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CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN

John Paul II Hospitalized; Pentagon Proposes Raising Death Gratuity to Fallen Soldiers' Families

Aired February 1, 2005 - 22:00   ET

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


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone.
The pope, whoever the pope is at any given moment, is more than simply the leader of the world's Catholics. That's true of virtually every pope but this current pope for the role he's played in arenas well beyond theology makes him a hugely important world figure and, when he takes ill given his age and history, that is news and that's our first stop tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): In Rome tonight, the pope is hospitalized. The Vatican says he's suffering from breathing problems.

Children who spend their days in virtual slavery I conditions almost too horrid to imagine.

ROBIN ROMANO, DIR. OF PHOTOGRAPHY: These children are sold for as little as $5. They breathe silica. All right, they work in 115- degree heat day in and day out. They carry over a ton of rock on their head and by the time they're 35 they're dead.

BROWN: What is being done to save these children, 246 million children around the world and why it's not enough?

And the measure of a milestone what the Iraqi elections mean to American soldiers headed back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were people walking. There were people, they were showing their ink-stained fingers and I think that that in the hearts of the soldiers they're like we did something, you know. We did it and we're proud.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: So, it's a full and busy hour ahead that begins in Rome where Pope John Paul II was rushed to the hospital earlier tonight. The Vatican says he is suffering from the flu and complications, including breathing problems. How serious his condition is, is still unclear at this point. This is very much a story still unfolding.

CNN's Alessio Vinci starts us off.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): The 84-year- old pontiff sounded hoarse during his Sunday homily from his apartment window overlooking St. Peter's Square but he looked cheerful.

He joked with children who were there to help him release doves, the symbol of peace. One flew back inside before taking flight, while two others had to be coaxed from the ledge.

Then, Monday came the first word from the Vatican that John Paul II was suffering from the flu and a mild fever and had canceled his meetings for that day.

Tuesday, aides announced the pope was clearing his calendar for the next few days, including his weekly general audience on Wednesday because of his condition. But Vatican sources told CNN at that time there was nothing to be concerned about.

The heavily traveled Polish pontiff was hospitalized several hours later with what Vatican officials characterize as acute respiratory infection. He is at Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic where he has been treated before.

Now in the 27th year of his papacy, John Paul has survived an assassination attempt and nine surgeries, removing an intestinal tumor and replacing a hip, among other things. He has suffered from Parkinson's disease for years.

While frail, the pope's health has been steady in recent months in contrast to the summer and fall of 2003, when his trips to Croatia and Slovakia appeared to take a heavy toll.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VINCI: It is four o'clock in the morning here in Rome. The pope at this time is resting on the tenth floor of the Gemelli Hospital. He has not been taken to intensive care unit.

His personal physician has already gone home for the night, so the situation at the Gemelli Hospital at this time is concern, of course, but everything seems to be under control -- back to you, Aaron.

BROWN: All right, just a quick one here. Obviously there are some medical facilities at the Vatican itself, so how unusual is it that he would be taken to the hospital?

VINCI: Quite unusual to be taken in such a hurry in the middle of the night to the hospital. As you said, there are some medical facilities at the Vatican. The pope undergoes a series of medical tests on a regular basis. But certainly this time Vatican officials and those who are working very close to the pope felt that it was necessary for him to get better care, better equipment and therefore they decided to hospitalize him tonight -- Aaron.

BROWN: Alessio, thank you very much, Alessio Vinci in Rome. It's important it seems to us here not to get ahead of the story itself. The story itself, given how little we currently know, is plenty important enough to deal with. Now is not the time to delve into all the possibilities of all of the tomorrows.

We're joined tonight by Father Tom Reese, who is the editor-in- chief of "America" and the author of "Archbishop, Inside the Power Structure of the Catholic Church;" in Rome, our CNN Analyst Delia Gallagher at Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic; and, joining us here Dr. John Cahill, who we pretty much pulled out of St. Luke's emergency room a short time ago as he was finishing his shift and there's a role for all of you. It's good to see you.

Delia, just let me start with you. Is there a sense at the hospital of crisis? Have people gathered there? If you didn't know the pope was there, would there be any outward sign telling you that something was going on?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: Well, the main outward sign, of course, would be all of the press people but, aside from us, there's nobody else that has gathered here because, of course, the news came in Italy probably about eleven o'clock at night.

So, many Italians will wake up tomorrow to this news. It's now about 4:00 in the morning, so it's been six hours since the pope's been admitted. And probably the most significant piece of information is just that his personal physician left here at the hospital a few hours ago.

And so, one can be perhaps reassured by that, that if his personal physician chose to leave his bedside that things might be calm at the moment. Certainly, outside it's very calm and inside we assume that the pope is resting.

BROWN: Father Reese, has there been any sense over the last weeks that the pope's health was anything but as it has been, which is he's battling lots of stuff and he's not a young man? He's gone through a lot.

FATHER THOMAS REESE, CNN PAPAL ANALYST: Well, over the last couple of years his health has gone up and down and people have noticed that. But in the last few days, of course, he did develop the flu and that's had an impact on him. But, you know, even most recently when we saw him at the balcony above St. Peter's in that wonderful scene with the doves, he looked pretty good then.

BROWN: Yes.

REESE: So, he seems to go up and down. But the flu for a man that age with his problems is worth looking at seriously.

BROWN: I want to get to the doctor in a second. Just quickly, though, not to be conspiratorial, honestly, I'm just trying to understand something here, would the Vatican try and manage this, the news of this very carefully? REESE: Well, under Pope John Paul II, the Vatican has been more open than it was in the past. I mean in the old days we wouldn't even be told he was sick. We wouldn't even probably be told that he was in the hospital. So, you know, a pope is never sick until he's dead...

BROWN: Yes.

REESE: ...has been the Roman phrase. But under this pope there's been a little more openness on this, so I think we may get some information as time goes by.

BROWN: Let me turn to the doctor here for a second, rather than try and say this word. The way this is being described, the breathing problem, it sounds like a spasm in the larynx where you try and breathe but it sounds like your larynx closes off and you can't and this can go on for a minute and it's rarely life threatening but it's no small thing either, right?

DR. JOHN CAHILL, ST. LUKE'S ROOSEVELT HOSPITAL: That's correct. I mean a couple of things. When you get spasm of the upper airway, which often is caused from viral infections with inflammation and constriction of the airway, an individual can have difficulty breathing particularly an older person. If they receive or don't receive oxygen for a couple minutes, it can be potentially life threatening.

BROWN: And this is an outgrowth of the flu? It's something that the flu creates?

CAHILL: Well, the flu is a viral infection, as we know, and usually it infects, you know, the upper respiratory tract, so being, you know, the nose, the upper airway and also the lungs. So, there are a couple of things.

One, he could certainly have a viral pneumonia, which could cause the difficulty breathing. Or, if he develops an acute inflammation to the upper airway, right behind sort of where we swallow, then that can be, you know, acute airway obstruction and be potentially life threatening.

BROWN: Look, it's not reasonable, which I suppose it never stopped me before, but it's not reasonable to ask you to do diagnoses from, you know, 3,600 miles away or whatever. Does it sound to you like this is a bad case of the flu in a guy who's almost 85 years old?

CAHILL: Sure, I would think they've done the right thing by transferring him to a hospital. I would probably think more likely he has a viral pneumonia from the flu and he's having difficulty breathing from that because often when people have sort of a laryngeal spasm, usually that requires more emergent attention, sometimes a surgical airway or placing someone on a ventilator. From the sounds of it, he hasn't been placed on that.

BROWN: And just, again, when you're talking about someone who is in their mid-'80s, the concerns are -- is pneumonia a big concern now? CAHILL: That's correct. Basically, you can develop a viral pneumonia and also just respiratory compromise where they're unable to oxygenate well enough. And, if we look at people who run into problems with sort of viral pneumonias or the flu, it's, you know, elderly people and very young children and people with significant medical problems.

And, you know, unfortunately the pope, you know, with his age and his past medical history and now he has a significant, you know, influenza infection of the flu, can develop, you know, respiratory failure or significant respiratory distress.

BROWN: Let me try and get to each of you one more time here before we go. When the news happened, when you first heard it, was there in the Catholic clergy community a sense of crisis or was it taken more calmly than that?

REESE: Well, I think the reaction of the church is one of, you know, concern but calm concern because, I mean we've known the pope has been not in really good health for a couple of years now and, you know, we all know we're mortal.

I mean that's one thing that we were well aware of and we pray for him and hope for the best but, you know, he like all of us are going to have to face our maker one of these days.

BROWN: Delia, let me end this with you. Do you have any sense of how the next day is going to play out? Are you getting any word from people in the Vatican what to expect over the next 24 hours?

GALLAGHER: Well, at the moment, of course, there's been no word from the Vatican because the Vatican is essentially closed for the evening but we do assume that tomorrow morning we will have some official word on the state of the pope's health and then it will be a watch and see.

Obviously, there will be much interest in the next few days. If this has just been a case of the flu, then we'll want to see him come back rather quickly and the Vatican is going ahead and planning his meetings.

Just this morning they were arranging his meeting with Condoleezza Rice for next week. And, again, we have known for three days that he has had the flu, so in terms of the alarm, again, I would say it's a calm state of alarm, if there can be such a thing because he has had the flu.

And so this precautionary measure, it should be said also, is he's brought to the hospital because in the Vatican they don't have the facilities. He does have a personal doctor but he's got about two or three men around him and they just took that precaution to bring him here where he's got 24-hour care and other doctors.

BROWN: Well, everybody is going to watch this. I know you're going to watch it more closely than the rest of us. You'll be there all night. Thanks for your work tonight. Thank you both for coming in and helping us work with this, so thank you. And, obviously we're going to continue to follow this as it plays out through the night.

Now, on to a story that we started telling you but it deserves more time, we think, and another look tonight. It's not an easy story to watch but it's a hugely important story and it begins with a horrible statistic, 246 million children around the world live in virtual slavery, the simple joys of childhood stolen from them.

Some filmmakers set out to give voice to the problem and tonight we revisit them and hear from some of these children as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): This picture is not what it appears to be. What looks like nothing more than a rickety fishing platform is one of the more hidden and abusive forms of child labor.

It's called a jermall (ph), and there are at least 100 like it off the coast of Indonesia where, according to the filmmakers boys, some as young as nine, are forced to live and work for months at a time harvesting tiny fish.

ROMANO: Oftentimes they're very poor. They've had to leave their families in search of work. They're tricked into working on the jermall and children are trapped there for three months at a time. And what do they make for three months, $5, and what does that $5 contribute to, shrimp crackers on a table in a restaurant.

BROWN: The story of the jermalls is part of a new documentary called "Stolen Childhoods." Two filmmakers spent over seven years filming in eight different countries to capture the degradation, and there's really no other word for it, that is the daily reality for 246 million children in the world, just think of that number for a moment, 246 million.

BENTA ADERA (through translator): We pick every day. I didn't like it at all because your hands are very painful because of chemicals that are applied also burn your face as if hot water has been poured in your face and hands.

LEN MORRIS, PRODUCER: Many times it felt like we were in a battle zone but at the end of the day we were filming children living on the street or children working, living and eating out of dump sites, or children picking coffee 13 hours a day when a gang of guys comes over the hill with clubs hell bent on getting rid of us and stopping the work. What are we showing? What are we there to show really? We're there to show the conditions that adults force upon children.

ROMANO: There was a moment for me when I was in the brick kiln and I was shooting and one camera went down. Then we had another background (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I sort of stood there for a moment and it finally dawned on me that, you know, what are these children going through? If this is what it does to durable field equipment, can you imagine what it's doing to these children?

KAUSHALYA KUMARI (through translator): I started working in a stone quarry when I was ten. A lot of children worked there and they would get hurt all the time. If we got hurt, they never gave us medicine.

BROWN: These young girls worked seven days a week in a stone quarry in India.

MORRIS: Those girls in the gravel quarry they're collateral on very small loans. They don't really even draw conventional wages. They just work forever against a $5 loan or a $10 loan where the interest on the loan is enough to keep them working until they're used up.

The parents are forced into these choices by desperate circumstances, desperate economic circumstances. We call it the race to the bottom, companies trying to find circumstances where they can pay the absolute lowest amount of money.

ROMANO: We're dealing with what you should really consider to be disposable people and kind of even a new model of slavery. It used to be that slaves actually were a substantial investment. These children are sold for as little as $5. They breathe silica, all right.

They work in 115-degree heat day in and day out. They carry over a ton of rock on their head and by the time they're 35, they're dead. They bleed. They become tubercular. Their backs give out on them. It is, you know, it is one of the most horrific deaths to watch.

MORRIS: People say child labor is the result of poverty. It is the result of poverty. Poverty is present wherever there's child labor but child labor is also the cause of poverty. It perpetuates poverty one generation after another.

BROWN: And the world's wealthier nations are increasingly less generous. A recent report from Oxfam, the international relief agency, found that aide budgets of the wealthy countries are now half, just half of what they were in 1960. These children share more than their agony. The abuse they endure, the childhood they've lost, all of it, is illegal.

MORRIS: There are laws on the books outlawing all of the child labor that we've filmed but in many cases the people whose principal job should be protecting children are actually involved in the economic exploitation of the children. They partner with the owners and the operators very comfortably to make a buck.

ROMANO: It's not pretty. It's very hard. It is like sandpaper on your soul to have to experience this year in and year out, you know and you look for things. And one of the things that I found was that, you know, the salvation is in the kids themselves, in their faces, in their hopes, in their wishes and in their dreams.

BROWN: In this dump in Indonesia, children forage for food and anything else they can find to sell.

MORRIS: The one thing that this film can't even begin to convey is the stench, the odor of the dump. You don't get a sense of just the general putridness of the conditions and also the danger in the dumps. We would lose children once a week, twice a week. They would fall into sinkholes. Fires would be burning. The exposure to toxins was killing them before they could reach the age of 30, many of them and this is a way of life for many people is to literally live in a dump.

BROWN: In central Brazil, where many dumps have been closed during the days, hungry scavengers wait for nightfall.

DAMIAO SOBRINHO (through translator): When the truck comes from the shopping center it brings the garbage from McDonald's. It's a big party. There's hamburger, candies, food, yogurt. I love that. We eat so much. The trucks don't watch out for people. They run over people and they've crushed people there.

BROWN: What many Americans don't realize is the extent of child labor in the United States. According to Stolen Childhoods, 800,000 children do migrant labor harvesting the food we eat and it's only against federal law for children under the age of ten.

MORRIS: They miss two to four months of school. As a consequence, those same children have a 65 percent dropout rate in high school. The result is that we are creating and perpetuating a permanent underclass of poor children because migrant farm work is the lowest paid work in America. It's not illegal. You can work a migrant child 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

BROWN: There is hope in all of this. According to the film, Brazil cut its child labor problem from four million to two million children in seven years by paying mothers to send their children to school instead of sending them off to work.

A child advocacy group created the Rugmark label to identify carpets made without exploiting children. And this fair trade logo on products ensures that farmers were paid a decent wage for their work.

But the real answer, the filmmakers believe, is simpler. It is education. According to the U.N., $8 billion a year is all it would cost to send every child in the world to primary school.

KUNTI KUMARI (through translator): I was seven or eight years old when I went to work in people's homes. My parents were poor and did not see the value of educating me. I saw the children go to school and had a hidden wish to go with them. I saw the children being carefree and playing with each other and making noise. I felt that I should be like them and make noise as well.

ROMANO: We need to take a leadership position for global education. It's really incumbent upon us to start a marshal plan for the children of the world. You want to talk about winning hearts and minds, let's have a marshal plan for children.

If you want to win the war on terrorism, you need to win the war on poverty and, if you want to win the war on poverty, you're going to need to educate the children. BROWN: But until ten, over a quarter of a billion children will wait and work. They'll be hidden away in the ocean or in alleyways, hidden in carpet mills, in fields and on mounds of garbage. In a world filled with crises and problems with no solutions, there is a solution here. This can be solved if we only have the will.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: "Stolen Childhoods" will open in select cities nationwide this coming spring. A lot of you have written, since we first started talking about this, for more information.

Here is the web address that can give you the information you seek, www.stolenchildhoods.org, that's www.stolenchildhoods.org and we should try and put that up on our webpage at cnn.com/newsnight so that you can more easily get it and we will.

Ahead on the program tonight, perhaps the best news imaginable about a hostage photo that looked at first like the worst news imaginable.

And later, of course, morning papers, a break first on what is a very busy night around here.

This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: No American fatalities to report tonight in Iraq but, for part of the day, it was fear that something just as horrible had come to pass. A photograph surfaced on a Web site frequently used by hostage takers. It appeared to show an American soldier in captivity that is until somebody noticed that the G.I. in question looked a lot more like G.I. Joe, from the Pentagon tonight, CNN's Barbara Starr.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This Islamic Web site posted the statement claiming insurgents captured a U.S. soldier named John Adam after a firefight and were planning to behead him. This photograph accompanied the statement, a photograph CNN never aired because it could not confirm a U.S. soldier was missing.

Now, it appears it was a hoax, an action figure toy, called Special Ops Cody, with a uniform of doll clothes and toy guns. The manufacturer says it looks like a toy made for the U.S. military exchange stores.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (by telephone): When we looked at it, we noticed that it looked, you know, bore a striking resemblance to an action figure that we had produced about a year and a half ago, around a year ago I guess.

We still don't want to come out and say that it is, you know, 100 percent for sure our action figure but, I mean it does bear, you know, like I say a striking resemblance to an action figure that we did make.

STARR: But the military had to take it all very seriously, pouring over the photograph, wondering about the uniform. The ammo vest did not look like anything in U.S. military inventory, one senior officer saying "we didn't know for sure. We had to start counting heads in Iraq to see if anybody was missing."

The Pentagon was not amused. They remind everyone that this is Army Specialist Keith Matthew Maupin, a U.S. Army soldier missing in Iraq since he was captured last year, his fate very much unknown.

(on camera): Officials say this photo could have been from insurgents or someone who hacked into a Web site. They don't really know but anytime a U.S. military person is reported captured, U.S. officials say they will pursue the matter.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Guilty pleas today for two more soldiers charged in connection with the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib. In the military trial at Fort Hood, Texas, Sergeant Javal Davis pleaded guilty to battery, dereliction of duty and making a false statement. He faces up to 18 months in the brig.

Specialist Roman Kroll pleaded guilty to abusing detainees and conspiracy. He was sentenced on the spot, 10 months behind bars.

So far now seven soldiers have pleaded guilty to charges relating to the abuse at Abu Ghraib.

Military investigators are looking into reports of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo and have now examined videotapes that show guards punching detainees, using pepper spray and forcing some prisoners to strip from the waist down. That's according to a report from the Associated Press, which has obtained a copy of a secret report by investigators.

AP says investigators have summarized while they have found no evidence of systemic abuse the tapes do raise questions about possible misconduct. Today the military extended the investigation by a month to allow for further analysis of the tapes and additional questioning of witnesses.

Ahead on the program tonight, they were away from their families serving in hostile and dangerous conditions but they're proud to say they have made a difference in Iraq. Iraq since the election, we'll meet three soldiers, a break first.

From New York this is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Struggling to get past the 21st of December, aren't we? On now to a story we've been reporting a bit on over the last few weeks in hopes that something might happen. And, tonight, it seems something has. There's now a chorus of voices, including the president's, who believe the death benefit paid to families of fallen soldiers is absurdly low. It seems certain to be increased, but for whom?

At the Pentagon tonight, CNN's Jamie McIntyre.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The $12,000 death gratuity paid to families of the fallen was meant to be a quick infusion of cash until long-term benefits kick in.

But to many, like Donna Gilmore, whose husband, Sergeant Major Cornell Gilmore, was killed in Iraq, the payment seemed to be a slap in the face.

DONNA GILMORE, IRAQ WAR WIDOW: I have two children in college. It's not like the money would last a long time.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: The current situation was simply wrong and unfair and, in the most fundamental sense of American values, un-American.

MCINTYRE: Under pressure from families and Congress, the Pentagon is proposing an increase in the tax-free death gratuity from $12,400 to $100,000 and a boost in subsidized life insurance coverage from $250,000 to $400,000 to ensure a total minimum survivor benefit of $500,000. Jan Johnson's, whose 22-year-old son, Justin, was killed by a roadside bomb after serving just 12 days in Iraq, is pleased.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will never bring Justin back, but there are families out there that, you know, they need the money.

MCINTYRE: Johnson would get the $100,000 because the benefits will be paid retroactively back to October 7, 2001, the start of the war in Afghanistan.

But senior military officers broke ranks with the Pentagon on one point, arguing the higher payment should go to any death, not just those in war zones.

ADM. JOHN NATHMAN, VICE CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS: In terms of taking care of the men and women that they leave behind.

MCINTYRE: Pentagon officials insist that if all government benefits are counted, including VA and Social Security payments, survivors already get benefits roughly equal to the service member's annual pre-death pay.

(on camera): Some senators question whether changing the law might open the door to providing even more compensation to more people, such as civilians working for the government in a war zone. The cost of the current proposal is roughly $200 million, or slightly more than the price tag on a new F-22 fighter jet.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Still to come tonight, throwing down the gauntlet over the direction of the GOP. President Bush's former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman on what she calls the battle for the heart of the Republican Party.

And we'll wrap it up tonight with a visit from the rooster. Morning papers makes an appearance.

From New York, this is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Addressing the Republican Convention back in 1964, Barry Goldwater, the nominee, said a mouthful. "Extremism in the defense of liberty," he said, "is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice no virtue."

Many believe the speech and the moment ushered in the Republican Party as we know it today and ushered out the kind of moderation once practiced by Republicans such as John Heinz and Nelson Rockefeller and Christine Todd Whitman.

Ms. Whitman, the president's former EPA administrator, former governor of New Jersey, has now written a book called "It's My Party, Too: The Battle For the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America."

And it's always nice to see her.

Welcome.

CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Very good to see you.

BROWN: May I suggest gently that it's not your party anymore?

WHITMAN: Oh, I think it is and I'll continue to fight for it. And there are a lot of people who feel the way I do.

BROWN: But, clearly, the party -- the center of the party, if you will, has moved to a far more conservative spot than you are in. That's particularly true of what you call social fundamentalists or social conservatives.

WHITMAN: Right. Yes. No, that's absolutely true.

But there's still a great bulk in the middle there that, I think, form the long-term base of the party, if you're going to be a party, a national party that is going to be in power for any length of time. And you can't ignore it. Right now, the majority is so slim that you can't afford to lose any part of it. And that includes the more conservative elements of it. I'm not trying to do that. I'm just saying to them that they've got to recognize there's a place for us, too.

BROWN: They are winning elections.

WHITMAN: They are, but by very close pluralities. This president's reelect was the closest of any president that has ever been reelected. Truman beat Dewey by more. It doesn't take away from the fact that it was an important election and he brought in House and Senate members. But it tells you that it's a very narrow plurality and not one that you should relax on about.

BROWN: There is, I think what -- you'll say this better, since you wrote it, but I think what frustrates you the most is a kind of rigidity in it all. It's sort of, my way or the highway.

WHITMAN: It's the litmus test. And it's the ever-narrowing litmus test, too.

There are certain things. If you're pro-choice, you can't be a good Republican. If you believe you shouldn't use the Constitution to -- for only the second time ever restrict individual freedom, you're not a good Republican. If you think we should even begin a discussion on embryonic stem cell, you're not a good Republican. If you think government has a role to play in protecting the environment, not a good Republican. And the list goes on.

And, again, the party in which I grew up was one that accommodated a whole range of those issues and opinions on them. And that's where we need to be if we're truly going to move the country forward and going to stay a national party.

BROWN: Does it take a -- I'm sure you'd like to believe all it takes is a really good book.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: But let me suggest that it takes a major defeat before, in this case, your party -- it could be the Democrats and has been a lot -- really takes a look at itself, examines itself and comes to the sort of conclusions that you think your party must.

WHITMAN: Well, it's happened before to us. In '64, we took a major defeat all the way down the ticket. But that's why we put the Web site at the end of the book, www.MyPartyToo.com, to try to give moderates a place to go to help start a grassroots movement to take the party back.

BROWN: A couple of other things. When you left, you said, as everyone does, honestly, well, I just want to spend more time with my family.

WHITMAN: I said my husband.

BROWN: Your husband.

WHITMAN: The kids were already out of the house.

BROWN: And I believe that to a point.

But why didn't you say what was true, which was, you had major policy differences with the president and it was uncomfortable?

WHITMAN: Well, the reason I left was because I did want to be home with my husband. The timing of why I left had to do with some decisions that were coming down. And the president had the right to have them made the way he wanted them.

I couldn't sign these particular regulations in good conscience. I had been working on them for two and a half years. And it was clearly not going to go the way I thought was appropriate. But that was his decision, not mine. And he deserved someone there who would sign the regulations comfortably. So, I stepped aside his administration, let him do it, and I got to get home.

BROWN: Do you think we are -- just look at both parties for a second with me. Has the middle sort of lost a home?

WHITMAN: I think they have. I really think they have. I think both parties. Democrats have gone as far to the left as Republicans to the right. And there's this huge group of people in the middle who say, neither party is talking to me.

BROWN: And where do we go?

WHITMAN: Well, we start to stand up and say listen, darn it, you better start talking to me, because I care. The problem has been that moderates are just that, moderate. And we've been kind of sitting back and saying, this can't happen. Common sense will prevail. They're going to start talking to me again. And they haven't. And we need to stand up.

BROWN: It's nice to see you.

WHITMAN: It's good to see you again.

BROWN: I hope this is a good and interesting time of life for you.

WHITMAN: It is. I'm having a very good time.

BROWN: Good for you. Thank you.

In a moment, soldiers who were in Iraq before the election who are going back talk about turning points and whether they see one now.

And morning papers wraps it up for the night.

We'll take a break first. Around the world, this is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: It's only a slight exaggeration to say that, just two days since the election in Iraq, and already the pundits have started writing the first, next and last chapters of the rest of the story. Two days. We don't even know who won, for goodness' sake.

So, no pundits from us tonight, at least, just troops.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): They have all pulled tours in Iraq already, but soon these three soldiers of the 3rd Army will be heading back, heading back to an Iraq they believe has been changed.

SGT. MAJOR LAUNA KLIMOVICZ, U.S. ARMY: Having gone through this milestone, that the soldiers will -- the morale will be a little better, A lot more better. And they'll say, hey, this is what we joined for. This is why I joined and I want to stay and I made a difference. And I think overall it is going to be much better.

BROWN: That milestone, of course, last weekend's election, emotional not only for the Iraqis who voted.

KLIMOVICZ: There were people walking. There were people showing that were showing their ink-stained fingers. And I think that that, in the hearts of the soldiers, they're, like, we did something. You know, we did it, and we're proud.

BROWN: But as well as the elections appear to have gone, there is much work ahead, as these soldiers well know.

CAPT. TROY SHEARER, U.S. ARMY: It's not going to be an immediate fix. As with training any individual on certain tactics or methods for security, it takes a while, and you have to build good leaders within that organization to train their own. And I think it's going to take, you know, a little bit for those good leaders to be established.

BROWN: But for the Americans on the ground, there is at least some hope now, hope that a stable Iraq will emerge, one that does not need U.S. soldiers to sustain itself.

SGT. TAMARA NEWELL, U.S. ARMY: So, we can see the progress we're making. That makes it easier for the soldiers to endure. And they feel like what they're doing is worth it. And it just puts us closer to our goal. So, that makes it a lot easier to stay over there.

BROWN: The Army says it is trying to make things easier for soldiers facing deployment. There's planning for a new, more predictable schedule, for one thing.

KLIMOVICZ: Soldiers aren't afraid of deploying. They're afraid of not knowing when they're going to deploy, of like, oh, is it going to be tomorrow or is going to be three weeks from tomorrow or three years from tomorrow?

BROWN: For now, though, that is in the future somewhere. Iraq is very much in their present. SHEARER: Even though the dangers that the soldiers are going through, the hardships of living in the sand, of being away from the family, it's all worth it, knowing that we're giving someone, Iraqi citizens, the same benefit of freedom that we have. It's just awesome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Well, may the optimism last. Optimism is a good thing.

Morning papers are a good thing, too, probably not as good as optimism. We'll get to them in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(ROOSTER CROWING)

BROWN: OK, time to check morning papers from around the country and around the world. A few themes I think I've detected.

"Christian Science Monitor" leads with the State of the Union speech coming up on Wednesday, "What to Expect From Bush's Speech. In the State of the Union tonight, he's likely to build on Iraqi elections, to boost initiatives such as Social Security." Social Security -- how many times have I said this? -- I think is the most interesting issue, domestic issue, out there.

"Cincinnati Enquirer," at least today, agrees, puts it on the front page. "Social Insecurity. How Will Changes Affect Us?" It's hard to know, isn't it, since we don't know what the changes will be. But they do their best to examine. "One in Six in the Region Receive Benefits Under Social Security." The pope is also put on the front page. I would. And, in fact, I did, when you think about it. "Illness Sends Pope to the Hospital. Swollen Throat Restricts Breathing," the headline in "The Cincinnati Enquirer." By the way, "Super Guacamole," something for the Super Bowl. Was that our first mention of that? Not quite.

"San Antonio Express-News." "Ailing Pontiff Rushed to Roman Hospital." But this is the story that caught my eye. "Road to Tragedy. Some Fear Polygamist Sect Tale Will End Badly in Eldorado." They're building a big, I don't know, temple, I guess it is, in Eldorado. Isn't polygamy illegal in Texas and everywhere else?

"The Examiner," not San Francisco. This is "The Washington Examiner," new free newspaper in the nation's capital. This would be Maryland edition. "Why Did Darrell Desert? Decorated Iraq Veteran Got His Purple Heart and Then Fled to Canada. Are They Cowards or Heroes?" Are those the only choices? How about human? Well, people do what they do.

"The Richmond Times-Dispatch." I found this a good story in large part because of the paper it's in. It's the heart of tobacco country. "Kick the Habit. Philip Morris is offering a free 48-page guide on how to quit smoking.

I'll resist. I don't usually resist.

Speaking of things we put in our lungs, "Still Weather, Murky Air. Children Asthmatics Cautioned to Stay Indoors Today" is the lead in "The Des Moines Register." I guess -- man, that doesn't look like Des Moines, Iowa, does it? Kind of hazy and ugly there. I guess it's just been sitting there.

Medical story.

How we doing on time? Thank you.

"Vaccine Could Wipe Out Deadly Cervical Cancer," the lead in "The Times," a London newspaper. I hope that is so.

And the last one, "The Plaindealer" out there in Nebraska. "4-H Junior Leaders Guide Next Generation." You bet. That's a good way to end it.

No, the weather in Chicago is a good way to end it: "shadowy."

We'll update our top story on the pope's health after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Quick review of our lead story tonight before we leave you.

Pope John Paul remains hospitalized in Rome. It's now Wednesday morning there. The 84-year-old pontiff, who has been battling the flu of late, was admitted tonight after developing breathing problems. His last public appearance was Sunday. Earlier today, before the pope was rushed to the hospital, the Vatican had issued reassuring news about his condition. A fresh bulletin expected from the Vatican about 3:00 Eastern time this morning, about four hours from now, this time with news from the pope's personal physician.

That is everything we know right now. We can be certain "AMERICAN MORNING" will have much more on this and other things, too.

Here's Soledad O'Brien.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Aaron.

Tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING," we'll preview the president's State of the Union address. From Social Security to the war on terror, what plans will Mr. Bush outline for a Congress that could prove combative? We'll talk with White House communications director Dan Bartlett.

That's CNN tomorrow morning, 7:00 a.m. Eastern -- Aaron.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: State of the Union coverage begins 8:00 tomorrow night, the speech at 9:00, Larry at 10:30. We're back again on Thursday.

Good night for all of us.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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