Return to Transcripts main page
Thousands Dead in Cyclone in Burma; Obama Speaks to Workers
Aired May 5, 2008 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WILLIS: All right. Time now to get you up to date on other stories making headlines. CNN NEWSROOM with Don Lemon and Brianna Keilar starts right now.
DON LEMON, CO-HOST: More than 10,000 people dead and maybe a lot more. Unmitigated disaster from a weekend cyclone in Myanmar. We're inside the ravaged country.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CO-HOST: It's also primary eve in America yet again. A day before the nation hears from Indiana and North Carolina, those states hear from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, not to mention their supporters and their surrogates. We've got new polls, new analysis and a busy day of events.
Hi there, I'm Brianna Keilar in world headquarters in Atlanta.
LEMON: A very busy day, I might add. A very busy day. And I'm Don Lemon. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
And right off the top, we start with this. So many people are dead in Myanmar it is mind boggling. That government now reporting more than 10,000 people killed by a monster cyclone over the weekend. Who knows how many are hurt or even homeless from this?
Much of the country, also known as Burma, is in a desperate state. Cities are cut off from the outside world. Hundreds of thousands need shelter and clean drinking water. Food is in short supply. The power is out. And phone lines are down. Aid agencies around the world are scrambling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BAN KI-MOON, SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS: I have already mobilized this UNDAC -- this is United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team -- to find out what we can do. United Nations is very much committed to actively assisting Myanmese people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: And of course, Jacqui Jeras, everyone's talking about what a monster of a storm this was. Just how powerful was it?
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Very strong. In fact, we are not 100 percent sure. We think it was likely a very strong Category 3, maybe a weak Category 4 hurricane with winds of maximum sustained somewhere around 130-ish miles per hour. And what a big storm, too. You know, geographically, it covers up a very big area. And there you can see. This is the Bay of Bengal here. This is India right over here. And Myanmar, right over here. So you can see this encompasses most of the bay. It's about 750 miles across.
The satellite image that you're looking at, by the way, that's from Thursday, about 24 hours prior to it making landfall. The red line that you see here, that is the track, that's the path, that this storm took.
And notice this area down here where it did hit the land. Look at all of these little fingers. This is like a river delta area. Kind of think about the Mississippi River and Louisiana, to give you an idea. And when the storm moves in this way, it brings in the strong winds up here. So all of that water got funneled up these little fingers and moved on shore.
Now, on top of that, the most populated city of this area, Yangon here, this is the capital city. About 5.5 million live here. The path went right to the north of it.
And the airport just on up to the north reported winds for about five to six hours of 70 miles per hour sustained, gusts up to 140. So that is the equivalent of gusts of a Category 4 hurricane. So just incredibly powerful storm and so devastating for so many people.
KEILAR: That's right, Jacqui. I mean, we know what a Category 3 or 4 does in the U.S. Obviously, this is a much less developed area.
KEILAR: So we're going to continue to keep an eye on this, as are you, we know.
And also, we have CNN producers and correspondents. Right now they're struggling with the phone outages In Myanmar, but we are getting bits and pieces from the -- from the Web and also bloggers inside of the country. We're going to talk to the aid workers trying to get relief into the country. We'll have more on that in just a few minutes.
LEMON: All right. Let's talk some politics now. To left of the screen, I believe that's live pictures of Barack Obama. He is in Durham, North Carolina. He's just stepping up to the mike. We may dip in just a little bit.
And then earlier on the right that was Hillary Clinton. She was in Raleigh -- Raleigh this morning, doing some campaigning, as well.
But Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, of course, they are counting down to tomorrow. Two more contests; 187 more delegates at stake. And every one of them matters in this -- this time.
CNN is bringing you "Ballot Bowl" coverage ahead of the North Carolina and Indiana primaries. Your chance to see the candidates unfiltered and in their own words, of course, only here on CNN.
Let's talk about the latest nationwide poll numbers. They show a slight gain for Barack Obama. CNN's national Democratic poll of polls, an average of four surveys, well, it shows Obama now leads Clinton by four points. That's 47 percent, 43 percent, with 10 percent unsure. Last Wednesday, our national poll of polls had Obama up by two points, Brianna.
KEILAR: And, Don, the numbers, they add up to this: a tight race where every single vote, every single delegate and super delegate matters. CNN's Election Express is in Indianapolis, and so is our Dan Lothian.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, how are you?
Well, yes, the race does remain tight, as you mentioned, not only North Carolina nationally but also here in Indiana where the latest poll of polls shows that Senator Clinton is leading by about four points here, 48 percent to 44 percent. Eight percent, of course, still undecided.
And both of the candidates are working it very hard on the campaign trail. You were talking about how they were in Indiana and also in North Carolina. They're really going back and forth. Senator Barack Obama will be holding an event here at 7:30 tonight.
But they're really trying to focus on the issues, trying to reach out to those working-class voters.
Senator Clinton, then, also going back to what has been the theme of her campaign, that she is the candidate with the experience, that she is the candidate that has been tested, not Barack Obama. And that she's the one who needs no on-the-job training.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we have to recognize is that this is more like a hiring decision. Who are you going to hire to tackle all of these tough problems for you? Somebody who understands what you're going through, cares about it, gets it and will stand up there every day and fight for you?
The wealthy and the well-connected have had their president. It's time that the rest of America, the hard working, middle-class families, had a president on their side again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: Senator Barack Obama, making his closing statement to his supporters, talked about the controversies that have surrounded him over the past couple of weeks, certainly the Reverend Wright controversy as well. He didn't mention it by name specifically but talked about that. He also addressed the fact that the race is very, very close. And he appealed to his supporters and other voters that everyone needs to get out and vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We probably have taken as many hits as anybody has in this presidential campaign. Senator Clinton has not. John McCain certainly has not. And yet I'm still here and, you know, competitive in both North Carolina and Indiana.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: And Brianna, the thing that we hear both of the Democratic candidates talking so much about today, as they have been over past couple of weeks, high gas prices. And the reason that they're doing that is because this is an issue that they realize is so important to the voters. So, they're all talking about certainly Senator Clinton, talking about relief for working-class voters -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Thanks, Dan. Dan Lothian for us there in Indianapolis, where as he said, Barack Obama is going to be holding a rally later tonight.
But right now, Senator Obama is in Durham, North Carolina. He and Hillary Clinton have been trying to appeal to blue-collar voters. And here he is holding a discussion with workers. Let's listen in.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... an ATM and finance, their lifestyles. But now, because home values are going down, in part because of a lack of oversight and a lack of regulation in the financial markets and the mortgage lending marks, that option's not available. In fact, people are at risk now, millions across the country, of losing their homes.
At the same time, 47 million people don't have health insurance. And there are millions of children, despite the slogans, who are at risk of being left behind, unable to compete in the global economy because the schools aren't working the way they should.
In such circumstances, I decided, we can't afford to wait. We can't wait to fix our schools. We can't wait to fix our health care system. We can't wait to have an energy policy that makes sense in this country. We can't wait to bring a war in Iraq to a close that I believe has been an enormous distraction from what we need to do to keep America safe. And that's why I decided to run for president right here and right now. Because I think it's important for us step up in a way that we haven't seen in far too long.
And I was also betting on the American people. I was convinced that they were ready for something different. David talked about the definition of insanity being doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. In some ways, that's what we've been doing with our politics. And I was convinced that people wanted a politics that wasn't about tearing each other down but was about lifting the country up. That people wanted, not spin and PR, but they wanted straight talk from their elected officials about how we're going to solve problems.
And most of all, they wanted to see a politics that can unify instead of divide the country, because I have always been persuaded that America can't move forward when we're sliced and diced into red states and blue states, and black, white, and Hispanic, Asian. That can't be how our politics operates.
Our politics has to focus on the fact that we're all Americans, that we're all in this together, that when we work together, we solve problems. When we don't, then that may advantage some politicians, but we sure don't meet the kinds of challenges that we face right now in the 21st century.
And now here's the good news. As I travel across the country, in 46 states, I've talked to hundreds of thousands of people and shaken hundreds of thousands of hands and kissed hundreds of babies. And I'm here to report that my bet's paid off. My faith in the American people has been vindicated, because people really are desperate for change. They want to see something new. They want to turn the page.
But what I've also discovered is that the American people are skeptical about the possibilities of change. And my job in this election is to convince people that, as hard as it is, change really is possible if we do some important -- do some important things right now change Washington. Not just to change policies, but to change Washington.
And the Democratic Party is actually more unified than these primaries suggest. Senator Clinton and I have a real argument, but it's not that much about policy, for the most part. I mean, whatever differences she and I have, they pale in comparison to the differences we have with John McCain, who I believe wants to continue George Bush foreign policy and George Bush economic policy in a way that is going to keep us on the wrong trajectory, the wrong path.
So I'm confident that Democrats will be unified in November. And we're going to attract a lot of independents and some Republicans to the idea that we've got to change the country.
But right now on May 6, here in North Carolina, the question you have to ask yourself is who can best lead that Democratic Party to deliver on change? And this is where there are big differences with Senator Clinton and myself. And I'm just going to name three.
No. 1, I think there is a difference in our attitudes about special interests in Washington and how much they dominate the debate. In August of last year, while we were in a debate, Senator Clinton was asked about how much money she was getting from PACs and lobbyists. And she said, "Well, you know, lobbyists are real people. They represent real Americans." Her basic suggestion was, that was part of the system that was a given.
I don't think that that's a given. I think they are part of the problem.
We have not been able to solve health care for decades now. And part of the reason is the drug and the insurance companies spent $1 billion over the last 10 years in lobbying and campaign contributions to prevent change from happening.
The same is true on energy. We've been talking about energy independence since the '70s, since many of us were kids. Yet year after year, the only thing that's changed, we actually import more oil than we did in the '70s. Exxon Mobil made $11 billion for two consecutive quarters, and everybody here is paying $3.70, $3.80 at pump.
Why is that? Well, part of it is Bush put Cheney in charge of energy policy. Mr. Cheney met with the renewable energy groups once, the environmental groups once. He met with the oil and gas companies 40 times. That's part of the reason.
But part of it is also that the oil and gas companies have dominated every energy committee in Congress and have been setting the agenda for too long.
So I disagree with Senator Clinton that that's a fixed part of the system. And that's why last year I passed landmark ethics reform legislation that would forbid lobbyists from giving gifts and meals and providing corporate jets to members of Congress. And they'd have to disclose who they were getting money from and where they were sending it to.
And that's why at beginning of this campaign I said I wouldn't take PAC money and I wouldn't take money from lobbyists. And people weren't sure how we were going to finance our campaign, but we financed it because you, the American people have given $25 or $50 contributions. And that means I'm accountable to you. And that's part of the change that has to take place in our politics.
And Democrats have to stand for the proposition that the days of lobbyists setting the agenda in Washington are over. That they have not funded our campaigns, they do not run our White House and they will not drown out the voice of the American people. They certainly won't when I'm president of the United States of America. That's point No. 1
Point No. 2 is the need to be honest about how we're actually going to solve problems. How are we going to get results, as David put it? And I think this debate around the gas tax is a perfect example, a perfect metaphor, more what's been going on in Washington.
Senator McCain was the first one to propose a gas tax holiday. And then Senator Clinton immediately said, "Me, too." And most of you probably have been reading the reports, if we suspended the gas tax for three months, as they propose, the most you could hope for would be a 30-cent-a-day savings for a grand total of $28 for the entire summer. That would be the savings best case scenario that you would get. But the fact is we tried this back in Illinois, back in 2000, and it's been proposed in the past. And other states have done it. And typically, what happens is you eliminate the gas tax, and the oil companies simply make up the difference. They fill the gap. They stop up whatever perceived savings the consumers might have.
You're paying the same amount of gas except now we no longer have the money going into the highway trust fund that builds our roads and our bridges, keeps us safe and puts thousands of people here in North Carolina to work. It's a shell game.
And Senator Clinton's own people to "The Washington Post" said, "Well, we don't think this is really going to work, but it's good politics."
And when she tried to find some people to speak out on behalf of this program, she couldn't get any of her own supporters, including Governor Easley right here in North Carolina, to say it was a good idea.
So instead, she got a lobbyist from -- guess who -- Shell Oil to say what a good idea this was. That's just not honest politics.
What is true is, people need real relief. I meet folks all the time they can't get to their jobs. Sometimes they can't get to a job search. They're out of work, but they can't fill up the gas tank to go drive to apply for new jobs. So people need relief right now, right here.
And that's why what I've said is let's put in place the second part of the tax stimulus package that I proposed a long time ago to get some immediate money into the pockets of people where we know it's going to get to those folks. So we know it's going to get to you.
And let's put in place a permanent middle-class tax cut for families who really need it, so that families are getting $1,000 per year to offset not just the rising cost of gas but food and other necessities. And senior citizens get a break from taxes altogether on Social Security income, if they're bringing in $50,000 a year or less. And homeowners who don't itemize on their tax forms, they get to deduct their mortgage interest, the same way people with wealthy -- wealthier people who do itemize their deductions get a tax break. So that's a way to deal with the immediate burden that people are feeling.
But long term, everybody here at Creed knows that if we're going to tackle gas prices, then we've got to use less oil. And that means we're investing in alternative energy. That means that we are investing in the technologies required to make cars more fuel efficient and raising fuel efficiency standards.
That's why I've proposed putting $150 billion not only into clean energy around transportation, but across the board. And that will spur on the kind of innovation that we're seeing right here at Creed, producing green jobs. KEILAR: You are watching Senator Barack Obama stumping in Durham, North Carolina. He started the day in Indiana. Now he's in North Carolina. He'll be heading back to Indiana tonight.
Talking about some areas where he says he differs with Senator Hillary Clinton. Although when he started out talking about these differences, he did say that whatever differences he has with Senator Clinton pale in comparison to the differences they both have with Senator John McCain.
We're going to continue to keep an eye on this. And if you'd like to watch any of the candidates today, check it out at CNN.com/live to see their rallies and events. Check them out live and unfiltered at CNN.com/live.
LEMON: Broken legs, broken hearts. The Run for the Roses ends with a great victory and also a great tragedy. Eight Belles isn't first horse with speed to die for. Critics think she won't be the last.
KEILAR: And how do you defend yourself against unspeakable crimes? Well, Austria's alleged monster dad pretty much has only one card to play.
LEMON: And the death toll is staggering, the situation desperate. A drive through Myanmar's biggest city reveals the power of a monster cyclone.
KEILAR: A monster cyclone hits halfway around the world, and the death and devastation are staggering. Our T.J. Holmes is tracking the story from our international desk.
T.J., what can you tell us?
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there.
This is always a busy place, as we know, Brianna, around the international desk. But specifically today a lot of talk over here about Myanmar and the cyclone that hit, specifically this section here. This is where a lot of the work has been coming in. And a lot of the information has been coming in about this, up to 10,000. This really threw us off, all of us, really. We were watching this storm over the weekend, and we heard about hundreds being killed. And then just this morning it jumped to 4,000. And now we're being told up to 10,000 people could be dead in this thing in Myanmar. Certainly, the deadliest natural disaster to hit there in recent history.
The capital there, Yangon, got hit for more than ten hours, really, on Friday night and also into Saturday. Twenty inches of rain dumped there.
Look at some of these pictures you're seeing here. It sank boats in the Yangon Harbor, shut down the airport. Roofs coming off houses, bridges washed out, uprooted trees, you name it. Just a disaster there. Here's some of the daytime pictures you're seeing, as well.
Myanmar, you don't maybe hear about it that much in the news, day in and day out. However, it may sound familiar to you, because it was in the news in a major way just last year. It's known as Burma there, and it's under military rule. Been that way since a coup in 1962. But thousands of students and Buddhist monks took to the streets last August to protest that military government there, known as the military junta.
It responded with a violent crackdown there. You might remember some of the pictures of monks being arrested. Ten protesters are killed as well.
Back to this disaster we're dealing with here now. We're getting information -- tough to get a lot of information out, but a lot of it is coming online. We've got a Web site we've been keeping an eye on, called the Democratic Voice of Burma. Burma also what Myanmar is known by.
The government opposition Web site here, it's talking about phones being down, difficult to get independent accounts of the casualty numbers and damage that's going on. Whole towns, according to this Web site, have been washed away. And little details like this, saying that the zoo was badly damaged and that animals are pretty much running amok, is how they describe it.
And also something we've been hearing today, is how the price of fuel, the price of food has just shot up. According to this Web site, water there will cost you about $90, $90 U.S. a bottle. Also gas costing about $1,200, U.S. dollars for a gallon of gas.
Some of the quotes we're getting from this Web site we can tell you about here. People that are dialing into this particular Web site, talking about "We're facing drinking water problems. Now people are buying water from fire engines. The prices for food and drinks have gone up. The price of rice has gone beyond 30 kyat for a bag."
Also, another one here we have for you, saying that "The tin roof of every house is overturned. We are in trouble. We have nowhere to stay. We have no water. We have no electricity. Every household is in trouble."
And finally here, one more here we can show you, from this Web site, again, this opposition party Web site, saying that "Electricity won't come within 10 to 15 days. People are starving. Fuel is becoming scarce. If international help doesn't come this week or within a week it will be impossible to survive."
So we have this major disaster, talking about 10,000 possibly dead. But it could get worse, and more could be killed if relief does not come.
I do have an update I can give you. Here are folks on the international desk, have been giving to me. Now there are some relief agencies there in Myanmar, but they have very limited supplies and they have very small operations. Doctors Without Borders is there. The Red Cross is there. They are working on the ground right now. But those supplies are going to run out and run out fast, given the need that is happening there.
So the word here from our international desk is that the -- Thailand is going to be sending supplies. It's the first country that's going to send a wave of supplies, first foreign country. And those supplies hopefully will get there very soon. But they are going to be sending the first wave of supplies to arrive.
The major issues they have, Brianna, right now, three, it's three-fold: shelter, water, and medical supplies. Well, the shelter is going to be sent through plastic sheets and blankets for people to cover up. The water, purification tablets also in those medical packs. So the relief is coming, Thailand the first to get on.
And also, we hear, Brianna, that Laura Bush is going to be making a statement about this crisis, humanitarian crisis, coming up from the White House around 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Laura Bush has been outspoken about some of the protests and the rule there of the military junta there. So she has been quite involved in what's happening in Myanmar, or Burma, again, as it's traditionally known as. So we expect to hear from her at 3 p.m. -- Brianna.
KEILAR: That's right. Unusually outspoken, she has been, about what happened in Myanmar recently. Thank you, T.J. Holmes at the international desk.
HOLMES: All right.
LEMON: All right. And you heard now -- you heard T.J. talk about aid and aid organizations going over to help in Myanmar. The U.N. and private aid agencies rush to prepare assistance for victims of the devastating cyclone in Myanmar. And one of those agencies is UNICEF. Joining us now is Patrick McCormick. He is a spokesman for UNICEF.
You have to wait for government approval. I understand you have gotten it. It is not official yet, but you have the paperwork, and you are moving to get teams into place to go help.
PATRICK MCCORMICK, SPOKESMAN, UNICEF: Yes, we understand there's been a formal request for assistance from U.N. agencies. So we're taking that as a green light and we're going ahead.
LEMON: We're hearing that you're working with other agencies, including the Red Cross. And as I understand, you have about five teams -- am I correct -- that are going to go into Myanmar to distribute this aid?
MCCORMICK: We have five teams already going around the country taking a look at the damage and what needs to be done. We pretty much know what we need to get out there, as soon as possible. I think you mentioned it before, it's shelter, water. There's a desperate shortage of drinking water. And medicines. And it needs to get there very, very soon, especially for the children which -- who are always the most vulnerable in these situations. LEMON: Yes. You are used -- obviously, your organization is used to dealing with these sort of things. And I mean, we heard them talk about how much drinking water costs now. It is at a premium. There is no food. There's no shelter. And people can't even talk by phone. The cell phones are down.
You're saying that, of course, the children need to get food and water. But explain to us, going into a situation like this, what you're prepared for and what you're prepared to see on the ground. Ten thousand people, that's a lot of deaths.
MCCORMICK: Yes, 10,000 people dead. And many, many more affected. And you know, I think this is going to be at least as big as the cyclone that hit Bangladesh. And in Bangladesh we got a lot of help from the governments. We used their helicopters, which we're going to need this time -- that's for sure -- because the roads and access routes in Myanmar are very difficult at the best of times.
LEMON: What can people, if people are watching here on CNN and they're thinking, "Well, maybe I'd like to do something or there's nothing that I can do in this situation. I'm so far removed from it." What would you recommend that they do, Mr. McCormick?
MCCORMICK: They should get in touch with us U.S. Funds for UNICEF, and I don't have the number on me. I rushed to the studio. But they can Google it. Or I think it's on this CNN Impact Web site.
MCCORMICK: And that's where they should go.
LEMON: All right. Just explain to us what your folks, your representatives on the ground, are they reporting back to you what they're seeing?
MCCORMICK: Absolutely. Yes, we've been in -- I don't know how many telephone calls I've already had. We can get through on some lines. They keep dropping. But we're in constant touch with them.
LEMON: What are they saying?
MCCORMICK: They've saying, well, they've never seen anything like it. The devastation -- you can see the pictures -- is widespread. And you can imagine what it's like for the hundreds and thousands of families who are living amongst uprooted trees, maybe cold, getting hungry. The children are scared. And we need to help these people as soon as possible.
LEMON: Yes, OK. Yes, that sort of describes it for us. Patrick McCormick from UNICEF, thank you very much. And we wish you very best of luck there and, of course, always appreciate UNICEF helping out around the world.
MCCORMICK: Thank you.
(BUSINESS HEADLINES) LEMON: Well, less than 24 hours until the polls open in North Carolina and in Indiana. Who has the momentum heading into tomorrow's crucial Democratic primaries? Our roundtable will crunch the latest numbers for you. A look ahead this tight Democratic race.
KEILAR: Every vote, every delegate, it counts, and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, they sure know it. They're campaigning hard in North Carolina and Indiana ahead of tomorrow's crucial Democratic presidential primaries. The latest poll of polls from North Carolina shows Obama maintaining his lead. He is up eight points over Clinton among likely Democratic voters. And Indiana's latest poll of polls shows a tighter race, Clinton ahead by four points. Now the last poll of polls in Indiana indicated a virtual dead heat.
LEMON: All right, so here's the question, so who, if anybody, has the momentum going into tomorrow's contests? Let's ask our Cynthia Tucker, editorial page editor of "The Atlanta Journal Constitution." Welcome. She joins me here in Atlanta. And Carl Bernstein, a CNN contributor. And you're in New York, correct, Carl?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I am.
LEMON: Good to see you. Thank you for joining us today here.
BERNSTEIN: Good to see you.
LEMON: Great to get you here on during the daytime.
OK, I asked that question, so who, if anyone, has the momentum going into tomorrow? Since Cynthia has the distinct advantage of being here and she can just tap me on the shoulder, I'm going to start with you, Carl. Does anyone have an advantage going into tomorrow?
BERNSTEIN: Obama's had a lot of trouble getting his message across. It's been drowned out by the Reverend Wright controversy. We in the so-called mainstream media have played right into the Clinton media strategy by giving so much time and attention to it.
But now the gas-tax issue seems to be breaking his way. We just heard him on CNN here saying that her stand on the gas tax is playing politics and is, quote, "not honest politics." It's an important quote when he says that her politics are not honest. Because ultimately, that's the message that isn't getting through from the Obama campaign.
LEMON: And, Carl, you know, you're right. I wanted to play that. You got a little ahead of us here. But since you bring that up, I want to play the two soundbites about that exact thing.
LEMON: And then we'll talk about it. We'll start with Hillary Clinton first.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama wants you to pay the gas tax this summer instead of trying to get it so the oil companies pay it out of their record profits. So I believe that we should start standing up for the vast majority of Americans who are paying these outrageous gas prices. It's affecting your incomes and your budget.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You eliminate the gas tax and the oil companies simply make up the difference. They fill the gap. They stop up whatever perceived savings the consumers might have. You're paying the same amount of gas, except now we no longer have that money going into the highway trust fund that builds or roads and our bridges, keeps us safe and puts thousands of people here in North Carolina to work. It's a shell game. And Senator Clinton's own people to "The Washington Post" said, well, we don't think this is really going to work, but it's good politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So both of them today, Cynthia, going at it, talking about this gas tax things. He's saying, you know, it's only going to save $28 over the course of the summer. And she's whatever little bit of relief, even if it's short term, it doesn't work out that much, it still should be done because the American people are hurting. How is this playing on the campaign trail?
CYNTHIA TUCKER, ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: I think one of the reasons that this breaks in Senator Obama's favor is because it plays into one of Senator Clinton's perceived weaknesses, and that is voters perceive her has a panderer, someone who will say anything to get elected. And what candidates try to do is work on their positive work off of their positive meta-narratives. There are meta-narratives that each candidate has been stuck with since the beginning. And one of hers has been this perception that she isn't honest, that she will say anything to get elected.
LEMON: And you said this plays into that...
LEMON: Because people are saying it really won't help and that she'll sign on to anything, is that what you're saying?
TUCKER: Exactly right.
LEMON: Karl, do you agree?
BERNSTEIN: Yes, I think Cynthia is right on the money on that. But the other thing is, is that she has gone so far to be seen as Miss Pickup Truck, and identifying with the white working class, that she's gone so far with it that I think an awful lot of people are saying, wait a minute, this is Hillary Clinton. This is -- we're not at a NASCAR race here.
LEMON: Carl, you know what, we're running out of time, but I want to get this in real quick, because I think it's important. You wrote on "The Huffington Post." You were talking about Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton talking about Barack Obama's association with someone who was involved in a group that some people find sort of suspect in 1970s.
BERNSTEIN: Right, the Weathermen are more than suspect.
LEMON: Yes, OK, just to put it lightly. And so then we've been talking about this Reverend Wright controversy. Barack Obama way ahead in polls when it came to both Indiana, North Carolina and nationally. And now, he appears to be losing his momentum. Is this working for the Clinton campaign?
BERNSTEIN: Of course it's been working. It's been working since Pennsylvania. The more negative she has gone, the better she has done, and particularly when working with a message that says, wait a minute, Barack Obama is an elitist, codeword. Barack Obama is not ready to be president. He doesn't know national security, et cetera, et cetera.
LEMON: So it's working for her?
BERNSTEIN: Well, but now I think that we see that she's gone so far with this gas tax message that if what I hear, in Indiana especially from some folks I talked to there, there's some real questioning in the press and the media that has gotten off of the subject of Reverend Wright. We really did her work for her with Reverend Wright and it's time to get off that agenda and on to what are the basic strategies of each campaign. That's what we need to do as reporters.
LEMON: OK, Carl, we're up against a time problem. But I want to give Cynthia the last word.
You said that Reverend Wright really did wear into his momentum and caused the slip in the polling?
TUCKER: Absolutely. Absolutely. It is absolutely clear, even though voters when asked directly say, no, we're not going to base our votes on Reverend Wright, but it's absolutely clear that it hurt Obama. Not only in terms of his perception -- his perception that he could pull the country together, but also because it put him on the defensive. It put him off stride. And one of the reasons this helps Senator Clinton is that Obama hasn't done well typically when he's on the defensive.
TUCKER: He seeks to have a positive message. And he hasn't, in the past, done well when he's trying to fight back.
TUCKER: And that has been one of her strengths; she fights back well.
LEMON: All right.
We shall see. Tomorrow is a big day and it will tell everything.
OK. Cynthia Tucker, Carl Bernstein -- thank you both for joining us here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
TUCKER: Thank you.
LEMON: Get some rest for tomorrow. Both of you are going to be very --
TUCKER: We'll be up late.
LEMON: All right. Thanks, guys.
KEILAR: It is 41 after the hour. And here are three of the stories we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.
The hunt for a suspected Philadelphia cop killer now expanding to New Jersey. Police are searching south of Newark for Eric Floyd. He's one of the suspects who allegedly gunned down Sergeant Stephen Liczbinski with an assault rifle Saturday. Another suspect is behind bars. Police shot a third suspect dead.
More than 10,000 people dead, a new and staggering toll from Myanmar's government in the aftermath of a monster cyclone. This storm, estimated by our meteorologist to be a category three or four, lashed Myanmar's biggest city for more than ten hours over the weekend.
Also, another record for oil prices we want to tell you about, now topping $120 a barrel for the first time. Meantime, you know it, the national average for gas now $3.61 a gallon. It is actually down a couple cents from the weekend. But analysts don't expect that trend to continue.
And what are you having for lunch today? Before you take a bite, you'll want to hear about a food recall. We've got details in the NEWSROOM.
KEILAR: A New York company is recalling almost 300,000 pounds of meat and poultry because they may be contaminated. And we've got CNN medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, here with the details.
How big of a recall are we talking about here?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a big recall. It's nearly 300,000 pounds of product all over the country. And what's interesting, Brianna and I were talking about this, this isn't meat that you would buy at a grocery store. These are products; these are pre-made salads, pre-made sandwiches that you may have been buying at a store near you.
So let's take a look at some of the brand names to look for. There are three different brand names involved in this: Gourmet Boutique, Jan's and Archer Farms. Those are the three. The food was distributed nationwide. The problem, inspectors found Listeria, which is a nasty bacteria. It can make even healthy people sick with a fever and nausea.
And, Brianna, if someone eats this who has any kind of immune problems, it can kill them. If a pregnant woman ingests Listeria it can cause a miscarriage or a still birth.
Now nothing bad has happened. They haven't had any reports of illness thus far. But they really want to get the word out that you should not be eating these products that were made within a certain time frame.
KEILAR: How, in general, do you avoid Listeria?
COHEN: There are ways of avoiding Listeria. There are certain foods that you can avoid. If you fall into the category that I mentioned, people with immune problems or pregnant women, there are things you can do to steer away from Listeria.
So let's take a look at the list. First of all, what you can do is you can avoid some of those pre-made salads at the deli counter, you've seen chicken salads or egg salads. You can do that kind of thing. And that will help quite a bit.
Also, don't drink raw or unpasteurized milk. And also, you see on there soft cheeses; soft cheeses can be problematic. If they're not pasteurized, they can contain Listeria. Some pregnant women just steer away from them altogether.
KEILAR: OK. Good to know.
Elizabeth Cohen, thanks for joining us.
And also, another way that you can steer away from some of these contaminated items, you can check out a complete list of the recalled foods at our Web site, CNN.com/health.
LEMON: Well, the filly ran the race of her life. Her reward, unfortunately, a quick, humane death. Why did things go so tragically wrong at the Kentucky Derby?
KEILAR: Locking your daughter in a dungeon for years, raping her, fathering seven kids with her. Will insanity be the defense for this alleged monster dad?
LEMON: The favorite scores. An impressive win at the Kentucky Derby, but the tragedy that struck the second-placed finisher is what people are talking about today. Eight Belles was put down right there on the track after she broke both ankles. PETA wants the jockey punished, and other critics wonder whether the filly should have been on the track at all. Here's CNN's Jason Carroll.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a spectacular finish, but the celebration would not last. Minutes after Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby, the filly Eight Belles pulls up she had broken both front legs. Injuries so severe, doctors immediately euthanized her.
DR. LARRY BRAMLAGE, VETERINARIAN: Her ankles were collapsed in both front she couldn't stand on either one. So, you can't ask a horse to do anything in that situation. You have to take the responsibility.
CARROLL: Eight Belles' trainer says the horse ran the race of her life but critics say grade horses are giving their lives for the sport. Some fault improper breeding.
HOLLY HAZARD, HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES: They are 1200, 1500-pound animals, who are running on legs smaller than a human leg. And of course, when you are breeding for a speed and strength and not for support, you're going end up with a larger number of injuries.
CARLOS MARTIN, HORSE TRAINER: She's a nice filly, I like her.
CARROLL: Trainers like Carlos Martin, say traditionalists would never race a female filly, even one as talented as Eight Belles with male colts.
MARTIN: It's unfortunate this happened, because the filly did distinguish herself.
CARROLL: But you are old school in some ways. You would not have run a filly in this particular race?
MARTIN: Probably not.
CARROLL: Why? He says fillies will overexert themselves to compete with colts. But tragic finishes have befallen male horses, too.
CARROLL: In 2006, Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro shattered his leg in the Preakness, in his bid to capture the Triple Crown. Despite a valiant fight, Barbaro was later euthanized. One study suggests a good way to make horse racing safer is to change the type of track horses like these are running on. The study found turf tracks had one-third the risk of causing a horse fracture than dirt tracks.
REID CHERNER, USA TODAY: I think it's a totality of all of these questions, breeding, racing services, age, how hard we're running them. I think every question needs to be asked.
CARROLL: Eight Belles' trainer says, he expects a rush to blame.
LARRY JONES, "EIGHT BELLES" TRAINER: You're going to get criticized everything you're doing here and second guessed. There's going to be somebody that will come up with the idea, well, the filly shouldn't have been in there. But like I said, it wasn't the race.
CARROLL: Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.
KEILAR: His alleged crimes are beyond shocking, but Josef Fritzl's plan of defense is really no surprise. Fritzl's lawyer says he's getting an insanity defense ready. Right now, the 73-year-old Austrian is in jail but he has not been charged. Fritzl reportedly has confessed to locking his daughter in an elaborate dungeon for some 24 years, raping here and fathering seven children with her.
Some of those kids literally had not seen the light of day until last month. Here's a computer generated look at the most infamous house in Austria now, the underground setup so complex, Fritzl's wife says, she was oblivious to what was going on all of those years. The family is now speaking out about the unspeakable. Here is Fritzl's sister-in-law, she didn't want her last name on the air.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINE R., JOSEF FRITZL'S SISTER-IN-LAW (through translator): I'm going to say one thing, he was such a tyrant. When he said it was black, it was black. When it was ten times white, it was black for him. He tolerated no dissent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Well, this story came to light after one of the cellar children got seriously ill. That 19-year-old girl is now in a medically induced coma with a kidney problem.
LEMON: All right. The D.C. Madame's suicide notes. Her final tragic words to her family.
LEMON: All right. We want to update you now on the situation in Myanmar becoming worse and worse, as time progresses here. We told you that about 10,000 people died in that cyclone. Many, many others affected by it. We want to tell you 3:00 Eastern here, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM, our First Lady Laura Bush is going to talk about aid, humanitarian aid and catastrophe aid that's going to be sent to Myanmar with the United States leading the way.
We spoke with a UNICEF spokesperson just a short time ago. He told us about what they're doing. Now Laura Bush will tell us what the White House is doing, and what we here in the United States can expect as far as help goes to Myanmar. You can get your comments right here CNN live at 3 p.m. Eastern.
KEILAR: Here is what's hot at CNN.com. Those crazy college students, I mean that in the best way possible. Check this out. The kids at Arizona State seem comfortable in their own skin, I guess you could say. There's plenty of it. It's how the campus blows off steam before finals.
And the city of Atlanta has become the proud owner of some fine public bathrooms. Bad timing, though, with a budget deficit triggering a round of municipal layoffs. Folks are saying the bathrooms are money down the you know what, because they cost $300,000 a pop.
What you see here is a foot dangling dangerously above the fryer at a Florida restaurant. You can see how it got there, you can learn what's become of the owner at CNN.com. The next hour of the NEWSROOM starts now.
LEMON: Every vote, every delegate counts. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are counting down to tomorrow, two more contests, 187 more delegates at stake, Brianna.
KEILAR: Yes, and CNN is bringing you Ballot Bowl coverage ahead of the North Carolina and Indiana primaries. It's your chance to see the candidates unfiltered and in their own words. Hi there, I'm Brianna Keilar at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.
LEMON: Ballot Bowl. I like that.