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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Thirty-Seven Dead from Tornado Outbreak; Super Tuesday in 2 Days; Putin Looking for New Term

Aired March 4, 2012 - 07:00   ET

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


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN ANCHOR: From CNN Center, this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING. It's March 4th, 2012.

Good morning. I'm Gary Tuchman.

We've seen the devastation. Now, we're finding out more about the people who lived and in some cases died after Friday's massive tornado outbreak.

And Washington state's voters -- well, they've spoken. But will it impact the outcome two days from now on Super Tuesday?

In a helicopter crash that was captured on camera, the amazing story of the pilots who walked away is just ahead.

Thirty-seven people are confirmed dead following a severe weather outbreak that spawned tornadoes in several states, impacting an estimated 17 million people. National Guard troops have been deployed to Indiana and Kentucky.

But President Obama has pledged federal assistance to state officials.

Ohio Governor John Kasich echoing the sentiments of many of those affected saying, quote, "We're knocked down, but we're not knocked out."

One of the more compelling stories was the discovery of a toddler lost in the tornado. The 20-month-old girl is in critical condition at a Louisville, Kentucky, hospital. She's surrounded by her extended family, so she's not alone, but her mother, father, and two siblings were killed in the storm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very hard that it happened to all of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been through a lot. Everything. More than anyone can imagine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: It's just so hard to watch. Residents of the ton of West Liberty, Kentucky, can't believe their eyes after an EF-3 tornado ripped through the town center, leaving a trail of debris.

Our Rob Marciano is in West Liberty.

Rob, you tweeted the other day. I saw that. This is an undercover situation in West Liberty. I'm glad you got out there to take a firsthand look.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's a tough place to get to. This is a rural community, and as you know, the further east you get in Kentucky, closer to the Appalachians, the more rugged the terrain gets, and this F-4, EF-4 tornado managed to get into Morgan County, managed to get across the state of Kentucky which, by the way, of the 37 fatalities, 17 in this state.

This is the worst hit state across five or maybe six counties where these fatalities happen. This is the county seat of Morgan County. A rural community where all their business is done in this town and of West Liberty and it just got creamed.

This is a part of a bank -- basically the mobile teller area. I would say it's probably built in the 1960s. Obviously completely decimated and then the cars that were parked in this area. This parking lot is also being used as a mobile command center feeding some of the troops and law enforcement and rescue workers. And then beyond that, this is the main street.

This is the first time we've been able to access Main Street, because they were able to clear enough of the roadway to get larger vehicles, including rescue and repair vehicles, and, you know, our satellite truck. We're able to see now some of the town just totally torn up there beyond Main Street. You can see the trees, my goodness. I'm just seeing that now as light comes up. How they are splintered in two.

Here's a municipal building. That's where the city hall is and also -- and the police department. And then back here, this is the main part of the bank. The bank itself has been in business for 100 years. The building probably built in the 1960s, but look how torn up that is, especially the corner towards Main Street.

You've got cinder blocks. You've got reinforced concrete there that's completely torn down. So, 140-mile-per-hour winds certainly did a heck of a lot of damage to this place.

Now, this town has been on lockdown because they didn't want residents and business owners coming back until they were able to clear some of the roadways enough and go through the buildings and the homes to make sure that they cleared them, to make sure that everybody was accounted for. They think for the most part that is the case.

So, damage assessments will be done throughout the day. They will finally allow residents and business owners to come into town and to take stock of exactly what happened, and it's been a shocking sight for the few that have gotten back so far -- Gary.

TUCHMAN: Those pictures, Rob, they look not real, but they're oh so real, it is so sad.

Rob Marciano, thank you very much. We'll talk to you later this morning.

I just returned yesterday myself from covering the storms. I was in Harrisburg, Illinois, earlier in the week. Nashville, Tennessee, a couple of days ago. I saw homes reduced to rubble, and entire communities that were obliterated.

Meteorologist Alexandra Steele joins me now. She's in for Reynolds Wolf.

And I think the one thing that I notice whenever I cover a tornado, but particularly this time, the shock on these victims' faces. Those who lost their loved ones, those who barely survived. It's just devastating to watch this. I mean, the breadth and depth and scope of this outbreak.

Now, it may very well go down in history as the worst March tornado outbreak on record. There were reported between 94 and 100 tornadoes. Now, the record was 74 tornadoes back in 2006. So, that's one way to look at it.

Also, you know, as a meteorologist, when we have one or two or three tornado warnings, it's a big deal. You know, we break in. We go on the air. Tornado warning mean a tornado has been spotted.

So, to have over 270 tornado warnings out there -- so, I mean, look at this. It's really unbelievable. Henryville, obviously, you know, one of the hardest hit areas with an EF-4. And, you know, tornadoes, how they're classified is after the fact between -- there's a scale, of course, the EF-scale, enhanced Fujita scale between EF-0 and EF-5.

This is an EF-4, meaning well-constructed homes, buildings, brick and mortar, just completely leveled, cars, trains tossed about. So, here -- now, the National Weather Service has to go in, assess the damage. So, between 94 and 100 tornadoes reported.

Now, that number may have go down, but the National Weather Service, of course, has to go out and survey the damage. That's how the scale is done on the damage level. So, it all coordinates to the damage scale -- the severity and kind of the level of the tornado.

TUCHMAN: It was really intense. It's just the beginning of the season. I mean, spring is the height of the tornado season, and we're still three weeks away from the official beginning of spring time.

STEELE: That's right. Of course, May being the peak -- April, May, and June. Now, we're in March. Now, this year climatologically it's been a little off. I mean, it's been very warm in the South, so all that moist, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico was there, was available -- ingredient number one. This cold front that was pretty potent coming down with some cold air, and then a robust jet stream at about 150-mile-per-hour jet stream. So, kind of all the ingredients came together for really the perfect scenario of destruction. TUCHMAN: Alexandra Steele, thank you very much.

STEELE: Sure.

TUCHMAN: Well, it's time to move on to politics.

President Obama speaks to the AIPAC conference today. AIPAC is the largest Jewish lobbying organization in the United States. The president is under fire from the Republican candidates for his stance on Middle East peace and on Iran.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney has added to his winning streak by capturing yesterday's Washington state caucuses. He won Michigan and Arizona earlier last week. This latest win gives him even more momentum heading into Super Tuesday this week, two days from now.

As you can see on our chart here, Romney captured 38 percent of the vote. Ron Paul was second. Rick Santorum a close third.

So, what does that all mean?

Super Tuesday coming up next. Here are the numbers. Ten states, that's one-fifth of the United States, more than 400 delegates, and that is more than 30 percent of the delegates needed for the nomination.

Joining me now, Patricia Murphy. She's the founder of "Citizen Jane Politics" and a contributor for "The Daily Beast."

Patricia, thanks for joining us.

PATRICIA MURPHY, THE DAILY BEAST: Good morning.

TUCHMAN: So here in Georgia, this is the biggest prize on Super Tuesday.

MURPHY: Yes, 76 delegates.

TUCHMAN: How important is Georgia -- obviously, Newt Gingrich has to win there right to stay in the race.

MURPHY: Georgia is everything for Newt Gingrich. If he doesn't win here, there's just no way that he can say that he's a credible candidate for president. But he also I think needs to show strength in other states. You can't just win in your own backyard and say, OK, great, I can be president. He has racked up several losses coming in third and fourth in a lot of contests. So I think he needs to win Georgia, come in second in a lot of states, and it wouldn't hurt to win a couple other states as well.

You can't say you're electable if you don't win elections.

TUCHMAN: What does Rick Santorum have to do? I mean, he -- all the momentum when he won three contests in the Upper Midwest, in Colorado. Then you have Mitt Romney come back, and he's gotten momentum now. So, what does Santorum have to do two days from now?

MURPHY: Let's just say one word, Ohio. Ohio has become the litmus test for these candidates throughout --

TUCHMAN: They always become a litmus test.

MURPHY: Isn't it always -- isn't always like the new Florida?

TUCHMAN: Right, with colder weather.

MURPHY: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Yes.

MURPHY: Too bad. But these -- all the Republicans are really gunning for Ohio because it is a huge swing state, as we know. It also is a great -- an important combination of values voters, Christian conservatives. It's Midwestern. They're in the Rust Belt.

This is a place where all these candidates want to show strength with all these different segments. So, if Santorum can win Ohio, he can legitimately say there is a group of Republicans who are strong for me. I am strong for them. This contest will go.

And he wants to make this a two-man race. He also wants Gingrich out of the way, by the way.

TUCHMAN: And Gingrich still wants the two-man race, too. So --

MURPHY: Absolutely. Well, he wants to be the other piece of the two-man race.

For Romney, this is his chance to really start to close the door on these other candidates. He's been able to rack up one, two, three, four, five wins in a row now. If he can really do well on Super Tuesday, he can say, give it up, people. I'm going to be the nominee. Let's just move forward.

So, he can start to convince donors and start to convince the party establishment. Yes, I am electable. Yes, Republicans do support me.

And Super Tuesday is essential for that.

TUCHMAN: Meanwhile, Patricia, were you surprised that Senator Olympia Snowe decided not to run for re-election?

MURPHY: I was surprised if that she has been in this difficult situation for many, many years. When I say difficult, it is tough to be a moderate in Washington. It doesn't matter if you are a Democratic or Republican. The party --

TUCHMAN: A little easier to be a moderate Democrat than a moderate Republican in this day and age, right? MURPHY: Not really. You tend to lose elections if you are a moderate Democrat. I mean, in 2010, we saw the majority of the moderate Democratic caucus not elected. So, it's tough either way. You're either going to quit or get dumped by your voters because these parties have become so polarized.

Snowe has been in this situation for a long time, but she just turned 65, and she told her constituents, I'm exhausted of this. Washington is more polarized than ever.

And she had to look ahead at the next six years and say, what am I really going to get done? Is it worth the sacrifices I make in my own life to get almost nothing done in Washington, which is what it feels like for these moderates. You don't have an impact. And if you do, your own party is going to come after you, and that's what she experienced.

She hoped to move the health care bill towards final passage and brought it out of committee. She was a crucial vote for it. Republicans annihilated her. She was really ostracized from the caucus in a lot of ways. And I think at the end of the day she just said this is just not worth it.

TUCHMAN: Patricia Murphy, thank you for some super Sunday of analysis --

MURPHY: Thank you.

TUCHMAN: -- leading up to Super Tuesday.

MURPHY: Great to see you.

TUCHMAN: It's nice seeing you too.

MURPHY: Thanks.

TUCHMAN: Thank you.

Well, there's another vote that we are keeping a close on today. It's far from away the United States. It's in Russia, where Vladimir Putin is looking to return to the presidency. We're live in Moscow next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUCHMAN: The people of Russia are making their presidential choice today. Here's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin voting today. He is the favorite to win the election.

Remember, Putin was president for more than a decade before stepping aside and taking the Prime Minister job.

Joining me now from Moscow is CNN foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty. She's back in the city where she served to well in our Moscow bureau for many years.

Jill, it's nice seeing you. And is there any real threat to Putin winning today?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Gary, you'd have to say no. I mean, his ratings, his popularity, they're very high. And the question is really will he win in this first round where you have to get 50 percent of the vote plus, or will it go to a second round run-off. But even if it went to a run-off, he would definitely win, or at least that is the consensus. So, very little question.

But I think it's interesting that, you know, you've got a lot of people now much more motivated about politics and about voting, and that's something new.

TUCHMAN: Now, Jill, are we going to see the same kinds of protests we saw after the parliamentary elections in December? I mean, one thing about Putin, you are saying yourself, he is popular, but it seems like he was much more popular months ago, a year ago, two years ago. A lot of people believed he brought back Russians' pride.

You have the protests out there. Even if you think he's going to win, are we going to see more protests today?

DOUGHERTY: You're definitely going to see more protests. In fact, they've gotten permission from the city of Moscow to hold them, and they're planning on having quite large demonstrations.

That I think is one of the most interesting questions. You know, will those demonstrations continue even if Vladimir Putin does win? Because that's the essential question.

The people who are going out on the streets and there are many scenarios -- they could continue. They could be perhaps very angry that Vladimir Putin wins. Or they could just kind of throw up their hands and say, well, that's life. I guess we'll go home. Or you could have a scenario where they continue to stay out there on the streets.

Nobody really knows, and one of the questions is what will Vladimir Putin and his government do after the election? Would they crack down? Would they let it continue? Or would they just kind of ignore it?

So, there are a lot of scenarios. But I think you'd have to say those demonstrations will continue.

TUCHMAN: That was a funny sign we just saw in the video, Jill. It said "2010 Put-in. 2012 Put-out." But it doesn't look like Put will be out. It looks like Put will be in, according to our Jill Dougherty.

Jill, thank you very much. It's nice seeing you.

Don't forget sportsmanship. New Orleans Saints players are being called out now for intentionally trying to hurt their opponents all to collect cash. It's really outrageous. But is this common in the NFL? We'll find out next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUCHMAN: Recent revelation has shaken the National Football League like no other scandal in recent years. An investigation has found that the New Orleans Saints were actually rewarding some of their players for hurting players on the other team, around 1,000 bucks for knocking a guy out of the game. One player, Jonathan Vilma, who you see here, allegedly offering 10,000 grand for anyone who injured then Vikings quarterback Brett Favre.

Joining me now is Coy Wire. He's the former linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons and Buffalo Bills.

Coy, thank for joining us.

COY WIRE, FMR. NFL LINEBACKER: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

TUCHMAN: Does this come as a surprise to you when -- in your days in the game, did you hear coaches say I'll give you money if you take out a player?

WIRE: Well, I actually had the privilege of playing for Greg Williams.

TUCHMAN: Well, Greg Williams is the assistant of the Saints who allegedly was in charge of this plot, right?

WIRE: Right. You know, he was one of my favorite coaches of all time. Still is to this day. Great motivator. A great leader.

Did he get carried away? Yes. What he did was wrong. He admits that now.

And all the players who bought into that philosophy and that mentality of maliciousness were at fault, too, to some degree. And I think now that we know all that goes on with brain trauma, it's pertinent that we put an end to this type of behavior.

TUCHMAN: I'm a huge football fan for a long time. I used to watch Bears games at Wrigley Field. You probably even know that played at Wrigley Field before Soldiers Field. That's a whole other story.

But I don't mean to be naive about it. I would think players would joke with each other about this and put up bets. But to have a member of the coaching staff say to the players, I'm going to give you extra money. You're going to get extra money for knocking a player out of the game, for impairing his health, for possibly hurting them forever, that seems totally outrageous in its face.

WIRE: This is a classic case of group think. Group think and psychology is a term describing a group of people will come together and do bad, irrational things. When as individuals, they would see and assess that same situation as being bad and wrong. It's what happens in cults. You get caught up in the moment and the heat of the battle, and in something like a sport like football, it's an uber-competitive sport, and the chase -- the pursuit of the elusive Lombardi Trophy sometimes causes guys to lose their heads a bit.

But, you know, that's what makes this game exciting. It's the will to win and the guys who are willing to do anything to go out there and succeed.

TUCHMAN: Yes, but you can win without doing stuff like this. This is my next question. Do you think that other teams but also have coaches who are paying players to hurt other players?

WIRE: I hope not. You know, I think that now --

TUCHMAN: In your days for the Bills? In your days with the Falcons -- did you ever hear a coach say I'm going to give you money if you knock a player out of the game?

WIRE: That was the unique experience that I had with that, and I realize that afterwards when I had other coaches that that wasn't the norm. That's not how things were in the NFL. You know, so I think that the fault was admitted, and I respect Coach Greg Williams even more now for standing up and admitting his faults and taking ownership of his -- the mistakes that he's made.

And this is going to be a great moment for us because it puts player safety and health issues being such a hot button right now, it furthers the point that we really need to look out for our fellow teammates and the players of this game and the future of our game because there are kids out there who are watching this sort of attitude and this maliciousness, this attitude that is harmful.

And you can still play the game of football competitively with viciousness. It can be a violent game and an exciting game for fans, but we can still do it with respect for others. We can do it with integrity and with good old-fashioned sportsmanship, and I think that's the direction we need to go.

TUCHMAN: You brought up something important -- you guys are our kids' role models.

WIRE: That's right.

TUCHMAN: And you all have to keep that in mind. So, tell your friends who are on the field right now that that's how we all feel.

WIRE: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

TUCHMAN: Thanks for your smart words. Nice seeing you, Coy. I really appreciate it.

Well, startling images of a helicopter crash in Arizona.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: We'll have details on the men inside that chopper, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUCHMAN: Free plastic surgery for teachers. That's the case for all teachers. They all qualify for it in Buffalo, New York.

For the last four decades, they've been getting the Hollywood star treatment on the taxpayers' dime. Last year, the district spent almost $6 million on facelifts, breast implants, a lot of nip and tucks.

So, earlier, we asked you if you thought school teachers should get free plastic surgery paid for by taxpayers -- and most of you have been sounding off against the idea.

Roderick tweeted us, "Teachers getting free plastic surgery is just crazy. It's a teaching job, not a beauty contest."

And Michelle says, "I think this is wrong. Funds from school districts should be used to teach."

So what do you think? Share your thoughts with me on Twitter@GaryTuchmanCNN, and we will read them on the air a little later.

Checking our top stories:

At least 37 people are dead after Friday's tornado outbreak in the South and in the Midwest. But amid scenes of destruction, many state and local officials are vowing to rebuild. The National Guard is now on the ground assisting residents of Kentucky and in Indiana.

A helicopter pilot and his crewmember walked away from this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: The men say the helicopter's exterior had saved their lives. They were filming an episode of "The Car Show, Top Gear Korea." Initial reports suggest a mechanical malfunction led to the crash. The incident is still under investigation.

Mitt Romney has come under fire on the campaign trail for his health care law in Massachusetts. But how did that law really change the way people get health care or pay for it? Some answers as "SANJAY GUPTA, M.D." starts right now.