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AMERICAN MORNING

Hillary Clinton Gives Background on Library; U.S. Confirms Nuclear Site in Iran; Are Senate Republicans Misusing Power?

Aired November 18, 2004 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CO-HOST: ... technically the woman, or the people of the year. Before that let's get to Carol Costello at our news desk this morning checking in on stories new in the news.
CAROL COSTELLO, ANCHOR: I'm just thinking where Jack might be and what he might be doing.

O'BRIEN: On assignment.

COSTELLO: Good morning, everyone.

Now in the news, unfortunately more violence in Baghdad this morning. A car bomb explodes outside of a police station, killing at least two people. At least six others, including a woman, are injured.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is calling on the Security Council to issue its strongest warning yet to forces fighting in Sudan. Annan's comments come as the Security Council begins a special two-day session on the ongoing crisis in the Darfur region. The meeting is being held in Nairobi, Kenya, the first time in 14 years the Security Council has convened outside of New York City.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is set to undergo minor surgery tomorrow. Rice is having a procedure to block blood flow to fibroid tumors in the uterus. She's expected to be back at work on Monday. Earlier this week, Rice was tapped by President Bush to be the next secretary of state.

And Congress is looking into the FDA's handling of the Vioxx recall. The pain reliever was pulled from shelves in September due to safety concerns. The Senate Finance Committee is meeting next hour to see if the FDA ignored possible warning signs. The FDA blames one of its reviewers for not following the agency's protocol.

BILL HEMMER, CO-HOST: Sounds like more than a couple of hearings on Capitol Hill now, too.

COSTELLO: They're busy in this lame duck -- lame duck session.

HEMMER: Right.

O'BRIEN: Carol, thanks.

COSTELLO: Sure. O'BRIEN: Just about three hours from now Bill Clinton's presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas will officially open, amid celebrations attended by a who's who in politics.

I spoke with the former first lady turned Senator Hillary Clinton about the library and some other hot political topics earlier on AMERICAN MORNING.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: This was a real labor of love for Bill. And he started working with the architects about, oh, I guess six years ago. And was involved in every step of the way, giving his ideas about not only how it should be designed, but what it would look like, what the meaning of it would be, and it is just like Bill Clinton.

I mean it's open; it's expansive; it's welcoming; it's spirited. And it is a bridge to the 21st Century. That is the whole sense of it.

O'BRIEN: Some people have described it as a shrine, as well. Do you think that's a fair description?

CLINTON: Well, I think that if you've been to any presidential library, it tells the story of that president's life. I've been to, I guess, all of them, and they are all trying to portray to Americans what that particular president believed, what he did when he was president.

But it's more of a historical, and really a creative way of having people look at the exhibits, look at the gifts that were given when a president was in office.

And I really think that it's smart, because most Americans will never visit the White House. And this presidential library will have an -- an actual replica of the Oval Office when Bill was president. So people, thousands of people will be able to bring their children and able to see that. Or the cabinet room, or one of the limousines that drove the president around.

And I think that's important in our government, that we have as much connection with people. And that's one of the reasons why Bill wanted it to be literally a transparent building, because he believes that government in a democracy like ours should be transparent and open to people.

O'BRIEN: There are some critics, though, who say that the -- the museum itself, a library minimizes the role your husband had in the impeachment process and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. What do you make of that criticism?

CLINTON: You know, I think that the library presents a full and accurate picture of the Clinton administration. There were a lot of things that went on during those eight years, a lot of great accomplishments for our country, and for the world. So everything is put into context. And people can come and judge for themselves.

And in addition to that, you know, Bill will be opening up his records for his library much sooner than the law requires, so that scholars and researchers, historians, will be able to get in and look at all of the documents and -- and start writing about what happened during the Clinton presidency.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk a moment about politics right now. There are reports that Karl Rove has approached the Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska to be the secretary of agriculture.

There are some cynics who would say it's less of an endorsement of the senator than trying to remove another Democrat from the Senate. Where do you stand on that?

CLINTON: Well, I have no, you know, inside information about any of that. You know, the president has been re-elected. He has a right to ask anyone to be in his cabinet. And then, of course, whoever is asked has a right to decide whether that's what he or she wants to do.

Ben Nelson is a terrific senator from Nebraska. We love having him in the Senate and as part of the Democratic Caucus. He's really a funny, wonderful guy with a great sense of humor. And you know, I hope he stays in the Senate. But obviously that's up to him.

O'BRIEN: Another thing we were talking about in the news today, of course, is the House Republicans changing the rules to essentially inoculate Tom DeLay if, indeed, he is indicted.

No, don't laugh before I finish my question here. What do you make of that this morning? We're hearing lots from -- from Capitol Hill about this.

CLINTON: Well, I mean, what can I say? It's just so typical. I mean they're running the House of Representatives like a fiefdom with Tom DeLay as, you know, in charge of the plantation.

I think it's kind of a sad commentary. I don't think it's good for democracy. I don't think it's good for the Republican Party.

But again, I don't have a vote in the Republican Caucus in the House. They'll decide what they want to do.

But one would hope that they would not be so quick to change the rules when it affects their leader. They certainly wanted to apply the harshest of rules to Democratic leaders for so many years. I think we need to call a truce to all of this back and forth, and you know, let's have rules that apply to everybody. It's like the idea that some want to change the filibuster, which has been a time-honored tradition in the Senate.

You know, absolute power corrupts absolutely. And I think that we have an administration and Republican leadership that, you know, is very powerful. And power should be handled carefully in a democracy.

So, again, I don't have a vote in any of this, but I hope that, you know, more thoughtful minds prevail over what should be done going forward.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: That was Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. We chatted with her a little bit earlier today.

CNN's going to have live coverage of the library's dedication ceremony. That begins at noon eastern time.

HEMMER: Six minutes past the hour. Iran today angrily denying charges that it's secretly building nuclear weapons, an exile group charging that Iran is enriching uranium at a hidden site in that country.

Yesterday Secretary of State Colin Powell said -- I'm quoting now -- "I have seen intelligence which would corroborate what this dissident group is saying. And it should be of concern to all parties," end quote.

U.S. intelligence indicates that Iran is trying to adapt missiles to carry nuclear weapons.

Let's get reaction this morning at the White House on this. This, rather, with Suzanne Malveaux there.

Good morning.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill.

Of course, the Bush administration is keeping a very close eye on this development. It was just last month that Iran said it could mass-produce a weapon that they would be able to launch to Israel or to U.S. forces in the Middle East.

If such a missile could carry a warhead, a nuclear warhead, that would be a big concern to the Bush administration.

What is complicating the matter, as well, is this report from this Iranian exile group, saying that they have seen a nuclear weapons research facility. Iranian officials, of course, denying this. But this group has been right in the past.

Now there's no evidence, U.S. officials say, definitively that Iran has nuclear weapons. There's been much, however, that has been made about its uranium enrichment program; Germany, France, as well as Britain trying to convince Iran to give up that program. It was just last week that they pledged to do just that, to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to go in to the country and to prove that they had gotten rid of that program.

They say, however, it's just being used for nuclear fuel. But they have made that commitment. However, there's some U.S. officials, including former weapons inspector David Kay that are skeptical.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID KAY, FORMER U.S. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Iranians have said it's temporary. It's to be measured in months not years. The Europeans have said oh, no, it's years if not permanent. We expect Iran to give up its uranium enrichment capability.

The simple fact of the matter is the Iranians have shown no indication that they will permanently give up their right to enrich uranium. And as long as they have that, they're on the path to creating nuclear weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And what you see is President Bush, as well as his national security adviser, his new national security adviser, Steve Hadley leaving for the presidential library dedication for later this afternoon.

It is very clear, however, the Bush administration keeping a very close eye on this. What they have been encouraging is that if they find, if these inspectors find that, in fact, Iran has violated its agreement, that they are still pursuing their nuclear program that they would actually refer it to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions -- Bill.

HEMMER: We'll follow it throughout the day. Suzanne, thanks at the White House -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: The uproar over the "Desperate Housewives"/"Monday Night Football" tease has outraged more than just parents and the FCC. The sexy clip where the sex pot housewife Nicollette Sheridan drops her towel for Philadelphia Eagles player Terrell Owens has also angered the coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY DUNGY, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS COACH: I thought it hit at a lot of stereotypes towards athletes, black athletes in particular. I thought it was very insensitive on the heels of the Kobe Bryant situation. And I just don't know that the Eagles P.R. people or the NFL would have let it go, had it been a different player or a coach or an owner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Both ABC and the NFL have apologized for the risque spot.

HEMMER: That story keeps going, doesn't it?

Severe flooding in Texas leading to two deaths and a very dramatic rescue.

A woman driving in West Travis County swept into a raging creek. A wall of water there. Climbed out of her car and even though rescuers were on the scene quickly, by the time they got to her, only her head, as you see from this videotape here, was above the water. Here are some of the rescuers talking about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAPT. KEITH JOHNSON, AUSTIN FIRE DEPARTMENT: A lot of water rescues, we spend a lot more time planning and making sure we have a real safe operation. In this one we tried to make it as safe as possible, but we also knew that it was a very time critical incident.

She -- only her head was visible, and the water was still rising. It rose almost two feet in just the ten minutes that we took to rescue her.

So what we did was we stationed a couple guys downstream with rope bags. In case she got swept away, they'd be able to effect a rescue. And then for the main primary plan, we had the aerial ladder extended out to her and then sent two rescuers out the ladder to bring her from the vehicle onto the ladder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Again, that in west Texas, where the rain coming down there. We are told through those two gentleman, they joined us last hour on AMERICAN MORNING, that the woman is doing fine. In fact, she got on top that ladder, got out of the water and said thank you. And she's OK.

And Chad Myers is watching the rain still come down again today. What, four days and counting now? Today will make fifth in parts of Texas?

(WEATHER REPORT)

HEMMER: All right, Chad, thanks.

A quick-thinking Connecticut school bus driver is being credited with saving the lives of dozens of her students.

On Tuesday driver Jeannette Murray felt heat near her gas and brake pedals of the bus. She quickly evacuated 42 kindergarten to fifth grade students just moments before the bus' engine burst into flames. The fiery bus then rolled backwards down a street and came to rest when it hit a tree.

School officials are calling on the bus company for an immediate report on just what went wrong.

HEMMER: Wow. She's going to be the most invited guest at dinner for a lot of those families. My oh, my. Well done.

In a moment here, the first hearing in Kobe Bryant's civil case now in the books. How likely is it that this case will go to trial? We'll have a look at that.

O'BRIEN: Plus Congress trying to figure out just who's to blame for the flu shot shortage. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us to tell us just who they're pointing fingers at.

HEMMER: Also, Republicans changing a rule to help one of their own. Some are wondering, though, what this says about the power or lack of it for Democrats? We'll talk about it in a moment as we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: If you don't like the rules, you can just change them. That is what House Republicans did yesterday to protect one of their own, Tom DeLay.

Joining us this morning to discuss this and other political news, Carlos Watson. He's live from Palo Alto, California.

Good morning.

CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about what exactly did happen with Tom DeLay. The House Republicans bypassed an old rule from ten years ago, essentially to inoculate Tom DeLay if, in fact, he is the focus of an indictment. What do you make of this?

WATSON: Well, as you know, the Travis County D.A. down in Texas has indicted about three of Tom DeLay's associates, and there was some worry that Tom DeLay would get indicted. And if he did, according to some old rules, he would have to step down. Republicans quashed that.

Now, I think what's significant is not just that they protected one of their own, but that Democrats were essentially powerless to do anything about it.

And so for those Democrats who cried or worried when John Kerry lost a week or two ago, seeing what's happened in Congress has got to make you worry even more that whether it comes to Social Security changes, additional changes in the tax code, more that has to do with foreign policy, that Republicans are really running the show from beginning to end.

And even an issue like this, that five or ten years ago would have created a huge outcry now is essentially going to pass quietly into the good night.

O'BRIEN: It also shows to some degree the strength of the Republicans in addition to the lack of strength of the Democrats.

WATSON: It really does. And in fact, I think one of the more interesting things, Soledad, is the increasing centrality of Texas Republicans in American politics.

Again, in the White House, President Bush obviously a Texas Republican, Tom DeLay, the No. 2 person in the House, a Texas Republican. In the cabinet we saw Alberto Gonzales and Margaret Spellings recently get appointed. And even in the U.S. Senate, the person who's given Arlen Specter one of the hardest times with regard to becoming the new chairman of the judiciary committee is none other than a freshman senator from Texas, John Cornyn.

So not since John F. Kennedy was president some 40 years ago have we seen one state and one party hold such a central role. John F. Kennedy was from Massachusetts, as was the speaker of the House at the time, John McCormack.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk a little bit about Karl Rove. Some people say he might be "TIME's" man of the year. We were talking about that this morning.

But more importantly than that, apparently he has approached Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, offering him, allegedly, the secretary of agriculture position. Cynics might say not so much that he loves Ben Nelson but more that he wants to remove him from the Senate and move a Republican in.

Where do you weigh in on this?

WATSON: I think you can say a couple things. You can say one, that it's not that remarkable that someone would reach across the aisle to a member of another party. We saw Bill Clinton do that with Bill Cohen, for example, a Republican from Maine who became his secretary of defense.

No. 2, you can say Republicans would say, "Give me kudos for this," because it's a part of an effort to reach across the aisle and to do some healing.

But as you're suggesting, Democrats would more cynically say oh, my gosh, not only did they pick up several seats and win the White House in the last election, but now they may get yet another one, given that if Ben Nelson were to accept this position, the person who would get to name his replacement would be the Republican governor of Nebraska.

So Democrats are in a tough place. And I think one of the interesting questions, Soledad, is where do they go from here? Do they behave as they did after the 2002 midterm elections and essentially fold their hands and essentially comply with the president?

Or do they take on a much more fighting spirit that you saw during most of this past presidential campaign, which really was ushered in by Howard Dean a non-Washingtonian.

I think the first big sign of what they do will happen in February when they are expected to select the new head of the DNC. Do they choose a fighter like Howard Dean? Or do they choose someone who's more likely to cooperate with the president and the Republicans?

O'BRIEN: As we say a lot in politics, we will see.

WATSON: We will see.

O'BRIEN: Carlos Watson, thanks as always.

WATSON: Good to see you this morning.

O'BRIEN: Likewise.

Still to come this morning, archaeologists digging in South Carolina have made a find that is so big experts say it is a potentially explosive revelation. We'll explain more on that just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Jack is out, but Toure is here. He's got the "Question of the Day."

TOURE, "ROLLING STONE": We're talking about who should be "TIME" magazine's person of the year, the newsmaker who had the greatest influence on the events of the past annum.

Karl Rove, President Bush, Michael Moore, Mel Gibson, God is even being considered. Some of the more interesting covers of the past years include Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com. He made the cover in '99. And someone who continues to have an impact, as opposed to some of the other ones who don't.

The Ayatollah Khomeini was picked in 1980, which is interesting because some people this year brought up bin Laden. But nowadays they're less likely to pick a villain.

In the '30s they put Hitler on, but they didn't actually show his face. So it's what they could do with Hitler at that point.

The issue will come out on December 19. But we're short- circuiting the whole thing.

HEMMER: Sure are.

TOURE: We want to know who you think should or will win "TIME's" person of the year this year? The question, "Who should be 'TIME' magazine's person of the year?"

Some interesting choices, Jon Stewart, says Andy from Milwaukee. An excellent choice. "'The Daily Show' had a profound impact on the coverage of the election. He's been the most effective voice in calling the political minders to bear." Good answer.

Jim from Frankfort, Kentucky, has a surely unpopular choice within America. "Yasser Arafat deserves the award," he says. "The impact of his death on the Middle East peace process is for more than anything he did while he was alive." OK.

O'BRIEN: Interesting.

TOURE: Ismail from Garza, Texas, has a suggestion that will surely play well in Soledad's house. "Spongebob Squarepants would make a wonderful person of the year, at least the most absorbing."

And Marcy from Shaker Heights, Ohio, which I think is Hemmer country, if I'm not mistaken.

HEMMER: Yes. Ohio. Not Shaker Heights. That's highbrow.

TOURE: "If Bill Hemmer does not get 'TIME' magazine's cover as person of the year, he must, must get 'People's' cover for sexiest man alive."

HEMMER: Marcy, baby, thank you, darling. I can give you the address for my bosses so you can write in all you want, tell all your friends. Tell a million people. We take all viewers.

O'BRIEN: ... whatever people...

TOURE: Whatever. She didn't give her last name. She might be a Hemmer herself.

O'BRIEN: Marcy Hemmer from Shaker Heights, Ohio.

HEMMER: Two thoughts on this, though. Bush won in 2000, right?

TOURE: Yes.

HEMMER: So they did -- give it to the second person within four years? Can you do that?

TOURE: Not usually.

HEMMER: Can you do that? You sell enough copies of "TIME" magazine if you do that? If they give it to God, what do you have to do, change the title? Person of the year to what?

TOURE: Well, that was what Al Sharpton said. That is the one sort of -- sort of thing hemming it in. Like, he's not a person. So he does fail the basic test there, don't you think?

HEMMER: How do you know he's not a person?

O'BRIEN: Yes, Toure?

TOURE: Oh, now you're blowing my mind!

O'BRIEN: Time for another Toure experience, I think.

Thank you, Toure.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Toure.

HEMMER: Let's get a break here. In a moment back to Arkansas. The library opens today. We'll talk to one of the driving forces behind the museum. Find out what you can expect if you pay a visit there.

Also, how likely is it that the Kobe Bryant civil matter will go to trial? Jeff Toobin has some thoughts on this as we continue. Bottom of the hour, after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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