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Some Democratic Candidates Raise Foley Issue; U.S. Troops Tracking Would Be Killers Through Baghdad; Castro May Have Terminal Cancer; Fallout Continues in Foley E-Mail Scandal; African Mountain Gorillas Threatened
Aired October 07, 2006 - 10:55 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's take a listen now to the president as he speaks at the christening of the USS Bush today named after his father.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ...governors, ex-governors, the men and women of the United States Navy, military veterans, the workers who helped build this great ship, I join you -- I know you join me in saying to our father, President Bush, your ship has come in. In a few minutes, my sister, Dorothy, will christen the newest and most advanced aircraft carrier in the Navy, the George H.W. Bush.
For the pilots of the World War II generation who are with us today, this carrier may seem a little more inviting than the ones you landed on. As you can see, our Navy has made a few upgrades. The George H.W. Bush is the latest in the Nimitz line of aircraft carriers. She is unrelenting. She is shakable. She is unyielding. She is unstoppable.
As a matter of fact, probably should have been named the Barbara Bush. In accord with a long and honored tradition, we gather to christen this fine ship. We recall the service and sacrifice of earlier generations and we pay tribute to a new generation of sailors and Marines who step forward to serve in freedom's cause.
George H.W. Bush is named for a man who exemplifies the great character of our country. On the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, George H.W. Bush was a teenager. He was a high school senior. Six months later, he was sworn into the Navy.
A year later, he received his wings at a ceremony in Corpus Christi, Texas. Here's what he said. He said, I had an instant stripe and an admiral's confidence. I was a Navy pilot. Our dad would become known as one of the youngest -- Navy's youngest pilots. But that wasn't his only distinction.
While training along the Chesapeake Bay, the pilots in our dad's flight class learned about a beach across the way where young ladies liked to sun bathe. It became popular for the pilots to fly low over the beach. So one day he came in low to take a look. It just so happened to be the same day the traveling circus had set up its tents.
Dad's flyover upset an elephant, causing him to break lose and make a run throughout the town. He was called in for a reprimand from his commander. He puts it this way, I was grounded for causing an elephant stampede, probably the only Navy pilot in American history to make that claim.
After training, he was assigned to a light carrier. He took part in the great turkey shoot of the Mariana's. He knew the horror of kamikaze attacks. He would complete 58 combat missions. These were tough days. But he had something that kept him going. If you look closely at the photographs of the planes he flew, you will find what kept him going in the name he had painted under his cockpit, Barbara.
One of dad's most important mission was a strike on a radio tower on an island called Iwo Jima. Japanese were using that tower to intercept U.S. military radio transmissions and alert the enemy about impending American air strikes. September 2nd, 1944, his squadron was given a simple assignment, to take it out. The pilots knew they would face heavy enemy fire because the Japanese had fortified the island.
But dad and his fellow pilots did their duty without complaint or hesitation. During that raid, his plane was hit by anti-aircraft artillery and it caught on fire. He kept his plane on course. He released his four bombs and scored four direct hits on that tower. He headed out to sea and he ejected.
Japanese boats were sent out to capture him. For more than two harrowing hours at sea alone in a rubber life raft, he was rescued by the crew of the USS Finback. For his action, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Yet it is characteristic that from those moments aboard his life raft to this ceremony today, dad's thoughts have always been of the two fine members of his crew who did not make it home.
NGUYEN: It's the top of the hour and you're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
We're listening right now -- for those of you just joining us -- to President Bush deliver a speech at the christening ceremony of the USS George H.W. Bush, named after his father. It's a Nimitz-Class carrier.
Let's take a listen to what else the president is saying.
BUSH: ... with the defense of freedom comes loss and sacrifice. G.H.W. Bush honors a generation that valued service above self. Like so many who served in World War II, duty came naturally to our father. In the four years of that war, 16 million Americans would put on the uniform. The human costs were appalling. From the beaches of Normandy to the jungles of Southeast Asia, more than 400,000 Americans would give their lives.
From the beginning of that war, there were those who argued that freedom had seen its day and that the future belonged to the hard men in Tokyo and Berlin.
Yet the war machines of imperial Japan and Nazi Germany would be brought down by American GIs who, only months before, had been students and farmers and bank clerks and factory hands. The generation of World War II taught the world's tyrants a telling lesson -- there is no power like the power of freedom and no soldier as strong as the soldier who fights for a free future for his children.
The G.H.W. Bush will serve as a new generation of Americans every bit as brave and as selfless as those who have come before him. The 21st century -- in the 21st century, freedom is again under attack. And young Americans are volunteering to answer the call. In the years since September the 11th, 2001, more than 1.6 million Americans have volunteered to wear the uniform of the United States. Today, they serve in distant lands and on far seas, from the islands of Southeast Asia, to the Horn of Africa, to the mountains of Afghanistan and in Iraq.
And, once again, with perseverance and courage and confidence in the power of freedom, a new generation of Americans will leave a more hopeful and peaceful world for generations to come.
The men and women of the United States military represent the best of America. And they deserve the best America can give them. And the G.H.W. Bush is the best America can give them.
NGUYEN: You've been listening to President Bush as he is speaking at the christening ceremony of the USS George H.W. Bush, named, of course, after his father.
His sister, Dora Bush Koch, will be doing ceremonies there and christening that with a bottle of champagne, as it is traditionally done. And, of course, we'll be dipping back in to hear the former president speak once that does happen.
HOLMES: First up here now, a look at what's making news.
New developments in the Mark Foley e-mail scandal. A former congressional page from Oklahoma expects to talk to government investigators next week. We'll have a live report on that coming up.
Cuban President Fidel Castro probably has terminal cancer and it's unlikely he will ever return to power. That is according to a report on TIME.com, which quotes U.S. intelligence officials. The Cuban government has said Castro is recovering from abdominal surgery. We'll talk to the reporter who broke this story, coming up in just a few minutes.
And that North Carolina chemical fire? It's out. It broke out Thursday night at a hazardous waste disposal plant near Raleigh. Thousands of evacuated residents will be allowed to return home.
And gunfire in the Korean demilitarized zone. South Korea says North Korean soldiers crossed the dividing line. The South Koreans fired warning shots and the Northerners retreated. Tensions have been rising since the North announced plans for a nuclear test.
NGUYEN: Well, a new food scare to tell you about. An Iowa company is recalling 5,000 pounds of ground beef and it may be contaminated with the same strain of E. coli recently found in tainted spinach.
HOLMES: Eight days after Mark Foley resigned, the probe into his contacts with congressional pages gets down to individual cases.
Former page Jordan Edmund expects to talk to government investigators next week. Edmund now works for Congressman Ernest Istook, who is running for governor of Oklahoma. Edmund' lawyer says he has been very stressful for his client.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN JONES, FORMER PAGE'S LAWYER: Three days before he was anonymous. His privacy has been invaded. The media are camped outside his home, his campaign headquarters. They're calling his parents, his friends, his relatives. We have people on the Internet that are pro and con on this matter.
I mean it's bound to be confusing and embarrassing to a mature adult. We're dealing with a college student here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Attorney Stephen Jones says Edmund has not done a thing wrong and had no personal relationship with Foley.
NGUYEN: With congressional elections exactly one month away, some Democratic candidates are raising the Foley issue.
CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash reports that many Republicans, well, they're running scared.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York Congressman Tom Reynolds is in charge of getting Republicans elected to the House. In a tough year for Republicans, holding onto his own seat in Buffalo is a challenge. Now, he is a central player in the Mark Foley drama and he could lose.
REP. TOM REYNOLDS (R), NEW YORK: When I found out about this whole instance for the first time, in the spring of '06, I reported it to my supervisor, like anyone would in an office circumstance. I took it to the Speaker of the House.
BASH: Democrats say their internal polling shows Reynolds eight points behind his opponent.
Dozens of Republicans were already at risk of losing in November and while senior Republican officials hope the worst of the Foley scandal is now over, most admit there is damage.
VIN WEBER, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I would say the panic is out of people's voices, but a deep-seated concern remains. I mean those members that have been polling regularly and were in that season where members of Congress are doing regular tracking polls have found a dip in Republican ratings across-the-board. BASH: On the campaign trail, GOP candidates are seeking cover. Tom Kean, Jr. a Republican running for Senate in New Jersey, announced Hastert should resign as speaker.
TOM KEAN, JR. R, SENATE CANDIDATE: Speaker Hastert is the head of the institution and it's happened on his watch. I think there should be an independent investigation by outsiders.
BASH: GOP strategists say they are very concerned about the impact Foley will have in some of Indiana's conservative and highly competitive races. Republican Chris Chocola was already getting pounded for being part of an unpopular GOP Congress. He was one of the first to release a statement saying: "If leadership acted inappropriately, they will lose my support."
In Indiana's 9th District, Mike Sodrel's Democratic opponent just started airing this ad, raising questions about where his campaign money is coming from.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM BARON HILL CAMPAIGN AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And $77,000 from the House leadership, who knew about but did nothing to stop sexual predator Congressman Foley.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Most Republican strategists say it's too early to know if the scandal will really help Democrats pick up the 15 seats needed to seize control of the House. But they also say this...
WEBER: We're close to the election and it's an election in which the Republicans have had a stiff wind in their face all along, so it's not good.
BASH (on camera): Some Republicans are making the case this might not have a major impact. GOP pollster David Winston says his new data shows virtually no nationwide change in how Americans intend to vote. But Republicans do worry that if conservatives stay home in just a few tight races over this on election day, it could help Democrats win the House.
Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.
NGUYEN: And we're going to get back to the Foley fallout in just a moment.
But let's take you live now to Newport News, Virginia -- well, we did have that picture of former President Bush speaking at the christening of a new aircraft carrier named in his honor.
Do we have it?
All right, obviously we're having some technical difficulties. But when we get that shot back up, we'll bring it to you live, as the former president is speaking on this day, a day in his honor.
Well, there has been an all clear this morning for the most -- or for at least most of the thousands of people in North Carolina who fled from a chemical fire. Some 16,000 were given those evacuation orders. But those orders have since been lifted.
Firefighters have now gotten control of the blaze that broke out Thursday at a hazardous material plant in Apex. At least 16,000 people, as I mentioned, were asked to leave their homes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF JACK LEWIS, APEX, NORTH CAROLINA FIRE DEPARTMENT: The majority of it burned out. It ran out of fuel. We had three significant fires through the night that we were working on with the help of the suppression team and our people and a HAZMAT team. They were able to get to those fires, get to the seat of those fires and take care of those.
And what I'm saying now, the process is just taking care of little hot spots that pop up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: Well, the plant stored a number of chemicals on site, including oil, latex-based paints, household cleaners and detergents.
HOLMES: Well, in Iraq, another day of bloodshed. More than a dozen deaths are reported across the country today. The deadliest attack, a suicide bombing in Talafar in northern Iraq. The bomb exploded at an Iraqi Army checkpoint, killing at least 14 people.
NGUYEN: They can hear them, they just can't see them. U.S. troops tracking would be killers through the streets of Baghdad.
CNN's Arwa Damon has this story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... a mortar round fires.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The troops call it chasing the ghosts of small arms fire. They used to laugh at these ghosts and their poorly aimed pot shots. Now, they take them very seriously.
Lieutenant Daniel Quinn (ph) and his men move with caution, still trying to engage the people. But these streets are both friendly and deadly.
One minute a child is waving. The next...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, we've got a -- yes, it's just two rounds, the same direction we heard that one round from.
DAMON: The ghosts fire shots then fade away. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no way to I.D. where they came from.
DAMON: The men move through the dusty, trash-filled back alleys, hunting for clues, eyes scanning rooftops. Around them, life on the streets seems to continue as normal. Some of the ghosts are just taking pot shots. Others, well trained snipers who lay deadly traps.
Another call, another ghost. Quinn's platoon responds to another unit's call for backup, just a short distance from the other incident.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last I heard were sharps, one wounded in action. They're still engaged.
DAMON: But by the time they arrive on site, the ghosts have slipped away.
(on camera): This house right here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was coming from this house, the cellar.
DAMON: But no weapons were found in there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not yet.
DAMON (voice-over): This clearly nervous man is the only person in the house.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sound.
(SPEAKING IN ARABIC)
DAMON: Upstairs, the men look for clues and possible escape routes.
(on camera): The soldier was shot right on that street corner, taking a bullet through the arm. U.S. forces immediately MediVaced him and searched this home, finding shell casings littering this rooftop.
(voice-over): The Iraqi man is detained for questioning and gunpowder tests.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it was us up here, you know, we would shoot and then scurry down a couple of rooftops before going down and having a pre-determined, like one of these doors open to get out. There's a good possibility that's what he did.
DAMON: It seems the ghost shooter is long gone.
The Army says the wounded soldier will recover, but the soldiers say every time they hit the streets, they roll the dice. And with each step, the stakes seem to go higher.
Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.
(END VIDEOTAPE) NGUYEN: And tomorrow, insight from two retired generals. Their strategy on what should be done in Iraq. That's starting at 7:00 a.m. Eastern with analysis throughout the day. And, of course, it's right here on CNN.
HOLMES: Despite a surge in violence in Afghanistan, an upbeat assessment from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In an opinion piece in today's "Washington Post," Rumsfeld cites progress in a number of areas. He says Afghanistan's economy has tripled. Its forces have grown by 1,000 troops a month. The number of students in school has grown fivefold. And 80 percent of Afghans now have access to basic health care. He says five years after the fall of the Taliban, "the trajectory is a hopeful and promising one."
Critics disagree with Rumsfeld, pointing to the Taliban's resurgence in the south and the thousands of people who have been killed in the violence this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I started crying. I just fell -- literally fell to the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: The news from Iraq that brought this Army wife to her knees.
NGUYEN: Politics and scandal -- will the Foley fallout shake the balance of the House?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's believed a gorilla like this one might fetch from $50,000 to $100,000 on the black market, sold to buyers in Asia or Eastern Europe.
HOLMES: And gorillas in the mists and in danger of extinction in the Congo.
NGUYEN: Well, now that you've got a look at the newsroom, we're going to give you a look at the most popular stories on CNN.com.
Will North Korea go ahead with its plans to conduct a nuclear test?
That's a big question.
Barbara Starr has a report.
And GAY and the GOP -- the Mark Foley scandal touches off a debate inside the Republican Party. Plus, another top pick -- a report from Pennsylvania. How the Amish community is coping after this week's school shootings.
You can see all those reports and much more at www.CNN.com.
HOLMES: Well, we have with us now our Rusty Dornin on the phone, who is actually following around the Republican, Joe Negron, in Florida. He is, of course, not quite on the ballot, really. He is sitting in place of, of course, Foley, who has stepped down and won't be in this election.
His opponent, Tim Mahoney -- Rusty, are you there with us?
RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am, T.J.
Not only is he not on the ballot yet, he doesn't even have any campaign signs up. We're at the Republican headquarters in Port St. Lucie, Florida, where some folks are coming down to support him.
He is doing everything people would be doing normally about a year ago. Right from the beginning, he had a campaign war chest because he did run-for state attorney general and, of course, he was unsuccessful in the primary.
So he has a little bit of money from that. But it takes a while to get campaign signs and that sort of thing made. And the only sign they have right now is on the door, saying "a vote" -- it's a Xeroxed piece of white paper saying: "a vote for Mark Foley is a vote for Joe Negron.
So it's -- he seems pretty confident, though, that at this point it's still a Republican district and that voters are going to vote for him.
HOLMES: Well, what are the voters telling you? What are you getting, a sense from them that they're going to go that route? Or is this pretty much a lost cause for Mr. Negron here?
DORNIN: Well, as we said, it is traditionally a Republican district and right now Tim Mahoney, who has the -- who is the Democratic candidate, he's been -- had his campaign up and running for about eight months. He is only 3 percentage points -- there's only been one poll done, but he's only 3 percentage points ahead of Negron.
So, for somebody who just got -- or just launched into a campaign, that's not much of a distance.
HOLMES: Hmmm, well, Joe Negron not doing so bad, even though he doesn't have his first campaign sign.
Well, keep an eye out for that campaign sign for us.
Rusty Dornin is traveling with Joe Negron, Republican who is sitting in now for Mark Foley, who, of course, resigned.
NGUYEN: Well, it's hope and then heartbreak. For hundreds of Americans on the front lines in Iraq, going home is just going to have to wait. Their tour of duty extended at the last minute, and that doesn't sit well with their families. Of course not.
In Fairbanks, Alaska, here's CNN's Dan Simon.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a common setting throughout America -- a mother home by himself while her husband is at war.
Oh my goodness.
SIMON: And, like most wives, Michelle Cuthrell counted down the days until the reunion.
CUTHRELL: I keep a countdown on my wall. And I ran over to my countdown and it said 10 days and counting.
SIMON: That countdown was replaced by a question mark after learning her husband's year long deployment in Iraq had been extended for at least four months.
CUTHRELL: I became hysterical. I started crying. I just fell, literally, fell to the ground and I did not know what to do. I did not know what to think.
SIMON: Michelle's husband, Lieutenant Matthew Cuthrell, is a member of the Army's 172nd Brigade, stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska.
LT. MATTHEW CUTHRELL, 172ND BRIGADE, U.S. ARMY: I want you to swing wide with this.
SIMON: The unit's 4,000 troops in Iraq had a firm departure date last summer, or so they thought. Dozens had even made their way home, only to make a U-turn to the Middle East. Four soldiers who would otherwise have been home died in recent weeks while fighting in Baghdad. The most recent death on Wednesday, 27-year-old Jonathan Rojas killed by insurgents.
Fairbanks, an area of 85,000 people, has rallied around the soldiers' frustrated families. In their crosshairs, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Two members of Fairbanks' elected assembly, upset over how the war is being waged, drafted a resolution calling on Rumsfeld to resign immediately.
FRANK BARTOS, CO-SPONSORED RESOLUTION: And if you'd look to where the buck stops, the buck stops at the secretary of defense's office.
SIMON: The assembly took comments from citizens, who overwhelmingly supported the motion.
DAVID DELONG, FAIRBANKS RESIDENT: The utter failure of this war, it's specifically tied to decisions that Rumsfeld has made.
REX FISHER, FAIRBANKS RESIDENT: I think if there's a vote here against this resolution, that you have blood on your hands.
SIMON: The assembly will vote in coming days. The Army won't comment on the resolution, but says it understands the community's anger, especially over the last minute extension imposed on the troops.
COL. ROBERT BALL, U.S. ARMY: My job is to help those families, no matter who they are, to get through this, because we've got to survive together until we can get the soldiers home.
SIMON: A few wives, like Sue Ulibarri, say they understand the military's need to keep troop strengths up, even if it's at their husband's expense.
SUE ULIBARRI, WIFE OF SOLDIER: He's being a part of something that really has a lot of meaning, to us and to those people over there.
SIMON: The military says the 172nd Brigade can now expect to be home in December, just before Christmas. But Michelle Cuthrell doesn't want to get her hopes up yet.
CUTHRELL: Having been disappointed and heartbroken once, it's really hard to start that countdown back on my wall again.
SIMON: Still, she knows she's a lot luckier than others, whose husbands won't be coming back at all.
(on camera): Anticipating the return, hundreds of soldiers and their families had vacations planned, with their trips already booked and paid for. The Army says it's assisting them in getting refunds.
Dan Simon, CNN, Fairbanks, Alaska.
NGUYEN: And that story comes to us from "ANDERSON COOPER 360."
And you can join "A.C. 360" weeknights at 10:00 Eastern.
HOLMES: A president who's polarizing his party, the Iraq war, the Mark Foley scandal -- can the GOP survive this election?
NGUYEN: Plus, gentle giants -- their existence threatened by man.
Can the Congo gorillas survive?
We'll take a look.
HOLMES: All right, we're about to get into this Castro thing a lot more.
We told you earlier that according to TIME.com, the story they're reporting is that government officials, U.S. officials now believe that Fidel Castro, the Cuban president, now may have terminal cancer.
And on the line with us now is Tim Burger, who filed that report.
Thank you for giving us some time here.
Tell us how certain -- or are they certain at all, the U.S. government, that this is, in fact, the truth -- he has cancer?
TIM BURGER, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, a lot of officials apparently believe it. It's -- obviously, there's intelligence to that effect, intelligence you can never say until after the fact whether it was 100 percent. But there's been lots of rumors over the decades about Castro's health and this time there's some specificity and they attribute some credibility to the reports.
HOLMES: Can you get into any more specifics for us there?
Because, like you said, so many rumors just over the years about his health, what, this time, gives them a little better feeling that this is, in fact, true?
BURGER: A great question, T.J.
I can't go into, unfortunately, much more detail than we print, but, you know, they -- apparently the reporting that they deem more credible than usual and more specific. Obviously, it doesn't take an intelligence report to see that Castro has been kept off the stage for so long, starting in the summer and going at least until his birthday in December.
So right there you see that there's a major problem for him.
HOLMES: The government, as we can all imagine, has been preparing for his death and that eventuality for a long time now, so have those efforts by the U.S. government been accelerated in any way, that they're feeling better about this information they have so they're kind of going a little -- a little further with their plans for his death?
BURGER: Yes, that's the way it looks. And this will be a crucial moment if Castro leaves the scene, one way or the other, because the Cuba policy has basically -- it's been based on the fact that it's a dictatorship, but largely around Castro.
So if his brother takes over, for example, what U.S. policy changes might there be? Will, you know, will it be recognized or will we require Raul to make certain steps immediately?
That will be very important coming up.
HOLMES: All right, well, Tim Burger, it's a story, certainly, a lot of folks are interested in and going to keep an eye on for a while.
Thank you for spending some time with us. And hopefully we can get you back when you can give us a few more details. Thanks so much.
NGUYEN: Well, all morning long we've been bringing you pictures of the christening of the USS George H.W. Bush, which is taking place in Newport News, Virginia. And we now have the former president, whose namesake is the ship. And he spoke just a few minutes ago.
Take a listen to what he has to say.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And to say that I'm pleased to be here is the classic understatement of the year. This is any naval aviator's dream come true.
I first want to salute every single ship broader who has pitched in to make this vessel what you see today and which will finish it off in time for commissioning in 2008. This is magnificent and these ship builders are the best that the United States could possibly have, and I salute every single one of you.
NGUYEN: And just to tell you a little bit more, the ship was completed in 2008. It is the tenth and final Nimitz-Class super carrier, as we mentioned, named after George H.W. Bush. At a cost of nearly $5 billion, the Nimitz-Class are the largest, most sophisticated and formidable warships in the world.
So quite a day for the former president, as he witnesses the christening of that ship named after him.
And, in fact, his daughter Dora did the christening with -- in traditional form, a bottle of champagne.
So, nice -- a nice something for him this morning.
HOLMES: He looked happy about it. We're going to continue with this Foley political fallout. Will one man's troubles make the Republicans lose the House? That's coming up in the newsroom.
NGUYEN: Well, the Republicans have control over the White House and both houses of Congress. Normally that would mean smooth sailing in next month's elections, but the war in Iraq and the Mark Foley scandal could make waves for the GOP. So let's talk about how that's all going to play out in just a few weeks. With us now, our Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus and Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman, and thanks for being with us.
CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Good morning.
ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Nice to be with you.
NGUYEN: Well, let's start with you Robert. Let's talk about this Foley scandal. Is that going to dominate the elections because they're just weeks away.
ZIMMERMAN: It's clearly going to be a very critical factor in this election. It's not just the Mark Foley scandal that's so reprehensible, but the way the Republican leadership has tried to avoid it, tried to cover it up and tried to mislead the American people in terms of what has transpired.
For example, Congressman Reynolds from upstate New York, whose part of the Republican leadership, knew about the inappropriate e- mails, the predatory signals that Congressman Foley sent and then after he reported it to the speaker's office, he then went to Congressman Foley several months later and encouraged him to run again. It's that kind of -- that kind of focus on political power at any cost and the lack of accountability that the Republican leadership in congress has shown that really is at stake in this election.
NGUYEN: Well, Cheri, lets me allow you to jump in because I'm sure you're just chomping at the bit. Do you believe that the Republicans have really tried to just push it under the rug?
JACOBUS: No, we haven't swept anything under the rug. I think that your other guest is playing a little bit fast and loose with the facts here. We know that Denny Hastert did not have access to the most lurid of the e-mails. I think what we're finding out now if you read the "Washington Post" piece is perhaps we had a few key senior staffers that felt their power a little bit too much. I spent a lot of years.
ZIMMERMAN: ... senior members of Congress that went to the speaker.
JACOBUS: Please let me finish. I spent many years as a staffer myself on Capitol Hill. I'm familiar with the culture there and also "Roll Call" has its list of senior most powerful staffers. They're more powerful than members of Congress. I think without any inside information, I think how this is going to bear out with the Ethics Committee investigation and the FBI is that there have been some staffers who tried to deal with this in order to keep Hastert or maybe other members of Congress out of the loop.
ZIMMERMAN: How do you explain Congressman Boehner, part of the Republican leadership, going to Speaker Hastert, Congressman Reynolds, part of the Republican leadership going to Speaker Hastert and according to today's "Washington Post," the speaker's chief of staff...
JACOBUS: This is what I'm talking about staffers.
ZIMMERMAN: I'm talking about members of Congress, Cheri. Let's deal with the facts and let's not try to sweep this under the rug.
JACOBUS: Why don't you tell me which e-mails you think that they all knew about that they talked about because...
ZIMMERMAN: Clearly the initial e-mails.
JACOBUS: Are you talking about evidence or a red flag because it's very easy in retrospect to call something a red flag.
ZIMMERMAN: What I'm talking about Cheri is the e-mails that were sent, that were brought to the attention of the congressional leadership were of such concern, they went to Speaker Hastert and in fact, according to newspaper reports, Congressman Foley was warned about his behavior. The fact is it should not have stopped there.
JACOBUS: I think what you're playing.
NGUYEN: Who knew what, when. Let me ask you, as well, on the flip side, talk about the Republicans sweeping it under the rug and we'll see when this investigation plays out. But there are also claims that the Democrats are just playing dirty politics with the election just a few weeks away. So, Robert, let me ask you, is that the truth?
ZIMMERMAN: Well, Speaker Denny Hastert, after he had these allegations acknowledged he had no facts to document it and no facts to back it up. In fact, according to the Hill and ABC News, a Republican staffer was the source for these e-mails and the source for this explosion involving Congressman Foley and the Republican leadership.
But what you're seeing here from the speaker is the kind of panicked reaction of the congressional leadership and Congress because of the fact that they now have been caught not -- they're caught not being accountable. They're caught not addressing the issues.
For example, in Bucks County, Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick has engaged in the most scurrilous attacks against Patrick Murphy. In fact even Republicans have caused Congressman Fitzpatrick into line just because of the reaction of the Foley scandal and the reaction of the Republican congressional leadership.
NGUYEN: Well, let me get this last question in to both of you because really it boils down to what the voters think and what they are going to the polls for in just a few weeks is to determine if the Republican Congress is better than a Democratic Congress. And let me let you answer that, Cheri. Is it?
JACOBUS: I think that a Republican Congress, Republican-led Congress is far better than Democratically-led Congress. Let's not forget. I'm going to throw this in here. President Clinton pardoned a former Democratic congressman who was caught having sex with a 16- year-old campaign worker. So I didn't see the Democrats getting up in arms.
ZIMMERMAN: It's wrong then Cheri and it's wrong now.
JACOBUS: But I don't recall you or others back then saying that...
ZIMMERMAN: You weren't listening too carefully Cheri.
JACOBUS: I think the American people understand. NGUYEN: I wonder if voters are arguing like this about the issues out there. Quickly, Robert, let me get you to answer that question before we just simply run out of time. Is a Democratic-led Congress better than what we're seeing right now?
ZIMMERMAN: A Democratic-led Congress is critical because it restores checks and balances to our system. Senator John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services, came back from Iraq and he acknowledged that he didn't ask the tough questions that had to be asked that hopefully could have avoided this tragedy that America is facing in Iraq. A Democratic Congress means you're going to have the checks and balances that will hold the presidency in check.
JACOBUS: A Democratic congress means no plan on Iraq and I think that's...
ZIMMERMAN: The only ones with a plan -- the only ones with a plan on Iraq are the Democrats, Cheri.
NGUYEN: The plan right now is to leave it right there.
ZIMMERMAN: The plan right now is to focus on the war on terror.
NGUYEN: For us, the plan is to leave it there. Robert Zimmerman, Cheri Jacobus, we appreciate your time. Boy, what an explosive topic. We'll see how it plays out at the polls. Thank you.
HOLMES: We should get them together more often.
NGUYEN: Shouldn't we?
HOLMES: They're cute together.
Come up, gentle giants threatened by man.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Visiting the mountain gorillas is probably one of the most incredible and intimate experiences you can have with an animal in the wild when you're this close to the gorillas and you see their eyes, you see how intelligent they are and how really similar they are to human beings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Anderson Cooper travels deep into the Congo jungle in search of the gorillas of central Africa.
NGUYEN: In the war torn Democratic Republic of Congo, humans are the obvious victims, but some of the not so obvious victims are the gorillas of central Africa. Anderson Cooper took a trip up into the mountains to see the majestic animals for himself and learn why their future is so questionable.
COOPER (voice-over): After years of war and government neglect, nothing is easy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. To find the last remaining mountain gorillas, you have to drive for hours along bumpy dirt roads, then guarded by park rangers, hack your way through thick forests. There's only about 700 mountain gorillas left in the entire world and all of them live in central Africa.
They live in two distinct groups, one group about 320 live on a mountain in Uganda. The other is about 380 of them live here in the Virungas, a densely forested series of mountains that straddles Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In Rwanda, the mountain gorillas are the country's biggest tourist attraction, bringing in about $2 million a year. Here in the Congo, years of fighting have driven away the tourists and since 1994, more than 100 of these park rangers have been killed. The gorillas here in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are under threat from all sides. Farmers desperate for land are encroaching on their habitat. So are miners who are exploiting the natural resources of the country.
Miners also need food to eat and so they hunt gorillas. They also set traps, snares for other animals that the gorillas get caught in. Many gorillas have lost hands to snares. Others have died from subsequent infections or been killed by poachers looking to steal baby gorillas and sell them on the black market. The park rangers patrol every day searching for snares set by poachers.
These guards protect the gorillas from hunters and poachers but their salaries aren't being paid by the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In fact, the government here can rarely pay anybody's salary. The salaries are picked up by the UN and a consortium of private conservation groups. Without these guards, it's likely many more gorillas would get killed. After hiking for more than an hour, the park rangers find a nest where a family of gorillas spent the night.
Nearby, they discover food recently eaten by the gorillas. A few feet away in a small clearing, we get our first sight of the mountain gorillas. They're playing together. There's nine gorillas in this group and every gorilla group is leaded by an adult male called a silverback, the silverback right over there, the distinctive coloring on his back. A fully grown silverback can weigh about 500 pounds.
PATRICK MEHLMAN, DIANE FOSSEY GORILLA FUND INTL: His name is Umba and we think he's about 22, 24 years of age. He's the only silverback in this group.
COOPER: Patrick Mehlman is a gorilla expert with the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund and Conservation International.
MEHLMAN: He's just testing us. He's just testing us. It's OK. He's just trying to pass now. Just let him pass. As long as he doesn't feel like we're doing anything threatening he'll just walk right by us as he did. COOPER: Gorillas are highly susceptible to human diseases. So visitors are only allowed one hour with the mountain gorillas but it's more than worth the trip. Visiting the mountain gorillas is probably one of the most incredible and intimate experiences you can have with an animal in the wild when you're this close to the gorillas and you see their eyes. You see how intelligent they are and how really similar they are to human beings.
Each one really has a unique personality. Each one is an individual. Despite the obstacles mountain gorillas still face, they are in some ways a success story. In recent years, their numbers have been slowly climbing. For other gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, however, so-called lowland gorillas, the picture is much bleaker.
MEHLMAN: The lowland gorillas have indeed suffered from the effects of civil war because you'd had several armies and all of these armed rebel groups moving through the habitat. There are occasions when they'll just take out their AK-47s and have target practice. That happens.
COOPER: That happens and likely will continue to happen until the government takes hold in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that makes protecting gorillas a priority, if not on principle, then simply as a way to bring in some desperately need tourist dollars. Anderson Cooper, CNN, Goma.
NGUYEN: And tonight, Anderson cooper hosts a CNN special report from Africa, the killing fields, Africa's misery, the world's shame. That airs at 8:00 Eastern only on CNN.
Bringing law and order to a troubled land, that is the job of African union peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region but can it be done? Coming up at noon in the newsroom, CNN's Jeff Koinange takes a closer look at the huge challenges these peacekeepers face.
HOLMES: CNN newsroom continues at the top of the hour. I'm new here and I'm trying to get used to calling you Fred.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Fredricka, then. My mother will be very happy to hear that. She's not crazy about the whole Fred thing. T.J., welcome.
HOLMES: Thank you so much.
WHITFIELD: It's been a great morning for you guys and for all of us watching.
NGUYEN: It's been fun.
WHITFIELD: Good. We have more fun for you in the newsroom starting at noontime. We'll have more on that key senator who is just back from Iraq who says staying the course -- not so fast.
And then checklist on retirement. Perhaps you guys, hopefully, are taking advantage of your 401(k), IRAs.
NGUYEN: Absolutely, got that.
WHITFIELD: OK, well, that's just the beginning. We're going to be talking to someone with "Money" magazine who says there's a lot more you need to be doing to secure those golden years. That's a good start. It's encouraging though. So we want you to stay tuned for it. I know it's hard to start thinking about retirement. You know, young bucks and all, right.
NGUYEN: There are vacations you pay for and things like that.
WHITFIELD: That's right, never too early and it's never too late.
NGUYEN: That's true. All right, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: That's right, Fredricka.
HOLMES: Thank you so much. And from Fredericka to Veronica.
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, guys. I'm going to stick with Fred. I'm going to stick with Fred. All right, coming up next from the dotcom desk, a couple of I-reports that I'd like to share like this one from Tennessee. We'll tell you why this Memphis landmark went up in flames. That's coming up after the break. You're in the newsroom.
HOLMES: If you've ever wanted to say I report for CNN.
NGUYEN: Now you do.
DE LA CRUZ: You're saying it.
NGUYEN: But you too can. And veronica de la Cruz joins us with the latest on that.
DE LA CRUZ: Hey guys. We've created this online community. It's called I-Exchange. It's a place where I-reporters from around the globe can share their thoughts, their pictures and their video. I want to take a moment here to highlight the best of the best as far as submissions go this week.
We have received remarkable pictures from our I-reporters out in the field during typhoon Jong Sun (ph) that raked the Philippines. Take a look at this video. Stephen Fisher was drive home from his office when the typhoon hit Manila. He found these roads blocked off by fallen trees and he took a moment to survey the damage.
A couple of other photos I wanted to share with you, this one from Jojit Yanga (ph) of huge trees toppled over from the storm and then even more widespread damage. This one from Paula Navales (ph) in Makati, Philippines. Another from one from Makati. Nina Reyes (ph) took this picture. NGUYEN: Look at that.
DE LA CRUZ: Yes, this half-standing structure Betty was once a billboard.
NGUYEN: Is that what that was? It kind of looks like an electrical pole that's side ways.
DE LA CRUZ: It probably toppled over on top of that. Taking you back to the U.S. now, we received this picture from Charles Downs (ph). This is the actually, there's one more there from Makati, Philippines. Now we're going to go back to the U.S.
This picture is of the historic First United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, was build back in 1893. Its significance, there was a fire there yesterday morning which largely destroyed the church. Its roof caved in. The steeple fell and some walls crumbled onto the streets.
And Ian Jones sent us this picture of the fire taken from his apartment window. This is not the church, but embers from the church sparked a fire at Memphis Lincoln American Tower and two other buildings. That fire definitely spread there. It's images like these that give us a real idea of what's happening there on the ground.
Don't forget that you out there can be our eyes and ears. You can say I-report for CNN and of course, you can find it online at CNN.com/exchange and T.J. can now say I report for CNN. Welcome, you did you a great job today. What do you say Betty? Should we keep him?
NGUYEN: I think we're going to keep him for a long time to come.
HOLMES: I enjoyed her doughnuts.
DE LA CRUZ: No doughnuts but you did compliment my haircut so we'll keep you.
NGUYEN: You that's all you need to do around here. Reynolds, your hair is looking great too.
NGUYEN: All right. It is good times. You got a big game coming up today.
HOLMES: As long as I can get out and don't have to hear hook 'em horns again this morning.
NGUYEN: You're going to hear it for many, many more to come. Hey, the CNN newsroom continues with Fredricka Whitfield.
HOLMES: That's coming up right after a short break. Thanks for being here with us.
NGUYEN: Have a great Saturday.
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