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CNN NEWSROOM

First Lady Tackles Health Care; Searching Phillip Garrido's Property; Values Voter Summit

Aired September 18, 2009 - 12:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Time now for your midday reset. I'm Tony Harris in the CNN NEWSROOM. It is 12:00 in the White House where first lady Michelle Obama opens a fall focus on health care reform.

It's noon in Atlanta where the doctors at the Centers for Disease Control are updating us on the swine flu and the vaccine to fight it.

And it is 9:00 a.m. in Contra Costa, California, where police will discuss the search for possible victims of accused child kidnapper Phillip Garrido.

Let's get started.

First lady Michelle Obama adding here voice to the push for health care reform. She is using her considerable popularity to try to win over women to her husband's plan. Speaking just last hour, the first lady focused on the challenges of everyday people highlighting the effects of the current system on women and their families.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: ... no longer can we sit by and watch the debate take on a life of its own. It is up to us to get involved, because what we have to remember is that now more than ever we have to channel our passions into change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Winning the support of women is seen as crucial for President Obama, as he fights to get his plans through Congress.

An airport shuttle bus driver is supposed to be at an FBI office in Denver right now for a third day of questioning. Sources tell CNN Najibullah Zazi, a 24-year-old Afghan immigrant, may be part of a Madrid-style subway bomb plot. A co-worker says that is laughable. And listen to Zazi's lawyer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARTHUR FOLSOM, NAJIBULLAH ZAZI'S ATTORNEY; I have no information confirming anything like that. And all I could possibly say is that my client has no comment at this time.

If you have any questions, you can direct them to me. All I can say is that if they had found bomb-making materials in his car, on his computer, or one wild report I saw yesterday that there were something like enough explosives in the apartment to blow up two buildings, do you really think the FBI would have allowed us to walk out of here last night?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: All right. And Californian investigators will be using ground-penetrating radar today to search the property of Nancy and Phillip Garrido. The California couple, as you know, is accused of kidnapping 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard in 1991 and may be linked to other crimes.

Our Dan Simon has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): A couple of developments to report. We're not entirely sure how significant the first one is, but we want to report that a couple of cadaver-sniffing dogs zeroed in on a patch of land behind the Garrido home. Now, these dogs are trained specifically to pick up human remains, so authorities certainly want to investigate that patch of land further. Probably dig it up to see what's beneath the soil.

SGT. J.D. NELSON, ALAMEDA CO., SHERIFF'S OFFICE: During today's search, one of the dogs gave an indication in one of the areas of the Garrido residence. After the dog gave what is determined to be somewhat of a tentative look at the - or tentative feel for the cadaver, we brought in a second dog, and he also indicated on that particular part of the property. We're not going to say exactly where that part of the property is, but it is definitely on the Garrido property.

SIMON: The second element deals with some new photos. Of course, everybody saw what the backyard of the Garrido home looked like, those series of tents and sheds. Well, what you're seeing inside the home really isn't any better. In fact, it's arguably worse. You're basically seeing trash everywhere, dishes stacked up in the sink. It's really a mess. And that is exactly why authorities red tagged that property, saying that nobody could live there.

Dan Simon, CNN, Contra Costa County, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: OK. There is a news conference going on right now in California, Contra Costa county, California, and the focus of the investigation today obviously is on debris removal on all of the Garrido properties, the search of the inside of the Garrido house, the scan of the properties underground. Let's listen to a little bit of the Q&A going on right now.

(INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

LT. CHRIS ORREY, HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA POLICE: Thus far in the operation we have not found a piece of physical evidence that tells us conclusively that Phillip Garrido is involved in the Michaela Garecht abduction. I'll have to turn it over to Lt. Von Savoye to address the Dublin case.

LT. KURT VON SAVOYE, DUBLIN, CALIFORNIA POLICE: The same answer would apply as to Ilene Misheloff, we have recovered numerous pieces of evidence that we want to look closer at and examine but nothing that with certainty leads us to believe that there's a definite link between the Garridos and Ilene's disappearance.

(INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

ORREY: I know Lt. Von Savoye has been in touch with the Misheloff's. He can address that. We've been in touch with Sharon (ph). I've talked to her every day. I think she's an amazing woman and she's doing every thing she can to keep Michaela's face and story out there, hoping again that if this isn't - that there is somebody out there who knows where Michaela might be and help us find her and solve this case.

VON SAVOYE: And we did speak with the Misheloff family yesterday. As I explained earlier in this operation. They are currently out of state, on a family emergency but they are very supportive of our efforts here. And they appreciate very much the media coverage that this is getting because it is putting the message out, putting Ilene's picture out to the public again, in the hopes that this operation does not develop a substantial lead, that hopefully somebody will see this and come forward with some information that may help us bring a resolution to this case. Right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you been getting anything at all from Phillip Garrido? Is he saying anything whatsoever, yes or no, about any of the cases you're looking at?

ORREY: Hayward Police Department has still not had contact with Phillip Garrido.

VON SAVOYE: And nor has the Dublin Police Department.

ORREY: And over here...

VON SAVOYE: Currently he is in custody, and we have not made an attempt to speak with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that lack of evidence a source of frustration for your two agencies, all of the work that you are doing?

ORREY: I wouldn't say the lack of a key piece of evidence is a frustration for us, you know, we certainly hope to find more, but in a sense, it could indicate that they're alive somewhere, so it's really a mixed blessing either way.

HARRIS: At this point you get the sense that investigators have just about everything that they need on the Jaycee Dugard case, but right now the investigation seems principally focused on - on finding any evidence at all linking Phillip and Nancy Garrido to other missing persons cases.

And we will continue to follow developments there as we told you just a moment ago, a couple of searches going on of the properties today, an inside search of the home, a scan of the properties underground areas as well, and also debris removal on all of the properties taking place. And we will continue to follow developments in the story and give you the latest information as we get it.

President Obama's approval numbers holding steady amid his make-or- break pitch for health care reform. A new CNN poll of polls shows 55 percent of people approve of the way the president is handling his job. 39 percent disapprove. This month's numbers, the same as last month's. They come as the president intensifies efforts to gain support for overhauling the health care system. The president today getting some help from his much more popular wife!

Live now to CNN White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux. And, Suzanne, look, I was struck by the first lady's comments today. You want to talk about a different tone, a different take, a different touch on this...

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.

HARRIS: ... health care reform debate, you saw that from the first lady.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely. And it was really nothing like her husband, you know, fired up and ready to go kind of speech at all. Perhaps it was from emotion, but very soft-spoken, at times her voice even shaky. She's really trying to put a personal touch to this whole health care debate. She talked about her father who had multiple sclerosis. She talked about her daughter Sasha at four months they thought perhaps had meningitis, and said that thank god they had health care insurance.

They don't know what they would have done if they hadn't had health care insurance. They had other folks on the stage who really weren't so lucky and we're talking about really, some devastating situations in their families. She is really trying to put a totally different kind of message and tone to this. She is making this about women and their families and taking care of their families. I want you to take a listen. This is how she began her - her statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA: For two years on the campaign trail, this was what I heard from women, that they were being crushed -- crushed -- by the current structure of our health care, crushed. But these stories that we've heard today - and all of us, if we're not experiencing it, we know someone who is. These are the stories that remind us about what's at stake in this debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So, Tony, they really are trying to completely change not only the tone, but the message, of this debate here. She's talking about this as an issue of equality for women, opportunity for women, and she says if you believe in those things, then you have to support her husband's health care plan, and then she does go ahead and mention some of those things. You talked about her -- her popularity. I want to show you some numbers here.

This is the latest poll that we have, CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll, favorable at 67 percent, have a favorable opinion of her. Only 22 percent have an unfavorable opinion of her. So, they really want her to be out there, to talk about this issue and to bring it home in a way that we have not heard in some of these debates and some of these speeches before Congress.

So, this is something that they believe is really going to push forward and help them. We know that the president's going to be out there. He's doing the Sunday talk shows. But, clearly, Michelle Obama bringing a totally different kind of tune - tone, a mood and a message to this debate. We'll see if it works.

HARRIS: Yes, we will see. All right, at the White House, Suzanne Malveaux for us. Suzanne, appreciate it.

And don't miss President Obama taking questions from CNN chief national correspondent John King. This will be good. At "State of the Union," 9:00 a.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific right here on CNN.

One group I'm not at all happy with the way the president is running the White House, so-called values voters. I will talk with Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council about these issues. Next. Right here at the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: The season of shrill, but in fact, the health care debate degenerated into ugly name calling over the summer. Now the House Speaker worries the debate may turn violent. Here's senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Good morning.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The speaker of the House says some of the things she's hearing in the health care debate border on dangerous.

PELOSI: I saw this myself, in the late '70s in San Francisco, this kind of - of rhetoric was very frightening, and it gave - it created a climate in which we -- violence took place.

CROWLEY: To review -- the pro-reform side, including the president, has been called socialist, Marxist and un-American. Those against the President's plans have been called wing nuts, fringe groups and racist. Republicans accused Democrats of stoking a false racism charge to diminish honest opposition.

Democrats say for political reasons republicans won't condemn the clearly racist signs and words at some protests. Oh, how the White House wants to put a lid on this one. They've been trying since Sunday. ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think the president believes that people are upset because of the color of his skin. The president does not believe that - that the criticism comes based on the color of his skin.

CROWLEY: The vice president chimed in from Iraq -

JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: As you approach the resolution of an incredibly controversial issue, ideologically, politically, and every other way, usually you find excesses grow from that. But the president does not believe, nor do I believe, it's racially based.

CROWLEY It's not that the president is above a good partisan fight. He was out there proving that.

OBAMA: I've heard a lot -- a lot of Republicans say they want to kill Obamacare. Some may even raise money off it. But when you ask these folks what exactly my plan does, they've got it all wrong.

CROWLEY: Here's the problem, beyond the four walls of that rally, who's listening? The sideshow, the debate about the debaters, drowns out the president at a critical point in his bid for health care reform.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: All of the background noise, the conversation behind the conversation, is hurting his ability to get his policy agenda implemented.

CROWLEY: And the bitter sideshow on one of the most politically toxic topics turns off moderate, less partisan voters, and makes the opposition more opposed.

ED GILLESPIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: All of a sudden, to be accused of being racist for expressing those concerns, you know, it further polarizes an already polarized debate.

CROWLEY: There is bipartisan agreement on this -- politicos on both sides say the health care debate is the nastiest in decades, only one thing missing...

REV. AL SHARPTON: This is not about black and white. This is about insuring America.

CROWLEY: Oh, yes, health care.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Conservative Christian activists are in Washington today for a values voters summit. It is the fourth year for the summit which is organized by the conservative advocacy group Family Research Council. Some of the breakout sessions are titled Obamacare, rationing your life away, and countering the homosexual agenda in public schools. Speakers include 2012 presidential possibles, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Mike Huckabee. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FMR. ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: The last few months the audacity of hope has become the audacity of hypocrisy. It is at times it's a country almost difficult to recognize. We have become the land of czars, clunker cars, and Hollywood stars. But unfortunately, it's also become a place where we've lost any semblance of those promises of transparency and accountability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Health care is a hot-button issue at the Values Voters Summit. A panel earlier today asked some really tough questions about the proposed government plan. Joining me now from that summit, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. Go right to the top. Tony, good to see you. Thanks for your time.

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Good to be with you.

HARRIS: Hey, you know, I haven't heard you on the Baucus plan so far. I can't watch 24 hours of television, so forgive me if you've already spoken on this, but let me get you on the record while I have you.

The Baucus plan so far, released with no republican support, let's put aside for the a moment the legitimate, real concerns over cost to taxpayers, affordability for Americans, which are points that are being worked out right now, as you know.

Are you convinced, now seeing the language of the Baucus plan, that there won't be anything in the final bill that allows for federal subsidies for abortion services?

PERKINS: No, not at all. We don't see that in the bill to prohibit that at all, and that's part of the concern. And I should note that it's not just Republicans that aren't signing on, there are a lot of Democrats that aren't signing on to the bill either. So, it is a problem. And it is something that that has a very simple solution.

Over a dozen amendments have been offered through this process that take the hide language, which is an annual appropriations writer, and makes it statutory on this measure. And that takes the abortion issue off the table. But yet the president won't take that, nor will the supporters of the bill in Congress.

HARRIS: OK. Although, Kent, Senator Conrad said the language is there. I believe we have some language that we can pull up as well that suggests pretty clearly, as we read it, that there will be no federal money going to abortions. But you're still not satisfied is what you're saying?

PERKINS: No, because it still has the - the - the funding mechanism which creates these so-called separate pools of money, and so what - we just need to just very straightforward language that says government money will not go into it, and then that issue's satisfied. But they've yet to do that.

HARRIS: Are you convinced that -

PERKINS: I think that's important, though. I think that's important so we can get on to this discussion about health care. I think it's important. Because Americans need accessible - to be have - affordable health care accessible.

HARRIS: Got you.

PERKINS: And that hasn't happened yet.

HARRIS: Are you convinced at all now, seeing the language of the Baucus plan, that there won't be federal dollars going to subsidize the health care of people in the country illegally? In the final bill.

PERKINS: Well, that's not been an issue that we've been focused on. So it's not one that we've researched in this bill, so I couldn't answer that question. It's not one we've been tracking closely. We've been focusing on the issue of rationing, which amendments also have been offered on that, to prohibit government rationing of health care.

HARRIS: Yes.

PERKINS: And the other thing we're very concerned about is the conscience rights, that the conscience protection be in there for health care workers, and whatever health care plan passes.

HARRIS: What is that? Explain it to us.

PERKINS: Well, it's pretty simple, it's that health care workers, whether you be a doctor, a nurse or a pharmacist couldn't be forced, like the nurse up in New York at a hospital, a Catholic nurse, who was forced to participate in a late-term abortion, and she did not want to be a part of that. She had stated that. And the previous administration, before they left, put in place some very solid regulations that would enforce the current conscience protection laws.

HARRIS: OK.

PERKINS: Those were struck down and suspended by this administration. So there's really no protections for health care workers.

HARRIS: You're also opposed to mandates, correct?

PERKINS: Yes. We don't think that that's the way to go about this. We don't think that because someone in their 20s coming out of college waiting to land a good job and not having health care, they're healthy, they don't want to put, you know, what little savings they have into a health care plan, I don't think that's irresponsible. And I think that's a massive shifting of expense from an older population to a younger population. I mean, that's just one example. So, I think a mandate is a bad way to go about this.

HARRIS: But Tony, don't you think there will be plans that will - the idea here is to obviously get as many people into the pool as possible to make it affordable for the whole. Don't you trust that there will be plans in place and subsidies in place for the people you described?

PERKINS: Well, not necessarily. And I think there's ways we can address some of this. If you really begin to break down the 30 million, whatever, the number keeps changing, of uninsured Americans, when you get down to a hardcore number, it's about five million to 10 million, that can't afford health care. I mean, out of a nation of 330 million people, I think that's a very small percentage. And there's a more efficient way to get those folks covered than totally taking over the entire health care system and rearranging it for everybody else.

I mean, we can go - I do like the president's idea of - and this is something that conservatives advocated for years is allowing people to go beyond state lines and create associations where you can create bigger pools of insurees driving down the cost by spreading out the risk. You can take those young people I just described, allow them to be carried on their parents' health care insurance until age 25. Not making them -

HARRIS: Yes.

PERKINS: -- get off as soon as they get out of college.

HARRIS: It looks like it's going to happen, wouldn't you say? That looks like it's going to happen.

PERKINS: What's that?

HARRIS: That provisions - that young people will be allowed to stay on their parents insurance for longer

PERKINS: Yes.

HARRIS: Yes.

PERKINS: There needs to be some things done in health care, but I think what we should do is take a market-based approach, we should take an incremental approach and address the specific problems.

HARRIS: Got you

PERKINS: Not taking over the whole program.

HARRIS: And there's still some debate about whether it's nine million, what the total number, there's some census numbers.

PERKINS: Right.

HARRIS: OK. Issues you're talking about at the values voter summit, the threat of immigration, abortion, we mentioned that a bit, gay marriages, got to ask you -

PERKINS: Spending. HARRIS: Spending, absolutely. With this administration so focused on the economy, on health care, how do you get your group's concerns on these issues on the president's agenda?

PERKINS: Well, I think we see Americans that are concerned about these issues speaking up pretty vocally. I mean, so much so that, you know, the House Speaker is running in fear saying their they're dangerous. I mean, these are Americans who are very concerned about the future of this country. It's interesting here, a year ago we were here in a presidential election year, we have more people here this year.

The enthusiasm level is three or four times greater than it was last year. I think what's happened is Americans have seen liberalism uncensored. They've seen what the policies that this administration has put forward. I mean, Congress gone wild. And they're ready to take back the country. And they're enthused about doing it.

It's not through organized efforts. It's really more of a spontaneous reaction to what they perceive and what is really happening, and that is taking the nation in a wrong direction.

HARRIS: Tony Perkins, appreciate your time. And good to see you. It's been a while. Thank you.

PERKINS: Thanks. Good to be with you.

HARRIS: Still to come, heavy rains are causing flooding across the south. Chad's in the severe weather center checking it all out for us. He is with us in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Boy, want to turn quickly to the weather now, because the northeast I guess is looking pretty good. But, man, if you're in the south here, yes, saturated south, flood watches really sort of all over the map in the south today.

Let's bring in our Chad Myers. And, you know, Chad, what it says to me, there's some kind of a system, some front, some something, some trough or something that is just parked over the south and is just dumping all this rain on us.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is. In fact, it's a low-pressure system, kind of well off to the south. Almost in the southwest part of the Arklatex. And the rain's going to continue and it's going to be with us most of the weekend, I'm afraid, Tony.

Some of the heavy stuff right now and today's going to be around Memphis. There you see, Savannah and Henderson counties. This entire area won't be as bad I don't think today as it has been the past couple of days. The storm has got of running out of steam.

HARRIS: Yes.

MYERS: Kind of done it with this thing. All right. I'm done already. But look at how many areas here have already seen the flash flood watches in the light or in the dark green where something is flooding in all of those dark-greene counties, either a river, a creek, a stream, or for that matter, even a city, it's because of that right there, Tony that. That low right there will not move. It hasn't moved for quite some time. We talked about this on Monday.

The good news is even though Atlanta looks awful. Here's what Atlanta looks like. The top of the buildings, and Atlanta only 15-minute delays right now. That's a miracle.

You know, somebody is really doing some good work out there to keep those planes only 15-minute delayed on a getaway Friday.

HARRIS: What is this all weekend, is this on a Monday as well?

MYERS: Yep.

HARRIS: Really?

MYERS: Yep. My air conditioner hasn't turned on in about a week. Saving me money.

HARRIS: I want to get some golf this weekend. Good luck with that.

MYERS: Well, I tell you what the golf balls will stick to the greens, for sure. Have to dig it out.

HARRIS: Thanks, Chad.

They are lovely, smart, and powerful. Did I mention lovely women of color in the White House. Get to know Obama's dream team. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: "Essence" magazine calls them Obama's dream team. They are African-American women who hold some of the highest- ranking jobs in his administration and they are changing the face of politics and policy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS (voice-over): It is the largest group of black women to ever work for a U.S. president. And many are the first to hold their various positions. Like the director of the Domestic Policy Council, Melody Barnes. Barnes is an attorney who served as chief council to Senator Ted Kennedy for more than seven years. Before coming to the White House, she was the executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress.

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: We're having very good and productive discussions.

HARRIS: Susan Rice showed her loyalty to President Obama early as an adviser during his campaign. She is now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and is no stranger to the White House. She served in several positions in the Clinton administration, including the assistant secretary of state for African affairs during the embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya in 1988.

VALERIE JARRETT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: And our mission is simple.

HARRIS: Valerie Jarrett may be one of the longest-serving confidantes to President Obama, but before her appointment to senior advisor and assistant to the president, Jarrett didn't have any experience inside the beltway. She began her political career in Chicago, with Mayor Harold Washington, and then Mayor Richard Daley. In 1995, Jarrett left politics for the Habitat Company, where she served as a CEO.

These are just a few of the black women in the Obama administration who have stepped into their roles quietly, but may leave a profound mark on American politics.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: And joining us now is the journalist who was able to get these women together. I don't know how you did that! "Essence" magazine's Washington correspondent Cynthia Gordy.

Cynthia, good to see you.

CYNTHIA GORDY, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "ESSENCE" MAGAZINE: Good to see you. Thanks for having me.

HARRIS: Boy, that's quite an accomplishment because we struggle to try -- how does the president find 16 black women to place in critical positions in this administration? Got to tell you, I have sat through so many diversity discussions where I've listened to executives say they can't find minority candidates for jobs.

GORDY: Right.

HARRIS: And this president finds 16. Were you surprised to find this number of black women in key positions?

GORDY: Well, first I think I should mention that there are more than 16 women that we featured in the photo shoot. Two of them had not been confirmed at the press time and that was . . .

HARRIS: So, how many in all?

GORDY: Well, there's three more that I wanted to mention in these really high positions. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who wasn't confirmed at the time. He's also tapped Dr. Regina Benjamin to be surgeon general.

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

GORDY: And also Dr. Margaret Hamburg is the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. So the list really goes on and on. And I think it just goes to show you that there are qualified, experienced women of color to serve as experts in any field, whether it's science and the environment, or foreign policy and education, they're all there. We've always been here.

HARRIS: Yes.

GORDY: And I think the president recognizes that, you know, black women are out there as experts. He trusts us to be experts. And it also shows that he values a diversity of opinion at the table when people are shaping his policies, he wants it to be reflective.

HARRIS: Got you. Hey, Cynthia, the potential is there for a negative reaction to everything, particularly these days when we seem so polarized. I can imagine a negative reaction to this level of diversity in this administration. Any hesitancy from the White House to cooperating for this piece?

GORDY: No. From the White House, they were on board with it. I think any hesitancy really had more to do with not wanting to spend too much time celebrating the moment, you know, and just really focusing on the work at hand. And I think that was also reflected in my interviews with the women themselves who, on the one hand, they're very well aware of their place in history and, you know, they think that's great. But more than that, they're really focused on getting to the enormous work ahead of them.

HARRIS: All right. What were you struck by as you talked to this group individually and saw them come together in that photo shoot?

GORDY: Well, you know, I've been covering this administration since the beginning, since January. And, of course, I was familiar with them. I'd interviewed several of them individually and met them individually. But to see them all together, in this one group serving at this level of government, was really -- just showed how far we've all come and -- or how far black women have come. And I think talking with them individually, I was struck by their sense of purpose, wanting to use their positioning to really make their -- to really serve the American people. They want to make their positions relate to the everyday lives of the American people.

HARRIS: I love that quote from Valerie Jarrett. I wish I had it here. It was terrific, to that very point. OK. "Each and every one of us keeps in mind that we have to put the American people first. That's so important to the president. All these women embody that spirit." And Valerie Jarrett is a senior adviser to the president.

One more quick one here, and you touched on it just a moment ago. History tells us that these women will move on to be leaders in corporate boardrooms, right? Leaders of think tanks. Creators of businesses. Are they aware of their position, their power today, and in the future?

GORDY: Absolutely. I think -- I think the woman who touched on that most directly was United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, who said that, of course, you know, in their current capacities, they have a huge influence over policy and the future direction of this country. But, you know, beyond that, they're going to have an impact on all other areas of their professional life. And, you know, history has shown us, as you said, that when you leave the White House, you take that power and that influence with you to other areas of your professional life. So, you know, this is only the beginning. And this is the first time that we've seen so many African-American women serving at this level, having this access.

HARRIS: And how about that, Cynthia, on cue. Cynthia Rice -- Susan Rice, I'm sorry, Susan Rice speaking right now at the White House briefing. Perfect, couldn't have been better.

Cynthia Gordy, we appreciate your time. Great piece in the magazine.

GORDY: Thank you.

HARRIS: And you're doing some terrific work, by the way. Thank you. Thanks for your time.

And for more on President Obama's dream team, pick up the October issue of "Essence" magazine on newsstands now or go online to cnn.com/whatmatters.

We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: All right. Let's get you caught up on our top stories right now.

First Lady Michelle Obama adding a personal touch and softer tone, decidedly, to the battle for health care reform, speaking to a room full of women just last hour. The first lady said the current state of this nation's health care is unacceptable and women have an important role to play in changing that.

Cadaver dogs helping search the property of accused kidnappers Phillip and Nancy Garrido. Police are looking for evidence that might link the couple to two other abductions 20 years ago. A nine-year-old and a 13- year-old, both disappeared then.

A manhunt in Dallas happening right now for a gunman who shot and killed a security guard outside a bank. Police say the guard was servicing an ATM when he was gunned down.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updating the H1N1 flu virus just this hour. Some comments from a short time ago from Dr. Daniel Jernigan from the CDC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DANIEL JERNIGAN, CDC DEPUTY DIRECTOR, INFLUENZA DIVISION: There is an increased amount of folks that are coming into the clinics with influenza. It's about twice at least what we would expect for this time of year. If you talk to doctors, they'll tell you, boy, I'm seeing lots of flu at this time of the year. That's something that we do not see normally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, our senior medical correspondent, is here.

And, Elizabeth, what is the latest in terms of how this is spreading?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, here's a statistic to go with what Dr. Jernigan was just saying.

HARRIS: Yes.

COHEN: Twenty-one states in this country are seeing widespread flu activity. And I got to tell you, that's crazy. That's wacky. That has never happened. This is the middle of September. Flu season is usually December, January, February. So to see almost half the country in widespread flu activity is really odd.

HARRIS: Usually when we're talking about the flu, we're talking about older people. And we're talking about young people this time around, aren't we?

COHEN: Right. We are talking about young people. Let me go through a little bit about what they said at this press conference. There were a couple of highlights. First of all, they mentioned that 21 states have widespread flu activity.

HARRIS: Right.

COHEN: And also they said that younger people, children and young adults, are being hardest hit and are more likely to end up in the hospital. Again, this is another wacky thing with the H1N1 vaccine, as Tony said -- with the H1N1 virus, rather, as Tony said, usually we think of the elderly as being hardest hit by flu. But, you know what, this is a good time to be an old person. And the reason is, I that if you were alive in the '40s or '50s, your body may have seen a virus that was out at that time that's very similar to the H1N1 we have right now.

HARRIS: OK.

COHEN: And so you've got some resistance to it. Whereas if, you know, a younger whippersnapper like you or me, we've never -- because you're well under 60.

HARRIS: I remember those days!

COHEN: Our body has never seen it before and so we're going to have a much more adverse reaction to it. We're going to get hit harder by it. So a good time to have been around. Experience pays off in this situation.

HARRIS: Whoo! A vaccine, what's the latest? When are we going to see this vaccine that we're talked so much about?

COHEN: We were told in the CDC press conference that there should be a vaccine against swine flu in the hands of doctors the first week of October. And among the first to get it are pregnant women. And so obstetricians are being given this flu vaccine, which is, again, quite unusual because usually obstetricians don't give flu vaccines. So first week of October, it's a little bit earlier than what they had originally thought.

HARRIS: Are you ready for this moment?

COHEN: Yes.

HARRIS: OK. A light moment we want to share with you. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admonishing -- and let's call him out, too, NBC Correspondent Chuck Todd -- Chuck, you know better -- at this briefing this week. Come on, Chuck!

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I think that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bless you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A senior administration official described it as an impossible impediment . . .

SEBELIUS: I mean, what is that about? Geez! Who's got some Purell? Give that to Mr. Todd right away. A little -- a little hand sanitizer. Good. Good. We'll have Elmo give Chuck a special briefing. We'll get Elmo over. Elmo knows how to sneeze.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: So this administration wants to call you out! OK.

COHEN: I guess what Mr. Todd did is he sneezed into his hand.

HARRIS: Yes!

COHEN: Which is a no-no. And at a White House briefing I was at a month or so ago, Mrs. Sebelius talked about how that's what she taught her sons to do, sneeze in their hand, many, many years ago. And now she's like, what were we doing? You don't sneeze into a hand. You sneeze into your sleeve.

HARRIS: All right, look, look, give us the guidance here. The idea is to sneeze right in here.

COHEN: Right. Exactly. Because that's how flu is spread. If you sneezed right now and you had swine flu, I'd probably get swine flu. But if you sneezed into your sleeve -- and the hands are bad. We shake hands with people. That's bad.

HARRIS: I'll have you know, I am the picture of health.

COHEN: You look like it.

HARRIS: That's what I'm talking about.

Have a good weekend.

COHEN: You, too.

HARRIS: A question for you, are big bonuses back on Wall Street? Poppy Harlow has "The Breakdown." That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: A year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, are big bonuses and golden parachutes coming back to Wall Street? Cnnmoney.com's Poppy Harlow has our "Breakdown" from New York.

And, Poppy, you know, there's been a lot of talk about this and there will be more talk next week in Pittsburgh at the G-20, but what has actually been done so far to curb excessive pay?

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Great question, Tony. Not much. A lot of talk, as you said. Not much action. What has happened is President Obama has appointed a pay czar, that is Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, but he can only review compensation at banks that got bailout money. But there's some news today, some front-page news in "The Wall Street Journal" that the Fed may be trying to enact its power to limit pay for all bankers. "Wall Street Journal" reporting 5,000 banks could be affected by this, 25 of the largest banks in this company, you can probably name them, would be under the most scrutiny.

Now the plan would affect all banks regardless whether or not they received bailout money. And this could apply to high-paid traders, loan officers and also, of course, top execs at those banks. This would likely include, Tony, what you've heard so much about, clawbacks, for bankers that took big risks that ultimately resulted in big losses at their banks. Take a listen to what the head of the FDIC, Sheila Bair, told me on this in our interview this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHEILA BAIR, FDIC CHAIRMAN: There's a difference between capitalism and unbridled greed. There are tools that regulators need and legislation. But there are also, you know, financial institutions themselves should take some leadership here, too. And they should recognize that there was a lot of excessive risk-taking and the government did have to step in. You know, regular working Americans and their taxpayer dollars had to come in and support them. And it's absolutely unseemly to have these eye-popping bonuses and, you know, this "business as usual" type of culture. It's just -- you think they would -- they would exercise more self-restraint.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Exercise more self-restraint. Strong words, Tony, there from the head of the FDIC.

Tony.

HARRIS: Has any legislation been passed to curb this excessive pay issue?

HARLOW: Nothing has been passed in full. The House did pass a bill in July, Tony. What that did is that gave shareholders more say on pay for executives who would also limit bank bonuses at places where there is the, "excessive risk taking." But again, the Senate hasn't even looked at it. It is not law yet.

The Fed's plan, though, that is just a few weeks away from a final vote there by their board. We'll see what would happen. And the interesting thing, Tony, to note here, if the Fed passes this, Congress doesn't have to weigh in. So people are watching this one very closely.

HARRIS: Yes, yes. All right, Poppy, good to see you. Have a great weekend. Thanks.

HARLOW: You, too.

HARRIS: Who's really to blame for soaring medical care costs? One doctor says he knows. And his answer might surprise you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Malpractice lawyer and insurance companies are often blamed for the high cost of health care in this country. CNN's Gary Tuchman found a small town Texas doctor who places the blame somewhere else.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. LESTER DYKE, HEART SURGEON: How you feeling?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This heart surgeon says the price of medical care in McAllen, Texas, is just way too high. And he's paying the price for speaking out.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Do you think you're committing professional suicide?

DYKE: I do. I have. I mean, the results are plain.

All right. Deep breath in and out.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Dr. Lester Dyke doesn't put most of the blame on malpractice lawyers or insurance companies for the rise in medical costs here. He blames his colleagues.

DYKE: A lot of doctors here are practicing in a way that treats the patients like ATM machines and essentially extracts the maximum amount of profit from the patient.

TUCHMAN: Dr. Dyke now spends much more time relaxing on his ranch because he says other doctors are angry at him and have stopped referring him patients. His practice, he says, is down 70 percent since he started speaking out a few months ago.

DYKE: I am being blackballed. The only way they can pressure me to stop doing what I'm doing is to essentially cut off my referrals and try to make me quit practicing. And it may succeed.

Hello.

TUCHMAN: Other doctors in McAllen acknowledge they are not happy with Dr. Dyke's charge that physicians here are excessively concerned about profits. Gastroenterologist Carlos Cardenas.

DR. CARLOS CARDENAS, GASTROENTEROLOGIST: I think he's a great doctor. He's an excellent physician.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Do you feel in any way, shape or form he's right about this?

CARDENAS: I don't think -- I think that, you know, I think he's wrong because I think the majority of -- the overwhelming majority of physicians in this community practice good medicine.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Dr. Cardenas says there is no organized effort to stop referrals to Dr. Dyke, but there is no doubt about this fact, per-patient costs in McAllen are astounding. According to a Dartmouth study, McAllen has the second highest health care costs in the nation. Only Miami costs more.

TUCHMAN (on camera): But McAllen is in one of the poorest counties in the U.S. The average worker here makes about $12,000 a year, yet incredibly the average health care cost for a patient in this county is almost $15,000.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): What Medicare spends for the typical patient in McAllen is almost double what it spends on the average patient nationwide. So what's going on in McAllen?

DYKE: The doctors are able to profit, not just from being physicians, like we have traditionally, but by ordering tests on equipment that they own or x-rays on equipment that they own or sending patients to facilities that they own or have a financial interest in.

TUCHMAN: Extra tests and services to patients are often referred to as utilization.

CARDENAS: I think that we may have high utilization because we care for a lot of very sick people later in their disease that require more care. And if you require more care, you're going to have more utilization.

TUCHMAN: Dr. Cardenas works in an ultramodern hospital in town called Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. He's one of the doctor owners of the hospital. And that is also criticized by Dr. Dyke, who offers this characterization.

DYKE: A lot of these doctors value money more than their patient's well-being.

CARDENAS: It hits me viscerally, because I know it's not true.

DYKE: There's enough, I think, ethical doctors in town that have still continued to send me patients. Not many. But I think enough to make a living if -- not by much. And if there isn't, then I'll retire. I've been here a long time. I've done well. And, you know, I can just quit.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, McAllen, Texas. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: And it is go time. We are pushing forward with the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM with Betty Nguyen.