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Flap Over Contractors in Iraq, Afghan Wars; Election Day 2009

Aired November 3, 2009 - 14:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well, we've got a lot to cover this hour. And we're going to start with three of the top stories.

Three races in three states headlining Election Day 2009. New Jersey and Virginia voters choosing governors, and folks in upstate New York deciding a heated House race.

We'll tell you why those states' votes matter even in the other 47 states.

Also health care, it matters to everybody out there. And Democrats have put their own 1,990-page bill online. The GOP got a bit of page envy today, maybe. They have a version of their own. It's only 230 pages, however.

Also, new numbers for President Obama on Iraq, health care, Afghanistan, the deficit, immigration. The president's approval ratings are all under 50 percent. On the deficit and immigration, they are well under.

First to our top story, though, a classic case of government bureaucracy and waste gone wild. We're talking about tens of thousands of private contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq doing countless jobs the military can't do and doesn't have the time to do. But guess what? A new report says the government has no idea how many contractors are actually out there on the job and on the government dime. We don't know how much this is costing us.

Here's what our Elaine Quijano has learned.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They provide critical support for American troops and diplomats in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the U.S. simply isn't keeping track of tens of thousands of contractors there, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

MICHAEL THIBAULT, COMMISSION ON WARTIME CONTRACTING: That is amazing. How can contractors be properly managed if we aren't sure how many there are, where they are, and what are they doing?

QUIJANO: Those questions were put directly to Defense Department officials and others by a bipartisan panel looking at wartime contracting.

CHRIS SHAYS, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I kind of like want to scream and I - and I'm not sure why.

QUIJANO: Former Republican Congressman Chris Shays grilled defense officials on why some contractors don't comply with requirements to report on the number of workers they employ.

SHAYS: Who specifically has the authority to direct cooperation?


SHAYS: No one?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we're operating under a memorandum of understanding that was directed by Congress, and it's a good faith effort. You're asking me, who is the single belly button to push to force compliance and as I've...

SHAYS: Well, let me ask you this...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... testified before, there isn't one.

SHAYS: ... if a contractor doesn't provide this information, why the hell should they get paid?

QUIJANO: The GAO report also cited glaring examples of waste, including an estimated $43 million each year in free meals for contractors who also receive a per diem, and problems keeping tabs on contractors, like a 2008 tally by the army that found 26,000 contractors had never been accounted for.

Panelists warn the inaccurate counts could put U.S. personnel at greater risk from foreign nationals working with members of provincial reconstruction teams, or PRTs, in Afghanistan.

DOV ZAKHEIM, COMMISSION ON WARTIME CONTRACTORS: If we don't know who these guys are, and they're a bunch of day laborers, and they go into the PRTs, how do we know they're not going to blow up a PRT?

QUIJANO (on camera): To help you understand how complex this is, when the GAO was trying to crunch the numbers it was given 48 separate databases which it analyzed to identify 85,000 contracts worth $39 billion.

Elaine Quijano, CNN, the Pentagon.


HOLMES: All right. It is quite a mess, and we need some help sorting this thing out here, Laura Dickinson.

And she's a professor of law at Arizona State University, an expert in national security and foreign affairs.

Ma'am, thank you for being here with us and helping us with this.

And explain to our viewers, first of all, why this has become such big business and why the government, in the first place, depends so heavily on contractors in a war zone.

PROF. LAURA DICKINSON, ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY: Well, look, I think the first point is that we have so many contractors out there, we don't know exactly how many there are, which shows that we need to dramatically increase our oversight and accountability of those contractors. But there are more contractors than troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, which raises serious, serious concerns.

HOLMES: So why do we -- again, why does the government -- why do we have to depend so heavily on them? Is it really a matter of money?

DICKINSON: Well, you know, it's a good question. We dramatically increased the number of contractors during the conflict in the Balkans under President Clinton. And then Bush dramatically accelerated the use of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It reduces the political costs of war, and there's also an assumption that the private sector can do everything better. That may be true in some cases, but we don't actually know here because we don't have the data.

HOLMES: Whose responsibility is this? Has this been a thing that's just been allowed to get out of hand and out of control over the years? It's gotten us to this mess, as we just saw in Elaine Quijano's piece now?

DICKINSON: Well, it certainly has gotten out of control, and I think this recent report shows that. And we need to dramatically increase the legal regime that allows us to hold contractors responsible when they commit abuses. And we also need to have much better supervision on the ground of these contractors. We need to get contract monitors in there, on the ground, making sure that they're doing their job.

HOLMES: Well, it sounds like another big, complicated overhaul of some kind that needs to happen to this whole contractor situation. But what are the security implications of not even knowing who these people are in some cases and, again, don't even know how many there are? What are the security concerns?

DICKINSON: They're huge. You know, when contractors are acting overseas, they're acting in our name, and that poses very serious risks to public values, values like human rights and even, really, the success of our mission overseas. And so, we need to do a much better job of, first of all, keeping track of them, but then overseeing them.

We have also seen contractors get involved in abuses. At Abu Ghraib, for example, we punished troops who committed abuses, but the contractors who supervised them got off scot-free.

HOLMES: The last thing here, and I'll ask for your opinion and just for you to lean on your expertise and all of your study of these topics. Do you think the benefits of these contractors over the years and over these conflicts has outweighed some of these concerns that we're now laying out? Have the benefits certainly been -- have they been more beneficial, quite frankly, to the U.S. and to the military?

DICKINSON: Well, I think we don't know. I think we need to study that. And I think we rushed into this without studying it. However, we now are using contractors, and so I think we have got to manage and oversee them rather than trying to eliminate them completely, because the reality is, is that they're here to stay.

HOLMES: Well, Laura Dickinson, again, professor of law at Arizona State, who knows these topics well.

Ma'am, we appreciate you giving us some time today, and we certainly appreciate being able to tap into your expertise.

You have a good day.

DICKINSON: Thank you so much.

HOLMES: Well, if you live in Virginia, Jersey or any of the cities or towns or districts holding elections today, don't just listen to me talk about them. Get out there. You need to vote. And rest assured, those votes will be analyzed until next Election Day for what they might say about Democrats, Republicans, and especially about President Obama.

Virginia is electing a governor. And despite a recent surge in Democratic fortunes there, the Democratic candidate's a bit of an underdog there. The Republican, Bob McDonnell, leads by double digits in some of those pre-election polls.

We've got another governor race to tell you about, this one in New Jersey. Pretty much a nail-biter here between the Democratic incumbent, Jon Corzine, and the Republican Chris Christie. Independent Chris Daggett could be a bit of a spoiler, but not clear for whom.

Also, an open congressional seat in New York State that's caused a lot of controversy here. A seat that's been held by Republicans since the 19th century, and a Democrat could win this thing with the backing of the Republican, the lady there in the middle whom conservative abandoned for a more conservative candidate.

Well, CNN's Mary Snow is watching all things up and down the Northeast for us. Jessica Yellin is standing by for us in Virginia.

You keep standing by there, Jessica. I'm going to start with Mary here, who's there in New Jersey.

So, tell us, what is the story there? And also, what have you noticed about turnout so far in New Jersey?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, T.J., what polling officials are telling us is that turnout so far has been light. The weather is beautiful; that's always a good indication for turnout. But so far, light turnout.

And the story here is that the races that you mentioned, this is the race where Democrats stand the best chance of winning. And while they play down the national implications of this gubernatorial race, they certainly don't want to loses this state. It would be an embarrassment.

This is a reliably Democratic state. President Obama won here by a wide margin last year. And the president has spent political capital here in this state, making three trips to help embattled incumbent Democratic Governor Jon Corzine.

In fact, when they campaigned over this past weekend, part of the message was, keep it going. It was a picture of Jon Corzine and President Obama.

The test here is whether President Obama can turn out the voters that helped bring him to office, whether they will turn out for the New Jersey governor, who is in a very tight race with Republican challenger Chris Christie, a former prosecutor. This is really considered a tossup.

One of key things to watch also is the Independent third-party candidate, Chris Daggett, where his supporters will go in this race. Will they back him up or will they cast their votes to either the Democrat or Republican running here?

HOLMES: And Mary, that's, a lot of people would say, a lot on the line for Democrats there in New Jersey. But up in New York, upstate New York, the 23rd congressional district there, a lot of people say a lot on the line for Republicans, and this could really be a bad sign for them, quite frankly, of things to come.

Explain that race.

SNOW: Yes. T.J., this has really pit conservative Republicans against moderate Republicans. And as you mentioned a couple of minutes ago, this is a district that has been solidly Republican since the late 1800s, and there's been so many dramatic turns. What this will say about the Republican Party going forward, one of the questions being asked.

What happened here, break it down really fast, three-way race whittled down to two. And Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has now become the candidate to beat. He was at one time the underdog. But conservatives -- fiscal and social conservatives, that is -- stepped into this race, and they were highly critical of the Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava, who they say was too liberal for them. She withdrew from the race over the weekend, backed the Democrat in this race, Bill Owens.

Now, a lot is being looked at here. I got a chance to talk with Doug Hoffman yesterday. I asked him whether he thought this was a civil war within the Republican Party. He said he wouldn't go that far, but here's what he had to say.


DOUG HOFFMAN (C), NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I think this is a unique situation. I think that what you'll see is average people like me who aren't career politicians and don't have the polish and poise of career politicians standing up and saying we can do it.


SNOW: Now, of course Democrats have seized on this rift within the Republican Party. Yesterday, the Democrat in the race got a boost from Vice President Joe Biden, who went to campaign in upstate New York.

Here's what the Democrat had to say.


BILL OWENS (D), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: The same right-wing ideologues spent over $1 million to drive Assemblywoman Scozzafava out of the campaign, proving that their only commitment is to their partisan agenda, not finding commonsense solutions to address the challenges that we all face.

This is exactly what's wrong with Washington. Partisan ideology has come to dominate all that happens there. Doug Hoffman and his backers want to stand in the way of progress, while the Obama administration wants to press forward and move us in a new direction.


SNOW: That was an excerpt from a campaign rally yesterday.

And T.J., one quick thing before you go. One person who won't be voting for the conservative candidate is the candidate himself, Doug Hoffman. He does not live in the district. He explained to us that he was cut out of the district about seven years ago when lines were redrawn -- T.J.

HOLMES: What? Well, there's an interesting little detail there.

SNOW: Yes.

HOLMES: We appreciate you bringing that to us.

Mary Snow, thank you so much.

Want to head over to Virginia, where a Democratic hot streak may be interrupted.

Jessica, I assume both of the candidates in this governor's race are able to vote for themselves, unlike the story that Mary Snow just told us there.

But I will start with the same question that I asked her. How has turnout been there so far? JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, turnout has been moderate. They didn't expect the kind of turnout they had last year, when there was a line out the door for President Obama, running against John McCain. It's an off-year election, and so that's what you get.

The big question here is, will this keep consistent with the history of Virginia, which is that after a presidential election, the opposite party tends to win the governor's mansion? So, when a Republican was in the White House, a Democrat ran and won for governor.

The big question is, will the same happen now? And already, polls show that the Republican in this state, Bob McDonnell, had a healthy lead going into the election today. Nationally, Republicans have been arguing that a win for the Republican would be, in the words of one e-mail they sent out this morning, devastating for Democrats. They say the pressure is squarely on Democrats.

Republicans pushing this theme hard, T.J., that this is a referendum on Obama and the White House. The jury is still out on that.

HOLMES: And Jessica, even though there's a big lead right now for the Republican in that state, still, are both parties and party leaders throwing as much weight as they can and trying as much as they can, still, to pull this or push this campaign and this turnout and these voters in the direction of their candidates? Both sides still trying to win, essentially?

YELLIN: Absolutely. I mean, the fight is on.

I'm getting e-mails nonstop from the two sides saying that turnout is stronger in the precincts that are best for their candidate. The vaunted "Get Out the Vote" effort that helped President Obama win is in operation here in Virginia today. So, trying to get Democrats to the polls.

We have seen President Obama here in the state twice. Sarah Palin recorded a message to voters to tell them to get out and vote for Republican traditional values. Mitt Romney has been here, Bill Clinton.

You know, it runs the gamut. Both parties are doing what they can with their star power to get their candidate elected here. So, it is a fight.

HOLMES: All right.

Jessica Yellin in the middle of the fight, where she always is on Election Day.

Jessica, thank you so much. We'll see you again soon.

YELLIN: Thanks, T.J. HOLMES: Well, New York, Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Pittsburgh, Detroit and a lot of other cities and towns are choosing mayors today. The races in Houston and right here in Atlanta could be turning points. We'll show you how.

And winning the hearts and minds in Afghanistan. Then you win the war. That's the theory, at least, but how do you do it without getting killed?

We'll go straight to the front lines.


HOLMES: Well, after a stern warning from President Obama to clean up his government, Hamid Karzai appears to be ready to do just that. The Afghan president reached out to his opponents today and vowed to end the corruption that had a chokehold on his administration, but he provided no details at a news conference, his first since being declared the official winner of the August presidential election.

Well, we have heard it a lot lately -- the key to winning the war in Afghanistan is to win the hearts and mintsds of the people there. Of course that was the big refrain back in the Vietnam War as well. It didn't work.

Our Chris Lawrence, embedded with troops in southern Afghanistan, explains why it's so hard to pull this off.




LAWRENCE: Engage civilians.


LAWRENCE: Train the Afghan forces.

That's the mission here. And it's even tougher than it sounds.


LAWRENCE: First, the Taliban don't stand there shooting, so troops are wondering, how do you fight a hidden bomb?

SCHOENBECK: When we got blown up, it's just, like, you're just sitting there thinking how much of a coward the person is to blow you up and hide and run away. And I'd much rather get into a confrontation where we can use -- at least use our tactics on them.

LAWRENCE (on camera): Engaging the population requires troops to get off their bases and out of their armored vehicles. It helps civilians see the soldiers, but also puts them at greater risk.

(voice-over): We watched soldiers walk the remote villages across southern Afghanistan. Some say villagers may know about an upcoming Taliban ambush, but are often scared to speak up.

STAFF SGT. ANDREW JENNINGS, U.S. ARMY: Right now, they're just playing the middle man, because they're afraid that the Taliban's going to kill them.

LAWRENCE: And when it comes to NATO troops training Afghans, the issue of trust goes both ways.

SPC. LOUIS LOFTUS, U.S. ARMY: A lot of these guys, new soldiers that have never been deployed. They're nervous around the local nationals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Want to pull it out...

LAWRENCE: But some say this...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... or send it back in?

LAWRENCE: .... will pay off in time.

ADLER: People in America expect nations to be built like that. You know, instantly. They don't understand our capital was burnt to the ground by the British 50 years after we existed. The Civil War, 100 years after.

LAWRENCE: U.S. Army Specialist Luke Adler grew up in Iowa and Dublin, Ireland. He says strengthening Afghanistan's own security is worth the effort.

ADLER: Whether or not it can work or will (ph) work, that's irrelevant, because it's the only way you have to do it, unless you want to us be over here doing this for decades more.

LAWRENCE (on camera): We've been watching these soldiers assess the risk, talk to Afghan civilians, try to figure out, who is Taliban and who is not? There is a lot of frustration with the counterinsurgency strategy. There's also a lot of faith.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Kandahar.


HOLMES: Some of our top stories now.

Lawyers for D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad fighting today for their client's life. They plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his planned execution next Tuesday. Muhammad's accomplice in the 2002 killing rampage, Lee Boyd Malvo, is serving a life sentence.

To Richmond, California now.

Another arrest in the gang rape of a high school student outside the school's homecoming dance. Six people now charged. More arrests could come.

Just a few hours from now, teachers and students at the school will gather to speak out. That will be followed by a candlelight vigil. Police say as many as 10 people took part in that attack, and another 10, they believe, stood around and watched.

And as we have been saying, it is Election Day in a lot of places across the country. Virginia and New Jersey, in particular, people are keeping an eye on. They're choosing governors in those two places.

In the race in Virginia, the Republican has a double-digit lead in the polls over his Democratic opponent. That race seen as a possible early referendum on President Obama and his policies.

Well, good thing it didn't happen last night. Philly transit workers on strike hours after thousands of fans took to the subways to get home from the World Series.

An update coming up.


HOLMES: Well, for Phillies fans, joy to anger in the space of a few hours.

Last night they had a lot to celebrate -- their team's win over the Yankees in game five of the World Series, keeping the Phillies in it for the time being . But this morning, a lot of those folks couldn't get to work. Not because they were celebrating, partying hard or hung over. The city's transit system's biggest union went on strike hours after that game. The union had actually threatened to walk off the job during the series, but actually held off.


HOLMES: Well, hot off the presses and on to the Web. Next stop, the floor of the House of Representatives. Health care reform heading into a critical week.


HOLMES: Well, she's no stranger to the sound bite, that's a sure thing. You might remember North Carolina Congresswoman Virginia Foxx from back in July when she piped up about Democrats' health care proposals and how they want to put seniors to death. Well, Ms. Foxx back on the House floor with another gem. Take a listen.


REP. VIRGINIA FOXX (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I believe that the greatest fear that we all should have to our freedom comes from this room, this very room, and what may happen later this week in terms of a tax increase bill masquerading as a health care bill. I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Yes, al Qaeda. Don't worry about that. Health care bill, that's your problem.

OK, some more controversy there from the Congresswoman, Congresswoman Foxx, but not enough to stop Democrats in their tracks. Word out of Washington today is the House is likely to take up this health care bill the end of the week.

CNN Radio Lisa Desjardins joins us now from Capitol Hill. What does everybody make -- what are they making up there on Capitol Hill of what she said, essentially saying you know what? Terrorists, you think that's scary? Check out this health care bill.

LISA DESJARDINS, CNN RADIO CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Most folks are waiting to see what the congresswoman herself says about this. I put in calls, other CNN producers have put in calls, and so far no comment from Virginia Foxx on whether she stands by those remarks. I think a lot of folks waiting for that.

But the truth is, T.J. -- maybe you'll like this. Most folks that I talk to here in Congress say, "I'm focused on the health care bill right now, I'm really not going to pay a lot of attention to that."

HOLMES: A lot of people don't want to touch that one, and you can understand why.

So, let's talk about the bill itself then. Let's pull out. A lot of people remember the phrase "death panels." That phrase was used to attack kind of the Democrats' ideas on health care. And that comes from the idea of the government using money, or money in the health care bill, to pay for some of this end-of-life counseling if you will.

So, this stuff has made its way still into the bill. Explain this, put this all together for us.

DESJARDINS: This provision is in the house bill. It was always in the House bill, but because it was so red-hot over this summer, a lot of people thought that Nancy Pelosi andHouse Democrats would drop it to try to help their bill along.

They didn't drop it. So in the House bill that's being debated right now behind closed doors is this provision allowing folks on Medicare to consult someone for end-of-life care. That means things like your living will, perhaps even your actual will once every five years. Democrats say that's helpful, that folks need to be doing that.

But Republicans and others say what that is is the government encouraging seniors to make end-of-life decisions that maybe they're not comfortable with. It's a very hot debate, as you and I and our viewers know. It is in the House bill, it is not in the Senate bill.

HOLMES: All right. So, given that it is there, you can rest assured we're probably going to hear death panels, that phrase come up a little more.

What else might we be hearing about out of this bill? There are several other controversial topics, among them abortion. Some people had concerns for to make sure no government was money was being used to fund abortions. Also, immigration. Want to make sure that illegal immigrants didn't have access to this health care. So, tell us about the language, at least, they're trying to use in this health care legislation.

DESJARDINS: T.J., these are all these tricky issues. And just to go back, I know you know and I know you've said, using the word "death panel" -- really, these aren't death panels, but that is lingo that is being used by some of the right, including Sarah Palin. This really is just the option for people to get end-of-life consultation. Now, what does that mean? That's up to you.

Going to abortion and immigration, very hot issues. In fact, House Democrats behind closed doors right now debating their abortion language. The question is does this House health care bill kind of give subsidies to people that will allow them to get abortions?

The bill, T.J., I'll tell you, very clearly prohibits any federal money directly going to an abortion. But abortion opponents say wait a minute, you're still subsidizing some overall insurance plans that do cover abortions. So, maybe the federal money is not going to it, but you're giving that person some subsidies that allow that option, and we don't like it. Very difficult issue because the two sides, frankly, T.J., are incompatible.

And in immigration, a lot of folks out there know the issue. One of the big ones, enforcement. How do you make sure that no illegal immigrants take advantage of federal subsidies. What do you do there? A lot of back and forth in the House, a massive debate.

Republicans coming up strong, as you heard Virginia Foxx. I think that's just a sign of what we're going to see the next few days. But, T.J., for folks who that have not been paying attention, who are sick to death of paying attention to the health care debate, I feel your pain. Believe me, I do. This is the week to start paying attention.

HOLMES: Well, hopefully, most people are not picking this week to start paying attention. But you make a good point, a lot is going to happen this week. Expecting something by the end of the week. Lisa Desjardins, always a pleasure. Thank you so much, we'll talk to you again soon, I'm sure.

And, of course, as the late Tip O'Neill famously said, all politics are local. Never more true than when it comes to mayoral races.

In Houston, voters there -- it's the nation's fourth-largest city, of course. They're expected to elect either two-term councilman Peter Brown or current city controller, Annise Parker, who if elected will be that city's first openly gay mayor.

None of the four main candidates expected to win outright without a runoff. So, Gene Locke vies to succeed Houston's first black mayor, Bill White. And if Roy Morales won, he would become the first mayor of Hispanic descent.

History also possibly being made in Atlanta. Thirty-six years ago, voters elected the first black mayor of Atlanta. He was the first black mayor of a major Southern city. Maynor Jackson. Now, city councilwoman and perceived frontrunner Mary Norwood could be elected as the first white mayor in more than three decades.

Isn't that something how things turn around? Yesterday, our Don Lemon filed this preview on today's potentially trend setting contest.


DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Shirley Franklin made history in 2001 when she became the first black woman elected mayor of Atlanta. Tuesday she plans to vote against the candidate who if elected would become the first white woman to assume that office.

Have you endorsed anyone? Are you going to?

MAYOR SHIRLEY FRANKLIN (D), ATLANTA: I've not endorsed anyone, but I am going to vote tomorrow, and -- and I'm going to vote for Kasim Reed. LEMON: Reed, the leading African-American candidate, helped Franklin win two terms in office as her campaign manager. The front- runner is city councilwoman Mary Norwood, a fiscal conservative from an affluent neighborhood known for its shopping malls and night life. She could become Atlanta's first white mayor in 35 years.

FRANKLIN: Atlanta is full of firsts, and we may indeed have a white woman mayor. What I'm interested in is who are you? What do you stand for, and do you have the courage of my predecessors? If you have that and you're white and female --

LEMON: Just hours before the election, candidate Norwood tended to her council duties choosing not to speak to the media, but in a campaign ad she fends off accusations that she's a closet Republican.

MARY NORWOOD: I voted for Barack Obama, John Kerry, Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot, the independent.

LEMON: The mayor's race is non-partisan and that ad didn't seem to matter on Sunday at the last debate before the election.

NORWOOD: I'm not a Republican. We know that that is a way to just divide the city and that is very saddening to me.

LEMON: Norwood set herself apart from her opponents by running as a clear alternative to the current mayor Shirley Franklin whose approval ratings have remained strong despite the collapse of the city's real estate market and a rising crime rate. But the strategy might not be as effective if she doesn't win by a majority on Tuesday and faces a runoff against one of her African-American rivals.

Don Lemon, CNN, Atlanta.


HOLMES: And be sure to join us tonight for special primetime coverage with the best political team on television. One year since Barack Obama took to the national stage. What mark has he made on the nation, socially, politically, historically? Primetime election coverage tonight, starting at 8:00, right here on CNN.


HOLMES: Well, some call it the shame of the military. Veterans who have bought bravely for the U.S. living on the streets. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is holding a summit in Washington right now, outlining a five-year plan to put an end to the rampant homelessness among veterans. The VA wants to expand its programs with millions in grant money to aggressively help veterans get into permanent housing. About 131,000 veterans are homeless in the U.S. today.

Sources close to the investigation say at least one more body has been found at the Cleveland home of a convicted rapist. That brings now to seven the number of bodies found at Anthony Sowell's home. We're expecting to hear more from police tonight in a news briefing.

It is, of course, Election Day across the U.S. Many wonder if the results will be a sign of approval or waning support for Democrats. President Obama's influence could be put to the test in New Jersey and Virgina, where Democrats face stiff challenges in the governors' races there.

Also new details about swine flu. One big headache distributing enough of the vaccine. Production right now behind schedule, and the CDC says they still can't predict when the U.S. will have enough doses. One reason: Australia, where one vaccine maker, CSL, is based, demanded their country get enough of those doses first.

Turn to Arizona now, where family and friends of a young Iraqi- born woman are mourning her death today. Police say that lady there, Nour Al-Meleki, and her boyfriend's mother were struck by a car that was driven by her own father. Nour died from her injuries yesterday. She was 20 years old. Her father reportedly was angry at her for becoming too, quote, "Westernized." Police plan to upgrade those aggravated assault charges against him.

Cash for Clunkers may be history, but plenty of folks are still buying cars. Does that mean the worst is over for the auto industry? Stephanie is going to answer all of my questions today. My dear friend, she's at the

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Did you just call me Stephanie like I'm Cher?

HOLMES: Yes, you go by one name now. You have made it. We're starting new things on this show today, Stephanie.

We're talking about the auto industry here, and doing better. We heard Ford was making some money. So, are they going to lead the way as far as the auto industry pulling itself out? ELAM: I know that was a big surprise, those Ford numbers. But, T.J., we're not out of the woods yet. There's still plenty of questions about how quickly and how strongly the auto industry is recovering. But so far, the numbers are positive.

We just got numbers from General Motors as far as their October sales are concerned, and they rose 5 percent. That's the company's first year-over-year sales gain in 21 month months. GM also shared market share for the third month in a row.

And then, you're right. More good news for Ford on the heels of yesterday's surprisingly strong profit report. U.S. sales rose 3 percent in October from a year ago. Analysts were actually looking for a decline on this number. Ford also says its market share rose for the 12th month in 13 months. Overall, analysts predict October sales will top 10 million vehicles on an annualized basis. That would be up from abotu $9 million in September, although still slightly lower than a year ago.

But sales are not up across the board. Chrysler sales fell 30 percent from a year ago, T.J.

HOLMES: All right. We spoke about Ford there for a second. GM and Chrysler, we gave them a lot of money to try and help them out. I'm not sure exactly how they're doing, but if they do in fact turn around and do well, does that mean we're going to get to a return on our investment?

ELAM: Yes. That's the big question. Of course, we do not mention Ford in this because Ford did not take any bailout money. The $62 billion question, since that's how much bailout money they owe at this point.

A new GAO report concludes that the Treasury Department is unlikely to recover its full investment in Chrysler and GM. I don't know if too many people are surprised at that. That's not to say taxpayers won't get anything, especially if GM issues new stock, as is expected sometime next year. In the meantime, the GAO wants the Treasury to make sure it's keeping a close eye on the investment in GM and Chrysler. In fact, it's recommending Treasury hire people for that job and develop a formal plan for divesting the government's ownership stake.

Obviously, we'll be keeping our eyes on it. It does seem like there's a lot of people out there who are trying to buy American-made vehicles and do their part to help out. I know you're one of those fine people.

HOLMES: Yes, I drive a Chevrolet.

ELAM: So are we. We are also American-made car owners.

HOLMES: Just trying to do my part, Stephanie.

ELAM: Wave our American flag.

HOLMES: Yes. Appreciate you as always. Good to see you, Stephanie. We'll be talking to you soon.

Wrong operations, wrong organs, wrong patients. Our story of medical mistakes at Rhode Island hospitals has a lot of folks tweeting out there. We appreciate that. We're going to be reading some of your comments straight ahead.


HOLMES: After some serious screw ups with the scalpel, the state Health Department is going to keep a real close eye on docs in Rhode Island. The facility has been just fined $150,000 for its fifth wrong-site surgery since 2007. In other words, they're cutting folks in the wrong places.

Another part of the punishment, the hospital has been ordered to install video cameras in the O.R. to monitor doctors' performance. That's pretty much an unprecedented step, unlike the actual problem. It's estimated there's 40 wrong-site surgeries every single week. So, today, that's about an average five or six maybe that happened just today.

We asked you guys about this. We asked you all to tweet about this online. We got a few we'll try to share. Yes, our Twitter page is up over there. We hope you can see that all right.

We'll go with Linda there, "Why can't anyone do their job properly anymore? From serving the wrong orders at fast food chains to surgery on the wrong body part?" Not exactly the same thing, but we get the point.

Another one right under says, "Maybe revamp how they confirm the procedures." Says she had an operation in July and they asked her, like, five times on the table what was to be operated on. Well, that works.

Also, another one says, "T.J., the cameras won't tell the doc which leg to cut off. That's up to the O.R. nurse, that's putting the cart before the horse."

And just one more below that. 20PearlsNewJersey, I believe is that name, says, "Just a camera? How about some handcuffs? Behavior like that is just plain, plain reckless."

We do appreciate you sending those in. Again, amazing to some folks that that can even happen.

I see Rick Sanchez back there moving around in the chair. I see my man behind you there, one of our writers, Richard, I see him working with you right over your shoulder.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Richard's styling back there.

HOLMES: Richard is always styling. We're trying to get Richard working, though, is the thing.

(LAUGHTER) HOLMES: We're going to see you in a couple of minutes. What have you got coming up?

SANCHEZ: Hey, you leave my writers alone.


SANCHEZ: He's a good guy, that Richard.

I'll tell you what I think is fascinating. I find fascinating that there's a lot of questions going on around General Stanley McChrystal and they're even talking -- and T.J., they're even talking about the possibility of as many as 40,000 more troops going to Afghanistan. That would make it 100,000. That would make it equivalent to what the Soviets had when they were trying to lose a war with the Afghans.

So, along come Scott Ritter and he tells me McChrystal should be fired.


SANCHEZ: I'm going to pause when I say that one more time. McChrystal should be fired. That's what Scott Ritter says. We have got him saying it and explaining it on the air. I know some people are going to say he's crazy, others are going to say he's brilliant. Whatever. You're going to hear it out. Scott Ritter saying just that on the air, coming up in just about 10 minutes.

HOLMES: Well, Rick, they were saying he was crazy before, and he turned out to be right on. So, we will see this time as well. Rick, we'll see you in just a few minutes. Always look forward to it, buddy. Thanks so much.

It was a moment of history captured on film before anyone knew history was being made.


HOLMES: Well, you can get a personal glimpse of the president tonight in a new HBO documentary. It was done by filmmakers who didn't know they were watching history unfold. They do now. Here now, our Alina Cho.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, T.J. You know, when you talk to Edward Norton and the other filmmakers involved, they all tell you the reason they were able to get so close to Barack Obama is because got in early. They started following him back when they thought they were just doing a little film about a freshman senator from Illinois who had great potential. How much? They had no idea.


CHO (voice-over): In the HBO documentary "By the People: The Election of Barack Obama" this young campaign caller demonstrates a time when few people had heard of the man who now is president. Watch. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) Obama. He's a candidate running for president. Of the United States of America.

CHO: The film follows the first family beginning a full year before then Senator Obama announced his candidacy. When that happened, Senior Campaign Strategist David Axelrod had his doubts about the film. That's when actor Edward Norton, one of the film's producers, pleaded his case. EDWARD NORTON, PRODUCER, "BY THE PEOPLE": The first time we actually interviewed Axelrod, he said, "How did this happen?" He said, "I don't want to be here. I don't think this is a good idea."

CHO (on camera): So what did you say to him?

NORTON: Well, basically, I said to him, listen, you know, we - we will - we will put everything that we're doing here in a box, in a vault, until this election is over. Nothing that we are doing will be exploited, and I think slowly we won him over.

CHO (voice-over): What you see here is extraordinary access. You hear Malia and Sasha's voices, Michelle Obama's struggle with whether her husband should run.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: How is this going to work? What would be the schedule? How often would Barack be on the road?

CHO: And there are moments the filmmakers admit they'd never thought they'd get.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I was practicing the speech for the first time and I came to the end where I talked about King speaking in the Lincoln Memorial and - and I choked up and I had to stop.

CHO: Amy Rice and Alicia Sams directed and filmed much of the documentary on the trail, with the man they called Barack. So when Barack started to succeed...

ALICIA SAMS, CO-DIRECTOR/PRODUCER, "BY THE PEOPLE": Full-time job all of a sudden.

CHO: They started to get nervous.

AMY RICE, CO-DIRECTOR/PRODUCER, "BY THE PEOPLE": I think my stomach immediately started to hurt, because I - I felt like this is a huge opportunity and I - you know, I don't want to mess this up.

CHO: A documentary the filmmakers hope will be part of the historical record.

CHO (on camera): If you knew then what you know now, would you have approached things differently?

NORTON: No. I mean, I think - I think we only succeeded because we didn't know enough to do it wrong, and I think it - it's a real love letter to the democratic process. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: "By the People: The Election of Barack Obama" debuts on HBO tonight at 9:00. When I asked the filmmakers what surprised them about the current president, they told me that he really does live up to the name. "No Drama Obama" They said they would be with him on big primary nights. He'd win by big margins or lose by big margins. And T.J., he would always be the same. Great when you're a politician, they said. A bit of a challenge when you're trying to make a dramatic film. T.J.

HOLMES: All right, thanks to our Alina Cho for that.

I'm T.J. Homes sitting in today for Kyra Phillips. Now it's time to hand things over to 3 p.m. NEWSROOM with Rick Sanchez.