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American Morning

Preview of the State of the Union Address

Aired January 23, 2007 - 07:00   ET


TONY SNOW, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: The president is going to offer some bold proposals that Congress could, in fact, enact.

QUIJANO: Bush advisers say this year's address will be thematic, not a laundry list of initiatives, and will focus on issues like immigration, energy, education, and health care. Michael Gershin (ph), the president's former speechwriter, says the political drama of going before a Democratic-led Congress presents and opportunity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a chance for him to reassert some domestic policy leadership. And to make the best case he possibly can for his Iraq policy.

QUIJANO: But polls show Iraq has eroded the president's political capital and damaged, some say, his ability to lead on domestic issues.

The overwhelming part of the American public disapproves of the way he's handling the presidency. His back is to the wall. He is not in a position to go out there and dictate the end result of this process.

QUIJANO: With fellow Republicans continuing to voice concerns about the president's plan for more troops in Iraq, even his defenders acknowledge words alone will not erase the doubt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it will be the reality on the ground, not the rhetoric of the speech, that determines if they support the policy or not.


QUIJANO: Now, aides say the president's address is running roughly 45 to 50 minutes long, with what they say a significant portion will be devoted to Iraq. Now, as for his domestic agenda, the president will begin touring the country starting tomorrow to promote his policies, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Elaine Quijano at the White House for us this morning. Thank you, Elaine.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: New numbers out there this morning show the president's challenge, that he faces. He faces newly empowered Democrats in Congress and his fellow Americans who are increasingly unhappy with his presidency, and with him. Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider live for us from Washington with that.

Bill, what special challenges is Mr. Bush facing tonight?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST, AMERICAN MORNING: Well, he's facing not just the skeptical Congress, but also a skeptical audience in the American public. His job rating, 34 percent, that is the lowest job approval rating of any president going into his next to the last year in office, at least any president on record.

Now, that -- when we asked people do you think Mr. Bush's presidency has been a success or a failure, a majority of Americans said they think his presidency has been a failure. Only 39 percent say a success, the lowest number ever.

What's interesting is remember the issue that brought down his father? The economy, stupid? People think the economy is doing very well in the country, but it won't help him. It's not helping him because there's so much anger and disillusionment over the war in Iraq, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Bill Schneider in Washington. Thank you.

While the president prepares tonight, we're taking a look today at what he has accomplished since last year's State of the Union. Back then the president dove into energy policy, telling us we are addicted to oil and vowing to spur the hunt for alternatives. A fact check, on what happened and didn't happen since.

We'll also check on the facts on Iraq. A year ago the president was hinting some troops would be coming home. Tonight he'll be making the case for sending more of them into harm's way.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow will join us in about 25 minutes. We'll talk to him live 7:30 Eastern, and get a preview of the big speech. And just a few minutes after that, 7:40 Eastern, Hillary Clinton will join us live. Stay with us for that.

CNN has the best political team on television. Our live primetime coverage of the State of the Union address begins at 7 o'clock Eastern Time. Just keep it right where you have it now.

AMERICAN MORNING will continue that coverage, special, tomorrow morning. We're going to get up early -- for you -- 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time. A complete wrap-up of the president's address. You won't miss a thing -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Also, in Washington D.C. today confirmation hearings for president bush's choice to lead coalition forces in Iraq. General David Petraeus led the 101st Airborne Division into Iraq back in 2003. He was the first commander in charge of training the Iraqi troops. CNN's Barbara Starr is here from the Pentagon with more on General Petraeus.

Good morning, Barbara.


Well, General Petraeus will, later this morning, will tell the Senate Armed Services Committee he wants U.S. troops out of their bases and living in the very Baghdad neighborhoods they may be fighting in.


STARR (voice over): Two and a half years after this "Newsweek" cover, President Bush hopes General David Petraeus is the man to save Iraq, on what will be his third tour of duty in the war zone.

Petraeus is expected to be confirmed as the new top commander in Iraq, but his challenges already are mounting. Back in September Petraeus warned that the Iraqi government had to take control.

GEN. DAVID PATRAEUS, U.S. ARMY: The national government has to have the monopoly on certainly the legitimate use of force. And in this case, particularly since the bombing of the Gold Dome mosque, the emergence of much more violence, fomented by these militias is -- has been very, very troubling.

STARR: Now Petraeus is walking into a new round of enemy tactics. One of the most unsettling? Insurgents disguised as Americans drove into a compound in Karbala targeting and killing five U.S. soldiers. A shoulder-fired missile likely shot down a Blackhawk helicopter killing all 12 U.S. troops on board, and the CIA director publicly acknowledges Iranian IEDs are killing U.S. troops.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, DIRECTOR, CIA: They are being used against our forces. They are capable of defeating some of our heaviest armor.

STARR: Those who know Petraeus say his expertise in insurgencies is his best chance for success.

BRIG. GEN. JAMES MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Here you are today, where David Petraeus, as now a four-star general has to be able to inject a force that he is going to have to put at risk.

STARR: Retired Brigadier General James Marks has known Petraeus sense they were at West Point together, nearly 40 years ago.

MARKS: He is always two, three steps ahead of you.

STARR: The question, of course, is whether Petraeus can stay ahead of the enemy.


STARR: And, Soledad, in a lengthy testimony document already submitted to the committee, General Petraeus lays out almost three pages of mistakes that he believes the United States has made in the war in Iraq. Some of them sound awfully familiar -- disbanding the Iraqi army and not enough U.S. troops on the ground -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, we've certainly heard that before. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Thank you, Barbara.

STARR: Sure.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: It's cold and it's going to get colder. Chad's full forecast is just ahead.

Plus, a presidential promise, breaking America's addiction to oil. We'll get a fact check on that one heading into this year's State of the Union.

Plus, a huge day ahead in the trial of Lewis Scooter Libby. Why the White House could be in for a rough ride. Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning, right here.


S. O'BRIEN: Most news in the morning is right here on CNN. Two stories we're watching for you this morning. You want to pack your passport now. Starting today, anybody who is flying between U.S., Mexico, Canada, or the Caribbean has to carry a passport.

And some new pictures to show you, just in from Beirut. Several people injured there as Hezbollah supporters stage huge anti- government protests -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: In Washington today opening statements in the Lewis Scooter Libby trial. The former chief of staff for the vice president charged with lying to investigators who were trying to find out who leaked the name of a CIA agent to reporters. CNN's Kelli Arena is live at the federal courthouse in Washington with more.

Good morning, Kelli.


You know, it's really a bit confusing because Scooter Libby isn't actually charged with leaking the name of that covert CIA operative, which is what got this whole thing started in the first place. He is actually charged with covering up his actions, as soon as the Department of Justice began investigating.


ARENA (voice over): It's the last thing the Bush White House needs, a former insider on trial when it's already lost favor with the American public.

LARRY BARCELLA, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: If I were the White House, I think I would rather have a load of cinder blocks fall on me than have to have this trial go forward. ARENA: Lewis Scooter Libby, once Vice President Cheney's right- hand man, is charged with obstruction of justice and perjury. He is accused of lying to a grand jury about what he told reporters about former CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame, back in 2003.

Plame's identity was leaked that summer. Libby's trial could expose some White House dirty laundry by delving into what Bush officials, including Libby, may have done to silence critics of the Iraq war. You see, Plame's husband, Joe Wilson, was one of those critics. Prosecutors will argue administration officials leaked information about Plame to get back at Wilson, and that Libby tried to hide his involvement by lying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Libby's story that he was at the tail end of a chain of phone called passing on from one reporter what he heard from another was not true. It was false.

ARENA: Libby pleaded not guilty. He says he never intentionally lied, but that his memory failed him.

TED WELLS, LIBBY DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He has declared that he intends to fight the charges in the indictment, and he has declared that he wants to clear his good name.

ARENA: The roster of expected witnesses includes many of Washington's elite. High-profile media figures, Bob Woodward and Tim Russert, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her predecessor, Colin Powell, even the vice president.


ARENA: And so it all begins. A jury of nine women, three men are on board to hear opening statements in just about two hours. Overall, Miles, this trial is expected to last anywhere between four to six weeks.

M. O'BRIEN: Kelli, in a predominantly Democratic District of Columbia, was it difficult to seat a jury? How difficult was it?

ARENA: Well, you know, they definitely struck a lot of them, but interestingly, the jury does include some critics of the Bush administration, and that was something that, obviously, the defense was trying to avoid, but, you know, here you just can't get around it, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: It's a small town. All right. Kelli Arena, thank you very much, in Washington.

ARENA: You're welcome.

M. O'BRIEN: Just about quarter past the hour. Let's get a quick check of the "Travelers' Forecast". Chad Myers with that.


S. O'BRIEN: When Iraq comes up in tonight's State of the Union Address, military families, of course, will be listening very closely. They've been some of the president's biggest supporters on Iraq, but as the U.S. death toll rises, some of that is fading. Chief National Correspondent John King is in North Carolina for us this morning near Camp Lejeune.

John, good morning to you. Are there signs, that you have seen, that the war is beginning to take a toll on military families there, especially with the second and third trips back to Iraq?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: No question about it, Soledad. This is the third time I have been to these communities in the past four years, since the Iraq war began almost four years ago.

And back at the beginning it was very gung ho. We support the president. We support the mission. About two years ago, during the presidential campaign, people were still supportive of the war, but they had more and more questions for the president. Saying this hasn't gone like we thought it would. Why is it taking so long?

Now you hear much more outright opposition, much more skepticism of the president. The general attitude, Soledad, seems to be we support the troops 1,000 percent, but not so much the war. Increasing criticism of the president for what many in the military community here think are strategic military blunders in Iraq.

And they criticize the president -- that's why tonight is such a big moment -- they say one of the reasons they think the public opposition to the war is so high is that the president simply hasn't repeatedly, and consistently, engaged the American people and said you need to stay with us, we need to stay together as a country. Many people here think the military is off fighting this war alone while most of the American people just go about their business.

S. O'BRIEN: Is there a sense, then, that the president has failed to articulate his policy well?

KING: Certainly. There was deep animosity here, I sensed, during the presidential campaign to Secretary Rumsfeld, so there's some greater sense of optimism now that you have had the change of leadership at the Pentagon.

It's a wait and see attitude. And every new recruit knows that once training and drill is over, the likelihood is that her or she is going to Iraq. There's a sense of anxiousness, and a sense of anticipation, of what lies ahead. And certainly a sense that the president has simply not had an engaging communication with the American people.

Now, many say in the past few months when the president has been more candid about the mistakes -- you just heard Barbara Starr say General Petraeus today, will be candid. That helps, people say, but they really -- some of them talk about FDR, and say back in World War II, when things got tough, the president had all the American people huddled around their radios, saying we have to hang in there, we have to hang in there. Many here say, the president, this president, has failed that test.

S. O'BRIEN: I know that this is your third time, now for visiting the folks at Camp Lejeune, during the war. How have you seen opinion change over that time, and how does the greater American opposition to the war affect how they're feeling there?

KING: They say it certainly doesn't affect their morale hour to hour, Soledad, as they train or once they deploy and get into the mission. But certainly it affects the mood in the community. And how do you see the strain on their families? Some of these people are going back for their second and third, and in many cases preparing for a fourth deployment.

The divorce rates are up, domestic violence rates are up, the strain on the children and the families. There are three and four- year-old children in these communities who barely know one of their parents.

National Guard troops are saying they may go back for a second time. We spoke to a parent yesterday whose daughter received an honorable discharge after spending two years in Iraq. She had already moved out of state. She was about to start a new job, and the Army at the last minute invoked its power to call her back and sent her back to Iraq. Many are saying the rules don't seem quite fair. Why is this taking so long? They're tired.

In a word, Soledad, they're tired. This war is almost four years old. Many here don't see the end in sight, and they're getting both wary and weary.

S. O'BRIEN: More weary there in Camp Lejeune. John King, for us this morning. Thank you, John.

Leading up to tonight's State of the Union Address, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow will join us, that happens in just about 10 minutes. We'll talk to him at 7:30 a.m. Eastern, right here.

Then a few minutes after that at 7:40 a.m., New York senator and Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton will be joining us live. You want to stay with us for that -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Lots more on the State of the Union ahead, including what really happened to the big alternative energy push the president proposed last year. And a look at the man Democrats wanted to deliver the rebuttal tonight, and why they chose a freshman senator for the job. Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: The very best in cinema will be rewarded later this morning with Oscar nominations. CNN's Sibila Vargas has a little sneak peek at some of the favorites.


SIBILA VARGAS, CNN HOLLYWOOD CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING (voice over): Dreams, screams, and powerful scenes. A bevy of strong contenders makes predicting this year's possible Oscar nominees a tricky business.

STEVEN GAYDOS, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "DAILY VARIETY": I call this the year that it's all right to be wrong.

VARGAS: Steven Gaydos is the executive editor of the entertainment industry trade magazine "Daily Variety."

GAYDOS: There's hardly anyone who doesn't believe that "Dreamgirls" will be in there or "The Queen" or "The Departed."

VARGAS: Gaydos says while "Little Miss Sunshine" or "Babel" are likely to round out the top five best pictures, don't be surprised if critical favorites, "United 93", "Letters from Iwo Jima", or this dark horse make the cut.

GAYDOS: Could "Borat" sneak in and get the nomination? It would be exciting and groundbreaking.


PETER O'TOOLE, ACTOR: So long as man can breathe --


VARGAS: Gaydos says best actor nods are certain for seven-time nominee Peter O'Toole and Forest Whittaker. Likely for Leonardo Decaprio, and Will Smith and quite possible for 26-year-old actor Ryan Gossley.

GAYDOS: It's a tiny movie, with tiny box office, but he did win numerous critics awards, and I would say he is in the race.


HELEN MIRRIN, ACTOR: Thank you very much.


VARGAS: While he bets Helen Mirren will ultimately reign supreme, Gaydos says best actress competition is likely to come from Penelope Cruz, Kate Winslit, Judy Dench, and devilishly talented Merrill Streep.




VARGAS: As for directors, Gaydos thinks Bill Handen, Steven Friers (ph), and Clint Eastwood will all be in the running, but it's six-time nominee Martin Scorsese who will finally cross the finish line first.

GAYDOS: Eventually you have to win the thing.

VARGAS: Sibila Vargas, CNN, Hollywood.


S. O'BRIEN: The Oscar nominations live at 8:35 a.m. Right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

M. O'BRIEN: The president is poised break some new ground tonight as he delivers his State of the Union address. Mr. Bush will mention global warming, as he calls for some alternatives to oil. Now, last year he didn't mention climate change, but he did say we are addicted to oil.

One year later are we any closer to kicking the habit? AMERICAN MORNING's Ali Velshi with a fact check for us.


ALI VELSHI, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING (voice over): In case you didn't already know it --

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here we have a serious problem. America is addicted to oil.

VELSHI: The problem, a year ago, was apparently clear. The solution? Relying less on other countries from which the U.S. gets two-thirds of its oil. And if America is going to produce more fuel, why not make it cleaner?

BUSH: I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative, a 22 percent increase in clean energy research.

VELSHI: President Bush had specifics in mind.

BUSH: We will increase our research and better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen.

VELSHI: Mr. Bush's latest budget did put aside the money that was needed. The House even passed legislation on it in September. So close. Then it stalled in the Senate, and died. OK, back to last year.

BUSH: I propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit to encourage bolder private sector initiatives in technology.

VELSHI: Again, in the last days, of the last Congress, the tax credits were extended for a year. Not made permanent like the president wanted. Tax credits that could disappear next year aren't much incentive to business, which needs to take a longer view of its investments. Next?

BUSH: We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips, and stalks, or switch grass. VELSHI: Funding? Some. Progress on making ethanol from anything other than corn? No. And now that America is all about the corn, it's getting expensive. One more thing.

BUSH: I propose to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years.

VELSHI: Among other things, that plan called for training 70,000 high school teachers for advanced placement courses in math and science, to make sure America has the minds to continue to develop and invent.

The House did add the necessary spending to several bills, but with no big push behind them, the Bush plan never made it into law. Oh, well. He did say 10 years, so maybe it will still happen.

BUSH: May God bless America.

VELSHI: Ali Velshi, CNN, New York.


M. O'BRIEN: As we continue our fact check, we'll have a closer look at the war in Iraq, coming up next. Comparing what the president said last year to the reality on the ground this year.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow will be with us live very shortly. We'll ask him what we can expect tonight.

And Senator Hillary Clinton will also be with us live. We'll hear what she's saying now that she's a presidential candidate.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING the most news in the morning right here.


S. O'BRIEN: The State of the Union: The president prepares to address the nation, but what about what he promised last year? We've got your fact check on Iraq, and we talk to the White House Press Secretary, Tony Snow, straight ahead.

M. O'BRIEN: A former first lady for president. This little piece of history right there. New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton joins the race and joins us live with her plans for America.

S. O'BRIEN: A developing story. Hope in the search for a kidnapped mother and her four children. We've got those stories, and much more ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING

Welcome back, everybody. It is Tuesday, January 23rd. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm Miles O'Brien. We're glad you are with us. Happening this morning: Confirmation hearings today for David Petraeus. He is the general tapped to lead the war in Iraq. Petraeus to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee. If confirmed, he will succeed General George Casey, soon to be the new Army chief of staff.

In Brazil authorities say air traffic controllers are partly to blame for a midair collision last September. All 154 people aboard a jetliner were killed when it collided with a private jet over the Amazon. A smaller plane landed safely. It's the first time officials there have pointed the finger at anyone besides the Americans who were flying that jet.

Ethiopia is pulling its troops out of Somalia. The troops helped Somalia's interim government fight off Islamic radicals during a war that began late last month. Somalia says the Ethiopian forces will be replaced by African Union peacekeepers. The United Nations will eventually take on that job.

And snow on the Suarezs. Check out these pictures from Tucson, Arizona. You heard me right, Tucson. Lots of fun for the kids, but dense fog and icy roads, no treat at all for the drivers. About two inches of snow there. More than a foot fell in the northern part of Arizona.

And Bill Parcells is calling it quits. Parcells announcing yesterday he is retiring from the Dallas Cowboys and from coaching altogether. Parcells leaves with two Super Bowl wins, both as the head coach of the New York Giants. Soledad?

S. O'BRIEN: In tonight's state of the union you're going to hear President Bush talking about sending more troops into Iraq. It's not what he was saying a year ago. Let's get a fact check now on what's happened since last year's speech. Sean Callebs has that for us. Good morning, Sean.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. The close, there is no peace and retreat. There is no honor in retreat. The United States will not retreat from the world and will never surrender to evil. Sounds like quotes that could be coming up in the upcoming state of the union, but actually came from 2006. Before we look where the president is going, we thought it important to look where he has been.


CALLEBS (voice-over): This is last year before Mr. Bush proposed sending more U.S. troops to Iraq. The 2006 state of the union and a president flush with optimism.

BUSH: The road of victory is the road that will take our troops home. As we make progress on the ground and Iraqi forces increasingly take the lead, we should be able to further decrease our troop levels.

CALLEBS: A year ago in the same address the president recognized the personal loss suffered by Bud and Sara Clay. Their son, Marine Sergeant Dan Clay, was killed fighting in Fallujah. Today the Clays still grieve, but their support for Mr. Bush and is evolving policy in Iraq is unwavering.

BUD CLAY, SON KILLED IN IRAQ: Like all of us, he doesn't have a crystal ball. He has his hopes and things that he would like to do, but life is not like that. Realities of life are that as you know, things change, and you make your best decision on the information you have and you go with that.

SARA CLAY, SON KILLED IN IRAQ: His very intention, ultimately, is to get our boys home as soon as he possibly can, but he had a more important objective, and that is that that area would be able to be left in a semblance of security and peace.

CALLEBS: A year ago the president told the nation that perhaps security and peace in Iraq were within reach.

BUSH: We're on the offensive in Iraq with a clear plan for victory. First we're helping Iraqis build an inclusive government so that old resentments will be eased and the insurgency will be marginalized.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Unfortunately, shortly after President Bush gave his 2006 state of the union address, Iraq's problems got even worse, and an insurgency and a terrorist threat also became, in most eyes, a civil war.

CALLEBS: Mr. Bush's harshest critics say his words on Iraq and his policies there will define his presidency.

LAWRENCE KOLB, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I think President Bush's legacy will be that he led us into an unnecessary war. He led us in for the wrong reasons and he didn't do it correctly.


CALLEBS: I want to get back to the Clays for just a moment. They said last year, the day of the state of the union, they spent about an hour with President Bush, and they say the president told them that he is not driven by opinion polls, but, rather, a duty to what he believes is right. Well, his critics say perhaps that is part of the problem. That there is a difference, Soledad, between being resolute and digging your heels in and being stubborn.

S. O'BRIEN: Sean Callebs in our nation's capital this morning. Thank you, Sean. Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: Well, Iraq may be what congress and the rest of us are thinking most about tonight, but state of the union speeches are more cafeteria style speeches. A wide assortment of offerings, some of them fresh, some of them warmed over, some appetizing, some not. The president's press secretary Tony Snow joining us now from the White House with a preview of the menu. Tony, good to have you with us this morning.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What a lead-in. Thanks, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you. All right, the president doesn't have much bully left in his pulpit right now. Look at some numbers we have. Right now we have him at 34 percent approval ratings. I've seen some numbers down in the high 20s, depending on which poll you look at. We're talking about Carter and Nixon levels or close to them.

SNOW: Or Truman.

M. O'BRIEN: To what extent will this temper the tone and the substance of his speech?

SNOW: Miles, the president has an obligation to the American people to address tough issues. You know what the American people also want? They want to see a president who is going to be aggressive in advocating their interests. We have a health care system right now that is clumsy, that is burdensome, that costs too much and it makes people wait in line too long. The president has an innovative proposal that is going to unleash market forces so you have as much choice in health care as you do as, I don't know, in cell phones or cereals. It's about time we had a marketplace that responded to your needs right now rather than saying once a year if you happen to remember when open enrollment takes place, you'll get one crack at health care. You might as well have a health care system that responds to what you actually need. The president is going to propose that. I think the American people are going to like it. When he talks about energy --

M. O'BRIEN: But wait a minute, I want to talk about energy in just a moment. Let's talk about health care in just a moment because that idea was floated out yesterday. Kind of what landed with a bit of a thud. Does the president have --

SNOW: Woe, woe, woe. Wait.

M. O'BRIEN: Does he have the political capital? Does he have enough leverage to go after health care at this point?

SNOW: The question to ask you, Miles, is do good ideas sell? And the answer is yes. "The Washington Post" today is endorsing it. There are going to be a lot of people when they take a look at this they're going to call up their congressman and say why on earth will you not support a proposal that puts more money in my pocket, reduces health care costs for 100 million Americans and creates market competition so I get what I need and I don't have to pay for stuff I don't need? As a matter of fact, we've already seen with the prescription drug benefit, when you unleash market forces, what happens? You get major retailers fighting for -- to provide medicine as cheaply as possible and at the same time, effectively. Prices are one-third lower than people expected before. That's what happens. What you are likely to get is the kind of competition everybody expects everywhere else and finally some hope in health care so that people can get service they want and maybe in a way they want. You know, maybe you don't have to sit around looking at old magazines in a waiting room forever anymore. M. O'BRIEN: All right, let's talk about Iraq for just a moment. A lot of discontent within the party ranks. Senator John Warner, leading Republican. Let's listen to what he had to say yesterday.


SEN. JOHN WARNER, (R) VIRGINIA: It's clear that the United States strategy and operations in Iraq can only be sustained and achieved with the support of the American people and with a level of bipartisanship here in the Congress of the United States.


M. O'BRIEN: Lots of talk about resolutions on both sides of Congress, which would indicate displeasure with the idea of sending 21,000 plus more troops into Iraq. Doesn't the president need the support of Congress?

SNOW: Yeah, but the president also needs a way forward that's going to succeed in Iraq, and here's the deal, Miles. We believe that it's absolutely vital to get five brigades into Baghdad and 4,000 marines into Anbar. Lieutenant General David Petraeus is going to start testifying on Capitol Hill, and people are going to get a chance to listen to what he has to say too. Since the president announced the new way forward last week, what have we seen? Yes, we've seen violence against Americans, but we have also seen Iraqi operations against the Mehdi army, against Shia militias. We've seen Iraqi operations against Sunni insurgents. We have seen suddenly people returning to the council representatives, their parliament and making progress on the things that American politicians said they wanted to see.

M. O'BRIEN: Well if they're making such great progress -- if the Iraqis are making such great progress, why do we need to send so many more Americans in?

SNOW: Well wait a minute, you're being snarky here. It's progress. It's incremental progress. The fact is this is not a sitcom, Miles. It takes a lot of determination. The whole world is watching right now to see whether we have what it takes to finish the job in Iraq. That is to help the Iraqis stand up. I don't think anybody at this point thinks that the Iraqis right now have the capability all by themselves. On the other hand, we're spending a lot of time developing that capability, on the job training for Iraqi forces so they are able and so our troops when they return home not only can get the appreciation for a job well done, but we will have sent a message to terrorists that they can't succeed. You see, before this president took office, there was no democracy in Iraq. There was no democracy in Afghanistan. There was no democracy in Lebanon. Libya was, in fact, a bad actor. What's happened is American determination and strength have made a difference in the region and we need to build on it.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, let's talk about climate change, global warming. The president is going to mention that, we hear, and that would be the first time in a state of the union speech he had mentioned it. He has talked about energy policy before but never couched it in terms of global warming. But we hear he will stop short of asking for some sort of cap on emissions of these greenhouse gases. You've got leading corporations now, evangelicals, a lot of Republicans all saying some kind of cap is the way to go in order to get a hold of this problem of climate change. Will the president go that far tonight?

SNOW: Miles, there are two different ways of thinking about it. One thing is you can say, ok, you can try to oppose restrictions on people. The other thing you can do is you can set, in fact, a goal and let the marketplace achieve it. I think a lot of people, including you -- I know that you are interested in the environment -- are going to look at this and say you know it's pretty good. Here's what I want to warn against. You have talked about cap and trade, which is the term of art for this. And people are going to say because the president didn't do what we liked, it not going to achieve enough. Listen to what he has to say. It's a big proposal and it's one that also does not force people to choose between having a clean environment and having a job. As you know, in the past there have been a lot of environmental proposals that say shut down the economy to clean the air. You don't have to do that. What you have to do is to unleash the innovative potential of the American marketplace on the problem of cleaner more effective energy, and the president is going to talk about that.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, final thought. Hillary Clinton is coming up after the break. What do you have to say to her?

SNOW: I don't. Senator Clinton can speak for herself, I believe.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Tony Snow, thanks for your time.

SNOW: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad?

S. O'BRIEN: The Democrats have chosen a man to deliver their response to the president's address, a freshman senator. CNN's Dana Bash is live for us on Capitol Hill this morning. Dana, good morning.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi Soledad. Well, it certainly is surprising. You know, the new democratic majority could have chosen to showcase their new female House Speaker. They could have chosen the new Senate Majority Leader. Instead, they chose a senator sworn in just 18 days ago after winning a campaign in which he wore combat boots. Combat boots of his son serving in Iraq.


BASH (voice-over): The cramped temporary office reminds you he is a senate newcomer, in office barely three weeks.

I love what you have done with the place.

SEN. JIM WEBB, (D) VIRGINIA: What can I say? I have a computer, that's a start.

BASH: Yet Democrats picked Virginia's Jim Webb for a major role, responding to the president's state of the union address. On one hand it makes sense. Webb's come from behind victory in November gave Senate Democrats their one-seat majority and the Republican turned Democrat has been against the Iraq war from the start.

WEBB: There were reasons that the country decided to go in a different direction, and I will be someone who is able to put a face on those reasons.

BASH: But Webb has not signed on to what Democrats call their unified Iraq position, begin troop withdrawal in four to six months. He says he is still looking for what he calls a responsible strategy.

WEBB: We have to reach the point where American combat troops are no longer on the streets of Iraq. The question is how do you do that?

BASH: Webb wants Democrats to use their new power to restrict aid to Iraqis, but opposes blocking money for U.S. troops. The decorated Vietnam veteran became a Republican because Democrats cut funding while he was in combat.

WEBB: At the end of the Vietnam War, the Democratic Party really did lose its bubble and its credibility on how to deal with national security issues.

BASH: His ties to Vietnam are still strong. His wife was a refugee. He speaks Vietnamese.

WEBB: [ speaking Vietnamese ]

BASH: Iraq is personal too. His son is a marine serving there.

Don't you think that actually gives you a leg up in some way, that you really do have a personal investment?

WEBB: The responsibility of a leader is to act as though there were someone there that they had a personal responsibility toward. My beliefs on this would be the same either way.

BASH: Webb insists it's nothing personal, but he is looking forward to telling the country why he thinks the president's policies are wrong.


BASH: Now, the White House says the president's address will be upwards of 50 minutes. Democratic leadership sources say Senator Webb will speak for about eight minutes, and while we are told, of course, he will give his blunt message on Iraq, he is going to start with another issue that he and other new Democratic lawmakers say was a winning one for them in the campaign, and that is economic fairness, the disparity between the wealthy, the middle, and working class Americans in this country. Soledad? S. O'BRIEN: Dana Bash on Capitol Hill for us. Dana, thanks. CNN has the best political team on TV. Our live primetime coverage of tonight's state of the union address begins at 7:00 p.m. eastern. AMERICAN MORNING is going to continue that coverage at a special hour tomorrow morning. We begin at 5:00 a.m. eastern with a complete wrap- up of the president's address.

M. O'BRIEN: Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING Senator Hillary Clinton is standing by. We'll ask her what she would do about the Iraq war.

And high anxiety for folks downstream of a Kentucky dam. They're worried it might burst. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here.



S. O'BRIEN: From first lady to junior senator, now to presidential candidate. Senator Hillary Clinton is looking to make history as the first, first lady to be president of the United States. Senator Clinton joins us this morning. It's nice to see you. Thanks for being with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Certainly people have been talking about Hillary for president for years. Why do you think '08 was the right time to be doing it?

CLINTON: Well I think our country faces a lot of serious challenges, and I believe that based on all my experience, I would be very well-prepared to help lead us starting in January 2009. I worry about the future of our children, our position in the world, whether we're going to have good jobs and deal with the threat of terrorism and I think I can bring people together to come up with practical, but, you know, creative solutions to getting us back on the right track.

S. O'BRIEN: There are some people and some of them are Democrats and some of them are women who say Hillary, I like her, but a woman cannot win the presidency. She cannot be elected. What is your response to those people?

CLINTON: Well, I think we don't know until we try, Soledad. I mean, there was a time when someone would have thought about a woman co-anchoring a morning news program as you're doing and saying that will never fly, and so many of the other glass ceilings that have been broken. So I'm willing to, you know, try to overcome the skeptics. I heard a lot of the same concerns when I started running in New York, and I think every woman has faced some doubts about whether she could do what she felt she was capable of doing and we don't make progress unless there are those of us willing to get out there and see whether we can do it. S. O'BRIEN: Liz Cheney has an op-ed, which I'm sure you caught in "The Washington Post" this morning. She wrote this, talking about you and Iraq. "Anyone who has watched her remarkable trajectory can have no doubt that she'll do whatever it takes to win the presidency." She's talking about you there. "I wish she felt the same way about the war." What do you make of that?

CLINTON: Well, I respect Liz Cheney's position that she holds in the State Department and her obvious devotion to her father, but they've been dead wrong. They've been wrong for the last years. They've been wrong on the war. They've been wrong in the way they've alienated the rest of the world. They've been wrong in their refusal to discuss a lot of the differences we have with, you know, nations that frankly are bad actors, but I don't think you gain anything by, you know, pointing fingers and refusing to engage. So, with all due respect, I think the record speaks for itself. I have been a consistent critic of the war planning and implementation that this administration has done over the last years. I think there's a better way, and I am against this escalation because, frankly, I think it's more of the same. Instead of adopting the proposals that many of us have made, starting, you know, more than a year and a half ago about how to deal with our troop levels in Iraq, begin bringing, you know, some of our young men and women home by engaging the rest of the world, particularly the neighbors, but, also, holding the new Iraqi government accountable. This new plan that the president and the vice president have put forth, I think, is unlikely to, you know, be successful. It might serve a short-term purpose, like a fist into a pond of water where you see the ripples, but when you pull the fist out, it's back to the same position that it was before. So I don't think anyone associated with this administration is in a position to brag about the policies they have followed over the last years. I think we need a change of direction. That's what I'm advocating.

S. O'BRIEN: You certainly can be a lightning rod, and as you now say you're running for presidency, you can energize the other side. Why do you think that you stir so many passions among Republicans? Many people say your candidacy will send them right to the polls in '08.

CLINTON: Well, I heard that when I started running in New York as well, and there are a lot of reasons. I think they take me seriously. They know that I believe in what I say and that I will follow through and I will work hard to achieve what I think are the right goals for my state, my country. I respect that. They know that they've been able to defeat very good candidates in the last two electoral cycles, and, you know, I think there's a little bit of bravado in some of what they say. But clearly, I have some work to do. I have to go out and earn every vote. The same situation I confronted in New York where I met some of the same objections, and I'm very gratified that I have won two landslide elections by doing it the old- fashioned way, working hard, meeting people, being accessible, talking about the future and what I would do and that's what I intend to do in this campaign.

S. O'BRIEN: Senator Hillary Clinton joining us this morning. Thanks for talking with us. CLINTON: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: Parts of southern California going up in flames again. A wind-whipped brush fire now threatening a whole lot of homes. The latest is next.

And a woman drinks herself to death with water. Now the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, is targeting the radio station that sponsored the water drinking contest. Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning.


M. O'BRIEN: Happening in America, in Kentucky fears of a dam break near Frankfurt. The Army Corps of Engineers taking emergency action, lowering the water level of Lake Cumberland to reduce pressure while they repair the 240 foot high dam. Water is seeping under the 50 year old structure.

Southern California, a wind-whipped wildfire threatening more than 20 homes in Thousand Oaks, that's northwest of L.A. More than 200 firefighters working to contain the fire that has burned at least 30 acres so far, the cause unknown.

In Missouri attorneys for that accused kidnapper of two boys trying to stop their client from talking. Michael Devlin charged with kidnapping 13-year-old Ben Ownby and 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck. He is suspected of holding Hornbeck for four years in his apartment in Kirkwood, Missouri. Attorneys have asked for a gag order after Devlin gave a reporter a jailhouse interview.

S. O'BRIEN: An update on a story we told you about yesterday in Indiana. Hope now in the search for that mother and her four children. Kimberly Walker and her kids, between the ages of 16 months and 9 years old were kidnapped on Saturday, allegedly by that guy right there, Jerry White, he is the children's father. Now police say they believe they are alive because of numerous reports of possible sightings. There is an added concern though, one of the kids needs treatments for severe asthma.

In California the family of Jennifer Lee Strange who died after drinking nearly two gallons of water in an on air radio contest are now going after the station's license. The family says that the station KDND showed wanton disregard for the safety of Strange and others who entered a contest to see who could drink the most water without going to the bathroom. The winner was supposed to get a Nintendo game at the end of that contest.

In Florida possible relief for hurricane insurance premiums. The state legislature there is passing a bill that would give the average homeowner a 22 percent hurricane insurance reduction. The bill has to be signed into law by Florida's Governor Charlie Crist.

M. O'BRIEN: Still to come in the program, live from Hollywood, the Oscar nominations. We'll see which stars and which films have reason to get up early and celebrate today.

Plus, a funny look into a very grim future. What your job may be like 50 years from now. What you may be like. That's ahead in AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here on CNN today this morning and 50 years from now.


S. O'BRIEN: Big and bold, the president promises for tonight's state of the union address, even though his poll numbers are sinking.

M. O'BRIEN: Passports please, even if you are going to Canada or coming home from the Caribbean. The new rules you need to know.

S. O'BRIEN: And gold rush, we'll take you live to Hollywood for the 2007 Oscar nominations on this AMERICAN MORNING.