Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Sandusky Waives Right To Hearing; House May Vote On Tax Cut Extension; U.S. Wants Drone Back; Four Dead In U.S. Chopper Crash; Troops Ashes Dumped In Landfill; Florida A&M Hazing Arrests; Illegal Immigrant Crackdown; Six-Year-Old Boy Saves Mother From Car Crash; Turf War On Immigration; Joe Arpaio Interview; HGC: Unapproved And Illegal; Maliki Meets Leaders in Washington, Is Iranian Influence Over; Three Weeks Until Iowa Caucuses

Aired December 13, 2011 - 13:00   ET

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


JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Joe Johns, in for Randi Kaye. It's 1:00 on the East Coast. Let's get straight to the news.

Former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky is pleading not guilty to charges he raped young boys. His not guilty plea comes after Sandusky waived his right to today's preliminary hearing, which means he will be put on trial. He was minutes away from coming face to face with a number of his accusers on the verge of potentially explosive testimony from 11 witnesses who prosecutors say were standing by ready to recount in detail how Sandusky allegedly sexually abused some of them. Moments after leaving court, Sandusky simply said this about his decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERRY SANDUSKY, FORMER ASSISTANT COATH, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY: Stay the course and fight for four quarters and we'll await the opportunity to present our side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we couldn't do that today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: A lot on the line for both Sandusky and his alleged victims. Keep in mind, Sandusky faces more than 50 counts involving ten young boys he allegedly targeted over a span of more than 15 years. Let's go straight to Nancy Grace who's been all over this case to try to get a better understanding of all of this. Nancy, was this a smart decision by Sandusky and his attorney?

NANCY GRACE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It was a win-win decision. It was a win for the defense, Joe Johns, because otherwise they would have had the case laid bare for the public, granted it's a closed courtroom, to cameras, but there are spectators and reporters that can hear what happened and they would have had heard every excruciating detail from these alleged victims. Now, to our count, we can identify five alleged victims there waiting in line to testify against Sandusky. So, they would have given their testimony.

The win for the prosecution is the defense did not get a dry run at cross-examination. Now, this is what I predicted to you yesterday should go down. The state should under no circumstance offer up all of the alleged victims like a Thanksgiving turkey, to get sliced up on cross exam. They did it that. Now, for the defense, you know, defense attorneys typically would love the chance to go fishing at the expense of the state's witnesses, here it would have been a P.R. nightmare for Sandusky's lawyer.

So you know, today the lawyer, Amendola, is out on every news network talking about how great it was there was not a preliminary hearing. You know what? I don't care what he says all right, all I care about is what Sandusky says and for once Sandusky's remaining quiet.

JOHNS: Now, let's listen to a sound bite that we got from Sandusky's attorney earlier today. Here's what he said about the decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE AMENDOLA, ATTORNEY: In return for us waiving this hearing, which was a close decision, we really kind of labored over whether we wanted to do this, but ultimately, we decided it would be better for Jerry to be guaranteed that he can remain out on bail pending a resolution in this case and trial rather than proceed with a preliminary hearing and run the risk that additional bail might be set either today or a later point in time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Now Nancy, sitting there listening to that on your couch at home or whatever, you're going to think that's a big win for the prosecutors. Is it really?

GRACE: Get real! Look, they were having talks into the night. So, all of this would not come out on the witness stand. Hey, it was no skin off the prosecution's back to avoid putting their witnesses on the stand. This was a big win for the defense. Don't tell me it was a last minute decision. He was on his knees last night begging the state not to go forward. This is the state's decision, all right? They could have gone forward whether the defense liked it or not. In fact, it's their duty.

But here they are moving forward, we're going to have another court date in a couple of weeks, mid-January, where there will be an arraignment. And I guarantee what's going to happen there, it's just going to be a not guilty plea entered and Sandusky will probably not even show up in court. Why? Because it'll be another chance for him to look bad. I mean, how can he avoid it? There's like 40 counts of alleged child molestation.

JOHNS: Well, you also have to wonder whether there's going to be a plea deal in all of this, because we've heard so much about the evidence. Now, realizing some of that evidence is already been called into question, at least the testimony, do you think there are chances of a plea dell -- GRACE: Oh, really? Says who? You? What's been called into the question, nobody has taken the stand yet. Hold on just a minute friends.

JOHNS: McQueary's testimony before the Grand Jury has certainly been called into question, am I right?

GRACE: By who?

JOHNS: Well, we talked about it yesterday on this very program, Nancy.

GRACE: I know, but I asked who called it into the question? The defense has. You get -- oh, I need to come to Washington to straighten you out. Let me tell you something, the defense is going to use every public forum they can to attack the state's witnesses. And listen, even if one witness, McQueary, has been called into question, as you saw today, they are lined up to testify against Sandusky. How many more states' witnesses can they destroy on cross- examine? Maybe McQueary is a fatality for the state, but he's one of many.

JOHNS: So, do you think the attorneys for Sandusky have messed up this case? Do you think it's irrefutable? Is he going to have a defense somewhere down the road that he didn't have good counsel?

GRACE: Well, whenever there's a conviction, it's SOP, standing operating procedures, that the defendant sits in jail and then decides his defense lawyer is to blame. Now true, the defense lawyer should never have let Sandusky go on air and interview with anybody. That was a big mistake. All of that can and will come into court. I can guarantee you that. But the reason that we're in court now is not because of the defense lawyer, it's because of the allegations claimed against Sandusky. Sandusky has made this mess, and he's the one that going to have to answer in court for it.

And regarding a plea as you wisely mentioned a few moments ago, it would likely be in Sandusky's best interest to enter a plea so all of this doesn't come out in open court. But I guarantee the state is not going to go down without hard jail time, so Sandusky and his wife need to resign themselves to the fact that he's going to jail.

JOHNS: So, you do think his wife has real legal exposure at this point and would you be advising her to get a lawyer if she hasn't already gotten one?

GRACE: No, I don't think she's got any real legal exposure. Under our jurisperitus system, even if she heard a young boy crying for help, which I don't think she did, I believe the little boy's story. I believe that did happen from what I have read, but I really do not believe this woman, this good and kind hearted woman would have turned a deaf ear to a little boy calling out for help. I don't think that she heard those cries. I don't think she has any legal exposure and I do not think she's going to be prosecuted. Of what? Of being a trusting and believing wife? You know? I don't think any jury in this country would find her guilty. Now, Sandusky is an entirely different matter.

JOHNS: Nancy Grace, it is always a pleasure to talk to you, and I learn something every time I do.

GRACE: Bye, friend.

JOHNS: Now, the other stories making news this hour, the House of Representatives may vote today on a Republican plan to extend the payroll tax cut. Democrats have been pushing to extend the cut which will otherwise expire next month, but the Republican plan adds conditions Democrats don't like, including the construction of a controversial oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. Even if the Republican plan is approved by the House, Democratic leaders say it won't pass the Senate.

President Obama wants Iran to return the U.S. drone it claims to have downed. It says the U.S. has asked for the drone and is waiting for a response. The Iranians say the unmanned aircraft was on a spy mission over Iran and they say they're keeping it. There is concern the drone could provide Iran with U.S. military secrets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Anybody on either side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Former vice president Dick Cheney tells CNN that the -- President Obama should have ordered an air strike to destroy it.

Four soldiers died last in a helicopter crash near Tacoma, Washington. Two of the U.S. Army's OH-58 KIOWA observation helicopters crashed in a training area at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Investigators are trying to determine what went wrong.

A Congressional panel is holding its first meeting today looking into reports of serious misconduct at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary. Most of America's fallen troops pass through the Delaware base as they prepare for burial. An Air Force investigation concluded that remains were mishandled and that body parts were incinerated and dumped in a landfill.

There's news about another hazing investigation involving the Florida A&M Marching 100 band. Three band members were arrested yesterday in connection with an incident that allegedly occurred weeks before the death of drum Major Robert Champion. Police say the suspects attacked band member, Bria Hunter, on October 31st and November 1st, breaking her leg and causing blood clots. So far, police are not linking the suspects to the alleged hazing death of champion three weeks later.

Just how far can a state go in its crackdown on illegal immigrants? And does Arizona go too far? As the U.S. Supreme Court is prepared to take up the case, I'll ask one of the toughest anti- immigration in the nation, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County joins me next, stay right there. But first, meet Aaron Wright. According to Buffalo affiliate WXXA, the brave 6-year-old saved his mother after her car flew down a 50-foot snow covered embankment trapping her inside. Aaron managed to escape, make his way out of the woods, and find a man who called 911. He's too shy to adds met he's a hero but not to say how much he loves his mother. Aaron, you are a total "Rock Star!"

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Enforcing immigration laws is a tough job but somebody's got to do it, the question is who? Sometime around next June, the Supreme Court will tell us whether it's solely the job of the federal government or whether the states can join in. Arizona, for example, the high court has agreed to take up four key parts of that hugely controversial Arizona law known as SB1070. That law requires police to check the status of suspected illegal immigrants who are stopped or arrested for other reasons.

It makes it a state crime for immigrants to violate a federal registration law and makes it illegal for undocumented immigrants to hold or try to find jobs. And it let's police make warrantless arrests if they believe the suspects are deportable. Lower courts at the urging of the White House have put all of the measures on hold but now Arizona wants clarity. And when it comes to immigration enforcement, nobody is more clear than my next guest, Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio. Sheriff, thank you so much for coming on.

JOE ARPAIO, COUNTY SHERIFF, MARICOPA COUNTY: Thank you.

JOHNS: Let me read you one sentence from an appeal court opinion opposing SB1070. Judge John Noonan writes, the idea that 50 individual states or one individual state should have a foreign policy is absurdity too gross to be entertained. What do you think of that statement? Does Arizona have a foreign policy and is that appropriate?

ARPAIO: Well, I spent years in Mexico enforcing the laws with the federal drug enforcement. I'm kind of shocked at that decision was made by that judge but now I'm happy that we're going to the Supreme Court and get this problem resolved. You ought to keep foreign problems away from us and Arizona enforcing state laws.

JOHNS: Now, how much a difference does this law -- this individual law really make to you? If the Supreme Court says the law has to be struck down once and for all, would you still be able to do your job? Or would you be hand strung in any way there?

ARPAIO: No, that's a good question, Joe. We've been doing the job anyway, 80 of 50,000 people we have investigated and arrested on the streets and in the jail system. It doesn't change anything. I do like certain parts of that new law but I'll tell you one thing, we've been doing it under two other state laws. We have two other state laws, one is the employer sanction that the Supreme Court ruled in our favor. So, it's not going to change anything I'm doing regardless of what that decision is. JOHNS: So, the fact of the matter is, if you look at this thing closely, the Supreme Court could do away with SB1070 and you wouldn't be affected?

ARPAIO: That's right. We got two other state laws we're enforcing. Not that -- forget the 1070, we raid businesses on the employer sanction, we catch people coming in from Mexico into our county, thousands we've arrested. It had nothing to do with the 1070.

JOHNS: Now, do you have any second thoughts about what you're doing because, as I understand it, the fellow who wrote this law has actually been booted out of office and they're coming after you too.

ARPAIO: Well, let them come. As long as the laws are on the books, I am going to enforce those laws. I'm the elected sheriff. So you don't like it, take the laws off the books. If they're on the books, this sheriff will continue to enforce it.

JOHNS: What do you think about these politicians out there who say there ought to be humane enforcement, if you will. I think Newt Gingrich is among those who have made this point. Do you think that's the same thing as amnesty or do you agree with this notion of humane enforcement?

ARPAIO: Yes, I think it's amnesty. A lot of politicians on both sides of the fence want amnesty. The Texas governor, Perry, he sent the troops out to the border for five years. He's one governor at least is enforcing these laws since the feds are not doing it. So, you know, get other people involved, other states involved to fight this problem. Forget about a national policy emanating from the White House and the Justice Department. Let every state take the laws and enforce them.

JOHNS: Now, I don't know if you've seen it, but there's some new immigration numbers out that suggest border arrests are down sharply. The numbers I have in my hand here say 340,000 in fiscal 2011, 705 in 2008, 1.6 million in 2000. What does that say to you? Do you believe those numbers and do you actually think the number of people trying to cross the border has gone down too?

ARPAIO: The only answer I can give you, every time we go out there, we're locking up illegals in the workplace. We have no problems arresting them coming in from the border. How come just this sheriff doesn't have any problems? So they're still coming in. And you can throw all the statistics out there, but they're still coming in to Arizona.

JOHNS: Sheriff Joe Arpaio, thanks so much for talking to us. And I know we'll be coming back to you again soon.

ARPAIO: Thank you, Joe.

JOHNS: Imagine losing 30 pounds in 30 days. Sounds like a diet too good to be true? Well, the FDA agrees and now it's cracking down on companies selling HCG. So, what is this new diet craze and is it really dangerous? Up next, I'll speak to one medical doctor who's all for it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: A diet that's all the rage is now the target of serious FDA rage. The agency says it's illegal. It's called human chorionic gonadotropin. A hormone produced in pregnant women. Doctors use it to treat infertility, but it's not approved over the counter for any purpose. The agency has sent letters to seven diet companies that sell HCG in drops, pellets or sprays. They say the drug is unapproved. The weight loss claims unsupported. If the companies don't comply by next week, they could face legal action. Dr. Sheri Emma is a weight loss physician with her own HCG diet.

So, do you think the FDA got it wrong on this, Dr. Emma?

DR. SHERI L. EMMA: No, I don't think they got it wrong. This is something we've been dealing with in my practice for quite some time, explaining to patients this is a prescription drug that needs to be prescribed by a doctor. It's not something to be bought over the counter.

JOHNS: So, what do you think triggered this decision? What is it that makes the FDA go out and decide there's something wrong with a treatment like this and say, we've got to get rid of it or whatever?

EMMA: Well, I think because this diet has become so growingly popular in the United States that some companies may have been jumping on the bandwagon and trying to sell this over the counter. However, in my practice, what we are doing is we're really pioneering and having this looked at as a possible use for weight loss in an approved way by the FDA. And hopefully when our research comes out, it will show that.

JOHNS: So what makes you think HCG is better than some of the other diets that are on the market? And what makes you think this one works? We've heard so many examples of different kinds of diets that turned out to be, forgive the word, scams.

EMMA: Right. Well, HCG, used in a prescription form, has the potential to change the dynamics within the body during the use of a low calorie diet. And it's those changes that occur in the body that may be contributing to some longer term changes to help people with weight loss. And that is what we're taking a closer look at.

However, a lot of these companies that are selling things over the counter may be making false claims, and that's something that the FDA has decided was something that people should not be taking lightly. Diet is something that physicians really need to follow closely with their patients to ensure that they are a good candidate, that they don't have any underlying medical conditions that need to be followed closely, and to make sure that they have success on it as well.

JOHNS: Now, you use this stuff on the prescription level, if you will, but the FDA says it just shouldn't be used. We have a statement here and they say, "there is no substantial evidence that it increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction that HCG causes a more attractive or normal distribution of fat or that it decreases the hunger and the discomfort associated with calorie- restricted diets." It says it doesn't work. I mean, plain and simple. What's your response to that?

EMMA: Right. There was a batch of data that came out in the late '70s to early '80s and that was the equivocal conclusion from that. But it hasn't really had a new batch of research done to look at different perimeters, such as higher dosing and body composition. So that's what our practice is focusing on. And the evidence is very strong. So just -- it needs to be looked at more closely. And once that data comes out, it will allow it to be re-evaluated and looked at a second time.

JOHNS: Dr. Sheri Emma, thanks so much for that. A really interesting story. I know a lot of people talking about this diet.

EMMA: A lot of people are talking about it and there's a lot to be said. So, stay tuned on that.

JOHNS: Appreciate it.

EMMA: Thank you so much, Joe.

JOHNS: We're going to take you to an ancient European city after the break. It's located on islands where two rivers meet. It was the birth place of Charlemagne. It's known for its Christmas market. But today, that market turned deadly. We go globe trekking next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Time now for globe trekking.

We begin in Liege in eastern Belgium. Four people are dead and at least 75 more hurt after a gun and grenade attack on the city's popular Christmas market. Police say the attacker is among the dead. He's identified as a 33-year-old city resident. There's no information on any motive. Some reports say the attacker had served prison time on drug and firearms convictions, but authorities say he'd never been charged with any terror crimes.

Now to Syria, where at least 34 people are said to have died in today's fighting between government troops and dissidents. The United Nations now says 5,000 people have died since the violence broke out there nine months ago. But a government spokesman disputes that figure, calling it incredible. Dissidents say the dead include a 10- year-old boy killed by a sniper's bullet in his own home. And they say that when mourners were going to bury the boy Friday, the funeral procession also came under fire.

Finally to Pakistan, where political leaders are criticizing a U.S. move to cut aid. U.S.-Pakistani relations have grown increasingly strained and Pakistan recently stopped fuel shipments to NATO forces in Afghanistan. Yesterday, a House-Senate conference committee in Washington voted to withhold $700 million in aid to Pakistan. The chairman of the Pakistan senate's foreign affairs committee calls the U.S. move unfortunate and untimely.

Newt Gingrich has some advice for Mitt Romney. You be nice to me and I'll be nice to you. But is all this good guy talk even possible in such a heated presidential race?

Plus, win or lose the first few primaries, why Romney says he's in it for the long haul. All that in the next "Fair Game."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: This is the part of the show where we go past the partisan talking points, where all sides are "Fair Game."

Mitt Romney has tipped his hand. In an interview, he called Newt Gingrich the front-runner but he also conceded it will be a long road to the presidential nomination. Romney seems to be looking past Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina and Florida.

Joining me now are CNN contributor, Maria Cardona, and Republican analyst, Lenny McAllister.

I'll ask you both, people out there, the taxpayers, the voters, the people who are going to be covering these races, the candidates, we all want to know, is this going to be a very long race?

Start with you, Lenny.

LENNY MCALLISTER, REPUBLICAN ANALYST: I don't think it's going to be a long race. I think the reason Romney has to shape it that way, the possibility of losing all four of the first four contests. If he can do that, if he can lose Iowa, he loses in New Hampshire, if that lead shrinks there and then loses in South Carolina and Florida, Super Tuesday may end up being a formality. He's hoping to get the Clinton-Obama model we saw four years ago. The truth of the matter is, these is nothing historic about these two going for the nomination as there was with Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. He has an uphill battle regardless of what transpires

JOHNS: Maria, I'll ask you that. four years ago, or thereabouts, we had a situation where everybody thought Hillary Clinton was the front-runner in the nomination race and it turned out to be a very different thing not long after that. Do you see this turning around, changing a couple of times?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST & CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that's very possible, Joe. I think that what we are -- at least what Romney really wants to see is a drawn out race.

And I have to tell you, the polls right now do make it look good for Newt Gingrich. But let's remember that Mitt Romney has a lot more money than Gingrich does and has more resources and infrastructure in these early states.

And let's remember that Iowa is not a one a day -- not a one-day poll like New Hampshire is, for example. In Iowa, you have to have the infrastructure to get your folks out and be ready for them to be at these caucuses for three hours, for four hours. It takes infrastructure. It takes people to take people to the polls, to the caucuses. Right now, Gingrich doesn't have that. I do see this as a very possible drawn out race. Right now, for that kind of drawn-out race, the person that it benefits is the person with the most money and most infrastructure, and right now that's Romney.

JOHNS: The question also whether it's going to be a nice race or nasty race. Have you seen the letter that Newt Gingrich put out today? I want to read from it. He's telling his staff to be nice. He said he's "instructing all members of the campaign staff and respectfully urge anyone acting as a surrogate for our campaign to avoid initiating attacks on other Republican candidate."

His hope that Republican candidates will joins him in this commitment. And he he's "refrained from launching attacks on Republican opponents" but "reserves the right to respond when his record has been distorted." He responded quick, in fact, just last night against Romney. Nonetheless, do you think it is going to be a nice race or nasty race given the tone right now?

Starting with you, Maria?

CARDONA: I think that that was actually a pretty brilliant statement for Gingrich to put out. It puts him in a position to be the nice guy, to be magnanimous. And later on, when he goes out to respond to what will be the negative attacks on him, he'll already have said it on the record, look, I didn't start this.

He's the front-runner. He is in the exact position to say something like that and to be able to stick with it if in fact nothing else changes. We know when there's a tight race and very short period of time, the only way to really change things and to change the dynamic that's going on is for opponents to go negative. I don't think this is going to last very long, Joe.

JOHNS: What do you think? Do you think Romney and Gingrich can avoid beating each other up and tearing each other down?

MCALLISTER: No. The lead dog doesn't need to be the attack dog. This is why Newt Gingrich said this previously. But let's go back to 2008. Senator Obama wanted to have a nice, clean campaign. He was going to stay above the fray until Senator Clinton started to go negative. And then Senator Obama abandoned that completely. And both of them got into the mud for the next six months. Don't be surprised if both front-runner candidates end up going negative at some point in time, especially after the first couple of contests.

CARDONA: That's why I think this will be long and drawn out and ultimately helps President Obama at the end of the day.

JOHNS: Maria Cardona --

(CROSSTALK)

MCALLISTER: Yes, but it doesn't have to be long and drawn out with the leader though, Maria. It can be long and drawn out with Newt still being out there the whole time.

JOHNS: We're going to find out soon enough I think.

(LAUGHTER) Maria Cardona and Lenny McAllister, thanks so much for that.

That's "Fair Game."

CARDONA: Thanks, Joe.

JOHNS: In a moment, many worried it would never come, an end to the Iraq war. But as the U.S. troops -- pull out its troops of that country, we're leaving just as many problems behind perhaps. That's a question we'll try to answer with Fareed Zakaria, joining me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is meeting with American business leaders in Washington today. Monday, he and President Obama declared an end to the Iraq War. But does that mean an end to foreign influence in Iraq, especially from Iran?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Prime Minister Maliki has been explicit here in the United States and back in Iraq, in his writings, in his commentary, that his interest is maintaining Iraqi sovereignty and preventing meddling by anybody inside of Iran, and I believe him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Fareed Zakaria, host of GPS, joins me from New York.

Let's get to Iran in a moment. First, after the United Kingdom left Iraq 80 years ago, things crumbled pretty quickly. If Iraq can remain strong, Fareed, in the coming years, something Mr. Obama says he is hoping for, could the United States and Iraq end up in an adversarial relationship, if you will?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, GPS: I don't think so. I think if Iraq were able to stay strong, build greater stability, the single most important thing that would happen is Iraq would start exporting more oil. Remember, Iraq has the second-largest oil reserves in the world.

If it were able to produce anything near the amount it is capable of, this will have a huge impact on the world of oil and therefore have a huge impact on U.S./Iraqi relations because the Iraqis would be doing us a big favor, diversifying the sources of oil, lowing the price and increasing supply. The United States and Iraq did not have fundamentally adversarial interests. We're not adversaries by interest. Saddam Hussein was a weird dictator and we found ourselves on the other side of the stick with him.

JOHNS: Now to the question of Iran. If you look at the situation down the road, can the United States essentially find itself in a worst position in Iraq because Iran is there? Because United States leaves, we have a vacuum, what happens?

ZAKARIA: That's a real concern. Look, Iran is the neighboring power. It is going to have influence in Iraq no matter what. In addition, many of the leaders who now rule Iraq, including the president, Mr. Talabani, the prime minister, Mr. Maliki, spend almost a decade in Iran when they were exiled by Saddam Hussein.

Iran is a proud nation. There's a strong tradition of nationalism. While the leaders may have spent time in Iran, most Iraqis have memories of Iran in one sense, they fought a war. They fought an eight-year war with Iran, the Iran-Iraq war. They lost perhaps 700,000, 800,000 people.

So I don't think the Iraqi people are going to be too comfortable with a policy in which the prime minister of their country becomes some kind of a puppet of the Iranian regime. Nations have national interests. And I expect that Iraq and any Iraqi prime minister will try to preserve his national interest and not become a puppet of Iran.

JOHNS: Not to be too cynical, several thousand U.S. nonmilitary personnel and contractors will end up on the ground after the military leave. Are those people there for Iraq or are they there for the United States?

ZAKARIA: Well, it's a little bit of both. There are, in a sense, disguising the drawdown so it is not a drawdown quite to zero. We have some paramilitary forces, some who are protecting the embassy, embassy personnel, USAID people. There's going to be a fairly healthy contingent, I'm sure. People from the DEA. You add that together and the United States will have a certain kind of offensive presence in Iraq.

Look, it's entirely justified. The U.S. consulate in Basra is minutes from the Iranian border. What were to happen if some Iranian thugs were to cross the border and try to launch an attack on the U.S. consulate in Basra? Well, you've got to be able to protect yourself. The U.S. is appropriately taking precautions so they don't end up in some situation that looks like the Iran hostage crisis all over again.

JOHNS: Fareed Zakaria, always great to talk to you. Thanks so much for coming in.

ZAKARIA: Pleasure.

JOHNS: Keep your money and we'll keep ours. Stinging words from this man, hip-hop mogul, Russell Simmons. His target: home goods giant, Lowes. It's all after an advertising fallout that has gotten ugly. That's coming up next.

First, the FCC wants loud commercials to leave quietly. They just passed new regulations requiring TV programming to maintain a constant volume even though the commercial breaks are going. So no more loud abrupt commercials after watching CNN. Even though the regulations don't go into effect for another year, it is now time to say hush. Loud commercials, your 15 minutes are up.

(SINGING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JOHNS: Let's check stories making headlines at "Street Level."

Let's start with Dearborn, Michigan, where the TLC show "All American Muslim" takes place. Retail giant Lowe's yanked its ads from the show after disagreeing with its message. Now entrepreneur, Russell Simmons, is helping the show clean up the advertising mess, tweeting Monday, "Just purchased remaining spots for 'All American Muslim' next week. The show is now sold out. Keep your money and we'll keep ours." Simmons backs a petition urging companies to advertise during the show. It premiered in November and airs on Sunday nights.

Stick around because Russell Simmons will be live here on CNN later this afternoon. He'll talk with Brooke Baldwin about his big ad buy at 3:00 eastern right here on CNN.

Now on to Cecilia, Kentucky, where Santa surprises two young girls at Lakewood Elementary with an early Christmas present.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTA CLAUSE: OK. You guys --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Katie and Bailey's father, Sergeant First Class Leslie Tommy Neil (ph), returned home early from Afghanistan. He wasn't supposed to arrive until after Christmas. Their mom, Stephanie Neil (ph), organized the surprise with the school. For these girls, Christmas wishes do come true.

Let's head to Boston, where a Marine becomes a crime stopper. Police say this man, Albert Denisio (ph), broke into a car at a shopping center while the family was shopping. When they returned, he was still in the car. He tried to run away but ran straight into this man, a Marine collecting toys for the foundation, Toys for Tots.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. MATTHEW LAROCHE, U.S. MARINE CORPS: I was actually in the back of my cargo van with the toys packing them in and that's when I saw -- I was able to catch him.

DREW DUMLAR, VICTIM: He was probably about 20 or 30 feet in front of me when he caught him. So I was there a couple of seconds later and we were both able to secure him to the ground.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Sergeant Matthew LaRoche and victim, Drew Dumlar, held the thief down until police arrived.

Now to Triangle, Virginia, where the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation we just mentioned is based. The charity group collects unused, unwrapped toys for needy children. The gifts are handed out around Christmas. And you can help make a wish come true. The president and CEO of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, Lieutenant General Henry Osman, joins us live to explain.

General, I know you received a lot of toys this year, but do you think you'll reach your toy goal?

LT. GEN. HENRY OSMAN, PRESIDENT & CEO, TOYS FOR TOTS & USMC, RETIRED: That's always a challenge. With the economy the way it's been for last three years, the big challenge has been the demand. The revenue flow from the donors and corporate sponsors has been good, and it can be better. The challenge has been the increase in demand.

JOHNS: Do you think the economy affected all of this this year? So many people have been suffering. And I do know that charity in other areas goes down when the economy is bad.

OSMAN: Well, there's no question that it has an impact. However, Toys for Tots -- I guess because we don't ask a lot -- you purchase that toy and drop it in the barrel, or go to our web site and make that small online donation. We don't ask a lot. And so a great number of Americans continue to support Toys for Tots. The real challenge, as I said, has been an increase in demand. We hear that from our coordinators in the big cities and small towns that they are getting requests that exceed what they have seen in the past. That's the challenge. How do you reach that increase in demand?

JOHNS: Give us an idea of the kind of toys that you are looking for. And who do these toys end up going to?

OSMAN: Well, people ask that question all the time. What kind of toys are you looking for? The answer is, whatever you'd buy for your own children is what we are looking for. If you're still at a loss, I always say sports equipment is a great toy, as are books. As far as the children that are to receive it, we look for the unfortunate child, the one who, without somebody donating a toy, may go without this year. With the Census Bureau telling us we have 16 million children living at the poverty level, believe me, they are out there. Fortunately, we have social organizations, churches, police departments to help identify the families in the communities. And we work hard to make sure those families receive the toys that they need for those children.

JOHNS: So I guess you have a deadline on this. In other words, a time when people have to have all of the toys to you, otherwise you wouldn't be able to get these toys to the kids before Christmas. What's the deadline?

OSMAN: Each campaign establishes its own deadline. Any coordinator will take toys literally up to the 11th hour. On Christmas Eve, they will find a family that is overlooked or find somebody that says, I need some help and they will make that distribution literally on Christmas Eve. Toy donations, particularly monetary donations, we'll take them up to the 11th hour.

JOHNS: What is that web site? OSMAN: www.Toysfortots.org. And at that web site, you'll find information there for Toys for Tots, our history and so forth, but also an opportunity to make an online donation and still an opportunity to volunteer your services.

JOHNS: Got you. If somebody can't find a Marine to give these toys to, you just go to the web site?

OSMAN: Exactly.

JOHNS: All right. Great. Thanks so much, General Osman. Really appreciate seeing you. We see your folks all over D.C. all the time.

OSMAN: That's good. Thank you for your support. I appreciate it.

JOHNS: In Iowa, the battle for the Republican nomination is anybody's to win. And with just three weeks left, the rest of the pack is pulling out all stops. CNN's John King is in Cedar Rapids, tracking the candidates. We'll check in with him next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Today marks exactly three weeks until the Iowa caucuses, the first contest in the Republican presidential race.

Our John King is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for us. His show, "John King USA," is live from Iowa all week.

John, thanks for joining us. Where are you? I hear you're in an art gallery or something?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Last night, we were in a music experience. Tonight, we're in an art gallery in Cedar Rapids. We're getting a taste of the culture and the politics as we spend a week here in Iowa.

JOHNS: Let's talk politics. Newt Gingrich and Romney, we've had so much to say about that. We'll continue to talk about it. But we do know that the caucuses can be a bit unpredictable. Who else should people be watching in the Iowa race?

KING: It's a very important point you make. Who else should you be watching? Number one, watch Ron Paul. He ran second or third in the polls here. He has a very energetic organization. A mix of Libertarians, a lot of college students. They're active online, very well organized. Ron Paul could surprise you here in the Iowa caucuses.

Then we look, Rick Perry. If you look at the most recent polling, it gives you a sense of who to watch. Speaker Gingrich is on top but he's down a little bit from the polling just a month ago. Mitt Romney just below him at 17 percent, down a little bit. Ron Paul right there as well. He's up there a tad at 17. Rick Perry was at 5 percent in the ARG poll a month ago. He's at 13 percent now. Rick Perry is spending money here, time here. He's about to launch a statewide bus tour. He's moving up right now.

One of the interesting dynamics, Joe -- you know the state well -- evangelical voters make up about half of the caucus-goers. They're split right now. Michele Bachmann, the congresswoman from Minnesota, former senator, Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania, Governor Perry, each getting a slice of the evangelical vote. Speaker Gingrich at the moment has a good slice of the evangelical vote. Watch all that over the next three weeks. Iowa has a history of surprising us. You see Gingrich, Romney, Paul right now. But three weeks is a long time, my friend.

JOHNS: That's right. And Rick Santorum is combing the state, too. Is it true that he is the only Republican candidate actually having public events today? And have you seen him or are you going to see him?

KING: I had a conversation with him this morning. He's the only candidate in Iowa today. We're having some new TV ads. A couple of the candidates are in New Hampshire. The rest are all making their way. They'll all be here by the end of the week. There's another debate on Thursday night.

I had coffee with Senator Rick Santorum this morning. He is the only Republican so far who has touched all 99 of Iowa's counties. Michele Bachmann says she will do that by the end of the race in three weeks. That's an important point because the race is different this time. I'm going to hold up the "Cedar Rapids Gazette." Iowa, caucuses still first, but no longer foremost, that's a big debate in this state. The character of the campaign is different this time. It used to be you did it the Santorum way, retail politics, visit all 99 counties, a lot of farms, a lot of kitchens, a lot of coffee shops. We'll see if he can surprise a lot of people.

But because of the debates, the debates are driving the race. The Iowa polls roughly match the national polls. If go back in history, that's not always the case. Iowa has a lot of veteran activists here and worry about that. They think so much focus on the debate that the candidates are coming here fewer times, spending less money on TV ads. However, three weeks from today you'll see a lot of the traditional Iowa campaign.

JOHNS: Where do you se that race? The theme of the questions today is about whether we're going to see a long nasty campaign or if we're going to see a pullback from the campaign on that.

KING: You see him pulling back and that's smart. He's the front-runner. He doesn't want things to get nasty because he knows, as you do, there's a lot of things in Speaker Gingrich's past that if voters are reminded about it, maybe. He's having a play at safe strategy. Newt Gingrich is leading. Iowa tends to change all that. So when you look at states two, three, and four, remember, when Iowa votes three weeks from tonight, they tend to reshuffle the deck.

Speaker Gingrich, if he gets a victory here, he'll be well on his way with momentum. The question is, whoever wins Iowa, do they win by two points or six points? Is it a muddled race, and does Iowa send a clear message, or does it send the field on to New Hampshire maybe with one or two people at the bottom having to drop out?

-- Joe.

JOHNS: Three weeks out, and John King is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Thanks so much, John, and we'll be watching "JOHN KING USA" tonight.

KING: Thank you, my friend.

JOHNS: Thanks for watching today.

Brooke Baldwin takes over from here. She is in the CNN NEWSROOM -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, friend. Thank you so much. We'll see you in a couple of minutes here in the studio.