The Web      Powered by
powered by Yahoo!


Return to Transcripts main page


Thousands Dead in Iranian Earthquake; Search Under Way For California Mudslide Survivors; President Bush's Domestic Agenda

Aired December 26, 2003 - 18:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, rescuers search for survivors, after an earthquake kills as many as 20,000 people in Iran. The United States says it will send emergency assistance as soon as possible. We will have the latest from Iran.
In California, a new disaster in an area devastated by wildfires just two months ago. Mudslides kill holiday campers. About a dozen other people are missing. Charles Feldman will report from San Bernardino county.

In "Heroes" tonight: Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Alva (ph) lost a leg after just three hours of combat in Iraq. After many surgeries, he is now hoping to run a marathon. Casey Wian will report on Staff Sergeant Alva's remarkable story.

And in our series of special reports on the "Holiday Home Front": A small community in Oregon rallies around our troops and raises thousands of dollars for the families of service men and women serving overseas.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT for Friday, December 26. Sitting in for Lou Dobbs, who is on vacation, John King.

KING: Good evening.

Tonight: Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge tries to reassure Americans, the government is doing everything possible to prevent a terrorist attack on this country. But troubling questions remain about the possibility that radical Islamists may have been planning to attack the United States earlier this week. Authorities are still trying to track down several people who did not show up for three Air France flights to the United States that were canceled Christmas Eve.

One theory is that terrorists may have been planning to use an airliner as a missile to attack a target en route to Los Angeles. Today's "Washington Post" suggested that target may have been Las Vegas. Tonight, Homeland Security Secretary Ridge emphasized that authorities are paying attention to all terrorist threats, especially those concerning civil aviation.


TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There is certainly credible information that al Qaeda would use, continue to use aircraft. It seems to be one of their preferred means of attack. There's always discussion about weapons of mass destruction, but there's a continued threat reporting stream with regard to aviation.

And whenever we get a threat, a report of a threat, regardless of where it is in the world, we will share that information, appropriately, with people who can act on it, whether it's in Mexico, whether it's in France, whether it's in Great Britain. The world, again, is coming closer and closer. And I just won't comment on who we share specific information with. I don't think it's appropriate.


KING: A developing story.

And Barbara Starr joins me now with the latest on the investigation into whether terrorists have been trying to board Air France flights in Paris -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, today, Air France resumed flying from Paris to Los Angeles, but the concern about the terrorist threat is far from over.

U.S. government sources say that two of the flights from Paris left late today specifically due to additional security screening of bags and passengers. Plans were made early for those flights that, when they landed in Los Angeles, they would not come directly to the terminal. They were to be stopped at a remote point in the airfield, passengers again to be screened and then bused to the terminal.

And officials say other select flights from other countries are going to be handled in the same fashion. Now, some confusion about the 13 people who were questioned by French law enforcement on those canceled flights, one official saying they were still under investigation, but another official telling CNN that those people are no longer of any interest, though the U.S. indeed would like to talk to the people, some of them who never showed up for the flights.

Now, officials say they still do believe there is a real possibility of some type of attempted terrorist attack against the United States. As one counterterrorism official put it, authorities indeed do not believe the threat window has closed. The concern not only about a plot involving aviation, but other types of attacks as well, including one possibly using a dirty bomb, a scenario in which a device would be exploded that spreads radiological debris -- John.

KING: Barbara, there have been some reports suggesting that perhaps one of the passengers who did not show up for one of those Air France flights was a trained pilot. Any information from our sources on that possibility and the fears U.S. officials obviously have about that possibility?

STARR: That is what we are indeed hearing, that one of the people who did not show up was a Tunisian man who held a commercial pilot's license.

What's not known, of course, is why he didn't show up, whether he ever planned to make that flight or not. And we are hearing that some of the people who were questioned, some of the people of interest who didn't show up are indeed people whose names appeared on terrorism watch lists. But whether they were actually suspect, maybe they just were similar names, one person said. That's really the key question that officials are trying to sort through.

KING: Barbara Starr in Washington -- thank you very much, Barbara.

And in California tonight, rescuers are searching for more than a dozen people missing after huge mudslides swept through camp sites in San Bernardino County. Just moments ago, authorities said they have found four bodies of those killed in the mudslide. The mud slid down hills that were badly burned by wildfires two months ago.

Charles Feldman reports now from San Bernardino County -- Charles.

CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, it's a really tragic Christmas story.

There was a Greek Orthodox church camp site that's used year- round, although this was not a church-sanctioned event, we are told. The caretaker there apparently invited bunch of people for the Christmas holidays. And that ended up being a rather unfortunate thing, because the heavy rain, some 3.5 inches of rain in a very short period of time, produced these mudslides, some creating as much as 12 feet of mud, a wall 12 feet high.

Imagine that cascading down the mountains, which has been denuded of trees and vegetation because of these fires that we've had in California over a two-month period. Now, as you mentioned, John, right now, there are as many as 20 people missing, including possibly as many as nine children. Earlier in the day, camera crews caught up with some of the rescue workers, who described the grim details of the rescue operation.


CAPT. RICK MCCLINTOCK, SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: We found an adult male trapped with mud up to his waist area with this log right here that was across his stomach and chest area. We brought in a chain saw. We brought in some of our rescue team members off of San Bernardino County Rescue 74. We cut the -- with a chain saw, we cut log, which got the pressure off his chest. His legs were still stuck. And it took us approximately another 20 minutes to remove his feet out of the debris. He was apparently in this building.

And you can see lots of the building debris that came through. The total rescue took about an hour and a half to get this gentleman out of this area.


FELDMAN: Now, there's some very late-breaking news here, John. There's a news conference going on right this moment. And we are being told that there are now six, six confirmed deaths. That's from two different areas. There's the area that we were just talking about, the camp site. And there was another mudslide that affected an area about 20 minutes ride from here, which is a trailer park camp. Some 32 trailers were destroyed by the mudslides. And now, between the two sites, we are told six confirmed deaths.

The effort to find the missing is ongoing. There's a break in the weather, as you can tell, no rain now. But if the rain comes back -- and there is some rain in the forecast, unfortunately, during the weekend -- it could greatly complicate what is now still being called a search-and-rescue mission -- John.

KING: Charles Feldman with the latest from San Bernardino County, California -- thank you very much, Charles.

In Iran today, a powerful earthquake killed at least 5,000 people in a historic city in the southeast of the country. And authorities says the death toll could rise to as many as 20,000. The 6.7- magnitude quake struck in the city of Bam while residents were asleep.

Shirzad Bozorgmehr reports from the Iranian capital of Tehran.


SHIRZAD BOZORGMEHR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The number of dead continues to rise after the devastating earthquake that hit the city of Bam before dawn on Friday.

And Iranian officials say at least 30,000 people were injured in the quake, which destroyed much of Bam's historic center. About 3,000 have already been transferred to hospitals in the provincial capital of Kerman. Some of the injured were sent to the southern city of Shiraz.

The military are using several helicopters and C-130 transport planes to evacuate the injured. But many survivors face a freezing night outdoors. Nights in Bam can be bitterly cold at this time of year.

Iranian officials are urging the people to donate blood, blankets, warm clothing and canned food. The government has set up six centers in Tehran for receiving public donations of cash and supplies for the victims of the quake. The ancient city of Bam was founded well over two millennia ago. Its citadel, which is now totally destroyed, was one of Iran's major tourist attractions and the largest mud brick structure in the world.

The Office of Natural Disasters in Tehran has sent rescue teams to the city to help with rescue operations already undertaken by provisional and local authorities. And from further afield, several countries, including Russia, France and Greece, say they're ready to send experts, sniffer dogs and first aid to help the victims.

The United Nations is also sending teams of experts to Iran to assess the damage and help coordinate rescue efforts. The government has declared three days of mourning for the victims of this disaster. Iran knows the devastation of earthquakes only too well. In the last 10 years, nearly 20,000 people have been killed in scores of tremors. But this could be the most destructive since the huge quake in 1990 that killed nearly 40,000 people.

Shirzad Bozorgmehr, for CNN, Tehran.


KING: President Bush today expressed sympathy for the earthquake victims. The White House said the United States will send humanitarian assistance to Iran as soon as possible.

Suzanne Malveaux reports now from near the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, truly a heartbreaking story.

President Bush and the first lady issuing a statement, saying they were saddened by the tragedy. I'll read just a bit of that, the president saying; "I extend my condolences to all those touched by this tragedy. The thoughts of all Americans are with the victims and their families at this time. And we stand ready to help the people of Iran." The State Department working on some sort of humanitarian aid package, as was mentioned before, the United Nations as well as the European both contributing to the humanitarian effort.

As you know, relations between the United States and Iran have been rather chilly over the last couple of decades. As you know, President Bush labeled Iran as one of the countries of the axis of evil. And there are no formal diplomatic relation between these two countries. But, as you know, recently, Iran has made some efforts to come clean in its weapons program by offering to allow the international community inside, offering to allow inspectors inside that country -- John.

KING: Well, Suzanne, on that point, the administration has been saying that Iran must come clean on the nuclear program, a bit skeptical that it will there, and also seeking more cooperation in the war on terror, including tracking al Qaeda suspects who the administration believes have gone into Iran.

Is this being viewed as the administration, perhaps as an opening humanitarian leading to better relations?

MALVEAUX: Well, there certainly are a lot of factors that are contributing to the U.S. and Iran's relationship improving.

But one of the things that administration officials have been telling me is, don't read into this any more, that this is an unforeseen event, that this is something that you cannot connect the dots. And, if anything, the pace of relations between the United States and Iran and how it improves really will be determined by what happens based on the ground in Iran, the signals that it gives. And, as you mentioned before, State Department officials are really looking to see whether or not they can even take this for granted, take it at their word that they're going to allow those inspectors inside. They're just waiting to see what develops. They say, look, this is another example, like North Korea with food aid or even Cuba with those mudslides, that this is a humanitarian effort. And they'll wait and see whether or not this means anything else in terms of opening up those relations.

KING: Suzanne Malveaux in Crawford, Texas, where the president will be until early in the new year -- thank you, Suzanne.

And turning now to the war in Iraq, insurgents have stepped up their attacks on American troops over the past few days. The Army today said five soldiers were killed over 24 hours in two town of the so-called Sunni Triangle north and west of Baghdad. The latest deaths bring the number of American troops killed in Iraq this week to 11.

Authorities in Pakistan today said they believe at least one of the suicide bombers who tried to kill President Pervez Musharraf yesterday appears to have been a foreigner. Some officials said al Qaeda may have been involved in the assassination attempt.

President Musharraf was not injured in the attack, the second attempt on his life in less than two weeks. But 15 people were killed and nearly 50 wounded. The president, a close ally of the United States in the war on terror, blamed radical Islamists for the attack.

Police in Turkey have broken up an al Qaeda cell responsible for a series of bomb attacks in Istanbul that killed more than 60 people. A Turkish court today charged another nine suspects with involvement in the bombings. More than 40 people have been charged so far. The terrorists attacked two synagogues, the British Consulate, and the Turkish headquarters of a London-based bank.

In China, officials today revealed the full extent of the disaster caused by the release of a massive cloud of toxic gas. Nearly 200 people were killed and about 9,000 injured in a remote area of southwest China. Authorities told about 40,000 people to evacuate their homes. The gas was released into the atmosphere after a drilling accident.

Coming up: tracking mad cow. Officials issue a warning tonight that the investigation could take months. Medical correspondent Holly Firfer will report. And the Agriculture Department's top veterinarian will join us.

Then: President Bush's focus on the home front heading into an election year. We'll look at the priorities on the president's domestic agenda for 2004. And Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times" will join us.

And "Heroes" -- tonight, one Marine who is turning adversity into a learning experience for himself and some curious schoolchildren. Casey Wian will have his story.


KING: Turning to the latest developments tonight in the story of mad cow disease in this country, government officials have quarantined a second herd of cattle in Washington state. The United States Department of Agriculture is sending a team of trade experts to Japan Monday for talks aimed at resuming U.S. beef shipments. Japan is the biggest buyer of U.S. beef.

Medical correspondent Holly Firfer is tracking this story for us from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Holly, what's the latest from the Agriculture Department tonight?

HOLLY FIRFER, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the USDA has confirmed, the test results from England do show the cow from Washington state did have mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

And they say they have been tracing where this cow came from and where her offspring may be. Now, the USDA tells tell us that this cow has three calves. One died shortly after birth. One has been found to be sold to a bull calf feeding operation in Sunnyside, Washington. And that farm and all 400 cows on that farm have been quarantined.

The other is a yearling heifer. And she remains in the index herd. That's the herd that the infected cow was in. And all those cows have been quarantined as well. Now, the next question, where did the index herd come from originally? Well, the USDA says there are two possibilities they've found. They may have been bought from a livestock market in the area of that Washington state farm or they may have come from a dairy cattle finishing farm, where the farm in Washington bought over 100 cattle in October of 2001.

Now, none of the cows on the quarantined farms will be allowed to be moved off the farms. And the USDA says, if any of those cows should die, they will automatically be tested -- John.

KING: And, Holly, can they answer the key question yet of how this animal was infected?

FIRFER: Well, the USDA is trying to determine that. Studies have shown, contamination happens when the cows eat animal feed contaminated with the infected parts, the brain and the spinal cord.

But that's why the USDA has placed a ban on using animal parts in feed in 1997. But since this cow was only 4 years old, the contamination probably happened some time after that ban. They say they will try to find out who supplied the feed where this cow has been. But since the incubation time for this can be many years this, this cow must have been fed contaminated feed when it was probably young, probably about three to four years ago.

And the USDA says it's kind of hard to remember what you ate four years ago. But they're going to try -- John.

KING: Holly Firfer, CNN Center in Atlanta -- thank you very much, Holly.

And my next guest says it may be months to find the cause of mad cow disease in Washington state. Ron DeHaven is the top veterinarian at the Department of Agriculture. And he joins me now from our Washington bureau.

Sir, let us pick up where Holly Firfer just left off.

If the feed is the prime suspect, tell us how the government is tracking that feed down and how successful you've been so far.

RON DEHAVEN, CHIEF VETERINARY OFFICER, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE: Well, John, the first step in that process is to locate the premises of birth, that farm that this cow was located on when she was born, and when she most likely would have consumed that contaminated feed.

Once we've identified that premises, then we would start that part of the investigation to determine what feeds were fed, where they might have come from. And, also, it would be important at that point to trace the other animals that might have been on the farm at the same time and would have consumed that same feed.

KING: Any doubt in your mind that some regulations were broken, that some steps were taken with this feed that were in violation of policy? Or could there be another source of the disease?

DEHAVEN: I think it's premature to speculate on just what might have happened.

We do know that, indeed, consumption of contaminated feed is most likely, if not the sole, source of spreading the disease from one animal to another, hence, our focus on finding that herd of birth and then from there tracing what feed might have been consumed. And if in fact it was contaminated feed in this case that was the source, and if that feed was consumed after the feed ban, then I think it would be appropriate to pursue a formal investigation in that respect.

KING: One guest on this program last week said that the government's view -- in his view, was doing a good enough job in trying to screen for this. In Europe, I understand all cattle used for human consumption are tested for BSE. In the United States, about one in 1,700 cows are tested. Are those numbers right, sir? And why not more aggressive testing here?

DEHAVEN: I well, I can't confirm whether the one in 1,700 is correct or not. But I think, to keep this in perspective, John, we need to look at the different situations that are in place in Europe and some of the countries in Europe that have had a high prevalence of the disease, as opposed to the United States, where we have had surveillance in place for a number of years and, up until recently, had no evidence to suggest that we had the disease at all, and certainly an indication from that testing that the prevalence in the United States is extremely low.

The testing in the United States has been focused on surveillance testing, a statistically valid number of animals in a high-risk population. We know, because this disease typically has an incubation period of four to six years, that it's appropriate to focus our testing on those animals that are over 30 months of age.


DEHAVEN: And, secondly, another important part of our testing strategy is to focus on those animals that, first and foremost, are showing some kind of nervous system disorder or those animals that are nonambulatory, those animals that are having difficulty standing, as we know that those are the high-risk population. So while we haven't tested as many, we have focused our testing on that high-risk population.

KING: And since the discovery of this one case, has testing been expanded and accelerated in any way?

DEHAVEN: Well, we have not changed that testing program in response to this particular situation.

Let me explain that, of that high-risk population, we've tested over 20,000 animals, both in 2002 and 2003. And even before this situation, we were on the way towards doubling that number in 2004. Having said that and given the situation that's now come to light since this positive has been identified, we clearly are looking at our total program within the Department of Agriculture, our surveillance testing part of that, and are considering whether or not it would be prudent to make changes to that system and clearly whether or not we should increase that overall testing.

KING: Ron DeHaven, the chief veterinary officer for the Department of Agriculture, thank you, sir, for your insights this evening.

DEHAVEN: My pleasure. And thank you for having me.

KING: Thank you.

And coming up: President Bush lays out what he hopes will be a winning domestic agenda heading into the election year. Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times" will join us to share his take on the issues that will be front and center in campaign 2004.

And on the "Holiday Home Front" this holiday season, one small town in Oregon makes a big difference to the families of troops fighting overseas. Kitty Pilgrim will have that story.


KING: Tonight, we're less than a week away from a presidential election years. Mr. Bush will be campaigning for reelection next year touting achievements from this past year, when his domestic agenda often was overshadowed by war.


KING (voice-over): Overhauling Medicare was the president's signature moment on the home front this year.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First and foremost, this new law will provide Medicare coverage for prescription drugs.

KING: In a year shaped by war, Mr. Bush had mixed results in enacting his major domestic priorities. Key successes, from a White House standpoint, include the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, a law banning certain late-term abortions, and the second major Bush tax cut, signed into law back in May.

BUSH: Altogether, 34 million families with children, including six million single moms, will receive an average tax cut of $1,549 per year.

KING: Mr. Bush calls it a year of achievement. And allies benefits in next year's campaign.

BILL MCINTURFF, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: The president is pushing forward a domestic agenda in an incredibly aggressive way that is defining this election, in a way that his dad did not do.

KING: Leading Democrats say the tax cuts translate into big deficits and suggest, elderly Americans are not the real beneficiaries of the Medicare changes.

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: By the time it gets around to be implemented in 2006, there's no question that people are going to be down on this bill, because it really doesn't do the job that the president promised.

KING: Mr. Bush also suffered significant setbacks on the domestic front.

Among the White House priorities stalled in Congress, major energy legislation, caps on medical malpractice awards, 10 Bush nominees for federal judgeships, and the president's so-called faith- based initiative, allowing federal money to go to religious organizations that provide social services like drug treatment and alcohol counseling.

BUSH: A lot of times, the best way to help the addict, the person stuck on drugs and alcohol, is to change their heart. See, you change their heart, then they change their behavior. I know.


KING: Mr. Bush will try to revive his stalled proposals when the Congress returns in January and also will push to make his tax cuts permanent. As it now stands, many would expire over the next decade.


KING: And joining us now with more on what lies ahead for the Bush presidency and Democratic campaign for the White House is "Los Angeles Times" political columnist Ron Brownstein. Welcome to New York.


KING: Another thing the president will push in the new year is an immigration reform package that could make some illegally in this country now on the path to legal status. The political implications of that?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, the tightrope that he's walking is that you need to do two things in order to pass immigration reform in Congress. You need some kind of guess worker program that will be attractive to business and conservatives. And you need some kind of legalization program for people who are here illegally that would be attractive to labor and Democrats.

The problem is, unless he goes far enough toward the labor and Democrats, it's hard to pass it. And if he does go very far on legalization, what we saw when he first brought this up in 2001, before 9/11, is, there was a lot of resistance from Republicans. So it's not clear to me how far -- I don't think it's clear to anyone yet how far the president wants to go on the legalization side because of a lot of resistance on his own constituency.

And if he doesn't do that, it could be very hard to pass.

KING: A combustible one there.

Let's focus a bit on the Democrats. We're having a conversation while the country is under this code orange, high threat of a terrorist attack, according to the government. How does that affect the Democratic campaign for the presidency, the Iowa caucus now less than a month away.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, any time security is in the forefront, it's good for President Bush. That is his strongest issue.

Even when the public has been down on the war in Iraq -- and that's improved lately, since the capture of Saddam Hussein -- but even when those numbers were bad, his numbers on the war on terrorism remained very high. That, to many Americans, is the defining characteristic of this presidency, that he displayed firm leadership in the wake of this almost unprecedented challenge after 9/11.

So anything that highlights that does help him. The Democrats obviously want to shift the focus to other issues, Iraq, to some extent, and certainly to the domestic front.

KING: And what are you hearing from your sources and from the campaigns about the ground in Iowa? It will be the first contest. It will shape, and perhaps, even end up cutting the Democratic field. Gephardt, Dean?

BROWNSTEIN: Right now, Dean -- Howard Dean seems to be ahead in Iowa of Dick Gephardt with John Kerry in third, all a about five point apart from each north private polling. Very different constituencies for Dean and Gephardt. Dean primarily more upscale, college educated, social liberals, lifestyle liberals. Gephardt running the classic lunch bucket liberalism campaign that Walter Mondale would recognize.

He's attacks Howard Dean, in effect, from the economic left. Saying he's a too quick to cut entitlements, will be too quick to cut budgets as president trying to grind it out. If he doesn't it's hard for him to go on as a I viable candidate.

Also, very difficult for anybody else, because John, as you know, Howard Dean right now is even further ahead in New Hampshire and if he comes out with the boost from Iowa and wins those first two, everybody else in the field really is at the wall that the point.

KING: And so as the Democrats grinds this out in your words over the next month, which is critical for them, the president has over $100 million in the bank. He's on track to go over $200 million. You heard Bill McInturff, Republican pollster in that piece saying, this is not his father's campaign.

BROWNSTEIN: No, it is not. Several ways it's different. First of all, for his father, the winning of the Gulf War was a vanishing asset. As soon as it was over, it is out of consciousness of Americans. This war on terror is something that's an ongoing concern for people. His perceived prowess in that area is going to be more relevant for him than national security expertise was for his father.

Secondly, at the moment, he's got an economy that's looking up. He's got policies relating to that. But still, the one big cloud out there for him economically is the job growth is lacking, even as the stock market and overall growth is coming back. He's still at risk of having a net loss of jobs over his term, which is not something he wants to run on.

But you do get the sense they'll be throughout with aggressive proposals again, a tax savings proposal to help people save for retirement or just for ordinary accumulation for the assets over the course of their lives. So they're going to be aggressive on the domestic front.

One thing that's different from his father is he a somewhat more polarizing figure. There's a very strong floor for President Bush, but there may also be a ceiling, because a lot of Democrats have been, and moderate independents, have been turned up by the policy priorities. On the other hand, his side of the ledger is much stronger for him than it was for his father.

KING: You mentioned a number of proposals. In a presidential election, the legislative window is rather short. This president does have the advantage of Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress, but narrowly so. He'll have all these proposals. What's the likelihood he'll get to sign any of them.

BROWNSTEIN: I'll be surprised if some of the biggest things actually do get through. Immigration reform, for example, is something that takes a number of years historically to develop a consensus on what to do.

Social Security reform, creating private accounts to allow people to divert part of the payroll tax to invest themselves in the stock market is something that he has talked about in 2000. Likely to talk about again in 2004. I have to think of the digesting Medicare, and seeing how the senior population responds to that is going to be enough for this Congress and it's going to be something he talks about into the election year and does if he's reelected or tries to do if he's reelected.

KING: And Between now and the New Hampshire vote. I'm skipping around a little bit, but about a month. Any particular issue you think that will be deciding on the Democrats? Or is this now about who has the most money and the most troops?

BROWNSTEIN: Well look, Howard Dean, whenever pressed goes back to the same button. He attacks the other Democrats for supporting President Bush on the war. It has been his whole card in this race. And whenever the others go at him on other grounds, lack of foreign policy experience they charge, or as Gephardt does, too quick -- too supportive of cutting entitlement he comes back to the same argument. They stood with President Bush on a war that you, Democratic primary voter, opposed.

And I think, we'll hear a lot of that from him. I also think we're going to hear an escalation of the efforts of the others to say that he is simply not qualified on foreign policy and will be an easy mark for President Bush in the general election.

Their window is, as you suggest, narrowing though. They only have a few more weeks and nothing they've done so far has really taken as much of a bite out of him.

KING: And I assume former Governor Dean will say, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were not qualified as well.

BROWNSTEIN: Good argument.

KING: Ron Brownstein of the "L.A. Times" thanks for joining us.

Tonight's thought is on the nature of politics and its similarity to another line of works. "Politics is just like show business, you have a hell of a opening, coast for a while and then have a hell of a close." That is from the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, a man who knew a little bit about both lines of work.

That brings us to tonight's poll question on the 2004 election. "Which do you think will play the greatest role in determining whether President Bush is reelected? The economy, the war in Iraq, or homeland security." Cast your vote on We'll bring you the results later in the show.

The European space agency today failed for the third time to contact the British space probe Beagle 2. The unmanned craft was to land on Mars on Christmas Day. Joining in the search for Beagle are the U.S. satellite Mars Odyssey, plus Dutch astronomers and a giant radio telescope in Northern England.

European space officials remain optimistic and fears have grown now that the space craft either burned up in the atmosphere, or crashed on the red planet's surface. Beagle's array of scientific instruments were to analyze Martian dust and rock samples in search for microscopic life.

Coming up, heroes, one Marine forever changed by his experience in Iraq. But instead of looking back, he's putting his energy into the future. Casey Wian will have that report up next.


KING: Our hero this week comes to us from San Antonio, Texas. A Marine staff sergeant who spent much of this past year recovering from a very brief engagement in Iraq. His life was changed forever, but not his spirit. Casey Wian now has the story of Eric Alva.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a special day at the Christian Academy of San Antonio, Texas. For months, the boys and girls wrote letters and cards to hometown hero Staff Sergeant Eric Alva and prayed for him. Today they finally get to meet him.

SGT. ERIC ALVA, U.S. ARMY: Does everyone know how I got hurt?

WIAN: He patiently explains what happened last March 27. How a land mind tore into his right leg just three hours after his Marine supply unit crossed into Iraq.

ALVA: As I was laying there on the ground and I was bleeding and stuff and I just kept praying to God to not let me pass away, because I still wanted to see my mom and dad and my sisters.

WIAN: For Alva, speaking to children is an important part of his recovery. The former marathon runner not only lost his leg, he severely injured his right arm and hand. And that took a toll, not just on his body, but his mind as well.

ALVA: I remember thinking, crying and just thinking k you know, I don't want to be like this, God, just take me. I can't be like. The biggest road to recovery is accepting that you're injured, accepting that your disabled now, accepting that you're an amputee. But in the beginning I didn't.

WIAN: Like so many other marines and soldiers, Sergeant Alva underwent several surgeries at Walter Reed in Washington D.C., he credits the high profile visitors there for giving him hope.

ALVA: That makes almost everything else nonexistent. It's just, like, you're carrying on a conversation with these people and they're just as normal as all of us. They're famous though, but it makes everything else like at that split moment, I'm not injured and I'm okay and I'm talking to this person. It was really fascinating. It was such a big morale-booster. WIAN: With hospitals and surgery now behind him, Alva looks forward to a new prosthesis and even running another marathon. And he plans to become a physical therapist. For now, he gets pleasure from sharing his story with children and use learning to drive again using his left foot. Casey Wian, CNN.


KING: Touching story. Tonight's quote is from a father whose four children and son-in-law have returned home safely after serving in Iraq. A fifth child will leave for Iraq in just two week, but for this Christmas the whole family was together and their thoughts were with the troops still overseas. We quote, "I wish that they all could come home and be a fortunate as these guys were to be here for the holidays. But unfortunately, somebody's still got to protect this country and our men and women over there in uniform are doing a great job." That is from Mr. Ron Harper from Bellevue, Florida.

And coming up, branded a success, the advertisements that captured our attention this year, for better or worse. Barbara Lippert is the ad critic for "Adweek" magazine and she'll be our guest up next.


KING: While most people consider commercials an outright annoyance, entertainment value can usually be found in at least a few ads every year. Not to mention they pay the salaries of the people who bring you this program. Barbara Lippert is the ad critic for "AdWeek" magazine. She has a rundown of the year's best and worst. Let's start with the best, in your view.

BARBARA LIPPERT, AD CRITIC, "ADWEEK" MAGAZINE: OK. This was a year where advertisers were very worried about the death of the 30- second spot because people were tuning out of television. They have their own players like Tivo so that they can fast forward through them. So there's a sort of a different criteria this year.

It's not just one ad that's great, it's that a brand sort of has a coherence and a consistency that you recognize it wherever it is and that's the case with Apple.

Apple is the greatest at that the sort of visual recognition and sophistication and this year's best ad is for the ipod because, usually, in advertising, if you see people rocking out to music it's the most embarrassing thing you've ever seen. You know, like teenagers in the kitchen or a little girl on her pink bed in her bedroom singing.

Here it's so abstract that anybody could be in it. You can see anyone. It's not embarrassing. It brilliantly plays up the little white machine that the ipod is and, of course, you know, as a business move, selling itunes and coming out with the ipod was the big business success of the year.

KING: And others you would call in the best category? LIPPERT: The -- another spot that I really loved is for Citibank, identity theft. I don't know if you've seen this, but it somehow makes the horror of what you're going through entertaining.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I JUST HAD TO HAVE IT. $1,500 for a leather bustier, I didn't care. It lifts and separates. Plus, it's not like I'm actually paying for it. Ha ha ha.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Introducing Citi Identity...


LIPPERT: You feel that, but at the same time it's a way to make it palpable that someone has taken your identity with the voices, but it's sort of a game you have to play with the ad and normally it's the kind of thing where you'd have some hectoring by some guy from "Law and Order" saying, you know, "you better understand that your identity can be stolen." This way, it doesn't make it, you know, shocking and terrorizing. It's just something that gets your attention.

KING: Let's go to your worst list. Who would you...?

LIPPERT: Well, I would say there was a big problem with Celine Dion for Chrysler. The Canadian songbird didn't sell too many of the new cars and it's a shame because they had some great new cars like the Pacifica.

You know, here she's singing in the rain. You think she might be headed for the Titanic. The problem is that you sort of see Celine's cheekbones and you see the beauty of Celine. You don't really come away with much of the options or the curves of the car. She made it all about Celine. So now you only hear Celine, you don't see her in future Chrysler commercials because the dealers were sort of up in arms.

KING: So they're adjusting. We thought about having a bucket of the colonel's chicken because we understand you don't like it.

LIPPERT: Right. Well, there was a KFC spot. We don't have it but -- I don't know if you've seen it. It starts out with a woman going up to her overweight grumpy husband who's sitting on the couch watching TV, who's vegging out and she says, "Remember we talked about eating better. Well, we're going to start today." And she puts down a bucket of fried chicken in front of him.

Now there's a real health move. He'd probably be better off eating the bucket. So it was so embarrassing because that reminded me of the naked manipulation of advertising in the fifties. All of these fast food companies are worried that they're going to become the next tobacco in that people are going to sue them for obesity and here they might as well have cigarettes dancing to say something like you're going to start eating better with fried chicken.

KING: As a reflection of our culture, ad spending is up in a reflection of our economy. Growth in the last quarter was enormous. Are we seeing that? Are we seeing confidence in companies willing to spend and the Super Bowl is the Super Bowl of advertising as well. What are we learning as we get close that.

LIPPERT: Well, advertising has the worst three years since the depression in the past three years. It's been absolutely glum with very little growth and analysts are saying next year will be much better, people are looking forward to the Olympics and the presidential elections to bring money into the industry's coffers. So everybody's hoping that it gets better.

The Super Bowl always sells. And this year, new advertisers like Proctor and Gamble are coming into the Super Bowl who wouldn't have thought of it before because apparently, it's still the greatest way to get -- it's like an American religion. It's the greatest way to get the greatest number of people and so they're willing to pay $2 million a spot.

KING: $2 million.

LIPPERT: By the way, that was a Miller ad with dominoes, people falling and that was very good. I really thought that was a huge improvement over the cat fight with the women pulling each other's clothes off and fighting in the water because, you know, it got a lot of backlash and didn't do anything for sales either.

KING: I think my favorite in that campaign is I can't taste my beer.

LIPPERT: Well, the other trend was sex not selling this year. Shockingly enough. We saw it on television with shows like "Coupling" and "Sex" being pulled off the air and the "Abercrombie & Fitch" catalog was pulled, the cat fight people didn't work and "Pony" had a billboard with a porn star that they also pulled. So it was the year of morality in advertising.

KING: Family-friendly advertising. Barbara Lippert, thank you very much. "Adweek" magazine. Thank you.

Coming up, some of your thoughts on our continuing reports on exporting America. And the holiday home front, how some Americans are reaching out to the troops and their families this holiday season. Tonight we'll introduce you to the people of an Oregon farming community and tell you how they're supporting the troops. Stay with us.


KING: On Wall Street today, stocks ended slightly higher, in a half day of trading, continuing what has been a good month and a good year for the stock market. Restaurant and food shares moved higher. That group sold off sharply on Wednesday, following the discovery of mad cow disease in the United States. Cattle futures, however, continued to plunge.

Taking a look at the final numbers. The Dow Industrials advanced 19 points, the Nasdaq gained almost 4, and the S&P 500 up almost 2 points.

Now for a look at some of your thoughts.

From Paducah, Kentucky: "Every time a consumer spends a dollar, the consumer makes the choice to send jobs abroad. So when you buy shoes or shirts or electronics, buy made in America. Consumers cannot have their cake and eat it, too." That from Jorge Cardenas.

From San Francisco, California: "I think listing companies who are exporting jobs overseas is an excellent idea. I want to use my buying power with companies who are not sending jobs overseas." That from Tom Medin.

And from Oxford, California: "Might be easier to give us a list of companies that are not outsorced, instead of the ones that are." That from E.J. Harter.

And from Mission Viejo, California: "If American consumers were happy with the quality and price of the products of American workers, no employer would accept the difficult challenges of managing resources in foreign cultures. Interestingly, American consumers and American workers are mostly the same people." That from Ed Fern.

And from Raleigh, North Carolina: "One of the things that made America great is capitalism. Corporate America will always manufacture things where it makes the most economic sense. Hasn't that always been the case? If shoes are being made in China and if that is making the shoes cheaper, the ultimate benefit goes to the American consumer, a majority of which shop at Wal-Mart and K-Mart." That from Mike Cast.

And from Pleasanton, California, on the companies that choose to export American jobs to cheap overseas labor market: "Where has the loyalty gone with these companies? These companies were built by Americans, and now these companies are beginning to turn their backs on us. I am and will continue to keep my family members and friends abreast of your show's excellent coverage." That from Michael Derrick.

We appreciate your thoughts, Mr. Derrick, and we appreciate hearing from all of you. Send us your thoughts at cnn -- at

Coming up, holiday home front. Residents of one Oregon town come together to support the troops and their families at the holidays. Kitty Pilgrim will have that story.

But first, "Exporting America." This is the list of companies that our staff has confirmed to be exporting American jobs, or creating new jobs in cheaper overseas labor markets. Today's additions to the list are: Alamo Rent a Car and Applied Materials.


KING: Now the results of tonight's poll. We asked, which do you think will play the greatest role in determining whether President Bush is reelected? Fifty-one percent said the economy, 42 percent said the war in Iraq, 7 percent said homeland security.

And finally tonight, we take you to one small farming town in Oregon where residents have pulled together to support our troops overseas. Thousands of dollars have been raised for the families of those serving in the military. Kitty Pilgrim has more in our continuing series, "Holiday on the Home Front."


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tangent, Oregon is a farming community. It has one bar, a few churches, a railroad track, and that's pretty much it. The Dixie Creek Saloon is usually packed, and at the door, the owner puts a donation box for the families of the military.

Since May every week Gene Gradwohl has been sending the money, usually a $200 check, to a local family. The National Guard provides the names and addresses.

GENE CRADWOHL, OWNER, DIXIE CREEK SALOON: You feel like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny all rolled up into one when you mail that check. It's indescribable how good it makes you feel. And that's the reason I keep doing it.

PILGRIM: On weekends when the place is packed, the dollar at the door cover charge goes in the box. But patrons give a lot more than that, so much so they were able to send $40 Christmas checks to the more than 50 local children of servicemen.

DENNIS MEULER, PATRON: It's really great to give something back to these kids that are doing something for the country and for, actually, the world.

STANLEY LATHRON, TANGENT CITY COUNCILMAN: I was in the Air Force for almost five years. My father was in the service, my grandfather was in the Navy. We all know what it's about.

PILGRIM: This is not a wealthy area. Tangent is a farming community of 910 people. The county has 136 people now overseas.

The Warnock household has two servicemen in the family stationed in Iraq. Their pictures adorn the front lawn. Father Ed has been gone 10 month. Mother Kim says she has twice the worry, with a son and a husband overseas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was the day daddy was leaving, right?

PILGRIM: Son Ed was able to meet his father recently in Mosul, and sent home a photo, but no word on when they'll all be together. The family received one of the first $200 checks.

KIM WARNOCK: I just thought it was wonderful to know that someone out there would do that for, you know, the community, for the soldiers.

PILGRIM: Back at the Dixie Creek Saloon, they say it's not much. The least they can do to support the troops overseas.

GRADWOHL: All I know is they're there and I'm here and so are their families. So we're going to see if we can even that equation out a little bit.

PILGRIM: Kitty Pilgrim, CNN.


KING: And that's our show tonight. Thanks for being with us. Monday we'll be joined by Mayor Stephen Reed of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He'll discuss how cities and towns across the country are responding to the increased terror threat. And all next week our series of special reports on "America's Bright Future." We'll feature some of this country's most talented young people and some of their truly remarkable accomplishments.

For all of us here, have a wonderful and a safe weekend. Good night from New York.


California Mudslide Survivors; President Bush's Domestic Agenda>

International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.