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Strategies for the Presidential Campaigns; Latest Developments on the Expected Eruption of Mount St. Helens

Aired October 4, 2004 - 08:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Less than one month before the election and John Kerry suddenly even with the president. This morning, the campaigns square off on how the race has changed.
Baghdad a cauldron of violence again. Two more car bombs ripped through the streets.

Mount St. Helens draws the highest possibility warning from scientists and it draws a unique following of lava lovers.

And the actress who sent chills in one of the most famous movie scenes ever. Janet Leigh has died.

All ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

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

COLLINS: Good Monday morning, everybody.

I'm Heidi Collins in for Soledad.

Some of the stories that we are following this morning, are criminals who should be doing time behind bars getting off easy? We're focusing on that question all week long, looking at some of the unusual alternative punishments that sometimes get handed out. Today, we're going to speak with a judge who offers deadbeat dads a surgical alternative to jail time.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Also this hour, a look at how something as common as smoke detectors are now at the bottom of a high profile terrorism investigation. We'll talk about that in a moment.

Also, Jack is out, and the only person who can fill that void is with us today.

Andy Borowitz back with The Question of the Day in a moment here.

COLLINS: We'll talk with him in just a minute.

But for now, we are going to check on the stories now in the news with Daryn Kagan once again at the CNN Center -- Daryn, good morning, in Iraq today.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Heidi, good morning to you. Another attack against Iraqi security forces just hours ago. An Iraqi police chief was gunned down in the city of Ba'qubah. Meanwhile, a pair of car explosions ripped through Baghdad. At least 16 people were killed. Nearly 80 others were wounded. Video from one of the sites that you're looking at here shows a white SUV in flames and heavy damage to a number of surrounding vehicles.

Here in the U.S., the star of the 1960 thriller "Psycho" has died. Janet Leigh earned an Academy Award nomination for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's thriller. Leigh had been suffering from inflamed blood vessels for months. A spokesman for Leigh's daughter, actress Jamie Lee Curtis, said funeral arrangements are not set. Leigh was 77 years old.

John Lennon fans have not forgotten his death or his killer. Mark David Chapman is up for parole this week. Chapman is serving 20 years to life for shooting the Beatles member back in 1980. Fans of the singer have threatened to take revenge if Chapman is released from prison. Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, has written a letter asking that Chapman's parole be denied.

It came down to the final day of the season, but baseball play- off are set. With a win over Colorado yesterday, the Houston Astros secured the National League's wild card. Houston plays Atlanta on Wednesday. The Dodgers will visit the Cardinals tomorrow. That's the National League side. For you American League fans, the action begins tomorrow, the Red Sox playing Anaheim. The Twins will visit Yankee Stadium.

Bill, how about those Houston Astros? Back in mid-August they had the season's worst record, turned it around, came charging back to win nine of the last 10 games.

HEMMER: It's a good team.

KAGAN: It's a good team.

HEMMER: Really. And it's going to be a great series, too, with the Braves, by the way.

KAGAN: Yes, go Braves.

Come on, we're in Atlanta. They're our coworkers. We're owned by the same company.

HEMMER: Not a problem. Not a -- is that still the case?

KAGAN: That is still the case. We kept the Braves.

HEMMER: Check the books.


HEMMER: Daryn, thank you for that.

The presidential horse race once again neck and neck. According to a new poll by the folks at Gallup/CNN/"USA Today," President Bush and Senator Kerry dead even among likely voters, each with 49 percent. The president, then, with a slight edge, a two-point edge, 49 to 47, among registered voters.

Let's continue the debate this morning.

Joe Lockhart, senior advisor to the Kerry campaign, back with us.

And Joe, good morning to you.


HEMMER: Also, Ken Mehlman, Bush campaign manager, is here, as well.

And Ken, good morning.

I want to start with you.



HEMMER: You know the numbers now. That lead has been lost. What do you make of that from this weekend?

MEHLMAN: Well, I make that we're going to have a close election, something that we predicted when we were way up. It's something that we predicted when we were down over the summer. And we expect a close election. That's always been our plan and we've put together a winning strategy for such a close election.

HEMMER: But Ken, there was a double digit lead before this debate last Thursday night.

MEHLMAN: Well, some polls said there was a double digit lead, other polls said there was a smaller lead. We always expected it to be a close election and that's what we're prepared for. I think the bottom line is the American people are looking at both candidates and they're going to make a decision about who can keep our country safe and who has the plans to make sure that we keep prosperity and increased prosperity in this country.

I don't think the American people want the global test before America defends itself, which is what Senator Kerry proposed in the debate last Thursday. I don't think they want to let foreign leaders rather than the American commander-in-chief decide who should defend America. And I don't think they want higher taxes, more lawsuits and more red tape, and that's also the Kerry-Edwards plan.

HEMMER: All right, Ken...

MEHLMAN: So, this is going to be a big, clear debate.

HEMMER: I'm going to go to Joe on this. And Ken, I heard you talking over the weekend, and, Joe, the Republicans are going to come back to it consistently for the next four weeks, is this, this election is decided on the issues and one of the issues is terrorism on the screen. President Bush leads John Kerry still by 17 points. And that is sizable, Joe.

LOCKHART: Well, listen, I mean I think the incumbent always enjoys a little bit of an advantage. But I think here's the story of the debate and the reason why this race, the Bush people have lost whatever lead they had. It's just listen to the litany that we just heard from Mr. Mehlman. None of it's true.

On the global test, if you look at the president's own directive when he announced his Bush doctrine, he has language in there very similar that says we have to reach out to our allies and they have to understand. John Kerry, he said very clearly in the debate, 62 million people heard him say he'll never give the power away to anyone other than the president to decide.

HEMMER: But even with that, Joe...

LOCKHART: If John Kerry...

HEMMER: Even with that, Joe, let me get back to the point I'm trying to make here with these poll numbers, on the screen again. When asked who's the stronger leader, George Bush still leads there by 19 points. And again, it comes back to the same issue that Ken and others are going to raise.

Your response is that, what?

LOCKHART: My response is John Kerry came across as a very strong leader. And I think you've seen that moving in the polls. The trend is all in our direction and I think the real difference is, is the Republicans spent, you know, $100 million in negative ads building this caricature of John Kerry and then John Kerry showed up, the real John Kerry, at the debate, did well. The president didn't know how to handle that.

HEMMER: With that as a backdrop, Ken, on last Thursday and looking for...

MEHLMAN: Bill, I think that...

HEMMER: Hang on one second.

Going forward with debate number two on Friday night, will the president change anything in the way of his style on Friday night or the way he gets ready for debate number two?

MEHLMAN: We are looking forward to the debate. The president is a smart competitor. He obviously and all teams will look at the tapes and see how they can do the best job they can communicating. He's done that. He will do very well in this debate.

But once again, you've got a big choice. John Kerry is a great debater. He has spent his entire life as a debater, first as a prosecutor, then as a United States senator. He was a college debating champion in college. And what you have is a debate between one guy who is committed to winning the spin cycle in the short-term versus someone who is committed to winning the global war on terror.

HEMMER: But that wasn't the question.

MEHLMAN: And that's a big difference.

HEMMER: Ken, the question was will he change anything in the way he gets ready for this or his style on Friday night?

MEHLMAN: Well, as I said, Bill, the president -- and like any smart team, the president takes a look at the tapes and sees how he can most effectively communicate. And obviously he's done that and looks forward to the debate on Friday night and looks forward to answering questions from the American people.

HEMMER: All right, Ken, I understand your argument about John Kerry's debating experience.

Joe, handle this one. Back to the polling numbers again.

Who do you expect to do better on Friday night? John Kerry is now the favorite, 48 to 41 percent. The expectations games, have they changed the dynamics going into St. Louis now?

LOCKHART: Oh, you know, I don't think so. I think this is going to be about who makes the more compelling case. I think we're going to continue to make the case on Friday night about the president's misjudgments in foreign policy and the mess he's gotten into us -- he's gotten the country into in Iraq. And we're very much looking forward to the domestic debate.

Mr. Mehlman mentioned the prosperity in this country. Well, guess what? The middle class hasn't shared in that prosperity and the middle class is the majority of the people who are going to vote. So, we're really looking forward to getting on to domestic issues.

HEMMER: But it was about a week ago where you liked being the underdog going into debate number one.

How do you feel about being the favorite now?

LOCKHART: Oh, you know, listen, I don't know if we're the favorite. You know, taking on the president, an incumbent, is always a big deal. You know, I think we do remain the underdog. We've got a lot of work to do. We've got a lot of votes to earn. And Friday night is just one more step in that process.

HEMMER: All right, come back tomorrow, if you will, guys. Well, let's talk about the vice presidential battle in Cleveland, OK?


HEMMER: Ken Mehlman and Joe Lockhart, thanks for your time this morning.


MEHLMAN: Thank you.

HEMMER: Tomorrow night, Tuesday night, the vice presidential candidates debate in Cleveland. AMERICAN MORNING is there tomorrow morning and Wednesday morning, as well. We'll get the pre- and post- debate analysis from northern Ohio -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Volcano experts, along with a horde of sightseers, are closely watching Mount St. Helens for any signs of an explosion. Most of them believe something will happen soon.

Ted Rowlands is at Mount St. Helens now.

He's going to report on the very latest -- Ted, any action?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, actually, Heidi, not the actual eruption. But we just talked to a geologist and he said that there was some action, if you will. Overnight there was some significant movement of magma inside the volcano. They call it a harmonic tremor and it lasted in excess of 90 minutes.

Basically what that is is the magma moving up the neck of the volcano. And 90 minutes is the longest one of these episodes since they've been monitoring this volcano for this impending eruption, which they do believe is coming, as one geologist said this morning, sooner than later.

They have also detected a 50- to a 100-foot bulge in the crater of the volcano and they believe that, in the lava dome, will be a -- is a clear indication that an eruption is coming.

The question is how large will this eruption be when it does arrive here. On Friday, a steam release with some ash in it reached up to levels of 10,000 feet. In fact, they had to close down the air space in the Mount St. Helens area as a precaution because air traffic is one of the major concerns with a volcanic eruption.


GALE NORTON, INTERIOR SECRETARY: The biggest concern is the ash and what that does, especially to aircraft. The ash is gritty. It gets inside motors and causes them to jam up. And so, that has been the largest concern.


ROWLANDS: An eight-mile radius around Mount St. Helens has been cleared. There is no public access as a precaution.

That said, hundreds of people spent the weekend around that eight-mile radius, hoping to see Mount St. Helens erupt. It is expected that at first light out here, more folks will be out here hoping to see a show from Mother Nature -- Heidi. COLLINS: So, wow, a lot of activity. Saturday, a 15-minute tremor, Sunday a 25-minute tremor and then just last night, as you say, a 90-minute tremor, longer than all three.

All right, Ted Rowlands, thanks so much.

We'll check back with you today if it happens.

Thanks -- Bill.

HEMMER: Six Florida school districts hit hardest by the hurricanes reopening this morning. Some students have had more than a month off of school because of damage done to their buildings. Schools in Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, Polk, and St. Lucie reopen today. Classes in the districts of Escambia and Santa Rosa expected to reopen next Monday.

If my geography is right, the latter part is the Panhandle of Florida and the former part is, what, the southwest corner? Is that right -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you know, a lot of these places, Bill, weren't damaged by the hurricane so much, but they were still being used as storm shelters for people that were chased out of their homes, that homes were destroyed. So, you just can't kick them out when the kids have to come and then let them come back to school, let them come back and live there or sleep there at night when the kids go home.

So, that's why most of these schools in most of these counties, were, in fact, closed, because they were being used as shelters. And obviously still, the southeast corner, the southwest corner and the Panhandle from three separate and, in fact, really four separate storms.


HEMMER: In a moment here, do colors influence your appetite? Interesting question, huh? Sanjay tackles that in a moment, serving up some answers.

COLLINS: In his food?

HEMMER: Hopefully.


Getting off easy when criminals do the crime, but not the time. The first in our week long series coming up next.

HEMMER: Also, SpaceShipOne readies for its second flight just a few hours from now.

Miles O'Brien live in the Mojave Desert in a moment as we continue here.


COLLINS: All this week we'll be asking the question, are some criminals getting off easy? We'll look at some of the alternative ways criminals are punished, other than jail time.

This morning, the practice of sentencing deadbeat dads to have vasectomies.

Judge Michael Foellger of the Campbell County, Kentucky Family Court, is in Cincinnati.

Judge, good morning to you.


COLLINS: And Faye Wattleton, president of the Center for the Advancement of Women, is here in our studio with us.

Ms. Wattleton, good morning to you, as well.

Judge, I'd like to begin with you, if I could.

You came up with a sentence for deadbeat dads to have the choice between getting vasectomies or going to jail.

How did you come up with that idea in the first place?

FOELLGER: Well, it's hard to say other than it just occurred to me. I think it was just a matter of the repetition of so many men coming back to court for non-payment of child support. And it just -- when the most egregious cases were before me, I thought we have to do something to solve the problem other than the revolving door of going to jail for non-payment.

So, when the egregious cases came before me, the ones were a multitude of children by many women -- in other words, I think I used a standard roughly if you have four or more children by three or more women, something's wrong, something other than your indiscriminate procreation.

So, it just occurred to me with the vasectomies becoming a rather common practice among regular men, you know, with regular families who have decided voluntarily getting vasectomies, it seemed like an option. So, that's the thinking.

COLLINS: Well, and you have said, actually, that you think it's fair because you're not really ordering them to stop having children.

But what kind of a choice do they have, I mean it's either this or jail time, correct?

FOELLGER: Well, that's correct. They've already earned the jail time. I think it's important to point out this is post-sentencing. I've already found them guilty of contempt of court for their non- payment and I've sentenced them, in some cases by statute we're limited to 30 days. In other cases, it could be as much as six months.

But whatever the amount of time they're sentenced. And then if they're in that particular category, I'll say now I'm going to offer you a chance to probate your jail sentence if you get a vasectomy.

COLLINS: Well, Ms. Wattleton, what are your concerns about this type of punishment?

WATTLETON: Well, the concern certainly can, we can understand the judge's frustration. But causing a man to give up his freedom or to shorten the time in which he will be incarcerated as a condition for having a vasectomy, which is a permanent procedure, and yes, it may be reversed, but there is no certainty that the reversal will work. So, to give out this...

COLLINS: Yes, I understand the success rate there is 30 to 50 percent.

WATTLETON: The success rate is not high. But to give up a very fundamental right of procreation, even if that procreation is carried out in an irresponsible way, doesn't seem to be the answer to the problem.

COLLINS: But there are...


COLLINS: ... those who would say, as we heard the judge explain, that they're already in contempt of court so coming up with some sort of creative idea to make them understand that you can't do this again, your argument against that?

WATTLETON: Well, I think, yes, they are already in contempt of court. Lots of people are in contempt of court for a lot of things. Are we going to vasectomize everybody who doesn't conform to the court's requirements or do we deal with the problem of the court addressing the issue?

And then also looking back to say how do we begin, as a society, to teach young boys as they grow into male adulthood that they have responsibility. They have responsibility for their sexuality, they have responsibility to prevent unintended pregnancies, they have responsibility to the children that they may bear.

This may be a very efficient way of dealing with frustration, but it really doesn't address the fundamental problem.

COLLINS: What kind of a punishment would address the fundamental problem?

WATTLETON: Well, the punishment of dealing with the court's requirements of child support and causing that man to have a job. I think one of the conditions that created this situation was that the judge became frustrated that men were not, in fact, seeking employment. Well, what's the problem there? But when you're suggesting that one's basic right to procreation should be permanently denied because of this issue -- and, of course, the whole question about class and about race is one that should not be overlooked here. Who are the people who are most likely to be confronted with these choices?


WATTLETON: It becomes more than a serious well, this seems like a good idea. We should really take it very seriously.

COLLINS: Well, to the both of you, I apologize for the short amount of time, but we appreciate both of your sides of view on this.

Judge Michael Foellger and Faye Wattleton, thanks so much for your time.

And we will continue questioning whether some criminals are getting off easy tomorrow when we'll look at domestic abuse offenders who are offered tai chi and meditation classes instead of jail time -- Bill.

HEMMER: In a moment here, President Bush and John Kerry have gone at it. Dick Cheney and John Edwards are next tomorrow night. Who else should debate? Andy Borowitz weighs in next on AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: The season premier of "Saturday Night Live" this past week and a perfect political season, too, at the expense of both candidates.


CHRIS PARNELL, ACTOR: When you say crush the terrorists, how exactly do you plan to do that?

WILL FORTE, ACTOR: By working hard, working Saturdays. I came in on Sunday once.

SETH MEYERS, ACTOR: The fact of the matter is I have consistently supported the war in front of pro-war audiences and condemned it when speaking to groups that oppose it. That is not flip-flopping, that is pandering, and Americans deserve a president who knows the difference.

Thank you.


HEMMER: That was sent out over the weekend. Boy, they have plenty of material now, don't they?


COLLINS: Yes, they do. And working hard and working with his hands for us today...

BOROWITZ: I'm flattered.

COLLINS: Andy Borowitz.

BOROWITZ: How are you?


The Question of the Day?

BOROWITZ: Well, today, of course, we're talking about the debate, but not the debate everyone else is talking about. This is all about my dream debate, the debate I think America deserves to see.

Our question is: If Laura Bush debated Teresa Heinz Kerry, who would win and why?

Well, let's see what you think.

Lynn from Kansas writes: "Is there going to be a 10 second delay? Laura Bush would win because with all the bleeps from Heinz Kerry, we wouldn't know what she was saying."

Brad from New Jersey -- I love this: "Scrap the debate idea. Maybe we can get the first ladies to agree to a special edition of presidential wife swap." That would settle it, I think.

Larry writes: "Even if Mrs. Bush was allowed to bring Mrs. Cheney, Mrs. Kerry would win hands down."

And finally, Reg from Thunder Bay, Ontario, writes: "I can see it all now -- Teresa saying cheese to learn how to smile and Laura looking in a cookbook to check the meaning of stuff it."

Now, guys, I'm pretty sure she did not say stuff it.

HEMMER: Get it straight.

BOROWITZ: She didn't say that.

HEMMER: It was?

COLLINS: It was...

BOROWITZ: It was shove it.

HEMMER: Shove it.

BOROWITZ: It was shove it.


HEMMER: Just to set the record straight.

BOROWITZ: But I love it when she says it in that accent. It is so sexy.

HEMMER: What do you think of this presidential wife swap idea? Do you think they're ratings would be big for that show or what?

BOROWITZ: I would love to see it. Who do you think would get along better? I don't know. I think that John and Laura would be fine. I think they would be fine. It might be a little dull to watch that.


BOROWITZ: I think that Teresa and W., that would be awesome.

COLLINS: There would be some fireworks there.

BOROWITZ: A lot of fireworks. Very feisty.

HEMMER: And a lot of opinions, too.

BOROWITZ: A lot of opinions.

HEMMER: Thank you, Andy.

We'll get a break here.

In a moment, Spanish officials say they have made a historic arrest. We'll get to that story in a moment.

Also, SpaceShipOne gets ready for a record setting push outside the atmosphere. Live to Miles O'Brien watching that story in southern California after this.


COLLINS: Just about half past the hour now on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Could something as common as a smoke detector be used by terrorists to create a dirty bomb? We're going to talk with a reporter who says investigators are right now looking into that possibility.

HEMMER: Also this half hour, in a moment here, Heidi, the team of SpaceShipOne could earn $10 million today. That craft is going back for a second trip to space this morning and Miles is covering that for us live.

We'll get to Miles in a second and also look at some of the lessons we learned from last week, that twisting, turning ride, right?

COLLINS: Yes. Yes. Frightening. Mike Melvill in the cockpit once again this morning.

We're going to check on the stories now in the news with Daryn Kagan at the CNN Center -- Daryn, good morning once again.

KAGAN: Heidi, good morning.

Spanish officials are calling his a historic arrest. Police say they have captured a suspected leader of the Basque separatist group called ETA. He is being called a suspect of extraordinarily high importance. The arrest comes in a series of raids in southwestern France and Spain. Nineteen other suspects have also been taken into custody.

Back here in the States, new developments in the Michael Jackson child molestation case. The judge is expected to rule today what evidence will be allowed in the trial and what will be kept out. At issue, evidence taken from searches at Jackson's Neverland Ranch and a private investigator's office.

Terri Schiavo's fate now rests in the hands of Florida Governor Jeb Bush yet again. The Florida Supreme Court struck down a law Thursday that gave the governor power to continue her treatment. The governor must decide today if he will abide by that ruling. If he doesn't challenge the decision, Schiavo's feeding tube may be removed. Terri Schiavo has been brain damaged for 14 years.

Heidi, back to you.

COLLINS: Such a tough story. All right, Daryn, thanks so much.


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