Return to Transcripts main page

AMERICAN MORNING

Some in Congress Suggest Surtax to Pay for Afghanistan War; Obamas Host First State Dinner; What Goes On in a State Dinner; Black Friday Turnout to Jump 16 Percent; Local Chains Taking on Retail Juggernauts; Governor Sanford Faces Ethics Charges; Busiest Travel Time; "Petri Dish in the Sky"; Defective Chinese Drywall

Aired November 24, 2009 - 07:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING on this Tuesday, November 24th. We're coming up on almost 7:00 here in New York. Glad you're with us this morning. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts.

Here are the stories that we'll be telling you about in the next 15 minutes here in the Most News in the Morning. Pushing forward with the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. The White House says President Obama has the information he needs to make his decision, and he'll announce that decision within days, but the big question, how will he pay for it?

CHETRY: Since the biggest crib recall ever, more than 2 million drop-side cribs from store craft being recalled over a safety hazard that could cause babies to suffocate or take a dangerous fall. We have all of the information you need to know.

ROBERTS: Plus, taking on the titans of retail. We're looking at local chain stores working together to take on the big box discount shops like Wal-Mart, Target and Costco. Can they really survive? That's ahead in our a.m. original series "Success in Sour Times."

CHETRY: But first this morning, President Obama face-to-face with what to do next in Afghanistan. Late last night, he held his ninth and final meeting with his National Security Team, and after meeting week after week, the White House says the President finally has the information he needs to make his decision and that he will announce that decision within days.

ROBERTS: But the two big issue this morning, just how many troops will be headed to the war zone and how to pay for it? We're covering the story from all sides this morning. We begin with our White House correspondent Dan Lothian.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president has held meetings with his war council in the secure situation room since September. His top general in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, has recommended 40,000 additional troops. But any substantial increase will cost billions of dollars, and two leading Democrats, Senate armed services chairman Carl Levin and House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, suggested in separate interviews that a war surtax might be necessary.

REP. DAVID OBEY, HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS CHAIRMAN: If we don't pay for it, then the costs of the Afghan war will wipe out every other initiative that we have to try to rebuild our own economy.

LOTHIAN: Since a decision hasn't been made, the White House wouldn't comment on how to pay for it. So I asked spokesman Robert Gibbs if a war surtax had been part of the high-level discussions.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: How to pay for the war, yes.

LOTHIAN: And have taxes come up?

GIBBS: They haven't gotten deeply into the discussions on that.

LOTHIAN: Experts agree the way forward in Afghanistan will require more than just troops. First and foremost, a stable government. Special envoy Richard Holbrooke says the recent elections weren't perfect, but --

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE TO AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN: They produced a winner, a legitimate government with which we intend to work as closely as possible.

LOTHIAN: And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the U.S. is open to discussions on what role rehabilitated members of the Taliban could play in the government.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The issue of how to reintegrate members of the Taliban to renounce violence, renounce ties with Al Qaeda is something that has been discussed at length.

LOTHIAN: Spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked whether the White House was concerned about criticism that this drawn out process makes it appear as if the president is indecisive, but he says this has not been wasted time, that it's a complicated matter, and the president wants to make sure that he gets it right.

Dan Lothian, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Let's continue the discussion. Live now to our Elaine Quijano, who's at the Pentagon this morning. As you heard, Elaine, in Dan's report, the president said he wants to get this right.

But let's take a look at the latest CNN/Opinion Corporation Poll released about an hour ago that asked if Barack Obama decided to send about 34,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, would you favor or oppose that decision?

And take a look at this. It's split right down the middle.

So, is the president really getting it right with the American people?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, John, that's still very much an open question right now, is where exactly that sweet spot, so to speak, is going to be.

As we heard from Dan's report, what the people here in this building want, what the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan wants, is 40,000 additional troops. That's, of course, on top of the 68,000 U.S. troops already committed to Afghanistan. It could be a very different thing, what the general winds up with.

So there is a delicate balance here between providing the troops that the commander believes are absolutely necessary for success in Afghanistan with also maintaining public support for the Afghanistan war effort as it continues -- John.

ROBERTS: So this was a war council meeting last night, of course officials from the Department of Defense, the State Department, National Security Council, but there was someone there that maybe you wouldn't have expected to see. Who was that?

QUIJANO: That's right, Peter Orszag. Take a look at this photo here that the White House released last night, probably not a household name to a lot of people, but certainly a top advisor to President Obama. He's the president's White House budget chief. You'll see him on the right-hand side of the photo seated next to Susan Rice, the ambassador to the U.N.

Interesting John, he was not on the list of attendees that the White House put out yesterday. As you noted, a number of typical usual suspects, if you will, the members of the president's national security team, were on this list.

But clearly Peter Orszag was there to take part in these conversations as the administration weighs all of the costs of war here, and we know as we heard in Dan's piece, that is really going to be a big issue here going forward -- John.

ROBERTS: Regardless of how many troops you send, 10,000, 20,000, 34,000, 40,000, it's going to be a cost associated with that, so I guess you have to have the accountant there as well.

Elaine Quijano with the Pentagon this morning. Eliane, thanks.

CHETRY: It should certainly be an affair to remember tonight -- a lavish official state dinner at the White House. It will be the first one hosted by the president and first lady for Indian Prime Minister Monmohan Singh. He'll be the guest of honor.

Four-hundred people have been invited, the likes of, at least according to sources, Oprah Winfrey, big Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, lot of the big Hollywood types. The dinner will be served on the South Lawn under a magnificent tent, and the entertainment -- Jennifer Hudson.

In just a few minutes, we're going to get a behind the scenes look at what it takes to throw an official state dinner at the White House, why it means so much politically for the president and for those lucky enough to find themselves on the invite list.

We'll be joined by Anita McBride, the former chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush as well as Lisa Caputo, first lady Hillary Clinton's former press secretary.

ROBERTS: You know who else is on the list?

CHETRY: Mr. Sanjay Gupta.

ROBERTS: Yes, he's going tonight, the doc is going.

New this morning, Iran's president says the courts will decide whether three American hikers will be released or punish. He also added that he hopes it will issue a lenient verdict. Iran charged Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal, and Sarah Shourd with spying on November 9th, more than three months after arrested on crossing over an unmarked border from northern Iraq. The U.S. says they are just innocent tourists.

CHETRY: Consumer Products Safety Commission announcing the biggest crib recall in U.S. history and they're telling parents to immediately stop using the Stork Craft Drop-side cribs if they have them at home.

Officials say that the drop sides have defective hardware and can detach unexpectedly creating a space between the crib wall and the mattress, and that's where infants and toddlers can get trapped, in some cases suffocate or fall to the floor.

The agency says four babies have died from being trapped. Another 20 were injured in falls. We're going to have more recall details and you can also check them out on our Web site, CNN.com/amfix.

ROBERTS: An attorney for Ft. Hood shooting suspect Major Nidal Hasan says his client will likely plead not guilty and could pursue an insanity defense when the case goes to a military trial.

The attorney says Hasan's mental state must be considered because the allegations go against his lifestyle and his military career. Hasan is accused of killing 13 people and remains in intensive care.

CHETRY: South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford now faces 37 counts of violating state ethics laws. Those charges include using state airplanes to attend political and personal events such as the governor's secret trip to Argentina back in June to visit his mistress.

Later today, South Carolina legislators will begin debate on an impeachment resolution. So could the embattled governor soon find himself out of a job? At 7:30 eastern we'll talk to Leroy Chapman. He covers government and politics for the state newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina.

ROBERTS: Chinese drywall -- we've heard so much about it over the last year since all of the reconstruction happened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes and tornadoes in Florida. So what exactly is in the drywall that is corroding pipes and electrical wires and potentially making people sick?

The Consumer Products Safety Commission says they know, and we'll tell you coming up next. It's eight minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Ten minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Washington's A-list headed to the White House tonight. The Obamas are hosting their first official state dinner. The guest of honor is India's prime minister Monmohan Singh.

Here with an insider's view of the big event, Anita McBride. She served as chief of staff for first lady Laura Bush and joins us this morning from Washington. Good to see you.

And also here in New York with me, we have Lisa Caputo, who is the former press secretary for first lady Hillary Clinton. Thanks for being with us as well, Lisa.

So a lot of excitement, you know, sort of a big buzz around who's coming, who's on the guest list, all the preparations. And Anita, let me ask you quickly, how does a White House decide, first of all, who to throw a state dinner for? This will be the third state dinner for India and India's leaders in the last decade.

ANITA MCBRIDE, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR FIRST LADY LAURA BUSH: That's an indication what an important strategic relationship this is for the United States and India. And that would be one of the reasons why this particular leader would be selected for the first dinner. This is a decision made by the president with many advisors on his staff that would make this recommendation.

CHETRY: All right. And Lisa, let me ask you this, beyond the protocol of who you're supposed to invite just based on what their position and title is, how do they decide on this guest list?

As we understand it it's going to be about 400 people, so a little more latitude because they're doing it outside in a tent. But those reservations fill up quickly.

LISA CAPUTO, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY FOR FIRST LADY HILLARY CLINTON: They do. Remember, what's being reported is the invite list is 400 people. So 400 invitations have gone out. You won't get that hit rate. But given that it's the first state dinner, I imagine it will be a 98 percent hit rate. What's interesting, as Anita knows, is that every division of the White House weighs in on the list. So you have the office of legislative affairs weighs in, the NSC weighs in, the State Department weighs in, the Office of Political Affairs weighs in. And you really have got to bring all of those different constituencies together when putting together the list.

The other thing is that the president and first lady personally are involved in this list, and they also look at their supporters. I mean, this will be a list where I think particular attention will be paid to who was with the president, you know, from day one in terms of support.

And that's why you see a lot of the reporting today about people from Hollywood and who was with him from day one.

CHETRY: Right. And that's interesting, Anita. We've confirmed Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York is going to be there. Our own Sanjay Gupta, who's of Indian descent of course, will be there as well.

But it's also interesting when you look at what some of the sources are saying, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg. Some of them are billionaire Hollywood producers and directors. So it is interesting how the guest list expands and who gets invited.

MCBRIDE: Well, it is. As Lisa said, there a lot of people weigh in on this. But the ultimate decision makers are the president and first lady, and they will select who they would like to have there.

And of course having friends and supporters is really important to share this kind of event. And it's also important for all the other guests that are there and the Indian members of the delegation to meet these people that are a cross-section of America.

CHETRY: Lisa, how much business actually gets done? Is this basically a social event, or is there a lot of politicking and dealing, wheeling and dealing going on at these state dinners?

CAPUTO: It is a social event, but let's not forget, today the state visit is comprised of a day of activities. There's a whole ceremony that usually happens in -- on the south lawn of the White House.

Now with the weather today and with the tent that's been put up, they'll probably have to bring that inside to the state floor. And then there are bilateral meetings that occur during the day.

And then, you know, certainly at the evening, an enormous amount of thought goes into who is seated where. There's particular protocol in terms of who is seated at the president's table and the prime minister's table.

But don't forget that an enormous amount of thought goes into that with the White House social office and the president and the first lady in terms of who will round out the appropriate table, who will get along with who, what will be the dynamics at each table.

So yes, of course, it's social but, of course, there's business done.

CHETRY: I want to ask both of you, how stressful is it, Lisa, having a front row seat to this, knowing all of the preparations. The weather has to cooperate. They're doing it outside in this huge tent. How stressful is it?

CAPUTO: It's stressful. It's very stressful. When I was at the White House, I had to kind of manage the media around the dinners. What is the first lady going to wear, what will be served? How are the flower arrangements being done? There's a lot of protocol in terms of the receiving line.

I also had the good fortune of attending as a guest. I went to the French state dinner during the Clinton years, and that was extraordinary to both, you know, see it from the vantage point of a staffer and then to attend as a guest. It's an entirely different experience and much more pleasurable.

CHETRY: I'm sure it is. Anita, how about you? What are the last-minute things that give you jitters when you're trying to make sure all of this goes off without a hitch?

MCBRIDE: You do want everything to go off perfectly. And it starts with, you know, the weather call, which I'm sure is happening, you know, right now. And that may set the tone for the day, for the morning's activities.

But there's always excitement ability the evening. And you just want people to be happy. You want them to walk in and know they're part of something historic and magical.

And like Lisa, yes, I was a staff member and a guest, in fact at the dinner in 2005 for the prime minister of India. And it's just beautiful. It's extraordinary. And it's exciting for people to be a part of it. And that's all at the end of the day that the president and first lady want. They want their foreign guests to feel honored and respected.

CHETRY: Right.

MCBRIDE: And they want their guests to have a wonderful time.

CHETRY: Have a wonderful time. But as Suzanne Malveaux told us, don't leave with the silver.

Anita McBride and Lisa Caputo, thanks so much for joining us.

CAPUTO: Nice being with you.

CHETRY: John?

ROBERTS: Black Friday coming up in two days. A new survey finds that more people will head out to the stores this year than last, but will they be opening up their wallets? Our Christine Romans reports on what retailers can expect this year coming right up.

Sixteen minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Straight ahead on the Most News in the Morning, it looks like mission control. They're not tracking a shuttle in low orbit though. They're trying to get you to grandma's on time.

At 7:40 Eastern Time, Rob Marciano takes you inside Delta Air Lines new nerve center. It's where they can do just about everything, except control the weather. And probably feed you and, you know, give you an extra bag of peanuts. But hey, that's not their job. It's something you'll only see on AMERICAN MORNING. Rob will take us there in just a few minutes.

ROBERTS: Christine Romans here "Minding Your Business" this morning. So, what's Black Friday going to look like?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Black Friday is going to look at you, ask the Retail Association. It's going to look a little better than it did last year. More people are going to be going to the malls. And, in fact, the National Retail Federation says hey, retailers still have a few tricks up their sleeves to excite Black Friday shoppers.

American retailers, I want to be very clear here, America's retailers desperately want to hack into your brain to convince you that you need to spend money on the day after Thanksgiving. A hundred thirty-four million people they say are maybe going to go shop. Fifty-seven definitely will hit the stores. Seventy-seven million will wait to see what kind of deals there are before they actually go out and part with their money.

Where are your shopping choices? Sixty-six percent say they're going to shop at discount stores. No surprise, right? Sixty-two percent at department stores, 41 percent at electronic stores. Everyone looking for a deal. Twenty-nine percent at grocery stores. That is a sign of the times. And 28 percent will shop on-line.

Now, some of these door busters are a big scam. You really need to read the fine print before you go waste half of your day standing in line for something where there's only three of them or 50 of them. Make sure you know that. And remember everybody, the retailers are really, really trying to get you to part with your money.

It's almost like Black Friday is the symbol of 20 years of American credit bingeing, you know. I mean, for 20 years, we went out and bought things on borrowed money and Black Friday is really kind of the ultimate example of what happened in this country. And I think a lot of the retailers, if you look at the advertising, if you look at the big studies and the headlines saying yes, yes, more people are going to be coming out than last year, I think it shows you what they really want it to be like is they want it to be like it was 2004, 2005, 2006.

CHETRY: But you're saying they're making this up, it's going to jump 16 percent.

ROMANS: No. I think they're -- no. I think that they have done the survey. I think a lot of surveys have shown that people have held off all year on buying. A lot of people want a good deal. If the deal is good enough, they're going to get it.

People have this pent-up demand. But things are really different now. Things really are different and people need to repair their own balance sheets before they go out and spend borrowed money, if you can even borrow money to spend.

So, I think there's some soul searching. I think all of this Black Friday stuff is very interesting. It's good for the economy, right? People are working at Target, Wal-Mart and all these places. They're working at Best Buy. It's good for jobs. But remember, but remember, bingeing and buying too much stuff is what got us in this mess in the first place.

ROBERTS: Do you have a "Romans' Numeral" this morning?

ROMANS: I do. And the "Romans' Numeral" is 36.5 million -- 36.5 million.

CHETRY: Is it dollars?

ROMANS: No.

CHETRY: It's people?

ROMANS: It's people. And it's a reminder of why it is not 2004, it's not 2005, it's not 2006. 36.5 million people are eating on food stamps in this country right now.

If you look at the pre-Christmas ads on TV, you would never know that more than a tenth of this country is being fed by the American government. It's those days are -- those days are over. Those days of just living in excess are over. And...

ROBERTS: Shocking.

ROMANS: Yes. I mean just when you put it -- when we talk about Black Friday, Black Friday, and then you think, 36 million people are being fed by the government, doesn't that seem -- doesn't seems like it's a real tale...

ROBERTS: It's a pretty striking contradiction.

ROMANS: It's a tale of two worlds, really.

ROBERTS: Christine Romans "Minding Your Business," thanks.

CHETRY: Still ahead, we're going to be talking about shopping yet again, but this time can local chains compete with the big, big huge superstores like Wal-Mart and Kmart and Sam's Club?

It's an A.M. Original, "Success in Sour Times." How some of these small mom and pops are fighting the good fight. Jason Carroll shows us.

Twenty-two minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It's a modern day version of David versus Goliath, the so-called local chains, small shops, all linked together trying to take on the Wal- Marts, the Targets and the Costcos of this world.

CHETRY: But can a little guy really survive when these juggernauts slash prices so low. Jason Carroll is here this morning with part two of our A.M. original series "Success in Sour Times."

You know, a lot of people do like the idea of buying local.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

CHETRY: And buying small and thinking local. And then they get these huge deals, you know, on 16,000 paper towels at Wal-Mart. What are you going to do?

CARROLL: Well, you know, you could still make it work if you're one of these small guys, if you know what the formula is. Now we found a couple people who actually know what's going on. They appeal to the people in their neighborhood and it's working.

You know, we actually found several examples of how some homegrown entrepreneurs have built themselves little empires among the giants.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL (voice-over): They've dominated American consumer culture. Wal-Mart, Target, Costco. Mega chain stores. But in one Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood, a phenomenon is taking hold, the local chains, small businesses linked by a common theme and unlike their big chain rivals, these little upstarts are located practically right next to each other.

PATRICK WATSON, LOCAL CHAIN OWNER: We're not cloning one thing and putting it somewhere else. We're trying to target a neighborhood that we know and love incredibly well and fill the gaps in.

We did have to move about a block.

CARROLL: Patrick Watson and his wife, Michelle Pravda, first opened Smith and Vine, a wine shop. Then came their cheese stores, "Stinky Brooklyn," across the street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is probably definitely the consistency of the cheese.

CARROLL: Finally, opening their bar "Jaywalk" about a block away, doing it just four months after Wall Street crashed.

CARROLL (on camera): Any nervousness at all given the economy knowing what you guys are doing?

MICHELLE PRAVDA, LOCAL CHAIN OWNER: You know, I just think we were kind of young and let's just do it.

CARROLL (voice-over): The local chain concept is simple -- identify your customer, cater to their tastes and once successful, expand within a neighborhood where you've already established a following. The couple knew their Brooklyn neighborhood was gentrifying and opened businesses to reflect a hipper crowd.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can really trust the product if I go here. It's knowledgeable people. It's not everyday crowd.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, definitely, I go get my cheese over there and I come back here to get the wine. And then I'll have a little drink at the bar.

CARROLL (voice-over): Loretta Gendville gets the appeal. She owns seven stores, also in the same Brooklyn neighborhood, under the generic name "Area," ranging from a boutique spa to a toy store.

LORETTA GENDVILLE, LOCAL CHAIN OWNER: We have kind of a history with customers. We get to know our customers and they get to know us.

CARROLL: Experts say more local chains could be on the way.

RAY KEATING, SMALL BUSINESS ENTREPRENEURSHIP COUNCIL: Entrepreneurs are innovators and once this word gets out that this is going on in certain areas, I think you'll have more entrepreneurs considering it, absolutely.

CARROLL: Patrick and Michelle say they've been rewarded not only with profits but something else they value, loyalty.

WATSON: You can never expect someone to care about your business as much as you do, but I find that that's sort of a contradiction around here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: Yes. And Patrick and Michelle's businesses are actually doing well. Their bar "Jaywalk" only had one month in the red. Their cheese and wine store have never had a down month despite stiff competition from Trader Joe's which is just about a block away.

CHETRY: So it's that loyalty factor, like the same people coming back.

CARROLL: It is. It's the loyalty factor. It's the personality. It's the fact that it's small and people know each other there. When you walk into a big Trader Joe's, not that there's anything wrong with Trader Joe's. But when you walk into a big Trader Joe's or Costcos, it's a different experience.

ROBERTS: Oh, yes. You know, excuse me, can you tell me where this is? I don't know. I hate -- you know, I don't want to name the hardware chain, but I hate going in there and you ask for something, I need a size 3 wedge (ph) and they say, I have no idea where it is.

CARROLL: Exactly. And Kiran should know because she loves a really good deal. I'm sure a lot of people out there. So I know you like these big stores too. But, you know, these little guys too, you can get the good deals there as well. Setting a fair price point and doing it in a way that's personal, seems to be appealing.

CHETRY: It's true. And we do that in our little town too. You know, we walk the block and you know the name. The ones that have lollipops for the kids, by the way, that's a good thing.

CARROLL: There you go.

CHETRY: They would stop there.

CARROLL: There you go.

CHETRY: Jason Carroll, thanks.

CARROLL: All right.

CHETRY: Also tomorrow in tough times, farmers are banding together focusing on customers looking to eat local foods. It's called network farming and it's a really interesting phenomenon. Jason Carroll brings us part three of our A.M. original series "Success in Sour Times."

Well, right now, we're coming up on half past the hour. A look at the top stories this morning.

The White House says President Obama will announce his new Afghanistan strategy, quote, "within days." The president met with the National Security Council last night, the ninth time that they met. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says the president has the information he wants and needs to make his decision and that part of the new plan will be an exit strategy.

ROBERTS: The United States will give more than $38 million to Afghan provinces that have reduced or eliminated the production of opium poppies. Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the world's opium. The key ingredient in heroin which helps bankroll the Taliban. The country's counter narcotics ministry will distribute the money to fund development or alternative crops.

CHETRY: The lawyer for the writer who was caught on tape getting arrested by a Bay Area Transit police officer says his client will sue the agency for civil rights violations and police brutality. BART Police releasing 911 recordings of witnesses complaining that the man, Michael Gibson, appeared drunk and combative.

The incident was captured on video and part of that was posted on the internet. The video shows Gibson being pulled off the train by an officer who forced Gibson against a window. That window shattered, not clear exactly what caused the glass to break. Well, BART officials are investigating and the officer has been put on paid leave. He was also injured in that altercation.

ROBERTS: Could this be the beginning of the end for South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford? In just a few hours, state lawmakers begin debating an impeachment resolution. It comes after Governor Sanford was charged with breaking South Carolina's ethics laws 37 times.

Sanford has been under fire since going AWOL in June during a secret rendezvous with his mistress in Argentina. So how can he govern with all of that hanging over his head? Leroy Chapman, who is the government and politics editor for "The State Newspaper" joins us this morning from Columbia, South Carolina.

Leroy, good to see you this morning. So, he's got these ethics violations against him, 37. The legislature starts debating an impeachment resolution. How much trouble is this guy in?

LEROY CHAPMAN, GOV'T & POLITICS EDITOR AT "THE STATE NEWSPAPER": Well, it's pretty serious right now for the governor and the next 45 days are going to be critical. Today is essentially the start of the impeachment process. Lawmakers today will be looking at the 37 charges against him. They'll add that to what they're already considering, which is his disappearance of five days back in June. The impeachment resolution is based on that disappearance and it's considered a dereliction of duty and by statute, that is the tack that impeachment right now is taking.

ROBERTS: Yes, this impeachment measure is sponsored by four of his fellow Republicans, is it possible that's going to get some traction?

CHAPMAN: It will. Sanford has few friends on that panel. It's a handpicked seven-member panel and hard to see him having any allies on that particular panel. Now, the way the process works, it's going to have to go to the full judiciary committee which is much bigger, that's 23 members and then it's going to have to go to the full House.

I think that's when Sanford probably picks up allies, but right now, it looks like it doesn't work in the governor's favor in terms of this particular process.

ROBERTS: Now, at the same time that all of this is going on, the state attorney general is considering criminal charges. Is it likely that any could be filed?

CHAPMAN: Well, you know, that's really tough because what we're looking at is these ethics laws, but also I think when you begin talking about campaign money, that's the area where you could possibly look into possible to criminal violations. If you look at what these are, these are campaign funds that were used for personal use.

One of those is a trip to the National Governor Association which I'm sure his attorneys will argue is a legitimate campaign purpose. Another is for a hunting trip to Dublin which perhaps they have a tougher time defending that as a legitimate campaign use. But it's going to be a long shot that it is criminal, but the attorney general will be under a lot of political pressure to give everything a pretty -- to review whether or not there is something criminal that went on.

ROBERTS: Now, Governor Sanford has been critical of other state officials for taking costly trips, you know, costly travel when the state of South Carolina is trying to keep it down. He charged South Carolina, though, more than $37,000 for first class and business class seats, despite a law there requiring the lowest cost travel. What's he saying about all that?

CHAPMAN: Well, that's one of the things I think that lawmakers are looking at as this governor, who ran on transparency, ran on being a frugal steward of taxpayer dollars, in this instance he used -- he bought, knowingly, perhaps, these high-priced tickets.

He has tried to defend himself and say that other governors did it, but other governors did it by using what used to be a state Department of Commerce private funds to do it because they were mindful of state law, and the governor did not do that. So, there is a difference and that's something that lawmakers will consider today as they build a case against him for impeachment.

ROBERTS: Sanford's attorney, Butch Bowers, said this about the 37 ethics charges. He says, "We're confident that we will be able to address each of these questions, none of which constitutes findings of guilt, and none of which we believe rise anywhere to the traditional standard of impeachment." It's what you expect his attorney to say, but Leroy, is there a move here by Sanford's opponents to try to run him out of office any way they can?

CHAPMAN: Well, you have to consider a couple of things. He says that there are technical and minor in nature, and when you look at ethics violations versus criminal, you know, you may have a public perception that ethics are -- is sort of a civil violation versus criminal being, of course, criminal, as it says.

So, I think that's what they're banking on, is that most of these things would fall in the civil realm. But I think the issue, too, when you put together not only what ethics commission is saying, but also, too, what those folks pushing impeachment the hardest are saying, they're saying that there was a dereliction of duty here.

He left the state for five days, he lied, those things, they're really pushing those. So, that might be where impeachment rests. It's not necessarily going to be on the ethics stuff, although these things will be trouble for him over the next 45 days. He'll have a chance early next year to defend himself, but he won't have many chances for the next month to do that.

ROBERTS: Right.

CHAPMAN: This committee will meet, it will go over, it will take testimony, and Sanford will not have a lot of opportunities to defend himself. ROBERTS: No question that the heat is coming down on the governor there. Leroy Chapman of "The State," good to talk to you this morning. Thanks so much for joining us.

CHAPMAN: Sure. Thanks for having me.

CHETRY: Well, ever wonder what it takes to get you to your destination on time when you're flying? Rob Marciano is going to take us inside the nerve center for Delta Air Lines to show us just how hard people are going to be working especially on one of the busiest travel days of the year to make sure the flights go off smoothly. Hey, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Kiran. You are looking inside the weather department of Delta Air Lines. Meteorologists trying to find the smoothest route for you. Working on turbulence forecast there. Old school meets new school here at the new and improved and expanded Delta Air Lines Operation Control Center and we'll take you inside live in just a few minutes. Stay there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

CHETRY: Thirty-nine minutes past the hour. Look at Atlanta this morning where right now it's cloudy, 49 degrees. Supposed to be relatively cloudy all day with a high of 57 degrees in Atlanta.

And welcome back to the most news in the morning. We all know by now that tomorrow, of course, is one of the busiest travel days of the year and we're here to try to help you have a happy and healthy trip in back-to-back reports.

ROBERTS: First, the happy part of our series here, our Rob Marciano was invited inside Delta's new nerve center for a behind the scenes look at the effort to get you where you're going and get you there on time. And the healthy Elizabeth Cohen on avoiding the flu on a so-called petri dish in the sky.

Let's go first to Rob who is live inside Delta's Operations Center in Atlanta with an "AM Original." Good morning, Rob.

MARCIANO: Good morning, John. Exciting times, live broadcast from this facility, have never happened before. We're excited to be here, the operations control center. Right now I'm standing on what they refer to as the bridge, where customer service works with liaisons from the pilots, from the mechanics, from the flight attendants, just trying to get you and your plane to where it needs to be.

There is the latest, this is one of the big screens they look at, basically green good, red bad, all green right now. So that's a good thing. We try to keep arrivals and departure on time target, at least 82 percent. Right now we're greater than 90. So thumb's up there.

Let's meet some of the people that run this place. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARCIANO (on camera): I'm here with David Holtz. He's the director of operations management, going to show me a little bit about what this very intimidating room does to keep Delta flying.

VOICE OF DAVID HOLTZ, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS MANAGEMENT: It's -- this is the nerve center. This is the place where we run the operation, the entire system of Delta Air Lines.

MARCIANO (voice-over): 18 different departments working together to get 2,500 flights up and down safely and hopefully on time every day. One of those departments is weather.

Stephanie (INAUDIBLE)'s team of meteorologists work to help the pilots steer clear of trouble.

(on camera): I mean, what's the most important part of your job? Is it what's going on at the upper levels for the flight or what's going on at the lower levels for takeoff and landing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have people who are looking at our airports, at our hub weather, helping them plan the operation for bad weather that may be experienced there, and then the other half of the department is really monitoring for safety of the upper atmosphere, watching the airplanes en route.

MARCIANO: Obviously weather plays a huge role into having a successful flight, so the weather department will speak directly with the aircraft dispatchers. One of those is Jeff Hubright, who is also a former meteorologist. Jeff, what kind of strategies do you put in place to have an airplane get where it needs to be?

JEFF HUBRIGHT, FLIGHT SUPERINTENDENT: Well, there are two things, Rob, that are really important to us. Obviously the surface weather and then we're looking at turbulence forecast for the end route phase of the flight. I use that information to tailor my fuel load, my flight level, and maybe even the route. There are times I may flight plan a route several hundred miles off the most direct course to avoid severe weather and to avoid areas of turbulence.

MARCIANO (voice-over): And if your flight gets diverted or canceled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then we will try to find alternate routing, alternate flights for those customers to make sure they get to their final destination as quickly as possible.

MARCIANO: All in an effort to get ahead of the delays and get you where you want to go.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARCIANO: And a lot of people want to get somewhere tomorrow, that's for sure. The busiest travel day of the year, actually volume starting to increase today. A quick check on what you can expect today if you are traveling by air, expected delays for both weather and volume at these spots, New York Metros, D.C. Metros obviously, Charlotte and Memphis, also Atlanta and Chicago and even Minneapolis because of low clouds and a little bit of fog there. So we're looking good right now, John and Kiran.

They're going to open up the military air space tomorrow. So that's a good thing, and John, I asked about your 11:00 flight tomorrow and unfortunately, that one, that's the only one right now that doesn't look too good.

ROBERTS: Yes, I know. They cancel that on me as soon as they hear that I'm coming down the jet way. Roberts is coming, let's cancel the flight. All right, Rob.

MARCIANO: They may take care of you.

ROBERTS: Fingers crossed. The problem is going to be racing from here to the airport, getting through security in time to get on the plane.

CHETRY: Travel light.

ROBERTS: Cross my fingers. Ever since they canceled that clear program, it's like, come on.

So we got Rob talking about the schedules there, but what about flying between here and there on what for many purposes is just a giant flying petri dish. A lot of people who have the flu say they're going to fly anyways. What if they're sitting beside you or even a couple of rows away. What kind of health risk do you face.

Our Elizabeth Cohen looking into all of this coming up. Forty- four minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Before the break we showed you how the world's largest airline plans to get you around the weather and get you to Thanksgiving on time. Now getting you there healthy.

CHETRY: Yes. Well, that's going to be a challenge. I mean we've been talking about swine flu and while there has been a slight drop in flu cases in the US, health officials are warning that the holidays could actually reverse any of the progress that's been made.

All of those family get-togethers are unfortunately places where a lot of germs are exchanged, and the real Petri dish, though, may be in the sky. Our Elizabeth Cohen is here with some tips for having a healthy, flu-free holiday season.

You know, you're hoping that is someone is sick, especially if they have the flu, that they're not going to get on a plane, but actually a lot of people are planning to fly anyway, unfortunately. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. People don't want to lose their money and I'll tell you, this is very simple. Flu travels very efficiently person to person and when you're traveling you have lots of cozy situations, whether it's that crowded line for security or when you're in the airplane.

Take a look at this. Some folks at Perdue University did an animation where they showed what happens when that person in red is sneezing. Look at those particles. They are spread not just to the people sitting next to him, but also to the people sitting behind them. So when you're on a plane, if any one person sitting near you has H1N1 flu, you could get H1N1 flu too -- Kiran.

ROBERTS: So, if you're traveling this holiday and you -- you're flu free or you haven't come down with the H1N1 or even regular flu, for that matter, how do you stay that way? What can you do to protect yourself? You know, those face masks are popular, but every time I see somebody in a face mask, I kind of shy away.

COHEN: Right. You get a little nervous. Actually, the mask is supposed to be worn by the person who's sick, but that's -- that's a whole other story. So if you're not sick and you want to protect yourself from getting sick, here are a couple of things you can do.

The first one is very simple. If you see someone who is ill, try to get away from them. If you unfortunately happen to be sitting next to them on the plane, at least turn your body away from them as much as you can. Also, if you're sitting next to that person, turn that air vent over your head away from you and towards the sick person. It might not do a whole lot, but it will help get the air flow away from you and towards them.

Also, sanitize and wash your hands often. For example, you know those little kiosks where you hit the screen in order to get your ticket? After you use those, sanitize your hands right away because many other people have touched that screen before you did.

CHETRY: Yes. I do two other things. I don't know if this is pointless or not. I put Neosporin in my nostrils. Somebody told me it like traps germs. Is that gross? Everyone's wincing around here.

COHEN: I'm going to have to run that by someone. I don't know -- I'd have to run that by a doctor. I'll tell you what they say.

ROBERTS: But that -- but that's an antibiotic and you're trying to fight against viruses.

CHETRY: I know. They just trap -- but it traps -- like, I mean, it doesn't let things go up your nose, you know, because when your nose is really dry from the plane...

ROBERTS: You can also walk around like this.

CHETRY: And also just don't touch your face. Don't touch your face at all. You don't think about it, but don't touch your face until you can get off a plane and wash your hands like a surgeon. ROBERTS: Bathe in Purell.

COHEN: Right. That is a one is a great idea because -- right. Exactly. You're touching all sorts of things when you're traveling, but if -- you're right. If you avoid touching your face, you're not going to send those germs to your face.

CHETRY: And if all else fails, just zip up your Hazmat suit.

COHEN: There you go.

ROBERTS: A level 4 containment suit. Elizabeth, thanks so much.

This morning's top stories are minutes away, including the White House now saying President Obama has all the information he needs to make a decision on Afghanistan. We're live at the Pentagon with brand-new developments on how many troops he may send and how to pay for it.

CHETRY: At 8:07 Eastern, the first state visit hosted by the administration. It's a big state dinner -- it's not the first state visit (ph), but it's the highest honor that can be extended to a foreign dignitary and it's going to India's prime minister. Why his country matters so much to us and why India wants the Taliban to lose just as much as the US does.

ROBERTS: And at 8:30 Eastern, a former CIA officer who says the Fort Hood shooting is clearly the first Islamist terror attack on the homeland since 9/11. Is political correctness costing lives?

Those stories and more coming your way at the top of the hour. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

A new federal study seems to confirm what many American homeowners say they already knew, that defective Chinese drywall causes corrosion and could be hazardous to your health.

Our Sean Callebs is following the latest developments for us this morning.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, the most conclusive evidence to date that there is a direct correlation between tainted Chinese drywall and a host of problems for homeowners across the country. The big question now, who is going to pay to remove that tainted drywall and will it cause any long-term health risks?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CALLEBS (voice-over): The federal government is confirming what Joan Glickman of Pompano Beach, Florida suspected all along, tainted drywall from China is giving off a harmful gas that's turning her air- conditioning wiring black, causing it to fail. It's also destroying electrical wiring and corroding medal throughout her home.

But what the Consumer Product Safety Commission can't tell her is whether the hydrogen sulfide gas coming from the tainted drywall is making her sick.

JOAN GLICKMAN, HOMEOWNER: They can't tell me what's happening to me now, and more importantly, they can't tell me what's going to happen to me in 20 years. You know, am I going to end up with -- like an asbestos person with lung cancer?

CALLEBS: Federal investigators say they will need more time to determine possible health risks, but Florida Senator Bill Nelson, whose state has seen more complaints than all others combined, agrees with Joan Glickman.

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: I said, well, when are you going to know? They said, we're going to do another test and they said they didn't know when that was going to be done. Well, our people are tired of waiting.

CALLEBS: Hydrogen sulfide is a noxious gas that smells like rotten eggs and corrodes metal throughout affected households. Environmental Health and Engineers did a study for the CPSC and says warm, humid conditions magnify the problem.

JACK MCCARTHY, ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH AND ENGINEERING INC: We found a direct relationship between temperature and humidity levels that are in the homes and the amount of hydrogen sulfide that was being given off by the wall board.

CALLEBS: There had been thousands of complaints about Chinese drywall, and on the heels of this new report, the government is expecting more answers. But still to come, a plan for fixing the problem.

GLICKMAN: It was a huge letdown because it still didn't tell me how to fix it, who's going to fix it, how we go about fixing it, where the money comes from. This has left us in such a mess.

CALLEBS: For now, Glickman and her family have moved in her with her mother. Her mortgage company is giving her a temporary break on payments. But she and homeowners like her will have to wait, wondering if their dream home is actually a ticking time bomb.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CALLEBS: The federal government believes it has a handle on all the existing inventories of tainted Chinese drywall so no more sheets make it into the marketplace. At the same time, the feds say they have also been successful in making sure no more Chinese drywall came into the United States in 2009 -- John and Kiran.

ROBERTS: Sean Callebs this morning.

CHETRY: And we're going to be right back. Our top stories are coming your way in just 90 seconds. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)