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CNN NEWSROOM

A Storm Brewing in the Tropics; 62,000 Jobs Lost Last Month; Ralph Nader and Bob Barr for President; Bob Barr Could Be Third-Party Spoiler for McCain; Bush, McCain May Not Appear Together at GOP Convention; Katrina Relief Goods Never Reach the Victims

Aired July 6, 2008 - 22:00   ET

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


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, a storm brewing in the tropics, and look where she seems to be headed. Big Bertha.
If you're a Democrat and you don't like Obama or you're a Republican and you don't like McCain, there's Ralph Nader and Bob Barr. Tonight, I've got them both.

What will George Bush's role be at the GOP convention? Duet or solo? As in, so low that nobody can hear him? A quote from the McCain camp.

A new number for you -- 62,000. That's how many Americans lost jobs last month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd just like to know what he's going to do with the economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Our nation's Secretary of Commerce joins us to answer your questions and mine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whoever gets into office, they better be wise enough to have a lavender seat (ph) on the health care team because nurses runs the hospital and they know what is best with your patient.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: No kidding. You want to fix health care? Ask nurses. I do, in LOFTV.

And a firestorm we began last week when I posed this question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Did Wesley Clark pull a swift boat on John McCain?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: And we're on. The news starts now. Hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez. Let's get started with this. I'm going to be telling you about Bertha getting bigger and getting stronger. This is why she's suddenly a story we all should know about.

Also, how many Americans are now out of work? Wait until you hear the latest numbers. And these two mavericks say they can fix this country better than Barack Obama or John McCain. I've got them both tonight. You'll hear from them.

But first, I want to show you these pics that have been coming in over the weekend. Amazing, what's been going on in Colombia. Look at these pictures. This is from the outside first. Now, that's one of the Colombian soldiers who had also been taken hostage many years ago.

There she is. That's Ingrid Betancourt. By the way, at this point in this video, she doesn't know that she's about to be rescued, has no idea. She thinks that she's just being transferred from one place to another as she has been so many times in the past.

Now, let's go inside the helicopter. Roger, we'll show them the -- OK, now this is the moment she's told you've just been rescued. You're heading out of this country and you are no longer a hostage. That's the jubilance. That's the celebration.

Three Americans on board -- former soldiers, there tonight in Texas. We are hearing that they are going to give a news conference tomorrow. We'll have it for you here on CNN.

Also, we're hearing that Ingrid Betancourt has seen doctors in Paris and that they have declared her A-OK.

Now, to the guy who probably knows -- probably knows as much about this story as anybody. Karl Penhaul is based in Colombia, has followed this story for years. I asked him to break this new video, parts of which I just showed you down for us. Here's what he did.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): FARC rebels toting assault rifles watch in a drug plantation in eastern Colombia. The time on the video says 1:22 p.m. Fifteen of the rebels' most valuable hostages wait nearby, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three American defense contractors.

The rebels believe a helicopter that has just landed is a humanitarian mission to ferry their captives to another guerrilla camp. They have no idea this is the final phase of a daring operation by Colombian military intelligence months in the planning.

It's now 1:24 according to the video. One military intelligence officer posing as a cameraman asks a question of this FARC commander known as Cesar. Cesar seems relaxed but declines to answer. Like the other hostages American Keith Stansell is handcuffed, readied for the flight. 1:27 Stansell utters the word gringos or Americans and shows the plastic cuffs to the man he thinks is a bona fide cameraman. Lieutenant Raimundo Malagon, held hostage for 10 years, seems agitated. "I'm Lieutenant Malagon of the glorious Colombian Army and I've been held in chains for ten years" he says.

A minute later, the hostages walk the final yards to the waiting chopper. The audio is cut as we see Ingrid Betancourt preparing to board. She looks haggard after more than six years as a hostage. A last shot of the guerrilla captors and minutes later this. Pure joy. Betancourt is in tears, the hostages have just been told they are free.

At a press conference to show the dramatic video, military commanders described how secret agents were trained for weeks in acting techniques to pull off their role as aid workers. They flew into the rebel camp unarmed, not a single shot was fired.

"It was 100 percent Colombian operation, no foreigners took part in the planning or the execution," he says. But he conceded a U.S. surveillance plane watched over the operation and said the rescue helicopter was equipped with a device to send an SOS signal to the Americans if the mission hit problems.

Asked about reports that a large ransom had been paid to win the hostages release, the defense minister was adamant.

"All that information is absolutely false. There is no truth in that. I can say we did not pay a single cent. But even if it did cost us $20 million to get these hostages back, it would have been cheap," he says.

The Colombian government acknowledges it does pay FARC informants and deserters. A source close to military intelligence with knowledge of this operation tells CNN the Army was able to persuade three senior FARC couriers switch sides. One of them gave bogus orders to rebel commanders to hand over the hostages.

PENHAUL (on camera): The full details of such secretive military operations are rarely revealed. But the key fact, 15 long-suffering hostages are now home free.

Karl Penhaul, CNN, Bogota.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: By the way, I'm just being told now by my producer that we're going to have pictures coming in in just a little bit of the three American hostages.

We do expect tomorrow 4:00 p.m. Eastern, 1:00 Pacific, they will hold a news conference. You'll see it on "THE SITUATION ROOM," the first public comments from those three American hostages rescued along with Ingrid Betancourt in Colombia.

Big storm apparently getting bigger. Forecast call for tropical storm Bertha to grow even stronger. Right now, Bertha is churning through the middle of the Atlantic. All right. This is that cone of possibilities or probabilities. Meteorologists will tell you it's important because what it does is it takes all the different models of what this thing might do and it combines them into a clearer picture for us.

Let's go to somebody right now who basically has a handle on this, can probably give us a sense of what's going on with this.

Chad Myers, the cone looks ominous. What's this thing doing right now?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The cone actually at day four and five will really begin to turn to the right and move away from the United States. And here are the models you talked about. We call these the spaghetti plots because they're all different colors and they all come in all different sizes as well.

The satellite back here is where tropical storm Bertha was. Still almost 1,000 miles from the British Virgin Islands. But all of the forecasts -- and this is -- don't worry about that line right there. That's the straight line towards direction right now.

But all of the models begin to turn this to the north and if that happens, where does it go? It does not go to the Atlantic coast. It goes much farther to the east. In fact, it goes very close to Bermuda. But as a hurricane, this will be probably the first hurricane of the Atlantic season so far. 80 miles per hour, maybe more. If it doesn't turn and sometimes they don't. We will keep an eye on it for you for sure.

SANCHEZ: Who better than you to do that for us, Chad. We thank you, man.

Coming up, this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RALPH NADER, INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These are the things that Americans want. These are the necessities of the American people. Law and order for the rich and powerful is a very high polling issue.

SANCHEZ (on camera): But, Ralph, you've been going after this guy. I mean, recently you said that he's trying to talk white. Do you regret that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Ralph Nader on why you should vote for him and not Barack Obama. Bob Barr on why you should vote for him and not John McCain. And these guys are serious and they want you to take them serious. I'm talking to both of them tonight.

Oh, and I'm also going to be getting serious with one of the Bush administration's top dogs on what we've been calling issue number one. There he is. When is the economy getting better? Your questions tonight for the Secretary of Commerce, the honorable Carlos Gutierrez. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Just before we got on the air, we got some unbelievable pictures tonight. They're pictures of a building that starts to crumble and then actually, as the camera starts rolling, you actually see it crumble -- I mean, right before your very eyes. I'm going to show you this in just a little bit. Welcome back, everybody.

There's a new report now that shows 62,000 more Americans lost their jobs last month. You know, we're really not getting a lot of specific answers from the McCain or Obama camp when it comes to the economy. Maybe because they're hard to come by in terms of what they are specifically going to do about this in detail.

So, I'm doing two things tonight. I've taken your questions, as you've probably seen on our Web site, and I've invited a man respected by both sides of the aisle to try and answer them for you. Here now, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez.

Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for being with us, sir.

CARLOS GUTIERREZ, COMMERCE SECRETARY: Pleasure, Rick. Good to see you.

SANCHEZ: I don't envy your position. You know, Americans are hurting. What do you tell them right now about what the prospects are for things to either even out or get better, sir?

GUTIERREZ: Well, I think first we have to recognize that we understand that Americans are hurting. This is a difficult time. Every time they go to the pump, they see gas prices and it's difficult. We saw this 62,000 number that you're talking about in previous months. So, it's a difficult time for our economy.

I think the important thing is, what do we do and step back and have some perspective. Our economy grew first quarter about one percent. And that isn't a consolation. It's not to suggest that things are OK, but we need to put it in perspective because people are hearing so many different things.

You know, the mild recession of 2001, we lost 180,000 jobs per month. So, put it in perspective. We lost 62,000 last month. Unemployment rate is 5.5 percent, below the average of each of the last three decades. So what are we doing? Last year, the President decided we needed a stimulus package just in case we got into a situation like this. We sent checks out --

SANCHEZ: Well, and you know what? That tax rebate is probably what is keeping things -- and I use the term earlier on an even keel, at an even keel right now.

GUTIERREZ: Yes.

SANCHEZ: It's kicking up what, you know, what many would call consumerism in the United States. And that's probably a good thing. But here's what -- here's what hitting people, Mr. Secretary. Well, I tell you the specifics. Like gas, for example.

GUTIERREZ: Right, right.

SANCHEZ: And here's a question from one of our viewers on that, as a matter of fact.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just like to know when the prices of gas are going to go down and when the economy is going to get better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to know what we can do to get gas prices lower.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Am I on TV?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Yes. I want to know why taxes are so much and why gas is so high.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Well, common thread there, huh? Gas, gas, gas. What do you say to them?

GUTIERREZ: Look, great question. Here's what we need to be doing. President Bush suggested this during his first term and it's still a very valid suggestion. We need to be working on long-term technologies that will enable us to get beyond oil. In the short term, Rick, we have more oil that we can be producing.

And, you know, we're asking the world to produce more oil, to explore and to drill, we should be able to do the same ourselves. That's why President Bush is urging Congress to lift the moratorium on off-shore drilling immediately. That would send a message to the world that we are willing to do something and not just stand still.

SANCHEZ: Well, you know, there's something else. You know, it's funny. We asked viewers what they thought and here's another suggestion that we got. I think this is a pretty good one. I want to see what you think about this. Go ahead, Rog.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, fuel increasing and the price of oil going up and the fact that we have absolutely no control over that regulation. When do we look to getting a better transit system, not just from within the city but across the nation that would actually connect some things and it helps people with their fuel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Mass transit. Here's a noble idea we haven't heard about in a while. What do you make of that? GUTIERREZ: Well, you know, there's some great ideas and a lot of great initiatives happening on a local level and cities in terms of getting more mass transit, and those are all great ideas. So, what can we do at a federal level?

The one thing that we can do, that the President wants to do now, is start producing more of our oil. Some people will say, well, that's five years away.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

GUTIERREZ: Well, if we started five years ago, we'd be there today. There's no excuse for it, Rick. We can be doing that and we should not be standing still.

SANCHEZ: There you are. Secretary of Commerce with your questions being answered. By the way, Mr. Secretary, stick around. There's something else I want to talk to you about.

Tomorrow on CNN, how to recession-proof your life. This is a carefully prepared data programming that we are going to have for you here on CNN.

And coming up, quick turn here, you know, I was born in Cuba and there's something, should I say, someone there in Cuba today who's gotten my attention and the attention of a lot of folks all over the world, including "Time" magazine, as a matter of fact. The Secretary sticks around for this one. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Tonight, something about the Internet. It's given us so many things, some of it good, some of it not so good, most of it pretty darn helpful. It's also given us this.

In Cuba, there's a young woman that's named Yoani Sanchez, who blogs about daily life there in Cuba every day. Now, remember, Cuba doesn't tolerate dissent. So on the Internet, she's doing what most there don't or simply can't.

Let's bring the Secretary of Commerce back in. Now, you're the administration's point man on just about all things Cuba, help to set up a post-Castro policy. "Time" magazine says that Yoani is one of the most influential people in the world. What do you want people to know about this young lady?

GUTIERREZ: A very courageous young woman who has had the audacity to blog in Cuba, which is very difficult to do, given that the Internet is basically illegal. And the reason it's important, Rick, to bring her to the attention of the world is that she's getting harassed. She feels like she is at the point where she doesn't know how safe she is and it's important that the world keep an eye on her.

She is blogging, she's using the Internet and now she's considered, you know, an enemy of the state. She's being accused of being a foreign intelligence officer. She's a 32-year-old woman who simply is telling the world about what her life is like in Cuba.

The world needs to keep an eye on her because something could happen to her over the next several weeks and we shouldn't allow that to happen.

SANCHEZ: I know it's a very important story to you. You and I have had several conversations about her. Let me go ahead and give that Web site, by the way. It's desdecuba.com, which essentially translates in "from Cuba.com," slash generationy or generation y griega, generationy.

So, you know, we'll try and put it up. We'll have it on our website. You could see it if you're interested more in this story. Again, "Time" magazine says she's one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

GUTIERREZ: It's a great cause. SANCHEZ: Mr. Secretary, thanks for taking questions from our viewers tonight and talking to us straight about the economy.

GUTIERREZ: Always a pleasure, Rick. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, we got these pics earlier tonight from a guy in California who's shooting from -- this is his backyard. He's taking these pictures from his backyard. Big Sur, big fire.

And you want to know what a real conservative/Republican looks like, Bob Barr says, look at me, he and I, mano mano, in just a bit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Ralph Nader tells me that Barack Obama is a corporatist, that he's no different than the rest, that he talks, quote, "white" to get elected. I'm asking him tonight to defend those words.

But, first, firefighters getting some control of those hundreds of fires burning in southern California. Crews are dropping flame retardants from helicopters. You see that there. You're looking. This is an I-report. Right there on the right. This is the guy in his backyard who's taking pictures. Stig Anderson is his name. He submitted these to use.

And there you see some of the choppers that bringing the stuff. Look at what the horizon looks like there. 3,000 houses in jeopardy. Officials have ordered evacuations. Officials suspect that this fire may have been intentionally set.

Hey, Chad, we were talking about the situation with the storm in the Atlantic. I'm going to take you to the other side of the United States right now. Let you know -- I mean, I guess that one of the big things here is the wind, right?

MYERS: Right. And there hasn't been. That is the great news. If this wind would have kicked up 20, 30 miles per hour, I mean, another doubling on the fire size today, Rick, could have happened. It didn't. We are not in critical fire danger, at least right now, with the wind.

Yes, it's going to get hot and that's another problem. Vegas going to be 108, Phoenix, 104. And we're not going to get any marine flow tomorrow, not going to get any humidity off the ocean on to the shore. The wind is going to be just basically from the north and that just pushes right back down to Highway 1, the Cambria Highway here, right there from Big Sur right back down to almost Oxnard, but the smoke doesn't quite get there.

But these are some of the temperatures. I just picked out one city -- Sacramento because I had it. But here we go, on Wednesday, the high is going to be 105. Could you imagine being a firefighter at over 100 degrees and then you have got a fire that's even hotter than that? And you have to try to keep yourself safe -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Yes, not easy.

MYERS: No.

SANCHEZ: Chad, take a look at this. We've got -- look at this picture we got in tonight. This is -- you know, you don't get news stories usually as they happen. Usually, you know, our cameras get there after it's happened. Watch this building on the right here. Oh. Bye-bye. Yes, it's wood, it splinters, it's broken glass all over the street.

And again, you know, they've gotten a call in Johnstown, Pennsylvania that this was going to happen and then obviously it did. And nobody hurt. It's just amazing to look at video like that from time to time. All right, Roger, get me back on camera.

Here we go. If you're one of the many Americans that I run into and I'm sure you run into who say -- look, I don't like any one of these guys who are running for the presidency of the United States. I don't like John McCain. I don't like Barack Obama. Who else is out there that I could possibly vote for?

Well, there's a guy name Bob Barr and there's a guy named Ralph Nader, both of them talking to me tonight. In fact, here's Bob Barr now. We'll be going at it in just a little bit. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: There are many Americans who frankly don't like their choices for president. Republicans who don't like McCain. Democrats who don't like Obama for whatever reasons.

You know, there are two other candidates who agree with that -- Bob Barr and Ralph Nader. These are guys who say they are the real deal. We begin with my conversation with independent candidate Ralph Nader who, in a recent CNN poll, by the way, would apparently get six percent of the vote nationwide.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RALPH NADER, INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The "New York Times" reports that Barack Obama is getting more corporate money than any other candidate. He has voted with the credit card companies. He has voted to expand the military's budget. He's voted in all kinds of ways for these corporate interests and his flip-flopping is extraordinary. He's losing a lot of his hardcore support day by day.

SANCHEZ: But isn't that just part of the politicking of this country? A guy like Barack Obama to make sure he can win in a general election needs to move from left to center back toward the middle? Isn't that just a normal thing that politicians do?

NADER: First of all, running away, flip-flopping from majority of the American positions is not a smart political strategy. You know, I heard that, Rick, you know -- oh, Mondale's doing this just to win, and Dukakis is doing this just to win, and Gore and Kerry are doing this just to win. They all lost. And Clinton only won because Perot was the third-party candidate there.

So, it's not a winning strategy. If you look at the positions on our Web site, votenader.org, you will see that these are the things that Americans want. These are the necessities of the American people. Law and order for the rich and powerful. It's a very high polling issue.

SANCHEZ: But Ralph, you've been going after this guy.

NADER: Yes.

SANCHEZ: I mean, recently you said that he's trying to talk white. Do you regret that?

NADER: No, because the fact that he is talking white and not calling out the white corporate power structure, which is dominating government and driving our country into the ground through this globalization stuff, doesn't mean that he should talk black.

Talking white means he should talk justice. He shouldn't cater. He shouldn't cuddle. He shouldn't succumb to these corporate power interests and the corporate lawyers that are funding him in record amounts of dollars, according to the FCC reports.

SANCHEZ: Do you give him some points, though? I mean, here's a guy who went to Harvard, graduated as a guy who could have just run into corporatism and yet decided he was going to go back to his own community and help the poor. I mean that almost sounds like a Ralph Naderish kind of story, doesn't it?

NADER: Yes, that was terrific but he's changing almost day by day. Immunity for the telecom companies, for example. He wants a larger military budget. He's starting to flip-flop on Iraq. He is not where he should be on health insurance. You know, cuddling the big HMOs and drug companies.

It's a very sad story and I think it's up to the American people, basically, to support our campaign and to see a positive view for America. We're not just talking this. We've actually done it over 40 years and that's why it's important for the voters to have more choices on the ballot.

SANCHEZ: Yes and, you know, you're right. Our last poll, this week, showing you at six percent, is the number that is surprising a lot of people. Let me ask you one final question.

NADER: Yes.

SANCHEZ: Because here's what's really comes down to brass tacks. If everybody in the United States have voted and you were the last guy left and it was your vote that was going to decide who the next president of the United States would be, and you had to choose between Barack Obama and John McCain, who would you cast your vote for?

NADER: I always believe in casting votes for people you believe in, regardless of the polls. I would cast my vote for Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez. If we reach 10 percent on the polls, we're going to get on that Google-sponsored debate in September.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: That's what it's all about. There you have Ralph Nader. That's one side, but what about conservatives who aren't satisfied with casting their ballot for John McCain? Bob Barr is their alternative. He's sitting right here to my right. And he and I will are having a discussion in just a little bit.

Thank you, Congressman.

BOB BARR, LIBERTARIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to be here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Former Republican Congressman Bob Barr could be a third-party spoiler who shaves up some of John McCain's support. A CNN poll out just this week shows the presidential nominee for Libertarian Party has 3 percent support among voters nationwide. That doesn't sound like a lot, but think about it. In a race as tight, that could be painful for one candidate.

Bob Barr joins me now charged up with -- you know, a lot of government-free ideas, as he likes to say. We've got so much to get through. So, let's try and get through some of it.

First of all, Ron Paul supporters, do you expect they'll all be going to be coming over to you?

BOB BARR, LIBERTARIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I certainly expect so. There really isn't burning reason at all for a Ron Paul supporter to go to Senator Barack Obama or Senator John McCain. That's for sure. And those are the only other alternatives.

SANCHEZ: Let me ask you a question a lot of Republicans would have for you. What if, at the end of this thing, John McCain loses and he loses by about that much and a lot of people start pointing a finger at you and saying, it's your fault that the Republicans lost? How would you answer that charge? BARR: This is precisely the problem with the two-party system that we have. They're always looking for somebody to blame other than themselves. The Democrats lose, they blame Ralph Nader. The Republicans lose, they blame Bob Barr. You know, this preemptive blaming doesn't do either party very well.

I mean, it's an awfully weak position for the McCain campaign and the Republicans to be in, months out from the election already blaming me for their loss. I mean, that's not a real strong position.

SANCHEZ: Why isn't John McCain a good candidate?

BARR: He's not a good candidate because he's so wedded to the status quo. I mean, good heavens, this is a man that the glorious (ph) and saying -- we want the government to electronically surveil, to wire tap more Americans.

This is a candidate that says we want to occupy a foreign country for -- I know he might not have meant 100 years but an indefinite time into the future. And apparently, it's all right for him to spend $400 million of U.S. taxpayer dollars, not his money, but taxpayer dollars, in Iraq.

This is a candidate that supports a $3.1 trillion budget, which is the Bush administration's budget that was just voted on by the Congress. None of those are conservative policies.

SANCHEZ: You know what's interesting is I hear you say this. I mean, in 2002, you were described in one newspaper as the idol of the gun- toting, abortion-fighting, IRS-hating, hard-right wing. What happened to that Bob Barr?

BARR: Well, hey, listen; I still have no love for the IRS. I still am pro-life and I still am a licensed member and NRA board member.

SANCHEZ: Yes, but listen what you've done. Medical marijuana. You used to be against, you tend to consider it now. Used to be anti-gay marriage. Now you say the federal government should stay out of it. You voted --

BARR: I've always said the federal government should stay out of it.

SANCHEZ: But before you had a more strident position on that, did you not?

BARR: No, the federal -- what I'm trying to do and what the Libertarian Party is trying to do and what appeals to an awful lot of Americans out there, not just, you know, disaffected conservatives, but a lot of disaffected Democrats, blue-collared Democrats, for example, is a candidate that says, across the board we want to get the government out of all of these things. And when you get the government out of it, you put money and power back into the hands of American families.

SANCHEZ: You say, look, I'm the real Republican. I'm the real conservative. If that's the case, what are all of these guys running around saying they're the Republicans and the conservatives? What happened to party?

BARR: They can be the Republicans. What happened to the Republican Party is that it became the party of slightly smaller government than the Democrat big government party. It became captured by the status quo. All you have to do is listen to the surrogates and the candidates for Senator Obama and Senator McCain. There's not much that difference between the two of them. There's a difference maybe between a $3.1 trillion budget and a 3.2 trillion.

SANCHEZ: That's good stuff. Thanks so much for coming in and talking to us. Interesting perspective. Libertarian, huh?

BARR: bobbarr2008.com. Libertarian Party.

SANCHEZ: We thank you. Our thanks to Ralph Nader and Bob Barr for joining us tonight. By the way, we would like to extend an open invitation to all of the candidates for the presidency, all four of them, during the duration of this campaign. Any time you guys want to come on board, we will be happy to oblige. Just give us a call.

Mr. Barr, we'll have you back on.

BARR: Look forward to that.

SANCHEZ: Appreciate it.

If you were John McCain, would you want the picture that comes out of the GOP convention to be of you and George Bush? News tonight on Mr. Bush's convention role. Duet or solo act? Some would say solo that nobody can hear him. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Well, we're moving fast here. Welcome back to the world headquarters of CNN here in Atlanta. I'm Rick Sanchez. I want to show you something now. See the guy on the right? See the guy on the left? Photograph taken eight years ago.

What are the chances that you'll be seeing a picture of these two together again at a convention like this, this year at the Republican convention? Well, maybe not so good. In fact, yesterday, Dana Perino with the White House said that the President's only going to appear on the very first day and then there's this -- where did I put that?

There's this from the "New York Times." The "New York Times" is quoting a McCain staffer as saying that the chances that Mr. McCain and the President would make a joint appearance is, quote, "highly unusual." CNN's political editor Mark Preston joins us now for "Preston on Politics."

Marc, what do you make of that?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, I tell you, Rick, not surprising. Right now, President Bush's approval rating, according to CNN poll, shows that it's at 30 percent at this time. John McCain needs to make a break from the Bush presidency. This election is going to be one in the middle right now. He's got to walk this delicate line right now, Rick. He's got to make sure that John McCain does not upset conservatives, who still support President Bush at the same time, which would lead to Mr. Bush having a role at the convention. At the same time, he doesn't want to be pictured with him. He's got to get the independents to support him.

SANCHEZ: I got about 300 e-mails this week from angry Democrats who were saying that I should not have asked the question or made the suggestion last week that Wesley Clark was in any way swift boating John McCain. It was a question during a segment. But that blew up so much. Why did that become such a sensitive issue this week? Not just here but everywhere.

PRESSTON: Well, because, look, perception is reality. Whether Wesley Clark really was out and impugning John McCain's service, you know, for being shot down, you know, his military service, and whether he had the military qualifications because he was a POW, to be a commander-in-chief, perception is reality. And Wesley Clark probably went a little bit too far in saying that, Rick.

You know, in the end, Wesley Clark even acknowledged that he really had taken the Obama campaign off message at least for a little while. But he won't back down from the statement.

And we even saw it today. John Kerry, who is a very close friend of John McCain, come out and say that John McCain does not have the judgment to be commander-in-chief. That's the same exact words we heard from Wesley Clark. I suspect we'll continue to hear it in the next four months.

SANCHEZ: That's interesting because the point you're making is, you can be right and still be off message, which politically can make you wrong. Think about that.

Mark Preston, "Preston on Politics." Thanks, man, for joining us. Appreciate it.

PRESTON: Thanks, Rick.

SANCHEZ: He's not just with us on Sunday nights, by the way. If you want to hear more from Mark Preston about what's really going on in the campaign 2008, then you want to go to cnnpolitics.com. Yes, that's it. And the CNN Political Ticker. That's cnnpolitics.com and the CNN Political Ticker. He's back with us next week and every week, by the way.

Nurses, if they aren't the hardest working people in any hospital, I can't imagine who is. When it comes to universal health care, though, what's their perspective? Does McCain have the right answer for fixing health care or does Barack Obama? "League of First Time Voters," coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: I want to run some numbers by you as I possibly can. Let's go. Here we go. 50 million -- almost 50 million. 48 to 50 million Americans have no health insurance. How about this one? 31 cents in every dollar in health care goes to administrators. Not the doctors, not the nurses. In fact, health care CEOs. They average more than $20 million a year in salaries. Those are the CEOs.

So how do you think nurses feel about that? And what's the fix? I continue traveling all over the country talking to voters who are pumped up this election cycle.

Here now is this week's "League of First Time Voters" -- nurses two of whom historically voted Republican and the other two voted Democrat.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (on camera): Let me ask you what you think politically. John McCain says that the system should be market-driven. Barack Obama says, no, it's time for the government to step up and get the job done. Tell me what you think needs to be done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we need to have a system in place where you have the universal single health care system for all. I'm a (INAUDIBLE) that United States of America, who is one of the most richest countries on the face of the planet, does not have health care for all.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: What I want is for families to make decisions about their health care, not governments.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John McCain is not going to give us a universal mandate for health care. If he gets elected president of the United States, this is dead. Dead for as long as he is president of the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you ask John McCain today, would you approve a mandated universal health care system, his answer will be, no. If you ask Barack Obama, he most certainly will agree. His plan is not perfect.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The government needs to be more involved. I'm not asking for them to take over the whole health care issue and to leave the insurance company all out. But, however, who is this insurance company to decide what is best for you? Your physician should decide and you, you sit there with the team, with the nurses and everyone else to decide what is good for you.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We are going to pass a universal health care bill. It is long overdue. The time is right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As nurses, Rick, we want the best care for the patients. We want quality care. If we look at what's going on in Canada, what's going on in UK, and we look at socialized medicine. Taxes are high. It is high. Are you getting the highest standard of care? I know that the medications would be cheaper, but do you get to, in fact, pick when you're in a universal health care plan, who will be my doctor?

SANCHEZ: It sounds like you're a little bit skeptical of the idea of turning the whole thing over to the government?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's fabulous that we're here having a discussion so that we can put on the table and really see the pros and the cons.

SANCHEZ: So, you say the answer is somewhere in the middle?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

SANCHEZ: A little bit of Peter to Pay Paul?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In my vision of how we're going to move forward, we will develop a basic primary health care system, devoted to keeping them well and giving preventative health care. So, if we cut down the cost that we're throwing into end of life and catastrophic health care.

SANCHEZ: And then if someone wants more than that --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They pay for it through private insurance.

SANCHEZ: So, you're getting a little bit of this through the government to take care of your average folk and then if the guy decides I'm going to get the best insurance out there for me and my family, that's his choice to make?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's the right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In this election, at least to the best of my knowledge, this is the first election I can remember -- excuse me if I'm wrong, that two people are running for president who are really putting health care on the top three topics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And whoever gets into office, they better be wise enough to have a lot of nurses on their health care team because nurses run the hospital and they know what is best for their patients.

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: Amen. All right. That's a wrap.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Somebody should be listening to them, shouldn't they?

By the way, you can join the League of First Time Voters, powered by you, informed by CNN. Check in, join in, weigh in. I love doing these segments. CNN headquarters for the independent thinker. Log on to cnn.com/league.

Coming up, relief supplies meant to help victims of hurricane Katrina but they never even reach the people they're supposed to reach. What happened? This is a CNN special investigation that we have prepared for you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Back here in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rick Sanchez. Groups helping thousands of Katrina victims still rebuilding their lives in Mississippi. They say they are outraged because they say that tens of millions of dollars of stockpiled hurricane supplies, that was supposed to go to them, never made it to them or the needy. Instead, it's been given to the States, the different federal agencies.

Here's "SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT" correspondent Abbie Boudreau.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is bigger than what we think. This is gigantic.

ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Complete disbelief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We worked so hard to help people in our community when the government is holding itself back that we can use to give to people that don't have.

BOUDREAU: Reassembled leaders of eight Mississippi nonprofits still doing all they can to help Katrina victims nearly three years after the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, you know, you would have to be living under a rock not to know that there are still needs.

BOUDREAU: Each express outrage about what CNN's investigation uncovered. No one of them knew that FEMA had stored these supplies for the last two years and they all say the need for those items is still there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even more now than right after the storm. It's scary to know that there are supplies that are hovering and people in need right now as we speak today.

BOUDREAU: Instead of the supplies going to Katrina victims, FEMA declared them surplus and in February gave them all the way to federal agencies and 16 states. Louisiana surplus agencies said no thanks to FEMA's offer because it said it hadn't been notified there was still a need.

It wasn't until U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu learned of CNN's investigation that she was able to retrieve some supplies for victims in New Orleans.

BOUDREAU (on camera): And what do you think when you're watching all these items coming off this truck?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I'm going to give them a profit (ph).

BOUDREAU (voice-over): But no one is celebrating in Mississippi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't think it's going to be this way.

BOUDREAU: Howard and Gloria Griffith's home was swept away by the storm. They've been living in this FEMA trailer ever since.

BOUDREAU (on camera): These are pictures of brand-new household items that FEMA has stockpiled in warehouses for the last two years that were meant for you guys, meant for hurricane Katrina victims.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never seen none of it.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): Struggling to make it, the Griffiths say they still need the basics.

HOWARD GRIFFITH, KATRINA VICTIM: Actually, cleaning supplies, stuff like that.

BOUDREAU (on camera): Cleaning supplies, kitchen supplies.

GRIFFITH: Very expensive.

BOUDREAU: Bath towels, washcloths.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): Both have full-time jobs and they've spent every penny they've earned to rebuild, but now they say they're broke and there's little chance they'll be finishing their home any time soon. That's the reality for many Katrina survivors on the coast.

But when Mississippi had a chance to help people like the Griffiths rebuild their lives, just listen to what happened. Unlike Louisiana, Mississippi surplus agency told FEMA it wanted the supplies. But it didn't hand them to groups helping Katrina victims.

Instead, it gave dinnerware sets, pillow cases, men's underwear, and coffee makers to state prisons. Other agencies, like the Department of Wildlife, became the proud owners of more coffee makers, cleaning supplies and other items. And the State even kept plastic buckets for itself.

State officials did not return our repeated calls and refused our interview request to try to find out how this could have happened. But we did talk to a spokesperson from Mississippi's surplus agency - Kym Wiggins, who told us, "There may be a need, but we were not notified that there was a great need for this particular property."

BILL STALLWORTH, HOPE COORDINATION CENTER: These families don't have anything or very little of what they need to have.

BOUDREAU: Bill Stallworth is the director of a nonprofit group that helps rehouse Katrina victims. He's also a Biloxi city council man. He says he cannot believe so many states and federal officials are this out of touch.

STALLWORTH: And when I hear people stand up and just beat their chest and say, we've got everything under control, that's when I just want to walk up and slap them upside the head and say, you know, get a grip, get a life.

BOUDREAU: Stallworth and other community group leaders maintain if they had only known about these items, they would have begged for them.

STALLWORTH: When someone comes up and says, oh, you know, we've got it all together; everybody is taken care of. Hey, have you been down? Have you looked? Have you seen?

BOUDREAU: Abbie Boudreau, CNN, Biloxi, Mississippi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: So we asked the question, why didn't these community leaders get any of these supplies? Turns out they aren't registered with the state's surplus agency. Most of them say they didn't even know that the agencies existed, but now they're getting signed up, they tell us.

In the meantime, Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson, who is the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, is saying that what happened is absolutely awful. His word. He says that he has now written a letter to FEMA asking what happened to begin with.

We're still trying to get someone from FEMA to explain this -- all of this to us. A spokesman from the agency tells us he still doesn't know why all of the supplies were stockpiled in the first place for the last two years.

Coming up --

You've got to have good weather to try something like this. Well, we'll let you insert your own adjective when you watch this craziness.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: His wife says he's nuts, his name is Couch (ph). He gets in a chair, ties to a whole bunch of balloons and he's going to Boise, Idaho. He gets up and down and changes his altitude by shooting BB guns and popping some of the balloons. His idea of getting by some of that spare time.

When we come back, what the bloggers said about me, us, this week and how we respond in kind.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: One last thing, something I've noticed the last couple of months. More and more people have been watching this Sunday night show and more and more people have been blogging about us as well. Some good, some not so good.

I created a huge firestorm last week when I suggested that some people may see Wesley Clark's comments as the swiftboating of John McCain. Angry Democrats had plenty to say, like this blog, quote, "CNN says Wesley Clark tried to swiftboat John McCain today." That story took off like wildfire. Now, look at this one from the week before. "CNN's Sanchez falsely suggested Democrats rarely discuss religion and their faith in God in public."

Actually, the point I raised was that Obama may have been creating a photo-op in a church in an effort to move more toward the middle. That story also took off, by the way, after we told it.

And then there's one from real angry John McCain supporters, when I reported on people who think that Obama is a Muslim. Still, quote, "The vast majority of Americans are well aware Obama is a Christian and not a Muslim. They just have a problem that he sat in that hate- spewing racist church for 20 years."

There you have it. Taking heat from all sides. Listen, we appreciate your comments. Glad you're plugged in. Read your e-mails, your blogs, your letters. I've read every single one of them and will continue to do so. Thanks for being with us. I'm Rick Sanchez. Good night, everybody.

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