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Historic Flooding in Iowa; Tim Russert Dies at 58; Discovery Heads Home; McCain One-On-One on the Issues; Amazing Return for Tiger Woods

Aired June 14, 2008 - 10:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: We have breaking news in Des Moines. Volunteers trying to build a barrier out of sandbags in an effort to save hundreds of homes from rising waters.
We are live on the scene.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And to the east of Cedar Rapids, houses, apartments, businesses already submerged. We're talking about 400 city blocks under water.

NGUYEN: We're also remembering veteran journalist Tim Russert. Our Wolf Blitzer reflects on the death of his friend and Sunday morning competitor.

From the CNN headquarters in Atlanta, this is CNN NEWSROOM. It's Saturday, June 14th. Boy, we've got a lot on the table for you today.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.

HOLMES: And hello. I'm T.J. Holmes. 10:00 a.m. here in Atlanta, 9:00 a.m. in central Iowa.

Here is what we have happening right now.

NGUYEN: Breaking news this morning out of Iowa. A levee in Des Moines has breached and is threatening nearby homes. Right now crews are frantically trying to build up a barrier to keep the rising floodwaters out.

HOLMES: Yes. Officials there are worried they could soon be dealing with a situation like the one in Cedar Rapids. The flooding there is of historic magnitude. More than 400 city blocks submerged. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to run for higher ground.

NGUYEN: Well, CNN is on top of the flooding in the Midwest. Our Reynolds Wolf is watching the skies for new storms that could bring more unneeded rain to the area.

HOLMES: And our Sean Callebs is in downtown Cedar Rapids, still under water this morning. Dan Simon, as well, in Des Moines, where the National Guard has been called in.

We want to start with Dan. Good morning to you.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, T.J. That sand barrier we were talking to you about earlier, we were standing in front of it. Well, the National Guard, they moved us to a different location because they now believe that that area may not be safe. So they have actually moved us into a surrounding neighborhood where there are now actually trying to get people out of their homes.

This area is now under a mandatory evacuation order. About 250 homes in this general vicinity. And again, they are concerned that the water is going to get over that makeshift levee, if will you, that sand barrier that they put up earlier this morning.

The water is still rapidly rising, they believe. So now the hope is that perhaps that sand may keep the water in check, but they're not confident at this moment. So, again, they're coming into the neighborhoods, trying to get people to leave their homes -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Dan Simon on the scene there for us.

We'll be checking back in with you. Thank you so much.

NGUYEN: Well, the floodwaters are starting to recede in parts of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, this morning. The damage, it is done.

Let's get you now to Sean Callebs, who joins us live on the scene.

And as we can see behind you, the water is still all around and in many neighborhoods.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, without question, Betty.

Look at that. That's a pretty graphic image of just how bad things are here in Iowa's second largest city. It is facing the largest problem in the state right now. Want to jump out of the way.

Take a look at downtown Cedar Rapids there. Look at the river. Look how fast the current is flowing out there. This is flood level at historic high. It has never been this high since authorities started marking it.

And if you look down, you can just see the rapids here that have been created in this parking lot, and then all of the debris that is building up. There's pallets here, what looks like a sign down there. Then as we move down a little bit more, now, that is happening all along the downtown area.

We have been driving around. There are bridges where just unbelievable amounts of debris has gathered.

A big problem, a lot of people did not leave their homes, including a 77-year-old gentleman that we caught up with yesterday afternoon. He chose to ride out the storm, not terribly far from where we are now. And boy, that was a bad decision.

Neighbors had to go in with a boat and get John Vrba out of there. We had a chance to catch up with him. And he's a feisty old guy and said that he was ready to stick it out, but probably made the right decision to get out when he did.


JOHN VRBA, CEDAR RAPIDS EVACUEE: They just told me they came to get me. I said, "I'm staying here." "No," he says, "you're going to come with us. You're not staying here." Well, you're not supposed to stay here, anyway. So, they got the law on their side.


CALLEBS: They got the law on their side. That's right.

And there are basically police officers or National Guard troops at every intersection in the downtown area. They are trying to keep people out. Twenty-four thousand people have been evacuated, 24,000 out of a city of about 120,000.

Now, we've been told by National Guard troops that in a couple of hours, business owners, people who work in offices in the downtown area, are going to be allowed to go in through a skywalk to take a look at things, see if they can take some materials out. This water is receding, Betty, but oh, so slowly.

They say it's going to be four days before officials can begin pumping water out of the area. Then perhaps 10 days to two weeks before the flood -- before the river water returns to its normal banks. So this area is in for a long, long couple of weeks.

Let's just hope no more rain is in the immediate forecast -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Absolutely. And there's a lot of time there for people just to be able to get back in those neighborhoods and see some of the damage to their homes.

Very quickly, though, let me ask you about the water system, because when I was in Cedar Rapids yesterday, they were asking people only to use the water system for drinking water only.

CALLEBS: Right. That's still -- that is the mandate for telling people, look, try not to take showers. Don't wash clothes, don't wash dishes. Certainly don't water your lawns or try to wash your cars.

In fact, the hotel we're staying at, they have signs everywhere, "We will not be changing the linens or the towels for the foreseeable future." We are going to obey the mandate, because if people don't, the situation is only going to get worse, and then perhaps the city would have to shut off the water supply.

About half its water supply has been affected because of all this flooding. So certainly a bad situation that could get a lot worse pretty easily.

NGUYEN: All right. Sean Callebs joining us live with good information there.

Thank you, Sean.


HOLMES: And he thrived during any political season, really, and certainly the election season like the one we've been seeing. But sadly, Tim Russert won't be around to cover the end of this presidential campaign season. The longtime host of NBC's "Meet the Press" collapsed at work yesterday and died of a heart attack.

Russert was highly respected by fellow journalists and the newsmakers he interviewed. Russert had just finished a family vacation in Italy. He had been celebrating his son Luke's graduation from Boston College. Russert is survived as well by his wife, journalist Maureen Orth, and his father, who was the subject of his book, "Big Russ and Me."

NGUYEN: Well, our own Wolf Blitzer shares a prominent place in political journalism, no doubt, with Tim Russert, as well as a Buffalo, New York, native. Wolf joins us on the phone to talk about his good friend Tim.

Wolf, you knew him, you knew him well. So many of us watched him on television. What does this death mean for journalism, especially when we talk about political journalism?

VOICE OF WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It means, Betty, that it's just so, so sad on so many different levels, because he was really at his best. He was at his prime, he was doing great work for NBC. And for all of us, really, because he made sure that people knew what was going on.

He asked the tough, serious questions. Always polite, and never raising his voice or screaming or anything like that.

But he came into those interviews, had had done his homework, he knew the subject, and you could see the passion, the fun, the excitement that he had in everything that he did. And it's just a very, very sad thing to think that this journalist is not going to be around anymore and that we're going go through this political season and many political seasons to come without him because, you know, he's still a young guy at only 58 years old. He had a long career ahead of him, and we're just sad that he's gone.

NGUYEN: Just gone too soon. But what was it about Tim, Wolf, that made him such an expert interviewer? Just like you said, he would ask the tough questions, but he would do it in a way that there was no sharp edge to it. Sometimes people didn't even know what they were getting into it until, boom, they were in it.

BLITZER: Right. He had that love of politics, love of history. It was something that he -- you know, he probably would have wanted to do, even if he had not gone into journalism.

You know, he was really a trained lawyer. Went to law school, worked as a lawyer. And then he got into politics, and then eventually made the transition into journalism. But if he had gone into any other field, he was just -- you know, he had that deep, deep love of politics.

I think it goes back to his roots in Buffalo. And, you know, when he was a little boy, seeing John F. Kennedy become president of the United States, the first Catholic. He had gone to a Catholic school, Canisius High School in Buffalo, and he was very proud of that.

Even his whole life, he always went to church and he was a devout Catholic. And I think like a lot of young Catholic boys, especially growing up in western New York, where I grew up as well, you know, that whole John F. Kennedy experience really inspired him and motivated him, and eventually, you know, helped him decide which career he wanted to go into.

NGUYEN: You talked about him being a devout Catholic. In fact, you, as well as Tim, got to meet the pope recently. That had to have been such a wonderful moment for Tim.

BLITZER: And it was in April. The pope was visiting Washington, and he was invited to Catholic University in Washington to meet with the bishops.

Before that big meeting, there was a small little meeting that Father David O'Connell, the president of Catholic University, was told by the Vatican he could invite 10 special guests. There you see Pope Benedict XVI with Father O'Connell in the middle and Tim Russert. If you look in the background, you can see me there.

There were two journalists who were invited by Father O'Connell, Tim Russert and me, and I must say, he was -- Tim, you know, who's Catholic -- I'm not Catholic, but he is Catholic, and he was so, so excited. He had his little rosaries in his hand that he wanted the pope to bless.

And when the pope finally did reach Tim Russert, and Father O'Connell had joked with him, no questions, maybe one question, Tim didn't ask any questions. He was just quiet.

NGUYEN: In awe.

BLITZER: He was just like little Timmy Russert of, you know, Buffalo, New York. He was just like a little boy. He was just in awe, you're absolutely right.

And it was just an exciting, exciting moment for him. It was exciting for all of us, but especially for Tim Russert. And I'll never forget that as I was watching. And I said, this is not the guy who asks those tough, hard questions of presidents and senators. This is just a little kid who was just in the presence of His Holiness, and it showed.

NGUYEN: And, you know, there were so many facets to this man's life. He loved his faith. He loved his family. But he loved politics, and he loved the competition, especially being a journalist.

I want our viewers to see, Wolf, an interview that Larry King did with both you and Tim Russert, where he joked about the competition. Let's take a look.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: You discuss on your show what's been said on the other Sunday shows.

BLITZER: Because we're the last word in Sunday talk. You know that, right?

TIM RUSSERT, HOST, "MEET THE PRESS": Because if it's Sunday, it's "Meet the Press."


BLITZER: And we're the only ones that's seen live around the world in 240 countries.

KING: It's very competitive. Do you all respect each other?

RUSSERT: Very much.

KING: Is there a Sunday morning click?

BLITZER: We all -- I think I respect all of the competition. I think these are all smart guys who know what they're doing, and they've been at it for a long time. And it's a collegial thing. A lot of times, you know, Larry, if there's a really big guest, we all do the same guest. It's a Ginsburg. Remember, Bill Ginsburg?

RUSSERT: Bill Ginsburg.

BLITZER: Bill Ginsburg.


RUSSERT: But we share facilities around the world. There's a deep and abiding respect because we know how hard it is. It's a lot of work, a lot of preparation.


NGUYEN: Yes, indeed.

And Wolf, this is a man who obviously, you could just see it on his face, you could see it in his work -- he had a passion for what he does. In fact, when it comes to the bright lights of the studio, he didn't even care about that.

I think something that I found fascinating was, his own studio, where he delivered his show, he was more interested in telling people that this is a place where Nixon and Kennedy debated.

BLITZER: It was a passion for politics, Betty. It was a passion for his family, of course. For the Catholic Church. And you can't ignore another major passion of his, which was sports.

NGUYEN: Oh yes.

BLITZER: I mean, this guy was an incredible sports fans.

NGUYEN: The Bills.

BLITZER: We had season tickets, I have season tickets for the National Wizards, for the Washington Nationals. He did as well. He used to go to the games with James Carville, who was one of his best friends.

But as much as he loved Washington teams, he loved the Buffalo Bills. You know, he couldn't end -- whenever the Bills were playing a major game, he couldn't end "Meet the Press" without saying, "Go Bills!"

He just loved everything about -- you know, he had that whole nine yards of -- of a really rich, deep life. And it's so sad that Maureen Orth, his wife, and his son Luke and his dad, who's in his late 80s, Big Russ, they're going to be without Tim Russert on Father's Day this Sunday.

I was thinking about that yesterday as we were doing our extensive coverage, and I said, you know -- it obviously would be awful at any moment, but right before father's day he wrote these two books that were released to coincide with Father's Day, because he wanted to pay tribute to his dad, who was a garbage collector in Buffalo, worked two shifts,

Would get up at 6:00 in the morning and come home at 11:00 at night to put food on the table. And he worked really, really hard.

And he writes so memorably about that experience, watching his dad work as hard as he did. And it inspired Tim, obviously, to do what he did. And whenever people would say to him, you know, you're working really hard, Tim. You know, you're working late on "Nightly News," and then you'd go on MSNBC, and then you get up early in the morning for "The Today Show."

And he would say, you know what? I don't work hard. My dad worked hard. I don't have to work. This is not hard work.


BLITZER: And it was just an inspiring story that he would tell about his life.

NGUYEN: His humble beginnings, no doubt, shaped him into the man that he became. And what a great man he was indeed, and lived a full life, like you said, Wolf. And I guess if we can take any kind of solace in this, he died doing what he loved.

BLITZER: He was recording an opening script for "Meet the Press" when he collapsed yesterday at the NBC Washington bureau and was rushed to a nearby hospital. And that was that.

NGUYEN: Yes. Definitely will be missed. Wolf, thank you so much for sharing some of your memories with us today.

BLITZER: Thank you, Betty.

HOLMES: And we're going to hear more. Somebody else is going to be sharing some memories with us, our Frank Sesno, a CNN special correspondent. He's going to join us later to share his memories of Tim Russert as well.

NGUYEN: Also ahead, our Dana Bash goes one-on-one with John McCain. The Republican nominee-to-be responds to allegations that he has an explosive temper.

HOLMES: Also, they're heading home. Shuttle Discovery about an hour away from its scheduled landing. Our Miles O'Brien is here with us next.


HOLMES: We want to turn to the story we've been following all morning, and really the past couple of days, the flooding happening in the Midwest, specifically in Iowa, where they've just got a mess on their hands. Evacuations have been ordered in some spots.

Want to get Sergeant Vincent Valdez, who's a PIO of the Des Moines Police Department, a public information officer, on the line with us.

This levee breach that we're calling it right now, Sergeant Valdez, I guess -- are people heeding the warnings and getting out? And how much more concern do you have right now that this breach is going to turn into a -- I guess a much bigger disaster?

SERGEANT VINCENT VALDEZ, DES MOINES POLICE DEPT.: Well, you know, we're very happy that the evacuation that we did yesterday, which was voluntary, held. Those people were out of the area.

So today we went back and checked just to make sure that they did follow our directions. And they did.

There were a few people who didn't want to go. There always is. You know, you don't want to leave your belongings and your home behind, and want to take a chance, but they did. They're out of the area.

So everybody's out of harm's way. That's the most important thing.


VALDEZ: And the levee, this was just basically -- it wasn't really a levee breach. It was a berm. You know, a temporary berm, something to back up the levee that had breached earlier.

So, our people got out there quickly. Public works people and the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Guard, everybody was out there working on this thing. And so, anyway, as I say, the water was just so powerful, coming so quick, that that temporary berm just could not hold. They used sand, they used plastic, you know. Everything that to try to contain that water.

HOLMES: And let us -- I want to be clear here, too, Sergeant Valdez, about this berm. A temporary levee, if you will, that was being built. And those people had to be -- those working on it had to be evacuated because it got a little dangerous.

But you did have an original levee breach there in your area, and then this berm was being constructed. Do we have -- do we have that right?

VALDEZ: Yes. OK, for example, the levee, the original levee that had the problems, the Army Corps of Engineers recommended that we go out there and fortify that, make that higher, you know, by a couple of feet...


VALDEZ: ... to raise that up with sandbags. And they did that.

It was a long -- it was really a great feat that they did it. It was two miles long, and it was amazing, the work that they did in the time that they had. And it work, but, of course, you know, with that much power, that much water rushing into power, it found a place somewhere and basically just kind of degraded the dirt or underneath the sandbags.

HOLMES: All right. We're seeing some of the video of that work that was going on there. But it's good that people were heeding the warnings and voluntarily got out of there.


HOLMES: But you had a levee breach and then you've got a berm issue. So you've got all kinds of issues there. But it sounds like people are at least getting out.

Again, Sergeant Valdez, public information officer for the Des Moines Police Department.

Sir, we appreciate you giving us some time. And good luck to you and your citizens there.

NGUYEN: Definitely got a lot of work on their hands.

Well, you know, it's just a little less than an hour to go. Another big thing is happening. Space Shuttle Discovery heading home this morning, wrapping up a two-week mission to the International Space Station.

HOLMES: Yes. And Discovery crew are a go. You've got to get the go to go, and you've got to get the go to come back.

Miles O'Brien here with us.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN TECHNOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT: Remember what his mission began with, was the broken toilet on ISS.


NGUYEN: Yes, it did.

O'BRIEN: So really, go is what this has been all about.

NGUYEN: Oh goodness.

O'BRIEN: On day one, for weeks now, we've talking about how you've got to go, right?

Well, they did fix that toilet. That was one of the things they did up there. There were a few other important things as well.

First of all, let me give you some -- let's look at some pictures from NASA quickly. Give you a sense of how they prepare for a -- it looks like we got us a convoy, folks.

This is part of the team. About 75 people in all, with, among other things, cooling devices to make sure the huddle, which is -- shuttle, I should say, which is hot as a frying pan when it lands, gets cooled off properly. Vehicles to ensure that there aren't any noxious gases around it. And, of course, get the crew of seven off.

That is the convoy getting in place for the landing, which we do know now will happen at 11:15 a.m. Eastern Time. They have done the de-orbit burn.

Let me show you what we're talking about here. The shuttle comes in. As it comes in, it gets mighty hot there on the bottom, 2,000, to 3,000 degrees in some spots. And it does what they call these roll reversals.

It's a wild ride. And what that does is that bleeds off speed and ensures that they don't come in too hot or come in too -- at an angle that would cause them to sort of skip off the atmosphere. That would not be good either.

Let me show you the route. Florida, you are in for a treat this morning. It you're waking up in Florida, having a cup of coffee, I want you to go out and take a look out the window now.

I'll tell you what, let us freeze this right now. Freeze that right now. That's good.

Thank you, sir.

The shuttle's going come across the Yucatan Peninsula, come across here a little west of Lake Okeechobee, and make its way up to here. And, of course, you know that's the spot where they want to land. So if you live underneath that yellow arrow, look up in the sky right now. You should see a yellow arrow. No. That's actually not how it works.

Yes. Yes. But if you're anywhere in that neck of the woods, you might want to come take a look. It's coming at you in about 15 minutes.

NGUYEN: Will you be able to make it out, or are you just going to see...

O'BRIEN: Oh yes, you will see it. You will see it and you'll hear the very distinctive double sonic booms. It will shake you and it will wake you up. There's no question about that.

Now, let's see what happens after it does that trek across Florida. Down it will come, and it's going to be landing from the north down to the southwest runway. Excuse me, southeast runway 15, three-mile-long runway.

I could land and take off my airplane about four times on that runway. There's plenty of space for them to get on the ground there.

The commander, Mark Kelly, taking the controls for the first time. You know, a commander gets very little time, actual real time flying the shuttle.

NGUYEN: You mean during this whole mission? This is the first time that he's taking control?

O'BRIEN: Yes. You know, well, what happens is, it's all on automatic pilot.

NGUYEN: That's true.

O'BRIEN: And then in the last two minutes he takes the stick, gives it a whirl. And hopefully all that training is just like the real thing.

NGUYEN: Pays off.

O'BRIEN: Right?

HOLMES: Well, we've got tons more questions. We know you're going to be back at the 11:00 hour when all of this starts happening and they start coming down. So we're glad we can have you here.

O'BRIEN: We'll be back.

HOLMES: Thank you so much, sir.

NGUYEN: Thanks, Miles.

HOLMES: Well, we've been talking about these entire neighborhoods swallowed up by floodwaters across the Midwest today. NGUYEN: Yes, the only option for those stranded in the middle is a boat. If they have one. You're going to hear from two sisters that I met in Cedar Rapids who are struggling to keep their hopes up.


HOLMES: Well, hello again. Welcome back, everybody. I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: Yes. Welcome back, T.J. Glad to you have back.

HOLMES: Thank you.

NGUYEN: And I'm Betty Nguyen. Here's a quick look at some of our top stories today.



HOLMES: And Betty, we weren't sure if you were going to be with us here this weekend because you were there in Iowa.

NGUYEN: Just a few hours ago.

HOLMES: It wasn't long ago. We know. Just got back. Had some issues with travel. But you were there on the ground not too long ago.

NGUYEN: And let me just tell you, I mean, sometimes the pictures on television really don't tell the story, because, in the neighborhood where I was, you could see lots of homes just flooded. And this is one particular fire department crew that had to rescue a couple people from their homes.

But you would meet people who couldn't even get to their houses. They were just watching it unfold on television. And I met a couple of sisters who were obviously visibly shaken by what they'd seen, especially when they got that first glance at their home.

Take a listen.


MICHELLE DICKINSON, CEDAR RAPIDS RESIDENT: It's crazy. I don't even know what to think about it. Honestly.

NGUYEN: What's the hardest part right now? Is it just the material items, or is it...


DICKINSON: Not being able to go home.

R. DICKINSON: We work downtown. There's another thing. M. DICKINSON: We lost our job for the next week or two, or however long it takes. And I don't know.

NGUYEN: You're just living in limbo?

M. DICKINSON: Pretty much.

NGUYEN: I mean, where do you begin to think about all of this?

M. DICKINSON: You don't know where to start. You don't know where -- because you don't want to be a burden on other people. And I'm just ready to go home.


NGUYEN: But how can you when your house is filled with floodwater? And just think about that. Not only is your home damaged, and you don't know the extent because you can't get down there, but they were saying they work downtown.

Downtown is just at flooded, if not even worse. So they've lost their homes, they've lost their jobs, at least temporarily. And they're staying, you know, with a friend and a family member, just to try to get by as best they can. But a lot of people, as we mentioned, just living in limbo.

HOLMES: And how heartbreaking is it to hear that? "I don't want to be a burden on somebody else." I mean, you know, so many things go through your mind when you lose -- you have a loss like that. But man, it's just heartbreaking to hear, that they're worried about being a burden on someone.

Plenty of people out there willing to help, like you said.

NGUYEN: No doubt.

HOLMES: Turn to family right now.

Well, we go from that weather extreme to another weather extreme. We've got 17 deaths now being linked to Philadelphia's recent heat wave. The latest victims, elderly residents found in their home.

The windows had been closed to those homes. No air conditioning in there. Twenty-one people died during a four-day heat wave in Philadelphia back in 2006.

NGUYEN: And suffering in a town calmed Paradise. Literally.

A wildfire has destroyed 50 homes in the Butte County, California, community. Thousands of residents have been forced to evacuate. Firefighters are being plagued by shifting winds, and the fire, well, listen to this, it's grown to 36 square miles and is only 20 percent contained. Again, this in a town called Paradise.

HOLMES: Well, he took on newsmakers in a tough, but fair manner. Everyone knew Tim Russert's on-air style as host of "Meet the Press," but he also had another important role at NBC News, as the network's Washington bureau chief.

And former CNN Washington bureau chief and current CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno, always good to see you. Sorry it had to be under these circumstance, Frank. Frank. You join us now with your memories of Tim Russert.

And, you know, when people pass and people always -- you know they might say one thing publicly, but behind the scenes maybe people had a little issue. This is not the case in every newsroom. Every newsperson you talk to had a respect for this man like no other.

FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it's really amazing, T.J. You're quite right.

And Tim Russert had a really almost unique kind of persona about himself. He moved just effortlessly -- actually, gloriously -- through the corridors of Washington power because he loved it. Of course, he started, as I think people have now heard so many times, working in politics with Senator Moynihan and others, and he never lost his love, his fascination with those politics.

He liked politicians. He could socialize with them. He would work with some of them.

He was on Colin Powell's America's Promise Board, helping him with kids and the kinds of work that he would do. But he could sit down across from Colin Powell and grill him and ask him really tough questions, or with presidential candidates and do the same.

He gave a whole new voice to the Sunday morning talk show circuit. Something that I've watched very closely because I both teach about it now and I was a Sunday morning host myself. And so you look to Tim to really set the standard.

What did Tim do? Tim would ask questions that were both broad, that would allow someone to explain themselves. And then, by the way, he would give them time do it. It wasn't all about Tim. He wasn't interrupting, peppering with questions.

In fact, the first segment of his "Meet the Press" Sunday morning show would sometimes go 15, 17, 18 minutes. We timed it to look at that.

And as a bureau chief, he really set the tone in a lot of ways. Big picture. Not the nuts and bolts kinds of things. So it was really a kind of -- you know, he permeated all these different walks of life.

HOLMES: And Frank, you talked about him grilling people. He grilled people differently. There's so much we see out there, certainly on cable news sometimes, where...

SESNO: Heaven forbid.

HOLMES: Yes, heaven forbid. But you think you have a good interviewer, or the interview, it has to be combative. People have to be knocking heads, you've got to yell at them. And it seems like the interviewer is making it about them.

He was the best interviewer, the toughest in the business, but he was always respectful and polite. We're all studying him. Why don't more do it like them?

SESNO: Here's why, I think, T.J.

First of all, I think, first and foremost, he knew his stuff. He knew the material. He was a hard study anyway. Studied his subjects before he interviewed them, but he also came from that background.

He genuinely enjoyed what he was doing. He didn't have to prove anything. And the guy was a lawyer by training. And so the kind of methodical questioning. He knew where he wanted to get someplace -- where he wanted to get someone, what he wanted to prove or demonstrate or air, and there was a methodology to it.

So it wasn't just about berating somebody with questions. And in a digital age, he was sort of marvelously and endearingly analog.

Remember the white board, right? You know?


SESNO: And by the way, I got a call this morning -- or I was talking to somebody, to a friend of mine, who said that white board is in the museum, the new museum to the press here in Washington, D.C. That white board, which "TV Guide" acknowledged as one of the 100 most influential moments in television, is in the museum, a tribute. And Tim just had this kind of innate sense of what it took to make a point and make something understandable.

HOLMES: Yes. As complicated as that issue was, he simplified it with one board and "Florida, Florida, Florida," "Ohio, Ohio, Ohio." He broke it down and make it quite simple.

Tell us now, Frank, to wrap up here with you, what are we going to do now this political season without his voice? This is, as we've seen already, quite a historic campaign season, election season, and more history could possibly be made. But this is going to be something to watch.

We do not have his voice. It certainly can't be replaced. What are we going to do now without Tim Russert?

SESNO: We'll miss Tim. And Tim can't be replaced.

You know, there's been a lot of tribute to Tim from people in the political sphere and from people in journalism. But I think the thing to keep in mind is that Tim's influence and Tim's touch went way beyond the beltway, went way beyond these communities.

This isn't just about the journalism community or the inside the beltway crowd remembering someone who was one of them. I mean, there's certainly that, but Tim connected with people. And the way in he asked his questions, in the way he thought about issues, that's what's going to be missed.

And I hope -- I really hope that in Tim's absence, those of us who are in the business, those of us who are designing shows and thinking about what works and what the public wants public wants will look at what Tim did and what Tim accomplished simply because of his fascination with the subject matter and his sense of how important it was for this country.


SESNO: And I -- you know, we're going to be less because of his loss. But I hope he leaves something that we can all learn from and ge on.

HOLMES: He absolutely was one we all have studied at some point in this business.

CNN Special Correspondent Frank Sesno.

Frank, we appreciate you sharing with us this morning.

SESNO: Thanks, T.J. Thanks for the time.

NGUYEN: Well, speaking of politics, John McCain says Americans don't care whether or not he has a temper.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Americans care about how you're going to lead this country. They care about the gas prices. They care about health care. They care about all of those issues that are important to their future. That's what we're going to be debating.


HOLMES: The Republican presidential nominee-to-be sits down with our Dana Bash for a one-on-one.


NGUYEN: On the campaign trail, taking you live now to Wayne, Pennsylvania. You see there Barack Obama speaking at a town hall there, a discussion that's going to be taking place for, oh, the next few minutes at least. He's going to be talking for a little while, and the topic today is going to be the economy.

He is on his economic tour. And as you know, economic is issue #1 for so many Americans. So we will be watching this and bringing you the news as it develops from this town hall meeting.

In the meantime, though, one-on-one on the issues. It's a rare sit-down interview with Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

HOLMES: Yes, he talked with our Dana Bash about the campaign, whether he has a temper, and the Supreme Court ruling on detainees at Guantanamo Bay.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Regardless of what you think about the decision, the reality is now there's a legal mess.


BASH: So -- and it's going to be in the last lap of the next president.

If you are president, what next? What do you do?

MCCAIN: I think maybe legislation, working with the Congress, which would define more narrowly the habeas corpus rights of people who we have detained. It's very broad right now. At least try to provide some definition of that so we're not ending up in endless lawsuits.

Already, the detainees have brought suit on diet, on reading material, on all kinds of other things that are certainly not central to what we have detained them for. So I would hope that we could at least do that.

BASH: A little politics now. Barack Obama said recently, "Lay off my wife." He said that, and he also -- his campaign also just yesterday launched a Web site to combat what they call smears, and it was in large part about things that they heard said about Michelle Obama.

Where do you think the line should are drawn on your wives? What's in? What's out?

MCCAIN: I think every candidate's wife should be treated with respect. And if there's any disrespectful conduct on the part of anyone, those people should be rejected, and immediately.

And I have the greatest respect for both Senator and Michelle Obama. I've never met her, Mrs. Obama. She's a talented and very effective person, and I admire both of them.

We have stark differences of views, but anyone who treats any of the candidates' wives, or them, frankly, with disrespect, Americans want us to have a much more respectful campaign than the kinds they've been seeing recently.

BASH: It was hard to turn on the TV this week without seeing Senate Majority Harry Reid raising unprompted questions about your temper. And I want to read you a quote.

He said, "McCain doesn't have the temperament to be president of the United States. Everyone who's ever worked with John McCain knows of his temper. It's explosive, to say the least."

This is a man obviously who's a senior Democrat in the Senate, but he's -- you've known him for 26 years, since you first came to the House together. What's your reaction?

MCCAIN: Well, all I can say is I have a record. I have a record of reaching across the aisle and working with Ted Kennedy, Russ Feingold, Byron Dorgan. The list goes on and on -- Carl Levin -- of all the legislative accomplishments that I've achieved.

People know me. The campaigns -- they're throughout this campaign.

BASH: You think this is a liability, this whole question of your temper?

MCCAIN: Frankly, I hadn't heard it recently, until he raised it again. But that -- Americans care about how you're going to lead this country. They care about the gas prices. They care about health care. They care about all of those issues that are important to their future.

That's what we're going to be debating.

BASH: I won't ask if it makes you angry.


MCCAIN: Yes. It makes me angry to hear him say that.


NGUYEN: Well, he's back in his usual position. At the top of the leaderboard, that is.

HOLMES: We're talking Tiger Woods, you all. He returns from knee surgery for a tie-popping round at the U.S. Open. We will take you there live.


NGUYEN: All right. So how good is Tiger Woods? I mean, really?

He took two months off to rest and rehab his surgically-repaired knee. And in a second round back from that layoff, rockets to number two on the U.S. Open leaderboard.

CNN Sports Correspondent Larry Smith joins us from San Diego with more on Tiger's amazing return.

I mean, there's no stopping this guy.

LARRY SMITH, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: You know what, Betty? I've said before, Tiger on one leg is as good as most of the rest of the golf world on two legs.

You know, Saturday is moving day in any tournament. And that means it's when you make your move up the leaderboard in an attempt to win a championship and a tournament on Sunday. But Tiger does things his own way, and he does them early. His best scoring round on average in his career at majors is on Friday. And so he played to his average, five birdies in a round of 68. Five birdies on the back, nine (ph), as you say in a round of 68 on Friday, as he climbed within one shot of the lead.

All this on that surgically repaired left knee that happened two days after the Masters and has kept him from playing since then. This, just his second time walking a full 18 holes. And now he's in the hunt for a third U.S. Open title.

Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson, his playing partner struggled. For the second straight day, did not use his driver. He's been erratic with that this week. He's trying to keep the ball in the fairway and out of the rough.

But as Tiger was climbing up the leaderboard, Phil was falling seven shots off the pace. And so now what he has termed as a once-in- a-lifetime chance to win a U.S. Open in his hometown, it seems it's slipping away.

Let's go back to you.

NGUYEN: All right, Larry. Wish we had a little more time. But we're going to have to wrap it up there.

Thank you. We do appreciate it.

HOLMES: Well, we have a couple of major changes in the airline industry that will impact you the next time you're on the go. Delta -- first up here -- says about 4,000 workers have accepted voluntary buyouts. The airline says that's twice as many as it hoped. Most of them will take the buyouts in the fall.

Well, this is the one that will really get you here. United the latest now to charge a fee for checked luggage. The first piece -- calm down, Betty -- now costs $15. That is each way. A second piece is $25. Again, each way.

So, you add that up and that will cost you $80 extra if you need to check two bags for a roundtrip ticket. With multiple pieces of checked luggage, or if you need some special handling of some luggage, the airline says that could cost you up to $250.


HOLMES: United says the fees are necessary because of the rising fuel costs.

NGUYEN: Well, you know what's going to happen, right? Everyone is going to cram stuff into those carry-ons, and those carry-ons are going to get bigger and bigger. And they won't fit up in the bins. And what do you do?

HOLMES: You fly a lot?

NGUYEN: I'm just mentioning here. HOLMES: Apparently so.


HOLMES: We're going to head back to Des Moines, Iowa, here shortly. We're talking about the levee that's breaking there. National Guard troops dumped sand to hold off rising floodwaters, but those troops are forced to retreat.

Live coverage ahead. And we will calm Betty down.


NGUYEN: Well, their mission, it is done. The crew of shuttle Discovery preparing for a homecoming in just a few minutes in fact. That shuttle is due to land at the Kennedy Space Center in about 20 minutes, and we're going to have live coverage of it for you.

HOLMES: And then, coming up at the noon hour, the Supreme Court rules the detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba do have the right to challenge their detention in civilian court. Legal experts Avery Friedman and Richard Herman will tell us what it all means. That's ahead, just over an hour from now.