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CNN SUNDAY MORNING
Marines Poised to Attack Insurgents in Fallujah; Update on Arafat's Health
Aired October 31, 2004 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING. It is October 31, Halloween. And just two days before Election Day.
Good morning, everyone. I'm Betty Nguyen. 9:00 a.m. here on the East Coast, 6:00 a.m. in Los Angeles.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Tony Harris. Thank you for being with us.
U.S. airstrikes today on the city of Fallujah, where Marines are poised to attack insurgents and suspected terrorists. Iraq's prime minister says time is running out for a peaceful solution in Fallujah. As he puts it, "Our patience is running thin."
Kidnappers are threatening the lives of three U.N. workers held in Afghanistan unless all prisoners in that country and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are released. The three, from Ireland, Kosovo and the Philippines were abducted at gunpoint last week in Kabul.
Ariel Sharon says as long as he is prime minister of Israel, Yasser Arafat will not be buried in Jerusalem. But there is no indication Arafat is ready to be buried in Jerusalem or anywhere else. The Palestinian leaders is hospitalized in Paris for tests and a possible treatment for a possible blood disorder.
NGUYEN: Coming up this hour on CNN SUNDAY MORNING, an update on Yasser Arafat's health. It's just ahead. Plus, one expert's blunt assessment of what it means. And you don't want to miss his insight into the new bin Laden video. It's a perspective you have not heard.
Also ahead, a reality check on the presidential election. Does it matter who wins if Congress doesn't get with the program?
And a little later, smashing pumpkins. It is not just a clever name for a rock band. Oh, no. It's also a wickedly fun way to kill a fall afternoon.
Out in the far turn, into the stretch, a lead of about one length for President Bush with less than 48 hours until the voting begins. Our electoral college map shows Bush ahead in states with 227 electoral votes, Senator John Kerry leading in states with 207 electoral votes. 270 are needed for election, and at least eight states are simply too close to call. NGUYEN: Well, one of those close states is Ohio, where Senator Kerry begins his day before moving on to New Hampshire and Florida. Our national correspondent, Kelly Wallace, is with the Democratic challenger, and she joins us now live from Dayton, Ohio.
Good morning, Kelly.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning once again, Betty.
Senator Kerry at this hour attending a Catholic mass before he'll be coming to this Baptist church where aides say he will be delivering more of an inspirational message. This is sort of what we expect both candidates to be doing in these final days. It is also a move by the Kerry campaign to try and make sure that news about that new Osama bin Laden tape doesn't dominate the dialogue over the next 48 hours.
WALLACE (voice-over): The final push, and the candidate starting off in central Wisconsin says, well, he's feeling good.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This thing is moving, we're moving.
WALLACE: No mention of that new Osama bin Laden tape. Camp Kerry trying to stay on message.
KERRY: Hi, Becky (ph). How are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you think the Osama tape will affect the...
WALLACE: Still, the name of the most hated man in America does come up, as Senator Kerry tries to make the case he can keep the U.S. safer than President Bush.
KERRY: As I have said for two years now, when Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora, it was wrong to outsource the job of capturing them to Afghan warlords.
WALLACE: Team Bush says the senator has his facts wrong. And so the attack-counterattack continues.
From Wisconsin to Iowa, going before moderate-size crowds, appearing with some new faces, Ashton Kutcher, and using some new words. Think Howard Dean.
KERRY: On Tuesday, you have the power.
WALLACE: A key part of the senator's closing strategy explains the visit to Appleton, Wisconsin, where George W. Bush won by 10 points four years ago. The senator trying to win over those voters who backed Mr. Bush in 2000 but who don't feel they got what they voted for.
KERRY: He fights for the wealthy. I'm fighting for the middle class and people struggling to get into it.
WALLACE: Senator Kerry wrapped up his final pre-election Saturday in Ohio, returning to the Buckeye State again Sunday and Monday, trying to steal the critical battleground from Republican hands.
WALLACE: And later the senator will be in Florida, this afternoon in New Hampshire, where he is getting a big endorsement, as far as he is concerned. He will be there with two owners and the general manager of the Boston Red Sox. Betty, of course, now the World Series champions.
NGUYEN: How could we forget? CNN's Kelly Wallace in Dayton, Ohio, this morning. Thank you, Kelly.
HARRIS: Now to the Bush campaign. The president begins his day in the state which the election hinged on four years ago. He'll campaign in three Florida cities, then it's off to Ohio. CNN's Elaine Quijano joins us from the White House with more on the Bush campaign.
Good morning, Elaine.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Tony.
President Bush, as you said, is starting his day in the Sunshine State, a key battleground, as you well know. Some 27 highly-coveted electoral votes up for grabs there.
Now, last night, the president held a rally in Orlando. And at that event, as well as his other rallies in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio, he made no mention of that new Osama bin Laden tape. Yesterday, though, in a video conference, the president did discuss it with his security advisers. Senior administration officials saying the president wanted to make sure that all precautions were being taken, but also calling the bin Laden message political rhetoric.
Now, as for the campaigning, the president in these final hours continues to try to draw sharp contrast, painting John Kerry as weak on terrorism and lacking conviction. Mr. Bush trying to make the case he has been, and would continue to be a stronger commander-in-chief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My four years as your president have confirmed some lessons and taught me some new ones. I have learned to expect the unexpected because war and emergency can arrive suddenly on a quiet autumn morning. I've learned firsthand how hard it is to send young men and women into battle even when the cause is right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: Now, meantime, as we said, a busy day in battleground states for the president. He will be crisscrossing Florida. First a stop south of Miami, in Coconut Grove, then moving on to Florida's Gulf Coast, for a stop in Tampa, then Gainesville, finally wrapping up his day, Tony, with a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio -- Tony.
HARRIS: Elaine Quijano at the White House. Elaine, thank you.
And coming up this hour, we'll see how you responded to our e- mail "Question of the Day." When you go to the polls on Election Day, are you voting for the individual candidate or what his party represents? You can still drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NGUYEN: It looks like U.S. and Iraqi troops are closer to launching an all-out attack on the rebel held city of Fallujah. Iraq's interim prime minister says patience is running out to peacefully resolve the violence ahead of the January election. Meanwhile, a Marine Corps spokesman said a suicide car bomber was responsible for an attack that killed eight U.S. Marines and wounded 10 west of Baghdad.
HARRIS: Japan confirms a decapitated body found in Baghdad yesterday is that of a Japanese traveler abducted last week. His captors threatened to kill him unless Japan pulled its troops out of Iraq.
NGUYEN: Doctors in Paris are still running tests to determine what's wrong with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. In a preemptive move, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says if Arafat dies, he will not be buried in Jerusalem. CNN's Matthew Chance has more on the Palestinian leader's health.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Through the streets of the West Bank and Gaza, thousands marched for Yasser Arafat. For many, the Palestinian president is more than just a leader. He's the only leader they have ever known. "With our blood and our souls, we will redeem you, Arafat," they shouted.
There's no shortage of speculation, but still no firm answers as to what's wrong with the ailing president. Palestinian officials at the Paris hospital where he's being treated say at this stage tests ruled out leukemia as the problem.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I can tell you is that the doctors exclude from already what he has done in terms of exams any possibility of leukemia. I repeat, the doctors exclude for the time being any possibility of leukemia.
CHANCE: From the West Bank, it was a dramatic departure on Friday morning. President Arafat hadn't left this battered Ramallah headquarters for nearly three years. In his absence, political changes are being made, but Palestinian officials insist these are only temporary and that Yasser Arafat's seat at the table, left empty during the meeting, is not being filled.
ABU MAZEN, PALESTINIAN CABINET MEMBER (through translator): The PLO will carefully remain in touch with President Arafat and is receiving his instructions in capacity as leader, its symbol, and as head of the PLO and head of the Palestinian National Authority.
CHANCE: Much may now depend on whether Yasser Arafat, the great survivor of Middle East politics, can physically survive much longer.
(on camera): Behind the insistence that this is business as usual in the Palestinian territories, there is deep concern about what will follow the era of Yasser Arafat. It may still be too early to speak of any kind of power struggle. But in the absence of any clear succession, that's exactly what many people here have come to expect and to fear.
Matthew Chance, CNN, Ramallah.
HARRIS: Let's talk more about the political ramifications of life after Arafat. Joining me is Mamoun Fandy, a former professor, a researcher, whose work focuses on the politics of the Arab world.
Mamoun, good to see you. Thanks for talking with us.
MAMOUN FANDY, SR. FELLOW, JAMES BAKER INSTITUTE: Thank you.
HARRIS: Well, give us a sense, first of all, on this potentially explosive question of where Yasser Arafat is buried when he does die. That is potentially explosive, isn't it?
FANDY: Well, it is. But I think mainly right now is that the most important thing is that the Palestinians on the ground behaving like Arafat is already out and the Arafat era is already gone. There is a great deal of building coalitions to actually lead the Palestinian people.
Lots of people in the Middle East, whether they are Egyptians, Jordanians or most of the Arab states understand that Israel gave no guarantees for Arafat to return whether he is -- he is alive or dead in that matter. I think Arafat's probably final rest will be in France.
I think the Israelis are adamant. They might, at the end, allow some kind of humanitarian gesture. But I exclude it as far as the Sharon government is concerned.
Most importantly is that really we are looking at some kind of struggle within the Palestinian community over who will lead. Right now we have Mahmoud Abbas and we have Hamas also in Gaza contesting that power.
HARRIS: You make me think of two questions. But the first question, is, in your opinion, the Arafat era over?
FANDY: Well, it looks like it is over. I mean, yesterday I was on an Arab TV show with his security adviser, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), as well as a Hamas leader. And both of them seemed to argue as if there were some kind of power struggle between Hamas and the PLO or the Palestinian Authority. And it -- the air about the conversation was that practically there has to be some kind of coalition between Hamas and the Palestinian authority to lead the post-Arafat era.
HARRIS: OK. Do you anticipate a power struggle? And if there is one, who wins?
FANDY: Well, I do. And I think this is something that's -- that's very fearful as far -- the worst case scenario you can have a scenario of a civil war within the Palestinian community. But you have a struggle between Hamas, who actually has the power on the ground in Gaza, and you have other -- the Palestinian Authority, that exists only in the West Bank. Probably there might be many people who would defect toward Hamas because Hamas has the power on the ground.
HARRIS: Mamoun Fandy, thank you for taking the time to talk to us this Sunday morning. Appreciate it. Thank you.
FANDY: Thank you.
HARRIS: Runner Eric Alva lost part of his right arm and leg while fighting with the Marine Corps in Iraq, but he says he will run again. We'll introduce you to Eric. He is this week's very aspiring "Soldier's Story."
NGUYEN: Plus, a divided nation and Congress. So does your pick for president even matter? We'll talk to a congressional expert about that.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And we'll have an Election Day forecast coming up later in this hour. And it's Halloween, October 31, the last day of October. A trick or treat forecast is upcoming.
Stay there. CNN SUNDAY MORNING will be right back.
HARRIS: Taking a live look at Washington, D.C., and the White House. And, you know, not too far from there, in one of the Maryland suburbs, the Redskins will play the Green Bay Packers today. And we understand that's some kind of a predictor of the outcome of that game...
NGUYEN: Yes. Because if the Redskins win, they say Bush will win the office come Tuesday.
I don't know about that, Rob. Do you believe in this little prediction thing that they've got going on there in Washington?
MARCIANO: You know, it's a trend. We call that what it is. It's a trend.
MARCIANO: The trend is your friend. So...
NGUYEN: It's all about the math.
MARCIANO: We'll go with that. NGUYEN: OK.
MARCIANO: You know, it will be interesting to see what happens on Tuesday after today.
Happy Halloween, guys.
HARRIS: And to you. And to you.
NGUYEN: Happy Halloween.
MARCIANO: It's the 31st day of -- of October, not August. Although in some spots it will feel that way.
MARCIANO: That's the way it is from her, guys. Back to you.
NGUYEN: All right. So Tony's 6-year-old daughter, who is going as Elvira tonight for Halloween, she's not going to need a raincoat.
MARCIANO: Yes, you can't cover up there, pops.
HARRIS: Yes, I can.
HARRIS: You know, I'm going to take her to Denver very quickly. Get on a plane.
NGUYEN: Get her covered up.
MARCIANO: Make her put the ski jacket on.
NGUYEN: All right.
HARRIS: Thanks, Rob.
NGUYEN: Thank you, Rob.
Well, this former marathon runner lost a leg last spring in Iraq. But he didn't lose his spirit. A remarkable "Soldier's Story" you won't want to miss. Marine Sergeant Eric Alva live on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.
HARRIS: Thinking of their comrades overseas, Marines running in today's Marine Corps marathon in Washington are surely doing that. The run falls on a weekend in which a car bomb attack killed eight U.S. Marines in Iraq. Security is tight for this year's marathon, but organizers say there are no specific threats.
NGUYEN: Time now for our weekly spotlight on "A Soldier's Story." Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Alva wants to run the Marine Corps marathon once again one day, even though he lost part of a leg in the Iraq war. Staff Sergeant Alva joins us now from San Antonio, Texas.
Good morning to you.
STAFF SERGEANT ERIC ALVA, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET.): Good morning, Betty. How are you?
NGUYEN: I'm doing well. We'll talk about the Marine Corps marathon in just a moment. But first, give us a little insight into your story.
Iraq wasn't your first tour of duty. In fact, you reenlisted following the Gulf War. Tell us your experience once you got on the ground in Iraq. What was it like?
ALVA: Oh, it was very intense. I mean, none of us expected that we would start taking, you know, any resistance or anything so early.
I got injured about three hours into the ground war, the first day of the war. And when people normally ask me, you know, if I -- did I get injured in Iraq, I tell them yes. But I really don't tell them that I was all in Iraq for three hours and most of my time in deployment was in Kuwait, waiting to go into Iraq.
NGUYEN: Right. Well, I want to put up a quote that you said on the screen right now.
It says, "The first thing that went through my mind that I was hearing, it was like fireworks," talking about when you were hit. "People were cutting off my suit to see what happened. I couldn't feel the bottom half of my legs."
Take us back to that moment. What exactly happened?
ALVA: I was on a logistical convoy. And we had come upon our first break as far as where people needed to make a restroom break or things like that. And we departed our vehicles, and I had stepped out of my vehicle about once or twice.
And then on the third time, I decided to heat up my MRE on the hood of my Humvee. And while I was going back to get something out of the passenger side, which I -- to this day, I don't even know what I was going to get because I never made it back -- I took about two or three steps and the explosion went off and threw me about 10 feet down.
My hearing was gone. I just had this enormous ringing and I was in severe pain. And I was trying to get up or sit up or move my body, and my lower half wouldn't move. And I quickly -- the first thing that came to mind was I thought I was paralyzed.
NGUYEN: We're showing pictures right now of your unit in Iraq. I also understand that you refused to go back into surgery until you were able to call home and speak to mom. Tell us why and what you said to mom. ALVA: Well, you know, there's a story behind that. Because two weeks before I actually left for Kuwait, I flew my mom out to California because I didn't come home for Christmas in 2002.
And so when I dropped her off at Palm Springs Airport, I told her not to worry, that I would be OK. And, you know, "I promise I'll come back, I won't get hurt."
Well, you know, when I got to Germany and I was able to make the first phone call, I just wanted to speak to my parents, especially my mom, because I knew by now she had heard the news, and I knew it was, like, I broke my promise. I got hurt.
NGUYEN: Oh. Well, you lost part of a leg. But you still plan on coming back. You are a fighter. You're going to be in this marathon one day, aren't you?
ALVA: Yes, yes. You know, I hope so. I have a running prosthetic now. I do the best I can. And, you know, I hope to be there one day.
NGUYEN: And quickly -- we're almost out of time, but you may even try out for the U.S. Disabled Ski Team. Is that correct?
ALVA: I've worked with disabled sports, and I'm also working with Salute America's Heroes. And that's, you know, one of the main focuses, to help all the wounded coming home.
And people can, you know, see what it's about like going to their Web site for saluteheroes.org. But where I am today is because of a lot of disabled sports. Because I ski now. I'm scuba diving now, I'm running, I'm swimming.
ALVA: It's like I'm doing a lot.
NGUYEN: Nothing is going to keep you down.
ALVA: Yes. Nothing. Nothing is going to keep me down.
NGUYEN: Well, best of luck to you, Eric Alva. Hopefully in one of these marathons some day soon we'll be see you running in it.
ALVA: Definitely. Thank you so much, Betty.
NGUYEN: All right. Take care -- Tony.
Living by example. One man felt his voice had to be heard before he slipped away when CNN SUNDAY MORNING returns.
HARRIS: What this man felt he had to do before he passed away. Welcome back, everyone. I'm Tony Harries.
NGUYEN: I'm Betty Nguyen. That story is coming up, but first here's what's happening now in the news. George Bush and John Kerry are making a final push in some battleground states today. Bush starts out in Florida, stopping in Miami, Tampa, and Gainesville, then he heads on to Ohio. Kerry starts out in the Buckeye State with a church service in Dayton, then is on to New Hampshire and Florida.
Turning overseas, ailing Palestinian Yasser Arafat isn't getting much sympathy from Ariel Sharon. The Israeli prime minister says if Arafat dies, he will not be buried in Jerusalem. Palestinians see the holy city as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
The Marine Corps says a suicide car bomber was responsible for the death of eight marines yesterday in al-Anbar Province, which is west of Baghdad. That attack on a Marine convoy occurred in a rural area near the Abu Ghraib prison. It was the heaviest one-day death toll in six months.
And there's outrage in Tokyo at the beheading of Japanese backpacker by his kidnappers in Iraq. The body, wrapped in an American flag, was found in Baghdad. Japan's prime minister is calling it, quote, "An evil act of terrorism."
HARRIS: If you're thinking about how you're preparing to vote this Election Day, the story of one Texas man might change your mind. His family says he lived by example by casting a dying vote. Chau Nguyen from our Houston affiliate, KHOU has more.
CHAU NGUYEN, KHOU REPORTER: For the Dimmicks, choosing a marker for their father was the final act of saying good-bye.
RUTH DIMMICK, WIFE OF BOB DIMMICK: He liked greenery.
C. NGUYEN: Bob Dimmick, father of four, husband of 46 years, died of heart failure last Sunday.
DIMMICK: Responsibility was a major, major issue to him.
C. NGUYEN: So, just before he died, his wife Ruth tells us, Dimmick insisted on settling one last matter.
(on camera): Bob Dimmick would come here to the Barbara Bush library and just like these early voters, Dimmick wanted to vote.
(voice-over): So, in an ambulance Dimmick's wish was granted. He cast his early ballot with the help of a poll worker. Hours later the 64 year old slipped into a coma.
DIMMICK: His sense of protection for his family was so strong that voting was also a sense of protection to help make sure the right person is in the White House.
C. NGUYEN: The Dimmicks say their dad didn't miss one election in his lifetime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're very proud of him. But, I'm not surprised him either.
C. NGUYEN: Not surprised because he lived by example.
HARRIS: That was Chau Nguyen from our Houston affiliate KHOU.
NGUYEN: Now a look at other stories across America today. A huge chemical spill in New Jersey is under investigation. Nearly half a million gallons of sodium hydroxide spilled from a collapsed storage tank and ran into a busy shipping channel along Staten Island. At least three people were taking to the hospital with minor burns.
A mass in Washington honored the late Cardinal James A. Hickey. He served 20 years as archbishop of Washington. A precession of hundreds of deacons, priests, bishops, and cardinals filed past a cordon of Nights of Columbus in ceremonial dress. Cardinal Hickey died last Sunday at the age of 84.
Singer R. Kelly has been booted from the tour with rapper Jay-Z. R. Kelly had gone to the hospital Friday after being hit with pepper spray during a show at Madison Square Garden. Now it appears the pepper spray came from Jay-Z's own people. A dispute erupted after R. Kelly walked off the stage during his performance.
HARRIS: Let's fast forward now and see what stories will be making headlines this week. The big story, of course, will be Tuesday, Election Day. It's still a very tight presidential race. Many political observers say the results may hinge on which party can get their voters out at the polls.
Now, on Wednesday, the court-martial of U.S. Army Sergeant Charles Jenkins gets underway in Japan. He is accused of deserting to North Korea four decades ago.
And on Friday, we'll find out how many jobs were created in October. The labor department releases its report is at 8:30 a.m. Analysts expect about 160,000 new jobs, up from September's disappointing 96,000.
NGUYEN: A divided nation and a very close election. Where the candidates stand when it comes to values? We are going on the issues.
HARRIS: Plus, can your candidate get the job done if he has to fight an uphill battle with Congress? We'll ask an expert when CNN SUNDAY MORNING returns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that the people are going to be energized by the events of the last election. And if you're a democrat, you're thinking, "I'm going, and my vote's going to count" and you are a republican you're thinking "those democrats are going to the polls, so I better get there to make sure my vote counts." I think a lot of people make up their minds months before the election, and I'm probably no exception to the general masses.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think more than anything, Iraq and terrorism. I think if we don't control that, then what difference does it make what kind of economy and all that we have?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: Well, the polls consistently put George Bush and John Kerry within just a couple points of each other, it shows just how evenly divided the country is on some very fundamental issues. CNN's Bob Franken explains.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To some degree, each of the candidates is leading, not just a campaign, but a moral crusade.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The culture of this country's changing from one that is said if it feels good, do it. And if you've got a problem, blame somebody else. To a culture in which each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make in life.
FRANKEN: His supporters see President Bush as the bulwark against so much that is morally reprehensible. His detractors see him as the leader of the self-righteous, whose time has come and gone.
KERRY: We will not turn the clock back in this country.
FRANKEN: The differences are stark. On abortion, for instance.
BUSH: We stand for a culture of life in which every person matters and every person counts.
KERRY: I believe the right of privacy is a constitutional right. I believe it is a right. And let me say importantly, and I think all of you know this. Protecting the right of privacy is not pro- abortion, it is pro-choice, pro-the rights of women to be able to control...
FRANKEN: In the related stem cell issue, Bush lined up with the so-called "right to life" advocates when he imposed strict limits on federal funding. Kerry favors wider research.
As for gay marriage, no question about the president's political stand. Not only does he oppose gay marriage, but he favors a constitutional amendment that would ban it. Kerry is against the constitutional amendment, at the same time he says he is against gay marriage. These issues hit the nerve of a country that polls show almost evenly divided over who best represents the values of voters. (on camera): Both candidates insist, of course, that they are not extreme, but the debate over values can be. These are issues that inspire passion, sometimes even prejudice, but rarely, compromise.
Bob Franken, CNN, Washington.
NGUYEN: And this concludes our weekly look at the issues facing voters this election. Now, each week for the past couple of months we've explored these issues in detail and where the candidates stand. We hope it was useful in helping you develop an informed opinion as you head to the polls on Tuesday.
HARRIS: Inside politics is live from New York next hour. Judy Woodruff hosts an election preview as the candidates head into the final 48 hours of the campaign. Today's guests include Bush campaign chairman, Marc Racicot, and Kerry campaign senior adviser, Tad Devine, that's ahead at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
NGUYEN: And as we've been saying, just two days before we head to those polls, but if Congress is in charge of passing laws, does it really matter who you pick for president? We'll ask a congressional expert, that's ahead.
HARRIS: And welcome back to CNN SUNDAY MORNING I'm Tony Harris with a check of our top stories.
Three United Nations elections workers are being held hostage in Afghanistan. Video shown on the Arabic TV network al-Jazeera shows the three huddling together The captors are demanding the release of prisoners from across Afghanistan and from the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In Iraq an official says it was the deadliest single attack on U.S. forces in six months. Eight Marines are dead after a suicide car bomber detonated explosives yesterday in an area near Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison. Ten other Marines were injured.
And in a cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says an ailing Yasser Arafat will not be buried in Jerusalem should he die. Sources tell CNN that Palestinian officials are raising the possibility that the Arafat era may be coming to an end. The Palestinian leader is hospitalized in Paris for medical tests.
NGUYEN: And you don't want to miss this, a Halloween tradition in one Massachusetts town. We will take you to an old-time pumpkin smashing, that's coming up a little later.
HARRIS: Well, don't look for any 9/11 reform legislation before Election Day. House and Senate negotiations and those negotiators say they won't be able to finish work on the measure by then, but congressional sources say they're hoping to have at least an informal agreement among themselves. Talks have been deadlocked over how much power of oppose national intelligence chief should have.
Does it matter who wins the White House when you get right down to it if Congress is on the opposite side? And, do republicans have the edge in retaining control of the House and Senate?
This morning we're taking a look at the balance of power in Congress and how that might impact effectiveness of either presidential candidate. Our guest is Amy Walter, U.S. House editor of the "Cook Political Report." Cook provides analysis of presidential, Senate, House and governor races. And Walter joins us live in New York.
And, Amy good morning.
AMY WALTER, "COOK POLITICAL REPORT": Good morning.
HARRIS: OK, all right, I'm going to ask you the question right off the top and than I'm going ask you when we're done: Does it really matter who wins?
WALTER: You know, you've got to say yes to that answer. Look, working with Congress has been become a very interesting proposal over the course of the last few years as the Congress and country have become so much more polarized. You know, look, I think you have to give President Bush some credit even though he was working with an all-republican Congress, very, very closely divided, especially in the House. The leadership there was able to keep folks on board, not a lot of defectors. Bill Clinton, when he had an all democratic House and Senate, boy, he barely passed his key piece of legislation, which was his budget, by one vote even though he a 42-seat majority. So, the ability of the president to work with the folks in their own party, very, very important.
HARRIS: OK, Amy, let's start with the president, should he win on Tuesday, and let's take on the issue of health care. Can he just move forward with tort reform? Can he move forward with a patient's bill of rights? He may have smaller margins in Congress, but still have majority.
WALTER: You know, it's going to be very hard for the president, if he is reelected. Remember, 2006 mid-term elections, that's what folks in Congress are going to be more concerned about. The president would be a lame duck president if they're worry about their own future. So, they have to be concerned about history and traditionally, the second mid-term election of a president his party loses seat, so they want to be very wary of passing any controversial legislation. I think there are a lot of republicans who have been onboard helping the president with some of his key pieces of legislation, especially something like the Medicare prescription drug bill. And yet, they feel -- they're, known they're very torn about that and the cost of it, so I think it's going to be tough to get some of those members back onboard.
HARRIS: So, Amy, will a republican Congress ever allow John Kerry to roll back its tax cuts to pay for his health care plan or anything else? WALTER: Well, you know, that's exactly right. How tough is it going to be? Especially in the House where -- you know, you do, when you are in the minority, you're in the minority, there's very little you can do about that. In the Senate you have more control. The question's really going to be, again, for some of these members what voters are saying to them, whether they feel like the economy is struggling, whether they got a message sent from voters. But look, I think bottom line, getting some of this stuff through a Congress that worked very hard to pass these tax reform legislation, even getting some democrats onboard, is going to be tough. You're right.
HARRIS: So Amy, why do we beat them up for specifics during the campaign without, at least, analyzing whether or not they can get any of the stuff passed through Congress?
WALTER: Well, you know, part of the problem is we're projecting now into the future, and we really don't know what kind of issues are going to be in front of the American people in a few months from now, and once this -- you know, what the economy is going to look like, what the president's going to be dealing with. But we do know this, obviously, the biggest issue, whether it's Kerry or Bush, will be Iraq, the war on terror; those are going to take up most of their energy. The president, obviously, is going to be looking for, if he's reelected, a legacy. And will he be able to get his members of his own party to stay with him, work with him on that? Those are all questions that we can't answer right now. But obviously, they may be dictated by events that have yet to happen. So, it is really, really, I think, dangerous just to simply write it off, but we do know the hurdles that he faces.
HARRIS: OK, we know it matters, but tell us once again, convince us once again why it matters who wins.
WALTER: You've got to be able to sell your message to Congress, and I think that both of these men have a very difficult challenge regardless of what the makeup of the Congress is.
HARRIS: Amy, good to see you.
WALTER: Thanks a lot.
HARRIS: Thanks for taking time.
WALTER: All right.
NGUYEN: So with that said, we do want to hear from you. All morning long, we've been asking you for thoughts on our e-mail question of the day. Are you voting for the party or candidate on Tuesday? And this Florida viewer writes:
"I'm 68 years old and have never voted for the party, always for the person. Plus, if I vote one party for president I mix my votes for Senate and House reps. I think it's very difficult and wrong to one party to have complete control of our government."
HARRIS: And this from Don: "The election is not a football game where you root for your team. I believe it is about the plans, programs, and past results of the candidate in question."
NGUYEN: And we appreciate all your responses this morning.
Well, taking a pounding: This seems rather medieval, don't you think? Show that video. Find out why these pumpkins are being beat up on Halloween when CNN SUNDAY MORNING returns.
NGUYEN: Oh yeah, being serenaded by old "Blue Eyes" on Halloween. Well good morning New York City. This weekend, the Hudson Valley area celebrates its legacy as the mysterious region where the headless horseman rides. Washington Irving's famous tale of the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow." I know you remember it.
HARRIS: Yeah. Yeah.
NGUYEN: It immortalized the area, called "Legend Weekend" terrifying events are planned for all age groups. Have fun.
HARRIS: Old enough to co-written it.
NGUYEN: I doubt that.
HARRIS: Thank you.
Well, today is Halloween, which means lots of pumpkins to dispose of afterwards. You can roll them downhills, you can cook them up in pies, you can watch them rot on your porch, or you can hurl them into oblivion with a medieval siege machine?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's my favorite time of year. This is harvest season right here. We grow about eight acres of pumpkins. We also destroy them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's called a trebuchet. Trebuchets would siege a castles. And they would throw 250 pound boulders into a castle wall. We throw, of course, pumpkins not boulders.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to load again. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) give us about half an hour to load again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the old days, they would have about 100 men on a rope, and we're lazy so we plug the tractor into it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it would be a good promotional thing for the farm stands. They says, boy that would be a great thing to draw a crowd and maybe they'd buy a pumpkin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're about ready.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it's just fun, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pull it in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Woo hoo!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's probably a 50-pound pumpkin. I've been called the "e" word. Eccentric, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's got a lot of time on his hands.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Autumn in new England.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sort of what we do here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Woo. Oh, my gosh. Look at it. Into the trees!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To see people excited and I'm just as excited as they are.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was amazing, wasn't it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like to see the splat. No question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even though I've seen this fire probably four or 500 times, I still get a thrill out of it, every time it goes...
NGUYEN: That is good stuff. You have one of those in your backyard, don't you Rob?
MARCIANO: Oh yeah. Three actually.
NGUYEN: Yeah, we all have one.
HARRIS: That would be something. Don't you love the splat?
MARCIANO: The splat is amazing. The last one looked like it went about 300 yards.
HARRIS: Cleared the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
MARCIANO: Good times. You know, simple pleasures here on Sunday mornings.
NGUYEN: That's what it's all about.
MARCIANO: Hope you enjoy them. Hey I wanted to show you temperatures you can expect later on tonight.
HARRIS: Bring in candy for you guys.
NGUYEN: We're going to have to get that candy checked.
MARCIANO: Bring me a picture of Elvira.
NGUYEN: Yeah. The 6-year-old Elvira at your house.
HARRIS: Pray for me.
NGUYEN: You're going to be in trouble once she turns 16, oh my goodness.
HARRIS: That's all for us.
NGUYEN: Yes. "Inside Politics Sunday" is up next with a look at the headlines. In the meantime have a happy Halloween.
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