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What President Bush Knew Before Hurricane Katrina Hit; Pair Of Explosions Near U.S. Consulate In Karachi, Pakistan; Residents Flee As Wildfires Burn Out Of Control In Oklahoma; Top Ten Cars

Aired March 2, 2006 - 06:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, I'm Miles O'Brien.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Carol Costello in for Soledad.

O'BRIEN: This morning, another look into what the president knew in the hours before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to assure the folks at the state level that we are fully prepared.


COSTELLO: A pair of explosions in Pakistan near the U.S. Consulate, an American among the dead. We are live with that story.

O'BRIEN: Hundreds of residents fleeing for their lives as wildfires burn out of control in Oklahoma. We'll have a live report.

COSTELLO: And the top 10 cars drivers like the best. We've got the list. Is your car on it? You'll find out just ahead.

O'BRIEN: So what did the president know and when did he know it as Hurricane Katrina hurdled toward the Gulf Coast? The pictures prove there were a thousand words uttered about the storm and its implications, so why didn't it translate into action? And what does this say about crisis management in the Bush administration?

AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken live in Washington with more.

Good morning -- Bob.


And while they are not new, the reemergence of these tapes and some transcripts, some of whom and some of which are new, show that there were an awful lot of meetings and too little coordination.


BUSH: I want to assure the folks at the state level that we are fully prepared. FRANKEN (voice-over): The president's reassurances as Hurricane Katrina roared closer to shore were in sharp contrast to the warnings he was getting.

MAX MAYFIELD, NATL. HURRICANE CENTER: I don't think anybody can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that's obviously a very, very big concern.

FRANKEN: In the months of recrimination, the administration insisted it had insufficient warning. There was, as the Homeland Security director has since put it, the fog of war obscuring chaos on the ground.

MICHAEL BROWN, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: Kind of gross here, but I'm concerned about MDMS and medical and demort assets and their response to a catastrophe within a catastrophe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't buy the fog of war defense. And in fact, if anything, there was a fog of bureaucracy.

FRANKEN: The president's defenders insist that these tapes, which have been seen before, demonstrate that he was not, as often depicted, out of the loop, but fully engaged at all times, as a White House spokesman put it. Others, however, see and hear something quite different.

MAYOR RAY NAGIN (D), NEW ORLEANS: Well the realization that there was full awareness prior to the storm and that there was a promise to do whatever it took, and I did not see that executed.


FRANKEN: And as these tapes recirculate, they are a reminder that there was plenty of warning that Katrina would overwhelm. And of course it did. And, as a matter of fact, Miles, as we know, it sometimes still is.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the timing here, Bob, these tapes, as you mention, have been seen before. They've been sort of re-released and talked about again. Why the fuss now?

FRANKEN: Well, last week of course there was a huge amount of attention, in fact, in the weeks previous to Katrina and the six-month anniversary. And of course you just came back from New Orleans. So there is a continued emphasis on Katrina. It is one of the matters in which the administration has taken quite a beating. And there is still evidence that things are not going as well as they should, therefore, renewed attention to these tapes.

O'BRIEN: Bob Franken in Washington, thank you -- Carol.

COSTELLO: It is day two of President Bush's trip to Asia. This morning he's in India where a landmark nuclear deal has been reached. We'll have more on that coming up.

But first, new developments in Pakistan, the president's next stop, a pair of deadly explosions ripped through a hotel parking lot, right near the U.S. Consulate in Karachi.

Senior Asia correspondent Mike Chinoy is on the phone from the capital, Islamabad.

Mike, what happened?


The Pakistan Minister of Interior said it was a deadly ambush in the parking lot behind the Marriott Hotel in Karachi. That's just next to the American Consulate. As a vehicle carrying a U.S. diplomat drove up to the entrance to the consulate, another car accelerated and crashed into the American diplomat's car. The Pakistani Interior Minister says it was a suicide bomber.

The explosion thought were (INAUDIBLE) kilograms worth of explosives. It killed the American diplomat, killed his driver, killing two other people. The force of the blast tossing the car over the wall of the American Consulate into the consulate grounds. This was a heavily protected area. There were about 150 Pakistani security personnel and two armored vehicles.

But the Interior Minister says it's almost impossible to defend against suicide attacks. And that's what happened. The motive apparently to embarrass Pakistan and send the signal to President Bush in advance of his visit here to Pakistan -- Carol.

COSTELLO: OK, so talk about security for the president, since he's going to be there in two days.

CHINOY: The Interior Minister says every possible precaution is being taken, that they are reviewing the security plan again to make sure that there are no loopholes.

Here in Islamabad, whole chunks of the city are going to be declared red zones where nobody is going to be allowed to go. The authorities are going to be imposing very, very tight controls. The Pakistani and American security personnel have been working for a long time to try and ensure that there aren't any attacks. The minister said he's comfortable with the level of security. But after what happened in Karachi, everybody is a little nervous -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Mike Chinoy live from Islamabad this morning.

And President Bush says terrorists and killers will not stop him from going to Pakistan on Saturday. That came up in a news conference just a few hours ago in India where the president was announcing a nuclear deal.

Elaine Quijano live in New Delhi with more on that.

Good morning.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Carol. And President Bush says the attack in Pakistan is an indication that the war on terrorism is going on and also that countries must come together to fight this issue.

Now of course the president is here in the region to strengthen ties with India, Pakistan and as we saw yesterday, Afghanistan as well. His visit is coming amid some heavy security. And despite these attacks, though, the president made clear he will not be deterred from visiting Pakistan.


BUSH: Terrorists and killers are not going to prevent me from going to Pakistan. It's -- my trip to Pakistan is an important trip. It's important to talk with President Musharraf about continuing our fight against terrorists. After all, he has had a direct stake in this fight.


QUIJANO: And President Bush insists there is cooperation with countries in the region on this issue of terrorism. And the president says he will take that message to General Pervez Musharraf when he visits him in a couple of days -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, let's back up and talk about the president's trip to India, because we know the two countries, the United States and India, have come up with this nuclear deal. Is it relevant? Why is it so controversial? What is it?

QUIJANO: Well, first of all, the reason why it's so controversial, Carol, is because critics say that this is really rewarding India's bad behavior. Now specifically what we're talking about is that India won't have to give up its nuclear weapons programs and those programs are not going to be subject to inspection.

Now let's take a look at what the deal does include. The United States will share nuclear know-how and fuel with India under this agreement. India will not sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. And India will be required, though, to separate its civilian and military nuclear programs.

And, Carol, the bottom line is that the Bush administration insists this is progress, they say, because having this agreement, they think, will encourage India to scale back and perhaps think about its nuclear weapons programs in a different way -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I'm sure that when President Bush arrives in Pakistan that will be a major topic of conversation there.

Elaine Quijano live in New Delhi this morning, thank you.

O'BRIEN: Fires are ripping through Oklahoma this morning, some of them deliberately set, sending people scurrying for safety. The worst in Duncan, at least 30 homes destroyed there. Just look at these pictures from our various affiliates there, pretty dramatic stuff.

For more on the multiple fires, we turn it over now to Marianne Silber of our CNN affiliate KOCO. She is in Meeker, Oklahoma this morning.

Marianne, bring us up to date.


Right now this fire near, it's actually between Meeker and Chandler, Oklahoma, is about 90 percent contained. But overnight, it was moving to the southeast, and crews were rushing to get people out of their homes and out of their way of the flames. We're talking 75 to 100 people that were evacuated overnight here. Several homes, barns and other structures were right in the way of the flames. They were trying to save those structures.

Crews have been focused on saving those homes, so at this point don't really have an accurate number as far as how many homes in this area have been destroyed. That is yet to be seen once the sun comes up and state officials, as well as homeowners, can get out here and assess some of this damage. We're talking thousands of acres just here in this area.

And those flames are still going at this hour. We just had some crews not too far from the command center where we are near Chandler. They were battling one big flare-up. There are hot spots all up and down Highway 18, which was closed for awhile overnight. That has been opened back up. So at this point we've got several departments still out here fighting these flames. They will be out here throughout the morning.

We're live. Marianne Silber. Back to you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Marianne Silber of our affiliate KOCO. She's in Meeker, Oklahoma.

Coming up next hour, we'll talk to a member of the Duncan, Oklahoma Fire Department. We'll hear more about that arson investigation and the fire fighting efforts there.

This brings us to Chad Myers.

Chad, any relief in sight for firefighters in Oklahoma?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Just, you know, a different direction for the wind, not really any significant help, no. The wind gusting about 25 miles per hour. You could still see on the live shot there the reporter's coat blowing around. And typically the morning hours will be the most calm. So if we pick up from here, it could be 25 or 30 again today.


Back to you guys.

O'BRIEN: Wow, Chad. Hey, what is gropple?

MYERS: You're going to get about four.

O'BRIEN: What is gropple?

MYERS: Gropple is -- it is snow, but it almost -- you can feel it hit you. When it comes down there is enough mass to it that you go, wow, what was that? And it can catch you in the eye if you are skiing.

O'BRIEN: So it's halfway between snow and sleet is gropple, is it?

MYERS: Right.

COSTELLO: I thought that was corn snow?

MYERS: That's -- well -- that's -- I used that same term.

O'BRIEN: Gropple.

MYERS: But maybe you were doing something else instead of listening.

O'BRIEN: How do you spell that? No, she -- I heard him say corn snow.

COSTELLO: Corn snow.

O'BRIEN: G-R-O-P-P-L-E, gropple.

MYERS: Gropple.


COSTELLO: As opposed to groppa...

MYERS: Groppa...

COSTELLO: ... which is really good.


MYERS: ... what Carol and I are thinking about this morning.

O'BRIEN: I was thinking of that stuff you eat in Philadelphia, that's scrapple.

COSTELLO: Scrapple.

O'BRIEN: That's scrapple. Yes.

MYERS: No, don't go there.

O'BRIEN: Don't go there. Don't want to know about that. Too early for scrapple. MYERS: No. My parents are from Wilkesbury, we had plenty of scrapple growing up.

O'BRIEN: Nasty stuff. That's the stuff they sweep up off the floor, right, isn't it pretty much?

MYERS: No, it's not, no.

COSTELLO: Come on, Chad, pretty much so.

MYERS: Well (ph).

O'BRIEN: Yes, pretty much.

OK, Chad, we have digressed way too far. Let's move on, shall we?

COSTELLO: All right, let's talk about the Gulf Coast and the recovery there because it is far from over. But what happens when a lot of the federal money to pay for it dries up? We'll look at a fast-approaching problem for the people along the Gulf.

O'BRIEN: Also, the latest on that controversial port management deal. Former President Clinton in the mix, and he finds himself on the other side of the issue as his wife. Might be some interesting pillow talk there, huh?

COSTELLO: I bet it is very interesting.

And "Consumer Reports" is out with its top 10 car list. We'll look at why it is bad news for Detroit.

Stick around.


COSTELLO: Loving that tune.

O'BRIEN: That's good stuff. Let's just let it play. No, we got news to do.

Let's get Kelly Wallace in.

Good morning -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles and Carol. And hello, everyone.

We're beginning with some new attacks against Iraqi security forces. Six Iraqi soldiers, four policemen were gunned down at a checkpoint north of Baghdad today. Hours later, a bomb went off at a Baghdad marketplace, killing four people. More than 10 others were wounded. Two other people were killed in a separate attack.

The Senate has voted to add new privacy protections to the Patriot Act. The changes move the Patriot Act closer to renewal, but they are not likely to end the debate between national security and personal liberties. The full Senate now expected to renew the revised version of the bill. The House vote has been pushed off to next week.

In New Jersey, Charles Cullen is expected to get life in prison for the killings of 22 people and 3 attempted murders. His sentencing hearing is this morning. Cullen was convicted of using lethal doses of medication while working as a nurse to kill his victims. The hearing will be the first time the victims' families will get to confront him.

There will be a second trial for Andrea Yates. She'll be tried again in the drowning deaths of her children. Her first conviction, as you might recall, was overturned. That retrial now set to begin on March 20. Meantime, prosecutors say she can still take a plea deal, 35 years in prison on lesser charges, but it doesn't allow for treatment at a mental health facility.

And more criticism about the handling of Hurricane Katrina, this after the reemergence of footage and new transcripts of FEMA briefings in the days leading up to and right after the disaster. They show President Bush and top officials being warned about possible levee breaches. They also show former FEMA head Michael Brown warning that there weren't enough disaster teams at the Superdome.

Chad Myers at the CNN Center with a weather update. And the northeast facing a big storm, right -- Chad?

MYERS: Yes, Kelly, anywhere from New York City northward, really White Plains and northward, probably four to eight inches there of snow.


O'BRIEN: All right, beware the gropple.

Thank you very much, Chad.

COSTELLO: And the corn snow. Have you ever heard of corn snow?


COSTELLO: Chad introduced a new meteorological term for us this morning, corn snow.

LEE: Is that right. I'm from Pennsylvania, I should know that one.


COSTELLO: I'm from Ohio, I never heard of corn snow. You're from Detroit.

LEE: He's making it up.

O'BRIEN: Never heard of corn snow or gropple. But you know Chad is a smart guy. He, you know, he never lies. COSTELLO: Yes. So he says.

O'BRIEN: American carmakers, boy, "Consumer Reports" just slam- dunked them in the worst possible way.

LEE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Carrie Lee is here with that. Yes.

LEE: This is not good news for U.S. automakers. You know "Consumer Reports" has this annual report, top cars, every year.

Well Japanese automakers really swept the top 10 spots. For the first time ever since the magazine has been putting out the survey, 1997, Japanese cars dominated the survey. Honda took 5 of the top 10 spots, that includes the Acura TL.

Take a look here at the Honda Civic, top small sedan. Other names, Infiniti, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Highlander. The Toyota Prius, which, as you know, is a popular hybrid, the top green car. And Subaru had two winners. Toyota also had two winners. So a clean sweep out of Japan.

Meanwhile, the big three yesterday reported February sales and the news here not great as well. Ford and GM both saw sales down. GM saw February sales down 2.6 percent, Ford down 4.1 percent as Japan continues to gain market share. So we're seeing more of the same that we have seen in the past couple of months. The incentives continuing. Same old, same old really.

O'BRIEN: You know here's the surprise to me in this thing, because we're going to talk to one of the editors in just a minute about this,...

LEE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: ... pickup trucks and SUVs, they win. That -- I mean they are eating Detroit's lunch now.

LEE: Well...

O'BRIEN: I mean you would expect the other categories, right?

LEE: Yes, yes. Well SUVs, pickups, they're doing better than cars for GM and Ford. So they are sticking to that plan.


LEE: You know you think that people are going toward smaller cars. They are doing better in SUVs than cars. But still, you know if they keep losing market share, it's not going to matter.

O'BRIEN: But when the Ford F150 and the Chevy Silverado lose to the Honda,...

LEE: Yes, I know. O'BRIEN: ... this country is in a world of hurt.

LEE: I know.

O'BRIEN: Got to work on that. Yes.

COSTELLO: And Toyota pickup trucks.

LEE: Exactly.


LEE: Here's something interesting, too, "Wall Street Journal" talking about this this week that GM workers go to what's called -- what they call a rubber room in Detroit. Basically paying workers to sit in there and do nothing. It's cheaper for the companies, because of the unions and all this, it's cheaper for the companies to keep people on the payroll, keep them sitting in this room, you know talking, reading the paper,...

COSTELLO: Come on!

LEE: ... doing whatever, than to fire them and then bring them back. They say that this was something that is from another area -- era.

COSTELLO: So instead of paying unemployment benefits, it is cheaper to put them in the rubber room?

LEE: That's their rationale. Well they can't -- they can't -- you know the union contracts, they can't just let them go.

O'BRIEN: Can't get rid of them.

LEE: Exactly, so.

O'BRIEN: Can we get one here just to try it and see how that goes?

LEE: Because we're all insane. No,...

O'BRIEN: That's a big ticket of cash off (ph) while I'm in the rubber room. All right.

LEE: "Wall Street Journal."

COSTELLO: I'd like to sit in a room and do nothing.

O'BRIEN: Thanks.

COSTELLO: You know a lot of court cases are boring, really boring, but it takes a special kind of boring to make a Supreme Court justice doze off. Yes, why one Supreme Court justice was sleeping during a case on the bench at the U.S. Supreme Court. That's next in "Morning Coffee."


O'BRIEN: That's...

COSTELLO: Jet (ph).

O'BRIEN: Yes. That's a pretty shot there. It's the sunrise before the storm kind of thing going on.

COSTELLO: Yes, I know.

O'BRIEN: You've got the gropple coming, folks. In the morn (ph), incoming gropple.

WALLACE: Not the groppa.

COSTELLO: No. No, I wish it were the groppa.

WALLACE: I know...

COSTELLO: It would make it a lot warmer.

WALLACE: Exactly.


Hey, it's time for "Morning Coffee."


COSTELLO: Got some good stuff this morning.

It looks like there might be a Clinton at the center of the deal bringing extra scrutiny to that controversial Dubai Ports deal, but it is not Hillary. "The Financial Times" is reporting that former President Bill Clinton first floated the idea of a 45-day delay to the owners of Dubai Ports World. In fact, he was helping them push the deal through with the United States. So he's counseling Dubai on this. And at the same time, his wife was bashing the Bush administration over its earlier approval.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: The administration did not require Dubai Ports to keep copies of business records on U.S. soil where they would be subject to court orders. It did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate U.S. government requests. If 9/11 was a failure of imagination, and Katrina was a failure of initiative, this process is a failure of judgment.


COSTELLO: I've always wondered, do you think they talk? I mean do you think they talk about these issues?

O'BRIEN: I don't think so. I don't think there's a lot of chitchat there.

WALLACE: Is this a way to court both sides, you know, looking ahead to 2008, we have got the supporters and the opponents of this deal.

COSTELLO: Well just because they are married, though, they don't necessarily have to agree,...

WALLACE: That's right.

COSTELLO: ... as we all know.


COSTELLO: But imagine the pillow talk. And imagine what the Republicans are going to say about it.

WALLACE: But I did see that the former president did make it clear that he didn't want to criticize anybody who is criticizing the deal, i.e., his own wife.

COSTELLO: That's political speaking.

O'BRIEN: Having said that...


O'BRIEN: Wow, that's like an is-is kind of thing, isn't it?


WALLACE: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: Yes, all right.

COSTELLO: I know you have all been following the Texas redistricting case in the Supreme Court.

O'BRIEN: Every day.


COSTELLO: Yes, it's pretty dry stuff.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I'm on it. I'm on it.

COSTELLO: I know it's pretty dry stuff, but it is very important. But for one justice it may be more than just a little drawn out. The Associated Press is reporting that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg actually nodded off during testimony. Justices Souter and Alito sit on either side of her, though neither of them bothered to wake her up.

WALLACE: Neither gave her a little hey, justice, come on, pay attention.

O'BRIEN: So what if she -- she might have needed a nap. I mean...

COSTELLO: Well she did. And it's funny you should say that.

O'BRIEN: Would you have awakened her? Would you have awakened her?


O'BRIEN: I would never awake. Let sleeping justices lie is what I say. Yes.

WALLACE: I'd do a little tap and this isn't looking so good.

COSTELLO: Well anyway, she might have...

O'BRIEN: Now we know why they don't have cameras in that courtroom. Right now that we've...

WALLACE: Exactly.


WALLACE: That's the reason.

COSTELLO: Now we know.


COSTELLO: Anyway, there's another reason she might have been worn out though, after all, it was just a day earlier that the Anna Nicole Smith show rolled through the court, and that tends to leave many people gasping for air.

O'BRIEN: You know that was just an excuse to put Anna Nicole back on TV, wasn't it?


O'BRIEN: All right.

WALLACE: Because she looks so much better now.

COSTELLO: Doesn't she? She looked beautiful. I thought she looked great.

WALLACE: Plastic surgery, come on.

COSTELLO: Hair extensions. But she just looks like that Trim Spa thing working for her.

WALLACE: I guess it is.

O'BRIEN: But it still would be a long dinner with her. Just not a lot of good conversation, you know what I mean?

COSTELLO: I don't know about that. O'BRIEN: It's the -- it's -- you don't, really? You think she would be scintillating? I don't know. All right.

COSTELLO: Yes, I do.

O'BRIEN: I do not. All right.

Thank you, ladies.

The morning's top stories straight ahead. Plus Apple's iTunes Web site, sort of king of the online music buzz. It is about to get some stiff competition from a very familiar name, however. And the chances of Dave Chappelle returning to his TV show seem to be dwindling. A look at why he is getting bullied by his old bosses later on AMERICAN MORNING.



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