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AMERICAN MORNING

Reid Calls Iraq War Lost; Alec Baldwin Rants to His Daughter; New Heat on Alberto Gonzalez; Eighth Anniversary of Columbine Tragedy; Mourning at Virginia Tech

Aired April 20, 2007 - 07:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALBERTO GONZALES: I do not recall, I don't recall, I don't recall, I made the decision.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: New heat on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales this morning. Even Republicans fanning the flames.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe the best way to put this behind us is with your resignation.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: President Bush standing by his man, but there's concern at the White House on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Good morning, once again to you, it is Friday, thank goodness. It's been a tough week for many, April 20th, I'm Kiran Chetry in New York.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: It has been a tough week, Kiran. And I don't think though that the weekend is going to really solve that for a lot of people, but good that it's finally here at any rate. I'm John Roberts in Washington this morning, thanks very much for joining us. Some of the stories that are really high on our radar today, particularly here out of Washington, Alberto Gonzales yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, how about that, going down in flames according to some inside White House officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. White House Spokesman Dana Perino is going to be joining us a little bit later on this hour. Kiran, don't know how long he is left for the job, but he has some real problems now.

CHETRY: Maybe we'll hear from her as well about some of the comments, some response about Harry Reid's comments, the senate majority leader, about Iraq being a losing proposition right now.

ROBERTS: She's all prepared for that.

CHETRY: Good, and also today is actually Columbine, the anniversary of Columbine before what went on Monday it was the worst school shooting in our nation's history and there's a big concern about copy cat crimes and why young people are so fascinated with Columbine. Because even in this instant, the killer Monday at Virginia Tech mentioned and I believe called Dylan and Eric martyrs.

ROBERTS: Yeah, can you imagine that, calling those people martyrs. I mean there's been dozens of copy cat threats that have been phoned in. One young kid was arrested after he tried to bring guns to school. We're also going to take a look at the deadliest cars out there on the road. There's a whole series of crash tests that have just been done. If you want to know if your car is on the list, we'll tell you. And here's the thing to keep in mind, does size really matter? You'll be surprised at what we find out.

We begin though this morning with Alberto Gonzales. The White House was looking for its attorney general to pull himself out of that nose dive in yesterday's appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, instead, he went into a death spiral, appeared to go down in flames under relentless attack from both parties over those fired U.S. attorneys.

CNN's Elaine Quijano joins us now live from the White House. Good morning to you, Elaine. Before we start off, let's play what was really I think the most devastating comment and the most devastating exchange from yesterday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing between Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and the attorney general, let's take a quick listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You said something that struck me that sometimes it just came down to these were not the right people at the right time. If I applied that standard to you, what would you say?

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY: Senator, I think what I would say -- senator what I would say is that I believe that I continue to be effective as the attorney general of the United States.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Wow, Elaine that that was a tough question to have to field and the answer wasn't necessarily the one that Republican senators were looking for coming back, either. I think all of them, to a person, were looking for something a little stronger out of the attorney general yesterday.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think that's fair to say, certainly John. And that was just one of several exchanges, combative exchanges that took place yesterday. But publicly the White House is expressing satisfaction with the attorney general's performance. Privately, though, there is of course disappointment. Now the official response here is that President Bush is pleased with the testimony by his attorney general, Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino saying that Gonzales once again showed that nothing improper occurred.

In a statement Perino said, "The attorney general has the full confidence of the president." But privately senior aides say the attorney general did not do himself any favors. One prominent Republican even comparing watching Gonzales' testimony to seeing someone club a baby seal. Now the bottom line though of course echoed by one Justice Department official who says, look, this really all hangs on one person, ultimately and that is the president himself. John?

ROBERTS: And certainly the president has a relationship with Alberto Gonzales that goes back years back to when he was on the Texas Supreme Court, he was the president's personal attorney. Regardless of what people inside the White House are saying about him crashing and burning, how far is that loyalty going to go, do you think?

QUIJANO: Well I think that's the $64,000 question now, one that everyone is asking. Certainly this is a White House that is well aware of the sentiments expressed. We had yesterday Senator Colburn in fact calling for Gonzales' resignation, adding to that growing chorus as you noted that is not just Democrats now, but also of Republicans who are calling Gonzales not fit to perform as attorney general. The question, as you put it, it really boils down to loyalty. So we'll be watching to see how this develops in the days and weeks ahead. John?

ROBERTS: It was kind of surprising that Colburn came out and said what he said, but he's a conservative Republican, conservatives have never been happy with Attorney General Gonzales, we're not seeing people like Spector or Hatcher, Cornin, coming out saying it's time to go. When they do, I imagine he's going to be leaving the White House. But was the White House concerned, disappointed that more Republicans didn't come to his defense?

QUIJANO: Yeah, I talked to a senior Bush aide this morning briefly who said, look, this was not surprising. After all, this is Washington and that's how it essentially works, but, of course, this official did not deny that there was disappointment in the building behind me as they watched and they heard the responses, in particular, to the attorney general as he testified yesterday.

ROBERTS: Let's not forget, as well, Elaine, with CBS' Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Vice President Cheney basically said, hey, it's his problem, he's on his own. Elaine Quijano at the White House for us this morning, Elaine thanks very much.

Back on the senate floor, a salvo from the Democratic Leader, Harry Reid says he told President Bush in a meeting that military force won't lead to victory in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MAJORITY LEADER: As long as we follow the president's path in Iraq, the war is lost. But there is still a chance to change course and we must change course.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So, Republicans are blasting Reid, not unexpectedly. And we talked with General Spyder Marks, U.S. Army retired, who also says Reid was completely irresponsible for those comments, undercutting morale. The backdrop on this, the war funding bill that the president insists be stripped of deadlines for bringing troops home, and of course, there's another even stiffer bill out there being floated by Russ Feingold that would set a date of March 2008 to bring the troops home or the president wouldn't have any more money to fund the war in Iraq. Kiran?

CHETRY: All right well John, thank you. And today Virginia observes an official day of mourning, it's four days after the shootings at Virginia Tech. Also, Texas, Massachusetts and West Virginia are among states also planning to observe today as a day of mourning. On the Blacksburg campus Virginia Tech alumni organized what they are calling hokey hope day, everyone asked to wear the school colors orange and maroon.

And as we said today also marks the eighth anniversary of the student attacks on Columbine High School. There are no classes at Columbine today, schools closed as it has been every April 20th since the attack. Twelve students and a teacher were killed when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (ph) opened fire at the school and then killed themselves.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Littleton, Colorado today. And as we know, it's always a tough day for Columbine, but I have to imagine this year in light of what happened at Virginia Tech, it must be even harder.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is quite a bit different and, actually, what has happened this week is what many people here have always long feared, that something like this might happen again. And many of the families who usually take this day to reflect on what happened and think about their loved ones, can't help but think about the families in Virginia who are living through an ordeal they lived through eight years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Rachel Scott was eating lunch in the cafeteria at Columbine High School on this day eight years ago when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold launched their bloody shooting rampage. Rachel was the first person killed. Her brother Craig was in the school library and watched the killer shoot two students next to him. Eight years after Columbine, Craig Scott can offer the wisdom only a survivor and witness can share.

CRAIG SCOTT, RACHEL SCOTT'S BROTHER: I dealt with a lot of anger from Columbine. I hated the two shooters for a while and I would challenge to not to continue to hold onto and embrace that anger, but take that and actually I would challenge to forgive.

LAVANDERA: To do that Craig and his father Darrell started a school program called Rachel's Challenge. They tour the country talking about school violence. This is their way of celebrating Rachel's life. But to reach this point, Darryl Scott had to deal with other emotions first. DARRELL SCOTT, RACHEL SCOTT'S FATHER: I expected Rachel to walk into the room for days. I would wake up and, within that split second remember that she's no longer here and then it was like a surreal type of a thing.

LAVANDERA: Virginia Tech families are dealing with the pain of loss in a public, high-profile way, but Craig Scott says there is good that can come from that.

C. SCOTT: It brings on some different good things, some good things are that there's a lot of people now that are aware of your pain and want to help.

LAVANDERA: Craig and Darrell Scott have found that talking about Rachel has been the best way to heal.

D. SCOTT: That's the best advice I could give. Is to celebrate the lives of the ones you lost. Because what we focus on is what we become. And if we focus on bitterness and anger, it destroys us.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: That is the advice that we've heard over and over from many of the folks who have had to deal with what happened here in Columbine. They say -- many of the folks we've talked to, not just here in the last couple days but over the last few years, they urge people to talk about it. It doesn't have to be with a reporter on camera or in public in a school setting, it could just be with family and friends. But they say that talking about it is the most important part in the healing process. Kiran?

CHETRY: All right, Ed Lavandera, thanks so much.

ROBERTS: More concern, of course, that now Virginia Tech is going to be something that could be copied in the future when it comes to copy cat crimes. Why are so many young people so fascinated by Columbine? What is it about that that keeps driving them forward, issuing threats against schools?

Plus, huge dollars needed to repair the damage this week's nor'easter caused in New Jersey. Those figures all coming up. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning is on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: The most news in the morning is here on CNN. Investigators in Houston want to know what caused an explosion and fire in two tanker trucks in a chemical depot. Firefighters used water and foam to keep it from spreading to other tanks. One worker was slightly injured in all of that, slightly burned.

In southeast Georgia, wildfires, 18 homes now destroyed. Thousands of people displaced, schools that may be in harm's way are closed for the fourth day in a row now. The fire has already scorched more than 48 square miles. And New Jersey is looking for President Bush to declare flood ravaged counties disaster areas. FEMA teams are sizing up the damage from this week's nor'easter, thought to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. These pictures are from Patterson, flood waters blamed for three deaths in New Jersey. Hundreds of people out of their homes.

(WEATHER REPORT)

CHETRY: Today marks the eighth anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting that killed 12 students and a teacher. It's been four days since the Virginia Tech tragedy and now there's evidence that the Virginia Tech shooter, Cho, was inspired by Columbine. Katherine Newman is a professor of sociology at Princeton, she's also written a book about this very topic or written about this topic in her book "Rampage, The Social Roots of School Shootings." Welcome.

KATHERINE NEWMAN, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Thank you.

CHETRY: In the video Cho did refer to quote, "Martyrs like Eric and Dylan," referring to the Columbine shooters. Do you think he planned this with the dates to coincide with the Columbine shooting?

NEWMAN: It certainly suggests that he was thinking about Columbine and he was thinking about anti-heroes and he clearly sees those two not as horrible killers but as people to be admired, and that's a terrible tragedy. He had a very twisted mind and that's how he processed it.

CHETRY: Speaking of twisted, we have some news items and we got a printout and it's an entire page of copycat threats in the four days since this happened all over the country of other people leaving notes saying, if you thought that was bad, just wait until what I'm going to do. What's going on?

NEWMAN: That has happened after every spectacular school shooting I've studied. You get people coming out of the woodwork who are seeking their own 15 minutes of fame and I'm afraid there just are enough people who are unstable out there that they will issue these kind of copycat threats. I will say that we have to treat them seriously, but most of the time they're not this kind of planned attack. This took him a long time to put together and these people are just capitalizing on moments of fame.

CHETRY: Those of us in the media, especially in the television world, do we play into his hands when tapes of his manifesto and videos are played endlessly?

NEWMAN: The media story is double edged. If the media didn't bring attention to these cases, then kids wouldn't know that this could really happen and they wouldn't come forward with information that would help all of us prevent these horrible plots, but it does cast light on it and draws attention.

CHETRY: It does, when you say double edge sword, I think that's a good way to put it. We always see a common link in this and that is in these shootings, time after time, in the spate of shootings around Columbine and now this one, the person committing these acts always claims, or feels bullied. What can we do within our schools to make sure that this doesn't continue to happen?

NEWMAN: Bullying is a serious problem. And it's true that it's a ubiquitous experience of teenage life. Most people find a way to blast past it, they grow up, they recognize it was just part of the difficulty of getting through teenage years, but some people are mentally unstable and for them it magnifies and becomes a kind of oppressive experience that they can't get past and that's the intersection of bullying and an unstable mind.

CHETRY: It is and unfortunately the worse-case scenario is what you see on Monday. Katherine Newman, a professor of sociology at Princeton and also the author of the book, "Rampage." Thanks for joining us today.

NEWMAN: My pleasure.

CHETRY: John?

ROBERTS: Thanks Kiran. So many people on the Virginia Tech campus say that things might have been different if only students had been warned in time about the first shooting, getting the word out right away. It turns out that there is a way to do it, a kind of instant 911 straight to the student. We'll show you that and whether or not it would be easy to install something like that in campuses around the country.

A list of the deadliest cars out on the road. Find out if yours is one of them. Here's something to keep in mind, size doesn't necessarily matter. Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Early this morning at Burruss Hall on the campus of Virginia Tech. The drill field right in front of Burruss Hall, there was another candlelight vigil there last night, hundreds of students coming out to pay their respects. Of course, today, a day of mourning in the state of Virginia because of the massacre on Monday.

And now, of course, people are wondering, could students have been notified more quickly about the very first shooting that took place at Virginia Tech. Now more and more people are looking to ways that that could actually be done. Call it a kind of speed dial for emergencies, warning students and employees in an instant. California's lieutenant governor is using cell phones to set up an alert system on campuses throughout his state. But as CNN's Chris Lawrence reports now from San Diego, some colleges are going a step further.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Schools are scrambling to avoid what happened at Virginia Tech, where students waited two hours for the first warning. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a threat on campus and we had no idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had no indication that there was anything going on in the morning.

LAWRENCE: But how to inform so many after the decision is made to do so. When an emergency strikes, students are everywhere. Companies like Mir3 are adapting technology to notify them online, in class, at home.

MARGI SCHMIDT, MIR3 SR. VICE PRESIDENT: You can actually hit their landline, their cell phone, SMS, their pager, anything that they have on them.

LAWRENCE: All with one key stroke.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: You have selected, I'm OK. Your response has been accepted.

LAWRENCE: At Mir3's headquarters, a technician inputs our information, but we're miles away when the warning comes through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: You have an important message, this is only a test.

LAWRENCE: OK, obviously, this was not an emergency. But if it had been, it could have told us, don't come back in the building, stay away, anything like that.

SCHMIDT: It could have, it could have actually invited you to evacuate a certain area, giving you instructions on where to go next.

LAWRENCE: Margie Schmidt says the technology was originally used by local governments and businesses, it warned Florida families before hurricane Ivan and informed employees after Katrina.

SCHMIDT: You know should we go to Houston? Should we go to some other city to be safe and set up shop?

LAWRENCE: Technicians can input anywhere from a few names to a few million.

SCHMIDT: I'm going to notify 6,000 students of a situation.

LAWRENCE: Mir3 can just send a warning or ask for a response.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: I need help, press 2.

SCHMIDT: And I can create another group of those people and actually give that group off to first responders and say these are the people right away, right now, that need help.

LAWRENCE: And in a situation like Virginia Tech, every student warned is one more out of danger. Chris Lawrence, CNN, San Diego.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Kiran, this stuff all seems like just such a no- brainer. This little blackberry that I've got right here, it's on two emergency warning systems and this is not an e-mail alert but a text alert. Fairfax County Emergency Management Services, Washington, D.C. Emergency Management Services, I've been on it for years. Don't know why schools couldn't do it.

CHETRY: Right and you're covered. And the other thing that we talked about, is at Virginia Tech, everybody had cell phones and everybody had, you know, some sort of handheld device. The other thing I was wondering about --

ROBERTS: But they don't have e-mail, portable with them. They have to physically go into their computer and do that.

CHETRY: Some people have the sidekicks, if they have the sidekicks they can get their e-mail to. But the other thing I was thinking about, was the reinforcement of the classroom doors. I mean perhaps some of the carnage could have been contained if people were able to shut and lock the classroom doors. We heard story after story of people saying that they were trying to barricade the door. In some cases they succeeded and in others they didn't.

ROBERTS: Right, and some people have actually suggested magnetic lock with card key access.

CHETRY: That's another great idea.

ROBERTS: We'll see where that all goes.

CHETRY: All right, John thanks. Right now, it is 25 past the hour and we are here with Ali Velshi right now minding our business, another record day for the Dow.

ALI VELSHI: Another record on the Dow. But this one is interesting, let's look at this, the Dow closed up just four points at the end to 12,808. But this is a perfect example of why the Dow is a little dangerous to watch sometimes. Look at the NASDAQ and the S&P 500. The S&P is much broader, the Dow is 30 stocks, the S&P is 500 stocks. Those two markets were a little lower. Now, it's not like the numbers are a big deal, it's just that the trend was the opposite. We are in earnings season. The reason that's interesting is that if you invest in stocks, if you pay no attention to them at any other time, earning season, it's the only measure you have of the health of a company. So it's worth, don't look at the earning's report, because they're thick, they're hard to look at, I have to look at them. But look at the reports about what the company is doing. Yesterday we talked bout eBay, 230 million customers and hundreds of millions with Paypal and (INAUDIBLE). Today's news will be Google. Google came out 70 percent increase in profit over the same quarter last year, 70 percent.

CHETRY: What's the deal with Google, are they still, how much a share?

VELISH: They are figuring out how to get money out of those advertising. This is where they're making it, just bought Double- Click. The interesting thing is 70 percent profit on 63 percent revenue which means they're squeezing more profit out of the money that they actually get. Almost half of their revenue comes from outside the United States now. So, look at earnings. Today we have Caterpillar, Honeywell, McDonald's, Pfizer, lots of other companies. If you own these stocks, just take a couple minutes, go on money.com and see what they said about the health of their company. It's a good investment decision.

CHETRY: So would this be the time then to make changes if things aren't looking so good?

VELSHI: Yeah, if your company says, hey, the is the end of the run for us, it doesn't get much better than this, think about changing your stocks. This is a good time to do it. It's not rash, look at it. I know you're busy, but these things are available to you on the internet.

CHETRY: Also it's spring cleaning in your portfolio, as well.

VELSHI: That's right.

CHETRY: All right Ali, thanks so much.

Well our top stories of the morning coming up next, the attorney general under fire and Senate Leader Harry Reid calls the war lost. We're going to talk with White House spokeswoman Dana Perino in just a moment on both of those.

Plus, the early roots of a gunman's rage. We're going to hear from high school classmates and others who knew Cho Seung-Hui, who remember his pain way back then.

Plus, Alec Baldwin in a rage, an angering voicemail leaked to the tabloid press and it's something that you have to hear to believe.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ALEC BALDWIN: I'm going to let you know just how I feel about what a rude little pig you really are. You are a rude, thoughtless little pig.

(END OF AUDIO CLIP)

CHETRY: All right, those are some of the comments he made to his daughter and we're going to hear what he's saying this morning, as well as what Kim Bassinger, his ex-wife, has to say about it. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning is on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Under fire and losing friends. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales fighting for his job today. President Bush standing by his man, but for how long?

Simmering trouble for a White House at war on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Good morning to you. It's Friday, April 20th on what is going to be a beautiful day here in the nation's capital. I'm John Roberts in Washington.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: I'm Kiran Chetry in New York and I was just looking at that shot of the White House. It is absolutely beautiful today and a good way to end the week that has been such a tough week for so many. Maybe a little nice weather and some time to take a breather.

ROBERTS: Finally, as you know, down there in Blacksburg it was so cold, Monday it was snowing and then very cold for the rest of the week. So it will be good to finally be able to sort of shake loose the shackles of winter and finally get out there and enjoy a little bit of spring weather.

Lots on our radar this morning. Deputy White House Press Secretary Dana Perino straight ahead to talk about the White House's reaction to Harry Reid saying the Iraq war is lost. We'll also ask her about Alberto Gonzales, the hearing yesterday in the Judiciary Committee some people described as like clubbing a baby seal, Kiran.

CHETRY: It was brutal to watch and it will be interesting it see what happens today. I'm glad you're there. Also, there's more insight that we're gaining now on the suspect, Cho Seung-Hui of the Virginia massacre. New insight from people who knew him years ago and identified certain things about him that were troublesome way back when. So we're going to talk more about that.

ROBERTS: And here's something else. If you're in a big car, you think you're probably safe right, the bigger the better. Parents like to have their kids in SUVs and things like that. Wait until you see the results of some recent crash tests as to what are the most safe vehicles on the road and which are some of the dangerous. Size in this particular case doesn't necessarily matter, Kiran.

CHETRY: It makes you think. We're following the condition of New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine who was in an SUV and sustained terrible injuries and still on ventilators.

ROBERTS: Going 91 miles an hour not wearing a seat belt, that's got to factor as well.

CHETRY: Doesn't matter how big your car is. You're not necessarily protected if you're doing that.

Also we've been getting a lot of response and the blogs are just lighting up about Alec Baldwin's angry rant, spitting mad on a voice mail. Let's listen to a snippet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALEC BALDWIN: I'm tired of playing this game with you. I'm leaving this message with you to tell you have insulted me for the last time. You have insulted me. You don't have the brains or the decency as a human being. I don't give a damn that you're 12 years old.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: You just heard it. He said I don't give a damn if you're 12 years old. He's talking to his daughter in this. This was leaked his side is claiming, by his ex-wife, Kim Bassinger and her lawyers and it just - it really does makes you feel sorry for the little girl involved in this, what's been a well publicized, really brutal and contentious custody and divorce.

ROBERTS: I mean, that's just a stunning voice message to listen to. Of course, his attorney was saying it was leaked illegally. Kim Bassinger saying that the whole thing speaks for itself. We'll get into more of that a little bit later on, interesting debate coming up on that.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at the center of a new political storm this morning. Here's what he said on the Senate floor yesterday. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D) MAJORITY LEADER: As long as we follow the president's path in Iraq, the war is lost. But there is still a chance to change course and we must change course.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Deputy White House Press Secretary Dana Perino joins me now from the north lawn of the White House. Dana, good morning. Thanks very much for joining us, really appreciate it. Let me ask you first of all, what is the White House saying about what Harry Reid said yesterday?

DANA PERINO, DEP. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SEC.: It sort of shocked my system. I had seen Harry Reid at the White House the day before, in which those sentiments were not expressed and his comments about the war being lost are in direct conflict with what commanders on the ground are saying and General Petraeus yesterday in his express opinion that we've got a lot of work to do but we're starting to see some signs of hope with the Baghdad security plan. It makes you wonder if this is his true feeling that he believes the war is lost, then is he going to have the courage of his convictions and be willing to suffer the consequences and actually de-fund the war?

ROBERTS: Let's take a look at the situation on the ground, though. You say that this so-called surge is working, that things are getting better. There are 182 people killed the other day in Baghdad, is that really getting better?

PERINO: I think that you have to take those things into consideration, of course. The violence is absolute abhorrent and you have innocent men, women and children in Iraq being attacked by a sworn enemy of the United States. That's al Qaeda. And so General Petraeus is saying that there are signs of hope in some aspects of the city, but there are very real challenges and the president is going to talk about that today.

ROBERTS: Let me ask you a little bit about Alberto Gonzales. The hearing yesterday, would you say that brutal would be an accurate way to describe it?

PERINO: I didn't have an opportunity to see the whole hearing. I've heard different varying accounts. I would think brutal might refer to Alec Baldwin's voice mail message that he left to his daughter.

The hearing they had in the Senate yesterday was a long time in coming. It is understandable that the senators had been frustrated and that had built up over time. But the attorney general once again, apologized for his earlier comments that were confusing to the Congress. He also apologized to the U.S. attorneys who were involved in the matter.

It was never the intent of the Justice Department or this administration to hurt their reputations or hurt their families and he also proved, once again, that there is no credible allegation of anything improper happening or any wrongdoing.

I think that's what -- after the heat, after the heat of the testimony yesterday and in the brighter light of day this morning, I think that people will realize that it's critically important that this Justice Department continue to move forward on aspects of fighting terrorism, fighting crime and protecting our children from predators.

ROBERTS: Dana, the closest thing that Gonzales said to a friend on the Republican side yesterday was Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. I want to play just a little bit of a sound from Senator Coburn of Oklahoma. Take a listen to this, what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM COBURN (R) OKLAHOMA: I believe you ought to suffer the consequences that these others have suffered. And I believe the best way it put this behind us is your resignation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Dana, is it time for Alberto Gonzales to go? I know that Coburn represents a wing of the party that has never really been in love with this guy. But when you've got people like that saying things like that, is it time for him to go because he's a distraction to the White House?

PERINO: The president has full confidence in Attorney General Gonzalez. They spoke yesterday after the president returned from Ohio and the president was very pleased that the testimony was finally given and that the attorney general was forthcoming and honest with the members. Obviously, there are some members who disagree and they don't want him to be the attorney general of the United States, but the president has full confidence in him.

ROBERTS: Dana, thanks very much for joining us this morning, really appreciate it. Have a good weekend.

PERINO: Bye.

ROBERTS: Bye bye. Kiran.

CHETRY: Today is a day of mourning for 32 students and teachers killed at Virginia Tech. We also want to let you know that CNN has decided not to air any further video that was sent by the killer to NBC News. But we did want to learn more about the killer's background, his hometown, his high school. Were there any signs? AMERICAN MORNING's Sean Callebs is live in Chantilly, Virginia where Cho Seung-Hui went to high school. Sean, what are you hearing from people that knew him then?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kiran, we're here in front of the high school where Cho went to school and we talked to a handful of people who saw him almost every day and the one thing that we're hearing from these people that he was just a mystery. He was a loner who didn't talk to people, this despite the fact that a lot of people reached out over the years trying to involve him in basketball games, get him involved in the science club. The one thing that people say, he was simply quiet. So people wonder, did anyone know the real Cho Seung-Hui?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CALLEBS (voice-over): This is how the world will remember him, sullen and snarling, casting a wide net and blaming those who he says pushed him over the edge.

REGAN WILDER, CLASSMATE: You have to wonder what went so wrong in his life that this was ultimately the decision he made to get revenge for whatever it was.

CALLEBS: And now Regan Wilder wonders if anyone really knew Cho Seung-Hui. They went to the same middle and high schools before moving on to Virginia Tech.

WILDER: If you ask anybody about him that graduated with him or went to school with him, he was just known as that kid that didn't speak. He never spoke. And that's how everyone remembered him.

CALLEBS: That is until now. Cho was born in South Korea in 1984. His family moved to the U.S. in 1992, eventually settling here in Centreville, Virginia, where his parents worked at a dry cleaners.

EBRAM HAKIM, CLASSMATE: Thought he was pretty normal, other than that the fact that he didn't know any English. That's why he never talked to anybody. CALLEBS: Cho was quiet, even though he was often at this local basketball court, refusing to join games. Cho did pick up a nickname walking to the bus stop each day.

JOHN WILLIAMS, CLASSMATE: We called him the trombone kid because he would walk with his trombone all alone.

CALLEBS: But there were worse names leveled by others. Cho they say was often picked on and taunted because he was such a loner.

WILLIAMS: Such a quiet, shy kid like that is such an easy target and he took it and took it and took it and built up all of that anger and whatever he felt inside and then, you know, someone like that is going to explode. It's destined to happen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: What a tough time for people associated with this high school. They simply don't like all the unwanted attention. There's also a great deal of sadness here, as well. If you look behind me, a couple of makeshift memorials on rocks. Two names painted on there. Reema Samaha and Erin Peterson, two students who also went to the school. Police say that Cho gunned those two students down on Monday, as well. Very difficult time here, Kiran. I'm sure a lot of people here are glad that CNN is not going to be airing the pictures of Cho. To them, they've seen simply too much this week.

CHETRY: Very, very true, Sean Callebs, thanks so much for that look. John?

ROBERTS: All right, thank you.

Before you back out of the driveway this morning, you're going to want to see how your car stacks up in a test of the safest and deadliest cars on the road. Here's a hint, bigger is not always better. You've got to hear this to believe it.

A venomous, vicious voice mail from actor Alec Baldwin to his 11- year-old daughter. How is he going to explain this? You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: As we head into the weekend here, it's Sanjay across America. Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is picking up where he left off last year on his fit nation tour getting people on the road to good health. He's in Atlanta now. The fit nation express fuelled up and ready to go. Good morning to you, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. The fit nation express Airstream. We have decided to take the message to the road, John. We talked a lot about obesity and obesity-related problems. Sixty six percent of the nation of adults are overweight and it's related to just about every chronic disease out there.

John, the thing about it for us was, as much as we talked about it on television, we actually wanted to do something about it, so we're taking the message to the road and getting off the television screens for a little while and actually going into communities and seeing how we might be able to cause some positive change and get communities to actually jump on board this fit nation message and try to implement some programs in their communities. The bottom line is, we think that this is a fixable problem. As much as we talk about it, the good news is that it's fixable. How do we do it? We're hoping this message helps get that out there, John.

ROBERTS: Sanjay, that is one sweet ride that you've got there. What's inside?

GUPTA: Inside we got all kind of things, basically, to hand out. We're going to be traveling all around the country of things that we can hand out to people and visit us and we're going to start off here at Centennial Park. Take a look, we got the SUV that's going to pull it around the nation and obviously the trailer itself. We're going to do little seminars from the trailer, hand out goodies, hand out things to help people get fit.

ROBERTS: So you have been talking, because of the release of your book, as well, in the last couple of weeks really, about how you can extend your life through exercise, through better diet, through healthier living. Give us some kind of idea of the benefits of people staying fit here.

GUPTA: There's lots of definite benefits that we talk about quite a bit. One of the things we're going to really focus on for the purposes of this fit nation tour is based on a new study that came out of Harvard basically looking at this idea that for every 60 minutes, every hour that you exercise, you can actually add two hours of life later on. One hour now, two hours later on.

What we want to do now as part of this whole message and this whole project is to add a million hours of life to everyone here in the United States, one million hours of life across the country. We're going to have a counter. You can go to cnn.com/fitnation. You can pledge how many hours of exercise you think you can reasonably do and we want to get that number up to a million. John, Kiran, I hope you guys will pledge as well.

ROBERTS: Where are you going it be going, Sanjay by the way?

GUPTA: We have all kind of cities here. We're obviously going to start in Atlanta at Centennial Park which is just over there. My buddy, my partner for this program, Lance Armstrong is going to be joining me. We're going to start off there, talking about some of the specific projects here in Atlanta. From there we're going to go to New Orleans.

There's an African-American population that specifically we're going to address some of the issues of obesity in some of those populations. Denver, San Diego has a rock 'n' roll marathon. We're going to end up in Chicago at the taste of Chicago. All of these are freestanding events that we're going to partner with to get people interested in fit nation specifically John. ROBERTS: All right, looking forward to it. Thanks very much, Sanjay, good to see you this week by the way down there at Virginia Tech.

GUPTA: Thank you John.

ROBERTS: Kiran?

CHETRY: I also have to find out from Sanjay what qualifies as exercise, does running after a 15-month-old count or not?

ROBERTS: Sanjay?

GUPTA: Let me tell you something, Kiran, absolutely. My wife, we have a 22-month-old and a nine-week old. That absolutely counts as exercise and actually, it was really interesting. There's this web counter revolution health actually takes all kinds of daily activities and will give you how many calories you're burning and I think certainly running after a 15-month-old is on there, as well, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right and John walking and having to commute back and forth from New York to D.C. counts, too, so you can write that down.

ROBERTS: You know what works even better Kiran is if you put the child on the treadmill and you chase the child on the treadmill.

CHETRY: Very true. Thanks to both of you.

Coming up, we have some top stories. There's a new safety report out. It rates what cars are safest on the road. Your chances of surviving high-speed crashes. Does it matter which cars you're in? We're going to talk more about that.

Also Alec Baldwin like you've never heard him before. Cursing, threatening, wait until you hear more of the phone conversation and voice mail, actually, that he left for his young daughter. We'll talk more about that, but the fallout and the response from both sides. Stay with us this morning on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Well, our cars are actually getting safer. There are new numbers on crash deaths that show a steep drop in just the past decade. AMERICAN MORNING's Greg Hunter looks at what makes some vehicles safer than others.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I'm at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's crash test facilities and one reason why death rates have gone down is because manufacturers have made cars better. A good example, the Ford F-150 pickup. The 2001 Ford F-150 pickup was one of the worst performers in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash test. Look at the way the cab folds on impact. Compared that to the redesigned 2004 model where the cab stays intact. ANNE McCARTT, SR. VP, RESEARCH, IIHS: When we looked at driver death rates, what we saw was the newer F-150 had a death rate half of the older model.

HUNTER: What an improvement.

McCARTT: It's a dramatic improvement. This is a much safer vehicle now.

HUNTER: The Institute compiles statistic on driver death rates from more than 200 vehicles between the years 2001 and 2004, the latest data available, ranking the best and worst, according to class and size. Smaller cars had generally higher death rates, but some cars did much better than others in the same category. The Mini Cooper had one-third the fatalities of the Acura RSX. Does it have something to do with quality?

McCARTT: Quality is definitely an important factor.

HUNTER: Large, heavy vehicles tend to have the lowest death rate and SUVs, which have a tendency to roll over are getting safer mainly because of electronic stability control. Even in SUVs without electronic stability control, the death rates vary widely. Take for example older models of the Honda Pilot. It had six time fewer driver deaths than the Chevy Blazer. Aren't some of these vehicles that have low death rates just built better?

McCARTT: They are built better. They are built and what I mean by built better is they're built so that they do a very good job of protecting occupants in the event of a crash.

HUNTER: A General Motors spokesman criticized the study for not explaining such details as who drives the car and driver behavior. A Honda spokesman told CNN the lower rated Acura RSX tends to appeal to younger, less experienced drivers. Ford criticized the study, saying it fails to take into account some of the most critical factors related to fatality rates, including seat belt usage, alcohol consumption and driving experience. The insurance institute says those factors remain similar across categories of vehicles, making comparisons legitimate. The insurance institute says when a vehicle does well in its crash test, it will likely protect you well in a real world accident.

For example, look at this brand of minivan. It tested well in the crash test. You can see the driver's compartment stayed intact as opposed to this brand of minivan. The driver's compartment didn't stay intact. It crushed in. It did badly in their crash test. It also does badly in a real world accident, as well. If you'd like to find out how your vehicle did concerning driver deaths, click on cnn.com for a complete list.

Greg Hunter, CNN, Rutgersville, Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: A lot of good info there from Greg. So thanks for that. President Bush is backing him, but otherwise Alberto Gonzales' fan club is shrinking fast. Just ahead, the latest on his increasingly tenuous tenure as attorney general.

Also Alec Baldwin with a shocking voice mail for his young daughter. We're going to play the entire tape for you. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: If you thought that the war between Alec Baldwin and Kim Bassinger was already plenty ugly, wait until you hear this latest development. A voice mail was leaked. Tmz.com has got it and Baldwin lets loose not on his ex, but on his 11-year-old daughter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEC BALDWIN: I'm tired of playing this game with you. I'm leaving this message with you to tell you have insulted me for the last time. You have insulted me. You don't have the brains or the decency as a human being. I don't give a *** that you're 12 years old or 11 years old or that you're a child or that mother is a thoughtless pain in the *** who doesn't care about what you do as far as I'm concerned. You have humiliated me for the last time with this phone (INAUDIBLE).

You would never dream of doing to your mother and you do it to me constantly and over and over again. I am going to get on a plane or I'm going to come just for the day and I'm going to straighten your *** out when I see you. Do you understand me? I'm going to really make sure you get it. I'm going to get on a plane. I'm going to turn around and I'm going to come home. You better be ready, Friday the 20th, to meet with me so I'm going to let you know just how I feel about what a rude, little pig you really are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: That almost leaves you breathless just listening to it. Baldwin's attorneys say that the voice mail was illegally leaked. That's their comeback to all of that, Kiran.

CHETRY: And it's interesting because the blogs are just lighting up about it back and forth and there are a lot of different opinions --

ROBERTS: Even White House spokesperson Dana Perino described this morning, this wasn't an official response but she said it was brutal.

CHETRY: It almost sounds like a parity. It would be like Will Ferrell making a joke, an extreme of what an extreme person would sound like. It's unbelievable. Coming up, we're going to be speaking to the managing editor of tmz.com Harvey Levin. He's going to tell us how they got the tape and a little bit more.

But meantime, just before the hour now, Ali Velshi is here to tell us more. He's "Minding your Business" this morning.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah and this is one of those episodes (ph), I'm going to tell you something you already know. Gas prices are high, $2.86 a gallon right now for self-serve unleaded. That's a national average. That's up 30 cents from where it was one month ago, just $2.50 a gallon. None of those are low prices, but it is have an effect.

A CNN Opinion Research poll released this morning indicates that two-thirds of Americans feel that gas prices are creating hardship for their families. When you break down that two-thirds, the 66 percent, 19 percent think that it is creating severe hardship for their families, 47 percent say moderate hardship. Again, this is not news you need to get from me. Gas prices are high and it is hurting people. Time to start conserving. It's spring. Gas prices are only going to get higher right now. I'll have more in the next hour, but right now, the next hour of AMERICAN MORNING begins.

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