Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

President Bush Making a Major Speech This Morning; In Iraq, 10 People Killed Overnight

Aired October 06, 2005 - 07:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Miles O'Brien. A spy inside the White House? A former Marine assigned to the vice president's office now suspected of passing secrets. How could this happen in the post- 9/11 world?
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Soledad O'Brien. President Bush may have answers to the critics of the war in Iraq. The president's making a major speech this morning. We'll look at how he plans to draw a line from fighting in Iraq straight to the defeat of Al Qaeda.

M. O'BRIEN: And in California, a wildfire burning out of control just 70 miles from Los Angeles, and the weather forecast doesn't look good on this AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Welcome back.

How were your days off?

M. O'BRIEN: I haven't seen you in a while.

S. O'BRIEN: You still have that nasal thing going on.

M. O'BRIEN: I don't know what it is. It's hard to shake that New Orleans thing, whatever it is.

S. O'BRIEN: Maybe we should both see doctors, later. Welcome back, everybody. And good morning. The White House is pitching it as a major speech. They're going to apparently wrap Iraq and the Middle East into President Bush's broad vision, as they're calling it, of the war on terror.

M. O'BRIEN: Making that connection has been something the White House has been trying to do really ever since the war in Iraq. We're going to go to the White House and have them explain how the president will make that connection today, or try do so. We'll also hear about why this speech is happening now, the timing very important, what's driving that decision.

We begin with a developing story that we're following this morning. A former White House staffer investigated this morning for supposedly stealing top secret information right from the office there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Bob Franken, live in Washington with more on that. Good morning, Bob. BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles.

Several government sources say that Leandro Arangoncillo, who was stationed as a Marine at the White House between the years 1999 and 2001, attached both to Vice Presidents Gore and Cheney, is being investigated to see if he downloaded classified information from White House computers and passed it to foreign nationals back in his native Philippines. He's a naturalized U.S. citizen.

After he left the White House, he went to work as an FBI analyst and was arrested last month and is now being investigated, facing charges of passing this information to a possible accomplice, too, a former member of the Philippines secret police. The information allegedly was passed to opposition groups in the Philippines. The country is in political turmoil right now. Arangoncillo is said to have passed these documents to opponents of President Gloria Arroyo. As a matter of facts, one of her opponents, who is the deposed President Joseph Estrada, has told Philippine newspapers that he got some of the documents between 2001 and 2003. It is unclear whether that would have been information that would have come from the White House or from the later posting at the FBI. But clearly, the idea of somebody inside the White House passing classified documents is something that has been taken very, very seriously.

The White House is making no comment, except to say it is cooperating with the investigation. No official comment either from Justice Department officials -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Bob Franken in Washington, thank you very much -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, let's get back to President Bush's speech now. The president's going to speak in, like, three hours. They've been using words like broad, and they've been using words like specific. Let's get right to Suzanne Malveaux. She's at the White House for us this morning.

Hey, Suzanne, good morning to you.


S. O'BRIEN: Any more details on what we're going to hear from the president today?

MALVEAUX: That is the big question here. We do not expect he's going to make any new announcements about policy initiatives. He will go on as he has before, making the case that Iraq is the essential front on the war on terror. Now is not the time to pull out U.S. troops. What the new details are going to involve, however, is what Scott McClellan says it's the nature of the enemy, or al Qaeda. He'll talk about their strategy, trying to unite the local and regional cells to work against the U.S. mission in Iraq, to work against democracy in the Middle East. He's also going to talk about U.S. troops and training Iraqis. He's going to make the case that yes, it is a slow process, a deliberate process, but it has been successful in moving forward, taking the offensive on those insurgents. And, Soledad, of course this comes at a critical time for the president. First of all, polls showing that he has lost much of his support from Americans when it comes to the U.S. mission in Iraq, and secondly, the Iraqis will be facing that vote on their own constitution next week. He expects that there's going to be a dramatic uptick when it comes to violence -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: We should reiterate the president's speech just after 10:00 eastern time in the morning Eastern Time. We're going to carry that live.

Iraq now, violence to report. Ten people killed overnight. Let's get right to Aneesh Raman. He's in Baghdad for us this morning.

Hey, Aneesh, good morning.


The reality on the ground remains a violent one. Just a half hour ago, a suicide bomber using a minibus detonated near Iraq's oil ministry. At least 10 people killed, eight others wounded. Those, though, initial casualty numbers.

Meanwhile, in the town of Hillah, south of the Iraqi capital, residents just now beginning to mourn the dead. At least 36 people were killed, upwards of 95 others wounded last night when a suicide bomber detonated inside a Shiite mosque at a funeral, Soledad, for someone who had died of a similar explosion just days before.

It is because of this violence that any talk we could hear from the president today about bringing stability to Iraq is so critical to those on the ground. He will likely point, as the U.S. military has done, to the success being brought in the western part of this country in those three ongoing operations, Operation Rivergate, Mountaineer and Iron Fist. The military says these are different than previous operations, because while they're routing out the insurgency, they will remain in numbers and Iraqi security forces will remain to make sure that the insurgents don't come back.

The key, though, is a numbers game. In Operation Rivergate, for example, the U.S. military outnumbers Iraqi forces five to one. We know there are well over 190,000 trained and equipped Iraqi security forces, but you'll recall at those congressional hearings just days ago, the U.S. military said the number of independent Iraqi security force battalions had dropped from three to one. So clearly, the president will say there are signs of progress, and there are on the ground. Things aren't moving nearly as quick as Iraqis would like, but the military is saying they are moving as quickly as the violent situation will allow. They do not want to rush to failure, but for Iraqis they want stability as soon as possible -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: So, Aneesh, if the difference this time around is that the troops will stay behind to make sure that insurgents don't sort of pull it back together and rise again. Does that mean that they're committed to staying there for long periods of time? MALVEAUX: Well, the hope is that they'll stay there initially and be able to hand over to Iraqi security forces who will also stay in much smaller numbers right now, but increase in the weeks and months to come. That is, of course, a variable. It depends on what we see in violence throughout the country, around these key dates, October 15th, December 15th. Any withdraw of U.S. troops, Andy talk of it is always said to be condition based on huge variables are now ahead of us. So while they're saying they will stay, while they're saying the Iraqis will stay, it's a numbers game. If they're there they're, they're not elsewhere. And if violence takes place elsewhere, they'll need to go there. So it's a wait-and-see attitude right now on the ground -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Aneesh Raman this morning for us out of Baghdad. Aneesh, thanks.

We expect we're going to hear more about this from the president who's going to talk again live 10:10 a.m. Eastern Time. We're going to carry it, of course, on CNN -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's go to the West Coast now. About 70 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, serious fire burning there this morning; 6,000 acres are now burning in Riverside County, and 700 firefighters are fighting it right now. Only five percent contained. At least 100 homes and other structures are now threatened.

Thelma Gutierrez is covering the wood house fire, as it is called, the Marino (ph) Valley, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles, as we say. Let's check in with her.

Thelma, good morning.


Well, firefighters have been busy all through the night, as you had mentioned; 700 fire fighters on the ground trying to get the upper hand on this fire.

Now if you can take a look at the ridge right behind me, you can see that it is on fire as we pulled up this morning. Several of the ridges surrounding us also were engulfed in flames.

Now, the weather has held up, and that has been a very, very good thing for firefighters. It has cooperated. Typically you can get the Santa Ana Winds blowing through here at 25 to 30 miles per hour, but so far the winds are about five miles an hour. Fire officials say this all began yesterday afternoon. They don't know what the cause is. At one point, though, there was a huge wall of flames that came dangerously close to the Highway 60. It had to be closed in both directions. It is expected to open a little bit later this morning.

Now, this is rough, rural terrain. It's known as the badlands. It is not very well populated, and there are ranches out here. There's a lot of horse property, and so we're not talking about any major subdivisions that are being threatened.

But firefighters say so far no mandatory evacuations, and that only two people, two families, have actually left the area.

So right now, though, they're feeling very good. Winds have held up, and they think they may be able to get the upper hand on this fire -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: So let's clarify. The forecast is actually pretty good for today then, Thelma?

GUTIERREZ: Yes, it is. So far, as you can tell, I mean, there are no winds blowing right now, Miles, and tomorrow, the weather is actually supposed to cool off, and the winds are supposed to die down again. Of course you get those wind gusts that pick up through the afternoon, but tomorrow it should all die down.

M. O'BRIEN: Thelma Gutierrez, who's at that fire, the so-called Marino Fire. Thank you very much. Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: We've been reporting on that tour boat that capsized in Lake George on Sunday, really for several days now, and we told you about the tests the NTSB was going to do yesterday. Well, that sister vessel that they were doing the tests on failed stability tests yesterday. They were using these drums of water in place of passengers, and the boat apparently became very unstable very fast. It could take, though, a month until all the test results are finally in and they know what caused that terrible accident. Twenty people were killed when that boat tipped over and sank, according to the Detroit Free Press. Driver's license for 42 passengers showed the average weight was 174 pounds. They were working off tables that were for an average weight of a passenger being 140 pounds. So clearly, the boat was overloaded, even though technically it was under the maximum number of passengers that were allowed to be on the boat.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, not many 140 pound Americans. The average American is a little heavier, so I think that was probably based on some bad numbers.

S. O'BRIEN: I think tables from the '60s, which when the boat was first put into service, though, so looks like there's lots of fault in lots of area in this really terrible tragedy.

M. O'BRIEN: Tropical storm Tammy now -- yes, there's another one out there -- dumping heavy rain across Georgia and the South Carolina coast as we speak. Right now, the storm is well into Southern Georgia, moving northwest now at about 14-mile-an-hour clip. It is expected to slow down and lose tropical storm status sometime this morning as it continues its trek over land. Forecasters say parts of Georgia and the eastern Carolinas may see up to 10 inches of rain.


S. O'BRIEN: Did you guys see these pictures of this car crash, really cars and van crash in Idaho? It happened on an Indian reservation. Take a look at this. OK, there's the police cruiser. Gosh, isn't that awful. Of course...

M. O'BRIEN: Who got hurt, though? S. O'BRIEN: You know, actually the van driver. I think he's hospitalized in intensive care now. But, look, you can see...

M. O'BRIEN: Was that an officer?

S. O'BRIEN: The officer steps out of the way right at the last second, is not injured. But looks what's left of the police cruiser -- I think that's the police cruiser -- and the van. Both of those vehicles completely demolished.

M. O'BRIEN: OK, so the van driver in the hospital. Everybody else pretty much OK.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, gosh. Look at that vehicle. You can't even tell what that is. That's bad. I guess they're lucky.

M. O'BRIEN: Looks like NASCAR.

S. O'BRIEN: Still to come, is America prepared to deal with the bird flu? We'll talk to the U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services and ask him.

S. O'BRIEN: Also this morning, Katrina's oldest victim, find out why adjusting to life after the storm is especially tough if you're a senior citizen. So many of the victims were senior citizens.

M. O'BRIEN: The most vulnerable among us.

S. O'BRIEN: And more on the president's speech this morning. A look at what's at stake for the White House on this AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.

The president's giving a major speech on the war on terror. That's happening this morning in about three hours, 10:10 a.m. Eastern Time. We're going to carry it for you live right here on CNN.

Brings us right to CNN's political analyst and "L.A. Times" columnist Ronald Brownstein. He's in Washington D.C. this morning.

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning to you.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POL. ANALYST: Good morning, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: You know, when we look at all the things we've been talking about, and certainly the White House has been dealing with Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita. The president was talking about bird flu. You've got this contentious nominee for the supreme court. Why the war on terror? Why now?

BROWNSTEIN: You'll remember right before Hurricane Rita, even in the midst for the preparations for that, he went over to the Pentagon for a briefing on Iraq. I think there is a sense in the White House -- in fact I've talked to people that have said to me over the last several months -- that given what people are seeing on television almost every day from Iraq, that there is a natural tendency toward erosion of support, unless they are out there actively pushing back. And they feel they have to go out regularly and make the case for their overall strategy in the war on terror and why Iraq is part of that. And I think this is less of an effort to change the subject from other areas that are vexing the president, toward rather it's something to reinforce and reassure what has been a strength.

S. O'BRIEN: So you think this is to a large degree a sell job.

The White House has said it's going to be broader -- sorry, my Long Island accent coming out there -- broader than Iraq. What does that mean exactly? Broader and more specific are the terms they've used, meaning what?

BROWNSTEIN: No. Well, the references I've been given is that it's going to focus on the nature of the enemy, and in many ways analogize the struggle against Islamic fascism and Islamic terrorism, depending on what phrase you want to use, in the 21st century to the struggle against communism in the 20th century. This is an argument the president has employed before, we should say, most notably at his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention last summer.

In essence, I think, clearly a key to their public relations argument with the American people on Iraq, is to tie it in to the broader war on terror, and to argue that it is part of an essential front in that larger struggle, and also to make the case that this is a long-term challenge and that people should not be unduly discouraged by the kinds of short-term or immediate reversals they see with the kinds of violence that's been going on there.

S. O'BRIEN: If you look at the polls, the polls show the president's long been strong on the war on terror. The numbers, though, for support for the war are -- in Iraq actually going down. Is there a risk to, you know, drawing that line as you say, between the two? Don't you risk bringing the numbers of the president's good, quote/unquote, numbers down by the linkage?

BROWNSTEIN: Absolutely. And I think, to some extent, that's what's been happening. For quite a while, really, for several years now, they've tried to bolster support for Iraq by linking it to the war on terror. But in some ways, if you look at the polls, what has happened is that the president's ratings on terror, which are his historic strong points in September, you know, 11, 2001, the -- have been diminishing as the public has made a greater link between the war on terror and the war in Iraq.

S. O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question, if I may, for just a moment about Harriet Miers. You wrote an article about her the other day. Explain to me why there's such a strong backlash from the GOP when from all that you can tell, and I get there's not a lot of information on her, but from all you can tell, she's a very conservative Christian. I mean, why are the GOP out so -- so outraged by her?

BROWNSTEIN: First of all, it's revealing about where we are in modern politics, that the defenders are touting her religious faith more than her specific legal career to reassure the concerned skeptics. There are two fears and concerns here, Soledad. One is that because she doesn't have a deep record of engagement with a constitutional issues she will face on the court, conservatives fear that she isn't strongly moored in any particularly view, and she will drift to the left once she is on the court in sort of the idea of the prevailing culture of Washington will pull her in that direction.

I think the bigger concern is the president now has chosen for the Supreme Court two nominees united by one thing, the absence of a very detailed, or in Miers case, virtually no paper trail, and they worry that this is sending a discouraging signal to all of the conservative activists, the academics, the lawyers, and especially the judges, who have been out there pushing their ideas on the bench, that the White House, as "The Wall Street Journal" argued a couple days ago, is the White House saying these people are too controversial to confirm, even when Republicans hold a majority in the Senate.

It's worth noting, in terms of the caution the president expressed here with this pick, that only twice since 1900 has a president been denied his nominee while his own party held the Senate. So the conservatives saying in effect he's being overly cautious and he's sending a discouraging signal to the people on the bench pursuing the ideas conservatives want to see them advance.

S. O'BRIEN: Boy, that will raise some big questions if he is denied his nominee, won't it? I'm sure we'll be talking about that.

Thanks, Ron. Appreciate it.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: And once again, a reminder the president's speech going to begin just about three hours from now, 10:10 a.m. Eastern Time. We're going to carry it live right here on CNN -- Miles.

BROWNSTEIN: Still to come, we're "Minding Your Business." It's been a wild ride on Wall Street this week, which is to say a bad ride. Andy tells us whether investors can expect a little more of the same. Today our resident Dr. Doom is in the house.

Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: For the second day in a row the stock market took a drop. And I think it's -- what do we need those "whip inflation now" buttons, maybe.

Andy Serwer, remember those.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Back to the '70s. Turn your thermostat down, get your cardigan on.

M. O'BRIEN: Whip inflation out. That was 1940.

Anyway, good to see you. SERWER: Good to see you, Miles. Nice to see you back.

Stocks tanked for the second day in a row, down more than 100 points on the Dow Jones Industrials. You can see here. Red ink across the board. More concern about inflation, higher interest rates, again, caused by the hurricanes, which caused higher energy prices, and the concern is that those higher energy prices means that companies across the economy will have to raise prices, and that would cause a slowdown in the economy. That's what's vexing the stock market. Stock markets around the globe also down between one percent and two percent.

Now, this is causing an unexpected byproduct, which is very interesting here. The price of oil is now dropping because of concerns of slower economic growth. So you see, it all comes around.

M. O'BRIEN: Excuse me, professor.

SERWER: yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Explain that.

SERWER: Well, because people are concerned that the economy is slowing down, there is concerns that, therefore, there will be less demand for oil, ergo, the price of oil is falling, which may reverse the cycle. I mean, this is a day-by-day thing, but the big news here is, that the price of oil is dropping so gas prices could be headed down a bit. And we're really in a position here where obviously officials at the Federal Reserve are watching this kind of activity closely as well, as well as the White House.

M. O'BRIEN: And so are you?

SERWER: And I am, certainly, which is really the most important thing for us. Thank you very much, Andy Serwer.

M. O'BRIEN: Still to come, that bird flu thing.

Have you been following the bird flu?

SERWER: Yes, I have.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, the question is, are we ready for it? It could kill millions of people worldwide. We'll take a closer look at whether this country is ready for the outbreak.

Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.