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CNN NEWSROOM

New Federal Drug Policy; Afghan Runoff Election Set; Presidential Poll Numbers

Aired October 20, 2009 - 11:59   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Time now for your top-of-the-hour reset. I'm Tony Harris in the CNN NEWSROOM.

It's 12:00 noon in Washington where the future of the U.S. in Iraq is on the agenda at the White House. The latest on a meeting between the president and the prime minister.

It is 8:30 p.m. in Afghanistan. The president of that country agrees to a runoff because of election fraud.

And it is 12:00 noon at Georgia State University. Class is in session, and the subject is the war in Afghanistan.

Let's get started. The Iraq war focused -- forced from the forefront in many respects, but today it is front and center. President Obama meeting right now with Iraqi prime minister Nouri al- Maliki at the White House. We hope to hear from the president shortly.

The stories we're following. Topping the wire now, the Iraqi government is talking business in Washington, hosting a conference designed to get American companies to invest in Iraq's reconstruction. Here is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pumping up potential investors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are excited in the Obama administration to be part of this transition that is occurring in Iraq. The plans for withdrawing troops is well under way. Our combat troops have left Iraq's major cities. Iraqi security forces have replaced them, and what we see is a new sense of commitment to the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Another U.S. military death in Iraq. The military says a soldier died in a roadside bombing yesterday in the northern province of Nineveh. Two other soldiers wounded in that blast. The Defense Department says 4,353 U.S. military personnel have died in the Iraq War since it began in March, 2003.

A political face-off set in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai announced just hours ago he will face his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, in a November 7th runoff election. Karzai bowing to western pressure after a U.N.-backed panel found evidence of fraud in the original election.

President Obama issued a statement calling this "... an important step forward in ensuring a credible process for the Afghan people which results in a government that reflects their will."

We will bring you a live report from Afghanistan in just a few minutes.

The American Medical Association is concerned about cuts in Medicare payments to doctors scheduled to take effect next year. The AMA joined with the AARP today to support a Senate bill that would wipe out the rate cut.

Some people will see their basic Medicare premiums rise by 15 percent next year. That's the word from federal officials. The increase would raise the premiums to $110.50 a month. That will be the first time it has topped $100 a month. About 20 percent of Medicare recipients will be affected by the increase.

You probably know someone who has or had H1N1, commonly called swine flu. To limit exposure to people who are already sick, hospitals are taking all sorts of precautions. Some are discouraging children from visiting hospitals. Others are turning kids away and putting more restrictions on how many adults can visit any one patient at any one time.

Weeding out the bad seeds. The federal government is taking a hands-off approach with companies distributing medical marijuana, but that doesn't mean they're turning a blind eye on all of them.

CNN homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At North Hollywood Compassionate Caregivers, a marijuana dispensary, relief that the federal government will no longer target legitimate users of medical marijuana.

RIGO MARTINEZ, MEDICAL MARIJUANA USER: It puts less stress on us and we don't have to worry about dealing with all of that. I've gotten pulled over before for it.

MESERVE: Attorney General Eric Holder says it will no longer be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their care-givers who are complying with state laws.

AARON HOUSTON, MARIJUANA POLICY PROJECT: This is a watershed moment and a major step forward in terms of federal medical marijuana policy.

MESERVE: But opponents of medical marijuana found something to cheer, too, a memo to federal prosecutors outlining the new guidelines says, "Prosecution of commercial enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit continues to be an enforcement priority." CALVINA FAY, DRUG FREE AMERICA FOUNDATION: We see these guidelines as giving clarity, allowing law enforcement to move forward and enforce our federal laws and shut down these storefront operations that are nothing more than a free ticket for drug trafficking.

MESERVE: The Bush administration prosecuted marijuana dispensaries and their customers when a federal drug law was violated. The new memo leaves open that possibility, but suggests prosecutors defer to state laws in the 14 states which permit medical marijuana.

TOM RILEY, BUSH ADMIN. DRUG POLICY SPOKESMAN: People are still just as subject to prosecution, and I don't think that part of the message is going to get out. I think it's going to make an already confused situation more chaotic.

MESERVE (on camera): The Justice Department took pains to underline that drug enforcement is still a core priority, noting that marijuana distribution in the United States remains the single largest source of revenue for the Mexican drug cartels.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Well, we've heard the pundits weigh in on the war against terrorism in Afghanistan, but check out what concerned college students have to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As long as al Qaeda and terrorists have the intention of attacking United States people on our soil, then you have to be able to leave the fight over there and to limit their ability to plan and train.

HARRIS: You're advocating however long it takes, whatever it takes, essentially?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Within reason. With a good plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: You've just heard from Lacy (ph). She got a Bronze Star from her tour in Afghanistan.

Coming up, class is back in session. I head to Georgia State.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Police have issued an Amber Alert for a young Florida girl who didn't come home from school yesterday. Take a good look at this picture.

Her name is Somer Thompson. She's a second-grader. The sheriff in Orange Park says this is the longest a child has been missing in Clay County for 22 years. Police are searching the homes of sexual offenders in the area.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF RICK BESELER, CLAY COUNTY, FLORIDA: ... a lost child. We don't know what happened. We don't know that this is a crime. We are assuming that it possibly could be, because a 7-year-old -- you know, it's almost been 24 hours -- is not going to wander off, but she could have gotten locked in a car, in a trunk. She could be -- there's any number of things that could have happened.

So, we're hoping for the best, but we're working it as if it were a crime scene at this point right now. But we don't have anything to indicate that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: OK. And more now on one of the day's top stories, the runoff election agreed to by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Fraud allegations and international pressure making it impossible for Mr. Karzai to claim a majority in the August vote.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence is in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

And Chris, just curious, are both candidates on board with this runoff election?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: At this point, yes. We expect to hear from the challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, tomorrow, making his official response to what President Karzai said today.

President Karzai, we've really got some mixed messages here, Tony. On one hand, he stood next to western leaders but spoke in his native Pashtun. He also criticized investigators for throwing out those more than a million fraudulent ballots, saying there needs to be perhaps an investigation in to why he felt voters' will was "disrespected." But at the end of the day, he did accept the fact that he will go into a runoff with his challenger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAMID KARZAI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT (through translator): So, I call upon our nation to change this into an opportunity to strengthen our resolve and determination to move this country forward and participate in the new round of elections.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE: Senator John Kerry standing there with him. President Barack Obama, the secretary-general of the U.N., they all praised President Karzai's decision. Yet, at the same time, these were many of the same leaders who had been pressuring him for days, to no avail, to try to get him to say that he would accept the runoff. He only did so finally today -- Tony. HARRIS: And Chris, boy, this is going to be difficult to pull off, a runoff election in a couple of weeks. We're thinking about all that went into the run-up to the first presidential election in August. And I'm particularly curious about what this means for U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

LAWRENCE: Yes. It's definitely going to be tough, Tony, especially when you consider they had a hard time finding poll workers the first time in a lot of these areas. Now you've got to find them again on very short notice, and they've got to be reliable.

They have to make sure that you're not rehiring some of the same people who were involved with fraud the first time around, which would seem to cut the available pool of recruits of the people you want running those polls. You're also talking about something that they took hundreds of millions of dollars and months to plan now being squeezed into a matter of weeks.

The U.S. commander here on the ground, General Stanley McChrystal, says the U.S. can secure this election, NATO forces can. They don't need extra support. But it will do is it will pull troops off of the missions they may be conducting now to now provide security all over again for a second election -- Tony.

HARRIS: CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, in Kabul, Afghanistan, for us.

Chris, thank you.

Is "Garcia" becoming the new "Smith" or "Jones" in the United States? An actress who grew up "Garcia" talks to us about the changes she's seen in the past 20 years.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Some new poll numbers out today on President Obama.

National political correspondent Jessica Yellin, live from Washington.

So, just look here. The president has a lot of controversial issues that he needs to deal with in the next few weeks. We're talking about health care, financial regulation, cap and trade, Afghanistan.

So, how's the public reacting to the president on the issues?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right now, Tony, not so hot. For the first time in our polling, we see that a majority of Americans are saying that the president disagrees with them on important issues that matter.

Now, it's a slim margin. Forty-eight percent say they are in agreement with the president, but 51 percent, for the first time, significantly saying they're not in agreement on the issues that matter. Now, as you've just pointed out, the president, he's under the gun on a number of big issues -- Afghanistan, health care, financial reform, and this trend could make his job there a little harder -- Tony.

HARRIS: Wow. All right.

So, where is his approval rating? The last check of it on my end, he was still over 50 percent. Is that holding up?

YELLIN: Well, here's the good news for the president and his team. Americans still respond to the president personally.

Two-thirds say that he has the personal qualities a president should have. Basically, they like the messenger, even though they may not like that message.

You see the numbers there -- 66 percent giving him a thumbs-up. So, this has been the president's ace in the hole for months. It's also worth pointing out that his overall approval rating is still high, 55 percent.

HARRIS: How did the Nobel Peace Prize play into any of our polling?

YELLIN: Ah, not great. Interestingly, most -- now, get this -- most say they disapprove of the Nobel Committee's decision to give it to the president.

HARRIS: Oh my.

YELLIN: And most say the president has not accomplished enough to deserve the award. But here's the split -- six in 10 say that they're proud that a U.S. president was recognized. So, what you've got here is a little bit of conflict. Folks are conflicted about this. They are sort of proud, but they think it maybe wasn't the time -- Tony.

HARRIS: Yes. That seems to be the basic consensus.

All right, Jessica. Appreciate it. Thank you.

She is smart, sexy and Latina. Aimee Garcia helped make the George Lopez show about Latinos a hit, and she continues to break down stereotypes.

Here our Soledad O'Brien.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aimee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aimee.

AIMEE GARCIA, ACTRESS: No one looked like me when I was younger. I mean, Punky Brewster kind of. I related to her because she had freckles.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aimee Garcia is part of a new generation of actors changing the face of television.

GARCIA: Being a Latina is an asset instead of a handicap. I think everybody wants a Latina on their show. And we could play anything. So I think Hollywood is starting to catch up on that.

I can't believe that George wants me to play on his team. I haven't swung a golf club in 60 days.

O'BRIEN: To the Latina actress who's not afraid to break down barriers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We welcome you to the National Kidney Foundation's Celebrity Golf Classic.

O'BRIEN: And take on new challenges like golf.

GARCIA: What you lack in skill you have to make up in style.

O'BRIEN: "Aimee G., spicy, Mexi-rican chick in town. Call if you want to see her." Who did you send that to?

GARCIA: I sent that to every casting director in town the day that I arrived. I guess "go big or go home" was my motto.

O'BRIEN: Aimee's plan paid off. The half-Mexican, half-Puerto Rican actress quickly found work in Hollywood and eventually landed a role on "The George Lopez Show."

Aimee's character, like the show, helped break down negative stereotypes.

GARCIA: I feel very lucky that I can play Veronica Palmera, a millionaire Latina with no accent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is wrong with getting a nice Latina a job? GARCIA: To me "The George Lopez Show" did what "The Cosby Show" did in that it was an all-American family who had the trials and tribulations and the laughs and the tears that every other family had. They just happened to be Hispanic.

GEORGE LOPEZ, ACTOR: Aimee Garcia doesn't quick and that says a lot about a person.

O'BRIEN: What kind of advice do you give her outside of golf, about Hollywood?

LOPEZ: There are a lot of bad parts out there. There will always be bad parts but you don't have to take them.

O'BRIEN: Aimee's proud of her latest part as a helicopter pilot in NBC's new medical series "Trauma." She continues to challenge people's perception and expand the definition of what it means to be Latina.

GARCIA: I feel like I won the lottery. I get to be sarcastic; I get to be funny. I get to be strong and I love it. You rarely find a role for a woman like that much and less a Latina.

And yes, we're sexy. We got the sexy thing going on but we're also smart.

George is like, it's like sweeping.

LOPEZ: You're Latina; I had to make it so you could understand.

GARCIA: Oh!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: President Obama now meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki at the White House.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... make a brief statement about Afghanistan.

I had an opportunity to speak with President Karzai this morning. And I wanted to congratulate him on accepting the certification of the recent election.

As we all know, this has been a very difficult time in Afghanistan to not only carry out an election under difficult circumstances, where there were a whole host of security issues that had to be resolved, but also post-election, a lot of uncertainty. President Karzai, as well as the other candidates, I think, have shown that they have the interests of the Afghan people at heart, that this is a reflection of a commitment to rule of law, and an insistence that the Afghan people's will should be done. And so, I expressed the American people's appreciation for this step.

As I mentioned before, this has been a difficult election. You have violent forces opposed to democracy in Afghanistan. And yet, despite these very difficult conditions, what we've seen is elections take place.

We have now seen the IEC and the ECC in Afghanistan complete their work. We have seen the candidates expressing a willingness to abide by constitutional law. And there is a path forward in order to complete this election process.

I want to give particular thanks to Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and his team, who have been working tirelessly throughout this process. I also want to commend Senator John Kerry, who was in the region traveling and ended up working extensively with Ambassador Eikenberry and was extraordinary constructive and very helpful. So, I think he deserves great congratulations.

Moving forward, we will continue to work with our ISAF partners, as well as the Afghan government, however this election turns out, to ensure that we can move the Afghan -- that we can move Afghanistan towards peace and security and prosperity, and that the will of the Afghan people is ultimately done. So, we are pleased with the steps that have been taken today, and we hope that we can build on this progress.

I finally want to thank the incredible work of our U.S. military and the young men and women who are stationed in Afghanistan, who are doing so much to help bring about a more secure and prosperous and democratic Afghanistan.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to see Prime Minister Maliki once again. We had a wide-ranging discussion about the continuing progress that Iraq is making.

We have seen in the last several months a consolidation of a commitment to democratic politics inside of Iraq. We are very interested, both of us, in making sure that Iraq has an election law that is completed on time so that elections can take place on time in January. That is consistent with the transition that has been taking place.

And I reemphasized my commitment to Prime Minister Maliki that we will have our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of next year, and all of our troops out of Iraq by 2011. But we didn't just talk about military and security issues.

What is wonderful about this trip is that it represents a transition in our bilateral relationship so that we are moving now to issues beyond security, and we are beginning to talk about economy, trade, commerce. The business and investment conference that's taking place is going to be very well attended. It includes not only Prime Minister Maliki, but business leaders from both the United States and Iraq.

We've seen, over the last several months, progress being made on providing clarification about investment laws inside of Iraq. There are obviously enormous opportunities for our countries to do business together.

And so, I just want to congratulate Prime Minister Maliki on what I'm confident will be a successful conference and to reemphasize my administration's full support for all the steps that can be taken so that Iraq cannot only be a secure place and a democratic country, but also a place where people can do business, people can find work, families can make a living, and children are well educated. And that broader sense of a U.S. relationship with a democratic Iraq is one that I think all of us are confident we can now achieve.

So, thank you so much, Mr. Prime Minister, for your presence here today.

And I don't know if you -- maybe we could translate the last part just about Iraq, as opposed to Afghanistan, just in case there's some...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sir.

(SPEAKING ARABIC)

NURI ALL-MALIKI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER: (through translator): Thank you, Mr. President, and this opportunity to hold the business investment conference is a big economic demonstration and manifestation of the importance of this event that brings together more than 1,000 business entrepreneurs and a very distinguished, high- level Iraqi delegation.

I have also discussed with President Obama the various issues and that the fact that our relations today have moved along, and not only confined to the security cooperation, but today have moved to the economic and -- economic development and to providing prosperity for the Iraqi people. We have discussed the issues of common interests to our bilateral relations under the -- that are now today framed under the strategic framework agreement and the various sectors.

And all of this is important for the broader relation of our two nations. We have also discussed the issue of the elections and the importance that this elections be held on time based on the national principles.

We have also commented on the role of the United States that supports Iraq and the importance to end the international sanctions on Iraq and to remove Iraq from under chapter 7 because we don't have weapons of mass destructions anymore. And today that we have put forth a lot of common sacrifices. And today that there is a pluralistic political system in Iraq. This is important to move Iraq forward and to promote investments.

We will follow-up on the outcome of the business investment conference in its various sectors, because today Iraq has moved beyond the dictatorship and beyond the destruction and we are trying to rebuild all our sectors of agriculture, oil sectors, tourism, and so forth. We want to give the U.S. companies an opportunity to be present in investing in Iraq, and all this cooperation on the basis of the strategic framework agreement.

I thank you very much.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.

Al-MALIKI: Thank you very much.

HARRIS: All right, and starting with Iraq, the president and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, talked about the next round of elections in Iraq scheduled for January. But engaged, as you heard there, a broader discussion about the future of Iraq's growth economically.

As you know, the prime minister, along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, spoke about future investment in Iraq at a business conference this morning. The president began his remarks on Afghanistan by expressing his appreciation that the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has agreed to a runoff election after the flawed election in August.

And as our Chris Lawrence has been reporting from the Afghan capital, there is much to do to get the country ready in this tight two-week window for that runoff. As the president and his advisors debate U.S. troop levels for the war in Afghanistan, I headed back to class to hear what some smart college students think we should do. Class is back in session.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Was that your understanding, that we could be there a generation?

ZACHARY MCFALL, FORMER PRES. YOUNG DEMOCRATS OF GEORGIA AT GSU: We're going to be spending either money or our soldiers' blood one way or the other if we don't defeat this enemy.

HARRIS: So, we've got to stay?

MCFALL: We have to. We have to finish what we started.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: I got to tell you, it was a terrific conversation. Students from all political perspectives. One served two tours in Afghanistan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: So, as strategists and politicians debate what to do in Afghanistan, I went back to school to talk to young people about what they think the U.S. should do. Some served time in the Army. Others have studied the issue as political and history majors. I spoke to Democrats, Republicans. It was a great conversation at Georgia State. Check it out, "Class is in Session."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: You're sitting in the room with the president, OK, and you've got to plot the next steps forward for Afghanistan. You've got -- you've got three choices -- counterinsurgency, counterterrorism. You've got a slow, responsible draw down. Where do you stand?

GREG ABT, PRESIDENT, STUDENT GOVT ASSN, GSU: Obviously the key reason for being in Afghanistan in the first place is to combat the terrorists. Terrorists are being harbored by Taliban, local governments.

HARRIS: Why are we still fighting in Afghanistan eight years later? I remember the secretary of state at the time, Condoleezza Rice, saying that the Taliban had been defeated.

LACEY ENYART, FORMER SPECIAL FORCES MEMBER: Well, studies show counterinsurgencies generally take about 30 years. The reason the Mujahidin and the Afghan people have been successful when any dominating power has come in is because they just wanted to wait people out. HARRIS: Are you willing to commit for 30 years in Afghanistan, whatever the force, the troop level is?

ENYART: Yes.

HARRIS: Is that something you're willing to do?

ENYART: As long as al Qaeda and terrorists have the intention of attacking United States people on our soil, then you have to be able to leave the fight over there and to limit their ability to plan and train.

HARRIS: You're advocating however long it takes, whatever it takes, essentially?

ENYART: Within reason. With a good plan. Now, I mean, you can stay over there for 100 years with a bad plan and you're not going to improve anything. But if you -- you need to have a good plan, which is nation building.

HARRIS: Wow!

ENYART: Like . . .

HARRIS: You're signing on to that?

JOSH GOLDBLATT, HOLDS DEGREE IN INTL. RELATIONS: When we decided to take over their government, when we decided to overthrow whoever was there, we claimed that responsibility.

HARRIS: Was that your understanding when we went into Afghanistan after 9/11? Was that your understanding that we could be there a generation?

MCFALL: I didn't understand that we could be there a generation. But I also thought that we went in with coalition forces. And right now we -- it's my understanding that we really don't have any help. So we're going to be spending either money or our soldiers' blood one way or the other if we don't defeat this enemy.

HARRIS: So we've got to stay?

MCFALL: We have to. We have to finish what we started.

HARRIS: Anyone advocating a withdrawal at all?

JOHN MURRAY, CHAIR, COLLEGE REPUBLICANS AT GSU: If we immediately pull out or remove our influence, it just turns into a bad situation where tyranny takes place.

STEVEN FIELDS, PRES., CRIMINAL JUSTICE STUDENT ASSN., GSU: I think we're almost morally obligated now to rebuild the country. But, at the same time, we should be moving out of the country. We really have to refocus our mission over there.

CLAUDIA RIVERA, SERVES ON LATINO STUDENT COUNCIL, GSU: To build a nation, you have to get the people involved. Like, avoid the corruption and actually go to the people, provide aid to them, because that's how you're going to get their allegiance. If you provide education, if you provide clean water, if you provide the basic principles for them to live, a crop that is other than opium that they can get money and feed their families, then they'll be happy and they will help you any way they can.

ENYART: Well, that doesn't really work because you provide them aid and the Taliban either do retribution towards them for accepting the aid, they steal the aid, they attack the people while they're getting aid. And that causes a lot of, like, public outcry. I mean, the problem with the counterinsurgency is that it takes time and it's hard. And at the end of the day, it's just hard. And so in order to protect our country, it's something we have to do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Boy, and thanks again to Georgia State University. The students have much more to share. Wait until you hear our debate on health care reform and race in America. Check out "Class in Session" next week, noon Eastern. And we will put today's segment on our blog page, cnn.com/tony.

Now, many of you have also weighed in big time on what the U.S. should do in Afghanistan. So let's listen to some of what you're telling us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My situation on Iraq and Afghanistan, currently, I am in the military and I've been in the service for almost two years. And I feel that the president should take his time, think about the situation wisely and how it is going to affect not only the soldiers, but also the family members.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel that we should not hesitate in taking the boys out and not to have meetings to long, because while you're having these meetings, there's somebody that lost their leg, somebody that was blown up and killed. And I don't feel that we should be there. That's why every other country is leaving there and they only have a very small amount of boys in it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Bob from Ohio. I'm a retired Navy Vietnam vet. I say leave Afghanistan and Iraq so full of troops they don't have no place to hide and bring back the draft.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: OK. We want you to keep talking to us. Call me at 877-742- 5760 and we will continue to air your comments right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Let's get you caught up on our top stories now.

Afghanistan making plans for a runoff presidential election. Incumbent Hamid Karzai announced he will face rival Abdullah Abdullah on November 7th. This comes after a U.N.-backed panel found evidence of fraud in the original election.

A day of silence and a vigil at the University of Connecticut. Students remembering their star football player who was stabbed to death after Saturday night's homecoming win. Police are still looking for Jasper Howard's killer, but they have made an arrest related to the fight right before the stabbing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: President Obama recognizing an Army regiment from the Vietnam War for heroic actions. He awarded the presidential unit citation in a Rose Garden ceremony just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Now, these men might be a little bit older, a little bit grayer, but make no mistake, these soldiers defined the meaning of bravery and heroism.

It was March 1970, deep in the jungles of Vietnam. And through the static and crackle of their radios, Alpha Troop heard that another unit was in trouble. Charlie Company from the First Cavalry Division had stumbled upon a massive, underground bunker of north Vietnamese troops. One hundred Americans were facing some 400 enemy fighters. Outnumbered and outgunned, Charlie Company was at risk of being overrun. And that's when Alpha Troop's captain give the order, saddled up and move out.

As these men will tell you themselves, this isn't the story of a battle that changed the course of a war. It never had a name like Tet or Wei or Kaeson. It never made the papers back home. But like countless battles, known and unknown, it was a proud chapter in the story of the American soldier.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: All right. When we come back, we will get a check of weather with our Chad Myers in our severe weather center. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: All right. Let's get you to Chad Myers in the Severe Weather Center.

And, Chad, what's the path on Rick here? Is it -- what are we calling it? Is it still a hurricane, tropical storm?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's a tropical storm. It's just down to a TS. It's below that level where it has to be to be a hurricane. But I'll tell you what, it has grown in size a little bit today. That doesn't mean it's grown in wind speed. That just means that there will be larger wind speeds farther away from the center that may go to 35 to 40 miles per hour.

The good news is, I believe that this thing probably -- the eye, if there does begin to grow one again, will miss Cabo San Lucas just to the south and eventually just hit into mainland Mexico over here.

Now, there's still going to be enough splash coming up here along the Cabo San Lucas area that I think will probably get some large waves, maybe some dangerous riptides and seas. We'll have to see that kind of stuff.

I mean, and right now, as long as you're not in the water at this point in time, there's not going to be a whole lot of problem for you if you are in Cabo. So just stay inside. And if it's all inclusive, hey, you know what, that's what all-inclusive stands for, right?

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

MYERS: Everything's included.

Here's the storm right now, 65 miles per hour, coming on shore. And it may even spread some moisture into Texas over about the next four days. That looks like that's the case. And usually it rips out the moisture through here, through the Sierra Madre, but we still could get a little bit of something as it comes over the top because there's another system, too, that is going to be coming through. This cold front. You mix some of this moisture with another cold front coming through and we could get five and six inch rainfall totals in places, Tony, that have already seen a lot of rainfall in the past couple of weeks.

And then you push it farther up to the north and you can get some snow way up there. But I'm not seeing any snowfall really for the football games or the baseball games coming over. Because I love to watch a good snow bowl, you know.

Typhoon Lupit. Lupit. This thing is still going to make a run at the northern sections of Luzan (ph), there's Manila. This as dead as our hurricane season has been in the Atlantic, that's how busy it's been out here in the Pacific.

HARRIS: No, you were absolutely right about that.

Chad, thank you, sir.

MYERS: You got it, Tony.

HARRIS: When President Obama decides what course to take in Afghanistan, he is going to have to sell that strategy to the American people. What you're saying about the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan right now.

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HARRIS: What do Americans think about sending more U.S. troops to fight the war against terrorists in Afghanistan? CNN's senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, takes a look.

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CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president may be undecided on Afghanistan, and his advisors seem divided, but Americans are decidedly not. With the latest polls showing just 39 percent of Americans favor sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, 59 percent are opposed.

In general, the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows an America broadly skeptical that Afghanistan can pull itself together under a stable government and fearful of Vietnam syndrome, vaguely defined as fear of an unending, winnable war. Fifty-two percent think Afghanistan has turned into another Vietnam, 46 percent disagree with that.

In the latter category, Senator John Kerry, a decorated war veteran who became known for his opposition to the Vietnam War upon his return home. Afghanistan, Kerry says emphatically, is not Vietnam.

SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: We're here in Afghanistan because people attacked us here in this most significant attack against the United States since Pearl Harbor. We are here because there are still people at large who are plotting against the United States of America. And we are here because the stability of this region is a critical, strategic interest to the United States.

CROWLEY: And that's one of the curious twists of the poll, because most Americans agree with the senator. Sixty percent say it's necessary to keep troops in Afghanistan to prevent terrorism in the U.S. But at the same time, 57 percent of Americans say they oppose the war. CNN pollster Keating Holland thinks in part some Americans no longer believe terrorism should be fought at any cost.

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: Americans don't feel the same personal jeopardy when it comes to terrorism that they felt in 2001 and 2002. Others may simply see the benefit of preventing a terrorist attack somewhere in the United States being outweighed by the costs associated with a long, ongoing war that involves a lot of troops and a lot of money.

CROWLEY: It's not known when and what the president will decide about Afghanistan, but it's pretty clear that should he send more troops, he'll have a big sales job ahead of him with the American people.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: And you've also been weighing in on what the U.S. should do in Afghanistan. Here's a sampling of some of your phone calls.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send more troops. Don't give up on the fight. Get the war won. Keep fighting terrorism and never quit. And we need more support from other NATO countries and other countries that are supposed to be our friends. Otherwise, we're never going to win if we don't get more help from our friends, supposed friends. But don't quit. Remember 9/11. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't believe that we can police an entire nation. I think we need to concentrate on our own security, our own homeland security. Because if these people do not rise up and fight for their own freedom, their own liberty, then we are wasting our time. We are funneling money and lives unnecessary. We need to protect America from the inside out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that the troops -- they should not send any more troops over to Afghanistan. I think that the country should get involved and the United Nations should make them -- other countries send their soldiers to assist the USA, because it's too much on our people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: And we are pushing forward now with the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM with Kyra Phillips from New York City.