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AMERICAN MORNING

Top Retired Military Officials Call for Rumsfeld to Resign; St. Bernard Parish May Hire Former FEMA Chief; NASA Commemorates 25th Anniversary of First Shuttle Landing

Aired April 12, 2006 - 08:30   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Michael Brown heading back to New Orleans, looking for work. And get this, he's been invited to apply for a job in St. Bernard Parish.
Twenty five years of shuttle flight on this anniversary. We're going to look ahead live with the commander of the next mission.

And a fourth grade teacher goes above and beyond the call of duty to teach a student an unforgettable life lesson.

Welcome back, everybody.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's good to have you with us.

With the war going badly in Iraq, the defense secretary is facing some harsh criticism. This week, in "Time" magazine, retired Marine General Gregory Newbold joined the chorus. The top operations officer in the Pentagon before the invasion of Iraq, he has joined two other high ranking retired officers in calling for Donald Rumsfeld's ouster.

Joining me now from Rochester, New York, is a former division commander in Iraq, head of the Big Red One. Retired Army Major John Batiste.

General Batiste, good to have you with us.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Miles, it's great to be with you. Thanks.

M. O'BRIEN: I want to share a little bit of what General Newbold had to say in that article, in case some of our viewers might have missed it. Let me read it.

"The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood. We need fresh ideas and fresh faces, and that means as a first step, replacing Rumsfeld and many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach."

I'm curious what you make of those words; and I know you know General Newbold, what you make of him.

BATISTE: Miles, here's how I would respond to that. Four-part answer, I'll promise to be brief. Number one is we've got the best military in the world, hands down, period. All Americans should be very proud of their service men and women. They're doing incredible work all over the world.

Number two is whether we agree or not with the war in Iraq, we are where we are and we must succeed in this endeavor. Failure is frankly not an option. Success to me is setting the Iraqi people up for self reliance with their form of representative government that takes into account tribal, ethnic and religious differences that have always defined Iraqi society. Iraqis, frankly, in my experience, do not understand democracy. Nor do they understand their responsibilities for a free society.

Number three. When my family and I returned from Germany after three years with the Big Red One, we were struck by the fact that there's a lack of sacrifice and commitment on the part of the American people. The exception of those families with soldiers committed into this fight.

And certainly, too many of these families truly understand the meaning of sacrifice. Most Americans only confront this issue by deciding what color of magnet on the back end of their SUV. I think that our executive and legislative branches of government have a responsibility to mobilize this country for war. They frankly have not done so. We're mortgaging our future, our children, $8 to $9 billion a month. And it seems to me it's time to start some form of rationing. The American people have done this before.

M. O'BRIEN: General -- but more to the point, though, as far as the specific call for Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation, what do you think about this?

BATISTE: Finally, I believe we need a fresh part in the Pentagon. We need a leader who understands team work, a leader who knows how to build teams, a leader that does it without intimidation. A leader that conforms and practices the letter and the law of the Goldwater-Nichols Act.

Conversely, I think we need senior military leaders who understand the principles of war and apply them ruthlessly, and when the time comes, they need to call it like it is.

M. O'BRIEN: So, you're suggesting a wholesale house cleaning?

BATISTE: I didn't say wholesale. I said new leadership in the Pentagon, a fresh start. You know, it speaks volumes that guys like me are speaking out from retirement about the leadership climate in the Department of Defense.

M. O'BRIEN: What is going on that is -- what is it about that climate that is leading to difficulties, leading to trouble, leading to -- as you put it -- perhaps unnecessary bloodshed?

BATISTE: I didn't say unnecessary bloodshed. But when decisions are made without taking into account sound military recommendations, sound military decision making, sound planning, then we're bound to make mistakes. When we violate the principles of war with mass and unity of command and unity of effort, we do that at our own peril.

M. O'BRIEN: So the secretary should step down?

BATISTE: In my opinion, yes.

M. O'BRIEN: The -- yesterday the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, had this to say. Let's listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We had then and have now every opportunity to speak our minds. And if we do not, shame on us because the opportunity is there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: Have you spoken your mind internally on this?

BATISTE: I think the world of General Pace. I respect him enormously, and I respect his words.

M. O'BRIEN: But has that discussion gone on internally?

BATISTE: Sure. Absolutely.

M. O'BRIEN: Major General John Batiste, thank you for your time.

BATISTE: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad?

S. O'BRIEN: Well, you can file this one under the strange but true. It seems really hard to believe. Heavily damaged Saint Bernard Parish, which -- it needs tons of assistance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. You'll recall we reported live from there a lot. They're looking for help in a very unexpected place. They're turning potentially to FEMA director, the former FEMA director Mike Brown.

Let's get right to Carol Costello. She's live in the newsroom. Kind of tough to explain this one, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: It is until you take a look at what's not happening in St. Bernard Parish. The parish president Henry Rodriquez, says you know, I'll get the devil himself in here if it will help us. Let's Google into St. Bernard Parish to see where it is first of all. It's east of the city of New Orleans, surrounded by water, two thirds of it.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, it was flooded, 13 feet of water, and that water stayed there for some time. Twenty-six thousand homes destroyed and it looked pretty much like that today. Only a couple of convenience stores have reopened. In fact, refrigerators filled with meat and food still inside many of the homes here. Residents just haven't been able to come back.

And the parish president says he can't get through to FEMA. So he was in Washington a few weeks back and met with Michael Brown. Michael Brown, as you know, is a consultant right now, and Michael Brown says, you know, maybe I can help. Maybe I can help cut through the red tape because I certainly know how it works. So, Mr. Rodriquez invited Michael Brown to speak to the entire parish council later this week, perhaps as early as tomorrow, to pitch his case.

Now, as you might expect, there's a lot of controversy about this. In fact, Louisiana state Senator Walter Boasso says and I quote, "I understand we're desperate for help, but how are you going to hire a man who ran an organization that left so many of us to fend for ourselves?" But Michael Brown has an answer for that, too, Soledad. He says all of the controversy will draw attention to Michael Brown and to his -- his pleas for help from FEMA, and in the end, it might be a good thing. And of course, we'll be follow this.

S. O'BRIEN: So kind of a P.R. stunt because they're that desperate right now.

COSTELLO: I don't think it's a P.R. stunt. I think they're really serious about this. They need help, so why not -- as -- go to the devil himself, as the parish president put it?

S. O'BRIEN: All right, well, we'll see what they -- what everybody says when he actually presents his plan. Carol, thanks.

Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: Here's a story about a student/teacher relationship that transcends most of the relationships we've all had with our teachers. One way above and beyond the norm, as a matter of fact. A teacher's normal job description has nothing to do with this.

We get the story from Mark Saxenmeyer from the Chicago affiliate WFLD.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK SAXENMEYER, WFLD REPORTER (voice-over): Brandon Schafer looks pretty darn healthy, but he'll tell you...

BRANDON SCHAFER, NEEDS KIDNEY TRANSPLANT: If I get hit in the stomach, it might -- it will be bad and stuff.

SAXENMEYER: Bad, indeed, because Brandon has a bad kidney. He was born with it. And unless he gets a new one soon, he could die. Scary stuff, but Brandon says...

SCAFER: I'm just excited and stuff.

SAXENMEYER: Excited because his fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Donohue, has just found out she and Brandon have matching blood types, which means she can give him her kidney.

PATRICIA DONOHUE, TEACHER: Pretty much divine intervention that I came here and ended up to be Brandon's teacher after all of this. And I'm proud to be able to do this for him.

SAXENMEYER: So much for reading, writing and arithmetic at Oster Oak View (ph) Elementary School. The gift of learning has nothing on the gift of life, especially considering that until now, Brandon had no other matches. His mom says it all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's amazing.

DONOHUE: He still wants to be just that same student in the classroom, doesn't want any special privileges or anything like that.

SAXENMEYER: In return, Brandon gives her a high five and then a gift of his own, something almost as valuable as a kidney.

SHAFER: Gave her an iPod, you know.

SAXENMEYER: The operation is scheduled for next month, when recovered Brandon has plans, big plans.

SHAFER: To play basketball. Like, um, for a team at the school.

SAXENMEYER: Beyond that, this fourth grader has his sights set on, well, fifth grade. Mrs. Donohue, however, points out...

DONOHUE: Now you're going to get rid of your fourth grade teacher.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: Wow.

S. O'BRIEN: That was Mark Saxenmeyer from our affiliate WFLD in Chicago, reporting for us. What a cute little kid.

M. O'BRIEN: I think he owes her...

S. O'BRIEN: And gave her an iPod.

M. O'BRIEN: I think he owes her a lot of apples, you know what I mean? Wow. That's great.

S. O'BRIEN: I think that was the iPod.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, Apple. That kind of Apple.

S. O'BRIEN: That works.

(WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: You know, Andy Serwer, we've been showing those cars so much that Andy just couldn't resist. He just got in a cab, or maybe a fancy Maserati for all we know, and went to the car show. What's up, Andy?

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: That's right, Miles, I've made it down here. I've migrated down to the New York Auto Show. And coming up next, we're going to show you some of the coolest, hottest cars on the planet. Stay tuned to AMERICAN MORNING coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Andy Serwer with the assignment of the day. Hope you're going to get to do a few test drives.

S. O'BRIEN: That's not work.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, that's not work.

S. O'BRIEN: They're going to let him touch those cars.

M. O'BRIEN: No, they're not going to let him anywhere near those, yes, that's right. That's right.

S. O'BRIEN: He's at the New York Auto Show.

M. O'BRIEN: You shopping or you working?

(CROSSTALK)

SERWER: Yes. I'm surrounded by heavy metal here, you guys, and loving every minute of it. And I'm joined here by Jean Jennings, who is the editor-in-chief of "Automobile" magazine.

Welcome.

JEAN JENNINGS, "AUTOMOBILE" MAGAZINE: I also like heavy metal.

SERWER: A heavy metal gal herself.

And, Jean, really, what we're seeing here at the show is an explosion of hybrids, hybrid cars and hybrid technology really coming into its own. We're standing in front of a couple of hybrids right here made by Lexus.

What's going on?

JENNINGS: Well, Lexus is part of Toyota, and Toyota has made the promise that by the end of this decade, they will have one million hybrid vehicles out on the road worldwide. So first came the Prius, and then came, well, as you see here, we have the RX, the little SUV. They've put in the GS.

SERWER: Nice.

JENNINGS: The Toyota Camry has just come out in a hybrid version, and they're going to take this one more step.

SERWER: They're making a whole parallel universe really of all of their models, a hybrid for every single one.

Now we got a sneak preview of the latest Lexus, actually not going to be introduced until 9:30 Eastern. But you got a peek, right, tell us about that that.

JENNINGS: Yes, this is a big deal. This will probably be the biggest news of show, because they're taking hybrid to the next level. They're applying it to their flagship. It will be a super hybrid super sports sedan. It will be the Lexus LS. It's based on the 460, and they're calling it the LS 600HL. Now, this vehicle has a V8 engine. We have never seen hybrid applied to a V8, so what it -- instead of fuel economy, it's all about performance. They're taking a V8 engine, creating the performance of a V12.

SERWER: Do you really make out with fuel economy? That's the big question.

JENNINGS: Well, let me say that they're looking at -- you'll probably get over 20 miles to the gallon with this vehicle, with the new -- when it comes out in 2008, so it will probably about 22, 23 miles to the gallon.

If you had a 12 cylinder sedan, you could expect something like that, oh, I don't know, 10, 12.

SERWER: Right, right.

JENNINGS: So probably almost doubling the fuel economy alone.

SERWER: Right.

JENNINGS: But the big deal is the performance application is unbelievable. It will shoot like a rocket.

SERWER: Put to the pedal to the metal on that.

Let's not forget about the American manufacturers. You're saying that GM is going to a big rollout, too?

JENNINGS: There's a big announcement that's coming here today. General Motors has been working with BMW and Mercedes Benz. It's a consortium that's working on hybrid technology that will be another level we haven't seen. They will announce today or tomorrow that they have a breakthrough. It's a hybrid transmission. They will be able to apply it to rear-wheel drive vehicles, also to trucks. So pickup trucks, they will be able to tow and get good fuel economy, and that will first come out on the Tahoe in 2007, the year 2007 I believe, and the BMW and Mercedes engineers have been working with GM, 400 engineers in total, have announced they think that Daimler-Chrysler will have this hybrid technology on all of their vehicles. So that's big news.

SERWER: Well, we look forward so to seeing that. And thank you very much, Jean Jennings...

JENNINGS: Pleasure.

SERWER: The editor-in-chief of "Automobile" magazine.

And, guys, I know you're a little jealous, but I'm going to be down here for the rest of the morning. So back to you.

S. O'BRIEN: Are they going to let you drive anything, or just, like, get inside the car? M. O'BRIEN: Don't let him touch a thing.

SERWER: No, you can't really drive around here, I don't think. They won't let us do that. But it's fun to just be amongst them.

S. O'BRIEN: All right.

M. O'BRIEN: You don't need the cars, Andy.

S. O'BRIEN: That's right.

(CROSSTALK)

S. O'BRIEN: Don't dent anything.

(CROSSTALK)

S. O'BRIEN: Andy, thanks.

M. O'BRIEN: But you can get me one. I'll take it.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, OK, hold your breath for that one. Thanks, Andy.

What is the best way to keep the kids from getting sick? This is something I struggle with all the time. It'd be great to know.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, I don't think there's much you can do.

S. O'BRIEN: Apparently wrong.

M. O'BRIEN: Wrong.

S. O'BRIEN: Actually we're going to take a look at why it might be, according to some people a good idea to let them get a little dirty.

M. O'BRIEN: If I had to be in a school, I go with the, you know, "let them be exposed to dirt" theory. If nothing else, it's easier.

S. O'BRIEN: Exactly, because of your lazy parenting.

M. O'BRIEN: It works. That's good.

S. O'BRIEN: I vote for that one, too.

M. O'BRIEN: And 25 years ago today, a piece of space history, a significant one, the first shuttle flew, Columbia. And we're going to talk to the commander of the next shuttle flight. We'll ask him about this moment in history its implications, and what lies ahead for the shuttle program in its waning years.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) S. O'BRIEN: Here's what we're following for you this morning. The Zacarias Moussaoui trial and the chilling cockpit tapes that will be played in court today.

Also a look at how prosecutors can pursue the Duke rape case without DNA evidence.

Then, the U.S. fighting to extradite the man called the world's biggest military computer hacker.

Plus, it turns out that mixing kids and germs could actually be a good idea.

And the rain's just not letting up in California. Now they're worried about flooding and the possibility of mudslides again. We've got a live report. Those stories are all ahead as we continue right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: That was the scene twenty five years ago, 7:00 a.m. Eastern time. By now, they would have orbited the Earth once. SPS-1, they called it. That's the vernacular in NASA language. Space Transportation System, STS number one. The Space Shuttle Columbia. Commander John Young, pilot Bob Crippen. The single riskiest human space flight ever flown. Unproven system entirely, not a viable crew escape capability, solid rocket boosters tried for the first time on human beings, first winged reentry. You could go on and on.

Now let's fast forward to 113 missions later. Steve Lindsey is a veteran astronaut who will command the next space shuttle mission, slated for launch now currently in July.

Steve, good to have you with us, first of all.

STEVE LINDSEY, DISCOVERY COMMANDER: It's good to be here, Miles.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about 25 years ago and what that -- and put that, you know, that accomplishment and the courage of those two guys in perspective for us.

LINDSEY: Well, it's amazing when you think about it. I was actually in college when that flight went off. And I remember watching it and knowing beforehand it was going to be first flight, and they were going manned, which is unusual in the space business.

M. O'BRIEN: Unprecedented, actually.

LINDSEY: Just unbelievable, the courage of not only, you know, John and Bob flying it, but also the whole -- the ground team, the program, the controllers accomplishing that. And, you know, we had never seen a vehicle like that before, a winged vehicle that would launch like a rocket, fly like a satellite and land like an airplane. Before that, we had been on capsule. So it was an amazing technological advance. M. O'BRIEN: Yes, two million parts, all of them built by the lowest bidder. And there they were, strapped on to it with no real reasonable way to get out. There were ejection seats, but most people would tell that probably wouldn't do them much good. That really was something, wasn't it?

LINDSEY: It was. In addition, you know, if you think about the computing power we had back then -- you know, personal computers, laptops, they didn't exist. We didn't know nearly as much about aerodynamics and things that we do today. And they did -- they built all that, and they built an amazingly versatile vehicle that's still doing great things today.

M. O'BRIEN: Just this past weekend, I was with Bob Crippen and John Young at an event down in Florida, and had a chance to talk to them. And they said -- it was interesting -- that they saw debris flying off that external fuel tank. There it was, the first mission. Didn't think much of it. But John Young told me that only five years ago, he found out about something that was kind of troubling. Let's listen for just a moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN YOUNG, COLUMBIA COMMANDER: I found out about five years ago that we had actually had hot gas through -- over a gap filler and into the right hand main landing gear, and overheated the thing in there so that it buckled right -- and main landing gear door. And I didn't know that about that, you know, so it was really something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: Well, there's a couple of things about that. Hot gas in the right main landing gear wheel well. A bad thing. That's a very bad thing. Hydraulic systems there buckled a door. But what I find most interesting and perhaps troubling about this is that he didn't know about this until five years ago. Does that give you any pause for concern that you, as a commander, don't really know the full story before you launch?

LINDSEY: Actually, Miles, I'm pretty confident that I do know the full story, certainly now. I actually found out some things later on after the accident about my first flight where we took a lot of debris hits and took some damage that I didn't know about, that it was never threatening to us but it potentially could have. We've gotten a lot smarter about that since then and certainly we've worked on the culture a lot since then to make sure we do expose all of these things.

You know, the foam came off on a very first flight and it came off all the flights after that. When we go to fly, we're going to have some foam come off, too. We know we can't drive it to zero. The key is to get that foam size small enough that it can't hurt it. So, you know, when you look at it, it was one of those things that we got used to. We took foam hits continually, and then after a while, the kind of thinking was that it was going to be OK. Well, we learned we were wrong, and that's the nature of the business. And so we do our best to sneak out all the problems we can and identify those early.

M. O'BRIEN: I think we're only learning now, though, how lucky the program has been over the years.

LINDSEY: Well, we've certainly gone back and looked at it statistically and determined that we were at risk with some of these larger pieces of foam coming off, and we're trying to address that now and we addressed it on the last flight. We have made some more changes to the tank for our flight that we're working on now. And hopefully all will come together. And we're going to go test it here in July.

M. O'BRIEN: About out of time. I hear July is very dicey right now. Do you think you're going to make a July launch?

LINDSEY: I'm actually pretty confident in July. Depends on who you talk to. There are some technical issues out there. But personally, I'm confident about July.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, we'll see you whenever it happens. Discovery Commander Steve Lindsey, thanks for being with us this morning. We'll be right back.

LINDSEY: You bet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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