smoker I constantly struggle with it. Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes.

The -- am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No.

I don't do it in front of my kids. I don't do it in front of my family. And, you know, I would say that I am 95 percent cured. But there are times where...


OBAMA: There are times where I mess up.


BROWN: Mystery solved.

In South Carolina tonight, the latest on another mystery, the bizarre case of the missing governor.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where in the world is South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford? We finally have the answer.

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: The latest news that we're hearing is from the governor's office is that Governor Sanford called to check in with his chief of staff and said that he was taken aback by all this attention, but he's coming back to Columbia tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It turns out he was simply out for a long walk.

JOHN ROBERTS, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": He turned his cell phone off and went for a hike along the Appalachian Trail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His staff would not say where on the trail the governor was hiking, nor would his spokesman say whether or not he was alone.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: State law enforcement officials became so concerned that they traced Sanford's cell phone to try to figure out just where he might be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even his wife says she had no idea where he was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans within the state don't trust him, just think he sort of has a screw loose.

LT. GOV. ANDRE BAUER (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: What if we have a prison outbreak tomorrow? What if we have a natural disaster happen in our state? What do we do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unbelievably dopey move.

BLITZER: But he has four sons, and he didn't want to be with them on Father's Day?


BROWN: Well, this afternoon, CNN's David Mattingly caught up with the governor's wife, Jenny Sanford.

Her comment? "I'm being a mom today. I have not heard from my husband. I'm taking care of my children."

Strange story, indeed. And, tonight, before lights out, take a minute to remember the king of the late-night sidekicks.


ED MCMAHON, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JOHNNY CARSON": Ladies and gentlemen, here's Johnny!

Another guest coming out.



MCMAHON: Who's Ed McMahon? I'm on "The Tonight Show."

No one knows the contents of these envelopes. But you, in your borderline mystical way, will ascertain the answers, have never before heard the question.

Alpo. That way, you can be sure you're giving the dog the meat byproducts and the beef he loves. Now, doesn't your dog deserve Alpo?


MCMAHON: You may soon win $10 million in the American family sweepstakes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, just like us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Star Search" with your host Ed McMahon.

MCMAHON: I thank you, my family thanks you forever. Thank you, sir.


BROWN: Ed McMahon, everybody. He will be missed.

And that is the "Mash-Up."

Iranian diplomats were invited to the U.S. embassies for the Fourth of July. The big question tonight, does the invitation still stand? The president dodged the question.

And here was tonight's newsmaker, senior adviser David Axelrod.


BROWN: Can you answer it, yes or no, does the invitation still stand?

AXELROD: Well, what I said was what the president said which is that you know, the ball's really in their court. We'll see what happens in the next days. So...

BROWN: So that means, I'm guessing, the invitation does still stand. And the question is, will they show up?

AXELROD: It means let's see what happens in the next few days.


BROWN: What are the ramifications of giving a yes-or-no answer to that?



BROWN: Welcome back, everybody.

With President Obama sharpening his criticism of Iran today, our newsmaker can give us a better sense of the president's thinking on either talking to or talking about Iran.

A short time ago, I spoke with White House senior adviser David Axelrod.


BROWN: David, does President Obama accept President Ahmadinejad as the legitimate current and future president of Iran?

AXELROD: Well, that's not for us -- they're -- they're going through their process. They're going to fulfill their process. That's not for us to decide. That's a matter for the Iranians to decide.

BROWN: But what are we waiting for? Because we don't have independent observers there on the ground. The regime has spoken already.

I mean, when do you know that this is over?

AXELROD: Well, first of all, I think that there are still some pages to be turned over there in terms of the process. And we'll wait and see.

Obviously, as the president's said before, on the matters that are most concerning to Americans related to America -- the nuclear program -- these are decisions that are not made by the president, but rather by the supreme leader.

And so, in that sense, however different Mousavi and Ahmadinejad are -- and they're -- they clearly have different sensibilities -- those decisions wouldn't be in the hands of the president.

BROWN: Well, let me go to that point, then. The president has made it clear he wants direct unconditional negotiations with Iran on the nuclear program. Does anything that has happened in this last week make you think twice about engaging on that?

AXELROD: Listen, that issue is one of enormous importance to the American people and to the world and certainly to that region.

The idea of having direct -- direct talks with the Iranians is not as a reward to them, but as one more avenue to try and leverage them into a recognition that it is not in their interest to pursue their nuclear weapon ambitions.

And, so, you know, this is on a separate track. And I think...

BROWN: But -- but...

AXELROD: ... our security demands that we pursue every avenue.

BROWN: I guess my question would be is, how do you separate the two? I mean, here's a regime that -- that -- it's killing people on the streets of Iran, and you want to negotiate with them.

How do you trust that regime? And you've got to have that level of trust, presumably, to proceed with these kinds of negotiations.

AXELROD: Well, Campbell, I'm sure you're a student of history. And you know that over the course of history, there are adversaries who negotiate over matters. That doesn't -- that doesn't reflect approbation of how they can conduct their internal affairs.

Everybody here is dismayed and, as the president said, appalled by what's going on in Iran. But we can't simply walk away from the need to dissuade them that their nuclear program is a mistake if it includes weapons. And we're going to continue to use every avenue available to us to try and forestall that.

BROWN: In the press conference -- and, again, to the same point -- the president said that he won't discuss potential consequences of Iran's behavior, because, in his words, we don't know how this is going to play out.

But shouldn't the reason to talk about consequences be so that we can at least try to influence how this plays out? Don't we want to do that?

AXELROD: Well, I think one thing should be clear to the Iranians -- and I think there's obviously great division among the leadership in Iran -- is that the course that they've taken in the last 10 days is serving to further isolate them from the world. And so they can I think foresee negative consequences.

But, as far as we're concerned -- and the president said it today -- that we are in the middle of this story, and let's see how it -- how it moves forward.

But there is no doubt where we and the world stand on this. I think the Iranians know. What the president wants to avoid and what I think has guided him throughout is being used as a foil, as a propaganda tool for the Iranian regime to try and turn this into a dispute between the United States and Iran, rather than between the Iranian leaders and their own people, which is what it is.

BROWN: Not to beat a dead horse, but I'm going to beat a dead horse a little bit here, because I do want to try and get an answer...

AXELROD: It's your show.

BROWN: ... to try to get an answer to this question.

We're watching this violence unfold and yet your administration has told embassies around the world to -- to invite Iranian diplomats to their Fourth of July parties. The president was asked about this today. He didn't really answer the question.

Wolf Blitzer asked you about it, as well, and you didn't really answer the question.

Can you answer it yes or no? Does the invitation still stand?

AXELROD: Well, what I said was what the president said, which is that, you know, the ball's really in their court. We'll see what happens in the next days.

BROWN: So that means, I'm guessing, the invitation does still stand. And the question is, will they show up?

AXELROD: It means let's see what happens in the next few days.


BROWN: What are the ramifications of giving a yes-or-no answer to that?

AXELROD: Well, first of all, let me just say this. I don't think that the opportunity to have a hot dog at the embassy is likely the thing that is going to influence the Iranians. And I -- you know, that's not -- that's not a major tool of foreign -- of foreign policy policy.


BROWN: But it sends a powerful message. It is a way to open up a dialogue. It's about a lot more than having a hot dog. You know that.

AXELROD: Well, actually, it's a way to close down a dialogue.

I don't -- I don't think anybody in Iran is fixed -- fixated right now on what they're going to be doing on July 4 in embassies around the world. They have got a crisis that they ought to deal with. And they ought to resolve it in the interests of the people of Iran, and they ought to pull back from the repressive tactics that they've employed.

BROWN: All right. We will end it there.

David Axelrod, I know you've got a lot on your plate right now, and the president does, certainly on the foreign policy front. We really appreciate your time tonight.

Thanks for joining us.

AXELROD: OK, Campbell. Thank you.


BROWN: Tonight's "Great Debate," is the stimulus working? Plus, the big question tonight, is President Obama getting his message out loud and clear on Iran, on health care, even smoking?


OBAMA: I don't do it in front of my kids. I don't do it in front of my family. And, you know, I would say that I am 95 percent cured. But there are times where...


OBAMA: There are times where I mess up.



BROWN: Right now, let's get to tonight's first big question. Did President Obama's message come through loud and clear today? He covered a lot of ground in this news conference. But on everything from Iran policy to whether or not he still smokes, the president chose his words very carefully, so carefully, in some cases, did nuance maybe overwhelm the message?

We're going to talk about that with the panel. We have got Republican consultant Alex Castellanos joining us from Washington, Parag Khanna, who was a foreign policy adviser to candidate Barack Obama. With us as well, John Avlon, contributor to "The Daily Beast," and CNN senior political analyst Jeff Toobin, who is always here.

Welcome, everybody.



BROWN: Good to see you.


BROWN: So, let me just ask everybody this question. What was the most important thing that the president said today?


AVLON: Iran. And he should've, I think, been more focused on Iran. This wasn't a day for health care. This wasn't a day for -- and energy.

BROWN: But that's our fault. We were the ones asking the questions.

AVLON: Well, no, but I think -- he can -- his prepared statement had that built in.

What the world needed to hear from the president of the United States was all Iran. And that was the focus. He was taking a more hard-line approach today, I think consistent with his previous stance, YouTube diplomacy. But he needs to dial up the hope and change. People out in Iran need to hear hope and change from this president right now.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: See, I completely disagree.

I don't think that the people in Iran need to hear from the president of the United States, period. This is not for the president of the United States to determine. You know, we don't control Iran. There are a lot of things in the world we don't control, and I think the future of Iran is one of them. And what the president says doesn't matter that much.

AVLON: No, no, I think he does need to stay focused on, look, this is -- the Iranian people need to earn their own democracy, but he can be inspirational, without trying to fall into the Bush trap of imposing democracy.

BROWN: Let me bring in Alex into this, because, Alex, I'm guessing you need think he needs to even more aggressive than he has been?


The president today basically maybe stepped up the rhetoric, but again without any teeth. And we're seeing -- he's reached out to Iran certainly with his open hand, as he said in his speech in Cairo, and has been rewarded with missile testing, development of nuclear weapons, and now they're crushing people in the streets.

For this, he's going to invite them to help us celebrate the Fourth of July. So, no, I think he's weakened himself here. And, by the way, Campbell, when you pressed Axelrod on -- on the Fourth of July, I think -- I think we learned something there. You don't open a door in politics unless you're going to walk through it.

When he says, wait a few days, that means something's going to change.

BROWN: Is the level of nuance, Parag, hurting him in a way? I mean, he's trying to walk a fine line, which obviously he has to. But is it too fine a line?

PARAG KHANNA, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Diplomacy is all about nuance. That doesn't mean that it's ineffective.

People who read his words and saw his press conference will see very clearly that he talked about disgust with the situation over there. He made a message about human rights being a problem over there, but without infringing on the country's sovereignty. He did exactly the right thing by separating his concern about human rights with the geopolitical issues, as it were. And I think that's a very...


CASTELLANOS: But diplomacy...


BROWN: Go ahead, Alex.

CASTELLANOS: Diplomacy is not all about nuance, is it? Diplomacy is a combination of strength and nuance.

And, today, where was that strength from President Obama? You know, here's a country that has a stagnating economy, high inflation, is dependent on the Chinese economy and the European economy, our allies, France and Germany, who do a lot of business with them. Where's the economic pressure? Did we hear about that today?

BROWN: All right.

TOOBIN: Alex, the previous president's idea of strain and teeth was to invade Iraq. Would you like to see the president invade Iran?

CASTELLANOS: This president...


TOOBIN: That's this whole idea of weakness. And what's strength? Strength -- there is no -- we don't have leverage over Iran. When are Americans going to realize that we don't run the world?

AVLON: And I would actually argue that what Obama is doing is actually more truly conservative than what we saw from the Republican administration. This is actually consistent with the Cold War era lack of triumphalism when the Berlin Wall fell, that showed -- Reagan, who showed that you could negotiate, trust, but verify, but also hold up the political prisoners and dissidents behind the Iron Curtain and then try to inspire them.

This is, ironically, in some ways, a more conservative policy than we have heard from a Republican administration.

BROWN: Go ahead, Parag.


CASTELLANOS: This president has been so good on the one hand and on the other hand. On the one hand, we shouldn't have deficits and economic bubbles. On the other hand, he inflates them and spends.

We could've seen both hands today. And that is diplomatic strength. We didn't see that. Again, this is a country that has responded to his outreach, his open hand...

BROWN: Right.

CASTELLANOS: ... crushing, killing their own people in the streets. And our response is that we're not going to meddle.

BROWN: Parag, go ahead.

KHANNA: We're hearing a lot of Republicans wanting tough talk for the sake of their own satisfaction. That's not what diplomacy is about.

In Diplomacy, it is much more important how the other side receives and perceives what you say than making yourself feel good.

BROWN: Yes, but I want to challenge you on that. This isn't just political for everybody. There are a lot of people who believe that -- that you could do real good and raise the reformers up to another level, these protesters, by giving them a boost if you were more supportive.

I mean, it's not -- I don't think everyone who is arguing that point is doing it solely for political gain.

KHANNA: By the way, the reformers and the protesters are two different groups of people. The reformers is that political leadership. And by saying that you support them, it means that you are interfering in their election.

So, you have to focus on the protesters. And that's why he's talking about human rights, he's talking about protecting the people on the ground, he's talking about giving them justice. So, he did send a message to those people. Those are the people that he wants to give hope to. His message was directed at them, and not at the political...


TOOBIN: But why -- why...

CASTELLANOS: But, Campbell, when the president says that he doesn't -- he's going to measure his words and not meddle because he doesn't want to jeopardize relations with Iran's rulers, he is ceding his authority to conduct foreign relations to the ayatollah.

BROWN: All right.

CASTELLANOS: And that is a weaker position than we have seen from a recent president.

BROWN: Very quickly, Jeff, you get the last word.

TOOBIN: Well, I just think the idea that we can support these protesters by the president saying good things about them misreads our power here, and we just don't have that ability to do that.

BROWN: All right. Guys, got to end it there. Interesting discussion. Many thanks to the panel.

Tonight's "Great Debate" coming up: Is the stimulus working? The president today says unemployment may top 10 percent. But did his plan stop things from getting worse?

Plus, tonight's breakout, firefight in Afghanistan today. We're taking you right to the front lines.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It came from the top of the roof.






BROWN: In tonight's "Great Debate," we ask, is President Obama's stimulus plan working?

Now, here's the president today defending his plan at the news conference.


OBAMA: Here are some things I know for certain: In the absence of the stimulus, I think our recession would be much worse. It would have declined.

Without the Recovery Act, we know for a fact that states, for example, would have laid off a lot more teachers, a lot more police officers, a lot more firefighters. Every single one of those individuals whose jobs were saved, as a consequence, they are still making their mortgage payments. They are still shopping.

So, we know that the Recovery Act has had an impact.


BROWN: Confidence is slipping, that's according to a new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll.

Fifty-two percent now believe the stimulus will succeed. That's down from 59 percent two months ago.

Joining us for this debate right now, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich who served in the Clinton administration. He is the author of "Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life." And he was, of course, on President Obama's economic transition team as well. He thinks the stimulus is working. Dylan Glenn doesn't think so. He is a senior vice president of Guggenheim Advisers, and he served on President Bush's National Economic Council.

We, of course, want your opinion too. Vote by calling the number on the bottom of your screen. First, we get a 30-second opening statement from each.

Mr. Reich, you said the stimulus is working. Make your case.

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Well, look, Campbell, anybody can see that the economy is not in great shape. The best that can be said is the economy is getting worse more slowly.

Now, that's not very much of a consolation, but I'll tell you, things would be much, much worse if we didn't have a stimulus package because let's face it, consumers are not buying. Businesses are not going to invest if there are no customers. Export markets are drying up because the world is in a recession. So government is the spender of last resort. This is economics 101. And you need government to fill in that gap.

BROWN: Dylan, go ahead.

DYLAN GLENN, SENIOR VP, GUGGENHEIM ADVISERS: Well, Campbell, I have to just look at what the administration said back in January. They suggested that without the stimulus we'd be losing jobs by the middle of 2010 at a rate -- and unemployment rate would be at nine percent. Today the unemployment rate in the middle of 2009 stands at 9.4 percent.

And so I think that's one metric by which it should be judged. And I think another metric would be the money and the resources that have actually been put out into the economy. And if you believe the CBO, they estimate 40 percent has gotten out of the economy by now. The lion share coming in the out years '10 and 2011.

BROWN: Hold on.

GLENN: So I think by those two metrics certainly we haven't seen the stimulus work.

BROWN: All right. OK.

Secretary Reich, let me ask you to address those unemployment numbers today. Because even the president, you heard him conceded at this news conference that you thought unemployment would be at eight percent. Now he expects 10?

REICH: Oh, yes. Look, Campbell, I don't understate the seriousness of this recession. This is a great recession. There's a huge problem.

In fact if anything, I think that the stimulus package ought to be bigger. Because again, the gap between what we could produce at full employment and what we're now producing, the number of jobs being lost is larger than anybody anticipated.

That's $787 billion stimulus is fine as far as it goes and it's going to go much further this summer when a lot of the actual dollars are going to be employing people on infrastructure projects. But there's a lot more to do and I think probably if I were president and I'm not, I would have another stimulus package.

BROWN: So, Dylan, a second stimulus and more time, is that is all we need?

GLENN: I think if Secretary Reich were president, at least the stimulus would have been spent on stimulating the economy versus on pet pork projects that members of the United States Congress thought were important. I mean, the fact of the matter is, we're seeing money spent on non -- on discretionary items that have not actually gone to the consumer. If you're trying to profit the consumer to help that person make their mortgage or spend extra money to drive this economy, we haven't achieved that with this current stimulus.

REICH: Mr. Glenn, let me just ask you a question if I could. What's your idea? What's your answer? What do we do?

GLENN: Listen, I love the idea that one of my former associates floated. We should have just withheld -- rather given the -- reduce the withholdings that we take from average citizens so average citizen making, let's say $50,000 a year, you could have reduced their withholdings and they would have had roughly $1,500 in their pocket.

REICH: I'm all in favor of cutting taxes, but here's the problem. And we tried it in May of 2008, you remember, when people have a tax cut, what they do is they save, which is perfectly rational for most people. They save, they pay there -- you know, they pay down their debts.

Again, perfectly rational, but they don't spend. And unless you get spending, you're not going to get people back to work. That's why a tax cut is not going to work here.

GLENN: Yes. With all due respect, though, Mr. Secretary, I think transferring money to the states is not exactly an incentive (ph) that we've seen thus far and I think it will play out over the course of the rest of the year, not exactly stimulative either.

I think that we have to look at really allowing the consumer to have some of that money that they've earned through some way of --

BROWN: All right.

GLENN: But wait a minute, but consumers when they have more money not only do they pay down their debts, but they also go to the malls and buy things from China. I mean, it's not going to stimulate jobs in the United States.

BROWN: All right.

REICH: You got to have infrastructures then. BROWN: OK, guys, we're almost out of time. And I try to end the segment the same way every night by asking both sides if they can possibly find a little common ground, a positive note that we can end on. A step that you both agree that we should be taking right now that would improve things.

REICH: Well, I'll tell you, Campbell, it sounds as if Mr. Glenn agrees with me that a stimulus is necessary. He's calling a tax cut a different kind of stimulus. But I think there's a good debate that can be had about whether government spending or tax cuts are the best way of doing it. But we both seem to agree that you need to stimulate.

BROWN: Dylan?

GLENN: I think there's no question about it that this economy is on the brink of the worst recession since the Great Depression and maybe even the Great Depression revisited. So I think we needed stimulus certainly to come out of that doldrum. But I think, unfortunately, the administration haven't seem to get us the type of stimulus that we needed.

BROWN: All right, Dylan.

REICH: We need a bigger stimulus, a bigger stimulus.

BROWN: All right, gentlemen, we end it there. Many, many thanks. Secretary Reich, Dylan, appreciate your time tonight. Both of you.

GLENN: Thank you, Campbell.

REICH: Thanks, Campbell. Bye bye.

BROWN: Let's see how you voted in tonight's "Great Debate." Fifty-nine percent say yes, the stimulus is working. Forty-one percent say no.

As always, not a scientific poll, folks, just a snapshot from the viewers who did call in tonight. Thanks very much.

Tonight at 10:00, "AC 360" uncovers what could be one of the worst stimulus projects out there. This is $3.4 million to fix the world's most deadly highway for turtles. Yes, that is tonight "AC 360" 10:00 Eastern.

Tomorrow night, a new "Great Debate." Are high gas prices good for Americans? We'll be doing that right here tomorrow night.

And coming up in Iran tonight, it is quieter, but there is still defiance. The French president also rages against burqas, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck sued for plagiarism. All of that coming up in "The Download."

Plus tonight's breakout, we're taking you to the front lines of Afghanistan. Get a bird's eye view of a firefight between U.S. Marines and the Taliban.


BROWN: Let's check out some of the day's other must-see stories. Erica Hill here with tonight's "Download."

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Campbell. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be sworn in for a second term by mid August. That word coming today from the country's parliament. And we're also just getting some amateur video in from Tehran. Take a look at this.

You'll see a small group of protesters on the screen on a street corner there. Riot police appear to show up on motorcycles, everybody scatters. Again, this is just coming in to us, this amateur video out of Tehran.

The streets there far quieter actually today because of the heavy security presence at key corners and squares as you can see.

The French government now considering a ban on the burqa, the Muslim full-body veil for women. Parliament is studying the idea after some strong words from President Nicolas Sarkozy in a major speech on Monday.


NICOLAS SARKOZY, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): The burqa is not a religious symbol. It is a sign of enslavement, of debasement. I want to say this solemnly, the burqa will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.

We cannot accept in our country women imprisoned behind a net, deprived of all social life, deprived of their dignity. This is not how the French Republic perceives the dignity of the woman.


HILL: France has an estimated five million plus Muslims, the largest Muslim community in Europe. It is not known, though, how many actually wear the burqa.

There is no prison time for an off-duty Chicago cop convicted of pummeling a female bartender half his size. That attack captured on the surveillance video which police have to forget had a pretty widespread play.

Today, a judge sentenced Anthony Abbate (ph) to two years probation saying he didn't think prison time would "stop people from getting drunk and hitting people." Abbate (ph) must also attend anger management classes.

And Elisabeth Hasselbeck accused of plagiarism. The new co-host recently wrote a best-selling book on gluten-free dieting.

Well, now a self-published author from Cape Cod is claiming parts of that book were lifted word for word from a book she wrote and sent to Hasselbeck last year. She's now suing for copyright infringement. No comment yet from Hasselbeck, Campbell.

BROWN: All right. Erica Hill, we'll see you a little bit later with the "PDB." Thanks, Erica.

In a moment, our next big question of the night, did Chris Brown get off too easy? The singer got probation for attacking his girlfriend, Rihanna. Was it a slap on the wrist, or did the punishment fit the crime? When we come back.


BROWN: We're back with another of tonight's big questions, and it's one that everybody is gossiping about right now. Did Chris Brown get off too easy?

The singer who was charged with attacking his girlfriend, Rihanna, in February struck a plea deal yesterday and I think you've got to hear it to believe it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically the headline, no jail time at all, five years probation, 180 days of community service, and domestic violence counseling.

MARK GERAGOS, CHRIS BROWN'S LAWYER: For a first offender and this is a kid who's never been in trouble before, who wants to move past this and obviously wants to make sure that the message gets out that this -- these kinds of things and domestic violence are not acceptable.


BROWN: But did that message get out, or was the sentence just a slap on the wrist? Here now to answer that question, did Chris Brown get off too easy, entertainment attorney James Walker, Jami Floyd, who is anchor for "In Session," psychiatrist Gail Saltz, and CNN senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin.

Jeff, let me start with you. We all saw this picture of Rihanna beaten. Five year's probation sounds -- feels like a slap on the wrist for me.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, for better or worse, and I guess for worse, this is a fairly typical sentence for a first time offender. Keep in mind because of California's fiscal crisis, if he had even been sentenced to jail time, he probably would have gotten out very early. So, you know, lots of stories to intersect here.

The one good part of the sentence is that his community service will be picking up the trash, will be real, unpleasant community service, not what celebrities get, like what Martha Stewart got.

BROWN: Right.

TOOBIN: Counseling youth or something. He's really going to have to do something pretty unpleasant.

BROWN: It's not unpleasant enough for me.

TOOBIN: So I'd like to be outraged, but I'm not as outraged.

BROWN: But you say it would have been even, or a different scenario, had he hit a stranger versus his girlfriend.

JAMI FLOYD, ANCHOR, "IN SESSION": I think so. First of all, assaulting a complete stranger would have meant you'd have a complainant that wanted to go forward. And prosecutors, their hands are tied in a case like this where you have a victim who really doesn't want to go to trial. And it's not just because Rihanna's famous, this is a problem in domestic violence cases across the board.

BROWN: So, Gail, address that. Because that is the -- I mean, there is -- you know, the girlfriend is saying, I don't want to.


DR. GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST: It is a problem. It is a problem. It's why, frankly, the judge in my opinion needs to step up and make -- they didn't need Rihanna, they had the evidence. The message should have been much clearer.

We have a problem in this country with domestic abuse. It shouldn't be that if he picked on a stranger he'd go to jail but because it was his partner, he won't. I find this a very poor and distressing message.

FLOYD: But it's difficult for prosecutors because they do have to consider the victims wishes.

BROWN: Go ahead, James. James, jump in.

JAMES WALKER, ENTERTAINMENT ATTORNEY: I would beg to differ. I'm disappointed in what he did but as an entertainment attorney the man has lost $10 million. Let's point that out to the viewers.

BROWN: You say they both really blew a golden opportunity here.

WALKER: They both, but he's lost $10 million. When you look at his touring, he could have made 100,000 to 200,000 grand a night this summer, for the entire summer. And that's not to excuse what he did, Gail.


WALKER: But I want you to know, I want to point out that he has suffered a lot. And I want to be careful that we don't make him the face of domestic abuse. I think he should have --

SALTZ: Oh, my goodness.

TOOBIN: Wait a second, wait a second. So the fact that he lost a lot of money, so if you're rich, you don't have to go to prison. But if you're poor, you do have to go to prison. Is that what you're proposing?

WALKER: No. No, Jeff.

TOOBIN: That's what it sounds like to me.

WALKER: What I'm proposing -- what I'm proposing is that we give the full equation of the story. I put up a post up on my Facebook page today and I was surprised that many women said these are two young kids. And I work in the entertainment industry and you have to understand this is a 19-20-year-old man with millions of dollars, and we can't excuse what he did. I'm not in any way --

SALTZ: He has a lifetime ahead of him in which he can abuse other women.

WALKER: Right.

SALTZ: I mean --

WALKER: No, no, no, let me finish. Let me finish. But my point is I would like to have seen him do something symbolically, maybe a week in jail, maybe a month. But I don't think giving him five years at which he could have gotten would have been the answer.

SALTZ: No jail time. No jail time at all I think is an unusually --

FLOYD: And this is why -- well, but let's get back to what Jeffrey said earlier and you're completely right. This is fairly typical. We're all paying attention to it because it's Chris Brown.

I've represented hundreds and I mean hundreds of domestic violence defendants.

BROWN: But nobody is paying --

FLOYD: Just like Chris Brown, this is actually a tougher sentence than you usually get with a deal.


BROWN: I know, but what kind of message does not send to our kids?

FLOYD: This is a deal. We're not after a verdict.


BROWN: Because they're not paying attention --

FLOYD: Not the right -- he's a celebrity. Not the right message. Not the right message. But the problem is with the system, not with this case.

WALKER: Right.

FLOYD: If we don't like this result, we need to look at the laws related to domestic violence across the board.

WALKER: And Gail --

SALTZ: Then there is the problem with the system because the upside of being a celebrity is he can make $10 million.

WALKER: Gail, let me chime in. Let me chime in.

SALTZ: But on the same -- and he needs to be able to stand up for.

WALKER: Let me chime in. Let me chime in.

BROWN: Go ahead.

WALKER: The message to our young men is very disturbing to me. I have a halfway house as many of you know.

I'm very disturbed that he didn't do what we call the five R's, Jeffrey, which is regret, remorse, responsibility, and take some kind of level of regret, remorse, responsibility, and respect for what he did to this young woman. But at the same time we have to allow him to rehabilitate himself to recognize that as she said this is still pretty standard given the situation.

FLOYD: And if I'm his lawyer -- if I'm his lawyer --

BROWN: Hold on. Jeff?

TOOBIN: I'm all for the five R's. But the fact that he's an entertainer should have nothing to do with how he's sentenced. The whole goal of the legal system is to have equal justice under law.

FLOYD: Right. But nor should it mean a stiffer sentence.

TOOBIN: Exactly. And that's what's hard -- and that's what's always hard in these celebrity cases...

FLOYD: Right.

TOOBIN: ... is because the celebrity makes everybody crazy, and some people are treated more harshly, some people are treated more leniently. We want to try to treat them --

WALKER: But, Jeff, what he should have done is he should have announced a domestic abuse tour on February 10th. Two or three days after the incident, he should have announced I'm going to go on tour, but I'm going to donate some of my --

BROWN: A domestic abuse tour?

WALKER: Yes, where he speaks -- where he speaks --


BROWN: OK. All right. WALKER: I do think the community service --

FLOYD: It could be --

WALKER: I'm very disappointed that he hasn't done that.

TOOBIN: Why do people who screw up become the experts?


I don't want to hear from Chris Brown about domestic violence. I want to hear about someone who is against it, not someone who committed it.

BROWN: I'm with Jeff on that one.

WALKER: But the reality is young folks want to hear from Chris Brown.


BROWN: Oh, God, who knew?

FLOYD: I think the big message it really has to be about the larger issue of domestic violence.

BROWN: Yes. OK, we've got to go.

FLOYD: That would have to be the biggest.

BROWN: And we've got to end it there. Who knew there would be so much passion on so many sides of this debate? OK.

Coming up, we, of course, debate policy on Iraq and Afghanistan, but few of us have any idea of what it's truly like for our troops to be caught in combat. In a moment, tonight's breakout. This is an actual firefight taking place in Afghanistan.


BROWN: Welcome back, everybody. Every night we bring you a breakout story from around the globe. This is the very best of CNN, a piece that we just had to see again. And tonight, we have an incredible story, an incredible piece of video.

This is from Afghanistan, showing you precisely the kind of battle American forces are facing against the Taliban. You're going to watch an actual firefight caught on tape this weekend.

U.S. Marines under fire fighting back in the Helmand province not far from Kandahar, a center of Taliban insurgency. It's as close as most of us are ever going to get to the front lines. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE SOLDIER: Here we don't know the boundary yet of where civilians live and work and where the Taliban are, so we're checking that out today. I think we found it. We got engaged pretty heavily today when we came up here.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Angle it up north.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I fired the first shot. There's one behind the wall, but --

Staying about 200 meters. I bet you, that's exactly where the RPG came from, where we were taking those freaking shots...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... where they were shooting at us from. I swear, I swear it was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See the window right there? It came from the top of that roof.



BROWN: Just giving you a sense of what our Marines are going through. Fortunately, no casualties among the Marines. Those flash you saw at the end came from an aerial assault that was by both American and Dutch fighter jets.

When we come back our "Political Daily Briefing." Turns out President Richard Nixon had some rather provocative thoughts on the role of women in politics, especially if they were attractive. You're going to hear for yourself, thanks to some newly released Nixon tapes. Stick around.


BROWN: Time for the "PDB, our "Political Daily Briefing." And Erica is back. And hard to believe that President Nixon continues to be full of surprises.

HILL: Yes, I feel like we've heard a lot from him lately. And today hearing more than 150 hours of audio recordings are released today by the Nixon presidential library.

The secret tapes from January and February of 1973 cover a wide range of topics, Vietnam, Roe v. Wade, even some of the then- president's advice to the RNC chair at the time, George Herbert Walker Bush.


RICHARD NIXON, 37TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A thought that occurred to me when I spoke to the South Carolina legislature, I noticed a couple of very attractive women. Both of them were Republicans in the legislature.

I want you to be sure to emphasize to our people, God, let's look for some because understand, I don't do it because I'm for women, but I'm doing it because I think maybe a woman might win someplace where a man might not. So have you got that in mind?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, THEN RNC CHAIR: I will certainly keep it in mind.


HILL: Yes, it's not about women's rights, just about hot women.

BROWN: I can't believe that. OK, plenty more to hear in those tapes. But in the meantime, our current president still taking a fair amount of heat on a whole range of issues.

HILL: I know. A whole range of subjects -- Iran, smoking, and now the dog. Check this out in his interview with CBS.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been observing your dog looks like he's out of control.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bo -- Bo's, you know, he's a teenager. He's a puppy still. And he every once in a while does get a little frisky. But I would not want just a calm, passive dog. I want a dog with a little bit of spirit.


HILL: And everyone told me when we did this story, breeders, everybody said you need a lot of energy.

BROWN: OK. That's it. Here's Larry King. See you.