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Only Way Back by Boat; Obama Backs Down, Aftershock in Virginia; Venus Williams Out Of U.S. Open; Obama To Visit Flood Ravaged N.J.; War Report: U.S. Wasting $12 Million A Day

Aired September 1, 2011 - 06:00   ET


ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: The water slowly going down. The devastation becoming clear. I'm Ali Velshi. Days after Hurricane Irene, people finding what's left of their lives under piles of mud and some cut off. Corners of New England are finally getting help.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans. A warning from the 9/11 Commission, America is not properly prepared for another terrorist attack because nine of the commission's security recommendations made back in 2004, nine of them, have been ignored by the government.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Costello. The stand-off is over. The president agreeing to reschedule his big jobs speech next week backing down from John Boehner on this AMERICAN MORNING.

VELSHI: Good morning. Good morning, good morning. It is Thursday, September 1. Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING.

ROMANS: September 1st.

COSTELLO: Can you believe that?


VELSHI: September is supposed to be newsy.

ROMANS: Four months in a row down for the Dow.

VELSHI: Libya.

COSTELLO: OK. But tomorrow is Friday so good morning.

ROMANS: There you go. Suffering after the storm, still following the devastation from Hurricane Irene. It was another dark night for close to 2 million people days after Irene knocked out power.

The floodwaters started to recede and revealing muddy, awful marks that are being left behind in New Jersey. Some of the 1,700 people who left their homes are now returning to see the damage. President Obama will travel to Patterson, New Jersey, this weekend.

Our Susan Candiotti is live in Little Falls, New Jersey, where high water is keeping thousands of people from returning home. For some a boat, Susan, is the only way that they can survey the damage to their homes.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Good morning, Christine. We are standing in water that's now dropped about six inches from the time we were here last night. But that's still almost five feet above flood stage.

Take a look at this old pay phone booth just to compare where we are standing. Check out that car wash over my shoulder. It is like a lot of businesses in this particular area of Little Falls that can't reopen because the businesses are surrounded by water.

Here is a stop sign that leads to that neighborhood. Way back there. The only access is by boat. We hitched a ride.


CANDIOTTI: It is now -- yes, now called lake Passaic. I'm seeing what are probably the tops of fences leading up to the front door. That's not a house on estimates. That's a garage that's under water.

They stayed around? Lost the car. A classic Mustang lost. Yes. If you have gone through this time and again, why do you and other people still live here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, what are you going to do? You can't sell the house. You can't give them away down here.

CANDIOTTI: Here is a sign over here that has double meaning now. Road closed few hundred feet ahead, local traffic only. At this point it is local boat traffic only. You are about to start school. You're senior year in high school coming up just in a week.


CANDIOTTI: What's going through your head?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How am I going to prepare for school? My clothes, everything is stuck at home. I don't know how I'm going to get them. Everything is closed to go shopping. Mall is down. I don't know where to go.

CANDIOTTII: All you have is a suitcase you were able to run out with?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Five pants, five shirts, that's it. That's all I have. School starts in one week.

CANDIOTTI: Probably won't be the only one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, plenty. I have so many friends that live on this street.

CANDIOTTI: Is this the first time you are seeing it?


CANDIOTTI: How do you even begin to think about the cleanup involved here? What's going through your head?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to think about that right now. As long as we are safe that's good. That's the main thing, to be safe. Then the cleanup comes next.


CANDIOTTI: That gentleman said he cannot even begin to describe what's going through his head right now as he saw his house for the first time. So what lies ahead? A lot of cleanup and a lot of heartache. Christine --

ROMANS: Wow. All right, Susan Candiotti, thanks so much.

VELSHI: Incredible.

All right, meantime, record drought is has turned parts of Texas into a tinderbox. A wildfire near Dallas continues to burn out of control. The flames have already destroyed more than three dozen homes in the region, hundreds more being threatened.

Right now, 90 percent of the state of Texas is under severe drought conditions. In neighboring Oklahoma strong winds are hampering crews as they battle through large brush fires in and around Oklahoma City.

A 40-mile stretch of Interstate-44 between Oklahoma City and Tulsa had to be shut down because of smoke from the fires. Rob Marciano is in the Extreme Weather Center for us now. Rob, what are you looking at today?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: As you mentioned drought. That's the ongoing problem. We need some rain to get in here in order to moisten up the soil. It's going to take quite a bit. You mentioned 90 percent under extreme drought, exceptional drought, which is the dark, dark red.

That's over three-quarters of the state. It would take really several tropical systems to get in there to alleviate that. We have severe red flag warnings posted again today because of the heat and the winds across Oklahoma and parts of Kansas.

This may help the cause. We just don't know where it is going to go. Tropical disturbance heading into the Gulf of Mexico probably will become something in the next couple of days. Hurricane hunter aircraft expected to go in there this afternoon to investigate it.

But as far as what our models are picking up on right now, very, very weak steering currents. So check this out. They have no clue what's going to happen with this, some bringing it to Louisiana and some bringing it to Texas that would be a good thing.

Some rain in Louisiana. Whip it back down to Mexico. So we just don't know at this point. Be prepared and hope for the best and certainly folks in Texas hoping for something in the way of moisture coming that way.

Katia is now a hurricane, Category 1 strength expected to become a Category 3 storm. As we get closer to the weekend heading towards the U.S., there are chances it veers off. I can't say that for sure now right now. East Coast still a threat. Let's deal with that Gulf of Mexico issue here over the next if you days. Back to you.

ROMANS: OK, thanks, Rob.

COSTELLO: Hurricane Irene, talk more about it. Hurricane Irene has uncovered more cracks in the Washington monument. The National Park Service says repair crews found puddles near the top of the monument and in the stairs after the storm, which means they missed some holes. Inspectors originally found four cracks after the east coast earthquake. So the monument remains closed during repairs but engineers still say it is structurally sound.

ROMANS: You will have to wait one day longer to hear president Obama's big jobs speech next week. The president wanted to address a special joint session of Congress on Wednesday, September 7. That would have conflicted with the scheduled GOP presidential debate in California.

House Speaker John Boehner pushed back and president agreed to reschedule the speech to September 8, Which also happens to be opening night for the NFL. Brianna Keilar live at the White House with this developing story.

Brianna, it's interesting because it makes the president look weak, some say. He came out and asked Congress for appearance before a joint session and scheduling conflicts got in the way. Why didn't they work that out ahead of time?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, normally they do, as we understand it, that there's consultation that goes on behind the scenes between, say, the speaker's office and the White House and then the letter request. It's kind of sort of a formality. It is something worked out behind the scenes.

It does in the make the president look weak. Well, he didn't win on this and he had to give in, but I think more importantly it raises the question -- is the White House and House Republicans, are they not even on the same page logistically when they have to be tackle thing substantive issue that affects so many millions of Americans? That is jobs. This was the weird thing to watch unveil yesterday.

You saw dueling letters, first the White House put out one, the request for the opportunity for the president to address a joint session of Congress. Then not too long after that, you saw a letter from House Speaker John Boehner, although there was kind of a gap in time to give you a sense not all was well for sure. And this letter essentially said no.

How about Thursday instead? All the while you were hearing from House Republicans saying we were not consulted about this. There's timing issues because we have votes on Wednesday night before the speech. There is not going to be enough time for security sweep.

But, Christine, as you know, there's also a Republican presidential debate on Wednesday night, which certainly factored into this. That was supposed to be at the exact time that President Obama was requesting. Bottom line here, we are now looking at the president having his address on Thursday night, the time still TBD.

ROMANS: Brianna, there could be controversy over when the president is going to give his jobs package. Before we even get to controversy about what is in the jobs package, I think kind of highlights the political climate we are in.

KEILAR: I think you are right.

ROMANS: Brianna Keilar. Thanks, Brianna.

COSTELLO: OK, so now it is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. The question this morning is President Obama's jobs plan DOA before it is even unveiled? It is not exactly off to a fantastic start.

The president has already had to postpone the unveiling of his plan by 24 hours to avoid a clash with Republicans. As "The Washington Post" op-ed put it, this backs up so well the image problems that Obama has faced since the start of his term.

If the White House spent months working to appear above the partisan fray, as they insist they have, then pulling a blatantly partisan stunt like this torpedos all of that PR work. Don't think the Republicans running for president didn't pile on.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now does this show a little insecurity on the part of the president? Either A, he wants to distract the American people so they don't watch it or B, he doesn't want the American people to hear what the next president of the United States is going to say about the president's job plan.


COSTELLO: Whether you think that's fair or not, it may resonate more than a statement from the White House, quote, "The president is now welcoming the opportunity to address a joint session of Congress on Thursday. So our nation's leaders focus 100 percent of their attention on doing whatever they can to help the American people," end quote.

So today's talk back question -- doesn't bode very well, does it? The question is President Obama's jobs plan DOA before it is even unveiled? I will read your comments later this hour.

VELSHI: Let's hope it is not DOA.

ROMANS: I hope not. VELSHI: All right, Moammar Gadhafi's sons are speaking out as the Saturday deadline for the regime to surrender quickly approaches. Speaking to a Syrian TV station, Saif Al Islam Gadhafi called on Gadhafi loyalists to, quote, "clean the country from those gangsters."

He also said his father is fine and drinking tea and coffee with his family. He didn't reveal where the fugitive dictator is, his brother, Saadi, also said he won't surrender to opposition forces. Good to know he's drinking tea and coffee.

ROMANS: Up next, 10 years, 10 years now, after 9/11, America is still not prepared for another attack. The disturbing details in a new 9/11 Commission report. Who didn't do what and why ahead?

COSTELLO: And a liberal Democrat accusing the Tea Party of racism calling members would like to see African-Americans, quote, hanging on a tree. This morning he is standing by those words. It's 11 minutes past the hour.


VELSHI: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. The 9/11 Commission has just come out with a new report warning of serious security lapses in the fight against terrorism. The report highlights nine recommendations that the commission itself made back in 2004 that the government has essentially ignored.

The commission members aren't holding back with criticism. Chris Lawrence joins us live from the Pentagon this morning with this developing story. Just day away from the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and these commission members that worked really hard, Chris, are saying that they were largely ignored.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, if this was a report card, the federal government would pass, but it wouldn't come close to getting an A on national security. In fact, one of the commission members even asked that this question that should make all of us sit up and take notice. He said "If it takes another 10 years to implement these nine recommendations, how in the world are we going to stay ahead of the terrorists?"


LAWRENCE: The 9/11 Commission's new progress report says 10 years later some emergency responders still can't communicate by radio in a crisis. Some cops can't talk to firefighters who can't talk to EMTs.

THOMAS KEAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: They died because of that on 9/11 and died because of that in Katrina, and they will die in the future unless this particular problem is not solved.

LAWRENCE: The report gave a thumbs down to the airport's new whole body scanners, saying they failed to detect some explosives hidden within the body. LEE HAMILTON, 9/11 COMMISSION: Our conclusion is that despite 10 years of working on the problem, the detection system still falls short in critical ways.

LAWRENCE: The report did credit the government for better screening passengers from they get on planes.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If you look at number of recommendations the commission made and the number that have been filled, it is a very high percentage.

LAWRENCE: But the commission issued its original list back in 2004. And of the 41 shortcomings, nine have still not been addressed.

CARNEY: Which doesn't mean we don't constantly look for ways to improve.

LAWRENCE: But that improvement will have to come at an economic environment where every dollar counts.

JAMES THOMPSON, (R) FORMER GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS: The question should be not how much is this? But, is this worth paying for? Is this good security? Is this the best we can get?


LAWRENCE: The commission says that a more powerful director of national intelligence could force and of the measures through and help keep costs down. The commission also recommends a national secure form of identification and a national entry and exit system that relies on biometrics. Ali?

VELSHI: Chris, we will see if anybody reacts to that. Chris Lawrence from the Pentagon this morning.

COSTELLO: A democratic lawmaker refusing to back down from some inflammatory comments about the Tea Party movement. California Congressman Andre Carson at a Black Caucus event last week accused Tea Party backed Republicans of outright racism and their push to cut government spending.


REP. ANDRE CARSON, (D) INDIANA: Some of them in Congress right now with the Tea Party movement would love to see you and me, I'm sorry, chairman, hanging on a tree.


COSTELLO: Questioned by CNN about those strong words, Carson defended them.


CARSON: I stand on the truth of what I spoke. My intentions weren't to hurt anyone or any group. I wanted to speak to the issues that concern me and the philosophical issues that concern me as it relates to certain leadership within the Tea Party organization. Not the entire Tea Party, but certain elements that have concerned me deeply for quite some time that I think should really reevaluate what it means to be an American, and we shouldn't go along the path of taking America back to the good old days, because those days weren't good for everyone.


COSTELLO: Tea party officials for their part have rejected the notion that the movement is racist.

ROMANS: So much for the president's plan to create new green jobs. Remember this scene last year, President Obama visiting this solar cell manufacturer in California, touting the firm's products as the way of the future and announcing a $535 million federal loan for this company. Solyndra, unable to compete with Chinese rivals, has suspended operations at the plant, laid off 1,100 workers, and has filed for bankruptcy. It is the third solar company to go belly-up in this country in the last month. Republicans are now looking into the loan the firm received from the government.

VELSHI: Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING, not so fast -- the Justice Department takes action to stop a major cell phone merger. We're "Minding Your Business" when we come back. We'll tell you all about it.


VELSHI: It's 23 minutes after the hour. "Minding Your Business" this morning, U.S. stock markets closed slightly higher yesterday, but ended the month of August sharply lower. For the month, the Dow lost about 4.5 percent, the S&P 500 fell nearly six percent, and the NASDAQ lost the most, dropping about 6.5 percent. Good-bye and good riddance, August.

Coming up today, the weekly jobs report, the unemployment filings. Economists are forecasting 405,000 unemployment claims filed for the first time last week. A level above 400,000 signals a weak labor market. The big August jobs report that everyone is talking about comes out tomorrow morning. Economists telling CNN money they expect the unemployment rate to remain unchanged at 9.1 percent.

Right now U.S. stock futures are trading lower ahead of the opening bell. Investors are waiting for those big jobs reports.

The Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit to block the merger of mobile carriers AT&T and T-Mobile yesterday, claiming the $39 billion deal would lessen competition. The deal could affect every cell phone user in the U.S. because prices are expected to go up if the merger goes through.

News of the Department of Justice suit broke AT&T's shares down nearly four percent. Shares in Deutsche Telecom, the parent company of T-Mobile dropped more than seven percent yesterday. That's good news from one of its competitors, though. Shares in Sprint Nextel jumped about six percent by the end of the day.

More confusion at Hewlett-Packard about its business strategy. The company announced about a week ago it was getting away from the tablet business and slashed prices of its touchpad device. Now it's bringing it back in a big spike in consumer demand. The company says the iPad rival will be back for a limited time starting in October and starting at a lower police of $100 a pop.

AMERICAN MORNING is back right after the break.


COSTELLO: It's just about half past the hour. Good morning to you. Top stories for you now. Days after hurricane Irene brought the water, cut off corners of Vermont, they are finally getting help. Airdrops were being made to several towns. The National Guard is bringing supplies to other communities on patched up roads. And President Obama will travel to Paterson, New Jersey, on Sunday where the water in the streets was over 15 feet high.

ROMANS: Wow. A new report from the 9/11 commission warning of serious security shortfalls in America in the fight against terrorism. The commission says nine of its recommendations from 2004 have been ignored. The most glaring problems, the inability of first responders to communicate with each other in a crisis. And those body scanners at airports, the commission give them a thumbs-down because they cannot adequately detect explosives.

VELSHI: President Obama backing down, agreeing to reschedule his big jobs announcement next week. The president watched to deliver his address on Wednesday, which happens to be the same night the Republicans are holding a debate. The president has agreed to move the speech to Thursday night, which happens to be the first game of the NFL season after speaker John Boehner said no to inviting the president to Congress on Wednesday.

COSTELLO: It's Green Bay versus New Orleans. Green Bay won the Super Bowl, so I think there will be tremendous interest in watching that game.

VELSHI: People will be watching TV Thursday night one way or the other.

COSTELLO: That's true.

Two parts of the country that would welcome being waterlogged right now, Oklahoma and Texas. Crews are battling a number of wildfires spreading across the drought-stricken landscape. One of the fires near Dallas has destroyed dozens of homes and is now threatening hundreds of others.

CNN's Jim Spellman live in Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas, which is 50 miles from Dallas. Good morning, Jim. Describe what it's like for us.

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As soon as the sun comes up, the fire crews are going to be able to get back at this fire. Yesterday, they hoped to get it under control but winds picked up in the afternoon and really got away from them. The fire expanded, 14 more homes were lost. About 39 total; 400 more, they tell us are in jeopardy.

They hope that, again, before the winds pick up, they can contain this and get fire lines. The drought here has been so severe that the slightest spark from -- or an ember that flies from the fire ignites a whole new fire and they have to pull back the lines.

So, with these conditions, it is going to be a challenge for them. But they hope today that they can try to get ahead of it -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Jim Spellman reporting live 50 miles outside of Dallas -- thank you.

ROMANS: Crews are patching up some roads and creating all new ones to get supplies to hundreds of stranded people in Vermont. They haven't been able to get in or out since Sunday. Food supplies now in major problem in parts of New England. For many people, there simply nothing left to salvage.

Amber Lyon is in the middle of it right now in Wilmington, Vermont.

And, you know, gosh, I -- I talk to somebody yesterday whose brother, Amber, quite frankly, went there for a destination wedding and it's taken almost a week to get back. I mean, a lot of people are really stranded up there.

AMBER LYON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, these roads are a mess. At one point, 20 communities across Vermont were completely isolated after roads leading in and out of town were cut off. We spoke with Vermont emergency management officials, they say that all but one community have been reopened.

And we are in one of those communities, Wilmington. We are out in front of the country store. This is a family business, been around since 1836. The owners say they have never seen anything like this when a wall of water swept through town just destroying these stores and leaving a layer of mud and muck on this product, turning what could have been profit into trash. We've got maple syrup. You know, Vermont is famous for this.

This one jug worth 50 bucks now just trash. Cheese over here, clothes, all types of inventory that really this town says they couldn't afford to lose at this time.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can handle snow. Not this much water all at once.

LYON (voice-over): Ten-foot high floodwaters poured through Eileen Ranslow's (ph) 40-year-old flooring business.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is devastating. You know?

LYON: Eileen's family business once made $1 million as year, she says. But revenue dwindled by three-quarters in the economic downturn. Now, this family says they are facing at least $300,000 in damages. They don't have flood insurance -- and they are not alone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have a little cry and then just say OK. OK. This is Sunday night before they even let us into town to kind of -- we snuck in and came in and -- it was just -- it was just -- you know, in shock. We are still in shock.

LYON: Mud covers the clothes at this consignment shop. But these too won't be covered by insurance.

(on camera): These are juicy (ph) pants right over here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were like butter. Now they are like mud.

LYON (voice-over): But some things can't be replaced. This is Anne Coleman (ph), and she's a local artist. And her entire studio filled with originals was just washed away by the waters.

ANNE COLEMAN, LOCAL ARTIST: When I first realized it was gone, I was -- I couldn't believe it. It's like, it was gone.

LYON: Thirty of her original paintings went downstream with the gallery.

COLEMAN: I think the one that got me the most is a piece I did in 1978 of my grandma's house. And it was incredible. This water color, I did it when I was recovering from a broken neck.

LYON: Pile after pile of once valuable goods, but floodwaters haven't washed away Wilmington's sense of community.

SARAH ROISRERT, RESIDENT: We can't just sit around. You have to get up and do something. There's no other -- you just have to.

LYON (on camera): Who are these volunteers?

UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: They are just people. They are neighbors. In Vermont, we are all neighbors.


LYON: And business owners expect hundreds of those neighbors, these volunteers, to come out here today and continue to clean up these businesses -- as you see piles of inventory in front of all of these businesses down the street. And we did a survey.

We went around, Christine, and talked to owners about half and half of whether people had flood insurance or not. The biggest explanation for not having flood insurance is that they just couldn't afford it -- Christine.

ROMANS: I know, and we heard that so much. And some people who have insurance aren't covered for a hurricane. You know, it doesn't cover them for inland flooding. So, it's a tough situation. Amber, thank you so much.

COSTELLO: Just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING: reading the tea leaves. The conservative movement may the most important factor in the GOP race for the White House. We will explore.


ROMANS: But I want to tell you about this disease that's forced Venus Williams out of the U.S. Open. We're going to tell you about this.

AMERICAN MORNING comes back right after this. It's 35 minutes after the hour.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

VELSHI: All right. News happening right now. A 3.4 aftershock has just been reported in Virginia.

Let's go straight to Rob Marciano in the weather center.

Rob, what are you knowing about this?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'll tell you, we haven't really seen one in a couple of days. And the ones we saw really immediately following the main quake which is over 5.0 magnitude quake were smaller than 3.0. This was a big one and felt by a number of people. About 30 miles or so northwest of Richmond, or about 80, 90 miles southwest of D.C.

So, this is certainly enough for people to feel it, especially around the Richmond area. As far as D.C. is concerned, we are getting some reports of folks feeling it around the D.C. area. But the most of the shaking, obviously, just northwest of Richmond.

You know, this sort of shaking where there are weakened structures from the main quake will exaggerate some of the weakening and, of course, we have been talking about it all morning the fact that Hurricane Irene may have raised more questions with the Washington Monument having already been weakened by the first quake last week just northwest of Richmond and the winds from Irene. And they found puddles in there.

So, no doubt that the officials will be out across Washington and Richmond today, examining already weakened structures from this first quake. But this is a 3.4 magnitude quake. It's about three miles shallow. And that was the main problem with the first quake, is it was shallow and fairly strong. And that's why we see a decent amount of structural problem with that. And it's 36 miles just northwest of Richmond -- very, very close obviously to the original quake.

VELSHI: All right, Rob. Keep an eye on that. If you got anything, just get back to us and we will put it on the air immediately. Rob Marciano following the development of that earthquake in Virginia.

We've also got some new surveillance video from a Virginia high school that was devastated by last week's earthquake. This is what teachers and students at Louisa County High School faced.

Look at that. Ceilings and walls caved in. Everybody is rushing out of the classrooms. They were scrambling to get out. The county says the school buildings suffered $57 million in damage. Louisa High School students will have to double up with middle schoolers while mobile classrooms are being prepared.

ROMANS: All right. The debate over the date of the president's jobs speech given Obama's opponents plenty to run with. The president hoped to talk to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday, the same night as a Republican debate. But House Speaker Boehner pushed back and the president backed down and rescheduled this jobs announcement to Congress until Thursday.

Take a listen to presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.


BACHMANN: Now, does this show maybe a little bit of insecurity on the part of the president? Either A, he wants to distract the American people so they don't watch it or B, he does want the American people to hear what the next president of the United States is going to say about the president's job plan.


ROAMNS: The president's speech will now be up against the NFL's opening night.

Joining us now, Maggie Haberman, senior writer for "Politico," and CNN contributor John Avlon.

John Avlon, is it insecure, clumsy or all of the above? I mean, we're having press releases -- any opportunity to send press releases about even scheduling a speech shows we are in this silly time in politics.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We are deep in it. I mean, this is the ultimate indicator. Right now, we are going into a joint session, divided government. If you want to do something about jobs, president is unveiling a plan. We can't even get it together, folks, in Washington when to schedule it.

I think it was too clever by half on the part of the administration. But at the same time, for the -- for the Republicans in Congress to be -- it's literally unprecedented. There's never been a request to hold -- for a president to hold a joint session of congressional speech and refused in effect by Congress.

So, this really is just a new indicator, really a new low, about how dysfunctional the atmosphere in Washington, D.C. is.

ROMANS: And this is a setback to the president. The president lost?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO: Absolutely. I think the president -- insecure was a very deliberate word by Michele Bachmann. The fear is that he looks weak now to his own party and to Republicans. I'm not sure what this move got him. He looks like he had to recapitulate to the Republicans. They won a point.

You only do this kind of thing if you can win. He didn't have a path to victory with scheduling the speech, as you said. And now, he's in a position where John Boehner looks stronger and he really has to deliver a very strong jobs speech because he's upped the ante, frankly, on what people are paying attention to.

ROMANS: Well, it's interesting. He has to deliver a strong jobs speech. A lot of people are saying, what can the president do? What is he going to do? What's going to be his plan?

But there's two brains looking at this. One brain is saying what can he do? The other one is saying, he's got to undo what he has done.

AVLON: Right.

HABERMAN: That's right.

ROMANS: There's two completely discordant conversations happening and I don't know how you bridge them.

AVLON: Well, there are two fundamental and different philosophies about how you create jobs in the America. I mean, the Tea Party believes that the government creates jobs by getting out of the way. And Democrats believe the government can play a role by getting into the fray and adjusting regulations and creating incentives for investment. That's two fundamentally different philosophical visions and they've got to be able to come together. The only way anything gets done in divided government is if they find some common ground.

HABERMAN: I think that's right. I also don't think that the Democrats feel particularly confident that this plan is going to be a path forward or the White House doesn't, or they would not have scheduled it in such way it is going to get completely deoxygenated by 9/11, a few days later.

ROMANS: Right.

HABERMAN: They are doing where the attention is going to be totally zapped away.

ROMANS: But we are told the president is going to give -- policy or -- is going to give away that Congress can do right now. Things they can do right now. Not up for debate, discussion for think tanks to weigh in on it. It will be things that they can do right now.

Does that put it in Congress' court?

AVLON: That will be certainly the White House's play. They are going to say, look, here are things we agreed on in the past. Let's not divide -- because we are on different sides of the aisle. Let's move forward. We can agree on these things today and put the American people back to work.

This does become a core part of the president's reelect campaign. He's going to be essentially running against the do-nothing Congress, trying to do a "Give them hell, Barry" approach to things. By trying to say, look, don't let bipartisan stand in the way of jobs progress. That's going to be the core argument.

ROMANS: There's do-nothing Congress and there's undo everything the president has done Congress. That's what we are kind of facing right now.

With the moral authority, with Republican Party if you brief it is with the Tea Party.

HABERMAN: That's exactly right. And I think that's what the president discovered with this. You were saying, you know, he e- mailed about the speech immediately last night. It is very much trying to pivot running against Congress. I don't think this is going to win over the people he needs.

As you said he is not speaking the language of the other side.

ROMANS: Right.

HABERMAN: Whatever he comes with won't do it.

ROMANS: Ezra Klein, writing for "Bloomberg News," wrote, "Obama's speech will achieve nothing. It can't change the fundamental fact of politics right now, which is that the two parties disagree and most profound question in Washington. It's not how we fix the economy, it is who should win the next election."

AVLON: And this is the fundamental problem, right? I mean, we sort of forgotten the horse race is preamble to government and that's not what we're not doing particularly well right now as a country. And I do think people at home, though, folks, independent voters are getting frustrated by the dysfunction of Washington. And as much as they dislike the overspending, they hate the hyperpartisanship even more.

HABERMAN: I think that's exactly right. I think that you are seeing -- independents are going to decide this election, and they are not hearing from either party what they want to hear. The problem is there's a sitting president who they aren't hearing what they want to hear from. ROMANS: Meanwhile, the leadership that we've been seeing lately has been governors responding to this crisis. Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. You wrote a great piece at Daily Beast yesterday.

AVLON: Thank you.

ROMANS: Chris Christie who -- you know, has said I'm not going to run, I'm not going to run. He said it a thousand different ways. But even Democrats and liberals in his state are saying, yes, he's Jersey. He's doing Jersey proud. I mean, the Chris Christie reaction to leadership.

AVLON: Well, the Chris Christie phenomenon is fascinating, because it does point to the fact there is still a Chris Christie shaped poll in the Republican Party. There is a hole on the center right, and a lot of fiscal conservatives want someone responsible from the center right to get in with executive experience, and here's the key.

Chris Christie is showing that states are governable. And right now, there is a leadership vacuum in Washington. And so, a strong governor unapologetic who can close the $14 billion budget gap without raising taxes, that's (INAUDIBLE) to fiscal conservatives.

HABERMAN: I think that's right. See, unapologetic thing that matters. It's not just showing that you can move the state. It's the tough message taking the fight. People saw him standing up for his state in terms of aid yesterday, and that's what's making the converse (ph) in his state.

ROMANS: All right. Maggie Haberman from Politico, John Avlon, as always, thanks, guy.

AVLON: Thank you.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Just imagine, who would want to get into the fray, though, and run in 2012.


COSTELLO: I mean, Chris Christie, maybe -- I don't know. It would be a tough job.

New this morning, only one of the Williams Sisters remains at the U.S. Open. Two-time champion, Venus Williams, has withdrawn from the tournament before playing her second round match. She says she's been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that causes joint pain and fatigue. It's called Sjogren syndrome. Venus says she'll be away from the game while she focuses on getting better.

Bad news for the family of a kid who hit a miracle $50,000 hockey shot. Remember this. It happened at a charity hockey event in Minnesota last month. Eleven-year-old Nate Smith nailed an 89-foot shot from center ice through a hole barely big enough for the puck to fit into. The problem was, the boy's twin brother is the one who bought the winning raffle ticket.

So, the company that insured the event has decided they won't get anything, but they are going to donate $20,000 to Minnesota Youth Hockey, instead.

COSTELLO: I wonder if they knew the rules beforehand, the boys.

VELSHI: I don't know. I can't imagine that they were gaming the system.


COSTELLO: They're little boys.


COSTELLO: Of course, you never know.

It's 47 minutes past the hour. Today's top stories next, including a legal victory for disgraced baseball slugger, Barry Bonds.

And the fall of the pajama (ph) trail. Two little girls get caught attempting to kidnap a goat.


COSTELLO: Oh, my gosh.


VELSHI: Fifty minutes past the hour. Here's what you need to know to start your day.


VELSHI (voice-over): Breaking news out of Virginia. A magnitude 3.4 aftershock was felt just after 5:00 a.m. eastern. It was centered around 32 miles east of Charlottesville, Virginia. You'll remember the east coast was rocked by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake last week.

President Obama visiting Paterson, New Jersey, on Sunday, the city hit hard after Hurricane Irene. It flooded out with more than 15 feet of water. Cleanup only starting after the water slowly begins to recede across the northeast.

Five crews in Texas and Oklahoma -- fire crews in Texas and Oklahoma are doing battle with wildfires that have destroyed dozens of homes in the two states and put hundreds of others in jeopardy. The flames have forced evacuations in both states

The suspect in the disappearance of American, Robyn Gardner, in Aruba isn't going home to Maryland any time soon. An Aruban judge ruled Gary Giordano can be held for another 60 days. He's been in custody since Gardner went missing last month. The U.S. is wasting $12 million a day in Iraq and Afghanistan according to a nonpartisan commission on war time contracting. The panel says that massive fraud and waste has cost America up to $60 billion over the past ten years.

Federal prosecutors have decided not to retry former baseball star, Barry Bonds, on perjury charges. Bonds still faces up to ten years in prison after being convicted of obstructing a grand jury investigation into performance enhancing drugs.

And they were painting the town red in Bunol, Spain, the site of the world's largest tomato fight. As many as 20,000 people took part in the Annual Tomatina Festival, flinging 120 tons of ripe tomatoes. That's strange. It looks like a lot of fun.


VELSHI (on-camera): That's the news you need to start your day. AMERICAN MORNING back right after this break.


VELSHI: Same-sex marriage front and center again on Piers Morgan. GOP presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, defending his views when Morgan said some gays don't admit it publicly because of bigotry. He asked Santorum if his views bordered on bigotry. Here's what Santorum said to Piers and then to a group of students after the interview.


RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I think just because we disagree on public policy which is what the debate has been about, which is marriage, doesn't mean it's bigotry.

Because I believe what the Catholic Church teaches with respect to homosexuality, I'm a bigot. So, now, I'm a bigot because I believe what the bible teaches. Now, what 2,000 years of teaching moral theology is now bigoted.


VELSHI: I watched all of that interview. It didn't seem to go down that way that he -- he said it afterwards, but he seemed pretty annoyed that Piers Morgan, he says, called him a bigot.


VELSHI: No, he asked him repeatedly, and then Piers, he said I'm a catholic. And then Piers said I'm catholic, too, but I think that, you know, some of these views need to evolve, and Rick Santorum objected to that, but it seemed like a very civil normal discussion on TV. So, I was very surprised when I saw that second part, because it seemed like there was more -- doesn't it make sound like there was more of a fight than there was. COSTELLO: But Rick Santorum has said things that the gay community doesn't like. Then, he compared same-sex marriage to somebody wearing a napkin.

VELSHI: Right.


VELSHI: And he talked (ph) about animals, yes.

COSTELLO: Animals, too. Right. So, yes.


COSTELLO: Interesting conversation, though. You're right, Ali.

OK. Now,we asked you to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. We asked you this question. Is President Obama's jobs plan DOA before it's even unveiled?

This is what Kaph says. He says, "Sadly, it probably is DOA. Not because it's good or bad, but because people have their minds made up to be against it before they even hear it. That's just foolish. I don't like everything Republicans or everything the Democrats say, but I still listen to them before I make an informed decision or opinion."

This from skip, "If the members of Congress are wise, they will put aside all the bickering and go to work for the American people who are supposed to represent. President Obama's putting himself center stage as being the only one in Washington putting any type of jobs plan out on the table. If the republicans are viewed as killing the plan before even gets started, I think they will be viewed in a bad light and will ultimately cause many of them to lose their seats."

And this from Joe, "The Republicans announced their agenda very clearly, defeat Obama in 2012. Of course, this was after the 2010 Congressional elections where they were screaming jobs, jobs, jobs. So, of course, they will be against anything that will stimulate jobs because lowering the unemployment rate helps millions of families, but it destroys their chances of sabotaging the economy and defeating Obama."

I must say most of our comments were anti-Republican. So, maybe our republican Friends aren't up early this morning.

VELSHI: Right.

COSTELLO: But most of the comments we're getting, so far, appear to be from our Democratic friends, although, I could be wrong.

VELSHI: Wake up, Republicans. It's five to seven on the east coast.

ROMANS: They want it to be DOA. I mean, that's the whole point. It's not -- they don't want the president to go big and do something. It's about what the president can -- should undo because they think what he's done, so far, is made it worse.

COSTELLO: Also, liberals are quite upset with the president, because, you know, in the scheduling set, he just appears weak. He appears to have caved in, and he also appears partisan because did he schedule the big speech on purpose to take place on the very same day a Republican debate was broadcast on MSNBC?

VELSHI: I mean, look, all of this could change depending on what's in the speech. If the speech is really interesting and really good fodder for discussion, a change, who know?

ROMANS: I think in the speech, he's going to put right in Congress' court. He can say, these are the five things you guys can do tomorrow. You can vote on tomorrow that will create jobs. Now, it's up to you to create those jobs. And so, then it puts it right into Congress.


COSTELLO: We'll see on September 8th. Keep those comments coming.

VELSHI: All right. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back. It's 56 minutes after the hour.