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Killer Cyclone Hits Myanmar; Deadly Riots in Somalia; Fresh Calls for Change in Horseracing

Aired May 5, 2008 - 08:00   ET


LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ (RET.), "WISER IN BATTLE: A SOLDIER'S STORY": No, absolutely not. I think what is reflected in the book and the purpose of this memoir is to be able to capture the totality of the nation's mistakes both at the political and the military level in order that future military leaders and political leaders will not go down this way again.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: You were there 2003, 2004. Of course, that was right in the height of the reelection campaign for President Bush. You talk about some of the policies that were driven through that time, including the transfer of sovereignty.

And you say, "It was now crystal clear that a major success had to occur in Iraq before the presidential elections. Critical decisions affecting Iraq would be tied directly to ensuring the success of President Bush's reelection campaign."

Could you quantify it for us, General? How much of our Iraq policy at that time was politically driven to get President Bush reelected?

SANCHEZ: Well, I think we have to go back and really understand. Every American has to understand that wars are fought based on political objectives. And in fact, what we have here, during this period of time, is the politics of the country and the politics of Iraq are taking a greater role and they are impacting on the security situation.

And you know, what I describe in the book is that I'm fighting two different wars. I'm fighting the actual war on the ground and I'm also fighting the war back in the United States, where the administration is attempting to get reelected.

The decisions are clear for us on the ground especially in Fallujah that we stop the Fallujah attack because it will have a detrimental effect on the transfer of sovereignty. It would probably have collapsed and we would not have been able to accomplish it. And in turn, it would have been a major failure for our plan for Iraq.

ROBERTS: And also that another huge event that happened during that time, of course, was the Abu Ghraib scandal. Right in the middle of that election year. After appearing on Capitol Hill, you wrote in your memoir that you thought that you're going to be scapegoats. Do you believe you were a scapegoat at the Abu Ghraib scandal?

SANCHEZ: No, actually what I have come away from this experience with is that the most challenging task for a military leader is the politics of war. Many political and military decisions are made in the course of the execution of a war. And what I am faced with in the end is a situation where it is impossible for me to continue and the forced retirement is -- is a logical consequence.

ROBERTS: The book is called "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story." It's a great read. I mean, it fills in a lot of detail about what's happened in Iraq in the last four years.

General Sanchez, thanks very much for being with us this morning. Good luck on the book tour, sir. Good to see you.

SANCHEZ: Absolutely. Thanks.


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, John, thank you.

We are following breaking news inside Myanmar this morning. State-owned radio just dramatically increased the number of people killed in a powerful cyclone over the weekend. Nearly 4,000 people are reported dead. Another 3,000 missing. We want to get an exclusive report from our correspondent in Myanmar, who joins us now by phone.

Any way to independently confirm those numbers?

VOICE OF UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: It's very difficult for us on the ground here to confirm their numbers. Situations are exceptionally difficult here. The phone lines are down. There's no electricity for most of the city. There's very scarce fuel and very scarce water.

There is incredibly for any official word. Most of the ministries are about a 12-hour drive north of where we are in a new city called Naypyidaw. Yangon is no longer the capital city of Myanmar, formerly Burma. But Yangon is the city that bore the brunt of this cyclone.

And just driving around the city, I mean, it is really shredded by the wind. I mean, there's barely a tree standing in some parts and extensive damage -- the buildings. (INAUDIBLE), we see people queuing for fuel and for water. They're pretty desperate.

CHO: The pictures are so dramatic. We're looking at them right now. We rarely get an inside look inside Myanmar. I'm just wondering, we're just getting word now that 3,000 people may be reported missing. Are you able to see around you? Is there a chaotic search going on? I mean, what is going on where you are right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: There is a lot of activity clearing the (INAUDIBLE). We sort of did a tour around the city two or three hours. And a lot of people out trying to clear a path through the trees and through the debris. A lot of people picking through the rubble. We saw a house and one shop where a tree had come straight down through the middle. I guess about three feet in diameter. A huge tree, a tropical hardwood tree that comes straight through the middle. Luckily no one was hurt there.

(INAUDIBLE) -- I mean, the damage is very extensive. And the main problem seems to be the trees fall down. And lots and lots of electricity lines and lots of phone lines down. Most of the city has been paralyzed really. Everyone now relies on fuel. And the price of fuel has gone up four-fold.

It is now $10 a gallon if you can believe that. And people are queuing around the block to try and fill up their vehicles and fill up their generators. They are the lucky ones, the people who have the generators. Most people here will have to do with candles if they can get them. And the water situation is also very bad because the pumps have stopped. So people aren't able to get water out of their faucet.

CHO: Well, U.N. teams are expected there today to bring food and water. Let's hope that happens. A reminder to our viewers, this is the U.S. equivalent of a category four hurricane which has devastating results. 4,000 people now reported killed, following a powerful cyclone in Myanmar. Another 3,000 people are reported missing. Thanks to our correspondent inside Myanmar.


ROBERTS: It's coming up on six minutes after the hour. We spoke with both Senators Obama and Clinton earlier on AMERICAN MORNING. Senator Obama gave his plan for easing the hit on drivers' wallets at the pump. He also expressed confidence in withstanding Republican pressure in the general election.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to provide a middle class tax cut of up to $1,000 per family per year, a much bigger amount of relief that can cover not only rising gas prices but also rising food prices.

And at the same time, I want to invest in alternative energy and raising fuel efficiency standards on cars -- something that I've been calling for for years and that Senator Clinton has opposed in the past.

ROBERTS: What are you going to do if you become the nominee to fend off attacks that will come at you from the Republican side?

OBAMA: John, I think, as you said, we've probably 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 competitive in both North Carolina and Indiana.

So, we feel very confident about the fact that the American people are interested in who's going to be fighting for them. Who's going to make sure that they're living out their American dream? (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Senator Obama would not speculate about what might happen if he loses the nomination at the convention, but he did say it's important to seat the delegates from Florida and Michigan.

We also talked with Senator Clinton in our last hour. She told us that using "obliterate" is the right word in describing what she would do to Iran because it sends the right message.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said very clearly there would be massive retaliation. I'm communicating with both the leaders of Iran and the people of Iran.

ROBERTS: So, just to be clear here, if Iran were to use nuclear weapons against Israel in a Clinton presidency, that attack would be met with a nuclear response against Iran?

CLINTON: It would be massive retaliation, John. Massive retaliation.

ROBERTS: Does that mean nuclear response?

CLINTON: Well, I think it speaks for itself. You know, there's a great deal of concern that the Iranian government might be taking over if it were to have nuclear weapons by people who had no institutional sense of what would happen to their country.

And I worry about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and, frankly, them falling into the hands of those who might prefer to be martyrs instead of being responsible leaders. And I think we have to start clearly and unequivocally saying to the Iranian people, there would be a very, very high price to pay.

ROBERTS: If you become president and if gasoline prices are still high this time next year, do you promise now that you will give us a gas tax holiday next year?

CLINTON: I'm sure going to try, John, because the way that I have proposed it is different from either of my opponents. You know, Senator Obama doesn't want to give consumers a break. I do.

I want the oil companies to pay the gas tax this summer out of their record profits. Senator McCain wants to lift the gas tax but doesn't want to pay for it. So, I think I have the responsible position to give people immediate relief right now.


ROBERTS: Senator Clinton also said that she wants an investigation and regulation of energy traders who are responsible, she says, for the inflating prices of oil.

Let's bring in CNN's Suzanne Malveaux for us now. She's live in Fort Wayne, Indiana, this morning.

Why all this talk about Iran and this particularly tough talk, do you think, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you may recall those 3:00 a.m. ads that we saw in Pennsylvania that worked so well for Hillary Clinton. What this issue does, it reminds the voters of her national security credentials. The fact that she argues she can be the stronger commander-in-chief. It also goes to this whole idea that she is the one who is tougher than Barack Obama. That worked so well in Pennsylvania. It's an issue that allows her to exploit that.

For Barack Obama, on his part, it really does allow him to set up a contrast with George Bush saying that, look, he's going to do things differently. He's going to talk to Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

And he's also going to use different kind of language, language that they consider not so incendiary because they don't believe that that's very helpful. So, it gives both of these candidates an opportunity to really differentiate from each other. And that is something that the voters have been hungry for. They've been looking for an issue that does that. Both of them believe they can exploit this one.


ROBERTS: Suzanne Malveaux for us in Fort Wayne, Indiana this morning. Suzanne, thanks.

CHO: Well, many Americans are using it. Now billionaire investigator Warren Buffet is ready to use the "R" word to describe the current economic situation. Take a listen.


WARREN BUFFET, BILLIONAIRE: We had a housing bubble. And that's not the usual cause for a recession.


CHO: We'll hear what the oracle of Omaha says investors need to know ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHO: 12 minutes after the hour. Some breaking news to tell you about. And evacuation is under way this morning after a cruise ship ran aground in the Baltic Sea. Latvia's Coast Guard says all 1,000 passengers are now being removed after the ship apparently struck a sand bar.

The ship's fuel was pumped out to make it lighter. So far tugboats have not been able to free the ship. No word if anyone is hurt. We are watching that closely.

ROBERTS: Now, the oracle of Omaha, billionaire investor Warren Buffet shares his thoughts with CNN on the economy and our Ali Velshi here with more on that.

Good morning to you.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Our colleague Susan Lisovicz was out in Omaha for the event -- the annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire Hathaway is the company that Warren Buffet controls. That event is called Woodstock for Capitalists.

Now one of the things that Warren Buffet does, he invests very well over the long term. And one of the things he told our Susan Lisovicz is that don't worry too much about recession, it's important in terms of your lifestyle and in terms of how it affects your income obviously, but it's not as important in terms of making investment decisions for your 401K, for your IRA.

Here's how he said he makes decisions.


WARREN BUFFET, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY: I think it's going to be probably longer and deeper than most people think. But I'm not an expert on that. And I don't do one thing in business that reflects my view about the economy in the next year or two years. It just makes absolutely no difference to us.

So if I hear about a business today, I can buy that makes sense. I'll buy it. I won't give a thought as to whether it's going to do well in the next quarter or the next year. Recessions are just unimportant to us in terms of making investments.


VELSHI: What he does give thought to he says is whether or not the company has good management. Whether it's got a product or a service that is going to be in demand.

Some of the companies fully controlled by Berkshire Hathaway are names that you will know. There are many, many of them. Here are few of them. GEICO, the insurance company. Dairy Queen, Benjamin Moore paints, Fruit of the Loom -- everybody needs underwear -- and NetJets.

So you can see it's a varied portfolio. I mean, when you look at Dairy Queen versus NetJets versus paint -- I mean, he is looking at the things people use in their daily lives anywhere you are in the economic spectrum. And that's how he makes his decisions.

ROBERTS: All right. He seems to make pretty astute decisions.

VELSHI: He does. And sometimes they don't seem astute in a short-term, but his point is he looks at the long-term.

ROBERTS: All right. Ali, thanks.

CHO: Ali, thank you. Rob Marciano in the CNN weather center tracking some extreme weather. In fact, there are some flight delays in the northeast.

Right, Rob? Good morning.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. A little bit of fog across the northeast. We've got some severe weather breaking out across the plains. And the news continues to get worse out of Myanmar with that killer cyclone that struck that area on Friday.

Lots to go over weather. That's coming up after this break. Stay with us.


MARCIANO: These are pictures from the damage done by tropical cyclone Nora, just making landfall Friday in Myanmar. State radio reporting this morning upwards of 4,000 people or nearly 4,000 people killed during this storm. And the potential for another 3,000 unaccounted for.

Winds estimated at about 130 miles an hour, that's category three or marginal category four storm. And our CNN international correspondent Dan Rivers has been reporting that. It's just incredibly difficult to get around. It's difficult to get any sort of information. Power lines are down.

You see all these trees just sawed down by these winds and phone line is down as well. So a difficult situation there for sure. And we're tracking it here as the days roll by and the news continues to get worse.

Good morning, everybody. This is the equivalent of our hurricane basically. They call it cyclones in the Northern Indian Ocean. They get them in spring, they get them in fall, they get a few in summer, but they are not nearly this severe in the summertime.

Here's what it looks like as far as the landscape is concerned. Fairly shallow type of water in the Bay of Bengal and through the Andaman Sea in this area. It came onshore just like this through Burma or the southern part of Myanmar. Very shallow area.

It's kind of a Mississippi delta-type of scenario here where I suppose it's probably very susceptible to storm surge. That's probably the situation that we had with this particular storm that came on shore with again winds of 130 or more miles an hour.


ROBERTS: You are watching the Most News in the Morning. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, we are live or they were live on our air this morning. What they had to say.

CHO: Yes. You can catch the interviews on in their entirety if you missed them. Plus an expert says Washington must do more to stop the mortgage meltdown. Why he thinks signs that we've turned the corner are an illusion.


CHO: We have this just in to CNN. Deadly riots in Somalia over high food prices. Witnesses say two people were shot and killed by Somali soldiers after thousands of protesters armed with axes and sticks tried to raid a store. They were reportedly angry at shopkeepers who apparently refused to accept Somali currency instead demanding payment in U.S. dollars.


ROBERTS: It's 22 minutes after the hour. Some analysts are saying that it's only going to get worse. So should the government step in to ease the mortgage meltdown? Joining me now to look at this is personal finance editor, Gerri Willis. What's the response been so far from regulators with the government is doing? Are they satisfied?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Well, I got to tell you, there's a lot of concern out there. The FDIC, probably you heard Sheila Bair has made some pretty strong comments about how more needs to be done. And just this weekend, a fellow named Allan Mendelowitz. He's a board member of the Federal Housing Finance Board. He, too, was critical.

He says "The problems in the housing sector are not over. Even statistics that look positive are an illusion of a much more problematic situation." Now, he is saying -- he's a member of an independent regulatory agency that's affiliated with the executive branch of the banking industry, that the government must actively intervene here.

The government needs to be more involved not less involved. And as you know, John, the administration has pretty much said that they would rather see the industry take care of these problems, take the lead, so interesting that somebody who is in -- a regulator is actually saying, you know, we've got to do more here. A lot of worry from this fellow. And of course, you've heard it from other banking regulators as well.

ROBERTS: So what else is bubbling on Capitol Hill and could it help?

WILLIS: Absolutely. On Wednesday, we're going to have the House vote on a housing stimulus package that was written by Representative Barney Frank. This would set aside $300 billion to help bail people out who are in the worse of straits over this mortgage meltdown. So we will have a big debate on the House floor about that. And the vote is expected to be Thursday.

ROBERTS: All right. Looking forward to all of that. And of course, you will be covering this, watching it very closely. The economy the no.1 issue for Americans. Join Gerri, Ali Velshi and the CNN money team for "ISSUE #1" today at noon Eastern here on CNN. And online at

Gerri, thanks. See you again soon.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

CHO: All right. Coming up, fresh calls for change in horseracing this morning after the death of a champion. This after the filly Eight Belles had to be euthanized just after finishing second at the Kentucky Derby.

Plus, less than 24 hours to a pair of crucial primaries. As you saw right here on AMERICAN MORNING, the candidates sparring over the issues, including relief at the pump.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's nobody who thinks that a gas tax holiday is going to lower gas prices over the long term.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I have the responsible position to give people immediate relief right now.


CHO: It's he said, she said. Plus what they both had to say about Senator Clinton's stern words for Iran. That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHO: Welcome back. Potential fallout from the tragedy at the Kentucky Derby over the weekend. The animal rights group, PETA, wants the jockey who road Eight Belles suspended. The filly broke both front ankles at the end of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday and was euthanized right on the track.

The people for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says the rider should have known before the finish that Eight Belles was injured. But was that really the case?

And catastrophic injuries occur every day in horseracing. Now some big questions are being asked about how the sport looks out for horses?

Dr. Rick Arthur is the medical director for the California Horse Racing Board. He joins us from the Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, California.

Doctor, thank you for joining us. You know, many people are saying that in this case we've got a 3-year-old horse running a mile and a half on a dirt track. It is like a college student being asked to play in the Super Bowl. Are these horses asked to do too much, too soon? DR. RICK ARTHUR, CALIFORNIA HORSE RACING BOARD: I really don't think so. And it's a mile and a quarter; it's not a mile and a half. And it's the first time almost all of these horses have run a mile and a quarter. And that's why the Kentucky Derby is where and when it is.

It's been going on for well over a century and a half. It is a test to see who is the best horse. And it was a great race, great performance by both Big Brown and Eight Belles. And it's unfortunate that this tragedy took the fun out of it.

CHO: Well, most certainly is a tragedy. You know, these race horses, it's no secret, are being bred to be faster, look better to the point where as one rider put it, they are running on champagne glass legs. Meaning that they look absolutely beautiful but their skeletal frame is really fragile. Is this a breeding problem? And if so, what needs to be done about it?

ARTHUR: Well, the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation has held two welfare and safety summits in the last two and a half years or year and a half, looking at this specific issue. And one of them has the breed changed. Geneticists tell us the breed can't change that quickly.

Many of us don't believe that's the case. These horses are like Indy race cars. They are designed for speed, not durability. And there has been a change in the emphasis in breeding, having to do with the commercial market for yearlings and two-year-olds.

Brilliance is selected over durability. Is that a factor? We really don't know. We identified a number of factors, but anyone watching today, go to the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation Web site and look at the issues that horseracing is examining to try and address this problem.

CHO: We should point out that the video we saw just a moment ago is actually live of the morning runs there at Santa Anita. I know you are standing right in front of the synthetic track in California. A state that has made these tracks mandatory.

You know, if synthetic tracks offer more cushion and can reduce injury to the horses by up to 40 percent, shouldn't it be mandatory across the country. Shouldn't we be getting rid of these dirt tracks all together?

ARTHUR: Well, California had a very specific problem. We have very dry racing environment. Churchill downs has always had a surface that is considered safe and fair. Frankly in my lifetime, I could watch this Kentucky Derby the rest of my life and I won't see another tragedy like this. I'm sure you're much younger than I am, but the same thing with you.

CHO: Well, doctor, you say that you won't see it again, but the truth is that there are 1.5 career ending accidents for every 1000 racing starts. I mean, when you add up all of the races across the country, that is two per day. Is this a wake-up call then, I mean, because this is getting a lot of attention, is this a wake-up call, will we see real changes in the horse racing industry?

ARTHUR: Well, actually, the wake-up call was several years ago with Gopher Wand (ph) in the Breeder's Cup in the early '90s. The industry has been addressing this issue in a number of ways. Synthetic surfaces are one way. It is very encouraging. Santa Anita's (ph) surface performance ...

CHO: All right, obviously we had technical difficulty there. But that was Dr. Rick Arthur of the University of California Davis and the California Racing Board. Thanks to him for talking about that.

ROBERTS: Shame about that. I wanted to hear the answer to that question.

We're following breaking news out of Myanmar this morning. A dramatic rise in the death toll from a powerful cyclone this weekend. Nearly 4,000 people reported dead according to state-owned media 3,000 are still missing. Thousands of homes were destroyed. And the entire city of Yangon is without power and running water. Thirty one minutes after the hour.

Earlier on AMERICAN MORNING, we spoke with Senator Barack Obama. He criticized the use of Hillary Clinton's word obliterate when referring to Iran.

Obama said he would respond with force if Iran attacked Israel.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's precisely that kind of provocative language that Senator Clinton criticized others for in the past, suggesting that if you are running for president, you shouldn't be stirring up international incidents.


ROBERTS: You can watch the full interviews with both Senators Clinton and Obama on our Web site at

CHO: Well, as for the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, this morning he is wrapping up in Arizona before heading to North Carolina. McCain will be holding a town hall meeting in charlotte at the same time Senator Barack Obama's wife Michelle holds an event there.

And CNN correspondents are spread out across Indiana and North Carolina as the candidates make final push. Stand by this morning for a very special edition of BALLOT BOWL beginning at 9:00 Eastern on this primary eve.

Well, the hot air getting to folks at a Clinton rally in North Carolina, only we are talking about the warm weather. Two people fainted while listening to former President Vill Clinton speak. He injected a bit of humor after the incident. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL CLINTON, HILLARY CLINTON'S HUSBAND: We need some water over here and an EMT. Got an EMT coming in. We need some more water here. Somebody faints at nearly every one of these things now. At my age, I didn't think I could make anybody faint anymore.


CHO: Well, officials say neither person was seriously hurt. That is good news. John?

ROBERTS: Coming up on 33 minutes after the hour, you heard from Senator Barack Obama a moment ago. After the break, Senator Hillary Clinton defends her words about Iran. That's coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHO: Well, imagine your salary being posted where you work for everyone to see. Can you imagine that? More companies are actually doing it. They say it builds trust among colleagues. But is it really a good idea? Polly Labarre is a CNN contributor. Author of "Mavericks at Work." It's one of the unspoken rules that you don't talk about how much you make. It seems like a social taboo, certainly a workplace taboo. So what's going on, Polly?

POLLY LABARRE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It is a source of anxiety and mystery and of a toxic back channel chatter in most organizations. And it is a real distraction. This lurking sense of unfairness. What does she make? We do the same job, he makes more. But I think it's a sign that things are shifting. Not only in this being discussed at the level of congress around fair pay. We've also got this new generation coming in. The gen Y effect is happening no matter what subject you're talking about at work.

CHO: Seems like younger people are more comfortable, shall we say, with talking about it, right?

LABARRE: This is the generation that posts minute to minute daily intimate details on MySpace and Facebook. But also the generation that moves from job to job. Sharing salary is actually kind of a tool for them, negotiating tactic. So there is a little bit more fluency there. There's so much information available on the Internet now that this is becoming something that we see a shift in. Moving away from that shroud of secrecy.

CHO: Let's talk about the companies that are doing this. Whole Foods, everybody knows Whole Foods, that is one of them, right?

LABARRE: This is part of the experiment in workplace democracy, instilling more freedom, more autonomy and a lot more information in the workplace. They have something they call no secrets management. The idea is transparency helps create more productivity. And they actually share the salaries. So, basically anyone at any level inside the stores or the executive level can find out what their colleagues make.

CHO: How? By going online?

LABARRE: They can go on the computer or there's a binder in every store to look up what somebody makes. And the point is instead of hoarding information, allowing all that toxic behavior to unfold, you share it and people can get on with their work.

CHO: Yeah, and that is all well and good. It sounds good. But, I mean, isn't there the potential for people to get co-workers to get jealous? I mean, couldn't this backfire?

LABARRE: I think if you do it, there is an initial disruption, sort of like when you post the leads of the school play, there's distraction for the afternoon in high school.

CHO: You never want to be the understudy.

LABARRE: Right. Exactly. But I think the benefits far outweigh it. But what you are saying is again you are unveiling any possible hidden discrimination, hidden unfairness, hidden favoritism. If pay can't stand up to the test of transparency, then there are some problems with it.

CHO: Well, keep in mind too, women make on average 77 cents to the dollar when you compare it to a man's salary. So maybe we will see more parity in the workplace as well. Polly Labarre, thank you so much.

LABARRE: Thank you.

CHO: John?

ROBERTS: Rob Marciano at the CNN weather center tracking extreme weather. Rob, you have been reporting on the cyclone in Myanmar. What is happening here at home?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We've got thunderstorms that could become severe across the plains. Already have seen that. Also in North Carolina, severe weather and trying to get the fog out of Boston so you have a clear day there. Weather coming up when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.



ROBERTS: Rob, thanks.

CHO: Several recent war movies have flopped at the box office. But a new movie is trying to succeed where others failed. In a word, action, that is the key. We'll tell you how this is different coming up.

ROBERTS: Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton appeared live on AMERICAN MORNING today. After the break, hear what they had to say. That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: It is 16 minutes now until the top of the hour. And turn into the most politics in the morning. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in their last full of campaigning before the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, earlier this morning we spoke live with both of the nominee contestants. Senator Clinton told us she was right when she used stern words to describe a potential counterattack against Iran.


ROBERTS: Senator Obama earlier was highly critical of your statement that we would be able to obliterate Iran if it attacked Israel. Did you go too far when you said that?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I didn't because I think it's very important that number one, we try to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. I have been saying that for some time. Number two, we have a diplomatic process with Iran, something that I think I was the first person certainly in any of the campaigns to come out for several years ago. But number three, we they'd to make it very clear, like we did during the Cold War, where thousands of missiles were pointed at us and we pointed at the Soviet Union, that there is a price to be paid.

ROBERTS: One more question, if I could. Tomorrow the primaries, Indiana and North Carolina, how critical are they for you and should you win both contests, would you make a case to say now it's time to declare me the nominee?

CLINTON: Well, this is going to be exciting tomorrow because I started very far behind. The Obama campaign has predicted consistently that he would win both Indiana and North Carolina by significant margins. I think we've closed the gap. But we're working hard. We want to get everybody we can to come out and vote tomorrow. Obviously I hope to do as well as possible. More people have voted for me in all of these contests. During the course of the election.

ROBERTS: If you count Michigan and Florida.

CLINTON: That is right. Those are real votes, certified as legal and official.

ROBERTS: But not decided yet.

CLINTON: Well, the delegates have not been decided. The people voted that is a fact. More people have voted for me. We just have to figure out how the votes translate to delegates.

ROBERTS: One more time if I could. If you won both contests tomorrow, would you make the case to superdelegates it's time to put your cards down on the table now, I'm the nominee?

CLINTON: Well, I've been making the case that I would be the better president and the stronger nominee against John McCain. I happen to believe both of those are true. This is a process, we have to follow the rules. We are going to go until it's clear who the nominee will be.


ROBERTS: Senator Clinton also talked about the gas tax holiday she is proposing, saying she wants to pay for it with a tax on oil company profits. Of course Barack Obama is firmly opposed to t we will hear from him coming up after the break.

CHO: In the meantime, here's a look at what CNN NEWSROOM is working on for the top of the hour.


ROBERTS: Take another look at our "Quick Vote" this morning. We have been asking did Hillary Clinton go too far saying that the U.S. could obliterate Iran if it attacked Israel? Right now 70 percent of you say yes, 30 percent of you say no. We have e-mails we want to share with you as well. Pat from Westhampton, New York e-mailed us to say, "What should Hillary have said? You bomb Israel and you'll have to have a time out. These people are terrorists. Her warning is the only language they understand."

CHO: We also heard from Debbie in Kyle, Texas. She says, "I think Hillary's comments on obliterating Iran is another example of the attitude and actions that have gotten us into this mess. It is not our job to attack every country that has a problem with one of our allies."

ROBERTS: And Matt in Columbus, Ohio, write this morning, "It was a justifiable response not to a provocation but to an attack on ally. Barack's position is to sit down and tell Iran that they shouldn't have done that. Hillary is providing fair warning to those who may attack us or our allies."

CHO: And hey, Charles in our nation's capital, DC says, "Hillary's comment on attacking Iran prove she will say anything to get elected. She forgets about diplomacy and is using the same fear tactics as the current administration. I don't think I want her to answer the phone at 2:00 a.m. I hope she'll just sleep through it."

ROBERTS: And in our conversation earlier today with Barack Obama, he criticized Hillary Clinton's use of the word obliterate when referring to Iran. Obama said he would respond with force if Iran attacked Israel.


OBAMA: If Israel was attacked, we would respond forcefully. An attack on Israel, one of our most important allies in the world would be considered as an attack on the United States. Using the word obliterate, however, is the kind of language that we've seen George Bush use over the last seven years. And it's precisely that kind of provocative language that Senator Clinton criticized others for in the past, suggesting that if you are running for president, you shouldn't be stirring up international incidents. We now have Iran bringing complaints to the United Nations. That in particular when you are doing it right before an election is probably not the best way to approach foreign policy.

ROBERTS: If Iran attacked Israel with a nuclear weapon, would you use the United States nuclear arsenal against Iran?

OBAMA: I'm not going to speculate. As I said before, Senator Clinton was the first to suggest we should never talk of the use of nuclear weapons and gave a lot of us, you know, a lengthy disposition on that.

Look, here is the bottom line, Israel is our ally and we will protect Israel. More importantly we should be keeping our nuclear arsenal out of the hands of Iran, which is why I've called for a mix of sanctions, but also carrots and direct talks to get Iran to stand down. That is the kind of leadership we need out of the White House, that is the kind that I intend to provide as president of the United States.

ROBERTS: If after this entire primary process and you leading in the popular vote, the number of contests won and pledged delegates, if Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, how will you feel personally about that?

OBAMA: John, I'm not going to speculate on that, because I intend to win. That is why I'm here.

ROBERTS: But should it happen, how would you feel?

OBAMA: John, you know, the day before two important elections, the last thing I'm thinking about are superdelegates. What I'm thinking about are the folks that I'm out there fighting for.

ROBERTS: OK. We apparently have time for one more question. If I could just beg your indulgence here. Florida and Michigan, twice in this program Hillary Clinton has said there's no way to determine who the nominee will be until their situation has been resolved and their delegates counted.

Do you agree with that and can you see a scenario under which you can declare a nominee without Florida and Michigan being resolved?

OBAMA: Well, I think there's no doubt we've got to get Michigan and the Florida delegations seated. That is been something that I've talked about consistently. Those are very important states.

ROBERTS: But are they critical to the determination of a nominee or could a nominee be decided without Florida and Michigan being counted?

OBAMA: I think as I said before, there's important for us to make sure they are seated. It's important that they are taken into account. Look, I've always said that the people of Michigan and the people of Florida deserve better, unfortunately we set up a system and set up rules and none of us ended up campaigning in Michigan or Florida. My name wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan. The question at this point is how do we make sure that those states are recognized, that they are participating, but it's following rules and everything is fair.


ROBERTS: You can catch the full interviews with Senators Clinton and Obama on our Web site at

CHO: Going to get lots of Web traffic today. Well, a superhero movie smashed box office records this weekend while recent war movies have flopped. But there's a new film that aims at success by taking a slightly different tone. Our Kareen Wynter joins us this morning from Los Angeles. Waking up early for us. Hey, Kareen, good morning.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Alina, great to see you. The producers of "War, Inc." they wanted to take more of a unique approach by using satire. They only hope, Alina, that this spells success at the box office.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How we got to this point ...

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: How and why is not the issue now.

WYNTER: "Lions for Lambs" had big stars. "Rendition" had powerful story lines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a mistake.

WYNTER: And "Stop-Loss" a strong message. Yet somehow none of that seems to matter. Box office expert Paul Dergarabedian looked at eight recent Iraq-themed movies and says almost all of them bombed.

PAUL DERGERABEDIAN, MEDIA BY NUMBERS: The problem with a lot of these Iraq War film, while they are great films are very challenging to an audience. Sometimes people want to pay five or ten dollars, wherever they life, go in, get some popcorn, sit down and kind of let the movie flow over you and have a good time.

WYNTER: One film hoping to beat that trend is "War Inc."

GRACE LOH, FILMMAKER: I think it is different because it's a satire.

WYNTER: Grace Loh produced the film starring John Cusack, Marisa Tomei and Hillary Duff. It is about America's first fully outsourced war to private enterprise.

LOH: What it pokes fun at is more about where we would be in a few years. If we stay on the track that we are on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May we come inside, sir?

WYNTER: Loh has already tackled the war theme in "Grace is Gone" an intense drama about a fallen female soldier. So far it's earned just $50,000. Still Loh likes her chances with this movie. LOH: Looking at everything on an ideological level and through an absurdist lens allows people to laugh at what they are seeing, it is easier to kind of digest but at the same time it is very serious.

WYNTER: Whether or not Loh's new film is a hit, she says her movie has accomplished something important.

LOH: As artisan filmmakers who are outraged with what is outraged with what is going on in the world. One of the things we can do is do something with our art and make films.


WYNTER (on camera): And Alina that is really the thing here. A lot of producers they have so many messages they want to get out. But listen to this. Some have gone as far as shelving their films, that is right, finished ones hoping for some sort of change in American attitude. But it could be quite some time before that happens.

CHO: That's interesting. All right. Kareen Wynter live for us in Los Angeles. Kareen, thank you.


ROBERTS: Tempers flare during a heated debate in the construction of a border fence in Texas. Now both sides accusing the other of racism and disloyalty to the United States. CNN's Ed Lavandera has the battle over the border.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The anger sizzled. Brownsville, Texas residents fighting the construction of a border fence and its architect, Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo. As the booing intensified, Tancredo fired off an unpoliticianlike response.

REP. TOM TANCREDO, (R) CO: You don't like a fence around or between Mexico and -- if you don't want a fence between the city and Mexico, I suggest then you build a fence around the northern part of your city.

LAVANDERA: Those words have become the boiling point in the border wall debate. For Brownsville Pat Ahumada mayor it made the fight personal. An insult, he says, that this predominantly Hispanic city isn't American enough.

MAYOR: PAT AHUMADA, BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS: You have people like congressman there who are bigots. It is a racist thing to them. They are afraid of us Mexicans taking over politically I think.

LAVANDERA: Tancredo stood by his comment when is we talked to him a few days after the meeting. He says the wall is crucial to protecting the United States.

TANCREDO: Loyalties are actually at stake here. When it's not just a celebration of diversity, it's a question of who you are loyal to, what country you are loyal to. That is -- in that case multiculturalism becomes a danger to a nation like the United States.

LAVANDERA (on camera): The tension in this part of South Texas has been build forge months. Wall construction could begin in a matter of weeks. And while federal officials insist they have been working closely with local officials, many people around here still say they don't know where exactly the wall will be built or what it will look like.

DIANA LUCIO, GOLF COURSE OWNER: I don't understand why they are trying to keep this so hush, hush. Frankly, I think that they are trying to shove this down our throat.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Diana Lucio and her husband run a golf course so close to Mexico that players are warned not to hit the balls across the border. But the walls are supposed to cut through the top edge of the course cutting it off from rest of the city. Lucio wonders if the family business can survive.

LUCIO: We feel like we are being shoved over to the Mexican side of our border. And it's not a very good feeling. We are United States citizens. And don't appreciate being treated in this manner.

LAVANDERA: Building the wall on the winding river is too expensive. SO instead it will follow a levy leaving several thousand acres of U.S. land south of the border wall and leaving many feel feeling like they are stuck between two countries. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Brownsville, Texas.


CHO: Immigration taking a back seat to the economy, issue number one, but still important as we go forward here in the presidential primary.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. We should mention, by the way, "Issue #1" coming your way about three hours from now at noon Eastern here on CNN.

CHO: And also stick around because CNN will have an entire day of politics on the eve of the North Carolina and Indiana primaries. And of course we'll be back tomorrow morning.

ROBERTS: It's a big BALLOT BOWL day here at CNN.

CHO: Meanwhile, thanks so much for joining us on THIS AMERICAN MORNING.

ROBERTS: CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris and Betty Nguyen begins right now.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's kick off the BALLOT BOWL. Betty, good to see you.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Why don't we? Good morning.

HARRIS: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. NGUYEN: And I'm Betty Nguyen.

HARRIS: You will see events come into the NEWSROOM live on this Monday, May 5th. Here's what's on the rundown.

NGUYEN: The Democrats dashing for votes ahead of the primaries in Indiana and North Carolina. The candidates are live on the stump and we have the latest poll numbers.