Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

Arnold's Big Lead; Voice of Experience; Tooned in to Politics; Life After Work

Aired October 06, 2006 - 07:58   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: A state of emergency right now in North Carolina. Major fire at a hazardous waste site, forcing thousands of people from their homes.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Sean Callebs in Monroe, Louisiana. The family of a page at the center of the controversy involving Mark Foley speaks out, praising their son as a hero.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Arwa Damon in Baghdad. Twenty-one troops dead and the month is only six days old. How are soldiers fighting back when sometimes it feels like they're just chasing ghosts?

M. O'BRIEN: And what to do about Iran's nuclear ambitions? A high-level summit with some deep divisions in London.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And do you know how much you owe? Too many people are seeing their debts rising out of control. It's not too late to save your credit. We'll tell you how, just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

Welcome back, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: And I'm Miles O'Brien.

The House Ethics Committee is moving fast on its investigation into the Mark Foley scandal. They'll subpoena dozens of lawmakers and aides in a probe of the former Congressman's contacts with teenaged pages.

Congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel, live from Capitol Hill with more -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles. And without tipping their hand as to who might be called to testify, the House Ethics Committee say they had approved about four dozen subpoenas, but the top Republicans on the committee that they would go wherever the evidence leads them.

At the same time, the embattled House speaker Dennis Hastert got a big boost...

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: House Ethics Committee said it had approved about four dozen subpoenas. With the top Republicans on the committee that they would go wherever the evidence leads them.

At the same time the embattled House Speaker Dennis Hastert got a big boost when he got a call from President Bush, who for the first time since the scandal broke last week, called to show his support to the speaker. Now, that vote of confidence following a very public apology of Hastert, who although he made clear he has no intention of resigning. Also said that he was deeply sorry, and quoting a famous Democratic president, Harry Truman, said, the buck stops with him.


REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: When you talk about the page issue and what's happened in the Congress. I'm deeply sorry this happened. The bottom line is we're takes responsibility, because ultimately, as someone has said in Washington before, the buck stops here. Our children need to be protected, and we're going to do everything we can to protect them.


KOPPEL: Hastert also got a show of support from House and Senate Republican leaders, Bill Frist among them. Two of the others, though, had also tried to distance themselves from him earlier in the week, Roy Blunt and John Boehner.

Now, Hastert had intended to make a big announcement during yesterday's press conference that Louie Freeh, the former FBI director, would head up a security review of the page program. But later Hastert's spokesman said that Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, had blocked the move. Said she wouldn't support it. Spokeswoman for Pelosi's office disputes that. She said, she told Hastert, you'll do what you have to do -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Andrea, it's a big investigation. There's not a lot of time before the midterm elections. Is there some desire to get this thing done and the investigation over with before the election?

KOPPEL: Certainly on the part of the Democrats there is, but this is a bipartisan committee. We know the Republican head said that, obviously, this is going to be done as quickly as possible. The Democrats said that it would be done in a matter of weeks, not months. But even so, Miles, this committee doesn't have the authority to punish any former congressional members or former staffers.

M. O'BRIEN: Andrea Koppel, on Capitol Hill. Thank you.

The family of a former page, who received e-mails from Congressman Mark Foley, the former congressman, is speaking publicly for the first time about this scandal. CNN's Sean Callebs from Monroe, Louisiana this morning.

Good morning, Sean.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Indeed, the page at the center of this controversy really unknowingly became the whistleblower. It was when this page sent e-mails, that Foley had sent him, back to Congressman Alexander's office, calling them "sick, sick, sick, sick". And saying that Congressman Foley was, quote, "freaking him out." But eventually this information became public.

Well, the family, yesterday, issued a five-paragraph statement. I want to read you just a bit of it.

The family says, "As a young man with integrity, who had the courage to question the intention of the e-mails, we respect and honor our son as a hero. Despite his courageous actions he is becoming a victim due to the harassment by some of the media. Please honor our request that we be left alone. There is nothing more we can contribute to this ongoing matter. He is not"-- and that word is bold -- "the story. And we feel that this intense media scrutiny could endanger our son and family. We have not intention of discussing this further."

A couple of points here: This young man received what are being termed as overly friendly e-mails from Foley, the kind of thing "what do you want for your birthday? When is your birthday? And will you send me a picture of yourself?" He did not receive the more lurid instant messages that Foley sent from an AOL account a year earlier.

The family goes on in this statement to also praises Congressman Alexander's office for doing what the family wanted, chiefly protecting their privacy. We know who the family is, Miles, and we're going to respect their privacy as well and not use their name. But the family hopes this five-paragraph statement ends the focus on their son.

M. O'BRIEN: Sean Callebs, in Monroe, Louisiana. Thank you.

Some new poll numbers out this morning, offering plenty for the GOP to worry about. A "Time" survey finds only 16 percent of Americans approve of the handling of the scandal. Two-thirds believe Republican leaders tried to cover it up. A quarter of those polled say the scandal makes them less likely to vote for a Republican candidate in November. Overall, 54 percent say they're more likely to vote for a Democrat in the mid-term elections. The poll shows Americans are split over whether Hastert should resign over his handling of the Foley matter -- Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Also this morning we continue to follow developments out of North Carolina, that out-of- control fire that is going on, right now, at a chemical plant. Over night authorities told 16,000 people, approximately, that they needed to evacuate their homes from the east side of Apex, that is a suburb of Raleigh. There is a cloud of noxious gas hovering over the area. Right now HAZMAT teams are trying to figure out and assess the situation. Reporter Anne Forte, of our affiliate, News 14 Carolina, is covering the fire.


ANNE FORTE, REPORTER, NEWS 14 CAROLINA: Apex officials are calling this disaster the worse in town history. Now, more than 10,000 people have been evacuated. Officials have asked half the town's population of 32,000 to evacuate.

This all started at about 10 o'clock last night, at a plant called EQ, that is a business that disposes of hazardous materials. Now fire officials were called downtown at about 10 o'clock last night. There was a plume of smoke over downtown Apex, which turned out to be chlorine gas. A fire subsequently started. Now that cloud of gas has expanded and moved and that's why the evacuations are in order.

Fire officials are waiting until this morning to really assess the fire and get an idea of how they're going to treat it. They tell us they can't use water or foam retardant on the fire, because that could cause some chemical spill off, which could be dangerous.

Again, about 16,000 people have been evacuated to shelters in the area. They're told to get out of here. They say it's very dangerous to breathe in this chemical. We have reports that 10 police officers had to be decontaminated and treated for some respiratory ailments, as well as one firefighter. That's the latest from Apex. Anne Forte, for CNN.


S. O'BRIEN: What kind of effect will the winds have on all that fire? And of courses, that gas cloud, too. Let's turn to Rob Marciano.


S. O'BRIEN: Another big fire to tell you about as well. This one is in Memphis, Tennessee; seems to have started at a historic old church downtown, quickly spread though to other buildings. Over half of the city's firefighters are on the scene right now. Let's get to Brian Heep (ph), he's with the affiliate WPTY. He's live for us in Memphis.

BRIAN HEEP (ph), REPORTER, WPTY MEMPHIS: Good morning, Soledad.

This all started at about 2 o'clock this morning. It started at a church a couple blocks away and then it spread down here to these two buildings, where I'm standing now. You take a look behind me, you can see this shorter building, where they're still attacking it with the hoses.

That building, about an hour and a half ago, was an inferno. The firefighters have made significant progress on that shorter building in the time we've been here.

If we can pan up there, Ben, and take them up to the top of the Lincoln Tower, there, which is right next door. You can see some small flames there on the floors, maybe about 16, 17 floors up. You cannot see this from where we're standing, but I'm told that on the opposite side, there are flames pouring out of windows on at least 10 of the floors of that tower right now.

Again, it all started earlier this morning at this historic church. The church is built back in about the 1890s. It's well over 100 years old. The church itself was really a giant inferno when we came on the scene. We could see it from a couple of blocks away. The steeple from the church actually collapsed into the street a couple of hours ago.

The best news of all about all three of these fires is that no one was inside any of the buildings at the time that they broke out. The firefighters do believe it's a strong possibility that the embers from the church fire might have blown their way over into this direction and started the fires here.

These two buildings are actually undergoing some renovations right now. The city of Memphis is in the process of turning them into condominiums and apartments. Certainly this is going to deal a significant blow to those efforts.

S. O'BRIEN: Too early to really ask this question, but is there any sense that arson might be a factor here? Is that what they're looking at?

HEEP (ph): We don't know at this point, Soledad, what the cause of these particular fires would be, we do know, though, that the firefighters tell us there have been a couple of cases of arson in the downtown area in the last couple of days. Certainly that's a possibility. But at this point, it's too early to say.

S. O'BRIEN: Something to think about when you think about a church that's been around for a 100 years, and then a new development, warehouse. I mean, it's definitely a possibility. Thanks, Brian Heep (ph) is with our affiliate, WPTY.

Thanks, Brian. Appreciate the update.


M. O'BRIEN: At the United Nations, a stern but vague warning for North Korea not to test a nuclear bomb. The U.N. Security Council agreed yesterday on a Japanese drafted statement, that warns of unspecified consequences if the Communist North conducts a nuclear test. The North Koreans say they could explode a bomb underground as soon as this weekend.

Sanctions against Iran, the main topic at a high-level meeting in London today. Representatives from six nations, including China, Russia and the U.S., trying to decide what to do next in response to Iran's nuclear program. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to attend that meeting.

For now, she's wrapping up a tough trip to Iraq. Rice in the oil-rich north today, meeting with Kurdish leaders, who have a long- running desire for independence. Such a declaration could lead to the disintegration of Iraq. Rice is urging the Kurds to work with Arab leaders of the Iraqi government in Baghdad.

And it has been a deadly month in Iraq for U.S. troops. CNN's Arwa Damon joining us live to talk about the dangers of those daily patrols through Baghdad's very violent streets.

Arwa, hello.


That's right, it has been a very deadly month for U.S. troops who are operating here on the ground. So far it's October 6th, six days into October, 21 troops have died across Iraq. Of those 21, though, nearly half are incidents that involve small arms fire in the capitol, Baghdad. Each day the streets of this city become even more dangerous.


DAMON (voice over): The troops call it chasing the ghosts of small arms fire. They used to laugh at these ghosts and their poorly aimed potshots. Now they take them very seriously.

Lieutenant Daniel Quinn and his men move with caution, still trying to engage the people. But these streets are both friendly and deadly. One minute a child is waving. The next --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got two rounds, same directions we heard that one round from.

DAMON: The ghosts fire shots, then fade away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is not way to ID where it came from.

DAMON: The men move through the dusty trash-filled back alleys, hunting for clues, eyes scanning roof tops. Around them, life on the street seems to continue as normal. Some of the ghosts are just taking pot shots. Others, well-trained snipers, who is lay deadly traps. Another call, another ghost. Quinn's platoon responds to another unit's call for backup, just a short distance from the other incident.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shots, one wounded in action. They're still engaged.

DAMON: But by the time they arrive on site, the ghosts have slipped away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was coming from this house.

DAMON: But no weapons were found in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not yet. DAMON: This clearly nervous man is the only person in the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sound, here, yes.

DAMON: Upstairs, the men look for clues and possible escape routes.

(On camera): The soldier was shot on that street corner, took a bullet through the arm, was immediately medivaced. U.S. forces then searched this home and found shell casings littering the rooftop.

(Voice over): The Iraqi man is detained for questioning and gun powder tests.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it was us up here, we would shoot, and then scurry down a couple roof tops before going down. And predetermine if one of these doors opens to get out.

DAMON: It seems the ghost shooter is long gone.

The Army says the wounded shoulder will recover. But the soldiers say every time they hit the streets, they roll the dice. And with each step, the stakes seem to go higher.


DAMON: Miles, it's an incredibly challenging environment that these men operate in. Many of them have seen their fellow soldiers wounded, even killed on the streets of Baghdad. When you ask them how they are able to go out and continue going into these streets, knowing how dangerous it is, every single day, they say it is very tough, but it's the job that they were given, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: I want can't imagine the level of stress they endure. And I guess compounding it all is a sense that they're not making much progress.

DAMON: Well, yes, in a sense. The stress levels are really unimaginable. I can't even begin to describe what it's really like. I mean, each second they know that the atmosphere could change. It's incredibly unpredictable out there.

Especially what you see now is amongst some of the older soldiers, especially those that have been here a second time is a sense of what progress have we made so far? Because they've been here in the past. Some of them operating in different parts of the country, but now in Baghdad, they do wonder exactly what kind of progress is being made.

But at the same time, that being said, it doesn't stop them from going out there and at least, they say, doing what it is they can, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Arwa Damon in Baghdad. Thank you.


S. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, more on the fallout from the Mark Foley e-mail scandal. Exactly what's the rank-and-file Republicans saying about Speaker Dennis Hastert?

And California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, looking a little bit like the comeback kid. Could pitfalls be ahead for him, though, as election day draws near? We'll take a look at both of those stories in a moment.


S. O'BRIEN: House Speaker Dennis Hastert under fire from some conservative leaders and some Republican members of Congress for his handling of the Mark Foley e-mail scandal. He offered this apology yesterday.


REP. DENNIS HASTERT, (R-IL), SPEAKER OF THE HOSUE: I'm deeply sorry that this has happened. The bottom line is that we're taking responsibility because ultimately, as someone has said in Washington before, the buck stops here.


S. O'BRIEN: Was this enough to stop the calls for Hastert's resignation? Adam Putnam is a Republican congressman from Florida. He's with us this morning.

Nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us.

REP. ADAM PUTNAM, (R-FL): Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: We heard from Speaker Hastert that the buck stops here. Some people would say, well, he apologized, but it was not exactly an apology. He was sorry that it had happened and that the leadership didn't really do anything. It's not necessarily the buck stopping there, is it?

PUTNAM: That's not true. First of all, the speaker has dedicated his life to being a teacher, a coach, a role model, a mentor for young children and high school students for his entire life. When the tamest of e-mails was brought to light, three institutions had it, the House of Representatives, the media, through the "St. Petersburg Times" and the "Miami Herald" and the FBI. Of those three institutions, only the House acted.

The House called Mark Foley before the clerk and the chairman of the Page Board, reprimanded him, and told him to cease all contact with the page. The news organizations decided it wasn't enough to run with, and the FBI decided it wasn't enough to investigate.

S. O'BRIEN: But the question really is, was it the first time that the speaker and the speaker's office was hearing about something that was over friendly, involving a 50 plus old man and a 16-year-old, or so, child. Or was it something that had been given to his office over many years now as we know Kirk Fordham is now saying? I mean, that's really what's at issue here, right?

PUTNAM: Fordham is the only one who has made that allegation. And Fordham is the same person who is negotiating, as recently as last Friday, with the media to offer ABC an exclusive on Foley's resignation, in return for them not printing the most explicit an despicable e-mails. So that's why it's important that this investigation move forward.

S. O'BRIEN: You're saying he's a liar because of his dealings with ABC?

PUTNAM: I'm saying that's why we need an investigation. The speaker of the House, in my view, did not know that any of that had occurred. He first became aware of it when the tamest of e-mails were reported to his office, and the speaker's office took immediate action, more action than the media, more action than the FBI.

S. O'BRIEN: The Majority Whip Roy Blunt said this, in a statement, "We now all realize this terrible situation could have been handled differently. We are all upset. We are all horrified. But we stand together with our speaker."

Could have been handled differently seems to go specifically to what Hastert did -- or maybe a better way to put it -- didn't do.

PUTNAM: Well, it's important that people understand that there are two sets of e-mails. There's the weird, inappropriate e-mail, that the House was given in the fall of last year. And then there are these horrific, tawdry, explicit, predatory e-mails that have come out since last Friday. The House speaker acted on the tamest of all of these inappropriate e-mails. They acted swiftly, they acted proactively. The speaker's comment yesterday --

S. O'BRIEN: But his office knew about those over friendly e- mails, the ones you're talking about, months before. His office knew about them months before. That's not exactly swiftly, right? It would raise the red flag?

PUTNAM: Within days of them having those overly friendly e- mails, they called Foley before them, and put him in front of the clerk and the chairman of the Page Board and told him to cease all contact with the page.

S. O'BRIEN: At the end of the day, if there's some kind of implication between Hastert's chief of staff, if it turns out he had more information and he didn't pass it along to his boss, do you think he needs to resign immediately?

PUTNAM: I think the speaker said yesterday that he wants a full and fair investigation, let the chips fall where they may. And that investigation includes members, it includes staff, it includes anyone who may have been in possession of e-mails that pointed out that Foley was having predatorial behavior towards minors, towards pages, who were entrusted to us.

No one wants anything except a full and fair investigation. In fact, the speaker has tried to appoint Louie Freeh, the former head of the FBI, to coordinate the investigation of the page program. And it's my understanding that's been blocked by the minority leader. I hope that that issue we can be worked out so that we can bring in a that credible outside source to conduct a thorough investigation.

S. O'BRIEN: The Ethics Committee says they're going to try to wrap up their work in a couple of weeks -- or a matter of weeks -- and not months. But you have four weeks 'til the election. Why not get all the information out before the election? Wouldn't that be a good strategy? Would you support that? Would you want that?

PUTNAM: I think everyone wants this behind us as quickly as possible. We want a thorough investigation. We want all the information to be collected and all the information to be sifted through by people who do this for a living, like the FBI. I'm glad there's a criminal investigation behind this, so we can get to the root of the matter.

I'm glad the Ethics Committee is investigating. I'm glad the speaker has called on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate, because of Foley being from Florida. I'm glad that there are internal investigations in the speaker's office about how his staff handled this.

All of us want this to be above politics, above election-year shenanigans and about taking care and protecting our kids, and forcing a rotten apple in the Congress, who is preying on children, out as soon as we know the information, which is exactly what's happened with Foley. That's not what happened in prior page scandals in decades past.

S. O'BRIEN: You think the strategy here is to talk about other scandals in the past? That's going to be the strategy here? We're going to hear from Republicans, you think?

PUTNAM: No. I think what you've heard from Republicans is some straight talk from the speaker about calling for an investigation, trying to bring in Louie Freeh to coordinate that investigation, calling for additional FBI investigation, calling for the states of the impacted minors, and the state of Florida, because that's where Foley is from, to investigate. There are four or five investigations that you and I are both aware of right now.

S. O'BRIEN: Republican Congressman Adam Putnam of Florida, thanks for talking with us.

PUTNAM: Thank you.


M. O'BRIEN: Still to come, are you buried in debt? If so, you're not alone. Up next, meet a couple who ended up with $80,000 in credit card debt, mounds of unpaid bills. We'll tell you how they got the debt monkey off their back, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) S. O'BRIEN: Arnold Schwarzenegger's biggest opponent in the California governor's race may be -- Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yesterday he chided Mexican immigrants for trying to, quote, "stay Mexican." No matter what he says next, it may not be enough to derail his reelection bid. AMERICAN MORNING's Chris Lawrence has our story.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING (voice over): Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and challenger Phil Angelides face off for the first, and only, time Saturday night. And there's no debating, the stakes are different for both men.

ARNOLD STEINBERG, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Angelides needs a home run. All Schwarzenegger has to do is just kind of coast.

LAWRENCE: Recent polls have the governor leading his Democratic opponent by anywhere from 10 to 17 points.

(On camera): But even some Republican strategists say Schwarzenegger himself could reduce that lead during the debate.

STEINBERG: The governor has an uncanny ability to create his own crises by saying something utterly preposterous. So we can never underestimate the possibility he'll make an issue of himself in that debate.

LAWRENCE: Recently that included his caught-on-tape comment about a, quote, "hot Latina lawmaker". But in other areas, Schwarzenegger has been shrewd. The governor has rebuffed accusations he can't work with Democrats. In fact, he's been photographed with actor George Clooney, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and union officials, but would not meet with George Bush when the president came to California.

ART TORRES, CHMN., CA. DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I think the people see through that.

LAWRENCE: Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres is spending millions on TV ads trying to tie the president and governor together in voter's minds.

TORRES: What the governor cannot walk away from is the fact that his entire top staff is from the Bush and Cheney staffs of the White House.

LAWRENCE: There's still a small number of undecided voters and a month to go, factors that may be more beneficial to California State Treasurer Phil Angelides than the incumbent.

JOE MATTHEWS, POLITICAL AUTHOR: Now just because it's an incumbent that we get this an incumbent that everyone on planet Earth has heard of. So it's, you know, a tougher road for Arnold to make converts.

LAWRENCE: But if the current poll numbers are anywhere close to accurate, he may not have to.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Los Angeles.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: When he was asked by local reporters about his debate preparations for Saturday night, Arnold Schwarzenegger said anybody who has to prep for a debate doesn't know what he's talking about.

Still to come this morning, after a week focused squarely on Republicans, we talk to an elder statesman, James Baker. He's got a new book. The advice is to stay out of politics. We'll explain just ahead when we talk to him later on AMERICAN MORNING.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening this morning, a huge chemical fire burning out of control near Raleigh, North Carolina as we speak. Upwards of 16,000 people evacuated.

In downtown Memphis, more than half of the city's firefighters called to fight some fires in several buildings there. They're finally getting them under control this morning. It started in an historic church which burned to the ground, the cause unknown.

About 12,000 Goodyear union workers at 16 plants are on strike this morning. The union and Goodyear can't agree on a new contract, despite months of talks.

Let's get a check of the forecast now, Rob Marciano is here with that, or not.


S. O'BRIEN (on camera): James Baker ran five presidential campaigns, he served as chief of staff to President Reagan and the first President Bush and so the title of his new book kind of took us by surprise. It's called "Work Hard, Study and Keep Out of Politics."

James Baker joins us this morning to explain.

Nice to see you, sir, thanks for talking with us.

JAMES BAKER, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you very much. Thank you for...

S. O'BRIEN: I know it's a tongue-in-cheek title, of course.

BAKER: It is.

S. O'BRIEN: Tell me a little bit about the advice that you got, stay out of politics, which you didn't heed, by the way.

BAKER: That was the advice that my grandfather would give to young lawyers that came to the law firm that he was the head of. He would say if you want to be a good lawyer, work hard, study and stay out of politics. I got into politics, as the subtitle would indicate, "An Unexpected Public Life." I got into politics really through a series of incidents, some tragic, some happy. I didn't intend to get into politics, didn't intend to do public service, ended up doing an awful lot of both.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk a little bit about some of the politics that has been a little ugly of late, and we've got a lot to cover.


S. O'BRIEN: Mark Foley, congressman disgraced, has stepped down. To what degree do you think this is going to affect individual midterm election congressional races in districts that are not Foley's race?

BAKER: Well, first of all, let me say that it's outrageous what he was doing and, frankly, revolting. It will have some impact, I think, but I think congressional races, for the most part, are run on district issues.

S. O'BRIEN: Speaker Hastert, as you know, the calls to some degree are increasing to have him step down, depending on when he knew what, when. Do you think that, in fact, it would be worse for Republicans if he did step down?

BAKER: Yes, it's hard to answer that question without knowing what happened, and I don't know what happened. I do -- I will say this in defense of the speaker, he was the first to call for an investigation, I think, the first to refer it to the Justice Department, and I think that was a very appropriate thing to do. So who's to say? I don't know. You don't know what will happen if he's tossed over the side or hounded out of office. Who's next?

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk a little bit about Bob Woodward's new book. Bob Woodward writes that your name was floated by Andy Card to be the replacement secretary of defense. Did -- were there ever discussions about that? Is that a job you would liked to have had?

BAKER: The president, after he was first elected, said any time you're in Washington, I want you to give me a call, not through the bureaucracy, call my secretary. And on a couple of occasions we have discussed the possibility of my coming back into a full-time government service. And I have said thank you, Mr. President, I'm very honored with that, but I would...

S. O'BRIEN: But...

BAKER: But at my age and stage in life, it's not something I should do.

S. O'BRIEN: Andy Card said what's needed in that job is a diplomat. And not a lot of people would say that Secretary Rumsfeld is a diplomat. Do you agree with that, a diplomat is needed in that job?

BAKER: Well, I don't know that I would say a diplomat. I think maybe, perhaps, a more diplomatic approach to the job. It can't hurt. I'm not going to agree with you that Secretary Rumsfeld is not diplomatic because my experience with him has always been that he has been.

S. O'BRIEN: The Iraq study group, which you are leading, it's a panel. They're not going to come out with the recommendations until after the election. This would be a group that's supposed to make recommendations about how to proceed in Iraq. Why wait until after the election?

BAKER: Because it's very important that we take this issue out of domestic politics to the extent that we can. It will be -- whatever we report will be much more credible if it's not seen to be a report designed to impact the midterm elections.

S. O'BRIEN: You said back in June "I'm a firm believer that you cannot sustain a foreign policy in this country particularly, that doesn't have the support of the American people." When you look at the situation in Iraq and you look at the poll numbers, indicates that that war does not have the support or has declining support among the American people.

BAKER: And that's what's making it more and more difficult to sustain it as a foreign policy approach. Now, that's not to say that you're not going to keep going and doing what you're doing, if that's the view and the intention and the goal of the president, because he's the person who conducts, primarily, our foreign policy. Congress, of course, has to fund it. But once you -- once a particular approach loses the support of the American people, it's very, very hard and difficult to sustain it.

S. O'BRIEN: James Baker, it's nice to see you.


S. O'BRIEN: The book is called "Work Hard, Study and Keep Out of Politics," all things -- well, you did the first two, but not the last one.

BAKER: Two out of three isn't bad, is it?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. That's right, two out of three is not bad. Nice to see you, -- sir.

BAKER: Thank you, -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you for talking with us.

BAKER: Thank you very much.


M. O'BRIEN: Time for a check of the forecast, Rob Marciano at the CNN Center with that.



Miles, back up to you.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Rob.

Still to come, are you buried in debt? You're not alone. We'll meet a couple who ended up $80,000 in credit card debt, lots of unpaid bills and figured their way out of it.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: We live in a world of fast and easy credit. The card offers seem to come in daily. But if you're too tempted and get too carried away, your mail will quickly be filled with overdue bills and collection notices. And before you can say charge it, you're in way too deep with no clue on how to get back on a firm financial footing.

Our own personal finance lifeguard Gerri Willis is "Watching Your Money" this morning for us.

Hello, -- Gerri.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Hey, good morning, Miles, good to see you.

You've got it right, debt on credit cards, home equity loans, mortgages, you name it, is becoming a greater and greater problem for more Americans. One couple says their debt nearly swamped their lives.


NANCY NEIDERHISER, IN DEBT: Well, I was shocked, of course. And I said how are we here?

WILLIS (voice-over): Here for Fred Neiderhiser and Nancy Ruckards (ph) meant more than $80,000 in credit card debt and two mortgages.

FRED NEIDERHISER, IN DEBT: We fell into, I guess, a trap too many people fall into, and that is that I want something, I want it now and I don't have the cash for it. We would regularly go into the city to see plays and have dinner in Manhattan and that was always on credit cards.

WILLIS: The couple began by placing everyday expenses on credit cards and later progressed to high-ticket items like home renovations. They even took out credit card advances to pay credit card bills. Two years later, they were more than $100,000 in the red. N. NEIDERHISER: It adds up much more quickly than you realize. You know, having a mortgage, you send them a couple thousand dollars a month and you don't even touch the principal. Credit cards are the same thing, you're only paying the interest, you're not paying on what you owe.

WILLIS: According to CardWeb, the average U.S. household has over $9,000 in credit card debt. But there are things you can do to avoid Fred and Nancy's trap.

HOWARD DVORKIN, CONSOLIDATED CREDIT COUNSELING SVCS.: The first step is sit down and add up all your debts. Understand where you are, who's charging you the highest interest rates and then figure out your options.

WILLIS: Another step, compare your monthly bills to your monthly take-home pay. You'll probably find that some expenses are still unaccounted for, so start a money diary. For 30 days, write down every penny you spend, including lattes, lunches, everything. If more than 35 percent of your gross income goes to paying down debt or more than 10 percent goes to entertainment, both are red flags.

Fred and Nancy have already taken the most important first step towards getting out of debt.

(on camera): Where are the credit cards now?

N. NEIDERHISER: We don't have them.

F. NEIDERHISER: They're in a trash heap someplace. I don't know. Where does bulk garbage go?


WILLIS: Cutting up your credit cards may not be enough. In fact, Fred and Nancy went to a consumer credit organization which merged all of their bills together and helps them manage repayment to their creditors -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: And do they charge for that or is that -- how does that work?

WILLIS: There are initial fees to get set up. And that's actually a very big debate in that industry is how much do you charge to do that work? But, fortunately, they are not paying much.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, so, what is the best way to do this to get out of debt?

WILLIS: I've got to tell you, interest rates matter. If you have credit cards, you pay those high-rate credit cards first. And the big piece of debt that people are not paying attention to right now, those adjustable rate mortgages. If your arm is about to reset, you need to look into it and get a lower rate of debt. You can refi and get a really decent rate right now. But it's all about how much you pay for your money, not just how much you're spending. M. O'BRIEN: All right, Gerri Willis, thank you very much.

WILLIS: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Here's a look at what's coming up this weekend with Betty Nguyen and T.J. Holmes at the CNN Center.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, Soledad.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning.

NGUYEN: Check out my new partner on the weekend, T.J. Holmes.

S. O'BRIEN: I know. Hello, hello.

HOLMES: Hello there. Good morning. Excited to get going. Glad to be here.


HOLMES: But glad to be with Betty here, so.

NGUYEN: We're going to have a great time. In fact, we've got a lot going on this weekend.


NGUYEN: This weekend we're going to be talking about the power of forgiveness.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have forgiven the shooter. And sometimes that re-forgiveness could occur on a daily basis as you're tempted to be angry. But they really do feel a forgiveness for him.


HOLMES: Of course we've been seeing the Amish community, an Amish community coping with their loss. Well can they really teach all of us an important lesson, learning to forgive? That's in our faces of faith.

NGUYEN: Also, early detection, it is the best way to prevent breast cancer, but mammograms may not spot a new deadly form of this disease. We're going to show you the symptoms that you need to watch out for.

HOLMES: Plus, it's a big old boat for a former president. The USS George Herbert Walker Bush, a brand new Navy warship, will be christened tomorrow. And they're going to let me and Betty take that thing for a spin. NGUYEN: Yes.

HOLMES: Not so much.

NGUYEN: Yes, if only.

HOLMES: We'll take you to the ceremony at least.

NGUYEN: They know better than that.

That, plus the top stories, of course, in-depth coverage and any breaking news, that starts at 7:00 a.m. Eastern right here on "CNN SATURDAY & SUNDAY MORNING."

We're going to have a great time, Soledad, hope you'll watch.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, looking forward to that. Of course.


S. O'BRIEN: And T.J., welcome, nice to have you.

NGUYEN: Thank you.

HOLMES: Thank you so much, -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business" coming up next.

Good morning.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Good morning, Soledad.

An important read on the health of the economy as we head towards midterm elections. Also, Starbucks gone wild, some amazing new business plans by the coffee giant. We'll tell you all about that coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Well we've got Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Mike Luckovich out of bed early this morning. He is, after all, hawking his new book, so I guess that wasn't too much to ask. And -- but we did decide to make him not get off scot-free, he's, in addition to talking about his book, "Four More Wars," he's drawing a cartoon for us. We'll tell you about "Four More Wars" in a little bit.

Let's check in with him in his office there. How is it going so far, -- Mike?

MIKE LUCKOVICH, "ATLANTA JOURNJAL-CONSTITUTION": You know, it's going fairly well. I've started separate cartoons for both you and Soledad. And you are just going to love them, Miles. You will be tickled pink.

M. O'BRIEN: Can we peek over your shoulder a little? LUCKOVICH: Yes, well, there is Soledad right there.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

LUCKOVICH: Now I've drawn more of yours, but I don't want to give it away right now.

M. O'BRIEN: I see.

LUCKOVICH: Because, Miles, I'm coming back later and then we'll present it then, all right?

M. O'BRIEN: You make me look a little fat there. I don't know about that...

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, look at my picture.

LUCKOVICH: No, no, you are going to be fabulous and...

M. O'BRIEN: What's that thing on my -- coming out of my head?

LUCKOVICH: But thank you for having a...

M. O'BRIEN: What is that?

LUCKOVICH: Well, you know, it's -- you're just going to have to find out. I don't want to give it away, seriously.

M. O'BRIEN: OK. All right.

LUCKOVICH: It's -- but it will change your life.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, well, we'll see you in a little bit. "Four More Wars" is the book. Mike Luckovich is the cartoonist and we'll be checking in with him shortly.

Let's find out what's going on in the world...

LUCKOVICH: Thank you, -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: ... of business now. Andy Serwer is here with that.

SERWER: Good morning, Miles.

The September jobs report crossing the tape at 8:30 Eastern and I guess the two words that come to mind to describe it are tepid and mixed. Not a wholly bad picture. We were looking for 120,000 jobs to be created in the month. We only got 51,000 jobs, so that's pretty disappointing there. But the unemployment rate ticks down to 4.6 percent from 4.7 percent. That's the good news.

And then also revisions for the month of August, we, instead of creating 128,000 jobs in that month, we actually got 188,000. I think this is right about in the sort of goldilocks kind of place that Wall Street likes, which is to say not too hot, but not too cold. So I think the reaction is going to be basically positive here. A lot of news coming out of Starbucks today, and the company is having big presentations up there in Seattle, and all kinds of news to tell you about. This is pretty, pretty amazing stuff from this company which has just been on a tear for the last decade or so. They plan to open now 40,000 stores, a total of 40,000 stores over the next several years. They've got 12,000 stores now. And -- so that is a huge jump.

M. O'BRIEN: There are corners left in America.

SERWER: That is a huge jump.

M. O'BRIEN: Wow!

SERWER: Yes, we do need one on every corner.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: That's number one.

Number two, they plan to offer the music that they sell in their stores on Apple's iTunes. You could see those two companies getting together very easily. That makes sense.

Number three, they're going to be rolling out hot breakfast sandwiches at about 6,500 of their stores over the next 18 months. And they have tested those in Seattle and Chicago. I had them. They're pretty good. They're maybe a little goopy, but you know.

S. O'BRIEN: They always struggle with food, I have to say.

SERWER: Yes. They do struggle with food, -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: They do the coffee well. And then they get to the food and the food is a little bit of a problem.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: I wonder why?

SERWER: Well it's tough. You've got a national you know base to try to -- and you do it regionally, do you do it nationally? Those are all questions.

And number four, the latte vending machine has come. OK, check it out.

M. O'BRIEN: My gosh.

SERWER: They're going to be selling lattes, cocoa, mocha, latte mocha, vanilla mocha, all these darn things. And this is being done with Pepsi, which they've had a long-standing relationship with, so, and they've done a real good job working together. So that's interesting. That's a lot of stuff, though. S. O'BRIEN: But that was what predated the whole barista, right?

SERWER: Yes. And that was all that terrible coffee coming out of the machine.

S. O'BRIEN: I mean that's what we used to have.

SERWER: You know when you're in the hospital and the stuff that...

S. O'BRIEN: That's why you went and found Starbucks.

SERWER: Right.

M. O'BRIEN: But somehow this will be...

SERWER: We're going back to the future, right?

S. O'BRIEN: That would be fine.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, well, the idea was to create an environment where people would gather and that's a long way from that, but anyway.

SERWER: That, too.

M. O'BRIEN: That, too. All right.


M. O'BRIEN: Anyway, what's next?

SERWER: Next, Ben and Jerry's had a contest to come up with a new flavor of ice cream, and we have it. And it's not escargot. So it's pretty interesting. You want to check it out.

M. O'BRIEN: Do you have a sample?

SERWER: We do. We're bringing it to you.

M. O'BRIEN: Excellent.

S. O'BRIEN: All right.

M. O'BRIEN: Glad to hear that.


M. O'BRIEN: All right, excellent. Andy, you can come back now.

SERWER: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Also ahead this morning, going to take a look at our top stories, including an update on that toxic chemical fire that's burning out of control near Raleigh, North Carolina. There are thousands of people who are trying to get out of the way, escape the danger there. We'll update you on the situation in just a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


CLARENCE WILDES, MOTORCYCLE INSTRUCTOR: The thing we want to work on is using your brakes to slow before entering the turn.


VALERIE MORRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Slowing down is the last thing on the mind of 57-year-old Clarence Wildes. He's finally living his dream, sharing his passion for motorcycles.

WILDES: I got interested in riding motorcycles when I was 18. My cousin had one. I wasn't allowed to have one, but I was allowed to ride his.

MORRIS: Clarence had an early retirement package when his job as an engineering manager was eliminated. He then took a substantial risk to finance a new business.

WILDES: I used some of what was left of my 401(k), which by then was a 101(k). A lot of it was on a wing and a prayer.

MORRIS: He and his wife Pat opened Rolling Wheels Training Center in Kansas City, Missouri with just one student. After that, all the classes reached capacity. There are plans to open a second school in Florida, but Wildes insists it's not about the money.

WILDES: If I wasn't retired, we wouldn't be able to live off what we're making here. The passion drives us more than anything else. It keeps me wanting to come back. When you're working in your passion, that's really what it's all about.



S. O'BRIEN: Major fire burning in North Carolina right now. Toxic fumes have forced thousands of people to leave their homes. The danger could be increasing.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Speaker Hastert apologizes for the Foley scandal, but says he isn't ready to agree. I'm Andrea Koppel on Capitol Hill. What do the president and other Republicans say?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Sean Callebs in Monroe, Louisiana. The family of a page at the center of this ongoing controversy is speaking out for the first time, defending their son, and you may be surprised what they have to say.

M. O'BRIEN: A recent rash of school attacks making people rethink the safety of our kids. Is arming teachers the next step?