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Obama Speaks at Veterans of Foreign Wars' Convention; Tropical Storm Fay Moves Up Florida Peninsula; U.S. Troops in Afghanistan Face Suicide Bombers; Presidential Candidates Close to Naming Running Mates; Payoff in Gold for a Promising Athlete
Aired August 19, 2008 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Heidi Collins, Tony Harris is on vacation this week.
See vents come into the Newsroom live on Tuesday, August 19th. Here's what's on the rundown.
Fay slashing ashore a few hours ago. One big sloppy rainstorm. Florida on guard for flooding and tornadoes now.
U.S. troops fighting off a group of suicide bombers. They tried to attack an American base in Afghanistan.
And the VP buzz reaching an electric hum. Barack Obama appears close to an announcement. He's speaking live this hour, in the NEWSROOM.
Fay sweeps ashore and begins a muddy slog north ward. We want to get our coverage started this morning and tell you Fay hit land as a tropical storm early this morning on Florida's southwest coast. Its wind far short of the hurricane strength that had been feared.
But Fay remains a major concern this hour. It could dump as much as 10 inches of rain and spin up tornadoes as it lashes the length of the Florida peninsula.
CNN crews out in force this hour. Sean Callebs is in Punta Gorda, Reynolds Wolf in the Weather Center, and Rob Marciano in Fort Myers this morning.
Let's go ahead and begin with Rob.
Hey there, Rob.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Heidi.
This came to shore around 4:30 or so about 50 miles to the south of us with winds at 60 miles an hour. As you mentioned, not nearly the hurricane force winds they were anticipating. And the spot that it came on shore on was certainly beneficial as well because the greatest storm surge were -- was in an area of the Everglades. We expect it to absorb that.
Here in Fort Myers, though, where they had Hurricane Charley back in 2004 and big-time damage from Hurricane Wilma in 2005, they are no stranger to this sort of action. We have seen the squalls pick up in the last couple of hours. But even before Fay made its mark here across southwest Florida, it did some damage across the Caribbean and the Keys.
MARCIANO (voice-over): Tropical Storm Fay roared through the Caribbean killing at least 14 people. Then it hit the Florida Keys, causing some flash flooding and power outages, but no deaths.
Now Florida governor Charlie Crist has declared a state of emergency as the state deals with the second punch from Fay.
GOV. CHARLIE CRIST, FLORIDA: It's a pretty wide cone. Everybody should be ready and everybody should be prepared.
MARCIANO: While some took the warning as a queue to leave town, others prepped their homes and businesses to battle the storm.
UNIDENTIFIED FLORIDA RESIDENT: We're not going anywhere.
MARCIANO: Fay is expected to the drop eight to ten inches of rain in parts of Florida and in the coming days could dump more than 25 inches in some places.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The flood threat, particularly for our urban areas, looks to continue for much of the week.
MARCIANO: But water is only one problem. Wind, another. One kite boarder in Ft. Lauderdale learned the hard way. Wind this strong is nothing to play around with. He finally landed in the hospital in critical condition.
While there are still no reports of deaths in Florida, the storm is, by no means, over.
CRAIG FULGATE, DIRECTOR, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Just want people to play it smart, take their time, be cautious, don't underestimate the danger.
MARCIANO: And that's the main message this morning from police officers and emergency managers. Just try to stay home if you can. Most state buildings are closed down and schools are closed, as well. The bridges, though, for the most part, are still open. They need a 40-mile an hour sustained winds to shut those down. So that's the good news there.
Winds have picked up here certainly, but as this thing continues its strikes across the peninsula, fresh water flooding will be an issue and then once it reemerges in the Gulf of Mexico, things could very well -- or the Atlantic Ocean, things will get interesting there and I'll leave that up to the meteorologists to man the Doppler back at the CNN headquarters. COLLINS: Yes, yes, exactly.
MARCIANO: Heidi, back to you.
COLLINS: With all the equipment here. All right. Well, we will check back with you, Rob. Keep us posted, OK? Thanks.
COLLINS: Many Floridians are watching Fay from the road. They are among the thousands who evacuated as the storm approached.
Sean Callebs has the view now from Punta Gorda.
Good morning to you, Sean.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi.
A lot of people here in this area heard the warnings, that they are still in an emergency setting. But really if you look at the cone, the damage, this area didn't get it as bad as much of the other southwestern part of Florida.
Still, pretty drenching rain coming down right now. But it doesn't take a great deal to get the attention of people here in Punta Gorda. The recent Hurricane Charley back in 2004, really, a lot of people here are the ones who really don't have the means or the ability to leave.
CALLEBS (voice-over): This is the attraction. For more than 35 years, Irene Faust has lived in mobile homes along Florida's coast.
IRENE FAUST, PUNTA GORDA RESIDENT: Everybody likes water. I don't know of anyone that don't. And I love it here. It's really great.
CALLEBS (on camera): But with the water comes the wind.
FAUST: Well, yes. But, you know how many years was it we didn't have a storm in?
CALLEBS (voice-over): For Irene Faust and Punta Gorda, exactly four.
This is what Hurricane Charley did to her old neighborhood. Now as Fay closes in, Irene is waiting for her daughter to fly in so the two can drive to South Carolina and safety.
If her daughter doesn't make it, Irene says, she'll hunker down in the park clubhouse.
Four years ago, Bill (INAUDIBLE) fled ahead of Charlie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charlie took the whole carport down.
CALLEBS: But since then, he's picked up two German Shepherds, including Karma (ph) here. And despite pleas from relatives, he has no plans to leave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said don't play around. You got go, go. I said the question is where am I going? I said I can go to my mother's house, but then I got to leave the dogs here. I really do not want to leave the dogs here.
CALLEBS: Slabs are a silent testimony to Charlie's furry, where people simply haven't rebuilt.
Fay's winds may not rival that storm, but Irene Faust has these words of warning.
FAUST: I say get out of a mobile home because this is like a cracker box.
CALLEBS: And, Heidi, we heard you and Rob talk about it just a short while ago. Even though these -- the winds aren't nearly as punishing as people thought they might have been, the concern is still there. Possibility of tornadoes as the storm moves farther inland and so people in that area are going to have to keep a very vigilant and keep on eye on the skies to make sure that trouble doesn't strike those areas, because the same kind of thing could happen there.
COLLINS: Yes. It's just the smart thing to do.
All right, Sean Callebs, appreciate it.
Tropical Storm Fay making its second Florida landfall this morning and it may not be the last. Meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is tracking Fay from the Severe Weather Center now.
All right, you're the guy with all the computer models. We want to see what's happening.
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: OK, let's think of it as you mentioned the landfall.
WOLF: OK, we've had one landfall, Heidi, in Cuba. That's number one. The second one was in Florida Keys. That's number two. The third one was this morning. And there the potential that we may see a fourth landfall in parts of north Florida near Jacksonville.
Here's the story. Right now Tropical Storm Fay, currently with winds of 60 miles per hour, gusting to 70 -- it came on shore about 29 to 30 miles from Fort Myers, Florida. What we do anticipate with this storm is as it crosses over land, it will dump plenty of rainfall. But we do expect that it is going to begin to die out considerably. Here's the shots that we have from Fort Myers. You see the lens cap shaking a little bit due to the strong winds buffeted around by Tropical Storm Fay and, of course, the heavy rainfall may really begin to pick up as we continue through the rest of the day.
OK, let's pick up and show you where we do anticipate the storm to go. Well, first and foremost, it's going to continue to trek to the north/northeast doing so around -- let's see, moving northeast around nine miles per hour. Because of its slow movement that's the reason why we could see the water begin to pile up. Then we anticipate the storm to go right off the coast. This is from the National Hurricane Center, right near Cape Canaveral.
You've got the Banana River, you've got the outer -- the islands, of course, the Barrier Islands, then moving on to near Flagler County, not far from Daytona Beach, where it could gain a little bit of strength with winds right around 45 miles per hour. Then you have Jacksonville beach here, Neptune Beach, right near parts of the mouth of the St. John's River.
This storm is expected to curve right back on shore making another landfall and that's going to be around early Friday morning, winds of 35 miles an hour and due south of Charleston and then right along parts of the I-10 corridor from Saturday into Sunday.
And that's really the big concern for us, Heidi, because we've got a stationery front that's just to the top -- right up here -- and there's a chance that this area of low pressure could just stick to that area like a fly to fly paper. You can see the water begin to pile up.
That's not the only threat. We also got the threat of tornadoes in parts of the state, a tornado watch in effect right now for much of central and south Florida due to those feeder bands coming on shore. Kind of unusual to get some storms popping up or at least tornadoes from these feeder bands.
In terms of the rainfall, Heidi, get this, very quickly, anywhere from 10 to 25 inches possible for parts of Florida, for Georgia...
WOLF: ... and Alabama this week.
COLLINS: Wow. Wow. All right. Well, boy, the map looks like an absolute mess down there.
WOLF: It's crazy. You bet.
COLLINS: Yes. We'll stay on top of it with you.
COLLINS: Emergency officials warn South Floridians to stay inside when Fay came ashore. Here is jaw-dropping video now of one thrill seeker who didn't take Fay's threat seriously.
Just awful to watch. A 26-year-old man is in critical condition now after that mighty gust of wind slammed him into the beach. The kite boarder was strapped into a harness and unable to free himself before a second gust launched him into the side of a nearby building. Witnesses say the fierce winds may have been kicked up by forming water spout in the area.
Awful weather in the Rio Grande Valley, as well. Torrential downpours flooding streets in Roma, Texas. Look at this, 13 inches of rain, stalled cars and water-logged homes. The sheriff's department spokesman says about 750 houses are flooded now. More than 200 people had to leave their homes. Authorities say they are not aware of any injuries, though, this morning.
Roma is in Star County along the Texas/Mexico border.
We'll stay on top of that portion of the weather story, too.
In Arizona, searchers will be back at it again this morning in the Grand Canyon. 11 people still unaccounted for after a flashflood there. About 270 people rescued Sunday and yesterday after heavy rains overran an earthen dam.
Water surged in to a nearby Indian reservation. Authorities are not sure if those people missing got out ahead of the flood or perhaps were washed away.
Many tourists rescued by helicopter in Maine in an emergency shelter. Survivors describe the sudden furry of the flood.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT MATTEI, FLOOD SURVIVOR: I woke up and it was like a waterbed underneath me all of a sudden and so I was grabbing for my bags and grabbing for my sandals and my sandals were already gone down the river.
EMMA ZIMMERMAN, FLOOD SURVIVOR: Yes, the water was powerful. And you knew that if you would get caught in that water, it was, you know, a small chance of survival.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Much of the floodwaters have, thankfully, receded now.
This is in. Want to give you these new numbers. It could squeeze your wallet even more. Wholesale inflation has surged, housing construction has changed, and Wall Street bracing for a gloomy opening just a few minutes from now.
CNN's personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, is here now to break it all down for us.
Gerri, it's normally so nice to see you, but we like the good news more than the bad. GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: I know.
COLLINS: Boy, this is not great.
WILLIS: No, it's not. And I don't think the market is going to like it either.
WILLIS: Housing starts -- the federal government says housing starts in July were down and down hard, plunging 11 percent in the month to an annualized rate of 965,000.
Now, if you really read this release from the Commerce Department, there's even more bad news. Permits -- that's the paperwork that builders have to do before they even start construction, those are down 17 percent. So bad news there.
I know everybody cares about inflation. We have some indications here also not positive on the producer price index. All that means are the prices that manufacturers, people in industry, pay for goods. That is up and up dramatically. 9.8 percent year over year for the month of July. That is the highest since 1981.
And, of course, it begs the question, what is going happen to consumer inflation? You have to figure that if producers are out there having a hard time keeping up with rising prices, they'll pass on some of those costs to consumers. So we'll be watching that.
The last time we had a consumer inflation report, it showed a gain of 5.6 percent. So the producer price index, again, that's a wholesale level number, up 9.8 percent year over year. Pretty dramatic stuff and, you know, we'll keep an eye on this inflation issue because it's critical for consumers.
COLLINS: All right. And we don't know yet, but we imagine that the markets when they open here in just about 15 minutes or so, not going to be opening to the positive.
WILLIS: No. You know, and this comes on the backs of yesterday when the Dow fell 180 points. Futures are indicating a lower open down over 100 points, maybe as much as 116. This is very volatile and it changes a lot, could change again. But right now, it looks like the open on the Dow will be lower.
We'll be following this all day and keeping you up-to-date on what's going on.
COLLINS: OK. Very good, Gerri. We'll check back a little bit later on. Thank you.
WILLIS: Thank you, Heidi.
COLLINS: A critical choice and it's coming soon. Presidential hopeful Barack Obama close to revealing his running mate. We are on it for you. And we're talking about the top contenders. Later this hour, Senator Obama will speak to vets at the VFW convention in Orlando. We saw Senator John McCain there yesterday. We're going to bring you live coverage of that just as soon as he takes to the podium.
COLLINS: All right. As promised, we want to get to Senator Barack Obama who is speaking in Orlando, Florida today at the national convention, Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Let's go ahead and listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... He and his organization consistently does. Let me also acknowledge the leadership of Virginia Carmen, the president of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary.
OBAMA: I want to congratulate Bob Wallace, the director of the VFW for the excellent that work he does.
My dear friends from...
COLLINS: All right. We're still, obviously, hearing some of the thank you's that the presidential candidates typically do at the top of these types of addresses, so we will come back to this and get a little bit more of an idea of what the senator will be talking about today to the VFW.
For now, though, under attack and fighting back, U.S. troops in Afghanistan stand up to a group of suicide bombers.
COLLINS: Want to get you back to Senator Barack Obama now talking about a number of issues to the VFW in Orlando, Florida.
Let's listen in once again.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
OBAMA: ... personal ambition before my country. That is John McCain's prerogative. He can run that kind of campaign, and, frankly, that's how political campaigns have been run in recent years.
But I believe the American people are better than that. I believe that this defining moment demands something more of us. If we think that we can secure our country by just talking tough without acting tough and smart, then we will misunderstand this moment and miss its opportunities.
If we think that we can use the same partisan politics where we just challenge our opponent's patriotism to win an election, then the American people will lose. The times are too serious for this kind of politics. The calamity left behind by the last eight years is too great.
So let me begin by offering my judgment about what we've done and where we are and where we need to go.
Six years ago, I stood up at a time when it was politically difficult to oppose going to war in Iraq and argue that our first priority had to be finishing the fight against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Senator McCain was already turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11. He became a leading supporter of an invasion and occupation of a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, and that, as despicable as Saddam Hussein was, posed no imminent threat to the American people.
Two of the biggest beneficiaries of that decision were al Qaeda's leadership, which no longer faced the pressure of America's focused attention, and Iran, which has advanced its nuclear program, continued its support for terror and increased its influence in Iraq and the region.
In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, I warned that the war would fan the flames of extremism in the Middle East, create new centers of terror, and tie us down in a costly and open-ended occupation.
Senator McCain predicted that we'd be greeted as liberators and that the Iraqis would bear the cost of rebuilding through their bountiful oil revenues. For the good of our country, I wish he had been right and I had been wrong, but that is not what history shows.
Senator McCain now argues that despite these costly strategic errors, his judgment has been vindicated due to the results of the surge. Let me once again praise General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. They are outstanding Americans and put in place a strategy for reducing the violence.
In Iraq, gains have been made in lowering the levels of violence thanks to their efforts and more importantly, the outstanding efforts of our troops, as well as the increasing capability of Iraq's security forces, the ceasefire of Shia militias and the decisions taken by the Sunni tribes to take the fight to al Qaeda.
These are the facts. And all Americans welcome them. But understand what the essential argument was about. Before the surge, I argued that the long-term solution in Iraq is political. The Iraqi government must reconcile its differences and take responsibility for its future.
That holds true today. We have lost over 1,000 American lives. We've spent hundreds of millions of dollars since the surge began. But Iraq's leader still haven't made hard compromises or substantial investments in rebuilding their own country. Our military is badly overstretched, a fact that has surely been noted in capitals around the world.
And while we pay a heavy price in Iraq and Americans pay record prices at the pump, Iraq's government is sitting on a $79 billion budget surplus from windfall oil profits.
So let's be clear. Our troops have completed every mission they've been given. They have created the political space for reconciliation. Now it must be filled by an Iraqi government that reconciles its differences and spends its oil profits to meet the needs of its people.
Iraqi in action threatens the progress we've made and creates an opening for Iran and the special groups it supports. It is time to press the Iraqis to take responsible for their future. And the best way to do that is a responsible redeployment...
OBAMA: The best way to do that, I believe, is a responsible redeployment of our combat brigades carried out in close consultation with commanders on the ground. We can safely redeploy at a pace that removes our combat brigades in 16 months. That would be well into 2010, seven years after the war began.
After this redeployment, we'll keep a residual force to target remnants of al Qaeda, to protect our service members and diplomats, and to train Iraqi security forces if the Iraqis make political progress.
Now Iraq's democratically elected prime minister has embraced this timeframe. Now it's time to succeed in Iraq by turning Iraq over to its sovereign government. We should not keep sending our troops to fight tour after tour after tour of duty while our military is overstretched.
We should not keep spending $10 billion a month in Iraq...
OBAMA: We should not keep spending $10 billion a month in Iraq while Americans struggle in a sluggish economy. Ending the war will allow us to invest in America, to strengthen our military, and to finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and the border regions of Pakistan.
That is the central front in the war on terrorism. This is where the Taliban is gaining strength and launching new attacks, including one that just took the life of 10 French soldiers. This is where Osama bin Laden and the same terrorists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans on our own soil are hiding and plotting seven years after 9/11.
This is the war that we have to win. And as commander in chief, I will have no greater priority than taking out these terrorists who threaten America and finishing the job against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: For years, I've called for more resources and more troops to finish the fight in Afghanistan. With its overwhelming focus on Iraq, Senator McCain argued that we could just -- and I quote -- "muddle through" in Afghanistan, and only came around to supporting my call for more troops last month.
Now we need a policy of more for more. More for America and our NATO allies and more from the Afghan government. That's why I've called for at least two additional U.S. combat brigades and an additional $1 billion in nonmilitary assistance for Afghanistan with a demand for more action from the Afghan government to take on corruption and counter narcotics, and to improve the lives of the Afghan people.
We must also recognize that we cannot succeed in Afghanistan or secure America as long as there is a terrorist safe haven in northwest Pakistan.
A year ago, I said that we must take action against bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights and Pakistan cannot or will not act. Senator McCain criticized me and claimed that I was for, quote, "bombing our allies."
So for all this talk about following Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, Senator McCain refused to join my call to take out bin Laden across the Afghan border. Instead, he spent years backing a dictator in Pakistan who failed to serve the interests of his own people.
I argued for years that we need to move from a Musharraf policy to a Pakistan policy. We must move beyond an alliance built on mere convenience or a relationship with one man.
The President Musharraf's resignation -- we have the opportunity to do just that. And that's why I've co-sponsored a bill to triple nonmilitary aid to the Pakistan people, while ensuring that the military assistance we do provide is used to take the fight to the Taliban and al Qaeda in the tribal regions of Pakistan.
Today our attention is also on the Republic of Georgia. And Senator McCain and I both strongly support the people of Georgia and the Americans delivering humanitarian aid. There is no possible justification for Russia's actions. Russian troops have yet to begin the withdrawal required by the ceasefire signed by their own president.
We are hearing reports of Russian atrocities -- burning wheat fields, brutal killings, and the destruction of Georgia's infrastructure and military assets. This crisis underscores the need for engaged U.S. leadership in the world.
We failed to head off this conflict and lost leverage in our ability to contain it because our leaders have been distracted, our resources overstretched, and our alliance is frayed. American leadership means getting engaged earlier to shape events so that we're not merely responding to them. And that's why I'm committed to renewing our leadership and rebuilding our alliances as president of the United States.
For months, I've called for active international engagement to resolve the disputes over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. I've made it crystal clear before at the beginning of and during this conflict that Georgia's territorial integrity must be respected and that Georgia should be integrated into the trans-Atlantic institutions.
I've condemned Russian aggression and today I reiterate my demand that Russia abide by the ceasefire. Russia must know that its actions will have consequences. It will imperil the civil nuclear agreement and Russia's standing in the international community, including the NATO Russia council and Russia's desire to participate in organizations like the WTO and the OECD.
And finally, we must help Georgia rebuild that which has been destroyed. That is why I'm proud to join my friend, Senator Joe Biden, in calling for an additional $1 billion in reconstruction assistance for the people of Georgia. And these are the judgments I've made and the policies that we have to debate, because we do have differences in this election.
But one of the things that we have to change in this country is the idea that people can't disagree without challenging each other's character or their patriotism. I've never suggested...
OBAMA: I have never suggested and never will that Senator McCain picks his positions on national security based on politics or personal ambition. I'm not suggested it because I believe that he genuinely wants to serve America's national interests. Now it's time for him to acknowledge that I want to do the same.
Let me be clear. I will let no one question my love of this country. I love America...
OBAMA: I love America, so do you, and so does John McCain.
When I look out at this audience, I see people with different political views. There are Democrats and Republicans and independents, but you all served together and fought together and bled together under the same proud flag.
You did not serve a red America or a blue America, you served the United States of America.
So let's have a serious debate. Let's have a serious debate and let's debate our disagreements on the merits of policy, not on personal attacks. No matter how heated it gets or what kind of campaign he chooses to run, I will honor Senator McCain's service just like I honor the service of every veteran in this room and every American who has worn the uniform of the United States of America.
OBAMA: Now one of those Americans was my grandfather, Stanley Dunham. My father left when I was 2, so my grandfather was the man who helped raise me. He grew up in El Dorado, Kansas. A town too small to warrant boldface on a road map. He worked on oil rigs and drifted from town to town during the Depression. Then he met my grandmother and enlisted after Pearl Harbor. He would go on to march across Europe in Patton's Army, while my great uncle fought with the 89th Infantry Division to liberate Buchenwald, my grandmother worked on a bomber assembly line, and my mother was born at Fort Leavenworth.
After my grandfather left the Army, he went to college on the GI Bill, bought his home with help from the Federal Housing Authority, and he and my grandmother moved west in that relentless pursuit of the American dreams.
They were among the men and women of our Greatest Generation. They came from ordinary places, and went on to do extraordinary things. They survived a Depression and faced down fascism. And when the guns fell silent, America stood by them, because they had a government that didn't just ask them to win a war -- it helped them to live their dreams in peace, and to become the backbone of the largest middle class that the world has ever known.
In the five years after World War II, the GI Bill helped 15 million veterans get an education. Two million went to college. Millions more learned a trade in factories or on farms. Four million veterans received help in buying a home, leading to the biggest home construction boom in our history.
And these veterans didn't just receive a hand from Washington, they did their part to lift up America, just as they'd done their duty in defending it. They became teachers and doctors, police officers and firefighters who were the foundation of our communities. They became the innovators and small business owners who helped drive the American economy. They became the scientists and engineers who helped us win the space race against the Soviets. They won a Cold War, and left a legacy to their children and grandchildren who reached new horizons of opportunity.
I am a part of that legacy. Without it, I would not be standing on this stage today. And as President, I will do everything that I can to keep the promise, to advance the American Dream for all our veterans, and to enlist them in the cause of building a stronger America.
OBAMA: Our young men and women in uniform have proven that they are the equal of the Greatest Generation on the battlefield. Now, we must ensure that our brave troops serving abroad today become the backbone of our middle class at home tomorrow. Those who fight to defend America abroad must have the chance to live their dreams at home through education and their ability to make a good living, through affordable health care, through a retirement that is dignified and secure. That is the promise that we must keep with all who serve.
It starts with those who choose to remain in uniform, as well as their families. My wife Michelle has met with military families in North Carolina and Kentucky and Virginia over the last several months. Every time, she passes on their stories -- stories of lives filled with patriotism and purpose, but also stories of spouses struggling to pay the bills, kids dealing with an absent parent, and the unique burden of multiple deployments. The message that Michelle has heard is what you all know and have lived: when a loved one is deployed, the whole family goes to war.
The VFW has done an extraordinary job of standing by our military families -- helping out with everything from a phone card for a soldier who is overseas, to an extra hand around the house. As President, I will stand with you. We need a Military Families Advisory Board to identify new ways to ease the burden. We need more official support for the volunteer networks that help military spouses get by. And we need to make sure that military pay does not lag behind the private sector, so that those who serve can raise their families and live the life that they have earned.
OBAMA: For those who return to civilian life, I will support their American Dream in this 21st century just as we supported generations of veterans in the 20th. That starts with education. Everyone who serves this country should have the same opportunity that my grandfather had under the GI Bill. That's why, unlike my opponent, I was a strong and early supporter of Jim Webb's GI Bill for the 21st Century -- a bill that Senator McCain at the time called too generous.
At a time when the skyrocketing cost of tuition is pricing thousands of Americans out of a college education, this bill provides every veteran with a real chance to afford a world-class college education. And that's what I'll continue to stand up for as president of the United States.
OBAMA: We must also stand up for affordable health care for every single veteran. That's why I've pledged to build a 21st century VA. We need to cut through the red tape, every service-member should get electronic copies of medical and service records upon discharge. We need to close shortfalls. It is time to fully fund VA health care, and to add more Vet Centers around this country.
OBAMA: We need to get rid of means-testing. Every veteran should be allowed into the VA system. My opponent takes a different view. He wants to ration care so the VA only serves combat injuries, while everyone else gets an insurance card. While the VA needs some real reform to better serve those who have worn the uniform, privatization is just not the answer. We cannot risk our veterans' health care by turning the VA into just another health insurer. We need to make sure the VA is strong enough to treat every veteran who depends on it. And that's what I'll do as president of the United States.
COLLINS: There you have a portion of Senator Barack Obama speaking in Orlando today. Veterans of Foreign Wars, their national convention. Yesterday, we saw Senator John McCain speaking in front of the same group. So we will stay on top of that one for you and monitor some more of his comments.
For now, though, we want to get this out to you. Breaking news into the NEWSROOM. This new video, Wellington, Florida is what you're looking at. Here is just some of the aftermath of Fay.
Boy, they've really had some tough times here already. And now there is more coming in once again -- Wellington, Florida area. This is a possible tornado. And it always takes a while as I'm sure you know by now to actually determine whether or not a tornado came through. But, again, wanted to show you this because it is yet another area that is experiencing the aftermath of Fay.
Reynolds Wolf standing by now to tell us a little bit more about this.
That's true, right, Reynolds? It takes a while to figure out if it was an actual tornado or what we're really talking about here?
WOLF: It really does take a while especially in a situation like this. I mean, right now, flying conditions are impossible. I mean, you're not going to have anyone from the local national weather service go up in a chopper and survey the ground, and then declare this a tornado or not.
I mean, this is just a small element in the mid-storm. If you cut away from video for just a moment and take a look at what's behind me, and then perhaps you can go back to the video, Heidi, you see Fay behind me. You can see -- I guess, not really the eye, but the center of the storm now moving offshore.
You're also going to notice a lot of these bands spinning counter-clockwise around the center of circulation, and these feeder bands often can spawn tornadoes.
Now, in comparison with the tornadoes that we typically have in parts of southeast and parts of the central plain, these are not very strong tornadoes. They're usually the F-0 to F-1 or EF-O to EF-1 in terms of strength. Not very strong. They usually rain wraps. They're very hard to see. And that's the real danger.
These things can strike quickly and cause the damage that you see here in Wellington, Florida -- compliments of WPTV. We have a tornado watch. This is in effect for a good part of the State of Florida, mainly central and South Florida through the late afternoon hours. So this is something that we may be talking about quite a bit through the rest of the day.
That's the latest we've got for you, Heidi. Let's send it right back to you with the news desk.
COLLINS: OK, great. Thank you, Reynolds. Appreciate it.
WOLF: You bet.
COLLINS: Under attack and fighting back. U.S. troops in Afghanistan stand up to a group of suicide bombers.
COLLINS: An explosion of violence today on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border in eastern Afghanistan. A U.S. base the target of brazen suicide attack. Near the capital of Kabul, NATO forces battle insurgents near the capital. Ten French soldiers were killed.
CNN's Reza Sayah is following it all from Islamabad this morning.
What's the very latest now, Reza?
REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, the violence continues in Afghanistan. This incident today is significant not just because of the death toll, but where it happened. Here's what we have. Ten French soldiers killed when their convoy was attacked just outside of Kabul. This according to an Afghan army source. That army source telling CNN that 20 other soldiers were injured.
The Afghan defense minister telling CNN that the Afghan Army responded. A battle ensued and 27 militants were killed, among them Pakistani national. Here's why this incident insignificant. This is the highest one day death toll for French soldiers, and it happened just outside of Kabul, considered perhaps the most secure city in Afghanistan.
And then you have the alleged Pakistani national killed look for Afghan officials to point to this Pakistani national as further proof that Pakistani militants are involved in active and cross border attacks -- Heidi.
COLLINS: So there was a hospital attack, too, near the Afghan border -- is that right?
SAYAH: The hospital attack actually happened across the border in Pakistan. And that's further proof that with or without President Pervez Musharraf in power in Pakistan, Pakistan facing a number of issues, among them extremists.
Here's what we have on that attack in the hospital in northwest frontier province of Pakistan. Twenty-three people dead when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside to the hospital. Sources telling CNN that the bomb went off when a crowd had gathered to protest a shooting death of a Shiite Muslim leader. So, again, this is another reminder that even with President Musharraf off resigning, the security and peace situation unstable -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Yes, absolutely. All right. We'll stay on top of this story with you. Thanks so much. CNN's Reza Sayah this morning. Thank you.
Back to Tropical Storm Fay now. Moving up the Florida peninsula this morning. The state on guard for flooding and tornadoes.
COLLINS: Back in the U.S. now. We are getting word, both presidential candidates are close to naming their running mates. Barack Obama's announcement could come as early as tomorrow. And John McCain, next week.
CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry is on VP watch again today. All right, you're the man with all the answers. Come on, Ed, who is it going to be?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, when you just saw Barack Obama at the VFW speech pushing back hard against what John McCain said yesterday about foreign policy and saying -- look, I never questioned John McCain's motives, I don't suggest that he's not putting America first, he should, you know, give me the same respect.
There's a school of thought within the Democratic Party among some of Barack Obama's advisers that he should be leaving those kinds of speeches, that kind of push back, to his running mate. And that's why you're seeing Joe Biden, the senator from Delaware, his stock really rising in recent days.
Not only would it help fill out Barack Obama's resume, the fact that Biden has much more foreign policy experience, but then he could have a vice presidential running mate who is sort of the attack dog, who is out on the campaign trail pushing back against John McCain on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, you name it. But, meanwhile, Barack Obama could be focusing on the economy, gas prices, et cetera.
So that's why Joe Biden's stock has been rising. But we've got to be clear that Senator Evan Bayh, Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia, several others are still in the mix. And so while party insiders may be saying -- look, Joe Biden's stock is rising, someone like Bill Richardson, someone even like Hillary Clinton, could still emerge as sort of a dark horse candidate because the bottom line is that while various Democrats have their points of view, the only real point of view that matters is Barack Obama's. This is going to be a real personal decision, Heidi.
COLLINS: Yes. And it was so funny because as you were talking, we put up some video of all three that you were mentioning. And Biden and governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson, were talking, talking, talking, and Evan Bayh was just sitting there like this. So maybe -- see, look -- maybe, he's the one who will talk the least, but have the most to say, who knows?
HENRY: That's been one of the allegations against Joe Biden is that he talks too much. And we've seen -- what's interesting in recent weeks, Joe Biden has been very quiet, which has led some people to believe maybe he's trying to hold his tongue to improve his chances, Heidi.
COLLINS: Yes, all right. Well, let's make sure we get to the other side of fence, as well. Senator John McCain, he's going to do this probably as we have known and as history has shown after Senator Barack Obama will choose his VP. So we're looking at potentially next week.
HENRY: That's right. That's the expectation. That Barack Obama would do something later this week to try to get some momentum into his convention in Denver. And that John McCain could, and I stress could, make his announcement two Fridays from now. Basically, the day after Barack Obama gives his acceptance speech with the thinking being trying to sort of blunt any momentum that Barack Obama gets.
And there's a lot of talk that there are some rallies planned in some key battleground states on Friday. CNN has told by Republican officials that the Friday after Barack Obama's convention, John McCain is going to have some events in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania -- that's obviously got people buzzing. Well, he's going to wind up in Pennsylvania, does not mean Tom Ridge's stock is rising. If he goes to Michigan, that's sort of a favorite son for Mitt Romney. Also, Tim Pawlenty being the governor of Minnesota, you see him there on the far right. Minnesota being a key mid-western battleground, as well.
So people are trying to read the tea leaves. I think the bottom line is that whomever John McCain picks, he realizes that Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, that's where this race is really going to be fought out. And so whoever the pick is going to be, he's going to want to try to get some momentum in those states, Heidi.
COLLINS: Hey, I wonder if they bet on this in Vegas. I mean, if there's a (INAUDIBLE) or something. I don't know.
HENRY: You know, they're probably. As you know -- and everyone does this guessing game in Washington and, again, in the end, it's Barack Obama, John McCain. This is a gut check for them, not what the pundits are going to say.
COLLINS: Yes, absolutely. Well, I love it. I can't wait. All right.
Ed Henry, appreciate it. Thank you.
HENRY: Thank you.
COLLINS: He's been called the future of U.S. wrestling, but the future is now. Henry Cejudo wins gold in Beijing. His fight to get there went far beyond the mat.
COLLINS: Payoff in gold for a promising athlete. U.S. wrestler Henry Cejudo has just won in Beijing capping a long journey for a young man. Our Larry Smith is live at the games and joins us now from Beijing.
Good morning to you, Larry. Good evening there, of course.
LARRY SMITH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Good morning there. Good evening here, Heidi.
It's all works for us. You know, before we get to Henry Cejudo's story, very quickly in gymnastics. It's been very -- some more gold medals, more medals coming in.
Shawn Johnson looking for gold here in Beijing. And on the final night of the gymnastics competition, she got that in the women's beam. She takes gold. Nastia Liukin takes silver. Liukin, her fifth medal of these games. Also, Jonathan Horton getting silver for the U.S.A. men on the horizontal bars.
Now, getting back to Henry Cejudo. As you mentioned, he takes gold in wrestling in the 55 kilogram class. His story is an incredible one, from rags to Olympic riches.
SMITH (voice-over): He's been called the future of wrestling, but its memories of his past that drive Henry Cejudo.
HENRY CEJUDO, OLYMPIC GOLD WINNER: It was just a journey. That's the way I looked at it, you know. It was just -- we kept moving and I won like ten in elementary school.
SMITH: We, was Henry, his brother, Angel -- also a world class wrestler and five other siblings. With a father they barely knew in and out of prison, Henry's mother, Nelly, found herself struggling financially and often holding down multiple jobs. Her work ethic didn't go unnoticed.
H. CEJUDO: She was never about excuses. That's something about here. There's time that she was sick at work, and you know she would go to work sick because knowing she has seven kids that she's got to take care of, and then right there just always motivated me.
ANGEL CEJUDO, HENRY'S BROTHER: We never saw the negativity on everything that was wrong. We always made it positive side, you know. Like I said, it was tough, you know, seven kids in a household, and actually sometimes it was more, you know. We had uncles coming from Mexico, cousins, people, you know. It was tough. But, I mean, my mom always made it a lot better for us.
SMITH: It was Angel who inspired Henry to begin wrestling in junior high. In the years that followed, Henry won four state championships and two national titles.
A. CEJUDO: When he first started, he was an animal. From the beginning, I'm not even going to lie, I'm not going to say he wasn't any good. He was -- right away, you knew he was going to be tough because he was the kind of kid that, you know, once you got on the mat, it didn't matter what sport he was. He went in there to fight.
H. CEJUDO: They now looked at it as, you know, people are fighting and they're getting trophies, so I was like I want to do that. TERRY BRANDS, USA WRESTLING COACH: You know, you've take that scrappiness where it used to be on the street, you know, throwing hay makers at people you don't know and put it into an organized sport and let him, you know, build and materialize and get better from doing it that way, and it's just a natural for him.
SMITH: Some believe a gold medal in Beijing will be just the start of a long and successful Olympic career.
SMIH: At the same time, Cejudo has not committed to wrestling again in London in the 2012 summer Olympics. In fact, there's been some speculation that he might pursue a career in mixed martial arts. But for now, he's an Olympic gold medalist here in Beijing.
Heidi, let's send it back to you.
COLLINS: Wow -- well, good for him. What a great story that is, too. Back to the gymnastics, though, as you mentioned, Shawn Johnson getting the gold and Nastia Lukin getting the silver in the balance beam. The whole other controversy on the bars between Nastia Lukin and the gal who won the Chinese gold.
Actually, a tie and then there's massive scoring system that people are yelling about. What's the very latest in all of this now?
SMITH: Well, nothing really has developed since then. Although, there's been some buzz about it back in the States. But yes, the Chinese gymnast, He Kexin, she and Nastia Lukin tied for the gold.
Now, this system hasn't been used before to try to unbreak a tie and determine if one is higher than the other. What happened was it takes into account who has the less deductions. That hurts Nastia Lukin because her routines are usually tougher than her competitors. She had more deductions as a result and, therefore, she takes the silver and Kexin of China took the gold. But that is the controversy right now.
Again, trying to -- this comes it seems every Olympics. The figure skating in Salt Lake, here -- anytime you have judges it seems that this is going to come into play at some point when you have a tie.
COLLINS: Yes. Human factor's mistakes. Never should have taken away the perfect 10, Larry. All right, Larry Smith for us in Beijing. Thanks so much, Larry. We'll check back later on.
Meanwhile, a cruel, heartless attack. New York police need help finding this mugger. An 85-year-old lady choked in an elevator.
COLLINS: On the campaign trail now. Republican presidential candidate John McCain looking for votes in Louisiana today. He's visiting an offshore oil rig platform. Yesterday, McCain was in Florida speaking at the Veterans of Foreign War's convention, and blasting his opponent over the Iraq war. Listen to what he say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: With less than three months to go before the election, a lot of people are just still trying to square Senator Obama's varying positions on the surge in Iraq.
First, he opposed the surge and confidently predicted that it would fail. Then he tried to prevent funding for the troops who carried out the surge. Not content to merely predict failure in Iraq, my opponent tried to legislate failure. This was back when supporting America's efforts in Iraq entailed serious political risk. It was a clarifying moment. It was a moment when political self-interest and the national interest parted ways.
For my part, with so much in the balance, my friends, it was an easy call. As I said at the time, I would rather lose an election than lose a war.
MCCAIN: Thanks to the courage and sacrifice of our soldiers, sailors, marine, airmen, and to the brave Iraqi fighters the surge has succeeded. And yet, Senator Obama still cannot quite bring himself to admit his own failure in judgment. Nor has he been willing to heed the guidance of General Petraeus, one of the great leaders in military history, or to listen to our troops on the ground when they say -- as they have said to me on my trips to Iraq: Let us win, just let us win.
MCCAIN: Instead, Senator Obama commits the greatest error of insisting that even in hindsight, he would oppose the surge. Even in retrospect, he would choose the path of retreat and failure for America over the path of success and victory. In short, both candidates in this election pledge to end this war and bring our troops home. The great difference is that I intend to win it first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: This morning it was Barack Obama's turn. He was also speaking at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention little earlier this hour. In fact, you heard some of those remarks a little while ago right here in the NEWSROOM.
Tropical Storm Fay moving up the Florida peninsula this morning. The state on guard for flooding and tornadoes.