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JOHN KING, USA

Sen. McCain Visits Libyan Rebels; President Condemns Syrian Government's Recent Actions; Most Americans Think Country Headed in Wrong Direction

Aired April 22, 2011 - 19:00   ET

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


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks Candy. I'm Jessica Yellin. John King has the night off.

These two breaking news stories coming from the Middle East. On what's been the bloodiest day of Syria's crackdown on anti-government protesters, President Obama for the first time has called out Syria's president by name, demanding he change course and heed the calls of his own people.

And in another breaking story, just a short time ago, a top official in Moammar Gadhafi's government announced the Libyan army will withdraw from Misrata and allow tribal leaders to negotiate a settlement with the rebels. Misrata is the third largest country and has been siege by Gadhafi fighters.

Let's go to CNN's Frederik Pleitgen who is in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Fred, how big of a victory is this for the rebels?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're going to have to wait and see how serious Moammar Gadhafi's government really is about all of this. This was a statement from Libya's deputy foreign minister and what he said was that the army was going to withdraw from at least large parts of Misrata and then try and come in and negotiate with the rebels.

He makes it sound as though the tribes are willing to attack the rebels if they don't negotiate a settlement with them. He says that the tribes are firmly in the camp of Moammar Gadhafi's forces, he says that all this came from initiatives by his tribe and told the army that they clearly weren't making any head way and therefore the tribes feel they have to step in.

We have also contacted the rebels about all of this and they basically say it's nonsense. They say they don't even know who these tribes are supposed to be. They say they have had no contact whatsoever and they don't believe that this is going to change anything.

This comes of course on a very important day because the rebels had stated that they have essentially ousted Moammar Gadhafi's forces from downtown Misrata, they have pretty much won all of that territory back, killing a lot of these snipers, wounding a lot of these snipers and taking them of them prisoner so it might appear as if Moammar Gadhafi's forces had to withdraw from downtown Misrata. Only time will tell who his tribes are and when these meetings will take place.

YELLIN: It has been a significant development for the rebels. I'm curious. The Libyan foreign minister also had a message for the U.S. on the use of armed drones. What did he say?

PLEITGEN: Well, he said that he felt that it was absolutely irresponsible for the U.S. to use armed drones. He said that these armed drones were there to kill civilians. He was quite adamant about all that. And he said this is one thing that could pressure the Libyan government even more than before. Nato has been increasing its airstrikes here in Libya over the past couple of days. We saw last night eight attacks on munitions bunkers, we saw attacks by airplanes on command and control infrastructure in the town of Sirte.

Of course the predator drones bring that extra element of close air support especially in places like Misrata and these things are so good at picking out targets and destroying them. So that might be one of the reasons why there was such a backlash by the Libyan foreign ministers. He claims that these things will not make a difference on the battle field.

We are hearing NATO jets again circling here over the city over Tripoli, we're going to have to wait and see whether any air strikes will follow soon.

YELLIN: You mention those NATO jets, we know there's been no shortage of criticism of NATO's efforts in Libya. But you spoke to some rebels who actually are giving NATO some credit now?

PLEITGEN: They certainly were. They said for the first time that the gains that they made in Misrata would never have been possible if NATO hadn't helped them out. We have heard in the past couple of weeks that NATO was being too cautious, too fearful. Today for the first time, they said that the gains they made in downtown Misrata where NATO of course hit some targets there as well, things like tanks, things like anti-aircraft weapons and Moammar Gadhafi's forces that are using civilian cars.

None of that would have been possible without NATO conducting those strikes. It appears that NATO seems to be expanding their air strike all over Libya. They say that makes a big difference not only in Misrata but on the eastern front as well where essentially Moammar Gadhafi's forces have been halted there where the rebels are digging in as well.

YELLIN: There does seem to be signs of positive momentum for the rebels. Fred, thank you.

There is a lot to discuss now about the politics of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, and to break it all down with us, Democrat Paul Begala, who among other things worked in the White House during times of international crisis, Rich Galen, who spent a considerable amount of time in Iraq, and our senior political analyst Gloria Borger who has covered these subjects in depth.

I want to start with the president's statement tonight. He has released his first very strongly worded statement condemning the government of Syria, Assad, and I want to read a little bit of it. He says "Instead of listening to their own people, President Assad is blaming outsiders while seeking Iranian assistance. We call on President Assad to change course now and heed the calls of his own people."

I know it's just a piece of paper, but this is pretty significant.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's very significant. First of all it's a very strong statement. Secondly, he mentions Assad by name as he pointed out earlier. And third, what's most interesting to me is that he calls out Iran here. And he says that Assad is getting Iranian assistance in repressing Syria's citizens. Now Iran isn't very popular with lots of people in that part of the world and Obama is not exactly making a new enemy by calling out Iran, but a very strong statement and interesting that he did so.

YELLIN: Paul, I know you have been in the White House when they make decisions like, this should we issue a paper, should it come from the president, should it come from the secretary?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: That's exactly right, it's the president's voice. They have ratcheted it up to Def-Con three or four4. This is the president of the United States in the strongest possible terms, he says, so this is just short of engaging as they're announcing kinetically.

The thing that struck me was that the plot, yes he names the president of Syria, are we beginning to creep toward calling for regime change in Damascus as well? And secondly he named Iran. That's a very big deal. Iran doesn't have many allies in the Arab world as a Shiite Persian country. And they have done a lot of bad in that region, the Iranians through the Syrians. And the president is standing up and saying quite rightly --

YELLIN: I recall when we first heard about all the atrocities that seemed to be happening in Libya, the president was very slow to be the one condemning Gadhafi, in this instance in Syria, he's very slow to come out condemning Assad, but he finally has.

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: What I think happened was that the president began actually listening to the secretary of state Hillary Clinton who really made big news yesterday but it got buried, or should have made big news. She's actually the one that called out Iran first. She said it's further evidence of the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime.

And she said we want people to understand that Iran wants to destabilize countries, and Syria has been the loading dock for the export of supplies and goods and bombs and everything else. So I think that the administration is on some new path. Where that path takes us, I think it's a little too early to speculate.

YELLIN: What is the significance of naming Iran? It is well known that Syria and Iran have this relationship. But that message coming from the president means something.

BEGALA: A lot of people -- particularly incumbent governments are saying these are outside agitators. Now the president is turning that against Assad in Syria saying this isn't the United States, this is now Assad turning to a foreign power to undermine the aspirations of its own citizens which in facts are wasn't Iran over the Libya, but that's what Gadhafi allegedly is doing as well.

BORGER: Ever decision that has been made. It has been made with the development. The National Security Council, they're all thinking, what is Iran think about what's going on in Libya, how are they going to interpret this? So, you know, this is a message, this is about as direct a message as you can get from the president of the United States which says stay out, or else.

YELLIN: The question is what next?

GALEN: That's the big question, Gloria, what's the or else?

BORGER: I don't know. Do you?

GALEN: No. They didn't ask.

YELLIN: We're looking at another story in the Middle East in Libya, where we are involved. NATO stepped up its involvement in Misrata and now it's reported that the Libyan army is in retreat there. Does NATO need to commit more resources because when they do, it produces a positive result?

GALEN: I'm not so sure it's as positive as it sounds on the surface. Gadhafi and his sons are not the greatest strategists. What they are thinking is that they're going to withdraw at least to the edges of town bring in these tribal leaders to be able to say to the world, look, see, we tried to reach out a hand of peace to these people, they won't listen to us, so now you have to stop supporting these people who don't want peace, they have proven they don't want peace. I think that this is a strategic move by the Gadhafis and I think it's clearly not going to work.

YELLIN: Paul, you know, John McCain was in Libya today, he was asked about the legitimacy of the rebels because you know he wants the U.S. to arm them and he had a very strong defense of these rebels saying we know exactly who they r they are my heroes. Let's listen to John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: This is a legitimate government. There are concerns about the makeup of it. They're on Facebook, you can look at a website. You can see who they are and what they're about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: So being on Facebook and having a Web site doesn't necessarily make them legitimate. BEGALA: My teenage boys are on Facebook and they're legitimate. You can see that. But that doesn't mean they should be recognized as leaders.

(LAUGHTER)

There is this question of who on earth would we be recognizing? I looked at the early speech that the senator gave and he had to look down at the paper to see the formal name of this collection of insurgents, the national - I can't remember what it is.

BORGER: McCain wants to arm the rebels. So if you want to arm the rebels, you have to say they're legitimate, you have to believe they're legitimate.

BEGALA: And usually a government says they're legitimate because they're in popular support, democratic support.

YELLIN: -- The institutional government to support in that way, they don't have a tradition of that.

GALEN: Here's the important thing is for -- I'm sorry.

YELLIN: Does McCain's presence in Libya actually ramp up pressure on the White House to do more now?

GALEN: Here's what I think. I think what McCain does do, he gives the president cover. The president of the president's left wants him to get out of there, or at least keep the involvement to an absolute minimum. McCain wants more involvement, arming maybe even some advisors or special forces.

That allows the president to look like he is -- he's really being careful, he's being considered, and he's taking a course that really kind of blocks down the middle of a very difficult path.

YELLIN: You all are nodding, so Paul, I heard that McCain said that the vice president's office knew he was going, the state department knew he was going, is that why they would sign off on it, it's politically beneficial for them.

BEGALA: He's legitimate. The senator is the top minority member of the Senate armed services committee. He has a right to be there. Even though he disagrees with the president's policy, I think it's good. I never have liked this thing about politics stopping at the water's edge. Seriously, we need to have different views here. Senator McCain has a different view from the president.

I happen to think the president's right and McCain is wrong, but god bless McCain for going to the region and seeing for himself, and god bless the president for working with him on that. I think it's democracy at its best.

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: Rich, jump in here, what were you saying? GALEN: The point about McCain going there I think that really does ring true is that he of all people understands that just flying over these countries and dropping bombs and then going back to your home base and having a cup of coffee in the O-club doesn't always happen. When you put young men and women in harm's way, they're in harm's way and the fact that, a, he went there, and, b, he is urging more activity, he carries a lot of weight for a lot of people.

YELLIN: And one person said that it was a morale boost for the rebels to have McCain come and visit. It is a challenging time to follow McCain's advice and get more involve. The newest CBS poll shows look at this, 70 percent of the country thinks that the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction. This is that right track wrong track kind of polling we always talk about. Those are super bad numbers for the president.

BORGER: Worst he's ever had, actually in his presidency, the wrong track.

YELLIN: I'm curious, Rich, let me ask you, what do you think is driving this morning anything else?

GALEN: I don't think there's any question about it, it's a combination of things. The unemployment numbers are intractable. People don't have any confidence that the economy is getting much better and thirdly gasoline prices and other commodities, everything else is getting more expensive, inflation is going up.

People are getting very nervous about what's going on, and these numbers that the times released pretty closely track across the board what "The Washington Post" ABC poll showed yesterday and the day before. So I think there's really something going on here.

Now the question is can they get it fixed between now and let's say a year from August when people sort of lock in their positions.

YELLIN: Consistently bad polling lately we have seen both on this and on the economy. Does policy play into this at all or is it all domestic.

BEGALA: Senator McCain I don't think is thinking of politics when he criticizes the president on foreign policy. But if the president were to listen to that and engage even more and so now we have 2.5 wars going on in the Middle East, and make that a third war, and then, god knows maybe Syria, I think it's the last thing the American people want.

And maybe that's what's driving up gas prices, but also the thing that should not be missed this week, because it's a very busy week. The attorney general announced a task force or some kind of a group on oil and gas price manipulation.

BORGER: That will fix everything.

BEGALA: Let me tell you, Wall Street in the past as manipulated the price of oil and gas far beyond -- some of these bandits on Wall Street, if they're doing this, haul them away in shackles. Attorney General way to go, fighting for consumers.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: They're about how people view Obama as a leader and whether they think he's getting it done and leading in the right direction.

YELLIN: Thanks for this chat, Gloria, Paul, Rich.

We hear lots of people blaming the Middle East for the high gas prices. President Obama wants to investigate the energy markets to look for price gouging. So what is really behind your pain at the pump? We'll ask an expert next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: We're approaching election season, and once again gas prices are becoming a major political issue. What you're paying at the pump is on Washington's mind. Here's why -- gas prices are about a dollar a gallon higher now than they were a year ago. As you can see, most of the increase if you take a look at this, happened in just the last three months. We're getting close to 2008's all-time high of $4.11 a gallon.

With no relief in sight, President Obama is talking tough and promising action. He's ordered his Justice Department to set up a task force that will root out fraud in the energy markets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That includes the role of traders and speculators. We're going to make sure that nobody's taking advantage of American consumers for their own short- term gain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: So is he on to something, or is this just political spin. Let's ask Terry Savage, a personal finance columnist for the "Chicago Sun-Times" and author of "The Savage Truth on Money." Terry, hi, thanks for being here. Attorney General Holder just wrote a blog post promising to "vigorously enforce state and federal laws against manipulation, collusion and other forms of wrongdoing." Are collusion, manipulation, and wrongdoing the reason why gas prices are high?

TERRY SAVAGE, PERSONAL FINANCE COLUMNIST: Absolutely not and the attorney general is going to have a tough time enforcing any kind of collusion in the oil market because it's a global market. We don't just set price here's in the United States and gas companies don't just set prices. The fact is oil is a big market, it's ruled by those very basic forces of supply and demand.

And in the last three months we have had another ingredient, the political ingredient that revolves around the value of the U.S. dollar and people not wanting to have U.S. dollars. YELLIN: How does the U.S. dollar impact the price of our gas here?

SAVAGE: The political agenda is what's causing extra oomph to the oil market. We have huge deficits, we have been printing a ton of dollars. Oil is priced in dollars around the world, no matter where it's traded. And as the dollar loses value and foreign governments and big companies want to get out of holding dollars, they turn to other things.

It pushes the price of oil up. You have seen gold skyrocketing and the price of silver. It's all because Congress can't get its act together, both political parties, and the president too. We're going to see more of this debate about the debt ceiling. We had the Chinese government lecturing America you better get your finances in order. But they hold $2 trillion.

YELLIN: You're saying if we reined in the debt, brought down our deaf sit, then our gas prices would fall too?

SAVAGE: I think it would be a big impact on world oil prices because oil is priced in dollars no matter where it's traded. As dollars lose value, foreign banks, companies want to get out of dollars. Dollar goes down, oil price goes up, that's part of the reason we have seen this recent increase.

YELLIN: So the president's task force to root out fraud and manipulation, is it really just a fig leaf to hide the fact that the president doesn't have much control over the price of gas.

SAVAGE: It's a very small fig leaf. And this president promised us when he was elected that we would be energy independent in ten years, that we wouldn't import more oil. Instead we're importing more and more oil. We do not have a rational drilling policy. There's been no incentive to conserve oil. The Gulf oil spill I was sitting on a TV set to talk about the tragedy of it. But to shut down drilling, we have made ourselves more dependent.

YELLIN: What do speculators have on the high price of gas?

SAVAGE: It's never been proved that speculation increases prices. What happened to all the speculators two years ago or four years ago when oil hit $100 a barrel and then collapsed to the 30s? Much more is going on in the futures market are airlines and trucking companies, companies that know they need to use oil in the future and they're trying to plan rationally so your airline prices don't go skyrocketing as well. So speculators are also selling when users are buying in the future.

YELLIN: They take the blame unfairly. They're blamed unfairly, I get that.

SAVAGE: Yes.

YELLIN: Do you also think, you know, a lot of us assume that the reason gas prices are going up is because of the unrest in the Middle East. Do you actually think that some of that is already baked into the price of gas and that the recent spike is not due to the Middle East unrest?

SAVAGE: I think that right now there is ongoing concern over future sources of supply. Yes, the cutbacks and the dislocations we saw from Libya are already in the market. But what's really a concern is where will the next cutback or dislocation come from?

It's all over the Middle East, it's now happening in Nigeria, something we're not paying much attention to. So as the markets look forward, they're not seeing certainty of supply, but they are seeing growing demand and that's how prices are set. Combine that with the value of the dollar falling, all oil being priced in dollars, and you see high energy prices going into the months ahead.

YELLIN: Terry Savage, thanks so much for being with us.

SAVAGE: Thank you.

YELLIN: And up next, Senator John McCain's warning on the future of Libya.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: There's no doubt what Gadhafi will do to his own people if he has the opportunity to do so. That's not a settlement, that's a massacre.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: News you'll hear first on "John King USA."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: More now on tonight's breaking news from the White House. President Obama issuing his strongest ever condemnation of the Syrian government's killing of peaceful demonstrators. It comes at the end of the bloodiest day yet of anti-government protests there. Thousands were in the streets and Syrian security forces responded with tear gas and live ammunition. CNN has not been allowed to report from inside Syria.

Earlier I spoke with CNN's Arwa Damon who is in Beirut.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Arwa, hi.

We know people have been killed in the mass demonstrations in Syria today. Why did these protests turn deadly?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, the opposition will tell you that that is simply because this is the way that the Syrian regime chooses to deal with those who actually dare demand change from it. What we saw happening today, in terms of scale and magnitude, these were the largest demonstrations since they began well over five weeks ago, not just in terms of numbers, but also in terms of areas.

Across the entire country, we saw them taking place. And equally just about every place where we saw these people gathering, eyewitnesses, activists were telling us that Syrian security forces fired on them indiscriminately. We've heard a number of accounts from eyewitnesses. One man who said that the man standing next to him was shot -- about how the Syrian security forces were firing not even over the demonstrators' heads but directly at them. And that is why, Jessica, they keep saying that this regime does not intend on change or on any real reform.

YELLIN: We do know that there have been daily demonstrations for weeks in Syria and then, finally, yesterday, the president, Assad lifted the country's 40-year-old state of emergency. He even abolished the state security court. And those are some of the key demands that demonstrators have been making.

But there's clearly more that they want the president to do. What next?

DAMON: Jessica, there's a lot more that they want the president to do. They want real political reform. They point to these reforms that have been made thus far, and they say they are very superficial. They want to see things like the release of political prisoners. They want to see a system put in place that would allow for free and fair elections.

A lot of demonstrators, activists and analysts are telling us that that if the president had, in fact, begun to put forward these kinds of reforms when these uprisings first began, that perhaps could have allowed him to bring the situation under control. But in the weeks that followed, as we saw, the violence against demonstrators increase and grow lethal -- that is when we heard the cry changing from being called for reform of their regime and now the cry we're hearing increasingly is a call for the removal of the regime, Jessica.

YELLIN: And we'll see if that really happens, they're going to be pressing for that no doubt for some time. Arwa, thank you so much reporting for us from Beirut.

Senator John McCain made a surprise visit to the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi today. The Republican is urging President Obama to do more to stop Moammar Gadhafi from slaughtering his people.

CNN's Reza Sayah spoke with the senator during his visit there.

Hi, Reza. It was a good interview. First, tell us what was the rebels' reaction to McCain's appearance?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they were extremely pleased. And don't be surprised if in the coming days, you see more American flags flying here in the opposition capital of Benghazi, because, basically, Senator McCain came here and told the opposition exactly what they wanted to hear. He praised the uprising. He called it a powerful example of what freedom could be. He said he was here to find out what the opposition wanted and he was going to go back to Washington and press the Obama administration to do more, get involve here with this intervention in order for the opposition to accomplish its mission which is, of course, pressuring the Gadhafi regime out of power.

YELLIN: And in your interview, you asked the senator if he was going rogue with his rebel visit. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAYAH: Did you talk to the White House before this trip? And did they support you or advise you against them?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: No, no, I talked to the national security advisor and I talked to the vice president and they supported this trip. I wouldn't be here if they hadn't supported it.

SAYAH: The Predator drones, you say you support it. But they've killed civilians before and that seemingly plays right into the hands of Colonel Gadhafi. Is it worth the risk?

MCCAIN: The Predators are very accurate weapon delivery system. The reason why they killed civilians is that because they misidentified people not because of lack of accuracy. I think the Predator can be very helpful. I do not believe that it is a game changer. I think that we need American air assets back into this conflict.

SAYAH: You say the U.S. should help facilitate the delivery of weapons here. Could you be more clear on that? What do you mean by that?

MCCAIN: What I mean by that is what we did in the Afghan conflict when Russians were there. We can -- right now, there are published reports for example that the Egyptians have helped to get some weapons in to the freedom fighters. So, there are ways that I think we could help make that happen without it being direct U.S. involvement.

SAYAH: Will you go back to Washington and press even more the administration to get more deeply involve?

MCCAIN: I don't know how I could press any harder than how I have been pressing. But I do believe that this is a legitimate government, there are concerns about the makeup of it. They're on Facebook. You can -- you can -- they've got a Web site. You can see who they are and what they're about. The finance minister was a former, just left the University of Washington to come here and serve as the finance minister.

So, I think that they also have to do a better job of explaining what they're about as well. And I think they can do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: They're his heroes. Curious, Reza, were you surprised by the senator's unadulterated support for the rebels?

SAYAH: I don't think so. I think -- you have to remember, from the get-go, Senator McCain was one of the most staunch supporters of U.S. involvement, of this military intervention. He was convinced that if the world would not have gotten involve here in Libya, especially here in Benghazi, the opposition capital, people would have been slaughtered and he's concerned that more civilians will be killed in the days to come if the world, if the U.S. doesn't do more.

What can the U.S. do more of? What are they willing to do more of? It's still not clear. Senator McCain today outlined a plan. He said the U.S. should finally recognize the interim government here as the legitimate authority of the opposition and he said the airstrikes should be stepped up, and they should facilitate the delivery of more weapons.

But it's not clear if the Obama administration is considering these steps and how close they are to implementing them if indeed they are considering them.

YELLIN: I know you also asked Senator McCain what his ideal end game would be there. What did he tell you?

SAYAH: Well, he wasn't very clear on the end game. He simply said the ouster of the Colonel Gadhafi regime. And when we pressed him on that, when we asked him, well, what does that mean? Does that mean the rebel fighters surrounding and waiting in his house and arresting him, or does it mean Colonel Gadhafi simply saying I give up? He didn't give a clear answer.

And I think it's that lack of clarity when it comes to an end game that has critics of this military intervention very concerned. Critics of this intervention say it certainly did save civilian lives early on. But unless there is a clear end game, this conflict could go on and more civilians could be lost.

YELLIN: So, now that he has come and gone, is it your sense that the rebels believe his visit will translate into more concrete U.S. support, even military assistance?

SAYAH: It's important to remember that he didn't come here as a representative of the White House, as a representative of the Obama administration. He's a member of Congress, certainly an influential member of Congress, someone that President Obama often listens to. But there's no guarantee that he's going to heed Senator McCain's suggestions.

And it's certainly easy for Senator McCain to come here and make what were very lofty suggestions because, in the end, the final call doesn't rest with him and if these plans don't work out, the rebels are disappointed, he can always say, "Look, it wasn't with me, the final decision, it was with the president."

YELLIN: That is true. We know well here that President Obama doesn't necessarily heed John McCain's advice. Thanks so much, Reza, as always for reporting. Reza Sayah for us in Benghazi. (END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Civil wars and anti-government demonstrations raged across North Africa and the Middle East today. But one ancient and important city saw huge crowds and peaceful prayers. A Good Friday visit to Jerusalem is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Welcome back.

You're looking live at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California. CNS News is reporting the discovery of a suspicious device which prompted the evacuation of 151 passengers from an Alaska Airlines plane. We will bring you more on the story as it develops.

Well, members of Congress are halfway through their current break and some are finding angry crowds during town hall meetings back home. Sore spots seems to be House Republicans proposed cuts in Medicare and their refusal to make cuts to wealthier Americans.

Take a look at what House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan faced in Wisconsin.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

YELLIN: There are some unhappy citizens.

This evening, Pope Benedict XVI led the Stations of the Cross at the coliseum in Rome. He's joining Christians around the world in observing Good Friday. As CNN's Phil Black shows us, today also saw a large crowd of pilgrims in Jerusalem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A significant day for Christians, certainly the saddest, thousands of them have come across the world to mark this day here in Jerusalem's old city, and to walk, they believe, in his footsteps, the proceed a long Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering, said to be the very path that Jesus carried his own cross to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is the site said to be where Jesus was crucified, where he was buried and where he rose again.

It is a somber day, a day where Christians are supposed to remember the suffering of Jesus and you saw that on the faces of people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Still to come, tracking someone via smartphone -- I have a personal interest in this story.

But up next, the royal wedding of the year is less than one week away. We'll get a preview, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: So maybe you've heard there's a big event coming up involving Britain's royals? Well, it's time to pay attention. We're now less than a week away from the moment Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton tie the knot finally.

Joining us from London, two members of the best royal team on television covering the big day, CNN contributor, we can't resist, Cat Deeley. And CNN International anchor and correspondent, Richard Quest.

Cat, I'm starting with you with the question I want answered. There's been a ton of speculation about the most riveting part of the wedding, the dress. What do we know about what Kate's wearing?

CAT DEELEY, CNN ROYAL WEDDING CONTRIBUTOR: We don't know. And the thing is, anybody who's coming out and actually talking about it probably isn't designing the gown. So, we don't know.

There have also been family members that have been spotted outside Alice Temperley, as well, I believe. She would be a perfect choice for maybe bridesmaid dresses perhaps. But we don't know, she's keeping it a mystery. But I like that, you know? It's something to look forward on the day.

YELLIN: A big surprise. I agree.

Richard, I was shocked to hear that Queen Elizabeth met Kate Middleton's parents just for the first time over lunch at Windsor Castle on Wednesday. I was certain they would have met sooner. Do you know anything about how that meeting went?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, the people who were at that luncheon party at Windsor Castle say that the mood was warm.

Now, why haven't they met before? That's the question you're really asking, combination of protocol, the palace didn't think it was necessary. The queen couldn't see why it should happen. But eventually the clamor became -- the queen has to give her approval for the very wedding to take place, she has to sign her consent finally, of course, she did meet the Middletons. They had a luncheon party with other royal caucus.

You know, you're talking about what we do know and what we don't know. This gives you an idea of the sort of voracity of information that is now just pouring out, who's on the guest list, who's invited by whom, where will everybody stand. There is, for example, next Thursday night, a big private royal families of Europe. That's on the Thursday night.

And then you've got the wedding on the Friday and you've got the receptions. The sheer amount of information is starting to become overwhelming.

YELLIN: There is, I understand, it's going to be streamed on YouTube. There's a royal wedding channel. There's also the royal tweet, I'm told.

Is this just a big marketing event for the palace?

DEELEY: You know what? I actually don't think it is. I mean, I do think it's a very, very positive thing for the palace because I think essentially what Kate and William do is they breathe new life into what before was seen as a little bit of as a stuffy kind of hierarchical -- I don't know. It just -- it just, there were lots of people that could -- they could aspire to it, but it wasn't really attainable and I think that's something that both Kate and William really did.

But I think that generally, I think it's more about the feeling here in London. Everybody's out on the streets. Everybody's walking. Everybody's talking about it. I was down at the abbey today with Richard and everybody -- it just feels as though there's a buzz about it.

YELLIN: Does the public resent the fact that so much money is being spent on a celebration like this during a time of recession? Or is it good for business?

QUEST: There are two ways of looking at it. There will always be those who will curmudgeonly say that we shouldn't be spending a penny on when defense budget, the social services budget, the health budget is all being slashed. There's no question that is an argument.

But right from the get-go, the palace and the government made it clear that this was going to be a wedding in keeping with the times. So, even if it's not exactly a wedding where it will be too cold up sandwiches and a glass of fizzy lemonade, nor will it be this vast, lavish, over-the-top event.

Cat has just really put her finger very firmly on the issue here. This is a wedding that has caught up the imagination of the British people to that extent. And just as Kennedy famously said, the torch is being passed to a new generation. So, what we're seeing here is exactly that, queen to Charles, to William and Kate.

YELLIN: And, Kat, someone present without actually being present throughout all this is Diana. We understand Kate is -- we know, of course, she's wearing Diana's ring. Like Diane, she's dropped the word "obey" from her vows. Several news outlets have reported that Prince William took Kate to visit his mother's grave.

So, you know, Kate and Diana -- they've been compared a lot. I'm curious, in your view, how are they seen as different?

DEELEY: I think there are lots of ways that they're different. I think Kate strikes me as that being much more confident and she's very much more a woman of the world, I think a little bit more than Diana was. I think that Diana was incredibly naive when she first got involved with Charles, and I don't feel that Kate is like that.

You know, Kate also has an education. She can absolutely stand on her own two feet. And I think that the smartest thing of all is that we've learned -- I think everybody's learned from the palace to Kate to just the general public, have learned an awful lot since Diane's death.

Kate and the palace have both learned from that terrible situation. I mean, they do seem to be preparing her, and they do seem to be supporting her.

YELLIN: I know that you've met Prince William, Cat. And he's been described as a lovely young man. That's what the media says there.

So, I'm curious, we don't often talk about Prince Charles as a parent. We talk much more about Diana. But should he be getting a lot of credit for how well his son turned out?

DEELEY: I think absolutely. I mean, you have to remember -- and it will always be ingrained in our minds -- that image of William and Harry walking behind the coffin in their mother's procession. It was just such a terrible time, and he was caught up in the eye of the media storm. The whole world was watching. And considering he was a teenager at the time, he has handled this so brilliantly. His transition from boy to man has been almost flawless in a way that --

YELLIN: Do you give Charles credit for that?

DEELEY: I think we have to. You know, he's the parent who has been around, you know? He's definitely helped his son out, at a time when his son could have actually got very angry. He was a teenage boy. He could have completely gone off the rails.

And I don't just think it's Charles. I think it's the rest of the palace, too.

YELLIN: Richard, I think I hear you saying, yes, yes.

QUEST: Completely agree with Cat on that. The role that he has played in the bringing up of William and Harry -- both of their parents loved their children. But Charles was the one after Diana's death who actually had to bring them up and that he has done in an exemplary fashion.

YELLIN: Finally, you guys, we know you both will be covering the big day for CNN as part of the best royal team on television. Can you tell us both where you'll be and what you're going to be looking out? For Richard first, if you would.

QUEST: Well, I'm going to be outside the great west door of Westminster Abbey. I will be opposite watching the arrivals, the great and the good and much to Cat's absolute fury --

(LAUGHTER)

QUEST: I am getting -- come on, Cat, admit it. I am going to see the dress in real life before you do.

DEELEY: It's killing me, Richard! It's killing me! I literally want you to send me a picture as she gets out of the car, please!

QUEST: Deal! Deal!

DEELEY: And then I am going to be -- I'm going to be at Buckingham Palace. So I, Richard, am going to see the smooch, first of all, which isn't a bad thing, either. There's been talk of kissing on the hand, but I say bah humbug! I want a big old smacker right on the lips, I think. That's what we want.

And I'll be there with Piers Morgan and Anderson Cooper. So, it's al going to be good.

YELLIN: I'd switch places -- I'd switch places with either of you. It's a great assignment. I can't wait to watch the coverage. Thanks. Looking forward to it.

DEELEY: Thank you so much.

YELLIN: And up next -- where were you at 4:00 this morning? Your smartphone or e pad probably knows. But next, one thing Apple can't seem to tell me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Before we go, we've noticed reports the last couple of days that iPhones and iPads apparently collect continuous information about their user's whereabouts. Today, "The Wall Street Journal" says Google's Android smartphones do the same thing.

These stories have a lot of people worried about their privacy. But I have a different take. If Apple really knows where you are every step you take, why can't they tell me where my iPad went after I lost it? I asked, they couldn't.

That's all for us.

"IN THE ARENA" starts now.