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Ad Wars; Bush Service Record; Battleground Polls

Aired September 9, 2004 - 9:01   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: The president's military record back under the microscope. Is it a case of political payback?
First Charley, then Frances. Now, does Florida have an even bigger hurricane in its future? The Category 5 named Ivan is now moving through the Caribbean on a dangerous path.

And what's the hottest looking thing on four wheels? We'll check out the brand-spanking new cars of 2005 on this AMERICAN MORNING.

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

COLLINS: Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. Soledad is still off caring for her sweet little babies. But I'm back.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: She's got a crowded house, doesn't she?

COLLINS: She does have a crowded house, yes.

HEMMER: Welcome back to you.

COLLINS: Thanks.

HEMMER: Coming up this hour, here are some of the other stories we're watching today. A new polling showing a trend in favor of the White House in some of the nation's key swing states. How did the president get where he is today? Is it a real shift or just a blip on the way to November?

Jeff Greenfield stops by in a few moments. His thoughts on that coming up shortly.

COLLINS: Also, Secretary of State Colin Powell is preparing to address the crisis in Sudan when he goes before a Senate committee today. Big questions right now. Will he call it genocide, and what is the U.S. prepared to do about it? We'll get a report on that as well.

HEMMER: All right. Jack is out, right?


HEMMER: You think he's watching?

COLLINS: I kind of doubt it.

HEMMER: No chance.

We'll get to Toure again a bit later this hour.

Here's Daryn Kagan at the CNN Center.

Hey, Daryn. Good morning.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Bill, good morning.

We're going to begin here in the U.S., where tourists and mobile homes are being evacuated in the Florida Keys at this hour. Officials are giving the orders to move out as they keep a close eye on Hurricane Ivan.

This Category 5 storm is now taking aim on Jamaica. Current forecasts bring Ivan near the Keys as early as Monday.

More now on that British helicopter crash that we told you about in the last half-hour. The Czech Ministry of Defense says the chopper went down during military exercises in the central region of the country. Six British soldiers were killed in the incident. The cause of the crash is not yet known.

Officials in Indonesia this hour are condemning the deadly car bombing in Jakarta. Officials say that at least eight people were killed in the attack near the Australian embassy. Some 170 others are injured, including at least 20 people who are in critical condition. The attack comes a month before Australia votes in general elections.

Back here to the U.S., the Senate Armed Services Committee holds hearings this morning. They'll be reviewing the Defense Department's two latest reports on the abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Some retired military officials are calling for an independent investigation to get to the bottom of the scandal.

Heidi, we'll toss it back to you.

COLLINS: All right, Daryn. Very good. Thanks so much.

Last month, John Kerry accused Swift Boat Veterans for Truth of doing the dirty work for President Bush. Republicans now think a new outside group, Texans for Truth, is doing the dirty work for Kerry. Ed Henry is live in Des Moines, Iowa, now, with more on the latest round of ad wars.

That's just what it is, isn't it, Ed?


John Kerry has a town hall meeting today at the Iowa Methodist Medical Center. He's trying to focus on domestic issues, like health care, but the negative ads and nasty charges about Vietnam are heating up once again.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HENRY (voice-over): John Kerry has sunk in the polls amid Republican attacks over his service in Vietnam and subsequent protests against the war. But now Democrats are trying to turn the tables on President Bush, as news organizations and a new 527 group raise fresh questions about his service in the National Guard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard George Bush get up and say, "I served in the 187th Air National Guard in Montgomery, Alabama." Really? You know.

HENRY: And Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe said Tuesday, "George W. Bush's cover story on his National Guard service is rapidly unraveling." But Kerry himself dodged a question about the Guard matter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Kerry, can we ask you about President Bush's National Guard records today?


HENRY: While his allies sling mud, Kerry is trying to stay positive.

KERRY: We need leadership that wants this to be one America, red, white and blue, working for all Americans lifting this country up. And that's what I intend to see us do.

HENRY: Today, the Kerry campaign is unveiling two ads that will appear in Pennsylvania as the president tours the state. The ads steer clear of controversy and instead tout Kerry's domestic agenda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry, a real plan to strengthen Medicare and lower health care costs.

HENRY: Out on the stump, Kerry's keeping his broad sights focused on the president's policies.

KERRY: And while we're spending that $200 billion in Iraq -- that's to this date -- it will go on -- eight million Americans are looking for work here in America. Two million more -- two million more than when George W. Bush took office.


HENRY: Kerry aides say they have nothing to do with this new group, Texans for Truth. But Republicans point out that it is affiliated with various Kerry allies. And the Bush campaign and the White House say that the president served honorably in the Guard and his campaign is going to focus on the future, not the past -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Ed Henry, live from Des Moines this morning. Ed, thanks a lot.

The White House is saying this: all about timing and politics. Elaine Quijano is at the White House for the latest from there. Elaine, good morning to you.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Heidi.

The White House is continuing to defend the president's conduct during the Vietnam era, amid more questions about the president's service in the Texas Air National Guard. Now, new memos obtained late last night by CNN indicate that Mr. Bush's former commander felt pressure by higher-ups to give then Lieutenant Bush favorable evaluations.

In one memo, the commander also speculates that when Mr. Bush was trying to transfer to Alabama, he was "talking to someone upstairs." Now, in an interview with "60 Minutes," a Texas Democrat says he helped get Mr. Bush into the Guard in the 1970s in order to curry political favor.


BEN BARNES, FMR. TEXAS LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: I recommended a lot of people for the -- for the National Guard during the Vietnam era as speaker of the House and as lieutenant governor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you recommended George W. Bush?

BARNES: Yes, I did. I would describe it as preferential treatment. There were hundreds of names on the list of people wanting to get in the Air National Guard or the Army National Guard.


QUIJANO: Now, yesterday, the White House made available the White House communications director, Dan Bartlett, to talk about some of these accusations. Mr. Bartlett chalking them up to partisan attacks.


DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Their strategy is now that President Bush is ahead in the polls, and we're going to try to bring him down. So let's recycle old charges...


QUIJANO: Now, as for the memos, the White House insists that they do not prove anything. But officials here are very mindful with just some 54 days left until the election there could be more attacks on Mr. Bush's record of service in the Texas Air National Guard -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Elaine Quijano from the White House this morning. Elaine, thanks -- Bill.

HEMMER: More politics now, Heidi.

New polls from four battleground states seem to confirm recent trends in national polling. In Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania, President Bush leading John Kerry among likely voters. In Washington State, John Kerry is still ahead there.

Jeff Greenfield, our senior analyst, with us here now.

Good morning to you.


HEMMER: How did we get here, where it seems like the White House right now has an awful lot of momentum?

GREENFIELD: Yes. If we could just say a 48, 47 percent point lead is a tie, whoever is ahead -- the other two states are -- we just need to know that these numbers, what they mean and don't mean. But there's no question there's been a shift to the president.

I think you can define it this way: the White House knew, the Bush campaign knew all along that more voters wanted more change than continuity, which is not good for an incumbent president. Duh. So they spent a whole lot of time arguing, particularly at the convention, and with the considerable unintentional help with John Kerry, that change was too risky.

Whether it was the positive message of John McCain that President Bush knows how to fight terrorism and all other issues pale by comparison to the much rougher language of Dick Cheney and Senator Miller and Rudy Giuliani, said, look, you may want to change. You know, you may not like the president's policies on this, that, and the other thing, but in a terror-laden, dangerous world, this guy represents a risk. And they have succeeded enough to shift the needle more toward the president.

HEMMER: Do you think the Kerry campaign has been taken aback or taken off guard by the hits from the president, the hits from Vice President Dick Cheney, mentioning John Kerry and John Edwards by name? Which essentially puts them behind a day, or even two days, or possibly three days with their own message.

GREENFIELD: Well, if they were, then Democrats are going to be furious at the campaign, because this is what happens in modern politics. The idea that they were caught off guard by even the Swift Boat Veterans is odd, because if you run a campaign, you just look at everything in your past, in this day and age of smash-mouth politics, and say, where's the possible vulnerability?

But I really think, as much as anything else, you know, you can't control what the opposition does. But you certainly can say what your message is.

And there are a lot of Democrats early on who thought that the pitch of the convention, the whole Vietnam pageantry, elect this man because he was a Vietnam hero, missed an opportunity to say, I'm the candidate who can bring you the change you want in this particular area. You even have today, "The New York Times" editorial page, not exactly George W. Bush's best friend, kind of rapping Kerry's knuckles for not being clear on Iraq.

HEMMER: Don't have much time for this, but the calendar says 54 days until November 2.


HEMMER: You have a couple key debates out there. We know that. What else could change the landscape as you see it today?

GREENFIELD: Well, you know, if this National Guard story were to have traction -- and I'm a little skeptical -- if it changed the view of George Bush's admirer from steady guy, regular Joe, one of us, shares our values, to son of a rich and power guy who gamed the system, that could hurt. And then if John Kerry can figure out how to convince the public that "I'm going to bring you the change you still want and it is safe to go with me," that could change. But since I can't see the future, I can't tell you how this turns out.

HEMMER: Neither can I. That's why we'll wait for tomorrow. Thank you, Jeff -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Do the tens of thousands of deaths in Sudan's Darfur region add up to genocide? That's the question on the table at this hour as Secretary of State Colin Powell prepares to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Andrea Koppel is live at the State Department now with more.

Andrea, good morning.


Well, you may not be surprised to hear that the answer to that question is not one that is universally agreed to. The United Nations is on the fence. In July, the Congress said it was genocide. And when Secretary Powell testifies on Capitol Hill in about 30 minutes, his answer will be that it could be.


KOPPEL (voice-over): Based on more than 1,100 interviews of Sudanese refugees by State Department investigators, CNN has learned Secretary of State Powell will tell Congress that he believes a genocide may be taking place.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: What these interviews have revealed is that there's a consistent pattern to the attacks that have taken place and have continued, according to the African Union, as late as last week.

KOPPEL: The U.N. says it's a systematic pattern of atrocities resulting in the displacement of 1.2 million Sudanese villagers in Darfur, with 200,000 refugees now in neighboring Chad, and in the killing of an estimated 30,000 black Sudanese villagers believed to have been carried out by Arab militias known as Jonjui (ph), with support from the Sudanese government, charges denied by Khartoum.

BOUCHER: Government aircraft have been used to bomb villages, trucks with government soldiers, and then Jonjui (ph) militias on horseback or on camels arrive in the villages. The villages are surrounded.

KOPPEL: The State Department reports cites a repeated themes to these attacks which could indicate a genocide is under way. They include explicit targeting of black African ethnic groups, use of racial epithets during attacks, rape of women, and the fact that more than half of the refugees had at least one person in their family killed. Similar atrocities were also documented during a recent trip by Human Rights Watch to Sudan's western region of Darfur.

JEMERA RONE, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: This is the kind of testimony we get from a lot of people about how the government takes people out and shoots them in the back. These people had bullet holes -- clearly bullet holes in the back, one in the temple.


KOPPEL: The U.S. Congress is already calling what's going on in Sudan a genocide. But the State Department says that it would still need to be able to prove intent in order to classify it as a genocide. Intent, that is, that the Sudanese government is ordering and orchestrating these killings -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Probably going to be pretty tough to do. All right. Andrea Koppel, thanks so much for that.

HEMMER: Heidi, watching the storm again. Mandatory evacuations under way this hour in the Florida Keys in the rare event -- make that in the event that Ivan, now a rare Category 5 hurricane, moves that way.

Ivan already devastating the Caribbean island of Grenada. At least 12 deaths reported there. That number could go higher, too, as they survey the damage.

The island's main prison was destroyed. All prisoners on the loose there in Grenada. And Ivan is still out there, and a big storm, too.

Back to Chad on this. Good morning.


And, in fact, since it has hit Grenada, it's actually strengthened now to 160 miles per hour. Those are the sustained winds. Gusts are even higher.

Gusts are almost 200 miles per hour. Look at the size.

Here is the Dominican Republic, and this is Venezuela. It is filling up the entire Caribbean Sea. The Caribbean ocean here completely full of the storm. Here you go. Hurricane Ivan, the latest numbers, 14.2, 70.7. A Category 5. Winds at 160.

Still, later on, Category 5. As it hits Jamaica, Category 4, with winds gusting almost 180 miles per hour. And then it goes through Cuba, not that far from Havana.

And the current forecast from the National Hurricane Center is -- these are their numbers -- right through the Florida Keys and then on up into southeastern Florida. And then obviously it dies as it hits land, Bill. But, wow, that would be really an ugly scenario.

There is a possibility that it moves to the right. There is also another possibility that it moves to the left, AKA, maybe like in Charley. But we'll have to keep watching it. That is still four days out.

Back to you.

HEMMER: All right. Chad, thanks for that. Close eye on that.


Still to come this morning, why did the Kobe Bryant criminal case come to such a sudden end? The timing surprised some experts. Unfortunately, for prosecutors it apparently surprised them, too.

HEMMER: Also ahead, a lot of Americans focusing on losing weight to get healthy. But are they missing the boat on that issue? Sanjay's back in a moment on that.

COLLINS: And does Al Gore still hold a grudge from 2000? His daughter's new book might answer that. We'll talk with Kristin Gore ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: She is the daughter of a former senator and a two-term vice president. Now Kristin Gore is writing about the family business. But Al and Tipper need not worry. The politics here, all fiction -- or so we're told.

"Sammy's Hill" is Kristin Gore's first novel, a Capitol-based comedy. And Kristin is my guest now in the studio here in New York.

Good morning. Nice to see you.


HEMMER: We're going to give you plenty of plugs for your book...

GORE: Thanks.

HEMMER: ... but I'm kind of curious about a few other things now.

GORE: All right.

HEMMER: Being the daughter of a politico in D.C.

GORE: Sure.

HEMMER: Fifty-four days left before this election.

GORE: Yes.

HEMMER: What's the -- what's the Kerry family feeling? What's the Bush family feeling right now?

GORE: Well, I definitely can't speak for them, so, you know, I don't know. It's a completely different set of circumstances.

Having been through a race and getting into crunch time, you know, it's a very intense time right now. And it's just kind of a non-stop whirlwind. And everything comes in new every day. And you just sort of try to stick to the cause you're fighting for.

HEMMER: Is it fun, or is it stomach-churning?

GORE: Both. Yes and yes, you know? I mean, I think that it's really energizing in a lot of ways, and it's great to kind of get to connect with people out in the country and hear what they're worried about, and try to work for what they want to see happen. It's also emotional and exhausting. And, you know, it's certainly a rollercoaster ride.

HEMMER: And nonstop, too.

GORE: Nonstop.

HEMMER: You pay attention to newspapers and TV. Do you think politics today are nastier than they have been in the past?

GORE: I have seen a lot of nastiness. So, you know, it's -- it's a little familiar, some of the stuff that's going on.

HEMMER: Does that emanate from the media or does that come from the campaigns themselves, or both?

GORE: You know, it's hard. I think it's both.

I wish -- it would be great if everyone decided to stop. But I don't know exactly where the source is. So...

HEMMER: She's dreaming.

GORE: Yes, I know. I guess that's -- I'll go into my fictional world.

HEMMER: Do you think the media is fair today to the candidates and the issues?

GORE: I think they try to be fair. You know, I have -- one of my characters is a journalist in the book, and, you know, I think that everyone's just trying to do their job. I think people have agendas, but they're also just trying to sort of break the truths of the world ideally. My character is certainly an idealist, so maybe that's naive, but I try to think the best.

HEMMER: You've got a great sense of humor.

GORE: Thanks.

HEMMER: I was watching you last night with Anderson, and you said because you were on the inside, you find it all funny.

GORE: Yes.

HEMMER: What do you find funny that we don't see?

GORE: Well, you know, there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes that no one -- no one really knows is happening, and lots of antics. And then also, I think just having a sense of humor about whatever goes on makes it all more palatable.


GORE: Yes.

HEMMER: Fifty-four days.

GORE: Yes.

HEMMER: "Sammy's Hill," what's it about?

GORE: It's about a young woman who comes to D.C. from Ohio. She works for her home state senator, and she's sort of figuring out her own life in the same process. And so she's a little bit neurotic. She has some things to work out on her own, and kind of carve out a professional and personal life in D.C.

HEMMER: So how much of the plot did you carve out based on your own life?

GORE: It's all fiction.

HEMMER: Yes? You sure?

GORE: It's all fiction. Yes, I'm sure. You know, I've written comedy five years for TV, so I make stuff up for a living. It's fun.

HEMMER: Well, good luck to you. It's your first novel.

GORE: Yes.

HEMMER: You're already writing a screenplay for a movie in Hollywood.

GORE: Yes, I am.

HEMMER: You're like Midas, aren't you?

GORE: I hope. Well, thanks.

HEMMER: Give me some of that.

GORE: Thanks very much.

HEMMER: Kristin Gore, good luck to you, OK?

GORE: Thanks.

HEMMER: The novel is called "Sammy's Hill."

GORE: Yes.

HEMMER: Good luck.

GORE: Thank you very much.

HEMMER: Heidi.

COLLINS: Still to come this morning, from the runway to your closet, we'll let you decide with an inside look at fashion week.

Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.


COLLINS: We're going to check in with Toure now and "The Question of the Day."


As criticism of John Kerry's military records winds down, questions are resurfacing about the president's service, or lack thereof. "60 Minutes" reported that the president left his National Guard duty early to work on a political campaign. But is it all much ado about nothing?

It seems wrong for any leader who has never seen combat to send someone's child to war, but many argue it's unnecessary to have had bullets flying by to you be an effective commander in chief. Our question, in a post-9/11 world, how important is a candidate's military service in leading the country?

Some answers. From Robert, "It is not important that the president has previous military service experience. However, if one serves, it's important how well they served."

Carol says, "It doesn't matter at all. What matters is the character of a man who refused to serve and is now attacking one who did with honors."

And R.K. says -- he's almost anonymous, R.K., there. "I feel much better selecting someone with four years of experience as a commander in chief than somebody who spent four months running around in a boat shooting people."

I think that undermines Kerry's experience, but OK.

HEMMER: Two hours ago, I asked you a question: do you think the election is decided on a war 35 years ago? How much does the voting public care about Kerry's service and Bush's service, or how much is this a referendum of what's happening today?

TOURE: Right. It's much more obviously a referendum on Iraq. But certainly, the Vietnam generation is seeing, what you did back then is going to matter for your entire life. Clinton saw that. Kerry sees that. Bush is seeing that.

HEMMER: Very true.

COLLINS: I think people are sick of it.

HEMMER: Really?

COLLINS: Yes, I do. But that's just me. And no one really cares what I think anyway.

TOURE: I care.


HEMMER: We'll talk off the show.


HEMMER: Thanks, Toure.

In a moment here, why were prosecutors among the last to know the Kobe Bryant criminal case was being dropped? We'll take a look at that.

And there's another monster of a storm out there, Ivan. Where's that headed? Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



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