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THE SITUATION ROOM

Michael Jackson's Will Reveals Diana Ross Surprise; Growing Calls for South Carolina Governor's Resignation

Aired July 1, 2009 - 17:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN HOST: Also, the singer's will has just gone public revealing new details of what he wanted to become of his children and his money. Among the surprises, a role for Diana Ross.

And growing calls for South Carolina's governor to step down as he reveals more details. Some say too much information about the affair is threatening to bring him down.

Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in "The Situation Room."

We are following breaking news this hour -- a surprise change of plans just announced by the Jackson family. Through a spokesman, they are now saying there will be no public or private viewing of Michael Jackson's body at his Neverland Ranch.

Sources have been telling CNN plans were under way for a public viewing this Friday. The spokesman will only say that plans for a public memorial will be announced shortly.

This comes just hours after Jackson's will was made public. It contains some surprises. Our CNN's Susan Roesgen is outside the Jackson family compound. And Susan, tells us, is the will answering some custody questions? What does it reveal to us this afternoon?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, it does answer, I think, the most basic custody question, which is what did Michael Jackson want, at least as of 2002? And what he wanted, according to this will, is for his mother, Katherine, to have custody of the children.

And if she were not able to have custody of the children, if she were unable to do that, if she couldn't do it, if she were to die before he had died -- again, this is a will from 2002 -- then he wanted Diana Ross to be his children's guardian. That was something we weren't expecting. And we have had no public comment yet today from Diana Ross.

But the biggest question of all that is unanswered is the $500 million question. This will says his estate at the same time at least was in excess of $500 million, and the will specifies that those assets are to be distributed through the Michael Jackson Family Trust.

But we don't have any documents on that. That's something that could very well stay private for a long time, the exact parceling of the money -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: And Susan, tell us, what does the will reveal about his ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, who is also the mother of his two older children?

ROESGEN: A big shock there for her, I'm sure, Suzanne. He actually specifically says in the will, this is a quote, "I intentionally omitted to provide for my former wife, Deborah Rowe Jackson." So, she is out. He cut her out of the will Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Did Michael Jackson give any indication of where he would like to be buried or any kind of funeral arrangements, eulogy, anything like that?

ROESGEN: You know, if he had, so many people would be so grateful, because the family behind me here in Encino, they have gone back and forth, as you mention, not knowing what to do, where to have a memorial where to have the funeral.

He does not say what he would like to have in any kind of funeral, and he doesn't say either, Suzanne, where he would want his body to be buried. So this is something now that the family behind me here in the family in Encino will have to work out.

MALVEAUX: Still very much a mystery, a lot of unanswered questions. Thank you, Susan.

Well, the silver glove, the elaborate outfits, the black fedora, all part of Michael Jackson's persona. But now that Jackson has died, those highly coveted pieces of memorabilia will now be extremely high priced.

Reporting from the Grammy museum in Los Angeles, CNN's Thelma Gutierrez.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, Michael Jackson won 13 Grammys in his career. So when the Grammy Museum opened just seven months ago, he opened his whole personal collection of stage wear to the museum because he wanted to be included.

But there's one item in particular the Grammy Museum doesn't have.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUTIERREZ: The black fedora from "Billie Jean," the rhinestone socks he danced in, and the glove, the jeweled glove, now iconic, priceless.

This is Joe Maddalena. He owns the auction house that will be auctioning off the glove come October. Now, what can you tell me about this glove? What's its story?

JOE MADDALENA, PROFILES IN HISTORY: This is from the 1984 "Victory" tour. There were gloves that were made, and they were used on the tour. There were two full-time people to take care of these gloves. You can imagine how important this was to the tour.

This was the zenith of Michael Jackson's career, and this is the most iconic piece of memorabilia.

GUTIERREZ: So just a month ago, you're saying it would have fetched maybe $50,000, $60,000. Today, $250,000?

MADDALENA: Or more, easily.

GUTIERREZ: Within your business, when people of this stature die, their memorabilia has to be so much more than when they were alive.

MADDALENA: Absolutely. Absolutely.

GUTIERREZ: By how much? Is there a way to quantify that?

MADDALENA: Maybe with Michael Jackson, five to ten times the amount. I think you're going to have a gigantic demand and a very small, small supply.

Just because you have his autograph you can't say it's worth a million dollars. The fedora is cool. This is something that he wore onstage, gave to a fan. And he wore hundreds of these. This is a cultural icon. All you need is this for an exhibit.

GUTIERREZ: Are there other coveted items that collectors will be looking for?

MADDALENA: The real serious collector is going to want things that he wore on stage, OK? The second things they'll want are things that he wore in the videos.

Marilyn Monroe and James Dean and Elvis Presley are more popular now than they were when they were alive. Their estates generate more money now in licensing than they did when they were alive.

GUTIERREZ: And you think the same will happen with Michael Jackson's estate?

MADDALENA: Absolutely, positively. Something like this will live forever because it is a piece of one of the greatest entertainers who ever lived.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUTIERREZ: There are many others personal items that are not for sale, like the white suit that Michael Jackson wore on the cover of the "Thriller" album that is now on display at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Thelma.

And sales of Michael Jackson's music are soaring. That's "Thriller" from the album of the same name, the bestselling album in history. And according to Billboard, it sold more than 100,000 copies last week more than a quarter century after its release.

In all nine of the top ten spots on Billboards top pop catalog list are Jackson albums. And he's topping digital charts, as well.

"Man in the Mirror" from the album "Bad" is the number one download on iTunes in the U.S. and the U.K., and Jackson's songs are on the top ten download lists in 21 countries.

Well, for more in-depth coverage of Michael Jackson, be sure to watch a CNN presents special "Man in the Mirror," a look at his childhood, his music, his finances, and his influences. That's this Saturday and Sunday night at 8:00 eastern only on CNN.

Jack Cafferty is in New York with "The Cafferty File." Jack, what are you following?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Al Franken is headed to Washington. Nearly eight months after Election Day, the Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously declared Franken had won the election and he's the state's next senator.

And once he's sworn in, which will probably happen next week, the Democrats will finally have that so-called super majority, meaning they'll have 60 votes, which is enough to stop any Republican filibuster.

And on paper, it looks like a homerun for the Democrats and for President Obama's ambitious agenda in the coming months.

But in reality, it might not be so easy. After all, these are Democrats. Democrats won't always have the 60-vote majority. Senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd both ill and are only likely to return for the most crucial of votes.

Also, former majority leader Trent Lott once said governing the Senate is like herding cats. And Senate Democrats have already proven they won't fall into line when it comes to some of the president's top priorities. Remember that midterm election is next year.

For his part, Franken insists he's not going to Washington to be the 60th Democratic senator, but rather to be the second senator from the state of Minnesota, and that's what he's supposed to say.

But Washington is nothing if not partisan, and Franken just might be able to make a difference on big votes for things like health care and climate change, to name a couple.

Democrats are welcoming the news, but they say it won't mean that they'll be able to just jam their agenda through. Meanwhile, one top Republican says the 60-vote super majority means Democrats will no longer be able to blame the minority Republicans for being obstructionist anymore. Oh, sure they will.

So, here's the question, what will Minnesota Senator-elect Al Franken mean for President Obama's agenda? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog. MALVEAUX: Thank you, Jack.

Well, a superstar surprise in Michael Jackson's will. But why did he pick Diana Ross as a backup guardian to his children? We are looking into their longtime relationship.

Also South Carolina's governor reveals new, shockingly personal details of his affair, prompting some very strong pressure for him to resign.

Plus, thousands of security forces on the streets of the capital in Iran, and an alleged confession by a missing western journalist. We're tracking new developments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Calls for South Carolina's governor to resign are getting louder as he reveals what many people feel is just too much information about his affair with an Argentinean woman.

CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley is here with the latest. Candy, obviously, you've been following this, and there seems to be growing pressure today, hour by hour, that he step down. What are you hearing? What do you know?

CROWLEY: Well, I'm hearing both publicly and privately a lot of angst about this. And while some of the words are less direct than others, more than half the Republicans in the South Carolina state Senate, the chairman of the state Republican Party, and several South Carolina newspapers want Mark Sanford to step down.

If Sanford eventually does fall from power, it's likely we're going to look back and see yesterday's interview with the Associated Press as the tipping point.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, SENATOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Following his initial teary news conference, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford has taken to giving confessional interviews, not so helpful for a man trying to hold onto power in a conservative state with heavy evangelical influence.

Sanford told the A.P. his mistress is his soul mate, but he's trying to fall back in love with his wife, Jenny Sanford, the woman who may be holding the keys to the governor's office.

LEROY CHAPMAN, "THE STATE": She understands media and she understands what they convey. And if, you know, he's to save himself and save his term, she's going to have to be critical to, that because she could certainly come to his rescue if she chooses.

CROWLEY: Mrs. Sanford may not choose. Her husband also telling the A.P. that over the 20 years of his marriage he crossed lines with other women, but, he says, didn't have sex with them. "Have I done stupid? I have. You know, you meet someone. You dance with them. You go to a place where you probably shouldn't have gone."

The too much information interview was also puzzlingly bizarre at points as Sanford mused about his feelings. "If you come into connection with a soul that touches yours in a way that no one's ever has, even if it's a place you can't go, this notion of knowing that you know, for me, became very important."

Sanford also reveals when his wife discovered the affair, she let him go to New York to end it. He took a spiritual adviser with him. The adviser, Sanford, and the mistress, went to church, had dinner, parted ways.

Over the months since, the Sanfords went to counseling, including a spiritual boot camp for couples. But about a month ago, she asked him to leave.

Shortly thereafter, the governor went to hike the Appalachian Trail. Scratch that. He went to Argentina to see his mistress.

"I got down on one knee and said "I am here in the hope that we can prove this whole thing to be a mirage." No such luck.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: One last note, Governor Sanford has backed out of a promise to give the media his financial records, his personal financial records, to prove that taxpayer money was not used for his visits to his lover.

A spokesman told the Associated Press the governor does not want to discuss personal matters anymore.

MALVEAUX: Candy, you've said that in the beginning you thought perhaps this interview with the A.P. was a potential tipping point. Why do you believe that?

CROWLEY: Because there was this sort of let's wait and see by Republicans. Sure, there were initial people going, OK, he's got to get out, but there was a sort of wait-and-see attitude after the press conference. Would he make it back up with his wife? Would he be able to collect the family together and move forward for the state?

And then he gave this interview, and everyone went, did he really have to tell us that his mistress is his soul mate, he's trying to fall back in love? They just thought there was so many details that he didn't need to give.

He could have just answered questions or said what he's now saying today, which is, well, I'm not talking about personal things. They just thought it was too much. They're worried about the state, you know. There's so much spotlight now in the state. He's becoming a bit of a farce. And by the way, South Carolina is a state with a whole lot of problems, education money, all sorts of things they need to get back on to.

MALVEAUX: OK, well, you'll get back to us if there are any developments on this. All right, thank you very much, Candy.

Well, a major confrontation in Iran, not only the streets, but now in the media. Today, several leading Iranian reformists including Mir Hossein Mousavi challenged the legitimacy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in newspapers and on the Internet.

CNN's Reza Sayah is in the Iran desk in Atlanta. Reza, what exactly did Mousavi and others have to say today?

REZA SAYAH, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Suzanne, Mr. Mousavi came out today and once again called the election results illegitimate and called for the release of all political prisoners. His fellow opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi, again called for the annulment of the election results.

So, some defiant voices remain out there, but the government continues to apply the pressure on the opposition. Government officials say more than 1,000 people have been detained, among them, "Newsweek" reporter Maziar Bahari, who, according to the government, has allegedly, and we emphasize allegedly, made a confession.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAYAH: On Tuesday, the government finally acknowledged the arrest of Canadian Iranian Maziar Bahari. The award-winning filmmaker and journalist had been missing for nine days.

Iran's state-run news agency reported Bahari had confessed that western journalists in Iran were spies. "Most western media are against Iran, and therefore the intelligence work by reporters is undeniable," Bahari allegedly confessed.

"It is possible that the west hires these reporters for getting information, but I believe that the ministry of intelligence's efforts to oversee foreign journalists activities in Iran reduces the possibility."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know also that the Iranian authorities would do anything to conceal the truth.

SAYAH: Hasib Hoge Sawrawi (ph) of Amnesty International dismissed Bahari's alleged confession. She says it's part of the Islamic Republic's strategy to intimidate the opposition and blame western powers for the post-election turmoil.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know from the people we've already talked to that people have been forced to make such confessions on TV where they are supposed to have acted at the instigation on some foreign powers. SAYAH: Iran's state-funded Press TV has broadcast several interviews with individual who claim to be guilt-ridden protesters. "The international media made me do it," said this woman.

"The shooting death of 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan, the CIA is to blame," suggested one Iranian government official.

On Monday, President Ahmadinejad reportedly congratulated Iran's intelligence community for preventing a plot to topple the regime.

Now, late this afternoon, we spoke with "Newsweek" managing editor Chris Dickey. And he dismissed the statement, calling it "false and preposterous," saying nobody knows what conditions Bahari gave the statements under.

And we should note, in the past, the Iranian government has used this technique to discredit and intimidate opponents. Oftentimes these individuals come out of Iran and retract their statements -- Suzanne?

SAYAH: OK, Thank you. Reza Sayah on the Iran desk in Atlanta, thanks.

All eyes on Michael Jackson's personal physician. He is the man who may hold the key to the mystery surrounding Jackson's death.

But what exactly does a personal physician do? Our Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta takes us inside their exclusive world.

Plus, what Neverland meant to the singer. I'll ask Jackson's former spokesman. He is standing by to join us live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Well, Diana Ross is mentioned in Michael Jackson's will. We'll have the latest details on Jackson's last wishes.

Jackson's physician is one of the last people to see the singer alive. He was the pop star's personal doctor, not uncommon in Hollywood. We take a look at the inside world of so-called concierge physicians.

And president Obama's strategy in Iraq -- are his plans there that different than George Bush had envisioned? Our strategists weigh in.

And a look at the security situation now that U.S. troops have pulled out of Iraqi cities.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: You're in "The Situation Room." Happening now, President Obama urges Americans to reject fear-mongering when it comes to health care reform. He takes that appeal directly to the people at a town hall meeting.

Bringing transparency to the government -- it was a campaign promise of president Obama's. But some critics say he is not making good on it, and they're taking the case to court.

And don't ask, don't tell. For the first time, the defense secretary reveals when the government won't enforce the policy allowing some gay people to serve in the military.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in "The Situation Room."

Jackson's decision to name Diana Ross backup guardian for his children is catching some by surprise, but not those who knew the two singers. CNN's Mary Snow is looking into that. And Mary, tell us a little bit about their relationship. How close were these two?

MARY SNOW, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: They were very close, Suzanne.

Diana Ross had a big influence on Michael Jackson both onstage and off. They'd known each other for roughly 40 years, and Diana Ross was always seen as a role model to him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: After Michael Jackson died, Diana Ross said in a statement she couldn't stop cry, that she was praying for Jackson's children and his family.

Jackson's will shows how highly he regarded her. The will said if Jackson's mother, Katherine, died or was unable to take care of his three children, that Ross should be named guardian.

MIKE WALTERS, TMZ.COM: It is fitting if you think about that and the people he trusted. Michael didn't have many people around him for a long time, including some of his family members, that he trusted.

SNOW: Jackson knew Ross most of his life. She lent her star power to the young Jackson family. Their first album was called "Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5."

Ian Drew of "US Weekly" says Ross, who has five children of her own, taught the Jacksons the ropes in show business, but also provided emotional support.

IAN DREW, SENATOR EDITOR, "US WEEKLY": A lot of times when they were visiting Los Angeles before they had a house there, they would stay at Diana's home. He would often seek refuge there when things were very bad at home. She really was surrogate mother to him almost.

SNOW: Michael Jackson got older he remained close to Ross. The two of them seen here in "The Whiz" in the late '70s, performed together at times. And former president of CBS Records, Walter Yetnikoff, recalls how Jackson turned to Ross before releasing his blockbuster "Thriller." WALTER YETNIKOFF, FORMER PRESIDENT, CBS RECORDS: Two people other than Michael who saw "Thriller" for the first time. He invited me and Diana Ross to preview, you know, "Thriller."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Just gives you a little insight into the influence that she had. Now as per Diana Ross, she has not commented publicly on the fact that she was named in Jackson's will. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Mary, thank you.

Well, fueling speculation that drugs may have played a part in Michael Jackson's death, new claims by a registered nurse who used to work for the singer. Cherilyn Lee says Jackson suffered from severe insomnia and once begged her to give him a powerful sedative called Diprivan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHERILYN LEE, FORMER JACKSON NURSE: He asked me if I could find someone that would stay there and monitor him. That's why he felt that he would be safe. I said, no one will do this in your home. This is not a safe drug. And I don't know of anyone, and no one should be giving this to you in your home. It's very unsafe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: It is unclear if Michael Jackson ever got his hands on that powerful drug. An attorney for Michael Jackson's doctors says his client wasn't aware of any prescription drug problem the singer might have had.

Dr. Conrad Murray was Jackson's personal physician, a so-called concierge doctor, a health care option that's reserved for the rich and famous.

Here's CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Jackson, medical mystery. Many believe this man, Dr. Conrad Murray, holds the answer. He's known in the medical community as a concierge doctor, boutique M.D., doctor to the stars.

(On camera): He had a $150,000 a month doctor at his beck and call. That surprise you?

DR. CHERYL BRYANT-BRUCE, ELITE PERSONAL PHYSICIAN SERVICES, INC.: No, not at all.

GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Cheryl Bryant-Bruce would know. She's also a concierge doctor and charges up to $150,000 a year for 24/7 service anywhere in the world. She has at least 20 patients.

I was curious to know what all that money buys you.

(On camera): What's the craziest thing you've ever done for a patient?

BRYANT-BRUCE: This young gentleman, he was in a panic because he decided that he might have an STD. And -- so I get called out the middle of the night for this STD check, only to find myself in the middle of this very interesting party.

GUPTA (voice-over): For another patient, she traveled to Cancun for a week. Why? The patient wanted her own doctor with her just in case. And this...

(On camera): Was that your phone?

(Voice-over): Just a few minutes into our interview, Dr. Bryant- Bruce get a call and we get a glimpse into her life.

BRYANT-BRUCE: You know we can send the trainer with you. I mean, I understand that you're going on location and all, but we can send the trainer with you.

GUPTA (on camera): Did I hear you just said that you were going to send a trainer and a masseuse to New York for that patient?

BRYANT-BRUCE: Yes. Yes.

GUPTA (voice-over): Most of her patients are famous and wealthy. They expect discretion. And that is why Dr. Bryant-Bruce wouldn't divulge too many names but she did say supermodel Marisa Miller was a client and she took us along on a visit with another patient.

(On camera): So we're about to make a real, live house call here. This is what Dr. Bryant-Bruce does several times a day, going to see her patients wherever they may be.

(Voice-over): The patient is Jimmy Coco. You may have seen him on E! He's legendary for providing tans, you know, those world-class spray-on tans. She checks him for strep throat and then gives him an injection. In this case, the anti-inflammatory Toradol.

But it got me wondering.

(On camera): Have you given shots of Demerol or Oxycontin to your patients before?

BRYANT-BRUCE: I have, yes.

GUPTA: You know Dr. Conrad Murray. You know his background. You know the story. Are you surprised that the king of pop, Michael Jackson, had Dr. Conrad Murray, as his doctor?

BRYANT-BRUCE: To be honest, actually, I am. I am a bit surprised, because he had access to anybody that he wanted. And, you know, the fact that he did choose a specialist and that he didn't appear to do his homework. GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Well, what do you think Michael Jackson's legacy is? Submit your video comments to ireport.com/situationroom and we'll try to get some of them on the air tomorrow.

President Obama holding a health care town hall meeting today, but how does support now compare to 16 years ago when the Clintons tried to overhaul the system?

Plus, this hour's question -- what will Minnesota senator-elect Al Franken mean for President Obama's agenda? Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mails.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Sixteen years after Bill and Hillary Clinton's failed attempts at a health care overhaul, President Obama is gearing up for his crack at it. Well, here's what he said at a town hall meeting today on the topic in Annandale, Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a problem that we can't wait to fix. It's not something that we're going to keep on putting off indefinitely. This is about who we are as a country. And that's why we are going to pass health care reform, not 10 years from now, not five years from now. We are going to pass it this year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So, how does public support for health care reform now compare with what it was under President Clinton?

CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider takes a look. Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Suzanne, public support for President Obama's health care plan is similar to public support for President Clinton's plan back in 1993. The difference? There's more opposition now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Nearly 16 years ago, President Bill Clinton went before Congress to propose health care reform.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Before this Congress finishes its work next year, we will pass and I will sign legislation to guarantee this security to every citizen of this country.

SCHNEIDER: The plan failed. President Obama says that won't happen again. OBAMA: Those who seek to block any reform at all, any reform at any cost, will not prevail this time around.

SCHNEIDER: How does support for Obama's health care plan compare to the President Clinton's in 1993? Just over half the public say they support President Obama's plan, according to the new CNN/Opinion Research poll. Not much different from the 54 percent who said they supported President Clinton's plan in 1993.

But opposition to the Obama plan is stronger now. Republicans have closed ranks against it. 80 percent of Republicans say they oppose the Obama plan.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: Democrats are pushing a government takeover of our health care system that'll cost at least a trillion dollars.

SCHNEIDER: Do people believe increased government involvement in the health care system would make it better? They're not sure. 42 percent say yes, 42 percent say no. How did the public feel about increased government involvement back in 1993? About the same number said it would improve the system, but fewer people government would make things worse.

There is more opposition now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: After eight years of Bill Clinton and eight years of George W. Bush, partisan lines have hardened. In 1993, opposition to health care reform had barely mobilized. Now the critics are ready to spring into action. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Bill.

Well, let's bring in Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Paul Begala and Dan Senor, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Thanks for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I want to start off, you know, obviously, we saw the president today. He was out there holding this town hall meeting, taking questions, FaceBook, Twitter, the whole bit, trying to generate some support here for his reform.

The numbers aren't all that different than 16 years ago. How big a problem is this, Bill -- Paul? We'll start with you, Paul.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it's the most difficult domestic policy problem facing America and it has been for 50 years. Franklin Roosevelt couldn't get fundamental health care reform, not could Harry Truman, nor could Bill Clinton.

And yet, I think there's -- some things are very much similar. Supporters are about the same, opposition a little higher. I think Bill's piece is absolutely accurate. Once again, we have a president who's personally committed to it, who can give a heck of a good speech, and who can hug a cancer patient and evoke the kind of emotion that the issue evokes.

I think the differences, though, are also important. First off, industry has been a lot more open to some kind of compromise. That's a big difference. And second, we've had 16 years of the status quo.

In other words, when Bill Clinton was pushing his reform, he said if when he don't get this, costs will go through the roof, your co- payments will go up, your deductibles will go up, your premiums will go up, you'll lose your insurance. Insurance companies will kick you off, your insurance, even if you've paid your premiums, and guess what, he was right.

And so now we've had 16 years of the status quo that we didn't have back then and I think it makes it a more powerful case for President Obama.

MALVEAUX: Dan, is that a compelling argument, that things are just different? people are sick and tired of the status quo so he's going to be able to push it through?

DAN SENOR, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I actually -- I think things are different. I think the context is different. I think that some of the parts of the environment which President Obama is operating is different. I mean, just look at all the domestic spending that has been going on in the economy since this president took over.

The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, estimates that by the end of 2009 the government will basically control about 28, 29 percent of the economy. And when you add that 16 to 20 percent of the economy is spent -- is occupied by health care, now, depending on what percentage of that moves into the public plan, depending how many enrollments there are in the public option of President Obama's plan, you quickly get to 40 percent.

That's before you factor in the auto industry, which has been all but nationalized and whatever else President Obama does by the end of the year, you can quickly see government control the economy, government spending in the economy going to 40 to 50 percent of GDP.

I think that context is beginning to settle in and that is sort of dooming the plan or dooming the momentum is this context is dramatically different. It's hard for people to just evaluate health care in and of itself giving this fear that we are moving very close to a percentage of the government spending in the economy that's comparable to most European economies, which are sluggish to say the least.

MALVEAUX: Paul, quickly, does the president need to do something different? Does he need to either change his message or change his approach? Because he still has a lot of opposition in Congress that he's got to get over.

BEGALA: Well, I think one of the most important things he can do, and he did some of it today, but I would urge him to do. Something that we didn't do. You know I was advising President Clinton when we failed and I bear some of the responsibility for our failure on that and people should know that.

One of the things we did wrong and I think the Obama people sometimes do wrong is they compared their plan to theoretical perfection. We let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The president needs to constantly remind people that if we don't reform things, then health care will get more and more expensive and you will be priced out of the market.

Uva Rhinehart is a health care economist at Princeton says this, if we don't pass a plan like President Obama's, then in 10 years your health care costs will be $36,000 a year for a family of four. $36,000 a year is what your health care bill is going to be if we don't reform the system.

MALVEAUX: OK.

BEGALA: That's the kind of case President Obama needs to make.

MALVEAUX: Let's turn to Iraq. Very important day yesterday. U.S. troop withdrawals from major towns and cities inside of Iraq.

Dan, does this signal any real change, any real difference when you take a look at Obama's young presidency when it comes to Iraq policy? He is really carrying out what President Bush decided in November.

Are we going to see this president really react in a very different way than what we have seen before?

SENOR: Absolutely. I celebrate President Obama for his changes on Iraq. And look, I've been very critical of him on foreign policy, specifically on Iran. But if you look at what he has done, keep in mind, in January of 2007, Senator Obama introduced legislation for all of our troops to be -- all the combat brigades to be out of Iraq by sometime in 2008, March or April of 2008.

Here we are 13 months after that point and you have a commander in chief Obama who has basically been deferential to General Petraeus and Odierno and is overseeing and is comfortable with 130,000 troops in Iraq, staying in Iraq, along the time line negotiated by President Bush, who are out of the Iraqi cities, which is really important, and was -- is actually doable because of what President Bush did under the surge.

And he's continuing it forward in a way that I think is immensely responsible and he deserves a lot of credit for it for not sticking to that what I thought was an unrealistic position. I'm thrilled he's not being theological about it.

And I think these next -- by the way, these next milestones for further withdrawals going through 2011, I think he will be also flexible and not terribly rigid about meeting them if the conditions on the ground demand he do otherwise. MALVEAUX: Well, Paul, the conditions on the ground. Let's say things deteriorate inside of Iraq and militarily he's got the flexibility to bring those troops back in. But politically, does he have the flexibility to do something like that?

BEGALA: Yes. Yes is the short answer. Dan just praised the president's plan on Iraq. John McCain just -- months ago when President Obama announced his strategy on Iraq, John McCain said he thought it was a good idea. And so I don't think President Obama needs to worry too much about the left.

I think he's got -- I think a consensus in this country about what we need to do. And what's interesting is his tactics seem similar to Bush, it's true, and Dan's right, but the strategies are different.

I went back and looked at September of last year in the heat of the campaign. President Obama's real critique, then, it was different from when he began, as Dan points out, his critique then was that strategically we've taken our eye off the ball and that we need to focus much more attention on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

And that's what this president is doing.

MALVEAUX: OK.

BEGALA: It's not that he wants to abandon Iraq, but he thinks the central front in the war on terror, to quote President Bush, is actually over in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Not in Gaza.

MALVEAUX: Got to leave it there. Paul Begala, Dan Senor, thanks so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

SENOR: Good to be with you.

BEGALA: Thanks.

MALVEAUX: Details of Michael Jackson's will are revealed. And there are some surprises. We'll talk with the man who was Jackson's spokesman at the time he wrote the will. That's straight ahead.

And Jackson's former nurse says he begged her for a powerful sedative just a few months ago. The medical mystery surrounding the singer's death grows deeper.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: More now on the breaking news that we're following this hour. Michael Jackson's will made public.

Joining us now no the phone is Stuart Backerman. He was the spokesman for Michael Jackson from 2002 through 2004.

Thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I want to start off, you were Jackson's spokesman during the time that he wrote this will. Did he share it with you? Did you snow what he was writing or anything about that?

STUART BACKERMAN, FORMER MICHAEL JACKSON SPOKESMAN (via phone): No, I didn't. That was personal information. The only thing I knew that was there was a will and that John Branca, his former attorney, was the person who had done the work on it.

MALVEAUX: Tell us a little bit about Neverland and what that meant to Michael Jackson. There is a lot of discussion among the family members and those who are working with him now about whether there would be a potential of a memorial or things like that. Now we are being told that that's not necessarily going to happen.

What did Neverland mean to Michael Jackson?

BACKERMAN: It meant so much. Michael never had a childhood. In fact, he had a lost childhood. And so Neverland to him represented everything that he didn't have, a place to really let his hair down, figuratively speaking, and enjoy the privacy that he saw so desperately beyond that.

But even beyond that, the place was just really quite amazing. It was so special and I really feel that I was privilege to have the opportunity to spend so much time there. And I'm not talking about necessarily the aesthetics or the physicality of the location or of the ranch itself which was, of course, knocked-out dead beautiful

But there really was a spiritual feeling on that site. You walked through the main gate, the inner gate, and as soon as you walked through the gates, "Fantasia" music was pumped through speakers throughout the property. There were confectionaries where you could have unlimited licorice and bounty balls and Hershey bars and ice cream and kids would just squeal with joy when they came to Neverland.

But really it was just such a beautiful place, just a peaceful place. So even take Michael Jackson out of the equation, it really was one of the most special places that I've ever been at.

MALVEAUX: Do you think that with that special relationship that he had with his ranch, with Neverland, that he would want -- that he wanted to have some sort of memorial or a burial, to have people come and see him there and to experience that as a farewell?

BACKERMAN: To tell you the truth, I'm of two minds. Number one, I know after the raid at Neverland, and prior to the trial of the century that Michael went through, he sort of signed off on Neverland. He never felt comfortable being back there. He never really wanted to live there and he never did live there again.

On the other hand, it was a special place. And there were tremendous memories. He wrote many songs there and raised his children there, brought them home there, had a beautiful life there and so on a certain level, I think he would be proud for people to visit him at Neverland so... MALVEAUX: And Stuart, real quick, if you could tell us, I know that he named Diana Ross as somebody who he could see taking care of his children if his own mother couldn't.

BACKERMAN: Yes.

MALVEAUX: What was their relationship like?

BACKERMAN: Well, he looked up to Diana Ross as somebody who was really, really special to him. He kind of considered her as an older sister or even like a younger mom in a sense. You know she was the one or she was one of a number of people including Bobby Taylor, of course, and Berry Gordy who brought Michael to the stage.

But there was a special relationship there. They did "The Wiz" together, the film, "The Wiz." That was really a breakthrough role for him in a sense doing something very different from just concerts and music recording at the time. And he really looked up to Diana Ross and...

MALVEAUX: OK.

BACKERMAN: And felt very comfortable with her.

MALVEAUX: Stuart Backerman, thank you so much for joining us and giving us your impressions or insights of Michael Jackson.

BACKERMAN: My pleasure.

MALVEAUX: Well, what will Minnesota senator-elect Al Franken mean for President Obama's agenda? That's our question to you this hour. Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail.

And the president promises more transparency. Why is he now being accused of secrecy? Details of who's now suing to get information out of the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK).

MALVEAUX: Time to check back in with Jack Cafferty. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour, Suzanne, is what will Minnesota senator-elect Al Franken mean for President Obama's agenda? They finally figured it out, Minnesota, and Franken's going to Washington.

Dennis in Virginia, "It doesn't mean jack, Jack. A filibuster proof majority doesn't help if your party can't agree on anything. There are too many corporatists in the Democratic Party preventing them from ever passing meaningful legislation."

S writes, "The runaway freight train is coming. Whatever the Democrats want, it's theirs and there is nothing anyone can do about it until 2010. The flip side is they have no one to blame but themselves when it all blows up in their faces. And it will." Tom in Las Vegas, "Franken gives the Democratic caucus 60 votes, but I don't think that the caucus will vote as a unit very often. In the Democratic caucus there are conservative Democrats from the south, two independents and Arlen Specter who will no doubt balk at many of the president's initiatives. Even with 60 votes, the Democrats still need Republican support to move things forward."

Eric in Texas says, "It will mean Obama can now pass anything he wants. He better hurry with jamming his crap down our throats because the 2010 midterms are coming up and they are going to be a blood bath for the Democrats."

Diane in Pennsylvania says, "I think Al Franken may really challenge Obama on his agenda. He's not coming in as a career politician. He sees it from the outside therefore may be able to thing outside the box. I am hoping Al Franken can be a voice of reason. Someone has to be."

Frankie writes, "To paraphrase President Obama's words today at the town meeting, I hope this shows Republicans that the train has left the station and they better jump on board."

And Sandra in San Diego says, "Al Franken is the Genie here to grant Obama's every wish."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there.

Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Jack.

Happening now. Breaking news. No final return to Neverland for Michael Jackson. New uncertainty about memorial plans after Jackson's family makes a sudden announcement.

Plus surprises in Jackson's will. The details now are public. This hour, who is in and who has been cut out?

And is President Obama breaking his promise to run an open White House? Secret visitor logs do raise some questions and prompt comparisons to Dick Cheney.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We now know how some of the major figures in Michael Jackson's dramatic life are figuring in his death. The will he wrote in 2002 now is part of the public record. His mother, his children and fellow Motown star, Diana Ross, play prominent roles. His father goes unmentioned and his ex-wife Debbie Rowe is cut out altogether.

CNN's Don Lemon has the breaking news on Jackson's will.