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AMERICAN MORNING

Following Hurricane Frances

Aired September 6, 2004 - 8:30   ET

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


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. You're looking at videotape there from Fort Pierce in Florida. Unbelievable devastation down there. A marina almost virtually wiped out.
Again those are live pictures, not videotape. Live as you're looking at it right now. Sean Callebs, our reporter on the scene, has been assessing the damage down there. We'll talk to Sean in a moment. Here in the meantime on this Labor Day, good morning.

Good Monday morning. I'm Bill Hemmer live in Melbourne Florida yet again today.

If you really consider the storm over the weekend and think about how it really sat over Florida for 30 hours in length, now the damage assessment goes out. We are told up and down this coast you can find damage over a swatch of area that extends 200 miles from north to south.

With just a huge area here in the southeastern part of the U.S. We'll get to Sean in a moment. Want to get to Kelly Wallace now in New York helping us out yet again today. Kelly, good morning.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning again Bill. Also on this Labor Day we are talking to the Secretary of the AFL-CIO about the state of the economy, but right now let's check in on the stories now in the news with Betty Nguyen at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Good morning again, Betty.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Kelly. A deadly attack on U.S. forces today in Fallujah.

CNN now confirms seven U.S. Marines were killed in a car bombing. It destroyed a U.S. vehicle on the outskirts of Fallujah some 30 miles west of Baghdad.

Nuclear neighbors India and Pakistan have agreed to prolong a ceasefire in the disputed Kashmir region. Officials from both countries are wrapping up their meetings this hour. The first top- level discussions in three years. Both sides say they are committed to preserving peace, despite any new formal agreement.

The Pakistani president and the Indian prime minister are set to meet later this morning.

Also former president Bill Clinton is undergoing heart bypass surgery this hour. A source close to the family made that statement, and says Clinton has three or four clogged arteries. One cardiology expert says Clinton should do fine in the surgery because of his age -- he's 58 -- and his overall health is very good.

Well, President Bush is spending Labor Day on the campaign trail. The president is focusing on his tax policies as he kicks off the two- day swing in Missouri this morning.

Challenger John Kerry is stumping through key battleground states as well. Right now he's meeting with voters in Pennsylvania. Senator Kerry travels to West Virginia later in the day.

Now we want to send it over to Bill Hemmer this morning also in Florida with all the aftermath of Frances.

HEMMER: Hey Betty, thanks again. We've been talking with officials up and down the state of Florida today. They will be out in force today trying to not only help out the people here with their power, their electricity, but also try to assess the damage.

It was raining very hard here and the winds were blowing very strong up until the late evening hours last night -- difficult for the federal officials to get out. Difficult for the state officials to get out. But they hope to get out today and do what they can to try and get this state back in the right direction yet again.

Want to go south of our location here -- Sean Callebs standing by live now in Fort Pierce where I know that place was hammered over the weekend. Sean, good morning.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Bill. Behind me you can just see some of the damage here to the city had -- this is really been one of the centerpieces of the revitalization for Fort Pierce. There were 100 boats docked here at the time of the storm. There are more than 20 missing.

A lion's share of the remaining 80 simply devastated many beyond repair. Now Frances, of course, made her presence known here -- still raining and windy up throughout other parts of the state.

Before this hurricane leaves Florida, it will have touched almost every nook and cranny in the state.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CALLEBS (voice-over): It was supposed to have been even worse, but don't tell that to some residents of eastern Florida.

Fires in Tampa, homes destroyed all along the coast. By mid- afternoon, power out for a million and a half customers across the state and five counties reeling from what President Bush officially labeled major disaster areas.

In Vero Beach, some residents tried to return, despite warnings from state officials not to do so only to find streets flooded and homes destroyed. In Melbourne, mobile homes flattened, many left homeless, but no one seriously injured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were much more prepared this time because of Hurricane Charley. That made believers out of just about everybody, I think.

CALLEBS: In Fort Pierce, boats at this marina crushed. Local storefronts ruined and families still in hotels not yet able to go home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Surviving. Getting by. Waiting for the storm to go away.

CALLEBS: Police and firefighters were out in full force across the state, helping to keep the peace and force curfews and crack down on the few looters trying to take advantage of the disaster.

Not all areas were hit as hard. In West Palm Beach, despite 30 hours of continuous rain, no major injuries and relatively little serious damage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are very fortunate, and I hope the ones -- the people that live north of us are as fortunate as we. We have no structural damage -- we lost a few shingles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CALLEBS: Boy, the damage here at this marina simply devastating. It is going to be in the millions; it is going to take weeks or perhaps months to get this back to normal.

People in the southern part of the state, they say part of their relative good fortune -- good luck. The rest they credit to good planning and the fact that so many people, Bill, heeded the mandatory evacuations. Back to you.

HEMMER: Sean, thanks for that. Sean Callebs in Fort Pierce. Back here in Melbourne now. The city manager, Jack Schluckebier, is my guest now live here on the ocean, out near the barrier islands. Good morning to you.

We spoke on Friday before the storm came in and we all cleared out. How did your city fare over the weekend?

JACK SCHLUCKEBIER, MELBOURNE, FLA. CITY MANAGER: We did better than expected. The category intensity dropped to one or a level two. We've had some public facility damages in streets; power lines are down, 47 traffic signals down.

We haven't had as much devastation private -- on private property as they did on the west coast three weeks ago, but its still a dangerous situation in the streets and we encourage people to be cautious about travel and we actually aren't encouraging them to return until tomorrow or later because of that.

HEMMER: How would that help you if the people stay away?

SCHLUCKEBIER: The power companies, the phones, the utilities, the public safety -- they need space to do their job, and there is still a lot of damage throughout the area.

HEMMER: You know, Jack, people are essentially shut-ins here. You can go up and down every hotel throughout the Melbourne area and people are using flashlights to try to get by the time. They're playing cards.

When will they have power back?

SCHLUCKEBIER: I'd say in the next several days. I know Florida Power & Light is active on this. They have -- I know they're bringing in help from outside and they're doing the best they can. It's a difficult situation.

HEMMER: We have found out here, Jack, you're well familiar with the area -- there's a local myth that says no direct hit ever comes to Melbourne, Florida.

SCHLUCKEBIER: We're very lucky.

HEMMER: Is that myth gone now?

SCHLUCKEBIER: I think this was as close to a direct hit as you want to have. We're very lucky though that we didn't have devastation.

HEMMER: Thank you, Jack. Jack Schluckebier is the city manager in Melbourne. Good to see you. Thanks for being good to us, too, all right?

Want to get to Rob Marciano right now. Frances still out there -- tropical storm, that's the good news but again there's a possibility it may strengthen.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HEMMER: Back to Kelly in New York now -- Kelly.

WALLACE: Thanks; Bill, and we're getting back to politics. With just 57 days until the presidential election President Bush is enjoying a double-digit lead in the most recent polls.

According to "Newsweek," the president leads Senator Kerry 52 to 41 percent among registered voters with three percent supporting Ralph Nader.

The poll has a 4 percent margin of error. According to the most recent "TIME" magazine poll, among likely voters again President Bush has an 11 percentage-point lead over John Kerry with a 4 percent margin of error.

A note, though, about this poll -- it was conducted during the Republican Convention, before the president's acceptance speech, so it's hard to tell what effect if any that speech might have if those polls had seen it.

Big labor is standing tall behind Senator John Kerry. The AFL- CIO is spending millions to get out the vote and defeat President Bush. And joining us now on this Labor Day from Pittsburgh, Richard Trumka. He is secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO.

Mr. Trumka, thanks for joining us.

RICHARD TRUMKA, AFL-CIO SECRETARY-TREASURER: Kelly, good morning, and happy Labor Day.

WALLACE: Happy Labor Day to you. Well, in the last hour we interviewed Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. She talked about how the unemployment rate dropping in August to 5.4 percent. She says that is the lower than the average unemployment rate in the decade of the '70s, '80s and '90s.

She says it's a 12th straight month of job creation. Isn't this good news for the American worker?

TRUMKA: Well, first of all, it's not surprising that Secretary would say that. She's the same secretary who just this week said that sending our jobs overseas is actually creating jobs.

And as for the unemployment rate dropping, normally that is a good thing, but in this instance, it really isn't because the rate dropped not because we created enough jobs to make the drop, but because more people dropped out of the workforce.

If you use her logic, if everybody stopped looking for work, all fourteen million Americans that don't have work stopped looking for work then the unemployment rate would be zero.

You see, we have a president that's promised us six million jobs and he's one million in the hole which means he's seven million short of the jobs created.

Each month he's not creating enough jobs to take care of the population growth let alone take care of the people who have been unemployed, so on Labor Day 2004, America's workers make America work, but America isn't' working for them right now.

WALLACE: But just take a look, Mr. Trumka, at "Newsweek" magazine asked who do you trust more to handle the economy -- President Bush or Democratic Senator John Kerry -- 49 percent choosing President Bush, 43 percent over John Kerry. This has to be a problem for the candidate you are backing?

TRUMKA: Well, first of all, it's Labor Day and we have a couple of months to go before the election. There's only one poll that really counts, and that's Election Day. And the workers that I talk to know that George Bush hasn't been good in his policies hasn't been good for working Americans. They know that he hasn't created jobs; they know that he hasn't solved the health care crisis and they know that he hasn't solved their pension crisis. They know that he doesn't have anything to help them and come election day they're going to be out in record numbers voting for John Kerry because they know John Kerry has policies that will help them get back to work, help the country harness its runaway inflation costs of health care and actually get this country back on the right track.

WALLACE: Mr. Trumka, I know you're going to be campaigning for the Kerry-Edwards team in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Key battleground states. Are you disappointed or somewhat frustrated about the state of the Kerry campaign right now? Where the senator is in the polls in relation to President Bush?

TRUMKA: Absolutely not. The polls go up and down all the time. I'm really interested about John Kerry and we're excited about John Kerry, not because of a poll that says he's up or down but because for 20 years he's been a friend to working families. He stood beside us.

He's stood up to corporations, not rolled over to them. He's stood up for the environment; he's stood up for education; he's stood up for America. And so we're proud; we're excited by his candidacy and we know that come November 2nd he's going to be the next president of the United States and workers are going to have a friend in the White House.

WALLACE: Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO we thank you so much. Jobs, the economy, key issues -- we'll definitely be checking in with you in the weeks ahead.

TRUMKA: Thanks.

WALLACE: Thanks so much.

Still to come right here on AMERICAN MORNING, former President Clinton appears to be paying the price of some unhealthy habits in the past. So what can people expect if they find themselves in the same boat?

We are "Paging Dr. Gupta."

Plus, we're keeping an eye on Frances. Bill Hemmer is in Florida where folks are bracing for a second go around. That's all ahead right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: As you might imagine, we're "Paging Dr. Gupta" this morning about Bill Clinton's heart bypass surgery. Let's go back to Sanjay outside New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Sanjay, what's the latest from there?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are hearing that Dr. Craig Smith, he's the chairman of cardio-thoracic surgery here at this hospital, will be performing the operation.

We're also hearing from his office that the operation is going to be the traditional type of cardiac surgery -- that's the opening of the chest, stopping the heart, which is probably going on right now and performing the bypass surgery and then restarting the heart.

Obviously, it's been a busy weekend for the Clintons. They actually released a statement yesterday talking about this operation, talking about this weekend, talking about heart disease. Here's the statement:

"While bypass surgery certainly isn't something to look forward to, we are very lucky that the condition was detected in time to have this procedure before something more serious occurred. It is a reminder that while diet and exercise are important, nothing substitutes for regular checkups and talking to your doctor. This sure isn't how we planned to spend Labor Day Weekend 2004, but we're doing our best to enjoy it and hope that you and your family have a safe and happy weekend."

I'll tell you though the heart surgeons are the ones doing the labor right now as the heart surgery is undergoing right now.

A couple of things about this hospital. Some research from "U.S. News & World Report." Where does this hospital sort of stack up compared to other hospitals in the country? Take a look at this graphic.

You can see Cleveland Clinic is actually considered the best heart hospital in the country by "U.S. News & World Report." Columbia -- the New York Presbyterian, rather -- the hospital that's behind us -- a very good hospital at number seven -- in the top ten as well.

There was some concern as well, Kelly, about death rates. How critical is this procedure in terms of mortality? Well, this hospital, New York Presbyterian, has about a 3.93 percent mortality. I give you the exact numbers because they're important. That's compared to statewide which is about 2.18 percent.

Both numbers are pretty good, but this hospital as it turns out actually has one of the highest mortality rates in the state, Kelly.

WALLACE: Sanjay, and so many people are watching. This procedure in particular. How risky is it? The procedure that the former president is undergoing at this hour?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's become one of the most routine operations done by cardiac surgeons. Again, it's called CABG, which stands for coronary artery bypass grafting.

It's close to three to four hundred thousand of these performed every year so it's a fairly routine operation. Having said that, no heart surgery is ever simple or routine, for that matter.

They're going to have to stop his heart; they're going to have to restart his heart about in his case given that he's relatively young and he has not previous history of heart attack, diabetes or stroke odds are very much in his favor, 99 percent, probably that he's going to be just fine with this Kelly.

WALLACE: Sanjay, thanks for the update. We will of course be checking in with you in the next hours. Sanjay Gupta outside New York's Presbyterian Hospital.

Still to come right here on AMERICAN MORNING a special edition of the Toure experience. Today he tells us about a city where babies can fly, people read minds and music is king.

Confused? Well, you'll have to stay with us for answers right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: And Toure is here with a special Toure experience. We're talking about your new book; "Soul City," and I have an autographed copy right here.

TOURE, POP CULTURE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you do.

WALLACE: "Soul City," a novel by Toure. First, "Soul City" -- the title -- what's it about?

TOURE: Well, it's about life in a little town where not everybody has magic powers, but most of them do, so there are babies who can fly, and the town gossip queen has magic powers.

And all -- the whole political system is based around music, so there's the Jazz Party, the Soul Music Party, and the Hip-Hop Nation all competing to be the next mayor. And it's fun.

WALLACE: Fairy tale for adults?

TOURE: Yes, it's just meant to make you laugh and bring you into this world of magic realism and all. I mean, when you get into a magic realist story you just sort of have to suspend what you know as an adult and just sort of take it the way you do as a child.

WALLACE: You do deal with some important topics, though. You deal with Death; a character in this. But you deal with it, not surprisingly, in an unconventional way. How?

TOURE: Yes, Death is -- Death is not the heartless guy that Hollywood makes him out to be. He's a nice guy. He just does what he's told God and the Devil tell him go get him, go get her and he does. He's a soul courier. So -- but he's trying to change his image and he's trying to get a PR agent and that sort of thing, so...

WALLACE: Death's trying to get a PR agent?

TOURE: Yes, he wants to smooth things out, not be you know the way it's been the last few thousand years.

WALLACE: Have some better press.

TOURE: Yes.

WALLACE: We've got it. Well, you know many people saying great things about the book. Tom Wolfe saying you are the man with the moves. TOURE: Think he's very nice.

WALLACE: Very nice. But who influenced you or inspired you in terms of to write this book?

TOURE: Well I mean I grew up reading Toni Morrison and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and those sort of people give you the sense that you can do anything with your fiction, that you can have the characters take any direction and fly or whatever and just gives you so much freedom in your writing.

WALLACE: So you talk a little bit, though -- is the novel dead? Well, it lives again right here.

TOURE: Well, it does. I mean, people say that -- I mean, novel reading is not what it was 50 years ago when Ernest Hemingway was on the cover of "TIME" magazine but when you find that good book and you have that relation -- that book is kind of written for you; you can still have that love relationship and we have lots of great young novelists like John Fore (ph) and Colson Whitehead and Zadie Smith and Dave Eggers, who are writing great books that people are reading so the novel is not dead; there's a lot of great reading to be done and we're all just getting started.

WALLACE: Alive right now on sale in bookstores?

TOURE: Yes and at Amazon, thank you.

WALLACE: Amazon.com, "Soul City," a novel by Toure. Toure, very exciting. Thanks so much.

Now we go back more on a serious subject; Hurricane Frances -- Bill back in Melbourne, Florida -- hi Bill.

HEMMER: Yes, but not so serious just yet. I've got my copy of "Soul City" in fact, back in my office there from my good friend Toure.

Back here in Melbourne in a moment here if you live in Alabama, if you live in Georgia, look out, because Frances is headed your way without question this will be a rainmaker for those people and it will be very windy.

Not only today but also on Tuesday and maybe depending on the size of this storm even Wednesday of this week. Back in a moment live on the east coast of Florida after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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