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American Morning

Midwest Floods; Thompson Waiting in the Wings?

Aired May 08, 2007 - 06:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Hell and high water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very scary having it coming in our houses.


CHETRY: Flooding, rescues and rising fears in seven heartland states right now.

Plus, white ties at the White House. An elegant toast to Queen Elizabeth. The pageantry, politics and celebrity guest list on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And good morning. It is Tuesday, May 8th. I'm Kiran Chetry here in beautiful Central Park in the heart of Manhattan this morning.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you. I'm John Roberts.

You know, that shot that we take from the roof of the Time Warner building there reminds me sort of the first line of that Brooks & Dunn song "Only in America." "The sun coming up over New York City."

CHETRY: You're right.

ROBERTS: And it's a song that I would still like until this day if it weren't George Bush's campaign song from 2004. Not that it was his campaign song . . .

CHETRY: Look at how gorgeous.

ROBERTS: But every day, five times a day, we had that thing drilled into our heads.

CHETRY: That's right.

ROBERTS: And while it was a good song, it sort of -- you reached the saturation point. But what a beautiful day here.

CHETRY: Well, we thought it was gorgeous. So we thought we'd start the show outside on this beautiful, beautiful spring day. It's really ironic, though, because we're talking about such ravaging and horrible weather across the country.


CHETRY: We're in the Northwest. It's beautiful. But that's certainly not the case in the Plains states.

ROBERTS: You know, every time we talk to Chad Myers, we keep on saying, how much extreme weather can there be? There was a whole weekend of it. We were in Greensburg, Kansas, yesterday. You saw the results of a tornado there. A lot of heavy rain as well. There's a lot of flooding in Kansas, also in Missouri, Oklahoma, four other states in the Plains, as well. We're going to be checking in on all of that today to see where that stands and whether or not this is going to be as bad as it was back in 1993.

CHETRY: Right. They say that the toll -- the damage, which ended up being the costliest in U.S. history in terms of that type of damage and flooding was back in 1993.

Also, Wolfowitz under fire. Sources at the World Bank are saying that a new report that's out that recommends he leave. I think two people under him also stepping down in the wake of the scandal over whether or not he helped his girlfriend get promoted.

ROBERTS: Yes, according to one report, the United States has been offered a deal that if they get Wolfowitz to step down, they'll allow the United States to pick the next chief of the World Bank. But the U.S. gets to do that anyway. So it's sort of like, we'll let you do what you're allowed to do if you do this for us. So you know how that goes.

CHETRY: Also there are some new poll out. It's interesting. Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani leading the pack in the race for '08. Two Republicans, though, not in the race getting a lot of attention. That's Michael Bloomberg and Fred Thompson. And we're going to be talking about that with Mark Halperin from "Time" magazine now. His first day on the job there.


CHETRY: Also with ABC News a little bit later.

ROBERTS: Of course, he was the editor of ABC's famous "Note," which was probably the most read Internet analysis of the day in politics anywhere in the nation, if not around the world as well.

We'll get to all that in just a minute. But first of all, let's concentrate on what's going on out in the Midwest. And severe weather and severe flooding now in the wake of all of all of those tornados that we saw over the weekend. Some seven states out in the Midwest, in the Plains are at risk of heavy flooding.

Some people are saying it's almost as bad as it was in 1993. The good news is, though, that it hasn't been raining as long as it was in 1993, so perhaps the grounds isn't as saturated as it was back then. And after the rivers crest, which is expected in the next 24 to 48 hours, the waters may subside. But in some towns, like St. Joseph, Missouri, right along the banks of the Missouri River there, it's causing a lot of anxiety. Our Sean Callebs is there standing in someone's backyard.

And, Sean, you look like you're already knee-deep in water.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly. And also, it's hard to believe just how cool it is. I hear you talking about the great weather up there in New York. Where here, very cool, chilly, almost a fall-like morning.

But, check this out. Indeed, somebody's backyard. This is the Missouri River. This, the result of the seven plus inches of rain this area got over the weekend.

Just want to walk out here a bit more and show you how high it is. Now they expect this river to crest in about six or seven hours. And it's going to go up at least two more feet in height. So you can see what that's going to do up along this tree.

There have been a number of evacuations throughout this city. Really, this is a kind of microcosm of what is going on in and around this area. And without question, this weekend's heavy rains led to some very tense moments.


CALLEBS, (voice over): Flooding from weekend storms stranded residents of Topeka, Kansas, and surrounding communities in their homes. Authorities and volunteers used rafts to rescue some 500 people. Here, neighbors cheered as a wheelchair-bound woman was saved from rising flood waters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It had been raining and really raining and raining and I just kept thinking, well, it can't last forever. But it did.

CALLEBS: Nearly seven inches of rain has pounded parts of Kansas and Missouri since Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's very scary having it coming in our houses and having everything floating by our houses and there's cars and trucks under water.

CALLEBS: In Jackson County, Missouri, two teenagers had to be rescued from a tree after losing their paddle boat in a neighborhood that was overrun by flood waters.

Storms that ravaged Oklahoma City for day caused heavy flooding that wiped out roads and bridges. And in southwestern Iowa, residents in the town of Red Oak headed for higher ground as water rose to more than seven feet above flood stage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The roar was horrendous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was asleep and the police car went by with its lights and sirens going, saying that it was mandatory for us to leave.


CALLEBS: Really, 1993 is the benchmark that everybody in and around the St. Louis area uses in terms of flooding. Now they did expect the Missouri was going to crest above 31 feet. And, John, the way that compares back to 1993, back then it crested at about 32 feet. So there wasn't going to be a big difference.

But some good news. They didn't get as much rain yesterday as they anticipated. So they expect it's going to crest about 20:05 (ph). Still is going to cause some low-level flooding and people are going to remain evacuated today.

We'll keep watching, John.

ROBERTS: So, Sean, using that tree as a benchmark there, where was it in 1993 and where is it expected to crest over the new few hours?

CALLEBS: That's a good point. I'll get Ken to zoom in a big and show you. Right now it is at 26 feet. But I don't want to go out too far here because you can't really see. But this current is extremely rapid. And the last thing I want to do is go tumbling down there. OK. If this is 26 feet, it's going to go up to at least here today. Now it would have gone up to about here in 1993. So at best, at best, they hope it's going to crest in this area. They don't want it to get, obviously, any higher than that.

ROBERTS: So if you were there in 1993, you'd better under water right now?

CALLEBS: I'd be about -- yes. I don't think I'd want to be here if it was 1993.

ROBERTS: All right. Well we suggest as the water goes up, you come in a little bit.

Sean Callebs for us in St. Joseph, Missouri. Thanks very much.

President Bush is going to be headed out to Greensburg, Kansas, tomorrow to take a look at the devastation there. We were out there all day yesterday. We brought you pictures of just the intensity of the damage that that storm left and how there literally is maybe one or -- there are literally maybe one or two buildings left standing. But everything else, up to 95 percent of that town, was absolutely destroyed. Our CNN meteorologist and correspondent Rob Marciano is still out there in Greensburg.

How are things looking today, Rob? Any developments overnight?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there were a couple of developments after you left yesterday afternoon. There were reports of finding two more bodies. That was then ratcheted down to one. So the death toll was at 10, then came back down to nine. Still 13 people hospitalized. Fourteen of those in critical condition. Rubble still strewn about, as you know. No water. No nothing here. So it's just a matter of people coming back to pick up the pieces.

They did that yesterday. It was an emotional and frustrating day for a lot of folks. And they'll be doing that as we go through today and really through, obviously, the next several weeks.

The good news here weather wise is that the weather will be cooperating. The severe weather, the rainfall has all shifted down to the south and west and east of us. So weather will be cooperating in their cleanup efforts here in Greensburg, Kansas.


ROBERTS: Yes. Well, you know, one group of people benefit and another one suffers.

Rob Marciano, thanks very much, in Greensburg there. We'll keep checking back with you throughout the morning.

Those people there. They're still suffering so much. And the real question is, where do you even start?

CHETRY: I know. Well, they made some progress yesterday. It was funny. A little glimmer of hope. They found this meteorite that had hit years ago that had been . . .

ROBERTS: The famous -- was it poladian (ph) meteorite?

CHETRY: I think so. It was in their museum. And they said, we found this guy in the mist of all that rubble.

ROBERTS: Well, how do you lose a meteorite?

CHETRY: It wasn't that big actually.

ROBERTS: Well, it weighed a half a ton.

CHETRY: You know what it's like out there. You could lose anything. You could lose a house pretty much.

ROBERTS: True. True. Lots of those lost.

CHETRY: But we wish them the best, absolutely and hopefully the cleanup and everything will get started quite soon.

Switching gears. On a political note right now, there are two big frontrunners when it comes to the race for 2008. You have two New Yorkers topping the latest CNN/Opinion Research, and that, of course, Rudy Giuliani, as well as Hillary Clinton. But there is a third New Yorker who has not quite said he's running yet. In fact, he's not a candidate at all but he's certainly generating a lot of buzz. CNN's Jim Acosta has the latest on Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Mayor, what do you think of the continued talk that you're running for president, sir?

ACOSTA: Sometimes he ignores the question.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (R) NEW YORK: Have a nice day, everybody.

ACOSTA: Sometimes he doesn't.

BLOOMBERG: And let me make it clear, I am not a candidate for president of the United States.

ACOSTA: Then there are times, like during this appearance with Al Gore, when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg seems to love every minute of it.

BLOOMBERG: Now, don't you just hate those rumors about running for president.

ACOSTA: Think the 2008 presidential campaign has enough New Yorkers? Consider an independent run from Bloomberg. A self-made billionaire, Democrat turned Republican, who's former pollster told "The Wall Street Journal," the mayor could fetch 25 percent of the popular vote. Former mayor Ed Koch believes Bloomberg will jump in the race.

ED KOCH, FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: I think he's playing it exactly right. He doesn't have to convey his full intentions until the end of this year. He doesn't have to spend the time the others are spending raising money.

ACOSTA: And that's an advantage?

KOCH: It should happen to everybody.

ACOSTA: And as Ross Perot's former campaign manager notes, wealth helps.

And what do you see in Mike Bloomberg that says, this guy could be a contender?


ACOSTA: With that kind of money, Bloomberg can afford to be a maverick on the issues. He's pro gun control, tough on global warming, and has even sought to ban trans fats in city restaurants. Positions tilting to the left. But he also wants to loosen immigration restrictions. A stance that appeals to big business. All while running the biggest city in America.

ROLLINS: Mike has lived and survived in the toughest media city in the country and I would expect him to run a very efficient campaign and a very effective campaign.

ACOSTA: Despite Perot's take of almost 19 percent of the popular vote in 1992, he didn't win one electoral vote. But like that election, polls these days show most Americans aren't happy with the direction of the country and, for now, aren't sold on the current field of candidates.

Jim Acosta, CNN, New York.


CHETRY: And as Jim talked about, as we take a wide shot this morning right here in our location. Just for a few minutes, we're out here in Central Park today in Manhattan. It's shaping up to be a gorgeous day. The candidates under a lot of pressure, it seems, from the extreme wings of their party. So is there any hope for a candidate, a more moderate candidate who's playing it down the middle to survive in their race? Well, our next guest is going to talk more about that with us. Mike Halperin is a senior political analyst for "Time" magazine. You were at ABC for a number of years and it's, what, your second day on the job at "Time"?


CHETRY: Congratulations.

HALPERIN: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

CHETRY: Let's take Michael Bloomberg, for example, because we talked about him there. He seems so out of step with the Republican base. Did he have a chance (INAUDIBLE)?

HALPERIN: Well, look, Jim Acosta touched on it, people are really unhappy with the direction of the country. They don't like the way things are going. They don't like the partisan bickering in Washington. There aren't very many people who can take advantage of that. One thing about Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire. If he runs for president, he'll spread probably a billion dollars. That's a lot -- I'm sorry, not a billion dollars, a million.

CHETRY: Then he wouldn't be a billionaire anymore.

HALPERIN: He could spend hundreds of millions, almost a billion, and that would really shake up the race. And he may not be able to win, but he would shake up the race. And he would be able to tap into that hunger. People want someone who can come in and unify the country.

CHETRY: It's interesting, because those are the people that never quite get past the primary. Because the primary voters are not necessarily the general election voters.

HALPERIN: Now more than ever. It's a little bit of a conflict. On the one hand you've got a lot of people in the country who are independent or who say they want the country to come together. But on each side, you've got extreme partisans. They're the ones who give the money, who go to the campaign rallies, who make demands of the candidates, who angrily blog on the Internet. On the Democratic side, particularly the war in Iraq really driving the candidates to not be unifying, to attack the president. On the Republican side, you've got three leading candidates, Romney, Giuliani and McCain. They're worried because their records in the past have been inconsistent. They're worried about appealing to those hard-core activists. It's a real tension.

CHETRY: It's interesting that you mentioned Mitt Romney. He's pulling behind number three, behind someone who's not even running, and that's Fred Thompson. What is the appeal of Fred Thompson?

HALPERIN: Well, for the Republicans, the appeal is, he's popular. He's well known as an actor. But also, he is someone who talks about in a soft and more moderate way. So the trick is for any candidate, you saw Bill Clinton do this in 1992, George Bush do it in 2000. As a first-time candidate, you've got to appeal to the hardcore partisans in your party, but you've also got to reach out to the center. Because what people want above all else, they want to win the White House. They know that if you pick someone like a Fred Thompson, who can maybe appeal to moderates on some level, even just stylistically, you've got a better chance to win.

CHETRY: Right. Like Ronald Reagan.


CHETRY: Now on to Giuliani. An article today from the Politico reporting that Giuliani gave money, they had receipts, to Planned Parenthood over several of years during the 1990s. He's trying to be very nuance about abortion. But how is this going to work for him?

HALPERIN: I think so far he's not handled it well. You saw last week in that Republican debate where Giuliani was kind of indecisive. He's got a record on abortion. This is more evidence of it. He's been pro-choice. His problem right now, I think, is, he's being a little bit wishy washy on it. If you've got a position out of step with your party, you can't be wishy washy. You've got to just say it. If he's going to be nominated, it's going to be as a pro-choice Republican. This kind of thing is going to make it hard for him to stay in that wishy washy center.

CHETRY: Right. And the longer he stays nuance, he's angering the narals (ph) of the world, and the nows (ph) as well, but the Christian right, because neither one of them knows if they can trust his stance.

HALPERIN: Neither one feels they can trust his stance. But everybody is going to get the impression, if he doesn't become more solid on it, this guy is being not nuance but what we call flip floppy.

CHETRY: Right. And that did Kerry in, as we saw in the last election.

HALPERIN: It's the worst thing to be in a presidential campaign.

CHETRY: But it's hard not to be, it seems, because they dig everything up and the (ph) change their minds.

HALPERIN: And there are those tensions. You want to appeal to the base of your party, the energized activists, but you also got to think about that general election.

CHETRY: Mark Halperin, senior political analyst for "Time" magazine for two days now. You're doing a heck of a job.

HALPERIN: Thank you.

CHETRY: Thanks for coming out on our . . .

HALPERIN: Politics in the park.

CHETRY: Yes, on our first day out here in Central Park.


CHETRY: I think it's a little cold. We're heading back in now.

And we are going to take a quick break. And when we come back here on CNN, we're going to have much more. Our faith and values correspondent, Delia Gallagher, has a very fascinating look at what some of the messages are on your cup or joe, maybe your hamburger, that you don't even know you're getting. We're going to take a quick break. And CNN's AMERICAN MORNING will be right back.



You're looking at live pictures right now of a historic moment taking place in Belfast, northern Ireland. Protestant and catholic leaders, bitter enemies, now working together. Sworn in moments ago to share power in a new government in northern Ireland. Senator Edward Kennedy is there. He is leading an American delegation.

Nineteen minutes after the hour now. Things not going so smoothly in Taiwan, though. Take a look at this. A brawl broke out in parliament among rival parties. Pushing, shoving, throwing papers, all over a bill on election reform. Earlier this year, a scuffle over a similar matter broke out. These things seem to happen there all the time. Except during that may lay, shoes were thrown. And they refrained from throwing the shoes this time, though a few punches, obviously, were thrown as well.

A judge says a videotape of a drunken David Hasselhoff has changed the whole landscape of his custody fight. He has temporarily suspended Hasselhoff's visitation rights to see his two teenage daughters after one of them videotaped him in an apparent drunken stupor. Last night, Larry King asked Hasselhoff's ex-wife how that videotape became public.


PAMELA BACH-HASSELHOFF, HASSELHOFF'S EX-WIFE: That's why I don't believe Taylor Ann would have released it. I know I didn't. I know my youngest daughter. When you're the family of a disease, it's the elephant and you don't talk about it.


ROBERTS: So no one knows how the video got out. And Hasselhoff's visitation rights are suspended until the judge can determine who was responsible for the tape's release. Hasselhoff says he's a recovering alcoholic and he has apologized for his behavior.

English farmhouse cheeses, London silver and the music of Itzhak Perlman for a royal night at the White House. President Bush and the first lady hosted their first ever white-tie steak dinner in honor of Queen Elizabeth II. Earlier in the day, the official welcome included a presidential slip-up.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17 -- in 1976. She gave me a look that only a mother could give a child.


ROBERTS: Yes, it's not nice to suggest that the queen is 230 years old. Queen Elizabeth let that comment pass. She sat to the president's right at his table in the state dining room last evening. Nancy Reagan, Chief Justice John Roberts and Colon Powell, to name just a few, were all in attendance.

The bulls keep on running and running. The Dow now in its longest hot streak in 80 years. But are you feeling it? Ali Velshi is "Minding Your Business" coming up next.

Plus, God to go. What is printed on your fast food cup? And why is Starbucks feeling the heat today, next on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Twenty-four minutes after the hour. The next time that you step up to a Starbucks counter or drive through an In-N-Out Burger, take a moment to read what's on your coffee cup, because they are printing scriptures, quotes, random thoughts on your cup of joe or your coke and Starbucks is feeling the heat. Michelle Incanto (ph) of Springboro, Ohio, was insulted by the quote on her Starbucks cup. It asks if God is a figure of our imagination. Delia Gallagher is AMERICAN MORNING's faith and values correspondent. And he's here today.

What does the quote say exactly?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here's the cup. This is the offending cup. And they put on the back, you know, these sort of quotes. So this one says, "why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help? As cognitive beings, why would we ask something that may well be a figment of our imaginations for guidance?" That's the offending part, obviously. "Why not search inside ourselves for the power to overcome? After all, we are strong enough to cause most of the catastrophes we need to endure."

This was sent in by a customer, you know, on Starbucks website. You can write in some of your quotes. So they take some from famous people. They take some from customers.

ROBERTS: Right. Bill Scheel from London, Ontario.

GALLAGHER: Yes. My favorite part is, he describes himself as a modern day nobody.

ROBERTS: A modern day nobody from London, Ontario. Here's another case of blame Canada, right?

GALLAGHER: Yes. Well, he's not a nobody anymore because he's caused a huge outcry about this.

ROBERTS: He has. All right. So, obviously, Starbucks is trying to be provocative, thought inspiring, but does this cross the line?

GALLAGHER: Well, this is the point. I mean, that's for people to decide. Obviously this is part of their marketing thing. They say, we've got a statement from them. They say, "we think this tradition of dialogue and discussion is an important facet of the coffeehouse experience. In fact, the conversation around quote #247 is sparking dialogue, which is the original intent of the program."

ROBERTS: OK. But let's say that you're a religious person. You're a person for whom faith is very important. You get your vente (ph) whatever, because this is a vente cup, and you're sitting here reading this, drinking it. Why should you have to do that?

GALLAGHER: Well, they point out that they have 250 quotes so far in this program. And some of them are favorable to religions. So they had Rick Warren, for example, talking about being created by God. So they claim that their point is not to decide one way or another. They have a committee with 10, 20 people that decided this thing. And they say it's out there because it will spark discussion.

ROBERTS: Yes. I know. But again, if you're a person of faith and you've got this cup in your hand, what do you do, you go back and you ask for another cup or do you just say, I don't like the whole program?

GALLAGHER: Well, you're going to have to decide whether you want to . . .

ROBERTS: Do you get free coffee?

GALLAGHER: Whether you want to punish Starbucks or not. There are other companies, you know, that do something even more overt.

ROBERTS: Yes, we mentioned In-N-Out Burger.

GALLAGHER: In-N-Out Burger. You mentioned. And they're in the west coast. They're not here in the East Coast. But they have actual scriptural references that they print on the very bottom kind of inside of their cups and on their hamburger wrappers. So, you know, John 3:16, the actual reference from the Bible. Now they are a privately held company. Starbucks is not. And they are a Christian . . .

ROBERTS: Yes, CBS does the same thing during the golf tournaments, right, they have that guy stand up behind the tee.

GALLAGHER: Right. I mean Bible references are everywhere. So, Starbucks, this is slightly different, obviously, but certainly some companies, especially the private ones . . .

ROBERTS: So what is this, is this a marketing tool? What exactly is it?

GALLAGHER: Well, of course. Yes. They're getting publicity, aren't they?

ROBERTS: We're talking about it.


ROBERTS: All right. It's as simple as that.

Delia, thanks very much.

GALLAGHER: You're welcome.

ROBERTS: Twenty-seven minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: All right. So that was a case of blame Canada with the guy that made that quote. And you say today, in the business world, we should thank Canada.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely thank Canada. I'll carry the other side of this. Yesterday another -- I'll tell you about it in a second.

CHETRY: Hi, Ali, by the way.

VELSHI: Good morning.

If it was warm for you out in Central Park and it's sizzling on Wall Street, and part of that is because of a hostile takeover bid for a company in Canada, another merger that is making this Dow sizzle. This is now 24 out of 27 sessions that the Dow has been up. That has tied for the longest record in history back in 1927. So if the Dow closes higher again today, it will be the longest number of days, or something of that nature, that it's up.

None of that matters to you, but let's take a look at how that market is working. This is two weeks after the Dow crossed 13,000, now 13,312. The S&P 500, much more important, more stocks in it, up again to 1,509. Just 18 points from its all-time record, which was back before the Internet bubble burst.

The Nasdaq, you'll notice, was down just a little bit. Why? Well, these mergers. Yesterday Alcoa, the world's biggest aluminum company, triggered a hostile takeover bid for Alcan, which is Canada's aluminum company. It's also the second biggest in the world. This merger will be worth more than $33 billion.

We've been talking about mergers for so long. Mergers give people the impression that business is good because businesses are willing to take their equity and their money and invest it in other businesses and expand. If the future didn't look bright, they simply wouldn't do that. Businesses would horde their cash, keep it around and not do anything with it.

So every time there's a merger, it makes it look like the business situation is better. And as a result, markets continue to go up. There are other reasons for it and we'll talk about those later. But right now, we're looking at a pretty hot streak for now (ph).

CHETRY: Wow. So if it closes up tomorrow, it's the all-time high?

VELSHI: That's it. That's the longest number of days that the Dow has been up forever.

CHETRY: The Cal Ripken of the Dow.

VELSHI: Now, sunshine over there, John Roberts, will tell you it's got to end at some point. So -- and he's right. I mean, markets don't always go up. But over the . . .

CHETRY: He's very bearish. He's bearish.

VELSHI: His mic is off.

Sorry, John, I didn't know you were listening.

ROBERTS: How does that song lyric go, "the future's so bright, I gotta wear shades"?

VELSHI: That's exactly it.

ROBERTS: Make sure you've got an umbrella when it starts raining.

VELSHI: I'll be there.

ROBERTS: Top stories of the morning are coming up next.

Rising rivers in the Midwest. Hundreds of people forced from their homes on top of tornado misery. A live update from the banks of the swelling Missouri River. And there you can see it as that tree slowly disappears.

And he has not even announced his intentions, but he's already riding high in at least one poll. Who and what is pushing him to run for president? And will he be the conservative choice?

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.


ROBERTS: Floods inundating parts of the heartland this morning. Homes and roads suddenly washed out, hundreds of residents forced to evacuate.

We're live with the latest pictures for you and the latest extreme weather forecast on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And good morning to you. It's Tuesday, May the 8th.

I'm John Roberts.

CHETRY: And I'm Kiran Chetry, here in New York.

Thanks for being with us today.

Some stories on our radar this morning.

As we've been talking about this extreme weather, and it's -- we only have this area in the Northeast where it seems like it's very pleasant, but at least much of the middle part of the country is really in a big mess right now. We have flooding, and that on top of the tornado devastation.

ROBERTS: Yes. It's partly because we're having such good weather here in the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic. It's acting as sort of a block and keeping all of that bad weather in the heartland of the country.

Some people went back to Greensburg yesterday to take a look at what's left of their homes. Not a whole lot. And president Bush heading out there tomorrow to take ta first-hand look at the devastation.

Also out today, a new report on World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz. Apparently, the board has concluded -- this is at least according to one report -- that he did violate their code of conduct by giving a promotion and a raise to his companion. Apparently, there's a deal being offered to the White House that if Wolfowitz goes, they'll still let the United States pick the next World Bank president. There's been some resistance to that, even though the U.S. is allowed to do that.

Wolfowitz, for his part, is vowing to stay on. But can he really survive? That's the big question today.

CHETRY: Also on our radar, Fred Thompson. He is still not an official candidate for president, but already a standout in some polls. Why? What is the appeal of this man who's an actor right now?

ROBERTS: He's well known, yes. A big guy on "Law & Order," a lot of people like him. He's also -- he's sort of the conservatives' choice, as well.

CHETRY: Right.

ROBERTS: But would he be if he actually ran? That's the big question.

CHETRY: Well, it seems like there's a hunger out there for someone else to enter, even though there's 10 in the GOP field. You know?

ROBERTS: You don't have enough at 10. Let's put 11 in the race.

We've got a lot coming up, but we begin right now with rising water in the central plains. Flood warnings up now from Iowa to Texas today. Hundreds of people being evacuated from their homes. And there you can see some of the rising water.

We're going to zoom in here to a map of the United States and show you exactly where AMERICAN MORNING'S Sean Callebs is, St. Louis -- St. Joseph, Missouri, right along the rising Missouri River there.

Sean, back in 1993, this town had a whole lot of problems. How are they faring now?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it has been an anxious couple of days, because unlike the flash flooding that hit many other plains states over the past couple of days, the Mississippi -- I mean, the Missouri people have been watching to see exactly what it's going to do.

Just to given you an idea how close it is to some of these homes that have been evacuated -- Ken, if you could just pan the camera -- if you can see the yard, it really goes right up against this house. So, if, indeed, this river continues to crest, as authorities expect it's going to, it is going to be a very, very rough day.

Want to show you just a bit -- we're standing in a couple of feet of water. Missouri obviously has jumped its banks.

They say it's about 26 feet right now and expected to go up to about 28.5. Now, if that's the case, you can see what it's going to do in this tree. It's going to move up just a little bit.

But, John, I'm no scientist, but if you look at this tree closely, it looks like the water has actually gone down a bit. We just checked with the city, and, yes, they still expect it's going to crest at 28.5, at 1:00 Central Time today, so it's going to be interesting to see what happens, because no one really knows.

They expected more intense rain in this area yesterday. They really didn't get it. And that could be some very good news for people who obviously use 1993 as a benchmark and are just simply terrified that history could repeat itself.

ROBERTS: Sean, in many areas after those 1993 floods, a lot of people either didn't come back to their homes and rebuild, or they were moved out of the immediate flood zone.


ROBERTS: What's it like there in St. Joseph? Are there still just as many people in the flood zone as there were 14 years ago?

CALLEBS: Well, you know, that's a very good point. And we can tell you that the city's water treatment plan was in an area that was affected back in 1993.

Well, they since have moved it. And they're also building a river walk area, a nature conservancy area. And they built it in such a way that it is -- they took the 100-year flood plain into account when they built that.

And a lot of people were very critical of that, saying, you know, why are we putting this so far from the water? Well, now that area is under water. So they did learn a great lesson back in 1993.

There haven't been nearly as many evacuations as they got 14 years ago. But people did learn there, learned from that time. But still, there are people in this area that are feeling it right now, and they don't know if they're going to return to wet basements tomorrow or not.

ROBERTS: Yes. And then, Sean, you can't see it very well in the dark there, but if you look very closely, you can see objects floating behind you. And it looks like...


ROBERTS: ... there's quite a big current running there, so stay away from the deep water, Sean.

We'll check back with you. Thanks very much.

CALLEBS: All right.

ROBERTS: Federal help is on the ground in devastated Greensburg, Kansas, today. President Bush is going to visit there tomorrow. FEMA is sending trailers, a lot of them that were left over from Hurricane Katrina relief. Many of the people who lost their homes in the tornado returned yesterday to search for anything that they could salvage.

Nine people were killed in that twister. People who live in Greensburg say it could have been a lot worse had it not been for the fact that they got a 20-minute warning from the National Weather Service, which, you know, by most accounts, is a pretty healthy warning.

CHETRY: It sure is.

ROBERTS: Some people only get a couple of minutes, some people get seconds.

CHETRY: That's right. And the other thing is, so many people were able to get into their basements that...

ROBERTS: Some of them left town altogether. They got in their car and just drove, just getting out.

CHETRY: And that's a dangerous thing when you're talking about a tornado that wide, and they didn't know it at the time, but 1.7 miles.

ROBERTS: Yes. It was just a huge monster.

CHETRY: An internal panel has concluded now that Paul Wolfowitz broke the rules of the World Bank. That according to a source close to the investigation. There is now tremendous pressure on Wolfowitz to resign his World Bank presidency. One of his top aides resigned yesterday, and another is suspected of writing a misleading public statement. It stems from the promotion and also raise that Wolfowitz arranged for his girlfriend, who worked for the World Bank.

Two high-ranking Los Angeles police officers are in trouble after last week's immigration rally clashes between police and marchers. Police Chief William Bratton says the top officer at the scene has been demoted. His second in command transferred.

Police were videotaped firing rubber bullets at demonstrators and journalists. Officers say they did it after the demonstrators threw rocks and bottles. Chief Bratton says the incident is now the focus of four separate investigations.

Turning now to the 2008 race for the White House.

Fred Thompson keeping the political world guessing about his presidential ambitions. He's also generating a lot of buzz with the conservatives. So, could he be the next actor-turned-president?

CNN's Candy Crowley takes a look.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Ten Republicans running for president seems like nine more than needed. So what's the deal with Fred Thompson? Why all this talk about one more?

REP. ZACH WAMP (R), TENNESSEE: Frankly, people are so hungry for this race, that the feedback I'm getting, Candy, is when? When can we go, when can we start?

CROWLEY: According to the non-campaign, the Thompson for president bandwagon includes a number of former Reagan types who are putting together a meeting with Thompson to discuss issues. The non- candidate is already pulling ahead of actual candidate Mitt Romney. A small cadre of unofficial Thompson advisers reads that as dissatisfaction with current choices.

Outside Thompsonville, they think it's more like high school dating. You want the one you don't have. FMR. REP. VIN WEBER, MITT ROMNEY SUPPORTER: At this stage in the process, it's unlikely that a party, particularly a party that is struggling a little bit as Republicans are right now, is going to look at any of their candidates and say, well, that's our savior. And so the guy that is not in the race tends to look a little better.

CROWLEY: And Thompson has done little to dissuade his fan base. He is the '08 tease on the blogs with his thoughts, on radio with his commentary, on TV with his day job. And in California's Orange County, at the Lincoln Club, a.k.a. rich Republican territory, the folksy Thompson talked Republican stuff -- small government and muscular foreign policy.

FRED THOMPSON, ACTOR: Even though we won't be going around in the woods trying to find any bears to kill, sometimes the bear visits you, whether you're looking for him or not.

CROWLEY: It was his debut political speech, but Thompson got panned as uninspiring. The thing is, even with a bad performance, there's something about Fred.

MICHAEL SHEAR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Despite the fact that it was a kind of rambling speech, despite the fact that it didn't, you know, make the crowd stand up and applaud on their feet, he's got the voice, he's got the stature and the size and the presence.

CROWLEY: In short, he looks the part, he talks the part. Fred Thompson is often described as Reaganesque, which is pretty much all you have to say to make Republicans swoon.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


ROBERTS: We'll be talking more about Fred Thompson's possible leap into the race with Laura Ingraham. The host of "The Laura Ingraham Show" coming up in just a couple of hours. So, if you can, stick around for that.

Coming up, fire, rain, flood, extreme weather around the country. We'll talk with emergency management folks in Missouri as we look at live pictures of the rising Missouri River in St. Joseph.

Plus, wildfires burning right now in Florida and Minnesota. The latest pictures and threats for more flare-ups ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

The most news in the morning is on CNN.


CHETRY: Wildfires burning out of control in northern Minnesota, and also central Florida. At least 600 families are out of their homes in Bradford County, Florida. At least 260 fires are burning across Florida, many of them sparked by lightning. And Georgia's largest ever wildfire is still burning. More than 100,000 acres burned over three weeks in the southeast part of the state. Lightning started new fires Monday in the Okefenokee Swamp.

Well, from wildfires to the devastating aftermath of the tornadoes, one town nearly wiped away, struggling this morning to recover.

Rob Marciano is live there in Greensburg, Kansas, with more for us.

Hi, Rob.


It will be another day where the residents come in here to pick up their valuables, go through what's left of their home. The good news is that weather will be cooperating, not only today, but as we go on through the rest of the week.


CHETRY: That's a good way to put it, it is what it is, there's nothing we can do about it except try to forecast it. Thanks, Rob.

ROBERTS: Forty-eight minutes now after the hour.

As we have been telling you this morning, the Missouri River is going to crest in the next couple of hours in St. Joseph. Evacuations are already under way. The governor has declared a state of emergency.

Mary Robertson is the spokeswoman for the city of St. Joseph, Missouri. She joins us now from that same back yard where Sean Callebs was showing us how the Missouri River is rising.

Mary, what is the situation there in St. Joseph? What's the typical flood stage? Where is the river at now, and where is it expected to go?

MARY ROBERTSON, SPOKESWOMAN, ST. JOSEPH, MISSOURI: The flood stage in Missouri and St. Joseph is at 17 feet. However, we don't experience any flooding problems until around 24, 25 feet. The flood stage right now is at 25.5. We're expected to crest today about 1:00 p.m. at 28.5.

ROBERTS: Wow. So, that would be about three and a half feet away from where it was in 1993.

Compare for us, how has the rain been this spring to what it was back in 1993?

ROBERTSON: In 1993, for probably two and a half to three weeks preceding the flood, we were just inundated with heavy rains day in and day out. In this particular case, we had some heavy rains just over the last several days, creating a very rapid rise in the river. ROBERTS: And because of the fact that it hasn't been raining for as long, do you expect that once the river crests, the ground may not be as saturated as it was 14 years ago, and therefore the river levels may go down a little quicker?

ROBERTSON: We are anticipating river levels to recede a lot more rapidly than what they did in 1993, yes.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, that's something to look forward to, at least.

What are you doing in terms of sandbagging operations, possible evacuations there in St. Joseph?

ROBERTSON: On Sunday evening, we did a mandatory evacuation of a small area in the northeast -- northwestern section of the city that sits on the river itself. We have been sandbagging three areas, one with the wastewater treatment facility to protect it from being compromised by floodwaters. There are a couple of gaps in the Missouri River levee that needed to have sandbags filled there, as well.

ROBERTS: You moved the water treatment plant after the 1993 floods, but you've still got some facilities that are in the danger zone? Including that wastewater treatment plant?

ROBERTSON: Yes. Our wastewater treatment plant is in the area that we were watching at this point.

ROBERTS: All right.

Well, Mary Robertson, spokeswoman from the town of St. Joseph.

Thanks for being with us. We've got our intrepid Sean Callebs there. He's a good man. He'll keep an eye on the town there and he'll keep us apprised of the situation there throughout the day.

Thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

ROBERTSON: Thank you.

CHETRY: Well, yesterday, Greg Hunter showed us first hand how too many energy drinks can cause real health concerns. Well, today, news that one of them is being pulled from the shelves nationwide. The energy drink marketed under the name Cocaine no longer allowed.

Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Fifty-four minutes now after the hour.

The maker of the energy drink called Cocaine has pulled it from store shelves nationwide. The FDA had warned the company last month that it was illegally marketing the drink as a street drug alternative and dietary supplement. Redux will relaunch the energy drink under a new name.

Yesterday we brought you a story on energy drinks and some of the health-related concerns with certain brands. That was brought to us by Greg Hunter. You can catch Greg's report on that story any time on Just log on and follow the links.

CHETRY: OK. A bit of history. The last time we saw Ali Velshi here on the set with our business news, John Roberts said, "The future is so bright, you've got to wear shades, but bring your umbrella."

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. It was a warning.

So the question is, is it shades or is it the umbrella? We're talking about the stock market here, all right? We're talking about the fact that the Dow is almost at the hottest streak that it's been in 80 years.

Now, the problem is, what do you do about this?

Remember one lesson we learned from the '90s, the late '90s, is that momentum is no reason to invest in stocks. The fact that it's all going up doesn't mean you should be on that boat. But should you or shouldn't you? And I'm going to give you some valid reasons why this stock is going up.

Forget the blah, blah, blah about earnings, and forget the blah, blah, blah about mergers. There are three major reasons why stocks are going up.

Companies are making money. Fundamentally, that's what it's about.

Number two, bonds, which are an alternate investment for people, particularly wealthy people, they just don't pay enough interest right now. They're very low. Interest rates are low, so bonds are low.

Number three, real estate, which has been a remarkable investment over the years, is just not a sure thing right now. So if you want to make money, it's not going into real estate.

Where is it going to go? It's not going into bonds. It's going into stocks.

And number four, there are fewer companies -- we hear about these mergers and these takeovers and they go private. There's just not enough out there to buy. It is purely demand for stocks. Supply is not there to meet demands. So, umbrella...

CHETRY: So which one is it? Are you keeping on your shades?

VELSHI: I'm saying make your own decision. I carry an umbrella all the time in my briefcase, but...

ROBERTS: He looks great in shades. He looks like a young Telly Savalas, doesn't he?

CHETRY: He does, which I'm sure is exactly what he was going for.

Now this, by the way, is the coolest umbrella ever. You push it to open it...

VELSHI: Open it, and you push it to close it.

CHETRY: ... and you push it to close it. You can't put it over your head, though, my mother told me. Never do that. Never do that inside.

VELSHI: Oh, is that right?

CHETRY: It's bad luck.

VELSHI: Oh, well then I guess I better keep it...


ROBERTS: Thanks, Ali.


ROBERTS: From Iowa to Texas, the waters are rising. Places like Missouri face flooding like they haven't seen in more than a decade. We're going to take you back live there coming up.

And Dr. Sanjay Gupta pays a house call. He's here in New York City today, and he's going to look at some potentially harmful ingredients showing up in cough syrup produced in China.

Sanjay will explain it all next when AMERICAN MORNING returns.

The most news in the morning is on CNN.