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Campbell Brown

U.S. Journalists Sentenced to 12 Years in North Korean Prison; GOP Afraid of Sarah Palin?

Aired June 08, 2009 - 20:00   ET



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

What can be done to rescue these two American journalists trapped in North Korea and sentenced to 12 years hard labor? If they are pawns, what do the North Koreans want?

Plus, this father's battle half a world away to get his abducted son. Will a Brazilian supreme court give him his child back? Tonight, David Goldman speaks out in his first prime-time interview.

And Sarah Palin packed in a New York crowd that could fill a stadium.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: So good to be here.

BROWN: But Republicans wouldn't let her be the keynote speaker at their big event tonight in Washington. Is the GOP afraid of Sarah Palin?

PALIN: Did that say pit bull softball?


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

BROWN: Hey there, everybody.

We're going to tackle all those big questions tonight.

And the premise of tonight's "Great Debate," the U.S. should lift the Cuban embargo. It's up to Congress, so two lawmakers with very different and very passionate opinions are going to join me a little bit later.

But we start tonight, as we do every night, with the "Mash-Up," our look at the stories making an impact right now and the must-see moments of the past 24 hours. We're watching it all, so you don't have to.

First, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the U.S. is exhausting all options to try to free two American reporters being held prisoner in North Korea. Laura Ling and Euna Lee were sentenced yesterday to 12 years hard labor.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We're engaged in all possible ways, through every possible channel to secure their release, and we once again urge North Korea to grant their immediate release on humanitarian grounds.


BROWN: One thing is clear. We may see this as a travesty of justice, but North Korea sees it as a real opportunity.


JOHN ROBERTS, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Are they being made an example of or is North Korea trying to use them as a bargaining chip?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: They are using them as bargaining chips. It's a high-stakes poker game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Journalists are just chips in that bigger game.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Kim Jong Il holds bargaining chips there as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bargaining now begins.


BROWN: So what does North Korea want? We're going to dig into that tonight and we will tell you what these woman -- women could face in that labor camp also.

President Obama back home and under pressure to show his economic plans are working, unemployment at its highest level in a quarter- century. And, today, the president said he's spending more stimulus cash to bring the jobs and bring them now.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The goal here is that we're going to create or save 600,000 jobs over the next 100 days, keeping teachers in the classroom, cops on the streets, providing summer jobs for youth that are particularly hard-hit in this job market, breaking ground on hundreds of new projects, all across the country, in clean energy and transportation.


BROWN: The reaction in TV land, questions about whether the president's numbers add up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Administration officials say they used a tried and tested formula for predicting the number of jobs. But critics say it's nothing more than guesswork, all smoke and mirrors.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Critics saying that these shovel-ready projects are far from ready.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Republicans are also minimizing the types of jobs the White House promised to create today, for instance, law enforcement, teachers, summer employment for young people.

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: I guess what troubles some numbers- crunchers, Secretary, is that they don't like the way you're crunching.


BROWN: The White House line: There is a long way to go, but our plans are working. Give us time.

A very relaxed-looking Laura Bush weighing in on Dick Cheney this morning. The ex-V.P. has been hard to avoid these days. He's been traveling the country trashing the Obama administration's foreign policy. Well, today, on "Good Morning America," the former first lady defended Cheney, sort of.


LAURA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: I think that's his right, as a citizen of the U.S. And I think he also feels obligated. And, so, I -- you know, I understand why he wants to speak out.

On the other hand, George feels like, as a former president, that he owes President Obama his silence on issues, and that there's no reason to second-guess any decisions that he makes.

And you're right. George is very gracious. And that's one of the reasons I love him so much.


BROWN: We will have more from that interview a little bit later.

Are troops in Iraq getting a little treat tonight? Stephen Colbert is there, all decked out in his camouflage suit and tie. This morning, ABC's Diane Sawyer asked Colbert whether he is going to give the troops a little bit of what they want.


DIANE SAWYER, CO-HOST, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": Are you a little worried at least a large percentage of them will wish you were Jessica Simpson instead?

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": I'm going to wear some short shorts. I'm going to wear some Daisy Dukes.


COLBERT: And I have been working on my gams. I'm willing to shave my legs just to make them happy. All I hope is to make them laugh.


BROWN: And, apparently, that does involve shaving. Check out Colbert. This is getting a regulation buzz cut, seriously, from General Ray Odierno.

Billy Elliot cleaning up at the Tonys last night, but, today, all anybody could talk about was Bret Michaels. You remember Bret Michaels, the lead singer from that '80s hair band Poison? He performed at the Tonys. And his "Spinal Tap" moment went instantly viral.

It involved a collision with a piece of the set. Watch this and keep an eye on him just after he finishes his song. Oh, yes. Watch it again. There we go. OK. Ouch.

Michaels broke his nose apparently and cut his lip. Through his publicist, he told "The New York Times": "I'm a trooper. I have gotten hit by harder things."

And that is the "Mash-Up."

Now we're going to move on.

Here's something that you don't ever want to be. You do not ever want to be a pawn in a geopolitical chess game between a superpower and a rogue nation.

And our first big question tonight is, what can the U.S. do to try to free these two journalists who are being held in North Korea?

And joining me right now to talk about this, National Public Radio contributor John Ridley is here, Tala Dowlatshahi of Reporters Without Borders, "National Review" senior editor Richard Brookhiser also here, his new book appearing on shelves today, in fact.

Today, right?


BROWN: Is called "Right Time, Right Place: Coming of Age with William F. Buckley Jr. and the Conservative Movement."

We also have in Washington Georgetown professor Victor Cha, who was director for Asian affairs for President Bush's National Security Council with us as well.

Welcome to everybody. And we have all been following this story so closely.

Victor, I want to start with you on this, because I know you have spent time in North Korea, you have negotiated with North Koreans. But give us a sense of what the sentence means. What does hard labor entail? What could these girls be facing?

VICTOR CHA, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Well, if they're talking, Campbell, if they're talking about prison camps of or labor camps, our best information on that comes from defectors who have gotten out of North Korea and told their story.

And some of them have come from labor camps. And the situations there, unfortunately, are subhuman. You're talking about the lowest wrung of the society in North Korea that gets banished to those sorts of camps. And if this, indeed, with will be the fate of the two journalists, these are hardly conditions that you could describe as being anything less than subhuman.

BROWN: Tala, the families, I don't have to say this, they have got to be going through hell right now. And they put out a statement just a short time ago. I just want to read a brief bit of it.

It says: "We're very concerned about their, the girls' mental state and well-being. Laura has a serious medical condition that is sure to be exacerbated by the drastic sentence. Euna has a 4-year-old daughter who is displaying signs of anguish over the absence of her mother. We believe that the three months they have already spent under arrest, with little communication with the families, is long enough."

I know you're been in communication with the families. Are they getting any information at all?


We are seriously concerned that this is a trial that is sham trial. When they were arrested on the 17th of March, we really called for the United States to get actively involved. North Korea initially said that they were committing hostile activities. But we don't have any proof. These are journalists. We have to remember they're not criminals.

They were there to cover the trafficking of North Korean women over the Chinese border and were -- there's some speculation that they were yanked off of the Chinese border into North Korea by North Korea officials. So, we're seriously concerned.

The family has received letters. They are not doing well. They feel isolated. And we really hope that they get released as soon as possible.

BROWN: John?

JOHN RIDLEY, COMMENTATOR, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: The good news, as bad of all this is, and this is bad news, the good news is part of this is exactly what North Korea wants, and that's attention.

When Bill Richardson came back in 2007 and brought some remains of some serviceman back, talking to NPR, he said, this is what North Korea wants. They want attention. They want focus. They want to be belligerent. They like this brinkmanship.

And the difficult thing going forward is, what are the things that we can give them? If it's part of the nuclear talks, I think that's going to be difficult. That's on another level. If it is simpler in some ways, things like food -- we stopped food shipments through the United Nations in December of last year. That would be something fairly easy to start up again and something they really need.

That's the bottom line. These folks need food and utilities.

BROWN: Richard, there's talk of sending an envoy. What do you see as the options?


BROOKHISER: Well, first of all, these are women. These are journalists and professionals. And we're journalists here. We represent journalists.

And God bless them. Our hearts go out to them. I imagine we can buy them out. You know, there's some sort of price, money, food, whatever. We could probably buy them out. Another thing North Korea wants, besides attention, is to throw its weight around. I mean, this is a country that's arming itself, acquiring nuclear weapons.

And nobody has been able to stop them, not in the Bush administration, not in the Clinton administration.

DOWLATSHAHI: But the problem, Campbell, in buying them out, is that you're really setting a precedent to the North Korean government that says, well, if we do something wrong, we can always pay you off.

We worked on the Roxana Saberi case in Iran, who -- she was just recently released. And everybody knows about that case. Iran does have an appeal court, which the North Koreans do not.

BROWN: I know. There are real differences here. I -- someone said to me, Iran is like Canada when you compare the two when you're trying to do a negotiation like this.

BROOKHISER: This is the most totalitarian nation on Earth.

BROWN: I mean, Victor, is that a fair assessment? Do you see this as being an easy process?

CHA: No, not at all. To the extent to which they're looking for attention, that certainly can be one of the reasons.

But the administration, the Obama administration, was very clear about its willingness to begin high-level negotiations on the nuclear side when they came into office. And the North was just not interested. So, I think they're -- they're motivated by a different thing here, which is they're really concerned about their own refugee problem.

And they don't want -- they're trying to use these journalists as an example of how they don't want the media coming near their border and focusing on this particular issue as they go through an internal leadership transition. So, I think they're really trying to send a message with this.

And this is a very formidable challenge in terms of anybody going in there to try to negotiate the release of these hostages.

BROWN: I can't even imagine what their families are going through. We're going to stay on top of this story. And I know thanks to the panel. John and Richard, you guys are going to stick around a little bit.

There's going to be a lot more on the two journalists tonight also on "LARRY KING LIVE" coming up at the top of the hour.

Tonight's newsmaker, this is a father battling to get his kidnapped son back from Brazil. Take a look.


DAVID GOLDMAN, FATHER FIGHTING TO GET SON BACK: This family has been waging a campaign to turn my son against me for almost five years.


BROWN: This dad's fight to bring his boy home, that's coming up.

Plus, tonight's "Great Debate." Should the U.S. end the Cuban embargo?

When we come back.


BROWN: Welcome back.

Time now for tonight's newsmaker.

David Goldman is a New Jersey man. He has been waging an international custody battle to bring his 9-year-old son, Sean, back from Brazil.

And before I talk to David, here's Deb Feyerick with the background on the story.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): David Goldman's wife, Bruna, took their 4-year-old son to her native Brazil in 2004. He thought it was just a two-week vacation. He now knows she never intended to return.

GOLDMAN: They didn't pack a stitch of this clothing.

FEYERICK (on camera): So, they took nothing. They really took nothing.


FEYERICK (voice-over): Bruna divorced Goldman in Brazil, but never legally in the United States. She later remarried. Then, last year, she died during childbirth. And Goldman thought he would be reunited with his son.

Instead, a Brazilian family court awarded custody to Sean's stepdad. After years of legal motions and appeals, Goldman won custody, or at least he thought he did. Last week, he was set to return to the United States with Sean. But the Brazilian Supreme Court agreed to hear a new claim. And, once again, Goldman had to return to the United States alone.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


BROWN: On Wednesday, we expect a ruling from Brazil's Supreme Court.

And David Goldman is joining me right now.

David, welcome to you.

GOLDMAN: Thank you. Thank you, Campbell.

BROWN: You were able to visit your son, Sean, just last week. How's he doing? What was it like? Describe the visit.

GOLDMAN: Well, as always, it is a precious time that I'm able to spend with my son.

We -- we played. We jumped on the trampoline. We -- he was showing me his wrestling moves. And, for a period of time, he went upstairs into the condo where I believe his grandparents were. I don't know who else was in there.

And from what was a joyous occasion, happy, laughing, playing, joking, wrestling, he came down, almost in a robotic form, and then he said, "No, you can't take pictures anymore."

And -- and it was very, very disturbing. This -- this family has been waging a campaign to turn my son against me for almost five years. And, within our first reunion, they realized it did not work. And now they are ratcheting up the pressure and psychologically damaging my son in such a way, it -- it would kill any parent to be able to -- who can't just do something and help their child.

BROWN: So -- so... GOLDMAN: And my feeling is next they're going to put him on television and speak in a brainwashed way. And it's -- it's sickening.

BROWN: What do you do? What can you do? How do you combat that?

GOLDMAN: Well, there is a lot of psychological evidence on the evaluations of that family and my son that point clearly what needs to be done.

There is no bond that anyone should break between a parent and a child. No one should be able to interfere with that. And the most important bond is a parent and a child. It's a fundamental, sacred, natural, God-given right and bond for a child and a son to be together.

And what these people have been doing and -- and, up to this point, able to get away with, is -- is disgraceful. And it's a torture to my son.

BROWN: Well, you can only imagine, David, that the emotions, the range of emotions he has to be feeling. How do you talk to him about what's happening?

GOLDMAN: In my conversations with Sean, I just try to let him see that I'm here, that I love him, that I have always been here, and let's play, let's have fun. I'm not the one telling him -- and they have been telling him for years, your father abandoned you, your father doesn't love you, all kinds of terrible things to turn him against me.

And, yet, a part of him inside knows and wants to connect. And then we leave, and then they ratchet it up again.

BROWN: How are you preparing for Wednesday? Because, I mean, I don't have to tell you this. There is a chance you will not get him back. How do you emotionally prepare for this?

GOLDMAN: It won't be over. It won't be over.

I have been kicked in the teeth since day one, when he was abducted and I began this fight. I have to keep going. He's my son. You know, every parent who has a child, and they tuck him in at night, or her in at night, and they wish the best and only the best, and they will always protect the child and do whatever they can, but most of the time they don't have to prove it.

And I'm in the proving grounds to myself and to my child. And I have to get him home, and I will do whatever I have to, and never stop, to save him.

BROWN: Do you think that your story would be the same if you were Sean's mother, and it was his father who had taken him to another country? Do you think that there's a double standard here? GOLDMAN: Well, I mean, apparently, so far, Brazil seems to favor mothers right off the bat and they have treated cases in the Hague Convention as basic custody cases, where they always feel the mom gets the child.

Tragically, there is no mother any longer. Now, here comes new guy, no relation to my son, and he's got more legal claim of custody than me, his own blood, living father, who's loved him.

When my son was first taken, he was crying all the time, he wants his dad. He wants his dad. "Where's my dad?" And no one seemed to mind, because he's still been there and no one returned him.

And now there's a man, again, who's got no blood relation to my son, and he's got more legal claim of custody than his own living father.

BROWN: David...

GOLDMAN: Can't be.

BROWN: ... President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, they have both lobbied here on your behalf. Is there anything more you want the U.S. government to do that you think the U.S. government could do for you?

GOLDMAN: I hope that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will keep it going, will keep it in -- in the focus and to work with the Brazilian government.

We're not asking any favors. We're just ask -- we're just expecting them to abide by the rule of law and the rule of nature. It's a simple request. And I hope -- I hope President Obama continues. And -- and -- and I plead for -- for any government official and all of the government officials.

Again, we have one child in a discussion about my case, but there are 50 other cases with U.S. citizens and countless from other countries all trapped in Brazil. I don't understand why they want to draw the line in the sand when it comes to this issue.

BROWN: We will be watching closely to find out what happens on Wednesday.

David, I appreciate your time so much tonight. Thank you so much for being with us.

GOLDMAN: Thank you, Campbell. Thank you very much.


BROWN: And we will let you know how that Brazilian court rules. Join us same time tomorrow night.

Our newsmaker, Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele, is going to be here to talk about the future of the GOP. Who really runs the party these days? I will ask him.

Coming up: Sarah Palin vs. the Republican Party establishment. She had agreed to give the keynote speech at tonight's big GOP fund- raiser. But, at the last minute, she gets bumped for Newt Gingrich. The big question tonight, is the GOP afraid of Sarah Palin?

Also, Christiane Amanpour on the streets of Iran, where a growing opposition may throw their controversial president out of office. That's tonight's breakout.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Women appear to be leading the charge. They say they want more freedom and equal rights, even those who don't feel safe enough to reveal their faces, just their hopes.



BROWN: Welcome back, everybody. Time to get a check of some of the other stories making news right now.

Erica Hill here with tonight's briefing.



Just a short time ago, a federal judge in Nevada ordered a man accused of making threats against President Obama to face charges in Salt Lake City. The Secret Service says Daniel James Murray told bank tellers in Utah he was on a mission to kill the president. Well, he was arrested on Friday in the parking lot of a Vegas casino. The judge rejected a lawyer's claim that Murray is both mentally ill and not a serious threat.

Cheap gas turns out quickly becoming a thing of the past. The Energy Department says the price at the pump shot up another dime in just at the past week. That puts the national average at $2.62 a gallon, up about $1 over the past six months, although it is still far less than this time last summer, when prices shot above $4 a gallon.

High-tech underwater listening gear from the U.S. Navy now part of the search for Air France Flight 447's voice and data recorders. Time here is key, because those recorders only emit signals for 30 days. The devices will be used where searchers recovered 24 bodies and part of the plane's tail section. Keep in mind this is a search area of more than 77,000 square miles.

French investigators are looking into whether the plane's sensors gave the pilots conflicting information about how just fast to fly through a storm.

A big surprise for bagging handlers at Washington's Dulles International Airport this weekend, a stowaway in the cargo hold of a 767. The flight came from Ethiopia, with a layover in Rome. It's believed, though, that the man was on board for the entire 7,000-mile trip. He was hospitalized for dehydration and exhaustion. Customs officials don't think he's a threat. But, still, he's going to be deported.

And Apple unveiling its new iPhone today -- the headline here, faster, less expensive. The new top-of-the-line model, the 3G S, is supposed to be three times faster than the current model. It will sell for $300. The current model drops down to just 100 bucks. I mean, who would have thought the days when you could get an iPhone for $100?

BROWN: I know, but how annoyed are you if you just bought one like a month ago for full price?


HILL: That's why I didn't buy one.


HILL: I knew.

BROWN: You were smart. You knew. You knew it was coming.

Thank you. See you in a bit, Erica.

Fidel Castro, he has outlasted 10 American presidents. So, is it time finally for a new approach? Tonight's "Great Debate": Is it time to end the Cuban embargo?

Congressman Charlie Rangel, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have two different views on whether it's time to try something new.

Plus, is the GOP afraid of Sarah Palin? Hear why some in the Republican establishment aren't exactly thrilled with her tonight. We will explain.


BROWN: Every night at this time, the "Great Debate."

And tonight's premise: The U.S. should lift the Cuban embargo. President Obama has opened the door by easing the travel ban for Cuban-Americans. A bill before Congress with support from both parties would make Cuba open to all Americans for the first time in decades.

Joining us right now, New York Congressman Charles Rangel, who says, yes, it is time to lift the embargo, and, on the other side, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. She was the first Cuban-American elected to Congress.

We want your opinion, too. Vote by calling the number on the bottom of your screen. First, opening statements from each. We have 30 seconds for each of you on the clock.

Congressman Rangel, the premise: The U.S. should lift the Cuban embargo. Make your case.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D-NY), HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, we have had it for 50 years, and it certainly hasn't worked. I truly believe that the communist, Castro, has used this as a reason to justify his dictatorship by making America the enemy when it's not. We're losing from trade, friendship, the fight against terrorism.

We've got big problems in our hemisphere including working with the OAS, and we shouldn't be the only one besides another nation having an illegal embargo against a sovereign country. If we can deal with China, if we can deal with Vietnam, and we're trying to deal with North Korea, I think we should end the embargo.

BROWN: All right. Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen?

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), WANTS TO KEEP CUBAN EMBARGO: Well, what has to change in Cuba is the tyranny, the dictatorship, not U.S. policy. We are not to blame for the ills of the communistic dictatorship in the island of Cuba.

When Fidel Castro illegally power-grabbed himself into military power 50 years ago, he took away the rights of the Cuban people. Sadly nothing has changed. That's not the fault of U.S. policy. That's the fault of that dictatorship.

There is no freedom. There are no multiparty elections. There's no freedom of the press. You can't even have the universal declaration of human rights in Cuba. That's an illegal document.

BROWN: But, congresswoman, if you could answer the question or address the point that Congressman Rangel made that if 50 years have passed, that much time and there has been no change, why not adjust the policy in some form?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Excellent question. Let me turn that around. Fifty years every single country on earth has been wheeling and dealing and trading and going to tourism, doing everything that it can with Fidel Castro's Cuba. In 50 years of economic entanglements with Cuba, what has changed?

The United States is the only country that has had an embargo just as we had an embargo on Haiti when it had a terrible military junta, just as we had an embargo on South Africa when they had their terrible apartheid policy. The United States has moral principles upon which we stand. And I think those are just as right when it was in Haiti, when it was in South Africa, and the Cuban people are no less meritorious of freedom and liberty and solidarity than those individuals were.

BROWN: Congressman Rangel? RANGEL: By 50 years? Certainly doesn't apply to a billion people in China. It doesn't apply to other communists. And I personally believe that the greatest ambassadors for freedom are the American people.

I am really offended that my country doesn't have enough confidence in Americans that they can't go wherever they want to go. Communist or non-communist, we're strong enough that we don't have to yield to communist in Cuba. But I can imagine American tourists, our young kids playing their hip hop and letting the world see what Americans stand for.

The whole idea that we're the ones putting up a wall against Americans leaving, normally is the communist countries that won't let the people out and we won't let Americans go where they want to go.

ROS-LEHTINEN: You know, I find it interesting that Charlie doesn't want to even pass the free trade agreement with Colombia. Yet when it comes to communist Cuba, he wants to lift all restrictions. We're ready to do wheeling and dealing, it doesn't matter with communist Cuba. Yet, Colombia, oh, boy, there are human rights violators in Colombia.

It's such hypocrisy that I really can't stand it. And I think that we've got to be honest. It's not U.S. policy that's keeping the people of Cuba afraid. It's Castro and his dictatorship.

We are not the bad guys. We are the best country that has given the most help to the impoverished Cuban people while Castro sells that medicine overseas while the Cuban people go without food and medicine. Shame on Castro. Don't blame the U.S.

BROWN: Congress --

RANGEL: I don't think anyone is blaming the U.S., and it's not Rangel that really wants the trade. It's our business people, our pharmaceuticals, our farmers, and the majority of the people really in the House and now the president of the great United States of America.

I went with the president to Trinidad and we had 33 people in the Organization of American States who really didn't care whether Castro joined them or didn't join them, but just objected to the United States saying who can and who cannot be recognized by them.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, Charlie, what do you say about the arrest of these two former U.S. government officials who were caught doing espionage for Castro? They were solicited by Castro. And here they were doing great damage to the United States while we're making overtures and playing footsies with the Castro brothers.

Castro is doing everything it can to penetrate our government, our military institutions, and our State Department. What do you say about the arrest of these spies?

RANGEL: I would say, first of all, I'm not familiar with the facts but I don't think these five (ph) people have been a serious threat to destroying the United States of America. But I tell you this, if we broke off relationship with every country that had spies in the United States and not only Russia, but several other friendly countries, we would have to break up relationships.

No, what I want is what's in America's interest. It is not getting back that some people had to spy. What I want is a normalization of our relationship and incentives for them to become democracies, not give Castro an excuse for the type of government he runs and to make certain that --

ROS-LEHTINEN: I don't think Castro needs an excuse to be a dictator.

BROWN: All right.

ROS-LEHTINEN: He is a bad guy and U.S. policy should be excluding bad behavior, and that's why we should keep the embargo.

RANGEL: But what about China? I mean, you talk of bad guys.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I'm no apologist for China.


ROS-LEHTINEN: You should ask that to somebody who supports China. It ain't me, babe.

RANGEL: Well, our business people do.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Shame on them.

RANGEL: Well, let me tell you --


RANGEL: Let me tell you.

BROWN: Quickly, congressman. Last point.

RANGEL: I truly believe it's in our national security. If we're fighting terrorism, we're fighting narcotics, we should have everybody then on our side that we can work with.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I don't trust Fidel Castro to fight on our side.

RANGEL: Give it a chance.

BROWN: All right.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Give him a chance?

RANGEL: Fifty years --

ROS-LEHTINEN: He jailed people because they speak about freedom. If they have the Martin Luther King speech, "I Have a Dream," you go to jail for that. Come on. RANGEL: We've got more people in American jails than all the other countries in the world combined.

ROS-LEHTINEN: There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Cuba.


ROS-LEHTINEN: It's a failed dictatorship and we should not be propping them.

BROWN: All right, guys.

RANGEL: Give travel a chance.

BROWN: Hang on, we're going to take a quick break. I want you to stay with us, though. We do this on every night as part of the "Great Debate."

When we come back after the break, I want to see where you two can agree. We're going to find some common ground when we come back.


BROWN: We are back with tonight's "Great Debate." Premise, the U.S. should lift the Cuban embargo. New York Congressman Charlie Rangel says yes. Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says no. I want to find some common ground here.

Congressman Rangel, where do you think you and Congresswoman Ros- Lehtinen can agree on this issue?

RANGEL: That we enjoy being friends, even though we disagree with each other on this issue. But I think that as a small group of people in the United States that have tremendous political power and I think they're -- and being American their voices should be heard.

I think the president should appoint a task force with some Cubans from Havana and Miami and probably in New Jersey, and to get together with our State Department people to see what's good for the United States of America. And I am certain that we can reach accommodations because both Ileana and I want what's best for our great country and we should have a meeting of the minds of what's the best way to do it without an embargo.

BROWN: Congresswoman, would you support that?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I agree with Charlie that we are friends. I would hope that we have the same goal, and that is that we want freedom and justice and respect for human rights for all oppressed people, whether it's in Cuba or China, wherever it is. And I think we disagree on how to get there.

He believes that a constructive engagement is a way to get there. I believe that every other country in the world has to have this constructive engagement which in Fidel Castro's Cuba is a one-way street.

You know, he owes every single country that is doing business with Cuba, he owes them money. And what Charlie wants to do is have us be on that debtor list.

BROWN: All right.

ROS-LEHTINEN: We will be yet another country to which Fidel Castro owes money. You want to pay more taxes so you can pay Castro's bills? I don't.

BROWN: OK, guys, Chairman Rangel, appreciate it. Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, a good debate.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you.

BROWN: Appreciate your time. Thanks to both of you.

RANGEL: Thank you.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you, Congressman Charlie.

BROWN: And we want to see how you voted in tonight's "Great Debate." We have 76 percent agree the U.S. should lift the Cuban embargo. Twenty-four percent disagree.

Not a scientific poll everybody. This is just a snapshot from our viewers who called in. Thanks to everybody who called.

And every night, we'll have a new "Great Debate" on the show. Tomorrow's premise, the war on drugs is a failure. Agree or disagree? That is tomorrow night.

And coming up, what some Republicans are calling minor distractions are overshadowing a big fund-raiser. Our next big question, is the GOP afraid of Sarah Palin?


BROWN: Not so easy to catch a glimpse of Sarah Palin in Washington tonight. She was on stage only for a few seconds at tonight's big Republican House and Senate fund-raiser.

There you go. Palin is not tonight's keynote speaker, although she once considered it. If the Republican Party seems to trifle bent out of shape where Governor Palin is concerned, well, our latest polling on the race for the 2012 Republican nomination has her right up there with Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. But is the GOP afraid of Sarah Palin?

Back again to talk about this, NPR's John Ridley, "National Review" senior editor Richard Brookhiser. We're also joined by Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus and CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.

Candy, explain what's going on here. She was in, she was out. She was in, she was out. Finally she's in again. What happened?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It sounds like both the Republican fund-raisers and Sarah Palin could be better staffed. I will tell you that right away.

But, look, it has been a giant kerfuffle since the beginning. The Republican fund-raisers, the Senate side and the House side raising money for those who are seeking Republican seats invited Palin originally, like, in late February, early March. And the staff said, yes, and they put out a big press release. And then the staff came back and said, well, actually, we didn't ask her.

So she seemed to waffle and they asked Newt Gingrich and he said, OK, yes. And it only got worse from there. I mean, she was reinvited and then it was rescinded. And then so there was this whole, well, is she going to show up?

Well, she showed up, and by the way, right behind her were Newt Gingrich and Mrs. Gingrich. So they at least were on the same stage together.

BROWN: Cheri, I know you're a big supporter of hers. I mean, was this just her staff kind of screwed things up and didn't do her any favors here or what?

CHERI JACOBUS, COLUMNIST, "THE HILL": Yes, I think there was obviously a little bit of trouble at the staff level. And to your initial question, is the GOP afraid? I think you have some people at the sort of operative level, some establishment folks that might get a little bit wary of her. The more power she gets, you know, if these were the folks that were involved in not serving her very well during the McCain campaign, they might be out of power.

I don't think any of this kerfuffle had anything to do with Newt Gingrich. But I think that there was some rudeness at the staff level amongst all parties, perhaps some nudging back and forth that's unhealthy that doesn't reflect well on their bosses.

BROWN: Is this a reflection of growing pains in the Republican Party right now to a certain extent?

RICHARD BROOKHISER, SENIOR EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, look, someone who wants to be the chief executive of the United States has got to know how to crack the whip over her staff. But if people are afraid of Sarah Palin, that's a big mistake.

You don't want a party to be afraid of someone who has skills that no one else in the party has. I mean, she is able to communicate, give a speech, connect with a crowd in a way that none of these other people are.

Now, I think she has to add other skills to the mix. There's work she has to do in terms of policy and positions and learning the necessary background.

BROWN: Right. BROOKHISER: But, you know, my God, she's got these talents. Don't run from them.

BROWN: And talents that remind you, John, of someone else, don't they?

JOHN RIDLEY, NPR CONTRIBUTOR: Well, if you're talking about Tina Fey? Is that --

BROWN: No, no, no, no. Your Obama comparison.

RIDLEY: Oh, yes, well, I was going to say that. One thing about Tina Fey, I don't say that to mock her but that is sort of an issue is can she get past that moving forward?

I think if you're talking about the Obama comparison, yes, she can connect well with the people. She's a really good speaker. And Obama is someone who went to the White House through the people. I think the question here, tonight's fund-raiser is really about sort of the inside Washington politics.

And if there's a fear, it's that some of the Republicans in Washington are not incognizant of the people. They don't want to disrespect Sarah Palin because it looks like they're disrespecting the people. We've got a long way to go before 2012.

BROWN: And you also look at this poll we threw up a little bit ago. Who do you think has the most appeal with the base right now? I mean, they're all very close, the numbers between Huckabee, Palin and Mitt Romney.

BROOKHISER: Well, look, people are reacting to the major figures from the last cycle and that's inevitable at this point in this cycle. I saw Newt was number four.

I've known Newt Gingrich for a number of years. I like him. He's very smart. I don't know that he's cut out to be the front man. He's the mastermind, but I don't know if leading the charge himself is his thing.

BROWN: Mastermind who wants to be the front man, I do believe.

JACOBUS: You know, if I may, Campbell, I just have one thing quickly about Sarah Palin...

BROWN: Go ahead, quickly.

JACOBUS: ... that's really unique and I think a lot of Republicans and others in the country are going to start appreciating more and more.

This is a self-made woman. She didn't come from a rich family or a political family. She's not a Kennedy, a Clinton, or a Bush. And she went up against the establishment, the Republican establishment in her home state and she won. So I don't think anybody should ever underestimate her. BROWN: All right. On that note, we're going to have to end it there. But many thanks to the panel. Appreciate it, guys.

"LARRY KING LIVE" just minutes away right now. Joy Behar sitting in for Larry tonight.

Joy, what are you working on?

JOY BEHAR, GUEST HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE: Hey, Campbell, welcome back. What will happen to Laura Ling and Euna Lee now that they've been sentenced to 12 years hard labor in North Korea? Dan Rather is here with some insights.

Plus, the reality of reality TV. Joan and Melissa Rivers are here along with a real housewife of New York to tell us. They've got advice for Jon and Kate.

And we'll have the latest on the strange and suspicious death of David Carradine. What will the autopsy reveal? Next on "LARRY KING LIVE."

BROWN: All right, Joy, we'll see you in just a few minutes.

Tonight's breakout story, what does it mean really to talk about elections in a country like Iran? Christiane Amanpour has gone there to ask voters themselves. Take a look.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This young man like so many says he's simply fed up with life in Iran today.

"I can take it no more," his sign proclaims. "Go green for Mousavi." So green, some have leaves strapped to their bodies. They want jobs, better pay, more opportunities.



BROWN: Welcome back, everybody. Every night we're going to bring you a breakout story from around the globe. This is one of those stories that we think breaks through all the noise out there. And tonight's breakout, do voters really have a voice in a country like Iran?

Check out an answer that might surprise you. This is from CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With just days to go before Iran's presidential election, Tehran seems to be in the midst of a giant get out the vote street party. Bidding a wishful farewell to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, supporters of the leading opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi organized this human chain from the north of town all the way down to the south.

(on camera): In the last week, the election here has suddenly taken a much more energetic turn. Rallies for all the candidates, particularly the top two, are jamming the streets. Here up in the upland (ph) part of Tehran, young people, women wearing all manner of the head scarf that's required by law and it will, in the end, be the turnout that makes the difference.

(voice-over): Women appear to be leading the charge. They say they want more freedom and equal rights, even those who don't feel safe enough to reveal their faces, just their hopes.

Police watch but don't intervene. This young man like so many says he's simply fed up with life in Iran today.

"I can take it no more," his sign proclaims. "Go green for Mousavi." So green, some have leaves strapped to their bodies. They want jobs, better pay, more opportunities.

And when one of President's Ahmadinejad's supporters strays into this opposition stronghold, the mood is raucous as the two camps try to drown each other out. Further downtown, the president's supporters are preparing a big rally in a mosque complex.

"I support Ahmadinejad," says this man, "because he built up the country. He's sincere and he's not corrupt."

"Mr. Ahmadinejad is the best man, the most powerful man. He will definitely win," says this woman. "We believe in him."

Experts believe Iran will continue its nuclear program no matter who wins, and when it comes to relations with the U.S. and President Obama --

MOHAMMAD MARANDI, HEAD OF N. AMERICAN STUDIES, TEHRAN UNIVERSITY: I think that either of the two candidates, they would respond positively to the United States if they feel that the United States makes a significant move towards improving relations. Right now, the Iranians are basically waiting to see what the Americans are going to do. There's been a change in tone, but the Iranians want to see a change in mentality.

AMANPOUR: While antagonizing the west, at home, President Ahmadinejad has traveled the country wooing the poor and the tired (ph). Handing out money, promising them a share in the nation's oil well, and as incumbent, he gets the full backing of the state including the media.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Tehran.


BROWN: The Iranian election is this Friday. We will be watching. And while we're looking overseas, ah, there's Paris. And a quiet little dinner for two with about a battalion of Secret Service agents in attendance as well. That when we come back.


BROWN: And tonight, we have time for only a brief "Political Daily Briefing." Erica Hill is here with a look at the Obama world travel.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A quick snapshot of the family's first overseas trip since the inauguration and they managed to pack a lot in. The sightseeing began in Paris. But get this, a private tour Sunday morning at the Pompidou Center, a visit to Notre Dame as well.

The president then had to fly home to Washington but not the first lady, first daughters and first grandmother. Just getting started, they had lunch with French President Sarkozy, his wife, and their children. Reportedly the French president saying happy birthday to Sasha who turns 8 this week.

And then this morning, they arrived in London. The schedule there, though, is private, we're told by the first lady's office. We don't really know if they're officially there or what they're doing, but --

BROWN: We shall see. I hope we find out, and we will update you.

That's it for us. "LARRY KING LIVE" right now with Joy Behar tonight.