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AMERICAN MORNING

Senator Kerry's Winning Ways Force Senator Edwards Out of Race

Aired March 3, 2004 - 07:00   ET

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

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, HOST: John Kerry on a Super Tuesday juggernaut, setting the stage for the 2004 Presidential election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So the message rings out across the land tonight, get ready, a new day is on the way.

JOHN EDWARDS (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I also want to take a moment and congratulate my friend Senator John Kerry. He's run a strong, powerful campaign, he's been...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: The candidate who wanted a two-man race. Is he ready to say only one remains standing?

The scientific triumph of the Rover. Now we know Mars was wet. So, is it time to start looking for fossils?

And McDonald's ending an American tradition. Goodbye to the super-size on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN broadcast center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien, and Bill Hemmer.

BILL HEMMER, HOST: Good morning, welcome to the day after.

Almost coast to coast; John Kerry pulls off a near sweep last night.

O'BRIEN: And, in fact, Senator Kerry is going to hold a town hall meeting today in Orlando, Florida, secure in the knowledge that he is all but the anointed Democratic presidential nominee.

He won nine out of yesterday's ten Super Tuesday contest victories, which stretch from his native Massachusetts all the way to California.

Senator Kerry's only defeat yesterday was to former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who won his state despite suspending his campaign two weeks ago.

Senator Kerry's winning ways have also forced his main rival Senator John Edwards out of the race.

National correspondent Bob Franken joins us this morning from Annapolis, Maryland.

Hey, Bob, good morning.

BOB FRANKEN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

You remember how Senator Edwards kept on saying that he was going to go beyond Super Tuesday no matter what happened? Well, never mind.

John Edwards will pull out of the race this afternoon. Even before all of the states bad news had come in, his staff put out the word; it's over when it's almost over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: We have been the little engine that could and I am proud of what we've done together, you and I.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: Ultimately, the John Edwards engine could not. It ran out of steam.

John Kerry could finally take a breath of satisfaction.

President Bush called to offer congratulations. What warm feelings there were lasted just a moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Bush administration has run the most inept, reckless, arrogant, and ideological foreign policy in the modern history of our country and we will reverse that course.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: John Kerry swamped John Edwards but did nothing to drown out talk of Edwards as vice president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

There is no question that John Edwards brings a compelling voice to our party, great eloquence to the cause of working men and women all across our nation, and great promise for leadership to the years to come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: I also want to take a moment and congratulate my friend Senator John Kerry. He's run a strong, powerful campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: Well, this campaign was child's play, Soledad, compared to the brutal fight ahead with President Bush, but at least John Kerry can duke it out with the president without John Edwards in the way. Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Oh, yes, many people predicting, Bob, that it is going to be down and dirty.

To quote a few folks there, let's talk a little bit about the vice presidency. Any indication yet who John Kerry might at least be considering?

FRANKEN: Well, certainly John Edwards is the name that has been mentioned since the very beginning.

Senator Bob Graham. There's Congressman Dick Gephardt, there's Jack Cafferty. There's a whole list of people.

O'BRIEN: Well you know we're not going to let Jack Cafferty go, but...

HEMMER: No way.

O'BRIEN: We'll let him know that he's up for consideration. I don't think so. All right, Bob Franken for us this morning.

Bob, thanks -- Bill.

HEMMER: More examination now this morning, the day after -- what it could all mean as we look forward to an eight-month election campaign.

Our senior political analyst now. Bill Schneider from the CNN Center, Election Headquarters.

Bill, good morning to you, and thanks for getting up early after a late night last night.

Prior to last evening, there was some question about how unified the Democratic Party truly is. Now you believe they are -- why?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Bush. One word. President Bush - the determination to beat President Bush has completely united the Democrats.

This campaign had a lot of competition, but not much conflict.

We saw a unified Democratic Party and in state after state, we saw that even when they weren't overwhelmingly enthusiastic for John Kerry as they were not here in Georgia, he barely beat Edwards, they liked -- they were satisfied with Kerry as the nominee.

For instance, when we asked them would you be satisfied if John Kerry were the Democratic Party's nominee if he wins the nomination, here, look, over two-thirds of the voters in yesterday's Georgia primary said yes even though he didn't even get half the vote.

So this was a party that basically said we've got to stick together, we are determined to beat President Bush. HEMMER: You heard Bob Franken say this is essentially child's play compared to elections we've seen in the past years; strengths and weaknesses for John Kerry. How do you add them up?

SCHNEIDER: Well, the main strength of John Kerry is that he has qualifications, he has experience, he has credibility to stand next to President Bush and say I'll keep the country safe. Very few Democrats could really make that promise, and that's what Democrats saw in John Kerry.

The weakness, of course, he has 6,000 votes in 19 years on his voting record and there are a lot of inconsistencies. President Bush has already pointed to them. And President Bush has said that his theme is going to be steady leadership.

Bush is a man of enormous resolve and relentless determination and he's going to say you know where John Kerry stands and what he stands for? He's going to try to depict his opponent as wavering and inconsistent at a time of national threat.

HEMMER: Both men are traveling today to significance. John Kerry goes to Orlando, Florida. President Bush goes to Los Angeles in California.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, well, Florida, Florida remember 2000 that's the battleground -- the battleground state for the year 2004, that's the state Democrats would dearly love to put back in their column. Just because to get revenge for what they regard as a stolen election in 2000.

California, my goodness, Bush in California. He's probably going to raise money. There's a lot of money out there. And they may allow themselves to believe that California is in play.

He's not very popular in California but I'll tell you something, Bill. California is in play he election is over and Bush has one.

HEMMER: Wow, that's very interesting. David Broder in "The Washington Post" today concludes a very long article today with the following statement: "These are two battle tested politicians with experience and cohesive organizations behind them and the country seems more than ready for a knock down drag out fight." True or not?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think the country won't welcome it, but it's going to happen simply because the country is so closely divided, and there is a view that there are no swing voters, really, any more -- that you have a large Democratic base and a large Republican base, and whoever can mobilize his base and rally them and get them to the polls is going to win the election.

So it's not an idea -- the idea is no longer play for the middle. The idea is get your base energized, which is what a lot of people thought President Bush was doing the other day when he endorsed the Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. He was saying to the religious right I'm with you, I want your enthusiastic support, I want you to get out and vote. HEMMER: And get ready for two words, a voter turnout it will be critical. Thank you, Bill, we'll talk later today.

Bill Schneider at CNN Center in Atlanta.

Bottom of the hour we'll talk with the Republican side on all this.

Ed Gillespie, Republican National Chairman is our guest here on AMERICAN MORNING.

Also live coverage later today. Raleigh, North Carolina, 4:00 Eastern, 1:00 on the West Coast, Senator John Edwards withdrawal announcement.

Again you'll have it live here on CNN and we will not leave this story for long. It's getting interesting.

O'BRIEN: We've got some other headlines at this hour.

A missile attack in Baghdad has killed at least one person, knocked out telephone service for much of the country. The assault comes as Iraq begins a three-day period of mourning for the more than 100 victims of yesterday's bombings in Baghdad and Karbala.

A coalition official says Iraqi police have detained 15 people in connection with those blasts in Karbala.

The U.S. Marines plan to increase their visibility in Haiti after a rebel leader there proclaimed himself the country's military chief. Philippe made the announcement before cheering crowds yesterday and threatened to arrest Haiti's Prime Minister. The U.S. has discounted police claims to power.

In Philadelphia, a woman accused of kidnapping a baby six years ago is in custody. Carolyn Correa surrendered to police yesterday. Authorities say she started a fire in order to kidnap a baby back in 1997, then passed the little girl off as her own daughter.

The now 6-year-old Delimar Vera has been placed in foster care. This morning we're going to speak to Correa's lawyer. That's ahead in our next hour, in fact.

In Colorado a judge in the Kobe Bryant case will not limit questioning about the accusers sexual history. That decision was made yesterday. The accuser who was scheduled to answer questions yesterday will now appear at a closed hearing later this month. Bryant is accused of raping the woman in Colorado last June.

The mayor of New Paltz, New York says he will not stop same sex weddings even in the face of criminal charges. Mayor Jason West says he'll perform some two-dozen weddings this weekend. He's facing arraignment though tonight. The 26-year-old mayor says he plans to plead not guilty.

HEMMER: He's going to be our guest a little bit later this morning. Stay tuned for that coming down the road.

Marv -- Rob Marciano, working for Chad Myers today. Good to have you back, Rob. Good morning

(WEATHER UPDATE)

HEMMER: All right, Rob, thank you much. Good to see you again, see you again in about 20 minutes from now.

O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, could alcohol have played a part in the shooting death of Jayson Williams limo driver? We're going to hear from one attorney in the case.

Also Martha Stewart's fate could be in the hands of the jury just two hours from now. The latest to come on that trial as well.

O'BRIEN: And mission accomplished. NASA says the Rover has found what they were looking for on Mars, water. We'll have the latest on that as AMERICAN MORNING continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Did alcohol play a part in the fatal shooting that has Jayson Williams on trial for manslaughter?

Prosecutors are suggesting that Williams was under the influence on the night that a chauffer was killed in his home. Eventually it'll be up to a jury to decide whether the former pro basketball star is guilty of a crime.

Right now the state is making its case, taking jurors back to the night when things took a tragic turn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DISPATCH: 9-1-1 where's your emergency?

CALLER: Yeah, we've got an emergency, somebody's got got, he picked up a gun that was loaded and it shot him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: The 9-1-1 call from Jayson Williams's New Jersey estate on Valentine's Day 2002 was the first word that something had gone terribly wrong. Williams is accused of recklessly shooting limo driver Gus Christofi while giving guests a tour of his New Jersey mansion, then trying to make it look like a suicide.

Christofi had been hired by the former NBA star to chauffer him and his guests, including four members of the Harlem Globetrotters. Prosecutors have methodically laid out the case against Williams at his manslaughter trial. The testimony that is perhaps the most damaging has come from those who were in Williams home when the shooting occurred.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KENT CULUKO, PROSECUTION WITNESS: Jason dropped to his knees like a ton of bricks and he said -- he put his head down and said Oh my God, what just happened? My life is over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: AS for Williams defense, his lawyers say Christofi's shooting was a tragic accident. Not a crime, and they attribute Williams's actions afterward to chaos and panic.

When the defense presents its case, Jayson Williams is expected to take the stand.

If convicted on aggravated manslaughter and evidence tampering charges, Williams could face up to 55 years in prison.

Criminal defense lawyer Brian Neary represented Jayson Williams in 1994 on a previous gun charge. He is also the attorney for a witness in the current case and has been following the trial very closely.

Nice to see you sir. Thanks for being with us.

BRIAN NEARY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Good morning, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Give me a sense of how you think the prosecutions case is going so far when you hear on the stand someone who is very damaging, damning, some people say -- testimony. Do you think they have an open and shut case at all?

NEARY: No. The prosecution has to get beyond simply the fact that the gun goes off and Mr. Christofi dies. They have to really establish two things.

One thing is that Williams was very callus and condescending to Mr. Cristofi, giving them the opportunity to suggest in the bedroom that Williams, while he didn't mean it intending to do it, this was just a pattern of the otherwise making fun of Mr. Cristofi.

The second thing I think the prosecution needs to do is they need to establish that Williams was not only drinking, but heavily drinking to suggest to meet the standard of recklessness.

Just like a driver who gets drunk behind the wheel of a car, and kills somebody. Somebody who's drunk and has a gun also does or would do the same.

O'BRIEN: It seems like both sides are actually going to focus their arguments on the alcohol consumption. Give me a sense of how you think the defense will use that.

NEARY: Well the defense is going to suggest that Williams although he drank did not drink to excess and yesterday's testimony by a -- by the owner of a restaurant where there was a post-basketball game party as well as the witness suggested that Williams consumed alcohol in pretty much the same way as the other nine or ten guests who were with him that day so he was not the one exclusively drinking heavily.

O'BRIEN: How damaging has the testimony from sort of a watching it on TV perspective it's very dramatic testimony from these witnesses on the stand -- when they describe the gun going off but in the big sense, how damaging is their testimony, especially in the light of the fact that most of them have been given immunity?

NEARY: Well, the fact that they were given immunity or given plea deals may suggest that their testimony is being bought so the jury is going to have to look to decide whether or not their versions are being shaded in essence to save themselves. Also there seems to be some contradiction between witnesses as to what actually happened what the shooting was.

For example, one witness to a -- a day or so ago testified that he saw Williams pull the gun up as if he had a bowling ball and the gun went off. It seemed at other times the same witness suggested that he only heard a shot go off and did not see it.

So if there are discrepancies between the matter in which the gun went off it gives Mr. Williams and the defense the opportunity to explain the fact that may have -- very -- it was an accident.

O'BRIEN: It helps the defense to some degree. Billy Martin early on said that he plans what Jayson Williams on the stand. Do you think that's a big risk?

NEARY: Well, it may be a risk that has to be taken. Any time a defendant testifies in their own behalf the risk is that the jury may focus simply on the fact of what the witness, what the defendant says at the testimony.

But a person like Jayson Williams who A, needs to be humanized to explain what he has always positioned himself, as that this was a tragic accident. He may be the best person of all to suggest that what really happened that night.

O'BRIEN: So then is the best defense strategy getting Jayson Williams on the stand and having him in an emotional way recount what happened and sort of reinforce their side which is it was a horrible, horrible accident.

NEARY: The emotional part of it is going to be of course that Williams is heartfelt in fact that it was an accident and he has true sincerity. It's -- for the terrible act that happened that night. And then he may be able to put it all together both as to what the shooting was and what could be the biggest problem for the defense the chaos afterwards, the suggestion that there was some tampering and that there was a cover-up with regard to the scene of the crime.

O'BRIEN: Criminal defense attorney Brian Neary, nice to see you thanks for coming in to provide a little insight for us, we appreciate it. Bill.

NEARY: Thank you. HEMMER: Soledad, the case against Martha Stewart expected to be in the hands of the jury later today. Defense lawyers wrapping up their case yesterday.

Calling for not guilty verdicts for Stewart and her former broker Peter Bacanovic.

Stewart and Bacanovic face conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges. This in connection with Stewart's sale of ImClone stock.

In a moment if you like the super size you better hurry. McDonald's is about to deep-fry the most American of fast food ideas.

Andy and Jack are with us after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: McDonalds. McDonald's is slimming down while Coke is treading in some hot water.

Andy Serwer with MINDING YOUR BUSINESS first check this morning with you, nice to see you. What's going on with Mickey D's, they going healthy?

ANDY SERWER, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Yes, they're going a little bit healthier. Not healthy. There's a difference, right? McDonald's getting rid of super-sizing, I mean who would of ever imagined this a few years ago but obviously all sorts of litigation, publicity about how their food is unhealthy so the company is deciding by the end of this year to get rid of that whole super-sizing thing, you won't be able to walk into your McDonald's and say yes I want to super-size that.

Let's take a look at exactly how that breaks down with regard to French fries because of course the more that you eat, the less healthy -- see, you can see here at the top. That's the super-size where you get more fat. But interestingly Bill it's not that many more units of fat than the large you can see, right.

HEMMER: Based on the grams.

SERWER: So that leads to another point. Another reason they're getting rid of super-sizing is to simplify their menu. I mean, that's going to -- they've got so many items on their menu, the less items they have, the more profitable they are, the easier it is.

HEMMER: The more cash from the super-size...

SERWER: They were, yes, they were and also like drinks for instance was a 42-ounce Coke was a super-size versus a 32-ounce.

HEMMER: What did Ben Stiller say, how do you finish that thing?

SERWER: Yes, I was just -- pour it out. That's...

HEMMER: He used to say you walk off in the face of the sun right into a McDonald's.

SERWER: Right.

HEMMER: Listen, Pepsi has what -- Aquafina. Coca-Cola has the Dasani -- I guess it's been in the news for the last few days. What's happening?

SERWER: Right, Aquafina is the number one by the way. Dasani is number two; it's a flip-flop from their sodas.

This is a bottle of Dasani right here and it's gotten the Coca- Cola company in a little bit of trouble over in England because they've been calling this pure water. British authorities said well where's that water from, they said the tap.

And what they've been doing is it's the same process they've had in the united States, they purify the water coming out of the tap, remove minerals, and such, and they add some things back in for flavor. British authorities say you can't call that pure.

The company is saying well, we're going to keep talking about that. You mind if I take a hit?

HEMMER: Please. Love water.

SERWER: Tastes good, though.

HEMMER: Hey I was just looking at these notes, the markets was down day yesterday so we'll talk about that next time we come around.

SERWER: Let's do it.

HEMMER: All right? Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Jack Cafferty is here with the question of the day. Good morning.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN: Interesting choice of words, take a hit.

SERWER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: Relates to water.

SERWER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: The next huge decision that John Kerry will have to make that people will care about for about an hour is who the running mate is going to be. Theories abound about the importance of vice presidential candidate but history is very short on evidence that anybody really cares for very long or that it matters very much. However, now that the non-story of the, quote, race unquote between Kerry and Edwards is over, race implies some sort of competition 00 there was never any -- it's time to move on to the next non story, which is who is going to be on the ticket with John Kerry.

And that's why we're here this morning. To move on to the next non-story. Who should John Kerry pick for running mate and who should he avoid?

Why do you care and how much effort will you put into the thinking about your answer?

SERWER: Why don't you think that's a story?

CAFFERTY: Because it doesn't matter. It just doesn't.

SERWER: Why.

CAFFERTY: Name a vice president who has made a difference in 200 years.

O'BRIEN: Dan Quayle. Well he certainly got a lot of press.

CAFFERTY: Name one. Dick Cheney?

SERWER: Point well taken.

HEMMER: But it's significant, there's no question. I think the second part of that question is more interesting than the first, actually. Who do you avoid?

Many people have been talking about John Edwards. Let me pose this to you. Do the Democrats think they can win the South, do they think they can win in Georgia and South Carolina? If they don't, do you stay away from John Edwards and go for somebody in the middle part of the country say like Wisconsin, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and a guy like Evan Bayh in Indiana.

SERWER: Or do you go with Hillary Clinton?

CAFFERTY: The Democrats are not going to win the South if they put General Robert E. Lee on the ticket.

HEMMER: I'm not suggesting that, but...

SERWER: He's dead, that's why.

HEMMER: Is that a reason why you don't go with John Edwards.

CAFFERTY: It doesn't matter. I mean, they're not going to win the South, it doesn't matter...

HEMMER: In a moment here, U.S. troops under pressure in Iraq not just from the insurgents but from Iraqis who do not think they are doing enough.

What can be done about it? Our Kelly McCann is our guest as well; well talk about this brutal day of violence yesterday. Back in a moment here on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Get the latest news every morning in your e-mail. Sign up for AMERICAN MORNING Quick News at cnn.com/am. Still to come this morning, how are the Republicans planning to stop Senator John Kerry in the race for the White House. Answers from GOP Party Chairman just ahead as AMERICAN MORNING continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Good morning, welcome everybody. Just about half past the hour on this AMERICAN MORNING Super Tuesday results are coming up in just a few moments.

As the polls predicted it really was a runaway for John Kerry. Republican reaction is coming to us this morning from Chairman Ed Gillespie. We'll talk with him.

HEMMER: Also Kelly McCann was just in Iraq, a guy who knows a lot about security on the ground and they're talking to us about U.S. rules for engagement in Iraq. Some interesting videotape from yesterday in Baghdad and Karbala about what the U.S. soldiers face there.

Also a NASA scientist to explain why the water on Mars means life on Mars and 90-second tips in a moment here. Talking about how you can pay off your home mortgage early so we'll get to all that.

O'BRIEN: When you calculate the interest that you pay over 30 years it really encourages you to pay it off as soon as possible.

HEMMER: Smart financial choice.

O'BRIEN: Well Senator John Kerry has now won 28 of 31 Democratic presidential nominating contests this year. Last night in Washington he spoke to supporters who were celebrating his near sweep of the Super Tuesday contests and he said he's looking forward to the general election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight, the message could not be clearer. All across our country, change is coming to America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Senator Kerry won 9 of yesterday's 10 contests. The only defeat came at the hands of Howard Dean, who won his own state, Vermont, despite leaving the campaign two weeks ago.

In that victory speech last night, Senator Kerry laid out the broad outlines of his platform, promising to repeal tax cuts for the wealthy, cut the deficit and create jobs. He also sounded a familiar warning to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: If George Bush wants to make national security the central issue of the campaign of 2004, I have three words for him that I know he understands: bring it on!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Senator Kerry's last main rival, Senator John Edwards, will leave the race today, setting up an eight-month Kerry versus Bush general election battle.

The Bush campaign will begin airing television ads tomorrow, and the Republican Party hopes to register a million voters during the next 10 days and three million by Election Day. Part of the effort involves that 56-foot 18-wheeler that you'll see in a moment behind the Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie. There it is. Well, we can't see the scope of it, Ed, but we can certainly a massive truck behind you. And he joins us this morning outside the RNC offices in Washington.

Nice to see you. Thanks for joining us.

ED GILLESPIE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me, Soledad. Great to be with you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.

Well, the battle has now begun. How nasty do you think it's going to get?

GILLESPIE: Oh, look, I hope it doesn’t get nasty at all. This should be a debate about the issues. There are major issues facing this country today. This is one of the biggest elections, in my lifetime certainly. It's the first election since the world changed on September 11, and there are major choices and big differences in policy approach between President Bush and Senator Kerry.

President Bush wants to continue to foster economic growth and create jobs, and Senator Kerry would raise taxes, which would reverse the gains we've seen in the economy.

President Bush has a proactive agenda in terms of winning the war against terror. Senator Kerry would take us back to inaction and indecision when it comes to our national security and foreign policy. He has a long record of voting to weaken our national security in this country, including a $1.5 million cut in intelligence funding that he proposed himself in the United States Senate as recently as 1995, only two years after the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. So, there are major differences here.

O'BRIEN: You have highlighted some of the big issues there -- the economy, jobs, national security. What about gay marriage? How much of a role do you think that's going to have?

GILLESPIE: Well, obviously it's become a major issue with the actions of the Massachusetts court and with the actions of Mayor Newsom in San Francisco. And, again, there's a big difference here relative to policy approach, and President Bush believes that marriage is between one man and one woman, and Senator Kerry on the floor of the United States Senate opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, one of only 14 senators to oppose that.

So, his policy view is that if Massachusetts rules -- the court in Massachusetts rules to sanction gay marriage in that state, then every state must recognize it. I don't think most Americans believe that. I think they -- regardless of you view on the issue, most Americans would say, you know, this is an issue and one of such significance, we ought to have some input here as to whether or not we're going to change this institution.

O'BRIEN: There are many who say this election really is essentially going to be a referendum on the president's record. And in saying that, they mean that as things go -- the economy, what's happening overseas in Iraq -- then that's how the voters are going to go. How big of a concern do you have about that when there's a lot that actually the president can't control over what's going to happen over the next eight months?

GILLESPIE: Oh, I don't have a concern at all. I am very much looking forward to running on the president's record of results. If you look at what's going on in the economy today -- a 4 percent growth rate in the last quarter of 2003, 8.2 percent the quarter before that, over 100,000 jobs created last month alone. We're seeing momentum in this recovery as a result of the president's policies that would be reversed by Senator Kerry's policies.

And when it comes to our actions in Iraq, the fact is Senator Kerry is opposed to the war in Iraq. He voted against the Gulf War in 1991. If his policies were in place today, Saddam Hussein would not only be in Baghdad, he'd still be in Kuwait.

There's a major difference here in approach, and we look forward to running on the president's, not only his record of the past four years, but his positive agenda for the next four years as well.

O'BRIEN: What happens if the jobs don't come back, though? You've given some numbers about the growth and the economy. But if people don't actually see jobs, big problem?

GILLESPIE: Well, look, we have to create jobs in this country, and that is one of the president's top priorities -- his top domestic priority clearly. And if you look at the results of his policies, we are creating jobs today. We're not going to rest, and the president won't rest, and Republicans in Congress will not rest, until every American who wants a job can find a job.

But he's got six-point plan to drive down health care costs, make energy more affordable and more reliable, root out all of these frivolous lawsuits that drive up the costs of goods and services and employment in our economy, to make the tax relief permanent. Senator Kerry opposes all of those policies, and his policies would take us back to slow economic growth, maybe even into a recession. And that's a major difference in this election.

O'BRIEN: Ed Gillespie is the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Now, do you drive the bus -- the truck? Or do you just ride in the back of the truck? You know, I'm just joshing you, Ed. Nice...

GILLESPIE: I'm going to start it up, but we're going to register a million new voters just next week alone.

O'BRIEN: Oh, but they don't like to drive it. All right, I understand. Ed Gillespie, nice to see you. As always, thanks.

GILLESPIE: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: And he's going to be pulling that horn...

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: You need a special license to drive that. I don't think they're going let him drive it.

HEMMER: That's right.

Top stories again this morning.

From D.C., the Senate has scuttled a bill that would have given the gun industry immunity from certain types of lawsuits. The bill died in a 90-8 vote after Democrats pushed to combine it with an expiring ban on the manufacture and importation of assault weapons. The NRA -- the National Rifle Association -- urged senators to vote against the bill with a new addition. We'll get you live to Capitol Hill on this for what many say was an amazing day yesterday on the floor of the Senate.

There could be trouble for Walt Disney's Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner. Disney investors vote today on whether to re-elect Eisner to the board of directors. Former Disney directors, including Roy Disney, the nephew of the company's co-founder, urging shareholders to oust Eisner. Industry observers say Disney will probably keep him, but may split his job as chairman and chief executive. Andy stops by a bit later to talk more about this.

From Maryland, firefighters battling a huge warehouse fire in Baltimore. The five-alarm blaze is still not under control. A fire department spokesman says an ammonia tank inside the building is leaking, but is not ruptured. That's good news. There is apparently no danger to residents also, and no injuries reported. That, again, from Baltimore.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has won his first big budget battle. Governor Schwarzenegger last night hailed the passage of his fiscal plan. Proposition 57 allows the state to float up $15 billion in bonds to consolidate past debt without a tax increase A companion measure, Proposition 58, also passed in California.

There could be a big change for the town formerly known as Killington, Vermont. Residents voted overwhelmingly last night for a plan to secede from the state of Vermont and become a part of the state of New Hampshire. The issue: taxes. But don't redraw the map yet. Lawmakers in New Hampshire and Vermont have the final say, and Vermont legislators said the move would probably be voted down. Just about 26 miles to the west on that border with New Hampshire.

O'BRIEN: That's kind of a long way, because -- I mean, how would they redraw that map if they had to?

HEMMER: Yes. Pretty creative.

O'BRIEN: Exactly.

HEMMER: Well, hold your fire. They're not going there just yet.

(WEATHER BREAK)

HEMMER: Back to Iraq and the day of violence from yesterday. All the while, U.S. troops are guarding themselves against insurgent attacks every day in that country.

That's not the only danger they face as an occupying force. Yesterday, after more than 100 Shiite worshippers were killed in horrific bombings, angry crowds turned on American soldiers in certain places. Those people believe U.S. troops did not provide adequate security.

CNN contributor Kelly McCann, a former Marine officer, a security expert witness in D.C., recently traveling in Iraq.

Kelly, welcome back, and nice to see you here.

J. KELLY MCCANN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning, Bill.

HEMMER: A few pieces of videotape on a roll, and let you talk over them. One is from the scene yesterday. In the middle of all of this massive chaos, you will soon see U.S. soldiers apprehending this man. Watch the two or three gentlemen to the left of your screen. It literally looks like they are translating for U.S. soldiers on the fly. How do you see the difficulties of a job like this?

MCCANN: Well, there are a couple of things, Bill. We dealt with this in Bosnia and in other places where we went in. Basically, there's a time lapse. In an immediate situation, where you give verbal commands and you want an immediate reaction, there's a time lapse.

The other thing is you've got to remind yourself not to look at the translator, but to look at where the threat could erupt from. So, it's a very challenging situation.

HEMMER: Another piece of tape. We showed it as we were introducing you. This is the aerial view again of U.S. soldiers being pelted by a variety of things on the ground. You talk about the anonymity of a crowd. Why is that important and critical for you?

MCCANN: Because it swells. In other words, here, there was a mistake. We can say that the motivation might have been that they were aggravated that the U.S. didn't provide adequate protection. In fact, there were cordons, like an outer perimeter, an inner perimeter and then the actual shrine security. The mob can take on a momentum of its own that's incredibly difficult to stop once this hysteria passes through.

Now, since those people were in the incident, obviously their startled reaction is more significant than the troops that are on the periphery of it. So, there are two different -- there's hot-headed and cool-headed colliding in the middle, and that's what you're seeing.

HEMMER: I think the point you're making here goes to my next question. Back in December, you were in Baghdad with Tucker Carlson. Tucker was writing a piece for "Esquire." We saw each other in Baghdad at the time. You said then, and say it again, it's the most complex environment you have ever seen. Help our viewers understand that from your perspective.

MCCANN: Boy, Bill, as we talked about it -- I mean, you've got a lot of different things. The threat could be former regime loyalists. It could be criminal. It could be Arab fighters.

You've got competing urgencies -- the urgency to get a better infrastructure up and all of the contractors working, the urgency for the U.S. to withdraw and turn it over to the Iraqi Governing Council.

You've got a civil war threat between different elements that want to see Iraq continue to be unstable. It's very difficult to conduct business, or even governmental business, to make things happen. Access, control issues, intelligence is incredibly difficult to maintain in a free-flowing and vetted way.

I talked to a senior DIA official yesterday, and he told me this is so much more murky, even today, than we thought last week. It's incredible.

HEMMER: Kelly, thanks for coming in -- Kelly McCann. We'll talk with Favo Jorge (ph) about this situation also next hour here on AMERICAN MORNING.

Kelly, thanks again.

O'BRIEN: Still to come on AMERICAN MORNING, the strange case of the woman who found her daughter that she thought had died, who was actually living with someone else. We’re going to speak live with the attorney of the accused kidnapper in our next hour.

HEMMER: Also, NASA has found what it's been looking for on Mars. But does it mean that where there is water, there is life? We'll talk about that.

O'BRIEN: And, is there a better way to pay off your mortgage? We'll puncture some mortgage myths just ahead. Stay with us. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: For NASA, it is mission accomplished. Scientists say the Mars rovers have found what they were looking for: evidence that the planet was once wet enough for life to have existed there.

Joining us this morning from Washington, D.C., to talk about the discovery is NASA program scientist Catherine Weitz.

Nice to see you, Catherine. Thanks for being with us.

CATHERINE WEITZ, MARS ROVER PROGRAM SCIENTIST: Good morning. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: NASA is now saying it has hard evidence that the planet was once soaking wet. How did they come conclusively to that?

WEITZ: Well, we were very fortunate enough to have landed in a site where we're inside this very small crater, and just a few feet away is this amazing outcrop of rocks. And we've gone up to these rocks and studied them and found evidence for salt and minerals and looked at the rocks. And they show evidence that these are rocks that would have formed under conditions where we have water.

O'BRIEN: Does that mean that if it was soaking wet that it was wet enough to actually sustain life?

WEITZ: Well, that's a good question. Everywhere on Earth, where we have liquid water, there is life. If you go to geothermal hot springs or to the cold Antarctic valleys, we have evidence of life.

So, the question is, on Mars, we've identified these rocks, where we have evidence that water was either in a form of a lake or water was percolating through these rocks, depositing salt. And these are conditions where life would have certainly, on Earth, been flourishing.

So, the question is had there been life on Mars, it would have enjoyed living in this area as well.

O'BRIEN: But as of yet...

WEITZ: We don't know at this point.

O'BRIEN: As of yet, there is no actual hard evidence that there was life on Mars, although you must be feeling much better about the possibility today.

WEITZ: Correct. This mission was not designed to search for life. It was designed to search for conditions on Mars that would have been favorable to life. So, what we're going to do now is to have missions that would go to a site like this, or others that we might identify, where conditions would have been favorable to life. And these missions will then look for evidence of past or present life on Mars.

O'BRIEN: Does that mean that the next missions will send people out looking for -- or rovers looking for fossils? WEITZ: Or they would be looking for chemical evidence, because if these are fossils, we might not actually see evidence in the rocks of actual particular, you know, like, life forms. Instead, we might see chemical evidence of fossils. And so, we'd be sending instruments that would look for these chemical signatures of life in the past.

O'BRIEN: Do scientists have any idea of how long ago it was that water -- or that Mars was absolutely saturated in water, and if there is water on Mars right now, like underground?

WEITZ: Well, in the past, we're not sure when the water existed. We can sure get a relative idea when it happened. It was very long ago in the past, perhaps several billion years ago.

As for now, it's certainly possible that there are conditions on Mars in the subsurface where there is still liquid water.

O'BRIEN: Some good news for NASA, big announcement yesterday. Catherine Weitz joining us this morning. She's a NASA program scientist. Thanks for being with us. It's nice to see you.

WEITZ: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: My pleasure -- Bill.

HEMMER: Still to come here, a plan that could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars on your mortgage. We'll talk about it right after this on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: When it comes to buying a home, conventional wisdom says the best possible tax deduction is just that, and that 30-year mortgage is what you call good-get.

But David Bach, our personal finance contributor, says those are mortgage myths, and he wants to debunk them this morning during our new weekly series we call "90 Second Tips."

So, I asked David about the benefits of paying off a mortgage early and the best way to do it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID BACH, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE CONTRIBUTOR: You buy a home. It will be the best investment you will ever make in your life. Everyone should buy a home. But you don't buy a home for the tax deduction. You buy a home to live in it. And you buy a home, because it's going to be investment you'll ever make.

The idea that you should pay for a mortgage all your life so that you can get a tax deduction, the idea that you should spend $100 so you can save 30 on a tax deduction is ridiculous. Those people are wrong.

O'BRIEN: How about the 30-year mortgage is good debt? I mean, I always thought it was like people say it's bad to have debt on your credit card, but a mortgage is good debt.

BACH: That is true. I think a mortgage is good debt, but you still want to pay it off sooner versus later. So, I'm fine with a 30- year mortgage, because it's a safe way to go. It makes it for a low interest -- you know, it makes for a low mortgage payment. But I don't want you to pay for it over 30 years, and here's why. If you buy a quarter of a million dollar home right now and you pay for that home over 30 years, that home is going to actually cost you in excess of $600,000.

O'BRIEN: In interest.

BACH: Well, total. You're going to have over $400,000 of interest payments. So, what I want to share with you is a secret here, and I call this secret...

O'BRIEN: I love secrets now.

BACH: I like secrets. The secret is a really simple tool called the biweekly mortgage. That's where you take your 30-year mortgage and you can actually cut it down to between 25 and 23 years.

And here's all you have to do. We're going to use an example of a $250,000 mortgage. So, we've got an example here where we'll show a screen, where you've got a $250,000 mortgage at 8 percent interest on a 30-year term. Your monthly payment would be $1,834. You pay $410,000 in interest. That home would cost you $660,000.

O'BRIEN: Over 30 years.

BACH: Over 30 years.

Now, take that exact same mortgage and break that mortgage payment in half, paying $917 every two weeks. Have your mortgage company set this up for you. It's called a biweekly mortgage payment. Now, your interest is only going to be 291,000, and you'll pay a 30- year mortgage off in 23 years.

Now, it's the same amount of money you're paying in a month. You're just splitting the mortgage in half and paying it every two weeks.

O'BRIEN: Total savings is almost $120,000 over 30 years.

(CROSSTALK)

BACH: Exactly. And you've, again, seven years off that marriage.

O'BRIEN: Now, you say, talk to your mortgage company to arrange this.

BACH: Right.

O'BRIEN: You can't just sort of pop a check into the mail or start mailing in your mortgage payment in half payments every two weeks and expect it to work.

BACH: You can't, because they won't take your mortgage payment that way. So, there is a slight catch to this. Here's the catch. When you call your mortgage company and you tell them you want a do a biweekly mortgage, there is a cost to do this. On average, the setup fee is $295 to set this up, and then it runs about $5 a month for the transaction.

Now, again, in that example we just gave you, over the lifetime of your mortgage, you'd spend about $1,200 on this system, but you'd save 119,000.

Now, critics will say, why would I pay someone to do this for me when I can just make extra mortgage payments? Well, you can.

O'BRIEN: Just put a little note on the bottom of the check...

BACH: Right.

O'BRIEN: ... that says this is for the principal and not for the interest.

BACH: That's right. And you can do that, but let's be honest. Most people don't. Most people don't write extra checks to the bank at the end of the year. Most people don't make extra payments on their mortgage. And if they do, the mortgage companies a lot screw this up. They don't apply it to the principal.

So, it's really a convenience factor, and also the key is it's an automatic factor. You know, when you do it this way, it's all being done automatically for you. You don't think about it. And, again, the average person watching will save realistically over $46,000 in interest payments and cut five years off their mortgage if they do this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: That's David Bach. He's the money coach of AmericaOnline. AOL keyword: David Bach.

For more information, you can go to finishrich.com, and catch David every Wednesday right here on AMERICAN MORNING for tips on how to improve your financial life.

HEMMER: I'm still writing down his tips. I think I got them all.

Jack is back now with question of the day.

Good morning.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: How're you doing?

Senator Kerry is the nominee. And now the next big step, I guess, for him and for the nation is for him to pick a running mate. Theories abound about the importance of a vice presidential candidate, but history is short on evidence that anybody really cares. I do, but most people don't.

The question is: Should John Kerry -- who should he pick and who should he avoid? Here's what some of you think. It's actually not a bad question. We got some pretty good stuff.

Bill Richardson -- this one -- this is kind of, you know, vanilla ice cream here. "Bill Richardson is a proven negotiator and one of the few Americans to ever convince Saddam to capitulate. He'd be an excellent vice presidential choice and could help a Northeasterner gain the Hispanic vote nationwide." That's from Paul in Albuquerque.

I like this from Dave in Japan: "Why not Bill Clinton? He's a proven fund-raiser. His popularity abroad would improve America's image, and we'd get to save money on secret service protection." And if he promises to stay out of the Oval Office, Hillary might even let him run.

Patrick in Omaha: "I think Senator Edwards would make a fine choice. He's young, energetic, extremely positive." Oh, never mind.

Jerome in Sacramento, California. This is good. He said: "Ask Arizona Republican John McCain to be his running mate. If Kerry is truly a uniter of people, wants an ethical super-bright second in command, and wants to shake up Washington and politics as usual." Interesting idea.

O'BRIEN: Interesting, yes.

CAFFERTY: My favorite is from Bob. He said: "Pick his good friend, Jane Fonda, as they have so much in common." Bob lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Bob.

CAFFERTY: AM@cnn.com.

O'BRIEN: And thank you, Jack.

HEMMER: There's a piece in the "Times" today about Bill Clinton being a running mate.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

HEMMER: Apparently, it's allowed under the Constitution, but some think that...

O'BRIEN: Not going to happen. That's my vote.

CAFFERTY: Let's hope not.

O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, a baby who was thought to be dead turns up alive six years later. Our exclusive interview with the attorney for the woman who is accused of kidnapping that baby. It's just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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