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Investigation Widens on Garrido; Wildfires Rage in Southern California; Ridge Claims Terror Chart Never Manipulated for Political Reasons; SAT Test Prep Big business; Officials Say Afghanistan's War Serious But Success Sustainable; Health Care Make Or Break
Aired September 1, 2009 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING.
We're coming up on 7:00 here in New York on this Tuesday, the first of September, by the way. I'm Kiran Chetry.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Roberts.
What happened to summer?
CHETRY: Gone in a blast.
ROBERTS: You blinked and it went right past us.
We're tracking several developing stories this morning. Here's what we'll be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.
Jaycee Lee Dugard is in a secret location with her family this morning. Psychologists are now helping her and her children begin the process of adjusting to a new life after 18 years in captivity.
And police are opening up their investigation into the man who allegedly stole her childhood, Phillip Garrido. A bone fragment has been found near the convicted sex offender's house.
Are there even more victims?
CHETRY: Also, an out of control wildfire closing in right now on Los Angeles. They're dealing with triple-digit temperatures, bone-dry conditions, and they're also feeding the flames right now because of those conditions, burning an area the size of San Antonio, Texas. Authorities say five people who ignored evacuation orders are now trapped. We're live from the frontlines in Southern California.
ROBERTS: Did the Bush administration use the politics of fear? We'll ask America's first homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge, about questions that he asks in his new book out today, including a push to raise the nation's terror alert level before the 2004 election. He joins us live just ahead.
CHETRY: Also, the top commander in Afghanistan right now. The U.S. commander there saying the situation on the ground is serious but the success is achievable.
That statement comes just as General Stanley McChrystal submitted a long awaited confidential report to top brass of CentCom, Joint Chiefs, as well as NATO. So what will this mean for our troops fighting the Taliban there? Some say it's leading to the possibility of asking for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
We'll be talking live with retired four-star general Wesley Clark.
ROBERTS: But first this hour, new questions in the investigation of Phillip Garrido, the man accused of holding Jaycee Lee Dugard if his backyard for nearly two decades.
Police say they found a bone fragment near Garrido's house and they want to know whether the convicted sex offender is also behind other cold case murders and kidnappings in the area.
Let's bring in our Ed Lavandera for more. He's live in Antioch, California, this morning. What do we know, Ed?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, authorities announced the discovery of that bone fragment late yesterday, just as a chain link fence and plywood was boarded over the windows here. Authorities have condemned Phillip Garrido's home, saying it's no longer suitable to live in.
LAVANDERA: The shadow of suspicion surrounding Phillip Garrido is growing. Investigators are already looking into whether Garrido carried out a series of murders in the 1990s. The victims were found near his workplace.
Now, authorities are also asking if Garrido could be the culprit in the disappearance of two other young girls. One of the victims is nine-year-old Michaela Garecht, who disappeared in 1988. Her mother says investigators are comparing notes.
SHARON MURCH, MISSING GIRLS MOTHER: I've been asked a few questions, about -- regarding evidence, along the lines of what kind of clothing Michaela was wearing.
LAVANDERA: Investigators say Garecht's disappearance is somewhat similar to Jaycee Dugard's capture. Both girls resembled each other, a similar car was used in the abduction, and a sketch of the suspect looks like Garrido.
Garecht's mother says the news makes her hopeful.
MURCH: Jaycee's mother just got up and went to work one morning like every other day, and one day she received a phone call that changed everything. And I believe that that can happen for us also.
LAVANDERA: Investigators searching the crime scene around Garrido's home dug up a small bone fragment in the next door neighbor's backyard. It's significant because authorities say Garrido had access to the property. JIMMY LEE, CONTRA COSTA SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: So we're taking that bone back for further examination. We don't know if it's human or animal and we'll take it back for further testing.
LAVANDERA: While the spotlight has focused on Phillip Garrido, much less is known about his wife. Nancy Garrido appeared to cry in court last Friday. She's been described as brainwashed. Cheyvonne Molino, who knew the family, simply describes her as strange.
CHEYVONNE MOLINO, ACQUAINTANCE OF PHILLIP GARRIDO: My personal opinion, she's crazier than he is.
LAVANDERA: Phillip and Nancy married in 1981. He was an inmate in the Levenworth federal prison. She was a visitor coming to see a relative. Neighbors say she often left the house wearing scrubs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was kind of quiet. She would stick to herself. But she would talk to me. She would come in, oh, how you doing, oh, OK. She was kind of quiet and stay in the background. Whatever she said, she said, "Yes."
LAVANDERA: But John, you know, disturbing questions still remain about Nancy Garrido, especially during a four-month stretch back in 1993. Remember this was about two years after Jaycee Dugard went missing. Phillip Garrido had been sent back to prison on a federal parole violation, so essentially, Nancy Garrido was left alone, we presume, with Jaycee Dugard. How did that happen? How did Jaycee Dugard not escape during that time?
ROBERTS: And there are many people asking questions this morning, Ed, as to why Garrido was ever released from prison in the first place. So a lot to chew over, no question, with this story.
Ed Lavandera, Antioch, California this morning. Ed, thanks so much.
CHETRY: And now back to our developing story and stunning new video of a raging wildfire surging towards Los Angeles, burning 50 homes in its path, and now threatening 12,000 more this morning.
Experts say it's tearing through brush that's built up. It's not burned for nearly half a century, in bone-dry conditions as well. Authorities say that five people are now trapped in their homes. They're under mandatory evacuation orders, refusing to leave.
Our Rob Marciano is live this morning with firsthand accounts of people who suddenly find themselves surrounded by flames. And Rob, also we know the danger posed to firefighters as they try to rescue people from these types of areas. We saw two firefighters who lost their lives over the weekend.
So what's the situation on rescuing people who have been told to leave? ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, they've been told that now they're stuck. If you've been told to leave and you choose not to leave, they will not go back in after you, although in that particular case, I spoke with an official this morning that said there is a fire crew if not with those five people, at least near them to help protect.
I mean, you look at scenes like this, you see the pictures of the fire. This is up the big Tujunga Canyon. A number of homes along this strip completely wiped out.
You look at this destruction, you look at the picture of the flames, and you consider some people said they ignored the evacuation orders, it's just amazing to me that no civilians have been killed.
MIKE SARKISSIAN, RESIDENT: So here we are in the Tujunga Canyon, watching this fire go through, trying to protect the buildings. Here's a picture of it coming up through one of the closest spots of the property that could catch a building. So I'm going to tape it so you can see how fast this thing progresses.
MARCIANO: In just minutes Michael Sarkissian is surrounded by flames, the fire reaching for the sky with thick clouds of smoke and ash swirling around him.
SARKISSIAN: This ridge was really bad. It was fire tornadoes going up into the sky.
MARCIANO: Fire crews planned to use this space as a safety zone but had to beat back the encroaching inferno.
SARKISSIAN: Can you believe it didn't go any further?
BOB FAIETA, HOME OWNER: That's unbelievable.
SARKISSIAN: And as you can see, it didn't really get into the middle of the valley. It climbed the sides out.
MARCIANO: Michael rents a room from race car driver Bob Faieta, who was racing in Canada during the height of the fire.
FAIETA: He got me up here. And when I came through the gate and saw the shop standing and the house and Mike here and the dogs were fine, it was just unbelievable, unbelievable feeling. Better than winning any race, I'll tell you that.
MARCIANO: His neighbors weren't so lucky. Nearly all the homes up canyon in Vogel (ph) Flats burned to the ground. Smoldering rubble is all that is left. A similar scene down canyon where the smoke lingers eerily in the air while the fire continues its devastating past across the Angeles Forest towards even more populated areas.
(END VIDEOTAPE) MARCIANO: The only way your home will have a chance in a situation like this if you clear the brush like you're looking at right now. Obviously, this home not protected very well as far as clearing some of that shrubbery. Bob Faieta did that and took the precautions.
And the way the fire department works when they go to structure protection, they analyze your situation, they look around your house. Is there even a chance of saving it? If there's no chance, they move on to the next one because, obviously, assets are limited.
This fire has burned 105,000 acres. The only solace today, temperatures will be a little bit cooler and fire officials are telling us that yesterday, growing by only 25,000 acres during the day, that was slower than when it grew the night before.
So they think it's starting to act a little bit more like it should, because up until yesterday, it was doing everything, seemingly, it shouldn't.
Temperatures today, a handful of degrees cooler, but we're really not going to get a good marine push, John and Kiran, I think until the end of the week. So toady will be another long day for firefighters.
CHETRY: They're doing their best, as you said. They've got to make those split-second assessments and then move on or try to save it, but a tough situation there for sure. Rob Marciano for us, thanks.
ROBERTS: He's got a brand-new book out called "The Test of our Times," and there are sections of the book that are extremely controversial and have drawn fire of former members of the administration.
The very first secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, joins us coming up next to talk more about that. It's now nine minutes after the hour.
ROBERTS: Tom Ridge became the very first secretary of the Department of Homeland Security after the attacks of 9/11. And in his new book, "The Test of our Times: America under siege and how we can be safe again," He opens up about the Bush White House. And the book is generating a lot of heat these days.
Tom Ridge joins us now to talk about that. Mr. Secretary, good to see you. Thanks for being with us.
TOM RIDGE, FORMER HOMELAND SECRETARY SECURITY: Nice to be with you again. It has certainly generated some heat.
ROBERTS: It has. We should just mention, we were just talking off-camera. You have decided not to run for the Senate. So that is out. RIDGE: That is out completely. I've enjoyed my time in public service, I've done a lot of things. I've been a prosecutor, a soldier, a congressman, governor, worked with President Bush. Time to move on and become a private citizen. I've also been involved, obviously, in the Republican Party.
ROBERTS: OK, so not going to run for the Senate. What about a run for the presidency in 2012?
RIDGE: Very unlikely, but I want to help my party recapture the White House in 2012.
ROBERTS: So you enjoy being a private citizen, do you?
RIDGE: I enjoy being a private citizen. There are some charitable interests I've had for a long time. I chair the National Organization on Disability. I notice that we finally acquired the property in Shanksville for the memorial and a couple other interests of mine.
So it's been good, but I'll still stay involved in the public sector.
ROBERTS: You heard it here this morning -- Tom ridge's political career, over.
Let's talk about the book. And the particular are of the book that's generating a lot of controversy, a lot of conversation is the part where you talk about, in the days after bin Laden released that videotape, just before the election of 2004, I guess it was five days before, you wrote of that, and this was the discussion of whether or not to raise the terror alert level.
You say, quote, "Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level and was supported by Rumsfeld. There was absolutely no support for that position within our department, none. I wondered, is this about security or politics?"
Walk us through your thought process when you wrote the book. Why did you even raise the issue about, is this about politics or security?
RIDGE: Obviously, I'm musing in the book. I'm not speculating about my colleagues' motives.
But this is a dramatic weekend. It is a weekend before a national election. This is the only time I really discuss a process that we used throughout my entire time as secretary...
ROBERTS: But why did you think it might be about politics?
RIDGE: Pardon me?
ROBERTS: Why did you think it might be about politics?
RIDGE: Well, at that time, as the individual who is responsible for the overseeing if we went up in the general threat level, I'm just saying in there, we were universally opposed to raising it in the department.
And I'm kind of musing and scratching my head, and I've got two people's opinions who I respect immensely. I'm not second-guessing them. but I just say in the book, is it politics?
Perhaps the sentence should have been in paragraph later and we wouldn't be having a conversation. But I just want to make it very clear, I'm not second-guessing my colleagues, because I worked with them every single day.
ROBERTS: But was there a thought that, here we are, five days before the election. You had done some analysis which was cited in the book here finding that any time the terror threat alert level was raised, the president's approval rating would tick up two, three points.
RIDGE: That was some research we discovered after -- that's not anything I knew at the time. We discovered it during the research for the book.
But the end of the line, I'm trying to describe, more importantly, a process that we went through -- not a frequent basis, but you never report the times that we meet and decide not to go up. It's a tough judgment call.
But there's never been any doubt in my mind that any of these individuals, Secretary Powell, Attorney General Ashcroft, Secretary Rumsfeld, the FBI Director Mueller, they've always had the security of America as the number one reason they would say, let's go up or let's not go up.
I don't think it ever was politics.
ROBERTS: You don't think it was ever politics?
RIDGE: But in the environment a lot of people were thinking it was generated by that.
But the president himself oversaw the creation of a process even he couldn't influence because he set up a Homeland Security cabinet, two-thirds of his cabinet, and we rendered opinions. And if there wasn't a consensus, we didn't go up. So at the end of the day, whether we went up or didn't, I think we always made the right decision.
RIDGE: We tried to get in touch with you when we first learned about the quote in the book, and that was a little more than a week ago. You were not available, but Fran Townsend came on, and she wondered why you even raised the issue at all. Let's listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRAN TOWNSEND, FORMER BUSH HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Not only do I not think that it played -- politics played any part in it at all, it was never discussed. Not only did he never say this at that time, that he thought political influence was involved in raising or lowering the threat level, he's never said it since when I've spoken to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Donald Rumsfeld, Andy Card, also questioned why you even raised the issue. John Ashcroft's spokesperson said, quote, "Now would be a good time for Mr. Ridge to use his emergency duct tape."
You're taking some heat from your former colleagues who took offense to it.
RIDGE: Perhaps they did. I regret that they did. We had good relationship with all those individuals. We had a lot of tension. Remember, we were like the new cabinet agency, and there were a lot of people in the cabinet who probably didn't think we should exist.
But the tensions that exist were not personal, they were institutional. And so at the end of the day, I've written a book about, hopefully a historical reflection of what we did and what we need to do. People chose to focus on that.
Fran Townsend was there at the discussion. At some point, I am told, that she has actually said that there was a political discussion at that meeting. I don't recall that to be true. It may be true. She recollected it, not yours truly, but I just mused in the book, was it politics, was it security?
ROBERTS: But kind of reinforcing the notion though, a couple pages later -- page 239 you say, quote, "I consider that episode to be not only a dramatic moment in Washington's recent history, but another illustration of the intersection of politics, fear, credibility, and security.
After that episode, I knew I had to follow through on my plans to leave the federal government."
It sounds like, at least the way you write it, some kind of trigger point, when you say I've got to get out of here.
RIDGE: No, no. The president knew when I accepted the opportunity to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security that I would do it to the first term. It was a natural time of transition.
ROBERTS: But why did you put it that way?
RIDGE: I talk about the intersection of fear, security politics, and credibility. Credibility was something that everybody in the department was always worried about.
Frankly, there were commentators, journalists who were commenting that weekend going up given the fact in Spain earlier that year there had been an incident before an election. There was a lot of political concern. And frankly, everybody blamed -- the critics of the Bush administration constantly referred to the threat level as a means to manipulate public approval. It was never used to manipulate public approval.
ROBERTS: I'm just wondering why you wrote it that way. You say, "After that episode, I knew I had to follow through on my plans to leave."
RIDGE: It was a period of transition, I wrote it in the book, I was planning on leaving...
ROBERTS: It sounds like you were fed up.
RIDGE: No. I had a great run. My political capital was expended. Time to move on.
ROBERTS: All right, Governor Ridge, Secretary Ridge, great to talk to you. Congratulations on the book. I look forward to seeing you some more, and good luck on all your charity work, in particular the memorial for the Shanksville folks.
RIDGE: Thanks very much, appreciate it.
ROBERTS: Thanks - Kiran.
CHETRY: Seventeen minutes past the hour right now.
Christine Romans will join us when we come back. Inside of Bernie Madoff's Montauk mansion. It's up for sale right now. The proceeds will go to pay back some of the victims. How much is it worth, what does it look like? She'll have detail coming up.
CHETRY: It's 21 minutes after the hour.
This is a popular time a year if you live around New York, you head up to the Hamptons, right, or even to Montauk.
Well, there is a particular house up for sale up there that you may be interested in -- Bernie Madoff's.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Bernie Madoff's house in Montauk is up for sale. The government wants to get $7 million for this.
Bernie Madoff -- hey folks, here's the investment to paid off, at least for the victims of Bernie Madoff. He bought this property for $250,000 back in 1979, 1980, and now the government thinks they can get $7 million for it. It's assessed at $3.3 million, but it's got beautiful ocean views, very kind of understated on the interior.
Let's take a little -- let's take walk through Bernie Madoff's Montauk home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROLAND UBALDO, SUPERVISORY DEPUTY U.S. MARSHAL: What we have here is a four-bedroom, three-path house. The living room, the kitchen, and the master bedroom all own a view of the ocean.
From the master bedroom, it leads out to a porch over here with an amazing view, left to right, nothing but ocean shoreline.
Full market value is $7 million, and that's what we're looking for. What we gain from the sale of this house is going directly to restitution for the victims.
All the personal property will go to an auctioneer and be auctioned off. And I'm talking about from Chinaware to silverware to the rocking chair that Ruth Madoff may have sat on while reading a book watching the waves roll in to the desk that Bernard Madoff used here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Not very glamorous for the disgraced Ponzi schemer. As I said, pretty understated, Formica countertops, pretty smallish bedrooms. But, again, the ocean views, and it's built just 150 feet from the actual shore, which is something that federal zoning laws don't allow anymore. So, for somebody, this could be a good purchase.
CHETRY: Is it just me, or is it a little creepy to see the sheriff officers and repo walking through the house for the auction?
ROMANS: And there are plenty of other properties like this. You think of our public servants walking through, looking around, going, geez, looking at these places.
ROBERTS: And I love the descriptions, too -- "The chair where Ruth Madoff may have sat reading a book. The desk were Bernie Madoff may have plotted to rip off his investors. The bed where he lay awake at night when the feds were closing in."
ROMANS: And 13,000 investors will get a little piece of that, maybe a shingle, maybe the front door.
ROBERTS: They should give them all a week there.
ROMANS: There you go. I was hoping that the U.S. marshals were all going to at least get to swim in the pool before they have to lock it back up and turn it over to the real estate broker, but who knows?
CHETRY: All right, thank you, Christine.
ROBERTS: Christine Romans minding your business this morning.
OK, so the war in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, according to excerpts of a report that have been leaked out may try to fundamentally change the way the war is being fought.
Is what he is planning a good idea? General Wesley Clark who prosecuted the war in Kosovo, former NATO supreme commander joins us coming up next, also former presidential candidate.
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.
Taking the SATs makes high school students pretty nervous. And many parents worried about their children's scores fork over big bucks for courses to help their children prepare for the test. And many people's salaries depend on keeping this test relevant despite some recent problems.
In our special series, "Educating America," we're looking at the big business of the SATs, the millions and millions of dollars. Carol Costello joins us now live from Washington. Good morning, Carol. There is a lot of money in this.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, you're right when you say millions and millions of dollars. We told you yesterday, some 800 universities are now SAT optional for most applicants because they don't really think it really demonstrates what your kid can do in college.
So is this a trend? Will more and more universities go SAT optional? Some critics say, unlikely, and not just because many universities still value the SAT, but because the SAT is no longer just a simple test, but an industry.
COSTELLO: They are the buzz words in the SAT biz -- "text anxiety."
ED CARROLL, THE PRINCETON REVIEW: I started in this business as a teacher and a tutor, a private tutor working with people in their homes. And I after a while found more like a test prep therapist.
COSTELLO: SAT tutor Ed Carroll says parents' desire to cure test anxiety has transformed what was a simple test into a growth industry.
Take New York's "Princeton Review." This for-profit test prep service pulled in $138.7 million last year in revenue, and it's just one of hundreds of such services across the country. Never mind the man who oversees the SAT says such anxiety-beating services are unnecessary.
LAURENCE BUNIN, THE COLLEGE BOARD: I always tell parents and students, keep it in perspective. The SAT is just one thing they look at. They're looking at your grades, they look at what else you do, sports, athletic, music, art.
COSTELLO: Still, the College Board, the nonprofit organization that offered that advice, sells its own online court for $69.95, and it offers a study guide for $21.99.
That bothers Robert Schaffer of Fair Test, a consumer watchdog group that opposes pretty much all standardized tests from No Child Left Behind to the SAT. He claims the College Boards' drive to make money has impacted its mission to, quote, "connect students to college success and opportunity."
ROBERT SCHAEFFER, FAIR TEST: It's a huge business, multiple hundreds of millions of dollars a year in tests and test prep material that come out of our parents' pockets and into the pockets of test makers.
COSTELLO: The College Board does generate big money. According to its 2007 federal tax returns, the College Board pulled in some $621 million. Because it's nonprofit, it's tax exempt.
While the College Board would not comment on camera about how much money it brings in, it did tell us, "We do not generate profits. All revenues from our products, services, or grants are reinvested into improved services that support our mission."
But Schaffer says the nonprofit uses a lot of that revenue to line the pockets of its executives.
SCHAEFFER: The top officers of the College Board, allegedly a nonprofit organization, earn $500,000, $600,000, $800,000 a year. That's where lots of that money is going.
COSTELLO: According to 2007 tax returns Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board, made nearly $900,000 in salary, benefits, and perks. And 12 of the nonprofit's top executives made more than $300,000 a year in salary and benefits.
Schaffer says that's excessive. He'd rather see more of the college board's money working to make the tests more fair for students who can't afford those pricey college prep classes. The College Board says it already does that.
BUNIN: We have a lot of free programs and services. Each year we give away $30 million, $40 million, $50 million worth of free services to low-income students.
COSTELLO: As one expert put it, what citizens expect of the nonprofit and what the law says are two entirely different things. It is not illegal for a nonprofit to turn a profit, so to speak, as long as those moneys go back into the organization.
It is also not against the law for nonprofits to pay their executives high salaries. The fact is, and I'm generally speaking here, there are many large nonprofits who pay their executives just as much or more than the College Board - John.
ROBERTS: Now, when they say the money can go back into the organization if they make a profit, does that include salaries? COSTELLO: That includes salaries, because you have to pay the people for doing the job. And you know, making this test isn't exactly easy, they're always changing it to make it more fair. And they told me that takes a lot of expertise and a lot of work, frankly.
ROBERTS: Good work if you can get it too. High-paying work. Carol Costello this morning. Carol, thanks so much. And tomorrow our special series, "Educating America" continues with that big battle in a very successful inner city charter school. The kids' grades are bucking the trend, but a dispute over money could get in the way of their progress.
CHETRY: And right now it's 31 minutes past the hour. We check our top stories. In just six days, the so-called station fire north of Los Angeles has devoured more than 400 square miles. Authorities say five people who ignored evacuation orders are now trapped and 12,000 homes are in danger. The area has not seen a fire like this in 60 years and that means there's plenty of underbrush to burn.
ROBERTS: A couple of hundreds of miles above earth, it's a day for moving gear and walking in space. The crews of the shuttle "Discovery" and the International Space Station will be unloading, literally, tons of new equipment from the shuttle. And around the same time, two of the astronauts will take a stroll outside of the station to get rid of an old ammonia tank.
CHETRY: Madonna is in Israel. She is mixing political visits in with her singing. She met earlier today with Tzipi Livni, the leader of the nation's opposition Kadima party. There's no word what the two were talking about. Madonna is also expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sometime this week. The singer also performed tonight and tomorrow in Tel Aviv. It's the last stop on her "Sticky and Sweet" tour.
Well, the top U.S. commander on the ground in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal says the situation in Afghanistan is serious, but that success is achievable. Now, that statement comes just as he delivered a new confidential report that said to detail a revised strategy to beat the Taliban. So what could this mean for the Pentagon's mission in Afghanistan? We bring in now former NATO Supreme allied commander and former democratic presidential candidate, retired four-star general, Wesley Clark. General Clark, good to see you this morning.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPERME ALLIED COMMANDER: Thank you. It's good to be with you.
CHETRY: So we're getting pieces of little excerpts from this 60- page strategic assessment, as it's called, of the U.S. mission going on in Afghanistan. And as he said, General McChrystal acknowledged that the conditions were serious there, but also said that success is achievable. Do you agree with that assessment, first of all, that success in Afghanistan is something that the U.S. can achieve?
CLARK: Well, absolutely. It's theoretically possible to achieve success. The question is how you define it. And so I think it's a very good thing that he's written the report. I hope we'll see a lot of it public. What we've seen so far makes imminent good sense. There are many of us who have said for a long time that it's not about body count. You can't just win by killing Taliban. You've got to provide hope, you've got to provide a rationale for the Karzai government or for democratic government there. You've got to provide economic development.
But here's the thing to look for. The question is, what's the defeat mechanism of the Taliban and how does it actually work? Because our real enemy is al Qaeda, and they're in Pakistan. And unless we can do something about al Qaeda in Pakistan, the efforts in Afghanistan are going to be incredibly long and difficult and frustrating. And when you add American troops and more troops and the rumors are he may need some more and it wouldn't surprise me if he's asked for some more, because, frankly, we're undermanned given the scale of the country and the range of difficulties.
But when you put more troops in, you take more casualties. And when you take more American casualties, the clock ticks faster, ending the sustainability of the mission. So you have to have at the core of this report a defeat mechanism. What is it that's going to turn the tide and shift? And it has to involve something about going after the enemy that we're really there to fight, which is al Qaeda in Pakistan.
CHETRY: And that proves to be a tough situation, as we've talked about before, Pakistan as a sovereign nation. They've said that they're helping us. They've tried to put troops in there. They've tried to root out in some of the mountainous areas between the two countries. But we don't really have any control over what our troops can do in Pakistan, do we?
CLARK: Well, we're doing the predator strikes and if you were to try to learn from the Vietnam experience, you would look back on Vietnam and say, we had - we were fighting the Vietcong in south Vietnam and they had cross border sanctuary in Cambodia and in north Vietnam and in Laos and we waited too long. We waited until we'd lost public support to take more powerful military measures that actually struck at the heart of the leadership and logistics of the insurgency. We have to be careful, every situation is different, but maybe there's a lesson to be learned there.
CHETRY: Well, you talked about, we waited too long until public opinion shifted. There's an August "Washington Post"/ABC News poll showing that 51 percent of Americans who were asked believed that Afghanistan is not worth fighting and only 24 percent said that more troops should be sent to the country.
It's a war that Americans don't seem to want to continue, at least the majority of Americans don't seem to want to continue, so how does that impact and how big of a factor should that be for this administration?
CLARK: Well, I think it has to be a very important aspect of their considerations in Washington. Whether it's a consideration in the field or not is a different matter. But Washington has to maintain American public support for this war. I think the way to do that is to go back to the specific reason we're there, al Qaeda attacked the United States. We haven't taken out al Qaeda as a threat yet. We need to do that.
And so the more directly we can focus this mission against al Qaeda, I believe, the greater support we'll gain from the American public. Now General McChrystal is not responsible for Pakistan, so it's a little tricky to work all this into the report.
CHETRY: Right. It's also tricky though to talk about whether or not Afghan troops will be able to make a dent in the situation. Because one of the things that apparently is going to be called for, at least this is being reported, some of the civilian advisers who helped McChrystal contribute with this report are pressing the administration to double the amount of Afghan forces. They want 400,000. But are they up to the task if you say the real enemy is fighting al Qaeda in Pakistan.
CLARK: Well, with proper training, with the right protection for their families, with the right compensation, with the right cause and legitimacy to fight for, with the right discreditation of the Taliban, yes, an Afghan force could be built and certainly have the manpower to do it. We need the resources. We need the time. We need the leadership to put it all together, both American leadership, NATO leadership, and Afghan leadership. These aren't easy problems.
CHETRY: No, not at all. I want to get your opinion on this because conservative columnist George Will had an interesting column today and he basically called the win not winnable. He said that our strategy which is clear hold and build does not make any sense because the Taliban just waits until we're out of an area, just vanishes into the mountainous terrain and then comes back in later. Do you agree with his assessment that it's very, very difficult to use that strategy and to have it equal success in Afghanistan? He also points out especially with a weak national government.
CLARK: Well, I think that there are a lot of factors that make this a very, very difficult mission. But the point is that you can't win it just inside Afghanistan. You've got to deal with Pakistan and you've got to deal with the enemy base there and with Al Qaeda. And I think it's up to the administration to define the task in such a way that the American people can understand it.
George Will would be the first one to say we shouldn't let terrorists have a foothold and come out and attack the United States with impunity again, as they did before 2001. So we've got to handle this problem. This is not a problem we can simply wish away. But we have to handle it with real awareness of the difficulty in Afghanistan, the fact that the enemies across the border in Pakistan, and all of that entails in terms of diplomacy in the region.
CHETRY: All right. Well, great to get your take this morning, General Wesley Clark, thanks so much for being with us.
CLARK: Thank you very much. ROBERTS: The economy, health care, big issues that Americans care deeply about. So what are people saying across the country? On the road again. Our Ali Velshi on the big bus, taking off across America. He's in Evansville, Indiana, this morning. We'll be checking with the Velsh-meister (ph) coming up in just a moment. Thirty-nine minutes after the hour.
ROBERTS: Yes, it's that time again. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. As lawmakers get ready to head back to Washington after their August recess, we want to know how you're feeling about the two biggest issues facing America, the economy and health care reform.
CHETRY: That's right. So what do we do, we sent our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, on the road. He loves to travel on the CNN Express. His first stop, Evansville, Indiana. It's where more than 1,000 workers for Whirlpool have just learned that next year their jobs are heading to Mexico.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Is there anybody here who has learned that their going to lose their job?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They actually called us at once and it wasn't good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just so uncertain. We have to wait and see what our severance packages are going to be, what options are available to us. Hopefully they will offer some sort of re-training, re-education. So we can get out there again. But until then, we can just go to work every day and do what we do and hope for the best.
VELSHI: So many of you have signs. Can I just see you holding up those signs? There are various things about NAFTA, stop NAFTA, you're next. Can somebody who's got one of these signs tell me what that is about? Sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of our jobs are going overseas and we're all going to become a service economy and what does that say for America? How was America built? It was an industrial nation.
VELSHI: Why does your sign say "you're next?"
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because you will lose your job next.
VELSHI: So you mean that as a warning? Did you know that this is going to happen?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had no idea.
VELSHI: You are a Whirlpool employee? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, 31 years. And I'm just interested in how much do the Mexicans make doing the same jobs as we do? Give us a choice.
VELSHI: A choice, meaning could you have taken a pay cut? Would you have worked for less?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which we have before.
VELSHI: Less benefits.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have before. Yes. Just tell us what we have to work with.
VELSHI: What do you think about that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's already a done deal. It wouldn't matter what we worked for. They decided to move and they're going to move.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Give us a chance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And after they go to Mexico, if they can make it cheaper in China.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How could you not even give us a chance?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have given and given and given with tax abatements to this company. We struck agreements to them they have not kept. They promised the jobs and we gave the abatement and then they took the jobs away. When I was a county councilman, we gave a tax abatement to one of their suppliers, it didn't matter. They're going to move out of town. And if you want to connect us with health care, it's very easy to do. There are going to be at least 1,100 families that are going to be looking for health care.
ROBERTS: (INAUDIBLE) in Evansville, Indiana that our Ali Velshi found. You've got to feel bad for those folks.
CHETRY: Yes. I mean, as they said, what do you do? I mean, the jobs are going to Mexico...
ROBERTS: And they said it's a done deal.
CHETRY: Hard. One woman pointed out, hopefully there'll be some re-education programs, hopefully she said try to get back out there and try again. But yes, a tough situation. This is why we have Ali out on the road so that he can talk to people, you know, across the country that are going through this. And in our next hour, we're going to check back in with Ali. We're going to hear what the people there in Evansville want to see when it comes to health care reform as well. We're going to get more from the CNN Express tour, still ahead on the most news in the morning.
Right now, it's 45 minutes after the hour.
CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. We're coming up on 48 minutes past the hour right now.
And our weather department is tracking some extreme weather in the Pacific part of the country. A powerful hurricane churning towards the Baja peninsula. Jacqui Jeras has the forecast for us this morning. Hey, Jacqui.
JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey there, Kiran. Yes, this is about as bad as it gets in terms of power for these hurricanes. This is Hurricane Jimena. And it is just about - it's less than 200 miles really away from the tip of Baja, California. Cabo San Lucas, a very popular tourist area. You might know Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta over here. Right now, it is heading up towards the northwest.
Category four storm, 155-mile-per-hour maximum sustained winds and we've got some gusts which are well beyond that. We're very concerned about all of the threats here with incredible storm surge as well as damaging winds and we're also going to see incredible amounts of rainfall, five to 10 inches can be expected. Locally heavier amounts, because this is mountainous terrain in here. And so you get what we call orographic lift. So that air pushes up the mountains and can make the rainfall totals even heavier.
Now, some weakening can be expected in the next 24-plus hours before landfall, potentially because it's really hard to maintain a storm this strong. But we still expect it to be a major hurricane, possibly a category 3 or 4 at landfall. There you can see the Atlantic. We're also keeping track of the storm here, which could potentially become tropical storm Erica before the day is done. Kiran.
CHETRY: Jacqui Jeras for us, thanks so much.
ROBERTS: All right. So the administration is saying as many as 100 million Americans could become infected with the swine flu over the next 12 months. Well, that is going to probably put a whole lot of pressure on hospitals. What are they doing to prepare for an influx of swine flu patients? We're "Paging our Dr. Gupta." He's coming up next.
Forty-nine and a half minutes after the hour.
ROBERTS: The numbers are alarming. The president's health experts estimate that 100 million Americans or more could come down with swine flu, the H1N1 virus, this fall and winter in a worst-case scenario. So who is going to care for all of those sick Americans? Imagine, millions of infected people showing up at the doorstep of the E.R.. Are our hospitals prepared? Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta met with Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a hospital in Washington. We're "Paging Dr. Gupta" now to see what he learned. Good morning, Sanjay.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Overall, good news, John, I would say. One of the messages that came through pretty loud and clear is that most of the people probably never need to go to an emergency room. They may have a couple of crummy days, but probably can manage this at home. So good news.
But to your point, and something I asked the secretary about very pointedly, how are hospitals going to prepare for something like this? If you start to see a sudden uptick in cases, what exactly happens? I toured a hospital with her. Let's take a look.
GUPTA (on camera): So where are we here?
(voice-over): In the nation's capital, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and I toured the Washington Hospital Center's ready room. This is the place where people with H1N1 would most likely be brought for treatment. We're in a hospital here and obviously this is an area that people may have to visit if they get sick with the flu.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: That's right.
GUPTA (on camera): Do we have enough beds, ventilators, resources to take care of a potential outbreak or pandemic?
SEBELIUS: Well, I think that we have been working, not just since I became secretary of HHS, but working over the last five or six years on emergency preparedness, on hypothetical pandemics. So that's very good news for the American people. We're currently inventorying the respirator stockpile and trying to identify all of the respirators that are in this country.
GUPTA (voice-over): The worry is this - the need for hospital resources could outweigh their availability. But Sebelius says hospitals have received nearly $3 billion over the last five years to ramp up capacity to deal with a virus or any other emergencies.
(on camera): If there's up to a million people who need ventilators, respirators and there are about 60,000 or so intensive care unit beds, the math just doesn't add up. You have rooms like this, but is it going to be enough to be able to take care of all these patients?
SEBELIUS: Well, I think that's one of the challenges. You know, ideally, everybody doesn't get sick at the same time and everybody doesn't need care at the same time. We don't know how this outbreak will look. It's unlikely to be evenly spread throughout the country, evenly presented throughout the country. So being able to not only identify where things are, but move them quickly, get the assets to where, you know, the outbreaks present is one of the mapping strategies that we're engaged in right now.
GUPTA (voice-over): So to find out how ready this hospital might be, I went to the head of the Emergency Department.
(on camera): Do you feel, based on what you're hearing, that you should be able to handle as many patients as there might be?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Given the early predictions, I think we're in a good spot. You know, we could always do better.
GUPTA (voice-over): And the American Hospital Association says hospitals are in good shape for H1N1 and they do have emergency plans in place. But some experts say if even half the projected cases materialize, it could overwhelm the medical system.
GUPTA: John, as you heard there, some of these emergency plans have been in place for some time when it concerns about anthrax, even back in 2002, 2001, small pox. So, you know, this has been sort of been being planned for some time. One thing I thought was interesting, John, they pointed out to me, is that health care workers who sort of can provide this cocoon of immunity aren't the best about getting vaccinated when the vaccines become available.
Only about 40 percent of health care workers actually get their flu shot. So they're really encouraging health care workers to get their H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available.
ROBERTS: We don't want any holes in that cocoon of immunity.
GUPTA: That's right.
ROBERTS: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks very much. Good to see you this morning, doc.
GUPTA: Thanks, John.
CHETRY: Still ahead, we all know it's dangerous, texting while driving. Jason Carroll, though, shows us just how deadly it can be.
And also, an agency that for sometime said we don't even need any laws banning texting, doing a 180. Fifty-six minutes after the hour.