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Another Fire From the McCain Campaign; Obama is Leading the Polls; Ellen DeGeneres Using Her Show to Sign Up Voters; Taliban Peace Talks With Afghanistan

Aired October 6, 2008 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: It's 8:00 here on the East Coast. A look at the top stories this is morning. It looks like the orders to sell are piling on. The Dow future's in negative territory this morning. We're also getting a look at how the global markets are reacting to the Wall Street bailout. Stocks significantly down across Asia, Australia, Russia and Europe.
Crude oil prices trading below $90 for the first time since February. In the past three months oil prices have tumbled nearly 40 percent. Analysts say that investors are concerned the global financial crisis will decrease worldwide demand for oil.

And police say at least 10 people are dead after a bus flipped over about 60 miles north of Sacramento. Doctors say at least four people are in critical condition. A local TV station is reporting the driver survived the crash and was on medication. Investigators are looking into whether that play played a role in the crash.

Back to the most politics now. Just about 37 hours from now, John McCain and Barack Obama will meet for a town hall-style debate. Both candidates are going into tomorrow's primetime showdown in full attack mode. McCain's running mate Sarah Palin spent the weekend slamming Obama's character, accusing him of quote, "palling around with terrorists." It's a reference to the senator's past work with former '60's radical William Ayers. Obama fired back, charging McCain is erratic on the economy.

CNN's Jim Acosta is following the campaign crossfire and he's live in Asheville, North Carolina, for us this morning.

Hey, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran. That's right. Barack Obama is hitting back at the McCain campaign over these personal attacks. The Obama campaign is releasing a new video highlighting John McCain's role in the Keating Five scandal from the early 1990's. It's a move that shows Barack Obama is perfectly happy playing for keeps.


ACOSTA (voice-over): If he succeeds in turns Republican strong holds like North Carolina blue, Barack Obama will have to withstand new character attacks, this time from Sarah Palin. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country.

ACOSTA: Palin recycled on old story about Obama's past sporadic contacts with William Ayers, a former member of a radical group that carried out bombings on government buildings in the 1960's. Obama called it a desperate smear.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They'd rather tear our campaign down than lift this country up. That's what you do when you're out of touch, out of ideas and running out of time.

ACOSTA: Now a college professor in Chicago, Ayers and Obama served together several years on a non-profit board. And in 1995 Ayers hosted a Coffee for Obama, when the young community organizer was making his first run for the state Senate.

(on camera): At this point looking back, should he not have done that, do you think?

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN CHIEF STRATEGIST: Well, when he went, he certainly -- he didn't know the history.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The Democratic nominee's chief strategist David Axelrod maintains Obama at that time, had no idea about Ayers' violent past.

AXELROD: There's no evidence that they are close, there's no evidence that Obama in any way subscribed to any of Ayers' views. And Obama's been very clear about condemning the despicable acts that Bill Ayers committed 40 years ago when Obama was 8 years old.

ACOSTA: Obama has unleashed a new ad seizing on the Ayers' attack. Noting a McCain campaign spokesman was quoted as saying the Arizona senator wanted to turn the page away from the economy.

ANNOUNCER: No wonder his campaign wants to change the subject. Turn the page on the financial crisis by launching dishonest, dishonorable assaults against Barack Obama.

ACOSTA: What else might McCain bring up? When asked of Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright is off the table, a McCain spokesman would only say, no comment.


ACOSTA: And Barack Obama is prepping here in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, here in western North Carolina, for the debate with John McCain tomorrow night, in part to expand the battleground map. The idea is to force John McCain to defend states he should already have locked up at this point while at the same time running out the clock -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Jim Acosta for us in North Carolina, this morning. Thank you. And as Jim mentioned, the Obama campaign is e-mailing supporters a web video on John McCain's involvement in the quote, "Keating Five," from the days of the savings and loan scandal.

Here's a clip.


ANNOUNCER: Many of our fellow citizens apparently believe that your services were bought by Charles Keating.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Keating Five involved all the things that are brought to the modern crisis.


CHETRY: Well, you can expect to hear a lot more about the Keating Five in the coming days. It's a phrase that was coined in 1990, referring to John McCain and four other U.S. senators linked to Charles Keating.

Now, Keating was a big political donor who went to prison in connection with the savings and loan scandal. The trouble for McCain started when he and those other lawmakers ended up meeting with federal regulators on Keating's behalf. The senators were accused of acting improperly. The Ethics Committee ended up cleared John McCain though, saying that he only exercised poor judgment -- John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Meantime, with 29 days to go before the presidential election, the political grout is shifting for both candidates. John McCain is fighting to stay competitive in key battleground states and in some traditionally Republican strongholds as well.

CNN's Jason Carroll is following the developments for us. And some radical changes in our electoral college.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We're definitely seeing a bit of a shake-up in some of the battleground states. The numbers show Senator McCain has work to do in states his Republican predecessors had won.


MCCAIN: I need to win the state of Michigan. We need to win the state of Michigan. I need your support.

CARROLL (voice-over): That was last month. But now the McCain campaign's pulling up stakes in the Michigan, a state that's voted for the Democrats in the last four presidential elections. But a state the McCain campaign thought they could grab back. It's a move his running mate isn't crazy about.

PALIN: Well, as I said the other day, I would sure love to get to (INAUDIBLE) to Michigan, and make sure that Michigan knows that we haven't given up there. CARROLL: The McCain campaign will move resources from there to Ohio and Pennsylvania, states they think they have a better chance of winning. But McCain's down 10 points in the latest CNN Poll of Polls in Pennsylvania. And in Ohio, a new Quinnipiac survey suggests McCain's eight points behind Obama.

In Florida, which President Bush won by five points last time around, a new CNN Poll of Polls indicates McCain's down by five points. But it's not just the battleground states. McCain's fighting to hold onto states that used to be reliably Republican in presidential elections like Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, Nevada and Colorado.

OBAMA: We will not just win Colorado, we will win this general election.

CARROLL: So, what does the big picture look like? The CNN electoral college map estimates that if the election were held today, Barack Obama would win 250 electoral votes and John McCain would take 189, with 99 electoral votes still up for grabs. 270 electoral votes are needed to win the White House.


CARROLL: And in addition to shifting resources, the McCain camp has stepped up its attacks on Senator Obama. But most analysts agree the issue that seems to be hurting McCain the most with voters is definitely the economy.

ROBERTS: Which a lot of people say is why the subject is being changed now to Barack Obama's character.


ROBERTS: Jason Carroll for us. Thanks very much.

Join the best political team on television right here on CNN for your front row seat to tomorrow night's debate live from Nashville, Tennessee. That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

CHETRY: Well, world stocks tanked after the House bill passes. We're going to tell you what trouble the overseas markets mean for the American investor, today.

And Ellen DeGeneres has a new role this morning, recruiter. The daytime host using her show to sign up new voters as we enter the homestretch in the election. You're watching the Most News in the Morning.



DANNY DEVITO, "OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY": You don't care if they manufacture wire and cable, fried chicken or grow tangerines. You want to make money.


ROBERTS: And there you go. The phrase OPM, "Other People's Money," a clip of Danny DeVito from that movie. Of course, in the end, he turned and he became a good guy.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We just don't want to lose any more money. It's about making money right now, it's about not losing any more money, right?

ROBERTS: Christine Romans here Minding Your Business, this morning.

ROMANS: Buckle up, it's going to be another wild morning. We saw the Asian and European markets tank. It's their first chance to really look at what happened here in this country on Friday, when the House and the Senate finally sealed the dealing on that $700 billion bailout plan.

You have 4 and 5 percent losses in Asia and European markets also getting hammered. And we have Dow futures down some 200 points again here. The real fear here, of course, is the consumer. I mean, we've talked about the loss of confidence among the banks. They're not lending to each other and that's caused this credit freeze-up. But now you've got a real fear among consumers and that's going to have them pulling in their horns.

Credit is tight for them. You can see that in car sales, down some 33 percent at Ford. A lot of car dealers having real, real losses and layoffs and the like. Job losses mounting across the board. First, a lot of different industries cutting back hours. Now, you're seeing them outright cutting jobs. Food and energy prices have been going up. That's going to hurt people. And home values have been going down. So, there is a real good reason to be afraid of a consumer that is pulling in because that drives two-thirds of our economic growth.

So, then you get hit twice. You get hurt first by the credit freeze, and then that hurts consumers. And then consumers hurt the economy again by not going out and spending. So, we'll have to watch how all of that --

ROBERTS: It's that snowball rolling downhill, right?

ROMANS: That's right.

But, one story we're watching this morning is this Countrywide story settling with 11 states for accusations that some of its lending practices had really helped fuel this whole problem. And so there are some people, maybe thousands of people, who could see their late fees canceled, could see their interest rates lowered on some of these really, really crazy mortgages that have had very, very high default rates. So, we're going to --

ROBERTS: Anything to help people stay in their homes.

ROMANS: That's right. So -- and that's what we need to see. We need --

CHETRY: Do you need to contact Countrywide, or will they contact you.

ROMANS: That's a very good question. I'll find that out for you. But, there's so many mortgages here that we're talking about. That it will be interesting to see how quickly they can roll something out and help people.

CHETRY: And if you can jump on that as a homeowner, you should.

ROMANS: Exactly. Exactly.

CHETRY: Christine, thanks.

Well, the Supreme Court gets back to work today and first up, an issue that affects every American that takes prescription drugs. We'll tell you about that.

Also, Ellen DeGeneres rocking the vote. The daytime host now using her show to register new voters. We're going to see how she's doing it. You're watching the Most News in the Morning.



JAY-Z, RAPPER: Everybody in here tonight, our responsibility is to go out and get the same number of people that's in this building tonight. Grab a friend, grab somebody, get them registered. This is the most important election in your lifetime.


CHETRY: Rapper and mogul Jay-Z, trying to get out the vote for Barack Obama.

Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres is making a nonpartisan push though to sign up new voters. Kareen Wynter shows us how the comedian is doing it -- Kareen.


KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (on camera): John, Kiran, this is just another example of the powerful combination of celebrity and politics.

ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: This is a very, very important time --

WYNTER (voice-over): Serious talk from a comedian concerned about a high stakes election.

DEGENERES: Look at what is going on with the world right now. We need to fix some things.

WYNTER: Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres teamed up with the national nonpartisan nonprofit campaign Declare Yourself, which encourages young people to register and vote. DEGENERES: We've registered over 10,000 people to vote here at our studio and online. I don't know. I just assume everybody's registered to vote that is able to vote and I'm shocked by the amount --

CHRISTINE SCHUL, REGISTERED VOTER: This is the pin I got for registering.

WYNTER: 23-year-old Christine Schul just registered on DeGeneres' show and has decided to vote for the first time in her life.

SCHUL: Actually I can't wait until November rolls around. I'm really excited. I've been listening to the debates.

MARK MORGENSTERN, DECLARE YOURSELF: Young people are inundated with media. Unless you break through that clutter, you can't get them to take action. So we use celebrity to break through, get into young people's heads.

WYNTER: If that doesn't work, the comic has another idea. Try this on for size.

DEGENERES: And I thought, let's take it to the next logical step. The Ellen underwear is popular, let's put them on the underwear. So, we have laugh, dance, vote. Are you wearing them? That's great! You know what's great about that is you can support yourself and your candidate at the same time.

WYNTER (on camera): And that's Ellen's bottom line in getting people to the polls in November -- John, kiran.


CHETRY: Kareen Wynter for us. Thanks.

Well, the Obama campaign just released a new ad saying John McCain's health plan could cost your family thousands. Is that really true? CNN's Truth Squad is back to break it down.

Also, the attacks are stepping up between John McCain and Barack Obama's campaign. After being accused of palling around with terrorists, Obama's camp released a video about McCain's alleged role in a savings and loan scandal. You're watching the Most News in the Morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: It's 20 minutes after the hour. The Supreme Court gets back to work today, and the new session features several big cases including one that could affect the rights of millions of Americans like you who take prescription drugs.

CNN's Justice Department Kelli Arena is live outside the Supreme Court. What's this case all about, Kelli?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the fundamental issue before the court in this case is whether a patient has a right to sue a drug company if something goes wrong.


ARENA (voice-over): Diana Levine's right arm was amputated at the elbow, ending her career as a musician.

DIANA LEVINE, CO-FOUNDER, REBOP RECORDS: I'm a prolific songwriter, very creative writer. I want to be there writing, writing, writing. It hurts.

ARENA: The best she can do is play with the help of her daughter. Levine's story of what led to her amputation is very unusual.

LEVINE: It was a severe migraine.

ARENA: Part of the treatment for her migraine included a drug called Phenergan.

(on camera): Levine had been given Phenergan before at this health center without complication. Usually it was injected into her muscles. But this time it was injected into her vein using a method called IV push. And that's when the trouble started.

(voice-over): The drug's label did warn about possible gangrene if it was mistakenly injected into an artery instead of a vein. But, the director of the health center says the drug was administered properly.

DR. JOHN METTHEW, DIR., THE HEALTH CENTER: This was a commonly used method and probably still is around the country.

ARENA: Levine's doctors and lawyers argue that the company that made the drug, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, should have banned the direct push method because it knew about the danger.

RICHARD RUBIN, LEVINE'S ATTORNEY: It was in their files and they could have made the change necessary to prevent this.

ARENA: But Wyeth argues, it's not liable because the FDA was aware of the risk and approved the label.

BERT REIN, ATTORNEY FOR WYETH PHARMACEUTICALS: Wyeth complied fully with federal rules. They are the supreme law of the land and Wyeth should not be held accountable for failing to depart from those rules.

ARENA: Diana Levine calls that argument, mind-boggling.

LEVINE: Something has to change. Not only do I need to be helped, compensated. But you have to change that label so it doesn't happen to someone else.


ARENA: Levine was awarded $6.7 million. She was hoping to use the money to make some adjustments on her home now that she's disabled. That's if the justices agree she had a right to sue in the first place -- John.

ROBERTS: Interesting case. Look forward to seeing what comes of it. Kelli Arena for us at the Supreme Court, this morning.

Kelli, thanks.

ARENA: You're welcome.

CHETRY: And still ahead, a Congressman so frustrated with the Republicans and Washington's broken system that he has had enough and he's quitting. Find out who he blames for hurting the GOP brand. You're watching the Most News in the Morning.


CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. After 14 years in Congress, veteran Virginia Republican Congressman Tom Davis is calling it quits. Frustrated by Congress' failure to get things done, Davis is not running for re-election. Congressman Davis joins me now from Washington.

Thanks for being with us this morning.

REP. TOM DAVIS (R), VIRGINIA: Thanks for having me.

CHETRY: So you're a leading member of the Republican Party. Just a few years ago you were running for your party's national congressional campaign effort. And now you're out. So, explain what happened.

DAVIS: Well, look, I've been in office 29 years. I'm taking a look at inability of Congress to address energy independence, federal budget deficits, which is just growing with retirement, the baby boomers. You know, American competitiveness which is lagging. These are the big issues that nobody's talking about and we're just not doing anything. I -- frankly just think I can do better things with my time at this point.

CHETRY: Well, you believe the Republican brand has been damaged as well.

DAVIS: No question.

CHETRY: You said, if we were dog food, they would have to take us off the shelf. And that President Bush is a disappointment. Can't you do more by staying there, rather than leaving?

DAVIS: Well, it's very difficult in the House where majority rules. I mean, the role of the minority in the House is basically, you pick up your paycheck and you make up the quorum.

Just to give you an example, the budget this year, hundreds of billions of dollars went through without any amendments in committee or the House floor. Republicans weren't offered an opportunity to participate in any way, shape, or form in that. I'm not good at sitting there being obstinate. I've had over 100 bills signed in law, some of them pretty significant. But I don't like just sitting on the sidelines and making up the quorum. I want to be part of something if I'm there. It doesn't look like that's where we're going to be the next couple years. So, it's just time to do something else.

CHETRY: Can the argument be made for people like you, you believe that you're not on the side of social conservatives. You're also clearly not one of the liberal Democrats.

So can't people like you do more if you were there?

DAVIS: Well, in some ways. Look, I can be pretty libertarian on some of the social issues. But I am economically, pretty market oriented. And I don't fit into the Democratic Party.

But listen, I've been on the front lines for years. In a tough district winning by big margins, trying to help the party. There comes a time when you have to look around and say, what am I going to do with the rest of my life. I'm a true believer.

I think I'm going to stay active in politics. But I'm going to do it in a way that can be -- give me more time with my wife, a little more remunitive. And maybe parachute back in. But right now, we are in the pits. I hope John McCain is elected this year. That could change the tone in Washington. But at this point, I think you're going to have to do it with somebody else.

CHETRY: Do you think -- I mean, you say that you feel that President Bush is a disappointment. You say that you think John McCain can change things in Washington.

What about if Barack Obama's elected, as well?

DAVIS: Well, he's going to have a Democratic Congress to work with. As much as he might want to come over and work with Republicans, I don't know what he would do.

It makes it very difficult when your party controls both Houses to work with the other side. I saw that happen with President Bush. You know, divided government has actually worked pretty well. Bill Clinton became a much better president when he had a Republican Congress to work with.

CHETRY: All right. You say that you might not be out of politics and do something else. Are you planning to run for a different office?

DAVIS: Well, I think eventually. But you know, they say the only cure for Potomac fever is embalming fluid. I think I'm cured at this point in terms of wanting to be in office, just to be in office.

I'm somebody who likes to get things done and when I think I can be productive, maybe we'll come back. But I just need a break right now, get back in the private sector. You get government speak when you're there for so long. I'm just going to try to do something else.

CHETRY: All right. Well, Representative Tom Davis, thanks for being with us this morning.

DAVIS: My pleasure. Thank you.

ROBERTS: And he avoided the embalmer, too. Good for him.

29 and a half minutes after the hour. Here are this morning's top stories. Crude oil prices falling sharply, they dropped more than $4 a barrel overnight to close at $89.19. Gasoline prices also falling for the 19th straight day. AAA reports the national average for a gallon of regular, now $3.50 a gallon.

The Taliban insisting its leader is no longer aligned with al Qaeda. And the group wants to end the conflict in Afghanistan through dialogue, not fighting. Sources tell CNN that those are just two of the developments to emerge from Saudi-brokered peace talks between Taliban leaders and the Afghan government. Saudi Arabia says a second meeting will take place in two months.

Police in California say at least 10 people are dead, 11 in critical condition after a chartered bus lost control, flipped over and then landed in a drainage dish. It happened last night, about 60 miles north of Sacramento. So far police say there is no indication that drugs or alcohol played a role in that crash.

And new poll numbers out this morning show Barack Obama again leading John McCain among voters. The new CNN average Poll of Polls shows Obama holding a six-point lead. 49 percent to McCain's 43 percent, while 8 percent of voters remain undecided.

Republican vice presidential candidate Governor Sarah Palin is not backing down from her comments about Barack Obama palling around with terrorists. She was asked what she thought about her remarks having a racial undertone.



PALIN: The Associated Press is wrong. The comments are about the association that has been known but hasn't been talked about. And I think it's fair to talk about where Barack Obama kicked off his political career. In the guy's living room. And he of course, having been associated with that group, a known domestic terrorist group, it's important for Americans to know. It's really important for Americans to start knowing who the real Barack Obama is.


ROBERTS: Sarah Palin on the tarmac in Long Beach, California.

The Obama campaign says at the time that William Ayers held that event for Barack Obama in 1995 to introduce him to the political community in Chicago, he was not aware, Senator Obama was not aware of Ayers' past ties with the radical group the Weathermen. Kiran.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN, ANCHOR: Well the back and forth between the campaigns continues even right now. The McCain campaign releasing a new ad this morning taking quite a shot at Barack Obama. Take a listen.


ANNOUNCER: Who is Barack Obama? He says our troops in Afghanistan are --

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just air raiding villages and killing civilians.

ANNOUNCER: How dishonorable. Congressional liberals voted repeatedly to cut off funding to our active troops increasing the risk on their lives. How dangerous.


CHETRY: Well, CNN's Dana Bash joins me now live from Washington. So the ad titled "Dangerous," not mincing any words there. What is the McCain camp strategy at this point?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's something Kiran that we're going to hear more and more using those words dangerous and risky to describe Obama. That's actually going to be basically their strategy for the next 30 days. And I tell you what it's all about. Here's - maybe pretty obvious when you look at the landscape, and that is the fundamentals are against John McCain. An economic slump, an unpopular president, an unpopular war. McCain aides have always believed that their best shot, given all of that, is trying to make undecided voters ask, OK, things may be bad but do you trust this newcomer Barack Obama?

So we're told we're going to hear from Camp McCain, not just about associations like he has with William Ayers or even the convicted real estate developer Tony Rezko, but also much more on substantive issues, like whether or not Obama will raise your taxes. Kiran.

CHETRY: Dana, what about the chance that this could backfire on them? Are they worried about that?

BASH: Certainly, it is also, it's always a possibility, but here is what is driving this. A top McCain aide told me long ago Kiran that their internal data shows undecided voters don't want four more years of George W. Bush, but they also aren't sure that they want Barack Obama in the White House. So since Obama is doing whatever he can to link McCain to Bush, McCain aides say the final push they believe has got to be about stoking those doubts about Obama.

But you know it's interesting, Camp Obama is using similar tactics. They're not so subtly challenging McCain's character. They're stoking underlying worries about McCain. You heard Barack Obama called him erratic. They even used the word old to describe McCain's ideas. So it's hard to believe that's an accident. There might be a little bit more overt on the McCain side, but it's happening across the board. We'll see it stepped up big time in the next 30 days. Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Dana Bash for us this morning in Washington. Thanks.

BASH: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Certainly not ignoring all these tough talk from the McCain campaign, Over the weekend, Obama said the McCain camp's attacks are "what you do when you're out of touch, out of ideas, and running out of time. And we're hoping to hear directly from Senator Obama. He is expected to speak to our Roland Martin this hour.

Tomorrow AMERICAN MORNING begins a special series with Carol Costello called "Voice of the People." You heard Sarah Palin talking a lot about Joe Six-Pack in recent day, but who does he represent? We'll take a look at that tomorrow.

Well, the ink is barely dry on the massive bailout bill, but getting the $700 billion rescue plan, signed into law is just the first step. Getting a loan will still take you some time. CNN's Allan Chernoff reports.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Jennifer () wants to borrow money for her growing bakery in Miami, but bankers have told her don't even bother applying for a loan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What they're saying to me now is that right now nothing is happening, that, you know, pretty much everybody has stopped lending, and so that's scary.

CHERNOFF: Jennifer bakes biscotti and bread sticks and sells them nationwide. She's gaining new accounts and knows that she will need funds to expand, but for now she's relying on her credit card.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think as I grow, I have to get creative and look at new ways of financing to grow.

CHERNOFF: It's a story playing out nationwide. Just because Congress has OK'd the bailout and the President has signed it doesn't mean the lending crisis will suddenly come to an end, say financial analysts, but warn credit will remain tight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Banks, to be honest, aren't lending to each other except for very short term, basically overnight. So it's difficult for a bank to get a loan, you can only imagine the difficulty facing businesses, consumers, both large business and small business right now.

CHERNOFF: A cloud of uncertainty still hangs above the nation's lenders as the Treasury Secretary prepares to use his new powers to buy so-called toxic investments from banks under the bailout plan. Bankers wonder how much will the treasury pay to buy the bad investments that are weighing banks down? Will enough banks participate in the bailout to restore trust in the financial system? And at a time when the economy seems to be sinking, is it safe to make big loans? Moments after approval, the House majority leader conceded the bailout bill can only do so much. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I hope that today's action will stave off the worst case of a total freeze in lending, which could have devastating consequences for jobs, consumer credit, and foreclosure.

CHERNOFF: Jennifer isn't counting on a quick economic fix. In fact, she says she may decide to sell part of her business to an investor just to get extra cash.


CHERNOFF: The bottom line, bank lending didn't freeze up overnight, and now it's going to take time to thaw out. Allan Chernoff, CNN, New York.


ROBERTS (voice-over): Separating fact from fiction.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The average cost of a family health care plan these days is more than twice that much.

ROBERTS: Barack Obama on the campaign trail and on the attack.

OBAMA: Where would that leave you? Broke.

ROBERTS: The truth squad checks the facts on McCain's health plan. You're watching the most news in the morning.


ROBERTS: Coming up on 39 minutes after the hour. It's time to check in now with the truth squad, the charges and counter charges flying this weekend. Jason Carroll and the CNN truth squad have been checking all of this, and he's here this morning. Good morning to you.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This time it's coming from Barack Obama. Obama is taking shots at John McCain's health plan. He's warning that millions would lose the insurance they get at work and would be forced to buy their own using money from a McCain tax credit. Take a listen to what he said Saturday in Virginia.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: $5,000 tax credit, sounds good, but what Senator McCain doesn't tell you is the average cost of a family health care plan these days is more than twice that much. It's $12,680, so where would that leave you? Broke.


CARROLL: So is Obama getting it right? The number he quotes comes from a study published last month in a medical journal, "Health Affairs." $12,680 is the average yearly premium for a family. But if a member of the family is covered through work, the real cost is only about $3,300. The rest is paid for by the employer. So if that family got a $5,000 credit under McCain's plan, they would actually come out ahead and save about $1,600 on their taxes. That's if they keep their employer-provided health care.

Obama is arguing under McCain's plan, millions would lose that coverage, a claim backed up by a study also in health affairs that said up to 20 million people could find themselves in that position. Those people would have to pay that same $12,680 out of pocket. They'd still get that $5,000 tax credit, but that leaves about $7,700 they'd have to find somewhere else. So is Obama right to say that some people would end up paying twice what McCain is offering to buy health insurance? The truth squad says this one is true.

But it's only the case if someone loses their employer-provided health insurance. Then they would have to pay more. If they don't lose coverage at work, they actually could end up saving some money there.

ROBERTS: I thought that the McCain plan was designed to take people out of employer-sponsored health insurance, put them out there in the general market so they could get the savings and, therefore, get their own plans.

CARROLL: Right, and that's the argument there. Some other points that people raises, what happens if you're faced with catastrophic health care costs and you lose your job? What happens then?

ROBERTS: All right. Jason Carroll for us this morning seeking the truth. 41 minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY (voice-over): Blasting off the tops of mountains.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're convinced all that will be destroyed?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It certainly will.

CHETRY: The hunt for coal leaves some communities facing possible devastation. Is wind energy the answer?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't afford to take anything off the table.

CHETRY: You're watching "the most news in the morning."


CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. Blasting the top off of a mountain and pulling out the coal. That's what's happening in some areas of West Virginia, but it comes at a huge cost. Deborah Feyerick has the story.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lorelie Scarboro can tell you all about the wild turkeys and bears that live on West Virginia's coal river mountain. You're convinced all that will be destroyed.

It certainly will.

FEYERICK: Blasting may soon start on the mountaintop near the cemetery where Scarborough's husband, the former coal miner, is buried. Mountaintop removal mining is faster and cheaper than underground mining. But its impact on the environment is much worse. Susan Lapis, a pilot, for conservation group south wings has witnessed it first time.

VOICE SUSAN LAPIS, PILOT, SOUTHWINGS: It eroded just like it simply just sheared off the top of the mountain, that's exactly what's happening. What they do is one truckload at a time.

FEYERICK: Some 470 mountaintops in this area, including the one next to coal river, have been destroyed, and this coal mining community, some former miners are speaking out about the loss of jobs and devastation to their neighborhoods. How many of you believe that this mountaintop mining of Coal River Mountain is going to destroy the life that you know right now?


FEYERICK: So all of you.

GARY ANDERSON, RALEIGH COUNTY RESIDENT: Look at that mountain. What gives them the right to come in and blow it away?

FEYERICK: Mountaintop mining is legal and became more prevalent when federal law was relaxed six years ago. Coal company Massey Energy supplied environmental reports and received some permits. Granted by the state's Department of Environmental Protection. People out there feel that this agency is leading them to the slaughter by allowing this to happen.

RANDY HUFFMAN, WEST VIRGINIA DEPT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: There are only certain things that allow me to deny a permit, and, you know, what's morally right or wrong in mine or someone else's opinion is not one of those things.

FEYERICK: But many here believe there's an alternative. Building a wind farm on the highest ridge, which some estimate could power 150,000 homes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wind is viable in this area now.

FEYERICK: Bill Price grew up here. He's now an environmental activist. Massey Energy cites studies saying other mountains would provide more wind, but supporters want the governor to halt the mining and give them a chance to prove wind energy can work. The Governor's spokeswoman says until the data is in, now is not the time.

LARA RAMSBURG, COMM. DIR. GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D): The governor sincerely believes that as a country we can't afford to take anything off the table.

FEYERICK: Lorelei Scarboro knows she may not be able to save Coal River Mountain. She's not willing to give it up without a fight. LORELEI SCARBORO, RALEIGH COUNTY RESIDENT: We don't live where they mine coal. They mine coal where we live.

FEYERICK: Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Raleigh County, West Virginia.


ROBERTS: Well, just in to CNN this morning, Barack Obama in a one-on- one interview, hear his response to Sarah Palin's charges over the weekend.

Plus, late night laughs and political punch lines. "Saturday Night Live" makes it look easy, but what really goes on behind the scenes? That's ahead on "the most news in the morning."


ROBERTS: It's coming up now on 10 minutes to the top of the hour. A short time ago Barack Obama responded to Sarah Palin's claim that he was "palling around with terrorists." She was referring to Bill Ayers who was a founder of the 60s radical group the Weather Men, blamed for several domestic bombings.

Obama just spoke with CNN's Roland Martin live on the "Tom Joyner Morning Show." The Democratic candidate says if John McCain wants to debate character, he's ready for it.


VOICE OF SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's unfortunate, first of all, just the facts. Mr. Ayers is somebody who lives in Chicago. He's a professor at the University of Illinois, teaches education, and he engaged in these despicable acts 40 years ago when I was eight years old. I served on a board with him.

And now they're trying to use this as guilt by association, and as you said, they've explicitly stated that what they want to do is to change the topic because they don't want to talk about the economy and the failed policies of the last eight years. So, you know, I think the American people deserve better. I think they deserve a last four weeks that talks about the economic crisis, about the 159,000 jobs that were lost just last week, last month, but if John McCain wants to have a character debate, then I'm happy to have that debate because you know Mr. McCain's record, despite him calling himself a maverick, actually shows that he is continually somebody who relies on lobbyists for big oil and big corporation and that he makes decisions often times based on what these lobbyists tell him to do. And you know that I think is going to be a lot more relevant to the American people than what somebody who is tangentially related to me.


ROBERTS: And a reminder Barack Obama and John McCain square off in their second presidential debate tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern. You can see it right here on CNN. CHETRY: Well, you know, there was nearly 6.7 billion people living on the planet. So who do they want as America's next president? There's a massive internet poll attempting to find out and AMERICAN MORNING's Lola Oguinnake joins me now with the results of this unscientific web survey, well un-scientific but fun to look at.

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, un- scientific but fun. It was started by this 23-year-old kid in Iceland. He's a psychology student. He's a staunch Obama supporter. He was thinking to himself who would the world vote for, and he decided that he would create a website. Jumped online, created one with two of his friends, that was in early June and now over 100,000 people from around the world have voted from 179 countries.

CHETRY: It's interesting because we have a map of the world right there and we show it's decidedly blue. Tell us about where Barack Obama got most of the support.

OGUNNAIKE: Well, Barack Obama got a lot of support from Finland. Of the 15,000 people who voted in Finland, 92 percent went to Obama. But actually McCain with the Republic of Macedonia, he did really well there. They like him there. Of the 327 people who voted in the Republic of Macedonia, 10 percent only went to Obama. 90 percent went to McCain. Berkina Faso also huge for McCain, only two people who voted there.

CHETRY: They were saying it - OK. The Republic of Macedonia and Berkina Faso. This tiny, tiny little place in West Africa.

OGUNNAIKE: Right. And only two people -

CHETRY: There were only two -

OGUNNAIKE: Only two people voted there but they were all for McCain. Those two.

OK. So we were talking about Finland and then you have a country that I never heard of, they only have 1,400 people there. But 241 people there have voted for Obama. That's 88 percent for Obama, 13 percent for McCain. Turks and Caicos, however, a dead heat. One for Obama, one for McCain.

CHETRY: That's hilarious. OK. So when we do look at the whole map in general though. It's bright blue pretty much. Even the United States has 83,000 people who voted, right, or 31,000 people voted.

OGUNNAIKE: 31,000 people voted, 83 percent for Obama, 17 percent for McCain. In real life the polls are a lot closer. According to our latest CNN poll, 49 percent for Obama, 43 percent for McCain.

CHETRY: All right. Very fun to look at though, and, of course, my home country of Nepal, two votes, all Obama?

OGUNNAIKE: That's right. All Obama.

CHETRY: Thanks, Lola. OGUNNAIKE: Thanks.


CHETRY (voice-over): Late night politics.

TINA FEY, COMEDIAN: And I can see Russia from my house.

CHETRY: The art of poking fun at politicians. Alina Cho takes us behind the scenes of "Saturday Night Live."

LORNE MICHAELS, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": The moment they're in power, we're the opposition.

CHETRY: You're watching "the most news m the morning."



ROBERTS: Every election year "Saturday Night Live" finds huge laughs on the campaign trail while making the candidates cringe. Our Alina Cho got a backstage look at how they make it all happen and she joins us now. It must have been fascinating.

ALINA CHO, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it was so great to go behind the scenes. You know they make it look easy. It's not so easy, John.

Good morning, everybody. You know, as they say on "SNL" they don't go on every Saturday because they're ready, they go on because it's 11:30. They write, they re-write, they tweak to the last minute but they're always having fun. We saw that, and this year "SNL" hit the comedy jackpot with Sarah Palin.


CHO (voice-over): Sarah Palin and Tina Fey. Can you tell the difference?

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here's a shout out to all those third graders at Gladys Wood Elementary School.

TINA FEY, COMEDIAN: Who were so helpful to me in my debate prep.

CHO: The two looked so much alike. Fey who retired from the show, came back to play the role that was made for her.

LORNE MICHAELS, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF "SNL": She looks so much like Tina Fey.

CHO: The audience cast her.

MICHAELS: Yes. The audience cast her.

CHO: A pitch perfect impression.

FEY: And I can see Russia from my house.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And live from New York, it's Saturday Night!

CHO: For more than 30 years "Saturday Night Live" has been the place for political humor.


CHO: Election years provide the best material and the best ratings. This year is no exception.

AMY POEHLER, COMEDIAN: I don't agree with the Bush doctrine -

FEY: And I don't know what it is.

CHO: This season's opener the most highly rated "SNL" premiere since 2001. "SNL" is also a must stop on the campaign trail. In the past year Clinton, Obama, and McCain have all paid a visit.

It's almost a right of passage for these politicians to come through here, isn't it?

DARRELL HAMMOND, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE" CAST MEMBER: Everybody comes here. They all show up sooner or later.

CHO: Darrell Hammond is one of "SNL's" best-known faces. He's played everyone from President Clinton to Al Gore to John McCain. So much so sometimes people take him for the real thing.

HAMMOND: People come up and they're like, hey, excuse me, that thing the other night, did we just talk about the subprime mortgage thing? What was that about?

CHO: Over the years "SNL" has even made fun of us, CNN, Wolf, Campbell, Anderson, and we return the favor.

We play your sketches on CNN -

FRED ARMISEN, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": That's bizarre. Isn't that really bizarre.

HAMMOND: It's funny because I watch CNN -

CHO: Why do you think it's bizarre?

ARMISEN: I mean, I think it's bizarre in a good way. I'm psyched.

CHO: The best part they say, everyone is fair game.


CHO: What is "SNL's" role?

MICHAELS: I think "SNL's" role is the moment they're in power, we're the opposition. We're not partisan. We're not, you know, we're not putting on anything that we don't believe is funny.

FEY: Are we not doing the talent portion?


CHO: Well, it's not easy writing all those jokes. They make it look easy. Take the VP debate for example, the writers actually watched it together, they yelled out which parts they thought would work, then they go home, they write some jokes and put together a rough draft. And they tell me usually by Wednesday they have 30 to 40 sketches. By Thursday, they actually whittle it down to 12. Then on Saturday Night at 10:00, they still cut out 30 minutes of material after the dress rehearsals.

ROBERTS: Incredible.

CHO: Down the wire.

ROBERTS: Who knew that politics could be that much fun?

CHO: Oh, it's great. "Saturday Night Live" does it (inaudible).

ROBERTS: They have a special show this week?

CHO: They do. Starting this Thursday for three Thursdays weekend update Thursday, a half hour show starting at 9:30.

CHETRY: They have so much material this campaign season -

ROBERTS: Exactly.

CHETRY: - they need another show.

ROBERTS: Overflowing. Alina -

CHETRY: Thanks, Alina.

ROBERTS: Great story. Thanks. That's going to wrap it up for us. That's it. Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. See you back here tomorrow.

CHETRY: That's all we have to say about that. CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins starts now.