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AMERICAN MORNING

Border Battle Migrates to Senate Floor; Former Liberian President Charles Taylor Arrested

Aired March 29, 2006 - 07:00   ET

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


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

O'BRIEN: The border battle migrates to the Senate floor, while President Bush crosses that disputed border for an important summit.

A wanted warlord captured.

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jeff Koinange in South Africa on the developing story of former Liberian president Charles Taylor's arrest just hours ago. That's coming up.

COSTELLO: A top ranked college sports team suspended. Duke University makes the decision based on allegations from an off-campus alleged rape.

O'BRIEN: Uncertain futures at General Motors. But what happens when you become one of the cuts?

COSTELLO: And this boy and his best friend stuck high in the hills. Their rescue plays out on live television. That story and much more ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

O'BRIEN: President Bush heads south of the border today. At the top of his agenda, of course, immigration and border control. The political pressure is on in Washington. The president is in the middle of it.

CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry joining us live now from the White House.

Ed, good morning to you.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles.

That's right, the president this afternoon will be heading down to Cancun for trilateral talks with the new Canadian Prime Minister Harpers, as well as the Mexican president, Fox.

Obviously, they will be talking about issues like trade, but this agenda is going to completely dominated by the hot issue of immigration reform with the U.S. Senate kicking off this debate. And it's such a contentious issue. It is obviously splitting the Republican Party. A big fight the president is having with fellow Republicans about what to do with the nearly 12 million illegal immigrants already here in the United States. Also the president seems to be at odds with the Republicans about whether or not to basically build a fence over a large portion of the U.S./Mexico border. The president tried to walk a fine line on that issue yesterday with an exclusive interview with CNN Espanol.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: We ought to enforce our borders. It's what the American people expect. I've talked to president Fox about Mexico enforcing their southern border, and he agrees there ought to be border enforcement down there, but he -- like I understand, is difficult to enforce large borders. And I don't believe think anybody believes that you can totally fence off the border and be effective.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now it will be hard for the president, obviously, to find common ground with fellow Republicans on this issue, which is bound to only add more questions about the president's political capital coming out of the Dubai Ports showdown. But the president in another pre- summit interview with Canadian and Mexican journalists a couple of days ago told everyone not to underestimate his ability to craft a compromise. He basically told these journalists, don't underestimate me despite all these questions -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Ed Henry at the White House, thank you very much -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And over on Capitol Hill, the immigration debate cranks up this afternoon in a big way. It's already prompted a split among Republicans and Democrats alike.

CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins us live from the Capitol to tell us more.

Good morning, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol.

And when that debate starts later this afternoon, it will be that split among Republicans, especially over what to do about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants that will be on full display.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): On one side, Republicans who say illegal immigrants broke the law get taxpayer benefits without paying taxes, and allowing them to stay sends exactly the wrong message.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: I think if you reward illegal behavior, you'll get more illegal behavior.

BASH: Prosecute, this hardline GOP camp says, and tighten Americans border, even with a wall if necessary.

Then the other side of the Republican immigration divide including the president. Those who say illegal workers should be able to stay in the U.S. legally because they're doing jobs Americans won't do.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We have to recognize that for several generations, people have made America home, and we've accepted the benefit of their labor.

BASH: But like anything in politics, there are shades of gray. Senator John Cornyn is a Texas Republican searching for a middle ground. He says illegal immigrants should be able to work in the U.S. legally, but only if they return to their country of origin first.

(on camera): How worried are you about the deep divide within your own party over this issue?

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I really am not worried about it. I think it's actually healthy.

BASH: You think it's healthy? In an election year it's healthy?

CORNYN: Well, you know, that's the problem in America, we're always having elections.

BASH (voice-over): One irony is that many conservatives fiercely oppose a new guest worker program because they felt burned on the issue by their hero, Ronald Reagan. Twenty years ago, he signed amnesty for some illegal workers, then didn't stop the flow of more illegal immigrants, and conservatives cringe that some Republicans are aligned with their nemesis, Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy.

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The president deserves credit for talking about these issues. He comes from a border state, so he understands them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now even the way the Senate is going to take up this issue underscores the emotion and deep divisions over it. They're going to actually take up two measures at the same time. One from the Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist that just deals with border security; and then what the Senate Judiciary Committee passed on Monday, which does deal with the guest worker program, allows illegal immigrants to go on a path toward citizenship. How this ends up, Carol, is anybody's guess and, whether or not actually anything can find compromise, a bigger guess.

COSTELLO: Yes, pretty fiery debate ahead. Dana Bash live on Capitol Hill this morning. Along with three heads of state In Mexico for that immigration summit, our own Lou Dobbs is crossing the in pursuit of answers. A "Broken Borders" special report on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," live from Mexico at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

O'BRIEN: Former Liberian strongman Charles Taylor is vanished no more, just about a day after disappearing from his supposedly secure refuge in Nigeria. Taylor is wanted by an international tribunal for crimes against humanity, and was captured earlier today on Nigeria's border with Cameroon, as you see with our Google map there.

CNN Africa correspondent Jeff Koinange is watching this developing story. He's covered Taylor for many years, happens to be in South Africa this morning.

Jeff, just such an odd story. He vanishes on the eve of a summit between the Nigerian president and Mr. Bush and, suddenly, almost just as suddenly, he's captured. What happened?

KOINANGE: Well, Miles, you can just imagine the kind of egg the Nigerian government would have ended up on their faces. What happened -- this is what we know: Mr. Taylor was apparently heading towards Cameroon, was attempting to cross the border between Nigeria and Cameroon, as you indicated.

An alert border guard spotted him in his car, they detained him, made a phone call to the capital of Abuja, confirmed it was him, arrested him. And now he's awaiting instructions to be taken back to the Abuja, the capital.

Now, here's the deal, Miles. The thing is the Nigerian government had promised that they were only keeping Mr. Taylor as a guest and would only surrender him to an elected Liberian government. That was the deal apparently. When the announcement was made this past weekend that the Nigerians were washing their hands of the whole affair, Mr. Taylor saw it as his cue to try to leave the country because he has always said he doesn't want to end up in a court in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He would rather face charges in The Hague, Miles. So a dramatic end to a very dramatic 24 hours.

O'BRIEN: Yes, of course, we all want to know what happens next. One thing, will security be tightened at that refuge? Obviously, it was fairly slack.

KOINANGE: Very, very slack. And yes, it will be tightened. In fact, what the Nigerians are now saying is that they want to make sure that Mr. Taylor ends up in Liberia, so they've issued a statement saying they are going to repatriate Mr. Taylor back to Liberia's capital, Monrovia. And in fact, we're hearing news it could happen within a matter of hours. In other words, the Nigerians don't want anything more to do with Mr. Taylor. They want to hand him back to the government they took him from and leave them to deal with Mr. Taylor as they see fit.

I think the most relief is for the people of the region. If Mr. Taylor had ended up in Liberia somehow, in the jungles of Liberia, it was possible he could have mounted an attack on the government in this period of very fragile peace. So the fact that he's going back. He's going to be put in court. He's going to eventually end up in the court in Freetown. Well, that's a relief for the entire subregion -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: And an important example for all of Africa. Thank you very much, Jeff Koinange, in South Africa for us this morning -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Let's talk about something beautiful now. People around the world getting a rare solar show, the first total eclipse in years. Spectators from Brazil and South America to Mongolia and Central Asia will get a chance to see this rare event.

Unfortunately, you will not be able to see it in the United States, but we can show it to you. This is as the moon crosses between the earth and the sun. Day turns into night. And a beautiful corona glows around the edges of the moon. The last total eclipse back in 2003. These pictures, by the way, taken out of Turkey. The next solar eclipse isn't until 2008.

(WEATHER REPORT)

(WEATHER REPORT)

O'BRIEN: It's right out of "Lassie Comes Home." A precarious situation, the dog went down the ledge. The boy went after the dog, of course. We're talking about a cliff there near Vancouver.

MYERS: A little too mossy for him to climb back up, and they had to go get out both of them.

O'BRIEN: Exactly. And this whole thing played out on live television in Canada. And of course we're sharing with you a little piece of tape of it, and we're glad to tell you everybody is OK.

MYERS: Good.

COSTELLO: You know, if really was Lassie, Lassie would of been like, you know, in the helicopter putting the rope down and rescuing the boy.

O'BRIEN: Lassie has Caribbeaners (ph). So no comment. But that's Lassie.

Anyway, we're glad it came out well.

White House Chief of Staff Andy Card is shuffling his way out the door but is his resignation the start of a bigger White House shakeup? We will ask former White House staffer Mary Matalin about that.

COSTELLO: Also coming your way, after another round of pink slips lots of workers are pondering life without General Motors. We'll look at why it's especially tough for a guy who spent 26 years there.

O'BRIEN: And the little girl who is stirring up a very big controversy. Why some think her provocative poems are no more than racist rants.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

O'BRIEN: Cars define Detroit. The people live, work, and are identified by the fact that Detroit is the Motor City. Motown, after all. But for one General Motors worker let go Tuesday, GM also defined his life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): For more than 26 years, Dave Capsule worked as an engineering manager at General Motors in the Detroit suburb of Warren.

DAVE KEPSEL, LOST JOB AT GM: Today was referred to as black Tuesday. All the rumors came out that there were going to be cuts today, and it proved to be true.

O'BRIEN: It's part of GM's plan to restore its profitability. It began with layoffs and buyouts of the hourly employees. And now, the white collar guys behind the desk are feeling it, too.

KEPSEL: And what's ironic is I started my career with GM in 1979 at Chevrolet Engineering Center, and my last company vehicle here is a black Chevrolet Silverado. So how ironic is that.

O'BRIEN: To add insult to injury, his company-issued car will be taken away.

KEPSEL: So I have to turn it in at the end of 30 days, or before if I find another vehicle.

O'BRIEN: Kepsel knew there might be further cutbacks, but says he still wasn't quite prepared when they hit him.

KEPSEL: When the people that you normally work with and talk to stop looking at you and making eye contact, that's kind of a good sign, or a sign that you're probably going to be affected by this cutback.

O'BRIEN: Kepsel was offered a fairly generous severance package.

KEPSEL: I could continue my salary up to 15 months if I had agreed to its terms, and health care would continue also. If I don't agree to the terms, then basically my salary continues for two months and I'm on my own.

O'BRIEN: For Kepsel, being on his own is the hard part, after working for a company for practically a lifetime.

KEPSEL: Let's face it, 26 and-a-half years is a relationship, a long-term relationship that has now ended, so I just have to get out, get on my own and find another career opportunity and, you know, see how that goes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: It's a sad day in Detroit. COSTELLO: You know, it's like deja vu. I can remember covering stories in the '80s because I worked in the Rust Belt, and it's the same sort of thing, you know, these older workers, they get laid off. And where do they go? What do they do? You know, they have all these job retraining programs, but how effective are they?

SERWER: And you look at the cycle here. What happened is, you know, gas prices rose, the cars were too big. Detroit responded by making smaller cars. Gas prices went down, then they made cars that were big. The cost of paying people, the labor problems continued, and now you're right, they're in the same problem they were decades ago.

COSTELLO: yes. You'd think they would have discovered how to solve the problem, but no.

SERWER: No.

O'BRIEN: Everything is cyclical, including this, unfortunately.

Thank you, Andy. We'll see you in just a little bit.

The White House shuffling its deck. White House Chief of Staff Andy Card headed out the door. Could this be a precursor to a bigger shakeup? we'll ask former White House staffer Mary Matalin about that.

Then there's this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They risk losing arms to the train, losing legs to the train, losing their life, but they're willing to take that risk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: The trail of tragedy for people desperate to come to America. A closer look at the so-called "train of death." That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Well, it appears Sherman Adams record is safe for now. Andy Card is bowing out about six months shy of a record for a White House chief of staff, set by the chief of staff for Eisenhower, Sherman Adams, right at about six years. Six years, that's a hard job to do for six years.

The question now is, what does this mean for the Bush White House? is this the beginning of what could be larger changes in the administration? Joining us now from Washington to talk about this, former White House insider and staffer Mary Matalin.

Mary, good to have you with us.

MARY MATALIN, FMR. ASST. TO THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, Miles.

O'BRIEN: This is a tough job, isn't it?

MATALIN: It's a really tough job. And Andy told us at the beginning of the term, during the transition as a matter of fact, that he hoped to break the average White House chief of staff tenure, which was 18 months, so he's more than trebled that, and he's presided over historic times and a growing economy. We haven't been hit in four years, so he has much to be proud of.

But as he said yesterday, to everything is a season. It's time for him to move on, and he thinks that the president would be best served, better served and reenergize the White House by the coming in our good -- his good colleague, our good friend, Josh Bolten.

O'BRIEN: Well, let's talk about that for just a moment. How much of a reenergizing is that really when you're essentially shuffling chairs for two trusted aides?

MATALIN: Well, it's not chair shuffling. The president does not engage in insignificant or cosmetic acts. It's a big deal when a new chief of staff comes in. And I'm hard-pressed to consider in more recent memory a more experienced or a broader breadth of experience than Josh Bolten. He's been at the State Department, USTR. He's been on Wall Street, Goldman Sachs. He's from Princeton, has a Stanford law degree. He's done what is most important for the economy the last two years. He's worked on Hill on budgets and spending restraint. He was an architect of the president's first-term policies, which did result in the robust economy we enjoy today.

So Josh is a genius. He's a good manager. He's beloved by the White House colleagues. He's trusted by the president. And he's got a -- he'll have a different calibration. He's been given complete license by this president to do what he thinks is right to serve the president in a way befitting of these times.

O'BRIEN: But don't you think maybe a little more of a changeover might be a good idea? A little more new blood at this juncture?

MATALIN: You know, this is one of those notions of the chattering classes. And the president knows the difference between cosmetics and carping, and real constructive critique. This is a significant change. The change for change sake and just bring somebody in. This is not the time for inexperience. This is not the time for on-the-job learning. This is not the time. I have been in White Houses where the chief of staff has changed out just to assuage the chattering classes. That's not what the president is doing here.

O'BRIEN: Wasn't there a little bit of thought about the chattering class as it relates to this? In other words, if there hadn't been so much talk and pressure from that dome over your right shoulder there, this wouldn't of happened at all. So in other words, the chattering class is being listened to anyway, isn't it?

MATALIN: I'm not -- well, as I said, the president can discern between carping, mindless Bush-bashing carping, and constructive critique. The Republicans and conservatives across the country want the same goals for this country that the president wants, and has been working hard at and has had great success with. The economy has been growing for five years. We haven't been hit for four years. The relationship with the Hill is one of the things they have been complaining about, and one of the assets that Josh brings to the job is having worked with the Hill intimately and intricately on budget issues, tax issues, economic issues for the last two years. He has also worked with the deputy chief of staff.

O'BRIEN: Allow me to chatter here for just a moment about this.

MATALIN: Yes, you're part of real -- you're a part of the chattering class.

O'BRIEN: Well, I guess that's an upgrade. Thank you.

Andy Card comes to work at 5:30. He's there until 9:00 p.m. These jobs are just burnout jobs. You know this firsthand. You left, spent a little time with those little ones in your house that you couldn't remember if they were your kids practically, right, because of the amount of time you spent in this. There is no political statement here; it's just these are burnout jobs, and at a certain point, people get tired. Isn't that what is happening?

MATALIN: Well, you know, as Andy said, the -- he knew when it was time. Andy always told us that when we think that we're not serving the president as well we might be, then it's time for a change.

You know, all of these jobs are intense, but they're also extraordinarily rewarding, and they're privileged and an honor that's so few people ever experience, so the rewards in being able to serve this president in these historic times is the offset to the fatigue. But your job is fatiguing. You know, these are type-A personalities and very important jobs, and I don't think that's a factor.

I think what Andy said yesterday, what the president said yesterday, is there is a time, and it's time for a recalibration, rejuvenating, reenergizing, recrafting with the Hill. You know, forward agenda. And we've got three more years left.

And you can't do this with a person with no experience. Josh has more experience than any of the gray hairs, or gray beards that I saw names being floated around -- and has myriad of other skills that he brings to this job.

O'BRIEN: Mary Matalin, thanks for your time.

MATALIN: Thanks, Miles -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING, Duke's University nationally ranked lacrosse team is sidelined by race allegations. What exactly happened at their off-campus party.

Plus:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You see these migrants walking along the rails on the trains. They are filthy. They haven't bathed in weeks. They've spent months along the rails just trying to survive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: A closer look at the trip for migrants from Mexico to America on the so-called "train of death." That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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