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Extreme Weather Causes Flooding; Fifth Year Anniversary of the Iraq War; Did Speech Help Barack Obama?; How to Protect Your Money; Interview with Congressmen Patrick Murphy and Joseph Sestak

Aired March 19, 2008 - 08:00   ET


ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, I'm Rob Marciano. John Roberts has a well-deserved week off.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And we begin with extreme weather in the midsection of the country right now. All of the states in green on the map, we're going to take a look at in a second. There you see it. Under the gun today. Very heavy hit Dallas, Texas.

In fact, hundreds of flights at Dallas Fort Worth Airport canceled last night. They are now saying that they are back up to normal operations as of about half hour ago. Of course, you still have to factor in. In fact, because there were hundreds of flights canceled and thousands left stranded yesterday. It's going to take a while before everything's running smoothly.

But also further northeast we go to hard-hit Benton, Arkansas. This is in the central part of the state, not far from Little Rock. Flooded streets, neighborhoods and more rain in the forecast. All the major rivers in Northern Arkansas expected to reach or peak or even surpass flood stage.

MARCIANO: Fantastic video. Storm also slammed Missouri. An 81- year-old man was found dead in the flood waters in the town of Ellington, two hours south of St. Louis. Mudslides, flooded roads, and waterlogged downtowns and there's more rain on the way.

CHETRY: That's right. T.J. Holmes right in the middle of it all in Ozark, Missouri. T.J., driving all night to get there dealing with the extreme weather throughout that drive.

What does it look like there this morning?

T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, it's dry. That's a good thing right now. You all said more rain expected that's exactly what they do not need. I'm standing in front of the Findlay River. This river is a lot mightier than it should be right now. The current is going really strong and a lot of people getting caught up in currents just like this around the state, because so many rivers have reached to this point.

The Findlay River here has reached into a point at a time. It was certainly blocking this bridge, this bridge, and this road still cut off right now even though the water is down a little bit. But they're keeping it blocked off just in case those rains come back. With some rains are still expected. You all spoke as well about deaths.

We do know confirmation from a couple state officials that at least three people have been killed statewide because of these floodwaters. We'll take a look at some of this video and it is just incredible. So many homes. At least 200, possibly more. Hundreds, no doubt, have been evacuated from their homes. The towns of Ellington, also Piedmont, a hard-hit area. Both of those, a couple of hundred miles southwest -- couple of hours southwest of St. Louis.

Also, there are many, many rescues that have had to take place around the state. At least, 50 in the past couple of days. We do know as well right now that five active rescues, water rescues, are still taking place right now in the state. Most of those are just east of Springfield we understand, which is just east of where we are, as well here in Ozark.

Now, Ozark, not one of the hardest hit area but still it's a tough spot for a lot of these people, just like the others around the state. And they are just holding on hoping that they don't get any more rain.

Kiran, you mentioned the drive we had to take. That treacherous drive really from St. Louis, some 3.5 hours to get here to Ozark. It rained on us the entire time and it rained on us hard. So that just gives you an example that long drive, that trek we had to make across the state, just how much of the state was getting a lot of rain overnight.

CHETRY: Wow. What a mess. Hopefully, it will get better. And we're going to be tracking that throughout the morning. T.J. Holmes for us in Ozark, Missouri. Hard hit by the rain and the flooding. Thanks for being with us.

MARCIANO: Well, north and west from where T.J. is standing, a storm did serious damage to Tulsa. We've been showing you this incredible video all morning long. Look at that. A section of road collapses right there. Washed out by torrential rains. Jacqui Jeras wants to jump out of her suit there as these people close to that edge and get away. That's dangerous stuff.

Hi, Jacqui.


MARCIANO: I just can't believe how widespread this is. It's so often you focus on one spot with flooding but it just seems to be across acres and acres, miles and miles across the U.S.

All right, Jacqui, thanks for keeping us up to date.

Kiran, back up to you.

CHETRY: President Bush heads to the Pentagon this morning as the U.S. heads into a six year in the war in Iraq.

I'm sure many of you remember sitting here watching this very scene unfold five years ago right here on CNN, after 10:00 p.m. when bombs rained down on Baghdad. The start of the so-called shock and awe campaign.

Well, today President Bush is expected to call the debate over the war understandable, but still insists that it is a fight that America can and must win.

There is also a brand new CNN Opinion Research Poll out this morning showing just how Americans' opinions have changed since the war began. Back then, this was March of 2003, 68 percent of those asked felt that it was worth going to war in Iraq. Now, just 36 percent of people feel that way.

And those who feel strongly are going to be making that known today. Hundreds of anti-war protests, vigils, and rallies set to take place across the country. Some demonstrations already under way like this one in Washington, D.C. Organizers say they're expecting large turnouts in some major cities like New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

And it's estimated there are more people displaced by the war and sectarian violence in Iraq than ever before. The International Organization for Migration says more than 5 million people had been forced from their homes. Half are refugees in neighboring Syria and Jordan.

CNN State Department correspondent Zain Verjee sat down with one refugee who found a new home here in the U.S.

Good morning, Zain.


That refugee told me that he's really lucky. He's really grateful to have escaped what's been described as the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today. But, you know, only a fraction of the Iraqis who want to come here to the U.S. have been allowed in.


VERJEE (voice-over): This man wants to keep his face in shadow, even in suburban America. He's fearful his family back in Iraq could be targeted. In Baghdad, he says he worked for a U.S. Company and paid a price.

Were you threatened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I started to face the facts, and the facts were, there was no hope.

VERJEE: From Iraq, he fled to Jordan, waited there for a year, and then finally arrived to the United States last September. Those links to a U.S. company may have helped his refugee case that got pushed through while others still wait. He's building a new life here now.

What do you miss about Iraq?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you remember the good times and sometimes we have tears.

VERJEE: About 2 million Iraqis have fled going to neighboring countries of Jordan and Syria. An additional 2 million are uprooted inside Iraq.

The Bush administration says it has an obligation to help Iraqi refugees, but look at the resettlement numbers. Last year, the U.S. goal was to resettle 7,000 Iraqi refugees. Only a fraction of that, 1,608 were admitted.

This year the goal is 12,000 by September. But so far only 1,876 have arrived in the U.S. Ambassador James Foley, the State Department's point man on this is upbeat. Saying the U.S. untangled the bureaucracy and can meet that goal.

AMB. JAMES FOLEY, SENIOR COORDINATOR FOR IRAQI REFUGEES: Well, I think that you'll see that it's going to pick up considerably.

VERJEE: But the U.S. is banking on another scenario.

FOLEY: It is our goal that those who are refugees now, and there are about 2 million, be able to go back home. We believe that's what they want to do.

VERJEE: When you wake up in the morning and you realize you're in the United States, what is it that you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like sometimes when I wake up, me and my wife, we say, like, are we dreaming?


VERJEE: The U.S. has a separate program to help bring Iraqis who work for the U.S. as translators or interpreters in Iraq. Many of them now running for their lives. The target number for those refugees is set for 500 this year. Members of Congress, Kiran, want that number to be increased.

CHETRY: Also, Zain what kind of role does the U.S. want the Iraqi government to play in all this?

VERJEE: They want them to play significant role. And what the State Department is telling us is they really want them to sort of prepare the groundwork for refugees that want to return to Iraq.

The State Department is saying that Iraq needs to develop the policies, the resources, the infrastructure, laws for Iraqis who want to come home. But right now, because of the security situation there, there really not a whole lot that do. So that's got to be addressed first, for people to even want to go back home -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Zain Verjee for us this morning at the State Department. Thanks.

And joining us right now, Alina Cho. She's going to look at some other stories new this morning, including -- oh, we've been talking a lot about the situation of the protesters in Tibet. Now there are some really amazing video that was captured.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're just getting some new video. And of course, it's all very tense. Just a few months ahead of the Olympics, guys. Good morning, everybody.

New this morning. A new look at those protests in Tibet last week. An Australian tourist actually recorded the chaotic scene. And here's how he described what happens.


MIKE SMITH, FILMED PROTESTS IN TIBET: I'm standing here in the middle of plaza and the place has just (OFF-MIKE) exploited. Tibet people are going crazy. (INAUDIBLE) breaking things, going into cars.


CHO: The protesters were demonstrating against Chinese rule, both the Dalai Lama and the Pope this morning are calling for calm.

On to politics here in the United States. The Michigan primary do-over is in limbo right now. State Democratic leaders say they won't move forward unless they get Barack Obama's support to hold another vote. Obama's campaign says it is reviewing the plan.

A last minute scheduling change on the other Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is going to Detroit today. She's going to be pressing the case for Michigan's delegates to be counted. She wants to make sure every vote in that state counts. She has a lot at stake here. Clinton won the primary. But of course, Obama was not on the ballot.

Barack Obama is in North Carolina this morning. He's about two hours away from making a speech on the Iraq War. It comes, of course, on the five-year anniversary marking the start of the war. His speech on race in America yesterday, addressing the controversy surrounding his former pastor and spiritual adviser, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

And a quick programming note, Anderson Cooper will have an all- access pass with Barack Obama all day today in North Carolina. Join Anderson's one-on-one with Barack Obama. That's on "Anderson Cooper 360" 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

The embattled mayor of Detroit says he is not stepping down. The City Council passed a non-binding resolution demanding that Kwame Kilpatrick resign. But he's not going to. He's accused of lying under oath about various things including potentially having an affair with his former chief-of-staff. Report says they exchanged text messages, which suggested a romantic relationship.

And here's a follow-up to a story we first told you about on Friday. New Jersey prosecutors want records from the controversial Web site We've been talking about this story all morning. It's a Web site that actually allows college kids to post comments about each other. But here's the problem. Often, hateful things get on that site and a lot of them aren't true.

Our Sunny Hostin, our legal analyst, spoke with a student who said she was called a racist on the site. Take a listen.


SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: What would you say, if you could say something to the founder of

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for screwing up my freshman year and making everybody think these things about me and they've never even met me. Because obviously it's going to take the next four years.


CHO: New Jersey's Attorney General says juicycampus may be violating the state's consumer fraud act that does not allow offensive material that juicycampus, of course, is accused of doing nothing to enforce the policy. But some have said, you know, really that this is a big problem. It's really the tip of the iceberg.

MARCIANO: And you know, it's not true. Like I read stuff about you guys all time on the Internet. And I'm so shocked, but I know it can't be true. So, I wish the police would...

CHETRY: Well, no. I mean, one of the things that Sunny wrote up, our legal analyst, is that, you know, you can post anonymously. So, there really is no accountability for what you're saying or if you write something about going to the paper or -- you know, you speak it. You -- I mean back up those words.

CHO: And even if you do, I mean, what are you going to do about it? I mean, that the big question, right? You know, it's just really all unregulated.

MARCIANO: Just be nice people. Come on now. Thanks, Alina.

CHO: You bet.

MARCIANO: The economy may be issue number one for Americans, but even more important, how to make sure your money is safe. CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis has some advice on protecting your assets.

And are you afraid of going bald? Well, now you may be able to find out if that's going to happen before you hit the big 4-0. There's a new test out, but is it a scam?

That and a whole lot more coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Well, you know, for almost an entire week Barack Obama has been trying to answer questions and also distance himself from comments that his pastor made in sermons back in December. Yesterday, he delivered an entire speech on a larger issue of race in America.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in the church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely.


CHETRY: Jonathan Capehart, editorial writer at the "The Washington Post," joins me now.

You know, our political correspondent Candy Crowley said something interesting which was, it was very hard to quantify or to really gauge how much damage the fallout from Reverend Wright's speeches did to Barack Obama. So, how can you then the next day gauge whether or not the speech helped repair any of it? What's your read?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, EDITORIAL WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think that's actually -- I love Candy Crowley, because she's very, very smart. And I think that that was a very smart observation. Everyone knows and understands and realizes that certainly Senator Obama realizes the damage caused by Reverend Wright's comments or statements through the sermons that we've been listening to over and over again since Friday.

You know, I think anyone who's running for president of the United States, black or white, any ethnicity, cannot be associated with someone who says God damn America. It's just not possible. You're running for patriot-in-chief, in essence. So, the damage is there. Yes, it's hard to quantify and, yes, Candy's right.

On the flip side, it's hard to quantify how much repair that speech has made, but I think in a larger context, the speech was extraordinary in that he had a political problem, a short-term political problem. And used it as an opportunity to finally have an open, honest discussion, at least the start of a conversation, about what something that people talk about all the time, and that's race relations in the country.

And unlike any politician, probably ever in American history, we have someone who has a foot in both camps, if you will, who can talk about black anger, black rage, black frustration. But also can talk about white rage, white anger, white frustration with the situation, the problems that we face in the country simply because Senator Obama, as he says and which is really terrific, his father is Kenyan, his mother was white from Kansas.

CHETRY: That's right. And in fact, that does put him a unique position. And as he described, he said, you know, I can't really, you know, distance myself or throw, you know, away a person like Reverend Wright any more than I can my own white grandmother who raised and loved me but at times also said things that made me cringe.

And so, is he in a unique position because he was raised by, as you said, his white mother from Kansas. Yet, he also, of course, is bi-racial and he is half black.

Is he in a unique position to understand both races and some of the problems?

CAPEHART: Certainly. And you know, that's one of the beauties of that speech. He said things that I never thought I would hear a politician say out loud in public. This wasn't one of those speeches that relied, that played it safe, that turned into a very dry, boring dissertation, high-minded dissertation on race relations in America.

CHETRY: Right.

CAPEHART: This was a down in the trenches, live from the trenches view of race in America. And what I really appreciated, people have been saying he threw his grandmother under the bus by talking about some of the things that she had done that made him cringe. I thought it took it out of the theoretical and made it extremely personal, because if it can happen to Barack Obama, you certainly know it's happening in living rooms, in dens, in community centers all around country.

CHETRY: Let's just listen really quickly to one part of what he, how he described Reverend Wright's speeches.


OBAMA: The anger is real. It is powerful. And to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.


CHETRY: And just quickly, if you could, he started off this campaign saying that he didn't want to make race a front and center issue. And now, I'm sure people are going to draw on the speech for months if not years to come. How did that change -- how will that change affect the campaign moving forward?

CAPEHART: I think race has always been front and center in this campaign. He's tried not to make it front and center, but I think from now going forward, I would hope that we now start looking at race as something that's part of the campaign. We're wide-eyed about it but we don't get to the point where every comment, everything that's said by a surrogate or supporter is turned into some huge racial conflagration.

CHETRY: Jonathan Capehart, pretty good (ph) your thoughts this morning. Editorial writer with "The Washington Post." Thank you.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Kiran. Thank you.

CHETRY: It brings us to this morning the "Quick Vote" question. What did you think of Barack Obama's speech on race? Right now, 33 percent of you say that you think there's more to explain, while 67 percent say you think he was able to put the controversy behind him. Cast your vote, and we'll continue to tally your vote throughout the morning.

MARCIANO: Troubling news about banks. Concern about the financial markets. Our Gerri Willis shows us how you can protect your investments.

Plus, hours of torrential rains in Tulsa, Oklahoma create a huge sinkhole. We're watching extreme weather on the move. It's all ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CHIEF TECHNOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Dawn Brancheau is at work, she has a very low carbon thin print. And now her trip to and from Shamu's crib at SeaWorld is a little easier on the environment as well.

DAWN BRANCHEAU, SEAWORLD ANIMAL TRAINER: It's one small but really big way that we're trying to make an impact.

O'BRIEN: She rides on an employee shuttle bus that's a real gas. It runs on hydrogen instead of diesel.

KELLY BERNISH, SEAWORLD ENVIRONMENTAL DIRECTOR: We hope to expand that program and look at other type of hydrogen-filled vehicles as well.

O'BRIEN: Ford and Chevron matched up to create the buses to get people talking about hydrogen. They've also been in circulation at the Orlando Airport for about a year now. The hydrogen is made from gas, methane, right at the filling station.

PUNEET VERMA, CHEVRON TECHNOLOGY VENTURES: The technical success is not necessarily an economical success yet.

O'BRIEN: For one thing, these buses do not run on the ultimate hydrogen power plant, fuel cells that drive electric motors. In this case, the hydrogen powers, plain old internal combustion engines much less efficient.

VERMA: We see them as a really -- as a valid potential transition technology.

O'BRIEN: But it's not nearly as clean as you may think. The process to make hydrogen from methane emits greenhouse gases. When you figure that in, the hydrogen buses reduce emissions by only about 12 percent compared to gasoline. Still, riders are impressed.

ROXANNE NICKERSON, HYDROGEN BUS RIDER: It was a wonderful ride. Looking forward to the day when we don't have to put gasoline in the car.

O'BRIEN: Now that's a whale of a worthy goal.

Miles O'Brien, CNN.



MARCIANO: The sudden collapse of Bear Stearns has a lot of people worried about the next bank to fall. How can you make sure your money is protected? Well, CNN's Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis is here to help us out.

Turmoil on Wall Street. (INAUDIBLE) an update, but God knows, tomorrow, the next day.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: That did not make me feel good. It's like living with a manic depressive.

MARCIANO: But you have to make your own financial choices. But if I want to run to my broker and get my money out, I mean, is there a chance it may not there?

WILLIS: I wouldn't do that. You know, I wouldn't do that because there are protections in place. There are laws to protect investors who have brokerage accounts. First off, there's an S.E.C. Securities and Exchange Commission rule that they have to segregate accounts.

So, they can't take your 100 shares of Microsoft, dip into that just because they're having problems. They're going to keep all that money separate. The companies have to cover your obligation. There's a rule about that as well.

And if all else fails, there's something called the Securities Investor Protection Corporation. They step in when these companies go out of business. And you are made whole up to $500,000 in an account.

So, there are ways to get your money back if the worst happens. So, this isn't a time to panic and pull all your money out of your brokerage account because the federal government is standing behind that.

MARCIANO: OK. What about traditional banks? Remember in '91, we have that recession. A lot of banks failed, even some credit unions. I mean, what about banks now?

WILLIS: Well, the good news there, the FTIC stands behind the banks as well and the accounts there. There's actually insurance for up to $100,000. $250,000, if you got a joint account with a spouse and credit unions. There's also an insurance protection for them as well. And you know, we often talk about credit unions because they actually better deals for consumers. So, it's worth thinking about them, too. But if the worst happens, your bank goes out of business, you're worried about your money, the federal government is going to step in and make you whole. And I'm going to tell you, they're going to advertise the fact that they have these protections.

F.T.I.C. banks, they will put it in their advertising because it's a real benefit to them. Also, SIPC, that is also advertised as well. So, it's not like a big question whether these banks are actually part of this or not. And you also get on the web to find out, too.

MARCIANO: All right. So, no need to bury that money in your mattress just yet. Maybe a little bit. Twenty bucks, just in case.

WILLIS: Well, you know, if you put your money in savings right now, you're not making anything over inflation. So, you got to think about, you know, the comparison there.

MARCIANO: Issue number one. Gerri Willis, thank you.

WILLIS: Thank you, Rob.

MARCIANO: All right. Well, as we mentioned, the economy is issue number one and we've got a show called just that today and everyday of the week, noon Eastern right here on CNN. AMERICAN MORNING will be right back.


CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Kiran Chetry. John Roberts has the week off.

MARCIANO: I'm Rob Marciano. Here for, space filler for JR until he returns from his vacation.

CHETRY: Oh, much more than a space filler. Good to have you with us.

And we have a lot of weather to talk about today. In fact, extreme weather when you take a look and you mentioned this as well. Just what a large portion of the country is affected. This is video from a road in Tulsa, Oklahoma, collapsing. It was undermined by six inches of rain that poured down in just 12 hours yesterday, weakening that situation.

There, you see, it just literally collapsed right before the eyes of the cameraman. Flood warnings lifted now for Tulsa, but they are still up for counties in the south and east along Arkansas, the Arkansas and Illinois Rivers.

And check out this video of a truck in a sinkhole. This is near Oklahoma City. I mean, imagine driving, he said it looked like the top of the hill, it looked like pavement. And then when he got there, boom. It was just a big rift in the road. It was weakened again by heavy rain. Just collapsed right underneath him. He was pulled out by rescuers. He has some injuries. There you see him in the hospital but he is going to be OK.

Jacqui Jeras is in the CNN weather center right now, tracking the extreme weather and just, you can't imaging treacherous conditions and then how much it must just take you by surprise? You're thinking the roads going to be there and there as you saw in that instant, it just literally fell away.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I gasp. I've seen that video a hundred times already today but every time, you know, it gets me, because it is so scary and it so dangerous. And you don't know or realize that the road's washed out underneath there. You can't see it because the road's covering it. So, just don't go there. Not a good day to travel. If you come across that, find a different route, take that extra time. Because it really could save your life, believe it or not.

All right. Let's look at all of the flood warnings. A lot of green on the map here today from Texas all the way up into the northeastern corner, the dark green means there's a warning. So, that means flooding is imminent or occurring and the watch areas are in the lighter green.

So, that's going to be moving up to the northeast today as that rain continues to come down. It's really heavy at times. The worst of it has been down here into parts of Missouri, where six to 12 inches of rain has fallen. Yes, six to 12. That's a foot of rain, my friend.

That happened in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Since Monday, Jackson had about 9 1/2, and Springfield about 6 1/2 inches of rainfall. Severe weather in the overnight hours and early this morning across parts of Mississippi. Watch out now, but as the sun comes out this morning, this stabilizes the atmosphere into the southeast. We could see more severe thunderstorms pop up and that includes the Atlanta area, still recovering from the tornado.

The northeast, nothing severe here, other than the threat of flooding potentially with snow melt, and then the rain coming in on top of that. Your biggest trouble today really is going to be travel. We got problems at the airports already. Newark over an hour. Over an hour in Philadelphia and New York City at La Guardia, about 35 minutes what we're expecting.

Many more cities to get in on that action across the northeast including places like Boston. Dallas, things are starting to clear out there now. But some fog in San Francisco can hold you up too. So, coast to coast, we got travel trouble, guys -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Jacqui Jeras for us and looking at the delays. Lining up, as you said. Thanks so much.

Well, as the war in Iraq enters its sixth year today. We're hearing what Americans think the next commander in chief should do about it. A new CNN opinion research corporation poll is out this morning, 61 percent of those surveyed say the next president should remove most of the troops within the next few months, while 33 percent say troop level should stay the same.

Presumptive presidential nominee John McCain, republican nominee, John McCain, opposes any timetable for a troop withdrawal. And then, you have Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both talking about some sort of withdrawals if elected. So, what are the differences between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's plans?

Well, Congressman Joseph Sestak is a Clinton supporter and retired navy vice admiral. He joins us from Philadelphia this morning. Good to have you with us. And Congressman Murphy, Patrick Murphy, is an Obama supported and Iraq War veteran as well.

Thanks to both of you for being with us. Oh, and he's also the author of "Taking the Hill from Philly to Baghdad to the United States Congress." Great book. Had a chance to page through some of that congressman. Welcome to both of you.

REP. PATRICK MURPHY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: It's good to be here.


CHETRY: Let's talk about the specific plans. Let's start with you Congressman Sestak. Senator Clinton has proposed pulling out one to two brigades, about a month, or out a month. And so it would be more of a phased situation, if you will. Right now, we have top commanders in Iraq all have come out publicly against a timetable saying they believe it would not be in the best interests. You of course, used to about vice admiral in the navy.

How seriously do elected leaders need to take the advice and take what the men on the ground and those who are charged with figuring out the best plan for the war, how seriously do they need to take what they're saying into account when they make statements like withdrawal with a certain timetable?

SESTAK: That's the strength of Senator Clinton. She recognizes you need to listen to the military commanders for what they're responsible for. General Petraeus and his generals in Iraq are responsible for Iraq's military security. She has stepped back and said, how does their proposal affect America's overall security? And she has stated that we must end the war in Iraq, but win it in Afghanistan, because the present strategy in Iraq is harming U.S. security.

She recognizes there's not one army unit here at home. Not one. That can deploy anywhere in the world, for instance, to South Korea to protect our 27,000 troops sitting there confronting North Korea. She recognized that Afghanistan is now prey to terrorists and the Taliban had moved back into the ungoverned regions and she recognizes that this war, if we're out, if we're out even by 2010, will cost about $3 trillion, one third of our debt.

So, she has stepped back and from her experience of seeing Somalia after the Black Hawk helicopter went down that it took us six months to get 6,300 troops out of that country. She is one to two brigade combat teams a month because she knows that that is a deliberate way and safe way for our troops to redeploy, which is most important overall, because General Petraeus' strategy is condition based. That means if conditions that the Iraqis determine are good, then we redeploy. She said no.

This is about America's security first and foremost. Change the strategy, redeploy so they know they know they have to assume responsibility and then have a diplomatic surge with Iran, and bring her into the mix with Syria and Saudi Arabia, because she recognizes that only political accommodation first will bring a military security. Not the reverse.

CHETRY: Let me just ask you one question about that and then I'll get Congressman Murphy's take from Barack Obama. Congressman Sestak, what exactly is the plan for the future of Iraq, then, if there is this one to two brigade phased withdrawal that takes place and there's no one to fill that security void?

SESTAK: Yes, there is. There are those to secure that area right there. It is the Iraqis themselves with support from Iran and Syria that have influence, that our intelligence community has influence on the insurgents. They tell us if we are not there, the National Intelligence Council says, that the Iranians and Syrians will work for stability only by redeploying deliberately will the Iraqis assume the responsibility. They have nine providences left in order to have their army take control of those providences. They're not doing it.

One quick example. We have 32 departments in Iraqi government, eight are empty. One they said this was the year that we would have corruption seized. Their health department minister was arrested as the leader of the black market of pharmaceuticals if not in the world in that country, then they released him two months later. This is a place where there is only relative security.

If you're a U.S. official and want to travel, it takes three SUV, a helicopter and you can only stay outside the green zone for 45 minutes. We must have that country stop destroying their country by taking personal fights and corruption and have them assume it by saying we won't there be forever.

CHETRY: All right. Let's hear from Congressman Murphy as well. Because Senator Barack Obama has proposed a withdrawal as well. He has promised that most troops would be out within 16 months. You yourself have served in Iraq. How realistic is that proposal?

MURPHY: I think it's absolutely right on target, actually. He calls for two combat teams to come home per month and we can do that within 16 months. What is important is that I think the distinction here is that he had the judgment before the war to speak out against it, and now the courage to be very clear with the American people.

A 16-month timeline, a phased redeployment of our troops so we can refocus back on the number one enemy of America, that's Al Qaeda and where they're most strong, which is in Afghanistan, and as you know, there are al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the border of Pakistan, a country which already has nuclear weapons. But that phased redeployment is so important, that 16-month timeline is a clear distinction with any of his candidates right now.

CHETRY: Do you yourself know also the situation with Iran and the influence of Iran and some of the concerns, completely different point of view than the one that John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, is talking about, which is he believes Iran is training terrorists and sending them back into Iraq. So how would you control that situation if the United States was no longer a presence in Iraq? Congressman Murphy?

MURPHY: Well, first of all, one of the greatest thing about Barack Obama is he understands that we have to have diplomacy as well. You know, we can't put the pressure on Iran if we're not talking to Iran, which we're not doing right now. So, that's very important, a very important distinction between John McCain and Barack Obama. And I think it's very important what you said earlier.

I had the great opportunity to serve in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne division, and previously under General Petraeus. And Senator Obama also listens to military leaders.

But he also says, listen, I'm the commander in chief, I'm going to be the president of the United States and I have to understand that it's going to take all the employers in the region to come together to really solve this problem right now. It's important to know though that to deal with Iran, we must be able to first to talk to them but also to refocus back on the extremists, they do want to hurt us and where they're most strong and that's in Afghanistan.

Just the past couple of weeks, we had the Secretary of Defense Roberts Gates, go to Europe and Australia begging for more troops, 7,000 more troops for Afghanistan. Again, that's where Osama Bin Laden is and al Qaeda, the ones who killed 3,000 innocent Americans in 2001. They're not in Iraq. That's just very important.

CHETRY: Well, I want to thank both of you for joining us today to talk about it. Congressman Joseph Sestak as well as Congressman Patrick Murphy, thanks. And we want to let people know that we did reach out to the McCain campaign. No one was available because of scheduling conflicts.

MARCIANO: Well, it fits one crack and two more appear. That's what Pennsylvania's governor says is happening to the nation's infrastructure. We'll have that story coming up.

And the release of Hillary Clinton's schedule from her days as First Lady is expected out this morning. Our Veronica de la Cruz will join us with a preview of what we can expect to find out about the Senator's White House experience.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. The stories that we're watching right now, AAA says the price of gas is actually going down nationally, but not by much. The average price of regular is at $3.27 a gallon. That's slightly lower than the $3.28 average reported yesterday. Prices on the west coast though do remain among the highest in the nation.

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell says emergency repairs to Interstate 95 are just the tip of the iceberg. He says the federal government needs to make a massive commitment to fix the nation's infrastructure. Talking about this because of this three-mile stretch of I-95 in Philly still closed this morning because of a crack. It was actually a four-foot-long crack in a support tower that was discovered and now, of course, needs to be repaired.

Also, a young horse rescued southeast of Gainesville, Florida. The horse named Shooter was trapped underground in an old septic system for three hours. There you see him out, though. He doesn't look too happy but hey at least he is free. Rescuers were able to pull him out and they say he is going to be just fine. Whoever has to wash him, though ...

MARCIANO: Nobody's actually embracing Scooter with a big hug right now, but we're certainly ...

CHETRY: Poor thing.

MARCIANO: But mom's there.

CHETRY: You can always count on mom.

MARCIANO: She doesn't care how bad you smell. OK. Thanks, Kiran.

Too many hats, not enough vitamins, grandpa and your mom's side. We've heard it all when it comes to predicting and preventing baldness. Now, there may be an early warning. A simple test to see if it's in your DNA. Medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is at the medical update desk with more on this story.

Elizabeth, tell us about this test and does it actually work?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I hear there's a lot to say about this test. Some would say that this test, which sort of is saying that it can look into a crystal ball and find out if baldness is in your future.

Here's the Web site. Somewhat say that it preys on the fears that men have about losing their hair. And certainly there are a lot of men out there. There are 40 million men right now in the United States who are bald. And they spend $3.5 billion on hair loss products.

And Rob, here's how it works. You pay $149. And they send you a kit. You swab the inside of your cheek. It's very easy. You mail it in, and you get results back in three to four weeks. Now, Rob, you ask the big question, which is, does it work? Well, we asked several geneticists about this, and they gave it a big thumbs down.

Here's a quote from someone who heads up Emory University's Genetic Center. He said, you'd be throwing your money down the drain if you bought this test. Why? Because this tests only looks at one gene for baldness. This author says there are tens if not hundreds of genes for baldness. So he said testing for just one really isn't that useful -- Rob.

MARCIANO: If it doesn't work, let's say it doesn't work, what are the other ways to can maybe predict? You look at dad? You look at mom?

COHEN: Exactly. That's what this geneticist told us. He said, not so much mom, but look at dad. Look at your mothers, fathers, and brothers if they're bald, there's a pretty good chance that you have baldness in your future. You don't need to spend money on a DNA test. You can just look.

MARCIANO: OK. Well, my mom's dad is Mr. Clean. He's bald, bald as a beagle. But thank goodness for my wig maker. What about these -- these other genetic tests out there? Aren't they? I mean, do they work for other things?

COHEN: There are. And we're going to be seeing more and more of these. There's even a genetic test out there that says, swab the inside of your cheek, send us your genetic material. And we'll tell you, we'll find a mate for you based on your genetics. We'll find the perfect spouse for you. Geneticists also told us this one doesn't work either. So, you really have to ask yourself when you see these things on the Internet, are they worth it? Geneticists say, usually not.

MARCIANO: All right. Thanks for opening our eyes. Your hair looks great today by the way though.

COHEN: Oh, aren't you nice. And there's a lot of it, too. Yes.

MARCIANO: Good to see you. Thanks, Elizabeth -- Kiran.

CHETRY: When I pull on it, it does not come loose. It's definitely not a wig because I know people are going to write in and ask. It's a full head of hair.

MARCIANO: As far as you know.

CHETRY: You're very lucky. Very lucky.

MARCIANO: I've got good people.

CHETRY: Either that, or you got some great glue.

Well, CNN NEWSROOM is just minutes away. Heidi Collins at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead. Good morning, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, the true colors of Rob Marciano. Worried about his hair, again and again!

Seriously, guys, we do have a lot to talk about, of course, in the CNN NEWSROOM rundown today. The Iraq War five years later. President Bush focusing on the anniversary today. His speech from the Pentagon, live right here in the NEWSROOM. And flooding from Texas to Ohio. Hundreds of people are out of their homes this morning. Travel, as you would imagine, a mess.

And meet a little boy who's going for a big-time world record. He's collected one million paper airplanes. My kind of guy.

How about that Dow, too? Can stocks top a 400-point day? Tracking Wall Street in the NEWSROOM, top of the hour on CNN.

Back to you guys.

CHETRY: All right. We'll be watching. Thanks, Heidi.

COLLINS: You bet.

CHETRY: Meanwhile, hundreds of pages of documents chronicling Hillary Clinton's days as first lady are set to be released. Veronica de la Cruz will tell us where to find them online and a preview of what they may reveal. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Well, sometime this morning the National Archives plans to make public more than 11,000 pages of Senator Hillary Clinton's schedule when she was first lady. The release is in response to a sue (ph) by a conservative watchdog group. Our Veronica de la Cruz has a preview of not only what might be available online but also what people may hearing today as they look at these documents. Hi, Veronica.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, too. 10:00 a.m. Eastern. At 10:00 a.m. Eastern, that is when those documents will be released by both the Clinton Library Web site and also the National Archives and they're also going to be made available on CD. Now, what exactly will those document show? Supposedly, Clinton's schedule from part of her tenure as First Lady and they're also expected to include meetings, speaking engagements and trip activities from 1993 to 1998.

Now, the Clinton Library and the National Archives say about half the pages have redactions. There's about 11,000 pages. About 5,000 have redactions, like social security numbers, phone numbers, private addresses, which they say they've done to protect the privacy of third parties.

Now, also missing from the documents, the first 19 days in January of 1993. Those were the days before President Bill Clinton's inauguration. Now, these records release is significant because Clinton has again promised voters that she will be ready on day one to lead the country.

Now, the public can look at her experience in the White House during her husband's presidency, which is Democratic Barack Obama has been pushing for. The documents will hopefully give everybody a better idea of what she was up to at the time and whether or not she truly does have the right experience to lead the country. Many accused Clinton of delaying the release of these documents on purpose. And as you know, Senator Barack Obama is still calling for the release of those tax records, so.

CHETRY: All right. So, now, we know where to look today of the release.

DE LA CRUZ:, 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks, Veronica.

And when we come back, a quick check of this morning's "Quick Vote."


CHETRY: And before we say good-bye, a final check of this morning's "Quick Vote" question. What do you think of Barack Obama's speech on race, 33 percent of you say, you still think he may have more to explain but 67 percent say that you think he was able to put the controversial comments of his former pastor behind him.

As always, thanks for voting and thanks so much for being with us. Great to you have, hair and all, this morning.

MARCIANO: Thank you for -- it's St. Joseph's Day, the equivalent of the Italian St. Patrick's Day and you celebrate it by having spaghetti and meatballs.

CHETRY: That's right. Power breakfast, carb loading.

MARCIANO: CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris and Heidi Collins starts right now.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: Hi there, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

A lot going on this morning. That's for sure. Watch events come into the NEWSROOM.