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Tea Party Protesters in Washington, D.C.; Increasing Troops Levels in Afghanistan May Be Difficult for Obama Administration; South African Female Gold Medalist May Be Mixed Gender

Aired September 12, 2009 - 10:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: From the CNN Center, this CNN "SATURDAY MORNING." It is September 12th. Hello to you all, I'm T.J. Holmes.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Good morning, everybody, I'm Betty Nguyen. It's 10:00 a.m. here in the east, 7:00 a.m. Pacific for those of you waking up on the West Coast. Thanks so much for starting your day with us.

So, let's get right to it. President Obama travels to Minneapolis today for an afternoon rally on health insurance reform. It's going to be taking place at the Target Center, which is also home of the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves. So, you know, it's going to be a crowded affair there.

HOLMES: Huge place.

NGUYEN: And that event takes place at 1:30 Eastern. Of course, we'll bring that to you live.

HOLMES: We also have an update this morning on really, a story that had everybody kind of a buzz about. But this was the -- you remember, the South African woman who was then forced -- yes, the runner who, after a pretty big race and blowing out the competition was then forced to undergo a gender test. Well, there are some updates, some developments on that story. We will have that for you in a live report this morning.

But also a whole lot more to get you updated on, including what we have been watching this morning, Betty, at least for the past couple hours, a gathering group in Washington, D.C.

NGUYEN: They have made quite a trip to Washington D.C., in fact traveled across the U.S. We're talking about the Tea Party Express. We have some live pictures to show you right now.

They are in Washington right now on the final stop. More than 30,000 people expected to march into the nation's capital for a massive rally against big government spending and health care reform.

HOLMES: This protest actually started, the express, I should say, started its journey -- look at that. It has made its way across the country, started last month in Sacramento, went through more than 30 cities before stopping in D.C.

And some of those cities they were stopping in, they were stopping in some of those Congressional districts where they thought they could make a difference and really targeting next year's midterm elections to try and see if they can get some change in Washington.

Our political correspondents have got this thing covered for us today. And they there they are.

NGUYEN: Oh, yes. We are in all corners of it on the nation's capital. CNN's Kate Bolduan and Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser are on the scene right now in Washington.

So Paul, I want to start with you. Boy, you have a huge crowd there, and it's just been growing, it seems, by the minute.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. We've been here since early this morning. As you remember when we were first here, we were like the first, but this crowd has been growing, as you mentioned, by the minute.

Where we are exactly is Freedom Plaza. We're just a few blocks from the White House. And this is where everybody's gathering.

And in about an hour from now they'll march directly down Pennsylvania Avenue behind me to the U.S. capitol. They're going to go to the west front, that's where Kate is, and that's where all the action will be later today.

We have been speaking to a lot of people here. This event is organized by a group called Freedom Works. They a conservative advocacy group, and they're the overall organizing group.

But lot of these people I've been talking to said they're coming here just because -- on their own, not because of any groups. And they're very frustrated about what's going on in the country, they say. They talk about too many taxes, too much federal spending, the deficit.

And they also talk about health care reform that they don't like. Take a listen to some of the people I spoke to just in the last few minutes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are Americans first. We are not Republicans. We are Republicans, Democrats, Independents who finally decided enough is enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here because I'm a patriot, ex-military. My father was in the military for 24 years. And I'm just proud to be a part of this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm proud to be here representing America, the constitution, and everything that we love so dearly. And I'm so proud to say that we have some people in talk radio that are telling us the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP) STEINHAUSER: The crowds keep getting larger. We're going to be here the rest of the morning -- Betty, T.J.?

NGUYEN: Ye, that march gets under way at 11:00. They've been gathering for the past few hours, and they will be walking across the National Mall.

And I see Kate Bolduan standing there. Don't see too many people behind her just yet.

HOLMES: But they're making their way to her. Let's check in with her. Kate, I was told you couldn't -- it sounds like you can hear me now. Is that right? You can hear me OK, Kate?



BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. Sorry, we were having some audio issues. It's just live TV, you know?

So where we are right now, we're in front. You can probably see it behind me, the capitol, that's the west front of the capitol. You can see people starting to gather back there.

We're going to be moving up there in a few short minutes. And you can only guess it's going to be loud and there is going to be a lot of activity.

This event today is an annual, kind of really the culmination of a three-day march on Washington, an event that is organized in large part by the conservative advocacy group Freedom Works.

This whole thing kicked off Thursday with a rally of sorts with House Minority leadership, House Republican leadership here at the capitol.

And CNN had the opportunity to talk to some of these people who said in contrast to some of the passionate protests that we've seen over the summer recess in and outside and around the health care town halls, they say this isn't about being rowdy, or they hope it's not about being rowdy.

They say that, for them, the people we talked to, this is the first time they've really felt motivated, that they wanted to come to Washington and be heard. Listen to a little bit of that.


ART GERUNDA, TEA PARTY PARTICIPANTS: This isn't a fraternity party. I don't think anybody down here is -- I mean, look at these guys. These are just -- they're just people. There's no -- everybody's got the same concerns as me.

I'll tell you the truth, if I didn't have two little four-year- old grandchildren, I don't know if I'd be here. I mean, I'm as concerned for them as I am for my own personal problems. I think everybody you see here, they're just -- they're just folks. And they're concerned.

RALPH MAZZELLA, TEA PARTY PARTICIPANT: It's my tax dollars that these guys are spending wherever they want, however they want, and they're not accountable for it. Enough is enough, you know? I'm done. I don't know what else to do. I fear for my granddaughter. That's why I'm here.


BOLDUAN: Now, in large part broadly we've talked about, and my colleague, Paul Steinhauser, has talked about really what some of the range of concerns are, generally.

It's concerns over what they view as big spending and too much government intervention in their lives. And that's what they say they want to come here and have Capitol Hill, have Congress, have senators, have congressmen and women listen to them, that they say enough is enough, as kind of is the mantra of the tea party movement.

But I've really been moving through the crowd up there to try to get a sense, because people say we really have individual concerns. We're all kind of coming together to voice that we are concerned.

But one woman said simply, if I had to sum it up, she just said it's too much, too fast. And she really says that her concerns are embodied in and, she says, the president, the administration's proposals for health care overhaul. She says it's too much, too fast, and it scares me, she says.

HOLMES: A lot of people are scared right about now, but they are letting out some of that fear and frustration today. They are making their way to you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And we'll be here.

HOLMES: Yes, you're there to receive them. We will check in with you again here in just a little bit. Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

NGUYEN: In the meantime, though, Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to send another 3,000 troops to Afghanistan to deal with the rise in roadside bombings. But our Tom Forman tells us some think it should be Afghanistan's responsibility.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: American troops are facing increasingly hot fire in Afghanistan. And even as he tries to send help, their commander in chief is under assault, too. President Obama again made it clear he wants more military pressure on the Taliban just as promised in his campaign.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... the pursuit of Al Qaeda and its extremist allies, we will never falter.

FOREMAN: The president has already been moving 21,000 extra troops into Afghanistan for a total of 68,000 by this year's end. But even before this latest expected request for more, on Capitol Hill, top players in the president's own party were waving red flags, noting public support for the war is plummeting, especially among Democrats.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: I don't think there is a great deal of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan in the country or in the Congress.

FOREMAN: The influential head of the armed services committee, Michigan's Carl Levin, is the latest, saying no more American troops until he sees more Afghan soldiers on the lines.

SEN. CARL LEVIN, (D) MICHIGAN: This is an army that is willing to fight and take on the Taliban. What they need is much larger numbers, they need training, they need the equipment. And we have fallen short in providing them with all of that.

FOREMAN (on camera): But, keeping them honest, we contacted military and foreign affairs analysts at several top think tanks with extensive knowledge of Afghanistan.

Some of them are more in favor of the U.S. intervention there, some of them less so, but, regardless, all of them said expecting Afghan security forces to dramatically step up is a tall order at best.

FOREMAN (voice-over): There are currently only about 90,000 Afghan troops. The widely agreed-upon goal for security -- 240,000. The Cato Institute calls that "unrealistic anytime soon."

The Foreign Policy Research Institute said there is a mismatch between the president's strategy and the resources he has on the battlefield.

The Foreign Policy Initiative says training more Afghans is a good idea but not a substitute for U.S. forces.

And the Rand Corporation says "The bottom line is we don't have enough troops, U.S. or Afghan."

So it appears the president is increasingly caught in a vice between growing resistance at home, an advancing enemy on the battlefront, and a political clock that on this anniversary weekend of 9/11 is ticking loudly.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


NGUYEN: OK. So, tonight on CNN an "AC 360" special report -- Afghanistan elections, the Taliban resurgence, and mounting American casualties. It is a critical moment for the region. And Anderson Cooper takes you inside Afghanistan's battle zone. That is tonight and tomorrow night at well, 10:00 eastern only on CNN.


HOLMES: We're going to be getting into the case of the South African track star who was just born to run, but there's a question of whether or not this runner was born a woman. We'll have the latest on a gender controversy that threatens this promising career.

NGUYEN: Well, tests have been done and results are out there. So we'll show you what they prove.

And our CNN hero went along the way to make children happy, all the way, in fact, to Siberia.


NGUYEN: Our hero of the week, a Boy Scout from Maryland -- 16- year-old Alex Griffith took an Eagle Scout service project overseas all the way to Siberia. Take a look.


ALEX GRIFFITH, YOUNG WONDER: I was abandoned at a hospital at birth. I was adopted at eleven-and-a-half months old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first time we saw Alex he had rickets and was malnourished. We fell in love with him immediately. I said, there's my son. Let's go home, son.

GRIFFITH: Hospital number 20 gave me a chance to survive, and I wanted to give something back.

I'm Alex Griffith, and I'm building a playground at the hospital where I was adopted from.

I've been a Boy Scout for five years. I wanted to build a playground for my Eagle project.

The playground at the hospital number 20 had a rusty old swing with a wooden seat and a sand box, which was actually a mud pit because of all the rain.

We had to design the playground. This is the double slide. That was a playground, and then follow it over the build it. Volunteers from all over the world helped me build this playground.

All of us adopted from Russia have not been and probably won't never forget (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via translator): I like this playground because when you slide on it, all the sadness goes away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He makes me very proud. He is becoming an example to others that anything is possible if you don't give up.

GRIFFITH: This trip made me really happy just being here. That's all I can say.


NGUYEN: And you can find out more about Alex and our other CNN heroes on our Web site. Log on to Coming October 1st, we'll announce the top ten CNN heroes of 2009.

HOLMES: And also a track star skips her latest race but is not going to be able to outrun the controversy over whether she's a woman.


NGUYEN: We want you to take a look at this. We knew it would be a large crowd. In fact, they traveled across the country for this march today on Washington. This is the Tea Party Express.

But look at the National Mall area. There are thousands. We're hearing some 30,000. There might even be more than that who have gathered today to march on Washington.

The Tea Party Express, they've got a lot of issues, many of them dealing with big government, a lot of it with health care reform. And we are going to be hearing from them today as we watch this march take place at 11:00 eastern.

HOLMES: I want to turn to the story of a South African track star who is dropping out of a race this weekend at a time when many people are asking is Caster Semenya really a woman or a man?

It turns out the answer might be both. Robyn Curnow joins us now live in Johannesburg. And Robyn, please update us on this story. It's one that's been of international fascination, as we know. And also, where is Semenya now?

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, well, just to give your audience a sense of what's happened in the last few days, basically leaked reports from the international athletics body suggests that Caster Semenya is an intersexual, basically someone with both female and male reproductive organs.

Now, of course this has been met with much outrage here in South Africa because these reports are leaked, they're not confirmed, and the international athletics body still refuses to say whether or not this is the case.

They say the final results of that gender tests that were taken on her after he won a gold medal will only be released at the end of November.

So amidst all of this now, this huge international spotlight on her, and she has understandably appeared to have gone into riding. She was supposed to run at a track meet today. She didn't turn up. And a member of the athletics South Africa here said that she wasn't feeling well, which is understandable considering this huge international focus on her and her biological conditions.

HOLMES: Robyn, you mentioned there that South Africans have been supportive of Semenya. I guess, what are the concerns floating around out there now about her, the safety, her mental health? Are there concerns out there just about this young person, 18-year-old, that's now become this center of international attention?

CURNOW: Absolutely. I mean, we all remember what it was like to be 18. It was tough enough as it was, whether you're a guy or a girl. So to suddenly have people questioning whether you're either one of those or both, I mean, imagine the psychological turmoil you must be going through.

And for that to be happening on the international stage, very difficult for a young girl who was brought up in quite a rural village here in South Africa.

And South Africans are aware of this. They're very worried about her. This is one of the headlines here in the South African papers -- "Fears for Caster." One of the parliamentarians here suggests that she is a suicide risk.

And then something that was sort of confirmed by the head of South African Athletics to me just a few moments ago. He said there was a team of psychologists looking after her. So, at least the South Africans feel like they are trying to protect her. I mean, at least trying to give her some sort of psychological and emotional guidance in this no doubt incredibly traumatic time.

But it's not over yet. The final results still only coming according to, like I said, the international athletics body, only the end of November. Sp there's only so much hiding you can do. And at some stage she's going to have to come in the public again.

And I think, no doubt very trying times for Caster and for all those around her.

HOLMES: And Robyn, if you can here, quickly, I guess we do have to wait until November, maybe those final results, or do we know anything about Caster's future in the sport?

CURNOW: You know, there are a lot of questions. I know that the international athletics body said they had taken some legal advice on whether she should be stripped of her gold medal if it's proved that she is -- she has this condition.

They say they won't because she wasn't cheating and she wasn't doping. There are no drugs involved. You know, it was a -- it was a -- it was in good faith that she entered these competitions.

That said, is her international running career over? Well, it depends on just what kind of levels of testosterone she has, what the actual process is of this medical condition, intersects, the various levels.

Apparently it's all very medically confusing, I must say, just for simple journalists like me, but I think for everybody. This is not a cut-and-dried thing, you're either a man or a woman. Apparently it's quite a gray area.

And I think how people deal with that medical issue is going to sort of see how she progresses in terms of her international competing career.

But of course there's a worry that it's over for her. I think there's a lot of unanswered questions, and that must be deeply unsettling.

HOLMES: Yes, it's something a lot of people just don't understand, and maybe we can understand a little more. And certainly nothing she can do about the way she was born. And we appreciate you. Robyn Curnow for us in Johannesburg, thank you so much for an update on the story.

NGUYEN: Very interesting there, thought. And we'll see how that ...

HOLMES: How it plays out.

NGUYEN: Plays out, absolutely. November, right?



Well, the shout heard round the world, who's making money off of it, and just how much? We'll discuss the political fallout with two people who know Washington very well, that being Mary Matalin and Paul Begala.

Also we'll be updating the day's top stories, including the search for a Yale student who disappeared days before her wedding. Stay here.


NGUYEN: All right, want to take you live to Washington for some of those pictures. And it really shows the crowds that are growing in D.C. Look at them lined up. They are going to be making a march across the national mall. This is a rally right now. It's the Tea Party Express. They've come from across the country.

How many different stops did they make, T.J.?

HOLMES: It was 30-plus across the country.

NGUYEN: That's what I thought, yes.

HOLMES: They've been going for at least a month now. Started out in Sacramento and made their way across.

And many people, certainly a lot of these people were on that bus tour, but some of them, as well, just came in from local towns. We saw somebody there from Arkansas and coming around the country to be there for this, tens of thousands. You can see that is quite a large crowd.

NGUYEN: Yes, indeed.

HOLMES: A rally coming up here in just minutes. We'll keep an eye on that live picture.

NGUYEN: That rally is 11:00 a.m. eastern. Of course, we'll bring that to you. They definitely want their voices heard, and they've come out by the thousands to ensure they are heard today.

In the meantime, though, I want to talk about something else that was heard. The most talked-about moment during President Obama's address to Congress this week wasn't in the script, nope. It was the outburst from a little-known South Carolina congressman, if I can get that out.

But as Brian Todd tells us, Joe Wilson isn't so little known anymore.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An obscure back bencher injects himself literally into the great health care debate.



OBAMA: That's not true.

TODD: An uncharacteristic outburst, or was this part of Joe Wilson's M.O.? Yes on both counts according to journalists who have covered him in South Carolina.

They describe a soft-spoken, flag-waving congressman who doesn't get into the forefront of many high-profile debates. But when he does feel passionately he's not afraid to show it.

Witness this exchange on C-Span several years ago when Democratic Congressman Bob Filner opined that the U.S. had supplied Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction.

WILSON: We never gave stuff like that to ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you need to read your military history.

WILSON: That is absurd. And you know, this hatred of America by some people is just outrageous. And you need to get over that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hatred of America?

WILSON: Yes, a hatred of America to say something like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you accusing me?

WILSON: Yes. Accusing us of giving biological weapons to Iraq, that is outrageous. You shouldn't say that. And you need to look into it and you need to retract it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had a congressman...

WILSON: That was a hateful comment that you made.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a true comment.

WILSON: That is not right. And you shouldn't say stuff like that.

TODD: An early and fervent supporter of the Iraq War, Wilson, observers say, gets his fire stoked by just about any military issue. His four sons all served. One, an Iraq veteran, took time out from running for attorney general back home to defend his father's comments to the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are just frustrated about health care, especially in South Carolina, and that frustration manifested itself last night on the floor of the U.S. Congress.

TODD: Joe Wilson's district is heavily Republican. Observers say an influx of Hispanic immigrants in recent years has sparked tensions over jobs and health care, tensions that had been weighing on the mind of the former immigration attorney.

WILSON: People who have come to our country and violated laws, we should not be providing full health care services.

TODD: Wilson once worked for legendary Republican Senator Strom Thurmond and the late Congressman Floyd Spence, who analysts say mentored him on the politics of constituent service.

JOHN O'CONNOR, REPORTER, "THE STATE" NEWSPAPER: Congressman Wilson is kind of the traditional South Carolina congressman who, you know, focuses on keeping the people at home happy and then, you know, when folks have an issue back in the district, they can call up their congressman. The congressman will take care of that.

TODD: That's a formula, observers say, that keeps you in office in South Carolina. Since taking over Floyd Spence's seat in 2001, Wilson had not been seriously challenged until last year.

TODD (on camera): His opponent then, Rob Miller, is running against him again. And Democratic Party officials say since Wilson's outburst, Miller's been able to raise several hundred thousand dollars for his am campaign.

But Wilson says his own response from constituents back home has been overwhelmingly positive.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: Let me bring in now Paul Begala, CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist. Also Mary Matalin, political contributor for CNN's "State of the Union" and former assistant to President George W. Bush. Guys, good to have you both here.

Ladies first. Mary, I will start with you. What we've seen this past couple days with this health care debate. Of course what Representative Wilson did I think everybody's in agreement he should not have done.

However, is he now bringing attention to a point that needs to be made and an issue that needs to be taken up, which is finding a way in this legislation to explicitly say that illegal immigrants cannot be covered?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, he's bringing up a good point. And what he's proved again is the louder the Democrats shout the more they're trying to cover up something, even though it's selective manners and selective memory. It didn't bother them when they all booed President Bush in 2005 in his state of the union.

But the absence of an express provision which the Democrats have voted down twice, plus the incentive to get new enrollees is -- absolutely would lead to enrolling illegals or their families and providing care and coverage for them.

So, yes, he brings up a good point. And just because we spent so much time talking about the theatrics of it doesn't mean people didn't get what the substance of the problem was.

HOLMES: And Paul, she make a point there that this does need to be addressed?




Look, I'm a Democrat. I support the president's plan. Mary's a Republican, she opposes it. That's not news.

Independent people have looked at this, journalists, fact checkers. It's just not true. I love Mary. What she's saying is false. This legislation doesn't extend benefits, subsidies, or anything else to illegal immigrants. It just doesn't. It simply doesn't.

And, you know, Congressman Wilson, I'm kind of with Mary like this. Personally I don't exactly have clean hands on the civility and the manners on this, so I'm not going to throw stones about that.

It's the dishonesty of Mr. Wilson, of Governor Palin, of all of these people who are -- there's an honest debate to have about health care. But it's simply false when Congressman Wilson alleges that Barack Obama wants to extend health insurance subsidies to illegal immigrants. It's just false. It's not true.

HOLMES: Mary, jump in here -- is that the disagreement?

MATALIN: T.J., of course ...

HOLMES: Yes, go ahead. You take it.

MATALIN: Right. Of course they're not going to write in there "we're going to fund illegal immigrants." But the Congressional Research Service says that the way this is set up it is absolutely possible for the transference of funds, federal funds, to get to citizens, undocumented citizens.

I'll say this again. It's a rhetorical sleight of hand. They're never going to write in there we're funding illegal immigrants. Absolutely that's technically true.

The rhetorical sleight of hand is when you incentivize states and doctors to enroll new people, additional people to get insurance and coverage and care, and you don't explicitly have a citizen verification -- no doctor is allowed to or is required to ask for a verification, a validation of citizenship.

So anybody can come and say I need care, I need coverage. There's an incentive to enroll them. What do you think is going to happen? That's called common sense.

HOLMES: I guess -- I have to move on from this. I know this debate will continue.

But Paul, I want to give you this next question. Even though the president made this big address before a joint session of Congress to the American people, the next day all the coverage seemed to be about Wilson. So, still, did that hurt him in that the next day the coverage was not about what he was there to talk about?

BEGALA: No, actually. It helped him. And I think Congressman Wilson hurt his party and his cause.

Again, I'm not a good person to sit in great moral judgment of other people's incivility. I'm probably a lot less civil than most people you'll ever meet. Hell, I hosted "Crossfire" for three years, OK?

But as a matter of political strategy, not manners -- I am not in position to judge anyone's manners -- as a matter of political strategy, the face of opposition to President Obama became this Congress clown, Wilson, instead of, for example, John McCain.

As soon as the speech was over, Larry King had John McCain on. Senator McCain had just been praised by Barack Obama. In a civil, respectful, patriotic way, McCain disagreed with Obama. That's the face the Republicans should want, is a guy like John McCain, who has strong appeal, by the way, with independents.

Instead the Republicans were cheated. There was Barack Obama at his best. All of the polling and focus groups showed that independents as well as Democrats loved what he had to say.

And it's kind of a shame, the person in addition to the president that the person needs to apologize to are members of the Republican Party, because he's given them now yet another poster clown for their movement, which is really a shame.

When I was a kid, Republicans were serious people and honorable people. And many of them still are. Obviously Mary is. But that's not the face that we're seeing these days.

HOLMES: I needed to go, but Mary, I can't leave it on that face you were making. Go ahead, and we'll get out of here.

MATALIN: I'm so happy that Paul's boys have such better manners than he does.

Look, there's no polls that indicate this is a game changer, that independents are moving back. Quite the contrary. It never hurt the Democrats when they booed President Bush or called him a liar or loser and continue to.

People just tune all that out. They're looking at the substance. T.J., you make the best point that the substance of what the president was saying being drowned out by this theatrics did not get him closer to what he needed to do, which was to change -- have a game changer. He didn't have one.

HOLMES: Paul Begala, Mary Matalin, I appreciate you all at least being civil for me today, especially you, Paul.


Appreciate you guys. See you.

NGUYEN: They were pretty civil, weren't they?

All right, we're going to take a look at our top stories today.

Yale University is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts of Annie Le. She is a doctoral student at the university who has been missing since Tuesday.

Now, Le was last seen at a school medical laboratory, but she's supposed to be getting married tomorrow in New York. We'll continue to follow that story for you.

Also, Vice President Joe Biden expected to attend a memorial at Dodger stadium in Los Angeles today for the two firefighters killed in what has become the county's largest wildfire ever.

Authorities believe the 250,000-acre station fire was intentionally set last month, and they're investigating the deaths of those firefighters as homicides.

Listen to this -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to send as many as 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Gates wants the troops to deal with the rise in roadside bombings. And the number of roadside bomb attacks there, it's jumped, 350 percent in the past two years.

Now 37 troops have been killed in IED attacks this month as well as August. Just those two months, we've had that many deaths.

HOLMES: Coming up next here, the candidate who's capitalizing in a major way on Congressman Wilson's high-profile outburst to the president.

NGUYEN: And speaking of high profile, I spoke with a fashion designer who was able to fit Michelle Obama with that very dress during the inauguration. We're going to be talking to Jason Wu and what's hot for spring.


HOLMES: He is raising some money after raising his voice to the president. The problem here being that South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson is raising a lot of that money for his opponents next year.

Democrat Rob Miller says he's raised more than $1 million dollars since Wilson's outburst. Wilson, however, says he's seen $700,000 come in for his own war chest since that outburst, money he's been asking supporters for on his Web site.

Take a listen.


WILSON: They want to silence anyone who speaks out against it. They made it clear they want to defeat me and pass the plan.

I need your help now. If you agree with me that the government- run health plan is bad medicine for America, then I ask for your support. Please go to and contribute to my effort to defeat the proponents of government-run health care.


HOLMES: Well, before Wednesday the midterm election in South Carolina's second district was just one of hundreds going on in the House. Now it's a race between the guy who shouted at the president on national TV and this other guy.

This other guy is Democrat Rob Miller, and it's not the first time he's faced down incumbent Joe Wilson. They actually ran against each other last time around. Of course Wilson actually won that race, of course.

But joining us live from Ann Arbor, Michigan, is someone who should have a big old smile on her face because she is the treasurer for Rob Miller's campaign, Claudia Kennedy. Thank you so much for taking the time out.

Let's take our viewers through this thing. You tell me, before the president's speech on Wednesday, how much money did the campaign have in the bank? CLAUDIA KENNEDY, TREASURER, ROB MILLER FOR CONGRESS: The campaign had raised quite a bit of money before this incident, and it was -- you know, it was over $100,000. And Rob Miller was doing very well.

But this incident with a shocking outburst from Joe Wilson has really catapulted Rob Miller into one of the big -- the big fundraisers. In the last two day, over $1 million dollars.

HOLMES: In two days, a million dollars. When did you all -- could you all tell that something was happening? How soon after that outburst could you tell it started coming in and it kept coming and kept coming? When did you know you were on to something big here?

KENNEDY: I realized it personally the first half day, Thursday, about noon. I was over at the campaign office, and at that point the -- we had raised more than $400,000 online.

And it was just a very exciting thing. General Wes Clark had sent out an e-mail to people saying how much he supports Rob Miller.

You know, Rob Miller served in Iraq twice as a U.S. marine officer, and before that as an enlisted marine. And he's an infantryman who understands discipline, has great leadership.

HOLMES: And ma'am, tell me here now, do you plan on using this throughout the campaign? Because of course it's a long time until election time next year. So, do you plan on, I guess, using this moment and that mistake, admitted mistake that Mr. Wilson made, throughout the campaign to remind voters out there about it?

KENNEDY: Well, I think voters are very, very aware of the limitations of the leadership of Joe Wilson. I mean, he's been in Congress for quite a while and has done nothing.

In fact, this outburst was his single and unique contribution to the national debate about a very serious issue around health care. And all he could do is shout "liar" and then he records a tape asking for money for money for it and talking about someone silencing him.

He has hardly been silenced. He himself has been inactive. He has not been leading ...

HOLMES: I know you have maybe substantive issues and I know that debate will continue, but do you think it has been enough?

Of course, you might not agree with his politics and things like that. But do you think it's been enough, and does Rob Miller think it's been enough that Mr. Wilson has apologized and we can leave it at that, and you all are going to move on now to going back to trying to have a more substantive debate with him throughout the campaign?

KENNEDY: Rob Miller's remained focused on the issues he thinks are important. And, of course, he is highly motivated by the idea that South Carolina's unemployment is almost 12 percent. He wants to work for good jobs for people that have health benefits. He wants to work for good benefits for veterans and military retirees because he himself served 13 years in the Marine Corps.

So Rob Miller has stayed on that. I think it's Joe Wilson who has never quite gotten on course at all. He has not provided leadership.

HOLMES: Well, admittedly he got a little bit off course, by his own admission. But it's amazing to see the money that's coming in on both sides. I believe the campaign for Mr. Miller only raised $600,000 his last go around, but now barely over a million plus in just a few days.

Claudia Kennedy, again, coming to us from Ann Arbor because she's there for a little football game going that's on there today, but treasurer for Rob Miller's campaign. Ma'am, thank you for taking the time out. You enjoy the game and enjoy your weekend.

KENNEDY: Thank you, T.J.

HOLMES: All right, quick break and we're right back.


NGUYEN: Airlines are looking for ways to cut costs by reducing routes, which can make it tougher for you to get where you're going. And CNN's Richelle Carey has more in this edition of "On the Go."


RICHELLE CAREY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's hard enough to find a flight, but beginning this fall, it is going to get tougher.

GENEVIEVE SHAW BROWN, TRAVELOCITY.COM: Airlines are cutting down the capacity because of a slowdown in both international and domestic travel, particularly in the area of business travel.

CAREY: Some international routes have already been cut.

BROWN: Delta is suspending nonstop service from Atlanta to Seoul and to Shanghai and from JFK to Edinburgh. Virgin Atlantic is cutting the Chicago O'Hare to London route.

CAREY: Domestic flights will be scaled back, too.

BROWN: Airtran is a domestic carrier. They will be suspending daily service from Orlando to Washington Dulles, and instead flying only on Fridays and Saturdays.

CAREY: This means fewer options in planning your trip.

BROWN: You are competing now for fewer seats. So, you want to be booking in advance.

CAREY: Also, double-check your itinerary. Sometimes airlines add a connecting flight.

BROWN: If you pay for a nonstop and then are put on a connecting flight, I would try to negotiate with your airline to see if there's any sort of travel voucher or perhaps partial refund that you can receive.


NGUYEN: All right. So, fashion designer Jason Wu, he's only 26 years old, but he's already a star on the world stage. And one of his most famous clients, First Lady Michelle Obama, who wore one of his creations to her husband's inauguration.

I had a chance to catch up with Jason during New York fashion week. Take a look.


NGUYEN: Jason, after dressing Michelle Obama for the inaugural ball, this has been a big year for you. Did you feel any added pressure for this particular fashion show?

JASON WU, FASHION DESIGNER: You know, there's nerves and it's a lot of nonstop work, but it's all worth it, you know, when you see the clothes coming down the runway that we worked months, and looking exactly the way I dreamed. So, yes, you know, this is it for me, you know, I'm really excited.

NGUYEN: Absolutely. And how chaotic were those last few hours, few days before today's show?

WU: I was doing sewing up (INAUDIBLE) on the runway. So it was pretty chaotic.

NGUYEN: Are you serious?

WU: (INAUDIBLE) because I was inspired by (INAUDIBLE). And I wanted to, in the spirit of sculpting, I wanted to create these dresses that looked like sculptures. And (INAUDIBLE)

NGUYEN: So, what is hot for spring? For folks out there watching and want to know what's that one thing I should buy, what is hot?

WU: (INAUDIBLE). And mixing -- blurring the line between day and evening. You can never be too dressed up.

NGUYEN: Absolutely. But during a recession, which we're all in right now, are you catering at all to those who maybe may not have as much change to spend on wonderful designs?

WU: If you can pick one thing (INAUDIBLE) and one thing you can desire and want to hold onto it for a long time, then it's worth it as a long term investment.

NGUYEN: An investment piece, yes. You're so young still, but you've done so much. What's next for you?

WU: Well, I did a sunglasses collection for the first time, and my collaboration (INAUDIBLE).

NGUYEN: One last thing. After designing for the first lady, where do you go from there? Who else do you want to fit?

WU: Well, you know, I keep challenging myself as a designer. I think it's important. And it's really never enough for me. I always want to do more. (INAUDIBLE)

I go to China, I'm going to London, I'm going to Paris next month, and it's (INAUDIBLE) international now.

NGUYEN: Taking over the whole world, huh?

WU: Yes, world domination.

NGUYEN: I love it.


HOLMES: From the CNN center in Atlanta, you are in the "CNN Newsroom" this Saturday, September 12th. Hello there, I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: Yes, hello everybody, I'm Betty Nguyen. It's 11:00 a.m. on the east coast, 8:00 a.m. out west.

Let's get right to it. It's been a busy weekend for the president as he pushes for health care reform. In fact, he's speaking at a rally in Minneapolis just a couple of hours from now.