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Issue Number One

America Votes 2008; Obama Town Hall; Platinum Poaching; Candidates' Education Plans; Quick Vote Results

Aired July 31, 2008 - 12:00   ET


RICK SANCHEZ, CO-HOST: No! They still have not come up with an energy bill on Capitol Hill. What's the hurry, right? We'll tell you.
President Bush talks clean coal. Oxymoron?

One oil company makes more money in the past three months than any corporation ever in the history of the United States.

And we're going to tell you who you say is to blame for America's fuel crisis.

Issue #1, your economy. ISSUE #1 starts right now.

From the ISSUE #1 headquarters to the news room, we are all over the stories that will impact you.

Hi, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez, sitting in for Ali Velshi.

There is new indication today about the actual state of the U.S. economy. The news, shall we say, mixed.

Your car could be at risk right now. We're going to tell you what part of the car thieves are after. And no, it doesn't have anything to do with your gas tank.

And Roland Martin says that Obama is wrong and McCain is right on school vouchers.

By the way, Ted Stevens may make his first appearance in the next couple of minutes. We may also go to Senator Obama, as well -- Gerri.

GERRI WILLIS, CO-HOST: Right, exactly.

The big story today, though, energy. President Bush headed to coal country in West Virginia. This morning, the president touted -- no surprise here -- coal.

CNN's Kathleen Koch is live right now in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, the heart of coal country.

Hi there, Kathleen.


Yes, the president was preaching to the choir here, speaking to the West Virginia Coal Association's annual meeting. And not surprisingly, the president touted the importance of coal and promised to invest more federal dollars in clean coal technology to help remove pollutants from coal and make it a more environmentally friendly source of energy.

The president, though, obviously with Americans paying near record- high prices at the gas pump right now, switched very quickly to oil supply and what can be done to increase the nation's oil supply. And the president blasted Congress for not acting on his call to lift the ban on offshore drilling in most areas of the Outer Continental Shelf.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is legislation pending in Congress to lift the restrictions. My call is, before you go home for an extended period of time, you ought to bring these bills to the floor. The leaders ought to be giving these members a vote, a chance to say yes or no as to whether or not we ought to be finding more domestic oil to take the pressure off gasoline prices.


KOCH: Now, this is the third day in a row, you may have noticed, that President Bush has spoken out on what he believes are the best solutions to the nation's energy woes. Republicans and Democrats understand that come November, voters could take it out at the polls on the party that they believe is responsible for inaction on the high gas prices, on the energy problems the country is facing.

But as much, Gerri, as the president is pointing the finger at the Democratically-controlled Congress, they're pointing right back at him and saying it is his energy plan or lack thereof that got us into this fix -- Gerri.

WILLIS: Wow. Kathleen, lots of blame to go around here I think.

KOCH: Quite so.

WILLIS: Thank you for that report. We appreciate it.

KOCH: You bet.

SANCHEZ: You know, right here yesterday on this show, I spoke to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, and she told me that Republicans don't want to go to recess without ironing out before the end of this week some type of energy bill.

Well, here's the point: the question still stands, because now with 24 hours -- yes, about 24 hours left to go, there still is no energy bill in Congress. Is this thing even going to get done?

Let's go to Brianna Keilar. She's been following this for us.

Brianna, what's the word?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rick, you know, tomorrow, Congress leaves town for a month. And as it stands right now, they're probably going to take off without agreeing on a way to address high gas prices.

Senate negotiations to vote on offshore oil drilling, they fell apart yesterday. And in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said there will be no votes on offshore drilling, and it appears that she's really holding firm on that promise.

Republicans say they're going to keep the pressure on Democrats over the break, and they're pointing to a growing majority of Americans who are in favor of offshore oil drilling. And Republicans say it's really one solution to high gas prices, and that's increasing the domestic supply of oil.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: You know, my 18 years here in Congress, I have never seen a party more out of touch on such an important issue. At the same time, I've never seen an issue that's more galvanized the American people. A solid majority of Americans want us to have more drilling for more American-made energy, and they aren't going to take no for an answer.


KEILAR: But Democrats say the proposed drilling won't make gas cheaper, that this is -- this argument from Republicans, it's just an election year sham, and that Republicans are basically beholden to oil companies.

Democrats are pointing, instead, to poll numbers show that most Americans polled actually blame President Bush, foreign oil producers, and especially oil companies, for high gas prices long before they blame Democrats in charge of Congress. And that is why today, Democrats zeroed in on news of ExxonMobil's record quarterly profits.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We are shocked about how the oil companies are spending those profits. They tell us they want to do more domestic production. They tell us they need to drill offshore. They tell us that they can find oil on the mainland.

And what do they do with their profits? They buy back their stock simply to increase their share price.


KEILAR: So the back and forth continues with no legislation to show for it and no plan to stay through the break -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Yes, I talked to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, I talked to Senator Ben Nelson. This in the last couple of days. And I told them -- I said, look, guys, you're not going to look really good in the eyes of the American people if you don't hammer out at least some kind of deal. People are angry about having to go put $4 in their tanks every time they try to get gas.

Do you sense that they know that? Have they tried to come up with a way of staying and ironing this out even if it means cutting into their recess/vacation?

KEILAR: Well, I should tell you, there's been some discussion of that, but there's really no plan to do it. Actually, yesterday there was a vote. It's normally just a normal vote: do we adjourn to go on recess? And Republicans really turned it into a question of, do we adjourn to go on recess without finding a solution or proposing a solution here?

So they had this vote, and Republicans and 17 Democrats in the House said no, let's not go on recess tomorrow, Friday. And they lost that, Rick, by just one vote. It was very close.

SANCHEZ: I guess it's all about priorities.

Thanks so much, Brianna Keilar, for that report.

Gerri, over to you.

WILLIS: Well, Rick, let's dig just a little deeper into this clean coal story that we talked about at the top of the show.

CNNMoney's Poppy Harlow is here with your "Energy Fix."

Hey there, Poppy. You have some interesting information about clean coal.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Yes, exactly. We have a lot of coal in this country. The question is, is clean coal our energy future? A lot of people asking, President Bush addressing it today.

And folks, even environmental groups like the Sierra Club do concede that newer coal plants are about 10 times cleaner than the older plants that spew pollutants into the air. One process that makes it cleaner is called scrubbing. That's where sulfur and other particles that pollute the air and pollute water are removed from the smoke before it leaves the smokestack. But environmental groups say, hey, when those particles are disposed of, they still trickle into our drinking water.

Another process that helps clean coal become a reality, you separate and bury carbon dioxide beneath the earth. But it's expensive to do, Gerri, and it's not really widely used at this point.

WILLIS: And so, I mean, what's the option? Are we just stuck with coal here? Old-fashioned coal? Not the clean kind?

HARLOW: Yes, exactly. You've got to remember, it's a big part of a lot of economies of a lot of states in this country.

WILLIS: Right.

HARLOW: And we have a lot of it. So for now we are stuck with it. Coal provides more than half of our electricity. Demand for electricity expected to increase by more than 50 percent over the next 25 years. And as I said, coal very important to a lot of regional economies around the country.

The president in West Virginia today, where coal is king. In the West, you have a lot of coal in Wyoming. One of the biggest producers of coal, Montana. North Dakota also has a lot of coal.

So the good news is, it's a source of energy that is a domestic source. But even with the cleaner technology, many, including President Bush, believe we have to find some alternatives to coal, as well. He's advocating nuclear plants. So does John McCain.

Now, nuclear plants don't have harmful emissions, and they're widely used throughout Europe. But there are potential problems, of course. You think of disposing of the nuclear waste, any risk of an accident -- just think of Three Mile Island.

And people like T. Boone Pickens, that oil tycoon, they're pushing for use of more wind, more solar. But if you want to create an energy grid that can handle that, that's going to be expensive to upgrade.

So, you know, that's where it stands now, Gerri. So potential. We're focusing on coal a lot.

But we want to do something different today and have people let us know what they think. Log on to and let us know what you think. Send us your videos, your pictures, your thoughts on energy.

WILLIS: In the meantime, prices just keep going higher. Coal prices doubled over the last year. A big change there.

So I'm sure you'll keep an eye on it for us.

HARLOW: We will.

WILLIS: Thank you.

Poppy Harlow.


SANCHEZ: Yes, it's important to note that if you stay with us, there may be some kind of movement on the indictment story of Senator Ted Stevens. In fact, there's a live picture outside the federal courthouse where he may be arraigned within the next hour or so.

We're going to be all over this. As soon as it happens, we're going to bring it to you.

Also, there's a new indication of just what type of shape our economy actually is in.

And there's one oil company making more money in the past three months than anybody in the history of the United States, ever.

And Wall Street investors are saying, that's it? That's all you made? Are you kidding me?

How do you put those two together? We're going to try and do that for you.

Also, a town where all you'll see on the road is golf carts.

We're all over ISSUE #1. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


WILLIS: New numbers are out on the nation's economy, and it looks like the second quarter, well, it wasn't as good as we had hoped. The final months of 2007 were even worse than first thought.

The Commerce Department says the broadest measure of the economy's health, gross domestic product, or GDP, grew at an annual rate of 1.9 percent between April and June. The gain came largely from $140 billion in stimulus payments made to taxpayers.

Now, the performance was better than the first quarter, but not as strong as forecasters had predicted. The government also revised its numbers from the last three months of 2007 down. The economy actually shrank by two-tenths of a percent during that quarter, a turnaround from original estimates.

This reaction just in from the White House. Communications Director Kevin Sullivan calls the number essentially flat -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: On this day that will go down in U.S. corporate history as a very special day, one oil company has set the record for the highest quarterly profit ever recorded. ExxonMobil has just posted quarterly earnings of $11.68 billion.


MICHAEL DOUGLAS, ACTOR: The point is, Ladies and Gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.


SANCHEZ: It's hard for Americans to look at this now and not think in terms of that movie "Wall Street." Think about it again the next time you're filling up your gas tank while you're cursing at the pump all the while.


WILLIS: Well, profits or no profits, gas prices are still sky high. That has folks across the country looking for cheaper ways to get around. And some towns, they've already found their answer: golf carts.

CNN's Susan Roesgen has the story from Ashkum, Illinois.


SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the middle of farm country, about two hours away from Chicago, Ashkum, Illinois, is just a speck on the map. No hotels here, no movie theater, not even a McDonald's. But Ashkum has something a lot of bigger towns would envy these days...


ROESGEN: ... a new law that lets folks drive golf carts down the streets instead of cars.

HEIDEMAN: Hi, Dawn. Hi, Debbie.

ROESGEN: Ashkum Mayor Paul Heideman and his family leave the pickup in the driveway every chance they get. Why pay 25 cents a mile for gas when it costs about two cents a mile for the electricity to run a golf cart battery?

One of the first people to get on the bandwagon was Garry Lanoue. He is the town's only car repairman. But Gary figured if you can't beat them, join them. Now he sells the carts.

GARRY LANOUE, CART SELLER: Things were getting slow. You know, cars are getting better anymore. And they're all taking them back to the dealerships with their 100,000 mile warranties. So it did make by business slow down, and this has picked it back up again.

ROESGEN (on camera): Now, if you've ever driven a golf cart, maybe on a golf course, these are a little bit different. To comply with the local ordinance, they have, for instance, a rearview mirror. There are also tail lights, brake lights, a headlight and turn signals. And because it's required, a horn.

However, there is no air-conditioning, and there's no heat either.

Garry, what's going to happen when it gets cold in the wintertime in Illinois?

LANOUE: Well, you either start driving your pickup truck again or put a jacket on, I guess.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really cool on a hot day.

ROESGEN (voice over): For now, at least, while the weather is warm, a golf cart seems a pretty good way to go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going out here to the bank.

ROESGEN: In fact, all of the little towns around Ashkum have similar new laws allowing golf carts on local streets. The speed limit is 25 miles an hour, and they're not allowed on the highway.

So when Bill Halpin (ph) decided to buy one, he loaded it up on the back of his truck and took it out to surprise his mom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe it.

ROESGEN: She's still driving a car at 92.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, isn't this something else?

ROESGEN: If the trend keeps up, who knows? With so many golf carts around town, maybe one day this place will have a golf course, too.

Susan Roesgen, CNN, Ashkum, Illinois.


SANCHEZ: We have one of those, by the way. It's a great way to put your baby to sleep, in case you're wondering.'s Poppy Harlow is back with today's "Quick Vote" question.

Hi, Poppy.

HARLOW: Hey there, Rick.

Well, speaking of golf carts, we want to know how you Americans out there, how far will you go to cut the gas that you use? Here's our question today.

"The smallest car that I would drive to save gas is an SUV, a sedan, a Smart car, or a golf cart?"

Let us know on We'll bring you the results a little later in the show -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: When it once again will be Poppy Harlow time.

You love that, don't you?

HARLOW: I love it. I asked you to do that on air. Thank you so much.


SANCHEZ: Gerri, over to you.

WILLIS: All right. Microsoft and Bill Gates, Bill Gates and Microsoft, they go hand in hand. So what happens with Bill Gates when he leaves Microsoft? We'll ask him.

Why hundreds of thousands of employees of one state could be in for a big pay cut.

Plus, why some car thieves don't want to steal your actual car. We'll tell you what they're looking for next.

You're watching ISSUE #1. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: All right. We told you that we're going to be following this development in the arraignment of Senator Ted Stevens. This is something a lot of folks are talking about in Washington.

There he is. This is the very first video that we've been getting of the senator. He's arriving there at a federal courthouse. The 84- year-old senator appearing there in Washington for his arraignment, charged with scheming to conceal tens of thousands of dollars in gifts, and also not disclosing it.

We expect that this thing is going to get started sometime around 1:00 p.m. That would be, what, a little more than a half hour from now.

Kelli Arena from our justice -- our justice correspondent, is going to be inside the courtroom.

There, we're going to let you see that video once again. That's Senator Ted Stevens arriving at a federal courthouse.

And as soon as it happens, we'll take you there live. Kelli Arena standing by inside to bring us details.

Gerri, over to you.

WILLIS: Thanks, Rick.

Bill Gates may have just retired from Microsoft, but he isn't slowing down. Adding another skill set to his repertoire, he just wrote the cover story in the brand new issue of "TIME" magazine.

Our own Ali Velshi sits down with the now former Microsoft chief.


ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good to talk to you again. Thank you for joining us today.

An interesting article that you've written for "TIME," and you start off with a reference to Bono about how when you sort of first encountered him, you thought maybe he's a little nuts. And yet now he's an example of what you're calling "creative capitalism."

Tell us a bit about that story.

BILL GATES, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: Well, Bono came up with the idea of this Red Project, where you'd have products that were branded, cool products. And knowing that those projects are contributing to buying lifesaving medicine. And I was very impressed that people, that important companies were interested in participating in that.

And think it's part of the overall idea that companies view their mission as helping not just their richest customers, but also being agents of change to help those most in need. So creative capitalism is not about getting rid of capitalism. It's about saying, stretch for the poorest, go out of your way, do way more than you might think of otherwise for those. And it will reward you in the long run in terms of broader markets and hiring the best people, and a great reputation.

VELSHI: The companies that say that investing in medication for diseases, poor diseases, isn't very profitable. How do you bring it back and say that that pays for them?

GATES: That's an opportunity cost for them, but there will be a benefit to them reputationally as those breakthroughs are made. In fact, a report card has come out recently that looks at all the drug companies and research they do, the drugs they give away, and has this ranking. So that's the first industry that an executive can sit and look, OK, what do we -- what will we get credit for, how do we rank? And I think over the years, because of that, they'll all try and improve.

VELSHI: Let's talk a little about a crisis that we're all facing right now, and you've mentioned a lot of them. But one of them that seems to be facing people immediately is this energy crisis.

How do you see creative capitalism being applied to this energy crisis that we're in?

GATES: Well, whenever you have a strong price signal, you're going to draw in a lot of innovation. And I see today in the scientific community a lot of very bright people, not only doing research, but also being involved in startup companies.

And there's a lot of wild ideas that will lead to energy that's lower cost, secure and environmentally friendly. Many of them will be dead ends. You know, I'm backing a company that does a new type of nuclear work, there's new geothermal, there's high wind, low wind, there's various solar things with advanced biology.

It is fantastic to see that taking place. Now, as we come up with those breakthroughs, making sure that these energy ideas work in Africa, as well as in the rich countries, there will be a need to put some off the innovation into the particular challenges in that environment.

VELSHI: Does the motivation become that much stronger though, when it affects Americans? I mean, we know these problems exist, but now that Americans are facing the possibility of $5 a gallon for gasoline, or very expensive heating oil, or corn prices that are up, all of a sudden it sounds like a crisis that has just popped up in the last year.

GATES: Well, you know, Americans are humans. And the need to help the poorest really does require you to look outside your national borders and say that, you know, a child dying is no less important when it takes place in another location.

And you know, when we -- when energy prices are high, what that means for us is maybe taking a shorter trip. What it means in these countries is buying less fertilizer and having less food, where you're literally on the edge of starvation.

VELSHI: Tell me a little bit, because I think people will want to know, about your new day. You have basically just started this new job full time. You've been working on the foundation for a long time, but you've made this your full time job now.

What does that mean for you? How is life different for you?

GATES: Well, it's been less on a month since I switched to being full time with the foundation. I'm thrilled at the interesting and important problems that we're working on. I'm thrilled that we are getting a lot of cooperation with big companies and governments.

I'm very optimistic that we'll come up with a breakthrough. So, you know, I love this job just like I loved my previous full-time work. And, you know, I think I'm adapting even faster than I expected.


WILLIS: A showdown in California that could leave a lot of people without a job. We'll tell you why.

And a whole new breed of car thieves. You won't believe what they're after now. A hint here, it's hidden deep inside your engine, and it's not gas and it's not oil.

You're watching ISSUE #1, the economy, right here on CNN.


WILLIS: A big spike in the number of people filing for jobless benefits. The Labor Department says 448,000 people filed for unemployment claims last week and that is the highest level in five years. It was a bit of a surprise, too. Economists had predicted that jobless claims would actually fall by about 8,000. The government blamed the jump, at least in part, on a new outreach program designed to locate people who are eligible for benefits -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Well, today, Gerri, there is a big showdown to tell you about in California and it could mean many, many people get laid off. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to sign an executive order today that is going to layoff about 22,000 temporary and part-time state workers. He is also expected to slice the salaries of about 200,000 regular state employees. Get this. That means those 200,000 people will end up making about minimum wage. These pay cuts would be in effect until the lawmakers can come up with a budget to close the state's $15 billion deficit.

Well, we're standing by for Senator Barack Obama. He's going to have a town hall meeting. It's going to be in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. You remember Cedar Rapids, Iowa, right? Flooding. He's going to be talking to some of those victims there.

First, let's take you over to Don Lemon. He's bringing you some of the other latest headlines that we're going to be following over the course of the next couple of hours -- Don.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. Good to see you, Rick.

And we begin with news we're just getting into the CNN "NEWSROOM."

It's about a plane crash in Minnesota. At least seven people are reported dead here. The FAA says the plane crashed off the runway at the airport in Owatonna. Now it happened while brutal thunderstorms were rolling through that area and the flight had come from Atlantic City, New Jersey. We are working on this story. We're going to bring you the very latest in the CNN "Newsroom" at the top of the hour.

In the meantime, let's talk about progress on the war front. President Bush, today, giving a cautiously upbeat assessment of security gains in Iraq. He says terrorists are on the run and U.S. troop reductions this year could continue if security holds. Now the president also announced combat tours in Iraq are being cut immediately and that could allow troops to come home sooner. President Bush adds, the U.S. is making progress in talks with Iraqi officials on how long American forces will remain in Iraq.

A court appearance today for one of the most powerful people in Washington. Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens is to be arraigned on charges he lied about gifts he received from an oil services contractor. Their value estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The 84-year-old senator is expected to continue campaigning for reelection.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right. This is where I get stressed out. Not knowing how long the security lines are going to be.

LEMON: You see that guy cut us off? Weenie.


LEMON: Well, Kyra Phillips and I compete against each other to question -- to answer a question, I should say, important to you. Which is cheaper for the average family vacation, flying or driving? Well, you might be surprised by what we found out straight ahead in the CNN "Newsroom."

I'm Don Lemon. I'll see you in the "NEWSROOM" at the top of the hour.

Now we throw it back to Gerri Willis in New York.

That was a fun trip. It was long, but fun.

WILLIS: I love that. I can't wait to -- that's great. OK. We'll look forward to that.

LEMON: All right, Gerri, good to see you.

WILLIS: Thank you, Don. LEMON: You look great, by the way.

WILLIS: You know, you are the nicest person in the world. You look fabulous too. Great lavender tie.

LEMON: As always, to you. All right. Thank you.

WILLIS: You can call me any time.

LEMON: All right.

WILLIS: All right.

We have some new polls out today on who you think is to blame for high energy prices. Let's get right down to it. Our senior political correspondent Bill Schneider joins me live now from Washington.

Bill, what you got?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, when we asked people, who do you blame for rising gasoline prices? They say everybody. But some, more than others. Let's look at the list.

At the top of the list are economic forces. Two-thirds say U.S. oil companies are to blame, a major cause of higher gas prices. And those reports of record profits from Exxon Mobil today will certainly keep the oil companies at the top of the list.

Foreign oil producers right behind them, nearly two-thirds. Energy speculators, financial speculators, that's the group that Democrats in Congress are targeting, they're up there too. And then, of course, the rising demand from other countries, such as China and India, get a lot of blame.

Now just below that, political causes. Political causes people see a little less responsible, still very high on the list. The Bush administration, the war in Iraq, federal laws that prohibit offshore oil drilling. That gets -- 51 percent say that's a major cause. But get this, at the bottom of the list, only 31 percent say the Democrats who control Congress, that they're a major cause of rising oil prices -- Gerri.

WILLIS: Well, Bill, you know, these two numbers, those last two numbers don't seem to jive, you know? I mean, you know, on the one hand, you have Democrats blaming Democrats and then the ban on offshore drilling. So people are blaming the ban for high prices, but not blaming the Democrats who oppose it. Tell us how that works?

SCHNEIDER: Well, the difference in those two numbers is intriguing because, as you just saw, 51 percent say the ban on offshore oil drilling is a major cause. Only 31 percent say the Democrats in Congress should be held responsible. The administration, John McCain, the Republicans, are trying to change that perception to bring the 31 percent closer to the 51.

Yesterday, President Bush said at a news conference, "the American people are rightly frustrated by the failure of Democratic leaders in Congress to enact common sense solutions like the development of oil resources in the outer continental shelf." So what they are trying to do is say, it's the Democrats in Congress who are responsible because they won't allow the oil drilling.

WILLIS: Well, interesting stuff.

Bill Schneider, thank you for that.


SANCHEZ: All right. We're trying to make an executive decision for you here. This is from a programing note. Will, if you got a shot of Barack Obama. He's in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We should have a shot of him. There he is on the podium. He should be really into his speech in just a little bit. And when he gets into it, we're going to dip in. We're going to let you listen to it.

Meanwhile, here's another story we're following for you. Your car at risk. No car alarm can protect it. What is this new thing that thieves are going for that's inside your car? And as Gerri told you a little while ago, no, it has nothing to do with oil and it has nothing to do with gas. It's a quiz.

We'll be right back with ISSUE #1.


SANCHEZ: Senator Barack Obama after what many would describe as a combative day yesterday with Senator John McCain, already commenting earlier in the day about these record oil price profits. We're going to have a lot on that.

But let's dip into him now. He's in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, talking to some of the victims of those floods a month and a half ago. Let's get in.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Americans have lost their jobs since the beginning of this year. We have the highest rate of foreclosure since the Great Depression, impacting communities all across the country.

It's harder to save. It's harder to retire. And the worst part is, is that I think a lot of Americans feel as if not only are things getting tougher for them right now, but they're worried about the future of their children and their grandchildren and whether they're going to be able to pass on a better America to them. That's, after all, what the American dream's all about.

That's what the American dream has always been all about. That if you try, you can make it here in America. If you work hard, you can make it. And you don't just make it for yourself, but you're passing on a better life to the next generation. And that's what people are anxious about. They're not so sure right now. And given the seriousness of the issue, given the fact that the decisions that we make right now are going to help determine the future, not just of the next generation, but perhaps generations after that. Given the magnitude of our challenges when it comes to energy, and health care, and jobs, and our foreign policy, you'd think that we'd be having a serious debate. But so far, all we've been hearing about is Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

I mean I do have to ask my opponent, is that the best you can come up with? Is that really what this election's about? Is that what is worthy of the American people?

Even the media has pointed out that Senator John McCain, who started off talking about running an honorable campaign, has fallen back into the predictable, political attacks, the demonstrably false statements.

You know, but here's the problem. I'm not interested in getting into a tit for tat, these negative adds, these negative attacks, spending all this time talking about me and instead of talking about what he's going to do, that's not going to lower your gas prices. That's not going to help you stay in your home if you're falling behind on the mortgage. That's not going to help you find a job if it's been shipped overseas.

It doesn't do a single thing to help the American people. It's politics as a game. But the time for game playing is over. That's why I'm running for president of the United States.

SANCHEZ: Barack Obama. This is an important event for Barack Obama. We'll probably be hearing a lot more from him throughout the course of the day. Not only on the record profits from Exxon, but also on some of the statements that came out yesterday in that ad from John McCain. We'll have it for you.

Gerri, over to you.

WILLIS: Well, we've been telling you about a great story on cars. We'll come back and tell you more about that. We'll tell you what thieves are looking to steal out of your car. We're all over issue number one right here on CNN.


SANCHEZ: I want to say happy anniversary today to JFK Airport. That's the good news. Here's the bad. It's an update on that baggage system breakdown we were telling you about yesterday there at New York's JFK Airport.

The American Airline baggage system came back up early this morning. But, oh, what a mess those computer glitches left behind. Thousands of people had to fly to their destinations yesterday without their luggage. Hundreds of bags have been piling up at the terminal lobby. Look at that. We'll be following it throughout the day.

Gerri, over to you. WILLIS: I tell you, my heart goes out to those people. That is so frustrating.

Well, next to your house, your car is likely one of your most valuable assets you have. And, you know what, it could be at risk. There's a new wave of car thieves out there and only -- they don't steal your car, they steal something valuable on the bottom of your vehicle. CNN's Allan Chernoff explains.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): There is precious metal in this auto part -- a catalytic converter -- that's become appealing to thieves since precious medal prices have soared. Long Island Care is a food bank charity that sells donated cars, got hit recently. Catalytic converters stolen from 32 vehicles.

VERN RASMUSSEN, LONG ISLAND CARES VEHICLE DONATIONS: They tore the heart out of all of us. There's nothing else that we could have done but to put our heads down and try not to cry about it.

CHERNOFF: Such robberies have been happening around the country. At commuter parking lots. Even auto dealerships. Catalytic converters contain just a few grams of precious metal, platinum, palladium, rhodium, that helps filter emissions. These can get up to $150 for a converter. And they typically steal many at a time.

RASMUSSEN: The individuals that happen to rob us that night, they probably walked out of here with about $10,000 worth of material.

CHERNOFF: Thieves will typically just slide right under the vehicle and chop the catalytic converter here and here. And if you've got an SUV that's high off the ground, it's that much easier for them.

Suffolk County, New York, is seeing a dramatic increase in catalytic converter thefts as the economy has stumbled.

BOB MOORE, SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE CHIEF: A larger number of people become more desperate. People who are risk takers become more willing to take greater risks.

CHERNOFF: Repairing the damage can cost well over $1,000. So Suffolk County has just approved a law requiring scrap medal dealers to keep detailed records on sellers of catalytic converters.

STEVE LEVY, SUFFOLK COUNTY EXECUTIVE: If we believe that there was probable cause, that it was stolen, we can put a hold on that being sold off again by the scrap medal dealer and we can track it back from where it came.

CHERNOFF: Two dozen states have passed similar laws this year, hoping to crack down on what's becoming an all too common crime.


CHERNOFF: And it's not just catalytic converters. Thieves have been taking manhole covers, street signs, copper wiring, you name it. They've all become targets as metal prices have been climbing.


WILLIS: Allan, I'm just standing here thinking, my car is parked in my driveway. Anything could happen. I'm so worried. What can I do to protect my car?

CHERNOFF: Well, your driveway is probably fairly safe. These big commuter parking lots, they are very dangerous for this specific crime. You probably want to be in a parking lot that's guarded, perhaps. Otherwise, you can also have welding put on top of the catalytic converter. That's sort of like putting a lock there. The thief might see it, move on. You can also try to get an alarm system. But it has to be an alarm system that responds to vibration. That would help you out too.

WILLIS: So devil's in the details. But you better worry about your car.

Amazing story. Allan, thank you very much. And good to see you underneath that car. That was impressive.

SANCHEZ: Good stuff.

By the way, we've got a visitor here at ISSUE NUMBER ONE. You want to meet him? Come on. I'm going to bring you over to him. It's Roland Martin, ladies and gentlemen. And, you know what, he's got an cogent argument about at least one issue, and it's not issue number one, where Barack Obama is wrong and John McCain is right. Don't say it yet. We're going to tell you what it is when we come back.


SANCHEZ: Guess who's doing the election center today at 8:00? That man right there, Roland Martin.


SANCHEZ: Good to see you.

He's got an cogent argument he wants to make for us, that Barack Obama's plan, when it comes to school vouchers, is not as good as Senator John McCain's plan. And he's here to make it first.

Delineate them both for us. What's one guy say as opposed to the other?

MARTIN: Well, look, Obama takes the traditional Democratic stand, being against school vouchers. McCain takes the traditional Republican stand, being for school vouchers.

The fundamental issue, frankly, for both parties is, they go to the extremes. Republicans think it's the be all to end all. Democrats say it absolutely fails.

SANCHEZ: Well, why do you think John McCain's right? MARTIN: Well, because I believe that school vouchers are a part of the educational answer. And so I -- look, I went to public school my entire life.

SANCHEZ: Me too.

MARTIN: But a parent should have the right to be able to make choices. If you're in a failing school -- we start school about three to four weeks in some places, in September in others. And so if you were in a -- if you're child's going to a failing school, you can't wait for Obama or McCain or some politician to get in and say I'm going to fix the schools. It's going to take four or five, six, 10 years.

SANCHEZ: But let me play devil's advocate, if I could. Most of the failing schools are in what? Poor areas, right? Where rich people live, you tend to have better schools. So who's going to be asking for these schools, these voucher schools, these private schools? The poor people.

MARTIN: A lot of programs -- right. But here's the deal, though. A lot of the voucher programs have been established for disadvantaged children. You have markers. If your school is a failing school, you say, look, then you can file for a voucher. In Louisiana, New Orleans school district, they just passed a law, Governor Bobby Jindal signed it into law, to allow for vouchers. And, look, we're not talking about just private schools where it cost $25,000. There are catholic schools. There are other schools where they can go to. Again, I don't believe you simply take all the . . .

SANCHEZ: But here's what people are going to be saying if they look at this. Who's going to pay for this, right? Aren't we going to end up having to pick up the pay if somebody wants to send their schools -- their kids some place else?

MARTIN: But you're already doing it. The purpose of the voucher is, they're allocating dollars based upon each child in a school district. So, in Chicago public schools, they spend on average $10,000 per child. If that school is failing, then you're given a $10,000 voucher. Look, you're paying property taxes. It is already your money. So it's not really -- look, I don't have any kids.

SANCHEZ: But why not just take those $10,000 and put it into the public school system and make it better?

MARTIN: OK. Because we've been hearing that argument for so many years and there are many failing schools. I look at Chicago. Reverend James Meeks, the state senator. He actually wants to boycott the first day of school because he's trying to equalize school funding by saying, take your kids and enroll them in a suburban school.

OK. I get that. But the reality is, if you're a parent and your child's going to the ninth grade and you're going to a failing school, you don't want to wait seven years. That kid's going to graduate in a horrible school. So I get the people who say, oh, we should better fund public schools, but a voucher is a short-term solution. Better funding is a long- term. But if I'm a parent and my kid's in a sorry school right now, I'm not waiting for a politician to get to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I want to get that situation fixed right now for the benefit of my child.

SANCHEZ: Teachers' union is not going to allow something like this to go through, right? You expect that kind of resistance from them?

MARTIN: Of course. And that's part of the problem. Democrats have been weighted to the teachers' union position. But, look, is this call competitive nature. It's very simple. If you don't like vouchers, fix the school system. And the reality is here, Washington, D.C., $12,000 to $15,000 a child. I look at what Florence Lake (ph) is doing right here in New York, spending $5,400 per child. Most of their students pass. D.C., they fail. So it's not always a question of money. It's also who is being taught.

SANCHEZ: Good argument.

Tonight 8:00, what are you doing?

MARTIN: I've got several different issues on the plate. We're going to talk about China. Planned a little Okido (ph) shell (ph) game. We afford freedom of the press and the journalists get to China, all of a sudden they say, oh we're going to block certain web sites. So, trust me, communist China is going to be in for some questions tonight.

SANCHEZ: Did you say Okido?

MARTIN: The Okido. That's what it is.

SANCHEZ: I love that. Very god. Thanks so much. Good to see you.

MARTIN: Thanks, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Gerri, over to you.

WILLIS: Yes, Roland, we've got to fix those college loans too. A big problem there.

Well, what is the smallest car you would drive to save gas? That's today's Quick Vote question. For how you voted, let's check back in with Poppy Harlow.

HARLOW: Yes, not as many people are going to drive a golf cart as I would have liked to see.

Forty-two percent said a smart car you'd drive, a sedan. Thirty-two, a smart car. That's pretty good. Nineteen percent, a gulf cart. And only 7 percent of you would still drive an SUV. Pretty interesting.


WILLIS: Yes, definitely in the minority there. HARLOW: Can you imagine driving a golf cart in New York City?

WILLIS: All right. Back over to you, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Those SUVs are cheap, by the way, I can tell you.

By the way, there's something you're going to be able to see tomorrow.

CNN "NEWSROOM" with Don Lemon and Kyra Phillips starts right now though. We'll see you then.