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State Of The Union Address; The Storm & The Speech

Aired February 1, 2006 - 07:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: You're watching AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien coming to you live from the capitol this morning.

Good morning, Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. A tale of two cities today, New York and Washington. And let's get right to the headline desk where we find Carol Costello.

Good morning, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles, and good morning to all of you.

Violent clashes to tell you about in the West Bank where Israeli forces are trying to evacuate an illegal settlement. On one side, nearly 3,000 Israeli police equipped with bats and helmets, some on horses. They're trying to break through human chains. Some 2,000 protesters are hurling rocks, paint, and eggs. At least 130 people are hurt.

In the meantime, Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas' future and the new Palestinian government remains uncertain. He's speaking with Mideast leaders about some sort of agreement between himself and Hamas. We'll keep following this for you.

Saddam Hussein is boycotting his own trial. He and his lawyers were a no-show at today's hearing. They want the new chief judge to step down, claiming he's bias.

In the meantime, heightened security in parts of Baghdad after a suicide attack. At least three people are dead and more than 60 others hurt.

Tow U.S. journalists hurt in Iraq are now back in the United States for treatment. ABC News Anchor Bob Woodruff and photographer Doug Vogt are now at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Woodruff's brother praised the care the men are receiving.


DAVID WOODRUFF, BOB WOODRUFF'S BROTHER: The transfer that Bob made from Landstuhl was very successful. We just met with his entire team of doctors. It was very impressive. We, again, are incredibly impressed by these guys and it looks like he's going to have the same kind of care that he had downrange in Iraq and also in Landstuhl. So, again, this is a long road. We all know that. We're prepared for that. And we think he's going to be under great care here.


COSTELLO: Woodruff and Vogt are both suffering from head injury after a roadside bomb attack in Iraq.

Funeral plans could be announced today for civil rights leader Coretta Scott King. Her body arrived in an Atlanta funeral home just about two hours ago. Georgia's governor has offered to have her body lie in state at the capital building in Atlanta. The widow of Martin Luther King Jr. died Monday at an alternative medical clinic. She was 78 years old.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin in the hot seat over Katrina. A Senate panel wants him to explain documents that show he opened the convention center to evacuees without making sure food and water would be available. He's expected to shoot back at the city for help, but it took FEMA three days to respond. The hearing is set to begin in just about three hours.

And, Soledad, you can bet we'll be following that one.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Oh, you know what, with Ray Nagin, I'm sure it's going to be an interesting hearing, as always.

Carol, thanks.

The war in Iraq has been a major drain on President Bush's popularity, but in the State of the Union Address he was upbeat, saying the U.S. is on the offensive in Iraq with a clear plan for victory. He also said he's seeking out good advice from Congress. Joining us this morning, Senator Joe Biden. He is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Always nice to see you.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Thanks for talking with us.

BIDEN: Thank you.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: What did you make of the speech last night?

BIDEN: I thought it was a good speech. The devil's always in the details.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Good how then?

BIDEN: Well, he set out goals. He talked about us needing to stay involved internationally. He talked about worried about isolationism? I'm not sure who is talking about isolationism. He indicated we need a new energy policy. He wanted to do something about healthcare.

But then, behind all that, I didn't hear much. I mean, you know, if you're a husband or wife raising three kids and they tell you, you can have a savings account, health savings account, can you afford to put $10,000 away a year? Does that help you at all? I'm just not sure what the detail of what he is talking about is.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: A large portion was spent on Iraq, so let's talk there to talk.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: He said that he is confident. Kind of keeping with the stay the course message that we've heard in many past speeches. First, let's listen to a little bit.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am confident in our plan for victory. I am confident in the will of the Iraqi people. I am confident in the skill and spirit of our military. Fellow citizens, we are in this fight to win and we are winning.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: We are winning. Do you think this message resonates with the rest of the country?

BIDEN: I don't know. We can win. Whether or not we are winning is a different story. I have confidence in our military. I don't have confidence that our civilian leadership is listening to our military. As you know, Soledad, I've been on your program many times. I've been saying for two years, the military say we need more troops, we need more equipment, we need more body armor, we need more et cetera, and it's the civilians in the Defense Department, the secretary of defense, the White House, that has not been listening to them. We'd do better if we listen to them and if the White House focused more on getting the international community to come in and put pressure on each of the major parties in Iraq to work out a political settlement. Absent them agreeing on a constitution, agreeing on a government that is not a Shiite led government under the inspiration of Iran, we don't have enough troops anywhere to take care of that.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: (INAUDIBLE) foreign policy. He talked about Iran and actually made a plea right to the Iranian people which was followed not long after by the Iranian president himself saying we're going to resist any sort of outside intervention. And also I think he essentially said that they're going to continue their plan to get nuclear power.

BIDEN: Well, the Iranian president is not that popular with Iranians. I think the president was right to try to speak to the Iranian people and I think the president is right in staying the course with the Europeans, the Russian and the Chinese to put international pressure on the Iranians. Because, quite frankly, we've run out of our ability to do anything in terms of sanctioning them. The next avenue is one that is much more difficult. We need the rest of the world with us. I think the president's going about it the right way.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: The president on the domestic wiretaps. It's been called the terrorist surveillance program. But let's listen to a chunk.

BIDEN: Sure.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Because it was sort of an interesting way, I thought, that he put it.



BUSH: Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have and federal courts have approved the use of that authority. Appropriate members of Congress have been kept informed.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: What was the reaction?

BIDEN: Surprise.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: You know, because I've read reports that said people didn't quite boo but sort of grumbled.

BIDEN: Well, Democrats and Republicans saying, well who's been informed and to what detail? Look, let's assume the wiretap program is only wiretapping al Qaeda communications and everybody's for that. Let's assume it's working perfectly. It's not a plan. It is not a Homeland Security plan. The Homeland Security, the 9/11 Commission on December 5th said, look, the administration still has no plan, no priorities to make us safe.

Walk out here, there is no plan for railroads, for nuclear power plants. That's the hard worker protecting the homeland. He has a Homeland Security policy that can be used in one word -- wiretap. Assume it makes sense. It is not sufficient. We've got to get on with it. The American public has lost confidence in our ability to deal with natural disasters, as well as man-made disasters. And I don't understand this focus only on wiretapping.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Well, you know, maybe it's in the next speech.

BIDEN: I hope so. I hope so.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Senator Joe Biden, always nice to talk to you. Thanks for coming in. Appreciate it.

BIDEN: Thank you, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Coming up in our next hour, we're going to talk to Arizona Senator John McCain.

Lots of people in New Orleans wondering exactly what happened last night. They listened to the president for about 47 minutes before there was even a mention of their city. Here it is.


BUSH: In New Orleans and in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country. The answer is not only temporary relief, but schools that teach every job and job skills that bring upward mobility and more opportunities to own a home and start a business.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: And that was kind of it. The president went on for just about a minute. A little bit less. Didn't ever any new money, any new aid. AMERICAN MORNING's Dan Lothian is live this morning for us outside of Cafe Du Monde. It's a staple in the French Quarter.

What was the reaction in New Orleans this morning, Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, we are in front of Cafe Du Monde, right across the street from Jackson Square. That is where President Bush spoke shortly after the storm in September, essentially reassuring the people of New Orleans that he would do whatever it took to get the city back on its feet.

In one word this morning, residents are disappointed. And this headline perhaps says it all, "No New Promises for New Orleans From Bush." It talks about how there were only a few sentences at the end of that speech that focusing on this region. Folks here believing that they were simply a footnote in that speech. That it was a slap in the face. And this comes, of course, after residents have been telling us that they don't believe the White House has been doing nearly enough to help.


LOTHIAN, (voice over): Inside this French Quarter art gallery, owner Vickie Bassetti paints a dark picture of the federal government's response to her city's desperate needs.

VICKIE BASSETTI, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: They're throwing out little cracker crumbs when we need a loaf of bread. We've all been on an emotional ride.

LOTHIAN: Bassetti's gallery sustained only minor damage during Hurricane Katrina.

BASSETTI: I put it out right here. There we go.

LOTHIAN: She's back in business, but worries New Orleans may have a much harder time. Some signal lights are still dark. Most schools and hospitals remain closed. Only one out of every three retail food businesses is open. There's still a lot of debris, even though much has been cleaned up. And many houses are still uninhabitable. Only a quarter of the city's residents have returned. Many have yet to see a penny of the $85 billion promised to the Gulf region by the White House and Congress, and some worry that alone won't be enough. Bassetti says promises have not been kept.

BASSETTI: It was the city that was abandoned. It was the people that were abandoned. And it was the way of life that was abandoned.

LAWRENCE POWELL, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: People are in a holding pattern.

LOTHIAN: Tulane University History Professor and long time New Orleanian Laurence Powell says there's growing frustration.

POWELL: People are depressed, anxious, and angry.

LEA FREEMAN, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Oh, I'm devastated. It took me a few times before I could really come in and walk around.

LOTHIAN: Lea Freeman is one of those people. Her house and catering business were destroyed by Katrina. She's left with a lot of mold and a lot of uncertainty.

FREEMAN: How much of the area can be built up? And in what span of time? And how can we make a living here?

LOTHIAN: What's been the most frustrating thing?

FREEMAN: I think just waiting to find out what to do.

LOTHIAN: As she waits, Freeman and others want more lawmakers to see the devastation in person, a connection they hope will hasten the help and the recovery.

FREEMAN: We all love New Orleans and we want to come home.


LOTHIAN: Of course, the Bush administration saying that that $85 billion is a lot of money for this region and, along with that, there will be tax incentives to help the folks out here. But, of course, people here simply don't believe that they're getting any of that money or that that money is nearly enough.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Dan Lothian for us this morning. Dan, thanks.


MILES O'BRIEN: Thank you, Soledad.

Let's get a check of the weather. Chad Myers at the Weather Center.

Hello, Chad.


MILES O'BRIEN: Andy Serwer is here.


MILES O'BRIEN: And we're talking -- gosh, lots of things to talk about today. We've got Enron. We've got Google. What else you got going?

SERWER: We got oil prices. We have GE. With oil prices so high and gas prices so high, why are oil refineries cutting back on production in the U.S.? Plus, GE goes green only to be criticized again. Stay tuned for that coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


MILES O'BRIEN: And now you know the answer to the trivia question. What do Big Boi and Pauley Shore have in common?

SERWER: Have in common. Some great Americans there.

MILES O'BRIEN: Great Americans. Connecting the dots for you always here on AMERICAN MORNING.


MILES O'BRIEN: Andy Serwer, oil prices high.

SERWER: Gas prices high.

MILES O'BRIEN: Oil refineries making as much gas as possible, right, to satisfy demand? Not necessarily, huh?

SERWER: You would think so. But what's going on here apparently to some stories out this morning is that oil refineries are cutting back on production to boost profits. Reuters reporting this morning that Valero . . .

MILES O'BRIEN: Ouch. Wait a minute. Wait a minute.


MILES O'BRIEN: That $10 billion profit Exxon got, not enough?

SERWER: Well, $36 billion in all of 2005.

MILES O'BRIEN: I know. That was just a quarterly number.

SERWER: Right, that was just a quarterly number.

MILES O'BRIEN: Yes. All right. Go ahead.

SERWER: I mean, truly amazing. Valero, which is the nation's biggest gasoline refiner according to Reuters, cutting back on production by 10 percent, even though it's reported 10 straight record quarters in a row. BP also cutting back in an Indiana refinery apparently by 10 to 15 percent.

And here are those profits, Miles, you were talking about. Exxon, $36 billion. Chevron, $14 billion. ConocoPhillips $13 billion. Marathon $3 (ph) billion. You can go on and on there.

So this could precipitate a backlash, you'd (ph) think.

MILES O'BRIEN: You might say. I'm already feeling my own personal backlash.

SERWER: Back in lashing (ph). Yes.

MILES O'BRIEN: A little bit of anger you might say on that.

SERWER: Yes, I can see that.

MILES O'BRIEN: What else you got?

SERWER: General Electric, which has long been known to have a very tough stance on environmental issues, CEO Jack Welch would not budge an inch when it came to compromising and cleaning up the Hudson River which GE allegedly polluted with PCBs. The new CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, has come in and changed things dramatically, making the company kind of green, saying he would help clean up the Hudson, promoting solar power and wind power.

But you know what, you can't win. There he Jeffrey Immelt. An anti-environmentalist activist, a gentleman named Steve Milloy who runs an . . .

MILES O'BRIEN: Well, wait, wait, anti-environmental . . .

SERWER: Anti-environmental activist. A gentlemen named Steve Milloy. He runs something called the Free Enterprise Action Fund, which -- a tiny -- it has only $5 million, a tiny mutual fund, has introduced a shareholder resolution criticizing GE's new pro- environmental stance. Jeffrey Immelt can't get a break here.

MILES O'BRIEN: They're not polluting enough for him, is that is?

SERWER: Well, he's saying that they're cutting back on releasing greenhouse gases is bad for business and will encourage the government to pass legislation that would harm business.

MILES O'BRIEN: Ah, there you go.

SERWER: If you follow.

MILES O'BRIEN: I think I do, but . . .

SERWER: It's a little pressolate (ph).

MILES O'BRIEN: What's that?

SERWER: Pressolate.

MILES O'BRIEN: Pressolate.

SERWER: Convoluted might be a better word.

MILES O'BRIEN: Yes. Pressolate is a good word.

SERWER: Well, maybe. Marc Gunther, a college of mine, wrote this story. You can see it at cnn/

MILES O'BRIEN: Excellent work. Andy Serwer, thank you very much.

You heard about Cindy Sheehan.

SERWER: Yes, I did.

MILES O'BRIEN: Who lost a son in Iraq. Has become an anti-war cause celeb.

SERWER: Right.

MILES O'BRIEN: Is invited to the State of the Union speech last night. Comes with a t-shirt saying 2,245 dead, you know, what next or who next?

SERWER: Right.

MILES O'BRIEN: And is tossed out and arrested.

SERWER: Just for wearing that shirt?

MILES O'BRIEN: In the U.S. of A, in the house of the people.


MILES O'BRIEN: A lot of people angry about that this morning. We'll delve into that in just a little bit.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

Reporter this morning from Washington, D.C. We're at the Cannon House Office Building. We're talking about the president's State of the Union speech from last night. This particular location is the oldest house office building built in 1908, named in 1962 for the former speaker of the house. His name was Joseph Cannon.

It's a really beautiful building. A really appropriate place to talk about the president's message to Congress and, of course, to America last night. And, Miles, very easy to nab some of our elected officials as they just sort of walk by. We have an opportunity to chat with them about what they thought of the president's speech last night.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right, Soledad, this is a good place for you to be. You know, you saw about the Cindy Sheehan arrest. Speaking of nabbing.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Interesting story, yes.

MILES O'BRIEN: Interesting. She came in. She was an invited guest.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Of Lynn Woolsey from California.

MILES O'BRIEN: Lynn Woolsey from California said here, have a ticket. She gets up in the fifth gallery. Makes her way through security. She has some sort of coat or sweater above a t-shirt that she's wearing. And the t-shirt says in -- and it's black with white letters. It says 2,245 dead. How many more? Referring, of course, to the war in Iraq and the losses there. She, of course, lost her son there and has become a focal point of protest against the war. When that t-shirt became evident, the ushers and the security there said, oh, we've got a protester and they grabbed her and took her out of her seat.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Well, I think also first they said, you're not allowed to have any kind of signs or symbols, so please cover up your shirt, which she refused to do.

MILES O'BRIEN: That's funny. That's not what it says on her blog there. In any case, the way she described it in her letter on where she wrote a letter, it was just -- it was more instantaneous. In any case, that's neither here nor there. The issue is, you know here we -- this is a House of Congress. This is the House of Representatives. This is a place that is dedicated to free speech in many respects. And her free speech, it seems, has been thwarted here.

Let me just quote from her note that is posted on this Michael Moore website. "It is time to take our freedoms and our country back," says Cindy Sheehan. "I don't want to live in a country that prohibits any person, whether he/she has paid the ultimate price for that country, from wearing, saying, writing, or telephoning any negative statements about the government."

So it raises some issues, Soledad. It will be interesting to see how this debate plays out.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Yes, I'm curious to know too. And again, a lot of what we're going off of is this website and reports about this. But why arrest her? She was asked to leave. The reports that I've heard, asked to cover up, refused. They quote one of the guards as saying that, in fact, she was very cooperative. So when she's removed then, why arrest her? I don't understand why she would have to go . . .

MILES O'BRIEN: Yes, unlawful conduct is the charge.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Yes, that seemed a little surprising to me.

MILES O'BRIEN: Well the interesting thing is, we've been talking to Jonathan Turley. We hope to have him on the program in a little bit. He's a constitutional scholar. And he said, you know, if you think about it, people wear buttons, lapel pins, all kinds of expressions of first amendment freedoms inside those chambers. And, in her case, it just happened to be a t-shirt that is much larger. She says in her note, she had no intent to disrupt the speech, she was just wearing that t-shirt. So interesting issues to discuss, which we'll do a little bit later.

Soledad, what else is going -- what else do you have coming up?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: We're going to be talking a little bit to Republican Senator John McCain. Some people call him a maverick. So we'll chat with him about what kind of job he thinks the president did last night for setting the agenda for the year ahead. A look at that's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Back in just a moment.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome to a special split edition of AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Soledad O'Brien reporting from Washington.

President Bush laid out his idea for the next part of his presidency. Much of the focus is still on Iraq.


BUSH: Our nation has only one option. We must keep our word, defeat our enemies and stand behind the American military in this vital mission.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Will the president's message sway sagging public opinion? We talk with Arizona Senator John McCain ahead.


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