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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interviews with Susan Rice, Gerald Seib, Caesar Milan

Aired April 18, 2009 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Pirates off Somalia, a defiant rocket launch off North Korea. How should Washington respond? The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also an American journalist on trial for spying in Iran. What is her fate? What's she going through right now? Gerald Seib with "The Wall Street Journal" has been in her shoes. I'll ask him.

Plus, the White House becomes the doghouse. A new puppy for the First Family. We get expert advice for them from the dog whisperer himself, Caesar Milan.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to have to continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks, we have to continue to be prepared to confront them when they arise. And we have to ensure that those who commit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

President Obama's message, the world will not be held hostage by gangs of lawless pirates thirsty for blood and treasure. This after a week that saw ships being hijacked in waters off Africa, an American captain being held hostage and then rescued, and the killing of three pirates by the U.S. military. How can the United States a piracy crisis. I talked about that and more with Susan Rice, the new ambassador to the United Nations.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.

SUSAN RICE, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, what do you say? Is the U.S. government now going to take specific steps to end this piracy off the coast of Africa?

RICE: Well, the U.S., Wolf, has been in the lead for many months in trying to tackle the challenge of piracy off the coast of Somalia. And it really has three essential elements. First is prevention, trying to shrink the space in which the pirates can effectively operate. We have something called Combined Joint Task Force 151. And other members of the global community have committed naval resources to this area.

And, so, we have a broad global effort to try to take back as much of that water as we can from the pirates. But that's a major challenge, and it's one that we're all going to be investing more in.

The second is interdiction, when the pirates actually get on a ship, to bring it back safely and rescue the crew members. And we saw a brilliant example of that by our own Navy over the weekend.

And then the third element is holding these pirates accountable and bringing them to justice. And we will have the opportunity to do that for the remaining pirate that took our ship. But that's something that we're working on all over the world in various justice systems.

BLITZER: All right.

RICE: But, Wolf, as you know, the real challenges is on land in Somalia.

BLITZER: Well, I wanted to raise that point, because Russ Feingold, the senator from Wisconsin, the chairman of the Africa Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he says this.

He says: "For years, Somalia's growing instability was neglected by the Bush administration and the international community. The new administration must not make the same mistake."

Do you agree with him?

RICE: Well, I certainly agree that the real challenge is trying to help build some functioning state capacity in Somalia, which, for many, many years now has been a totally failed state.

That means strengthening the very fragile transitional federal government which is based in Mogadishu that is trying to fight against Somalia's extremists. It's a broad-based government that's brand-new, that deserves and is receiving American support.

BLITZER: Because we spoke -- excuse me for interrupting -- with Congressman Donald Payne, who was just in Mogadishu.

RICE: Yes.

BLITZER: He just got out literally within the past few hours. He spoke to us here in THE SITUATION ROOM from Nairobi, Kenya.

And he says, you, the Obama administration, should be engaged in a dialogue with this new regime in Mogadishu.

RICE: We are, Wolf.

This is a government that we think holds some promise, fragile as it is. And we need this government to succeed, both to stabilize Mogadishu and -- and bring in the other elements of the country, places like Puntland and Somaliland, which have developed rather autonomously on their own.

But we also need this government to succeed because there are large parts of Somalia, particularly in the south, where extremists have quite free rein and are engaged in terrorist training activities that are of grave concern.

BLITZER: Let me switch gears to North Korea right now.

Before the North Korean missile launch, the president of the United States was very firm, saying, there will be serious, grave consequences if they go forward.

They went forward. Now, finally, days later, there's a statement emerging from the U.N. Security Council. You didn't get the resolution you wanted. The Russians and the Chinese are still refusing to go along with increased tough sanctions against North Korea.

What's going on?

RICE: Well, Wolf, actually, after a week's worth of very tough negotiations, what we emerged with is a very strong, unanimous binding statement that condemns the launch by North Korea.

BLITZER: But it was a statement by the president. It wasn't a resolution, which would have had a lot more teeth.

RICE: Well, actually, Wolf, a resolution in this instance wouldn't have had the teeth that we sought.

We had long said we would have preferred a resolution. But what we got is a statement with teeth that is binding on all members of the council, and that entails strong additional sanctions by strengthening the existing sanctions regime. We will add companies, entities and goods that will be sanctioned.

BLITZER: Did you get the Chinese to promise sanctions? Because they're the key to this problem with North Korea.

(CROSSTALK)

RICE: That's exactly right, Wolf. And they went along with these sanctions.

And they have committed, along with the Russians and others, to join us in making these sanctions effective by the end of the month.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: What was their argument, why they didn't want a formal resolution?

RICE: Let me just finish the thought. This is major progress, because, a week ago, a number of countries on the Security Council were arguing about whether we should even express concern.

The debate here, Wolf, was about tactics, not about goals. China and Russia and we and Japan and South Korea and others share a strong desire to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, verifiably.

The issue we were working on is how much pressure would be productive -- we all agreed there needed to be consequences and some measure of pressure -- and how much would be counterproductive and drive North Korea further away from any binding commitments.

We think we struck a very good balance, a strong unanimous statement with consequences that condemn the violation, demands that there be no further launches, and makes it clear that North Korea can't get away with launching a satellite and claiming that they are doing it in a peaceful fashion...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: If they do it again, what do you do? What happens?

RICE: Well, first of all, this action today demonstrates that there are consequences for their violations.

The United States, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and others are eager to try to resume the progress that had been achieved in the six- party process and achieve an end to proliferation in the nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

There are a number of steps we can take, Wolf. The Security Council and the multilateral track is just one. We have bilateral measures we can take and other countries can, too.

BLITZER: All right.

RICE: The aim, though, is to get to a Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons.

BLITZER: Good luck, Ambassador. Thanks very much for coming in.

RICE: Good to be with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The governor says it's time for gave marriage in New York state. He calls it a push toward equality. Others call it a political ploy of an unpopular governor. Governor David Paterson is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And the mayor of New York City is also here. Michael Bloomberg wants to close gun law loopholes, but some fear he and others want to take away their guns. And a fall of a giant. Bear Stearns' collapse brought havoc on the financial system. Now in shocking detail, one author lays out how it all happened. The author, William Kohan, he's here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID PATERSON (D), GOVERNOR, NEW YORK: We stand to tell the world that we want equality for everyone, we stand to tell the world that we want marriage equality in New York state.

BLITZER: For New York Governor David Patterson, marriage equality means allowing gays and lesbians to get married. The governor has introduced legislation to allow same sex marriage, calling it a right that can't be ignored. But some suggest the unpopular governor is doing it for political reasons. I spoke with the New York Governor David Patterson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Governor, thanks for coming in.

DAVID PATERSON (D), GOVERNOR, NEW YORK: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Why now? Why did you decide this is a good time to bring back this issue of authorizing same-sex marriage in New York State?

PATERSON: Well, Wolf, I think Americans have a viscerally negative reaction to same-sex marriage when you first hear about it.

But then, when you realize that there are over 1,300 protections that people who are married have, that people who are not married don't, even if they are living together in a sort of civil union, you realize that this is more than just a religious ceremony. It is a contract.

And while many religious groups oppose marriage equality -- and we respect them, that they are the tenets of their religion -- we are a state, which in many respects issues that contract. And we think that, when people can't put their loved one on an insurance policy or a health benefit plan, when they have no rights of intestacy when their partner dies, and when they can't make medical decisions for that person in a hospital or even visit them in a hospital, that the only way to cure it would be to allow for same-sex marriage, which we're proposing in New York.

BLITZER: Because, many of your colleagues, including Democrats, the president of the United States, President Obama, says, you know what, they can work all these legal issues out with civil unions, and not necessarily go that next step and authorize, you know, same-sex marriage.

Why do you disagree with President Obama?

PATERSON: Well, I think that what the president says is true. But we have waited years and years for states to work those legal issues out, and nobody has actually been able to do it. And so we think that the right of people at this time in history, when we have so many conflicts and so many wars, just to live in peace with each other and call themselves married to me is not one of those issues that I would get upset about, as much as the economic and social unrest and the 23 different wars, conflicts that we have around the globe.

I think this is something that we could allow citizens of New York State to have, if that's what they desire.

BLITZER: Is it your sense that you could get this passed this time? Because they tried. It got through the assembly in New York State in Albany, didn't get through the senate. It was dropped.

What do your political instincts say right now? Will this become the law in New York State?

PATERSON: Right now, I think the assembly will pass the law again. The senate will have some difficulty passing it.

But we thought that, in terms of advocacy, to have the issue on the floor being debated and being discussed was better than holding back. And so I thought that this was the right time to introduce a piece of legislation such as this.

It was introduced two years ago by the previous governor, when I was lieutenant governor, and we were able to get far more votes in the assembly. It was predicted to pass there. So, we think that the energy that we are putting into the process will inevitably bring marriage equality to New York State.

BLITZER: There have been articles, as you have probably heard about, in various publications in New York State saying, this is a political ploy on the part of the governor, David Paterson. He wants to get reelected. He thinks this will help them, at a time when your job approval numbers are not very good.

What do you say to your critics?

PATERSON: I would say that I supported this issue in 1994. I supported it when I was a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2006.

The governor, Eliot Spitzer and I, introduced this bill in 2007. And I lobbied and helped pass it in the assembly. And when -- in 2008, when my poll numbers were very high, I actually recognized marriages outside of New York State in the state under the doctrines of our constitution that permit that.

So, I don't think I have been anything other than consistent. The political expediency, I would say, is really, on many respects, on the other side of the issue that throws up any reason, rather than consider this piece of legislation, which would only give people the right to live together in a marital contract, so that they would have rights vis-a-vis their partner... BLITZER: All right.

PATERSON: ... which we don't allow for in our society now.

BLITZER: The recent poll -- there was a poll taken by Quinnipiac University -- showed, in a hypothetical contest between you and the attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, he would do much better, 61 percent, only 18 percent for you, leading Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, the Republican, to say this in "The New York Times: "Yes, it's true the current governor is terrible. Yes, it's true the government is indefensible, but let me tell you, if I had to bet money, you're not going to face the current governor next year. You have got to design a campaign that beats Cuomo."

First of all, you're definitely running for reelection, right?

PATERSON: I'm definitely running for reelection.

And, if you notice, the real desire is to have me not run, because they know, if I do, I will probably win. And, so, what I am trying to do right now is not think as much about elections, but what's right for the state.

We just balanced a budget deficit that was four times higher than the state had ever faced before. And we did it proportionally and distributed a shared sacrifice around the state. And I think, when people get a chance to look back, because it's so shocking how much in deficit New York State is, they will realize that some of the tough decisions that we made and some of the prohibitive cuts that we had to exercise were actually the right decisions for the state at that time.

BLITZER: Governor Paterson, thanks very much for coming in.

PATERSON: Thank you, Wolf. It's always a pleasure to join you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Is the country's economic crisis starting to turn around?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: From where we stand, for the very first time we're beginning to see glimmers of hope.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg agrees. What signs of improvement is he seeing in his city and around the country? I'll ask him.

Plus, inside the ordeal of an American journalist on trial in Iran for spying, I'll talk to another American reporter who's been in her shoes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Guns very much on the mind of the New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He was in Virginia this past week pushing to close gun law loopholes as that state marked two years since the Virginia Tech massacre in which 33 people were gunned down.

But what about those who fear that Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama simply want to take away their guns?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLOOMBERG: Wolf, that's just not true. There may be a handful of people.

There was a person who obviously needed psychiatric help the other day who killed some cops. And he was -- said that he was afraid of that.

But 83 percent of all gun owners in the United States believe that we should close the gun show loophole. Most people that own guns -- and 99 percent of the dealers are responsible human beings who understand guns are for sports or protection, they're not to be put in the hands criminals or children or people who have mental problems. That's all this is about. It's not about the right to bear arms. It's not about hunting. It's not about defending yourself or your family. It is plain and simple. We have a law that makes a lot of sense -- certain people shouldn't be allowed to own guns. It's a federal law. It's been on the books a long time. And this is just another way to be able to enforce the law.

BLITZER: Given the deteriorating economy out there, do you see a trend developing -- increased violence with guns as a result of the poor economy?

BLOOMBERG: All I can tell you, Wolf, is about New York City. We are going to set another record for low murders. Two years ago it was the record. Last year was the second best year we ever had. This year we're on track to have a year better than that of two years ago. We will have the lowest murder rate since the records were starting to be kept in 1963.

And that's true of virtually all crime in New York City.

This "park bench wisdom," as I call it, that there is a correlation between the economy and the amount of violence in our society just isn't true.

I don't know how to break this to you, but people that go out and murder people don't read "The Wall Street Journal."

BLITZER: What about the glimmers of hope, as the president described it the other day, that we're beginning to see some positive developments in the economy?

Are you seeing that in New York City?

BLOOMBERG: Yes. When I talk to small store owners and restaurant owners, they will tell you that a few more people are coming in. It's true we've been running down inventories throughout the country and every industry.

People's cars are wearing out. And the economy is growing. We're using up the extra supply of housing.

I don't think that the end is here. But I do think that there are some glimmers of hope. They don't ring a bell at the bottom to tell you it's the bottom. All industries don't turn around and every industry doesn't turn around across the country in the same place at the same time -- and different places at the same.

This is the beginning of the end. And I have no idea how quickly the economy will recover, but I think you have probably seen the worst for most industries in most places.

It doesn't mean there still isn't a great deal of pain that we're going to have to go through. Other people will lose their jobs. Other people will lose their houses.

And we have to, as a society, pull together and make sure we help those people.

But if you want cause for optimism, I think there is cause that, down the road, the public is starting to save, the way they should have been all along. And companies are trying to make sure that they're efficient in the ways that they haven't had to because of the boom times.

And so down the road, you and your family have an opportunity to share in the great American dream.

Do I think that we're out of the woods yet?

No. But I think the president is right, at least from what I can see in New York City.

BLITZER: Well, we're out of time. But a quick political question. You're running for a third term as mayor of New York.

You're going to be running as a Republican, I hear?

BLOOMBERG: Yes.

BLITZER: What is the latest on that?

BLOOMBERG: There are two parties that have seen fit to put me on their ballot -- the Independence Party and the Republican Party. And I'm -- I was on both of those lines four years ago and eight years ago.

But basically, New York City is a non-partisan town. And I'm going to run and either win or not win based on whether people think that I've done a good job, I've honored my promises and whether or not I can do a good job and carry this city to greater heights in the next four years. We've come a long ways -- crime down; life expectancy up; schools much better; cleaner streets; more parks; diversification of our economy, so we are less susceptible, believe it or not, to the fortunes of Wall Street, than many other cities in the United States.

But that's what the public is going to judge me on, not the party line that you appear on.

BLITZER: And you'll stay registered as an Independent or will you once again become a Republican?

BLOOMBERG: No. I will stay as an Independent. I think there's -- LaGuardia famously said there's no Republican or Democratic way to pick up the garbage. I'd like to get the votes of everybody. And that's what I'll try to do.

I don't agree with people -- everything that people in either party believe in. I believe in some from both. I think what we have to do is understand that we're all Americans and we're all citizens of the world. And we have to work together to combat problems that transpond parties, that go across state lines and international lines. And those are the things that are near and dear to my heart. It's the kind of world I'd like to leave my children.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in, Mayor.

BLOOMBERG: Thank you for having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: President Obama warns that the country's financial system simply can't afford another meltdown. .

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It is my firm belief that our next task beginning now is to make sure such a crisis never happens again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What caused one of the country's largest investment banks to simply collapse? We'll speak with the author of a brand new book about what he calls "Bear Stearns: A House of Cards." Stand by for that.

Plus, after months of anticipation, the first dog arrives at the White House. The dog whisperer Caesar Milan has some special advice for the first family about handling their new pet. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: It is simply not sustainable to have a 21st century financial system that is governed by 20th century rules and regulations that allows the recklessness of a few to threaten the entire economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Obama this week pitching his plan to pull the country out of the recession, a financial mess that began with the meltdown of some Wall Street powerhouses.

Now an important new book chronicles the fall of a giant. "House of Cards" recounts the ten days last March that led to the collapse of Bear Stearns. The author William Cohan is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

William, thanks very much for coming in. More important, thanks for writing "House of Cards."

WILLIAM D. COHAN, AUTHOR, "HOUSE OF CARDS": Thanks for having me, Wolf. It's really a pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: And I want to talk about Bear Stearns and what triggered all of this. But do you agree basically, because you're an authority on this subject, with the president that there are glimmers of hope right now that the economy is turning around?

COHAN: Well, I do agree with him. I also agree with, you know, Mayor Bloomberg on that, too. I think from my perspective as an ex-Wall Street guy turned writer, I look to the capital markets. And I do see some glimmer of hope. This past week, there were a couple of IPOs that were actually successful. There was a high yield junk bond deal done. There have been financings done for the first time we've seen that in months. And I think, you know, the stock market, of course, is up materially since its lows last year and earlier this year.

So I actually do believe, you know, a glimmer. You know, I could be, a lot of people think it's a false, you know, peak, you know, a sucker's rally. You know, we'll see. But it's -- there are definitely glimmers, yes.

BLITZER: What's the most important lesson we need to learn as a result of the collapse? In your book "House of Cards" you talk about this amazing collapse of Bear Stearns. Who would have ever believed that could happen? But what's the most -- single most important lesson that all of us need to learn?

COHAN: Well, the single most important less is that number one and so I'll say two, number is that people make decisions that result in problems like this, not you know, myths, not tsunamis. That's number one.

And number, unfortunately on Wall Street, where greed is a driving and powerful force, banks like Lehman, like Bear Stearns, like Merrill engaged in what was borrowing short, borrowing overnight, and creating assets that were long dated assets. This created a very, very difficult situation. When the confidence was lost at the end in those ten days in March at Bear Stearns, the overnight lenders were able to say we don't want to do business with you anymore. And that is a very, very dangerous situation, should never have been allowed to happen.

Now they were in a situation where maybe they had fewer choices, but they should never have been in that situation in the first place. And that's what did them in, that loss of confidence.

BLITZER: And you tell the story really in amazing detail how Bear Stearns was about to announce that they had profits of $115 million...

COHAN: Right.

BLITZER: ...in the first quarter of last year, they had $17.3 billion supposedly in cash in the bank ready to use. And then within 10 days of all of that, they announced, you know what? No more Bear Stearns, it's over.

COHAN: I didn't matter. The fact that they had a first quarter profit, the fact that they had, you know, $17 to $18 billion of cash on their balance sheet, since they were rolling over every night, needed to borrow every night close to $75 billion in this short term financing market, it didn't matter that they had $18 billion in cash. It sounds like an incredible amount of money. And it is.

But if you need $75 billion and you only have $18 billion, then it doesn't matter. And the overnight lenders said we're not going to lend you that $75 billion. They never should have been in a position in the first place where they were relying on the overnight market for these loans, giving lenders like Fidelity or Federated a vote every night on Bear Stearns continued existence. Lehman did the same thing, Merrill did the same. It's not wise. Unfortunately, it's just a terrible tragedy. It did not need to happen.

BLITZER: And here's...

COHAN: That's the sad thing.

BLITZER: Here's how you put it in the "House of Cards". "The demise of Bear Stearns and the financial calamities it set off in the world cannot be explained just by the events of March 2008. The roots of the firm's problems are found deep in its unique corporate culture, which developed over decades."

And here's the question. Has the corporate culture today a year later changed?

COHAN: Well, Bear Stearns is obviously...

BLITZER: Forget about Bear Stearns, because that's history.

COHAN: Okay.

BLITZER: But the other financial giants right now?

COHAN: Oh, goodness, I mean, you think that every time one of these things happens that firms would be chastened, the culture will change, people will reflect on this and never let it happen again.

Unfortunately, this is like the fourth or fifth crisis we've had since the mid '80s. I would like to believe that this will never happen again. There's really no more securities firms as we used to know them. They've become bank holding companies like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

But you see Goldman Sachs now, a profitable first quarter, a little sleight of hand by not including the December month in their first quarter results. And now they want to pay back the TARP money.

And I can't say I blame them. But they want to pay it back so they'll be free of government oversight or less scrutiny by government in terms of what the can pay people, and who they can recruit and pay them. And I don't blame them for wanting to do that, but that says to me they want to return to the status quo, you know, which is fine.

Goldman didn't do this overnight financing to the same extent that other firms did. They were less profitable as a result. And they did a much better job. But nevertheless, some of these incentives need to change. Accountability needs to change. We need to change and learn from this. And by immediately going back to the status quo so quickly, I'm afraid we may forget again.

BLITZER: I hope we don't. William Cohan is the author of "House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street." William, thanks very much for coming in.

COHAN: Thanks for having me, Wolf. It's a pleasure.

BLITZER: Thank you.

An American journalist is accused of spying in Iran. What must she be going through right now? I'll talk about it with another American reporter who's actually been in her shoes. Plus, the White House welcomes a new addition, a puppy named Bo. What the First Family and every dog owner needs to know. The dog whisperer, Caesar Milan is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's a case with very serious international implications. An American-Iranian journalist on trial for spying in Iran. A judge is expected to announce his verdict within the next three weeks. It comes as the U.S. makes new overtures to the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now, Gerald Seib, the executive Washington editor of "The Wall Street Journal."

Gerry, thanks for coming in.

GERALD SEIB, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thanks, Wolf. BLITZER: A story close to our hearts, an American journalist -- American-Iranian journalist, 31 years old from Fargo, North Dakota arrested in Iran and accused of espionage.

SEIB: Right. It's a journalist who's been there for the last six years, working mostly as a freelance journalist for people like the BBC, National Public Radio, other outlets. She was taken a couple of months ago, has been held. Wasn't clear what the charges were. About a week or so ago, she was charged with espionage. Trial held. This week, apparently, in one day, no verdict yet so her fate is uncertain.

BLITZER: Very much uncertain. Her name is Roxana Saberi. Here's what you wrote in a powerful article this week in "The Wall Street Journal."

"Picking dual citizen Iranian-Americans singles out people who are especially exposed to government action because of their Iranian citizenship while also sending a signal to the United States."

It comes in a delicate moment right now where the Obama administration is clearly reaching out as the president said he would, trying to establish a dialogue with Iran.

SEIB: Right. And this is a potential impediment to that dialogue because the Obama administration has said I think to its directly to the Iranians, both publicly and in writing, this is a baseless charge, that Roxana Saberi should be freed. And by taking an American citizen, a dual citizenship to be sure, but an American citizen, they've created an issue in this potentially budding dialogue between the U.S. and Iran.

Now the Iranian president just said today that he's interested in this dialogue. He wants to have conversations. It was his most forthcoming statement on the potential of talking to the Obama administration.

BLITZER: Ahmadenijad you're talking about.

SEIB: Right, exactly. He said I think we can have a new start, basically. So that's important to both countries. There's a lot of tension in the air. This is one of those things that can get in the way.

BLITZER: And for you, like for a lot of us, but especially for you, this is personal, given what you yourself went through back in 1987?

SEIB: Yeah, in 1987, I was in a very similar position. I was a journalist based in the Middle East for "The Wall Street Journal." Was on a reporting trip to Iran, covering what was then the Iran-Iraq War. Was taken off the streets of Tehran, taken to Evan Prison, where Roxana Saberi is now. Informally charged with being a spy. Was there for four days. And then happily in my case, obviously, I was released. I never got to the stage where she is, where I was formally charged and put on trial.

But the notion that journalists have been accused of being spies is -- there's a fair amount of history of that in the history of the Iranian regime.

BLITZER: And you suffered four days in that same prison where she is right now. Tell us about it.

SEIB: Well, it's a forbidding place. And it's a well known place. It's out on the edges -- outskirts of Tehran. It's a large prison. And it's the place where political prisoners have always gone in Tehran. But you know, to be there as a foreigner in particular is to be petrified honestly because you're walled off from the rest of the world.

I had no contact with any outside diplomats or anything like that.

BLITZER: You had no idea what was going on through you?

SEIB: No. No, and no idea what the process was. And so you're in a forbidding place. And there's a feeling of great loneliness. So it's a distinctly frightening experience.

BLITZER: It's a difficult decision. I think usually when you have a situation like this, a journalist is picked up, arrested, falsely accused of espionage...

SEIB: Right.

BLITZER: ...do you try to resolve it quietly? Or do you try to go public and see what you can do? I know you're tormented...

SEIB: Yeah.

BLITZER: ...in trying to help Roxana Saberi.

SEIB: No, because what you want to do as an outsider in this case, and what I hope everybody would want to do is whatever it takes to get this case resolved and to get her out.

You know, in my case and in other cases I know, I think it's important for people on the outside to say this is a journalist, this is a legitimate journalist, this is not a spy, she is what she says that she is. And the Obama administration has done that.

In my case I know that's what "The Wall Street Journal" chose to do, to say as loud as it could, this is a legitimate journalist. Whatever mistakes might have been made along the way, please understand that this is a journalist, not a spy. And he should be treated as such. And I hope that's what happens in this case because I think that's an important message to get out.

BLITZER: You've studied the Middle East for a long time. Is this overture, this outreach to the Iranian government by the new U.S. administration, do you sense it's going to pay off?

SEIB: Well, I think it's going to pay off in that there's going to be a dialogue. I think that now you have both sides saying -- and basically having committed themselves publicly they have to follow through in saying, yes, let's talk. That doesn't mean the conversation will get anywhere. But I think it will be a change. I mean, it's going to start not in a one-on-one conversation like we're having here, but with the U.S. and Iranian representatives sitting around a larger table with other representatives from countries that are interested in stopping the Iranian nuclear program.

And then maybe it progresses from there.

But I think that as of the last couple of days, both sides have sort of crossed the line and now want this to happen. So I think in some form, it will happen. And I, you know, one has to hope that things like this don't get in the way.

BLITZER: Well, it certainly would be a gesture on their part to let this young woman go and let her go back to Fargo, North Dakota.

SEIB: Exactly. And that's what we all should hope for.

BLITZER: Gerry, thanks for coming on.

SEIB: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: The First Dog Bo makes his debut.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Let's see. It's a little pressure here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So how should the Obama family handle its newest member? The dog whisperer Caesar Milan is here with some tips.

And "Ebony" magazine is out with its list of the 150 most influential African-Americans. And we're going to tell you some of the names. They include people in front of and behind the cameras right here on CNN.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: That's a good-looking dog, though, let's face it.

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BLITZER: It is a good-looking dog. The new addition to the Obama family is settling in over at the White House. The new dog Bo arrived this week months after the president promised his daughters they'd get a pet once the election was over.

So what can they look forward to in the immediate days ahead? I spoke to the dog trainer to the stars, Caesar Milan. He's the author of the book "A Member of the Family" in stores right now. And his book "The Dog Whisperer" airs Fridays on the National Geographic Channel. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Cesar, thanks very much for coming in.

CESAR MILLAN, THE DOG WHISPERER: Thank you very much for the opportunity to help the president and his family.

BLITZER: All right, because he's going to be listening. He's going to need your advice. The First Lady, the daughters, they are all going to be anxious to hear what you have to say.

And I want to let our viewers know, we have brought in a Portuguese water dog named Maggie here into THE SITUATION ROOM. It's 3 -- Maggie is 3 years old, as opposed to the 6-month-old Bo over at the White House.

But give us some tips. What does the first family need to know about raising this 6-month-old puppy?

MILLAN: Well, definitely, this dog has -- this is not his first home, so they have to adapt him to the -- to the White House, which the dog doesn't know he's going to live in the White House.

What he knows is how much common sense this family has to offer me. You know, so, it's all about training the human to fulfill the needs of animal dog, who is a Portuguese water dog, and his name is Bo. A lot of times, people use...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Because -- because Bo has moved around over the past six months, at least three different places. This is the fourth home that Bo is going to have.

MILLAN: Not only is it the fourth home. This is a very excited environment right now. So, everybody is very much into what is this dog going to do or what does this dog look like?

So, it's very important that they begin with adaptation, not so much training. Do not use human psychology on a dog. Use dog psychology on a dog. It's very important in order for us to help Bo to adapt himself to the new environment.

BLITZER: So, what are the new -- the two or three most important things they have to do right now, in terms of exercise or talking to Bo or feeding Bo, in terms of getting Bo comfortable in the White House.

MILLAN: You know, it's very important, a good, long walk. Make the dog tired before he comes inside the environment. Like I say, Bo doesn't know he's going to live in the White House. He's going to know how he went into the White House, so very important that he goes in there very tired.

And, right away, tell him the rules, the boundaries, the limitations. And if -- once he follows the rules, boundaries, and limitations, then you give the affection to Bo.

Very important that everybody plays the leadership role, you know, the girls, Ms. Michelle, obviously, the president. Everybody has to learn to walk the dog, to master the walk, very important for any dog in America to live with humans who know how to walk them.

Right away, it's best to take him for a good long walk and really not to use a lot of excitement. As I'm hearing is a lot of excitement going on, which not only makes a dog very excited, it doesn't really relax him. You want a relaxed dog, you know, who's a Portuguese water dog, because that's what it's going to give you access to tell him what to do.

Excited dogs don't really listen to people as much as the calm state of mind dog. So very important to, you know, after they do the media, they go into fulfilling the need of animal dog breed Bo.

BLITZER: How smart are these Portuguese water dogs?

MILAN: Portuguese water dogs like any other breed who's a working type are very smart, but at the same time, you have to fulfill the need of. So what I will do is exercise, disciple, then play with the breed. The breed is what gives you access to the genetics. So that means there - you know, that means you can throw the ball in the water, retrieve on land.

But the most important part, what gives people trouble is not the breed, as much as is the dog. So, if you don't fulfill the needs of dogs, they -- they can go into nervous behavior, excitement, digging, barking, pulling, you know, the president of the United States.

And those are the parts that can be prevented. The dog is six months old. So, in two more months, he becomes an adolescent. Very important to fulfill animal dog before we go after breed.

BLITZER: Some have suggested that the dog's name, Bo, rhymes with the no, and that could be confusing in training and getting some obedience lessons for a little puppy.

MILLAN: Well, it's not what you -- it's not so much the word. It's how -- as the energy behind the word.

So, if the "Bo" has a negative energy in it, of course, it's going to have a negative reaction to the dog. But, if you -- if you are -- if you understand the verbal conversation that you are giving to the dog, it's not going to be a problem.

The dogs don't -- don't have a problem with the words. They have a problem with the energy behind the word.

BLITZER: This dog is now going to be on the world stage right now. And that's not -- that's not normal for a little dog like this, is it?

MILLAN: Well, definitely not. There's no doubt about it.

This is definitely the most popular dog in the world right now. This is why it's very important for everybody, you know, all the Obama family, to practice the exercise, the discipline, and the affection, because it becomes a role model to the world.

So, the dad, the mom and the children can be a great role model to society how to really fulfill the needs of a dog.

BLITZER: Is it important that all four of them, the parents and the two kids, all of them are involved in -- in taking the dog outside, for example, feeding the dog, or should one person take the lead role?

MILLAN: No, I think it would be a wonderful project for the president of the United States to teach the girls and to teach Ms. Michelle, in case that she doesn't know how to lead the dog, is that everybody becomes pack leader.

You know, in my house, I teach my wife and my kids to lead my pack or to lead my dogs. So, it's a -- and it's a beautiful project, because it allows you to connect with Mother Nature. They don't see you as the president of the United States. They see you as the one who provides and fulfills the needs.

BLITZER: If the first family called on you, Cesar, for some help -- you have trained a lot of celebrity dogs over the years -- and we have all seen you on National Geographic, on TV -- would you say yes to the president if they said, we need your help, Cesar?

MILLAN: Absolutely. As you -- as you -- as you mentioned, and dogs don't know people as celebrities. There's just -- obviously, if the owners are not fulfilling the needs right.

So, I would love to help before they actually get into the wrong state of mind.

BLITZER: Cesar Millan, thanks very much for coming in.

You got -- you gave us some good advice.

MILLAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: And I'm sure the first family is appreciative as well.

MILLAN: Thank you. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: All right. Cesar Millan is the dog whisperer from National Geographic's "Dog Whisperer."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And Bo, by the way, is following in the paw prints of other First dogs that brought smiles to presidents and the public. Lyndon Johnson had his beagle. Richard Nixon had Checkers immortalized in one of his more famous speeches. Gerald Ford had a golden retriever named Liberty. Jimmy Carter's daughter Amy had a pup named Grits. Much more recently, Ronald Reagan had dogs Lucky and Rex. The first President Bush palled around with dogs Millie and Ranger. Bill Clinton had a chocolate lab named Buddy. And who can forget George W. Bush's Scottish terriers, Barney and Ms. Beasley.

Peaceful gestures amid deadly protests in Thailand. Just one of our hot shots, pictures worth a thousand words.

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BLITZER: Here's a look at some of this week's hot shots coming up from our friends at the Associated Press. In Thailand, an anti-government protester hugged a soldier while others pleaded with him not to use violence.

In the Netherlands, tourists posed for a picture as they walked through the tulip fields.

In Afghanistan, a boy looked at peacocks being sold.

And here in Washington, D.C., President Obama took part in the annual Easter regular roll over at the White House. Some of this week's hot shots, pictures worth a thousand words.

On our political ticker, the most influential African-Americans. The new edition of "Ebony" magazine on the stands now honors 150 top black power players in the United States. As you'd expect, President Obama and members of his inner circle are featured prominently, including Attorney General Eric Holder, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kern.

A number of CNN journalists and analysts also on the list, including Roland Martin, Soledad O'Brien, Don Lemon, and Donna Brazile. "Ebony" also notes several African-Americans in the White House press corps, including our own correspondent Suzanne Malveaux and Dan Lothian and two CNN cameramen, Jacqeville (ph) Riggs and Tony Emron (ph).

That's it for us this week, I'm Wolf Blitzer. Join us weekdays on THE SITUATION ROOM from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern and every Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN and at this time every weekend on CNN International. The news continues next right here on CNN.