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AMERICAN MORNING

Democratic Debate; GOP Battle: Romney Compares McCain Tactics to Nixon Era; Baghdad Bloodshed; Interview with George Clooney; Dem Debate Dial Test: What Did Voters Like?; Politics and Celebrities: Stars Come Out to Watch Debate

Aired February 1, 2008 - 06:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thanks very much for being with us on this Friday, the very first day of February. I'm John Roberts outside the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. A whole lot to talk about this morning. Good morning, Kiran.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. I'm Kiran Chetry here in New York. Those tickets last night to watch Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama debate were the hottest ones in town. And, in fact, a packed crowd yesterday at a relatively tame exchange of ideas.

ROBERTS: Yes, it was certainly a different type of tone than we saw a week before in Myrtle Beach. They were accentuating the positive last night, trying to differentiate themselves on policy, and there's really not that much that separates them. And, Kiran, a star- studded event last night. I ran into Leonardo DiCaprio, Isaiah Washington, who we showed a picture of there, Quentin Tarantino, a lot of other stars were here. It was quite an interesting night. It was one of the most anticipated primary debates ever.

Senators Clinton and Obama going one-on-one. Either way, history is going to be made on this ticket with the first black or woman presidential nominee. It was pandemonium outside of the Kodak Theatre, almost like a big Hollywood premiere. Inside, though, you didn't get the fireworks that we got outside, as you see a whole lot of Obama supporters crowding this plaza area where we are this morning.

The voters did get a whole lot on the issues, though, and the candidates did take aim at a surging Republican frontrunner, John McCain. Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, has got the highlights for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mr. and Mrs. Nice showed up on stage in Los Angeles where it seemed they came not to bury but to praise each other.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was friends with Hillary Clinton before we started this campaign. I will be friends with Hillary Clinton after this campaign is over.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The differences between Barack and I pale in comparison to the differences that we have with the Republicans.

CROWLEY: Getting real, it was their last debate before the critical contest Super Tuesday, so they did launch missiles. Particularly on the subject of Iraq, she played her experience card.

CLINTON: It will be important, however, that our nominee be able to present both a reasoned argument against continuing our presence in Iraq, and the necessary credentials and gravitas for commander in chief.

CROWLEY: But after she tried to explain her yes vote on the Iraq war, Obama went after her with a reminder that he opposed the war from the start.

OBAMA: Senator Clinton, I think, fairly has claimed that she's got the experience on day one, and part of the argument that I'm making in this campaign is that it is important to be right on day one.

CROWLEY: He suggested she was AWOL on putting together an immigration bill. She shot back that she worked on immigration before he got to the Senate. She said his health care bill was inadequate because it didn't cover everybody. He said hers was unworkable because you can't force people to buy health care insurance. Still, both campaigns had clearly decided that five days before Super Tuesday was a time to put the best foot forward, making for a high stakes, low volume evening.

WOLF BLITZER, DEBATE MODERATOR: Senator Clinton, that's a clear swipe at you.

CLINTON: Really?

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: I wouldn't call it a swipe.

CLINTON: We're having such a good time. Yes, we are. We're having a wonderful time.

OBAMA: Yes, absolutely.

CROWLEY: They debated in the Kodak Theatre where they give out the Oscars for Best Actor and Best Actress. Candy Crowley, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Well, they took the focus off of each other, but they did take more shots at the other side. Senator Clinton criticized President Bush over the economy and Senator Obama went after the GOP frontrunner, Senator John McCain, for supporting the Bush tax cuts for the rich. A lot more coming your way here from Hollywood this morning including a couple of very familiar undecided voters who we talked to -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes, we know them as stars. A little bit we know they're undecided voters as well. You mentioned the GOP --

ROBERTS: There you go.

CHETRY: You mentioned the GOP candidates, and there was some back and forth between them as well. Mitt Romney firing back at Republican rival John McCain. Romney accusing McCain of adopting what he called the type of underhanded tactics that former President Richard Nixon would have used. Romney made this comparison after Senator McCain accused him of supporting timetables for troop withdrawals from Iraq. The former Massachusetts governor said he's actually against troop withdrawals but supports timetables and milestones for Iraq as a whole. He's accusing Senator McCain of taking his words out of context.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That he questioned about this he could have raised it anytime between April and now. But to raise it outside of a debate and to do it in a way with, you know, blast it out to people in Florida was something reminiscent of the Nixon era, and I don't think I want to see our party go back to that kind of campaigning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: A senior McCain adviser shrugged off Romney's comparison saying, "When you get into a hole of the size he finds himself in, it's not surprising to see him lashing out."

Don't expect to see New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's name on the ballot in November. Yesterday, he flatly denied a presidential run.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: I have said repeatedly I am not a candidate, and I'll stay that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Despite the repeated denials, this summer, his aides began gauging support for an independent bid. This week, though, Bloomberg lost his biggest supporter. That was Arnold Schwarzenegger who was backing John McCain.

A reminder to stay with AMERICAN MORNING for the "Most Politics in the Morning" as we head into Super Duper Tuesday. The Republicans battle in 21 states for 1,020 delegates. It takes 1,191 to be the nominee. And the Democrats will compete in 23 contests across the country. 1,681 delegates up for grabs. 2,025 is the magic number for the Democrats to clinch the nomination.

And our coverage continues here later this hour. Dr. Sanjay Gupta with a look at the Democrats' health care plan.

Also, on our 7:00 hour, more from Candy Crowley and CNN's John King, part of the best political team on television -- John.

ROBERTS: Breaking news this morning. A carnage in Baghdad. Police say suicide bombers killed more than 60 people and wounded more than 100. And the attackers, we understand, were women. Our Arwa Damon is live in Baghdad for us with the very latest this morning. Good morning, Arwa. Not a great day there in Baghdad.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, John, it's really not. This is so incredibly tragic, especially after the period of relative calm that the capital has been enjoying. That shattered this morning. Twin attacks, as you just mentioned, both of them suicide bombings, both of them carried out by women, striking both outdoor pet markets. The deadliest coming in about 10:30 in the morning where a female suicide bomber detonated her explosives and killed at least 46 people. Shortly thereafter, about half an hour later, another suicide bomber. Again, a female killing at least 18 individuals.

Rescue workers did try to rush to the site. Individuals were carted off to Iraqi hospitals. Tragically, though, the death toll has been on the rise ever since we initially reported it this morning. These are scenes that are all too familiar to Iraqis who were amongst some beginning to hope that perhaps the worst of the violence was behind them. But this morning's attacks really shattering those hopes, especially as Iraqis are right now being faced with these suicide bombings carried out by females, an indication of the insurgency's continues ability to morph and continue to carry out these devastating strikes, John.

ROBERTS: Arwa Damon for us in Baghdad this morning with the bad news. Arwa, thanks. And now, let's go back to New York, and here's Kiran.

CHETRY: John, thanks.

Stock markets closed up Thursday. January, though, turned out to be a pretty brutal month on Wall Street at 7:00 past the hour. Ali Velshi is here "Minding Your Business." I forgot what you look like in person.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Good to be back.

CHETRY: It's nice to see you. So you traveled the entire country.

VELSHI: And halfway back. And then back in Chicago, we were there for the Fed rate cut. You'd think these kind of things would make markets do a lot better.

CHETRY: Right.

VELSHI: Well, I'll tell you. Yesterday, we did have a good day on the market. Take a look at what the Dow did yesterday. We're very thankful for small gifts, 207 points higher on the Dow. The Nasdaq had a strong day, 40 points higher. The S&P, 22. But, boy, look at this month. Take a look at how this month looks. If you pull up your 401k and it looks rough, at least you're not alone. The Dow lost 4.6 percent in January. The Nasdaq down 9.9 percent. That's the biggest loss on record for the Nasdaq. The biggest loss since the Nasdaq started in the medieval times. The S&P 500 down 6.1 percent. So really, really rough.

One of the things when I was on the road just before I got into the Election Express, I had a conversation with the CEO of YRC Worldwide, formerly known as Yellow Trucking. It's the biggest trucking company in North America. And the truckers see a recession before anybody else does because they see everything that's getting shipped to the stores and they know exactly how much isn't getting shipped.

The CEO of the company, Bill Zollars, told a reporter the other day that he thinks they've hit the bottom in the low of shipments. They just don't know how long it will be there.

CHETRY: Yes.

VELSHI: Truckers are usually the first ones to see when you emerge from a recession. So we'll be watching the trucking and transportation companies very carefully to see when they start to tick up, and that will tell us whether we're, you know, coming out of this or not.

CHETRY: So what was it exactly about this week, though? I mean, we did get a Fed cut again.

VELSHI: We did get a Fed cut. Yes, this market is so dodgy right now that it's hard to know why it will go up or down on a given day. Now, you're into people who are trading, who are betting that it's not going to go lower. You know, this is not the kind of stuff that the average investor is going to be able to make sense of. That the best thing to do here is make sure you do have your money in very different pools, and perhaps keep some money available in cash so that when markets start to move up, you got something to put into it.

CHETRY: I got you. All right. Well, let's talk about this. Maybe, you know, with all the market woes, the little bright spot as you can take your mind off of it with the Super Bowl.

VELSHI: Absolutely.

CHETRY: Of course, the big game coming up this Sunday. And the NFL pulling a plug on some of those big screen Super Bowl gatherings that you usually see on Sunday. Well, churches across the country have been told that showing the game on large screen TVs violates the leagues' federal copyright protection. The NFL bans public exhibitions of its games on TV sets or screens larger than 55 inches. Churches say they like to use these events to reach out to new members. Sports bars, of course, in case you're wondering, are exempt from that copyright provision.

VELSHI: They should just let people watch it.

CHETRY: Bars are, churches not.

VELSHI: Yes.

CHETRY: I know exactly. Well, you're watching the "Most News in the Morning." And George Clooney never shy about his political views. The actor says he's throwing his support behind Barack Obama, but he says you'll never see him on the campaign trail. We're going to find out why. I talked with him one-on-one yesterday. We're going to hear more on that coming up.

We're also following extreme weather. A winter storm warning in effect for Chicago right now. There is more snow, sleet and strong winds expected. I know you see a run-down -- canceled, canceled, canceled. A lot of trouble in the skies because of the weather. We're following it all for you with our forecast coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: We are following extreme weather in the Midwest. The winter storm warning in effect for northern Illinois and northwest Indiana. Forecasters say snow, ice and strong winds are expected to slam the region. The nasty weather caused problems on the roads in Oklahoma. One person was killed after her SUV skidded into a tree. An Interstate 35 was shut down after a tractor trailer jackknifed on slick roads. That same system left some 600 flights canceled at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Meteorologists there say the snow totals so far this winter is 30 inches. That's about eight more than normal.

CNN meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is tracking your extreme weather this morning. He joins us now live at St. Louis, Missouri. And Reynolds, you're talking about more snow on the way?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Locally, it's going to get better. But you can see that system move a little bit more to the east affecting places like New York, moving into parts of Pennsylvania. We're going to talk about that in just a few moments. But, as it stands, as you mentioned, I'm here in St. Louis. You can see the arch right behind me that was built back in the 1960s. A little bit here, over a little bit more over to my right, you see the basilica of St. Louis, which at one time was a log church 200 years ago. Now, of course, it's this beautiful cathedral.

And now, way over here, you can see the roads. I'm going to run over here. Just follow along with me if you can. There you go. Roads are actually in pretty decent shape. We've seen all kinds of salt trucks. Missouri Department of Transportations. Perfect timing, too, because you can look even farther.

Across the street, you see just a convoy of them coming through. Got to really take your hat off to those folks because they've been up around the clock nonstop, John and Kiran. They've been putting up the salt and moving that snow out of the way, and their work is still -- hey, it's going to really keep them busy, no doubt through a good part of the morning. Right now, the Missouri Department of Transportation is telling people that if you don't want to get out of the roadways, by all means don't. We've got many, many school closings across the area. That is going to be pretty much the situation for today. But things are going to get better as we make our way into the nighttime hours until tomorrow.

Your forecast as we go to that very quickly, take a look at the radar. You can see most of that precipitation getting to moving off. Much of it now in the form of snow. But right across the Mississippi River, you can see it's now starting to move a bit northward to Chicago, places like Notre Dame, out of the south of Indiana. And some of that come again as ice in parts of Pennsylvania, too. Now, as we continue along, you're going to shift a little bit more to the south where you're going to see not only just some precipitation but heavy, heavy rain, even some strong thunderstorms in parts of south Georgia moving into the panhandle as well.

How is this going to affect you? Well, friend and neighbors, if you plan on going to any of the New York airports, you're going to have a wait -- anywhere to an hour or so. Same story in Atlanta out of Hartsville, Jackson, Chicago, due to the snow. Same story. There are going to be a lot of impatient people out there. And, John, the number one reason why is because of all this beautiful nice powder. It's funny. So pretty but it causes so many problems. Back to you, John.

ROBERTS: And it certainly does. Tell me, Reynolds, with the storm system moving east, my Kiran will finally get the snow that she has been longing for, for so long.

WOLF: It certainly is possible. I would say that maybe in the mix as we get a bit closer into the weekend. Maybe Saturday afternoon. Maybe even into Sunday.

ROBERTS: All right. Reynolds, thanks very much. Reynolds Wolf for us this morning in St. Louis.

WOLF: You bet.

ROBERTS: There you go, Kiran. Maybe some snow this weekend.

CHETRY: If it doesn't -- if we don't -- well, we're already 75 years since we didn't have snow in January. We'll see what happens for February in New York City.

Turning to politics now, it was pretty fitting. Last night's Democratic presidential debate was at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. A bunch of A-list celebrities in the audience watching. But Oscar- winning actor, George Clooney, was not in the audience. He was in New York actually, talking about his new role as United Nation's messenger of peace, and bringing attention to the crisis in Darfur.

I had to chance to sit down with the actor yesterday at the United Nations. Well, we took a break from discussing his new diplomatic job. He weighed in on the presidential campaign. Clooney says he's supporting Barack Obama because he's such an inspiration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: He has been, for me -- you know, there are few people in my lifetime that I've heard speak that made me want to get up and do something. Mario Cuomo in 1988, when he spoke. Obviously, Bobby Kennedy. U was very young for John Kennedy, but he is one of those people that inspires you. It's not knocking any of the other candidates. He's just one that really truly inspires me. But I don't want to hurt anybody by saying that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Clooney went on to say that his Hollywood image may Barack Obama's campaign, and that's why he's not out there stumping for the senator. Coming up at 6:40, we're going to have more of my interview with George Clooney. His new role as a U.N. peace envoy and why he says it is so important for more people to be aware of what is going on in Darfur.

Also, if you think that the voters thought the Republican candidates were, well, maybe back and forth, maybe a little bit too much fighting, what do they think of the Democrats last night? We're going to show you their instant reactions from the dial test coming up.

And word of new evidence in the Natalee Holloway mystery. How did someone get on tape? We're going to talk more about that as well?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Well, it's time now for today's "Hot Shot." And this one comes from our affiliate care in Minneapolis. Just how cold is it in Minneapolis? Well, how about this? It's enough to freeze a 54-foot- high waterfall. This is the Minnehaha Waterfall completely frozen. Minneapolis dealing with sub zero temperatures for days, and that's what happened. Last night's windchill in the northern part of Minnesota -- no joke, 40 to 50 degrees below zero. Beautiful shot, though.

And if you have a "Hot Shot," send it to us. Our Web site, CNN.com/am. Scroll down the page, and click on the "Hot Shot" link. See. You haven't had to be there, John. How about it? Negative 40 below with the windchill in Minnesota.

ROBERTS: There you go. And as you were saying earlier in the weekend, Regina, minus 60. That's just unbelievable. I have family who used to live there. Can you imagine?

CHETRY: Super Bowl weather.

ROBERTS: What did voters think -- exactly. What did voters think of last night's Obama-Clinton debate? We gave a group of voters dials to get live reaction from them during the debate. We might remember we did yesterday with the Republicans. They turned the dial when they liked something. They turn it one way or turn it the other way if they didn't. The higher the line goes on the screen there, the more they liked it. The lower it goes, the less they liked it.

Joining me now with the results of this dial test at the Democratic debate is Chris Lawrence. So, where you getting the same kind of swings and reaction as we saw with the Republican debate the other night?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not at all. They didn't move the dial at the Republican debate. Neither of these candidates really turned off our voters. They didn't exactly light a fire under them either. But these dial tests are so fascinating because you're getting a raw reaction from the voters. Before all those Washington insiders tell them who won or lost, they're telling us exactly what they thought.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The candidates declared a cease-fire in their civil war, and our undecided Democrats responded.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just by looking at us, you can tell, we are not more of the same. We will change our country.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Right.

LAWRENCE: There were a few mild attacks, but Barack Obama nosedived when he criticized Hillary Clinton's health care plan.

OBAMA: Hillary says that she's got enough subsidies. Well, we priced out both our plan and Senator Hillary Clinton's plan and some of the subsidies are not going to be sufficient.

LAWRENCE: And what he calls her flip-flops of giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

OBAMA: Senator Clinton gave a number of different answers over the course of six weeks on this issue, and that did appear political. Now, at this point, she's got a clear position.

LAWRENCE: But voters liked his leadership style, when he talked about being a president not afraid to accept help.

OBAMA: Part of what I'd like to do is restore a sense of what is possible in government, and that means having people of the -- of the greatest excellence and competence. It means people with integrity, it means people with independence, who are willing to say no to me. So that, you know, no more yes-men or women in the White House, and because I'm not going to right on every single issue.

LAWRENCE: Clinton was asked, why can't you say you made a mistake voting to authorize the Iraq war? She kind of avoided a direct answer. Voters were unimpressed.

CLINTON: I think that you try to figure out how to move bad actors in a direction that you prefer in order to avoid more dire consequences. LAWRENCE: Dial testers preferred a more direct answer.

OBAMA: We should not have had this government installed in the first place. We shouldn't have invaded in the first place.

LAWRENCE: Clinton got some of her highest marks when she took pot shots at the Republicans.

CLINTON: And you know, it did take a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush, and I think it might take another one to clean up after the second Bush.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: President Bush factored into both the Democratic and the Republican debates in very different ways. It was fascinating watching these undecided Democrats one night after our undecided Republicans because Mitt Romney went off the charts when he praised President Bush. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama got some of their highest marks when they criticized the president.

ROBERTS: It shows you it's all the prison that you're looking at is true.

LAWRENCE: Exactly.

ROBERTS: And it's interesting that we didn't see the dramatic peaks and valleys that we did from the Republican debate dial test. But the numbers were fairly consistently high, which is an indication that people for the most part like what they were hearing.

LAWRENCE: That's right. We didn't see them dip down into the 20s, like we did at times during the Republican debate. But they didn't hit as many of the real high peaks, the 90s, where people were really energized and connected.

ROBERTS: Yes. Well, the debate wasn't quite as dynamic, shall we say, the other night.

LAWRENCE: Very civil.

ROBERTS: All right.

LAWRENCE: Very civil.

ROBERTS: Thanks very much. Chris Lawrence this morning.

Hey, at every stop along our tour of the battlegrounds, we have been talking to undecided voters about the issues that matter to them and exactly what they are looking for to help them make up their minds about who to vote for. There are plenty of undecided voters here in California ahead of Super Tuesday. But when you are in Hollywood, the undecideds might be just a little more familiar than they are in other places.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROBERTS (on camera): What brought you here tonight? Why did you want to see this?

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE, ACTRESS: Because I need to see them both, and I need to kind of assess the situation. I think that there's a lot of us out there who are kind of vacillating in terms of 60-40 a lot in my own mind. And I really just need to see them both.

JASON ALEXANDER, ACTOR: I think it's going to be one of those things where you walk into the booth and at the last moment, your heart and your head are going to have to -- you know, because I almost feel like there's a split. Emotionally, I kind of back Obama. Intellectually, I kind of back Hillary Clinton, and I don't know which one is going to win out.

ROBERTS: Either way, it's a transformational election.

ALEXANDER: It absolutely is. It's so exciting, and I don't usually come to things like this, and it's just a thrill. It's been -- I can't remember when I've been thrilled by politics in a very long time. This is just thrilling.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Interesting observations from Jason Alexander there who, of course, was George Costanza on "Seinfeld." His heart is with Obama, but his head sort of says Hillary Clinton. And, Kiran, he also said he's been having trouble making up his mind because none of the candidates have offered him money yet. But when they do, maybe that will help him make up his mind.

CHETRY: I'm sure he's just teasing. But, you know, a lot of people feel that way. I mean, that's why the audience was packed like that. This is really going to be such a once-in-a-lifetime election, and they want to be there for it with the front row seats.

ROBERTS: Yes. Definitely transformational on the Democratic side, and I think a lot of people recognize the importance of that this year.

CHETRY: Well, you know, something else that, of course, is going to capture one's attention is this Sunday. It's the Super Bowl, and it is a big deal as well. The New England Patriots still undefeated versus the underdogs, the New York Giants. And the Pats have been perfect so far this season, 16-0 in the regular season. The Giants have been on fire in the last few weeks. Patriots, by the way, still favored by 12 points. But could we see a Giant upset?

It brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question. Which team do you think is going to win the Super Bowl? Cast your vote, CNN.com/am. We'll have a tally coming up a little later in the hour.

So, did the debate last night change anyone's mind? IT was the last chance to see the Democratic candidates together before the big Super Duper Tuesday battle. We're analyzing the debate's impact with the editor in chief of politico.com coming up. Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, messenger of peace. Candid talk from George Clooney on his new role with the United Nations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: So far, it's meant sleeping in tents and ditches which isn't what I thought it meant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Hollywood's coolest character on lights outside the bright lights.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLOONEY: It's not fun to watch and it's not pretty, and it's not entertaining.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Four of my one-on-one with George ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: It's the arc in St. Louis Missouri and boy, the snow to go along with it. 22 degrees out there. Feels like 9 degrees though, and they got a bunch of snow. They have 5 to 7 inches overnight. Brings up a total of about 6 to 10 inches they say by this morning. And its forced public school systems to cancel all classes, activities, and sporting events last night as well.

There's no snow in there but it certainly makes for a pretty shot on this Friday morning. Thanks so much for being with us. It is Friday. I'm Kiran Chetry here in New York. John is out in L.A. the morning after the big debate last night. It seemed to be, you know, pretty civil, actually.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Certainly, it was. A marked difference from the way that it was in Myrtle Beach. A star-studded event last night, crowded house here at the Kodak Theater. A very, very hot ticket. A historic showdown here on CNN last night between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Unlike the last debate, though, as you mentioned, no infighting between the two Democrats even when moderator Wolf Blitzer gave them an opening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What I hear you saying and correct me if I'm wrong is that you were naive in trusting President Bush?

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, that's not what you hear me saying. Good try, Wolf. Good try. BLITZER: Was she naive, Senator Obama?

CLINTON: Well -- you asked the question to me. I -- you know, I deserve to answer.

BLITZER: All right. I thought you weren't going to...

CLINTON: No, I think that, you know, that is a good try, Wolf.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: We're just four days now left until Super Tuesday, what impact will this debate have? Joining me now is John Harris. He is the editor-in-chief of politico.com. As we said that the tone markedly different from Myrtle Beach. I mean, right off of the top. Barack Obama dropped the F-bomb -- he called her "friend".

JOHN HARRIS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, POLITICO.COM: That was live TV.

ROBERTS: I joke here. But there was a conscious effort to stay positive last night.

HARRIS: No question about it. I think what the candidates realize going in that strategy is that going negative is too dangerous. It can mix up a race and sometimes if you've got no choice, you would go negative. I think both candidates thought, look, they've got things breaking their way or hoping that they've got things breaking their way and then it's easier to lift the tone, trying to get a -- or lift the moment with just four days to go until Super Tuesday, or five, something like that.

ROBERTS: They are very close on policy. They did try to highlight the differences and it's really shades of gray here. Very small nuances. But did they do enough last night to differentiate their style of leadership, which is what a lot of Democrats here in California want to hear.

HARRIS: Clearly, that is. I think you're exactly right. That is the big difference. It's stylistic and also generational with many Obama voters being younger. You're quite right in your opening. It was not fight night. We, in the press, do tend to like when the candidates throw mud pies and there is really sharp exchanges. They thought that it wasn't in their interest, even though they've done it in the past.

I do think, for all of that, you could see stylistic differences. Hillary Clinton, a lot of times, was in command of the conversation. This plays to her format. She got good factual command. She's done a lot of these debates. She seems to be thriving on them. Barack Obama's style is a little more understated. So he didn't often control the dialogue, but I think that style to his supporters is very appealing.

ROBERTS: The sharpest exchange last night was over Hillary Clinton's support for the original authorization for the use of military force in Iraq. Let's listen to how it went down last night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think everybody the day after that vote was taken understood this was a vote potentially to go to war. Senator Clinton, I think fairly, has claimed that she's got the experience on day one. And part of the argument that I'm making in this campaign is, that it is important to be right on day one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So the argument, John, that he was making there, that you need to be right on day one -- is that an effective counter to what's perceived as his lack of experience comparatively speaking?

HARRIS: Well, I think the Iraq war to me, John, when this race started than a year ago now that these two sides really started to engage. We all thought that it was going to be the decisive issue. You know - voters, the Democratic voters, very anti-war, would they penalize Hillary Clinton for originally voting to authorize the war. What we found out is that she successfully navigated that issue.

So to the extent that there are voters who say, look, I just don't want to go with Hillary because of her war vote. I think those people made their decision long ago. What Obama was doing last night is those voters -- he was reminding them, look -- you know, I was against the war. I've got better judgment. This primary does not seem to be a war primary. It is, as you say, it's a style of leadership primary.

ROBERTS: Right and it certainly, the economy -- a big issue too. One of the big applause lines of the night was when Hillary Clinton brought up the Bush administration. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: You know, it did take a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush and I think it might take another one to clean up after the second Bush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So she's saying that hers will be a White House like her husband's that will restore order in the administration. But is she, like Barack Obama accuses her, building a bridge back to the 20th century? As opposed to looking forward.

HARRIS: Look, she can't get around the fact that she's been a national figure like her husband for 16 years now. So she's got somehow turn that into an asset. I'd say with that line, at least with this crowd here in the Kodak Theater, that was a great line. They loved it. And you know, when I said that Hillary was in command of the debate a lot of the time -- that was one of the examples I had.

She took advantage of that opportunity. She got a great response. Just kind of the luck of the coin. There was a commercial break right after that. So Obama didn't really get to get back in. So she had that moment and she kind of rode that wave pretty effectively I thought.

ROBERTS: She just let it sit there with the audience and the viewers and very enthusiastic support on both sides.

HARRIS: Right.

ROBERTS: John Harris, this morning. Thanks very much. Hope you catch your flight this morning.

HARRIS: Great show, John.

ROBERTS: I hope we get you up early...

HARRIS: (INAUDIBLE) great job with this debate.

ROBERTS: And to politico as well.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: Thank you for the co-sponsorship. It was great.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: So long.

ROBERTS: All right. Enough back slapping though. Let's get back to New York and here's Kiran.

CHETRY: And you guys -- reminding me of Hillary and Barack right now.

All right, well, we have some breaking news that we want to get to you right now. First of all, there is breaking news out of Iraq where police say that a female suicide bomber, actually more than one, killed more than 60 people and wounded more than 100 in two separate attacks. This was on two Baghdad pet markets. The blast came about a half hour apart. The second was one severe -- 45 people killed. The market has been hit several times in the past year.

Also new this morning, the Federal Deficit expected to reach $400 billion in the new budget that President Bush will submit to Congress on Monday. That plan -- spending plan, would virtually freeze most domestic spending programs and seek nearly $200 billion in savings from Federal Health Care Programs. In the State of the Union address, the president promised a plan that would erase the budget deficit by 2012 if his policies are followed. Overall, the Bush budget tops $3 trillion.

An Alabama death row inmate gets to live -- thanks to his Supreme Court stay of execution. James Callahan would have been the first man executed in the U.S. since September when the high court agreed to hear arguments that lethal injection amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Callahan was convicted of kidnapping, raping, and killing a college student more than 25 years ago. The stay came just an hour before Callahan was scheduled to be executed.

There could be another bombshell in the Natalee Holloway mystery. The Alabama teen disappeared close to three years ago on a trip to Aruba. Prosecutor now says that new evidence will be released Sunday. A Dutch reporter says he gathered it through an ingenious hidden camera tactic. Former suspect, Joran van der Sloot, threw wine on that reporter during a heated TV interview last month.

And travelers are trying to get back on track after a massive weather delays at Chicago O'Hare Airport. More than 600 flights canceled. Others stuck on the ground for two hours. The snow storms swept from the West Coast across the Midwest, leaving at least four people dead, three in Texas, one in Oklahoma all in car accidents.

Well, we have some breaking news from the business world as well this morning. Microsoft making a bid to buy Yahoo. We found this out just a few moments ago. We've been talking about some of the struggles that Yahoo has been having. What about this potential offer?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm just working through a seven- page press release. It's just come out. Microsoft making a $44.5 billion bid for Yahoo. Now, for those of you who invested, (INAUDIBLE), you'll know that's a big premium. Just to give you an idea, Yahoo shares closed last night at just about $19. This would represent a $31 price for the shares of Yahoo. It sets at 62 percent premium.

Very interesting in this economic times that we've got, for companies to be moving in and buying other companies at that sort of premium. Now, as you said, Kiran, Yahoo has sort of been in a struggle. A bit of a muddle over the last few years. It just hasn't been able to keep on top of things. It is definitely a leader in Internet and particularly in Internet search. But Microsoft itself has been getting into, sort of an ongoing battle with Google.

And there are a lot of questions as to who sort of controls the future. Microsoft needs that leg up in search and on the Internet. And this might do it for. So Microsoft is bidding $44.6 billion for Yahoo. Details of this will continue to emerge. They are having a press conference at 8:30 a.m. this morning. A conference call to discuss this offer. Microsoft says it thinks that this deal would go through. It would be allowed by regulatory officials to go through. But that would be a big deal in this environment. By the way, market futures have turned up on this news, because that's a big amount of money.

CHETRY: Right and they're also not really getting it for bargain. So said that Yahoo has $20 a share and they're offering with this plan about $31 a share.

VELSHI: That's a big increase. It's not a deal but it's an indication that Microsoft knows what it has to do to continue. Microsoft and Google are going to be the two companies that we only ever talk about, I think, in a few years from now. Google, you saw took a big dip yesterday when its earnings didn't come in where it was expected to. But that's because everybody now looks at these companies in the way that 25 years ago, we would have look at general electric and general motors perhaps.

These are the engines of the economy. So very interesting when you see companies buying other companies. It's a sign of faith in the economy. It's interesting to see how this one plays out.

CHETRY: All right. Well, we'll let you track it for us throughout the morning. Thanks, Ali.

John?

ROBERTS: 42 minutes after the hour now, Kiran. George Clooney honored by the United Nations as a messenger of peace. Kiran, I asked him what that title means to him. We'll show you more of their conversation, that's coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

And a special reporting from our own Zain Verjee, native of Kenya. She witnessed the devastation and talks to victims of the violence that is tearing her homeland apart. That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: 16 minutes now to the top of the hour. Police shot and killed four people in Western Kenya overnight. Ethnic fighting is tearing Kenya apart. Hundreds of people are dead and thousands homeless since December's disputed presidential election.

CNN's Zain Verjee is a native of Kenya. She traveled deep inside the country to get a firsthand look at the devastation. Zain joins us now from Nairobi.

And Zain, when we look at these pictures, it's really shocking to think that something like this is happening inside what has been one of the more stable countries there on the African continent.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is really shocking for anyone who knows Kenya, as well, John, to all of us who have lived here all our lives. And as a result, there is a huge amount of pressure on the government and the opposition to come to some sort of compromise. What both sides are pledging now is to end the violence in seven days.

They're saying that things next week will be back to normal. But quite frankly, it's hard to see how things will just go back to normal with all the bitterness and anger that we're seeing in this country. We visited one Rift Valley town to show that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): We're on a flight through Kenya's Rift Valley to discover just how far ethnic bloodshed has spread across this country. We've heard disturbing stories.

(on-camera): We are now landing to Barua (ph). (voice-over): And we find the story of similar devastation in this small Rift Valley town. Much of it has been razed to the ground. It was just before dawn on Sunday when gangs attacked the Kikuyu people who live in Timbarua (ph). Homes were set ablaze, leaving only twisted metal. 10,000 residents fled. The few remaining tried to salvage their roof tops for shelter. And a few precious animals for survival. The Kenyan Red Cross helping out.

JOHN SAMBU, KENYAN RED CROSS: We are involved in setting up camp, provision of water and sanitation.

VERJEE: Most of the people burned out of their homes are desperate to get away, even though this is their sacred land. Those that can't go wait, guarded by paramilitary forces.

MICHAEL NDUNGU, FORCE FROM HOME: They tried to chase us away, telling us that this is not our place.

VERJEE: As we lifted off, more towns and villages suffering the same fate as Timbarua (ph).

(on-camera): There is fire burning there to our right.

(voice-over): No one here, just a ghost town. As millions of Kenyans watch these images with horror, they fear, too, that no one will visit this once calm valley. And that much of their beautiful country will be divided to tribal strong holds.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: To keep the country from falling apart, there's a huge amount of diplomatic pressure. The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is here. And both sides continue their mediation talks today.

John?

ROBERTS: Hopefully there will be some progress and soon. Zain Verjee for us this morning in Nairobi, Kenya. Zain, thanks very much. Now, here's Kiran in New York.

CHETRY: John, thanks. Oscar-winning actor, George Clooney, has a new role as United Nation's messenger of peace. We just saw those images from Zain Verjee, and there are problems in other parts of the world as well. And Clooney has been recognized for his work in trying to raise money and raise awareness for what's been going on in the Sudan, the refugees in Darfur. And I spoke with the actor yesterday. He told me that he's hoping his celebrity status can draw attention to the crisis in that region.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Congratulations on this designation, the messenger of peace. What does that mean? What exactly is the job?

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: So far, it's meant sleeping in tents and ditches, things which wasn't what I thought it meant. No, I actually with any luck, what it is -- is really to try and trying to spotlight on the successes and sometimes the shortcomings of peace keeping.

CHETRY: You just recently are back from the region as well. What is the situation like?

CLOONEY: Chad is infinitely worse in more shape than it was two years ago when we were there. It's where a lot of the fighting is going on. And the people are caught across fire. It tends to be -- people in the internally displaced camps and people in refugee camps.

CHETRY: So many people have recognized what a big problem it is. Yet still, the number of peacekeepers is not up to par. What is standing in the way of getting more people helping?

CLOONEY: There are difficulties and tricks when you're working within the United Nations. Because they are skilled members of different countries and they have different interests. The hope is that bit by bit, you can convince the countries that don't seem to think -- seem to think it's more of an internal or domestic issue that this is something that actually needs the international community to step in. It's hard. It's about slowly swaying people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: We're going to talk much more with George Clooney, show more of the interview coming up at 7:40 Eastern Time. He also weighs in on politics, John. Of course, George, very active and not afraid to share his opinions, but he explains why he thinks he's going be staying off the campaign trail this time around.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, we'll see if that lasts all the way through until November.

Could the Super Bowl be hazardous to your health? There is a new health warning out that heart patients should know about before they turn on the big game.

And one thing that voters most want to hear from the candidates. What would they do about health care? Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to tell us how the plans might work. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. 53 minutes past 6:00 here on the East Coast. And if you're just joining us, a look at the stories making headlines this morning.

The bipartisan economic stimulus plan hits a snag in the Senate. Democrats are trying to expand it, giving rebates to millions of people left out of the House version and Republicans want to pass the bill as is. President Bush has warned Senate Democrats that add-ons could derail the package. The Senate vote is expected next week and most economists agree that this has to happen quickly to be able to have any type of effect. New details overnight on the death of a senior al Qaeda leader. U.S. officials telling CNN that a missile fired from an aircraft killed Abu Laith al-Libi earlier this week. The missile took out a safe house in Pakistan. It was near the Afghan border. 12 people were killed. Al-Libi is said to have been the head of al Qaeda's operation including an attack on Bagram Airbase on Afghanistan during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney. 23 people were killed in that attack one year ago.

A new report warns that the U.S. military is not prepared to handle a catastrophic attack here at home. An independent Congressional Commission says the National Guard and Reserves don't have the equipment or training needed in some cases to respond to a chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons attack on U.S. soil. In response, the chief of the U.S. Northern Command said the Pentagon is putting together a specialized team that would respond to such catastrophic events.

Well, who are you rooting for on Sunday? The Giants or the Patriots. Either pick can be dangerous if you have heart problems. This means you have twice as likely to have a heart attack during a big game like the Super Bowl than on a regular day.

A new study is out showing that stress increases heart attacks during sporting events. And according to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, throw in drinking, smoking, and junk food and you have an especially dangerous combination. In fact, Sanjay is going to be joining us in the next hour to explain.

John?

ROBERTS: In fact, we're going be putting Sanjay to a lot of work this morning even though he's only had a couple of hours sleep. Health care reform, one of the most important issues to voters. Dr. Sanjay Gupta looking over the different plans that the Democrats and Republicans have.

What do you got coming up for us on the top of the hour.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Lots of similarities between this plans. As you heard last night, the buzz word being universal. But I think, also starting to hear some of the distinctions as well. People are not paying attention to distinctions and probably vote on them as well.

John?

ROBERTS: Yes. As we heard last night, they were trying to separate the differences over this idea of mandates. Hillary Clinton with mandate care. Barack Obama wants to make it more affordable to encourage people to buy.

GUPTA: That's right. And is it really universal if you don't mandate? We'll talk about that.

ROBERTS: And of course, there's a lot of other issues as well in terms of catastrophic care, affordability, all that. We will be getting into that.

GUPTA: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: Terrific. And we've got some other stuff to talk about this morning as well.

Hey, breaking news of a blockbuster deal in the works. Huge news from Silicon Valley to Wall Street. Microsoft puts up tens of billions for Yahoo. What does it mean for you? Our Ali Velshi will be here to break it all down for you.

And a nightmare on the Irish Sea. Winds at 70 miles an hour, waves 23 feet high and a ferry full of passengers and crews stranded on the water. That dramatic rescue coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: The stars gauge as the Democrats hammer away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I will begin to withdraw troops in 60 days.

OBAMA: I think it is important for us to be as careful getting out, as we were careless getting in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: The final battle before their Super Bowl on Super Tuesday.

George Clooney's toughest role.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLOONEY: It's hard. It's about slowly swaying people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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