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Bush's State Of the Union: A Plea For Patience on Iraq
Aired January 24, 2007 - 07:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: AMERICAN MORNING live from New York and Washington.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody. It is Wednesday, January 24th. I'm Soledad O'Brien in New York this morning.
Good morning, Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Good morning, Soledad. I'm Miles O'Brien on Capitol Hill. We are glad you are with us this morning.
The president not wasting any time trying to sell his domestic agenda. He's heading to Wilmington, Delaware, to talk about his energy proposals this morning. He talked about reforming health insurance, fixing the deficit, but the issue here in Washington was and is the war in Iraq. A little later on the program we will hear from a couple presidential wannabes, actually three of them, Barack Obama, John McCain and Governor Richardson of New Mexico. We'll bring them all to you in a little bit.
We've got it covered from all angles with the best political team on television, Suzanne Malveaux is at the White House, John King near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, with the troops. Sean Callebs on Capitol Hill and Alina Cho in New York with a fact check on the president's proposals.
Bill Schneider with the newest polls, and congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel. An army of political correspondents for you, the best team on television for sure. Let's begin with Suzanne Malveaux and a wrap-up of the speech.
Suzanne, good morning.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning, Miles.
President Bush, of course, is trying to convince the American people that he is credible, and relevant, but it is far from certain whether or not he's going to be able to get much done in the remaining two years considering the problems in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States.
MALVEAUX: The president who used to boast of having political capital to spend is arguably down to chump change, with his Iraq policy under fire and his domestic agenda now at a screeching halt this State of the Union was an attempt to salvage both.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not the fight we entered Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes this war were over and won, yet it would not be like us to keep our promises unkept, our friends abandoned and our own security at risk.
MALVEAUX: Mr. Bush practically pleaded members of Congress to give him more time for his Iraq strategy to work, which includes sending more Americans into battle. He cleverly used the call to support the troops to get the Democrats, as well as the Republicans on their feet.
BUSH: We went into this largely united in our assumptions and in our convictions, and whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field, and those on their way.
MALVEAUX: But with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, third in line to the presidency, standing over Mr. Bush's shoulder, the president did recognize the political landscape had changed
BUSH: Tonight, I have the high privilege, and distinct honor of my own, as the first president to begin the State of the Union message with these words -- "Madam Speaker."
MALVEAUX: On the domestic side, the president is also trying to prove he is still relevant, and able to get things done at home. Mr. Bush pitched new initiatives regarding health care, energy and the environment, which received mixed reviews from the Democrats. But his immigration reform plan got a better reception from them than the Republicans.
MALVEAUX: So, Miles, of course, now the president trying to sell his agenda to the American people, taking it on the road. His first stop today, Wilmington, Delaware. That's where he is visiting a research and development facility of Dupont to try to promote his energy initiatives -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Suzanne Malveaux, at the White House, thank you very much.
Now, to what Americans think about the president's speech, CNN/Opinion Research Corporation took a poll just after the speech. We move quickly here. Our Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider is the man with the numbers.
Bill, how did it go over?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST, AMERICAN MORNING: We asked people, and they said 41 percent said they had a very positive response to the speech, which sounds pretty good. But that is actually less positive than the response to any of President Bush's previous State of the Union speeches. This one was OK, not a blockbuster.
And one reason was the audience who watched this speech was less partisan than its been in the past. A lot of Democrats were watching. This speech was evenly balanced. And one reason, of course, is Democrats were interested in looking at the new Democratic Congress and, in particular, the new speaker of the House.
M. O'BRIEN: So people I would gather appreciate the bipartisan tone? Do the numbers bear that out?
SCHNEIDER: Yes, by a narrow majority. We asked them do you think this speech will lead to more cooperation between President Bush and the Democrats in Congress, or more disagreement? By a narrow majority, 53 percent said more cooperation, 43 more disagreement. One speech does not a uniter make.
M. O'BRIEN: And one speech does not change a lot of opinions when it comes to something as serious as war. I'm curious whether people were swayed one way or another by what the president said about the Iraq war last night.
SCHNEIDER: Well, did this speech make them more confident that President Bush would be able to achieve his goals in Iraq? The answer was people weren't sure; 51 percent said yes, 46 percent, said no. There's a lot of skepticism out there in the country, there has been for a long time, about the president's goals in Iraq. And I'm not sure this speech did much to dispel all that skepticism.
M. O'BRIEN: Bill Schneider, the man with the numbers, and fast, too. We do appreciate that. Thank you very much -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Iraq didn't come up until about halfway through the president's speech, he urged Congress to find resolve, and turn events toward victory. CNN's John King is in New Bern, North Carolina, this morning. That is near the huge Marine Corps base, Camp Lejeune.
Good morning to you, John.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning, Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Did the speech meet the expectations of the folks that I know you have been talking to, and with, for a long time there?
KING: I think the answer to that is, yes, Soledad. But that's not necessarily a ringing endorsement. No one speech, everyone around the country -- including in these military communities -- say, is going to change what is happening on the ground in Iraq.
Take for example, Colonel Jim Van Rifer (ph), he's a retired Marine, someone I've kept in touch with since the beginning of the Iraq war, a fierce critic of the former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a fierce critic at times of the president, he gave Mr. Bush an A overall. He said it was a strong presentation. A well- constructed speech.
But on the defining and critical issue of Iraq, Colonel Van Rifer (ph) said the president deserved a C, largely because he said he believes the president has lost his connection with the American people on the war and has not done a good enough job of explaining why he thinks this new policy will work.
But Colonel Van Rifer (ph), I think, like most people around the country, say the speech isn't going to solve anything, Soledad. Let's see in six or eight weeks whether this new strategy is actually showing any signs of progress.
S. O'BRIEN: John King for us this morning. Thanks, John.
Let's talk a little bit more, if I can ask you a couple quick questions about this. What's been the feedback overall? I mean, outside of Iraq, there were some domestic issues, clearly that the president talked about. Did people feel the president was humble in talking about bipartisan, or do people feel like, yeah, six years in when you are facing Democrats in Congress suddenly you are talking bipartisan?
KING: Well, it was the face of the new reality for the president. And look, the president needs the Democrats, because he is very low in the polls right now. The Democrats run the Congress.
But the Democrats also need the president. They are going to pass an increase in the minimum wage. The only way to get that increase to low-income workers is for the president to sign it. They want to make progress on energy and the environment and health care just like the president does. They have starkly different proposals than the president, but the president had the right tone last night.
I think even most Democrats concede that. I listened to Senator Obama -- you'll talk to him in a few minutes -- last night. He says I disagree with the president, but there are constructive proposals. So consider last night the starting point of the negotiations. It will be months from now whether we see if they can agree on any of the substance of this, but the initial tone from the president, I think even most Democrats concede on those big issues, was pretty good.
S. O'BRIEN: Another tone was sort of a plea, I thought, at least, when he said give it a chance. Literally pleading with Congress to kind of make it happen. Do you think the public's on board with that, give it some time?
KING: Well, this president's legacy will be defined by Iraq, Soledad, and president is very well aware of that. The speech last night, though, was not so much about the president's legacy in the long term. He thinks in five, 10, or 20 years, history will prove him right. He has answer an example Ronald Reagan.
Remember, back during the Reagan administration, especially liberals in Washington said, what is this crazy man doing? He's bankrupting the United States, spending all this money on a military buildup; he wants star wars in the sky, to have missile defense, and then 10 years later, they were saying, OK, we didn't like this, that, or the other thing, but Ronald Regan contributed to the decline and collapse of the Soviet Union.
George Bush thinks he will be viewed like that, 10, 15 or 20 years from now. Last night wasn't about legacy. It was about simply trying to regain his footing. He's back on his heels every day, more and more Republicans saying, no, Mr. President, we don't want to send more troops. If the president can get back flat-footed, in politics, right now in Washington, that would be a sign of progress. And that's what that was about last night. Please give me a little bit of time. Let's see in a month or two.
S. O'BRIEN: John King for us this morning. Thanks, John.
M. O'BRIEN: Thanks very much, Soledad.
Today is the first day of the rest of his term, for the president. He'll head out to Wilmington, Delaware, and he'll try to sell some of the domestic ideas that he brought forth in the speech last night, in particular, he'll talk about energy policy. The question is, as he moves forward and pushes his agenda, will members of Congress be along for the ride? Will they act, will they ignore? What will they do? Congressional Correspondent Andrea Koppel brought her crystal ball over this morning, and she'll tell us.
You know exactly what they'll do, don't you?
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: I wish I did.
But you know, Miles, the symbolism of last night could not be missed, the symbolism of the divided government and the symbolism of a lame duck president. There you had over his shoulder, not Denny Hastert, but Nancy Pelosi, that liberal from San Francisco, vilified by the Republicans. And there, in the audience, in front of President Bush, in addition to all the new Democratic faces, you also had those '08 presidential hopefuls -- Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain -- all of them, you know, were probably thinking about what they might say in January of '09.
So, for a number of reasons, President Bush felt the need to reach across the aisle, which he did on issues that will been resonate among Democrats, things like getting immigration reform through, things like reducing the deficit in the next five years, but on Iraq, especially, as John was saying, the issue upon which President Bush's legacy will be built, that issue he didn't change many minds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JIM WEBB, (D-VA): The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought, nor does the majority of our military, nor does the majority of Congress. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism, not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos, but an immediate shift towards strong, regionally based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will, in short order, allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-SC): He asked the country to give this new strategy a chance. He believes in it. General Petraeus believes in it. And I think we would be well served to give it a chance. To condemn it as a failure before it's even implemented would be a mistake. So, he talked about a lot of things, but at the end of the day, we were only listening about Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOPPEL: While Lindsey Graham is not in the minority in his party who support the president's plan, he is in the minority among Republicans who are vocal about that and enthusiastic about the president's plan. And today, Miles, the first test will be vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a resolution put forward, a couple of Democrats, Joe Biden, but also you have some top Republicans, Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe, who are going to be pushing through the resolution, which we expect to get through today -- could come to a floor vote next week -- opposing the president's plan to send more troops.
M. O'BRIEN: So, while the president talked about a domestic agenda, it will be all about Iraq for quite some time here, I think.
M. O'BRIEN: Andrea Koppel, thank you very much.
S. O'BRIEN: All right, Miles, thanks very much. Here's what's happening this morning. This just in, in fact, former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega is going to get out of jail on September 9. Noriega is in prison in Miami on drug trafficking and racketeering convictions. He will serve only two thirds of his 30-year sentence, due in part because of good behavior.
An intense street battle is under way in an insurgent stronghold in Baghdad. It's happening right now. U.S. and Iraqi forces, backed by helicopters and jet fighters are battling militants along Haifa Street, that's just outside of the green zone.
In Los Angeles, an arrest in the case of the spilled mercury on the subway platform. Police have identified our Armando Mirandes (ph), the man on the subway surveillance videotape. It was obtained exclusively by CNN. Mirandes (ph) is being held this morning on a parole violation. Investigators say because mercury is not immediately toxic, when it's spilled, they don't suspect terrorism in this case.
In Mississippi, State Farm Insurance is agreeing to a multi- million dollar settlement of Katrina lawsuits. State Farm will pay at least 50 million bucks to 35,000 policyholders. A federal judge has to approve the deal. The policyholders could then start getting some money in about 60 days.
Some of the coldest weather of the winter is coming your way, and so is Chad. He has the "Traveler's Forecast" coming up next.
Shaking up the race for '08, Senator Barack Obama will join us live with his reaction to the State of the Union and what he would do differently, if he were president.
Then, from Iraq to health care, and the environment, we spent the night combing through the specifics of the president's plan. We have your "Fact Check" straight ahead. What those ideas could mean for you and your family. You are watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.
M. O'BRIEN: Quarter past the hour. That means it's time for a quick check of the "Travelers' Forecast".
S. O'BRIEN: A closer look this morning at the State of the Union Address from someone who might like to deliver his own speech to Congress in a couple of years. President Bush is asking Congress to give his plan in Iraq a chance. Let's ask Illinois Senator Barack Obama if he's willing to give it a chance.
Senator Obama, nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us this morning.
BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Great talking to you, Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.
You heard the president speak last night. Was there anything in any of his proposals that you liked, that you thought was possible, or a positive step?
OBAMA: Well, look, the president talked about health care and energy and those are two priorities that we have to deal with domestically. And although his proposals are not exactly how I would approach the problems, I thought they were serious proposals and the Democrats should take a careful look at them and try to work with them constructively.
But obviously, the bulk of the speech was devoted to Iraq. And, unfortunately, there we saw more of the same. You know, I did not see a strategy for success in Iraq. Escalating troop levels, as far as every expert that I've talk to, indicates, is not going to lead to a better solution but, in fact, is going to simply continue on the chaotic course that we are on right now. S. O'BRIEN: The president almost sounded like at points he was pleading with Congress to give his plan a chance. Do you think that's a fair request? How do you know if you haven't tried it yet, and things are pretty dire there right now.
OBAMA: Well, the important point, Soledad, is we have tried it. We have attempted to impose a military solution on the civil war that is taking place in Iraq for many months now. And we've been in Iraq now longer than we've been in most of our military conflicts in our history.
And so, the American people have shown resolve. Certainly our troops have performed in an exemplary fashion. What's flawed is not either the performance of our military, or the American people's commitment but, rather, the strategy. And what I've suggested is that we need to de-escalate, start phasing down troop levels, so that the Iraqi people and Iraqi leadership begin to come to the political accommodation that's necessary.
As you well know, there are critics to that plan who will say what would happen, hypothetically, of course, would be that instability gets worse. And that, let's say President Obama, in fact, inherits a situation that's much worse, chaos in the Middle East that has spread to other countries as well, starting in Iraq, regardless of how we got there as a nation.
OBAMA: Look, I opposed this war from the start, in part, because I felt that once we got in, it would be difficult to get out. All of us have to recognize a genuine national security concern in the Middle East, but keep in mind that this parade of horribles that is being trotted out by folks like Senator McCain and the president is already occurring.
We have chaos there. We have bloodshed and civil war there. And the question is, do we put American troops in the midst of that, or do we say that we are going to provide the logistical support, training, we are going to continue to fight counter-insurgencies, and we are going to be taking our troops to make sure that they're focused on places like Afghanistan, that are slipping back into the abyss. That, I think, is the strategy that is more likely to deal with our long- term national security interests in the way we need to.
S. O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question about your personal -- throwing your hat into the ring to be president. As you know, another cable channel ran with the story that you attended a madras in Indonesia. We sent reporter to Indonesia, turns out it was a public school there. Curious to know where you think stories like that are coming from. Who is generating those?
OBAMA: Well, you know, it's very hard to say. I mean, keep in mind when I was running for the United States Senate, after I won the Democratic nomination, there was an image of me super imposed over a picture of Osama bin Laden. I think that people like to play with my name. I'm accustomed to that.
The great thing is that the American people are smarter than that. And ultimately they're going to judge you on the basis of what's your vision for the country. You know, what are your values, are you somebody that is speaking to them about their lives. And if I do that in a presidential race then I'm sure I would be fine.
S. O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question about your rival. Hillary Clinton was asked a couple of times yesterday when she was making the media rounds, if you were qualified to be president. And every time she didn't really answer. I mean, it is kind of a yes or no question. And she never said, yeah, he's qualified. Or no, he's not qualified. She kind of tap danced a little bit. Does that disappoint you that you didn't get a straight answer?
OBAMA: No, you know, the -- I'm not -- I'm not picking at what Senator Clinton says at this point, or any of the other rivals. I think should I decide to go forward with this presidential race, we will all get put through the paces. We'll be on stage together, debating.
People will examine our records very carefully and then the American people are going to make a good judgment about it. I'm pretty confident that they'll have a discerning eye, in terms of who they think is best qualified to lead them through some rocky times.
S. O'BRIEN: February 10th, I believe, is that date. Thank you, sir.
Senator Barack Obama joining us. Nice to see you as always.
OBAMA: Thank you.
S. O'BRIEN: Coming up in a little less than an hour, at 8:15 a.m. Eastern Time, we will be joined live by Arizona Senator John McCain. You want to stay with us for that.
Then we would like to hear from you. You can e-mail me with your questions about politics. About any of the interviews we're doing this morning. Like the one we just did with Senator Obama. Send me a line at cnn.com/am. Find the link about halfway down the page and I'll answer those questions, and offer a little insight about what you get to see here on AMERICAN MORNING.
Coming up, we will talk to some of the veterans of the Iraq war, for their impressions of the president's address.
Plus, the man known as the Subway Super Hero, his fame rolls on. There he was sitting next to the first lady, the guest of honor last night. That's ahead. We're back in a moment.
S. O'BRIEN: President Bush focusing on energy in his State of the Union Address. It's 25 minutes past the hour. That means Carrie Lee is "Minding Your Business" this morning.
Hey, Carrie, good morning.
CARRIE LEE, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Hey, Soledad.
Well, President Bush is calling this strategy 20 by 10, and he's basically asking Congress to reduce our dependency on foreign oil by increasing our use of alternative fuels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Let us build on the work we have done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEE: Now, there are two main components to this plan, the first, as I said, increasing our use of alternative fuels. Bush proposing to increase our use of ethanol, which is made from corn and biodiesel, by 35 billion gallons by the year 2017. And that will reduce our gasoline consumption by 15 percent.
And then, second, he wants to raise auto mileage standards by 4 percent every year and that will amount for the other 5 percent of the 20 percent desired gasoline consumption reduction.
Now, automakers, of course, might not be too happy about this, although Ford does say it supports standards at maximum feasible levels. Beyond these two ideas Bush also pushing some other energy sources as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: It's in our vital interests to diversify America's energy supply. The way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power, by even greater use of clean coal technology, solar and wind energy, and clean, safe, nuclear power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEE: Now, Soledad, two potential challenges to this use of ethanol which, as I said, earlier is made from corn. Number one, there isn't enough corn in the U.S. to make all the ethanol that the White House wants to use. Number two, the more ethanol on the market, your are increasing supply, the lower the oil prices. So, the more ethanol, that will influence oil prices to come down and so that really, Soledad, undermines the whole idea of not using as much oil in the first place.
S. O'BRIEN: It would raise prices for other goods elsewhere. All right, Carrie, thank you very much for that update.
The top stories of the morning are coming up next, including our AMERICAN MORNING "Fact Check". What you might expect from the president's plans to fix health care, and his call, as you just heard from Carrie, to save energy. We will take a closer look at those proposals.
Plus the views of three veterans of the war in Iraq. Straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq and I ask you to give it a chance to work. I ask you to support our troops in the field and those on their way.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
S. O'BRIEN: Reaching out, President Bush appealing to newly empowered Democrats in his state of the union address.
M. O'BRIEN: We're looking for specifics for you, about the president's ideas on Iraq, health care and energy on this AMERICAN MORNING.
Good morning to you, it is Wednesday, January 24th, I'm Miles O'Brien on Capitol Hill, special edition of AMERICAN MORNING this morning. Good morning, Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Good morning to you, Miles. I'm Soledad O'Brien in New York this morning. Thanks for being with us. We have already heard from one key member of Congress about what he thought of President Bush's state of the union address. Just moments ago I spoke with the Illinois senator and also presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) ILLINOIS: The bulk of the speech was devoted to Iraq, and unfortunately, there we saw more of the same. You know, I did not see a strategy for success in Iraq. Escalating troop levels, as far as every expert that I've talked to, indicates is not going to lead to a better solution, but, in fact, is going to simply continue on the, the chaotic course that we're on right now.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
S. O'BRIEN: Next hour, we're going to get reaction from the other side of the aisle when we talk to Republican Senator John McCain. He'll be joining us live. Miles?
M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Soledad. State of the Union addresses are usually chock-a-block with proposals, plans and trial balloons as well. This speech no exception to the rule. Our goal here though is to cut through the rhetoric and that is what we have been doing all night long, as a matter of fact. I did some homework on the president's energy proposal, linked to climate change this year, that's unprecedented. Alina Cho has the facts on the president's health care plan and Sean Callebs with the fact check on the president's Iraq war strategy. First up, though, energy. The president once again calling on Americans to use less gasoline. Not the first time he's made such a call, but this time there was a key difference in the rhetoric. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
M. O'BRIEN (voice-over): The president uttered three words that he's never said before in a state of the union address, global climate change.
BUSH: America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. These technologies will help us be better stewards of the environment and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.
M. O'BRIEN: The president is once again pushing for alternative fuels and better mileage for cars and trucks. The goal, to reduce U.S. gasoline consumption by 20 percent in the next decade. So, why bring up climate change now? It may be the president finds himself in a new political climate, with a growing number of legislatures clamoring for a change in direction on global warming. But change was not in the offing Tuesday night. Most climate experts say any effective policy to combat global warming must also include mandatory limits or caps on how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases power plants and other industries are permitted to pump into the air. Critics say the Bush policy, which continues to rely on voluntary measures is essentially toothless.
GENE KARPINSKI, LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS: If we are serious about the problem of global warming which as we all know is the most important environmental challenge we face, we really need mandatory caps on global warming pollution.
M. O'BRIEN: Bush's remarks were a small concession to what an overwhelming majority of climate scientists believe is a huge problem. They say in the coming decades, climate change will melt glaciers, flooding coastal areas as sea levels rise. It will likely increase the frequency of extreme weather events like catastrophic hurricanes and it could lead to entire species going extinct, such as polar bears which are already struggling as their arctic habitat melts. It is a grim picture which many scientists believe requires more drastic action than the president has proposed.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
M. O'BRIEN: There's a lot of support in this Congress to pass some sort of legislation that would cap greenhouse gas emissions industry wide. A lot of big corporations are now in favor of such constraints. Despite all that momentum, this president, a former oil man, is not budging, insisting it would be bad for the economy. Soledad?
S. O'BRIEN: All right, Miles, thank you. President Bush wants to help Americans, he says, who don't have health insurance get it. He unveiled an ambitious plan to improve health care during the state of the union address, but just how would the president's plan work? Alina Cho took a closer look, up all night doing some fact checking for us. She joins us this morning. Good morning.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Made it through, had a long night.
S. O'BRIEN: Experts are saying thumbs up or thumbs down on this proposal?
CHO: Well you know, it depends on how you look at it and what side of the aisle you are on of course. You know Soledad the president says his plan to fix health care will be affordable and accessible, but is that really the case? Can it pass a Democratic controlled Congress and if it does, who are the winners, who are the losers? We watched the president's speech last night with a health care expert and together we broke it down point by point.
BUSH: So tonight I propose two new initiatives.
CHO (voice-over): President Bush's plan to improve health care includes two parts. Part one, a standard tax deduction for health insurance. Here's how it works. Americans who get health insurance through their jobs, and that's the majority, would have to pay taxes on their health benefits. Right now, they don't. But the president says Americans would get that money back through tax breaks, $15,000 for families, $7,500 for individuals.
BUSH: This proposal would mean a substantial tax savings, $4,500 for a family of four making $60,000 a year.
CHO: Professor Sherry Glied says the problem is that's just five percent of Americans. Glied, who counseled both the first President Bush and President Clinton on health care, says the tax break would help some Americans, but not everyone.
PROF. SHERRY GLIED, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Low income people cannot afford to buy health insurance. Letting them deduct $15,000 off their non-existent income to buy health insurance isn't going to make it any easier for them to afford coverage.
CHO: Part two of the president's plan, something he calls affordable choices grants. The idea, take federal funds that otherwise would be earmarked for public hospitals and use that money instead for health insurance.
BUSH: These grants would give our nation's governors more money and more flexibility to get private health insurance to those most in need.
CHO: Professor Glied says the plan would only benefit states that mandate health care coverage and only a few have such plans. In all other cases, she says, public hospitals would suffer and those left uninsured might not have a place to go for care. Even by the Bush administration's admission, the president's proposal would reduce the number of uninsured Americans by only 3 million out of the 47 million who currently don't have health insurance.
Well some have said dead on arrival. Do you think that's true?
GLIED: I think it would be very unlikely that this is going to pass the current Congress.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
CHO: That's with the Democrats in power. Professor Glied says even with a Republican controlled Congress there would be a real fight over this plan. The president's central argument is that too many Americans have what he calls gold standard coverage because they are getting those benefits tax free. Now the president says if people are taxed on their benefits, maybe they'll take a second look and choose more modest coverage. The idea Soledad, is if you are healthy, if you're young, maybe you don't want more expensive coverage, maybe you can shop around, go to ehealthinsurance.com, maybe you can find a plan for $2,000 a year. You still get that $7,500 tax credit as an individual and of course as I've mentioned, $15,000 in tax credits for -- tax deduction, rather, for families.
S. O'BRIEN: So, now, for people who don't have any health care insurance at all, which is a big part of the population, it doesn't sound like it's that bold and that innovative, right?
CHO: Well, they say it's modest. I mean listen, there are 47 million Americans without health insurance. Even by the president's admission, this is only going to help 3 million Americans get health insurance. There's a large chunk, 44 million, who wouldn't have it. Democrats will say, listen, this is in the wrong direction. Let's take a look at how we can insure all 47 million who are currently uninsured
S. O'BRIEN: Does seem a little bit of a drop in the bucket. Alina Cho for us this morning. Thank you Alina. Let's get right back to Miles in Washington, D.C. Miles?
M. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Soledad. The president talked a lot about domestic programs like health insurance, but the main part of the speech, the most time spent, was on the war in Iraq. The president pleading with Congress, really, to embrace his plan in Iraq which he calls the best chance for success. We're talking, of course, about that surge in excess of 21,000 new troops headed to Iraq. AMERICAN MORNING's Sean Callebs checked in with military analysts that combed over the speech and the plan and had some insight for us. Good morning Sean.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Miles. Indeed the president spending a great deal of time on his speech last night, more than a third, talking about the ongoing war in Iraq, imploring both the public and members of Congress to support his proposal to add those 21,000 troops to the ongoing effort in Iraq. His supporters called him confident. The critics, however, point out he has an uphill battle from members on both sides of the aisle here in Washington. The president also talked about the way the fighting has morphed in Iraq over the last year, changing from Saddam Hussein loyalists to more what he referred to again as sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunnis, what others are calling a civil war. The president once again asking for more time for his policies in Iraq to work.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
CALLEBS: The president talking perhaps more than a third of his time there on the ongoing effort in Iraq. The analysts we talked to last night also found it interesting that the president started talking about the war on terror, then went down the road to Iraq, surmising that perhaps the president is trying to play on the more popular war on terror, trying to in essence lift the boat of public opinion on the war in Iraq. Miles?
M. O'BRIEN: Just quickly though Sean, the Democrats not in favor of a surge but they have to be careful here to not be associated with defeat.
CALLEBS: Exactly. That's one thing that we heard last night very clearly, that while many people may not support what the president is calling the best chance to succeed, they are not ready to pull the plug yet, and admit defeat in Iraq.
M. O'BRIEN: Sean Callebs, thank you very much. Coming up, we're going to talk with Senator John McCain, who as you know has been calling for more troops in Iraq for some time. See what he thinks about the speech. And we'll check in with three veterans of the war to see if they are willing to give the president's new plan a chance. That's all ahead on AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning, right here on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We are carrying on a new strategy in Iraq, a plan that demands more from Iraq's elected government and gives our forces in Iraq the reinforcements they need to complete their mission.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
S. O'BRIEN: Iraq, Iraq, Iraq, it was no real surprise that Iraq was a very big part of last night's state of the union address. So how are veterans of the war reacting this morning? Christian Bagge was a staff sergeant in the army when he lost both of his legs in a roadside bombing. You might remember his jog with the president back in June. Captain Rose Forrest served in the Anbar Province with the National Guard, right now she's pregnant, she could be called back to Iraq though. And Captain Scott Stanford, also served in Anbar, first as a platoon leader, later as a company commander with the National Guard. He's still serving with the National Guard. Good morning to all of you. Thanks for talking with us. Let's begin with you, Rose, if we can. First and foremost, what did you think of the president's speech? CAPT. ROSE FORREST, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Well, Soledad, a year ago I watched the president's state of the union address from Iraq and it seemed to me that he promised us that he was going to bring us all home and this year he seemed that he is encouraging not only an escalation but a continuation long term of troops in Iraq. And I don't think that he justified it in his speech.
S. O'BRIEN: What do you think, Christian? Do you think the president was able to make his case?
CHRISTIAN BAGGE, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, you know, the thing that was convincing to me -- and I spoke earlier before that I opposed the troop surge. But he did kind of plead and say, you know, give us one more chance. And, you know, I really want to. I want it to work. I want to try. But at the same time, I kind of agree with -- or, rather, I do agree with Senator Barack Obama that maybe we ought to be moving in the opposite direction, maybe we ought to pull our people out, put a little pressure on the Iraqi government and let them stand up for themselves. But, you know, I want to give it a shot.
S. O'BRIEN: You want to give it a shot, but you don't sound completely convinced, Christian. I should mention that videotape we just saw a moment ago was you jogging with the president, very famous. Before I let you answer that question, let's ask Scott to weigh in, too. Overall, Scott, what did you think of the president's speech?
CAPT. SCOTT STANFORD, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Well, I don't think he covered any new ground. I mean, he's talking about an escalation of a failed policy, really, not a new policy. He mentioned supporting the troops that are in the field and those on their way. What he didn't mention, I had hoped to hear from him, was something about supporting the 1.6 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan that are still troops and still need support. As far as the surge itself is concerned, I think if an officer is well regarded as General Petraeus supports it, then any serious person needs to weigh it on its merits. But I haven't heard where -- the question that I'm really looking to be answered is, this hinges a lot on what Nuri al Maliki and the Iraqi army is able to do. If they don't do what we're asking them to do, then what?
S. O'BRIEN: That's a very big then what question there. Rose, let's get back to you for just a moment. A lot of analysts have said that even though half the speech really was about domestic issues, it's Iraq that's going to overshadow everything. Is that the case for you personally as you watch a speech like the state of the union? Are you really just listening for Iraq and that's going to make your decision on everything else that the president says?
FORREST: For me it is just because, as you mentioned before, I am concerned that I'm going back. Also, my little brother just joined the army not long ago and he will be going to basic training and I know that he'll be going to Iraq, so it's very important to me.
S. O'BRIEN: Let my ask you about your brother then. You sound not behind the president's plan at all and now your little brother has gone and signed up. What kind of conversation did you have with him? FORREST: Well, I support him going into the military. I love being in the army and I love that I have served. I just -- I do question some of the president's plans. Last night in his address, he mentioned that we just need to, you know, find the terrorists and clear them out. I'm sure as Scott will say, it's not as easy as it sounds. It's also not addressing a lot of the socioeconomic problems that are in Iraq that can't be solved with military force.
S. O'BRIEN: Christian, the final word to you this morning. Do you think that we just didn't hear the president say it or do you think it's not there, some of the things that Rose just raised?
BAGGE: I don't know. I think it's not there. Like I said before, I wanted to touch on that point. I'm so torn, like many Americans. We want it to work, but we don't necessarily, you know, support the troop surge. So, so many of us are torn. We don't know what to do. We don't know what to think. Unfortunately, the administration has lost quite a bit of credibility with the whole Iraq debacle. So, you know, I want to succeed. We all want to succeed, but I just -- I don't have the answers, unfortunately. But I'll certainly be willing to hear from someone who does.
S. O'BRIEN: Quite a dire assessment from all three of you. Christian Bagge and Captain Rose Forrest and Captain Scott Stanford, thanks to the three of you for talking with us this morning. It's nice to check in with you once again.
STANFORD: Thank you.
FORREST: Thanks Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Let's head right back to Miles in Washington, D.C. Miles?
M. O'BRIEN: Well, he got the biggest round of applause of the evening. New York's subway super hero hits Washington and gets a warm welcome. His daughters didn't seem too impressed, they were napping. We'll talk to him about that. Wesley Autrey is our guest next. You don't want to miss it. The most news in the morning right here.
M. O'BRIEN: Here in Washington, they talk about the third rail of politics. It refers to entitlement programs like Medicare and social security. Touch them and you face certain political death. Now, a man who knows about real third rails, the no kidding kind, that carry enough juice to move a subway and to kill you for real. His name is Wesley Autrey and we know him now as the subway hero. On January 2nd he jumped on the tracks in New York City to save a stranger having a seizure. Last night he was in the gallery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: He says he's not a hero. He says we got guys and girls overseas dying for us to have our freedoms. We have got to show each other some love. There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
M. O'BRIEN: And we're honored to have Wesley Autrey with us right now. Wesley it's great to meet you. We saw just the tops of their heads, we saw your two daughters there. They were conked out. Obviously they are taking all this with a great deal of humility. First of all, how did you get the invitation? How did this all come to be?
WESLEY AUTREY, NYC SUBWAY HERO: Oh, I believe my P.R. person, my brother, my sister, they was working on the paperwork.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, you're a humble guy. You have people handling P.R. for you now.
M. O'BRIEN: Give us a sense of what this wild ride has been like for you since January 2nd.
AUTREY: I'm enjoying it, but at the same time, it's a little scary because I'm not used to all this instant fame. But, you know, its ok. It's all right. What I did, I did out of the kindness of my heart, and the recognition that I'm getting, I didn't expect it, like I said. The day that this happened I went to work, thinking I was going to go back to a normal life. My life has been everything but normal.
M. O'BRIEN: I don't think so. Tell us what happened. You had a chance to meet with the president last night, your daughters did.
M. O'BRIEN: Tell us what that was like. What was going through your mind through this whole evening?
AUTREY: Being invited to an event such as that taking place last night, and being that close to the president and being invited to the back room, you know, taking pictures with him, me and my daughters, and him speaking my name out of his mouth. I mean, a couple weeks ago I was just an ordinary guy, but to have the president mention my name, man, you don't know.
M. O'BRIEN: Goose bumps.
AUTREY: Yeah, yeah.
M. O'BRIEN: How is Cameron doing, the man who you saved?
AUTREY: He's doing fine. To my knowledge, I believe he's still in the hospital under observation. But he's ok.
M. O'BRIEN: What's next for you? Life will never be the same for you. Are you going to go back to what you were doing before, or will it be different in a real way?
AUTREY: I believe it's going to be different in a real way.
M. O'BRIEN: How so?
AUTREY: I think Oprah is going to be next.
M. O'BRIEN: Yeah?
AUTREY: Yes, Oprah, Montell --
M. O'BRIEN: A new career maybe?
AUTREY: A new career.
M. O'BRIEN: All right, Wesley Autrey, thank you very much.
M. O'BRIEN: It's a pleasure to meet you.
M. O'BRIEN: You were the highlight of the night. I consider it my highlight right now shaking your hand this morning.
AUTREY: Well, thank you, sir, thank you.
M. O'BRIEN: Soledad?
S. O'BRIEN: All right, guys. Thank you. Ahead this morning, Republican senator from Arizona and presidential hopeful in 2008 John McCain will be talking with us. For all you shoeless Joes, tired of taking off your shoes at airport security, some good news and a little bad news ahead. We'll explain. You are watching AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning is right here on CNN.
S. O'BRIEN: Microsoft has a new pitch man for its new version of Windows, it is coming up at the top of the hour. Carrie Lee's minding your business this morning. Hey Carrie.
CARRIE LEE: Hey Soledad. We're talking about Lebron James of course of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Microsoft is using the NBA star as a pitchman. He's going to star in some commercials to help unveil Windows Vista, this is the new program that's coming out next week. The consumer release of Windows Vista. And Microsoft apparently is happy with him, they say that they are talking about future projects with the star. Now they're not revealing how much they're paying Lebron James, who just turned 22 last month, by the way. But he already has endorsement contracts worth more than $150 million. Now Lebron James said publicly last year that one of his goals was to be the richest man in the world. Well, maybe now he can get some tips from Bill Gates, who of course founded Microsoft some years ago. Bill Gates by far currently holds that title. That's the latest from here. The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING begins right now.
M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Carrie. The state of the union, President Bush now reaching out to Democrats, pitching plans for Iraq, health care and energy.
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