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New Warning This Morning From China; New Record Nationwide for the Price of Gas; President Bush Speaking Before Israeli Parliament; From Super Size to Down Size; 19-Year-Old College Student Becomes Mayor
Aired May 15, 2008 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: We'll have full coverage of the president's visit to the Middle East coming up here on CNN in the coming days. Right now, let's get back to Tad Devine who is in Washington talking more about John Edwards endorsement of Barack Obama.
Is this, Tad, going to help him with white working class voters in an area where, in many states at least, Barack Obama still finds himself wanting compared to Hillary Clinton?
TAD DEVINE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: John, I think it will be a help. John Edwards' best group was white working class voters and, you know, while Barack Obama has got a lot of work to do on his own and a lot of ground to gain on his own there, I think having someone like John Edwards speaking for him in the communities all across this country will be a great help.
ROBERTS: Yesterday night in the speech, John Edwards spent an awfully long time talking about Hillary Clinton. Let's listen to some of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are a stronger party because Hillary Clinton is a Democrat. We are a stronger country because of her years of public service, and we're going to have a stronger presidential nominee in the fall because of her work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: How did you read that portion of the speech? Was that saying thank you very much, Senator Clinton, it's over? Was he trying to put a coda on this primary season?
DEVINE: I read it as a very gracious note from John Edwards. I think he gave Hillary Clinton the respect that she deserves. I think that's precisely the way everyone in the Democratic Party should be inclined towards her campaign. She's earned this respect, not just in the course of her long service and as first lady, in the Senate, but also in the remarkable campaign that she's won. So, I thought he did it perfectly. It was just the right tone.
ROBERTS: All right. Tad Devine joining us this morning from Washington.
Tad, good to see you. Thanks for coming in.
DEVINE: Thank you, John.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: A new warning this morning from China. The number of dead from the earthquake could go as high as 50,000 people. 19,500 people are now confirmed dead, and the Chinese government this morning has issued a rare appeal to the public for rescue equipment. They're trying to reach 26,000 people that are still trapped while dramatic images are coming in of rescues from collapsed buildings. CNN's Zain Verjee joins us now from Washington with more.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, firefighters in Fairfax, Virginia, part of a special group of people that trained and ready to leave at a moment's notice. Now, they haven't been called to China, but they're watching the rescue efforts there unfold.
VERJEE (voice-over): The world watches a bruised child being lifted from what could have been a grave. Rescue workers have a special eye trained for catastrophes like this one.
BOB ZOLDOS, FAIRFAX COUNTY FIRE AND RESCUE: A lot of times it's tunneling to them because hat's typically the safest way that we do it.
VERJEE: Bob Zoldos knows firsthand what it's like digging children out.
ZOLDOS: It's a little more convenient to move them. They can make turns better because they're smaller.
VERJEE: He's been on hellish rescue missions in Iran and Turkey.
(on camera): And this has still more Kenya.
(voice-over): He knows the emotional toll from working in such massive disasters.
ZOLDOS: The hardships you may be suffering as a rescuer are nothing compared to the person stuck in the hole in the building underneath.
If I break down, I can't provide that service to them. And it's about the victim. If you can remember that the victim comes first, the patient in the hole or trapped underneath a building.
VERJEE: Small successes can't be celebrated. ZOLDOS: You can remember that everyone else around you lost a family. Everyone has lost a someone to the earthquake. So, while there's those individual successes, you have to remember to get back in the game and find some more people to rescue.
VERJEE: The team in Fairfax ready to suit up whenever the next call comes, whether it's just down the street or halfway around the world.
VERJEE: Bob Zoldos says the U.S. team, helping out on the ground in other countries like Iran, really helps to build bridges, Kyra, and shows the world that Americans care.
And USAID chief Henry (INAUDIBLE) also says that the U.S. is ready to help China in any way but at the moment the Chinese are saying that they don't need U.S. search and rescue teams right now, but given the rising death toll, Kyra, that could change.
PHILLIPS: Yes. We'll follow those firefighters and rescuers specifically. Zain Verjee, thanks so much.
ROBERTS: More breaking news overseas to tell you about this morning. CNN is learning of a possible terror threat at one of the biggest sporting events of the summer. Swiss police say al Qaeda may be planning to attack the Euro 2008 Soccer championships in Switzerland and Austria. Authorities say they have been picking up a lot more chatter about wanting to target the games which can attract up to 50,000 spectators in each stadium.
A warning today from Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to his neighbors in Colombia. Do not put a U.S. military base on the border. Chavez says that he will consider it an act of aggression if Columbia builds an American base in a region that spans both countries. Diplomatic relations between Caracas and the U.S. backed Colombian government have been strained for months.
PHILLIPS: Plus, a pretty special day in New Orleans as actor and Grammy winner Harry Connick Jr. presents a special gift to a deserving musician.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY CONNICK JR.: He's a proud new owner of a home in a musicians' village. And this is our first time seeing this incredible job done by house beautiful. It's really amazing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Love that accent, yes. More on the new program to give homes to New Orleans' musicians, coming up next.
ROBERTS: And you may have heard that speculation is what's driving up the price of oil. What does that even mean? Ali Velshi has got the answer for you, straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ROBERTS: Check out our AMERICAN MORNING gas gauge this morning. This thing is just getting more depressing every day. A new record nationwide average for a gallon of self-serve regular $3.78. That is 39 cents higher than the last month. 68 cents higher than the last year. Will the high prices change your travel plans for this Memorial Day weekend?
Brace yourself AAA will release its projections for the holiday weekend today. Last year, more than 32 million Americans hit the road on Memorial Day weekend. We will see what the forecast is a little bit later on.
PHILLIPS: Hey, in the elevator yesterday, one member of the floor crew had a skateboard.
ROBERTS: Oh yes.
PHILLIPS: He said not only do I save money but I'm never late to work anymore.
ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And tomorrow is national take your bike to work day. We've been hearing anecdotally that bike sales, bike repairs are up all up across the country.
PHILLIPS: Use the big bike.
VELSHI: I actually am dribbling my way to work. I came in with a soccer ball. By the way, I like to think of myself as the guy on the show that brings a little stick. I got an oil barrel, I got coal, I brought a soccer ball in today, and then John Zarrella does this live hit with mermaids behind him. So he does win today.
PHILLIPS: He stole the show.
VELSHI: So I'm going to tell you about speculation. That will get your attention. We often talk about the roll that speculation plays in the price of oil. If I had some mermaids speculating on oil I bet you would be really interested. The issue is this. There's supply and demand price for oil. And some people think that's a lot lower than what we are paying right now. We are around $125.
Speculation is investing in something that is something that is high risk in order to profit from the change in price. And by the way that change in price can be higher or lower. A speculator doesn't produce or use oil. They use their own money to trade oil futures and they benefit when the price of oil changes. So that is the different between people who are buying oil to use it to make it into gasoline or to use it to put into their planes or whatever the case is.
Now, how much of the price of oil at about $125 is speculation? Well, we've gathered a number of opinions. And it ranges from anywhere from 30 percent to 60 percent of the price of oil is speculation. So if you take 30 percent to 60 percent off of a $125 a barrel, you come up with a supply and demand value of oil that is somewhere between $50 and $88 a barrel. But speculation is part of any market -- the housing market, the antiques market, the stock market.
So, that doesn't -- you can't take oil and just say it will be between $50 and $88. There is some speculative value. It's just that it seems to be higher than it has been in recent years. So take that for what it's worth. You often say or people often ask -- how much is speculation? Well, it could be 30 percent to 60 percent but what does that do for you?
ROBERTS: I feel so much better now that I know that.
VELSHI: That you know that. Hey, you got a soccer ball in your hands.
ROBERTS: Well, we've been talking about whether you've got game or not. Check out these guys here. Take a look at this. It's from Mexico. They're mixing Brazilian martial arts.
VELSHI: Oh, wow.
ROBERTS: Check this out. Ali, I want you to practice. All right?
VELSHI: I couldn't do that. You handed me the ball and I dropped it. I couldn't do that without a ball. I would be on disability if I tried that. That is fancy.
ROBERTS: Look at these guys. Wow, just unbelievable.
PHILLIPS: Good thing (INAUDIBLE).
VELSHI: Now, we've got the viewers back after we forgot the mermaid thing.
ROBERTS: Thanks, Ali.
VELSHI: All right.
PHILLIPS: Well, a specially decorated home for a very special musician. Earlier this morning, we had a chance to talk to actor and Grammy award winner Harry Connick Jr. and trumpeter Shamarr Allen.
Is that right? Is it trumpetier or trumpeter?
PHILLIPS: Trumpeter, thank you.
PHILLIPS: Allen lost his home --
ROBERTS: Trumpetier, trumpeter.
PHILLIPS: That's what it was, thank you. All right. You always have to give me a hard time. He actually on a serious note lost his home during Katrina. And then Connick through his "Habitat for Humanity" program built this home for Allen and decorated it with a personal touch. And the music man told us what it meant to both of them this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHAMARR ALLEN, MUSICIAN RECEIVING HOUSE: I just walked in the house and I've seen so -- it's like a whole cool and comfortable environment, you know. Like we've been through so much down here. You know, -- you understand and it's crazy to be able to just come to something like this and know that it's mine now.
HARRY CONNICK, JR., MUSICIAN/ACTOR: We really kind of accomplish what we set out to do, which is to entice musicians to come back. And people like Shamarr, I mean, you can't have New Orleans without guys like this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: That is the truth. About 50 of the 72 homes in musicians' village -- you're looking at right here -- it's the core site of the village and they're almost complete. They're almost at the top number.
ROBERTS: Well, it's a stormy day along the Gulf Coast. Our Rob Marciano in the CNN weather center tracking the extreme weather down there.
Hey, Rob, how bad is it?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We've got a couple of damage reports -- several actually across the I-10 Corridor. So we're going to go over that and we're going to show you what the radar is. We've got a tornado watch in effect for (INAUDIBLE) Louisiana and Mississippi. That today and the weather scope, we'll be right back with complete details.
ROBERTS: We've got some breaking news to tell you about coming to us from Jerusalem this morning. President Bush currently speaking before the Knesset there -- the Israeli parliament. Apparently, the president has resisted the notion of wading into this election year and wading into election politics. But apparently he did not hesitate in his speech suggesting that Senator Barack Obama and other Democrats are in favor of appeasing terrorists in the same way that U.S. leaders appease the Nazis in the run up to World War II.
So a fairly sharp attack there from halfway around the world this morning. Our Ed Henry is there and we will get him up on this in just a few minutes to talk more about it. President Bush wading into election year politics in his speech before the Israeli Knesset this morning, again saying that Barack Obama and other Democrats are in favor of a policy of appeasement of terrorists. We'll get more from Ed on that coming up for you here.
ROBERTS: He went from president to the student council to mayor of his town. Meet the 19-year-old who defied the odds and one heck of an age gap as well.
PHILLIPS: Plus, from super size to down size. Why we could be seeing the end of the road for the McMansion. Gerri Willis looking over the blue print, coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": More bad news for Hillary. Just a few hours ago, John Edwards announced he will be endorsing Barack Obama. Well the humor is Barack Obama promised him if elected he would offer him the cabinet position of secretary of shampoo and highlights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Chance to dust off the hair jokes on "Late Night" last night with John Edwards back in the spotlight. It may be a chance to make a lot more of them if someone chooses Edwards as a running mate. Could it be Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama? Well, we are putting this hypothetical out to you today because he's the frontrunner.
If Barack Obama wins the Democratic nomination, who should he choose for a running mate? We gave you some suggestions. Right now, 30 percent of you say Hillary Clinton, 46 percent are for John Edwards, 12 percent for Bill Richardson, five percent for Joe Biden, and six percent of you voting for the Republican Chuck Hagel.
And let us know why you picked who you did or maybe you've got another suggestion that we didn't mention. Some people are writing and saying how about Wes Clark? How about Michael Bloomberg? Head to cnn.com/am and click on "e-mail us" and we'll read some of your thoughts coming up here, about 25 minutes time.
PHILLIPS: Have you checked out your neighborhood lately. Smaller homes, it's a pretty big trend right now. And a new survey by the American Institute of Architect says that the size of a typical home is actually shrinking. CNN's personal finance editor Gerri Willis has been looking at the new plans. She has actually seen the blueprints.
GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: That is right.
PHILLIPS: And I guess we should -- we could have expected this due to high energy costs and all that stuff.
WILLIS: Right. You know, consider over the last 30 years the average American home has gotten 50 percent bigger. Can you imagine that? And the reason that people are making a new decision here to have a smaller home, energy costs are through the roof.
I was just here last week talking about utility prices being up 24 percent in about a decade here. So also, baby boomers are downsizing. Our kids are growing up, leaving home, they want a smaller house, they don't want to take care of the big house. And face it, maintenance costs on the McMansion threw the roof. It's so expensive to take care of.
If you have any hope of being green in this country, you have to have a smaller house. Having a 5,000 square foot home, 8, 12, you've heard of all of those, it's crazy.
PHILLIPS: Move to New York, then you will learn how to downsize.
WILLIS: That's what I'm telling you.
PHILLIPS: You will not be a packrat any longer.
WILLIS: That is right.
PHILLIPS: Well, tell us what these homes look like. You've actually seen the blueprints, right?
WILLIS: Well, let's start with that. An 1185 square foot house, it's called the Katrina cottage. Look at this lay out right here. You can see there's a living room and a dining room has been combined. The porch is really considered the living space here, not just an outdoor area. Really downsized. The bedrooms -- just three bedrooms here. Very small. I would love for you to see the outside of this house. It is adorable. But people are starting to --
PHILLIPS: There it is right there.
WILLIS: It's really attractive but people love these small intimate spaces. Now, you don't have to go -- this is a very inexpensive home, frankly. If you want to go a little more upscale, you can go to the Odem (ph) house, 1600 square feet. Again, we are seeing some combination of rooms that you might have had separately in a bigger house.
There is actually, though, a dining room in this house. Three beds, two baths. There's even a mud room. But take a look at the exterior of that. Doesn't it look like a McMansion?
WILLIS: It's not. It is only 1600 square feet. So you can see that you can downsize and have much of what you had before without the costs and the headaches and having to hire people to help you.
PHILLIPS: Time to go online and check them out.
WILLIS: That's right.
PHILLIPS: All right. Gerri Willis, thanks.
WILLIS: My pleasure.
ROBERTS: He is a political science major but he is already hiring his own interns. How did a 19-year-old college kid become mayor? We'll ask him coming up next.
And a polar bear drama. We will tell you why the government is taking new steps to protect the polar bear, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERTS: 25 minutes after the hour. Breaking news to tell you about this morning. President bush speaking before the Knesset in Israel on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the formation of Israel, saying that Barack Obama without mentioning him by name but saying basically that Barack Obama and other Democrats favor a policy of appeasement of terrorists in much the same way that U.S. leaders did prior to World War II when they appeased Adolf Hitler by offering him territory in Europe.
Our Ed Henry is on the story. He's just getting some of his ducks in a row here and will be joining us in just a couple of minutes with more on that. Obviously, as you can imagine the Barack Obama campaign not too happy about the president's comments this morning. More on that coming your way in just a couple of seconds.
Meantime, from frat parties to an inauguration party. Muskogee, Oklahoma, a town of almost 40,000 people has elected a 19-year-old college student as mayor. And he joins us now. John Tyler Hammons, the new mayor of Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Congratulations, your honor.
JOHN TYLER HAMMONS, MAYOR-ELECT, MUSKOGEE, OKLAHOMA: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
ROBERTS: So what was it that inspired you to run for mayor at the tender age of 19?
HAMMONS: Well, I remember back in November of 2005, I saw an article where a mayor was elected at 18 in Michigan. I thought that's something I would like to do. And a couple of friends of mine came to me and said you have to run for mayor or we are not friends anymore. So I had to do that and I'm so glad that they came to me and made me do that. It's been a blessing for me, it's been a blessing for the citizens of Muskogee and I look forward to have a great two years.
ROBERTS: And now, when you ran for mayor, you defeated Hershel Ray McBride who was a former three-term mayor. You've got in with 70 percent of the vote. When you first entered the race, did you have any idea that -- hey, maybe I can pull this thing out. Maybe I can win?
HAMMONS: Well, I never doubted my ability and my supporters. They were always with me, always there and I really appreciate everything they've done for me. I never thought I would win by that margin. I have accomplished in the last few days what has according to election board officials never happened -- that was never happened before. I'm the only candidate in Muskogee history to carry all precincts, not only by a large margin but to carry the entire city in every district ever. It never happened before.
ROBERTS: He outspent you five to one. How did you beat him?
HAMMONS: Well, we worked harder than he. He outspent us five to one, but we beat him in the votes three to one. So we were out there every day, putting out signs, waiving signs, shaking hands, being everywhere we could be. Just being available to the voters, that how we won it.
ROBERTS: Right. So Muskogee has got a weak mayor system. You got a city manager that does most of the business. So what impact do you think you will really have?
HAMMONS: My role is that of visionary and chief spokesman. I get to come and do TV shows like this. This is my job. I am the face of Muskogee. I try to create a strategic plan and vision of where we want to be in five, ten, 15 years, that's what I do. And then I tell the manager and he makes it happen.
ROBERTS: Do you think this is going to represent a broader trend in American politics in this year?
HAMMONS: I certainly hope so. I've received a lot of e-mails from a lot of other young politicians saying we are so glad you are running, because now we can do it. If you've done it, we can do it. And I hope to partner with my congressman and a few other people that are young elected leader and try to get some sort of national coalition going. Not necessarily a lobbying group but just some sort of national support base that will help out young leaders like myself and others.
ROBERTS: Well, congratulations to you, Mr. Mayor.
HAMMONS: Thank you.
ROBERTS: We should mention, too, that you were a University of Oklahoma student but you had to move a little closer than Norman is to Muskogee.
HAMMONS: Yes, right.
ROBERTS: Good luck in your studies and your ability to be a visionary for the town. Good to see you this morning.
HAMMONS: Thank you.
ROBERTS: All right. John Tyler Hammons there, 19-year-old mayor of Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Now back to our breaking news this morning. Ed Henry is in Israel with us this morning talking about this shot that President Bush fired in the election campaign saying that Barack Obama and other Democrats favor a policy of appeasement toward terrorists.
Ed, good morning. What words did he actually put it in?
ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, John. The context is President Bush was delivering this speech to the Israeli Knesset, the parliament. And he was talking about this alliance between the U.S. and Israel. He was laying out how there are a lot of enemies in his estimations from Iran to Hamas to Hezbollah that are going up against the U.S. and Israel. And he was charging that Senator Obama and other Democrats favor in his words appeasement of terrorists in much the same way as other U.S. leaders back in the run up to World War II appeased the Nazis. Obviously, a very rough shot.
Let's take a listen to it on the other side. I will tell you what the Obama camp is saying just now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland 1939, an American senator declared -- Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided. We have an obligation to call this what it is. The false comfort of appeasement which has been repeatedly discredited by history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now I want to be absolutely clear, to be clear, President Bush never uttered the words Barack Obama, but White House aides are acknowledging that this was a reference to the fact that Senator Obama and other Democrats have publicly said that it would be okay for the U.S. President to meet with leaders like the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And you remember last week Senator McCain suggested that Obama was the favorite candidate of Hamas, the terror group. Last week Obama called that a smear, just now we are getting a statement from the Obama camp. This is a written statement from Senator Obama, "it is sad that President Bush would use a speech on the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack." He goes on to say that he does not favor basically negotiations with terrorists but that he is in favor of tough diplomacy and says that it's time to end what Obama calls the politics of fear. John.
ROBERTS: Ed, you got that statement from them this morning. Do you expect this could potentially be one of the news drivers of the day, what President Bush said, that we are going to hear more from Senator Obama on this?
HENRY: It's certainly possible. Obviously, you saw Senator Obama in that interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer last week, very directly firing back at the Republican presumptive nominee John McCain in saying that it was a smear to suggest that he was the favorite candidate of Hamas, the terror group.
Likewise the Obama camp seems surprise that President Bush all the way here in Jerusalem would be launching this attack on Senator Obama and other Democrats. So, it's quite clear that they responded with a tough statement of their own, it's quite clear that this is something that they are very likely to talk about again, John.
ROBERTS: Ed Henry for us this morning, live in Jerusalem. Ed, thanks very much.
PHILLIPS: All right. To take it even a deeper level here. Suzanne Malveaux who has been traveling with the Obama camp. Suzanne, you know about that statement as well. So, let me just ask you another question as White House correspondent and someone who has been there inside with the campaign as you talk to your sources there, I mean, this is really unusual to see this coming from the president right now. He is basically staying out of making any political comments with regard to the candidates. What do you make of this?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's not only unusual, Kyra, the fact that he's saying this, but it is also unusual that it's coming from overseas, that he is making the statement in Israel itself. But it's one of these indications that this is going to be a real sensitive and important topic in the campaign. John McCain and if Barack Obama in fact becomes the nominee, the subject of Israel, Middle East peace, all of that and President Bush under a great deal of pressure himself as you know he made this one of his goals of his administration to bring Middle East Peace. And it has been something that has been a source of frustration for his own administration. So that is one thing that is the kind of a backdrop, if you will.
It's also another thing, Barack Obama has consistently been talking about reaching out to these leaders that President Bush has refused to talk to, has refused to reach out to. This is a very, very different approach to national security, to diplomacy. And Barack Obama has really made it the centerpiece of what he calls change, a real philosophical change in how to deal with people outside of the United States. So, this is at the core of what he is running for. And it is very much against what John McCain has been talking about and how they approach these leaders.
So, it's clear that President Bush is already -- he's trying to push John McCain and his message and obviously trying to push the administration's approach here. So, it's not surprising that this is happening. It is surprising that it is happening in Israel at this point. It really is a defining moment in their history, also a defining moment for President Bush who is looking at his own legacy here and looking in a sense the frustration perhaps some even say failure when you look at what has happened in the Middle East and how far they have come, how far they need to go. Kyra.
PHILLIPS: All right. Suzanne Malveaux there, traveling with the Obama campaign. You heard the response from the Obama camp as well. A bit of kind of coming out of nowhere. Surprised everybody as it started coming across the wires that he had said this in his speech.
ROBERTS: Yes, surprising in the forum in which he said them. Not surprising that the Republican party is trying to cast doubt on Jewish-American voters on Senator Barack Obama and the policies that he would pursue. I think we got Dana Bash on the line. And Dana this kind of shows - she's live for us. Dana, this really falls out of what the McCain campaign was hitting Barack Obama on not too long ago when one of his aides met with the leader of Hamas. That aide has been since dismissed from the campaign. But John McCain certainly went after Barack Obama pretty hard on this issue of he is the candidate that Hamas would like to see win the White House. How does all of this fit together?
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It fits together really nicely with the McCain campaign strategy, not just some of the things that Senator McCain himself and other aides have been saying but more importantly, John, the kind of campaign that they are planning on. They are working behind the scenes to run against Barack Obama. It doesn't seem to be much of an accident here. Because one of the things that you are hearing from the McCain campaign is, wait a minute, you want this guy to be president. He is somebody who has suggested that he would sit down with Ahmadinejad. He said that he would sit down with other people, other dictators who the United States government simply does not agree with at all. And you know, you heard Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries, during one of the debates say wait a minute, that is naive. That is the same kind of tactic that John McCain and his campaign are already starting to craft inside their campaign.
So, it is very similar to the kind of thing that you heard President Bush do not so subtly, but I have to agree with Suzanne. What is striking isn't necessarily just that President Bush said this kind of thing and dove into the presidential campaign here in the United States but the fact that he did it abroad and did it inside the Middle East, it's pretty striking, John.
ROBERTS: Yes, I mean - Dana, you've spent a tremendous amount of time working at the White House too, as a White House correspondent like Suzanne. President Bush every time we would ask him about politics, he would say hey you are trying to drag me into the presidential race, I don't want to go there. He leapt in with both feet there and as you said in a foreign country, that is highly unusual.
BASH: Exactly. And you know, I have spoken as I am sure you have, because you covered the Bush White House, John, spoken to several people, frankly, who are still close to the President who left, who do talk to him frequently about politics, because President Bush is a political animal as much or as more as anybody who is currently running for president. And he is really, has been chomping at the bit to get involved in this particularly when it comes to foreign policy, particularly when it comes to Barack Obama. People who have talked to the President who I have spoken to say he really is frustrated with the idea that Barack Obama, for example, has suggested, even suggested that he would sit down with somebody like Ahmadinejad, that surely came out in a really unbelievable way. Again, while sitting in the Middle East, something that we haven't heard in that kind of way publicly. But certainly privately we understand that is something he has felt for some time. ROBERTS: And then on the topic of unusual things, Senator John McCain is going to be giving a speech a little bit later on today that is from a very unusual perspective. It would be like it were the year 2013 and he is looking back on his first four years of accomplishment. Tell us a little bit about that speech coming up today.
BASH: You know, Senator McCain and his campaign, they understand that this is not the time that he's gotten a lot of attention because of the enormous attention going to the Democratic race. But what he is trying to do in this speech is fast-forward the clock. Say it is 2013, my first term is over. And this is the kind of change that I hope I will have enacted in my first term.
Very much indirectly but not so subtly making the case that Barack Obama talks about change, but here's how I'm going to do it. And he really does kick off from across the board, things that he wants to do. He makes a pretty risky statement saying that the Iraq war will have been won, and there will be a stable democracy in Iraq. He says he wants most of the troops to come home from Iraq, but also say Osama Bin Laden will have been caught. He will say that the tax code of the United States will have been streamlined. He will talk about health care, education, things like that.
But big picture the other key theme in the speech, John, is he's going to talk about reaching across the aisle. Talking to Democrats, having Democrats in his administration and even going before Congress, a la British style and taking tough questions. He is going to talk about the fact that he intends to end the permanent campaign and have a new kind of bipartisanship, nonpartisanship. Again, something that we hear from Obama, but he's going to be pretty specific here today.
ROBERTS: Interesting take on a candidate's speech but also sort of set some bench marks by which he could be measured should he become president at the end of his first term. Dana Bash for us this morning in Columbus, Ohio. Dana, thank you very much.
PHILLIPS: Tornado warnings right now as severe weather sweeps across the south. Rob Marciano will be here with the latest update. And of course, we'll have more on our breaking news about President Bush suggesting that Barack Obama wants appeasement of terrorists. More, right after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared - lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided. We have an obligation to call this what it is. The false comfort of appeasement which has been repeatedly discredited by history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: We are following breaking news this morning. In a speech to Israel's Parliament today, President Bush took a not so veiled shot at Barack Obama suggesting that the senator favors the policy of appeasement toward terrorists. Joining me now to talk about this comment is Robert Gibbs. He is the communications director of the Barack Obama campaign. Robert, good to talk to you. Let me just lay out -
ROBERT GIBBS, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, OBAMA CAMPAIGN: Good morning, John.
ROBERTS: ...what the initial quote prior to his World War II reference. The president said "some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals as if some ingenuous argument would persuade them that they have been wrong all along." He seems to be taking as you said a not so veiled shot at Senator Obama's statement that he would sit down with the leaders of Syria, and Iran and North Korea to try to work out some sort of negotiation. What's your response to what the president said?
GIBBS: Well, John, obviously this is an unprecedented political attack on foreign soil. It is quite frankly sad and astonishing that the President of the United States would politicize the 60th anniversary of Israel with a false political attack. I assume he also is going to come home and fire his Secretary of Defense who was quoted in the "Washington Post" yesterday saying we need to figure - "we need to figure out a way to develop some leverage and then sit down and talk with them," them being Iran. Look, we have come to expect and we've seen from this administration over the last eight years this type of cowboy diplomacy.
Again, we've come to expect it, but over the past eight years it's made this country far less safe than we were. Ronald Reagan once asked Americans whether they were better off than they were four years ago. and I think people are going to ask themselves in this election are we safer than we were eight years ago under this President and I think the answer is going to be a resounding no.
ROBERTS: Right. But as you know, what Senator Obama said so many months ago was fairly controversial because he said that he would sit down with the leaders of these countries without precondition. Senator Clinton has said sitting down without precondition is not a great idea. You need to start it first of all at a diplomatic level, then before you get anywhere near the leader level. So for President Bush to say that leaping immediately to the leader level might not be a policy the United States wants to follow, does he have a point there?
GIBBS: No, John, let's not confuse precondition with preparation. Obviously these meetings would be full of preparation. But if we're not going to sit down and engage Iran, unless or until they give up their nuclear weapons program, how are we ever going to sit down with them to get them to give up their nuclear weapons program? Let's take the example of North Korea. When the Bush administration came in, our intelligence estimates are that they had enough material for maybe one or two nuclear weapons. Right? Well, we have ignored the North Koreans and outsourced our diplomacy to the Europeans. Now it's revealed that they have enough material for eight to 12 weapons and it's likely that that estimate will soon be revised upward. This is the kind of again cowboy diplomacy, head in the sand type diplomacy that we have come to expect from the Bush administration. This just simply made us far less safe. I don't think what Senator Obama said was that controversial. If you look at some of the leading foreign policy minds throughout this country and throughout the world, again President Bush's own Secretary of Defense, just yesterday in the "Washington Post" said we need to sit down and engage the Iranians.
Again, we can put our heads in the sand and hope some of this stuff never happens or we can sit down with strong principal diplomacy and force these countries into giving up the exact program that we think threaten not just the United States but allies throughout the Middle East and stalwart allies like Israel.
ROBERTS: Robert, clearly this was aimed at Jewish-American voters, some of whom may be a little bit suspicious of Senator Obama and his intentions. What does he say to those voters this morning to counter the argument that President Bush is making?
GIBBS: Look, I think we have a strong a record as anybody in this race when it comes to Jewish issues. Obviously, Israel is our greatest ally in - one of our greatest ally in the world. Our principal ally in the Middle East. We have to have a strong relationship with them. It is unfortunate that an American president those fly halfway across the world and make a political attack instead of honoring the tremendous accomplishment and achievement of the 60th anniversary of the birth of Israel.
ROBERTS: Robert Gibbs, communications director for the Senator Barack Obama campaign. Robert, thanks for calling in this morning. Appreciate it.
GIBBS: Thank you, John.
PHILLIPS: So why do we need to care about the polar bear? And why is the government taking new steps to protect them? We'll have that on AMERICAN MORNING.
Also, we will continue our breaking news coverage, President Bush suggesting Senator Barack Obama wants appeasement of terrorists, it sort of rocked the political news world right now. It came out of nowhere, according to critics, you just heard from the Obama camp saying it is cowboy diplomacy. We are following that breaking news story all throughout the morning and afternoon right here on CNN.
PHILLIPS: Polar bears are now in the U.S. list of threatened species. The Interior Department added them just yesterday, making them the first animal to be listed primarily because of global warming. CNN's Richard Roth takes a look.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those things are so cute.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gus, a 22-year-old polar bear is safe and sound in New York Central Park Zoo. But his buddies up in the Arctic face a potentially big problem, ice melting at record levels. Scott Berger is a conservation expert who studies the polar bear. You have been up there several times. What is the biggest threat right now to the polar bear?
SCOTT BERGER, WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY: The biggest threat right now is the sea ice retreat. It's basically polar bears live on sea ice and if you start taking away the sea ice, you're taking away the way the polar bear can make a living.
ROTH: Acting under a deadline set by a federal judge, the Interior Department acknowledged that the polar bear is endangered.
DIRK KEPTHORNE, U.S. INTERIOR DEPT.: This in my judgment makes the polar bear a threatened species, one likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.
ROTH: The decision did not however link the threat to the bears with the buildup of greenhouse gasses. Environment activists say that's because the government has an economic motive.
SUSAN CASEY-LEFKOWITZ, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: It sounded as though it's going to be business as usual in the Arctic especially regarding oil and gas drilling.
ROTH: Bear protectors thought placing one of the most powerful animals under the Endangered Species Act or ESA would force the U.S. government to control gas emissions to help stop the polar ice melt. Skeptics think that's a lot of bull - bear.
SEN. JAMES INHOPE (R), OKLAHOMA: Listing the polar bear is not about protecting the bear, but about using the ESA to achieve global warming policy that special interest groups can not achieve otherwise achieve through the legislative process.
ROTH: Regardless if the bear's habitat keeps shrinking, the zoo may be the coolest place for a polar bear.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is awesome, right. He is great. And when he's in the water, he's just the slickest think you've ever seen.
ROTH: Now, environmentalists promise lawsuits against this latest government decision, nothing really has been settled, and out here in Central Park, Gus and friend Ida out of camera range, think right now are blissful unaware on this cloudy morning. Kyra.
PHILLIPS: And forget the North Pole, just head to Central Park and visit Gus and Ida right there. Richard Roth, thanks so much. John.
ROBERTS: All right. We'll be back in just a minute. Sanjay's mailbox coming right up.
ROBERTS: It is Thursday which means it's time to answer the questions that you sent into Dr. Gupta's mailbag over the last week.
PHILLIPS: And Sanjay joins us now. He is at the ready. So, let's just dive right into it. Our first question is from Jeff in Massachusetts, he says --
"I'm taking Chantix to help me stop smoking. I recently heard a story on depression being linked to this drug. Can you please talk about the side effects of Chantix?" Sanjay.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, it's pretty remarkable. They were some specific side effects actually linked to Chantix, talking about things like depression. They actually were so strong that Pfizer actually put the warning label on the medication now. So, you will see that on there. There is a list of those potential side effects but this is also a medication that if people take it, they are three times more likely to quit smoking than if they didn't take a medication at all.
So, it is working for a lot of people. So, it is a really balance out there for you Jeff and for lots of people.
ROBERTS: Sanjay, Abigail gets the next question. She writes in to say "I was wondering if antibacterial soap is really good for you?" I take it she's washing with it and not eating it.
GUPTA: Right. Abigail, you know, you ask a question that a lot of people ask. Obviously, washing your hands is good but when it comes to anti-bacterial soap specifically it won't hurt you but probably not doing any more help than just regular soap. That's quite the best way to think about it. Why might it hurt you? People have been concerned that using anti-bacterial cleanser in your soap could cause antibiotic resistance down the road. That does not seem to be the case. But also does it, you know, prevent illness? Does it more likely prevent illness versus washing with regular soap. That doesn't seem to be the case either. So, it's a little bit more expensive. You can buy it if you feel like it but regular soap does the trick as well.
PHILLIPS: All right. We do one more question for you. And to give you a hard time. This one actually comes from Colin in New Jersey. He said "a few weeks ago on mailbag, Kyra brought up the subject of ear candling.
ROBERTS: There's that unusual habit.
PHILLIPS: All you guys thought I was crazy. Now, Collin wants to know, he says "I'm curios if it really works. Can wax build up be drawn out by candling your ear." And I want you to know --
ROBERTS: We should point out that we've got some of the candles right here. PHILLIPS: I'm so glad we have the props.
GUPTA: Let me say a couple of things about these things. First of all, all the experts we've talked to, this may not be surprising, says these things don't really work. They don't do the job of actually getting the wax out of the ear. But here's the bigger concern. Let me just show you since people are still wondering how this works. There's a little wick that comes out. You actually put it into your ear and then you burn.
PHILLIPS: This will be on the late night shows, by the way.
GUPTA: Yes, this is going to kill me. But then you burn this end of it and it actually, it's supposed to draw some of the wax out of your ear. That's what supposed to happen. Three things - one is that it probably push wax further into your ear. That's a concern. Two, it can actually burn your eardrum. That's a concern. And three, you may actually get some of these wax drip down under your face which just hurts and doesn't actually solve what you are trying to get done in the first place.
PHILLIPS: And I want to make it clear -
GUPTA: So, best advice, don't do it.
PHILLIPS: And I want to make it very clear that I talked about it as a popular trend, I don't do this.
ROBERTS: Hey, you should always use it with the Shrek costume.
GUPTA: After all those e-mails.
PHILLIPS: I'll use it as a mega phone and try to get John's attention when he's not listening to me.
GUPTA: Good luck.
ROBERTS: Sanjay, thanks. We'll see you again next week.
PHILLIPS: Well, every Thursday we turn obviously to Dr. Gupta's mailbag for your questions about the medical stories that we cover.
ROBERTS: If you got a question for Dr. Gupta, ear candling or other stuff like that, go to cnn.com/americanmorning and e-mail your questions. He's going to answer them here on AMERICAN MORNING next Thursday.
PHILLIPS: If Barack Obama wins the Democratic nomination, who should he choose for a running mate? We are reading your e-mails, coming up next.
ROBERTS: Just recapping our breaking news this morning. A shot from half a world away in election 2008. President Bush speaking before the Knesset suggesting that Senator Barack Obama prefers a policy of appeasement towards terrorists. Obviously, a statement that was aimed towards Jewish-American voters. The Obama campaign shot right back saying they are distressed that the president would take this opportunity in celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary to the level a cheap political shot at Senator Obama accusing the President of playing the politics of fear. This obviously is going to be a big story today, one that will stay on. We are expecting to hear more from Senator Obama a little bit later on today.
Meantime, final check of our "quick vote" question. If Barack Obama hypothetically wins the Democratic nomination, who do you think he should choose for a running mate? 30 percent of you said Hillary Clinton, 46 percent were for John Edwards who of course supported him yesterday, 12 percent said Bill Richardson, 5 percent say Joe Biden and 6 percent voting for Chuck Hagel.
PHILLIPS: And here's -- we've been going through your e-mails Willa in Lavale, Maryland says this "to balance the Democratic ticket, you need someone like Jim Webb or Wesley Clark. Otherwise, I would prefer a diplomat like Richardson.
ROBERTS: Bernard from Medford, New York thinks that Joe Biden could be a good VP. He writes "his nearly 30 years as a senator and his extensive foreign policy credentials would seriously bolster Obama's thin foreign policy record.
PHILLIPS: And this from Robert in Missouri, Texas, "John Edwards would not be the best running mate for Barack. He has no foreign policy experience. The best choice would be Chuck Hagel: a Republican, experienced and somewhat outside of his own party. He would complement Barack and bring in those shaky Republican votes." Thanks to all of you who voted and wrote in. We appreciate it.
ROBERTS: It should be noted that Senator Obama himself said that he might be open to bringing a Republican like Chuck Hagel into the cabinet.
PHILLIPS: I tell you watching last night though, John Edwards and Barack Obama and the way they talk about Hillary Clinton, it was a very interesting dynamic.
ROBERTS: And it looks like an interesting pair, didn't they? Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We will see you again tomorrow.
PHILLIPS: CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris and Fredricka Whitfield begins right now.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
HARRIS: You will see events come into the NEWSROOM live on this Thursday, May 15th.
Here's what's on the rundown. WHITFIELD: A John McCain presidency, what does he want to do? The Republican lays out his hold live shortly.