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Interview with Jimmy Carter; Analyzing the Election Polls; Interview with Bill Rancic

Aired October 18, 2004 - 09:30   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Opening bell on Wall Street, starting a whole new week of trading on this Monday morning. Dow 30 at 9,933 -- that's the opening mark, up about 39 points in trading on Friday. Nasdaq MarketSite, 1,911. Still below 2,000, but a decent week throughout the week last week for the tech-heavy Nasdaq, up eight points in trading on Friday. So, open for business in New York.
Open for business, too, back here in Chicago. Good morning. Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Remember her?


HEMMER: Soledad O'Brien. She's returned.

O'BRIEN: I said I'd be back, and I'm back.

HEMMER: Darn it. I said it, I mean it. Welcome back. Great to have you here.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Thanks. It's nice to be back.

HEMMER: In a moment here, Jimmy Carter is our guest, in a moment. The former president turning 80 this year but not slowing down. We'll talk about two books out now in paperback and his thoughts, too, on John Kerry and George Bush in the election season two weeks from tomorrow. So, stay tuned for that.

O'BRIEN: Also this morning, Chicago is where Bill Rancic of "The Apprentice" fame is from, and it's where he's working now for Donald Trump. We're going to talk to him about his job and what it's like working for the Donald, hit him up for some inside scoop.

HEMMER: Sure. You probably might want to protect that. He's just got a job across the river here.

O'BRIEN: And a big job. Of course, you know, that's the building right there over our shoulder they're going to knock down and put up some fantastic building. The penthouse floor is going for $16 million. That's not furnished.

HEMMER: That's an entry level position, isn't it?

O'BRIEN: I mean, there's no stuff in there. Yeah.

HEMMER: All right, back here in Chicago with us, too, Heidi Collins has the headlines. And Heidi, good morning to you. HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Do you guys -- am I crazy, or has it gotten colder since we started?

HEMMER: Slightly.

O'BRIEN: Colder!


Talking about the news now this morning. A milestone in the presidential election in Afghanistan. Officials say they have counted more than a million votes. That's about 10 percent of the total. Afghanistani interim leader Hamid Karzai is maintaining a strong lead, but the final result won't be known until the end of this month.

Election offices across the State of Florida opened today to give voters the option of casting their ballots for president early. It's the first time early voting is so widespread in Florida. It's a chance for busy voters to avoid waiting in line on November 2nd.

Defense lawyers will begin presenting their case this morning in the double murder trial of Scott Peterson. And expected on the witness stand is an expert to answer prosecutor's claims that Peterson used homemade cement anchors to sink his wife's body in the San Francisco Bay.

A little bit lighter not now -- took until 1:22 Eastern this morning, but finally David Ortiz smacked a two-run homer. There it is, bottom of the 12th inning, to give the Red Sox a 6-4 victory over the New York Yankees. Happy, happy man. That extends the American League Championship Series now to a fifth game. It's going to happen at 5:00 this afternoon.

I bet they're still jumping around just like that at this hour.

HEMMER: I think we should go to P.J. Clark's this afternoon.

COLLINS: I think we should, too, yeah.


O'BRIEN: Sure.

COLLINS: Although there is the redheaded piano bar we have to check out, too, right?

HEMMER: That's where Heidi's going, for sure. We're going to get a picture of you over there, too, by the way.


HEMMER: Thank you, Heidi.

Want to get to Jimmy Carter now. He just turned 80 years young, but he does not seem to apply that now to his life. The former president, nearly 25 years after leaving office, still going quite strong, traveling the world for The Carter Center, working for Habitat for Humanity, and certainly writing books, as well. Two of them -- "The Hornet's Nest" and "Christmas in Plains" -- as in Plains, Georgia -- now out in paperback.

And Jimmy Carter is with us this morning in New York. And we say welcome. Nice to have you back with us here. First of all, tell us about your latest book. What do we find in it?

JIMMY CARTER (D), FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, the latest -- only novel and the latest book is called "A Hornet's Nest," and it's a novel with a lot of interesting characters, and a little bit of sex, and a lot of violence, describing the war that brought our nation its independence -- the War of Independence or the Revolutionary War.

And it's a novel set in the south, where most of the battles were fought. And I think it's a very exciting and dramatic presentation of one of the most important parts of our history.

The other one is a much more down to earth book about "Christmas in Plains" -- the different Christmases that my family and I have enjoyed centered around Plains, Georgia, but also covering the four Christmases, some of them under very trying circumstances when I was president.

So, I enjoy writing. I've just finished my 19th book. But these are the ones that are now out in paperback this year, and it's a way I make my living.

HEMMER: You know, after eight decades, the books you're writing now, are these books you've just thought about recently? Or are these ideas coming to fruition that you had years ago?

CARTER: Well, I had never really thought about writing a novel until about seven years ago. I had written a book of poetry about 10 years ago which was very successful. And so, I decided since I've written all other kinds of books -- including biography, and history, and political science, and religion, and that sort of thing -- that I would try a novel.

So I went to my other fellow professors -- I happen to be a professor myself -- and I asked them to give me advice on creative writing. So, in effect, I went back to school, and I did about seven years of research on the details of the Revolutionary War -- what caused it, the way people lived, the way people planted crops and built houses, and traveled, and tried to insert historical facts -- very accurate I might add -- with the fictional characters that dramatized this important war in our country's history which has basically been ignored.

There have been hundreds of books written about the Civil War, the first and second World War, even the Vietnam War, but very few about what I consider to be the most important war.

So, I wanted to fictionalize the characters but tell the history of the war that was very accurate -- and exciting, I might add. HEMMER: All right. Let's talk about politics now -- 15 days away.

CARTER: I thought you might.

HEMMER: You knew we'd get to it.

You wrote a stinging editorial two weeks ago about saying that all politics in Florida is run from the highest level of the state office in Tallahassee, suggesting that nothing has been done to fix the problems of four years ago.

We were in Florida two weeks ago talking specifically with the secretary of state. She says your editorial is flat-out wrong and that you have not been back to the state to see that the changes they've made over the past two years.

What is the truth, as you see it, now in Florida for this election two weeks from tomorrow?

CARTER: Well, the bottom line is that the Florida election is destined to be very close.

Secondly, I think a lot of the problems that existed in the year 2000 have not been corrected. I pointed out two things. One is there's not any uniformity of voting techniques throughout the State of Florida. And there's no real way, at least at this point, to count ballots if there is a disputed election result.

And the other point is that the secretary of state, who is in charge of the overall concept of voting in Florida, is highly partisan -- she was not elected. She was appointed by Jeb Bush, the president's brother, and she's known herself and does not deny that she is a totally dedicated Republican official.

So, what I pointed out in the final paragraph of my op-ed piece was that a lot of these problems that I just described can't be corrected before Election Day, so we need to have dramatic and very close public attention paid -- not only to Florida, but in Ohio and other states.

But there's a great deal of doubt about whether or not partisanship can shape the outcome of an election if it is very close.

HEMMER: Well, truth be known, the only way we knew that the elections had such a significant problem in this country is because 2000 was so close. And if it's close again, as you point out, we will continue to see the warts in the system -- a system that has already proven itself not to be so perfect across the country from precinct to precinct. Nonetheless, the effort continues.

Thank you for your time. Former President Jimmy Carter...

CARTER: Thank you, Bill.

HEMMER: ... in New York City. CARTER: Good to be with you.

HEMMER: You, too. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Just 15 days till the election. President Bush has built a new lead in the polls. But of course, it is still a horserace. CNN political analyst Carlos Watson joins us again this morning. Nice to talk to you.


O'BRIEN: Let's look at some of these polls a little bit more closely. The CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows Bush with a lead of plus eight points. "Newsweek," plus six points. ABC/"Washington Post," plus four points. "TIME," plus two points.

So, on average, something like almost four percentage points, which is within the standard of deviation. So, do you trust the poll numbers? Do you say there is a Bush bounce or not?

WATSON: I say there's unequivocally some movement for the president. It's good news for the president. I will say this, though, not only is it within the margin of error, but Soledad, it's reminiscent of what we saw in 2000.

In 2000, then candidate Bush was seen to have won the debates, but oddly enough his lead shrunk after that. And similarly here, John Kerry -- who's perceived to have won the debates -- now we see that what was once a close race just a week ago, now we see things opening up a little bit.

But a couple other thing to remember, I thought the Bush team was very good at moving the conversation last week away from the debates and onto the Mary Cheney comment. And you saw that almost two out of three voters said they thought the comment by John Kerry was inappropriate.

And the last thing I'll say is that one of the main issues you see in this likely voter number is that there's a bigger spread for the president among likely voters versus registered voters. What does that mean? It means Republicans are energized, they're excited. They're more likely to vote.

O'BRIEN: If you take a look at endorsements, if you look at the list for Senator Kerry -- "New York Times, "Boston Globe," "Minneapolis Star Tribune" on board with him -- no real big surprise there.

Look at the president's endorsements, "Chicago Tribune," "Rocky Mountain News," "Carlsbad Current-Argus," "The Omaha World Herald" -- no huge surprises there.

But if you look at the -- under the refuse-to-endorse category, which is usual in and of itself, you've got the "Tampa Tribune," which actually has gone Republican for some 50-plus years every time there was a presidential race. What do you read into that? WATSON: Well, the only exception was Barry Goldwater in '64, so that's not a good precedent for the president.

The newspaper endorsements used to mean a lot. More recently they haven't meant a ton. But in a race in which everything is close, who knows? This could be the needle that makes the difference.

I will say this, John Kerry's gotten a lot of good news in Florida from papers there, including the "Miami Herald." And we'll have to wait and see what happens in Ohio and Pennsylvania in terms of those swing state papers, as well.

O'BRIEN: As we get close to the election, you know, two weeks from tomorrow, what do you make of TV advertising? It's getting tougher, it seems, as we get closer and closer. Do you think that the ads are going to be decisive in this election?

WATSON: We're going to see more what I call gut punches, meaning that the ads are going to get sharper.

O'BRIEN: Going from negative campaigning to gut punches.

WATSON: Just gut punches -- just flat-out brawling, right? We're in Chicago.

So, you'll see a variety of issues. You'll see terrorism. You'll see social security. But in these ads, you're seeing more hardcore testimonials. In one of the ads, Democratic-leaning ads, a man who's missing part of his arm says the Iraqi war is a mistake and he's a veteran. You see other ads with images of Osama. So, it's not going to get prettier from here on out.

O'BRIEN: Yeah, it's going to be a long two weeks I'm going to guess. Carlos Watson, as always, nice to have you with us here in Chicago.

WATSON: Good to see you.

O'BRIEN: Thanks a lot -- Bill?

HEMMER: You know, the great thing about Carlos, everywhere we go, Carlos calls it home. Miami -- mom and dad live there. Cleveland -- went to high school here. California -- what was the story out there?

WATSON: And Chicago, good food. Heaven on Seven -- cajun food in Chicago. I know this. I know this.

HEMMER: We're coming back to you. Thanks, Carlos.

WATSON: Good to see you.

HEMMER: Check of the weather with Chad Myers, again. Hey, Chad, how are you? Good morning, again.

(WEATHER REPORT) HEMMER: Thank you, Chad, for that.

In a moment, Andy's back "Minding Your Business." telling us which hotel you should check into if your morning coffee buzz is important to you -- and it is.

O'BRIEN: Plus, what's it like working for one of the richest men in the world? We're going to talk to the first Apprentice and Chicago's own Bill Rancic. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. We'll be back in just a moment.


HEMMER: (INAUDIBLE) train -- the morning commute well underway here in Chicago.

Tomorrow, we're at Loyola University along Chicago's famous Magnificent Mile. That's on Tuesday. Among our many guests, Barack Obama and Alan Keyes in a race here for the U.S. Senate. Best-selling author Scott Turow is here. Film critics Ebert and Roeper. And we'll take a look at the volatile history of Chicago politics. All that and more from the Windy City tomorrow morning, Tuesday morning here on AMERICAN MORNING.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's head over to Carton's Restaurant. That's where we find Jack and Andy standing by for us once again this morning. Hey, guys.


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: How are you doing, Soledad, Bill?

We'll get to Andy's business report in just a moment. The Question of the Day: What comes to mind when you hear the name Chicago? Here's some of what you have written us.

Dean in Marlton, New Jersey, writes: "Whenever I hear the name Chicago, I think to myself, 'Damn, I wish I could have gotten a direct flight to L.A.'"

John in Oxford, Connecticut, writes: "Chicago brings to mind the early days of Capone, early Mayor Daly, the 1968 convention riot. However, above and beyond any of this, the incredible Chicago pizza that exists at places like Giordano's and Unos. And please don't forget Pepsi, no Coke, from 'Saturday Night Live.'"

Finally -- I like this one a lot: "I grew up in Old Town, Friday nights at Twin Anchors, best baby-back ribs and sauce in the world, Sunday morning brunch at Butch McGuire's, walks through Lincoln Park, business to the Lincoln Park Zoo, swimming in Lake Michigan, working in the Wrigley Building and watching the Chicago River dyed green on St. Patrick's Day, da Bears and da Bulls -- my kind of town."

Markets are open. Andy's "Minding Your Business."

SERWER: Good to see you, Jack. Yes, indeed. Price of oil is hurting stocks this morning. Still up around $55 a barrel. Let's go and check out the big board here, and back in New York, the Dow is down 51 points as you can see here.

A couple stock stories this morning. First of all, 3M warning. You don't hear that very often. That stock is down four percent. Chicago-based Kraft, we told you they're looking to sell Life Savers and Altoids. That stock is up a little bit.

And then, trouble in toyland. Both Hasbro and Mattel, the number one and two toymakers warning. Interestingly, Mattel is saying that Barbie sales are weak. And Jack, the only thing I can think of perhaps is that all those little girls out there are looking to get iPods instead of little dolls.

CAFFERTY: Remember that terrible old joke about the divorced Barbie? She comes with everything Ken had.

SERWER: He still hasn't lost his sense of humor.

You want to talk about this cup of coffee thing? Do we have the segment...

CAFFERTY: Oh, right. I'm sorry. Of course...

SERWER: No, that's all right.

CAFFERTY: The most expensive coffee ever. You found it.

SERWER: The Westin Tabor Hotel in Denver, Jack, decided they're going to deliver lattes to your room. Get this, though -- the only wrinkle is 18-and-a-half percent service charge, plus another dollar delivery fee. And I did the math. That means your latte would cost over $5.

CAFFERTY: That's just unbelievable.

SERWER: I mean, is that the most expensive cup of coffee? More expensive than here at Carton's.

CAFFERTY: Come to Carton's.

SERWER: Come to Carton's.

CAFFERTY: Coffee's better, the price is right. And we'll be here, I guess, again tomorrow.

SERWER: Yes, indeed.

CAFFERTY: All right. Now we'll go back to you guys on the river.


O'BRIEN: All right. Thanks, guys. Still to come this morning, we're going to hear from the very first Apprentice, Bill Rancic. He's working for the Donald on a building that will change the waterfront here on the Chicago River. He's going to tell us what the experience has been like for him.

That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Fueled by Donald Trump's signature sayonara, "The Apprentice" is now in its second season. And it's become one of the hottest shows on TV.

Last year, Bill Rancic's fantasy became reality when he was the show's sole survivor. A newly minted celebrity in this town that he calls home.



O'BRIEN (voice-over): Bill Rancic is going to the top -- the top of Chicago's skyline, that is. This local Chicago boy, Donald Trump's newest Apprentice, has come home.

BILL RANCIC, "THE APPRENTICE" WINNER: All right, I'm on top of it.

O'BRIEN: He'll be the supervisor in training of Trump's latest skyscraper project -- a 90-story luxury hotel and condominium tower named, what else, Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago.

RANCIC: I'm kind of the eyes and ears for Donald Trump here in Chicago. So, it's -- you know, it's just making sure everything is done and conducted in the right way.

O'BRIEN: It's not like Chicago doesn't have tall buildings. It already has America's tallest -- the Sears Tower -- along with the Aon Building and John Hancock Center.

Trump's building will be the city's fourth tallest. Is the Donald OK with not being first?

TRUMP: I build better buildings. I usually get the best location. And you know, that is something that really can't be duplicated.

O'BRIEN: With condominiums starting at $640,000 and a top floor penthouse going for about 16 million, this will be one of the priciest places to live in the city.

Construction for the site will begin this fall when they demolish the seven-story Chicago Sun-Times Building, a location where boats used to pull up to deliver newsprint. Now it looks like yachts may be pulling up instead. (on camera): Bill Rancic's experience as the Donald's Apprentice has led to his new book, "You're Hired: How to Succeed in Business and Life from the Winner of 'The Apprentice.'"

How's it been?

RANCIC: It's been great. I mean...

O'BRIEN: Six months.

RANCIC: ... it's remarkable how much time I've actually spent with Donald Trump.

O'BRIEN: Really?

RANCIC: The amount of access that I have to him. I was the biggest skeptic of them all after this was over. I thought I was never going to see him again.

O'BRIEN: It was reality TV, you were just...

RANCIC: Right. I thought this was a show and that's -- you know, that's going to be it. But I see him, you know, several times a week. He calls me almost every day. I mean, to have Donald Trump as your mentor is pretty remarkable.

O'BRIEN: How about to have Donald Trump as your boss? Because I've got to imagine, he can be tough but testy.

RANCIC: Well, he's tough, but it's more of a learning experience for me. So, I'm watching him, you know, kind of work in his element. And I've been really enjoying that the most out of the whole process.

O'BRIEN: We mentioned that you got a new book. And I guess this is...

RANCIC: That's the book on tape.

O'BRIEN: The book on tape. Look at you prepare here.

Tell me a little bit about why you decided to write a book. I mean, you've only been working really on this project for six months, essentially.

RANCIC: Well, but the book is more about, you know, business in general. And I've been an entrepreneur my whole life. And I had cigars around the world. I started that 10 years ago. And I wanted to write a book which is based on practical experience rather than theories.

So many of these business books out there, they're written on theory by people who have never left the classroom. And I'm a guy who's been out there and put my life savings on the line and had to, you know, worry about the payroll each week and didn't take a paycheck for a year. So, this is a book I think that everyone can relate to. And it's not filled with business school jargon. It's more the everyday man's business book or woman's business book.

O'BRIEN: You dedicate a number of chapters to your experiences on "The Apprentice, " which, of course, as we all know was like a snake pit.

RANCIC: Right, right.

O'BRIEN: ... the back stabbing, the general nastiness and meanness. What did you learn? What did you get out of that experience?

RANCIC: Well, I think the show, you know, is definitely a parallel to corporate America.

O'BRIEN: It's that bad...

RANCIC: No, no. But does some of that exist exists in corporate America? Yes, it does. But the people who really get ahead I don't think participate in the back stabbing and being cutthroat and all the politics.

It came town to, you know, Kwame and myself. And we were two guys who didn't back stab. We didn't, you know, back bite. We played the game, i think, with integrity, and we took the high road the whole way. And I think it was very true to life. And I think people who play the corporate America game that way are the ones who are truly successful and earn it for the long haul.


O'BRIEN: Rancic has taken time away from the construction project to appear on this season of "The Apprentice." He's filling in for Trump's sidekick George as overseer of teams working on tasks.

Coming up this morning on CNN, just 15 days till Election Day. The candidates are not wasting any time. "CNN LIVE" will take you on the trail with both campaigns. That's coming up in the next hour with Rick Sanchez and Betty Nguyen.

AMERICAN MORNING is back from Chicago in just a moment. Stay with us.


HEMMER: Welcome back, everyone. We need some warmth over here, by the way. Jack, you can go that way.

O'BRIEN: No, no, I'll snuggle with Jack this morning.

HEMMER: Before we get out of here, tomorrow at Loyola University, Magnificent Mile. On Wednesday, we're at Union Station. You are at...

COLLINS: Millennium Park.

HEMMER: Thursday we're at...

COLLINS: Field Museum.

HEMMER: Field Museum.

O'BRIEN: And Adler Planetarium.

HEMMER: Then Friday's Adler Planetarium.

O'BRIEN: I'm all over it.

Also tomorrow, we're talking to Barack Obama and also Alan Keyes, of course, there in that Senate race here in Illinois. We're going to chat with both gentlemen right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

CAFFERTY: We're available to do Bar Mitzvahs for a little extra money during the rest of the week..

O'BRIEN: What steakhouse are we eating at today?

CAFFERTY: I don't know, but Surratt's buying. The best part of this trip is it's all on Surratt's tab.

HEMMER: That's right.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Wil.

All right, we'll see you back here tomorrow.

HEMMER: Want to get to Betty Nguyen now and Rick Sanchez at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Good morning to the two of you.

Hey, guys.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's nice and warm in here. Boy, you guys need to get inside. Good to see you.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, welcome back, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Hey, thanks, Rick. And welcome to you.

SANCHEZ: You guys are such a bunch of sharp (INAUDIBLE). I mean, I can't believe the fancy joints you went to. You know, if I go up there, I guarantee you it'll be a brat and a beer or something like that.

O'BRIEN: No, it's on Wil. No, no, no, it's on Wil's...

SANCHEZ: Oh, the good stuff.

NGUYEN: That's all right. Have a great day.

SANCHEZ: Thanks a lot. All right, time to get ready here and bring you the very latest going on in our nation and in our world here on CNN.


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