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Arab Reaction to President's Message; 'Gimme a Minute'

Aired February 4, 2005 - 08:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Alberto Gonzales is spending his first full day in his new job as attorney general. Gonzales was sworn in yesterday in a private ceremony at the White House. He'd been confirmed with a 60-36 Senate vote just hours earlier.
NTSB investigator are still looking at the crash of the corporate jet in New Jersey. Investigators say there was no sign of ice on the wings. The pilots aborted takeoff at the last minute. The plane then skidded off the runway and slammed into the side of a clothing warehouse. All 11 passengers and crew survived. Two vehicles were struck as the plane careened across a busy roadway. A passenger in one of the cars now in critical condition. A passenger in the other car says he can't believe he's still alive.


ROHAN FOSTER, CRASH SURVIVOR: After I came here and was looking at TV and saw the side of the car, I said, I can't believe that's the car I was in, you know, but I guess it did happen, it's not a dream.


COSTELLO: Investigators plan to interview the pilot today and the copilot as soon as possible. Both men remain in the hospital, both are listed in fair condition.

To the Super Bowl now, lobsters and cheesecakes. Those are the super bowl wagers between the mayors of Boston and Philadelphia. If the Patriots lose, Boston Mayor Tom Menino will provide his Philly counterpart with Legal (ph) Seafood's lobster clam bake. If the Eagles go down on Sunday, Philly's John Street says he'll ship Philadelphia cheesesteaks and a collection of Philadelphia-based music.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: What are they sending here?

COSTELLO: I don't think anything.

HEMMER: We're hungry.

Thank you, Carol.


Since President Bush's State of the Union address Wednesday night, CNN's senior editor of Arab affairs, Octavia Nasr, has been monitoring Arab reaction to the president's message. Octavia is at the CNN Center in Atlanta this morning.

Good morning. It's nice to see you, Octavia.

Let's get right to it. You've been analyzing, obviously, reaction in the Arab world media to the president's State of the Union Address. What's been the reaction?

OCTAVIA NASR, CNN SR. EDITOR OF ARAB AFFAIRS: Well, initially, the reaction was some people thought he was arrogant, others thought that he was very confident. Today, the reaction is more analysis. They're looking at what he really said, who he talked to. Very interesting how people sometimes understand things differently. His mention of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for example, some people thought it was a slap on the hand of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, telling them they need to do more as far as reform is concerned. Others thought that he was praising them for all the great work they've done on the peace process and reform.

Now, take a look at this quote that we picked from a Heyat (ph) newspaper, basically this author here is saying he totally agreed with the president on everything, almost everything. He said, except one thing he totally disagrees on. He says, and it is Iran. He says, "I want to know who told the president all that about Iran. Is it any of his resigned cabinet members, or is it the same people who told him Iraq had weapons of mass destruction?" Basically, editorials questioning those claims that the president said in his address, and saying he has to be careful now, because the region cannot take more wars, and invasions and liberations -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Octavia, you've monitored past reactions to State of the Union Addresses. How does the reaction this year differ from years past?

NASR: It's very different in the sense that people are paying attention. All of a sudden, it seems since last Sunday, since the elections in Iraq, it seems the president has gained a lot of popularity on Arab media, somehow, something that no one was expecting almost. He was not popular all this time that he was in office. And now they're paying attention. They saw that -- they describe what happened in Iraq as a big success, and they are giving him credit. So they listen to see what is going to be the next move. And basically, they're saying he had three priorities, Afghanistan, Iraq and democracy in the Middle East, and they say now it's time for democracy in the Middle East.

O'BRIEN: Well, so the elections having a big payoff, at least in the Arab countries as well for the president. Early results from the election, in fact, in Iraq show overwhelming support for a Shiite coalition, and we have to underscore, it's very, very early at this stage. The alliance is endorsed, of course, by Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani. It's made up essentially of all these religious groups with tied to Iran, tough. Give me your analysis of that, Octavia.

NASR: Arab media are not surprised at all. As a matter of fact, from the beginning, they're saying this is the alliance that's going to get the most votes. Obviously, everybody said that the Shiites are going to come out winners in this election. But this group, in particular -- you know when you were saying this, I couldn't help but remember this one woman, an Iraqi woman in Iran, who braved the cold weather and stood in a long line to vote. And you know, her quote was, "I want to vote because I want an Islamic republic in Iraq."

So for Arab media, this is not a surprise. The Shiites, followers of the Sistani are very close to Iran, that's what they want, they want an Islamic republic in Iraq. That's why they went out and voted. And the experts are saying, well, this is democracy. The more votes, the more power.

And basically, Arab media are telling us that the Shia in Iraq want only -- two important things that they want. They want the position of the prime minister, and they want one vice president position. They don't care about the president's position. They don't care about the speaker of the house position. All they want is the prime minister's position, and Arab media believe that that's what they're going to get.

O'BRIEN: The votes are being tallied right now. Octavia Nasr is our senior editor of Arab affairs. Octavia, thanks.

HEMMER: Starting in the spring, the first of Saddam's so-called henchmen expected to go on trial before the Iraqi special tribunal. Eventually Saddam Hussein himself will face the court, and all 12 are expected to be convicted and put to death. Who, though, is collecting the evidence and what is the evidence now?

William Langewiesche has an article in next month's "Atlantic Monthly" called, "The Accuser: The Case Against Saddam Hussein and the Woman Who Built It." He's live in Baghdad to talk more about this.

And, William, welcome here to AMERICAN MORNING.

Extensive article. I want to begin where it ends, with the Iraqi special tribunal. The sources you speak to say they can not get a fair and just trial in Iraq. When you look at the catalog of evidence against people like Saddam Hussein and Chemical Ali, why do they think it can not be fair and just?

WILLIAM LANGEWIESCHE, "THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY": This is a group of people who believe that. I want to say that this is not known at this stage. They may very well get a fair trial in Iraq. Those who criticize the tribunal criticize it mostly for being a national tribunal, and think essentially that Iraq is not up to it after 30 years of totalitarian rule, that the judicial system has been decimated by Saddam Hussein's regime, and that therefore, it's not up to the very sophisticated problem of trying these people up to international standards. That is what the critics say.

Those who are in favor of the national tribunal, including many Iraqis associated with it, say they are up to it. They've been in training for the last year, and they're making progress, there's no doubt about that.

HEMMER: The main character in your article is a Jordanian woman, she spent about 20 years collecting evidence against Saddam Hussein and others. Her name is Hania Mufdi (ph). Does she support these tribunals, and how much is she assisting at this point in them?

LANGEWIESCHE: I'd rather not talk about Hania Mufdi herself, because she's just one player. We're talking about the human rights movement in general worldwide.

You can say this is the human rights movement -- and this is not Hania Mufdi. The human rights movement is essentially against these tribunals as they are now constituted. That is true.

HEMMER: Chemical Ali, it is thought Chemical Ali will go first in the springtime. Is that on track at this point? And if so, why him first?

LANGEWIESCHE: I'm get something indications that others may go first. I think it has not been entirely decided at this point. The idea is to get -- basically do an easy prosecution, the easy picking first, to sort of train up on an easy one. Chemical Ali is not necessarily going to be that easy because of the breadth of his crimes.

HEMMER: And what about Saddam Hussein? When will he go?

LANGEWIESCHE: Nobody knows. It will be a while. Don't hold your breath.

HEMMER: Can Saddam Hussein and Chemical Ali, at this point, based upon what you know and the attorneys who represent them, how do they defend themselves when the tribunal gets started?

LANGEWIESCHE: Again, confusion. Nobody really knows. Is it going to be a strictly legal defense? To what extent is it going to be a political defense? Clearly, there will be both components involved. The political defense will range from questioning the legality of the American invasion and the legality of the court itself, to pointing out that at the time when many of these crimes were committed, the United States was aware of them and was standing aside because of concerns about Iran. And also, it will probably, the political defense will bring up some of the unfortunate aspects of the American occupation of Iraq, torture and detention, this sort of thing.

So this is, at this point, very confused. The specific legal defenses will have to be technical. And again, the question is, are the attorneys who are the defense attorneys, are they up to the -- a technical defense on international crimes? We do not know this at this stage.

HEMMER: Clearly, a lot of work to do as well. William Langewiesche, thank you for your time there in Baghdad. "Atlantic Monthly," you can read his article very soon -- Soledad.


O'BRIEN: Every Friday at this time, our "Gimme a Minute" panel tackles the week's big stories. Joining us this morning in New York, WABC radio host Mark Simone. Hey Mark, good morning.

MARK SIMONE, WABC RADIO HOST: Hey, good morning.

O'BRIEN: In Chicago, Debra Pickett from the "Chicago Sun Times." Hi, Debra, nice to see you.

DEBRA PICKETT, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Hi, Soledad. How are you?

O'BRIEN: And -- I'm well, thank you. And with us here in New York, as well, Andy Borowitz from Andy, nice to see you, as well.


O'BRIEN: Let's get right to it. Mark, we're going to begin with you. Donald Rumsfeld tells Larry King last night that he actually offered to resign not once, but twice during the Abu Ghraib scandal. Any surprise in your mind that the president did not take him up on those offers?

SIMONE: Well, all the complaints against Rumsfeld have to do with occupation and reconstruction. I don't know that the secretary of defense's job, as far as the military guide. You have the fastest armored advance in history with the fewest casualties in Iraq. And nobody in history liberated more people -- 50 million -- with fewer casualties than Donald Rumsfeld has.

O'BRIEN: And in fact, the president came out with very strong support of his secretary. That wasn't a surprise, either, was it?

PICKETT: Well, of course not. It is a little bit surprising to learn that Rumsfeld actually did offer to resign, though. And that does answer some of the criticism in terms of his seeming unwillingness to accept responsibility at the top of the chain of command for things like Abu Ghraib.

O'BRIEN: Andy, what do you think?

BOROWITZ: Well, the president reportedly told him a couple of screw-ups are okay, but nine strikes and you're out.

O'BRIEN: Words to live by. Our next topic, President Bush, as you well know, on the five-state tour. He's almost halfway through it right now. He's stumping, of course, for Social Security reform. It's a tough, tough sell. There are many obstacles -- we talked about that in our last half hour. Debra, at the end of the day, do you think that the sales job's going to work?

PICKETT: I'm not sure that it will. The administration is already started spinning their language, changing the term from private accounts to personal accounts, hoping people will take that as not privatization. But in the end, I just don't think people are going to go for it.

O'BRIEN: Mark, it really relies on getting the grass roots, the people, on board, right? SIMONE: Well, yes, but let's remember, Bill Clinton in his '99 speech proposed all the same things, even private accounts -- he called them USA accounts.

O'BRIEN: Not exactly, OK? Actually, I mean, he didn't propose exactly the same thing, but there were some areas of similarity, I'll give you that.

SIMONE: I think the point here is that Democrats are so busy on television denouncing the plan for two days that they haven't noticed there isn't a plan yet. As the president said, everything is on the table.

O'BRIEN: Everything's on the table. Andy?

BOROWITZ: I want my retirement money to do well in good times or bad, so I'm investing it in Dick Cheney.

O'BRIEN: All right. I want to talk about this. Keeping in mind that the first lady is so private, doesn't like to talk about her family very much. She was asked in a TV interview about a 26-year-old guy who's been escorting her daughter, Jenna, around. This is what she had to say: "This is not a serious boyfriend. I hate to have to be the one to say it on television, but he's a very nice young man." I saw that, Mark, and I said ouch! He's toast, huh?

SIMONE: Well, listen, the good news here is when we used to talk about who somebody's dating, we were talking about the president. At least now we're talking about someone else. You know, the toughest thing for a young guy is to be grilled by the girl's father. But imagine when he's got Ashcroft and Cheney with him. This is really tough on the kid.

O'BRIEN: But you know, Debra, if the mother's saying he's a nice man but he's not a serious boyfriend, it's not going to happen, is it?

PICKETT: That's right, she's putting her foot down. And you know, I have to say I don't want to get into this whole family values thing, but you never saw Chelsea Clinton in that position.

O'BRIEN: Andy?

BOROWITZ: This dude, he's got to be saying to himself, I can't believe Rumsfeld's hanging in longer than I am.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the undercovered story of the week. Debra, let's begin with you. What do you think we missed? What went under the radar?

PICKETT: Well, I think one of the things that's under the radar is just some of the information that's starting to come out about the proposed Bush administration budget and particularly huge cuts in housing funds and things like community development block grants. Really, really vital for the cities.

O'BRIEN: Mark, what do you think flew under the radar this week? SIMONE: Well, you know, we're all talking about the State of the Union, nobody noticed that Fidel Castro gave his big televised speech this past week. And boy, did he go after Bush. He called him crazy, deranged, he accused the Bush administration of corrupt. I mean, why would he go on television and do this? I think it's obvious, he's interested in the DNC chairmanship himself.

O'BRIEN: Andy, final words this morning?

BOROWITZ: Well, yet another video hoax. The CIA now believes that the last tape of Osama bin Laden was actually hokey-pokey Elmo.

O'BRIEN: And that is our final word. You guys, as always, thank you very much. Have a terrific weekend.

SIMONE: Thank you.

PICKETT: Thank you.

HEMEMR: Nice stuff, too.

15 minutes now before the hour. In a moment, it is the biggest cause of death in the America, but too many women do not know they're in trouble until it's too late. We'll page the good doctor on that in a moment.

O'BRIEN: Also, the man at center of the NBA's basketbrawl, Ron Artest, it looks like he's turning infamy into money. Andy is "Minding Your Business" just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: February is National Heart Month and today, women across the country are wearing red to raise awareness for heart disease. It is public health enemy number one in this country. And today, Dr. Sanjay Gupta tells us why women are often misdiagnosed.


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Last year, when she was 51 years old, Cheryl Miller woke up in the middle of the night suffering from a pain in her arm.

CHERYL MILLER, HEART ATTACK SURVIVOR: It was just kind of a dull ache and I had thought maybe I'd done something, you know, pulled a muscle or something. So I did get up and sat there and read for a while.

GUPTA: When the pain got worse, Miller went to the emergency room. But because she didn't have the typical symptoms of a heart attack, severe chest pain, doctors diagnosed her with a stomach problem.

MILLER: They were going to send me home because I was having esophageal spasms. And I thought, you know, I've had ingestion and it doesn't feel like this. GUPTA: But Miller insisted her results be sent to a cardiologist and she was rediagnosed with a heart attack. According to Dr. Elizabeth Ross, Miller's cardiologist, misdiagnosis of women's heart disease is very common.

DR. ELIZABETH ROSS, WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: Men, when they have heart disease, frequently have severe chest pain. They may describe it as a crushing or pressure-like pain. Women, on the other hand, may not have chest pain at all. They may just be excessively fatigued or nauseated or more short of breath.

GUPTA: Experts say more women need to know what their symptoms might be and be proactive like Miller.

DR. ALEXANDRA LANSKY, N.Y. PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL: The difference between 30 minutes and 60 minutes could be the difference between life and death.

GUPTA: After all, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Atlanta.


HEMMER: And this weekend, Sanjay takes a closer look at women and heart disease. The weekend "House Call," that's the topic. He'll answer questions and talk about warning signs and whether or not you could be at risk. Saturday and Sunday, 8:30 a.m. Eastern time right here on CNN.

And right across the street at Radio City, they're getting the word out, too. Wear red on National Wear Red Day for women.

O'BRIEN: That's right, you know, it's actually a pet project of the first lady.

HEMMER: Yes, that's right.

O'BRIEN: Very close to her heart. Probably wants to talk more about that than who her daughter's dating, I would imagine.


O'BRIEN: Well, Jack has word on some football players you might want adopt when all is said and done on Sunday. The "Cafferty File" is just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: From suspended to supermodel, a new role for one of the yo-yos in the NBA that likes to fight with people. And the big jobs report is out. Andy Serwer has got that in "Minding Your Business" this morning. A little disappointed in the numbers.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: That's right, I mean, the only way to say it, Jack. Jobs report for the month of January, just crossing the tape at 8:30, 146,000 jobs created. We were looking for 200,000. The previous two months, revised down December to 133 from 157. November down, too.

Now, there are some positive notes. No. 1, the unemployment rate drops from 5.4 percent to 5.2 percent. That's good news. Also, that rate is the lowest since September of 2001, before the recession, and of course the month of 9/11. That's positive.

Another positive note, that 146,000 jobs erases all of the job losses in President Bush's first term. So don't think that he won't be mentioning that when he's on the road.

Speaking of employment, an unusual job story that Jack alluded to. What would happen if you had a job and decided to go nuts and go beat up some of your customers and then your boss suspended you for, say, the rest of the year without pay and then you went out and got a lucrative job as a model? There's Ron Artest. This is a story of Ron Artest. Ron Artest, supermodel, just got a job as a model for Rocawear.

We got the picture up there. There he is. He's on the right here. These models -- they're supermodels. with Ron Artest. These supermodels better be careful not to spill any drinks on him. If they do, he might smack them. I'm sorry, Ron, but it's true, you might, it's possible. I don't mean to suggest any -- his teammate Stephen Jackson saw the picture and said, hey, that's a real nice picture, He can do it.

Funny I should be bringing up Stephen Jackson. You may remember, he was also involved in that fracas in Detroit. Guess what, yesterday suspended again. Got a little upset with an official on Wednesday. The NBA suspended him for another game. Stephen, come on, you're not helping my jobs report here, OK? I mean, when you lose the job we're trying to gain jobs in the economy here. Behave yourself, too, while you're at it.

CAFFERTY: Fair enough. Thanks, Andy.

SERWER: You're welcome.

CAFFERTY: Tsunami aid workers are being overwhelmed by unusual donations from the Western world. They're getting ski jackets, cologne, thong underwear, Viagra. At the same time, there are 300 refugee camps in Sri Lanka that face shortages of cough syrup and other medicine. "The Wall Street Journal" reports this morning that a lot of relief efforts have no idea where this stuff's coming from. Some of the shipments are simply addressed to the people of Sri Lanka, no return address. Most of this stuff gathering dust in warehouses.

But one local humanitarian group in Sri Lanka, a group called Impact Aid, made the best of things, used a little imagination. They used some of the goose down ski jackets that they recovered from a European relief agency to wrap up babies without diapers in a refugee camp.

If you want your teddy bear in a straitjacket, you'll just have to do it yourself. The Crazy For You Bear has sold out at the Vermont teddy bear company; $70, they got for this little psycho job, complete with straitjacket and commitment papers. It was part of the company's Valentine's lineup. We had this story on the File a while ago. I caught some heat for it actually. Advocacy groups wanted the bear pulled, because they said the bear stereotypes and stigmatizes the mentally ill.

Now the Vermont teddy bear company says it decided to stop selling the bear when the inventory ran out. My question is, if you put the thing on the market and it sold out, why would you stop selling it two weeks before Valentine's Day? My sense is the company just wimped out under the mounting pressure from the advocacy groups.

SERWER: Sounds like it.

CAFFERTY: Just a guess.

Tired of the Super Bowl hype? Afraid of seeing Paul McCartney expose a pasty? Boy, I am. I'm terrified. I am so frightened.

SERWER: Be very afraid of that.

CAFFERTY: The Animal Planet is airing a show called "Puppy Bowl" Sunday, starts at 3:00. The program gives viewers the ins and outs of pet adoption. Just like the real thing, "Puppy Bowl" will have plays, and tackles, and fumbles, and probably accidents, except these guys are oh so much cuter.

On a serious note, millions of unadopted pets put to sleep every year in this country. If you want a pet, adopt one. They're cheaper than the purebreds, you probably saved their life in the process, and they make just as good, if not better pets than the purebreds. I know. I've had them all my life, and they're just terrific.

HEMMER: How many through the years?

SERWER: The softer side.

CAFFERTY: Oh, I have no idea. Right now, I've got four cats and a dog in the house, and they're all orphans. We've always had dogs and cats around the house, and we always get them from the shelter, animal hospital, some abandoned little critter. There's something in them almost that they know that maybe you saved their bacon; you know, there's that little glimmer in them.

HEMMER: The tender side of Jack Cafferty on a Friday.

CAFFERTY: I should know better than try and do anything serious.

HEMMER: Thank you for sharing. Let's get a break here. Top stories in a moment. Also President Bush back on the road, embarking what's likely to be his toughest sales job on record. CNN's John King is traveling with the president. We'll go live to him in a moment here as we continue after this.



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