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Jackson's Memorial Service; Powell's Opinion of President Obama; Palin Resigning As Alaska Governor

Aired July 3, 2009 - 18:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: And how you can get into Jackson's memorial service. The online giveaway of thousands of tickets is underway right now.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I am Suzanne Malveaux, and you are in the "Situation Room."

For the second time in her career, Sarah Palin is taking the political world by surprise. She announced today that she is stepping down as Alaska governor at the end of the month, less than a year after she became John McCain's unexpected vice presidential pick.

Palins says that she is calling it quits because she didn't want to be a lame duck once she decided not to run for a second term as governor.


GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R-AK) FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will support others who seek to serve in or out of office. And I don't care what party they're in or no party at all, inside Alaska or outside Alaska.

But I won't do it from the governor's desk. I have never believed that I nor anyone else needs the title to do this, to make a difference, to help people.

So I choose for my state and for my family more freedom to progress all the way around, so that Alaska may progress. I will not seek reelection as governor.


MALVEAUX: Palin did not take any questions during a news conference at her home in Alaska. And many Republicans and Democrats alike can't help but wonder if there is more to this story.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. You have been following this. You watched it as it unfolded, the news breaking. Why did she step down? Why did she decide to do this at this time?

CANDY CROWLEY, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Right now, all we have to go with are whispers from her staff, which are right in line with, of course, which is not surprising, with what she said from her backyard in Wasilla, which seems to boil down to this -- she thinks she can do her job better and promote her ideas better if she is not governor.

But she said it in that very special Alaskan style.

PALIN: ...quickly to a comfortable analogy for me, and that's sports, basketball. And I use it because you are naive if you don't see a full course press from the national level picking away right now a good point guard.

Here is what she does. She drives through a full-court press protecting the ball, keeping her head up because she needs to keep her eye on the basket. And she knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team can win. And that is what I'm doing, keeping our eye on the ball.

That represents sound priorities, remember, they include energy independence and smaller government and national security and freedom. And I know when it is time to pass the ball for victory.


CROWLEY: So that seems to be saying she thinks it is time for her to move on. She is passing the ball so that she is not a lame duck and someone can move them and push forward the agenda of Alaska, and she will.

She also talked about insults to her son, Trig, the one with Down syndrome. She talked about the media and how she didn't like that kind of scrutiny. It was kind of -- there were multi-reasons handed out there.

I think you're right, some people are going, you know, right before the Fourth of July on a Friday afternoon. And it doesn't seem on the face of it to make sense. But you've had some people on saying that it is brilliant.

MALVEAUX: And it begs the question though, what does this mean for 2012? Is she setting herself up to represent the Republican Party in becoming the presidential nominee for the Republicans?

CROWLEY: The argument for, yes, absolutely, because it might be a bad time to run when you are in government office, and political office. She can go out and make contact. She can give speeches. She can write a book.

But what happens to the experience thing? She has been in this job 2.5 years, and now she is leaving this job. So those saying bad idea are saying what does this do for her experience level?

MALVEAUX: OK, Candy, thank you so much for your insights.

Now, to the investigation of Michael Jackson's death. The Associated Press reports a powerful sedative called Dprivan was found in Jackson's home. It is an anesthetic widely used in operating rooms to induce unconsciousness. Let's bring in Drew Griffin of CNN's special investigations unit. Drew, this isn't the first time that Dprivan has been connected with Michael Jackson. Tell us what you know.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You are absolutely right. And again, we want to emphasize this is a single source telling the Associated Press that the drug was found inside Michael Jackson's home.

The biggest question here, number one, was there a pump or an administering device in that home as well? And was any of this in Michael Jackson's body?

But, as you stated, Suzanne, it was a nurse practitioner who treated Michael Jackson from January to about April who brought up Diprivan, which is a sedative mainly used in ICUs to put people under. That's what it's used for.

She said somewhere along that line, when she was treating Michael Jackson for his insomnia, for his sleeping problems, Michael Jackson asked for this drug by name, almost begging her to help find it. And she was warning him just how strong and dangerous this drug was.

Here is what she told us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said who is the doctor? And if he gave it to you, where is he? I mean, why are you asking me? He said "I don't know where he is. It was a long time ago, but I know this worked for me."

And he actually sat there and said "I'm telling you, when I have that IV in my hand, when I have it in my hand, when it drips in my body the first drop, I'm asleep. And all I want to do is sleep."


GRIFFIN: Medical professionals, including our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, say that is how this drug is administered. And it needs to be monitored, usually by an anesthesiologist, someone that would presumably stay up and watch the person being put under.

Now, the physician hired by Michael Jackson to monitor him was at that home that night, Dr. Conrad Murray. He has been fully cooperative with police.

We went to his attorneys today, Suzanne, to ask if there was any comment on this Diprivan statement coming out of the A.P. And here is what his attorney had to say that -- "We are treating all unnamed sources as rumors. And as we have stated before, we will not be responding to rumors or innuendo. We are waiting for facts to come out, and we will be responding at that time."

That is from Matthew Altra, the attorney for Dr. Conrad Murray, who, again, is not a suspect, has talked with police. Police say he has been fully cooperative. And he is free basically to go.

We are waiting still for the coroner's report. Unfortunately, Suzanne, that is still weeks and weeks away.

MALVEAUX: OK, thank you very much, Drew.

And of course, let's bring in our own chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to talk more about Diprivan and what we are learning about Michael Jackson's prescription drug use.

Sanjay, it is clear that this is not the kind of thing that you would get a prescription for, this particular drug. How would it be that Michael Jackson, if he had this in his possession, how would he get such a drug, such a powerful drug?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It is very interesting, Suzanne, because you are absolutely right. On one hand, you can't write a prescription for this. This is an IV drug that, as Drew mentioned, has to be administered in some sort of continuous fashion, usually through an IV pump of some sort.

On the other hand, it is not officially considered a controlled substance. So doctors who are working at hospitals, anesthesiologists, could take this drug and take it out of the hospital, and it could possibly be obtained that way.

There are also wholesalers that sell it to hospitals, and, possibly, it could be obtained through one of these wholesalers.

It is not something I have heard of being used in this sort of setting. I have only heard it used in either hospital or medical settings. So it is a little bit of an unusual setting. But those are two things that immediately came to my mind.

MALVEAUX: And Sanjay, if Diprivan it was found in the house, would there have to be other medical equipment that was also found to administer this type of drug?

GUPTA: That's a great question, and the answer is, yes, absolutely.

You have to have it -- here is the thing about Diprivan or propofol. It has what's called a very short half-life. So it doesn't last very long, just a few minutes. As soon as you stop giving it, the effects wear off, which means that you have to have some sort of pump, and IV pump of some sort to continuously administer it. So that is the first thing that you would probably expect.

You would also expect the person who is getting it to have an IV in their arm, most likely.

Add also, if it is being done in some sort of hospital setting, they typically have monitoring equipment. They measure oxygen, heart rate, blood pressure. All that testing equipment would be there too if the person would be monitored safely, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you very much, Sanjay, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Right now, Jackson fans are swamping a Web site in hopes of getting free tickets to his memorial service. A P.R. firm says the site to sign up for the random drawing for tickets got 500 million hits within the first hour and a half. That is 120,000 hits per second.

We'll have a full report ahead on the ticket giveaway for Tuesday's big farewell in Los Angeles.

Sarah Palin is quitting as governor but her refusal to give answers is raising questions. How will this impact her political future? The best political team on television is weighing in.

And Colin Powell tells CNN he and President Obama stay in touch. But Powell also had some complaints about what the president is doing. Just wait till you hear them.

And in Afghanistan, U.S. marines are trying to break the backs of entrenched enemy fighters. We will show you where the "strike of the sword" is happening.


MALVEAUX: More now on the story that is shocking the political world. The highly visible governor of Alaska, just months after being thrust into the national stage, will resign as governor this month.

Let's bring in two CNN political contributors, Donna Brazile at Democratic strategist, and Republican strategist Ed Rollins.

I want to start off, obviously, this was news that was surprising to many, many people here. Ed, does this indicate to you a potentially 2012 presidential run, a president bid, or does it look like she's going after a 2010 Senate run for Alaska?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't think she knows what she is going to do, let alone may know what she's going to do. But all I can tell you is that if this was for 2012, it was a very, very stupid idea.

You can't walk. I don't know -- I have been in this business 40 years, and I challenge Donna, who has not been in the business not as long because she's much younger -- I challenge you to tell me one governor who has ever quit who wasn't indicted or chased out of office midterm.

She's got a tough assignment up there. Alaska's in trouble, like many other states. And to say, I am going to walk away and go outside the system and do better things for my state around the country looks foolish.

Her job was to make herself look less foolish as this one on, and I think to a certain extent this just causes more questions about her judgment and is she really ready for prime time.

MALVEAUX: Donna, bad idea, good idea?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: If you look at it from, I'm sure, Governor Palin's perspective, this was an opportunity for her to get ready for 2012. This will free her up from the day-to-day responsibilities of chief executive of the state of Alaska. This will give her an opportunity to write that book that, hopefully, is a blockbuster, because she needs a blockbuster in order to be successful candidate in 2012.

She will have an opportunity to criss-cross the country, the lower 48, and begin to build up a portfolio for 2012.

So I think that although I would not have advised her to quit at the end of this fiscal year, because that's when most states and, at the end of June, I would have told her to at least take it another year, but she's clearly freeing her schedule to prepare for 2012.

MALVEAUX: Let's put up a poll here, the latest CNN poll here, some of the possible Republican contenders and the favorables that we are looking at here, Republican choice for presidential nominee in 2012, this back in May -- Mike Huckabee, 22 percent, Sarah Palin, 21 percent, Mitt Romney, 21 percent, Newt Gingrich, 13 percent, Jeb Bush, 6 percent.

Ed, she is neck and neck with Huckabee and Romney.

ROLLINS: I preface this by saying I was Huckabee's chairman, so I honestly have no bias there.

I promise you, if any one of those candidates below her would have been named by John McCain, which is one vote, they would be way out in front.

The reality is that at this point in time she is where she is because she was picked as the running mate. I think she did a pretty good job in the course of that. I'm a fan of hers. I'm not a detractor. And I have sat on this show many a time and at many dinner parties around New York City defending her.

I think this is a stupid, stupid move. It's going to cause speculation that she got chased off for some reason that we will never quite know what the answer is.

And even if there is nothing else but the purposes that she laid out in a very misconstrued press conference, I think that she has damaged herself -- not irreparably, because she is 45 years old, but I don't think this is a smart move to go for 2012.

MALVEAUX: Doesn't this open the opportunity here, Donna, for her perhaps to get more support by raising money for the Republican Party. Is she not a big draw among a lot of the conservatives, the base out there, if she gets out there? And perhaps she will change some minds in Washington.

BRAZILE: Look, I am speaking as a strategist, not as a Democrat or Republican. But when you are a sitting governor and you travel across the country, you're using state resources like security details, she wrote some pretty tough ethics rules that she would have to follow.

So again, this frees up Governor Palin to go out there early on to build up the kind of portfolio she needs.

Now, I agree with Ed. She needs to get rid of some of those novices around her, because her public image, the way that she came across even today, she is not up to speed for 2012.

Again, if Sarah Palin is interested in being a serious Republican candidate in 2012, she needs the time to get the level of experience that will give voters an opportunity to take a double look at her come 2012.

MALVEAUX: Donna Brazile, Ed Rollins, thank you so much for joining us in the "Situation Room."

ROLLINS: Thank you.

BRAZILE: Happy fourth.

MALVEAUX: You too, Donna, thanks.

Tens of thousands of people want to be there, and you can do. What can you do right now to get a ticket to Michael Jackson's memorial service?

Plus, the spiritual side of Michael Jackson. The role religion could play during the public memorial.

And chaos on the streets. Cell phone video reveals a dangerous scene in Honduras. Soldiers take aim at buses full of protesters.



MALVEAUX: As the often folksy Sarah Palin might put it, what the heck is she thinking? The best political team on television is digging deeper into Palin's stunning decision to resign as Alaska governor. Is there more to the story than she is saying?

Also ahead, I will ask Michael Jackson's tour promoter about Jackson's state of health before he died and whether more videos of his last reversals might be made public.

And so far, the response is overwhelming. We are tracking the online lottery to attend Jackson's memorial service.


MALVEAUX: You are in the "Situation Room."

Happening now, breaking news, Sarah Palin dropped a political bombshell, announcing that she is resigning as governor of Alaska. We are looking at the fallout for her and the Republican Party.

Also, it is the largest offensive in Afghanistan since the US invasion almost eight years ago. Operation strike the sword, 4,000 marines taking on the Taliban.

Plus Vice president Joe Biden in Iraq, his capacity overseeing U.S. policy there. Tomorrow, he will celebrate the Fourth of July with U.S. troops.

I am Suzanne Malveaux and you're in the "Situation Room."

They are the most sought after Michael Jackson tickets ever, and they are free. People are signing up for the random drawing online right now, just four days before the big event at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

A P.R. firm says the Web site to register for the random drawing got 500 million hits in the first hour and a half. Our CNN Susan Roesgen is there. And Susan, how many people are going to be able to attend this memorial? This is a huge, huge event.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not 500 million, I can tell you that, Suzanne. Of all the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Michael Jackson fans who might want to be here, only 17,500 tickets are being given way.

We understand the Staples Center holds about 20,000 people, so it makes sense. They are giving away 17,500 tickets. You do have to register, though. And registering has shut down the Staples Center Web site at least once today, may do it again, as so many people logon line trying to be the lucky ones trying to get one of those tickets.

They are going to have a computerized random drawing tomorrow here at 6:00 local time, and then that's it. And they are asking people not to logon more than once. They say it won't increase your chances.

But already, as you mentioned, Suzanne, so many people are trying to logon. Of course, some of them might be scalpers. I mean, let's face it, some people are going to try to make a buck off this even though the promoters are saying they don't want that, that none of the tickets are supposed to be sold.

And the LAPD here, Suzanne, is saying, if you don't get a ticket, which means just about everybody else, please, please, please don't come down here. They are going to cordon off the streets around the Staples Center because they say they just can't handle the crowds -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: And Susan, do we know anything about the funeral?

ROESGEN: We don't. That's the one big question still.

We understand that there is going to be a private memorial service for the family somewhere before the big public memorial here at the Staples Center. But you know what, Suzanne, no one has said yet where or when Michael Jackson will be actually buried.

MALVEAUX: Susan, thank you so much.

It is one of the many mysteries that surrounded Michael Jackson in life and now in death. What exactly was his faith? Our CNN's Brian Todd is looking into that for us. And Brian, what we know about what people leave?

TODD: Suzanne, we know he was raised as a Jehovah's Witness. But like so many unanswered questions at the end of Michael Jackson's life, his religious leanings and how they might be reflected at these memorials are a bit of a mystery.


TODD: He seemed to always embrace a spiritual side. But details about Michael Jackson's religious preference at the end of his life and how we might see that reflected in his memorial service are sketchy.

His brother, Jermaine, reminisced with Larry King about the family's religious background.

JERMAINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S BROTHER: We were raised as Jehovah's Witnesses, to tell you the truth.

TODD: An offshoot of Christianity, with millions of followers, Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the current world order will be destroyed, and afterward, their believers will have a chance to live on in a world ruled by Jesus Christ.

Michael Jackson at one point described going door to door as a child, distributing literature for that faith. But it is not clear if Jackson was still a Jehovah's Witness at the end of his life.

Shmuley Boteach says he was Jackson's rabbi from 1999 to 2001. Rabbi Boteach, who has also counseled other celebrities, says he and Jackson had several conversations about faith, but that he never sought to convert Jackson to Judaism, and he doesn't believe Jackson ever did.

In our interview using Skype technology from his current location in Iceland, Boteach said he believes Jackson parted with the Jehovah's Witnesses.

RABBI SHMULEY BOTEACH, JACKSON'S FORMER CONFIDANTE: The church does not like when people are worshipped. They don't like when people become magnets for too much attention. And the way he described it to me, he and the church fell out over that.

TODD: There have also been rumors that Jackson, at certain times, adopted traditional Christianity and Islam, the religion followed by his brother Jermaine.

JACKSON: As we started traveling, we started embracing different religions. But the most important thing, my mother and father instilled the right morals and principles in us. And it was Allah, which is God, Jehovah.


TODD: Which one might we hear mentioned on Tuesday?

Might we hear all of them mentioned?

It is still not clear. Rabbi Boteach says Jackson's mother Katherine and at least one of his sisters are still Jehovah's Witnesses. And he says Michael Jackson once told him he was "a citizen of the world," that he believed he could extract what he thought was best from every religion.

And we tried to get guidance on all of this and on what religious leanings this memorial might have on Tuesday. From the firm handling the Jackson family's public relations. A representative said they would try to get us an answer on that, but they haven't come up with an answer yet. I think they really want to play down the religious angle here -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. We'll see what they do on Tuesday.

TODD: Right.

MALVEAUX: Thank you so much, Brian.

He supported candidate Barack Obama, so how does Colin Powell think President Obama is doing?

The former secretary of State is handing out some praise, but also identifying problem areas.

Joining us now, the host of "STATE OF THE UNION," John King -- and, John, you had a chance to sit down and talk with Colin Powell on a number of subjects, but, obviously, the president being first and foremost.

What did he tell you about his assessment of how the president is doing and some of his priorities?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: An interesting conversation because, as you know, Colin Powell has been in this running feud with Rush Limbaugh, who says he doesn't belong in the Republican Party, with Dick Cheney, the former vice president, who says he thinks Colin Powell, because he supported candidate Obama, must have left the Republican Party.

Well, Colin Powell says, no, I am a proud Republican. And he praised the president when it comes to issues like his support for community service -- the big summit he had recently at the White House on fatherhood. Big praise there.

But Colin Powell's tone changed significantly when the subject turned to taxes, spending and the reach of government.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KING: I want to ask you a question about some of his other priorities. But I want to ask them in the context of the speech you gave to the Republican National Convention in 1996.


COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I became a Republican because I believe, like you, that the federal government has become too large and too intrusive in our lives. We can no longer...


POWELL: We can no longer afford solutions to our problems that result in more entitlements, higher taxes to pay for them, more bureaucracy to run them and fewer results to show for it.



KING: And my first reaction looking at that clip is you could probably sell your aging secrets, because you look -- you look great.

But as...


KING: As the -- has the president of the United States, in that regard, when it comes to financial institution bailouts, General Motors bailouts, spending by government, whether it's health care reform or the debate now about climate change, when it comes to spending and the reach and role of government...


KING: ...does President Obama meet the tests Colin Powell laid out in '96?

POWELL: Well, first, let me say, that was a pretty good statement, I thought. And I believe in all those things.

But I also believe that we should have a government that works. I don't like slogans anymore, like limited government.

KING: Right.

POWELL: That's not the right answer. The right answer is give me a government that works. Keep it as small as possible. Keep the tax burden on the American people as small as possible. At the same time, have government that is solving the problems of the people. People want their problems solved. And very often it's government that has to do that.

So let's have good government, effective government, whether you call it limited or not. And I think one of the challenges that President Obama has now is that he's got so many things on the table and these are issues that the American people find important -- health care and so many other issues.

But I think one of the cautions that has to be given to the president -- and I've talked to some of his people about this -- is that you can't have so many things on the table that you can't absorb it all. And we can't pay for it all. And I never would have believed that we would have budgets that are running into the, you know, multi- trillions of dollars. And we are amassing a huge, huge national debt that, if we don't pay for in our lifetime, our kids and grandkids and great grandchildren will have to pay for it.

So I think the president, as he moves forward with his initiatives, has to start really taking a very, very hard look at what the cost of all this is and how much additional bureaucracy -- and will it be effective bureaucracy -- be needed to make all of this happen.

KING: So it's early, but you're a little worried.


KING: Is that a fair way to put it?

POWELL: Yes. Yes. I'm a little concerned. Concerned would be a better word. I'm concerned at the number of programs that are being presented, the bills associated with these programs and the additional government that will be needed to execute them.

KING: As you go forward, you say you talked to his people. Let me draw -- you say you talked to his people.

What's your relationship with him?

POWELL: Very good.

KING: Do you talk to him very much?


KING: Does he seek your advice?

POWELL: I -- I have met with him not too long ago. I don't insert myself, but we stay in touch.


KING: So a very polite tone there, Suzanne, you heard. But what Colin Powell was saying there, politely, in a soft-spoken manner, is much what we hear from Congressional Republicans, that the president is trying to do too much too soon, the country can't afford it and maybe he should scale back some.

So maybe after all that criticism of General Powell for voting for Barack Obama, maybe now some Republicans will say, hmmm, he's back on message.

MALVEAUX: And do you get a sense from talking with him that he's going to support President Obama in the long haul, even for his re- election bids?

KING: I asked him that, because, remember, he keeps saying I'm still a Republican. And I asked that question -- are you committed now?

You supported him once, will you support him for reelection?

He said way too early. Let's see how this all plays out. He raised those flags about spending and the reach of government. Again, was complimentary in other areas. But he said we're at, what, day 167, I think, of the Obama presidency.

MALVEAUX: Right. Right.

KING: Almost at the 170-day mark. He said, you know, ask me that one a bit down the road.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thanks again, John.

KING: Sure.

MALVEAUX: We're looking forward to seeing the interview.


KING: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Colin Powell had a lot more to stay to our John King. You can watch the full interview this Sunday on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." That airs at 9:00 a.m. Eastern here on CNN.

Well, first the shock, now a slew of questions -- why is Sarah Palin resigning as governor of Alaska?

We'll ask the man who will become governor.

Plus, Lady Liberty marking the Fourth of July in a very special way -- we'll take you there.


MALVEAUX: A political bombshell -- Sarah Palin announcing that she is resigning as governor of Alaska.

Joining us to talk about that and more, CNN's senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley; Politico White House correspondent, Nia- Malika Henderson; and CNN's senior political analyst, David Gergen.

Now, we have been talking about this all afternoon -- a surprising, surprising announcement. First and foremost -- I want to start with you, David. Some are saying this discounts her altogether, that she is out of politics. She says she can play a role that is, perhaps, more significant stepping out of the political arena.

Do you believe her?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I don't think she's stepping out of politics at all. I think she has one ambition and that's for the White House. And who knows, she could get the Republican nomination. She has a 73 percent approval rating in a Pew poll this past month. She's bunched right up there with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Throw the dice and maybe she can make it.

But let me just say one other thing, Suzanne. I bet there's another ambition here, too, and that's for money. The -- it was reported last fall that she and her husband are worth about $1.2 million. She's got a book coming out next year. The way to make some money is put that book out there, hit the lecture circuit, build up the book. She could -- she could be worth several millions of dollars a year-and-a-half from now.

MALVEAUX: I mean, it's hard to tell, really, what her motivation is -- what is really driving this.

Is it her sour relationship with the media, trying to reinvent herself, her image?

Is it the family -- the fact that so much messiness has occurred?

What do you think is going on behind-the-scenes?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, she certainly gave all those reasons as a reason to step out of the governor's mansion there. But one of the things I thought of, in thinking about her decision, is if you look at what Barack Obama did, he essentially ran for president for four years. He decided early on that the Senate wasn't really a place for him in terms of getting stuff done, in terms of having a national profile. He wrote a book.

And in those mid-term elections, he was all over the country stumping for some of these -- you know, some Democratic candidates.

So I think it will be interesting to see what she does in 2010.

Is she out there in some of the hard-fought races in Virginia, in New Jersey, in places like Pennsylvania?

Is she an asset to some of these Republicans?

And that will be -- get a good sense of what her prospects would be for 2012.

MALVEAUX: Candy, read the body language of Sarah Palin. Read the tea leaves, if you will.

When you saw that announcement today, what -- what struck you? CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I -- you know, it -- it did strike me that -- that she seemed a little bit more up than usual. She does have that speaking style where sometimes it's hard to follow her. We've got a lot of reasons, but I don't -- you just didn't have the feel that we got the reason.

But I have to tell you, you know, it was well, I need to -- I can do better work outside government; I want to spend some time with my family; I want to do this and that; when, in fact, there are some friends around her that are saying, you know, she's done with politics.

I don't believe it. I'm like David. But there are some who get that sense around her.

MALVEAUX: I want you guys to take a quick listen to one of the things that jumped out in her -- in her statement today -- one of the reasons that she said that she didn't want to stick around and be a lame duck.

Take a listen.


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: I know it may be tempting and more comfortable to just kind of keep your head down and plod along and appease those who are demanding, hey, just sit down and shut up. But that's a worthless, easy copout. That -- that's a quitter's way out. And I think a problem in our country today is apathy. It would be apathetic to just kind of hunker down and go with the flow.


MALVEAUX: She goes on to say: "We are fishermen. We know only dead fish go with the flow" -- David, what kind of political strategy is this?

GERGEN: Look, I think most of us long ago gave up trying to figure out what goes on in Sarah Palin's head. You know, this is a calculus that none of us can quite get. It seems bizarre from the outside. It seems, you know, it seems bewildering, I think, to most people who know anything about politics.

But the idea that by quitting the job she asked people to put her in is somehow -- you know, she's something better because she quits a job as governor, a job she told the whole country was so important, I just think is just -- it's nonsense.

MALVEAUX: Nia, I wanted you to take a look at this poll. This is a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, actually back in May -- back in May. Republican's choice -- these are the favorabilities here for 2012. Mike Huckabee leading with 22 percent; Sarah Palin following, 21 percent; Mitt Romney, 21 percent; Newt Gingrich, 13 percent; Jeb Bush, 6 percent.

There's a pack in there that -- the top three are all pretty much vying for that top spot.

Does this help or hurt her in terms of raising her profile, her favorabilities?

HENDERSON: Well, it certainly gives her room to run. I mean all those other folks who are bunched up in there with her, they don't really have full-time jobs. They don't have a state to run.

So I imagine in these next days, we'll see her all over the place -- obviously, in the lower 48, on talk shows, on the Sunday talk show circuit.

So it definitely -- it just frees her up to -- to not only enhance her name recognition, which is already really high, but also to kind of burnish her brand, because she is still so much a figure that, you know, conservatives like and what she needs to do now, clearly, is become more of an independent -- a figure that Independents can like.

MALVEAUX: I want you all to stand by for just a moment.

We have Megan Stapleton, who is Palin's spokeswoman, who is actually on the phone with us, joining us.

Thank you very much, Meg, for being here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Can you explain how this came about?

When did the governor make this decision and how did she decide that she was going to announce this today?

MEG STAPLETON, PALIN'S SPOKESWOMAN: Well, thanks, Suzanne. It's good to be on here.

I think that one thing that is escaping everyone thus far is her true heart and mind. And they are both with Alaska. And so in terms of how she came to this decision and when it happened, she came to the decision because as she continued to make great changes for Alaska and achieved incredible success and came back from the campaign trail and continued to try and make those changes to implement her vision, she found that resistance.

And she found, as she looked up more and more, that state time and resources were being just wasted with frivolous ethics complaints coming in and FOIA requests and lawsuits, but to an extraordinary extent and from literally those doing opposition research.

And so she said OK, really, is this good for Alaska?

Is this what a governor is supposed to do, sit and watch money going down the drain?

MALVEAUX: So is...

STAPLETON: And so it came to a point where she said, personally, the state -- I have a vision. My lieutenant governor and I have a vision. The state needs to go into the lieutenant governor's hands so that she can continue to effect change, but outside of her role as governor.

MALVEAUX: So just -- just to be clear here, you're saying that she came to the conclusion that she was more of a liability to Alaska as governor than if she left?

STAPLETON: No, I think -- I know you want to put that sort of negative word in there.

MALVEAUX: Well, no...

STAPLETON: ...but it's not that she's a liability. It's that she has a vision for this state and she wants to effect change. And she knows that the best way and the best place to effect change, at this point, is outside of her role as governor, because, as governor, people are just focused on bringing her down, rather than building up the state. And that's not who she is.

MALVEAUX: Megan Stapleton, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We now have Sean Parnell, the lieutenant governor of Alaska, soon to become the new governor of Alaska.

Thank you for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Can you give us a sense of when did you find out about Sarah Palin's decision here?

Did you know this was coming?

And what did she say to you?

LT. GV. SEAN PARNELL (R), ALASKA: You bet. I'm happy to.

On Wednesday night, the governor asked me to come to her office. And she spoke with me then about -- about her plans. And, really, her comments reflected what you heard today from the governor. And I just thought she put them so well. I couldn't -- I couldn't add or detract from them in any way.

MALVEAUX: What did she say to you when she brought you to her office?

PARNELL: I think the same thing that you -- you heard from her -- her lips. And, again, I'm not -- I don't want to put any new words in her mouth that she said. I think she said it so well in her statement, that that's just where I'm going to leave it.

MALVEAUX: What do you make of assuming now the -- the job here?

Is the State of Alaska in -- is it a healthy economy? Is it in a good state here? What has she left you with?

PARNELL: She has left us with a great legacy. And I'm -- I'm just -- I've been honored to serve with her. We've got a surplus of money. We're in that fortunate state, compared to most states. We've got a natural gas pipeline in the works to fuel hungry American markets. And we've got -- we just have great, resourceful people. And I -- I think we're in -- we're in top shape at this point.

I'm just -- I'm just very thankful for the service she's rendered.

MALVEAUX: Did you agree with her decision that it would be better off for people in Alaska for her to step out of her position, to resign as governor?

PARNELL: You know, I -- I was surprised at first and didn't understand it, because I think the traditional, you know, political thing to do is to stay in a position like that and then, you know, leverage it for something greater.

But that's not Sarah Palin. I mean she is a real person with real dreams for real people. And when she believes that she can effect better change for others through other means, she's going to do that. And that's what I -- that's what I love about her. That's what Alaskans love about her, is her independent streak. And she exhibited it again today in great ways.

MALVEAUX: Thank you very much.

Sean Parnell, lieutenant governor, soon to be the new governor of Alaska.

I want to bring back our roundtable back in here -- Candy, if -- your reaction to -- to the lieutenant governor. He says that he was brought in, told the news on Wednesday. He thinks the State of Alaska is in good shape and agrees it's a good idea.

Do -- do you buy all this?

CROWLEY: I think he's in the Palin camp. And that's clearly what you heard here. It's still -- there's some piece here that is missing. And I know they say, oh, it's, you know, it's Palin's style and this is what she is. But this -- she was elected by the people of Alaska to serve a four year term. She served two-and-a-half years and now says, well, I can do better outside the government. It just -- it just is a story that doesn't feel like it's complete.

MALVEAUX: Nia, Megan Stapleton, Palin's spokeswoman, said that she believed it was a negative term to use the word liability, that she was more of a liability. She took issue with that.

What do you make of the explanation that Sarah Palin gave when she said she thought the people in Alaska would be better off if she was in -- outside of the government in a different kind of job?

HENDERSON: Well, I mean it's -- it's a non-argument. I mean it's essentially like going into your bosses' office and saying I love this job so much and I love, you know, my colleagues so much, that I'm going to quit and, you know, serve the company outside of it. So it's -- I mean it sounds a lot like spin and I agree with -- with Candy, this whole idea that essentially this raises more questions than answers. And it seems to me that there's another kind of shoe to drop in terms of this whole -- all of these ethics investigations that are going on there.

MALVEAUX: OK. We've got to leave it there.

Thank you, all of you, for joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

HENDERSON: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Thousands of American Marines right now in a massive offensive to oust Taliban militants from Southern Afghanistan. We have the latest on Operation Strike of the Sword.

Plus, something big is about to happen at the Statue of Liberty for the first time since 9/11. We'll take you there.


MALVEAUX: In Afghanistan, U.S. Marines are trying to break the backs and the will of entrenched enemy fighters. Those Marines have to do it carrying guns, heavy gear and in heat that one said feels like you're sticking your head into an oven. It is the second day of the first major operation in President Obama's new Afghanistan strategy. It's known as Strike of the Sword and involves some 4,000 troops.

Let's get a better sense of where this is happening.

Our CNN Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is here to explain -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you're talking about an area that has almost completely been controlled by the Taliban. You know, you're talking about an area where -- some areas where people haven't seen the Afghan government there in five years.

Here are some of the cities we're talking about. And the operation involved about 4,000 Marines coming in, dropping into this area right in here, Garmser and Khan Neshin, coming in here. And, also, they've been getting help from some of the Pakistanis, shoring up their part of the border down here, so that when they push down, the Taliban isn't able to just flow over the border.

We'll show you some of the images of what some of the soldiers have been going through in this area. This gives you an idea. There's been some intensive fighting -- sort of really, really intense fighting and then it dies down; really intense fighting and then it dies down again. That's what the Marines have been going through.

One Marine has been killed, several injured and even some have been stricken by heat exhaustion. You mentioned the heat. It's 110 degrees. You can see the kind of packs that they're carrying there. It has been an intense fight, at times. And they're operating far from some of their bases.

One other difference with this, also, the Marines are staying there. They are sleeping in these towns -- not behind walls, not behind big bases. They're trying to show the people there that they are going to stay this time and try to build some security.

You can also see in here another big difference. This is pretty much what the Marines have been using -- the .20 millimeter gun on the helicopter. They have, for the most part, avoided dropping those bombs. Using this puts them at more risk, because it's got to fly low. But it gives them more direct fire. And that's a big part of this new strategy -- minimizing Afghan casualties even if that's going to be riskier for U.S. troops -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Chris.

Visitors at America's symbol of freedom can soon enter its crown. We'll have a report from the Statue of Liberty


MALVEAUX: On America's Independence Day, a big moment for an American icon -- the Statue of Liberty's crown reopens tomorrow for the first time since September 11th.

CNN national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, is in New York with the story -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, as I'm coming up the last steps into the front of the Statue of Liberty, I can tell you that we got a special preview, being up here one day before it reopens to the general public for the first time since 9/11.

And here we are inside Lady Liberty's head. The deck itself is not very big -- only eight feet across. So you can imagine why not many people can fit up here at one time. But here are the 25 windows. As you look outside, you can see part of the torch, some of the seven points on Lady Liberty's crown, which represent the seven continents, the seven seas and the seven known planets at that time.

It's a thrill to be up here. And starting tomorrow, again, the general public will be able to come up here. And you can buy tickets online. And they are sold out through August. But we will be broadcasting from Liberty Island all day tomorrow, the 4th of July. Be here -- back to you Suzanne.


Very cool, Susan.

One last program note. We had hoped to bring you the CEO from AEG to talk more about the Jackson memorial, but he had to reschedule. We're going to catch him next time. Be sure to tune into THE SITUATION ROOM Saturday edition.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux in for Wolf Blitzer here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


Kitty Pilgrim is in for Lou -- Kitty.