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Iraq: The Veto Battle; Condoleezza Rice Arrives Ahead of Iraq Summit in Egypt

Aired May 02, 2007 - 14:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Don Lemon, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Susan Roesgen, filling in for Kyra Phillips.

Hoping for an override, but moving toward a compromise, congressional Democrats gear up for their next round with the White House over funding the Iraq war.

LEMON: All right. And get this -- HEADLINE NEWS anchor Glenn Beck thinks global warming is a bunch of hot air. He'll join us with more on what he calls the climate of fear, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

It is the top of the hour, and happening right now, Democrats on Capitol Hill poised to try to override that presidential veto on their Iraq war funding bill.

We're monitoring the vote and the White House, where the president will meet with some of those lawmakers this afternoon. But while Washington focuses on political theater, America wants to know -- if not this bill, where will battlefield funds come from?

We're covering all the angles for you.

ROESGEN: And the Washington showdown over Iraq is pretty much a political standoff now. The president's opponents are not expected to have the votes to override his veto. But while this vote is basically a formality, the debate has been spirited on both sides.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: The war in Iraq has made matters worse in the war on terrorism. What we have to do is work together, Democrats and Republicans, with the president of the United States to bring stability to that region.

Now into the fifth year of a failed policy, this administration should get a clue. It's not working.



REP. JERRY LEWIS (R), CALIFORNIA: You've made your point. You had your dog and pony show. You've posed for political holy pictures on TV.

Now what is your plan to support the troops? It is time to put the posturing and political stunts aside and do what is in the best interests of our troops.


ROESGEN: Sometimes you have to have a thick skin. Top congressional Democrats are headed to the White House later right in this hour to talk about the Iraq funding bill, and our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is there with an update -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Susan, we've already seen some of those members of Congress arriving here at the White House. It's going to be Democrats, as well as the Republican leadership, meeting with the president to talk about, work out some sort of compromise or negotiation regarding this Iraq spending bill.

Now, Press Secretary Tony Snow said they're not going to be talking specifically about benchmarks for the Iraqi government, goals that they must meet, but we did hear President Bush earlier today mentioning benchmarks, one of them being an oil revenue-sharing deal that is quite critical for the Iraqi government. A lot of talk here, as well as on the Hill, about the possible compromise of putting those benchmarks and saying, look, the Iraqi government has to be held to account.

The big question, of course, Susan, is whether or not they're going to tie aid, resources, reconstruction funds to those benchmarks and require the Iraqi government to meet them. The other big question here, of course, is how do they define success in Iraq? When does the mission end? When do the U.S. troops come home?

I want you to listen very carefully here to how the president defines success in Iraq today.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Slowly but surely the truth will be known. Either we'll succeed, or we won't succeed. And the definition of success, as I described, is, you know, sectarian violence is down.

Success is not no violence. There are parts of our own country that, you know, have got, you know, a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives, and that's what we're trying to achieve.


MALVEAUX: So Susan, of course that really stood out in our minds here. The president not necessarily talking about democracy or the freedom agenda, but specifically talking about a certain tolerance from the Iraqi people of a certainly level of violence. What that threshold is we really don't know, and I put that question to Tony Snow.


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Washington, for many years was...

MALVEAUX: The level of violence?

SNOW: ... the murder capital of the United States of America. I believe we are still able to do our jobs. Now really what he's talking about -- he's talking about that. He is not talking about -- I mean...

MALVEAUX: How do you define an acceptable level of violence? I mean, how can that possibly be defined?

SNOW: That's a very good question. And I don't have an answer.


MALVEAUX: And Susan, that really is the whole point here. That is the problem.

The Bush administration does not have the answer to that question, they don't have the definition. So this definition of success really just an unknown at this time.

Is it the Iraqis that define that acceptable level of violence? Is it the coalition? Is it the U.S. military? All of those things unknowns at this time, and the president saying to the American people those troops will stay until success is achieved -- Susan.

ROESGEN: It sounds like the Democrats will press them on that definition for defense, or he'll have to do some backpedaling on that statement -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Well, Susan, they're going to work on that statement, obviously are going to be pressing him on that issue. And they're going to be pressing him essentially on, how do we get to that point? How do we even define success when we don't even know how long we're going to be there? How are we going to fund our troops?

They are at loggerheads still. It is going to be one side or the other that's going to have to blink here, but obviously they're going to run out of time, because they're going to run out of money.


Suzanne Malveaux with that update for us at the White House.

Thank you.

LEMON: And for that troop pullout discussion on Capitol Hill, the issue is, when? On the streets of Baghdad, the issue is, then what? After a four-year American troop presence, the answer to that depends on who you're talking to. Let's go straight to Baghdad now and CNN's Hugh Riminton -- Hugh.

HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, there is one voice that says loudly that U.S. troops should pull out, because things would be better then. It comes from Muqtada al-Sadr. He, of course, is the radical Shiite cleric, the leader of the Mehdi militia army here in Baghdad. And he said just in the last couple days in a letter he had read to the Iraqi parliament, "You say, George Bush, that things would be worse if U.S. troops leave. How could things be worse than what we see on the streets every day?"

You have to filter that information through from the point of view that Muqtada al-Sadr would be one of the warlords who would certainly would look to increase his influence if U.S. troop withdrawals did go ahead. Almost everyone else agrees, the first thing that would happen, greater sectarian violence, the capacity for a proxy war, or even a wilder war through the Middle East, drawing in Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and others, possibly even Turkey. Terrorism bases by al Qaeda really being able to take hold here.

The view that things would be worse certainly goes from top to bottom through U.S. forces here.


BRIG. GEN. DANA PITTARD, IRAQ ASSISTANCE GROUP: We cannot leave Iraq in disarray. I mean, we came here in 2003. We cannot leave here -- leave this nation as a failed state.



STAFF. SGT. MATTHEW ST. PIERRE, U.S. ARMY: We are the buffer right now, and when you pull us out, the people that support us are going to feel the wrath. And the people that were against us -- and they're the majority -- they're going to, I believe, ultimately win.


RIMINTON: Now, that last statement came from Staff sergeant Matthew St. Pierre, who led a patrol that I went on through the streets of Baghdad when, among other things, we were caught up in an ambush with bombs going up. He's been here two of the last three years.

What's significant, he's no gung-ho general, he's no ideologue in this. He actually said to me that he and many of the troops he talks to thinks this is our generation's Vietnam, as he describes it, not a war that America can win necessarily. But he makes no bones about it, if the U.S. was to pull out, things would get a lot worse here on the ground -- Don.

LEMON: Hugh Riminton in Baghdad.

Thank you, Hugh. ROESGEN: So now we've heard from the president and from members of Congress and from political leaders overseas about this debate over Iraq and the Iraq war-funding bill and any potential withdrawal, but what do you think?

CNN's Brianna Keilar has been talking to people on the National Mall today in Washington, and she's hear to tell us about some of what some ordinary folks have to say -- Brianna.


Yes, official Washington, you hear these very polarized views, especially with the standoff between President Bush and the Democratic-led Congress. It's stay in Iraq or leave Iraq. And that's not really what we heard today on the Mall, especially with some beautiful weather earlier and so many people out there in force.

We spoke with people from Hawaii, to Utah, to Florida, about the president's veto, and not two of their views were the same.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I personally don't like it. The simple fact that we really shouldn't have been there in the first place. There was no reason for us to be there in the first place. It was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt there was no weapons of mass destruction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We stayed in Germany, Korea and Japan for 50 years after World War II, and they're all three doing great. And we left other countries in South America, in Latin America, kind of prematurely, and it kind of had a negative effect. So, I think if we really are committed to the issue, and we'll leave when it's necessary, not we'll leave just because we're running out of money or losing support.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm mixed. I think that it is important that we do set some type of deadline, because we do need to get out. And we kind of got ourselves into a situation that it's going to be a long haul, but I do feel that we should support the troops.


KEILAR: That was Stephanie (ph), a college student from Wisconsin who is studying here in Washington for a semester. Definitely seeing it there from both directions.

Something we're not hearing from the players here in Washington, and something that we did also hear from other people out there on the Mall today, a few of them saying they don't know what the solution is. It's just a very difficult choice either way -- Susan.

ROESGEN: Well, I understand that hundreds of anti-war protests are scheduled through that grassroots group today. What can you tell us about those protests? KEILAR: Well, several of them are going to be taking place here in Washington, or they're planned to. And that's the case around many cities in the nation.

At this point, last check on, I saw that there were more than 350 of these protests that were planned. At this point it seems like they're pretty small. Many of them have no more than several dozen people registered. But, you know, more people could turn out. We're just going to have to wait to see until about 4:00, 5:00, 6:00 p.m. local time, when all those protests get under way -- Susan.

ROESGEN: All right. Political dissent is patriotic. Thanks.

Brianna Keilar reporting for us in Washington -- Don.

LEMON: A busy two days begins for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, arriving in Egypt for an Iraq summit with representatives from more than 60 nations.

CNN's Zain Verjee is in Sharm el Sheikh.

What do you have for us, Zain?


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met a few hours ago with Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki. On the way over here to reporters on her plane, she said that the future of the region is at stake. She says, "The most important message that I will be delivering is that a stable, unified and democratic Iraq is an Iraq that will be a pillar of stability in the Middle East."

She's going to be asking Arab government to show a lot more support than they have to Iraq in the way of more money and more diplomatic support. You know, a lot of Sunni Arab governments have just been really skeptical about showing Iraq a lot of support. The reason is they don't really like or trust the prime minister, Nuri al- Maliki. They don't like the fact that Iraq has a Shia-dominated government, and they're really unhappy with the fact that they say not enough Sunnis have been involved in the political process and political reconciliation as they see it hasn't gone far enough.

So, Secretary Rice really wants to try and convince them, to show Arab governments that they have more to lose if they don't engage and support Iraq.

Iraq itself, for its part at this conference, has to show that its got its own responsibilities as well. It's expected to carry out economic and political reforms in exchange for the international aid -- Don.

LEMON: So, Zain, we understand the focus is on Iraq, but will Rice meet with the Iranians?

VERJEE: That's the big question here, and in some ways it's even overshadowing the main issue at this conference, the main star, which is Iraq.

Well, Secretary Rice said today to reporters that she doesn't mind meeting the Iranians. If there's an encounter, she says, she's not going to rule it out. She says that she's a polite woman and would interact with them.

She's going to go with the flow, officials say, but there's not really -- not really a plan A or a plan B and here's what we'll do. It's not really clear how it will be orchestrated, whether it will be accidental, who will court who first. And that's sort of the sideshow, the little drama that's going to be going on here over the next couple of days.

Interestingly, Secretary Rice did say that she would be talking about Iraq if she interacts at all with the Iranians, but she also said that she wouldn't -- she wouldn't mind if the topic wanders over to the nuclear issue, and that's a bit of a shift -- Don.

LEMON: Zain Verjee in Sharm el Sheikh.

Thank you.

ROESGEN: And we want to tell you about some news just in to the CNN NEWSROOM.

A railroad bridge has collapsed near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, causing this train derailment. We understand that the train was carrying a load for NASA.

We don't know what sort of cargo, but that none of this cargo has in any way spilled or affected the immediate surroundings. However, at least six people were injured. Two of the victims were taken by air ambulance to a hospital in Tuscaloosa.

Again, this is in the Myrtlewood community of Alabama, near Demopolis, near Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A railroad bridge collapsed causing that train derailment.

We'll bring you more information as we get it.

In the meantime, his decision to go to war, plus mistakes made in planning for it. Fuel calls for his resignation. Find out which leader we're talking about there and his political survival just ahead in the NEWSROOM.

LEMON: Well, some buy it, and some call it bunk. HEADLINE NEWS anchor Glenn Beck, he has issues. He says he's gotten hot under the collar just thinking about it. His take on the global warming debate, coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM.

You don't want to miss that.

ROESGEN: And you won't find the good book, but you will find a copy of Al Gore's new book at a new kind of hotel.

That's just ahead in the NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROESGEN: It's almost 20 past the hour. And here are three of the stories we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.

The voting has begun now. How Democrats expect to fall short in this hour as they try to override the president's veto of the Iraq war-funding bill. Again, the vote just now getting under way.

Congressional leaders are going to meet with the president later today to talk about what happens next.

And a new call for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign. This times it's his own foreign minister who's breaking ranks. A government report Monday blamed Olmert for severe failures in last year's campaign against Hezbollah.

And again, back in the U.S., the government says Americans have eaten millions of chickens that were fed tainted animal food. No human illnesses have been reported. The chickens ate food tainted by that recalled pet food blamed for pet deaths across the country.

LEMON: Well, you can't pick up a magazine or open up a newspaper without reading about the greening of America, the greening of the Earth, the Earth is getting warmer. But what's causing it? And what should be done about it?

Glenn Beck from CNN's HEADLINE NEWS takes on some of the heated controversy surrounding global warming.


GLENN BECK, CNN HEADLINE NEWS (voice over): Al Gore will tell you the science is in.

AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The debate on global warming is over.

BECK: The media will tell you the consequences are clear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More extreme weather, from drought to heavy rain and cyclones.

BECK: And if a scientist dares to disagree?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your job's in jeopardy if you speak out.

BECK: Wednesday night, the other side of the global warming debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in a level of hysteria. And to me it's astonishing.

BECK: The scientists you're not hearing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tornadoes are not increasing, the frequency of hurricanes is not increasing.

BECK: The research you haven't seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I started out in the 1970s, global cooling was the consensus.

BECK: May 2nd, we bring you "Exposed: The Climate of Fear".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not all your fault. OK?


LEMON: Glenn Beck, boy, are you asking for it.

He joins me now from New York.

Listen, I've got to start right out -- if the scientific consensus says, Glenn, that global warming is a reality and we need to move past it, take action, why even do this hour-long special? Why are you asking for it?

BECK: There's a couple reasons.

First of all, the scientific consensus in Europe in the 1920s and '30s was that eugenics was a good idea. I'm glad that a few people stood against eugenics.

The global consensus is fractured in several different areas. Some people believe that global warming is happening. It's pretty easy to tell. You know, all you have to do is check the thermometer.

Then there are those who say, yes, but man caused it. Others say man didn't. Those who say either way, yes on that one, then you have to say, how do we solve it? And it is fractured all across, and we're talking trillions of dollars.

I am doing this special mainly because it frightens me that we live in a world where I'm called by RFK Jr. a fascist, and when "The Washington Post" asked him, "Why did you call Glenn Beck a fascist?" He said, "Because I heard him question global warming a couple of weeks ago."

LEMON: But Glenn, do you think that that is the general consensus, that one person said it, not everyone is saying it or calling you a fascist in all of this?

BECK: No, no, no. Has RFK Jr. called you a fascist?

There are people that called global warming deniers. That's an interesting quote, because I don't even deny global warming is happening. But people who question global warming, they're called Nazis. They're put right up next to Holocaust deniers.

LEMON: But there are people, Glenn, who are going to say you're not denying that global warming is happening. There is not one consensus about why it's happening. Some people say it's greenhouse gases and all the pollutants we're putting into air.

BECK: Sure.

LEMON: But Glenn, wouldn't you agree that it takes people a lot to change?

BECK: Sure.

LEMON: Don't we have to scare people a bit that maybe you shouldn't drive, you know, your SUV so much? Maybe you should take the train or take publication.

BECK: No, I think we should tell the...

LEMON: Or use the hairspray so much.

Don't you think that we need to scare people a little bit so that we do get back on track with the Earth?

BECK: You know what? I've got to tell you something, the world is a scary enough place with just the truth. I think we should start telling people the truth.

You know, I am perfectly willing -- I watched the Al Gore movie, and I looked at it and I said, you know what? If these things are true, then we do need to change. I'll drive a Prius gladly.

I just want to know what the truth is. And that's all we're looking for.

You know what? This is a bookend to the Al Gore movie.

On the Web site at, where it talks about the special, we have provided the link to the Al Gore movie. You should watch both sides. When have we said ever in America, ever in the world that we should only have one side of an argument? We should listen to all of them.

LEMON: So you believe folks should watch that, but you're not saying it's necessarily -- they should take that as whole. They should look at the other side, correct?

BECK: It's one side.

LEMON: And just -- you know, you mentioned -- you mentioned the Al Gore movie.


LEMON: Did you hear about the removal of bibles from this one hotel?

BECK: I think this is the most appropriate thing...

LEMON: What do you think of that? And they're putting Al Gore's book where the bible goes. BECK: Science has become religion for some people, and it is amazing. Many politicians -- Al Gore is one of them, the U.N. is another -- we should just have them get out of the suits and put a collar on, a priest's collar on, because I think we are entering the dark ages where these new priests are saying, science cannot question -- no one can question what the -- what the current belief is today.

LEMON: Yes. And I think some people would say -- and I think there is a general consensus on this -- that we've gone too far when we think that science is bad, because science actually has made major influences and has helped diseases and cured all kinds of things.

BECK: Science is great. We just have to keep in perspective they're the butter is bad-butter is good people.

LEMON: Yes. Sometimes -- there's nothing wrong with preservatives sometimes. IT helps to keep the -- all right.

Glenn Beck, always a pleasure to have you.

BECK: Thank you, sir.

LEMON: We will be watching.

And you can catch Glenn Beck's "Exposed: Climate of Fear". It's that special. It runs tonight on HEADLINE NEWS.



LEMON: All right. You're looking at live pictures now. We're monitoring the House, and also we're monitoring the White House.

You can't see it here, but there is that Iraq war funding vote on whether or not to override the president's veto. If you look there just to the left, you see yea votes to override, 141; nay, 121. But then all the way to the write, not voting, you see that number there.

So we're going to continue to monitor that.

Of course the president, after this all happens, whatever is decided -- it's expected that the veto will hold, but we'll be checking throughout the day, or as this happens, to make sure. But the president is going to meet with Democratic leaders, also Republican leaders today after this vote to talk about what happens next.

We're going to monitor that for you and we're going to bring it to you right here as it happens in the CNN NEWSROOM -- Susan.

ROESGEN: And now here's a warning for high-profile people. Are you listening? What happens in the bedroom can make waves in the office. One of the best-known and most distinguished business executives in the world is heading for the exit because of some personal revelations. Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange with the details of the problems at British Petroleum -- Susan.


LEMON: His decision to go to war, plus the mistakes made in planning for it, fuels calls for his resignation. Find out which leader is fighting for his political survival. Straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


LEMON: Okay. There you go. On the left of your screen, you see there, that vote is done. They did not override the president's veto and you're looking at a shot of Capitol Hill there. There you see the numbers 220-203. It did not happen. The Republicans most of them -- some of the votes are still trickling in, but you see the Republicans there, 196 in the nay column.

Now, the president preparing right now to meet with leaders on the Republican side also on the Democratic side. Harry Reid, Democratic Senate Majority Leader, already arriving at the White House. John Boehner from Ohio, arriving as well. No sign of Nancy Pelosi. They'll meet soon. As soon as that happens, we'll bring it to you and let you know what they talked about. You won't miss anything right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

ROESGEN: While we're talking about Iraq, the question today is who is really running things in Baghdad? Could it be a mystery office? An official part of the government with a one-sided sectarian agenda? There's no confirmation that this shadow office, if you will, exists, but U.S. military and intelligence sources tell CNN that it does exist and it's designed to advise Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on military matters. And makes certain that certain commanders are Shiite in the government and that this shadow office can overrule other government ministries. U.S. military sources tell us they're concerned, saying that a wider religious divide makes their job harder.

And the other big question remains, is he dead or alive? Still no definitive answer, but Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, could be dead, we don't know. American and Iraqi officials are trying to confirm reports that he was killed by rivals north of Baghdad in fighting earlier this week. A front organization for al Qaeda denies the reports and says he's still alive. The U.S. says his death would be significant, but would not stop the insurgency in Iraq.

LEMON: And you can call it counter programming from Iraq, the U.S. military broadcasting what it thinks the mainstream media misses. CNN's Jamie McIntyre reports.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The most watched video on the U.S. military's new YouTube site is last January's pitched battle on Haifa Street, a firefight well documented on CNN at the time. But other videos feature views of Iraq the U.S. military says rarely make the news. Such as this joyous reunion as American troops rescue a kidnapped victim in Baghdad. Unlike many anguished Iraqis often seen on TV, the people in these videos are generally happy. They don't seem to mind being searched. And interact freely with Americans, such as this boy, dubbed slingshot kid, who gets help from a heavily armed Marine.

And here, Iraqi Boy Scouts eagerly prepare for an upcoming jamboree. The U.S.-led coalition sponsored YouTube channel was launched two months ago. To quote, "give viewers around the world a boots on the ground perspective." With what it called eye-catching videos. Since then the site has recorded more than 150,000 hits. It's clearly public relations, but the U.S. military insists the clips are edited only for time, security reasons and for overly disturbing or offensive images. Still the picture is one sidedly upbeat. U.S. and Iraqi troops working as a team, Americans rushing to aid victims of a roadside bomb and some videos slickly produced promotional spots, designed to engender patriotism.

(on camera): The U.S. military insists it's not minimizing the bad news, just trying to show the situation in Iraq is more complex. It says the events depicted on the videos were not staged, and it's using the internet so show along with the chaos, good things are happening, too.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.


ROESGEN: Israel's prime minister is fighting for his job. That's nothing new, but today it's a different fight. Calls for his resignation have never come from this high in his own party and from his own inner circle.

CNN's Atika Shubert is in Jerusalem.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has put an end to any speculation. She has said that she wants the prime minister to resign. Here's what she said in a press conference today.

TZIPI LIVNI, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): In my meeting with the prime minister, I expressed my opinion that resignation was the right thing as far as he is concerned.

SHUBERT: Now it could by mentioned that Livni is herself is a top contender to replace Olmert as prime minister, but in that statement, she insisted she was not trying to oust him, that she would remain a part of his government. Nonetheless, she also said in that statement that she would run for leadership of Olmert's Kadima party, clearly positioning herself to become a possible prime ministerial candidate. Now Livni's opinion does hold a lot of weight. She is a very popular politician, a crucial members of Olmert's Kadima party and she is a crucial member of Olmert's government. And with this call for his resignation, it brings to question how long Olmert can govern effectively with members of his own party, members of his own cabinet, openly rebelling against him.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Jerusalem.


LEMON: Well, summer is coming, right on the way. Will it just be blazing hot or just blazing? Our Jacqui Jeras has the nation's fire forecast, straight ahead here in the CNN NEWSROOM.


ROESGEN: Red flag warnings again today in southeast Georgia. Look at this fire! The smoke from it is spreading and the cost of fighting fires like this one is going up. About $18 million so far. Georgia's governor says he'll ask Washington for more help to fight it financially. The largest fire there has burned nearly 87,000 acres. They say it's about 70 percent contained but that it will be another two weeks or so before it's fully contained. And it could be the first of June before it's actually under control. So will the threat of fires like that one get better or worse this summer? Jacqui Jeras has the latest fire outlook for us.


LEMON: Susan, a train derailment stirs a quiet community. But what's on board that train has people at NASA concerned. Miles O'Brien is on the case. You're watching the CNN NEWSROOM.

ROESGEN: And entertainment news is just ahead, here's A.J. Hammer with a preview.

A.J. HAMMER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Susan, after three years of mostly bad publicity Britney Spears is back doing back what made her famous, singing on stage. I have the whole story, up next in the NEWSROOM.


ROESGEN: Who knows what President Bush watches on television? Maybe he's a fan of "American Idol," or maybe he just hopes the high ratings on that show will rub off. Either way, the president did take time out from a busy week, stopped talking about Iraq to tape an appearance for "American Idol." He and the First Lady, as you see, cheered the show's Idol Gives Back charity drive and all the people who have given to the cause.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We thank all the "American Idol" viewers who have shown the good heart of America. We thank all the celebrities who participated, including Bono, and all the contestants who sang their hearts out for these children.

Say, Laura, you think I ought to sing something? LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: I don't know, darling, they've already seen you dance.

G. BUSH: Thanks, and God bless.


ROESGEN: He doesn't have the Sanjaya mohawk, either. Idol Gives Back raised about $70 million through corporate and public donations, and that money will go to help poor children here in the U.S. and in Africa.

LEMON: Yes, good for them, you can probably find that Sanjaya mohawk on the president somewhere on the Internet, I'm willing to bet on that, Susan.

Yes, the concert was short, but Britney Spears is back on stage, and she's actually performing. Imagine that, A.J. Hammer! He's in New York now with more on that. She's performing? Wig, I hope.

A.J. HAMMER, HOST, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT: Yes, Don, it's true, Britney Spears is in the news, it's not for some kind of personal disaster. This is actually good news for anybody who's a Britney Spears fan. She was back on stage last night.

A little surprise performance she gave at the San Diego House of Blues. The lucky fans who found out about this show got to see Britney Spears making her first public performance since her last tour wrapped up all the way back in 2004. She did perform for a big 15 minutes. She sang some of her hit songs like "Hit Me Baby One More Time," that was the one that got it all started for her.

Now of course, some fans were just thrilled by the concert, others not all that happy that they spent $125 to get into such a short show, but we are hearing that she is planning a few other secret concerts just like this one as she begins her big comeback, and of course Britney Spears is trying to get her career on track again after marriage, a messy divorce, two kids, the shaved head thing, time in rehab, and a of course a slew of embarrassing photos in the tabloids.

Don, it certainly has not been a quiet three years for Ms. Spears.

LEMON: It certainly hasn't. Did you see that video -- it looked like I was watching the badabing on "The Sopranos," it didn't look like a concert.

HAMMER: Yes, it was a little racy and, you know, I guess she's just trying to make sure everybody's paying attention.

LEMON: OK, well, I think she got a lot of people's attention. She has been busy and that's for sure.

Britney's back on stage, but another famous singer was told she wasn't welcome at a recent concert, correct? HAMMER: Yes, I don't really get this story and exactly what happened, but it's Joan Baez that we're talking about. She was told that she wasn't welcome at a concert for American troops at the Walter Reed Medical Center. The folksinger was invited by John Mellencamp (ph) to perform at this show, took place last Friday for wounded soldiers, but then, just days before the show, Baez says that the army told her she was not approved to appear.

A spokesman for the Walter Reed Center says that Baez was not included for purely logistical reasons. Of course, her anti-war activities have irritated members of the military really since she started them, which is about 40 years ago when she was protesting the Vietnam War. And as she told the "Washington Post," some soldiers may think of her as a traitor.

Well, in a letter that appears in today's "Washington Post," Baez explained that she didn't want to appear with Mellencamp in part because she feels badly about not trying to help the soldiers who needed it when they returned from Vietnam.

So, I don't know what the real story is here, but Joan Baez is certainly one of my favorite performers, and I think she should be allowed to perform for our troops any time she darn well pleases.

LEMON: You said it, A.J. Hammer. Did everybody hear that? But you know, she did -- she became famous for singing for a cause. I think R&B singer R. Kelly says that he's going to step up for charity as well?

HAMMER: Yes, Kelly's doing a good thing, he's written a new song, it's called "Rise Up." He says this song was inspired by the Virginia Tech shootings and that all of the net proceeds from the sale of the song are going to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. The song is going to be available online by May 15th.

Now, this is a fund that is helping to provide grief counseling and support to people who were affected by the shootings. If you're interested in learning more about this terrific fund, it's the Hokie Spirit Fund, you can call this number: 1-800-533-1144. This is their mailing address as well. It's University Development at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, the zip code is 24061. I know a lot of people looking for a way to help out and this is one very good way.

Now, coming up tonight on "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT," we'll have much more on Britney Spears appearing back on stage. And as Britney performs in public for the first time in years, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" has the inside story for you on her startling appearance, and we'll be asking the question -- can she ever be as big as she was?

We've got complete coverage tonight on TV's most provocative entertainment news show, it's "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT at 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific on Headline Prime. We will see you then.

LEMON: You just gave us a great tease -- startling appearance, was it, was it startling? Come on.

HAMMER: Well, you yourself said that you know, it was a little bit shocking to see her writhing around like that. I don't know.

LEMON: OK A.J., thank you, it is a little bit startling.

HAMMER: I'm taking liberty with the word startling. Sorry, Don.

LEMON: We'll see you tonight at 11 on Headline Prime. Thanks a lot.

HAMMER: You got it.

ROESGEN: A train derailment has stirred a quiet community, but what's on board the train worries NASA.

Miles O'Brien is on the story, and you'll see it just ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.