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AMERICAN MORNING

Prince Harry Pulled Out From Afghanistan; Oil Hits $103 Per Barrel; Tuesday Showdown: Obama Stumps Texas; Life on the Campaign Trail for a Kid Reporter

Aired February 29, 2008 - 06:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Some breaking news right now. News organizations in Britain saying the army is making the call to pull Prince Harry from the front lines in Afghanistan after the news of his deployment was leaked in the media. Prince Harry has been in southern Afghanistan in an area of heavy insurgent fighting for the past 10 weeks. His tour of duty was a carefully kept secret. CNN and other organizations knew about it, but were asked by the British military not to report it for security reasons.
An Australian magazine then went public with it yesterday, and that's when the news broke open over the Internet. This morning the BBC is reporting that Harry will be flown back to the UK amid concerns for his safety.

CNN's Phil Black is at Buckingham Palace right now. Phil, what are you hearing? What's the latest?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Kiran. Yes, as you say, British media outlets are now reporting that Prince Harry is about to be pulled out of Afghanistan. There is no official confirmation of this from the British Ministry of Defense. They tell us that they are still considering their options and that there is a possible announcement within the next hour. We'll bring that to you when we can.

I should add that the media outlets that signed up to this agreement not to reveal Harry's presence in Afghanistan were told at that time, that should it become known that he was there, his tour would likely end at that time -- Kiran.

CHETRY: And so, any word on why this magazine would then go public with the news if there was an agreement in place to protect his safety and the safety of those who he was deployed with?

BLACK: Well, certainly this agreement involved all the mainstream British media and a few international outlets as well, CNN among them. But it was not able to take into its scope all the world's media. So in that sense, this agreement and the hope of keeping Harry's presence there was always a big task, in particular when you consider independent Web sites and their reach as well. The British military says that they actually think the agreement to this point has been a success. Being able to keep a secret of this size for 10 weeks is no main feat -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Phil Black reporting for us from Buckingham Palace this morning, thanks.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: They did keep that a secret an awfully long time, didn't they?

CHETRY: Yes.

ROBERTS: Breaking news in oil prices this morning. Oil hit another record, $103 a barrel in overnight trading. That's just days after analysts predicted that we would see $4 a gallon gasoline this spring. President Bush talked about the economy and high gas prices and says tax cuts are the answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're somebody worried about $3 gasoline and you think your taxes may be going up in two years, then it -- the uncertain price of gasoline creates more uncertainty for you as you plan your future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Our Ali Velshi is following these developments. He's on the CNN Election Express talking about the economy with voters before Tuesday's critical primary. He joins us now live from San Antonio.

Ali, let's begin with the surge in the price of oil. What's behind it?

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's the thing everybody is talking about -- gas prices, diesel prices, how fuel affect it. We saw oil go to $102.59 yesterday. That was a gain of $2.95. And, you know, you don't have to know much to figure out if oil even gained a dollar on a weekly basis what we'd be paying for oil by the end of the year. Now, overnight, oil went to $103.05, the first time ever it's crossed $103. I'll come back a little bit to about $102.05.

This is all about supply of oil and demand for oil. There's just no obvious answer to this. There's nothing particularly new that is driving the price of oil up. And yesterday, President Bush was asked point blank, is the United States in a recession? Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think we're headed to a recession. But no question we're in a slowdown, and that's why we acted and acted strongly, with over $150 billion worth of pro-growth and economic incentives.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For the president to say that he doesn't think we're in a recession is consistent with his general attitude towards ordinary workers.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VELSHI: Now, John, after President Bush made those remarks, I walked around San Antonio and got remarks from people around here, got their opinion on whether or not we're in a recession. Lots of people were talking to me. Overwhelmingly, they thought so. Here's what one person said specifically about President Bush's remarks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUBEN RAMIREZ, TEXAS CUSTODIAL WORKER: President Bush, I believe, doesn't know what he's talking about because this is a recession. What are they going to do about these gas prices going up? Where you can't even afford to go anywhere, you know, because they're just been outrageously upped in prices. And people, with the wages that we make now, we just can't keep up with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: John, I've been talking to Texans for more than a week about what they think about the economy. Gas prices and oil prices are number one on that list. Part of it, their economic concerns. I'll have more for you on that all morning -- John.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to it. Ali Velshi this morning again from San Antonio, Texas outside the Alamo today. Thanks, Ali. We'll see you soon.

CHETRY: Well, today is leap day. It's an extra day in February that, like the presidential elections, comes around once every four years. CNN is spending the extra day giving you more of what it is we do best which is cover politics heading into the critical primaries next Tuesday. Could be a decisive day for both parties. Four states up for grabs, but it's the big get like Texas and Ohio that makes the day so vital for the candidates. For the Democrats, there are 370 delegates at stake and for the Republicans, 256.

The best political team on television has you covered in all of the battleground states. This morning we have Jessica Yellin, Ed Lavandera, Ali Velshi all on the road in Texas. John King and Candy Crowley in Ohio for us, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Gerri Willis also looking at issues driving the campaign. Two big wins on the domestic front, health care and the economy. We'll also check in with local reporters and pundits in Rhode Island and Vermont.

All four leading presidential candidates are converging on Texas today. February was a record-breaking month for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, in terms of raising money. In fact, the "Chicago Tribune" calling Obama the $50 million man.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is traveling with the Obama campaign in Houston. And there is word this morning that Obama outspent Clinton by a pretty significant margin on the TV commercials there as they go head to head in Texas and Ohio, but both of them raking in the campaign cash.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They really are, Kiran, and it's a sign of the enthusiasm that's out there on the Democratic side of this race in particular. Senator Clinton made an important announcement for her campaign which is that they had raised $35 million. This is an enormous progress for her after she had almost run out of cash earlier this year back in Iowa and in New Hampshire. After that race, you'll recall she announced that she gave $5 million to her own campaign as a loan. And the Clinton campaign says this news has only started to generate an enormous amount of giving by her contributors.

So the Clinton campaign made this announcement of this enormous sum they've raised as a way to say she still has momentum. She still is a contender. We should not consider this race almost finished, but that was trumped by an announcement last night that the Obama campaign claims that they have raised significantly more than that, by some estimates as much as $50 million. Just a huge sum.

And the bottom line in all of this is that Barack Obama continues to be able to trump Senator Hillary Clinton almost at every turn now. As you know, they are both facing this contest on March 4th, Tuesday, in Texas and Ohio, and the Clinton campaign itself has declared these must-win states for her. A lot of the punditry, assuming that if she doesn't win both, she will drop out. But they certainly have not said that. No one in the Clinton camp has said that that is a foregone conclusion. So they are battling for this Tuesday win.

And the news that Barack Obama has outraised her by such a possibly -- such a significant sum as possibly $50 million, only contributes to his momentum, the sense that his campaign is trying to build that he is, at this point, the inevitable nominee. And Barack Obama continuing to press that message, even taking on President Bush and John McCain more than he's taking on Hillary Clinton these days -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Jessica Yellin for us in Houston, Texas, this morning, thanks.

ROBERTS: Republican front-runner John McCain is campaigning hard in Texas hoping to score with conservatives, but an incident earlier this week with conservative talk show host Bill Cunningham could put McCain in jeopardy on that front. Last night, on CNN's "ELECTION CENTER," I spoke with Cunningham about the apology McCain issued after Cunningham made some controversial remarks regarding Barack Obama. Cunningham was angered by that apology and explained to me why he is now hoping that a Democrat wins the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CUNNINGHAM, RADIO HOST: If this year McCain loses and Obama gets it, he's going to make Jimmy Carter look like a great president. So in four years, a Ronald Reagan will rise from the heartland and take back America. On the other hand, if McCain wins, we're going to have the ruined Republican conservative party for the next 20 years. So I'd rather have short-term pain for long-term gain, and that means McCain must go down. The country will go right downhill, and after that, Ronald Reagan will come out of the heartland and save America like the Gipper did in 1980.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Well, McCain has long been considered by some conservatives to be unreliable because of his past positions on illegal immigration, tax cuts and campaign finance reform. It looks like the problems are going to linger at least for a while.

Our Veronica de la Cruz here now with other stories new this morning. Good morning to you.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning to you, John. Good morning to you, Kiran. Nice to see you, and good morning to all of you out there.

We have some breaking news to start with out of Las Vegas. Police and Homeland Security agents are waiting for the final test results on a substance found at a motel. Preliminary tests show it is the deadly poison Ricin. Employees found the powder in a room yesterday afternoon. Seven people came in contact with the stuff. They were decontaminated at the site then taken to local hospitals as a precaution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAPT. JOE LOMBARDO, LAS VEGAS POLICE DEPARTMENT: We have three employees of Extended Stay America. We have another citizen at large who has a cursory interest in the apartment. He was cleaning out some items within the apartment when he discovered and brought it into the management because he didn't know what it was. And he initially said that it didn't belong to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Ricin is a poison produced when castor beans are processed to make oil. It can exist in powder, mist or pellet form and it dissolves in water. Ricin made headlines back in 2003 because the Feds feared terrorists could easily produce the plant toxins, but so far police say this incident does not appear to be terror related.

Also, some breaking news to get to out of Iraq this morning. CNN has learned Saddam Hussein's cousin and henchman, the notorious Chemical Ali, will be executed. A court convicted him for his role in killing at least 100,000 Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s. An Iraqi parliament member says no execution date has been scheduled.

Well, the U.S. Navy is sending free warships to the Mediterranean over concerns about the political deadlock in Lebanon. The Pentagon says the guided missile destroyer USS Cole and two support vessels are not far off Lebanon's coast. Lebanon has been without a president since November. The Bush administration is blaming Syria for the standoff.

And Angelina Jolie is speaking out on Iraq in an op-ed piece in "The Washington Post." Jolie says she sees a benefit to keeping U.S. troops in Iraq because it provides a chance to boost assistance for Iraqi refugees. Jolie has been a U.N. goodwill ambassador since 2001. She visited Baghdad earlier this month. She's calling on the presidential candidates to announce a comprehensive plan to help those displaced by the war.

And that is what is new this morning. I'm going to send it back to John. And Kiran knows I'm reading her piece and it was pretty eye opening. She talks about the conditions the refugees are living in. More than two million people internally displaced without running water, no food, electricity and then more than 50 percent of them, 58 percent of them under the age of 12.

CHETRY: That's right. You know, the interesting thing when I was reading it is that there's a lot of people that have noted this, but she carries a lot of weight because she's a superstar in Hollywood. And so, people are reading it and it's linked --

DE LA CRUZ: People listen.

CHETRY: Yes. It's linked all over the Internet this morning as well.

ROBERTS: Well, that's why these celebrities go ahead and do these things because they draw attention to them.

You're watching the "Most News in the Morning." Coming up, a leap day political extra. We're going to talk with one of the star reporters in this Scholastic Kids Press Corps about life on the campaign trail.

And breaking news right now. Reports that Prince Harry being pulled out of Afghanistan after his secret combat mission became public knowledge.

And we're hearing this morning from the Prince himself about this tour of duty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRINCE HARRY, BRITISH ROYAL: I need to keep my face slightly covered just in the off chance I do get recognized, which will put other guys in danger. I'm called the bullet magnet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Prince Harry's life on the front lines. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Now 16 minutes after the hour, and breaking news this morning. CNN has learned that the British military is immediately pulling Prince Harry from the front lines in Afghanistan after news of his deployment was leaked in the media. Harry will now be flown back to the UK amid concerns for his safety. The prince has been deployed in southern Afghanistan in an area of heavy fighting with the Taliban. CNN's Nic Robertson has got a closer look at Prince Harry on the front lines.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fighting on the front line in Afghanistan. British royalty, 23-year-old Prince Harry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire!

ROBERTSON: Five Taliban fighters are attacking his outpost. Rockets are fired. Bombs dropping. This place is exactly where he wants to be, fighting for his country.

PRINCE HARRY, BRITISH ROYAL: It's good fun to be with, you know, just a normal bunch of guys.

ROBERTSON: But worry of Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, has been far from normal. His tour of duty, a carefully kept secret until now. Few knew that for the last 10 weeks he's been in combat. His main mission -- a sort of ground traffic controller for air traffic, talking to pilots, calling in air strikes to protect British troops from enemy fighters.

HARRY: I'm in the ops room. I've got the OC next to me, so if I need -- if I, you know, worst case scenario, if I have to drop a bomb to get these guys out of contact to other guys on the ground and contact, I just turn around. He's on my shoulder. I say look, can I drop? And he'll say, yes, drop.

ROBERTSON: Using a monitor linked to high flying and silence by plane, he tracks unsuspecting Taliban forces.

HARRY: Taliban and his mates (ph). As soon as they hit, they go to ground. So -- which makes life a little bit tricky, telling something that gives us a visual feedback from way up. It means that they can carry on their normal sort of path of life, and we can follow them.

ROBERTSON: It's been a struggle for Harry to get here. Last year, he threatened to quit the army when Britain's top general told him he couldn't go to Iraq. As for the extreme secrecy surrounding his combat tour, there is a fear that his royalty would mark him out as the Taliban's most wanted. Imagine the prize for taking him out. Imagine the danger it would mean to his comrades.

ROBERT JOBSON, JOURNALIST: Prince Harry is and was a target of the insurgents. They specifically said that he would be targeted even for kidnap or assassination.

HARRY: I need to keep my face slightly covered just on the off chance I do get recognized, which will put other guys in danger. I'm called the bullet magnet.

ROBERTSON: Warrior Harry is quite a leap from the playboy Harry that people thought they knew. In recent years, Harry's image took a fall. He was seen drunk and sometimes aggressive leaving London nightclubs. But in Afghanistan, he's regained respect. Out here, none of the comforts of Buckingham Palace.

HARRY: I really haven't showered for four days. I haven't washed my clothes for a week, and everything seems completely normal. So, you know, honestly, I don't know what I miss at all. You know, music. We've got music. We've got lights. We've got food. We've got drink. And, no, I don't miss booze, if that's the next question.

ROBERTSON: Nic Robertson, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: Has a sense of humor certainly in some dire conditions.

ROBERTS: He does. So there he was in Afghanistan, on his way back now, being pulled out because the story got out. And they're saying wait a second. If the story is just getting out, how did you get all those pictures...

CHETRY: Right.

ROBERTS: ... and interviews with him? What happened was when he went over there the British military made a deal with a lot of news organizations, BBC, CNN included, to say we'll give you access to him. We'll let you follow him around, tell his story, as long as you don't tell anyone. And we, and other news organizations abided by that agreement. Then it was this magazine in Australia that found out about it, decided to put it up on its Web site, and that's how the cat got out of the bag.

So, when we say it leaked to the media, it was one particular organization overseas that leaked it. The rest of us had agreed to abide by these restrictions of having access to him but not saying anything about the story. Of course, when it came out yesterday, everyone then released the story because the embargo was broken.

CHETRY: That's right. That's why we're getting a chance now to hear from Harry himself. You're right. A lot of people might be wondering, how is it that you're over there, standing next to him as he's shooting from machine guns...

ROBERTS: Yes.

CHETRY: ... and spending time --

ROBERTS: That's why it was a big secret. Yes.

CHETRY: Right.

ROBERTS: So everyone was in on it. One organization broke the embargo, and that's how the story got out.

CHETRY: All right. We're going to continue to follow that and the moves that the British military decides to make today because of it.

Also, it's a leap day political extra. And she's 14 years old but covering the presidential race. We're going to talk to a star reporter for the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps and see what life has been like for her on the campaign trail. Also, a festive light in the sky. And there it is. It's a "Hot Shot" that you can't miss. We'll show you more coming up.

We're also spending our extra day this year learning about presidential history. Which state has produced the most presidents? Is it Virginia, New Hampshire or Texas? You weigh in at home, and we'll tell you the right answer when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: And welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. 6:23 Eastern time this morning, and it's leap day. This one only comes around once every four years, and an extra day for us to give you more politics in the morning.

And before the break, we asked which state has produced the most presidents. We all weighed in over here; (A) Virginia (B) New Hampshire (C) Texas. Find out who's right, right now. It's Virginia. Eight different presidents followed by Ohio. And that, of course, is one of the key primary states on Tuesday.

ROBERTS: So those of you who thought Texas, wrong.

CHETRY: Recent history, but not in the very beginning.

ROBERTS: Not the overall scheme (ph).

CHETRY: That's right.

Well, there's an elite group of reporters covering the presidential campaign. They work side by side with the political pros, and they range in age from 9 to 14. They're part of the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps. High school freshman Valirie Morgan was at the CNN debate in Austin last week. And this weekend, she's going to be covering a Hillary Clinton rally in Texas. Valirie joins us this morning from Dallas. Thanks for being with us, Valirie.

VALIRIE MORGAN, SCHOLASTIC KID REPORTER: Thank you. Good morning.

CHETRY: So you're 14? You're a freshman in high school. What's it like to be out there rubbing elbows with all the big candidates and members of the press?

MORGAN: It's an amazing experience because we get treated like any regular journalist gets treated, and we get the credentials. We get all kinds of experience, and we're meeting all new, famous people. So it's a lot of fun.

CHETRY: Yes. And how did you even get involved in this the first place? How did you know you wanted to cover politics, and how did you get your start?

MORGAN: Well, I actually didn't know that I wanted to cover politics when I first started writing. But my principal in my elementary school recommended me for the Kids Press Corps, and I started covering the 2004 election. And then, I carried on into this election. And it's gotten me really interested in politics and it's furthered me in my writing.

CHETRY: It's great. You know, all your teachers say you're one of the rising stars. What do you hope that this leads to in the future?

MORGAN: I -- I've always wanted a career in journalism, and, you know, just being on the press corps and having all this exposure and the experience and being published on the Internet in all different places is really helpful. And it's going to hopefully boost my career in the future.

CHETRY: Now, I was wondering, you're 14, you have your whole entire life to work. Are you going to get a chance to do anything fun? Take a break before you have to enter the real world.

MORGAN: I don't know. I mean, I just love writing because it's my passion. So, I mean, this is what's fun for me, and I really enjoy doing it. So --

CHETRY: Well, good for you. Very smart young lady, and I'm sure your parents are very proud of you. Valirie Morgan, have fun out there and good luck. Hopefully you'll get a chance at this rally to interview Hillary Clinton.

MORGAN: Thank you. I hope so.

CHETRY: All right. Take care.

ROBERTS: Just imagine how long a career now she's going to have in political reporting if she chooses that.

CHETRY: That's right. Exactly. She can be 24 and say, for decades now I've been covering the campaigns.

ROBERTS: Here you go. Great experience for them, though. Absolutely terrific.

CHETRY: It sure is.

ROBERTS: That brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question. Do you think we're going to know who the presidential nominees are after Tuesday's primary? Cast your vote at CNN.com/am. We're going to have the first tally of votes coming up later on this hour.

Have a look at this. Painting in the sky. It's your "Hot Shot" this morning. The aurora borealis or northern lights, as they're otherwise known, dancing in the night sky over Norway. The mysterious green color (ph) happens when solar particles hit the earth's electromagnetic field.

CHETRY: Either that or aliens have landed and they're getting a lot of phone calls to 911.

ROBERTS: It's the top green smoke. It will come and get you.

If you've got a "Hot Shot," send it to us. Head to our Web site at CNN.com/am and follow the "Hot Shot" link.

CHETRY: Well, you're watching the "Most News in the Morning." And still ahead, Senator John McCain making a misstep that is sure to get his social conservative critics talking. He's liberal slip? Plus, John King on who some big name Republicans are now taking aim at.

Also, breaking news from Great Britain overnight. Prince Harry now coming home from Afghanistan after the news of his combat service leaked out. Now they consider it a threat to his safety and they want him back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Really a nice sunrise there over Philadelphia. Cold, though, which is why you get those lovely sunrises. Hoping one of these days we might see something like that and the temperature will be a little bit better than in the 20s or so. It's going to be cold again today. All that arctic air coming down here and settling over the northeast.

Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING on this 29th of February.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. It comes around once every four years and here we are.

Well, there's some breaking news this morning as well from London. And British defense ministry is now confirming that Prince Harry is being withdrawn from Afghanistan immediately because of an Internet leak that blew the lid off of his top-secret combat mission.

He'd been fighting on the frontlines in Southern Afghanistan for ten weeks, serving as a battlefield air strike controller. Despite the danger, the prince talked about how it was a great experience.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRINCE HARRY, BLUES AND ROYALS REGIMENT: This is what it's all about. It was all about, as you know, being able to go as well rather than being in a room with a bunch of officers. All my wishes have come true. I managed to get the job done. And I think there's a few people who didn't want me to come down here maybe, possibly. And -- but as far as anyone else is concerned, I'm a JTAC. I'm a qualified JTAC and therefore there are people who need air to cover the troops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: And the reason why there's all that video and interviews with Prince Harry is because it was sort of an agreement between many media outlets that they were able to cover him. They were able to shoot pictures and to speak to him while he was there with the understanding that it wouldn't be broadcast until he returned. This was breached by a -- I believe, a magazine in Australia. That then leaked out on to the Internet. And because of that, the British military now making the call to bring him back home for safety reasons, not only for Prince Harry himself, but for those serving with him.

ROBERTS: Because today is the bonus day in this Leap Year, we thought that we would do more of what we do best here at CNN. And that is cover politics.

Just four days to go now until the big day. Tuesday, could be decisive for both parties. Four states are up for grabs. Rhode Island and Vermont are both voting, but it's Texas and Ohio that make the day so important. For the Democrats, 370 delegates at stake. For the Republicans, 256.

That provides a chance for John McCain to lock up the nomination. He's just about 150 delegates shy of the magic number right now. And Texas and Ohio are considered must-wins for Hillary Clinton, who trails Barack Obama in the delegate count.

The GOP is sharpening its attacks against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama. Senator John McCain is touting his own experience in foreign policy. At the same time, he's leveling questions about Obama's ability to be the commander-in-chief.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For Senator Obama to say that he would consider going back militarily if al Qaeda was in Iraq, when al Qaeda is in Iraq, is probably one of the more remarkable statements that has been made on American national security policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Meanwhile at a White House news conference yesterday, President Bush said Obama's willingness to meet with foreign tyrants sends the wrong signal about U.S. policy.

Our chief national correspondent John King joins me now from Cincinnati.

John, let's take a quick listen to what President Bush said about Obama's pledge to meet with the leaders of countries like Iran, Cuba, Venezuela within the first year of his presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The decisions of the U.S. president to have discussions with certain international figures can be extremely counterproductive. I believe Senator Obama better stay focused on his campaign with Senator Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: What's really remarkable about that, John, is that Barack Obama is now directly engaging, on a real time basis, the president of the United States and his potential Republican opponent. It's like he's trying to make Hillary Clinton irrelevant in this whole debate.

JOHN KING, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's fascinating to watch, John. And one fascinating part of it was how much President Bush kept saying I don't want to talk about the campaign and then how eager he was to talk about the campaign. He is foaming at the bit, you can see, to get more involved in the campaign.

Look, President Bush believes passionately that he has been right. Not sitting down with Cuba, not sitting down with North Korea, not sitting down with the leader of Iran. So he is defending his position passionately.

But look, don't just make this about the Republicans attacking Barack Obama, because as President Bush said, there's still a Democratic primary going on. And there are many Republicans who still would like their fall opponent to be Hillary Clinton.

And they think President Bush and even John McCain, in the attacks on Barack Obama, are not just framing a fall race against Barack Obama. Most Republicans believe that will be Barack Obama. But if they can do anything in the short term to get Democrats in a place like Ohio, in a place like Texas, to say, huh, is Obama really ready for the fall battlefield and maybe go back towards Senator Clinton, the Republicans think that will help them.

The longer the Democratic race goes on, the more the Republicans like it. And many Republicans, John, even though they think it would be Barack Obama, would still prefer that it be Senator Clinton.

ROBERTS: But it certainly seems to be just what Barack Obama would want to have happened. That he would be engaged by his presumed Republican opponent and the President of the United States to put on him this air of, hey, I'm the guy. They're coming after me, they're attacking me. Why would you want to vote anybody else to be your nominee?

KING: No question. Within the Democratic primary electorate, if you're a Democratic voter and you're watching this, you are thinking Barack Obama is coming under attack from John McCain. And the guy, if you're a Democrat, you don't like even more -- the man who's been president of the United States for more than seven years now.

So, many Democrats think it could help Barack Obama within the Democratic electorate. Possibly, they're watching him. It's a test now for Barack Obama. Can he return that fire on an hourly in a daily basis? But don't underestimate what McCain is doing on Iraq here. It's not just a debate about who's right on Iraq. The McCain campaign has watched Barack Obama during the primaries. When Hillary Clinton says I have more experience, he says it's not about experience, it's about judgment. So McCain is trying to shift the debate, not from the judgment about whether to go to war. McCain now says repeatedly that's history. That decision was made, whether you like it or not. U.S. troops are in Iraq. He's trying to frame it now about Obama's judgment about what to do next and whether the surge was the right thing to do or not.

And McCain's case passionately, John, is that whether you agreed or disagreed with the surge, it is working. By military and the political standpoint, McCain will make the case -- Iraq is in a better place now than it was six or nine months ago. And that gives the next commander-in-chief more and better options to eventually bring the troops home.

So, what McCain is doing now is going straight to that argument that he knows Obama would make, which is that it's not about experience in foreign policy, it's about judgment. And McCain is trying to convince voters to remember it's more about independents and conservative Democrats. He's trying to convince them Obama doesn't have that judgment.

ROBERTS: McCain let slip last week. He's got to convince people that we can win in Iraq or quote, "I lose," a statement that he later back off on.

John King for us this morning in Cincinnati. John, thanks.

Kiran?

CHETRY: Well, to more politics now. And John McCain gets tongue-tied in Texas during a town hall meeting. The Arizona senator called himself a liberal, although McCain was quick to catch himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I'm a proud conservative, liberal Republican -- conservative Republican. Hello, easy there. Let me say this. I'm a proud conservative Republican and both of my possible or likely opponents today are liberal Democrats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Well, he even -- even when he said it, he said whoa, whoa, oops. You know, I mean these guys are out there 16, 18 hours a day.

ROBERTS: Sleep deprivation is a terrible thing.

CHETRY: Yes. And you know, so is letting those words out (INAUDIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: But you know, some conservative talk radio show hosts are saying, see, the real John McCain came out right there. They're not cutting of a break at all. CHETRY: Of course. A record-setting fundraising now to talk about. These are figures just coming in from the Democrats this morning. Hillary Clinton's camp reporting its best month to date, bringing in $35 million in February.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was incredibly gratifying to see people, you know, really coming forth with their vote of confidence by their contribution to my campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Clinton says that the campaign saw a boost after she made a $5 million loan to her cause. The Obama campaign not saying how much it raised but there are several estimates putting that total at closer to $50 million for the month.

37 minutes past the hour. Rob Marciano tracking weather for us this morning. You know, I know you love being able to look up into the sky, that aurora borealis, that green goof, it looked like something out of "Ghost Busters."

(WEATHER REPORT)

CHETRY: Maybe we want to bring people up to date now on some breaking news. The British Ministry of Defense has now officially confirmed to CNN that indeed Prince Harry is being withdrawn from Afghanistan immediately. We've been talking about this.

A word leaked out through media operation out of Australia that then went to the Internet that he was serving there. This had been a secret that the press had agreed to keep while he was there for safety reasons. But again, it's out and the British Defense Ministry is confirming to CNN that Harry is going to come home immediately from Afghanistan.

ROBERTS: Yes. Absolutely, because they think that he's in some jeopardy now that the story is out. But as we pointed out again, we should reiterate, there were a lot of news organizations including CNN, who agreed to keep the stories under wraps. It was one organization overseas that broke that embargo and leaked the word out.

You are watching the most news in the morning. 20 minutes to the hour. It may be impossible to pay back a soldier for his service to the country, but this comes close. A real-life hero hits the jackpot. That's coming up.

And the Texas two-step is more than just dance. It's something that Texas Democratic voters will be doing during next week's crucial contest there. The unique way that the lone star state doles out its delegates. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

And as we go to the break here, we continue our Leap Day political coverage by posing this presidential ponderance. When did the New Hampshire primary begin? Was it 1881, 1913, or 1982. CHETRY: Give us a hint, were you there?

ROBERTS: Was I there?

CHETRY: Well...

ROBERTS: It's too much of a hint. The answer right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: All right. Welcome back to the most news in the morning and the "Most Politics in the Morning." How about this for some trivia. When did the New Hampshire primary begin? A. 1881, B. 1913, or, C. 1982? Well, the answer, the New Hampshire primary began in B. 1913.

ROBERTS: I told you I wouldn't be giving it away.

CHETRY: None of us were there.

ROBERTS: My mom was there. She was born that year.

15 minutes to the top of the hour. Everything is bigger in Texas, right? Well, it's so big that in next week's crucial Tuesday contest. Texas will hold not just a primary, but a primary and a caucus. The unique system of selecting Democratic delegates is causing a little bit of confusion for both voters and candidates.

Our Ed Lavandera is live in Dallas with this Leap Day extra.

Ed, what is it all about?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, a little bit of confusion is almost an understatement. You can imagine that there are people in the Hillary Clinton and the Barack Obama campaigns pouring over the rules of the Democratic process here in Texas. And even Hillary Clinton joked with reporters the other day that this Democratic process here in Texas has grown men in her campaign crying.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): This mangled contraption is Nick Anderson's symbol for the Texas Democratic primary. "The Houston Chronicle" cartoonist is struggling to figure out how it works.

NICK ANDERSON, CARTOONIST: I had a colleague explain it to me. And when he did, I think I was even more confused than I was before he explained it to me.

LAVANDERA: Even the candidates are having fun with it.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was here in Texas that's a little complicated. You got to go vote in the primary, and then some of the delegates are awarded based on the caucuses.

LAVANDERA: That's right. Texas has a primary and a caucus.

ANDERSON: And that's just the beginning. It's really kind of a loopy system.

LAVANDERA: One that can make you feel like the Looney Tunes character.

(on camera): Texas has 228 delegates at stake. And they're divided up in two parts. In the first part, 126 are awarded. And that's based on the final tally of votes in each of these 31 state Senate districts. So it's really like 31 different contests you're looking at. So do you feel like that cat, Tom, getting hit in the face with the frying pan yet?

And that brings us to part two, the caucus, which counts for 67 delegates. So after you vote on March 4th, you have to go back to your precincts, if you want to, you don't have to, and you sign in for your candidate.

But those results won't be known until June. This unique primary caucus system started in 1976. Democratic Party officials say it's designed to give everyone a stronger voice, albeit a confused voice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the fact that it happened right is confusing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's called a precinct convention.

DARLENE EWING, DALLAS CO. DEMOCRATIC PARTY: We don't think it's ridiculous. But, you know, in Texas, we would like to do things our way.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This election system here takes a cake. Texas is the only place in America where you can vote twice the same election without going to jail.

LAVANDERA: And maybe that's where they should send the inventor of this system. This Looney Tunes is over.

PORKY PIG: That's all, folks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: Hope you will pardon the Porky Pig. (INAUDIBLE), the best way of kind of ending this story. And John, if you can imagine this, several Democratic Party officials have told us here that it is possible for a candidate to win the overall popular vote in this state and at the end of the day, come up short on the delegates.

ROBERTS: Yes. I think that happened in Nevada as well. Complex systems that we got in this primary process and the way we choose a president or presidential nominee in this country does lead to a little bit of confusion. Ed Lavandera for us this morning. Ed, thanks for trying to straighten that all out for us. Appreciate it.

Kiran? CHETRY: All right. Well, after completing two tours in Iraq as a member of the Washington National Guard, one lucky soldier hit the jackpot. Sergeant Wayne Leyde won one-million bucks on a scratch-off lotto ticket. It happened on Tuesday. He's 26 years old from Meade, Washington. He says he was shocked when he realized he won the prize.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAYNE LEYDE, LOTTERY WINNER: I started scratching off the prize. And then I was like, no way, as I scratched it. I looked at it for a minute. There was like a three-second just moment of silence. And then I just exploded out of bed and woke everybody up in the house.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: So what does the lucky soldier going to do with his winnings? Nothing. He, in fact, is volunteering to go back to Iraq for his third tour of duty. He says he was planning in doing it before he won and he's not going to back out of that commitment. Now, he also says, in the meantime, he will not spend a dime. Can you imagine?

ROBERTS: No. Good for him, though, for having that cash.

Hey, we want to get an update on our top story this morning. Prince Harry being immediately withdrawn out of Afghanistan after news broke that he had been deployed over there. The secret stayed under wraps for some 10 weeks, until an Australian magazine got a hold of the information, decided to publish it. Then it got out on the Internet and got out around the world.

It was deemed that he was in too much jeopardy by staying there. So now, the British Military immediately pulling him out. Mark Austin is on the phone with us from Afghanistan. Oh, sorry, he's live actually. He's not just on the phone.

Mark, can you give us the back story to all of this?

MARK AUSTIN, ITN REPORTER: I can, John. I can be on the phone, if you'd like. It's probably better that you see me. They were very worried about Prince Harry now that this news had come out. Had the blackout stayed in force, I think that will mean keen to keep him there. But given that the news has come out, they wanted to get him out as quickly as possible.

There's no question that the Taliban would have seen him as a prime prize, treasured target here. He was always being called the bullet magnet. There's no question they would have liked to kill him. And I think, even more, perhaps, John, they would have liked to have kidnapped him. Imagine him being paraded on these extremist Web sites.

That would have mean something that the British government and Ministry of Defense here would have found appalling. The British public would have found appalling. It was unthinkable that they would allow that to happen. And I think the best thing they could have done was to get him out. And that's exactly what they have done.

ROBERTS: What do you know, Mark, about this deal that was made with the British Military and news organizations to be able to have access to the prince as long as they kept the story under wraps?

AUSTIN: Well, this is a very unusual deal. The prince wanted to go to Iraq. It became public that he wanted to go to Iraq. And in the event, it was considered too dangerous for him to go. He then said, look, I've joined the army to be a proper soldier. I want to go to Afghanistan. Then they have to find a way to make that happen for him.

And the way they did that was by coming to the media and saying, look, this is going to happen. He's going to go out there for a tour of duty. If you keep it quiet, then we will allow access to him out there. And when he's back, you can use that material and broadcast that material. It's a very unusual deal. But the British media went along with it, because it is a very special case.

And quite often, you know, the British media are asked to keep quiet about kidnap cases. You know, journalists being kidnapped in Iraq or whatever. You know, they're asked to keep quiet about it. The British media does that. And a lot of people are saying that the media shouldn't do that. What else is the media hiding? Well, I think this was a special case. Prince Harry was desperate to go.

But the thing is, John, once this blackout, this agreement had ended, once the Web site in America had published the fact that Prince Harry was there, I don't think really that there was any alternative than to pull him out of Afghanistan.

ROBERTS: It certainly for national security reasons and this would have been an issue of national security there in Britain. We do make agreements to not broadcast information. For example, when President Bush goes to Baghdad. We keep it quiet until he's on the ground there and within the security bubble. So not unusual, I think, to a great degree for something as a deal like this to be made. Although, the length of time is a little bit rare. Mark Austin, for us this morning from Kabul, Afghanistan.

Mark, thanks very much.

Kiran?

CHETRY: Also following breaking news this morning out of Las Vegas. A deadly toxin found in a hotel room, so potent that in amount no bigger than the head of a pin can kill you. Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, has the latest about this possible terror threat when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. About five minutes before 7:00 here on the East Coast. And we have some breaking news out of Las Vegas this morning. Awaiting word of whether or not, a substance that was found in a hotel room is actually the deadly poison ricin.

It comes after the waste of castor beans, and it's something that's being used in the past to launch terror attacks or assassinate people. Police and homeland security say that initial tests indicate this toxin was found and there are final results that are due in a matter of hours. Meantime seven people are hospitalized as precaution there, all said to be fine.

CNN's homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is in our Washington Bureau. And even though this people are doing fine, a lot of questions about what exactly was found and why, Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, let me say authorities say they do not believe this was a terror incident. But what exactly it was, we don't know yet. The suspected ricin was found in an extended stay America in Las Vegas by someone who said he was retrieving articles from a room there. That individual, three hotel employees and three police officers are being watched for signs of ricin poisoning.

At last report, they had shown no symptoms. At this point, police say they have no suspects in this case, but their investigation is continuing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAPT. JOE LOMBARDO, LAS VEGAS POLICE: We are trying to determine the exact person that is residing within that apartment and what access this individual might have at other locations within the valley. At this point, we are comfortable in saying that the ricin threat is contained within that one particular apartment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: Ricin is made from the waste left over from the processing of castor beans. And authorities say they found beans in the apartment. It is an extremely toxic substance and was used most famously in the 1978 assassination of a Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov. He was killed in London by a poison dart filled with ricin and fired from an umbrella. The KGB suspected in that case.

Kiran?

CHETRY: Wow, interesting, that it hasn't been used in a high- profile assassination since the late '70s. So we'll talk more about just how easy it is to produce this substance and also, we're going to be talking with Sanjay Gupta a little bit later about the deadly effects of ricin.

Jeanne, we'll check in with you throughout the morning as well. Thank you.

ROBERTS: A slowing economy and rising prices. Those are the problems facing Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and he got a new headache overnight. We'll explain, coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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