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American Morning

Catholic Church Officials Spurn Immigration Reform Plan; "Dear Laura Bush"

Aired March 29, 2006 - 09:50   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The opening bell has rung on Wall Street. Dow Jones Industrials, open at 11,154, down 95 points on yesterday's close. We'll see what happens today. There was a little bit of a hit yesterday on account of that interest rate announcement. But the futures look good today, so we'll see.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Wall Street's been so up and down, it's like sometimes I don't pay attention anymore.

O'BRIEN: I can't figure it all out.

COSTELLO: Too confusing.


O'BRIEN: The head of the Catholic church in Los Angeles is urging his priests to break the law should some tough immigration legislation make its way on to the books. At issue is some House legislation that would make it a crime just to assist illegal immigrants.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney joining us now from Los Angeles.

Cardinal, good to have you with us. A little civil...


O'BRIEN: ... disobedience, perhaps, in the works there. I assume you thought long and hard about it.

MAHONEY: Well, the House provisions are so punitive that I thought it was necessary for the people of the country to understand how ridiculous this is. What we really need is sound, good, humane immigration reform. And I think the Senate has taken that very seriously and we are pushing very hard to have the legislation from the Senate approved and the punitive approach of the House disapproved.

O'BRIEN: Let's listen for just a moment to Senator George Allen of Virginia and see what he has to say about this whole notion of legality when it relates to immigration.


SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: The bill that's coming out of the Judiciary Committee rewards illegal behavior. And I think if you reward illegal behavior, you'll get more illegal behavior.


O'BRIEN: Illegal behavior creating or begetting illegal behavior. Are you concerned if priests engage in illegal behavior, it just makes matters worse?

MAHONEY: Well, first of all, I do not think that the Sensenbrenner bill has any chance of being approved. However, I think the senator is wrong. Illegal behavior is not being rewarded. Rather, a process is being put in place whereby people can earn -- earn -- their citizenship in this country over a period of years, paying fines, paying taxes and demonstrating that they are here for the right purposes and are contributing to our country. So they're not being rewarded. They're giving an opportunity to earn citizenship.

O'BRIEN: But do you have any sort of moral reticence in perhaps coming down to a point where you would be encouraging a priest to break the law?

MAHONEY: Well, we give aid and assistance to anyone in need. We have never, ever been required to ask people for documentation before we feed the hungry, clothe the naked or visit the prisoners or sick. And we're not about to start now. That's just crazy. To say that someone who helps give someone medical care is committing a felony is ludicrous, because it is not going to resolve any of the immigration issues before us at all. Punitive measures simply drive people more underground and into the shadows and we don't need that.

O'BRIEN: Cardinal, could you understand why this is happening right now? Why people feel as if either their jobs are being supplanted or in one way or another the people who come in illegally are not paying their fair share? And that, in and of itself, is kind of a moral issue, isn't it?

MAHONEY: Well, actually the larger moral issue is the responsibility that Congress has had the last 20 years to pass meaningful immigration reform -- never happened. They did nothing for the last 20 years on this issue, and now we have between eight and 10, 11 million illegal people in this country, simply because of their failure to take leadership. So I really commend -- like Senators Kennedy and Senator McCain, Senator Specter, for taking moral leadership to deal with the issue. And we support that moral leadership and we add our voice to those leaders.

O'BRIEN: Do you think there is middle ground in this debate?

MAHONEY: Well, the middle ground is very simple: create a process whereby people who are here, who have been here, can take enormous steps, difficult steps, to earn citizenship, and then to put in place a temporary worker program that brings people here on an orderly legal basis in the future.

We haven't had that, and it hasn't been considered. So now we have two things to deal with -- the past, the people who are here, and the future. And I think that the approach being taken by the Senate Judiciary Committee makes that really work well.

O'BRIEN: Cardinal Roger Mahoney is the archbishop of Los Angeles. Thank you for your time today.

MAHONEY: Thank you, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Carol.

COSTELLO: She is one member of the president's inner circle with near universal public approval, 82 percent the last time we checked. We're talking about Laura Bush. Last week, in an open letter to the first lady, "The Washington Post"'s Sally Quinn urged Mrs. Bush to help her husband repair the damage to his presidency.

Sally Quinn joins us now live from Washington. Welcome.


COSTELLO: OK, so we heard the rumblings that a lot of Democrats, and even Republicans, wanted a shakeup in the president's cabinet. So Andy Card resigns. So, 24 hours after that momentous event, what is the mood in Washington?

QUINN: I think that people are glad that there is some sort of a movement to make a change. Although everyone liked Andy Card enormously -- he was very popular and well-liked -- he obviously was exhausted after five and half years of being chief of staff.

But I think that this is clearly not what a lot of people had in mind. I mean, when they said new blood and bringing in a fresh point of view, Josh Bolten, the new chief of staff, appointed chief of staff, is not a new blood. He's been with the president since the beginning of the campaign. He was deputy chief of staff, OMB director. And he's also extremely well liked and popular, but I suspect -- I mean, his job has been as demanding as Andy Card's, so he obviously is not as well-rested as someone else might be who is coming in from the outside.

I think people had an idea of bringing in someone who was outside of the Bush camp, who could bring in a totally fresh perspective on things. And although...

COSTELLO: Including you. And I don't want to interrupt, but I want to get to this letter because I so enjoyed reading it. In your column, you had an open letter to the first lady, Laura Bush. And I want to read a part of that for our viewers.

It says -- your letter says, "Dear Laura, it is time for you to act. Nancy Reagan did it; you can, too. Things are falling apart. They always do in the second term. And when they do, there's only one person who change things: the wife. You are the only one who can tell him the truth."

Why did you think it was necessary to write this letter?

QUINN: Well, as you recall, during the Reagan administration, when he was in his second term and admired in the Iran-Contra scandal and the polls were way down. His polls were like 48, and that was the lowest they got. Bush's polls have gone as low as 33. The whole situation was a disaster, and people wouldn't tell him the truth and people wouldn't say, you've got to make a change. And finally, Nancy Reagan just stepped up to the plate, and said this is hurting my president, my husband, my country, something has to be done.

COSTELLO: You're right about that. Nancy Reagan was very strong, though. But when you compare Laura Bush to Nancy Reagan, I mean, is there a comparison? Laura Bush was on "LARRY KING LIVE." And you knew that, even mentioned that in your column. Let's listen to what Laura Bush had to say about your open letter.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: What did you think of the advice?

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LAY OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I mean I think there is some of it that's right and some of it that isn't. Of course. And I know that the view from outside is a lot different from the view that George and I have inside with each other, by ourselves. And there is certainly some advice I would feel free to give him, and do. There is other advice that I really don't think I should give him.


COSTELLO: All right. So that's said in charming Laura-speak. What did you garner from that?

QUINN: Well, first of all, I thought she was incredibly gracious. I mean, some people might not take advice very well, but she seemed to be receptive and open. Laura Bush is extremely bright. I recently had a chance to talk to her and -- over a large range of subjects, and she's very astute, very much tuned in, knows what's going on. And I think she's concerned.

I think that her response was probably -- I think she demurred a little bit, because I think that she probably has a lot more influence on her husband than she would like people to know. I think she very much steers away from the idea of buy one get one free, and you know, co-presidency and all of that. I mean, he's the president and she's not.

But I do think that right now she sees that he's in real trouble, and that somebody's got to do something. And I think that there probably will be some more changes. I think that one thing that -- she didn't say what she agreed with in my advice, but one thing, I think, is to listen to other people and listen to other people's advice and opinions. Because what happens in a second term is that people circle the wagons, they hunker down, they really put up a wall, and they don't want to hear what other people think.

And I think that this is the time to open the windows and open the doors and say, we're in a jam here. We've got Iraq, the deficit, we've got in the environmental problems, terrorism. We need all the advice and all the help we can get.

COSTELLO: We will see if Laura bush does that. And of course, well, she's probably learned from the master, which would be Barbara Bush. So we'll see what happens.

Sally Quinn of "The Washington Post," thank you for being with us today.

QUINN: Thank you.



O'BRIEN: Coming up today on "CNN LIVE TODAY," moments from now, is this -- Daryn.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: This is what you get. This is all you get.

O'BRIEN: I didn't mean it that way.

KAGAN: Anyhow, this is what this has. Good stories for you. A true, blue hero. A police officer's quick response, saving a choking baby and an injured nanny.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was holding back until she started crying, and then it came out. Being a father, you know, it came all out. Then that macho stuff was out the window.


KAGAN: The reactions of a police officer, the emotions of a father. The officer hero will join us live about an hour from now.

Also, they're often lost in the death toll, nearly three dozen members of flight crews who were killed on September 11th. One of them the wife of Tom Heidenberger. How her memory and those of 32 others are driving him, or rather biking him, across the country. We're going to talk about his journey still ahead. Top of the hour. We'll see you. For now, this -- that.

O'BRIEN: All I can say is, I didn't have enough gum this morning. Otherwise I would have done that right.

KAGAN: Blame it on the gum.

O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you. Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, next on AMERICAN MORNING, this on "A.M. Pop." The racy TV show that had network sensors all hot and bothered and worried about facing the wrath of the FCC. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Aye caramba! Muy caliente! "A.M. Pop" this morning. Our sister network, the WB, out with a racy new show. It premieres tonight, It's called "The Bedford Diaries." The real story is what ended up on the cutting room floor.

CNN's Sibila Vargas with our story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think back to your last sexual encounter.

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a scene from the new WB series "The Bedford Diaries," a drama centered on the lives of students in a college sex education class. But when the show debuts Wednesday night, audiences won't be seeing this version.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did it make you feel? Wistful?

VARGAS: What they will see is an episode that was edited by network censors in an effort to avoid possible action by the FCC.

TOM FONTANA, SERIES CREATOR: It's the first time that I thought, oh, my God, broadcast television is now in serious moral trouble.

VARGAS: Tom Fontana is the creator and co-executive producer of "The Bedford Diaries," and says even though the show's premiere had been screened and approved by the WB standards department, it was back to the drawing board.

FONTANA: The network wanted me to go back to re-edit parts of episodes that they had already signed off on. And my instant reaction was no.

VARGAS: The request to change the episode came just last Thursday, after the FCC proposed a record fine against CBS, of $3.6 million, for a 2004 episode of "Without a Trace" that featured a scene depicting a teen sex orgy.

The commission also upheld its fine of $550,000 against the network for Janet Jackson's now infamous Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction. The intent was to send a clear message that indecency will not be tolerated in prime time.

When Fontana refused to remove the shots in question, the network took it upon themselves to make that change, explaining "we have always been mindful of the FCC's indecency rules. While we believe the previous uncut version of "The Bedford Diaries" was in keeping with those rules, out of an abundance of caution, we decided to make some additional minor changes to the premiere episode."

FONTANA: This whole thing is about being negative and being afraid. CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA, TELEVISION WEEK: People can complain about it as much as they want, but the reality is, is they have to exist in the world that the FCC is setting up for them.

VARGAS: Christopher Lisotta is a senior writer with "Television Week" magazine.

LISOTTA: The fact that they're becoming more aggressive about their oversight is something that the networks and studios are going to have to deal with, at least in the short term and probably for the long term.

VARGAS: In an unusual move, the WB has posted and is streaming the original version on "The Bedford Diaries" on its Web site, with these scenes intact, allowing viewers to see the episode as it was intended by the show's creators.

And while Fontana understands the network's decision to change the episode, he believes the impact is yet to be felt.

FONTANA: If this isn't a signpost that says this is potentially the way we're going to go, then I don't know what is. I mean, it should scare everybody in the business.

VARGAS: Sibila Vargas, CNN, Los Angeles.


O'BRIEN: Sibila's story first aired on "PAULA ZAHN NOW," which you can catch weeknights at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific, right here on CNN. Come on, come on, break down.

Take a break.