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Health Care Bill Negotiations in Senate; White House Releases Obama's Education Speech Text; Obama to Address Congress on Health Care; Photographer Annie Leibovitz May Declare Bankruptcy; Laura Bush Working on Memoirs

Aired September 8, 2009 - 07:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome once again. It's Tuesday, September 8th. Glad you're with us on this AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts. Here's what's on the agenda this morning, the big stories that we'll be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

Heading back to the Hill, lawmakers are inside the Beltway again this morning after a month off. Boy, it went by quickly. The fiery town halls, and many in Congress still split over a health care overhaul. Can they find a bipartisan solution? We're live from Washington coming right up.

CHETRY: And before the president takes his health care push to a joint session of Congress, he's going to be facing a bigger and younger crowd. President Obama makes a nationwide address to school kids at noon Eastern.

It's a speech that had some critics up in arms before they ever saw it. Well, now we have it. So, what will he say, and why some schools still won't be listening.

ROBERTS: Plus, a CNN exclusive. One on one with former first lady Laura Bush. She's speaking out against the deep political divide in Washington. Also find out what she thinks of the man in the Oval Office now and the current first lady. Her answers may surprise you.

CHETRY: And her pictures defined an era, gracing the covers of "Vanity Fair" and Vogue." Now, photographer Annie Lebovitz could lose her life's work. The deadline for a $24 million loan is today. How did this happen to an artist who's made millions over the years? Our Christine Romans has some answers.

ROBERTS: But we begin the hour with Congress back in session this morning after taking the month of August off. There's a live look at Capitol Hill for you this morning. Oh, look at that. They've washed the Capitol dome.

And first on their to-do list, health care. After weeks of conference calls and fiery town halls and with multiple plans now on the table, can they find a bipartisan solution? In the Senate, this man, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, is still trying to sell an overhaul that would ditch the public option and tax the priciest plans.

For more, our Brianna Keilar is working her sources on the Hill this morning. And Brianna, if the Baucus plan doesn't include a public option, what are we going to see instead?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, instead of a public option, John, it includes a health cooperative approach. This is a nonprofit health co-op approach. We're not really surprised it's not a public option. And it would be governed by the patients that it serves. So, this is the key element of the proposal that Senator Max Baucus will be talking over with this key group of Democrats and Republicans, the so-called gang of six that he has been working with now for months trying to forge a compromise. They're going to be meeting this afternoon, and no doubt this is what they're going to be talking about.

Also this Baucus proposal expands Medicaid. Right now, Medicaid covers children up to five years old, also covers pregnant woman who are below the poverty line and also up to one-third above it. Under this proposal, that would be expanded to include all people who are up to one-third of the poverty level, so more kids and even adults who do not have children.

There's the big question, of course, John, how do you pay for it? And as you mentioned, a tax on the priciest plans, a tax on those Cadillac plans, high-end plans, that some say encourage consumers to overuse health care.

This would be a tax that's supposed to be paid by the insurance company, not the individual. But critics here, John, say it will trickle down so that actually individuals, people, all people who have these private insurance plans will be footing the bill from this tax -- John.

ROBERTS: Bipartisan group of senators, Brianna, have been trying to hammer this out for weeks now. They're known as the gang of six. They'll all going to be back together today for a meeting. Do we have any idea how this gang of six is receiving this?

KEILAR: You know, we don't know at this point. These members, these three Republicans and the two Democrats besides Senator Baucus have not put out their position on how they feel about this proposal. In fact, we're getting the details on these from an anonymous source.

But this is really it, John, for this bipartisan group to come up with a compromise to see if they can work out a compromise. So certainly that's where we're going to look at today for this group that has really been seen as the best chance for a bipartisan deal for this health care overhaul.

ROBERTS: All right, Brianna Keilar for us in Capitol Hill this morning. Brianna, thanks so much.

A member of the gang of six is Montana Senator Chuck Grassley -- sorry, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. I'm sorry. Baucus is from Montana. And he's going to be joining us in our 7:30 half hour to talk more about this idea of Baucus's plan and whether or not it might fly with Republicans.

Senator Charles Grassley, who conducted town hall meetings in 30 counties in the great state of Iowa, will be with us in about 25 minutes or so right here on the most news in the morning.

CHETRY: In the meantime, it's back to school day for many kids across the country. And at noon Eastern today, a lot of them will be putting down pens and pencils and listening to a pep talk from the president of the United States.

It's a speech that drew fire days before anyone actually saw it. And now almost everyone seems to have an opinion about it, whether they have kids or not. Here is a little bit of what you were saying.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think that's a good idea to talk to the children, because they need to know that it is their responsibility, because apparently a lot of the parents are not taking the responsibility.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to be seeing posters of his face all over the buildings and that kids are going to be having emblems on their shirts going to school, and I just feel like that's what it's coming to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he has a hidden agenda or he's promoting something else that we may not approve of, then I think we ought to be able to know or screen it before they see it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He only has a good message. Is it all about politics? No, not necessarily. It's about being a good person and doing the right thing.


CHETRY: White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux joins us now. Suzanne, this whole speech and the controversy surrounding it has really taken on a life of its own.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly has, Kiran. And the White House was quite surprised of it.

But they did release an advanced copy of the text of the speech to try and quell the nerves of some nervous parents, perhaps, and the school teachers, to take a listen and to take a look at this before it's actually delivered.

The president will go before a group of ninth graders in Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. He's going to talk to them and the he's going to deliver this speech to the nation's school children.

Now, I had a chance to talk to Jim Greer. He is the chair of the Republican Party out of Florida. He is essentially the one who got all of this going in terms of the criticism, saying that he believed it was a socialist ideology, that this was indoctrination of the nation's school children, and that he himself did not want his own four children to listen to this, prompting some parents to decide to pull their kids out of school rather than listen to the president speak.

I want you to take a listen. I pressed him a little bit when he took a look at the speech, and get his thoughts.


MALVEAUX: Is there anything in this speech that is socialist ideology that you have complained about before? Have you seen anything like that in his speech?

JIM GREER, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN PARTY OF FLORIDA: No. And I think we need to stay focused. The text that was released today, Suzanne, is a speech that every president, whether it's Democrat or Republican, should give to students about the importance of education. There's nothing wrong with it. It's never been about the president talking to them.

It's been about the president and the White House trying to circumvent parents in this country and go directly to students without even making parents aware that there were lesson plans out there encouraging teachers to have students write letters of how we can help the president.


MALVEAUX: Jim Greer is referring to the lesson plan, the Department of Education asking students to write a letter to help the president, how would they help the president? That task has since been removed. That was part of the controversy, as well.

But I also asked Greer whether or not he would, in fact, have his four children listen to the speech. He said, yes. He thinks it's a good speech that he will send his kids to listen.

And he also said, Kiran, and this was interesting, that he doesn't believe this text, he doesn't believe this was the original speech the president was going to deliver to school children, that perhaps there was something else that was more sinister than calling for children to take responsibility.

And that really underscores I think the conundrum that the White House is in, that there are some people who feel a sense of unease with this president in talking to their children -- Kiran.

CHETRY: So Greer thinks that because of the political pressure surrounding the planned speech, they made some tweaks?

MALVEAUX: That's what he believes. The White House says that's nonsense. Greer does not believe that this is the original text.

He just has -- when I talked to him, he just does not have the belief, the faith that this president has good intentions, that that is just something that he believes.

He's suspicious of the president because he says the president believes that the government should get involved in people's lives, whether it's the economy, whether it's health care, and now whether it's education, as well. And that is really the fundamental concern that he had.

But, obviously, in reading the text and what the president is going to say today, he feels comfortable in sending his four children to school to listen to them.

CHETRY: There you go, so a turnaround for him. Suzanne Malveaux, thanks so much.

And we want to let people have the opportunity to also read the full text themselves and decide for themselves what they think. We've posted it at, the full text of the president's back to school speech for you to read.

Also CNN will, of course, carry the president's back to school speech live in its entirety from Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. That's at noon, eastern.

ROBERTS: Now for a CNN exclusive. Former first lady Laura Bush is out of the White House and working on her memoirs and talking one on one with our Zain Verjee. She says readers will be in for some surprises.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Give us a taste of your memoirs. Give us a tease.

LAURA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: Well, I'm talking really, of course, about the years in the White House, a lot of it about the years in the White House, but also my vantage point, the viewpoint that I had living inside the White House, you know, these really very dramatic times that we lived in, certainly, and interesting times.

VERJEE: What will surprise readers, for example?

BUSH: I think maybe parts of my background will surprise readers. I'm talking about growing up in west Texas and what that was like. And I think there's mayor a stereo typical view of what that would be that I think people will be interested to hear what it was really like.


CHETRY: We're going to have much more of Laura Bush's exclusive, including what the former teacher says about President Obama's speech to school kids and also what happened when she saw Michelle Obama at Ted Kennedy's funeral, coming up.

ROBERTS: Big speech on health care tomorrow to a joint session of Congress. Of course, you can catch all of the action right here on CNN tomorrow night beginning at 8:00.

And what does the president need to say to try to convince opponents of his that his health care plan is the way to go to try and bring more of the uninsured under the umbrella of health care? Joe Klein and Tony Blankley coming right up here on the most news in the morning.


CHETRY: There's a look at the capitol today. Washington having a little bit of light rain off and on, 66 degrees there. A little bit later today, a little more rain and a high of 74.

Meanwhile, welcome back to the most news in the morning. At a place where the unemployment rate is already at 11 percent, a fired up President Obama tried to capture the momentum that he had as a candidate and sell his health insurance plan to union workers in Ohio yesterday.

He's now trying to take back control of the debate, and the message to Congress was clear -- stop dragging your feet.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every debate at some point comes to an end. At some point, it's time to decide. At some point, it's time to act. Ohio, it's time to act and get this thing done.


CHETRY: Aides say this is a preview of what we can expect on Wednesday when the president talks to both chambers of Congress.

So for more now let's bring in author and conservative columnist Tony Blankly as well as Joe Klein, columnist for "TIME" magazine. Thanks for both of you for being with us this morning.

And Joe, let me start with you. You've written about health care for decades. You've also covered this president extensively. When we heard him yesterday, he sounded like he was back on the campaign trail, rallying, chanting, cheering crowds.

What's at stake for the president as he tries to push through this health care?

JOE KLEIN, COLUMNIST, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, it's an important moment. People have been describing it as a make or break moment. It isn't. Bill Clinton failed and it didn't break him.

But it is a very crucial moment right now, and he's been on the defensive for the past month with all these lunatics out there, the birthers, the deathers, and all the rest. And it's time for the president to try to regain control of the debate.

CHETRY: Tony, when we've been saying make or break here at CNN, it's because many believe or many have said that it's now or never in terms of when a president has enough capital to do what he's trying to do, which is overhaul what many, many administrations have failed at.

Is the GOP ready to jump on board?

TONY BLANKLEY, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY TO HOUSE SPEAKER GINGRICH: It depends. It's curious. The president yesterday said the time for debate is over, and he hasn't announced where he stands on the issues yet. Even today, a day before his big speech, the White House is still keeping open the option of going either way on the public insurance option.

So I don't think the debate is over. Until we know what the bill is, you can't know whether or not you're going to support it or not.

I must say, Joe, I guess there are a lot of us lunatics out there. I'm not a birther or a deather, but I am among the people who have my doubts about the current proposal. I don't think that makes me a lunatic.

KLEIN: Wait a minute. What current proposal? You just said there isn't one. And you are absolutely right that that has been a huge problem. The president has to say what he's in favor of.

And I think that there's a way to do this, especially if he keeps it simple, where he can regain the political advantage, because there are some things that everybody is in favor of, and if the Republicans continue to oppose that, they're going to be in some trouble.

CHETRY: Well, Joe, this is what I want to ask you about that. There are a few very interesting articles today, one from the "San Francisco Chronicle" showing that two-thirds of people still aren't exactly sure what it means to them. So there is room, I guess to explain to people.

KLEIN: Absolutely.

CHETRY: But when we talk about, is there a specific plan out there, we're talking about Max Baucus in the Senate saying, listen, perhaps there is room for a compromise situation with Republicans as well that doesn't include a public option, which has had people screaming on both sides, but rather a health care cooperative.

Is that something the president is going to go for?

KLEIN: Well, from the start, one of the biggest problems with this whole public option debate is that it is a sidelight. It's not the most important thing in this bill. And co-ops are even less important.

And as long as the debate is focused on this aspect of it, which kind of smells a little bit of government control, the president is going to be on the defensive.

If it becomes a debate on whether or not the insurance companies can deny you coverage because of a preexisting position, then the president is on the offensive.

CHETRY: And Tony, I want to ask you about this, because this is one interesting thing that some analysts point out that what's different about now and when Bill Clinton was trying to pass health care in 1993 and '94 is that there's basic universal consensus even among Republicans that the system cannot go on the way it is, that it's not sustainable fiscally.

Yet what we've mostly been hearing, or at least what's been grabbing a lot of attention, the GOP arguments that some say are false about pulling the plug on grandma, about socialism, et cetera.

Are the Republicans missing an opportunity to really highlight whether or not this is affordable and whether or not they can put forth a plan or at least some sort of alternative option to being able to pay for this?

BLANKLEY: Well, look, there's several points you make. First of all, the public thought there was more of a crisis in 1993 than they do now according to the polls. So while the experts may be more coalesced on one position, the public is not.

As far as the Republican alternative, the Republican alternative has always been to drive more market forces into the health buying decision, and that will then reduce prices.

As far as the problem with the president's plan to expand the coverage at a time when the deficit is going up at a rate that Marty Feldstein said this morning I think in the "Wall Street Journal" is unsustainable, as has, by the way, the president's own director of OMB, adding another $1 trillion minimum to the cost even if you raise taxes to pay for it is going against the central economic problem that we're going to have over the next few years.

So I don't think this debate has even been joined yet. First, the president has to settle on a bill he's going to fight for. And then we have to understand the full economic implications and the policy implications.

So the debate isn't over. It's just beginning.

KLEIN: Well, what Tony just said is a little misleading, because the bill -- if it costs $1 trillion, the president has said that he's going to find ways to pay for it.

Now, the problem in the long-term here and the problem with market-oriented solutions is that this isn't a free market in health care. About half of the health care in this country is already delivered by the government via Medicare and Medicaid.

And so market alternatives can have some impact, but I think that there are more basic changes required, like the way we pay doctors. Do we pay them according to the procedures that they perform or do we pay them by salary? A lot of people believe paying them by salary is a far more effective way to do this. CHETRY: There is still a lot of this debate. And we are out of time. I want to thank Tony Blankley and Joe Klein for joining us this morning, though. Thanks very much -- John.

ROBERTS: Iconic photographer Annie Leibovitz -- her life's work is on the line as a loan comes due today. Could she declare bankruptcy? Could she lose it all? Our Christine Romans is minding your business this morning.


ROBERTS: Christine Romans, minding your business this morning.

And troubled financial times for famed photographer Annie Leibovitz. What's going on?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: This is remarkable news. There is a $24 million loan coming due today, and bankruptcy attorneys are saying that the famed photographer should file for bankruptcy simply because she potentially could lose control over every picture she has ever taken, everything.

Think of these iconic images. This is a woman who essentially made photography fine art, or I will say she perfected photography as fine art.

She's made some pretty big business mistakes in the past, including a couple of very big mortgages and some tax liens. She went to a group called Art Capital Group, which calls itself the private banking for the art world, and secured a $24 million loan to cover all of this.

And now this group is suing her, saying that she has not been making her payments, that she has fallen in neglect to the terms of that loan. And now they say that they could move forward in court and take control of all of her assets here because of these unpaid bills.

Her attorneys are not saying this morning what her next move will be, and Art Capital Group has not returned a call for comment. So we don't know what's going to happen next.

But today is the deadline for her to settle this finally, otherwise potentially lose. She essentially mortgaged her intellectual property.

ROBERTS: It's amazing that she could take these incredible photographs, everything from John Lennon nude with Yoko Ono to the queen, which was one of her most recent photo shoots, and be in such financial trouble.

ROMANS: There's a couple of very big high mortgage properties, there's some big, I think a 200 acre farm upstate and also a triplex in Greenwich Village, perhaps. There is some big real estate costs here as well.

And this is a woman who, when she does it, she does it big. I mean, each one of these photographs clearly spent a lot of money on location and the time.

And there are a lot of artists, when you go through history, you see a lot of artists who have been brilliant at what they do but have made financial mistakes around the world.

CHETRY: With singers as we say with Michael Jackson.

ROMANS: Billy Joel went broke early on.

ROBERTS: Yes, but his manager has ripped him off.

ROMANS: And he has overcome it, as well. The question here is can she overcome it, can she keep control of this artwork? Because this is not someone you would think would want to see her images on the side of a can of soda, which could happen if essentially if you sold off these images to be used in marketing for something else.

CHETRY: Hopefully they'll be able to come to an agreement. Christine Romans, thanks so much.

Still ahead, John will be speaking to Senator Charles Grassley as we talk about this debate over health care. Where are Republicans willing to compromise, if they are? Is there anything to, perhaps, Senator Baucus's bill? And will we see health care reform passed in this congress?


CHETRY: It's 24 minutes past the hour now.

And for more of on our CNN exclusive, former first lady Laura Bush has been out of the White House and out of the spotlight. But she's been busy. She's been in Paris promoting the importance of worldwide literacy.

And that's where she sat down one-on-one with our own Zain Verjee. We're going to see what the former school teacher says about President Obama's back to school speech and also what happened when she talked to Michelle Obama at Ted Kennedy's funeral.


VERJEE: How is President Bush doing? Is he glad to be out of the spotlight?

BUSH: He's doing very well, thank you for asking. He's riding his mountain bike a lot. He likes that. And he's very disciplined by writing his memoirs. In fact, I'm...

VERJEE: Better than you?

BUSH: Yes, a lot better than me. He's always been a lot more disciplined than I am. So he's working on those.

I keep telling him that I've gotten to the second grade in my memoirs. (LAUGHTER)

VERJEE: How do you think the world will remember him?

BUSH: I think the world will remember him for, really, what he is, and that's what I think people will get to see both from his memoirs and for mine, and that is somebody who stood for freedom and who stood for the security of our country.

And I think people know that. I think the people that really know him know what he is like and they see what he stood for, and that's the freedom of 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

VERJEE: Many around the world would say that he stood for divisiveness and destructiveness much more.

BUSH: Well, I would say that that is absolutely not right, and I don't think they have either the right view of him or what his responsibilities are and were as president of the United States.

VERJEE: How do you think Michelle Obama is doing?

BUSH: I think she's doing great. I think she's doing very well.

VERJEE: You've been there. You...

BUSH: Well, I saw her at the funeral, Teddy Kennedy's funeral last week. And I asked her about the girls and how they're doing.

And I know what she's doing. It's what every woman who moves there does, and that's try to make it a home, both for her husband, who is the president, and for her children.

VERJEE: President Obama is giving a back to school speech. There's so much controversy over that. Do you think it's a good idea?

BUSH: I think that there is a place for the president of the United States to talk to school children and encourage school children. And I think there are a lot of people that should do the same, and that is encourage their own children to stay in school and to study hard and to try to achieve the dreams that they have.

I also am happy that it seems like that have not -- the Obama administration has not backed off the accountability part of the no child left behind act that President Bush worked with Ted Kennedy to pass. And I think that's really important.

We want every American child to have the very best education possible. And I think that's what that legislation really demands.

VERJEE: The issue that's been raised is by many conservatives that are critical of this, they say that this is a dangerous socialist plot that's indoctrinating school children. Some parents say, no, our kids are going home and not going to listen to the president talk about education and schools.

BUSH: Well, that's their right. That certainly is the right of parents to choose what they want their children to hear in school.

But I think, really, what people were unhappy about were the guidelines that went out with the before the speech went out, and I think those have been changed.

And I think it's also really important for everyone to respect the president of the United States.

VERJEE: Do you think he's doing a good job, President Obama?

BUSH: I think he is. I think he's got a lot on his plate, and he's tackled a lot to start with. And that's probably made it more difficult.

VERJEE: What's it like for you being a private citizen?

BUSH: Well, it's great, really. It really is nice. We're enjoying our home in Texas a lot. We have a new house and...

VERJEE: Furniture yet?

BUSH: Getting some furniture. We had a lot of fun working on that. We're both working on our memoirs, writing our memoirs.

And then we're also building the presidential library at SMU with the institute that will be a part of it. And I've been the chairman of the design committee, and that's been a lot of fun to work with Bob Stern, our architect, and Michael van Vockenberg (ph), our landscape architect.

And we just had our last design meeting and now we'll go to the construction plans and get ready, I hope, to break ground in sometime a little over a year.


CHETRY: There you go. She's keeping busy and she seems really glad, you know, to be out of the public eye for a little bit, take a breather

ROBERTS: Interesting, too, to hear what she has to say about this current administration, Laura Bush there with Zain Verjee.

Coming up now to the half hour. It's 7:30 Eastern. And checking this morning's top stories -- as promised, the White House released the text of a speech that President Obama will be giving to students across the nation in just a few hours.

Instead of pushing his agenda, as some conservatives have charged, the speech just asks kids to study hard and stay in school. One line reads "No matter what you want to do with your life, I guarantee that you will need an education to do it."

CHETRY: Officials in Afghanistan are now ordering a partial recount in the wake of the country's August 20th presidential election. They've already thrown out about 200,000 votes. Opponents of current Afghan President Hamid Karzai say that tallies have been doctored and ballot boxes have been stuffed across the country.

Since the vote, there's been more than 2,000 claims of voter fraud.

ROBERTS: Plus, looking for a compromise on health care reform -- the Senate's so-called gang of six, three Republicans and three Democrats, will be meeting later on today.

The six negotiators, who are also members of the Senate Finance Committee, will be considering a plan by the committee's chairman Senator Max Baucus. That plan would drop the public option or government backed health insurance and tax the priciest insurance plans.

One member of the gang of six is Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley. He joins us this morning from Capitol Hill. Senator, it's great to see you back in Washington. I hope the month of August was enjoyable for you.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, (R) IOWA: It was very enjoyable.

ROBERTS: Terrific.

Hey, listen, during the August recess, you said of the efforts to craft a bipartisan bill there in the Senate, quote, "I don't think it's going to be possible to work it out with the administration because they're all over the field."

Now that you're back there on Capitol Hill, are you going to walk away from this or are you going to stick with the gang of six and try to come up with a plan?

GRASSLEY: Well, we won't know until we meet this afternoon at 2:30, the president has the good and bad of the president speaking this week is that we had to speed up the work of our group to have something ready. The other thing is that the president - and that's bad because we should have probably taken a little more time than just over this weekend. And then the other issue is that the president, if he does come out with specifics, probably would make up for that criticism that I gave during August that they were all over the ballpark, and they were all over the ballpark.

ROBERTS: Now, one of the proposals that's being floated and was handed to you over the weekend is from Senator Max Baucus, the chairman of the committee. It's no public plan, non-profit co-ops would provide insurance for people who are uninsured, it expands Medicaid eligibility, as well and then levies of fees on insurance companies who provide high end Cadillac plans to help pay for the overall reform, is that something that you can support?

GRASSLEY: Well, one thing about the co-ops, if they're going to end up just the way we've known co-ops for 150 years in America, the answer is yes because they're consumer driven and all the consumers benefit from it. They're organized by members. There's no federal government running the co-ops, et cetera. And that's the way that Senator Conrad has devised them and I've been discussing that with him and along the lines of what he suggested. It's very favorable.

And just in case, that somebody comes along and wants a federal board, the federal government to accept the risks. So we ended up with a health care Fannie Mae, then that would away no-no for me. In regard to the tax that you asked about, the only thing I would suggest is both Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation has said that those costs would be passed on to the premium holders.

So it's going to drive up the cost of insurance, maybe at a level of insurance that we shouldn't be subsidizing in the first place, but the case is that the extent to which consumers pay for it, that is a concern as opposed to if the corporations would have had to pay for it, the people providing the insurance, it probably would be a better approach.

ROBERTS: Senator, of course, the president has got this speech to a joint session of Congress tomorrow evening. He kind of laid down the groundwork for that, yesterday's speech to the AFL-CIO in which he took on people like yourself who have been critical of his plans for health care, saying what have you done lately? Let's listen to what the president said.



OBAMA: What are you going to do? What's your answer? What's your solution? And you know what? They don't have one.


ROBERTS: Senator, the president charges, you don't have a solution. So let me ask you now, what is your solution to health care reform? What's your plan?

GRASSLEY: Well, don't forget, I've been working the last three or four months with Senator Baucus one-on-one and then later with a group of six to come up with a bipartisan plan. And it seems to me that the bipartisan approach is the best. And if you look at the president during his campaign, he wanted to be post partisan, and it seems to me like those statements yesterday were very partisan, contrary to what he promised in the last campaign.

But I would be working towards a bipartisan effort. And if we don't get a bipartisan effort, then, of course, there are so many things in what I've been working towards that could easily go into my plan or a Republican plan and then don't forget that there's already four Republican plans out there introduced by other members of our caucus. But because we're the minority party, you at CNN and other places haven't given our plans much publicity because I suppose we're in the minority and you want to help the president so much so that I hope that if we - if we don't have a bipartisan plan, that you'll start giving some attention to the Republican plans that are out there. ROBERTS: Right. Well, I can assure you, Senator Grassley, it's not our intention to help any politician, president, you, anyone else. We're just merely telling people what is out there and we will redouble our efforts to illuminate Republican plans.

Let me ask you this question...

GRASSLEY: Thank you.

ROBERTS: You're up for re-election next year. You recently sent out a fund raising letter in which you said to your constituents, "we ask for your immediate support in helping me defeat Obama-care. Ezra Klein from the "Washington Post," took a look at that, and he said that, speaking of you, "he is creating a campaign premised on his role in stopping Obama's health care reform effort. It's not clear how he could pivot to save it, even if he wanted to do so. My question to you is, have you left yourself with this pre-election campaign, Senator, any room for compromise?

GRASSLEY: Absolutely, yes. Because you know what Obama-care is in the public's minds, my constituents' minds? It's all that public option. It's all the eventual nationalization of health care in America, run entirely by the federal government. And that letter associates Obama care with the public option and the people of my state and I think most of the people in this country don't want the government to take over federal health care.

ROBERTS: All right. Senator Charles Grassley, it's good to talk to you this morning. We look forward to the results of the meeting with the gang of six later on today. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up now on 37 minutes after the hour.



CHETRY: Everyone is wearing yellow today. It thought it was me. Thirty-nine minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. When the president gives his back to school pep talk today at noon, students all over America will be listening except for the inevitable daydreaming here and there. The text of the speech has been posted for parents to be able to read it. Some schools, though, still don't want you to hear it.

Our Gary Tuchman went out to find out why.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This North Carolina school principal had to decide whether or not to air President Obama's speech for students in his school. The pressure was on.

CHRIS GIBBS, PRINCIPAL, CLAREMONT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: This may sound a little strange, but after a flurry of phone calls, my first thing was to go in my office, shut my door and have a prayer because I knew I was going to have to make a decision.

TUCHMAN: What was he hearing from parents? Mostly comments like those we heard at the county fair just down the road.

(on camera): Do you think the school should play Barack Obama's speech?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's more like communism saying we're going to do this and we're going to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it should be up to the parents' decision if they want their children to hear that or not.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And that is exactly what Principal Chris Gibbs decided. The speech will not be shown at Claremont Elementary School.

Teachers we met at the school told us they backed the decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not something that we want to divide our school with.

TUCHMAN: In our research of the schools and school districts that will not be showing the president's speech live, we found that most of them perhaps not surprisingly are in counties where Barack Obama did not do particularly well during the November elections.

(on camera): Catawba County, the home of the Claremont Elementary School is no exception. John McCain received 67 percent of the vote here.

This is what he's going to say in his speech. If you quit in school, you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country. Isn't that a message you want your kids to hear? Isn't that part of what education is all about?

GIBBS: Most definitely. And we've asked our parents, again, going back to responsibility. A responsible parent is going to sit down and talk to their kids about staying in school.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But Barack Obama's message about it won't even be shown here in an edited form in the days to come. The principal has decided that the children are to see any of it, it should only be from their parents.

(on camera): Let's say if President Obama said I want to come to you school? He calls you up, I want to make a live appearance at your school and we'll have an assembly. You would be dealing with the same things with these parents, wouldn't you?

GIBBS: I would, probably.

TUCHMAN: How does that make you feel? GIBBS: Well, we have a long way to go. And the issues out there today are the issues, they're sensitive issues. But if the president wanted to come to Claremont Elementary School, he would certainly be welcome to come to Claremont Elementary School. And I guess I would have to go back in my office and shut the door and pray again.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gary Tuchman, CNN, Claremont, North Carolina.


CHETRY: To see the full text of the president's back to school speech for you to read, ahead of time if you'd like, you can go to our blog, and check it out. Also, CNN will be carrying the president's back to school speech in its entirety live from Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. It's at noon Eastern, 42 minutes now after the hour.



ROBERTS: Good morning, Atlanta, where it's clear and 65 degrees out there right now. Beautiful start of the day and later on today, partly cloudy with a high of 87. Atlanta where Rob Marciano is this morning, checking the extreme weather across the country. We got a little tropical storm out there in the Atlantic and other things happening across the country today. Good morning, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. The Outer Banks is going to get some non-tropical rainfall but heavy rain at that. Let's start off with tropical storm Fred just to the southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. So that's pretty much just off the coastline of Africa. This thing is even if it were to hit the U.S., it's at least a week away, if not more. But it's getting fairly good organization here. The wind is about 50 miles an hour, it's moving to the west at 15. And the forecast is for it to strengthen to hurricane status.

So looking at this track, it does cover a little bit to the northwest. So, you know, there's a good chance of this becoming a fish storm, but notice that the last couple of days of this thing, it kind of stalls and makes a little bit of a wobble to the west. So that leads us to a little bit of concern.

All right. A little bit closer to home, boy, the mid-Atlantic, you are really getting hammered with rainfall. The outer banks and the Delmarva easterly winds have been keeping things rather cool and rather wet. A lot of rain in the past day or two. And you're going to see some rainfall today also. As far as where the rain is going to be cooling things down the most, well maybe D.C., 73 degrees there. But I think New York City will be 75. 77 degrees in Boston, 76 degrees in Chicago. So a little taste of fall but I would say comfortably cool, John. I don't want to rain on your parade here. You're right. Fall is not going to show up for another, almost 20 days. So we'll try to hold on to summer a little longer. CHETRY: Yes, he's postponing his parade on account of the weather.

ROBERTS: Summer went by so quickly, anyways. Don't rush anything, Rob. Take it easy.

MARCIANO: I understand. You guys kind of got shortchanged. We'll try to give you a couple extra. Maybe a nice Indian summer around about November for you.

CHETRY: We would love that. Absolutely.

ROBERTS: How about a nice Indian summer between now and Thanksgiving, can you arrange that? Thanks.

MARCIANO: I'll work on it. Thanks, guys. See you.

CHETRY: All right. Well, still ahead, Sanjay Gupta has been doing some great reporting. He's been in Afghanistan and about what exactly it's like to be there on the ground in a war hospital, inside a war zone. Tough to watch some of it. But incredible reporting. He's going to join us in a couple of minutes to show us exactly how these heroes, medical heroes save lives every day. 47 minutes after the hour.



CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. You know, you think you know what it's like inside a hospital emergency room, but really, you've never seen anything like this. This one is busier, it's grittier, possibly the most intense E.R. on earth. We're "Paging Dr. Gupta" this morning from the other side of the world. Our chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta is inside an Afghan battlefield trauma center where soldiers and little children's lives are on the line.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John and Kiran. I'm here in this dusty desert tent, which is also the home to an operating room. This is a real operating room that is being used to take care of patients here in the Helmand province. This is one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan. That's why a place like this is needed.

I want to give you an idea of what battlefield medicine is all about. Take a look.


GUPTA (voice-over): Early morning, Kandahar.

(on camera): We've been here just a few minutes, we're already getting an idea of just how busy this hospital is. Out there is the busiest airstrip, supposedly, in the world. Flights landing all the time, all to get patients like this into the hospital. We're hearing this is a very urgent case - patient with lots of bleeding, possible double leg amputation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's stay out of the box, please.

The tourniquet was put on about 45 minutes ago, bilateral tourniquets.


GUPTA: Dr. (INAUDIBLE) is communicating with the patient, translating, trying to know exactly what happened to him.

(voice-over): We don't know much, middle-aged Afghan national. But here's something, only a quarter of the patients brought here are U.S. or coalition forces, the rest are locals.

(on camera): This is one of the things here - you have no idea the severity of injuries, they've got to roll the patient, check his back, check his spine, make sure there's nothing else...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) you can see the tourniquets are still holding.

GUPTA: Putting big I.V.s in here. There are just a couple of tourniquets that are really holding all that blood from coming pouring out of his legs. That's why they got to take him to the operating room.

(voice-over): Twenty-four seven, a battlefield hospital in the middle of a war zone, like this. Surgeons working on a young soldier, IED, improvised explosive device attack. As you watch him wheeled out, his face is torn, his left arm terribly damaged, and underneath that blanket, one of his legs is gone. Surgeons tell me his mother received the awful call just a short time ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, don't move him yet!

GUPTA: It's all hard to watch and the process, they are brothers, friends, neighbors, but here is where it gets worse.

That sound you hear is a drill being used to remove the skull of a child, a two-year-old Afghan boy. He fell down a cliff while playing. His name is Malik and he has a massive brain injury, almost dead. Doctors here are trying to give him a fighting chance. He is one of the cutest boys you'll ever meet.

(on camera): It is nighttime now in Kandahar. See what's going on behind me, you have a helicopter that's about to land. It's very windy. We don't have a lot of information. We just know there are patients on this particular chopper. Over there, look over there, two ambulances, all the medics over here, they're starting to run out to the chopper to see what's going on. They just got the all-clear signal, we're going to go with them.

(voice-over): 30 seconds later, the patient is inside. As you can see, there's a lot of triage going on right now, they're placing IVs, they have the breathing tube checked.

(on camera): A couple of things I noticed right away is he's moving both of his legs and he is moving both of his arms. Very good signs. There's a concern about head injury, but it's probably not that severe if he's able to do what he's doing now. And keep in mind, in the midst of all this, a young boy, Malik, his life still hangs in the balance.


GUPTA: And John and Kiran, the story of Malik is something that I'm going to be following all week long, really checking in on him to see how he's doing. There's some lessons on how they take care of patients here for all of us and that's going to be my focus for the rest of the week.

John and Kiran, back to you.

CHETRY: All right. Just some amazing reporting there. Sanjay, thank you so much. And you can also see more exclusive reporting from Sanjay on "A.C. 360." He's live from the battle zone, so is Anderson, all week in Afghanistan, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

Fifty-four minutes past the hour.



ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. CNN is following the changing landscape of Cuba. For years, Cubans were banned from their country's five-star hotels. It was a practice known as tourist departe but President Raul Castro lifted those restrictions and facing a global tourism slump, hotels are turning to locals, offering deep discounts to fill empty rooms.

CNN's Shasta Darlington has got that story for us this morning from Havana.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You won't find any Americans dancing the conga around the pool at this five- star hotel in Cuba. Their government, for the most part, bans them from traveling to the communist island. But until recently, you couldn't find many Cubans enjoying the tropical beach resorts either.

For years, luxury hotels were reserved for foreigners, a much- needed source of revenue. No longer. We're having a great time, says Lisandra. She and her family are taking on a dolphin show on Varadero Beach, down the road from their all-inclusive resort. They used to rent a room in a local house for the holidays.

Less than two years ago, President Castro lifted restrictions on Cubans staying at hotels. A move welcomed by many, although some of the most expensive destinations are still financially out of reach. (on camera): This is one Varadero's top resorts. You'll find sailboats, beautiful white sand beaches, swimming pools, and cocktails. What you won't find is a lot of Cubans.

(voice-over): But this summer faced with a global slump in tourism, many resorts turn to locals, offering deep discounts to fill rooms.

JOSE MANSO, CUBAN MINISTER OF TOURISM (through translator): This has favored a lot of Cuban families who before didn't take advantage of domestic tourism and are doing it now.

DARLINGTON: Officials say this summer Cubans accounted for about 40 percent of visitors to Varadero hotels, giving a boost to the cash- strapped economy. Joel is one of them.

JOEL (through translator): I think it's good for the people, he says. It's a positive measure for the country's economy and for people's enjoyment.

DARLINGTON: And foreign tourists say they like the new mix too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you come to strange countries, it's always beneficial to learn the culture, a little bit of language, a little bit of dancing.

DARLINGTON: As for Americans, those who want to join the party will have to hope the U.S. Congress votes to lift the travel ban.


DARLINGTON: Now that would be a huge boost for Cuba's tourism industry, by some estimates, doubling the number of visitors. But we talked about to some of the tourists here now, Canadians and Europeans, and they said they'd actually be happier keeping the island for themselves. John.

ROBERTS: Shasta Darlington for us this morning from Havana. Shasta, thanks so much for that.