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AMERICAN MORNING

Mass Exodus as Hurricane Ike Closes in on Texas; McCain and Obama Highlight Differences in Forum on Public Service; A Look on the Candidates' Plans on Jobs and Wages; Government Conducts Test for Air Safety; Sarah Palin's First TV Interview, Says She's Ready

Aired September 12, 2008 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The warning, leave or face certain death.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: This is not a game of chicken with Mother Nature.

ROBERTS: Hurricane Ike growing to half the size of the gulf on the way to Texas.

And what a rush! Inside the cockpit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How fast are we going now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going about 410.

ROBERTS: For the fastest race on the planet on the "Most News in the Morning."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: And good morning, good to have you with us on this Friday, September 12th. A lot of news to get through today, and we say welcome to Carol Costello. It's good to see you this morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Thank you very much. Kiran has the day off, so I'll be filling in. And I'm happy to be here. Good morning, everyone.

ROBERTS: This is kind of back to the future for you, right?

COSTELLO: It certainly is, and I'm actually awake and everything. I've had like four cups of coffee and I'm raring to go.

ROBERTS: Good for you. Let's get it started.

COSTELLO: All right.

We begin this morning at a Houston area where officials are warning people hoping to ride out Hurricane Ike, this one could kill you. Hundreds of thousands already on the road. Houston's two airports were shut down today. Oil refineries at a major port are now closed. U.S. health officials warning consumers about tainted baby formula made in China. A toxic chemical melamine was found in powder formula and linked to more than a dozen cases of infant kidney stones, and at least one death in China. The FDA says there are no reports of contaminated formula in the United States. Melamine is the same chemical that's sickened and killed thousands of dogs and cats last year.

Colleges and universities in Arkansas do not need to prove the citizenship of incoming students. That's the decision from the state's attorney general. In an advisory, he said there is no federal or state law banning schools from admitting illegal immigrants. Earlier this year, the state's higher education director ordered schools to check the immigration status of potential students.

ROBERTS: Breaking news now to tell you about this morning. Hurricane Ike takes aim at Houston and this morning the warnings are as serious as they get.

The National Weather Service insisting people who do not leave the danger zone "will face certain death." Ike could be a major storm, a Cat three, when it makes landfall, bring with it a potential 20-foot wall of water. Already the storm putting massive strains on the region.

The interstates are choked. Oil refineries and ports have been shut down.

Our Jacqui Jeras is in the hurricane headquarters for us this morning. CNN's Sean Callebs is live in Houston.

First, let's go to Jacqui with the latest track. Where does it look like it's going to hit, Jacqui, and will it, as people fear, go right up that Houston ship channel?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's looking like it is heading in that direction, John. You know, we still have landfall probably late tonight or early tomorrow morning. This is a huge storm, you know. So we don't want you to focus on that little line because we're talking -- this thing encompasses the entire Gulf of Mexico really other than the Big Bend area in terms of the cloud shield.

The hurricane force winds extend out 120 miles from the center of the storm. So you do the map, that's 240 miles of hurricane force winds. That's the equivalent of basically an EF-2 tornado ripping right through downtown Houston and that is going to cause some major damage.

And, you know, those warnings talking about the certain death, that is all because of the storm surge. Because of the size of this storm, we're going to see much greater surge than we normally would. Plus, all the little bays and rivers that go through this area, that water gets funneled up into those bays, and at the ahead of those bays that's where we see that great surge. So we're looking at a Category two storm right now. Looking at maximum winds of around 105 miles per hour. Only has to get up to 111 for this to become a major hurricane and we think that will happen later today.

Tornado watches have already been put in effect for lower parts of Mississippi and throughout much of Louisiana. A couple of warnings have already taken place this morning but no ground troops. And there you can see that forecast bringing it right up towards the Galveston area late tonight or early tomorrow morning.

This is a very, very serious storm -- John.

ROBERTS: Jacqui, I guess the defining storm for that region was 1900 when 6,000 people were killed on Galveston Island.

JERAS: Right.

ROBERTS: The storm won't be anywhere near as big as that one was. And what about the preparations to get people out? Will that reduce any potential loss of life?

JERAS: Well, absolutely. And you know, a lot of those deaths were due to that water -- the storm surge. And so, people get out of those low lying areas. You're going to be OK. You know, you can deal with Category two winds if you board up your windows, if you stay in the interior part of your home. But the big thing is you need to get up and get away from that water, and then you're going to be all right.

ROBERTS: All right. Jacqui Jeras for us this morning. Texas Governor Rick Perry saying that he cannot overestimate the danger facing the Houston/Galveston area.

CNN's Sean Callebs is live in Houston this morning. Sean, we saw the jammed interstates yesterday. It looks like most people are heeding the message to get out of town. Are enough people getting out, though?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's apparently what is going on. If you look behind me, you can see Interstate 45, hardly any traffic at all. That's good news because the state has been getting the word out.

Look, this is a very dangerous storm. They say, look, we can't stop roofs from being ripped off. We can't stop the storm surge, but we can make sure people get out of this area in a timely and safe fashion.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CALLEBS (voice-over): For Spring Parent, it's simply reliving a bad dream.

SPRING PARENT, TEXAS EVACUEE: I swore to myself, if we were OK and we got away, we got back OK, I would not ever do this again and I'm doing it again.

CALLBES: Three years ago, the Parents were trapped in this asphalt purgatory, among hundreds of thousands trying to flee through Houston ahead of Hurricane Rita. Now, as Ike bears down, the town of La Porte is again under a mandatory evacuation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All you need is a picture and a prayer.

CALLEBS: Windows and doors on their home are sealed. Valuables such as Spring's rodeo championship belt buckles stored as high as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can't replace those mommy. You're a great (INAUDIBLE).

CALLEBS: You see, their home is only a short drive away from the shipping channel. This area could get a 15-foot storm surge. Governor Rick Perry's ultimate nightmare is a Cat five hurricane rolling up the channel unimpeded and cites a recent study.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY, TEXAS: Without an evacuation, that model shows 1.5 million people dead. Yes, I did not misspeak.

CALLEBS: Hyperbole or not, Spring Parent believes citizens and the state are doing a much better job of evacuating than three years ago.

PARENT: It took people to die, literally die on the side of the road, overheated cars and, you know, elderly people. And it's been a more concentrated effort. I've seen a lot more organization this time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CALLEBS: And they're talking about moving about a million people in about 24 hours, John. So things are going well. But let's remember it's just after 5:00 in the morning here. The emergency officials want everybody off this road by about noon local time because they say by then, tropical storm force winds are going to be punishing this area. They don't want people driving around then -- John.

ROBERTS: Sean Callebs for us in Houston this morning. Sean, thanks very much. We will keep checking back with you -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Now to the "Most Politics in the Morning." And Sarah Palin, she says she's ready. In her first interview since being chosen as John McCain's running mate, Governor Palin told ABC's Charlie Gibson she "didn't blink when McCain made the offer." And she said she feels she's confident that she could handle the duties of president if necessary. But Palin seemed a bit thrown when Gibson asked where she stood on the so-called Bush Doctrine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE GIBSON, ABC NEWS HOST: Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: What do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view?

GIBSON: The Bush Doctrine enunciated September 2002 before the Iraq war.

PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been plunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership and that's the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy as with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

GIBSON: The Bush Doctrine, as I understand, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense. That we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?

PALIN: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we e have every right to defend our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Palin says NATO should extend membership to Ukraine and Georgia and raise the possibility of going to war to defend the former Soviet Republics against Russia.

In the meantime, John McCain and Barack Obama returned to politics as usual on the campaign trail after quieting the rhetoric on 9/11. Last night, both candidates attended a forum on community and national service that showed common ground and highlighted their differences. Here's Suzanne Malveaux.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first fundamental difference between them -- the role of government itself.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Part of my job I think as president is to make government cool again. I believe, firmly, that government should expand avenues of opportunity.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Government can't do it all. The essence of volunteerism starts at the grassroots level.

MALVEAUX: Despite their differences, they both took an almost identical swipe at President Bush for his response to the September 11th attacks. OBAMA: Rather than tell the American people to shop, what I would have done is to say, now is the time for us to meet some great challenges.

MCCAIN: I would have called them to serve.

MALVEAUX: And despite the mostly civil tone of the discussion, they took some swipes at each other.

MCCAIN: I think the tone of this whole campaign would have been very different if Senator Obama had accepted my request for us to appear in town hall meetings.

OBAMA: Washington is broken. My whole campaign has been premised from the start on the idea that we have to fundamentally change how Washington works.

MALVEAUX: Both candidates took on some unresolved conflicts from the increasingly bitter exchange from the campaign trail. McCain's running mate Sarah Palin's ridicule of Obama's work as a community organizer in Chicago.

OBAMA: I was surprised by several remarks around community organizing and belittling it.

MCCAIN: Governor Palin was responding to the criticism of her inexperience and her job as a mayor in a small town. That's what she was responding to. Of course, I respect community organizers.

MALVEAUX: And this admission, a potential opening for Obama, who's been accused of being out of touch with common people.

MCCAIN: It's easy for me to go to Washington and, frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have.

MALVEAUX: A few lighter moments as well, over whether either candidate would serve as a cabinet-level community czar for the other?

MCCAIN: Yes.

OBAMA: This is the deal he wants to make right now. I am committed to appointing him to my cabinet.

MALVEAUX (on camera): Barack Obama goes on to New Hampshire to campaign, the state that resuscitated Hillary Clinton's run in the primary. Senator John McCain stays here in New York to do TV tapings with the view and Rachael Ray, obviously, to court a critical voting bloc -- women.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Issue number one, the candidates on jobs. Christine Romans looks at how their plans could affect your pay. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Thirteen minutes after the hour. We're "Minding Your Business" this morning, and Ali Velshi because he did such a great job during Hurricane Gustav has been shipped off to this hurricane.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, too bad for him, right?

ROBERTS: One of the great things about Ali, though, is that his hair doesn't blow in the wind.

(LAUGHTER)

Christine Romans here this morning continuing our series looking at the candidates' positions. And today, the overall position on the economy.

ROMANS: And the economy and jobs in particular. This is something that is really the next part of this economic problem. The first part was the housing. This part is where we're starting to see jobs lost and it's the kind --

This is where John McCain stands on jobs and wages. He wants to keep corporate taxes low. He wants to keep the minimum wage at $7.25 an hour. He thinks raising it more is going to hurt small businesses. It's going to mean that people who are the lowest earning people on the income ladder are going to lose jobs.

He wants to consolidate unemployment programs and reform training programs for jobs seekers. That is a way to address some of the problems or the perceived problems from free trade.

And here's where Barack Obama stands on jobs and wages. He wants to create two million infrastructure jobs through infrastructure spending. He wants to raise the minimum wage again to 9.50 an hour. He advocates for stronger unionization, and he wants to extend and expand unemployment insurance.

Now, I talked to the chief financial gurus of both of these campaigns this week. And it's very clear that they have different views on how to fix the economy and what to do. So your vote really matters in this arena for these two gentlemen. They've very, very different here.

And one thing that's interesting about Barack Obama is he wants another stimulus package. He'd like to see more of our money spent to try to goose the economy here right now. John McCain is a little cool on that idea. Not ruling it out.

ROBERTS: Reflecting what's going on in Congress right now?

ROMANS: Right, exactly. But worried about, you know, just stuffing something. McCain is worried about stuffing something full of a bunch of earmarks and a bunch of unnecessary provisions that's just going to cost American taxpayers more money. But, essentially, you know, Barack Obama, you know, playing the type, I guess, really wants to help the economy and has this plan. John McCain wants to help the economy in the very near term as well, and he says you can't solve a deficit problem until you have the economy growing. But he's worried about government getting in the way of the economy, and getting in the way of the economy naturally sticks to itself.

COSTELLO: Well, hopefully, we'll hear more talk about the economy from both candidates and we'll get off the stupid stuff.

ROMANS: Oh, now.

COSTELLO: I'm sorry, I just got to say it.

ROBERTS: I know. The McCain campaign has been serving up a big cheeseburger for the media every day.

COSTELLO: Oh, you're not kidding. And we've been biting, haven't we.

ROBERTS: A lot of people have, certainly.

Christine, thanks so much.

ROMANS: Sure.

ROBERTS: 15 1/2 minutes now after the hour.

Protecting your plane. The secret test designed to prevent terror attacks in the sky.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just about anything that the terrorists might consider.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Breaking news on Hurricane Ike. The storm charging the Houston, Texas coast expected to hit late tonight. The warnings are dire. The National Weather Service saying those in homes along the coast face "certain death if they stay behind." Houston's two airports will begin shutting down this afternoon and already at least 11 oil refineries have closed along with the nation's second largest seaport.

ROBERTS: Explosives made from seemingly harmless ingredients, a weak spot in aviation security around the globe to be sure. But the U.S. government is trying to change that. And CNN has been granted unprecedented access to a government test site designed to help keep you safe. Here's CNN's Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve with that story.

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: John, Carol, government scientists are blowing things up in order to make aviation safer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE (voice-over): In a plastic bottle mixed one liquid with another until you have about 10 ounces, then detonate.

Do you think looking at that blast, that would be enough to bring down an airplane?

JIM PHELAN, SANDIA NATIONAL LABORATORIES: I won't speculate.

MESERVE: But the Transportation Security Administration needs that answer.

KIP HAWLEY, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: It's critical to know exactly what is it that could destroy a plane because, then, you can target your detection measures to meet that threat.

MESERVE: After the explosion of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, testing was done on real aircraft with conventional explosives. CNN was given an exclusive look at new testing ordered by the TSA after terrorists in London demonstrated their intent to use homemade liquid explosives to blow up planes in 2006.

PHELAN: We have that window frame here.

MESERVE: Scientists at the Sandia, Los Alamos and Livermore National Labs have secretly worked on it for more than a year. Results expected this fall could impact how much liquid travelers can carry on planes and how screening is done.

PHELAN: This will help TSA define what the requirements are explosives detection for the checkpoint and for checked baggage and for air cargo.

MESERVE: Materials from an old Boeing 737 have been stressed to the breaking point.

DENNIS ROACH, SANDIA NATIONAL LABORATORIES: We want to understand how it fails and at what load level it fails.

MESERVE: That information is being used to create a computer model which shows not only how a plane is built, but how it will behave. Pressure data from different explosive tests are added.

PHELAN: Homemade liquid explosives, homemade powered explosives, gels, just about anything that the terrorists might consider.

MESERVE: The model is helping scientists determine what damage different explosives will do placed differently in different aircraft at different altitudes, what it will take to bring a plane out of the sky.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: The data being collected could be used to design a stronger aircraft, but scientists say there will never be a blast proof plane. You simply can't make a tank that can fly. John, Carol, back to you.

ROBERTS: Running for cover.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: This is not a game of chicken with Mother Nature.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: A mass exodus as Hurricane Ike closes in on the Houston area. We're live in Texas with the very latest. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO: Sarah Palin has left the campaign trail. Take a break. What's it been, a week? Yes, she wants that. Oh, don't kill yourself.

She went back to Alaska for a while. See what that means. People go back to ignoring John McCain again. I guess earlier today up there in Alaska, she shot two campaign commercials, a moose and a caribou.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Sarah Palin is getting it from every angle, isn't she? Jay Leno taking his best shot at the Republican's rising star.

Sarah Palin says she is ready to be vice president, even president if need be. In her first interview since she was named John McCain's running mate, Palin tried to answer critics who claim she lacks foreign policy experience. But she seemed a bit tentative when answering a question about the Bush Doctrine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS)

CHARLIE GIBSON, ABC NEWS, HOST: Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: What do you interpret it to be? PALIN: His world view?

GIBSON: No, the Bush Doctrine enunciated September 2002 before the Iraq war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Joining us now from Washington with some morning after analysis of Palin's performance, Democratic strategist Julian Epstein, and Leslie Sanchez, CNN political contributor and Republican strategist. Welcome to you both.

JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good morning.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Good morning.

CHETRY: So let's start with her answer to the Bush Doctrine. She seemed not to know what that was.

Julian, do you think that would make a big difference, though? I mean, do most in America know what the Bush Doctrine is anyway?

EPSTEIN: Well, I think in fairness to her, Charlie Gibson worded the question very, very poorly. He should have said the Bush Doctrine on preemptive strikes. I think, look, I think her answer on that, however, I think her answer on going to war with Russia, I think her answer on the Iraqi connection to 9/11 will leave a lot of people scratching their heads about her readiness. But I think Democrats have to resist the temptation of kind of poking at this hornet's nest.

I think the media need to be able to go after her and ask these questions about her readiness, but Democrats need to move on, refocus this campaign again on McCain, and refocus on the question of change.

COSTELLO: Yes, we're going to get to that in just a minute. But, Leslie, I wanted to ask you. The big rub on -- one of the big rubs on Sarah Palin was that she was overly scripted. Last night in that interview, she did seem rather scripted, or am I imagining that?

SANCHEZ: I think the media is trying to make a lot of hoopla out of this very important interview. I think she did well, as well as could being expected. There was a lot of pressure, a lot of eyeballs on her. But she answered the question, I think, in good faith. She showed strength and leadership, and I think fundamentally people were waiting for a gotcha moment that didn't happen.

COSTELLO: But let me ask you this, I mean, is there anything Sarah Palin can do, any mistake that she could make that would sway people away who already support her?

SANCHEZ: You know, it's a great question because traditionally in campaigns, this is where the gaffes are going to happen. And it wouldn't just be with Sarah Palin. It would be with any of the four, two on the top of each ticket. This is where you see mistakes coming in presidential debates. You're seeing them by Joe Biden, you know, every day. COSTELLO: Who? I don't even remember Joe Biden exactly.

SANCHEZ: Glenn Beck says there's an AMBER alert for him right now. We're kind of looking for Joe Biden. But when he does appear, it's another case of foot and mouth disease. I mean, clearly, is it affecting the Obama campaign? Maybe it gets him off the rhythm, but I think there's so much intense focus in downplaying the candidacy and the viability of the Republican ticket. I think that's the scrutiny there and it's not fair or legitimate.

COSTELLO: OK, Julian, let's talk about that. Barack Obama met with President Clinton. They had lunch together and kind of looked uncomfortable together, but they had lunch together. So, how can Barack Obama use Bill Clinton to get the attention away from Sarah Palin and back on the economy?

EPSTEIN: Well, I think President Clinton knows better than anybody in this country, Republican or Democrat, how to speak to cultural conservatism, particularly the so-called Reagan Democrats. So I think the key thing for the Obama campaign right now is to get the focus back on McCain and again to draw the contrast in very sharp terms between what McCain means by change and what Obama means by change.

Clinton is very, very effective in framing these issues. If you think back to the '92 election, you can still remember what he campaigned on: 100,000 cops on the street; ending welfare, as we know it; cutting White House staff by 25 percent. He's very, very effective at framing that bumper sticker. So that the first thing he can do.

The second thing Bill Clinton can do is get on the campaign trail and go to the states where it's very close, particularly with white working class Democrats -- Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio -- all of these key battleground states. The he president is also popular in states like Colorado. Colorado, I think, will be the key state coming up in this next election.

So for the Obama campaign, it's a question of refocusing on McCain again, and then filling in the canvas on what they mean by change.

COSTELLO: Let's hope both candidates refocus on the issues from this point forward, we'll see.

Leslie Sanchez, Julian Epstein, thanks so much for debating the issues with us this morning.

EPSTEIN: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Just about 30 minutes past the hour now, and a check on our top stories this morning.

The latest warning for people living along the low-lying Galveston Texas coast, you stay you die. Hurricane Ike on track to make a direct hit on Galveston Island tonight as a potential Category three. The National Weather Service warns that it will bring with it catastrophic flooding. Hundreds of thousands of people have already been evacuated.

Brand new numbers this morning. According to research, foreclosure filings have slowed. Last month, one in every 416 households were in some stage of financial trouble. That is up from 27 percent a year ago, but it's down from June and July.

A jury of nine women and three men has been seated in O.J. Simpson's kidnapping and robbery trial in Las Vegas. None of the members of the jury are African-American. Defense attorneys tried to get the panel dismissed, but the judge said there is no evidence that race influenced the selection process. Simpson could get life in prison if convicted.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: That is up from 27 percent a year ago, but it's down from June and July.

A jury of nine women and three men has been seated in O.J. Simpson's kidnapping and robbery trial in Las Vegas. None of the members of the jury are African-American. Defense attorneys tried to get the panel dismissed but the judge said there was no evidence that race influenced the selection process. Simpson could get life in prison if convicted on all counts. Opening statements are scheduled to begin on Monday.

Now, back to our breaking news this morning. Again, the warnings are dire as Hurricane Ike gained strength and hits straight for a direct hit on Houston. America's fourth largest city.

For people in vulnerable areas the message is get out now or face certain death. The storm could be a Category 3 when it hits late tonight or early tomorrow morning. And so far, hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated. Many gas station have run dry. The interstate cramped with people yesterday, looking to get out of town.

Our Rob Marciano is live in Galveston, Texas this morning.

And Rob, current forecast track would have you just about right in the center of the bulls eye there.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and it's a scary proposition for the folks who live in Galveston. This area no stranger to hurricanes. Of course the big one back in 1,900 and the latest one to do some damage around here in 1983. And this one is being compared to that. But since the 1,900 storm which killed over 8,000 people, they built this sea wall, which is behind me.

Built it up to 16 feet. Sand is built up on top of that. So, it's really only about 10 feet tall and already with the storm still a couple hundred miles away, the water is lapping up against the sea wall. Sea spray is spraying over onto this sidewalk, and will be over this road. It will be up and over this road. Well, likely will be up and over my head by the time this storm comes ashore later on tonight and tomorrow. Everybody has evacuated.

At least mandatory evacuations not only in this county, but several counties that (INAUDIBLE), would pretty much means you decide to ride out the storm here, you are on your own. Especially when winds get over 50 miles an hour. And they will do that.

Let's take a look at the satellite picture. This thing has gotten a little bit better organized overnight. No distinct eye as of yet. But things have not changed as far as the forecast track. Folks who live here in Houston. We're hoping that the track would go a little bit further to the north. So we would be on the weak side or the clean side of the storm. But so far that shift has yet to take place hopefully in the next couple of hours that will. So, here's the track.

Timing is more, again, to bring it in later tonight and early tomorrow morning. But what had changed in the last six hours is to bring it up to a Cat 3. There was hope that we can keep it to Cat 2. But it really doesn't matter, John. Cat 2, Cat 3 has no bearing on what this storm is all about. This storm is all about size. This storm is all about the area that it encompasses and all the water that it controls with the storm surge that we saw already yesterday across the northern Gulf. The storm surge here will be much higher than it would for a typical Category 2 or Category 3. So, we'll be on the move here shortly, don't you worry. Back to you.

ROBERTS: Definitely we want you to stay safe, Rob, particularly -- I mean, you're right down there at the sea wall. That 1,900 hurricane that you talk about was a strong Category 4. What would the difference be between that storm and what we're expecting out of Ike?

MARCIANO: You know, the storm surge should be about the same. That's surge was around 15 feet or so. Their big deal was, you know, at 1,900. They have satellites. They barely had ship reports. They pretty much didn't know it was coming (INAUDIBLE) the sea wall. Galveston was the big city in Texas at the time. And, obviously, building codes and all that kind of thing weren't helping much. So, the difference is we're in the modern era. We have the warning. We have the sea wall, which could protect at least part of the island, but it won't protect all of it, that's for sure.

John?

ROBERTS: All right, Rob, above all make sure you stay safe. Rob Marciano for us in Galveston. Rob, thanks.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: More of the "Most Politics in the Morning." Sarah Palin defending her credentials and displaying her vision for the country. In her first interview since becoming John McCain's running mate, the governor told ABC's Charles Gibson she is ready to be vice president and if called upon the commander-in-chief. CNN's Jessica Yellin has been reporting from Alaska, and joins us now live from Anchorage with more on what Palin had to say.

Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Well in an interview that at times became tense, Sarah Palin took a range of questions from foreign policy issues to that threshold question you just mentioned. Is she ready to walk into the oval office if necessary? And she told ABC's Charlie Gibson when John McCain asked her to join the ticket, she never hesitated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The first thing I said to him was, if you really think that I can help the ticket, if you really think that I can help this country? Absolutely, I want to do this with you.

CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: And you didn't say to yourself am I experienced enough? Am I ready?

PALIN: I didn't hesitate. No.

GIBSON: Doesn't that take some hubris?

PALIN: I answered him yes because I have the confidence in that readiness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Gibson then pressed her on a hot button foreign policy issue, the standoff between Russia and Georgia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBSON: You favor putting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO?

PALIN: Ukraine definitely yes. Yes. And Georgia. Putin thinks otherwise, obviously he thinks otherwise.

GIBSON: Under the NATO treaty, wouldn't we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement. When you are a NATO ally, is, if another country is attacked, you are going to be expected to be called upon and help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Now, McCain has said that U.S. should not go to war with Russia over Georgia. But he was talking about the situation currently, and Georgia is not a member of NATO currently. Now the first part of this interview took place yesterday in Fairbanks, Alaska, and today, Governor Palin is closer to where we are in Wasilla her hometown. Charlie Gibson will follow up with a second interview there today.

Carol?

COSTELLO: Jessica, let me ask you about the Bush doctrine question. Because Sarah Palin answered that question rather tentatively. And critics say, well, she didn't even know what it was. Will there be any repercussions from that do you think?

YELLIN: Well, she did seem hard pressed to answer it and that has become one of the leads of many of the morning newspapers, focusing on that aspect of the interview. So, it's certain to get some attention. The question is given that many Americans themselves don't know what the Bush doctrine is and that McCain would be the president not Bush where Palin the V.P., it's unclear how much of a fallout that would be -- that question and the answer would have.

Carol?

COSTELLO: Got you. Jessica Yellin, live in Alaska this morning. Thank you. CNN taking an in depth look at both vice presidential candidates this weekend. Sarah Palin and Joe Biden Revealed. They're Saturday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, and again on Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

ROBERTS: The need for speed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got to tell you, this is a blast. I dream about this all year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: 400 miles an hour and 50 feet off the ground. Miles O'Brien checks out the deadly sport where there's no room for error.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are at four race speed now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How fast are we going now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going about 410.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: It's coming up on 20 minutes to the top of the hour. There's probably no form of racing more exciting or more dangerous than a contest between jet planes. CNN's Miles O'Brien went to the Annual Reno Air Show for an up close look at planes flying very fast, but very low.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CHIEF TECHNOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What a rush. The need for speed answered in spades and spiked with steroids. Former NASA astronaut and life-long speed freak Robert Hoot Gibson has gone much faster than (OFF-MIKE), but he says there's nothing like flying in the winds full throttle at Reno.

VOICE OF HOOT GIBSON, RENO AIR RACER: I've got to tell you, this is a blast. I dreamt about this all year. I waited for this to happen.

O'BRIEN: For 45 years, fast planes, speed-hungry pilots and ingenious mechanics have returned like swallows to Capistrano to the Reno air races, the fastest motor sport in the world.

Why do you keep coming back?

KATHY KIBBY, COURSE PYLON JUDGE: We love air racing. We love the noise, the round engine noise.

O'BRIEN (on camera): How's that? How's that for a speed thrill? Those planes are going 400 miles an hour plus about 50 feet off the deck here in the desert. There's not a lot of margin for error.

(voice-over): The point tragically underscored before the racing even began this year. 32-year-old Erica Simpson died when the wings folded on her airplane during a practice run. She is the 19th pilot to die here since the races began. Three of the fatalities came just last year. But no spectators have ever been hurt.

TOM GRIBBIN, AIR RACES FORMER BOARD CHAIRMAN: The race course itself is designed for speed and engineered to protect the spectators, to protect the surrounding homes and everything else.

O'BRIEN: I asked Hoot to show me what it's like to fly fast around the pylon.

GIBSON: We are at four race speed now.

O'BRIEN (on camera): How fast are we going now?

GIBSON: We're going about 410.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): With me in the backseat, we weren't allowed to skim the (INAUDIBLE), but I still got a sense of what it's like.

GIBSON: This is one of the hardest. This is about 4 Gs.

O'BRIEN: I can see why this would be glaring after a while.

GIBSON: Yes.

O'BRIEN: I am feeling it.

And now, I was feeling the need for some speed. Hoot let me take the controls for a dip.

GIBSON: (INAUDIBLE)

O'BRIEN: Yes, sir.

GIBSON: All right. Here we go.

O'BRIEN: OK.

GIBSON: Very nice. Very nice.

O'BRIEN: Very nice.

GIBSON: I think you were meant to be a fighter pilot.

O'BRIEN: I guess I missed my calling. Miles O'Brien, CNN, Reno, Nevada.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Forced to flee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I swore to myself I would never do this again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Residents heed dire warnings and run from Hurricane Ike.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All you need is your pictures and a prayer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: We're live in Texas with the latest. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." In our efforts to bring you the complete picture of the presidential candidates on the campaign trail, here's Barack Obama and John McCain at last night's presidential forum responding to a question about tapping the other to lead a cabinet for national service.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you were president, would you do the same and make service a Cabinet-level appointment and would you perhaps ask Senator Obama to be a member of your Cabinet for national service?

(LAUGHTER) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF, "NEWS HOUR WITH JIM LEHRER": Senator Obama, this question of whether or not national service would be elevated to a Cabinet-level position, among other things, Senator McCain said that if it were that, he would ask you to be his secretary. Would you ask him if you're elected president to run the national service?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I mean, if this is the deal he wants to make right now, I am committed to appointing him to my Cabinet for national service. Look, --

WOODRUFF: Would you be willing to serve in his Cabinet?

OBAMA: We've got a little work to do before we get to that point.

MCCAIN: Of course, I respect community organizers. Of course, I respect people who serve their community and Senator Obama's record there is outstanding. And so, I praise anyone who serves this nation in capacities that, frankly, we all know that could have been far more financially rewarding to individuals rather than doing what they did.

OBAMA: We had an awful lot of small town mayors at the Democratic convention, I assure you. I meet them all the time. And I have -- the mayors have some of the toughest jobs in the country because that's where the rubber hits the road. You know, we yak in the Senate. They actually have to fill potholes and trim trees and make sure the garbage is taken away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Plan of attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bunch of people sitting and keep (INAUDIBLE), staring and screaming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Replacing missiles with mouse pads. An inside look at how the Pentagon plans to win the next war. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: America's computer systems are under attack every day according to U.S. intelligence officials, and every day, they say, hackers are trying to get into the systems that give the military its ability to operate. This morning, we are learning new details about just how the U.S. government is fighting the cyber war. Here's CNN's Barbara Starr with that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the thriller, "Live Free Or Die-Hard," Bruce Willis takes on an Internet- based terrorist organization trying to shut down the United States, starting with traffic signals. It's a scenario that the U.S. military worries some day may be real. The next war may also find U.S. troops on the offense in cyberspace.

MICHAEL WYNNE, FORMER SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE: But I think we need to get ready and get set to be able to allow our forces to essentially leverage the cyber world.

STARR: Cyber warfare is so sensitive the Pentagon refused to provide any official to speak on camera. The Air Force is considering establishing a separate organization just to handle it.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: Some people are talking about the things that belong in the movies, not at the Pentagon.

STARR: But this recently declassified national military strategy for cyberspace operations spells out the Pentagon strategy, superiority in cyberspace. And says troops must be able to conduct the full range of military operations in and through cyberspace. It's more than just shutting down the other guy's systems. Experts say the idea, use cyber attacks to disable aircraft, make radars go blank and even plant false intelligence in the enemy computers.

PIKE: It's never going to take the place of hot steel on target.

STARR: The Pentagon is already concerned about Chinese and Russian cyber tricks. It's thought Moscow was behind recent attacks on Georgian government Web sites. Real cyber war, however, may not look very Hollywood.

PIKE: Well, combat in cyberspace is mainly going to look like a bunch of people sitting at keyboards and staring at screens. It's probably not going to be as exiting as it is in the movies.

STARR (on camera): The U.S. military already relies on fire walls, passwords and other cyber security measures to protect itself from hackers. Most experts say now all of that is going to have to be improved. Barbara Starr, CNN, The Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Giant Hurricane Ike.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a massive storm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Forecasters warn of certain death if people decide to stick around.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is large. It is powerful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: And, where they stand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Government should expand avenues of opportunity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: After a day of remembrance, the presidential candidate showcase their differences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Government can't do it all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: It's the "Most Politics in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." Checking the "Political Ticker" now. A "cocky wacko." That's how former Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee is describing vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. He also said McCain is a lack luster candidate and described the selection of Palin as, quote, "throwing this firestorm, this tornado into the whole presidential election."

Barack Obama getting some unsolicited campaign advice from Karl Rove. Rove said Obama needs to remember that he's running against John McCain and not Sarah Palin. In his weekly column in the "Wall Street Journal", Rove said attacks against Palin are backfiring and making Obama look bad.

And Obama and Bill Clinton said they had a great lunch together in New York. They said the biggest topic of conversation was the changes in the world since the September 11th attacks. But they also discussed what the next president can do to boost the economy.

And for more up to the minute political news just head to CNN.com/ticker.

ROBERTS: The race for the White House is tightening up. The latest CNN Poll of Polls puts the race at a virtual dead heat with John McCain, leading Barack Obama by a single percentage point. So, why is this race so close? And where does it go from here?

Paul Begala is a Democratic strategist and a CNN political contributor. And he also has a brand new book out. "Third Term: Why George W. Bush Hearts John McCain." He joins me now to talk about the book and more. Paul, it's always great to see you. You know, when you look at the national polls, it's one thing. It's a snapshot of how sort of the whole country is feeling. But even at the battleground level, this thing is incredibly tight in a year that should naturally be advantage Democrats. What's going on?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, absolutely. I think Democrats are picking up seats in the House and pick up seats in the Senate. I think the White House is a coin toss at best. It's not only the Republicans did nominate their strongest candidate. And part of what makes him strong is that he's a war hero. That's real. And it has not been overplayed. It's absolutely -- I mean, I've done a lot of research on this guy. He suffered and he sacrificed for our country. We all respect that.

ROBERTS: The McCain campaign also appears to have done a pretty good job in the last couple of weeks since the convention of defining Barack Obama and putting him on the defensive as well, particularly over that lipstick on a pig comment that he made. Let's listen to what he said recently.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I don't care what they say about me, but I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phoney outrage and swift-boat politics. Enough is enough.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: You know, this almost looks like what happened in 2004 where the Bush campaign was very, very good at defining John Kerry in the wrong turns. And he was on the defensive. And he was always trying to fight back I guess. Do we risk or does the Democratic Party here risk Barack Obama becoming John Kerry, too.

BEGALA: Yes, very much so. And it's because there's this myth in the Democratic Party about rapid response. We should respond to all their attacks. Why not rapid attack?

If you're a member of a party that believes the other party has ruined the country almost, that is too much, but has certainly hurt the economy, has made us weaker in the world, has damaged us in terms of health care, if you believe all those things, why sit back and defend? You know, the hockey is apparently the metaphor. I grew up in Texas. I don't know much about hockey.

But you don't score when you're only playing goalie, right? And I think that what the Democrats need to do is go out there and define McCain. That's what I try to do with this book. I do think the research bears out that he's stunningly like George W. Bush in almost all of his political views and even kind of personally.

ROBERTS: But this idea now that he is a maverick. I mean, you have a photo on the back of the book here. (CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: How many pictures of him hugging Bush? Yes.

ROBERTS: With President Bush. But is there anything to be said for the idea that he knew what he had to do. He needed to embrace President Bush to get his fundraisers on board. He needed to embrace the base in order to become the nominee. Now that he's done that and reinforce that with his pick of Governor Palin, he is free to become the maverick that he was eight years ago.

BEGALA: If that's true then he's not putting country first. He's putting politics first, and that's fine. But don't tell me your slogan is "Country First." The Palin pick is definitely politics first. I think the Bush hug is real. And I talked to some people who helped set it up. I interviewed them for this book. I think these two guys, the reason they didn't get along is they are so very much alike. The guy over seven and a half years now, he's 91 percent of the time votes for Bush.

ROBERTS: The book is called "Third Term: Why George W. Bush Hearts John McCain." Paul, it's always great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

BEGALA: Thanks, John.

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