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Frances Pummels Florida; President Bill Clinton Prepares For Heart Surgery

Aired September 6, 2004 - 07:00   ET


Frances crawling across Florida yet again today pummeling the state with wind and rain. This morning trying to assess the damage.

And that storm still far from over, Frances heading for the Panhandle perhaps gaining strength yet again today.

And shakeup in the Kerry campaign in politics, the Democrat bringing in some familiar faces to help steady his campaign.

And the time is here, former president, Bill Clinton, scheduled to have heart bypass surgery on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: This is AMERICAN MORNING. Here's Bill Hemmer.

HEMMER: And good morning. We are once again live in Melbourne, Florida, the sun about to break for the day here on Labor Day. And good morning. I'm Bill Hemmer. Our coverage continues here from Florida.

If you were with us throughout the weekend, boy, you know that Frances was a huge storm and a slow storm. And even today, that storm still threatens the Florida Panhandle. Tropical storm strength at this point, but we are told it has a chance of strengthening yet again, maybe to category one, if that's the case, winds, yet again up and around 74, 75 miles per hour.

Today, up and down the east coast of Florida, though, there are still millions of people now day three without power and electricity. They have weathered this storm throughout the weekend so bravely. But yet again today there will be countless challenges for Floridians here in the southeastern part of the U.S.

I'll be here throughout the morning assessing the damage talking with officials up and down the state, trying to figure out also what Frances is going to do next. She has been one heck of a storm and a headache for folks here in Florida.

Also, Kelly Wallace back with us again today in New York City. Kelly, good morning to you on this Labor Day.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you, Bill, and great job all weekend long.

Another busy news morning here on AMERICAN MORNING. Here in New York, we are following the heart surgery for President Clinton this morning. Also with the conventions over and Labor Day upon us, the presidential campaigning is about to go into overdrive.

And the polls are showing a shift in favor of President Bush. Bill Schneider will be here in a few minutes talking about where the president has the advantage and how these polls could change again.

Jack has the day off. But AMERICAN MORNING regular Toure will be with us this morning.

For now though, let's go to Betty Nguyen at the CNN Center in Atlanta for more on the other stories making news this hour.

Good morning, Betty.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Kelly.

Topping our news, near Fallujah, as many as eight Americans were reportedly killed or wounded just hours ago in a car bombing there. That's according to Reuters News Agency.

Meanwhile, Iraqi officials are expected to announce whether a man captured over the weekend is Saddam Hussein's right hand man, Izzat Ibrahim Al-Douri. An official said a blood test was being conducted to determine the man's identity.

Now Iraq's defense minister denies the report of Al-Douri's capture, calling it baseless.

Also, a man in Russian custody is denying claims he took part in the killing of hundreds at a school near the Chechen border. More burials are under way this minute as Russians observe a national day of mourning for the 340 victims.

President Vladimir Putin faces strong criticism for his handling of the siege. In the next half hour, we'll look at whether the criticism is deserved with Stephen Blank (ph) of the U.S. Army War College.

A wildfire in Sonoma County, California, is still burning this morning. More than 1,000 firefighters are trying to contain the flames, which have consumed more than 10,000 acres and forced residents to evacuate. About 125 homes are threatened. Firefighters don't expect to have the fire fully contained until Wednesday morning.

And as mentioned, former president, Bill Clinton's, heart bypass is set to begin shortly. Sources say medical personnel are waiting for a blood-thinning medicine to make its way through Clinton's system before starting the procedure.

If five minutes, Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be live at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital with the latest on Clinton's condition.

Back to you now, in New York.

HEMMER: All right, Betty. I'll take it from here down in Melbourne, Florida. We want to begin coverage yet again with where Frances is going and where she's been.

Tom Foreman is live in Carrabelle, Florida. That's southwest of Tallahassee, right along the Panhandle. They're getting a bit of rain already there. To Tom in a moment.

Also, Sean Callebs reporting in Ft. Pierce, Florida, which is south of our position here, about 90 miles down the coast, hard hit over the weekend, too, by Frances.

Let's begin with Tom Foreman. Tom, good morning. How are conditions?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill. And we're just beginning to feel this storm coming in here. This is the new prime target for this storm, right where I'm standing right now.

People are watching very closely. We were hit by a feeder band of this storm last night and that alone took down trees, knocked out power to some people and it has people very worried.

What they're watching are two primary things. One is the water. Water out in this area where I'm standing now, this has been moving steadily out as the storm has moved in.

There's been so much wind from the north, it has pushed the low tide here to extremely low levels. People were complaining yesterday the crab traps they had put out were left high and dry because so much water had rushed out. They know that water has to come back.

It's going to come back in the form of rain. It's going to come back in the form of tide. And in the 1980s, they had enough storm here, that where I'm standing right now was substantially underwater. So people are watching that.

The other thing they're watching is all of the people who are coming this way. I can tell you, for the past few days, there's been a steady flow of people coming all out of the north end of Florida, through this area. We met a couple yesterday that had been on the run from this storm from the beginning going just a little bit at a time, trying to get away from it.

And so, the fact is, people here are ready; they're watching this storm very closely and hoping that it's not as tough here as it was down there -- Bill?

All right. Thanks, Tom, for that.

Sean Callebs in Fort Pierce, now. Sean, good morning there.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Bill. Florida, Fort Pierce bills itself as the "Sunrise City." You can see behind me the sun trying to peek up through the somewhat heavy clouds this morning. And residents aren't going to like what they find in the first, full day to begin assessing the damage.

Down in this area here, at the city marina, you can see just the wealth of damage and destruction. There are more than 80 yachts, sailboats other pleasure craft simply decimated by the punishing winds and the surf action from all of the wind and rain from Hurricane Frances.

There are at least a dozen sailboats simply missing. They are presumed to have been destroyed, battered now, floating, the remains floating not terribly far from this area.

We know there are a lot of police out at this hour, too. This area, like so many along the coast, under a curfew, a dusk until dawn curfew; so people will be getting out in the immediate future to begin looking at damage. It is going to be extensive.

All the way down on our drive through here today, we saw service stations that were just almost flattened. A number of downed trees. And we have to talk about power outages, even though the state has been pretty efficient about returning power to so many areas, still close to a million customers without electricity.

Here in St. Lucie County, virtually all customers still without power, some 86,000 homes without power. Once again, people should be coming out, begin assessing the damage somewhat shortly, Bill. And we'll continue to bring you the story throughout the day.

Back to you, Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Sean. Wow, that videotape there is just awesome when you look at it and measure the damage. Chad Myers has been with me throughout the weekend here. Good morning to you.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Bill. I brought this with you. I brought you a paperweight just in case you need that for later on. About 500 of these falling off the hotel here right above us.

Obviously, nobody down below because this place was evacuated. But I'll tell you what, it was an ugly night. It was ugly and for a lot of folks. We got the least damage of anything I've seen so far. You get 50 miles south of here, it starts going downhill rather quickly.

Here is what now we have for you, the satellite picture, and there's another storm on the horizon. It is Hurricane Ivan. It is now a category four. It's still way out there, still five days away, even from the Bahamas. But the official forecast track does take that into the Bahamas.

There you see, up in Florida, how really, how really destroyed Frances is right now. There's just nothing left of it, although as it gets into the ocean, it could regenerate.

Radar picture does have the storm rotating around. Can't really find an eye with it right now because there's enough scattering of the storm system here as it came over Florida that it just could not hold itself together. Right now, winds are 65 miles per hour. The warnings, though, still posted for the east coast and still now the west coast of Florida. We still have warnings all the way up from Cocoa Beach right on back on northward up to about -- well it looks like Wilmington there -- with tropical storm force wins.

And Bill, we were going to have tropical storm force winds here this morning when we showed up. So, still all the way down here into parts of Florida.

Here is the TrueView wind field for that storm, Frances, as it moves back on land, it is on water right now. That is always a problem. When you get a storm on water, it wants to get stronger. And that's what's going to happen.

Those yellow winds, hurricane force winds across parts of Southern Georgia, parts of the Florida Panhandle and possibly even Alabama.

HEMMER: Great work over the weekend, by the way.

MYERS: Thank you.

HEMMER: You did wonderful work keeping viewers informed. Thank you, Chad, talk to you later this hour.

Kathy Scott's on the telephone right now. She's with Florida Power and Light. And we were listening to Sean Calleb's report earlier.

Kathy, at this point, how many people without power and electricity for your company?

KATHY SCOTT, SPOKESWOMAN, FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT: Bill, after three days of pounding by Hurricane Frances, today is going to be our first day out of the storm and hopefully, you know, we're going to be able to start really assessing and restoring today.

But we have had 2.7 million people affected by the storm in our service territory alone in Florida. And we have already restored service to one million of those people.

But the bad news is, we still have approximately 1.7 million customers who need their service restored. So we've got our work cut out for us.

HEMMER: There are stiff winds yet again today. It's my understanding that some of those buckets can't get up and repair lines if they're in excess of 35 miles an hour.

Is that going to be an issue today, Kathy?

SCOTT: We are seeing the winds subside at least in the southern part of Florida, so we believe that we'll probably be able to safely get our workers out and restoring power there. But there are still some areas, as you mention, where we've got high winds; and we don't want to put our crews in harm's way. So, that will be a factor.

That, along with a lot of debris and damage, which makes it hard for our trucks to get into places and presents a lot of work for our tree crews to clear the lines in order to begin to restore power.

HEMMER: You know, Kathy, best-case scenario right now, when is the power back?

SCOTT: There's no way to make an estimate of that just yet. I mean, we've first got to go out there and do some aerials to see what kind of damage we have and do some ground patrols as well.

I think the good news right now is that is that we've got a contingent of about 6,000 additional utility workers. That's in addition to the about 6,000 people that Florida Power and Light is putting against the restoration effort.

And they are coming into the state today. This is the first day it's been clear enough for them to do that moving in to staging areas. And as we do the assessment, they'll be getting ready.

And so, we'll be hitting the ground running, hopefully, today and tomorrow.

HEMMER: Good luck to you. Kathy Scott, Florida Power and Light.

So many Floridians suffering not only the after effects of Charley but also now with Frances, and really some of these people were in the dark since Friday evening here, in Florida.

Much more in a moment.

We'll talk with the mayor in Tallahassee about how they're getting ready. Also, the FEMA director, Michael Brown is my guest, in a few moments, too; 4,500 strong, his force here in Florida, here to help out starting today.

Back in a moment, live in Melbourne. To New York now, more news with Kelly Wallace there -- Kelly.

WALLACE: Thanks, Bill. As we've been reporting throughout the morning, former president, Bill Clinton, is scheduled to undergo heart bypass surgery at this hour. He's been hospitalized in New York since Friday.

Doctor Sanjay Gupta is at New York Presbyterian Hospital to tell us more.

Good morning, Sanjay. Question for you, is there anything that could delay or put off this procedure scheduled to begin this morning?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, as a surgeon we always say that until a patient's in the operating room, we're not going to be sure the patient's actually going to get surgery.

There were some blood tests we were talking about last night to make sure that his blood wasn't still too thin.

Listen, it's been a whirlwind couple of days. The president's family are up on the ninth floor of the hospital behind me, New York Presbyterian. It has been a busy few days. But as we know, Kelly, the process of heart disease starts much earlier.


GUPTA (voice-over): Get bypass surgery each year, also called CABG, or coronary artery bypass grafting, the symptoms really seem to come out of nowhere.

Even Bill Clinton, who exercised, starting eating a healthier diet, took statin medications and got presidential-level medical care for eight years can fall prey to relentless atheroschlerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just had a feeling a couple of days ago. I had to have it checked when I finally got some tightness in my chest and I hadn't done any exercising. It's the first time it ever happened to me.

And we did the angiogram and found out I had blockage that was too significant to open and put a stint in.

GUPTA: When President Clinton left office, he had an elevated cholesterol at 233. The upper edge of normal is 200. Most doctors recommend even lower.

His so-called bad cholesterol, or LDL was 177. It had jumped 40 points in his last year of presidency alone. Normal is less than 130.

Now he has to have the operation which typically involves opening the chest, stopping his heart from beating, taking healthy blood vessels from the chest wall itself as well as leg vein, and stitching these new blood vessels into bypass the diseased ones and then restarting his heart.

He might also have something known keyhole surgery, which involves putting small endoscopes in the heart and doing the same operation while the heart is still beating.

DR. HARVEY HECHT, BETH ISRAEL MEDICAL CENTER: This is still an ongoing debate. The off pump procedures have a lower frequency of some of the other complications of bypass surgery such as the mental problems, the depression.

GUPTA: Either way, the odds are in his favor with less than a few percent complication rate. But he will need several weeks of rehabilitation for his body and his mind.


GUPTA: And those are the two sorts of operations there, Kelly.

One thing I should point out as well, this keyhole operation, which is performed on a beating heart, sometimes the operation could actually start that way and then could be converted over to the traditional surgery if it appears that they can't see as well or get the visualization that they would like. Either way, again, the odds in his favor, Kelly.

WALLACE: Sanjay, much has been made about how President Clinton lost a lot weight on the South Beach diet. Is there any way this diet could have contributed to this condition?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's interesting, a couple of things about that. First of all, as we've been talking about, heart disease is a many, many year process. So, a diet more recently probably did not contribute to his most current state.

There are some distinctions to draw between South Beach and Atkins diet. I think that's worth pointing out. Both diets are virtually identical in the first couple of weeks, but the South Beach diet really focuses on the good sort of fats, olive oil, fats like that whereas the Atkins diet may focus a little bit more on some of the fattier foods.

Answer, short answer, probably not -- Kelly.

WALLACE: OK, Sanjay, thanks so much. We'll be checking with you throughout the morning. Sanjay Gupta outside New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Still to come here on AMERICAN MORNING, terrorism in Russia, three devastating attacks in just the past couple of weeks and it could get worse. Who is to blame, and why do some say Russia is so poorly prepared? We'll talk to an expert.

Also ahead, does one of the candidates really have the White House locked up? Bill Schneider joins us with a look at the latest numbers.

And Frances isn't done with Florida yet. We'll go back to Bill to find out who's in the crosshairs.

Stay with us.


WALLACE: Believe it or not, the presidential election is now just 57 days away. And with the clock ticking, both candidates are spending their time in the all-important battleground states.

Today Democratic hopeful, John Kerry, will be in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio; his running mate, John Edwards, in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.

President Bush also hitting the Midwest with stops in Missouri today. Vice President Dick Cheney may run into Senator Edwards in St. Paul, Minnesota before heading to Iowa.

Well President Bush may have an extra bounce in his campaign step after new polls show him with a double digit lead over Senator John Kerry. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider joins us from Washington with the story behind the numbers.

Bill, thanks for joining us this morning.


Well, a couple polls that came out, much of the interviewing done during the convention, but let's take a look because they show exactly the same result.

First of all, "Newsweek" did a poll in which they interviewed people on September 2nd, the last day of the convention and the day after, which shows an 11-point lead for President Bush: 52 to 41 with 3 percent for Ralph Nader among registered voters.

Now the "Time" magazine poll also was done. This was done during the convention, exactly, but exactly the same numbers, 11-point lead for Bush, 52 to 41, 3 percent for Nader.

That shows a pickup for President Bush above 50 percent, which is where he needs to be because in the end, the election is a referendum on the incumbent president, and he's got to be above 50 percent for him to feel -- to breathe easy about his re-election prospects.

WALLACE: Bill, but is this a true post-convention bounce?

SCHNEIDER: No. No, no, no. These are provisional bounce polls because, as I told you, because of the production requirements of "Time" and "Newsweek," the interviewing had to be done, at least in part, during the convention.

If you want to measure a real convention bounce, you have to wait until the convention is over and people have heard the president speak. We're interviewing people over the weekend, including today when they get home from Labor Day holiday. And we'll have some real bounce results for you tomorrow.

These polls simply suggest that the convention was good news for President Bush. We'll see if it holds up.

WALLACE: Let's take a look at another number coming from the "Newsweek" poll. As for the president's favorability rating, "Newsweek" saying 55 percent, giving him a favorable rating, 40 percent unfavorable. That is the highest favorable rating for President Bush all year.

How significant is this for the president, how damaging for Democratic senator, John Kerry?

SCHNEIDER: It is significant because Americans find President Bush likable. When he got up and spoke at the convention, a lot of Americans looked at him and said, how can there be all these Bush haters out there who despise this man, although you could see them in the streets of New York? He's a very likable fellow.

It's exactly the same thing that once happened to President Clinton when he was president. There were legions of Clinton haters all over the country. But when Clinton got up to speak, just like President Bush, he was a very likable person. And in the end, it deflected all that hatred and criticism.

WALLACE: Bill, as you know, Democrats downplaying these numbers. But a couple of interesting things we learn, our reports are former president, Bill Clinton, on the phone with John Kerry for 90 minutes from his hospital room.

We also know two prominent Democrats joining the Kerry campaign. What does this say to you?

SCHNEIDER: Well Clinton may be the one in the hospital, but Kerry's campaign needs a rescue operation. It suggests that it's in some difficulty. That he's having trouble finding his message. And I can tell you for free what it has to be.

It has to be domestic issues: the economy, health care. That's the only issue on which Kerry's going to run. He's got to -- win rather. He's got to refocus his campaign.

He's not going to win on the Vietnam War, which is -- which was the focus of the Democratic convention. He's not going to win on national security. And he's certainly not going to win if the election is a referendum on Kerry's records. It's got to be recast as a referendum on Bush's record and on the economy.

Clinton and his advisers know how to do it.

WALLACE: Bill, watching the numbers and the reports. Bill Schneider, senior political analyst joining us Washington, thanks so much for being here today.

Now still more on Hurricane Frances. For that we go to Bill Hemmer in Melbourne, Florida.

Hi, Bill.

HEMMER: Hey, Kelly, thanks again.

There is a report this morning in the "New York Times" that says between these two storms, Charley and now Frances, the state of Florida could suffer $40 billion in damage.

We'll talk with the head of FEMA in a moment. Michael Brown is our guest, today. He's heading out into the state trying to assess damage here.

Meanwhile, back in Fort Pierce, Florida, south of our location here, about an hour and a half down the coast, there is significant damage to talk about.

A number of boats and yachts absolutely destroyed after Frances came through, the mayor of Tallahassee also my guest, in a moment.

Back here live in Melbourne after this.


WALLACE: Jack rates, we obviously do not; so Jack gets Labor Day off. But I have the pleasure of saying Toure is here with the "Question of the Day."

TOURE: Hi, Kelly.

WALLACE: Great to see you.

TOURE: How are you?

WALLACE: I'm great.

TOURE: Good. It's dark outside. We're up too early.

WALLACE: No one's out on street, either.

TOURE: I know, we shouldn't be working on Labor Day.

WALLACE: They're watching AMERICAN MORNING at home.

TOURE: I hope so.

So, let's talk about Kobe. His -- Kobe Bryant's criminal quagmire ended abruptly last week when his accuser dropped her charges against him. A civil settlement hasn't been announced yet, but legal experts say she probably already knows how much she'll get.

Now, Kobe begins the work of putting his very public life back together without the benefit of faced down the ugly accusations. Guilty or innocent, his image has clearly taken a hit.

Once he had the top-selling jersey in the league, and his commercials from McDonald's and Sprite were everywhere; now his jersey is number seven in sales, and his endorsers have run scared.

But despite lingering doubts about what really happened in that Colorado hotel room, you just know that some companies will try using him as a pitch man again.

So, can he return to being an endorsement king? Has his image changed forever, or will America's short memory be his saving grace? Does it depend on how well he plays on the court or what companies choose to get behind him?

Sure he wasn't convicted, but do you feel comfortable with your kids buying french fries from an admitted adulterer?

Our question is, what will be Kobe Bryant's future as a product endorser?

E-mail us now at

WALLACE: That's a provocative question for a Labor Day morning.

TOURE: Did you see Dave Chappelle's special, this week? I'm sure you were watching.

WALLACE: I didn't see it.

TOURE: He talked about how Kobe last year was playing so hard that it was like he was trying to win the case on the court. It was very funny.

WALLACE: Very funny.

What about the court of public opinion, though? I mean, what's the sense of how people feel about whether Kobe should be out there endorsing products?

TOURE: You know, you saw even during the trial or even the prelim to the trial that people were loving him. And you see little kids wearing his jerseys and all, so I don't know. I think some people, teenage boys, people who believed in his innocence are ready to see him again.

WALLACE: All right, Toure. We'll see what the e-mails say. And you'll be back later.

And now, we're going back to Bill Hemmer. Bill, we miss you here, but you're working very hard in Melbourne, Florida.

HEMMER: Just about another day here. But nothing what these folks are putting up with, Kelly. I mean really, a yard has to go out to them, and so many millions today, too still dealing with the after effect of this hurricane.

I'll talk to Michael Brown, the head of FEMA, in a moment here. He's live in Florida.

Back here in a moment, in Melbourne, after this.



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