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President Bush Discusses Economy; "Da Vinci Code" Verdict In

Aired April 7, 2006 - 09:30   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. We're expecting to hear from the president in just a few moments. We're getting word from the White House he's going to be talking about from the Diplomatic Reception Room, talking about the economy, also talking about new job numbers. He's returning actually right now from a prayer breakfast. We're going to bring that to you as soon as we hear from -- you can see the shot right there. Expecting that in just a minute or so.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, the president -- it's interesting, this economy. We were talking with Carrie Lee earlier about this, there are so many indications that would make you concerned -- mortgage rates going up and the talk of the housing bubble -- and yet people remain confident in the economy. And perhaps the underlying reason is those job report continue to be encouraging.

So as the president addresses that issue, that comes in the context of a mid-term election upon them and some poll numbers out this morning which indicate a lot of people are very unsettled politically, if not necessarily economically.

Let's listen to the president of the United States from the White House as he talks about the economy.



This morning's economic report shows that America's growing economy added 211,000 jobs in the month of March. The American economy has now added jobs for 31 months in a row; created more than 5.1 million new jobs for American workers.

The unemployment rate is now down to 4.7 percent. That's below the average rate of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

These millions of new jobs are evidence of an economic resurgence that is strong, broad and benefiting all Americans.

Real after-tax income has grown by more than 8 percent per person since I took office. That means, on average, Americans have an income that's $2,100 higher this year than it was in 2001, after adjusting for inflation.

More Americans own their homes than at any time in history. Minority homeownership has reached record levels. Consumer confidence is at its highest point in nearly 40 years. Productivity is high. Inflation is contained. Manufacturing activity is growing. And the small-business sector is thriving.

The economy has expanded for 17 straight quarters. And last year, the American economy grew at a healthy rate of 3.5 percent. That's the fastest rate of any major industrialized economy.

These gains are the result of the energy and the effort of American workers, small-business owners and entrepreneurs. They're also the result of pro-growth economic policies.

The tax cuts I signed left $880 billion with our nation's workers, small-business owners and families. They've used that money to fuel our economic resurgence.

Not everyone in Washington agreed with the decision to let people keep more of their own money. On the day that Republicans in the House and Senate were finalizing the 2003 tax cuts, one Democratic leader said these cuts would, quote, "do nothing to create jobs."

The facts have proven the critics wrong 5.1 million times over.

Tax relief has done exactly what it was designed to do: It's created jobs and growth for the American people. Yet some are now proposing that we raise taxes, either by repealing the tax cuts or letting them expire.

These are the same politicians that told us that letting America's working families keep more of their money would be irresponsible, reckless and shameful. They were wrong then and they are wrong now.

Our economy grows when the American people make the decisions about how to save, spend and invest their money.

To keep our economy creating jobs and opportunity, Congress needs to show its trust in the American people and make the tax relief permanent.

Congress also needs to restrain spending so we can stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. And, if necessary, I will enforce spending restraints through the exercise of the veto.

The American people expect their leaders to address other key leaders (sic) that directly affect their family budgets and bottom line, especially health care and energy. When the cost of energy and health care rise, families are squeezed and small businesses suffer.

I proposed practical reforms that would make health care more available and affordable. I put forward an energy initiative that will make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.

I've also laid out a plan to make America more competitive by increasing our investment in scientific research, encouraging research and development in the private sector, and improving math and science education.

I urge the Congress to move forward on all these important priorities so we can keep America the economic leader of the world and allow more families and small businesses to realize the American dream.

Thank you for your time.


M. O'BRIEN: That's the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House. That was the president.

Here's Andy Serwer. The president -- what a jobs report.

S. O'BRIEN: But also, I thought we believed that he was going to be taking questions after those remarks, and he clearly was ditching --

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Seemed like the reporters thought so.

S. O'BRIEN: -- especially in the light of some of the questions that might be thrown his way about the leaking, and now that Scooter Libby has testified before the grand jury. So we should mention that first.

What he did focus on was what he said he was going to focus on, which is the economy.

SERWER: The president had some good news, and so he decided to talk about that and stay on that message -- I guess you can't blame him: 211,000 jobs created in the month of March -- economists were looking for 190,(000) -- the unemployment rate dropping from 4.8 percent to 4.7 percent. As he said, that's historically low. The economy continues to add hundreds of thousands of jobs every month.

There are some questions about why the president doesn't stay more on the economy and talk more about the economy because it is a positive for him, and you would think he might be do more to accentuate that.

M. O'BRIEN: When he makes the link to the tax cut, is it -- you know, I'm not an economist, you play one on TV. So give us a sense of, when you talk about that, what the linkage is.

SERWER: I think that economists might quibble with the causality, there, Miles, to say that a tax cut helps job growth. There's no question that it would create an environment where individuals would be spending more money, that businesses would be expanding and they would be adding jobs. But to say directly that tax cuts has created more job growth is something you could question.

When you talk about tax cuts increasing spending or savings, that's a more direct link and you can see how that would be the case. But he's got something good to say, so he's going to go out and say it, I guess.

S. O'BRIEN: But again, interesting -- and that's all he's going say.

SERWER: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: We're not hearing from the White House on what we've been talking about all morning, which of course is Scooter Libby's testimony and the fallout about the leaks. No word from the White House on that.

A short break; we're back in just a moment.


S. O'BRIEN: Well, the verdict is in and "The Da Vinci Code" was not plagiarized from another book. That's the ruling. The book's publisher, Random House, has been cleared of copyright infringement.

Author Dan Brown had this statement in London, "Today's verdict shows that this claim was utterly without merit. I'm still astonished that these two authors chose to file their suit at all. But this decision also touches on a wider issue. A novelist must be free to draw appropriately from historical works without fear that he'll be sued and forced to stand in a courtroom facing a series of allegations that call called into question his very integrity as a person.

I'm pleased with today's outcome, not only from a personal standpoint, but also as a novelist. Books," he goes on to say, "are an important part of our culture and this is a good day both for those who write and for those who enjoy reading. I found the court -- the London high court building to be a magnificent example of neo-Gothic architecture. I look forward to returning soon to view it from a vantage point other than the witness stand. After devoting so much time and energy to this case, I'm eager to get back to writing my new novel."

Brings us right to CNN's Paula Newton. She's in London this morning.

Hey, Paula. No big, huge, giant bombshell here. I think as you pointed out earlier, a lot of people were expecting this verdict.

What do you think of the statement?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The statement's interesting. As I told you before, he had forewarning of this verdict. He knew how it would go, at least by this morning, if not in the last few days. He knew his reputation was on the line here, and he knew -- if he even got any kind of a -- even a compromise ruling here, he'd be in trouble. He has a movie coming out in May. He's got a new book coming out in the fall. And so I'm sure at this point he's looking forward to just getting on with the work of trying to publicize and market those new products, if you will.

I mean, what was interesting here was that this really was a lot of legal observers said it really was a case that would have been thrown out long ago, even by the lawyers themselves, if it had not been so high profile. What was at stake here were millions of dollars, and whether or not the authors of "The Holy Blood, The Holy Grail" were going get a piece of that "Da Vinci Code" franchise, and it really says a lot about these kind of blockbuster books, Soledad. It means these really are financial empires when they start getting on those bestseller lists all over the world, and that there will be lots of people trying to get a piece of that action -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, If there's any silver lining for Dan Brown and for Random House certainly, it is that just having someone talk about your book a lot raises the interest in it, especially now that the movie is coming up.

Paula Newton for us in London, right? I mean, that's got to help.

NEWTON: Bottom line, yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks a lot. Appreciate it, Paula.


M. O'BRIEN: Coming up on the program, the ancient text that could change the beliefs of millions of Christians. Was Judas a hero instead of a villain?

Stay with us. We'll have more on this intriguing prospect.


M. O'BRIEN: So, did Judas get a raw deal? New information may now paint the biblical villain as an extraordinary apostle.

CNN's Mary Snow with more on the gospel according to Judas.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It questions the way Jesus died and what has been considered gospel for nearly 2,000 years. Was Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 disciples with Jesus in his final days really a traitor, or was he the favorite disciple given a secret as part of a divine plan?

ELAINE PAGELS, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PANEL MEMBER: The Gospel of Judas is a real surprise. It pictures Judas not as the worst villain in the history of the world, as he's always been thought of in Christian tradition, but as the one disciple whom Jesus entrusted with secret understanding.

SNOW: That secret understanding, say scholars, is contained in these writings from 300 AD, and referred to by researchers as the Gospel of Judas. The writings revealed Judas handed Jesus over to the authorities, because Jesus instructed him to do so as part of a plan for salvation, and not for money or because of Satan, as written in the Bible. Why is it only coming to light now? Scholars say the early church considered these secret teachings blasphemy.

PAGELS: Many of these were buried, attacked, challenged, denounced, and this text has just barely survived.

SNOW: The National Geographic Society partnered with scholars to restore and translate the battered documents that were found in a desert in Egypt in the 1970s, traded on the antiquities market, and then stashed inside a safe-deposit box for 16 years in New York before an arts dealer returned them to Europe.

There is skepticism about their content. A Vatican historian calls the Judas Gospel, quote, "a product of religious fantasy." Other scholars say it changes nothing.

JAMES ROBINSON, CLAREMONT GRADUATE UNIVERSITY: It's artificial, mythological invention of the 2nd century.

SNOW: The scholars who studied these texts say, whether they're true or not, they add to the understanding of the complexity of Christianity.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


M. O'BRIEN: That report first aired on CNN's "SITUATION ROOM." You can catch Wolf Blitzer daily, 4:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Eastern as well.

"CNN LIVE TODAY" is coming up in just a few minutes. Daryn Kagan here with a little preview.

You got more on this whole "Gospel According to Judas" thing.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, in fact one of the interpreters who read the original document will be with me and we'll find out what he sees in them. And how do you learn Coptic anyway, because that's what it was written in, the language of Coptic.

Also coming up, Miles, we're going to hear from an angry dad. He's angry over a hug.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was just being affectionate hugging, I mean, hey. They shouldn't be disciplined over it, and they shouldn't by lying and a lot of -- you know, telling -- making the kid feel like that they have to say the opposite, that they don't like to hug.


KAGAN: A playground embrace gets a little girl in big trouble.

And we'll check in with Mick and the boys as the Rolling Stones rock China. None other than our Richard Quest is in the crowd. So you know, the Stones have played all over the world and had millions of fans, but I don't know if they have survived Richard Quest yet. You will see and hear.

M. O'BRIEN: He's like the where's Waldo of the crowd, right?

KAGAN: Mick Jagger and Richard Quest.

M. O'BRIEN: In the crowd, all right. Doing a little surfing -- crowd surfing or something. Thank you, Daryn.

KAGAN: Sure.

M. O'BRIEN: We look forward to seeing that. More to come on AMERICAN MORNING.

Ahead in "A.M. Pop," Whoopi Goldberg joins us in studio to talk about her new project, "Just for Kicks." It's all about a girl's soccer team and it comes with a special message for both kids and parents. Whoopi Goldberg, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



M. O'BRIEN: In this morning's "A.M. Pop, Whoopi Goldberg is getting her kicks, you might say, as executive producer of a new TV series for Nickelodeon. It's called "Just for Kicks" and it tells the stories of some teenage girls on a soccer team. But that's, of course, a little more simplistic than it sounds. It delves into some important issues for kids and parents, like popularity and mean girls and a lot of other things.

Whoopi Goldberg joining us now. Good to have you with us.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, PRODUCER, "JUST FOR KICKS": It's so great -- listen, I'm with you guys every morning.

M. O'BRIEN: I am so glad to hear that.

GOLDBERG: So I am thrilled to be here.

M. O'BRIEN: You stay with us.


M. O'BRIEN: Excellent, thank you. I'm on the plane watching this on the DVD on the computer and I'm kind of like embarrassed that I'm watching this little teenybop movie. I'm looking at the guy behind me to see if he's seeing. And I found myself getting caught up in this, especially as the parent of an 11-year-old daughter. These issues were like, front and center issues in my house.

GOLDBERG: Yes. I mean, they are really what's going on. It's really what's happening. And in a way, it is clear, you know, we're not sidestepping a lot of things like bacne on young women or what happens when, you know, you like a boy and you're really better at stuff than he is. Do you -- you know, we don't want you to dumb yourself down to please the boy. We want you -- to elevate him.

You know, so we wanted to be able to say, listen, there are better ways of doing this. And to also let adults know that one of the primary reasons young women don't want to go into sports or don't go into sports is because we keep calling them tomboys.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, there is one young lady in this program who is so admirable. It's the person you wanted to be, it's the kid every parent would dream of. And that's Vita. Let's watch a quick clip.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't afford the equipment, don't bother coming up. This is a serious sport, not a hobby.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it's not OK. We're having a rookie time out right now. OK, Dana starting now,you mess with Lauren, you're mess with me. You mess with any of our teammates, you're messing with me. Bottom line is, we're a team.


M. O'BRIEN: Vita.


M. O'BRIEN: When you were writing that part, were you thinking of the person you wanted to be as a kid?

GOLDBERG: No. You know what? I -- when Elena (ph) and all of us sat down and said who do we want these girls to be? I have three grandkids. I have two girls and a little boy. And I really wanted this girl and all of the girls to be the kind of girls that my granddaughters would want to emulate. Not because she was pretty or tall, but because she's a good soul. And I believe if you give children the opportunity and a guidebook on how to be the people they really like, we may stand a shot at being able to maneuver them through all of this minutia, as well.

Because it's so hard to be a kid now. The message of what little girls and young girls are being told and what parents are being told is OK. You know? Parents have to take the reins back and say, you know what? This actually isn't OK with me, and I don't care if you don't like me right now. Put on the clothes and do what you're supposed to do.

M. O'BRIEN: Sometimes you can't be their friend, right?

GOLDBERG: Well, you -- the worst thing that I learned about parenting was that I couldn't be the parent I thought I could be, which meant that I actually had to be the bad guy, that I couldn't be the friend, that I had to be the person who said enough. And they do hate you for days and they don't speak to you and they vibe you. But eventually, they need you and they come back. So it's really learning how to surf.

M. O'BRIEN: There's no guidebook. It's not easy. But this is one way to find out a few tips. It's called "Just For Kicks," but it's not just for kicks at all.

Whoopi Goldberg, thanks for being with us.

GOLDBERG: It's a pleasure to meet you, Miles O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you so much.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.


S. O'BRIEN: That's it. We're out of time. Let's get right to Daryn Kagan. She's at the CNN Center, going to take you through the next couple of hours on "CNN LIVE TODAY." Hey, Daryn, good morning.


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