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AMERICAN MORNING

Democratic Debate: United Front; Edwards Campaign Strategy; Iraq Showdown: President Promises Veto

Aired April 27, 2007 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): The candidates.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wanted to establish my clearest position on Iraq.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have more experience than anybody in this race.

ROBERTS: The analysis.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Even though they did not attack each other, there was one big target in this debate.

ROBERTS: Who scored and who stumbled in the Democrats' first debate -- on this AMERICAN MORNING.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: And good morning to you. It's Friday April the 27th.

I'm John Roberts in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., as we kick off a Friday.

Nothing sounds better than that word, "Friday," does it?

CHETRY: Oh, you're absolutely right.

I'm Kiran Chetry here in New York. We have a lot of stories on our radar this morning.

One is the great bee mystery. Hundreds of thousands, millions of honeybees vanishing. There is a new theory that's all the buzz right now. And also, why we should care so much.

Also, if you could prevent your unborn baby from getting cancer, would you do it? We have a medical and ethical debate raging right now about so-called designer babies, and we're going to talk to an ethnist coming up in a few minutes.

ROBERTS: The kiss that could get Richard Gere arrested and put in jail. It was a stolen kiss in Bollywood. There it is.

He talked about it late last night on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart. We'll show you what he said coming up -- Kiran. CHETRY: All right.

Well, it was short on fireworks, but the first debate of the 2008 presidential campaign is noteworthy for how much the eight Democrats actually agreed on at least one issue. That was Iraq.

Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley is live in Columbia, South Carolina, where that debate took place.

Hi, Candy.

CROWLEY: Hey, Kiran.

You're right, this was a debate where the major candidates, at any rate, agreed on the broad strokes, if not the details. This was basically a no runs, no hits, no errors debate. Everyone going into this debate in the same position that they come out of it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice over): No blood spilled in this first of umpteen presidential debates. You had to listen hard for the low-impact jabs.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton and anyone else who voted for this war has to search themselves and decide whether they believe they voted the right way.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I've said many times that if I knew then what I now know, I would not have voted that way.

CROWLEY: Fresh off a vote to authorize more spending in Iraq with a deadline to bring troops home, nearly all agreed the president should sign the bill, except for the most anti-war lawmaker in the group.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because every time you vote to fund the war, you're reauthorizing the war all over again.

CROWLEY: Questions ran the gamut from Iraq to abortion, from health care to what they would do if two U.S. cities were attacked by al Qaeda.

CLINTON: I think a president must move as swifty as is prudent to retaliate.

CROWLEY: Answers differed in the details, but not the broad strokes, so it was a largely cordial gathering.

Much of the heat came from the second tier trying to puncture the rarefied atmosphere around the frontrunners.

RICHARDSON: I think the American people want candor. They don't want blow-dried candidates with perfection. CROWLEY: As interesting moments go, the hands-down winner was the little known former senator from Alaska who more than once shook up the stage.

MIKE GRAVEL (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Barack, who do you want to nuke?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not planning to nuke -- I'm not planning to nuke anybody right now, Mike. I promise you.

GRAVEL: Good. Good, we're safe.

CROWLEY: In the end, no faux pas, no unretrievable errors. The eight Democrats running for president cleared their first debate pretty much unscathed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: And Kiran, it is a political truism that frontrunners are always the target, but it was not true in this debate. The target here was George W. Bush -- Kiran.

CHETRY: And Candy, will Mike Gravel and some of the, as they're called, lower-tier candidates be at all of these debates, or does this start to weed out to some of the frontrunners as we move along?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, it goes from debate to debate. Some debates are now talking about, well, they might have some sort of criteria. Would you -- do you have to fit a certain number in the polls? It really is up to whoever sponsors the debates. But you will see all these candidates in more debates than not.

CHETRY: All right. So we'll see if Mike Gravel throws the flames once again.

Candy, thanks so much.

CROWLEY: Sure.

ROBERTS: With Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama the current frontrunners in the Democratic race, what is the campaign strategy for the man who is in third in most polls, Senator John Edwards?

Kate Michelman is a senior adviser for the Edwards' campaign. She joins us this morning.

We were just talking off camera a little bit about what you thought of the debate and what you thought of Mike Gravel. What did you tell me?

KATE MICHELMAN, SR. ADVISER, EDWARDS CAMPAIGN: I thought he was -- he jazzed the debate up a bit. You know? You never know what to expect from him, and so he gave it a little life, you know. A little unpredictable, he is.

ROBERTS: He was quite a surprise.

MICHELMAN: He was.

ROBERTS: The debate was very important for the candidate that you're advising.

MICHELMAN: Yes.

ROBERTS: He won South Carolina in 2004. He's still running third in the polls there. He's got to win something in the primary if he hopes to keep going.

What did he to last night, and did he do it?

MICHELMAN: I think what he needed to do is what he's been doing state by state in Iowa, in New Hampshire, South Carolina. He is talking about his vision for America, his need -- his plan to, you know, restore the moral leadership of America, to address some of the most critical issues before us -- the war, the extraordinary number of people in poverty, working class Americans, low-wage jobs.

ROBERTS: Because he's got...

MICHELMAN: And I thought what he did, John, was exactly what he needed to do, was to really communicate from his heart, from his values and from his mind what he intends to do very specifically.

ROBERTS: He's got to -- he's got to move that meter, though, Kate. Did he do that last night?

MICHELMAN: Yes, he -- well, what he needed to do was to really, you know, in a national forum for the first time, speak broadly to the American public about what he plans to do. And I thought he did that very well.

I thought -- you know, he wasn't -- he wasn't over-programmed and over-prepared. He just spoke from his heart and, you know, he's the one candidate, John, that I think has very deliberate, well-thought out plans to address poverty, to address health care, to address disease, to address the real issue of fighting terrorism, rather than a mismanaged, misplaced war.

ROBERTS: He also had to address last night, though, the $400 hair cut that he paid for with campaign funds. You're an adviser to a presidential candidate.

MICHELMAN: Yes.

ROBERTS: You've got to be tearing your hair out, saying why is he talking about a $400 haircut at a debate? How did we get to this place?

MICHELMAN: Well, he was asked the question, first of all. And look, that was a very misunderstood little blip on the screen here. The campaign did not pay for that haircut. He did.

ROBERTS: Well, he reimbursed the campaign.

MICHELMAN: He reimbursed the campaign. But it was a mistake that it was even charged.

Look, John Edwards has devoted his life to addressing the structural impediments to people having equal opportunity, dignity, and that's what matters. You know, people who -- who focus on things like that are just -- you know, it's silly. It's silly.

What John Edwards is going to do is to make a difference in the -- in the lives of all women, men and children in this country. He has a plan for doing so -- health care, fighting poverty, and not just in this country, but in the world.

ROBERTS: But, you know, when you're going to be a presidential candidate, you've got to keep in the back of the mind appearances.

MICHELMAN: Well, of course.

ROBERTS: One word for him, barber.

Kate, we've got to run, but thanks very much. Really appreciate it.

MICHELMAN: All right. You're welcome. Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks so much.

And this morning we've already heard from a lot of the candidates. John talked with Governor Bill Richardson earlier on AMERICAN MORNING about his desire to get the troops out of Iraq this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARDSON: This is a civil war right now. This is a sectarian conflict right now. And what I believe the problem is, our troops, who have done a magnificent job, have become targets. And if we leave, we take away the terrorist propaganda tool that we are there in a situation where we are causing, I believe, a lot of attacks on our own people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: I also spoke to Senator Joe Biden, who explained his plan to end sectarian violence boy splitting up Iraq into three or more parts.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: There's never been a time when there's been this cycle of self-sustaining sectarian violence that it's ever ended, other than separating the parties, giving them breathing room within a country that's loosely knit together. That's the only answer. We should get about it, and I'm glad my Democratic colleagues are coming around to my idea now. I hope the president does shortly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Also a reminder that CNN will be bringing you debates from the first battleground state of New Hampshire. That's taking place on Sunday June 3rd and Monday -- well, it would have to be June 4th -- John.

ROBERTS: President Bush has got his veto pen sharpened up, ready to go. He is now awaiting that $124 billion war funding bill that the Senate passed yesterday, but it still includes a timeline for troop withdrawal from Iraq, and the president has promised that he's going to veto any bill that's got any kind of a timeline in it.

CNN's Elaine Quijano joins us now live from the White House.

And Elaine, when is the president expected to get this bill? I take it not today, because he's on his way to Camp David.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not today. We're looking at perhaps early next week. And how soon would he veto it? We're told it will be soon after.

Still working out details. Have not heard specifics on what they are planning to do. But as you know, the White House continues to adamantly oppose any idea of a timetable or time frame for a troop withdrawal, saying that amounts to a surrender date. At the same time, the White House is also asking for patience, patience for the so-called Baghdad surge led by General David Petraeus to work.

Let's take a listen now, John, what counselor to the president, Dan Bartlett, told you on AMERICAN MORNING a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN BARTLETT, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: And I think whatever misgivings the American people have about where we are in the war in Iraq, I don't think they want 535 politicians in Washington to replace the judgment of our top commanders and diplomats on the ground. And when General David Petraeus came to Washington and made a very blunt assessment about the fact that he hasn't received all the reinforcements, that if we were to pull out, sectarian violence would go way up, that al Qaeda is the public enemy number one.

You didn't hear any of that last night from the presidential candidates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: And Dan Bartlett, of course, referring to the Democratic debate last night.

Now, as Americans watch this play out, officials here at the White House continue to make the case that even though it is President Bush who will ultimately decide to wield his veto power, that in the end they believe Americans will hold Democrats responsible for this impasse over war funding -- John.

ROBERTS: Which it seems, Elaine, is one of the reasons why they're pulling out the al Qaeda card again. I mean, no question al Qaeda is resurgent in Diyala province, giving the Americans real problems. There was that incident with the 82nd Airborne earlier this week.

But are they going back to an old strategy here that they know has been a proven one for them in the past?

QUIJANO: Well, certainly al Qaeda, they know, is something that they try to remind people about, the threat they believe exists if the United States were to pull out of Iraq. You heard President Bush say this time and time again, and we heard officials say it privately, as well, that, look, if, in fact, these U.S. forces leave behind an Iraq that is chaotic, that the al Qaeda forces will come together and eventually make their way here. It's something that we've heard President Bush say time and time again.

Of course, his critics take great exception to that. Nonetheless, that is what we are hearing from this White House at this point in the debate -- John.

ROBERTS: All right. We'll see where it goes next week when the president gets the bill.

Elaine, thanks for braving the rain to come out and talk with us. It sound like it's pouring out there.

QUIJANO: Cats and dogs, yes.

ROBERTS: Yes. All right. Thanks -- Kiran.

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Fifteen minutes after the hour now.

You saw with Elaine Quijano at the White House it's pouring here in Washington, and more extreme weather further to the North and East. Chad Myers at the extreme weather center.

(WEATHER REPORT)

CHETRY: So, you're ready to have a baby, you have a strong family history of breast cancer? What do you do? Two couples in Britain are now hoping to screen their embryos for ones that do not have the cancer gene, creating so-called designer babies. It has advantages, of course, but there are also growing ethical questions, as well.

Dr. Robert Klitzman is a bioethicist at Columbia University School of Public Health. He's actually writing a book on this subject.

Thanks for joining me today, Doctor.

DR. ROBERT KLITZMAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: My pleasure.

CHETRY: First of all, let's get to the how. How would this work?

KLITZMAN: Basically, you take a sperm, you take an egg, you put them together and fertilize them. And the cell, the egg goes to -- from one cell to two, to four to eight cells. At the eight-cell stage, you can remove one of the cells and you can diagnose, you can look at the genes, and you can say, oh, yes, this has the gene for breast cancer, or it has the gene potentially at some point for depression, or for cystic fibrosis, or this embryo will lead to Down Syndrome.

So, if you have several eggs, you can say -- let's say you have six eggs that are fertilized. You can say, well, these three we'll implant, these three we won't. So you can select for things or against things.

CHETRY: So the way it's working in Britain right now is that you actually have to ask the government if it's OK to do this, and then they do it on a case-by-case basis?

KLITZMAN: That's correct.

CHETRY: What about here in the U.S.?

KLITZMAN: Here in the U.S. it's a bit different, because we've let the market rule things. So, at this point, there are several thousand people who have undergone this procedure, which is called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, or PGD, and there are, in this country, people who have been doing this already, screening for cancers, for a number of different diseases -- Huntington's Disease.

CHETRY: So, this does allows you to, in some cases, really circumvent what could be a lifetime of pain for a family if they have a child who eventually gets something as devastating as cystic fibrosis, which is genetic.

KLITZMAN: Right.

CHETRY: At the same time, let's say there's three eggs that turn out with -- I mean, three embryos that turn out all to be fine. You can also go about picking the sex or other things, because that's determined, as well.

So, how do you prevent against, I guess, the slippery slope, as they call it?

KLITZMAN: Well, it's a major problem. And it's an issue that I think we need to give more discussion to in this country, we need to air the issues literally and figuratively. We need to decide what kind of a society we want.

Part of the problem is that it costs about $20,000 for each cycle of PGD each time you do this. And at the moment, insurance companies don't always pay for it, and there's a question, should Medicaid, for instance, pay for this? Should insurance companies pay for it? And should we draw lines?

CHETRY: So you have a wealthy family who can afford to make sure their children are disease free, and you have poor people that can't.

KLITZMAN: Exactly right. And do we want to be in a society where ultimately wealthy people will potentially not have genes for depression, alcoholism?

CHETRY: Right.

KLITZMAN: They will have the intelligence gene, and everyone else will have those genes.

CHETRY: And the other troubling thing is, what happens to the fertilized eggs, the embryos that do carry these genes? There is a chance that they would grow into people that would not get cancer, as well.

KLITZMAN: That is right. You mean the ones we don't implant?

CHETRY: Right.

KLITZMAN: Right. Right. And, of course, there is a whole unpredictability about genes.

So, we -- there's a lot of things we don't know. There are potential risks to the child down the line. There are potential risks to the mother. And there's also the question, who should decide?

Should it be up to doctors? What if a doctor is -- say, yes, I'm going to make money off this, I want to do it, or a doctor says, you know, I have moral concerns, I'm not going to offer this to patients? What kind of counseling should we give to patients is an issue. And if a doctor doesn't offer this to a patient and the baby ends up having breast cancer, could the family sue the doctor down the line and say, you didn't offer this to me and now my child is sick?

CHETRY: Right. So the science is a little bit ahead of the ethical debate around it in this case.

KLITZMAN: Exactly right.

CHETRY: Thanks for shining some light on it for us today.

Dr. Robert Klitzman, bioethicist at Columbia University.

We appreciate it.

KLITZMAN: Thank you. My pleasure.

CHETRY: John.

ROBERTS: It happens very often that the science gets way out in front of the ethics.

So, you've decided not to wait out this rocky real estate market, but maybe put some work into your house instead. How much do you know -- or how do you know how much renovating to do? Will it pay off?

And, oh, deer. Some unexpected visitors wander into a retirement home. The chaotic results ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

The most news in the morning is on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING and another installment of animals in strange places.

Two deer waltzed into a retirement home in New Oxford, Pennsylvania. That's near Gettysburg. The automatic doors opened right up to allow the deers to get in.

They ran down the halls. One of them smashed through a window. The other one eventually herded out the door.

CHETRY: OK. So those ones were OK? Because sometimes it's not pretty, the results, when those poor deer smash through windows.

ROBERTS: I think the deer were all right.

CHETRY: OK.

ROBERTS: And even if they weren't, I don't think the owners of the home cared much if they're smashing windows.

CHETRY: Well, their deer babies cared.

ROBERTS: Yes, that's right.

CHETRY: All right.

Well, if you've decided to renovate, you want to -- rather than sell -- it's kind of an uncertain time in the market -- you want to maybe just make your own house a little bit better. How do you decide how much money you should put into that?

CNN's personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, is here to tell us about a magic number for renovations.

Your magic number is, never put in more than 20 percent of the value of your home. That's the max. Why that number?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: That is the max. And it makes a lot of sense.

Let's look at an example here. Let's say you have a $300,000 home, and you're going to spend 20 percent. Well, that would be about $60,000. That's the ceiling on what you would spend, but Kiran, that's really just the starting point. You have got to think about this logically.

OK, if I have the most expensive house in the neighborhood, I probably don't even want to spend 20 percent. The last thing you want to do is be the white elephant in the neighborhood. But if you have a very inexpensive house that is maybe under-renovated in the neighborhood, maybe everybody else has two bathrooms, you only have one, hey, it's time to put some dough in that house. It's all about the house you own and what it's like compared to other houses in the neighborhood.

And, of course, right now you've got to be thinking, the market is going down. How much am I investing in what is really a declining asset, and how much will I pay for that money? Right now, getting a home equity line of credit, it's not expensive. Interest rates are almost at 8 percent for just a (INAUDIBLE).

That's going to stop a lot of people in their tracks, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. So you better factor in the 20 percent, including how much it's going to take you to get out the loan and the interest you have to pay on it, because all of that adds up as well.

WILLIS: It all adds up. And it's really a lot of money at the end of the day.

CHETRY: Now, what -- I guess what parts of the home, what different rooms are the ones that get you the most bang for your buck when you're talking about resale?

WILLIS: Well, you know, typically it's been kitchen and bath, but, you know, there's a lot of maintenance projects that are having really good returns right now. The top improvement project in the country right now, siding. Go figure. And it's probably about improving the energy efficiency of the home.

But let's talk about some of the changes out there that are going on, because tastes are changing, people are starting to say, hey, you know, that professional grade kitchen that costs so much money, stainless steel everywhere, it's kind of going out of fashion. Take a look at this here.

This is not what kitchens are going to look like in another 10 years. If you want to have the hot kitchen that you can sell your home and people will look at it and say, wow, that looks so fresh and new, you probably want warm kitchen cabinets, wood, a lot of wood, even wooden on your refrigerator.

CHETRY: Wow.

WILLIS: That's what people are starting to do now, cover the refrigerator in wood, as well. Big is out. If you have to put on skates to get around your kitchen, forget about it, you don't want to do that anymore. You want to make sure that you have rooms that are encompassing warm, niche. That's what people are talking about, not bigger, better.

McMansions are on their way out.

CHETRY: Uh-oh. You're de-expressing people that just went through kitchen renovations that put a lot of the stainless in there.

WILLIS: Probably. I'm expecting e-mail.

CHETRY: Gerri, thanks so much.

And we want to remind people, you can catch Gerri on "OPEN HOUSE". It's on Saturday mornings, 9:30 Eastern Time, right here on CNN.

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: It's Friday, April 27th, I'm John Roberts in Washington, D.C. Good morning, welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.

CHETRY: I'm Kiran Chetry here in New York. We have a lot of stories on our radar this morning. George Tenet firing back against the White House, particularly over the slam dunk comment we heard that used a lot when they talked about the justification for the war in Iraq and it has Tenet steaming mad. He says his reputation has been destroyed after the White House and many in it use that as the talking points. He felt he was really the scapegoat.

ROBERTS: Hopping mad about that. What would happen if you went out to your apiary and you found all the bees were gone? Bees endangered, they're disappearing apparently by the millions. A new theory on why that's happening coming up.

CHETRY: Just how far reaching the effects are to us if that were to happen.

Also, the kiss that could get Richard Gere arrested. There it is. He did that at a press conference in India, it did not go over very well at all. In fact, an arrest warrant issued. We're going to hear from him this morning about it.

ROBERTS: Life in Bollywood a little different than Hollywood.

Eight Democratic candidates took the stage last night in the first debate of the 2008 election. Who hit a homerun, who missed the pitch, whose substance cut through the most? For a little analysis of the proceedings, I'm joined by Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and our own senior political correspondent Candy Crowley back with us again from Columbia, South Carolina. Let me start with you, Donna. Who did the best job of articulating their policy do you think? Whose substance cut through last night or did any? DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I thought Senator Clinton. I mean given the format and the fact that you had less than 90 seconds to respond, Senator Clinton was able to get out her message in very nice sound bites, as well as answer some very important questions that voters still have about her own experience. When Brian Williams asked her about terrorism and what her response would be to another terrorist strike. She came across presidential, she was thorough, she was detailed, I thought she did the best job.

ROBERTS: Candy Crowley, what about Barack Obama on that same topic of terrorism. A couple columnists this morning said that he had a bit of a Michael Dukakis moment when asked how he would respond to a terrorist attack, didn't say that he would go after the terrorists and had to actually double back to that.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He did. The first answer was very long and had a lot of caveats in it, I'd have to see who it came from which the questionnaire had already taken care of. And went through a very long list of ifs ands or buts before it occurred to him, I think, you could almost see it click in that he hadn't actually answered the question, that for Democrats is a very important question. What would you do if the U.S. is attacked? So he did come around but it wasn't until he gave about a 35, 40-second answer that wasn't really an answer.

ROBERTS: Donna Brazile, what about on Iraq? Hillary pretty much supports the Democratic policy, which is now going up to the president probably next week. Joe Biden would like to create three semi autonomous states inside Iraq, Bill Richardson wants to get all of the troops out beginning now. Whose policy resonates most with voters do you think?

BRAZILE: Look, I thought Joe Biden did himself a world of good by first of all giving a very short answer to whether or not he's going to filibuster this presidential season. But on the overall, I think the Democrats in general talked about how it's time for a change. It's time to transition our mission. They're all very clear about where we should go from here and while Dennis Kucinich and perhaps Mike Gravel wanted to really force the debate on this conversation, the other candidates maintained their positions.

ROBERTS: What about former Senator Mike Gravel from Alaska. I mean a lot of people looked at the debate last night and said, who is this guy? Let me play a little bit of sound from the debate last night because he certainly, if anything, added a lot of color to it. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE GRAVEL, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe, I'll include you, too. You have a certain arrogance. Who the hell are we going to nuke? Tell me, Barack, who are you going to nuke?

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not planning to nuke anybody right now.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: You know, Candy, Kate Michelman who was one of John Edwards' chief advisers was in and said, hey, at least he spiced up an otherwise dull proceeding. But the candidates themselves weren't too happy that he was there, were they?

CROWLEY: You know, because it cut down on their air time. One of the things that we heard John Edwards explain, he was talking about his health care proposal. He's already said look, I want to raise taxes to pay for universal health care and he was trying to get that out, and he said but you know this debate format doesn't give me enough time. We haven't talked about details here. So, anybody that cut into their time, they had a problem with and, obviously, there was some talk about Mike Gravel being there in the spin room last night because they thought, you know well he soaked up some time that a lot of them felt they didn't have enough of.

ROBERTS: Right. Donna, these lower tier candidates, people like Dodd, like Richardson, like Biden, they're looking for a punch-through moment at some of these debates. Maybe this was just the first one out of the gate, get used to being in the same room as everybody else. Did any of them have one of those moments that could gain them a little bit of momentum so that they could jump out of that second tier into the top tier?

BRAZILE: I thought they used their time wisely. Governor Richardson used his time to talk about his experience, to remind voters that he's a governor, that he's been a congress person, he's been a cabinet secretary, he has diplomatic skills. I also thought that Chris Dodd who did himself some good talking about his experience and the fact that he comes from a long line of public servants. But you know, let me just tell you, we all have crazy uncles and Mike Gravel was, in my judgment, I know some of my friends will disagree. He provided not just color and spice, but also he kept them honest and pointed out to Barack, he said are you going to nuke them? And of course Senator Obama had an opportunity to say, no, not right now. But I thought it was important to have him in the debate, as well as Kucinich. At some point down the road, this field will whittle out and we won't see Mike Gravel, we may not see Dennis Kucinich, we may not see, who knows. But at least for now let's have this debate, let's talk about the future.

ROBERTS: Quickly Candy, what's the consensus among you and your fellow journalists of who looked most presidential last night?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, I think you see mixed reviews from the papers today and it's the same thing I heard last night and I think part of that is a reflection of the debate where everybody did their getting to know you. I mean this was their first debate of the largest audience that most of them have seen for some time, if at all. So, what they wanted to do was portray, as Donna said, Bill Richardson wanted to talk about his background, Dennis Kucinich wanted to talk about his issue, the war. Mike Gravel wanted to move this field to the left. So I think they all did what they intended to do as they walked in, which was to introduce themselves to the public at large. ROBERTS: All right, we'll get them back on stage again, June 3rd from New Hampshire in our first CNN debate followed on June 5th by our first Republican debate. Donna Brazile, Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

Reminder, again, we're going to be in New Hampshire for those debates and we hope that you join us for those because we promise that they're going to be rollicking affairs. Kiran?

CHETRY: All right, thanks so much John.

Former CIA director George Tenet speaking out criticizing the White House for using his slam dunk comment against him. Tenet says it was just a passing comment made well after the decision to go to war was made. He says he was really talking about information that could be used to make the case that the CIA thought Saddam Hussein had WMD. When WMD was not found in Iraq months later, Tenet says his slam dunk comment was leaked and taken out of context. He told CBS' "60 Minutes" that ruined his reputation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE TENET, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I remember picking up the phone and calling Andy Card, who is a terrific human being and somebody I've always trusted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president's chief of staff at the time.

TENET: The president's chief of staff. Called Andy I said, you know, I believed that he had weapons of mass destruction and now what's happened here is you've gone out and made me look stupid. It's the most despicable thing I've ever heard in my life. Men of honor don't do this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Men of honor don't do this?

TENET: You don't do this, you don't throw people overboard. You don't do this. You don't call somebody in. You work your heart out, you show up every day, you're going to throw somebody overboard just because it's a deflection. Is that honorable? It's not honorable to me. Ok, that's how I feel. How it happened and who orchestrated it and what happened, you know, at the end of the day, the only thing you have is trust and honor in this world. That's all you have. All you have is your reputation built on trust and your personal honor. When you don't have that any more, well you know, there you go. Trust was broken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Between you and the White House?

TENET: You bet.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Tenet will join Larry King on Monday. It will be his first live interview about his new book.

Also ahead, heavy rain and severe flooding in the northeast. Chad Myers will have more on the severe weather threat.

Plus, where are all the bees, honeybees disappearing at an alarming rate. We're going to hear what researchers are now saying could be the reason behind it. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning, its here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: We hear so much from so many different people about what life is like in Iraq. So what is it really like? Three Iraqi students are trying to show the world what it is to be every day living in a war zone. CNN's Jacki Schechner has a look at their video blog for us. Interesting stuff that you have here.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Pretty much so. It's a new online show called "Hometown Baghdad", I'm going to let this play while we talk about it. It's three 20 something students, their names are Adel, Sayif and Al Sama, and they take their handheld cameras and they show you what it's like to go to dinner, they play in a pool, in an abandoned house. They talk about their girlfriends. But this is all done in the shadow of war. One of them, Adel was talking about how he was going to meet somebody to study for an exam but he couldn't. Here he tells you why. Take a listen. He says it's better to just stay home and wait, he can't actually go outside. Now this is being done in conjunction with a New York production company called "Chat the Planet." They have an Iraqi crew and these guys take their handheld cameras out and they shoot between classes and the 8:00 p.m. curfew. There's no night life obviously, they have to be in at 8:00 p.m. and then this is all put together. These are up Monday, Wednesday and Friday on hometownbaghdad.com. They're about two minutes apiece. They're also cross posted on Youtube and it really gives you some insight on what it's like to be a young student living in Baghdad.

ROBERTS: You know what's most impressive about this is that they are managing to live some semblance of a life in the middle of this war zone and you can hear just from the background noise how dangerous it really is out there.

SCHECHNER: Well that's what surprised me when I was going through some of these because it shows some normalcy inside a restaurant, what they're eating, how they're spending time together, and then you watch this and he goes out into the street and shows you what it's like. There's a hidden camera inside a bag and he walks around. So it's being put together professionally in New York. They've got the crew that's putting this together. But it really gives you some poignant insight into what it's really like to be out there on the street.

ROBERTS: Walking around with a hidden camera, because if you walk around openly with a camera, you make yourself target, no question about that.

SCHECHNER: Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to checking that out, Jacki thanks, good tip.

(WEATHER REPORT)

CHETRY: Well there is a crisis going on right now in the bee world. And we're not kidding. Honeybees disappearing by the millions, they are the ones that help pollinate the flowers of the foods that we eat every day. So what is causing the bees to vanish?

Joining me now from his bee colony in Texas, the president of the American Honey Producers Association, Mark Brady. Thanks so much for being with us and I think we also have a shot of some of the bees there in one of the hives, there it is, at one of the colonies. Mark thanks for being with us.

MARK BRADY, AMERICAN HONEY PRODUCERS ASSN.: You're welcome, thank you.

CHETRY: First of all, explain just how important bees are when it comes to our food chain.

BRADY: One of the things that everybody needs to know is that approximately 30 percent of our food supply comes from food that's pollinated by honeybees. This particular 30 percent is one of the most important parts of our diet because of fruits, vegetables and nuts, which are pollinated by the bees. So, these bees are really essential to a good diet for U.S. consumers.

CHETRY: Here in the U.S. right now it's called the phenomenon known as the colony collapse disorder that's wiping out bees. What is that?

BRADY: The colony collapse disorder is just a name that was put on here in the fall as a lot of beekeepers, particularly up and down the east coast began to lose colonies. They went out to check their hives early spring, a lot of the bees had died during the winter and so the colony collapse disorder was a name that was devised for this problem. We're not really sure what it is. There are numerous scientists, bee scientists and labs that are working on this problem and, matter of fact, we just had a meeting in Washington, D.C., with USDA. A lot of researchers there brainstorming, trying to figure out what's going on.

CHETRY: They say they've gotten closer to seeing whether one of these theories is true and that's whether the single cell parasite, a fungus is affecting the population. What do you think?

BRADY: That's a possibility. And, like I've told everybody else, we don't really know what it is, to be honest with you. I can show you here a nice, healthy frame of bees and brood, these bees are in really nice shape. They've been in California, they've come back to Texas here and we're preparing them to make a honey crop this summer. Some of the beekeepers over the U.S. have lost a tremendous amount of colonies, some others have just had normal losses during the winter. It could be a pesticide, we're really concerned about some of the new BT type chemicals that are being put in crops. Bees work corn, sunflowers, alfalfa, many different types of crops. And they bring in pollen. This pollen and nectar is stored up inside the hive and if some of that pesticide is present and the bees consume it, we're not sure if possibly some of these low doses of chemicals are causing some of the problem.

CHETRY: Hopefully they will be able to. They realize it's a problem and you have some of the top scientists looking into it. Hopefully they'll be able to find the answers because they are vital to our food supply. Mark Brady, president of the American Honey Producers Association out of Liberty, Texas this morning, thanks.

BRADY: Thank you.

ROBERTS: "CNN NEWSROOM" is just minutes away now. Tony Harris at the CNN Center in Atlanta with a look at what's ahead. What do you have coming up Tony?

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey John, good Friday to you, we have these stories on the NEWSROOM rundown for you this morning. A fiery day in Georgia, thick smoke and high flames fanned by strong winds. Hundreds of people have been evacuated and part of a highway closed.

A law and order mayor cleared in court, Jackson, Mississippi jurors hear why Frank Melton went after a duplex with a sledge hammer. Those stories and more. Betty joins me at the top of the hour right here in "the NEWSROOM" on CNN. Good Friday to you, John.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to it, thanks very much.

Coming up, Hugh Grant in a heap of trouble, again. Baked beans, the paparazzi and he was arrested for losing it this time. We'll explain.

Plus, the smooch that could send Richard Gere to the slammer. Hear what he's saying about it. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back. There is a lot going on in the entertainment world today. Richard Gere's criminal kiss and Hugh Grant's criminal beans. CNN's Brooke Anderson joins us now. Hugh Grant throwing the Tupperware, what happened now?

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Can you believe it, Hugh Grant arrested for an incident involving a photographer and a can of, well, really it looked like a Tupperware container of baked beans, wasn't even a can. But a photographer said that he was trying to get a good -- here it is, here's the picture. You see him almost about to launch those baked beans, but a photographer said he was trying to get a good shot of Hugh near the actor's home and that Hugh just turned on him. Threw the baked beans, at some point he said that he kicked him. The photographer has been quoted as saying he will press charges. Hugh arrested, taken in, questioned, released on bail, due back next week for a hearing.

CHETRY: Wow. So if it was a can, I could understand, but Tupperware, was the guy hurt? ANDERSON: I don't think he was hurt. More like offended. What was Hugh doing with baked beans anyway? Is that just a snack he carries around?

CHETRY: Maybe he's on a high-fiber diet.

ANDERSON: Maybe so.

CHETRY: Now, the other big news was Richard Gere of course, the kiss that was seen around the world, let's put it that way. He's in a bit of trouble now.

ANDERSON: Big trouble, big trouble. And he actually spoke publicly about it for the first time last night on "The Daily Show," why don't we take a listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART: You kissed an actress at an AIDS benefit on the cheek and gave her a hug and now there's an arrest warrant.

RICHARD GERE, ACTOR: I did. There is for her and for me. She's -- we were talking about this before, but there is a very small right wing, very conservative political party --

STEWART: We're talking about India.

GERE: In India.

STEWART: I didn't know what you were talking about.

GERE: And they are the moral police in India and they do this kind of thing quite often.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Oh leave it to Jon Stewart to make a crack like that. But you know in India public displays of affection are extremely taboo. An arrest warrant issued for Gere of course, also for this actress, Shilpa Shetty. Now she has defended Gere and has said that he apologized to her, but some people are embarrassed in India about this whole thing.

CHETRY: She looked embarrassed. She looked like, get me out of here.

ANDERSON: She looked embarrassed, she did. You know she was caught off guard. She just kind of went with the flow, what are you going to do? But the former attorney general in India has said that this makes them look ridiculous, the order is unsustainable, magistrate should not act like Taliban moral police. So, there you have it.

CHETRY: He's not going to India for (INAUDIBLE).

ANDERSON: Right, so he's safe, he's in a different jurisdiction, but if convicted of these obscenity charges face the possibility of three months behind bars, a fine, both, can you imagine? Different culture, different beliefs. A lot of people were offended.

CHETRY: All right, Brooke Anderson, thanks for filling us in. Crazy entertainment world.

Here's a quick look at what "CNN's NEWSROOM" is working on for the top of the hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS (voice-over): See these stories in the "CNN NEWSROOM", eight debate. Democrats face off in the first forum of the 2008 presidential campaign.

A bartender beating update. A Chicago police officer may learn today if he'll be indicted in the attack.

An admissions dean admissioned. She says she fudged her resume to get a prestigious university post.

And not retiring at all, two deer charge into a retirement home. "NEWSROOM", top of the hour right here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: That's all on AMERICAN MORNING. Kiran see you back here bright and early on Monday.

CHETRY: I'll be here, 6:00 a.m. eastern. Meantime, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Tony Harris and Betty Nguyen starts right now.

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