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Campbell Brown

Obama Attends G-20 Summit; Interview With Peter Orszag

Aired April 01, 2009 - 20:00   ET


ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi folks, hi, I'm Roland Martin. And if you know one thing about me, it's this. I'm all about straight talk. And while I'm filling in for Campbell Brown while she's on maternity leave, you'll get a daily dose of it. So how is this, America? Lots of folks overseas think we have totally screwed up the world. The economy, Iraq, Afghanistan. The reputation of the U.S. is under assault at the G-20 summit in London. And as President Obama himself acknowledged today, he's facing a tough balancing act. Tonight, we're going global. We're covering the president's trip and all kinds of things that are going on. Of course today was capped off by a visit with the queen. We'll also take you into the heart of the sometimes violent protest that followed him across London and tell you about the struggles he's facing, trying to repair America's international image. Let's start tonight with the president.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that the G- 20 nations are appropriately pursuing their own approaches. And as Gordon indicated, we're not going to agree on every point. I came here to put forward ideas, but I also came here to listen, not to lecture.

Having said that, we must not miss an opportunity to lead, to confront a crisis that knows no borders. We have a responsibility to coordinate our actions and to focus on common ground, not on our occasional differences.

If we do, I believe we can make enormous progress and that's why in preparation for these meetings, I have reached out and consulted with many of the leaders who are here or will be arriving shortly. History show us that when nations fail to cooperate, when they turn away from one another, when they turn inward, the price for our people only grows. That's how the Great Depression deepened. That's a mistake that we cannot afford to repeat.


MARTIN: Even though the G-20 summit doesn't officially start until tomorrow, the president's had plenty of chances today to listen and not to lecture. Zain Verjee is keeping track of all the powerful folks he's meeting with as he goes global. Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he had a pretty busy day today. Let's take you through some of the highlights. He took some questions at a press conference with the British prime minister, Gordon Brown. He talked importantly about the special relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. and really showered a lot of praise on Gordon Brown, as well as the queen. The whole atmosphere here, Roland, was a lot warmer than it was at their last meeting.

MARTIN: Also he made a little news today with the Russians.

VERJEE: He did. He sat down and here he's seen with the Russian leader, Dmitry Medvedev and the headline really here Roland was that President Obama announced that he's going to be going to Russia later this year and the two countries talked about how they want to restart talks about reducing their nuclear stockpiles. So they're singing a very different tune to what the Bush administration.

MARTIN: Of course it's interesting because President Bush when he first met Putin, they got along great, it was a wonderful thing. But by the end of his eight years, not so friendly.

VERJEE: No, there was no deep looking into one's eyes here and searching the soul.

MARTIN: Now, also, the Obamas had a little stop by Buckingham Palace, a little spot of tea with the queen.

VERJEE: A little spot of tea at Buckingham Palace. You can't do without it if you're making an official visit here. Yeah, this is a great meeting. He said he was very excited to have this meeting. You can actually see in this video, the president and the first lady really towering over the queen and Prince Philip --

MARTIN: He's a pretty tall guy.

VERJEE: Yeah, he is. One of the things has to be just getting through a situation like this without any major social missteps. So that has to be a victory. One other thing, the gift from President Obama, an iPod. So we have a dancing queen.

MARTIN: Yes, some have a problem with that, saying it wasn't right but, hey, I don't think there's anything wrong with the queen hearing a little Jay-Z.

VERJEE: Right, a little Kanye West, yeah, why not? But it's really -- some may argue it's inappropriate. But it's really young, hip and happening so why not?

MARTIN: Old school and new school. Zain, we sure do appreciate it, thanks a lot.

Well they didn't do anything to stop the president's mission overseas, but thousands of protesters did manage to paralyze much of London today, aiming their anger at banks, capitalism and, to some extent, the U.S. Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is there tonight. And Nic, exactly what did the protesters want? What were they saying? What was the concern they were mostly voicing?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They wanted to do, at least some of them, a tiny handful, was create violence, create trouble, bring the city to a standstill. That was a small, hardcore faction.

But the majority of people just wanted to get their views across. Climate change. They erected tents in the middle of streets. Others converged on the financial district. They wanted to show their dissatisfaction with the banking system, their dissatisfaction with sort of capitalism and globalism, broadly speaking. But they wanted to be heard. And their way to do it was to get in confrontation. And the way that they tried to do it was to bring the city to a standstill. And to a degree, they did it.

MARTIN: So the real issue -- wasn't anti-Gordon Brown or anti- President Barack Obama, it was really issue driven as opposed to individual driven?

ROBERTSON: I definitely wouldn't say it was anti-Barack Obama. Yeah, there was something in it that was sort of anti-Gordon Brown. There were calls for the G-20 to get their act together, to make some of these reforms to the banking system, to focus on the climate change. But it was, it was issues rather than people. This being a British crowd, predominantly, they were focused on the British politician. So Gordon Brown did come in for a degree of criticism. Barack Obama still even in this radical, relatively radical crowd, still kind of a rock star, Roland.

MARTIN: All right Nic, we certainly appreciate it, thank you so very much.

So folks, how does the president actually get the world to put aside the bitter feelings of the past few years? It appears that he can start simply by talking. Our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour joins us tonight. And in Washington, Tony Blankley, former press secretary to then house speaker Newt Gingrich, also author of the best seller "American Grit: What It Will Take To Survive And Win In The 21st Century."

Christine, I want to start with you. A lot of anger towards America. And the French President Nicolas Sarkozy said this. He threatened to quote "get up and leave" if President Obama doesn't deal with the deregulations. How does the president deal with that kind of anger and those kinds of threats? Sarkozy playing to the cameras or is he serious?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, the level of anger towards the United States has dramatically decreased and President Obama is going with a huge reservoir of good will. He was very popular in Europe. Obviously there's a huge amount of concern because people blame the United States for triggering this big economic crisis.

Nicolas Sarkozy has been from the beginning one who said along with Angela Merkel of Germany that we do not want to, we are unable to keep putting more stimulus, quote unquote, into our budgets, into our system, because we don't want to leverage ourselves to the hill on national budget in order to solve an international problem.

Today, on the other hand, he did say that they had come to a sort of agreement where they want regulation on tax havens, on hedge funds, and they want to come out of this with a real issue, a real ability to go forward and not just some pretend compromise to make everything better. That was his point.

MARTIN: Tony, I want you to comment on this exchange that took place today between the president and the British reporter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: France and Germany blame both Britain and America for causing this crisis. Who is right?

OBAMA: I would say that -- if you look at the sources of this crisis, the United States certainly has some accounting to do with respect to a regulatory system that was inadequate to the massive changes that had taken place in the global financial system.


OBAMA: So Tony, is it the question of tone in terms of we're trying to mend the fences and saying the right thing? Is that the key here?

TONY BLANKLEY, FORMER GINGRICH PRESS SECRETARY: Well look, I think everything that good manners, good style, good atmospherics can gain, President Obama will gain in this visit. He has the advantage of following a president who has been hated I think is a fair word and held in contempt by most Europeans. So he's going to do very well on that front.

The challenge of course is -- you saw the president working through the words on that -- that he can only concede so much factually and on a policy basis. He's going to do, as every president does, try to advance American national interest.

And he's going to have a difference of opinion with a lot of the continentals. Now we're seeing a very old problem with the president of France talking about the Anglo-Saxons, about the British and the Americans. We've been hearing that from many years from different French leaders. So I don't know there's going to be a lot he's going to accomplish substantively, but he's certainly going to win points for being a man who the Europeans admire as an individual.

MARTIN: Christiane, Zain and I, you heard us talk about the meeting with the Russian president. Are we seeing a new beginning, a fresh start here between the U.S. and Russian relations?

AMANPOUR: Well certainly, I think so because that was the biggest piece of news that came out of today, the biggest substantive issues where they agreed, A, to have a summit in July, B, to start again talking about the start nuclear reductions, and also to reduce their nuclear stockpiles, as well as dealing with issues like North Korea, Iran, and also some other issues of mutual interest.

And remember that Medvedev was incredibly out of sync with the rest of the world leaders even after Obama was elected, basically coming out in a speech and saying, hey we're, by the way, going to put missiles on our western border in response to America's Bush administration, missile defense shield. So real animosity in the beginning and today, smiles, handshakes, an agreement to move forward.

MARTIN: Hey Tony, real quick, we've got a president who is hugely popular around the world. So how does his popularity help when it comes to these policy disagreements with other world leaders?

BLANKLEY: Well look, I happen to think that nations base their policies on self-interest, not on personalities. But the president's discussions with the Russians is not going to necessarily be popular in the eastern part of European. The countries, Poland, Czechoslovakia, the former eastern bloc countries who border or almost border on Russia are very nervous because in that part of Europe, President Bush's later policy in the latter part of his administration to be tougher on the Russians was very popular.

So President Obama's got to be careful that the East Europeans don't feel that his discussions with the Russians may undercut them.

MARTIN: All right, Tony Blankley, Christiane Amanpour, thanks a lot, we certainly appreciate it, great information.

Folks, the president may be in for a tough week, but when you add First Lady Michelle Obama to the mix, oh, it's all good.

And we're talking about a new tobacco tax that's hiking up the cost of smoking and we're hearing from you. Here's Amanda in New York.


AMANDA, VIEWER: The tobacco tax should definitely be increased. And it doesn't matter if you're poor or rich, smoking is a very unhealthy habit and there definitely needs to be something done about this.


MARTIN: Well, is she right or wrong? Well, kill the phone and all of you call right now, toll free, 1-877-NO BULL-O. That's 1-877- 662-8550. You can also e-mail me at or find me on Twitter and Facebook.


MARTIN: The president calls my next guest one of his propeller heads. Geek on geek talk. Part of a team of economists with big personalities and big brains. Peter Orszag, director of the president's Office of Management and Budget is a point man for the next big White House battle, the budget. No doubt, the president's money man has some big work ahead of him. He joins me now to break it down. Peter, I sure am glad you're here.

PETER ORSZAG, DIRECTOR, OMB: Good to be here. MARTIN: $3.6 trillion. Of course, the president said is going to fund health care, energy and other issues. But Republicans, even some Democrats say, look, that's too much money. How do you convince the American people jacking up the deficit in the way they're describing is a smart move with this budget?

ORSZAG: Well actually, that's not what we're doing. We inherited a huge deficit, a $1.3 trillion deficit. What we're trying to do is walk that down, cut it in half over four years, while investing in health care, energy and education. Health care, for example, is the key to our fiscal future. So over the long term, we've got to bring down health care costs or we're on an unsustainable course.

MARTIN: When you say walk it down, $1.3 trillion right now, so you talk about over a couple of years bring it down to what, $500, $600 million?

ORSZAG: Billion, yes.

MARTIN: Billion, OK. Now, let's listen, also Republicans -- the president has chided Republicans saying they had no budget. They presented one today. They talked about keeping the Bush tax cuts. Also it dealt with defense spending, cutting taxes across the board. Is there anything in their budget you saw that you say, you know what, that's a good idea, we might want to consider that?

ORSZAG: Well the budget that was put forward clearly has a much different philosophy. They would rescind the Recovery Act just when it was getting going. Change the nature of Medicare and Medicaid in fundamental ways. They did pick up one idea on Social Security that I put forward in the past, so I guess I have to say that that was a good idea.

MARTIN: Look, the Congressional Budget Office, you obviously ran them before you came over to the White House, and they said this deficit is going to skyrocket with this budget. And so they're saying that you guys should be bit more conservative if you will as opposed to thinking that in the war in Iraq -- you guys have all these different sayings all over the place, the economy is going to get better, and you should dial that back down.

Has that caused the president to say, you know what, maybe we ought to take that into consideration and pull it back some and not be so far thinking, overreaching, if you will, if we can't achieve all of those different things and line up to save the money you say you could save?

ORSZAG: Well, I think we face big problems. And we need to address them. But there have been some adjustments made in the budget resolutions for example that will be voted on in both the House and Senate later this week. They made some adjustments to the proposals the president put forward. But if you look at where we're trying to focus attention, not only reducing the deficit, but investing in education, energy and especially in health care, tackling that core fiscal problem, that's not in conflict with being fiscally disciplined. It's actually the key to being so.

MARTIN: You talked about health care. And obviously you talked about your own issue, cardiovascular problems. I had a health issue in terms of $80,000 in health bills, no insurance. I was 29-years- old. Had to file for bankruptcy because of those health care costs. And so when you're out there selling it, is that really going to be the key, that saying look, we have to really confront the health care issue to really get to the American people to say this makes sense?

ORSZAG: Absolutely. I mean if you look, not only is health care the thing that's going to dominate the federal budget over time, but already today it is affecting state government budgets and it's crowding out support for things like higher education, causing increases in tuition and painful cutbacks at state colleges. And it's reducing workers' take home pay to a degree that I think is underappreciated and unnecessarily large. There's too much health care in the United States that's delivered that doesn't actually improve people's health. We need to make the system a lot more efficient.

MARTIN: So just to be clear, about $600 billion or so you expect -- that to be the deficit at the end of the president's first term?

ORSZAG: And we hope that we can make -- well, let's hope it's the first term --

MARTIN: Well, in four years.

ORSZAG: In four years and let's hope that we make further progress thereafter.

MARTIN: All right, of course, you know we're going to hold you to that one.

ORSZAG: Fair enough.

MARTIN: Peter, we sure appreciate it, thanks a lot for coming by.

ORSZAG: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: Want to take a moment to salute my colleagues. Today, we learned CNN has won a Peabody Award for our coverage of the 2008 presidential primary campaigns and debate. The board said CNN gave viewers unparalleled coverage of the historic process. I want to turn to a guy who lost his election last year and was called one of the most corrupt members of Congress. Well as of today, he's not going to prison ever. When we come back, we'll tell you why.


MARTIN: He may have been the poster boy for corruption in Congress, but his corruption case just got tossed. Former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens was one convicted of seven felonies last fall and the people of Alaska voting him out of office. Get this. Today, the country's new attorney general admitted the prosecutors totally botched the case. So tonight, lots of people are saying that is absolutely outrageous.

Joining me is senior correspondent Joe Johns in Washington and CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. And Joe, I want to start with you. You've covered this case. So let's step back and go back. What was he accused of and convicted of by a jury of his peers?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: OK, this was a big deal. Stevens was the longest-serving Republican in the Senate before the Justice Department went after him. He was also what you'd call one of the most powerful politicians in Washington, convicted on seven counts of allegedly making false statements, lying on government documents about gifts he received at a chalet in Girdwood, Alaska.

So after the trial, there were a bunch of questions raised about whether the government had withheld evidence that could have helped Stevens or engage in other misconduct to get a conviction. Stevens was waiting for sentencing when the attorney general decided essentially to drop the charges today, Roland.

MARTIN: So Jeff, this was a huge case. Democrats used it, Republicans wanted to stay away from this guy. He's now 85-years-old. So basically, he's off the hook. There's no chance he goes back into court.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Done. Roland, there's the technical legal term for what happened to Ted Stevens is he got screwed by the Department of Justice. I mean, this was a disgrace, what they did to him. They charged him on the eve of the election. He was convicted just days before the election. He loses by a very small margin.

Now, here we are, just a few weeks later, and the Justice Department says, well, you know, we really botched this case. We made mistakes. We're going to throw in the towel, admit that we tried him unfairly. I mean, it was terribly unfair, what they did to Ted Stevens.

MARTIN: Look, Joe, did the government have a strong case here? I mean, obviously, you have the prosecutors -- the judge was really after them all throughout the case. Did they have a strong case to start off with?

JOHNS: Well, there were a lot of big inferences. But when you read between the lines, there were questions about the valuations of gifts, all kinds of questions about whether this was intentional, what Stevens was alleged to have done, or whether it was just an inadvertent omission when he didn't put down certain gifts or the amount of certain gifts that he received now on his Senate disclosure forms.

Now, those very same prosecutors find themselves on the other end of the investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility. Essentially there are people behind the scenes arguing the very same thing, that these were inadvertent omissions and that's the reason why the information didn't get sent over to the defense camp. And there could be an investigation. It takes a while. It will be interesting to see the result.

MARTIN: You know Jeff, it's a huge case. The Justice Department made a big deal out of it. So what does this say about the attorney general coming forth and saying, you know what, we're dropping this case?

TOOBIN: I think Eric Holder gets a lot of credit for cutting his losses and admitting when the department's wrong. But think about this, this case was brought by the Public Integrity Section, the group that's supposed to monitor the integrity of public officials. Yet they tried this case in a manner totally lacking in public integrity.

I don't think this was about politics. This was about professional ambition on the part of the prosecutors and incompetence on the part of the prosecutors. And Ted Stevens has no remedy for losing this election. It's really -- it's just a sad story.

MARTIN: You know, there was a case in Houston, Texas, where the D.A. apologized for the prosecutor's conduct that sent a person to jail who shouldn't have gone to jail. I think frankly that the prosecutors who did this, they should personally apologize.

TOOBIN: We'll see. We'll see if it happens. Don't hold your breath.

MARTIN: I won't.

TOOBIN: I know, that may be the right thing to do, but it's not happening anytime soon.

MARTIN: All right, Jeffrey Toobin, Joe Johns, we certainly appreciate it, thank you so very much.

Hey folks, it was business as usual at the gas pumps, then in a flash, everything changed. See what happened next after the break.


MARTIN: Folks, we're taking your calls again tonight on the president's visit to London and anything else on your mind. Of course later, we'll talk about the high cigarette tax. Trust me, you can't wait for that. You can call us at 1-877-NO-BULL-0. That's 1-877-662- 8550. But right now, Zain Verjee is back with "The Briefing."

VERJEE: Thanks, Roland. North Korea's preparing to launch a missile in the next few days. Pyongyang says the missile will carry a communications satellite into space but the U.S. fears the launch is actually a test of a missile capable of reaching U.S. territory.

The Dallas police officer who prevented an NFL player from reaching his dying mother-in-law in time to say good-bye has quit the force. It happened two days after Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats accepted a written apology from Officer Robert Powell.

And just take a look at this from Arizona. A man lit a match while a friend was pumping gas Monday. And look, these are predictable results. A baby was rescued from the burning vehicle and one man is in the hospital.

U.S. marshals in Florida seized a yacht belonging to confessed swindler Bernie Madoff. The 55-foot yacht named Bull and a 24-foot motor boat were towed away early today.

And Roland, in honor of April Fool's Day, we have this i-Report. Look at this, Roland. Chris Augustine (ph) hit in this, a box for one hour.

MARTIN: An hour?

VERJEE: One hour, waiting to surprise this guy, his boss. Take a look. Whoa. As you see. As you see, it worked. Have you ever done that, Roland? Have you ever done that, to surprise your bosses?

MARTIN: No, I'm not waiting in a box.

VERJEE: Have you done anything to surprise your bosses?

MARTIN: Yeah, ask for a raise.

VERJEE: Being on time?

MARTIN: I'm always on time.

VERJEE: That's my big surprise. That was good, that was good. I don't know about waiting in a box.

MARTIN: No, not going to happen. Zain, appreciate it, thanks a bunch.

Folks, the president and first lady have had a crazy day in London. And we'll tell you about it. All from the tea with the queen to an all-star dinner, cooked by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

We're also taking your calls on smoking and what you think of the brand-new sin tax on cigarettes. Listen to this caller from the Tar Heel State, North Carolina.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no problem with a sin tax being placed on cigarettes. Obviously, the body's meant to be a temple and you're not to harm that temple. So of course having a tax on something as such really doesn't bother me too much.


MARTIN: Somebody I agree with there. We want to hear what's on your mind tonight, so give us a call, 1-877-NO BULL-0. That's 1-877- 662-8550.


MARTIN: London was at times a violent place today. Dozens were arrested with the G-20 summit just hours away. But so far, protesters haven't been able to disrupt the business at hand of President Obama as he meets with the other world leaders.

As part of our coverage, Anderson Cooper is reporting and anchoring "AC 360" from London tonight. He joins us now -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "AC 360": Yes, Roland, these protests were something, at one point besieging the Bank of Scotland, breaking down windows. There was a moment there the police seemed to be certainly outnumbered, almost overwhelmed at one point. One protester actually died apparently of a heart attack, not directly related to the protests but just in the swirl of activity. But as you said, it did not interrupt a lot of the meetings which took place today, an early morning meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at his residence at 10 Downing Street.

A cordial relationship certainly, one that was made deeper today. The White House certainly stressing that. There was also obviously the meeting with the queen. Both President Obama and Michelle Obama, the first lady, meeting with the royal family with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

Sort of awkward a little bit, cordial, proper. There were a lot of talks in British media right now about sort of a breach of etiquette when Michelle Obama putting her arm around Queen Elizabeth at one point, but everything seemed cordial and ended well. And of course the most significant meeting today, the meeting between President Obama and the Russian president and talking about the possibility and their plans to begin negotiations to reduce both country's nuclear arsenals.

That's clearly what the White House is trumpeting today as the most significant development and certainly tomorrow will be the main part of this summit, Roland.

MARTIN: All right, Anderson, time to roll or give the queen a hug.

Folks, be sure to check out Anderson, 10:00 Eastern, 9:00 Central. We'll certainly all be watching. Anderson, thanks a lot.

Now, wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall the moment Anderson was talking about the moment that President Obama came face- to-face with Queen Elizabeth? Well, we'll have the next best thing, Erica Hill, with our "Political Daily Briefing."

Erica, let's talk this much anticipated visit to Buckingham Palace.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, much anticipated indeed, and the good news is, Roland, as we just heard, it went swimmingly.

The president and first lady passing that test with flying colors. Mr. Obama said earlier he and Mrs. Obama did just sort of, you know, review the protocol again during the flight yesterday just to be sure everything was, you know, on the up and up.

It is, of course, no longer required to courtesy. The first lady chose a handshake as you just saw. The first couple then joined the queen for tea in her private quarters for about 30 minutes. That's actually a very big deal especially because no staff or aides were present. Mr. Obama is the tenth U.S. president to meet Queen Elizabeth II.

Now if you're checking the math here, Lyndon Johnson is the only sort of modern president who has not met with Her Majesty, Roland.

MARTIN: Oh, that's pretty interesting. Also, much anticipated gift exchange. So --

HILL: Oh, yes, the gifts.

MARTIN: What now with the gifts?

HILL: Yes, as we know -- we know the last gift that the president picked out which went to Prime Minister Gordon Brown on his visit to Washington, a bit of a flop, the 25 American classic movies he picked out. So everybody wants to know. We'll get the full read in tomorrow's London papers, but how did he do?

Well, the president and Mrs. Obama brought the queen an iPod. Now, they loaded it up with photos and footage of the queen's 2007 visit to the states. Also, 40 popular Broadway numbers, including these three I thought were kind of fitting for the occasion. "Some Enchanted Evening," "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend." She's got a few of those, right? "Getting to Know You" and "The Best of Times."

MARTIN: Sing them. Sing one of them.

HILL: Well, only in the break, Roland. I don't want to drive away your viewers.

The Obamas also presented the queen with a rare song but which was signed by Richard Rodgers. Now, for their part, the queen and the Duke of Edinburgh presented the Obamas with a framed photo of themselves which is a traditional gift that they give to those who come to meet them.

MARTIN: All right. The president is going to end his day with a working dinner. Now, the first lady is having dinner with a supermodel. What's the deal with the "Naked Chef"?

HILL: Well, you know just makes these things up.

The "Naked Chef" is none other than Jamie Oliver, who is a huge hit both at home in the U.K. and here in the states. You may know him from his food network show "The Naked Chef." He's cooking for both dinners, same menu. It includes baked Scottish salmon, Welsh lamb. There are some vegetarian options as well, and a Bakewell's (ph) tart with homemade custard, apparently a traditional dessert.

The ladies dinner is not limited though to G-20 spouses. British stars including "Harry Potter' author J.K. Rowling, Olympic gold medalist Kelly Holmes -- she's actually dating Kelly Holmes, invited as well. They sat this evening on either side of Mrs. Obama. And what seems like a bit of an odd twist, supermodel Naomi Campbell also there.

MARTIN: Naomi Campbell?

HILL: Naomi Campbell. I'm not sure where she fits in.

MARTIN: Hey, first lady better watch out, she's going to hit somebody with a cell phone.

HILL: Well, here's the thing, apparently because of security issues, Jamie Oliver, whose wife is apparently expecting their third child any moment now...

MARTIN: Right.

HILL: ... couldn't bring his phone. So maybe she didn't have hers on her. There was no need to worry.

MARTIN: Good move. All right, Erica, we certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

Folks, to really get an idea of what it's like to meet the queen, you have to talk to someone who's done it. Our man Richard Quest joins us from London for that. Plus more inside scoop for "Politico"'s White House beat after the break.


MARTIN: I love Beyonce there. It's foreign exchange and love is in the air. Can you feel it? So far, president and Mrs. Obama are getting the royal treatment in London. We're not just talking about the queen. Check out the papers.

"The Daily Express," Obama, wife and a team of 500 arrive in Britain to save the world, we hope."

"The Daily Mirror," they have "Obama Drama." "Massive security as president jets in for crisis G-20 summit."

A little more serious. Here's "The Sun." "Ello, ello, yellow: First Lady Looks Summit Special."

Boy, don't you just love the Brits and the headlines? Let's talk to Nia-Malika Henderson who's been covering this for "Politico"'s White House beat, and CNN's Richard Quest live in London.

So, Richard, what's the British's take on the American couple? The American first couple?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is no doubt that if there was a star to be had at this particular G-20, it is president and Mrs. Obama. But unfortunately, because it's not a state visit, they are here just for the G-20, there really are no more events where members of the general public can get to see them. So it's a very limited opportunity to actually see the president and Michelle Obama.

That being said, frankly, you could drop the rest of them all in the tents (ph) because the only people really you want to know about at the moment, with perhaps the exception of Nicolas Sarkozy's wife, the former supermodel Carla Bruni, it's really President and Mrs. Obama. They are the stars. They are what we want to know what's happening, and we want to know where the beast is at any given moment, that big multi-ton Cadillac.

MARTIN: Oh, Richard, you are just too much of an introvert.

Now, Nia, the forces (ph) in U.K. are really, they're really embracing this idea of America's first black president. And so, how has the first lady, Michelle Obama, really seized upon that in her travels around London?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "POLITICO": Yes. I think we're going to see that more fully tomorrow. She's actually going to visit a school, an all-girls school in London, where the population is mainly minorities, and the second language is English. And she's essentially going to tell the story that she's been telling here in America, which is about her story, you know, being a young girl growing up on the south side of Chicago and really, you know, working hard, growing up with working class parents, and really kind of achieving through just hard work and listening to her parents. So we'll see that tomorrow.

And also this weekend, in her travels in Prague, she'll visit the Jewish neighborhood there. And so it is really, you know, a lot about diversity.

MARTIN: Right.

HENDERSON: And so that's what we'll see later on.

MARTIN: Richard, you're a big-time rock star. Like all rock stars, you meet the queen. So what was your impression of the Obama's visit with the queen today?

QUEST: Yes, I've seen the queen many times and I have to say tonight, she looks particularly spectacular, but she did look her age. And it was -- the thing I thought when I saw the Obamas walking in, it was a bit like sort of son and daughter-in-law with aged parents and grandparents, particularly when they all stood there.

There was the Obamas, tall in stature like it knows (ph) the queen and the duke somewhere down there. And that being said, don't be hoodwinked by all this nonsense and rubbish that you'll hear about breach of protocol and putting arms on -- nothing of the sort. The royal family have been doing this.

You know, Obama is only been president a few months and he wasn't a senator that long before. Her Majesty's been doing this for now on six decades.

I assure you of one thing, it doesn't bother her one jolt if somebody's a little more familiar than they might be. They were perfectly proper. The event went exceptionally well. And just remember -- MARTIN: Right.

QUEST: The queen's first prime minister was Winston Churchill.

MARTIN: Now, Nia, is it too much being made about this iPod deal in terms of the Obamas giving the queen a preloaded iPod?

HENDERSON: Well, one of the things on somebody on the telegraph, on their newspaper Web site, there were a lot of Americans on there really expressing kind of outrage and embarrassment that President Obama gave this iPod to the queen. Apparently, she already has one. She's had one since like 2005.

So, you know, and then some of the Brits pushed back and said no, it's a perfectly legitimate gift and they also gave her something special. This rare song book from Richard Rodgers, who, of course, is one of her favorites. She's apparently a big fan of "Oklahoma." And her iPod is already loaded with, you know, a bunch of song tunes. But apparently she's not very much a fan of rap music.

MARTIN: No. Richard, I know you have something to say about the iPod. Too much ado about nothing or nice move?

QUEST: Look, she's got an iPod that was a gift of Prince Andrew in 2005. It's said that she uses her mobile phone. But frankly, I can't see Her Majesty riding around the Balmoral Estate listening to the iPod. It just doesn't ring true to me.

That having been said, they will have been extremely grateful for the gift. The fact that the U.S. president is getting somewhat of a bizarre reputation for the presents he chooses to give when he goes on these visits is really quite something else. No doubt about it what they've got in return was the standard British important gift from the queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, a signed picture, Elizabeth R., Philip Duke.

MARTIN: All right, Richard Quest, Nia-Malika Henderson. One picture I want to see, Richard seeing the queen with an iPod. That would be a great photo op.

Hey, Richard, thanks so much. Nia, thanks a bunch.

Folks, the government is hitting the little guy with another big tax. And you know what? I say good. I'll tell you why after the break.


MARTIN: We all have our vices. You, me, everybody. But one that drives me nuts is smoking. Why anyone in their right mind would want to essentially inhale fire is beyond me. But the question is, what are you prepared to do?

Well, look, I'll tell you what I'll do. That is when relatives who are smokers come to my home, I send them to the furthest corner of the backyard for their nicotine fix. The only smoke I want in a restaurant is coming off a hot, juicy steak.

And I'm driving down the street, and I see a mom or dad in the car next to me puffing away, as their helpless child inhales that junk, well, look, don't even get me started on that. So I've got zero sympathy -- zero for the folks who are up in arms over the federal cigarette tax jumping from 39 cents to $1.01.

Now look, cigarettes will kill you, period. It isn't up for argument or debate. I say tax them more.

And you know what really makes me mad? When all these anti-tax crusaders drag out their usual prop, poor people, and say, oh, this is so harsh because the poor people will be hurt the most. Really? Check this out.

(INAUDIBLE) Smoking is already hurting poor people, a lot more than a higher smoking tax. If this tax put cigarettes out of their reach, you know what, that's fine with me. I call that good legislation.

Now, folks, you're certainly speaking your mind tonight on smoking and sin taxes. Here's what Lillian has to say.

She says, "Cry me a freakin' river. Smoking negatively affects bystanders and drums up insane amounts of public healthcare cost. It's about time they paid back what they've been costing society for generations."

And you know what, she's on the money. But you know what, we also want to hear from you. So give us a call right now, toll free at 1-877-no-bull-0. That's 1-877-662-8550. Also e-mail me, or find me on twitter and Facebook.


MARTIN: "LARRY KING LIVE" is just minutes away. Larry, what's on tap for tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Well, Roland, the president and Mrs. Obama, as we know, are taking London by storm. What do the Brits have to say about the fashion, the food, the frenzy, over America's first couple? We'll talk to some royal insiders for the scoop on all of that and the Obamas audience with the queen as well. It's all next on "LARRY KING LIVE," Roland.

You've been talking about the same thing.

MARTIN: You got that right. It's all we're talking about. Larry, we look forward to it. We certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

KING: Thank you.

MARTIN: Plus we heard a lot from folks across the country, a lot of folks about sin taxes on smoking. And we found out that cigarette prices are all over the map literally. Prices range from a high of $6.97 a pack in New York, with Massachusetts and New Jersey not far behind, to a low of $3.85 in South Carolina. Missouri and Mississippi, well, they're the next cheapest states.

Our next guest is against the federal tax and smoking bans in general. So obviously, we disagree. He's Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman from Georgia, and the Libertarian Party's candidate for president last year.

Bob, I want you to take a listen to this iReporter and see. Hear what they have to say.


CLIFF OLANEY, IREPORTER: The tobacco tax is totally unfair and unnecessary. There's a lot of other ways that you can raise revenue that would be by getting the economy going.


MARTIN: Bob, what about that? I mean, good tax or bad? What's the issue?

BOB BARR, FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, there's -- no tax is a good tax. That's where we as libertarians start from, Roland. But, in fact, it does cost money to run government, to provide necessary services and those ought to be spread across the population, not to single out one group, steak lovers, for example. You mentioned you love the smell of a steak. I do too.

Wait until Mayor Bloomberg and folks like that start coming after steak lovers because, well, after all, steaks have cholesterol in them. You know, where do you draw the line? Today it's cigarettes, tomorrow, it's something else.

MARTIN: But you know, Bob, the reality is when people are smoking, their secondhand smoke, it affects people who work in restaurants. And I'm sorry, I'm just not buying this whole thing about it's going to hurt poor people, because the reality is our healthcare costs are crazy and smoking plays a huge factor when it comes to a lot of these diseases. I say great idea.

BARR: Well, I don't have -- I don't like it simply because -- I mean, the reason I don't like it is not because well it affects poor people more than others. That really isn't the basis on which to levy or not levy a tax. But again, fundamental fairness to me dictates that it be spread across the population that benefits from government services.

Now, if you have a problem, for example, my wife throws me out of the house if I want to have a cigar. Well, restaurants, the same thing. If their patrons don't want to have smoke in the restaurant, I can understand that, but leave that up to the individual businesses and the individuals themselves to make those choices, Roland. MARTIN: Look, I get the individual thing, Bob. I'll tell you when I'm walking down the street and somebody's in front of me and they're smoking, I'm walking behind that trail, I have no choice then. I don't want to sit there and take secondhand smoke.

I mean, a lot of individuals, look, they smoke in places, stadiums and things like that. It's not a good idea. We should have the kind of rules to say get rid of that.

BARR: Well, but, again, we're mixing apples and oranges a little bit here and maybe those will be taxed some day too.


BARR: But that's another argument. You know, we're mixing apples and oranges. So when you look at steps that municipalities and individuals can take to insulate themselves, if they don't want smoke, that's one thing.

MARTIN: Right.

BARR: But it's another to basically penalize a class of people and not another class of people to raise general revenue funds.

MARTIN: All right. Bob Barr, hey, we certainly appreciate it. Thanks so much for breaking it down for us.

BARR: Thank you, Roland.

MARTIN: To the phone lines, let's go to Nate in New Jersey. Hey, Nate.

NATE, NEW JERSEY: How are you doing? I tried various programs, but the government came up with the best one and it really works for me.

MARTIN: And that is, high taxes, you're quitting?

NATE: When they raise the tax, I have to stop.

MARTIN: All right. Look, there we go, a believer. All right, Nate, we certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

Linda in California, what's on your mind?

LINDA, CALIFORNIA: Well, I'm not a smoker. And yes, we have to respect the effects of secondhand smoking. But we are Americans. You're talking about judging people's freedoms and what they choose to do and then taxing it based on your opinion. Come on.

MARTIN: Well, I tell you what --

LINDA: This is America, right? Aren't we supposed to be free if it doesn't hurt people?

MARTIN: Actually, the smoke does hurt people. Here's the deal. LINDA: Not if they respect secondhand smoke laws.

MARTIN: I understand. But also according to the plan, this tax is going to help pay for the health care for four million people. So it is helping somebody.

Let's go to Phyllis on the phone lines. Phyllis, how are you doing?

PHYLLIS, NORTH CAROLINA: I'm doing fine, Roland.

MARTIN: Your comment?

PHYLLIS: My comment is, because of the increases of taxes on the cigarette, it caused me to quit. I had to quit because I cannot afford the taxes. I understand why they have them, but I can't afford them. And it was time for me to quit. It just made me say it's my time to quit.

MARTIN: See, the taxes are going to put a few more years in your life.

Phyllis, good job. We certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

And all evening, we've been telling you what's happening at the G-20 protest in London. Well, now, you're going to hear what it's like directly from those in the middle of it all.


MARTIN: Oh, Joss Stone from England. Some anger in the streets of London today as protesters clashed with police ahead of the G-20 meetings. You've seen the pictures, but here is something you may not have seen, twitter reports. Some from the demonstrators themselves live as they happened.

Zain Verjee is back now with that from our twitter desk.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Roland, you know, we had minute by minute reports from right inside the crowd of protesters today, all courtesy of the Web site twitter.

Now, you saw these pictures. Take a look, of police and protesters clashing in London streets today. Thousands of anti- capitalists, anarchists, environmental campaigners, all crowding the street in hot spots across the city, you know, places like London's financial center, around the Bank of England.

Well, listen to how people on the scene described it in their tweets.

"Central London completely locked down. What is the free world coming to? Barricaded in bank at G-20 protest, behind two lines of police and their paddywagons. Police are searching everyone leaving from bank. People have just been pushed off cornhill with lots of violence." So really a flavor of what was going on.

MARTIN: So a lot of different things that were going on there and so now, that's one side of the story. Another side?

VERJEE: Yes, I mean, some of the tweets we're picking up on scenes like this one, you know, where protesters outnumbered by news photographers outside the Royal Bank of Scotland. They're really raising questions about whether demonstrators were acting up for the cameras.

A tweet like this, "If the media went home, so would the protesters and the police."

MARTIN: Speaking of going home, this is Zain's last night with us.

VERJEE: I know.

MARTIN: She's headed to London for a new show. So good luck with that.

VERJEE: Thank you.

MARTIN: Hey, folks, that's it for us tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.