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AMERICAN MORNING

Pentagon Goal: To Make Government of Prime Minister Maliki Take Responsibility; White House Denies It's Working up Timetable to Withdraw Troops From Iraq; America Votes 2006; Madonna Adoption; Latino Media Infiltrates U.S.

Aired October 23, 2006 - 08:00   ET

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


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. It is Monday, October 23rd.
I'm Miles O'Brien.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Soledad O'Brien.

Lots to get to. Let's start at the news wall.

The violence rages on in Iraq. Ten more American troops killed. October is now the deadliest month for U.S. forces this year. In Washington, the White House is denying that there's a specific timetable for withdrawal.

Also happening this morning, just 15 days now until the midterm elections. Democrats could regain control of both the House and the Senate. We'll handicap the key races ahead.

And there's a new challenge to Madonna's attempts to adopt a boy from Africa. This time it's coming from the boy's father. He said he didn't understand that the adoption would be permanent.

M. O'BRIEN: Another hurricane could hit Baja, California, as early as tomorrow. Hurricane Paul expected to strengthen more before landfall.

Chad Myers watching it from the weather center, along some other things.

Chad, good morning to you.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning.

Yes, there is the storm right there. The corner of the storm, or the edge of the storm is actually going to make a forecast to turn very close to Cabo. And although that graphic said John, it actually is Paul.

Winds 100 miles per hour right now, gusting to 120. And not forecast to lose much intensity before it does hit the mainland of Mexico. This will interact with a front that's still going through the eastern part of the United States, possibly causing some severe weather through the plains on Thursday and Friday, with the lingering moisture of that storm as it runs through the Mississippi River Valley.

So, right now, Soledad, a cool, dry day for New York City and big cities across the East Coast.

Back to you.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Chad. Thank you.

In Iraq, the holy month of Ramadan will be remembered for terrible violence. Eighty-five U.S. military deaths so far this October makes it the deadliest month for American troops this year.

CNN's Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon for us. Kathleen Koch is at the White House.

Good morning. Let's begin at the Pentagon with Barbara.

Hi, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad.

Well, following those weekend meetings with his top generals, the White House is not saying very much. But here at the Pentagon, it's a bit, perhaps, of a different story, because what has become clear is there is an emerging consensus by both top Pentagon leaders and the military that one of their goals now is to make the new government of Prime Minister Maliki take more responsibility for the security situation.

Listening to Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld at a press conference here last Friday actually provided a number of hints about where all of this is going. Secretary Rumsfeld saying very bluntly that the Iraqis have to take control of their security. And he says, "They are going to have to do it sooner rather than later."

That's Don Rumsfeld last Friday.

The secretary also saying that General Casey is working on a set of projections about when they can turn more security over to the Iraqi government. So that's a key, when. That suggests, perhaps, a timetable.

But what officials are saying here is, yes, they're trying to develop some -- much more stringent benchmarks for turning security over. That doesn't necessarily mean that if the Iraqis fail at that U.S. troops would be withdrawn. They're not ready to go so far down that road. But one of the things they believe here is that more U.S. troops is not the answer.

As one military officer said, "Look, we could put another 50,000 troops on the ground in Iraq, and it wouldn't change the security situation." They don't think here more troops is the exact lever that they want to pull in all of this. They think it's security and sovereignty and responsibility on the part of the Iraqi government -- Soledad. S. O'BRIEN: Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon for us this morning.

Thanks, Barbara.

The White House is denying that it's working up any timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Let's get right to CNN's Kathleen Koch. She's at the White House with more.

Good morning, Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

And yes, that claim made in "The New York Times" article that was on the front page Sunday morning, basically the gist of it was that the Bush administration was upping pressure on the fledgling government in Iraq for progress by drafting this timetable by which it felt that the Iraqi government had to address the sectarian violence and assume a larger role in securing the country. And the article went on to say that otherwise the U.S. would consider changes in military strategy.

Well, counselor to the president Dan Bartlett, this morning on CNN, rejected the article's premise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN BARTLETT, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: It is appropriate to have benchmarks and milestones. I think the story was a little bit overwritten by claiming this was a news strategy. This is something that we've been working for months with the Iraqi government on, both on the security front, as I mentioned earlier, and on the political front, because it's important that the Iraqi government have very understandable goals for them to reach over the period of the coming months. And we've been negotiating with them to discuss what exactly those goals and milestones would look like.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOCH: Bartlett did go on to explain that these ongoing sets of benchmarks will "very much influence the thinking" when it comes to U.S. military strategy in Iraq. But Soledad, he said that that strategy would still definitely be up to U.S. commanders and based on conditions on the ground.

S. O'BRIEN: Kathleen Koch's at the White House for us this morning.

Thanks, Kathleen -- Miles.

KOCH: You bet.

M. O'BRIEN: A senior U.S. diplomat who said the U.S. displayed stupidity and arrogance in Iraq eating some crow this morning. Alberto Fernandez is a State Department spokesman. He's fluent in Arabic. He made the comments to the Arab television network Al- Jazeera on Saturday.

Yesterday, Fernandez did a 180, saying this: "Upon reading the transcript of my appearance on Al-Jazeera, I realized I seriously misspoke by using the phrase 'there has been arrogance and stupidity by the U.S. in Iraq.' This represents neither my views nor those of the State Department. I apologize."

So, did Fernandez's boss get to him? Anyone's guess, of course, but interesting to note the diplomat was defending his comments as late as Saturday night here on CNN.

Taking a look at some other stories around the world for you.

Sudan is kicking out a top United Nations official after some blunt comments about Darfur. Sudan is expelling the Dutch diplomat Jan Pronk, giving him three days to leave. Pronk wrote in his blog that Sudanese government forces suffered heavy losses in battles with rebels in the Darfur region. The U.N. would like to put 20,000 peacekeepers in place, but Sudan's government won't allow the deployment.

In North Korea, is the north ready to deal? Reports this morning Kim Jong-il's government may be prepared to compromise in his nuclear standoff with the world. The U.N. punishing North Korea with a financial sanctions package after it exploded a nuclear bomb on October 9th. Kim now says he's unlikely to test another nuke unless he's harassed by the U.S. He also says he'll return to those six- party talks aimed at curbing North Korea's nuclear program if the U.S. lifts sanctions.

We could soon find out what the U.N. plans to do about Iran and its nuclear aspirations. A draft resolution dealing with that country could come later this week. It is expected to include limited sanctions. Yesterday, France's foreign minister said dialogue with Iran is always possible, but there needs to be firmness from the international committee.

Israel suspending its flu vaccine program. This after men who had recently been inoculated died. The vaccinations were halted yesterday. Although Israel's health minister says he sees no connection between the vaccines and the deaths, he would like a full investigation.

More than 140,000 Israelis have received the vaccine so far. Three of the victims were inoculated at the same clinic.

People of Panama have voted for a plan to widen the Panama Canal. About 80 percent of voters approved the referendum. The $5 billion project would accommodate a new generation of cargo ships too big to use the canal right now. Supporters argue that the cost of widening the canal will be offset by a hike in transit fees -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: And happening "In America" this morning, one person is dead in Florida after a head-on crash between a pickup truck and a tour bus. Police say the driver of the pickup died after he crossed over the median, hit the bus. Four passengers on the bus suffered minor injuries.

In southwest Pennsylvania, families evacuated after a train derailment are now returning home. Police had them evacuate on Friday. There were some concerns that grain alcohol on board the train could explode. The cause of the crash still under investigation. It looks as if faulty brakes are to blame.

In New York, more human remains discovered at Ground Zero. The medical examiner is now testing some 18 bones that they recovered to see if they belong to people who died on 9/11. Crews have been combing Ground Zero for remains since last week, when other bones were found at a nearby construction site, and it's still not known if those remains belong to 9/11 victims as well.

In Colorado, authorities identify a man who turned up in Denver suffering from amnesia, unable to remember anything. He's 40-year-old Jeff Ingram (ph), it turns out. He had been nicknamed "Amnesia Al" before they were finally able to identify him. His fiancee spotted his picture while she was watching the news. He disappeared six weeks ago on a trip to Canada. Doctors say he's still got a long way to go before he regains all his memory.

In Houston, it is sentencing day for former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling. Skilling is facing more than 20 years in prison for a scam that caused his company's collapse. It also left thousands of Enron employees with no jobs, worthless pensions. Skilling was convicted, along with Enron founder Ken Lay. Ken Lay died earlier this year before he could be sentenced.

In Chicago, take a look at the tape. Ouch. Crashing into a wonderful race.

That's the winner of the Chicago marathon over the weekend. Robert Sherio (ph) of Kenya crossed the line in 2 hours, 7 minutes, 35 seconds, and then slipped, slammed his head on the ground. It turns out, though, he's OK. Went to the hospital, expected to be fine.

M. O'BRIEN: I think that advertising banner was not such a good idea there at the finish line, just for the record.

Some of the stories we're working on this morning for you.

We'll look at which party has the edge 15 days before the midterm elections.

And violence is on the rise in Iraq. Would sending in more U.S. troops send the problem? There are some who say that is the answer.

We'll tell you about it ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Here's some stories we're following for you this morning. The White House isn't calling it a timetable, but it will be asking the new Iraqi government to reach key goals by certain dates.

And the Bush administration says that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice got a good reception during her trip to Asia. While she was there she was trying to forge the united front to put pressure on North Korea.

It is 12 minutes past the hour. Let's get a look at the traveler's forecast. Chad's got that.

Good morning.

MYERS: Good morning, Soledad.

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: There are 15 days until the congressional elections. Let's take a look at where the battle for the House and the Senate stand today.

Laura Schwartz is a former assistant to President Clinton. Amy Holmes is a former speechwriter for the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist. They're going to walk us through the final days of the campaign.

Whoever thought we'd say the final days, 15 days and counting?

LAURA SCHWARTZ, POLITICAL ANALYST: Final days, yes. And it's going to be a long 15 days.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, tell me about it, sister. Yes, it will.

Let's begin with you, Amy. Strategy, two-plus weeks out, what are Republicans -- or should Republicans being doing right now if they want to win?

AMY HOLMES, POLITICAL ANALYST: What they should be doing and what they are doing is really getting focused on their message. Obviously the Mark Foley fiasco really knocked Republicans off message, so you see the president giving speeches, you see Ken Mehlman.

We're talking about the economy, unemployment is down at 4.6 percent. You know, inflation is down, the deficit is down. These are all good numbers for Republicans to go back to their constituents and remind them that the Bush tax cuts were working.

They're also moving to focus this election back on national security. And again, you're seeing the president talking about that, the news today about pushing the Iraqi government towards more political solutions for all of the frustration on the ground there in Iraq.

So that's what they're doing, and I think they should be.

S. O'BRIEN: Highlight your strengths.

What are the Democrats doing?

SCHWARTZ: Iraq, Iraq, Iraq. You know, it's (INAUDIBLE) now, because their message of changing course is now joined by senators Warner, Lugar, Hagel, Sununu, Kay Bailey Hutchison. So you have a lot more Republican influence that they can use and say, listen, it's not just a cut and run, this is changing the course, making a better course for Iraq and the Middle East.

They're also going to be talking a lot about the economy as well, because every time George Bush and the Republicans say they're going to raise your taxes, the Democrats are going to say, no, we're not. We're going to give targeted tax cuts to the middle class, we may repeal the top one or two percent of those making $350,000 or more, but the economy is the other thing that the Republicans are hitting hard. The Democrats are going to stay in the office and say, you know what...

S. O'BRIEN: But if you're saying that the Democrat strategy should be underscoring the economy, couldn't that work against them? When you see...

(CROSSTALK)

SCHWARTZ: Well, this is what they've got to come back with, exactly, because the Republicans say it's the best -- you know, you're right, Amy. I mean, five years of growth, five years of productivity, record-high salaries for CEOs. And yet, although the top one percent in the industry are making 12.5 times more in their income this year, the bottom 90 percent are making 1.5 percent, which is a decline or stagnant.

So we've got more people in the workforce making less than ever before.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about specific races. And these are going to be the troubled races, I think it's fair to say.

George Allen, for the Republicans, you know, people thought this was a guy who could be president one day, and suddenly he's talking about "Macaca" and his mother's religion. And talk about being off message, a lot of the missteps are his making.

Can this be salvaged?

HOLMES: I think it can be salvaged, and I think that the Virginia voters are going to come home to the Republican Party and send George Allen back to the Senate.

I think an interesting race that everyone's going to be very focused on is actually my former boss's seat down there in Tennessee. It's extremely competitive between Harold Ford and Bob Corker.

S. O'BRIEN: I like the smooth segue right away from George Allen, but go ahead. I'll give you that. SCHWARTZ: Nobody wants to talk about George Allen.

S. O'BRIEN: Harold Ford is up against Bob Corker. They're both -- neither one is an incumbent here.

HOLMES: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: And so you think that Corker could win?

SCHWARTZ: I think he can outspend Ford by a lot.

HOLMES: Clearly, I think Corker can win. He -- some analysts project that he will be winning. But again, that's a close race, a tight race. It's going to be exciting. November 7th, I think, is going to be a real nail-biter.

S. O'BRIEN: Congressman William Jefferson of the $90,000 in the freezer fame, who still hasn't explained to not only the media, but also his constituents, what was with the money? What do you think is going to happen to him? That's a -- that could be a big problem, right?

SCHWARTZ: Yes, I think it could be a big problem. But you know what I think is great for the Democrats? That as soon as this happened, Nancy Pelosi got him off of his caucus immediately, took him out of his leadership positions, and took care of the problem immediately, versus Mark Foley, who they knew about this for who knows how long, and then they didn't react to it.

Same thing with DeLay, same thing with Bob Ney. You know, Bob Ney is still in his office in Washington, though he pled guilty...

(CROSSTALK)

S. O'BRIEN: And so is Congressman Jefferson, with all due respect, right?

SCHWARTZ: Yes, but he's not on his way to prison. Bob Ney is, and he's already pleaded guilty, along with the other four Republicans this year.

S. O'BRIEN: What do you think is going to be the issue with Iraq, Amy? Let's talk about Republicans. This could be a big problem. As you look at the poll numbers for voter support, going down.

HOLMES: Sure, absolutely. But I think that President Bush has handled this well in saying, yes, the central issue is Iraq. That's where the -- you know, the fight is happening with the terrorists. And we have to stick with it and hang tough and win. And victory is the only solution.

So I think he's very effectively...

S. O'BRIEN: But when you hear victory is the only solution -- wait, that's not a strategy. I mean, you know, you hear that a lot. HOLMES: Sure.

S. O'BRIEN: Like, victory, that's, like, an end goal that I think everybody would want, but it's not a plan.

HOLMES: But President Bush has been very clear that he's getting the best advice he can from his generals. This weekend, you've been reporting all morning long that they were having yet another meeting to be talking about the best strategies to be winning in Iraq. So it's not merely sloganeering. I mean, there's real effort behind this.

S. O'BRIEN: We are out of time, ladies. We're going to continue as we have now 15 days and counting...

SCHWARTZ: And counting.

S. O'BRIEN: ... to the midterm elections.

It's going to be interesting. And probably a little bit ugly.

Thanks. Appreciate it.

SCHWARTZ: No doubt.

S. O'BRIEN: Laura Schwartz and Amy Holmes joining us this morning.

SCHWARTZ: Thank you.

HOLMES: Thanks.

S. O'BRIEN: And as the election gets closer, we're going to bring you a series of special prime-time reports all this week. It's called "Broken Government". We'll take a look at reports from the best political team on TV. It begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: The election could be a sore point between President Bush and his father. Former president George Bush may not share his son's optimism about Republicans as holding on to power. He's quoted as worrying about the GOP losing Congress, saying, "I would hate to think what my son's life would be like." President Bush's reaction -- and this is a quote, too -- "He shouldn't be speculating like this."

Happening "In America," egg salad lovers, listen up. There's a recall of egg salad made by Ballard's Farm Sausage company. Tests show some of the egg salad could contain a form of listeria. More tests still need to be done. The bacteria listeria can cause deadly infections in children and in the elderly. It can also cause miscarriages in pregnant women.

A tragedy at Ohio State University. An 18-year-old Ohio student killed in a freak elevator accident in his dorm.

Andrew Pulikowski (ph) stepped into the elevator as it malfunctioned. It began a freefall with the doors open. He became pinned between the elevator car and the third floor opening. The victim suffocated before rescue workers could get to him.

In Arkansas, hundreds of residents back at home this morning. Police evacuated them yesterday after a freight train derailed. That train was carrying an explosive chemical that's used to make plastics. Unclear what caused the 85-car train to derail.

Some stories we're following right now. The man from Malawi who gave his son to Madonna now says he never knew the adoption would be permanent.

Plus, Andy tells us why cognac and French wine are the newest weapons against Kim Jong-il.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Welcome back.

Some of the stories we're following for you this morning.

The White House denying there's a timetable for a withdrawal from Iraq. "The New York Times" reported that over the weekend.

And Tropical Storm Paul is now Hurricane Paul. It's threatening Baja, California, peninsula, along with Mexico's West Coast, too.

The father of that little Malawi boy whom Madonna was hoping to adopt, well, he says now he didn't understand that he was permanently signing away custody of his son. He says he wouldn't have agreed to do that.

Jeff Koinange is CNN's Africa correspondent. He's in Johannesburg this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT: The biological father of the boy Madonna intends to adopt added a fresh twist to the ongoing saga, saying he didn't intend for his son to be adopted by the pop diva, but that for her to raise his son on his behalf.

YOHANE BANDA, DAVID'S FATHER (through translator): When we agreed with Madonna that she wants to take care of the child, there wasn't any arrangement that she was going to have him as her own forever. It was supposed to be just like when he was at the orphanage, that he would be raised and educated, and then he would come back to our family.

KOINANGE: Yohane Banda says Madonna asked that she be able to raise his only son on his behalf, rather than that the child should become her own. He's quoted as saying, had Madonna said she wanted to adopt his son and make him her own, he would not have agreed to that. He insists it would have been better for his son to continue staying at the local orphanage, rather than, in his own words, "being given away forever."

The illiterate farmer from a tiny village in this impoverished country says he signed papers he didn't understand, but that government officials assured him the arrangement was similar to what he had with the orphanage. In other words, to nurture and educate the boy, but not to take him away for good.

The high court in Malawi's capital, Lilongwe, will begin hearing arguments Friday by a group of 67 human rights groups which are arguing Malawi's laws forbidding international adoptions, even those by celebrities.

Jeff Koinange, CNN, Johannesburg.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: Well, the United Nations would like to cut Kim Jong- il off from his favorite cognac. And that's what those sanctions are really all about, in many respects.

Andy Serwer is here to tell us more.

Hello, Andy.

ANDY SERWER, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "FORTUNE": Hello, Miles.

An intriguing story in Bloomberg news this morning about Kim Jong-il and sanctions against the country. You know, a lot of people very concerned about sanctions against North Korea because it would hurt people, and they're all starving there to begin with -- $914,000 per capita income in North Korea, and millions, apparently, have perished in famines over the past decades. But what the U.N. is trying to do now is have sanctions where it hurts Kim Jong-il, which is luxury goods.

This is a guy who owns 200 Mercedes S-class cars. He has a net worth of i$4 billion, based on trading drugs and missiles. Goes to China, apparently, and sets up dummy companies, where an all manner of things are imported. For instance, in the 1990s, according to this story, he spent $24 million on luxury watches.

M. O'BRIEN: Wow.

SERWER: At one point...

M. O'BRIEN: And he prints counterfeit C-notes. You know...

SERWER: Right, you can just print it up.

At one point he was Hennessey's largest consumer, largest customer of their cognac, spending $700,000 a year on the stuff -- $1.3 million on French perfume. They got his son in an airport in Tokyo who was wearing a diamond Rolex and his wife had a Louis Vuitton bag.

So you can see, luxury goods are big here. And the U.N. is going to try to stop this -- stop it cold. It's very simple.

M. O'BRIEN: So, you know, when people heard about sanctions on luxury goods to North Korea, people would think, well, the people there are starving. But this -- it really is something that is aimed at the top here.

SERWER: And it's something that he likes.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: Now, let's go from Pyongyang to McMinnville, Tennessee, shall we?

M. O'BRIEN: Spanning the world. Spanning the globe.

SERWER: There a police officer is suing -- filed suit against an employee at a Waffle House, claiming this cook admitted to spitting in the officer's food. Now, how often have you heard about this? Aprocyphal stories, but this one, apparently -- apparently this 19- year-old, Homer Discher (ph), admitted to investigators that he did so.

The officer, John Morgan (ph), is suing for $82,000. And apparently this all came over, well, the officer stopped young Homer (ph) and gave him a warning.

M. O'BRIEN: Ah, yes.

SERWER: Young Homer (ph) saw him come into the Waffle House and decided to take revenge.

M. O'BRIEN: Added a loogie (ph).

SERWER: The felonies would be alteration of food and retaliation for past actions. Didn't know those were felonies, but according to the AP, they are.

M. O'BRIEN: It's not the recipe. Therefore, it's adulteration.

All right. Andy Serwer, thank you very much.

SERWER: Thank you, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Some stories we're following right now for you.

Tom DeLay's resignation from Congress leads to ballot confusion in Texas.

Plus, the U.S. death toll in Iraq this month rises now to 85. We'll look at one possible way to stop the violence ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: And I'm Miles O'Brien. Thanks for being with us.

Let's get right to the News Wall, some of the stories we're following for you this morning.

S. O'BRIEN: The October death toll for U.S. troops is rising to 85. This as the White House plays down a "New York Times" report over the weekend that says the U.S. is giving Iraq a new timetable for withdrawal. Our series "Prescription: Iraq" begins just ahead today.

M. O'BRIEN: Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling will learn his fate today for his role in the biggest corporate scandal in U.S. history. Skilling could be sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.

S. O'BRIEN: And Hurricane Paul is churning toward Baja, California and Mexico. It could make landfall as early as tomorrow.

(WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: In Iraq, the holy month of Ramadan will be remembered for terrible violence. Over the weekend, ten American military deaths. That brings the U.S. death toll to 85 this month, making October the deadliest month for U.S. troops this year.

At this pace, we could be looking at the highest monthly death toll since the siege of Fallujah almost two years ago. This morning, we begin a special week-long series we're calling "Prescription: Iraq." Each morning, we'll check in with an expert who has a plan for turning the tide in Iraq. One idea not widely embraced, but still out there, send in more U.S. troops.

Fred Kagan is a former West Point professor. He's also with the conservative American Enterprise Institute now. Good to have you with us, Mr. Kagan.

First of all, what's your plan?

FRED KAGAN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: We need to make the number one priority of our operations in Iraq establishing security in Baghdad and throughout the country. And to do that, we'll need to both change our strategy and add more troops.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, how many troops?

KAGAN: It's hard to say precisely. Probably somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 troops to begin with, I would say.

M. O'BRIEN: That's -- what would that do? How would that help?

KAGAN: Well, the soldiers that I've talked to on the ground, the people I've talked to over there and the media that you follow, make it very clear we don't have enough troops in country actually to work to establish security where we need to. And we don't have enough troops to hold on to areas that we've already secured once we've secured them, so the insurgents infiltrate back into those areas again. We need to have enough troops so that we can actually undertake, alongside the Iraqis, serious clear and hold in Baghdad and throughout the Sunni triangle.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, you say clear and hold in Baghdad. That's what the U.S. military tried beginning since July, increasing number of troops focused on Baghdad. And what we saw in Baghdad was just more violence. You could make an argument there that the U.S. troops may be part of the problem, not the solution.

KAGAN: Well, the U.S. troops were inadequately resourced, there weren't enough of them, and they did not have the right strategy and tactics. Among other things, they did not leave behind significant forces in areas that they'd already cleared, and so they allowed the insurgents to come back undo their progresses.

When you send more troops in and you do clear and hold, you're going to see an initial spike in violence. The question is what happens after that. And if you don't have enough troops in country and you leave immediately, then the spike in violence will end up generating you fairly little. If you actually have enough troops to help the Iraqis hold when you're done, then the spike in violence will generate a cleared area.

M. O'BRIEN: Would 50,000 more troops really make that much difference?

KAGAN: Yes, I believe they would. This is not that massive a problem from the standpoint of how many troops are required. It's a fairly confined area. You're talking about six million or so Sunni Arab Iraqis, maybe another five or six million people in and around Baghdad that you need to deal with. And historical force ratios and what we've seen so far would suggest that, yes, another 50,000 troops would make an enormous difference, if they were applied properly.

M. O'BRIEN: OK. And when you say applied properly, what do you mean? How would they be used?

KAGAN: The U.S. government has never made a priority of establishing security throughout Iraq. It has made a priority of training up Iraqi soldiers and then planning to leave as quickly as possible. As long as we have that strategy, we're not going to help the Iraqis get security back into their country in any short period of time. And so when I say applied properly, I mean actually accepting the responsibility that we inherited when we destroyed the Iraqi government in 2003 of helping to maintain or, in this case, re- establish civil order.

M. O'BRIEN: Were there -- is this a case where there just never were enough troops brought to bear in Iraq?

KAGAN: There were never enough troops. The criticism of the administration for going in with too light a footprint was right from beginning. But it was informed and reinforced by a strategy of not doing certain things that really needed to be done, like establishing security. So the troop strength problem went hand in hand with the strategy problem all along, and we need to turn that around now.

M. O'BRIEN: So where would those troops come from, though? The military is stretched thin, obviously.

KAGAN: The military is stretched thin, but we need to keep something in mind. There are about 650,000 soldiers in the active army and the marines. We have 160,000 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you had to, you could reach in, you could scrimp and scrape, and you could extend tours, which would certainly hurt morale. But those people who say that there are no more troops to be sent are really saying that they'd rather lose in Iraq than run the risk of damaging the army, damaging the institution. I think that's something that we should seriously consider before we decide that it's OK to lose this war.

M. O'BRIEN: Fred Kagan with the American Enterprise Institute, thanks for your time.

KAGAN: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Politics now. Illinois Senator Barack Obama is for the first time suggesting that he might run for the White House come 2008. Senator Obama told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that he's thought about it over the last several months. So, is he going to run? Well, maybe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I think the speculation is more than I would have anticipated. Right now my focus is on the election that's three weeks away. And that's what I'm spending my time doing, is campaigning on behalf of other candidates. I'll have time to think about it after November 7th.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: Hillary Clinton says she hasn't decided about a presidential run in 2008. Speculation that Senator Clinton is looking beyond re-election in November dominated a debate on Sunday in the New York Senate race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I have made no decisions about any future plans, and if that is a concern to any voter, they should factor that into their decision on November 7th.

JOHN SPENCER (R), NEW YORK SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the only one standing here today that wants to be a United States senator for the next six years for the people of New York. Senator Clinton has been given the welcome mat by the people of New York six years ago, and I believe she's using us as a doormat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: When House Majority Leader Tom DeLay had his hammer, Texas' 22nd District was redder than red. DeLay, of course, was brought down by an ethics scandal, and Democrats are seeing a real chance to turn his former seat blue.

AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken live in Sugarland, Texas, for us.

Good morning, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

Let me tell you how powerful he was. To replace him on November 7th, they're going to require two elections.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHELLEY SEKULA GIBBS, TEXAS CONGRESS CANDIDATE: I'm Shelley Sekula Gibbs and I'm running for Congress.

FRANKEN (voice-over): Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula Gibbs was recruited to replace Tom DeLay with little delay, but too late for her name to get on the ballot, not the one for the next two years in Congress.

NICK LAMPSON, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CANDIDATE: I'm Nick Lampson. I'm running for the U.S. House of Representatives.

FRANKEN: Democrat Nick Lampson won his spot on the ballot the old-fashioned way in the primary.

SEKULA GIBBS: It is not hard.

FRANKEN: Sekula Gibbs is listed in a special election called to finish out the weeks left in DeLay's unfinished term. The problem, the special election is the same day as the general election.

Her paid TV message, vote twice.

SEKULA GIBBS: First vote for me in the special election where my name will appear on the ballot. Then, in the general election, on the same ballot, write me in.

FRANKEN (on camera): Make any sense to you at all?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Does it, you?

FRANKEN: Do you understand this at all?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't.

FRANKEN: What are you going to do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. It is a quandary. It really is. What do you suggest?

FRANKEN (voice-over): Someone suggested to Sekula Gibbs she should have a jingle.

SEKULA GIBBS: Vote twice for Shelley, special and then write her in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well that's good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To see you.

FRANKEN: Lampson, the Democrat, he's staying off the ballot where Sekula Gibbs does appear.

LAMPSON: Special election is something that was going to -- that turned out to be very confusing and I chose not to be a part of that.

FRANKEN: Although it's considered to be leaning Democratic this time, the indications are that's because of the ballot confusion, not all the problems weighing down Republicans nationally. In fact, the party heavyweights have been campaigning in the area, even DeLay. But Sekula Gibbs feels she needs to sing for her support.

SEKULA GIBBS: Can do it and then we'll win.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: And on November 7th, Soledad, the voters will give voice to their choice.

S. O'BRIEN: Bob Franken for us this morning. Thanks, Bob.

As the election gets closer, CNN is going to bring you a series of specials, primetime reports, all this week. It's called "BROKEN GOVERNMENT." We'll take a look at reports from the best political team on TV. Begins tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, you probably heard your friends and coworkers talk about fantasy sports teams. You pick a bunch of pro players to be on your squad. The better those players do in real life, the better your fantasy team does.

Well, this morning, four young political junkies are putting a new twist on the concept. The students at McKenna College in California created the Web site FantasyCongress.US. Sounds really exciting, doesn't it?

People log on and pick a team of four real-life senators and 12 House members. The lawmakers get points for introducing legislation, getting it signed into law -- oh, gosh, a filibuster would be huge, wouldn't it? The site is free. So far about 600 real wonks are out there playing. Enjoy. Some of the stories we're following you this morning, Hurricane Paul picks up strength and bears down on Mexico's west coast.

Plus, a 14-year-old girl gets a little visit from the Secret Service after posting some things online that she shouldn't have. Stay with us for more "AMERICAN MORNING."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Here's a look at some of the stories we're following for you this morning. Former Enron chief Jeffrey Skilling faces sentencing today. He could get more than 20 years in prison and he is facing $18 million in fines.

And actress Jane Wyatt is dead. Wyatt was the beloved star who played Robert Young's wife on TV's "Father Knows Best." She was 96 years old.

Forty-three minutes past the hour. If you're about to head out the door, let's get a quick check of the traveler's forecast for you. Chad Myers at the CNN Weather Center.

Good morning, Chad.

(WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: So how does a California teenager get tapped as a possible threat to national security? Well, it starts with some rather strong opinions about the president and the war.

AMERICAN MORNING's Alina Cho has the rest of the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 14-year-old Julia Wilson is passionate about horses, teenage heartthrob Jake Gyllenhaal and politics.

JULIA WILSON, 9TH-GRADER: I understand that I went too far. And, I mean, teenage emotions, they are at a peak, and just one day I decided to make a MySpace page that just went over the line.

CHO: Julia created this image on her MySpace page, a photo of the president with the caption "Kill Bush" that caught the eye of federal agents who went looking for the high school freshman at her home in Sacramento.

KIRSTIE WILSON, JULIA'S MOTHER: I just didn't have any idea what was going on, because I know Julia. She's a bit of a spirited child, but she's not a vicious child.

CHO: Julia's mom, Kirstie, says she told the two Secret Service agents her daughter was at school, then sent a text message to Julia's cell phone.

K. WILSON: Julia, please come home from school right away. Apparently you've made some threats against President Bush, and they take these things very seriously these days.

J. WILSON: I was freaking out. I texted her, oh, my god, am I in trouble?

K. WILSON: And the next thing I know, I get another text message from her saying they've taken me out of class.

CHO: Julia says what happened next reduced her to tears.

J. WILSON: And they said, like, this is a serious matter. I don't think you understand that this is a federal offense. And they just started, like, yelling at me and I just broke down crying.

CHO: The Secret Service tells CNN, "We have to run out every threat. We don't have the liberty to do otherwise."

Julia's parents understand that, but not the way it was handled.

J. MOOSE, JULIA'S FATHER: If a child at first blush appears not to be threatening, not withstanding having put something bad on MySpace, isn't it a good thing to meet with her at her young age in her home rather than taking her out of class, humiliating her?

CHO: Julia, a self-described, crazy liberal with strong opinions, says she never meant the president any harm.

J. WILSON: I don't actually hate him. Hate is a very strong word. I really dislike him. I should say that I hate his policies.

CHO: The lesson learned?

J. WILSON: The government is watching your every move.

CHO: The "Kill Bush" Web page is gone. In its place, Julia has started another one. The new message, world peace.

Alina Cho, CNN, Sacramento, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: Well, it just goes to show -- there's a lesson here. An important lesson, I think.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, which is, you know, your kid should know better than doing that. That's a federal offense. And she's learned her lesson. She's learned a little bit more about politics than she knew before.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, don't joke about bombs at the TSA's security lines, don't do this.

S. O'BRIEN: Absolutely. They will arrest you and take you out of line and you'll miss your flight too.

M. O'BRIEN: They don't have much of a sense of humor.

S. O'BRIEN: No, they do not, and understandably, one would imagine.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: CNN NEWSROOM is just a couple of minutes away. Heidi Collins is at the CNN Center with a look ahead at what they've got ahead for you.

Good morning, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. That's right. We do have these stories coming up this morning.

Violence on an endless spiral now. A record number of U.S. troop deaths in Iraq already this month. Now is the White House actually talking about a timetable? We are going to speak about this topic on Mideast policy with an expert in that area.

Meanwhile, five years later, human remains are found near the World Trade Center site. Workers look to see if they can locate even more.

And two weeks before the midterm elections, one race in particular is getting pretty nasty. Two Senate candidates face off right here on CNN. You can see the sparks fly.

Join Tony Harris and me in the NEWSROOM. We get started at the top of the hour on CNN -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

If you're one of the millions of people who are going to be flying this Thanksgiving, be prepared to pay a lot more for your ticket than you did last year. The average advance round-trip fare for Thanksgiving weekend is up 15 percent. That means, on average, you're going to pay 434 bucks for that ticket. Apparently, it's not slowing us down though. Bookings are also up. They're up 42 percent from a year ago.

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, we'll look at TV's Latin explosion, and how an ugly soap opera character become -- from Colombia became a breakout hit in the U.S. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Here's a look at some of the stories we're following for you this morning.

The Bush administration talking with the Iraqi government about a set of specific goals that they want to accomplish by certain dates. They're not calling it a time table, though.

And Obama in '08? Senator Barack Obama's changing his tune. He used to say he wasn't going to run for president in '08. Now he says he's reconsidering that.

"Ugly Betty." It's the breakout hit of the new television season. "Betty" was actually a Spanish soap opera, and its success on American network television is symbolic, in a way, of a media makeover that's taking diversity to a new level.

Randi Kaye has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ana Maria Orozco is a Colombian starlet who attracted millions of Latin-American viewers as "Betty La Fea," or "Betty the Ugly." So how exactly did an ugly soap opera character on Spanish TV become such a powerful force on US television?

AMERICA FERRERA, ACTRESS: You are an attractive, intelligent, confident businesswoman.

KAYE: Because of an historic first...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Action!

KAYE: ... the telenovela "Betty" became a successful crossover character this month, premiering in English to a whopping 16.3 million viewers, and showing U.S. media that Latino content can sell successfully to U.S. audiences.

CHIQUI CARTAGENA, AUTHOR, "LATINO BOOM": The tortilla has literally flipped. Today, there's been a larger Latinization of the American public than people realize.

KAYET: You can hear it in the music that MTV has launched on its latest channels.

You see it each night on Spanish language TV news that beats -- yes, beats -- English language newscasts in head-to-head ratings in big markets like New York and Los Angeles.

Even little kids are dancing to a different beat these days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're doing the Mambo dance!

BROWN JOHNSON, EXEC. CREATIVE DIR., NICKELODEON: Latinos have changed the culture in the United States enough so that parents are actively seeking Spanish language, Latino culture.

KAYE: Twenty-three million Americans a month watch "Dora the Explorer." It sold $5 billion merchandise this year. And those are just the little kids.

MTV forecasts 20 percent of the teen population it's reaching is Latino. To address their influence on U.S. culture, MTV launched MTVTres, which plays Latin music with English and Spanish lyrics.

LUCIA BALLAS, GENERAL MGR., MTVTRES: If any marketer, including MTV, that is -- its livelihood depends on youth, if you're ignoring the teen population, the youth Hispanic population, you're going to be out of business in, you know, five years. KAYE: It all started with Spanish language media, which had double-digit growth this year, the greatest revenue growth of any media except the Internet. U.S. media is beginning to think Latinos might just be influential enough that Latino content like "Ugly Betty" might just sell to anyone.

FERRERA: The fact that it's being so warmly received by millions of Americans across the board, certainly, a great percentage of that are Latin viewers who have embraced us, but at the same time, it's a TV show that can be embraced by the whole American community.

KAYE (on camera): Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: Well, from "Ugly Betty" to handsome Anderson. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" airs weeknights at 10:00 Eastern and here he is with a preview -- Anderson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Miles, tonight to Iraqis, he's a Robinhood, but he doesn't rob from the rich, he kills American troops. And this shadowy sniper leaves a calling card. Is he real or just a legend? Hunting Juba (ph) the sniper. That story, "360" tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern -- Miles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Anderson.

As the election gets closer, CNN will bring you a special series of primetime reports all this week. It's called "BROKEN GOVERNMENT." Look for reports from the best political team on television, starting tonight, 8:00 Eastern. We will be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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