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Two Blasts Heard at Seized School in Russia; Republican Convention

Aired September 2, 2004 - 07:30   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: A lot going on this morning. To our viewers at home, we'll watch that story. We're watching the latest with Frances, a huge storm right now still brewing, headed toward the Bahamas and perhaps Florida after that.
And back here on the convention floor as well here at Madison Square Garden, we find ourselves today in a construction zone, literally. On the floor behind us, if you hear the hammers, if you hear the saws, they are literally at this hour transforming the floor and the stage where President Bush will address from later tonight.

The delegate chairs have been moved and pushed to the sides. The president will speak in the round in the center of Madison Square Garden later tonight. That is his turn now to speak to the delegates and the nation right around 10:00 Eastern Time.

Carlos Watson is standing by. He joins me in a moment here to talk about what the president needs to do later tonight.

But first, back to last night and Bob Franken, who is here at the garden as well.

Good morning -- Bob.


It's hard to believe that this is the fourth day of the convention coming up and that the president is going to appear when see the construction of the platform behind us, so President Bush in a unique way can make his case.


FRANKEN (voice over): He'll speak from a special stage at the convention, but first...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four more years!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four more years!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four more years!

FRANKEN (on camera): ... President Bush was setting the stage for his speech with September 11 imagery by going to Queens for an endorsement by firefighters. (voice over): His ticket mate was at his podium inside the convention hall, the president's warm-up act, scorching the opponent who wasn't there.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator Kerry says he sees two Americas. It makes the whole thing mutual. America -- America sees two John Kerrys.

FRANKEN: The crowd loved it, but not quite everyone. Officials had to remove a protester, just one of the incidents where demonstrators have faked out all the security.

But the Republicans were more than glad to let one outsider in, Democrat Zell Miller, keynote for Bill Clinton 12 years ago, keynoter for George Bush this time around.

SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA: Our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our commander-in-chief.


What has happened to the party I've spent my life working in?

FRANKEN: Tonight, this party's big finish is with President Bush, but he'll quickly leave the roar of Madison Square Garden behind.


He's not even going to spend the night here. He's going to the battleground state of Pennsylvania for the huge campaign battle ahead -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Bob, thanks for that.

Back up here now. Carlos Watson, our political analyst, joins me now to talk about what the president will say tonight and what he needs to say.

Carlos -- good morning to you.


HEMMER: What does he need to accomplish tonight?

WATSON: Really three things, if you think about it. There are three issues right now that the American voters say all are pretty important. But he really needs one to stand out when he's done, which is terrorism and the war on terror. That's where he gets his highest ratings.

Two, on the issue of the war in Iraq and on the economy, two issues which particularly independent voters have some questions, he needs to reframe his record of the last four years, offer broader contacts. And last but not least, the president needs to offer a very compelling and a very specific agenda for his second term. You'll remember in 1992, his father was criticized for not really seeming to have a second four-year plan. And the president has got to avoid that fact tonight.

HEMMER: So, if he hits all three of those points, what can you expect in terms of a bounce, in terms of success for this convention looking back tomorrow?

WATSON: Well, given that we haven't seen much of a bounce with the Democrats it's probably unlikely we'll see a big one here. But a three to five point national bounce would not be surprising if he did well here.

No. 2, though, and maybe more importantly, he would look for a bounce in swing states. So, not a national bounce, but swing states: Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, the three big states especially.

And last but not least, if pollsters start to find out that voters are saying -- 30 percent or more voters are saying the most issue is terrorism, then that would make a difference, because right now it's in the low 20s.

HEMMER: About 30 minutes ago, Dan Bartlett was sitting in your chair, and I asked him 24 hours from now it is quite likely the focus is back on the economy with the jobs report that will come out. Could that then take some air out of this balloon, depending on what way that goes?

WATSON: Very much so. It could either an exclamation point if the president has a good speech tonight and this is seen as good convention. It could be an exclamation point and help the president move forward. If it's a bad number like we saw a month ago, only 32,000 jobs instead of 200,000 that some would hope for, then it could be like a delete button. You could end up forgetting all four days here, and instead the campaign begins anew.

HEMMER: Zell Miller came out, age of 72, with one final fiery curtain call. After that, the vice president came out. Here's Dick Cheney from last night.



DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even in this post-9/11 period, Senator Kerry doesn't appear to understand how the world has changed. He talks about leading a more sensitive war on terror, as though al Qaeda will be impressed with our softer side.



HEMMER: Zell Miller was tough. I mentioned that. Was Dick Cheney as tough as you thought he'd be?

WATSON: Oh, no two ways about it. But Zell Miller was even tougher, which was interesting. He kind of played his bad cop, if you will.

I think what's interesting about Dick Cheney is that he'll continue to be an attack dog, as vice presidents often have been, and draw what they see as very important distinctions. But often you'll see that happening on the Internet and on radio, not as much on television.

HEMMER: A good analysis.

WATSON: Good to see you, as always.

HEMMER: Later tonight on primetime. You, too, Carlos.

WATSON: You bet.

HEMMER: We'll talk to you later.


HEMMER: Across town again, more breaking news. Here's Heidi -- Heidi.

COLLINS: In the last 15 minutes, Bill, there were two explosions near the school in Russia, where hundreds are being held hostage. These images are just coming to us now here at CNN. You can see some of that black smoke that's been rising out from the area. We're looking now at, of course, a lot of people standing by, very, very concerned citizens, rightly so, trying to figure out what is going on inside of that school.

We're still trying to get numbers for you on exactly how many people are involved. We do know that it's parents, children, teachers inside that school in Beslan, southern Russia. We know of four people killed, nine wounded. And, again, the latest news coming to us, explosions happening at that site, a little bit earlier today hearing about sporadic gunfire inside as well.

It comes amid three incidents this week now. The first, a subway station, female suicide bombers blowing that up. Two planes that went down, female suicide bombers there as well. And now this. A very tense week as you can imagine. And we're going to keep on that situation for you and get back to it just as soon as we can.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Colin Powell will call for the United Nations to impose sanctions on Iran. It follows a U.N. watchdog group's report that said Iran is processing uranium that could be used to make nuclear weapons. Last night, Powell said the U.S. will urge the agency to refer the case to the Security Council for action.

Osama bin Laden's fortune may not be the driving force in al Qaeda. According to sources cited by the Associated Press, bin Laden does not have $300 million in personal wealth, nor is he financing the terrorist organization. It's through Sudanese businesses. The report claims al Qaeda's activities were financed almost entirely through donations from various sources.

Florida's East Coast is bracing for Frances. The fear is a powerful category 4 hurricane barreling towards the United States. Residents in Orlando are boarding up windows. Evacuations have been ordered. A state of emergency is already in effect.


HEMMER: In a moment here live at Madison Square Garden, we'll go inside the Democrats' war room. What do they have to say about the speeches from last night? Back after this.


HEMMER: Boy, you wait all year for days like these here in New York, a beautiful picture there of Central Park looking out to the north and to the east high atop the new building here in New York City, the Time Warner center.

Welcome back, everyone. We're in the middle of a construction zone today, workers quickly working on the floor behind me, trying to get the address ready -- the stage, rather, ready later tonight for President Bush's address.

The delegates in these states all have been moved to the sides, states like Ohio, Michigan, New Hampshire, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and California. All of the seating now has been pushed to the side to make way for the president, center in the area, in the area that is central here on the floor of Madison Square Garden.

Last night within minutes of Zell Miller's keynote address, Democrats were ready; Ed Henry, too, on the inside last night has that story today.


ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Republican delegates loved Democrat Zell Miller's attacks on John Kerry, but Democratic officials jeered as they watched from a makeshift war room a few blocks from Madison Square Garden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That man needs a rest. I've never seen such a nasty speech in 25 years. You? Angry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pat Buchanan in '92.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he smiled a couple times.

HENRY: There have been plenty of late nights for Democrats this week, offering rapid response to the convention speeches. They relished taking on Miller, who gave a fiery endorsement of President Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm telling you, families are locking their children up right now, turning the TV off.

HENRY (on camera): Why do you feel the need to set up a war room like this? Why do you need to do this during the Republican Convention?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, because they say so many things at these conventions that just aren't true.

HENRY (voice over): Democratic staffers pounced when Miller accused Kerry of voting to cut weapons programs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cheney cut two Apache programs?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, but the others are the same?

HENRY (voice over): Even before Miller's speech was over, Democrats e-mailed reporters a press release charging -- quote -- "Zell Miller used his keynote to attack like an angry, rabid elephant. 'Zigzag' Zell irrationally attacked John Kerry for voting against the very same programs Dick Cheney voted to cut."

That helped put Miller on the defensive when he appeared on television later in the night and was hit with Mr. Cheney's own record.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He opposed some of them when he was the defense secretary and sometimes he was overruled by the Congress.

MILLER: I'm talking about John Kerry's record.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can't talk about their own!

HENRY: Ed Henry, CNN, New York.


HEMMER: War room Democrats are likely waiting and watching and getting ready for the convention's main event later tonight. President Bush's speech hits at about 10:00 Eastern Time. Our coverage starts live at 7:00 here on CNN. Again, three hours after that the president makes his entrance in Madison Square Garden.

A break here. In a moment, the Great Lakes states may determine the results of this race, and there is some economic news in those states that could have a serious impact on the race. Andy is "Minding Your Business" back at the diner, the CNN Diner, 34th Street and Eighth Avenue. Back in a moment here on AMERICAN MORNING.


COLLINS: There it is, the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge this morning and a cloudless day, a gorgeous day here in New York. And there's another staple of New York, the subway system. Everybody is getting on, going to work, I assume at 7:51 in the morning. It is the fourth and final day of the Republican National Convention here in New York City. And Jack Cafferty is standing by at the infamous, by now, CNN Diner with more on what's happening there.

Hey -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm heartbroken to hear this thing is going to end actually today. Today is the last day? We can't do this tomorrow?

The nation's two biggest carmakers are cutting back production. Not good news. And it happens to be in the battleground states.

Andy Serwer is here "Minding Your Business." Good morning.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Indeed, Jack. Responding to dramatically slower sales in August, Ford and GM are going to be cutting back auto sales, auto production, that is, for the fourth quarter.

Let's take a look at exactly how weak some of those sales were. And, as you said, Jack, this has big implications for states like Ohio and Michigan, where a lot of this production is. Here you go.

Jaguar and Land Rover, these are a couple Ford brands here, all Ford brands. And you can see, Lincoln, Mercury and Ford as well.

Let's go to the SUVs, though, because that's where the auto companies are really getting hurt badly. And you can see here, these are the big gas guzzlers, the Sequoia, the Suburban and the Expedition. And it's not just the car makers, Jack; it's also Delphi (ph) and Vistion (ph), they make the parts.


SERWER: And dozens of other car makers -- parts makers as well in those key states. Ford is going to be making 70,000 less cars, the least amount of cars it's made since 1991 in a quarter.


SERWER: GM is making about 95,000 cars less, the least it's made since the fourth quarter of '01.

Why? Lower gas prices -- I mean, higher gas prices, of course.

CAFFERTY: Higher, sure.

SERWER: Also consumer confidence. And the other thing is, all of that 0 percent financing for year after year. You know, there's only so many $30,000 trucks people can buy.


SERWER: At a certain point, it doesn't matter how cheap they are, they're just not going to buy anymore. CAFFERTY: All of those incentives tend to cannibalize future sales.


CAFFERTY: We've got a big jobs report coming tomorrow. The market could finally get off. The volume should pick up. And we might see movement, huh?

SERWER: Yes. I mean, yesterday was just anemic, slow. We were down five points on the Dow, and the Nasdaq up just a little bit there. Oil prices were up again. Retailing numbers are coming out today, and the jobs report tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. We're looking for 150,000 jobs. Unemployment rates are supposed to stay around 5.5, the same. And this morning the futures are flat.

CAFFERTY: There you go. Thanks, Andy.

SERWER: You're welcome.

Now, the question of the day has to do with this Kobe Bryant situation. If you look at the decision to drop all of the criminal charges against him, this probably turns out to be a win-win for both sides. Kobe Bryant doesn't face the prospect of life in prison playing point guard on the sing-sing five. He'll also be able to continue his career with the Lakers, although his value as a commercial spokesman may be diminished by this.

The victim avoids the horrible ordeal of having the intimate details of her life dragged across the public stage. However, thanks to the court in Colorado, a lot of the details of her personal life are already known; this, despite a rape shield in that state, which was literally made a mockery of by the judge. The court managed to release not only her name, but a whole bunch of other stuff on the Internet, not once, but two or three different times.

Maybe the judge ought to face some criminal charges. I mean, it really is disgraceful what happened.


CAFFERTY: Back to the point. She will probably make millions of dollars in her civil lawsuit against Bryant. And so it ends, except for this: There was nothing resembling justice done in this case.

The question today is: What's your reaction to the dismissal of all of the criminal charges against Kobe Bryant?, send us your thoughts. And don't forget that coming up in the "Cafferty File" a man who can squirt milk through his eyes. We have it here.

Heidi -- back to you.

COLLINS: I'm telling you, it's going to be the hit of the show, Jack. Thank you. We're looking forward to it.

CAFFERTY: That speaks volumes, doesn't it? COLLINS: Yes, maybe. All right, Jack, thanks so much.

Still to come this morning, Florida, still recovering from Hurricane Charley, but now Hurricane Frances is bearing down. Exactly where is she heading? We're going to have the very latest on its path in just a moment.

Plus, a Democrat from Georgia might have made the biggest splash at the Republican Convention. Senator Zell Miller didn't mince words when he blasted John Kerry. Hear what he had to say, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: In a moment here, a lot of breaking news to talk about. Out of Russia, a pair of explosions heard near the school, where hundreds of people, many of them children, are now being held hostage by terrorists. The latest on what's happening there in a moment, top of the hour, here on a busy AMERICAN MORNING.


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