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Lake Charles Presses Forward with Storm Recovery; Bush to Hold Monthly Press Conference; One Soldier's Memoirs Present Duality of War on Terrorism

Aired October 4, 2005 - 08:30   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We're talking to a powerful member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Orrin Hatch, just ahead. He will meet with Miers this morning. We will ask him what he's looking for out of that meeting.
First, let's get back to Rob Marciano. He's reporting for us from Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Hey, Rob. Good morning, again.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Soledad. Live from Lake Charles this morning. The sun now just coming up, so the curfew is over. They've had this place buttoned up tight. Talking with police last night; $500 fines for anybody who breaks curfew.

Folks have been allowed to come back in town, but it's a look and leave policy. Meaning if you stick around, you have to be self- sustained and kind of play at your own risk. Slowly the lights are starting to pop back on. Trees just demolished across this area and it has been slow to pick up.

One of our team members, our tireless Producer David Stack (ph), stepped on a nail yesterday. Lots of debris in hurricane country so he went to the hospital to get a tetanus shot. Same hospital that Dr. Sanjay Gupta spent the night of the storm in. The only hospital that stayed open and we will get a status report and talk to one of the doctors coming up in a few minutes. Just across the lake, actually. You can see it from here.

O'BRIEN: We know Dave is fine. Thanks, Rob. We'll check in with you in just a few minutes. Headlines now with Carol Costello.

Good news about Dave Stack.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Yes, just his arm is sore from the tetanus shot, but other than that, he is OK.

Good morning, Soledad. Good morning to all of you.

"Now in the News": We are expecting to hear from President Bush in the next two hours at a news conference, let's head to the White House where Bob Franken is standing by with more.

What do we expect him to talk about? BOB FRANKEN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's see. What could he possibly want to talk about? Could it be his newest Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers? Could it be all of the information that is still -- needs to be addressed about the hurricane reactions? Of course, there is the war in Iraq.

Also, the latest information on that investigation into the Valerie Plame disclosures with the new information that the Scudder Libby (ph), the vice president's chief of staff was the source for reporter Judy Miller.

There is an awful lot to talk about. The president does this now about once a month. This is the time of month he is doing it in the Rose Garden, Carol.

COSTELLO: Bob Franken reporting live from Washington.

Looks like Texas Republican Tom DeLay is more legal hot water. Days after being indicted in a campaign finance probe, the former House majority leader was indicted on a separate money laundering charge. DeLay is accused of using corporate donations funneled through Washington to help candidates in the Texas state races.

U.S. Army has missed its recruitment goal. Army Secretary Frances Harvey says the number of recruits added during the fiscal year that ended last week was just over 73,000. The goal had been 80,000. That's apparently the widest margin since 1979.

Air France said some of its local flights are delayed but long distance flights should be running on schedule, despite a national strike. Transportation workers in Paris and throughout France are protesting the government's economic policy and high unemployment rates. The broad-based walkout also includes teachers, post office workers, other public workers.

But, again, if you're catching an international flight to Paris this morning, you should be OK.

O'BRIEN: OK, some good news at least. All right. Carol, thank you very much.

Other news, President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court has surprised and angered some lawmakers. Our next guest, though, is in neither of those camps. Senator Orrin Hatch is a supporter of Miers' nomination. He plans to meet with her today.

Orrin Hatch, of course, is the second-ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Nice to see you, Senator. Thank you for talking with us this morning.


O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. Before we get to what you meet and what you hope to cover today with Harriet Miers today, I want to ask you about what you told Larry King. Which was, you don't have a lot of experience with Harriet Miers but you're impressed. What is impressing you?

HATCH: Actually, I do have quite a bit experience with Harriet Miers. She's been in the office a number of times, but I'm very impressed. This is a woman who broke through the glass ceiling at a time when almost the best of women law graduates could get was a secretary's job. I think Sandra Day O'Connor said that.

Yet, Sandra Day O'Connor graduated number third in her class right behind Bill Rehnquist. She not only rose to the top of that firm, she became the managing partner of that firm, the president of that firm. Probably not only was Dallas County Bar president and Texas State Bar president, but probably would of been president of the American Bar Association.

She has really been a pioneer for women throughout her life but she is also a person who I believe you can have confidence in, will be a strict constructionist and interpret the laws the way they should be interpreted.

O'BRIEN: What are you talking to her about in your meeting?

HATCH: Oh, there will be a lot of things. Probably more about her confirmation process and what she's got to go through. She's been in some of the other meetings with me over these type of things. She has had extensive experience in the executive branch, of course, worked closely with the legislative branch. And also worked on the judicial branch, so she's had a broad experience in the last five years. A very, very big legal experience before that.

O'BRIEN: Some other Republicans, Bill Kristol, maybe most notably, said this, he is very depressed, disappointed, and demoralized. Obviously, you disagree with him. But does all of this bode problems in getting support from Republicans?

HATCH: I don't think so. I think that, you know, Bill doesn't know her and, frankly, I can understand that, because there were a number -- I could name 12 to 13 who were in the mix who were well- known conservatives that I think probably he and a number of other conservatives would of preferred.

Look, President Bush is the son of George Herbert Walker Bush, who appointed David Souter. Now, I happen to like David Souter as a person. "Bush One" has been highly criticized for that, because Souter turned out to be one of the most liberal justices on the court. President Bush knows that. And I doubt seriously that he will put Harriet Miers on the court without knowing she will be a pretty strict constructionist, conservative jurist.

O'BRIEN: Isn't that sort of the problem? Because you really don't know? Is this the issue that conservatives are having, that she has no experience as a judge, no track record to speak of. She has no background in constitutional law. She has nothing that she can really talk about in a hearing because, of course, she has done a lot of privileged conversations as White House counsel. Isn't that sort of the big problem for conservatives?

HATCH: I find conservatives really do worry about all of those things. However, one thing, let me take exception of. She has a lot of constitutional experience because everything she does, as White House counsel, and everything she has done since being with President Bush has involved constitutional principles for the executive, judicial and legislative branches. She has a lot of experience.

Has she had a lot of experience on a court? No. But over 40 prior justices, better than a third of the total justices in the history of this country, did not serve on a court prior to going on the Supreme Court. Some of the greatest justices of all time, like Felix Frankfurter, Rehnquist, Powell, Hugo Black (ph), you could name of bunch of them never had any experience on a court.

I think my fellow conservatives are going to have to give her a chance and I think they'll find that they will be very pleased with her over the years. But nobody knows how any of these people are going to be after a few years on the court. We've been sorely disappointed and very much gratified by certain people through the years depending upon the person.

O'BRIEN: There is a lot of analysis today in the newspapers that say Harriet Miers, to a large degree, was easy choice for the president who is sort of worn down and does not want a contentious hearing. Do you think there is any truth in that?

HATCH: Some of my fellow conservatives would have preferred a contentious hearing with some outstanding people that are clearly conservative, and clearly pro life. But I think that President Bush has tried to diffuse that and avoid that. Having Harry Reid come out and speak very favorably of Harriet Miers is a very, very good thing. He is not the only one speaking favorably as a Democrat.

On the other hand, I think Senator Reid spoke favorably about John Roberts and in the end voted against him. You never really know what will happen. I think Harriet Miers will do a good job here.

O'BRIEN: You never really know what is going to happen.

HATCH: No you don't.

O'BRIEN: Senator Orrin Hatch, joining us this morning. Nice to see you, Senator. Thank you.

HATCH: Nice to see you.

O'BRIEN: Let's get back to Lake Charles, Louisiana and Rob Marciano.

Hey, Rob. Good morning again.

MARCIANO: Hi, Soledad. A story here Lake Charles about the people who count on other people during an emergency. That would be the emergency room at one of the local hospitals here. The only one that happened to stay open during the storm and it is still open.

It is Christus St. Patrick Hospital; it is just across the lake. You can see it as we zoom in. Still open this morning. Open around the clock. Here to serve the people who, unfortunately, are getting hurt in the aftermath of this hurricane as they try to make their road to recovery.

Joining me this morning is Dr. Frances Bride, one of the doctors who works over there at that hospital.

You've been a busy man, no doubt. How are things going?

DR. FRANCES BRIDE, CHRISTUS ST. PATRICK HOSPITAL: Right now, everything has been a little bit quieter. For the first couple of days, things were pretty hectic around the hospital. Fortunately, a lot of people evacuated and we didn't have to deal with a lot of emergencies.

As people are coming back into town, we are dealing with more and more people. In fact, we saw 150 patients in the emergency room yesterday. And the FEMA team has brought the DEMAT team with them, and they are a tremendous help manning the emergency room and helping our local emergency room doctors.

MARCIANO: Tell me how that works. FEMA comes in with this other team. About what percentage are local doctors and what percentage are FEMA. I've heard FEMA has pretty much taken over the joint, is that the case?

BRIDE: Usually when FEMA does come in, they do take over the place and they rely on the local doctors for support and for information concerning the mechanisms of the hospital and whatnot. They have four doctors from the Seattle area. We have four of our emergency room doctors on call and that stayed in the hospital to assist the FEMA group.

MARCIANO: You were there during the storm at the hospital. What was that like?

BRIDE: It was interesting. Everybody knew the power was going to go off. It was a question when it was going off. The power went off 9:30 the night the storm came in. Things got a little hectic from there. Living conditions went downhill in a hurry.

But everybody just kind of stuck together, did what they had to do. People did things they don't normally do like sore legs and treating eye injuries and treating COPD, but I don't think we missed a lick, as far as taking care of the people that showed up in the emergency room.

MARCIANO: What is your specialty during normal circumstances?

BRIDE: I'm a gastroenterologist.

MARCIANO: You are asked to do all sorts of things. Tell me about interesting things you had to deal with which you're not used to doing.

BRIDE: A policeman had a cut on his legal and it required a little suturing. That was kind of fun. I hadn't sutured a leg in a long time. One of the neurosurgeons had to do a fractured leg. We tried to get Dr. Gupta to assist him, but Dr. Gupta said he's a neurosurgeon and he doesn't know how to do orthopedics.

MARCIANO: He's a little bit more high maintenance (ph).

BRIDE: Our neurosurgeon (INAUDIBLE) the wound in the operating room.

We had a couple of people that came in with food stuck in their esophagus that we had to take care of. I understand they did open laparotomy yesterday for blunt trauma to the abdomen. Dr. Culver (ph) did that.

Right now, we're seeing pretty much the same cross-section of things to be solved before the storm, as people come into town. A lot of prescription refills, chest pains, IV problems. Obviously, the normal things we see from day-to-day.

MARCIANO: Are you familiar with the term Cajun paper cut?

BRIDE: I think you're referring to chain saw injuries?

MARCIANO: How many of those have you seen?

BRIDE: You heard about those last night? We've seen a couple. A lot of people know how to use chain saws down here. We've had ice storms and hurricanes before. Everybody owns a chainsaw and I think everybody is pretty careful about them.

MARCIANO: How are you and the rest of the team holding on? You have to be exhausted.

BRIDE: Not really, we've had plenty of time. All of our offices are closed so thanks to the FEMA group, we're not having to do a whole lot of emergency work right now. I think everybody is getting rested up. It's not a nice vacation, but at least we're not working 12 hour days.

MARCIANO: Well, it is a change of pace, that's for sure. Dr. Bride, I appreciate you coming to chat with us.

BRIDE: Well, it's my pleasure.

MARCIANO: On behalf of the folks in Lake Charles thanks for staying open on the night of the storm.

BRIDE: Good luck to you, Rob.

MARCIANO: Thank you.

Chain saw is not a good thing, but they are necessary, Soledad, in order to clear the roads. I've mentioned all the tress that are down. That's an issue.

Chad, they haven't had a big storm here really the last big storm they had was ice storm that took trees down but that was 10 years ago. As you know, trees get weak if they don't get storms through. That is the one thing that shocked me when I walked through this place, how many huge trees were toppled by this storm.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You start to get the termites to the south and the ants through the middle of those old trees. Literally, they don't have a chance because they don't have a great structure left. You need to actually get those cleared out if they're on your property, but a lot of those trees were not on anybody's property, just non-government property.


O'BRIEN: Still to come, meet a soldier who went online, shared details of daily life in Iraq and paid a big price for doing that. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: My next guest was a so-called weekend warrior for 13 years before his National Guard unit was called up for active duty in Iraq. While he was there, he recounted his war experiences in an online blog. The blog, though, didn't sit well with his commanders and he was ordered to shut it down. Well, now Jason Christopher Hartley has published his blog as book. It is called "Just Another Soldier: A Year on the Ground in Iraq." He joins us this morning.

Nice to see you.


O'BRIEN: Why did you want to do a blog and then eventually a book? What did you feel the people back at home wanted to hear they weren't getting?

HARTLEY: Initially, I just wanted a way to have as easy way to keep in touch with my family so I won't have to write the same e-mails over and over again. Then it became a kind of a project, where basically, if I was someone who was reading about soldiers in Iraq I would want to know how they felt. There were a lot of really good blogs about the kind of ins and outs of things that were actually going on in Iraq. I wanted to capture how it felt, viscerally, to be a soldier thrust into a situation like that.

O'BRIEN: And because you were getting at that, It's very blunt and very real and harsh in a lot of ways. Not all the time flattering to yourself. Did you ever think about editing out the harsher points?

HARTLEY: I thought about that. We kind of come from a culture with all these things like Friendster and MySpace, where people just spill their guts about everything, I felt I would like to do something like that that was uncensored and ever a time I was deliberating whether or not I should put something or not I would usually just put it in because that is what I want to know if I was reading something like that.

O'BRIEN: It's very graphic. You write a lot about -- I guess a theme emerges from the book, the duality. You know, you sort of say, I know morally reprehensible to kill people, and it is enjoyable. It is enjoyable to fire off your weapon. It's cool that my gun can shoot two miles.

HARTLEY: This is something I didn't intend for this to be a theme when I started writing. What I found, the more I wrote, I would have feelings of compassion. I'm kind of a quasi-Buddhist of sorts. I don't want to like hurt people. But there is another part of me that definitely is a soldier, where I've been doing this for 14 years. This was probably the most exhilarating thing I've done, making a concerted effort to kill people -- so then -- I grappled with that. I tried to cover that as much as I could in my writing.

O'BRIEN: We have lots of pictures that you've taken along the way and we'll show those as we continue our conversation. You write a lot about civilians and civilian deaths as you do your job in Iraq. Why do those affect you so much?

HARTLEY: I thought it was interesting how, you go into combat, a lot of people get hurt. You know, there have been almost 2,000 coalition casualties so far. But the civilian casualties, is something, I thought, didn't really -- it didn't get talked about very often. There is anywhere 25,000 to a 100,000 casualties that are just innocent civilians. We definitely saw a lot of that. You know, operations would go well, we do what we're supposed to do, but inevitably, there would be a lot of civilian deaths in the process. Sometimes that was something I wrote about, which also kind of drew the ire of my commander.

O'BRIEN: Which brings us to the blog being taken down.


O'BRIEN: Your commanders said, take it off. Take it down.

HARTLEY: They were very unhappy with it I think primarily because of my tone. Sometimes things wouldn't go well, and I would document that. That is just kind of all in a day's work when you are a soldier, but they found that I was, you know, I was somehow emboldening the insurgency by letting them know we are actually human and sometimes we make mistakes.

O'BRIEN: What is your assessment of what is going on in Iraq right now? Do you think the insurgency is emboldened and doing better than ever? Do you think the U.S. involvement is going well and it's successful?

HARTLEY: It depends on how you measure it. Trying to find a metric for it is tricky. I think a lot of things we are not doing well, but a lot of things we are doing well. In my opinion, right now, yes. This is definitely an excellent training ground for terrorists and insurgents. It is also a good training ground for soldiers, but a bit of a quagmire. I'd like to see us stay there, fix things, leave the place better than it was when we got there.

O'BRIEN: Doable?

HARTLEY: I think it's doable, but it's going to take some hard work.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Jason Hartley. The book is called "Just Another Soldier." It's very good. I enjoyed reading it.

HARTLEY: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you for talking to us about it.

HARTLEY: My pleasure.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning. We are talking business. Find out why thousands of Americans are racing to file for bankruptcy. That's ahead. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Business news now. Bankruptcy soaring. High-end home prices are slumping. Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business" this morning.

Good morning.


Less than two weeks to go until those tough new bankruptcy laws take effect, October 17th that is. Americans are apparently rushing to take advantage of the old law which is less strict. Look at these numbers here: 14 percent increase in bankruptcies this year. That is big, 11.3 million Americans have filed bankruptcy, and 68,000 last week. That compares to 30,000, which is a typical amount.

The new law will make people go into Chapter 13 as opposed to Chapter 7. That means have you to file a repayment schedule. It also makes bankruptcy more costly. It could cost you as much as $2500 to file for bankruptcy.

Lawyers, bankruptcy lawyers are extremely busy. If you think you can get one on the phone right now, forget it. They are working hard. The other thing, you have to think before you do this. It has to be very dire because it can stay on your credit record as much as a decade.

O'BRIEN: Talk about the house prices.

SERWER: We've been trying to foresee this one coming for quite a while. It appears that sales of high-end homes are stalling out a little bit. We're seeing this across the country. In Washington, D.C., and San Francisco and Boston, prices are stalling and people are putting their houses on the market and they're staying there. They are not selling as briskly.

In New York City, prices of some real high-end stuff have slid dramatically, 26 percent. But that's from $5.2 million to $3.8.

O'BRIEN: Shocking.

SERWER: So that is real nose-bleed stuff there.

A couple of things going on here. Mortgage rates have ticked up. People concerned about gas prices and the economy. But also, people are putting their homes on the market for unrealistic prices. They thought their house was worth $450 last year, it has to be worth $550,000 this year.

O'BRIEN: Or 5.2 million!

SERWER: Right. No, it's not. It's worth $475. And you have a nice gain there. So we have to see there is a bubble bursting or a pause.

O'BRIEN: All right. Andy, thanks.

SERWER: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: CNN has been brining you stories that have influenced our lives in the last 25 years. And in honor of our anniversary, we are showcasing the top trends shaping the future. Today, we look at the latest advantages in technology for the home.


O'BRIEN: As CNN celebrates its 25th anniversary, editors at "Fortune" magazine compare the top trends facing our future.

More and more of our lives are automated, especially in the home. From remotes and keypads for television, garage doors to lights, and robotic vacuums. Your home is getting a brain of its own. There is a new type of home, a smart one that does the thinking for you.

CAIT MURPHY, SR. EDITOR, "FORTUNE": The house of the future goes to work. It's going to provide its own energy. It's going to process its own waste. Your carpet is going to suck up stuff when it's dropped. Your counters will be self-cleaning.

And it's going to be very interactive in the sense your refrigerator is going to talk to your stove. Some of these things are already happening but I think those are the things that mark out the house of the future.



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