Return to Transcripts main page

Campbell Brown

Does President Obama Deserve Nobel Peace Prize?; Interview With Helen Thomas

Aired October 09, 2009 - 20:00   ET



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

Does President Obama deserve to win the Nobel Peace Prize? The announcement stunned just about everyone, even the winner.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am both surprised and deeply humbled I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.

BROWN: So, why did the committee choose the president? What went on behind closed doors? What about Bill Clinton or Bono? Who else was passed over for the prize?

Plus, tonight's intriguing person, veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas, her no-holds-barred opinion of our recent opinion.

HELEN THOMAS, HEARST NEWSPAPERS COLUMNIST: All of them are put through the paces, and none of them rise to the occasion.

BROWN: And why was this woman denied health insurance?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes me angry at the insurance company, because I think that they should be there to protect those of us who have health issues. We need the health care benefits, but when we need it most it's not there for us.

BROWN: She's too sick to work, too sick to get insurance, and she's not alone.

And could Tiger Woods be getting a gold medal to go along with his Green Jacket? We will explain.


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

BROWN: Hi, everybody. Let's get started, and we're going to begin, as we always do, with the "Mash-Up," our look at all the stories making an impact right now, and the moments you may have missed. We are watching it all, so you don't have to.

If the goal of the Nobel Prize Committee is to create buzz, well, they hit the jackpot. Their choice of President Barack Obama for the Nobel Peace Prize surprised everyone, especially the winner.


OBAMA: I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee.

Let me be clear, I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.

After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, "Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo's birthday."

And then Sasha added, "Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up."

So it's -- it's good to have kids to keep things in perspective.


BROWN: Reaction came fast and furious from the moment the choice was announced. Listen to the Nobel Committee Chairman first. Even in Norwegian, you can tell this was not expected.




BROWN: And back, in the United States, Obama's award added fuel to the partisan fire over the president's agenda. Listen.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Oh, I'm sure that the president is very honored to receive this award. And the Nobel Committee, I can't divine all their intentions, but I think part of their decision- making was expectations.

And I'm sure the president understands that he now has even more to live up to.

P.J. CROWLEY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Certainly, from our standpoint, we think that this gives us a sense of momentum when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The chairman -- the chairman of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, he issued this statement.

"One thing is certain. President Obama won't be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action."


BROWN: Now, probably what you would expect from Michael Steele.

But the Democratic National Committee quickly fired back with this ridiculous quote, saying, "The Republican Party has thrown in it its lot with the terrorists, the Taliban and Hamas this morning in criticizing the president for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize."

That's whether DNC said. I mean, really? You may disagree with Republicans on this, but, really, DNC, you think they have thrown in their lot with terrorists? Because there are quite a few Democrats, too, who have said they also don't think that he deserved it.

I actually thought the National Republican Party Congressional Committee was going to win the stupid prize this week when folks there said that Nancy Pelosi needed to be put in her place. That was their quote.

But with today's terrorist line, the DNC is giving them a for their money. We're going to have much more on Obama's Peace Prize coming up later in the show.

Today's real irony, though, new Nobel Peace Prize laureate spent this afternoon huddled with his war council, planning strategy for Afghanistan.

No peace in Pakistan today either. A terrorist bomber made sure of that.


REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The head of the bomb disposal unit in Peshawar is saying this car bomb packed with more than 120 pounds of explosives, he said that the explosion was so powerful, initially, investigators had no idea where it came from, because all the evidence, including the car, obliterated.

What has outraged people is where this attack took place, perhaps the busiest market in downtown Peshawar, many of the victims women and children.


BROWN: Tonight, the death toll stands at 49, with 120 people wounded.

As promised, NASA bombed the moon this morning. But, if you got up early hoping to see a big cloud of lunar dust at the moment of impact, well, it was kind of a dud.


JOHN ROBERTS, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": A two-ton NASA centaur rocket is just moments away from impact, traveling at twice the speed of a bullet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: NASA is looking for water in the form of ice. If they can find ice on the moon, that will make it far simpler for them to set up a base.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The very last seconds as the shepherding spacecraft trajectory as it approaches the lunar surface. We are seeing very small craters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to show people where this is happening. OK. Here's the Cabeus crater all the way down here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The shepherding spacecraft has hit the surface of the moon, and this marks the end of the LCROSS flight mission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We expected to see more. We expected to see a six-mile plume of gas and debris shoot out with perhaps traces of water, ice, water vapor.


BROWN: Well, it wasn't there. NASA says the satellite did send back plenty of good data to analyze. No word yet on whether they found water.

Just a month after the murder of Yale grad student Annie Le, another shocking case of campus violence. A female student's throat was slashed yesterday in a UCLA chemistry lab. Well, now one of her classmates is under arrest for the attack.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These photos captured by "Daily Bruin" photographers show the chaos in the corridor of Young Hall. A female student had been viciously stabbed in the neck right in the middle of the class, a male student in custody for the attack.

Chemistry grad student Woojin Lee was just down the hall. He ran in the direction of the screams and saw the female victim lying in her own blood.

WOOJIN LEE, STUDENT: She was on the floor, her -- her neck...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you see that her neck had been cut?

LEE: Yes, I saw her. I saw that, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone has just been kind of -- can't believe that this happens. UCLA, so safe and everyone feels so comfortable here. And something like this happens. It's just scary.


BROWN: The victim here whose identity has not been released is expected to recover. The suspect, 20-year-old Damon Thompson, is in jail on $1 million bail. No word yet on a motive for the attack.

Nine children were rescued from their flooded day care center this morning. This was in Little Rock, Arkansas. Firefighters waded through water that was waist-deep in some places, but got out all the kids and two adults, brought them to safety.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scared me to death when I pulled up and saw all the rescue personnel here. I didn't know what to think. And then they took me to the ambulance and my little girl was in there. But she was safe and sound.


BROWN: The National Weather Service says up to three inches of rain fell in just an hour this morning. That is what caused the flooding.

Here's today's amazing number. YouTube announced it gets more than one million -- that's billion with a B -- hits a day. And that got us to thinking about our favorite YouTube videos. Put together a little montage. Take a look. Ah, the memories.

And yet another amazing number, 20 hours of video is loaded on to YouTube every minute. That's the equivalent of Hollywood releasing 134,000 movies every week.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton found some time to negotiate peace this week, not between countries, but between Conan O'Brien and Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker.

That is tonight's "Punchline."


CORY BOOKER (D), MAYOR OF NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: Last week, Conan O'Brien took a swing at our city.

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": The mayor of Newark, New Jersey, want to set up a citywide program to improve Newark residents' health. It's good. Yes, the health care program would consist of a bus ticket out of Newark.


BOOKER: I am officially putting you on the Newark-New Jersey Airport no-fly list. Try JFK, buddy.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: As secretary of state, my job is to strengthen ties and improve relations.

The time has come to make peace. Let's just chalk it up to Conan's head injury and be done with this...

(LAUGHTER) CLINTON: Then you can end this silly feud, and you can go back to what you both do best. For Mayor Booker, that means leading Newark toward a new era and growth and prosperity.

For Conan, that means dancing around the stage and making lame jokes about my pantsuits.


Thank you.


BROWN: And Hillary Clinton's with tonight's "Mash-Up."

Our top story tonight: President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Who did he beat out to get it?

Plus, mixed reaction here at home and around the world. Why the big disconnect?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people are saying it's clearly a way of the committee expressing gratitude for the end of the Bush administration.



BROWN: It's surprised the world. Heck, it surprised the man himself, Barack Obama today declared this year's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Well, for some, the surprise was thrilling. For others, the announcement was, um, not thrilling. We're going to hear from both the thrilled and the dismayed a little bit later.

For now, though, the big question tonight is, who got passed over?

Tom Foreman is here with details on that.

Tom, good to see you.

Before we get to the who got shaft list, give us a little background on the committee itself, on the people who make the decision and how the process works.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I was just shining up my Nobel here. We were making sure it's nice and shiny here.


FOREMAN: It's an interesting process when you look at it, Campbell. Let me flip over the metal here and tell you who is on the committee. It's five Norwegians on the committee. In this case, it's one man, four women. The deadline for nominations for this is February 1. So, Barack Obama was actually a nominee for this 11 days after he was inaugurated, which also adds to some of the puzzlement over all of this.

And the prize is $1.4 million. The president has said he will donate that to charity, a common thing for some of these folks to do. And he will certainly be doing that. So, that is generally how it's done. They discuss it over the summer. They talk to people about it. And then finally they come up with their conclusion of who will get the prize.

BROWN: And, Tom, then let's go now to some of the people who didn't get the prize because Barack Obama won.

FOREMAN: Yes, it's kind of an interesting thing. You never know who the nominations are officially, because they don't release the names for 50 years until after the contest. But people have a pretty good idea.

For example, let's say that you set up a global aid foundation, you raised more than $46 billion, you helped 200 million people improve their lives, you saved many lives, frankly, and a lot more than that, and, oh, by the way, you were once president, so you worked on peace in the Balkans, Northern Ireland, and the Middle East.

That's Bill Clinton. And many people have thought many times he would get a Nobel Prize. He hasn't yet.

Let's say that you work for Afghan women rights. You've spent a lot of time in your life trying to promote health and education in that country, helped women get ahead in this very repressive society in the Taliban and afterward, and you've faced death threats to do it.

Well, you know who that is? That is Dr. Sima Samar, who has also gone on and many people thought would get the Nobel Prize at some point.

And let's say that you have spent 20 years in activism for the poor, you've promoted awareness all over the world, you've reached out to world leaders and said, you have to get issue about this issue, and you're one of the most charitable, giving people in the world, as you've given a tremendous amount of money to charity. You know who that is? That's Bono, another person that people say should have been given a Nobel Prize at some point.

But none of these people got it. And many others have obviously been passed over, too. In this case, Barack Obama alone beat out more than 200 nominees to get this award -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Tom, try to put it in perspective for us a little bit and show us some the prestigious company that President Obama will be joining, some of the previous winners. FOREMAN: Well, it is really some amazing company. And when you consider the fact that he is joining it, this is part of what has so many people caught up in this, because they're saying, has he done some good things? His fans say, yes, he has. But even many of them say, but I'm not sure if it rises to this level.

For example, the Dalai Lama is one of the people who has received a Nobel Prize. Nelson Mandela, one of the people who received the Nobel Prize, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr.

And then here's Barack Obama joining this very auspicious company. Maybe that's one of the reasons in his own speech today, Campbell, he said, right up front...

BROWN: Humble, humble.

FOREMAN: ... look, I don't know if I belong here with all these folks.

BROWN: Yes, humble, humble, humble.


BROWN: All right, interesting take on all of this, Tom Foreman for us tonight. Tom, as always, thanks so much.

And as soon as the prize was announced this morning, as Tom sort of hinted at there, critics came out of the woodwork blasting the president. We were struck by the difference between the reaction around the world and the divided reaction here at home. And tonight we're looking for answers when we come back.


BROWN: For a prize that is supposed to go to a peacemaker, the Nobel won by President Obama is stirring up a lot of controversy tonight. Critics are saying it's just too much too soon and asking what the president has really accomplished, really done to earn it?

Did the Nobel Committee award the prize for what President Obama has done or for what he has said in speeches around the world. Listen.


OBAMA: People of Berlin, People of the world, this is our moment. This is our time.

For those who cling power through deception and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are unwilling to unclench your fist.

So, today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. I have come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

I will also continue to seek a just and lasting peace twice Israel, Palestine, and the Arab world.


OBAMA: To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize.


BROWN: Does President Obama deserve the Peace Prize? That is the question right now for Peter Beinart, who is senior political writer for The Daily Beast, CNN political analyst Roland Martin, senior political analyst David Gergen, and CNN international anchor Becky Anderson joining us as well.

David, let me start with you on this.

Can you imagine a scenario in which you wake up in the morning, you're surprised with the news that you won a Nobel Peace Prize, and then you have got to figure out how you should react? How do you think the president felt when he got that call?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm sure he was absolutely elated. But he couldn't show it.

I think he was -- I think it was not hard to come up with a statement. But I do think that he deserves credit for being gracious and humble in the statement. But they knew inside the White House that these awards traditionally go for accomplishment, not for hope or expectation.

And I think it has complicated their lives. And I think it's going to -- it's going to have a very definite influence upon he conducts foreign policy in the future. But at the same time, I think most Americans do celebrate. And it's been churlish to hear these people who have been attacking him today and attacking the committee for this award.

BROWN: Well, you did hear the rhetoric -- we just played for our viewers a moment ago the rhetoric that in many ways appealed to the committee. You heard what they said. They gave Obama this prize because of his diplomacy, because it gives people of the world hope.

But do you believe, David, that that's enough of a reason for an honor of this magnitude?

GERGEN: No, not traditionally.

But the chairman of the committee has pointed out that on at least two occasions in the past, when they gave an award to Willy Brandt of West Germany, who hoped to reconcile West and East Germany. They gave an award to Gorbachev, they helped to encourage perestroika.

I think, for this president, it complicates it because it's -- the award is going to strengthen his hand diplomatically. It does recognize the importance of soft power. But, at the same time, he's now going to be vulnerable to whenever he makes a move that has sort of a peace quality to it.

Let's say on Afghanistan he doesn't go for a robust option. Then his critics certainly will come down on him and saying you're playing to the audience in Europe. You're playing to that peace at any price crowd in Europe.

BROWN: Well, Becky, talk to us about the audience in Europe, because he's extremely popular in there. The reaction here in the United States has been mixed, a lot of surprise. How are people reacting overseas?

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think stunned, but, on the whole, let me tell you, absolutely delighted.

And I will put it this way. Within a couple of hours of that announcement coming up, coming out, we had about 2,000 e-mails to my show page here on CNN International. And they were split down the middle. Those who were writing from this side of the world really thought that this was a good decision. Those from stateside really didn't like it at all.

And this is why I think it's important. A lot of people are saying it's clearly a way of the committee expressing gratitude for the end of the Bush administration. And if it was anything more than that, well, you know, not a lot people are talking about what else it is that they are pleased about. And I think it's simply that, people just saying this is the way it is.

And somebody tonight describing the committee as having a slight whiff of condescension, so far as the Europeans are concerned. And it's that point. It's the end of the Bush administration. You have still got a man who is really well-liked, really well-respected. Here, some 77 percent of the people in the last poll that I saw really think he's doing the right thing so far as foreign policy is concerned. That's the news from here, really.

BROWN: And, Peter, I know you have a very different perspective on this. You wrote a piece for The Daily Beast today where you said -- quote -- "I like Barack Obama as much as the next liberal, but this is a farce."

Explain why you feel that way.

PETER BEINART, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, because I think the one thing the Nobel Peace Prize really offers is publicity.

The real value of this award is to shine a light on some very dark corner of the world and some person struggling in the shadows, in a brutal situation, a place like the Congo or North Korea. That's when -- when they gave it to Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma or then gave it to Desmond Tutu in South Africa in the '80s, for me, that's the right kind of use of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Obama doesn't need any publicity.

BROWN: To say the least.


BEINART: He's already the most famous person in the world.

The Gorbachev analogy is a bad one. They gave it to Gorbachev in 1990, after Eastern Europe had already become free. Let's wait for Obama to cut that deal with Iran that I hope he does and then give him the prize.



MARTIN: I have got to go ahead and say this.

You know what, Peter? It's not a question of what you think. Here's what the actual will of the man it's named after said: to give it someone who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.

That's what the guy who set it up for.


BROWN: Roland, hold on.


BROWN: Hold on. Hold on.

Roland, just to that point, it said, shall have done.

MARTIN: Right.

BROWN: That implies that there's a long sort of list of accomplishments there.


BEINART: How many nuclear weapons has he reduced?

MARTIN: No, no, that's wrong. It doesn't. The committee has their choice.

It's their call, OK? We can sit here and say, oh, it should be -- we're looking at it from our perspective. David used the word earlier traditionally. They explained what they said. They said it's a question of going forward. So absolutely they are making also a political statement in terms of this whole issue of advancing peace. But to sit here and say, well, I would do it this way -- it's their job. It's not ours. It's their award.


BROWN: Peter, make your point.

BEINART: Obviously, we're not the Nobel Prize Committee. Our job is to have opinions about it.

My opinion is that I think Barack Obama has had a very good foreign policy in eight months, but he's teed up things and we don't know how they're going to play out. I cross my fingers they will be a success. But I think, for right now, what we should have done is given it to someone who needs the publicity to put their agenda in their very difficult part of the world on the map.


ANDERSON: Right. And, from this side of the world, from this side of the world, this is the idea. This is what we're hearing here.

He has reset that button with Russia. He's got Iran on the agenda at the Security Council. And he's made some really good progress, so far as this part of the world is concerned there.

And he's thinking. I know you think he's equivocating on your side of the pond. But he's thinking about, what is the best route through with Afghanistan and with Pakistan?

So, the very idea that he has actually set the groundwork for some peace going forward, on this side of the world, people are saying, that's good enough.

BROWN: All right, David, let me give you the last word.

GERGEN: That's not good enough for most Americans.

And I do think that -- a couple things. One, first of all, there is a perception in the United States he has teed things up well, exactly as Peter has said, but he has hasn't yet delivered.

Just remember, just a week ago, "Saturday Night Live" was spoofing him for not accomplishing anything. And that got a lot of play in the political community.

BROWN: That was David Gergen, Peter Beinart, Roland Martin, and Becky Anderson.

Tonight's intriguing person has struck fear in the hearts of president for nearly 60 years. She is veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas. And wait until you hear what she says about the presidents she has known. Hint here: She is not so impressed. And Tiger Woods has won just about every prize out there, but he could be about to go for the gold?


BROWN: In her 60 years covering the White House, Helen Thomas says there is one thing that has really changed. The presidency. You're going to hear from her coming up.

But first, more must-see news happening right now. Mike Galanos here with the "Download."

Hey, Mike.

MIKE GALANOS, HLN PRIME NEWS: Hey, Campbell, first off, we have some dramatic new video tonight. This is the deadly tsunami that American Samoa last week.

This is a parking deck here. Really get a feel for the power of this tsunami and what water can do. That's dozens of cars ranging from small vehicles to SUVs being shoved around there just like a small watercraft. The building 100 yards from the shoreline.

Again, we can look back. Nearly 200 people killed by that tsunami, 32 in American Samoa. Quite a scene there.

Now there's a (INAUDIBLE) both parents who want or will not vaccinate the kids for H1N1. Well, there's been a spike in the number of children who died from H1N1. Here's the numbers we're getting. Pretty frightening.

Centers for Disease Control says 19 deaths reported just this past week were under the age of 18. A total of 76 kids have now died since April. Most had underlying conditions such as asthma, but others -- about 20 to 30 percent really healthy kids otherwise. Got us wondering here.

Millions of doses of the vaccine began arriving last week and you wonder whether or not to vaccinate the kids. So far, no serious side effects reported from the vaccine trials.

All right. Let's shift now to sports. How about Tiger Woods in the Olympics? That's going to be fun to watch.

Tiger going for gold. The International Olympic Committee voted to add golf to the 2016 games in Rio. Tiger is ready. He says he's ready to compete. It's going to be great golf. It's a perfect fit for the Olympics.

And it used to be golf was an Olympic sport. Back in 1904, back then the U.S. won the team championships so there's the defending champs. It's going to fun to watch Tiger getting after there.

And, you know, yesterday we talked about Levi Johnston posing for "Playgirl." Now we have Marge Simpson posing for "Playboy." Yes, the November issue, the cover will be -- there's a little sneak peek, not much anyway, thankfully -- Marge Simpson. First cartoon character to grace the cover of "Playboy." It's the magazine's way of celebrating 20 years of the show "The Simpsons."

And not do you get the cover. But, Campbell, inside, the inside story titled "The Devil in Marge Simpson" and three more pages of pictures. I don't know what. I don't know where we're going to take it from there, but we'll just lay it out there for the folks.

BROWN: Me either, Mike. But I will know that last night you brought us "Playgirl" as you imagine. Tonight, you're bringing us "Playboy"'s cover. What are you reading now?

GALANOS: I know. I know. We'll pull back here a little bit.

BROWN: A few blogs. I'll e-mail you...


BROWN: ... what I think you should be reading.

GALANOS: I might need some help.

BROWN: Mike Galanos will be back very shortly with tonight's "Guilty Pleasure."

GALANOS: Yes, but that wasn't enough.

BROWN: Yes, a taste of what you might see when the real housewives hit Washington.

Also tonight, the Washington you don't see from legendary White House correspondent, Helen Thomas.


HELEN THOMAS, CO-AUTHOR, "LISTEN UP, MR. PRESIDENT": Well, I do think that the presidents are, when they come in to the White House, they're told how to behave and so forth. They walk differently. They clench their hands and so forth. They're trying to make an impression of total power.



BROWN: Every night we introduce you to intriguing people. Tonight, it's the most famous, most respected, sometimes most feared of White House correspondents, Helen Thomas. She's among the few people who can lead the most powerful man in the free world, feeling well a little bit intimated. Take a look.


HELEN THOMAS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: How would you assess the credibility of your own administration? And I'd like to follow up. Hasn't the treaty rejection really wiped out our moral authority.

BILL CLINTON, 41ST FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Helen, you get the first question. I never expected to.

THOMAS: Mr. President, is there any trust left between the two nations?

I my question is, why did you really want to go to war?

GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think, your premise in all due respect to your question and to you, as a lifelong journalist, that, you know, I didn't want war, in all due respect.

Hold on for a second, please. Excuse me. Excuse. Me. No president wants war.


BROWN: Helen Thomas is now going from asking questions to offering advice to the commander in chief. Her new book is called, "Listen Up, Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted to Know and Do." And she wrote it along with Craig Crawford.

BROWN: So Helen, the great Helen Thomas, let me start with you here. You've covered 10 presidents over 60 years. What's your secret? Give us the key to your success? HELEN THOMAS, CO-AUTHOR, "LISTEN UP, MR. PRESIDENT": Thanks for the compliment. I don't consider myself a success at all. I just like to question presidents. I think it's a great honor and a privilege. BROWN: Helen, give us your perspective here. I mean you, more than anybody, have seen how things have changed over the years in that press room. I'm talking about, first, the current relationship between the press and the White House. How has covering the president changed with this administration? THOMAS: How has the presidency changed? Well, I think the awareness of television itself. Everything is communication, everything is spin. We first heard managed news in the Kennedy era, and it's been perfected now to a state of the art. You never quite know what they're trying to tell you. BROWN: Helen, let me ask you about a couple of things in the book. One chapter focuses on the importance of a president's image. And you write that, quote, "Acting presidential is not always the same as appearing presidential." Explain what you meant by that. THOMAS: Well, I do think that presidents are, when they come into the White House, they're told how to behave and so forth. They walk differently. They clench their hands and so forth. They're trying to make an impression of total power, being and making -- I think the toughest thing for a president is to make decisions that will affect the whole world. BROWN: And which recent president, in your view, has sort of managed the image, his image the best, and who may be the worst? THOMAS: I think that all of them are put through the paces and none of them rise to the occasion. BROWN: Ouch. (LAUGHTER) THOMAS: And very -- BROWN: Craig, let me go to you... THOMAS: I'm not judgmental much. BROWN: The book warns, Craig, that -- warns presidents of the pitfalls of the job, I guess, especially the stress, the overall toll that the job takes on people. You know, we've already seen, I guess, President Obama's hair turn gray, you know, a little bit, in less than a year. Who of the presidents do you think has sort of taken the stress part of it in stride? CRAIG CRAWFORD, CO-AUTHOR, "LISTEN UP, MR. PRESIDENT": Yes. We say at the top of the book, if you don't want gray hair, get a dye job. We wrote that before Obama's hair started gray.

But, you know, I think all presidents have aged, and the burdens of the office, so we went back and looked at even some of the interesting death masks they took before and after death of Abraham Lincoln, where you see an incredible change in him over the years. And it's just one of those jobs that does that to people. BROWN: Helen, what do you think? Do you think the president's going to read the book and take your advice here? (LAUGHTER) THOMAS: I doubt it. I think that he has too much to do learning how to be president, and that's not an insult to him. There's no such thing as an instant president. (END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: The one and only, Helen Thomas, the co-author of Craig Crawford there.

Coming up next, the best stories of the week and the most under covered stories of the week. Go online right now. Tell us what you think those stories are at


BROWN: Welcome back, everybody. Time to take a look at some of the best and also some of the most underreported, under covered stories of the week. And oh, they're picking my own chair at the end of the segment.

But joining us first with their pick are comedian talk show host Spike Feresten tonight, and "New York Observer" columnist Steve Kornacki, and Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez with us as well. Welcome, everybody.

Steve, let me start with you because your pick when I first looked at it, I thought we covered that. It got a lot of coverage which was the congressional leaders meeting with the president to talk about Afghanistan, but you say there's a part of the story we didn't cover.

STEVE KORNACKI, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK OBSERVER: Sure. I mean, we've all been fixated in the media on this basic will he or won't he question about. Will Obama take General McChrystal's request and send an additional 40,000 troops to Afghanistan.

BROWN: Right. KORNACKI: But the White House has really been promising is a comprehensive, you know, thorough review of the entire policy. They've been stressing that a lot. They've been saying all options are on the table. But I think what we found out this week and what I think the underreported story this week is, is it's not really a very comprehensive and thorough review and that every option is not on the table because the first thing President Obama did when he had this meeting with congressional leaders was sit down and say under no circumstances, am I withdrawing a single troop in Afghanistan.

The only question is are we going to stay the same. Are we going to increase the full 40,000. Maybe a little more, maybe a little less. But there are a lot of people within Congress and outside the Congress.

BROWN: You say the numbers are going down.

KORNACKI: Who say, yes. This is -- this is a failed state. And no one in history has been able to turn this into a functioning state. And after nine years, maybe it's time we start saying we're not going to be the first to do it. Let's start bringing the troops home instead of sending more over there.

BROWN: Right.

KORNACKI: And that seems to be under consideration.

BROWN: Not at all what we're focused on.

And, Leslie, I know you found a story this week that you say got almost no coverage about a Latino education gap. What did it say?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Basically, a Pew Hispanic Center put out a report that said among Hispanic youth, nine in ten believe that college is very important but less than half believe that it's actually attainable. It's consistent with the law dropout rates, talks a lot about financial pressures. But you're talking about a 30- year pattern of Latinos dropping out of rates at 30 percent, in some cases 50 percent dropping out of high school, this is something very important to pay attention to.

BROWN: Yes. Kind of amazing numbers there.

Let me turn to you, Spike, and you're underreported story. Some early holiday fair, shall we say. Tell us what is on offer for the well-to-do shopper for this season.

SPIKE FERESTEN, COMEDIAN & TALK SHOW HOST: Well, for me it looks like it could be an indication the recession is over. At least according to Neiman Marcus and the new holiday catalog, which has the giant motorized cupcake for sale, for $25,000, you can cruise down Main Street your hometown with this item.

BROWN: Seriously?

FERESTEN: And it has -- seriously, it's not a joke. BROWN: It's like a little cupcake car or something?

FERESTEN: It's a cupcake car. I don't know if it's been crash tested. I don't know how well red velvet cupcakes do in crash tests, but it's a real item. If you have $25,000 to spare at the end of this year...


FERESTEN: ... it's maybe your choice.

BROWN: Yes, definitely what I'm getting my kids for Hanukkah.

Leslie, your favorite story of the week sticks with the education theme. This is again your favorite. Tell us what it is.

SANCHEZ: Oh, my favorite story by far, couple of legislators. You've got Joe Courtney, Tom Petri who are going to introduce legislation to expand the troops to teachers program. The great idea it something started in '94 where you have a lot of retired men and women, servicemen and women who are given the opportunity and incentives to go into the classroom. We've seen higher rate student achievement, and also they work in low income poverty-stricken areas. So it's a good incentive. Works with the Department of Education, Department of Defense. And anything that remembers our troops, don't forget we have 100,000 plus troops, boots on the ground in Iraq. We want to remember our men and women in uniform.

BROWN: All right. And, Steve, your best of the week, and this is the local going national, the mayoral race. And the White House's involvement or lack of involvement, or is there really a lack of involvement race here in New York City.

KORNACKI: Yes, I found this to be a sort of mildly hilarious story that came out today. There is a mayor's race going on in New York City, if you don't nationally. You know don't go in yourself. A lot of New York don't even know. The assumption is Michael Bloomberg is easily going to win. His third term against his Democrat challenger William Thompson.

The question is then, will the president actually take sides in this. And the White House is very hesitant to do this because they see Thompson as a sure loser. They may lose New Jersey and Virginia where they have gubernatorial races this year, so they don't want a third loss.

BROWN: Right.

KORNACKI: You know, in November, everybody is piling on. So there's been this whole dance where the White House doesn't want to get caught saying anything, doesn't want to campaign. So somebody finally ask the White House spokesman today, who does Obama support in the New York mayor's race. And the spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said, well, he is the leader of the Democratic Party so he supports the Democratic nominee. Then he paused, then he mentioned Michael Bloomberg by name and praised him effusively. BROWN: OK.

KORNACKI: And then the Thompson campaign -- the Thompson campaign puts out a release, you know, we are thrilled and excited to have the endorsement of the president of the United States.

BROWN: Right.

KORNACKI: He didn't even mention him by name.

BROWN: OK. They'll take that in politics.

SANCHEZ: Yes, I know.

BROWN: Quickly, Spike, I know you're psyched about NASA possibly finding water on the moon, why?

FERESTEN: That's right. Well, I know it's a little anti- climatic this morning but it's the reason why they're looking for water because they wouldn't have to and scientists said this. Imported from the planet earth for future lunar colonies. That that means they're going to be colonizing the moon in the future and I get excited about that idea. And I think they ought to launch a probe that looks for a Starbucks and a good rotisserie chicken joint too, because otherwise .

BROWN: Fabulous.

SANCHEZ: We have a cupcake car, so it's not that far of a stretch.

I will end with my best story of the week which I just actually found out may be the worst story of the week.

Well, I was excited that the "New York Times" reported the swine flu outbreak here in New York City is a lot milder than they hadn't expected to be. And those of you who know me know I'm obsessed with swine flu. And so every swine flu development is very important in my life.

The worst news, though, Mike Galanos just told us about that the number of pediatric deaths are actually increasing. So for those of you who thought you could relax, you can't. Swine flu is still among us.

Many thanks to the panel, though. Good stuff, you guys. Appreciate you bringing it. Steve, Spike and Leslie, good to see you.

"LARRY KING LIVE" up in just a few minutes. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


BROWN: Tonight's "Breakout" is about one of the hottest political races in the country this year, the race for governor of New Jersey. The campaign has its share of hot-button issues, but things have turned very personal lately, and that is becoming a very big deal literally. CNN's Mary Snow has the story.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This political ad in the heated New Jersey governor's race is gaining attention not so much for its overt message as its subtext.


NARRATOR: Would you get away with it? Chris Christie, one set of rules for himself, another for everyone else.


SNOW: Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine aims to portray his Republican challenger, Christopher Christie, a former federal prosecutor, as being above the law for escaping tickets.


NARRATOR: Christie threw his weight around as U.S. attorney and got off easy.


SNOW: It's that phrase and imagery that's led to questions being asked about whether Christie's weight is meant to be highlighted. We caught up with both candidates to ask them about a sensitive issue.

(on camera): Do you feel that Jon Corzine is targeting your weight?

CHRISTOPHER CHRISTIE (R), N.J. GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: I don't know. You'd have to ask him. I mean, I really don't know. And I really don't care, because it doesn't matter one whip to anybody who's lost their job, who's been foreclosed on their home, who is paying the highest taxes in America.

SNOW: Is it fair to say that Chris Christie's weight is being targeted?

GOV. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY: Absolutely not. I don't think there's a politician in the world that likes how he's depicted in his opponent's ads. And I think that's what we're hearing here as opposed to focusing on it.

SNOW (voice-over): Patrick Murray of the nonpartisan polling institute at Monmouth University sees it differently.

PATRICK MURRAY, MONMOUTH UNIV., POLLING INSTITUTE: These are all subliminally part of a larger strategy that the campaign -- the Corzine campaign is using.

SNOW: And what is that strategy?

MURRAY: The strategy is really to paint Chris Christie as someone who's reckless about his own personal life and maybe he'll be reckless with the state, as well.

SNOW: Corzine, a former Goldman Sachs' chief executive, has taken aim at his opponent on a host of issues, spending more than $14 million on ads so far in his re-election bid, one that's generated a bitter back and forth, this ad about mammograms.


NARRATOR: But if Chris Christie was governor, insurance companies could drop mammogram coverage.


SNOW: Christie accused Corzine of trying to scare women and shot back with this.


CHRISTIE: My mom was a breast cancer survivor. Her life was saved because she got a mammogram.


SNOW: Corzine had been behind in the polls in this blue state, but now the race is virtually tied. And political observers say it's now more about the independent candidate in the race.

STUART ROTHENBERG, THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: Voters who are looking for an alternative to Corzine, all of whom are going to Christie, the Republican Christie, are now some of those are looking at the independent candidate, Chris Daggett, so that's why this race has turned.

SNOW (on camera): And Stu Rothenberg adds that while New Jersey's and Virginia's governor's races are being closely watched, he doesn't see New Jersey's race as being as much of a referendum on President Obama as it is on Jon Corzine in the state of New Jersey's economy.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


BROWN: And "LARRY KING LIVE" starting in just a few minutes. Up next, tonight's "Guilty Pleasure." the story we just couldn't resist. What happens when TV's "Real Housewives" hits the nation's capital?


BROWN: "LARRY KING LIVE" starts in just a few moments. But first, Mike Galanos is back with tonight's "Guilty Pleasure," the story the staff couldn't resist.

And well, it's Friday. Mike, what have you got?

GALANOS: Yes, it's a good one. It's a show people can't resist. This is the definition of "Guilty Pleasure," the Bravo reality series "Real Housewives." Well, it's coming to Washington, D.C. It's been in Orange County, New Jersey, New York, Atlanta. And the ladies they pick in D.C. have some real drama to live up to. Here are some real highlights.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talking about the name (INAUDIBLE) in the industry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is not (bleep)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trash. Trailer trash.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trailer trash. (Bleep)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't like you. I don't think you're funny. I don't think you're charming. I don't -- we are not friends. We will never be friends.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have no class.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you don't. No, you don't (bleep)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get your hands off of me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prostitution whore. You are (bleep) dazed. Trashy (bleep).


GALANOS: So that is coming to Washington, D.C. They're going to pick ladies that are involved in the political galas, the galleries...


GALANOS: ... the cultural events and that. We'll see if it plays out. I like that.

BROWN: I guess I'm watching.

GALANOS: Yes, me too.

BROWN: Who knew what I was missing. I can't wait, Mike Galanos.

That is it for us. Mike, have a great weekend. You guys at home, have a fabulous weekend. We'll see you back here on Monday.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now. Me, too. Who knew what I was missing. Can't wait, Mike Galanos. That is it for us. Mike, have a great weekend. See you guys at home, have a fabulous weekend. See you back on Monday. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right