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Tributes Pouring In For Fifth Fallen Firefighter In Southern California Wildfire; How Senator John Kerry's Comments Became Campaign Fodder; Gloves Off In Virginia Senate Race; Ohio's Controversial New Voter ID Law; Michelle Obama and Santita Jackson Interview; Hillary Responds to Controversial Kerry Comments
Aired November 1, 2006 - 13:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: It's the top of the hour. We start with the Esperanza Fire. It's all but out in southern California. Today tributes are pouring in for a fifth fallen firefighter as investigators turn their attention to a man charged with arson in two other fires.
CNN's Kareen Wynter joins us now from Cabazon -- Kareen.
KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, that man, 37-year-old Raymond Oyler, of California, police are saying right now that he is simply a person of interest in last week's deadly Esperanza wildfire that killed five firefighters. They emphasize he is not a suspect. It's just someone that they're looking to question at this time.
We want to show you a mug shot now. Oyler was arrested last night for two counts of arson in wild land fires earlier this year in June. Again, not in connection with the Esperanza Fire.
Officials say those two fires that Oyler may be connected to were in the proximity of the Esperanza Fire. So that's a small piece of information that we've been getting as to why he's even being questioned in regards to the most recent fire.
Officials won't say exactly why Oyler is a person of interest, Kyra, but we do know that last Friday investigators did interview him. They also obtained a search warrant days later on his home.
Four firefighters died last week in the Esperanza Fire, and sadly last night, the fifth and remaining firefighter, 23-year-old Pablo Cerda, did succumb to burns to more than 90 percent of his body. He had been clinging to life for about six days. He was on life support at the hospital, and doctors say it was a real struggle.
They had the option of bringing him back into the operating room, but his family, knowing that his prognosis was so poor, they decided to take him off life support.
You can just imagine, Kyra, as well, how much this has shaken the community. Many people were holding on to hope that this fifth firefighter would have pulled through. He didn't.
There are, again, four other firefighters, as well as Cerda, who passed. And there will be a very public memorial this Sunday just in honor of their memory.
A little more now about Oyler. He will be arraigned tomorrow afternoon. He's being held right now on $25,000 bond -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Kareen, just last week authorities were talking about the possibility of maybe several people involved with this fire. Where does that stand?
WYNTER: And you know, Kyra, they're not ruling anyone out, they're telling us this afternoon. And they say -- and they keep emphasizing Oyler is simply a person of interest. We don't even know if we are questioning the right person.
And they say because that reward is so high, about $550,000, I believe, it's been raised to now, they're hoping that they'll get more information from the public. They say hundreds of tips and calls have poured in. And it's really helped them, it's assisted them in the investigation so far. And they're not ruling anyone out.
But at this point they were comfortable enough to reveal that Oyler was a person of interest. But this could take a turn -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Kareen Wynter, thanks.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Let's head straight to the newsroom. Fredricka Whitfield with details on a developing story -- Fred.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Don, more information on that fire in Reno, Nevada. This one also intentionally set.
They have someone in custody and have charged a 47-year-old woman, Valerie Moore, of arson, as well as of murder, because six people died in this fire at that Mizpah Hotel, which also serves as a place of residence for many people there in Reno, Nevada.
You're looking at pictures we have gotten in from various sources showing the rescue attempts of people who were inside at the time of the fire, and also there are eyewitness accounts of people jumping from the windows, or any openings in order to find safety. It's a three-story building. It's a building that is registered as a nationally historic building, built back in 1922.
About 80 people stay at this hotel. And again, this city is kind of mourning the loss of this historic building, as well as, of course, mourning the loss of the six people and many others injured from this fire -- Don.
LEMON: Fred, we hear a lot about fires during Christmastime because of heaters and lights, and that kind of thing, but Halloween fires? Do you have reports of Halloween fires?
WHITFIELD: Oh, yes, particularly, if you'll recall, in the state of Michigan, that is a place that has seen all too many fires, particularly around Halloween.
LEMON: Goodness. WHITFIELD: You're looking at video from last night. Sixteen structures were burned. You know, some arsonists find this to be a fun prank. They usually target mostly abandoned buildings.
We haven't heard any more details about whether all of the structures that were targeted last night, whether they were abandoned buildings. But this is the result of what some people find to be a Halloween prank or Halloween fun.
LEMON: So they believe this -- they believe this is arson. I thought maybe it was from a jack-o'-lantern or something with a candle or a light in it.
LEMON: No, but this is possible arson.
WHITFIELD: These are believed to be deliberately set.
LEMON: My goodness. Look at those homes.
WHITFIELD: And, you know, who could explain their way out of this one? You know, why -- why this is considered fun.
Unfortunately, it is a tradition that kind of dates back to the early '80s. And we saw it a lot in the '90s as well, particularly in the Detroit, Michigan, area.
They call it Devil's Night, the night before Halloween. A lot of these abandoned structures are burned. But we saw this happening on Halloween night, last night. Mostly in Saginaw, Michigan.
LEMON: All right, Fred, thank you so much for that. Unbelievable there.
All right. Senator John Kerry appears to have decided the best way to help elect more Democrats is for him to stay away from them. At least for now.
Plans for Kerry to campaign with two House hopefuls and a Senate candidate are off thanks to the controversy over Kerry's comments about the military. A Minnesota congressional candidate told CNN it was Kerry's decision to cancel today's joint appearance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM WALZ (D), MINNESOTA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Well, I can't speak and know what the senator was trying to say. I do know that this scandal-of-the-day type of mentality is not something that the people out here -- and I'm a long ways from Washington out here in southern Minnesota -- they want to talk about the real issues. They know the story of the day to day is, is that October was one of the deadliest months we've had in Iraq, and we're no closer to a solution.
And that's the part that's frustrating, I guess, out here. That they see this as one more step towards dividing us, one more step to a political goal, but not to real solutions for America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And at least two Democratic Senate candidates have joined Republican calls for Kerry to apologize, but Kerry says he will not apologize for criticizing the president or his policies.
CNN's Brian Todd has more on how Kerry's comments became campaign fodder.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not even running for office this year, John Kerry pulls a late October surprise.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: If you make the most of it and you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you -- you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.
TODD: Those comments at a California campaign event Monday set off a chain reaction that could only be this hot days before an election.
Republican Senator John McCain calls it an insult to Americans in combat, calls for Kerry to apologize.
At the White House...
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Senator Kerry not only owes an apology to those who are serving, but also the families of those who have given their lives in this. This is an absolute insult.
TODD: Kerry's office issues an extraordinary statement, saying: "I'm not going to be lecture by a stuffed suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium." All this about a comment Kerry's camp says he didn't even mean. A Kerry aide tells CNN: "He really meant students should learn their history or they might end up, like President Bush, getting their country stuck in a place like Iraq."
In a news conference nearly 24 hours later, Kerry calls his remarks "a botched joke."
KERRY: As if anybody thinks that a veteran would somehow criticize more than 140,000 troops serving in Iraq and not the president and his people who put them there, they're crazy.
TODD: But could the Democrats' 2004 presidential torch bearer have hurt his party's momentum heading into next week?
Analyst Stuart Rothenberg says he doesn't think so generally, but...
STU ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": From the Democratic point of view, they want everything to be about George Bush and the situation on the ground in Iraq. And anything that draws attention away from that can't be ideal.
TODD (on camera): Also not ideal now, according to analysts, Kerry's chances for the presidency in 2008, if he decides to run again. That's an eternity in politics, but some analysts believe the fact that this got so nasty, so quickly, with some of the more slashing remarks coming from Kerry's camp, doesn't make him look very thoughtful or presidential.
Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
PHILLIPS: Keep your eye on the political eight ball. There are eight key states where Senate seats could go either way depending on the voter turnout. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, and Montana are all considered in play. Democrats only hold one of those seats, New Jersey. And to gain the upper hand in the upper House, they need to pick up six more.
In Tennessee, nothing less than political history hangs on Tuesday's vote. Now, if Democrat Harold Ford beats Republican Bob Corker, he'd become the first African-American senator ever popularly elected from the South. To boost Ford's chances, the Democrats deployed their biggest gun, as you can see right here.
Former president Bill Clinton, he headed to the Memphis rally with Ford today. The Tennessee seat is currently held by Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist, who did not seek re-election.
The gloves are off in the Virginia Senate race, and Republican incumbent's George Allen's lead in the polls have evaporated.
CNN's Dana Bash reports from the campaign trail.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George Allen was preparing a 2008 run for the White House, thought his reelection to the Senate was in the bag. He doesn't anymore.
SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: Reach out to people. Reach out and let them know where we stand on issues that matter.
BASH: Just a few months ago, the Virginia Republican held a double-digit lead. That has vanished. Now he's at 46 percent, Democrat Jim Webb, 50 percent, a statistical dead heat, according to CNN's new poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation.
ALLEN: This fellow here, over here, with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is.
BASH: Most trace Allen's plummet in the polls to this August moment, what sounded like a racial slur aimed at a Webb aide. But Allen also suffers from more typical Republican troubles, an unpopular war and disgust with Washington. He's trying to squeak out a victory by following a classic GOP playbook. ALLEN: Marriage should be between one man and one woman.
BASH: Rally conservative voters with social issues, like banning gay marriage, on the ballot in Virginia.
But Allen's opponent, Jim Webb, isn't your average liberal. Until recently, he was a Republican. In fact, he was Navy secretary under Ronald Reagan. Opposition to the war drove him to run as a Democrat.
JIM WEBB, DEMOCRATIC SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: George Allen is wrong on foreign policy. He's one of the reasons that we are in this disaster in Iraq.
BASH: In this intensely anti-incumbent environment, Webb's outsider persona and military credentials have serious appeal here.
So, Allen is trying to make Webb unpalatable to so-called value voters and women. Last week, Allen's campaign highlighted what it called disturbing, sexually graphic passages from several military novels Webb has written.
Now the senator talks about it non-stop.
ALLEN: My opponent says he's proud of being an author, a novelist. Those passages that were brought up, not just I -- just not me, but others have found them to be demeaning to women.
BASH: Webb responds by reading reviews of his own books.
WEBB: I have led a literary career. And I'm very proud of it.
BASH: It's a campaign certainty: The tighter the race, the closer Election Day, the nastier it all gets. And each guy blames the other for taking it into the gutter.
WEBB: In the last couple of weeks of your campaign, the best you can do is to try to dissect your opponent's novels, you really don't have much to bring to the table, folks.
BASH (on camera): Virginia has a pretty deep north-south divide. This is northern Virginia, much more liberal than the rest of the state, and it has a growing population. That's why Democrats say if Jim Webb can do exceptionally well here, he can take the U.S. Senate seat.
Dana Bash, CNN, Alexandria, Virginia.
PHILLIPS: And Dana Bash is part of the best political team on television. Be sure to tune in tonight for a special election edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM." That's at 7:00 Eastern, only on CNN.
And join us next Tuesday, Election Day, for the races, the results and the ramifications. LEMON: Oh, everything. CNN election primetime begins at 7:00 Eastern. Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Paula Zahn and Lou Dobbs lead the best political team on television as your votes are counted.
And our coverage continues with a special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE" at midnight. Hear from winners and losers across the country, plus expert analysis only on CNN, America's election -- I should say campaign headquarters.
The wrong way. Planes bumping, wings right on the ground. What's going on in some of the nation's biggest airports?
Just ahead, a closer look from the CNN NEWSROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN, the most trusted name in news.
Now back to the CNN NEWSROOM.
LEMON: Outsourcing normally refers to low wages and a call center job, but as Cheryl Casone tells us from the New York Stock Exchange, other jobs are in danger of being shipped overseas as well.
LEMON: We have a developing story. Let's go to Fredricka Whitfield in the newsroom.
That bizarre story we told you about was last month, right, involving a case of amnesia?
WHITFIELD: Right. Remember this? Well, it is still a bit foggy for a 40-year-old man who lost his memory and then found himself in Denver, Colorado, then made a public appeal. A woman stepped forward out of Washington State and said, guess what? I'm his fiancee.
Well, the two eventually got together. He still is not recalling a lot of his former life.
Back in September, this is how it unfolded.
Jeff Ingram, the man you're looking at right now, was going to visit his mother in Alberta, Canada. But he never made the scheduled first stop to see his fiancee's mother, who was in Bellingham, Washington.
Fast forward then four days from when he took off for his trip, September 10th. Ingram found himself in Denver.
During a press conference today in Washington State -- stay with me now -- he explained what happened next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEFF INGRAM, AMNESIA PATIENT: It was early in the morning. I'm not sure at what time. It was -- looked like the sun was just starting to come up. So there was some -- some light there.
I was half picking myself up off of the ground. I looked around at stuff, you know, cleared my eyes and tried to focus on -- on the surroundings. And I had no idea where I was.
I didn't recognize no buildings, no streets, no nothing. And then I thought, hold on. Who -- I couldn't even remember my name.
So I thought, OK, maybe I have a wallet. There was no I.D. on me at all. And I looked, like frantically for something to say, OK, this is who I am, call for help. But I didn't have that -- anything.
It was extremely, extremely terrifying. Very, very terrifying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Terrifying, but somehow he still had the wherewithal to go to the hospital and say, help, I can't figure out how I got here, I don't know who I am. And that's when he made that public appeal to try and get anyone who may recognize him to help him piece it all together.
And that's when his fiancee, whose name is Penny Hanson (ph), who was at the press conference with him, then stepped forward and said I know that man, he's my fiance. So she says he still doesn't remember a whole lot, still trying to piece it all together. Still in that fog.
But there's a little bit of progress in that Penny Hanson, the fiancee, says he is like a sponge, he's trying to absorb it all so that they can get back to some sort of normalcy. Some.
LEMON: And Fred, he still doesn't remember her, right? Not at all?
WHITFIELD: No. No.
And they still haven't located his vehicle. He got in his own car to make that drive from Olympia, Washington, to Alberta, Canada, while making that stop in Bellingham, Washington. They still haven't located his vehicle.
LEMON: Yes. You know what? We had his mom last week, too, and she was so sweet. I don't know if you saw the interview.
WHITFIELD: I did.
LEMON: Before we -- the first question she started crying because she heard her son's voice. We played an interview.
She had not seen him yet. So I wonder if they've seen each other. It would be interesting to follow up on that one.
Fred, thank you so much for your...
WHITFIELD: We'll have to find out.
LEMON: All right. Thank you.
PHILLIPS: Well, whether it's the best of times or worst of times, it's the only time we've got. So says Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Art Buchwald. This year doctors told him he only had a few weeks to live, but he's proven them wrong, all of them wrong. He's one of the few people that's checked out of hospice care and he's written a book about it.
And this Friday he's invited me into his home. And he'll be live in the CNN NEWSROOM to share his wisdom, his new book, and, of course, his amazing sense of humor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ART BUCHWALD, HUMORIST: I always liked women. I liked them better than boot camp.
PHILLIPS: Do you think it's your good looks? Do you think it's your sexy self? Do you think it's your sense of humor? What is it?
BUCHWALD: Mostly luck.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: So what would you ask Art Buchwald if you could?
E-mail us your questions right here. The address is CNNNewsroom@CNN.com. I'll get Art to answer them as only he can.
That's Friday in the CNN NEWSROOM.
And that's Jane Russell right there, by the way, when he was editor of Wampus at USC. That's when he was in Paris.
And there he is, becoming a man in the U.S. Marines. Back at USC.
We're going to share his life from USC to Paris there and just talk about all his amazing experiences and his incredible friends, and the fact that he's led an amazing life and just keeps on going. He's an incredible individual.
LEMON: I can't wait to see that. That looks fantastic. That's one of the reasons we do this. You get to meet folks like that who are really trailblazers and have accomplished so much in their lives.
PHILLIPS: I was lucky. I got to meet him while I was in college, had to write a story about him. I was very nervous about that. And he's been an incredible mentor.
So I can't wait to share his story with everybody.
LEMON: Good for you. Can't wait to see it.
PHILLIPS: All right.
LEMON: We're looking forward to that one.
The wrong runway, planes bumping, wings on the ground. What's going on at some of the nation's biggest airports?
Just ahead, a closer look in the CNN NEWSROOM.
PHILLIPS: Also ahead, our election coverage continues. There's still a lot of resentment left over in Ohio from the last time voters went to the polls. Find out why some say the state may be headed for another election train wreck.
That's coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM.
PHILLIPS: Runway mishaps. Federal aviation investigators are looking into several scares this week. The latest, last night at Newark Airport a Lufthansa jet taxiing to the runway clipped the wing of an empty plane. The Lufthansa flight was canceled, leaving 294 passengers scrambling to other flights to Frankfurt. Just a few days ago, also at Newark, an airliner landed on a taxiway instead of a runway.
CNN's Miles O'Brien, who is a pilot, takes a closer look at that incident.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: So how could it happen? How could a 757 with more than 150 passengers aboard land on a taxiway instead of a runway at Newark Airport? Let's look at the Google map and try to give you a pilot's-eye view of what might have happened on Saturday night when that occurred.
It happened, first of all, at 6:30 in the evening, so it was about 40 minutes after sunset. Take a look at New York City. This is Newark Airport. That's midtown Manhattan. The flight path of the airplane would have been something along like this with a right turn right about at the Statue of Liberty and into runway 29 there.
Let's take a look closer at the airport now, zoom you in. Let's get a little bit closer than that. Once again, about 6:30 in the evening, sunset at about 5:50, and so the pilots would have been in that kind of netherworld time of dusk.
And on the runway itself would have been a series of white lights that ring out or edge out and identify the runway. On the taxiway where they landed, it would have been a series of blue lights like these. In addition to that, at the end of the runway, there's a couple of strobe lights that are constantly blinking and also some red lights there as well. How could they possibly have misidentified this runway? Well, for one thing, this runway does not have any sort of radio beacon directly associated with it. Let's zoom around and show you the runway which would normally be used at Newark Airport. See, the winds favored that other runway, 29, on that day. And the winds were very strong, and so they shifted it around.
On this runway -- this is runway 22 -- not only would you have all kinds of strobe lights here, a series of them operating in a sequence, there would be significant other lights that also operate in a pattern like that which make it very clear where the runway is as opposed to the taxiways.
So the question that many pilots wonder is, is it safe for airliners to be landing at runways that do not have that additional navigational capability, the so-called instrument landing system, which offers a radio beacon, which gives them a way to check where they are with their instruments and also additional lighting -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Well, remember, you can catch Miles every weekday on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING." Back to the taxiway incident, no surprise, the pilots have been grounded for the time being.
LEMON: Flames consumed an historic Reno, Nevada, hotel overnight, killing six people and leading to arson and murder charges against a woman. Police say Valerie Moore set fire to her mattress, sparking the deadly blaze at the Mizpah Hotel. Some people jumped from windows to escape. Others had to be rescued in cherry pickers. The Mizpah was built 84 years ago and had recently been renovated.
PHILLIPS: It's been a bumpy lead up to the election in the Buckeye State. The reason? Ohio's new voter ID law. Critics say it's causing widespread confusion and they're challenging it in court. A federal judge is holding a hearing on the matter this afternoon in Columbus.
CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena looks at what the controversy is all about.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's only a week to go before the election, and here in Ohio, people are confused, not about the candidates, but the actual voting process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
ARENA: Election officials appeared on a Cleveland TV show where the fielded voter questions, and the switchboard lit up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stuff about whether they need to have a driver's license, whether the driver's license has to have their current address on it. ARENA: Ohio has a new law that says voters have to bring ID to the polls. The critics say it's too complex and it's being applied differently from county to county.
NORMAN ROBBINS, GREATER CLEVELAND VOTER COALITION: It will be people who move a lot, so their registration has to be updated. There will be problems with the updating. Who moves a lot? Census data tells us youth, low-income people and minorities.
ARENA: The young, the poor, minorities, they all tend to vote Democratic and that makes the new law politically controversial. Inevitably lawyers are involved, challenging the ID law in court. A ruling could come as early as today, but with just six days left before the polls open, time is running out.
CANDICE HOKE, CENTER FOR ELECTION INTEGRITY: Poll workers have to have possibly retraining, new materials. We don't know what the standards are for Election Day right now. But certainly the law that we have is confused, so something has to happen.
ARENA: And that from the woman appointed by Cuyahoga County, Ohio's most populous, to monitor the elections.
What about those electronic voting machines we've heard so much about? Well, all of Ohio's counties now have them. And poll workers in some places couldn't get them to work during the primaries in May.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I've seen you done this ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...for the last election.
ARENA: There's a lot more training this time around.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, like I said, there's many different ways.
ARENA: Poll workers are more confident.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll get through it. We'll make it.
ARENA: Michael Vu, who runs Cuyahoga County's Board of Elections, insists that he's optimistic.
MICHAEL VU, DIR., CUYAHOGA CO. ELECTION BOARD: We have a plan in place to making sure that things go -- run smoothly.
ARENA: Whatever happens, a lot of people will be watching, state officials, independent observers, even citizens' groups.
SHARON LETTMAN, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: We're not going to leave it up to just the government to do their part. We're citizen advocates, and we're advocating for democracy.
ARENA (on camera): And, of course, both political parties have lawyers ready to pounce at the first sign of trouble.
Kelli Arena, CNN, Cleveland, Ohio.
LEMON: Well, you can call this one James Bond-wiki or James Bond-pedia. America's intelligence community turns to the Internet to find a new way to share information. The Intellipedia is based on the Wikipedia Web site that allows people to post their own reference articles or edit and collaborate on other entries.
Officials say their internal version will let analysts from all 16 intelligence branches share views and information on the world's hot spots. One big difference between Wikipedia and Intellipedia? The latter won't allow authors to remain anonymous.
Well, he's made Oprah's wish list and the cover of "Time" magazine but what does Michelle Obama have to say about her husband, Barack's, possible running for president? We go straight to the source next in the CNN NEWSROOM.
LEMON: Let's head to the NEWSROOM. Fredricka Whitfield, what's going on?
WHITFIELD: Well, police have descended on an apartment complex in southwest Houston as a follow-up to a shooting that took place earlier today at that apartment complex involving about five people. One person died from gunshot wounds. Two other people, at least, were injured and hospitalized.
And apparently according to residents, and this reporting coming from our affiliate KHOU, residents say they saw police go to a specific apartment unit, knocked on the door, thinking that one of the suspects involved in that shooting may be inside, and then residents said they heard gunshots being fired.
Now apparently there's a standoff underway involving police at this apartment complex called the Keegan's Mill apartments on Keegan's Ridge and West Bellford (ph) in southwest Houston. We're still awaiting more information on exactly what is transpiring there and if police indeed, feel like they have cornered a suspect in connection with a shooting that took place earlier today. Don?
LEMON: All right, Fred, thank you so much for that.
PHILLIPS: Senator John Kerry appears to have decided the best way to help elect more Democrats is for him to stay away from them -- at least for now. Plans for Kerry to campaign with two House hopefuls and a Senate candidate are off thanks to controversy over Kerry's comments about the military. A Minnesota congressional candidate told CNN it was Kerry's decision to cancel today's joint appearance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TIM WALZ, DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Well, I can't speak and know what the senator was trying to say. I do know that this scandal of the day type of mentality is not something that the people out here, and I'm a long ways from Washington, out here in southern Minnesota, they want to talk about the real issues.
They know of the story of the day today is, is that October was one of the deadliest months we've had in Iraq, and we're no closer to a solution. That's the part that's frustrating I guess out here, that they see this as one more step towards dividing us, one more step to a political goal, but not to real solutions for America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: We just caught up with Senator Hillary Clinton and she commented for the first time on what the senator has said. Here was her response.
PHILLIPS: Actually, that's the wrong video. We apologize for that. We'll try and get that switched out and bring you the senator's comments in just a second. Do we have them?
LEMON: All right. I guess we'll move on. Well, "Time" Magazine -- well, we'll get back to that in a minute I'm being told. "Time" Magazine, and other speculate Barack Obama refuses to fully discuss much about a presidential run. So, what about his wife, Michelle? We don't hear very much from her.
I caught up with her recently for a celebration for the Reverend Jesse Jackson in Chicago and talked with her about that, about her date who was not her husband at that event and about the importance of African-American voters in the upcoming election.
LEMON: Michelle, how you doing?
MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Good, how are you?
LEMON: It's good to see you.
OBAMA: Good to see you.
LEMON: What do you think of this guy? 65?
OBAMA: I love this man. I grew up in this man's house. I've seen it all.
LEMON: What do you think of the comparisons to him and your husband?
OBAMA: You know, it's an honor. I mean to be compared -- he's done it, right? LEMON: Right.
OBAMA: We're just sort of learning.
LEMON: Yes, any advice you think you'll ask him if he decides to run from this guy because he's done it.
OBAMA: Well, we talk to him as much as we can, so a lot of it is just looking and listening and watching and making sure we're thinking and doing the right thing. But yes, we will be consulting with him and all the leaders in the community.
LEMON: Are you ready to be first lady?
OBAMA: No comment.
LEMON: Where's hubby tonight?
OBAMA: He's coming. He is flying in. His flight doesn't come in until late. My date is Santita Jackson.
LEMON: Santita, get over here.
OBAMA: Get over here.
LEMON: Santita Jackson and Michelle Obama. Let me get you guys right here. Daughter of the great one who's turning 65. Wife of the great one now.
OBAMA: I've known this woman since I was a baby. We were high school, 14 years old.
SANTITA JACKSON, DAUGHTER OF REV. JESSE JACKSON: Yes. Don't give any dates.
LEMON: I talked to your dad today. We did a one on one sit-down that's going to be on CNN and he talked about you guys. He said he's very proud of you. What has time taught you about your dad?
JACKSON: Well, I admire his perseverance. I admire the fact that he is a man, who no matter what life throws his way, he has the strength, the courage, and the faith to get back up. And he's a true giant.
LEMON: "New York Times" talked about black voters maybe not turning out, being discouraged. What do you say to them?
OBAMA: I think this is a very encouraging time. I think that, you know, we still have a lot of work to do. The problem is we haven't been talking about the issues that are important to the black community. We haven't talked about health care. We aren't talking about increasing a living wage. I mean, those are the issues that matter. And once we get down to that, you're going to see people turn out in droves. (END VIDEOTAPE)
PHILLIPS: OK, she's sounding like a first lady. She says no comment, but ...
LEMON: Yes, well, the thing is, you don't hear a lot from her. She's a very smart woman, graduated from Princeton, sociology degree with honors and then went on to Harvard, got a law degree. So she is the woman behind the man. She's very smart. Very nice lady. And since we were there, we talked about it.
PHILLIPS: Maybe she should run for president. Barack Obama could be supporting her.
LEMON: I don't know. But she's a very nice lady.
PHILLIPS: All right. Great stuff. A moment ago we wanted to bring you some -- a recent part of an interview we were able to get as we caught up with Senator Hillary Clinton. She responded for the first time to the comments that Senator John Kerry made.
You know we talked a lot about that yesterday when he was speaking to a group of students at Pasadena City College. The quote, once again, he said "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, can you do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
This, of course, created a lot of controversy. He said that's not what he meant to say. He was talking about the president and his policies in Iraq, not about the troops and that he supports the troops. Senator Hillary Clinton responding today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Senator Kerry said, it was inappropriate. And I believe we can't let it divert us from looking at the issues that are at stake in our country. We do need a new policy in Iraq. I and others have been advocating that for quite some time. We do need to get our fiscal house back in order. We do need to deal with the serious problems affecting the people of our country, and that's what I hope this election's about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think these comments could hurt Democrats on Election Day?
CLINTON: I think elections are about the future. And I think that no one wants to see the 2004 election replayed. That's about the past. And what Senator Kerry said was inappropriate. But for me, what I hear and when I travel here or anywhere in our state is what are we going to do to have a sensible policy with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan?
What are we going to do to get our economy actually producing good jobs and increasing wages for hard-working people or deal with health care, energy, or the environment? That's what people talk to me about. That's what we should stay focused on less than a week before this election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: So you can imagine it's hard in such a tight room with all those cameras and photographers to get around and get in front of Senator Hillary Clinton there but we did get her response. She obviously is disappointed in what Senator John Kerry had to say yesterday with regard to that botched comment that he made to the Pasadena City College students.
Now, Republicans in danger of losing Congress, can Washington wizard Karl Rove pull a proverbial rabbit out of the hat? Well, that's ahead from the CNN NEWSROOM.
LEMON: With the midterm elections just six days away, Republicans still have time to improve their position. But pulling out wins may rest in the hands of the party's magic man, Karl Rove.
CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice-over): Rolling in positive polls, but pundits predicting a congressional takeover, some Democrats could be excused for measuring the Capitol for curtains. But the White House is saying not yet.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You might remember that around this time in 2004 some of them were picking out their new offices in the West Wing. The movers never got the call.
FOREMAN: And that's in no small part due to the man behind the curtain, Karl Rove. Now Republicans are hoping he can once again hand them a decisive victory and his foes know better than to count him out.
AMY WALTER, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: There are many gun-shy Democrats in this town who say, we are a great second quarter team. We always look great going into halftime and then we just blow it in the fourth quarter every time.
FOREMAN: Call it the Rove mystique.
KARL ROVE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: And I'm from Texas, so I'm a simple boy.
FOREMAN: Maybe so, but he did develop a sophisticated strategy to rally the Republican base. Imposing message discipline so candidates across the country read off of the same page on big issues. Drawing stark contrast with Democrats and firing up white evangelicals with the gospel of social conservatism. And this year, he's trying to do it again.
ROVE: Democrats think every day is a good day to raise taxes. Rainy day, sunny day, winter day, spring day, summer day, fall day. Any day's a day to raise your taxes.
FOREMAN: As the fourth biggest fund-raiser for Republican candidates, he's hammering tried and true themes. But when it comes to one of the top issues for voters, Rove's Republican chorus is singing off tune.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None of us like war and we've made some mistakes in Iraq.
FOREMAN (on camera): So will he be able to work his magic again, overcome the public's huge concern over Iraq and the daunting leads so many Democratic candidates have in the polls?
GROVER NORQUIST, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: This White House, this president understands, this is another presidential election. Is President Bush going to be president for six years or eight years?
FOREMAN: Karl Rove is betting on eight years. And betting against this wizard of Washington has never yet been a sure thing.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
LEMON: We'll get all the late-breaking political stories and a fresh perspective on the day's other top stories from Anderson Cooper. Join "AC 360" weeknights at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
PHILLIPS: They told her not to run, but Katherine Harris didn't listen. Now Florida Republicans watch her struggle to stay afloat. That's straight ahead from the NEWSROOM.
LEMON: And Reese Witherspoon becomes the latest Oscar-winning actress ending her Hollywood romance. What's behind all the break- ups? We'll take a look straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So what would you do if you were elected president? Well, CNN.com tossed the question to readers, who sent in all kinds of ideas about how they would shape the country and in some cases, the world. Here's what some of you out there said.
Brian Lund of Jonesboro, Arizona, writes, "I'd put an end to lobbyists. All that is accomplished is laws for the highest bidder, instead of needed laws for the good of the American people."
Matthew Weiser in Malden, Massachusetts says that he would "Immediately divide Iraq along ethnic/religious lines with all oil revenue shared equally among Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis. Subsidize basic health care for all Americans who cannot afford to pay for it... AND... Introduce legislation cracking down hard on lobbyists in order to restore public confidence and integrity to government officials."
And then we got this one from Judith Kittle of New York, who says she would "Cut the salaries of Congress and Senate to appropriate levels and make them live on Social Security like the rest of us when they retire."
Lots of ideas. But we also want to hear from you. So point your browser to CNN.com/exchange.
For the .Com Desk, I'm Veronica De La Cruz.
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