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American Morning

Race Now the Dominating Campaign Issue on the Democratic Side; New Polls Out This Morning Showing a Stunning Shift in the Heated Battle for The White House; Search for a Marine Accused Of Killing Pregnant Colleague

Aired January 14, 2008 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry. We begin with the race for the White House. And a growing controversy, race now the dominating campaign issue on the Democratic side right now as attacks between the Clinton and Obama camps escalated all weekend. It began with Clinton's remark that Dr. Martin Luther King's dream was not realized until President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.
Critics say that comment diminishes the performance of Dr. King. Clinton charges that the criticism is coming from the Barack Obama camp which he says is not true.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am baffled by that statement by the senator. She made an ill-advised statement about Dr. King and suggesting that Lyndon Johnson had more to do with the Civil Rights Act.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was responding to a speech that Senator Obama gave in New Hampshire where he did compare himself to President Kennedy and Dr. King.


CHETRY: Well that got even hotter when Robert Johnson, the founder of the B.E.T. Network jumped to Clinton's defense.


ROBERT JOHNSON, FOUNDER, BLACK ENTERTAINMENT TV: Hillary and Bill Clinton who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues -- when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in his book.


CHETRY: Well, Johnson denies he was referring to Obama's past drug use. The Obama campaign though, is not buying it. Former President Clinton joined CNN contributor Roland Martin. He was on his radio show, in fact, just a few minutes ago, and we're going to turn on the tape for you, hear what he said and talk with Roland coming up at the bottom of the hour.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: A new polls out this morning, showing a stunning shift in the heated battle for the White House. A new ABC News/"Washington Post" survey has Senator Hillary Clinton still on top but Senator Barack Obama surging. A 25-point swing in the polls since December.

On the Republican side, Senator John McCain win in New Hampshire helped him become the national frontrunner. He is followed now by Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. The economy is the primary issue in the state of Michigan. Earlier on AMERICAN MORNING, I asked Mike Huckabee if like other candidates he has an economic stimulus plan to prevent the country from tipping into a recession or even just softening the blow.


MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For short term, we also need to be looking at our oil reserves to try to do everything we can to hold the price of fuel down. That's part of what's driving the recession. A lot of times people forget that if your gasoline cost goes up, it's not just getting to and from work that cost more. Everything you reach for on the shelves of your grocery store cost more, because it cost more money to transport it to the marketplace.


ROBERTS: And to underscore the importance of economic issues in Michigan, all three Republican candidates are expected to appear at the Detroit Auto Show later on today.

And remember keep it right here for the "Most Politics in the Morning," starting tomorrow through Super Tuesday. We'll be visiting battleground states beginning with the Michigan primary. We'll look at the issues driving votes there.

Mitt Romney has called Michigan a quote, "one-state recession." The pain there over the economy is rippling across the country as well. We'll be talking about what's important to your job, your health, your home, your vote. We've got the team to help you decide. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Gerri Willis, Ali Velshi, and Chris Lawrence join us on the road. First stop Michigan for the "Most Politics in the Morning," beginning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern.

And join me tonight in primetime. I'll be live from Michigan along with Anderson Cooper. We'll be here at the CNN election center in New York, 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.


CHETRY: Well, there's a look right now at Columbus Circle in the Time Warner Center. It looks like cloudy skies but no snow. New York City spared. A big nor'easter missing the big apple this morning. Live picture again, right outside of our studios here. There were some wet sidewalks and that's pretty much about it.

But it's a different story as we head further north where heavy snow is already falling in Boston. In fact, the mayor declaring a snow emergency. All the public schools are closed there in Boston as they try to get those roadways cleared. Plows working overtime for sure and the snow making for a messy commute across New England this morning. But the storm is expected to move out this afternoon.

We take a look right now and it's the areas in pink and white that have the most concern when it comes to a mix of snow and rain. Rob Marciano, of course the expert on all that, we're going to check in with him in a couple of minutes. He is up in Hartford, Connecticut today and he's getting his fair share of snow. They're expecting about four inches by this afternoon, John, and possibly as much as a foot or more when it's all said and done.

ROBERTS: Yes and its playing havoc with travel in the northeastern corridor as well. Lots of flights being canceled as well. Check before you go out to the airport this morning.

Well, President Bush never has any flight delays. He's expected to land in Saudi Arabia in the next half hour. He is asking allies to support Israeli/Palestinian peace and stand up to Iran. On Sunday, he called Iran the world's leading state sponsor of terror. CNN's White House correspondent, Ed Henry, arrive in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, ahead of the president this morning. Ed, what's the president's message for the Saudis today?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, John. Certainly, promoting peace and pushing back against Iran. The president is going to be visiting with King Abdullah at his farm near Riyadh. This is a reciprocal visit. Because, you remember, the king had visited Mr. Bush at his Texas Ranch.

But first, this morning, Mr. Bush is wrapping up his time in the United Arab Emirates, meeting with some children, some young Arab leaders. His message basically talking up his freedom agenda, an alternative to extremism in the region. Mr. Bush saying he believes the Arab people are ready for Democracy to be spread throughout the Mid-East. However, Mr. Bush now coming to Saudi Arabia, obviously a place where women still are not allowed to vote.

There's a Saudi blogger who's been in prison for over a month without any charges. A reminder clearly that a lot of progress still needs to be made in this region and another big topic of course is Iran. A lot of concern here about Iran potentially destabilizing this region further by trying to obtain nuclear weapons.

But there's also lot confusion in this region, given the fact that U.S. report had suggested that in fact, now Iran has halted its nuclear weapons program. Mr. Bush's message there is that Iran could restart that nuclear weapons program at any time. That's why they need to be stopped now, and also Mr. Bush likely this week to make official the fact that he's approving a $20 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia to try and show that the U.S. is ready to protect its Arab allies in this region.


ROBERTS: You know, Ed, the view of America in many of those countries is not particularly great. The fact that President Bush is visiting these countries, could that help to forge better relations or might that just be seen by rank and file Arabs as him, you know, kowtowing to the monarchies there?

HENRY: His certainly hoping that it will help. The fact of the matter is freedom agenda which he laid out so strongly in the second inaugural address in 2005 is struggling in this region right now. In large part because exhibit A for that agenda, spreading Democracy in Iraq hasn't not exactly worked out. It's brought some instability. The president basically trying to plead patience saying Democracy doesn't take place overnight. The transition is messy, but obviously that has raised eyebrows in this region about whether his agenda is really bringing more stability or more instability.


ROBERTS: Ed Henry for us this morning in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Ed, thanks.


CHETRY: All right. Well now, the search for a marine accused of killing a pregnant colleague and then going on the run. Our Ed Lavandera is live for us in Jacksonville, North Carolina. A lot of questions being asked this morning of officials at Camp Lejeune about whether or not they did enough to protect this girl after she accused that very marine of raping her.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Kiran. And it's day four of this manhunt for Marine Corporal Cesar Laurean. But there are still remains serious questions about whether or not, the U.S. Marine Corps did enough early on when Maria Lauterbach was first reported missing. Did they do enough to help local authorities? Her family doesn't think so. And one local official here, asked me over the weekend, where are the marines?


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Late Saturday night reports started surfacing that Marine Corporal Cesar Laurean was seen at a bus station in Shreveport, Louisiana. North Carolina authorities now say, it probably wasn't the man they're looking for, but they're still confident that they're closing in on the suspected murderer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do feel comfortable that his vacation will be short, his travel may be long, but I hope we'll be there to help him return.

LAVANDERA: Corporal Laurean vanished just hours before the bodies believed to be those of Maria Lauterbach and her unborn baby were found in the backyard of Laurean's home. Investigator says he left a note claiming he buried Lauterbach's body because she had killed herself. But authorities say blood evidence in the house proves otherwise, calling Laurean a liar and a killer.

ED BROWN, ONSLOW COUNTY SHERIFF: If he's telling it like he wants to tell it, it would be foolish to run from what he claims happened.

LAVANDERA: But why did it take so long for civilian investigators to focus on Laurean? Many law enforcement experts say he should have been an initial suspect in Lauterbach's disappearance. He had been accused of raping her and she had filed a protective order against him and Lauterbach's family tells CNN that the marine command didn't do enough to protect her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The marines let Maria down. She was being harassed. She went back on the rape story the week before she disappeared, and -- and due to harassment that she was getting.

LAVANDERA: Sheriff Ed Brown says his investigators didn't learn of Laurean's name until January 7th, 20 days after she was reported missing. Investigators say Lauterbach's mother, not marine investigators gave them Laurean's connection to the case and it wasn't until last Friday that the sheriff says they were told about the military protective order.


LAVANDERA: And they found out about that order only after finding it in Maria Lauterbach's car. We have tried repeatedly for the last -- almost a week now to get some sort of questions answered from the Marine Corps here at Camp Lejeune. Only late last night did we finally get a statement from them, saying that it was pre-mature to discuss this situation and that marine commander are, quote, "Currently collecting information and conducting a review to determine when and what information was available to marine commanders."


CHETRY: All right. Ed Lavandera in North Carolina for us. Just a programming note, we are going to be talking with the sheriff in charge of the investigation, Ed Brown. He joins me just a couple of moments about the new evidence and also the latest on the manhunt coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

ROBERTS: Lots of other stories making news this morning. Our Alina Cho is here with more on that. Good morning, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, John, Kiran, good morning again. Good morning, everybody. New this morning, details just coming in to CNN of a dangerous rescue at sea. This is new video coming in to us as well. A cargo ship took on water in the English Channel this morning. It happened in stormy weather and high seas. All 20 crew members have been rescued from the Greek registered ship. 12 were lifted off by helicopter. Another 8 had to jump on to a rescue boat.

Weather in the area remains bad with 16-foot swells and gale- force winds.

Princess Diana's former butler and close friend is testifying today. The formal inquest into her death. Paul Burrell said Diana was not planning to marry boyfriend Dodi Fayed. Fayed's family claims the couple was killed because they did plan to get married. Burrell is also expected to talk about a letter Diana sent to him in which she said, quote, "My husband is planning an accident in my car." Burrell work for Diana for more than a decade and during that time the two became very close. The Princess of Wales was killed in a Paris car crash in 1997.

A record number of tourists to the Big Apple. New York City welcomed 46 million visitors in 2007. Thanks to the lower value of the dollar. In part you're looking live there at Columbus Circle right outside our studios. According to records that's 2.3 million more visitors than in 2006, by the way, and while here, Mayor Mike Bloomberg says tourists spent an estimated $28 billion seeing the sites.

So far the mess of our home loans is not spilling over into car loans. That's just yet. General motors top financial boss says non- payments went up just two tenths of one percent. That's not even close to the default scene in the mortgage mess.

The defending champs are heading home. The Indianapolis Colts lost to the San Diego Chargers yesterday, 28-24. The Chargers now head to New England to play the 17-0 New England Patriots. So the Colts' Peyton Manning heads home but there will be a, Manning, playing next week. Peyton's brother, Eli Manning, and the New York Giants are heading to Green Bay for the NFC title game after sweating out their divisional playoff against the Dallas Cowboys. The winner of that next stake in, by the way, goes to the Super Bowl. They blew one 21- 17.

And after yesterday's game between the Giants and Cowboys, Terrell Owens got a little bit emotional defending his teammate Tony Romo. He said Romo's vacation to Mexico last week with his girlfriend Jessica Simpson did not cost the Cowboys the game.


TERRELL OWENS, WIDE RECEIVER, DALLAS COWBOYS: You can talk about the vacation, and if you do that, it's really unfair. It's really unfair. It's my team -- it's my quarterback. And if you guy do that, man, it's unfair. We lost as a team. We lost as team, man.


CHO: He must have known it was coming. The reason for the sunglasses. Owens caught heat a couple of weeks ago for saying Simpson should stay home after Romo played poorly with her there. Owens later said, he was joking.


CHETRY: He worked hard on his sleeve. You know, when he scores the touchdown, he always had some dance or some, you know, routine planned out, and now when he loses.

CHO: Got to love a man who can try.

ROBERTS: It was a great game yesterday. You know?

CHETRY: It was. It was exciting up to the very last couple of second.

Alina is like...

CHO: Yes, I didn't watch it.

CHETRY: Poor Alina is looking to the "New York Post." Looking at last year's Golden Globe's fashion, because...

CHO: There are not any one this year.

CHETRY: They're just as good.

CHO: Yes, they are.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks, Alina.

CHO: You bet.

CHETRY: Well, there are some new kings at the weekend box office. "The Bucket List" grabbed the top spot this weekend. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play two terminally ill cancer patients who go on a global adventure. "The Bucket List" made $19.5 million taking it to top spot. And also now playing at Netflix, unlimited access to movies and TV shows over the internet. Netflix expanding a feature that allows customers to stream movies instead of waiting for DVD rentals to arrive in the mail. That change, by the way, takes effect today.

And we have a beef recall to tell you about. 90 tons of it. A major recall. Does it have to do with what you are buying and what's in your refrigerator or what you eat at the restaurants? We're going to break it down for you and tell you where you need to keep an eye out when it comes to eating meat.

Also a marine on the run. There are some new tips, new evidence in the hunt for the man charged with the murder of a fellow marine who was eight months' pregnant. We're live with the sheriff who is heading up the investigation, next on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. A nationwide manhunt taking place right now for this marine. Cesar Armando Laurean, we're going to see him in a moment, charged with the murder of a fellow marine, 20-year-old, Maria Lauterbach. She was eight months pregnant. Authorities say that they recovered what they believe to be the burned remains of Lauterbach and her unborn child from a fire pit in Laurean's backyard.

That's where they say the suspect burned and buried her body. Well now, there have been some possible sightings of Laurean. Perhaps at a bus station in Shreveport, Louisiana, possibly on a bus headed for Texas. Sheriff Ed Brown is in charge of the manhunt. He joins us now from Jacksonville, North Carolina. Sheriff Brown, good morning and thanks for being with us.


CHETRY: First of all, sheriff, bring us up to date on the investigation. There was talk that there were sightings, possibly of Laurean and then talk that perhaps this eyewitness got it wrong. Do you have any new information this morning?

BROWN: I don't know that I can say they got it wrong. I'm saying that it didn't produce him. However, to say that they were wrong, we check in all our leads, all sightings and try to validate them. And we appreciate the person calling regardless of whether it works out or not.

CHETRY: Any sighting of his vehicle, of his truck?

BROWN: There has been a sighting supposedly of his truck, but realize, that this is 2004 Dodge Quad Cab truck, black in color, and its not the only one in the United States. There has been someone saying, they have seen it, and in the area they saw it, it is a curiosity to us.

CHETRY: There's been a lot of criticism coming from Lauterbach's family. They're blaming, first of all -- or they're questioning the decision of the marine authorities not to do more when she was on the base with Lance Corporal Laurean. At the same time, there is some questions about why it took so long for him to be pinpointed as a suspect after she had accused him of rape? What can you explain to us about how that initial questioning and possible detainment went?

BROWN: Well, first of all, we -- the federal government on the base operates as the federal government, a different unity of government from the civilian side, and it is not -- after looking into the case knowing what little bit I do know about it, it's not been an issue to make the civilian world aware of the issue, because it was on a low -- low command level, such low command level, and at that time, it -- from what I understand, it really, with the expiration of the MPO.

The Military Protective Order going out in September, it could have been dormant. However, putting this thing in perspective, I knew neither Lauterbach nor Laurean, except when she got reported missing on the 19th. You know, hindsight is 20/20, but she got missing on the 19th, and evidence says that she was killed on the 15th. So regardless of what could have been done, we couldn't go back and undo the murder that took place by Laurean in this case.

CHETRY: Right, because you're saying it was not brought to the attention of the civilian police. It was something that was being handled on base up until that point. There are some gruesome details, and we were not going to get to all of them, but one that may have to do with the case, there's reports of blood on the walls in Laurean's home, a home that he shared with his wife. What is the status of her? Is she a possible suspect or accomplice as well?

BROWN: I hope by press time this morning, 10:00, we will be able to answer some questions that we haven't been able to answer, and I'll leave that remark to the press time.

CHETRY: All right, Sheriff Ed Brown, Onslow County, North Carolina, investigating this tragic case of the murder of this marine. Thanks for being with us this morning.

BROWN: Good morning. Have a good day.

ROBERTS: Coming up on 21 minutes after the hour, danger on the dinner table. A warning about potentially tainted ground beef and the huge recall underway. And hundreds take to the subways without their pants. Why the bare legs? Find out ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: If you saw something strange on the subway this weekend, you weren't alone. Hundreds of people in 10 cities took part in the annual no pants subway ride. There you have it. Wow. You know, and sometimes the subways are so packed, (INAUDIBLE), imagine being pressed up against -- who knows for how long?

Well, in Boston about 100 people rode the "T" in their tighty- whities and boxers. And 900 people did it here in New York City, where the tradition begins back in 2002. A group of comedians and actors came up with the idea. They said they wanted to put on bizarre, anonymous pranks to quote, "Spread chaos and joy." You know, the scary thing is New York is just so strange, most people probably didn't notice. They had no pants on in the subway.

ROBERTS: Thank goodness it's only one day a year.

The Michigan primary is tomorrow and the Republicans running for president are focusing their attention on the economy. It has the highest unemployment rate and a huge number of foreclosures. In fact, sixth in the nation. Many are now hoping for a turnaround with the news that the Bank of America is buying Countrywide Mortgage, the nation's largest mortgage lender.

CNN's personal finance editor Gerri Willis out to Michigan to check it out. She is in a neighborhood in Shelby Township just north of Detroit. She joins us there. Gerri, what are you finding in this community?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, John. Well, on this street alone, there are eight foreclosures. Foreclosures are an epidemic here in Michigan and even it's affecting these high-income communities. These are Mac (ph) mansions here that you're seeing. Let me show you some of the houses that are in foreclosure. This house right here originally sold $730,000. Now it is on the market for $480,000. Next door, another foreclosure, right next door. This house, the owners paid $650,000 for it, John. It's now on the market for $420,000.

Across the street, another foreclosure. This one was recently sold. Now this house was $760,000. Imagine the sale now, $400,000. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of value, wiped out, gone. That house was 3,000 square foot, three beds, four baths, a beautiful place, but the value destroyed.


ROBERTS: That's incredible. So what's the latest on the Countrywide deal? And how might it affect people facing foreclosure? Not just there in Michigan but across the country as well?

WILLIS: Well, you know, we've talked a lot about Countrywide and the difficulties they've had in changing some of these mortgages for people who are in trouble with adjustable rate mortgage reset. I think, you can expect some improvement here with the Bank of America coming in. They're much better capitalized. They really have the bandwidth to help people out. And actually they take a lot of pride in servicing mortgages. It's a gold-plated operation. That's the way they like to describe it.

So there could be help for people out there. If you've got a countrywide mortgage and you're having problems with a toxic loan, as we've described them before, you might want to immediately contact them, but to give you an idea here, John. I just want to show you something. This is the legal newspaper here from this county, Macomb County. They came out once a week. Now they come out twice a week. You know why? Because they have to handle all the foreclosure notices. There are 134 foreclosure notices in this week's issue alone. So you can see what's going on here.


ROBERTS: Wow. Yes, it's just a really, really hard hit. And that's a lovely neighborhood you're in there, too. Gerri, thanks very much. And we'll see you in Michigan tomorrow.

AMERICAN MORNING going on the road to bring you the "Most Politics in the Morning," starting tomorrow through Super Tuesday. We'll be touching down in the battlegrounds beginning with the Michigan primary. We'll look at the issues driving votes there. The pain over the economy that's rippling across the country. We'll talk about what's important to your job, your health, your home, and to your vote.

We've got a team in place to help you decide. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Gerri Willis there, Ali Velshi and Chris Lawrence, all joining us in the road. First stop Michigan for the "Most Politics in the Morning," beginning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern.

CHETRY: Well, some surprising names linked to steroids. Surprise because they are high profile celebrities but they don't play sports. We're going to have that story coming up.

Also, exclusive reaction from Former President Clinton just coming in to us within the last half hour. We're going to hear what he has to say about the big campaign blowup between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. That story in today's headlines when AMERICAN MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Beautiful outside shot today of Boston, Massachusetts, City Hall Plaza where it's 34 degrees and snowing. It feels like 24 degrees and I think we've seen the snow pile up a little bit since we took that shot a couple of hours ago.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: There is no question. It's sticking.

CHETRY: How about it? Welcome, it's Monday, January 14th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

ROBERTS: And I'm John Roberts. Good morning to you. You can imagine too the travel problems that we're going to have in New England today.

CHETRY: We're already seeing a little taste of that, right, with some flights that you were scheduled to be on this morning.

ROBERTS: I managed to get myself out on one a little bit later on today. So hopefully it will get me to Michigan in time.

And new this morning, chances are you're paying more at the pump this morning. Gasoline prices jumped nearly 10 cents in the last three weeks going back over the $3 mark. According to, the current national average is $3.07. Hawaii's got the highest average at $3.48 a gallon, Missouri the lowest at $2.88.

A huge meat recall, all over an e. coli scare. Rochester Meat Company in Minnesota is recalling 90,000 tons of ground beef. The move comes after five people were reported sick in Wisconsin and another in California. The USDA says the bad beef was produced between October 30th and November 6th, but was sent only to restaurants and food services. So it wasn't on the super market shelves for people to buy.

CHETRY: Well it could be a medical breakthrough. Scientists are exploring new treatments for heart disease, an example, to grow a rat's heart in a jar and get it to start beating. The University of Minnesota researchers took a rat's dead heart, stripped away all of the cells, then injected heart cells from newborn rats and within a week, the heart was beating and pumping again.


DORIS TAYLOR, U. OF MINN RESEARCHER: What we've done is hopefully open a door to the idea that we can actually begin to build not just pieces of tissue and organs, but build organs. It's really been science fiction in the past and we'd like to think that we've helped make it science.


CHETRY: The next step is repeating the process with a pig heart which the researchers say looks and acts like a human heart. They hope one day to create new organs that could save millions of lives.

Some are calling it her most significant hearing to date, but there's no telling whether or not Britney Spears will actually appear in court. She's due in court today in her child custody battle. A judge took away all of her visitation rights after that well- publicized standoff last week when she refused to return her two children to her ex-husband Kevin Federline. Federline is expected to testify today about that incident. Meanwhile, the website is among those reporting that Spears was seen partying over the weekend with her new boyfriend in the same white-laced dress that she wore to the wedding reception when she married Kevin Federline. A British newspaper is also reporting Spears is considering marrying him to help win back her children.

Well, celebrities linked to steroid shipments. The Albany, New York "Times Union" reports that rappers 50 Cent, (INAUDIBLE) and Wycliffe John (ph), as well as singer Mary J. Blige all received either steroids or human growth hormone. None of the celebrities is accused of breaking any laws. The investigation is going after the anti-aging clinics and pharmacies that prescribed the drugs. The investigation already exposed several major league baseball players as having received steroids or human growth hormones.

ROBERTS: Republican candidates are making a final push in Michigan ahead of tomorrow's primary there. The economy is the number one issue. Native son Mitt Romney calls Michigan a quote, one-state recession that has the nation's highest unemployment rate at 7.4 percent. Mike Huckabee is also addressing economic concerns in Michigan and beyond. Earlier on AMERICAN MORNING, I asked him if he had a plan to keep the country out of a recession or at east soften the blow.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Several things we need to do, one of which is to make sure we don't raise taxes and if possible cut the marginal tax rates so that people have a reason not only to invest, but to have more of their money. We need to be looking into the long-term solution, which is to get rid of the income tax and all of the taxes on productivity and go to a consumption tax. But short term, we also need to be looking at our oil reserves to try to do everything we can to hold the price of fuel down. That's part of what's driving the recession. A lot of times people forget that if your gasoline cost goes up, it's not just getting to and from work that costs more. Everything you reach for on the shelf of your grocery store costs more because it costs more money to transport it to the marketplace.


ROBERTS: On this last day of campaigning before tomorrow's Michigan primary, Romney, Huckabee and John McCain will all appear at the Detroit auto show.

Thirty five minutes after the hour. We're hearing from former President Bill Clinton about the dispute between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Within the last half hour, he spoke with CNN contributor Roland Martin on the radio. Roland is the host of "The Roland Martin Show" and he joins us this morning. So overall, how was it, Roland?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it was pretty interesting. That took up about 15 minutes. He'll talk to WVON in Chicago and look, I put the questions right to him for him to answer, linked (ph) to the Bob Johnson comments, his whole notion of race. He was very clear. Look, the Obama campaign, they've been making some personal attacks. He even cited some 80 some odd comments that he said he had pulled to showcase that.

ROBERTS: Let's take a little bit of a listen to some of what he told you and then we'll get you to comment on it.



BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: This is the first time I've heard it, what you just said. I listened to it on the tape and I think we have to take it at his word. Let me say my real response is -- when I said what I did, the Obama campaign went right out and told everybody I had attacked his campaign or him as being a fairy tale which is not true. I've always personally complimented Senator Obama in hundreds and hundreds appearances on Hillary's behalf, but they -- this to me, is another example of their wanting a double standard.


ROBERTS: Roland what he said, first time I've heard it, I think we have to take it at his word, it's what he's talking about Bob Johnson from BET, suggesting that the Clintons were working on civil rights sort of carrying on the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King at the same time that Barack Obama was back in the neighborhood doing whatever it was that I won't mention, he talked about it in this book. Many people think he was talking about that drug use that he admitted to.

MARTIN: There's no doubt. If you really -- if you just sit there as a casual observer and you listen to Bob Johnson's tone, his inflection, sort of -- I'm not going to talk about that. What he was doing in the neighborhood, it was in his book. We all know what that means. He comes says, I was talking about him being a community organizer. John, come on. You and I know. You really want to talk about him being a community organizer, you wouldn't mention it. But again, be being in the gray area you get to dance around it.

So folks have been calling my show all morning since we finished the interview really going after Bob Johnson on this and, look, he knows, he knew what was going on. But this whole battle over race and I really get a lot with President Clinton, look, what's going on here? This battle with race between these two candidates, because look, South Carolina is coming up and they all know that is a huge state. It's a precursor to February 5th because black voters make up nearly half of the Democratic primary voters. ROBERTS: So what's your sense of how this is all going to play in South Carolina?

MARTIN: First of all, it's already playing, the state newspaper over the weekend say the Clintons are facing a backlash. Of course, Bob Johnson was there with Senator Clinton yesterday. It is no doubt going to be the talk of barber shops, of salons, of radio there as well. It's a very tricky issue. Remember when Congressman Clyburn, when he came out on Friday, I mean he pretty much -- he thought he was putting a stop to it by saying, look, there's no sense -- we don't have these comments stopped, I may very well endorse somebody. I thought that pretty much was going to sort of ease what took place. I really think Johnson's comment yesterday re-ignited this whole debate.

ROBERTS: All right. We'll see where it goes. Roland Martin, good job with President Clinton this morning. Thanks for sharing with us.

MARTIN: Back to the radio, John.

ROBERTS: All right. Get going.

And we've been asking what you think about all this. Our quick vote question asks, did you find the Clintons' comments offensive to either Obama or MLK? Right now, 42 percent of you say yes, 58 percent say no. Cast your vote at You still got a little bit of time. We'll tally your votes throughout the rest of this half hour, bring you a final one just before we turn it over to "Newsroom" at the top of the hour. Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, snow is falling across New England this morning. We're going to get a live report from our Rob Marciano coming up.

And still ahead, he shot to stardom on MTV, but for his new gig, Tom Green doesn't even have to leave the comforts of his own home. We're going to explain coming up ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Live picture this morning from our friends at WCVB in Boston, a nor'easter moving across New England this morning and snow piling up on the ground there in downtown Boston where the mayor declared a snow emergency. Before the storm moves out this afternoon some areas could get as much as 14 inches. Our Rob Marciano is outside in the snow in Hartford, Connecticut this morning where it looks it's not quite as bad as it is in Boston. They are definitely getting the brunt of what we've seen so far. Rob?


CHETRY: There's no place like home but to do a talk show. Actor and comedian Tom Green has done everything from public access to major motion pictures and now he broadcasts his nightly talk show on the Internet and TV simultaneously, all from the comforts of his own living room. Check it out.


TOM GREEN, HOST, "TOM GREEN'S HOUSE TONIGHT": Hello. We're live right now on the television, actually. Welcome to my house. This is my bedroom here, used to be my bedroom. We've turned it into an edit bay. I see we have a few guests coming up. And we've turned my home into a talk show set.


CHETRY: Tom Green joins us now from the set of his new show "Tom Green's House Tonight." Hey Tom, good to see you this morning. Thanks for getting up with us.

GREEN: Yeah, good morning Kiran. How you doing? Nice to be here.

CHETRY: Pretty good. We're glad to have you. So you're doing something pretty unique. We were doing this out of your home for a while on the Internet. Now it's expanded to Internet and television simultaneously. How does it work?

GREEN: Yeah. I'm sitting here in my living room right now, actually. This is the talk show desk we've put in here. This is the desk actually that we had on my old MTV show. And I was going to give you a little tour of the room, if want to see what we've done here. You can see we've got a lighting grid on the ceiling. Right? We've got a talk show curtain. And we're having a lot of fun. We've actually been doing the show for about a year here. I'm wrapped up in the cable there. We've been doing the show about a year here on the Internet but we've just syndicated on to television. So we've built a control room in the corner of my living room. And we've got a switcher. We've got bleachers and it's a lot of fun. We're on several (INAUDIBLE) across the United States now and we're on Canadian television on the Comedy Network up there and then live on every night at 6:00. It's a lot of fun.

CHETRY: You didn't get this idea from Kramer, the "Seinfeld" character, when he got the Merv Griffin set in his living room, did you?

GREEN: It's a little bit of that and a little of Rupert Tuchman (ph), the king of comedy. It's a little bit weird, but we have a fun time here. It's actually not a total parody talk show. We have real guests up. Val Kilmer came up on Friday night and Perez Hilton and Tony Hawke and we do a show five nights a week. It's a lot of fun. We take phone calls.

CHETRY: We have a clip, Tom --

GREEN: Got one of these.

CHETRY: You do. You're doing the whole entire thing from your living room and complete with your panel there. But we do have a quite unique take on how you greet guests. Let's check it out when Val Kilmer came to your house.

GREEN: All right. Cool. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREEN: Let's see what's going on here. Oh -- there he is. Hello there, sir.


GREEN: Come on in. Thanks for coming.


GREEN: Happy New Year. Thanks for coming. Come on in. We are on the air.


GREEN: Yeah. We are live. We are on the air. Perez Hilton is here. Val Kilmer, everybody!


CHETRY: Aside from having it in your house like that, how is your show different than let's say some of the other late-night comedy shows, in terms of what you're able to do because you have less restrictions, obviously?

GREEN: Yeah, there's less restrictions. I mean being in a house, it really does create kind a sort of a fun atmosphere. People let their guard down a little bit. You know, it's also interactive using the Internet. People can call in on the phone but also using videoconferencing programs, like Skype (ph) or Ichat. So the guest can actually - the guest is sitting here and can look right into this computer. And we have people calling in from around the world and talking live. So it's really interactive and it's a lot of fun, yes.

CHETRY: Is the beard for solidarity with Conan as well as Letterman because of the writers strike?

GREEN: Yeah. I don't know. I was kind of thinking that those guys were copying me, but I don't know. If they are, I'm just excited to know that maybe they caught my show one night, but, no. It's a good time. I mean you can watch every day here. 6:00 we go live from Los Angeles. And we do goofy bits all around the city. And we have this hour-long show. It's pretty fun, laid back. You can call me and talk to me and the guest, and it's --

CHETRY: Can (INAUDIBLE) call you, the fellow Canadian -- can he call you on the phone?

GREEN: I was going say I really hope John does call. I'm a big fan of JD Roberts, used to do "The Power Hour" on much music had I was growing up in Canada, the heavy metal show.

ROBERTS: Watch the religious program.

GREEN: Yeah it was a great show. I really, really liked it and I think in a lot of ways it inspired me to want to get into doing kind of some goofy, some goofy television you know, over the years. Much music was always really an innovative place for television back in the '80s when they started.

ROBERTS: That and the fact that when you grow up way up north in Penbrook (ph), Ontario you got to have a really good sense of humor.

GREEN: Yeah. It's freezing up there for sure.

ROBERTS: And Tom and I both products of college radio which is probably where the shared irreverence comes from. Tom, great to see you. Congratulations on your success, buddy.

GREEN: Thanks for having me on. Appreciate it.

ROBERTS: Good luck with everything.

GREEN: All right, guys.

CHETRY: Where does he go to relax if that's his house? He has to go to the office to kick back on a couch or something.

ROBERTS: I'm sure he's got a place or two he can hang back.

Hey, CNN "Newsroom" just minutes ago, Heidi Collins at the CNN center now with a look at what's ahead. Good morning Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you John. That's right, coming up Monday morning right here in the NEWSROOM, a nationwide manhunt today for a Marine accused of murder. Investigators believe they recovered the remains of pregnant Maria Lauterbach. They were buried in the suspect's yard.

Also the Obama and Clinton campaigns sparring over race today, did Hillary Clinton offend black voters?

And what happened in Mr. Miller's first grade class usually stays there, but this seven-year-old has a life-saving story to share.

And President Bush in Saudi Arabia, a nor'easter for New England. NEWSROOM keeps you up to date, top of the hour right here on CNN. John.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to it. Heidi, thanks very much.

In the 1980s it was beta versus VHS, today it's Blu-ray against HD-DVD. Veronica de la Cruz has got the latest on the DVD format war and some advice for you. That's ahead on "American Morning."


CHETRY: There was no red carpet. There were no glitzy dresses, no glamour. In fact it was the writers' strike that turned the Golden Globe ceremony into actually nothing much more than quick news conference. Hollywood's foreign press voted "Atonement" best drama and "Sweeney Todd," the demon barber of Fleet Street with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter won best musical or comedy. Daniel Day-Lewis won the award for best actor in a drama for "There Will Be blood" and Julie Christie won best actress in a drama for "Away from Her."

ROBERTS: Of course, all of those films one day will coming out on DVD and you might make a choice to make. You might remember just last week our sister company Warner Brothers studios announced that it was jumping on the Blu-ray bandwagon when it come to high definition DVD. But does that mean the end of its competitor HD DVD? Our Veronica de la Cruz joins us now with the latest on the format wars. I was on the beta end of the beta VHS war, my wife never let's me forget it.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of people were, yes. It was so ugly when this happened. I was at CBS (ph) last week when the announcement was made. It really really put the HD DVD people in a really, really tough spot. Toshiba came out and they made an announcement. This whole thing has had a lot of people saying that this is the end for HD DVD. But Toshiba is saying HD DVD is not dead and today they announced joint advertising campaigns with studios. They're slashing prices now on their players in hopes of winning over consumers. For example, you all go on right now to You'll see that HD DVD prices are slashed nearly in half. The HD A3 which is their entry-level player can be found on the web right now for a mere $129.99 Some of the discs falling from $30 to about $14.99, $19.99 and you compare this to an entry level Blu-ray, well is still well above the $300 mark.

Now although Blu-Ray has announced, saying its own DVD sales on Amazon, the question here is, will prices or Hollywood ultimately decide which format wins the war? Because currently seven of the eight major studios have released titles of Blu-ray. We're looking at Disney, Fox, Universal, Sony, MGN, Warner, Lionsgate and then it's Universal and Paramount who are backing the HD DVD format. So if Hollywood doesn't have the final say, there's also this to consider. Blu-ray players are made by several top manufacturers. There's Sony, Panasonic, Phillips, Toshiba, right now the only company offering a stand-alone HD DVD player. So -

ROBERTS: So if you're in the market for one, should you wait or should you buy?

DE LA CRUZ: I would personally, I would wait. But I mean if you have to have it, which obviously you did when it was VHS/beta right, there are the dual format players out there. Sorry, John. There are the dual format players out there, plus you can go to the whole video game console thing. The Sony playstation3. That comes with Blu-ray technology, so you can go in that direction as well.

ROBERTS: I had to have it and I'm still paying for that. Veronica, thanks very much.

Quick look now at what CNN NEWSROOM is working on for the top of the hour.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: See these stories in the CNN NEWSROOM." A Marine accused of murder and on the run. Police back away from claims Cesar Laurean was spotted in Louisiana.

A major nor'easter blasts New England today.

An avalanche kills two Montana back-country skiers.

Scientists say they've create a beating heart using cells from newborn rats.

And gas jumping an average dime a gallon since Christmas.

NEWSROOM top of the hour on CNN.


CHETRY: Before we leave you today, we're going to get a final tally of this morning's quick vote question. It was about the controversial comments of the back and forth between the Clinton and Obama camps. Did you find Clinton's comments offensive to either Obama or MLK? 42 percent of you say yes; 58 percent say no. To all of you who voted, thank you.

ROBERTS: Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. I'll be leaving you for a while. It's sad.

CHETRY: You're headed on the road. Thank goodness we'll have Blu-ray and -- no.

ROBERTS: Blackberry.

CHETRY: Blackberry, OK and Bluetooth. That'll keep us together.

ROBERTS: Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I'll be in Michigan tomorrow, so see you then.

CHETRY: We'll be watching and CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins starts right now.