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American Morning

McCain and Obama Come Together for Forum on Public Service; Hurricane Ike Closes in on Houston/Galveston Area; Florida: Crucial Battleground State in '08

Aired September 12, 2008 - 08:00   ET


JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: More warnings throughout the day today as we get these outer bands from Ike making their way onshore. So, a tornado watch in effect for southern parts of Mississippi and through much of lower parts of Louisiana.
Now, Texas, you're starting to feel the impacts, too. You know, in terms of the cloud cover moving in and the winds starting to increase, winds 20, 30 miles per hour gusting on the coast and we'll watch for tropical storm force winds to be pushing in a couple of hours from now, maybe two, three hours from this time. And this is a monster storm.

The size of this thing is just unbelievable. The cloud shield expands over 900 miles. This is a Category 2 storm. Maximum winds around 105 miles per hour so something to think about when these tropical storm force winds make their way on the shore. They're going to be lasting here well through the day tomorrow. So, we're going to be dealing with these terrible conditions for a much longer period of time due to the size of this storm.

Forecast track may be making more of a churn towards the northwest throughout the day today and landfall will likely take place late tonight or early tomorrow morning. So before you wake up, this is going to be a night time land falling storm. And the official forecast has increased the intensity now to a major hurricane back to a Category 3 -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you, Jacqui.

And because this storm is so huge, that will increase the surge and that means Galveston could be underwater by tonight. That's where Rob Marciano is this morning.

Rob, what's it feel like there now?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it feels pretty dry when the waves aren't crashing in. The breeze has picked up, that's for sure. We just got off the phone with the emergency managers here, and got word on how many people they think evacuated. Of this 58,000, 60,000 people that live here, they think a little over half left. So, he's talking about 10,000, 15,000, maybe 20,000 or so people still left on this island and, of course, that warning from the National Weather Service last night saying that if you live in a one or two- bedroom home, you may very well face certain death. There are some high spots on this island, one of which is behind our camera, which we'll certainly retreat as the morning goes along and we'll have to, because look at this, there's the Gulf of Mexico. Typically a flat, glass-like, tranquil body of water. That's looking like the Atlantic or even Pacific Ocean during a storm.

This storm seawall made after the 1900 hurricane to protect this bustling city built at 16 feet, it's really all about 10 or 12 feet with the sand that's built up. That's not going to last too much longer. The waves have been crashing up against it and water has been pouring over the seawall and it will soon be on the road that we're standing on and will soon be covering a great bit of this island, especially the areas that are not protected from the seawall.

That water will sneak around. We could see a 15 and in some places 20-foot surge of Galveston Bay where you get that funneling and squeezing effect. We could see upwards of 25-foot surge. Much like we saw Katrina. And the most alarming part of this as Jacqui has been saying is the size of the storm. So, we're going to expect to see tropical storm force winds here pretty soon and the hurricane winds extending outward over 150, 120 miles from this thing.

By nightfall tonight, well ahead of the center, we expect to see hurricane force winds here. And those winds will extend well inland. You know, Dallas will see some wind damage from this storm. It's going to be quite an event. But just over half, Carol, the folks who live on this island have evacuated and without sounding like a hypocrite, that's a pretty scary number.

Back to you.

COSTELLO: That is a scary number. Hopefully most of those other people who have stayed behind will leave soon including you, Rob.

Thank you. Rob Marciano from Galveston, Texas.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: From the hurricane now to the "Most Politics in the Morning." Senators John McCain and Barack Obama came together for a forum on public service. Each candidate spoke separately but had similar messages when responding to Sarah Palin's criticism of Obama's community experience. McCain praised it as Obama praised Palin's role as mayor.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The mayors have some of the toughest jobs in the country because that's where the rubber hits the road. You know, we yak in the Senate. They actually have to fill potholes and trim trees and make sure the garbage is taken away.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I admire mayors. Listen, mayors have the toughest job, I think, in America. It's easy for me to go to Washington and, frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have.


ROBERTS: Well, more than a week after she exploded onto the national political stage, Governor Sarah Palin gives her first interview as a vice presidential candidate and she says she is ready to lead. No equivocation.

Dana Bash here in New York with us this morning with more highlights.

Good morning to you.


Well, you know, Palin has actually spent a lot of time over the last two weeks with advisers brought in to help brief her especially on foreign policy and for the most part last night she echoed McCain's world view on everything from Russia to Iran. But when Palin was asked whether she has sufficient foreign policy credentials to be president, she didn't really answer. Instead she said she has the credentials she needs, the desire and record to perform.


BASH (voice-over): She's been Alaska's governor less than two years. Is she ready to be vice president, perhaps president?


BASH: In her first interview since John McCain picked her as his running mate, Sarah Palin told ABC News she didn't hesitate when he asked.

PALIN: I answered him yes because I have the confidence and that readiness, and knowing that you can't blink. You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we're on.

BASH: Here, some of Palin's foreign policy positions finally revealed. She said she supports bringing the Ukraine and Georgia into the NATO alliance, acknowledging that could mean war with Russia.

PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement. When you are a NATO ally is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.

BASH: But it doesn't have to lead to war, she said, and mentioned economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure to, quote, "keep an eye on Russia's Vladimir Putin."

Palin hesitated when asked about the controversial Bush Doctrine, the right to wage preemptive war.

CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: What do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view?

GIBSON: No, the Bush Doctrine, enunciated September of 2002 before the Iraq War.

PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism.

BASH: And on Pakistan, Palin didn't rule out crossing the border without permission to rout out terrorists.

PALIN: America has to exercise all options in order to stop the terrorists who are hell-bent on destroying America and our allies.

BASH: An apparent difference with McCain who mocked Barack Obama as naive for saying he'd be willing to strike terrorists in Pakistan, a U.S. ally.


BASH: Now, Palin's answer on Pakistan came after Gibson accused her of giving him a, quote, "blizzard of words and not a real answer to the question." And, John, the interview was tense at times as he tried to get her off her talking points especially on those nuance foreign policy issues.

ROBERTS: Yes. But as we found out this week, the Bush administration just recently authorized attacks against insurgents in Afghanistan -- in Pakistan without prior authorization. So, now the Bush administration is odds with John McCain. Dana, thanks so much for that.

It's now seven minutes after the hour.

Issue #1, the candidates on jobs. Christine Romans looks at how their plans could affect your pay.

You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


COSTELLO: Christine Romans is here "Minding Your Business."

We're going to talk about, what, jobs, wages?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Wages, and jobs, and the candidates. The money in politics. CNN does both of them and this is the time to be doing it, right?

COSTELLO: Absolutely.

ROMANS: Not even two months left until the election. Let's talk a little bit about the difference between McCain and Obama's position on creating jobs and on wages here in this country. John McCain wants to keep corporate taxes low. This is part of his economic plan. He wants to keep the minimum wage at $7.25 an hour. The reason because he thinks, and it is kind of the Republican point of view, that it hurts small businesses when you have to raise the minimum wage and actually is the destruction of jobs. He wants to consolidate unemployment programs and reform training programs for job seekers.

Here is Barack Obama. He wants to create 2 million jobs through infrastructure spending. And that's using our tax dollars to do big projects and that creates jobs. He wants to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour. He advocates for stronger unionization across a lot of different industries. And he wants to extend and expand unemployment insurance.

Barack Obama would like to see another fiscal stimulus package. Remember, we got the checks earlier in the summer. He'd like to see another fiscal stimulus to keep --

ROBERTS: And one making its way through Congress right now.

ROMANS: That's absolutely right. He definitely supports that. McCain says he doesn't rule it out but he's not so sure about it. But in the meantime, everyone is talking about how to create jobs here. I will tell you, from the last recession, the recession before, a lot more jobs were lost than have already been lost during this down.

So, we're going to be talking more about jobs and how to fix it. But these two candidates have very different views on what to do. So, it's really important who you vote for.

COSTELLO: Absolutely. Christine Romans, thanks.

ROMANS: All right.

COSTELLO: Buttoned up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Read my lips, no shoe taxes.


COSTELLO: Politics meets fashion.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Much as we all look close, we realize that there are bigger issues out there.


COSTELLO: Lola hits the runway to see what's hot this political season.



COSTELLO: You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


COSTELLO: Updating you now on breaking news. Hurricane Ike closing in on the Houston-Galveston area. The storm could be a Category 3 by the time it makes landfall late tonight or early tomorrow. The National Weather Service is warning the Galveston coast to evacuate or face, quote, "certain death."

ROBERTS: We'll be watching the storm closely for you. CNN is your hurricane headquarters.

But right now, back to the "Most Politics in the Morning."

Sarah Palin talking tough on Russia during her first television interview last night. How did she do? CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley joins me now.

Good morning. And the overall, how do you think her appearance was?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think overall we haven't seen her overall. This was sort of a series of three interviews, as I understand it. We've seen clips from it. So it's hard to kind of get the totality of how she handled herself in all of this. But I do think that people are now at the point, because she's been out there for two weeks, of looking at it through their own prism.

If you are inclined to think that Sarah Palin is not qualified to be vice president, you will find reason in what we've seen to back yourself up. If you love her and think she is a strong, capable woman who can take this on, you're going to find a lot that you like.

ROBERTS: She certainly didn't hesitate when asked if she had the qualifications to be vice president or even president of the United States, God forbids, if something should happen to John McCain. Let's listen to how she put that last night.


PALIN: You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we're on, reform of this country and victory in the war. You can't blink. So I didn't blink then even when asked to run as his running mate.


ROBERTS: She didn't blink, indicating that she didn't even have to give it a second thought. Do you think she would have given it a second thought? Would anybody give it a second thought?

CROWLEY: Probably not, even all those people who say, well, gee, I really don't know or I don't want it. I mean, ask Joe Biden who said he didn't want it.


CROWLEY: I would, too. But then we watched this for so long. But listen, what's the alternative answer? Yes, you know, I really thought, am I qualified for this? And then I -- well, you can't blink on that question. You cannot and she didn't.

ROBERTS: Right. Now what about -- we talk about foreign policy experience and how much she has. She said that she had not met a foreign leader. She'd only made a couple of trips abroad, Canada and Mexico, before she went over to the Middle East and Germany to talk about the troops.

She was asked about NATO and Georgia related to the recent conflict there and President Bush's desire to have Georgia as a part of NATO. Let's listen to that question and answer here.


GIBSON: With the NATO treaty, wouldn't we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement. When you are a NATO ally is, if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.


ROBERTS: John McCain had said that he wouldn't want to see war between the United States and Russia over Georgia, but that was with Georgia not being a NATO member. Being a NATO member completely changes everything. So, was she right on point there?

CROWLEY: Absolutely. I mean, the NATO package, as you know, is one for all and all for one, that you are required under this pact to defend any member that's being encroached upon.

And also, further on in that same questioning block, she said it doesn't have to be war. There can be diplomatic sanctions. There can be economic sanctions. So, it is softer than it would appear toward war. Anyway, I don't want to use that term "softer" but you know what I mean. It was not as black and white as it seems in that one answer but she was, in fact, on target as to what NATO was about.

ROBERTS: And we're expecting to hear more from her tonight as well.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. Fascinating stuff.

ROBERTS: Candy Crowley, thanks very much for that.

Before voters chose between Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Joe Biden, see for yourself who they really are. "Sarah Palin and Joe Biden Revealed" premieres Saturday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and again Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. The need for speed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got to tell you this is a blast. I dreamt about this all year.


ROBERTS: 400 miles an hour and 50 feet off the ground. Miles O'Brien checks out the deadly sport where there's no room for error.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are at full rate speed now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How fast are we going now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going about 410.


ROBERTS: You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

COSTELLO: There is probably no race more exciting or more dangerous than one pitting jet plane against jet plane. We sent CNN's Miles O'Brien to Reno, Nevada for the annual air show where the planes are flying very fast and very low.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CHIEF TECHNOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT: John and Carol, welcome to the serenity of the high desert in Reno, Nevada. OK, maybe not this time of year.


O'BRIEN (voice-over): What a rush. The need for speed answered in spades and spiked with steroids. Former NASA astronaut and lifelong speed freak Robert Hoot Gibson has gone much faster than this, but he says there's nothing like flying in the weeds full throttle at Reno.

VOICE OF HOOT GIBSON, RENO AIR RACER: I've got to tell you this is a blast. I dreamt about this all year and waited for this to happen.

O'BRIEN: For 45 years, fast planes, speed-hungry pilots and ingenious mechanics have returned like swallows to Capistrano to the Reno air races, the fastest motor sport in the world.

Why do you keep coming back?

KATHY KIBBY, COURSE PYLON JUDGE: We love air racing. We love the noise, the round engine noise.

O'BRIEN (on camera): How's that? How's that for a speed thrill? Those planes are going 400 miles an hour plus about 50 feet off the deck here in the desert. There's not a lot of margin for error.

(voice-over): The point tragically underscored before the racing even began this year. 32-year-old Erica Simpson died when the wings folded on her airplane during a practice run. She is the 19th pilot to die here since the races began. Three of the fatalities came just last year. But no spectators have ever been hurt.

TOM GRIBBIN, AIR RACES FORMER BOARD CHAIRMAN: The race course itself is designed for speed and engineered to protect the spectators, to protect the surrounding homes and everything else.

O'BRIEN: I asked Hoot to show me what it's like to fly fast around the pylon.

GRIBBIN: We are at full rate speed now.

O'BRIEN (on camera): How fast are we going now?

GRIBBIN: We're going about 410.

O'BRIEN: With me in the backseat, we weren't allowed to skim the sagebrush, but I still got a sense of what it's like.

GRIBBIN: This is one of the harder turns. This is about 4 Gs.

O'BRIEN (on camera): I can see why this would be glaring after a while.


O'BRIEN: I'm feeling it.

(voice-over): And now, I was feeling the need for some speed. Hoot let me take the controls for a dip. Can I do another roll?

GRIBBIN: Yes, sir.

O'BRIEN: All right. Here we go. OK.

GRIBBIN: Very nice. Very nice.

O'BRIEN: Very nice.

GRIBBIN: I think you were meant to be a fighter pilot.

O'BRIEN: I guess I missed my calling.


O'BRIEN: You know, it wouldn't be so bad to be a fighter pilot or maybe a former astronaut. Look at Hoot, he's a rock star. One little (INAUDIBLE), though, that little spin was about 70 gallons of jet A fuel, $5 a gallon. Don't leave home without it. You'll be seeing this on the old expense report.

Thank you, Chad. All right. Back to you guys. COSTELLO: Some new pictures coming to us out of Galveston, Texas right now. The waves are really picking up right now and the wind. As you know, Hurricane Ike is about to hit maybe late tonight around 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The waves starting to hit that 16-foot seawall along Galveston Bay and, of course, the storm surge could be as high as 25 feet, putting much of Galveston Bay underwater.

So, if you're still there in Galveston, please get out. We'll have much more when AMERICAN MORNING continues.


ROBERTS: 25-and-a-half minutes after the hour. CNN is your hurricane headquarters. And live pictures from Galveston this morning and you can see the storm surge ahead of Hurricane Ike already going over the seawall and starting to progress inland. Those houses built on stilts. They're designed to withstand this sort of sea surge.

But as Rob was saying, Rob Marciano was saying, he's down there in Galveston, the sea surge could be 20 feet or even perhaps a little bit more, which may start to get into the first floor of those homes.

We also are hearing this morning that a freighter has lost power out in the Gulf of Mexico some 90 miles away from Galveston. 22 crew members onboard. The U.S. Coast Guard now trying to effect a rescue. Keep it here on CNN. We'll have all of the breaking news regarding Hurricane Ike for you all throughout the day and all weekend as well.

Our Anderson Cooper leading our coverage down there throughout the weekend. So, make sure you keep it right here on CNN.

Florida once again shaping up to be a crucial battleground in campaign '08. A new Quinnipiac Poll shows John McCain with a seven- point lead over Barack Obama in Florida. John McCain is campaigning there next week along with Sarah Palin and Barack Obama will be joined by Bill Clinton in the Sunshine State later on this month.

Joining us now to tell us what their radio listeners are telling them. From Orlando, conservative talk show host Doug Guetzloe and from Miami liberal talk show host Stacy Ritter.

Folks, it's good to see you this morning. You know, we've been asking our viewers to write in their concerns.

We got this e-mail from Teresa Bartlett of Lauderdale Lakes in Florida, who writes, quote, "Floridians are concerned about the economy primarily, the price of gas and the environment. Unemployment is really high in Florida. I personally have two friends who have recently been laid off. It's rough here. We have very little public transportation in Florida, so the price of gas is critical to us." She's also a real proponent of solar energy.

So, let me start with you, Doug. Who's got the best plan to address Teresa and other Floridians' concerns here?

DOUG GUETZLOE, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, the McCain-Palin ticket obviously has the response needed there. I mean, we're talking about finally talking about doing offshore drilling and actually most Floridians favor that. And I think that is one of the real responses we need to do in addition to alternative fuels and all the other options. We need to move ahead with drilling where the oil is.

ROBERTS: Stacy, even some Democrats are beginning to embrace this idea of limited offshore drilling, but to Doug's point about John McCain having the plan to fix all of these woes, do you agree or disagree?

STACY RITTER, LIBERAL RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I guess if you like the way the last eight years have been, then you should vote for John McCain. But if you want real change in this country, you want people to go back to work, you want solar energy to be used, you want an energy plan that works for Americans that isn't just offshore drilling, which is a short-term fix at best, then you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

ROBERTS: Stacy, what are your listeners telling you about all this?

RITTER: Well, they're very concerned about the economy. They're very concerned about the national debt, the fact that we've had to borrow so much money from other countries which is something this President has encouraged and John McCain has followed along with.

They're worried about the war in Iraq. They worry about bringing the troops home, when can we bring the troops home, how can we do it responsibly and the same things that most of the country is talking about. And you know, with the hurricane now off the coast of Texas, we also worry about national wind storm insurance, which is something that Barack Obama has embraced.

ROBERTS: You know, Doug, a big issue there in Florida is the Hispanic vote and we see some changing trends in terms of demographic there in the central part of the state. Non-Cuban Hispanics tend to trend Democratic in south Florida and Miami. The older generation of Cubans, solidly Republican, but the new generation of Cubans, in some cases trending toward the Democratic side. Voter turnout here is going to be key -- is it not among Hispanic voters?

GUETZLOE: Absolutely. But I think what's interesting is the Puerto Rican Hispanics tend to be very independent and obviously the John McCain ticket is going to be very attractive to independent voters. He has been a maverick. He's been an agent of change. Governor Palin's been an agent of change. I think this is very attractive to voters in Florida, especially the Hispanic voters, and they're going to be, I think, the swing in this area.

ROBERTS: Stacy, during the Democratic National Convention, the Obama campaign and the DNC announced a $20 million Hispanic voter outreach program. How does Barack Obama turn out those Hispanic voters in November?

RITTER: Well, first of all, I'm kind of wondering what polls he's looking at because Puerto Rican voters are traditionally Democratic. Non-Cuban Hispanics are traditionally Democratic, not independent.

GUETZLOE: They are but they're independent voters.

RITTER: Well, but they're registered Democrats and they turn out in numbers in the Democratic Party. But, you know, living in south Florida, I have two Obama staff people living in my house during this campaign cycle and I've never seen a more organized and better-run campaign.

You know, the Republicans like to talk about Barack Obama's history as a community organizer. But this guy knows how to organize his community and empower people and get them out to vote. I've never seen a campaign this well organized and we will outlast and outwit and outplay the Republicans and win here in Florida.

GUETZLOE: Community organizer, I mean, he came from the sludge of Chicago politics. I mean, he is not an agent of change. He hasn't been an agent of change.

RITTER: You know, you want to talk about candidates who come from sludge, let's talk about the Keating Five. I mean, if you really want to talk about the dirt but you know what, we want --

GUETZLOE: Well, let's talk about Barack Obama's experience or lack of it. I mean, it don't exist.

RITTER: Let's talk about how this country has been -

GUETZLOE: It does not exist.

RITTER: Let's talk about this country being on a verge of depression because of eight years of a George Bush administration. A war we can't pay for on two fronts.

GUETZLOE: Or a Democratic Congress. We have a do nothing Democratic Congress is what we have. And Barack Obama was part of that.


RITTER: The Republicans were in charge of Congress for six years.

GUETZLOE: He sat what maybe 140 days in the U.S. Senate. I mean, community organizer -

RITTER: Six years of the eight years of this administration George Bush - of the six years of this administration Republicans were in charge of Congress. You guys can try to blame Democrats for this problem but you took us into a war that we couldn't pay for.

GUETZLOE: The Democrats are the problem.

RITTER: The economy has tanked. Gas prices are through the roof. People won't be able to afford heating fuel in the northeast this winter. Things are bad. You want change, vote for Barack Obama.

GUETZLOE: Here in Florida though -

ROBERTS: I'm sorry, that's going to have to be the last word from Stacy this morning, Doug, because we gave you the first word. Obviously, Florida a very important swing state. People will be battling hard for this and we'll see that in the coming weeks. Doug Guetzloe and Stacy Ritter, thanks for being with us this morning. Appreciate it.

RITTER: Thank you.


COSTELLO: Breaking news right now, Hurricane Ike closing in on the Houston-Galveston area. Jacqui Jeras joining us now from the CNN Weather Center.

What's the latest, Jacqui?

JERAS: You can see it right there, Carol, we're seeing that water, some of that surge already beginning to move up and inland. We're seeing the surge around three to four feet right now but this is going to continue to get higher throughout the day and this is a true testament to what we're so concerned about with Ike is that surge will be the major issue and there's two reasons why storm surge is going to be so much higher than we normally would see of a storm of this intensity.

Read the number one because the storm is huge. Think of it this way. Think of a fan blowing, just one, blowing across a pool like a regular old swimming pool. It's going to cause a little bit of action, a little bit of ripple, a little bit of you know sloshing maybe on the back side of the pool. Now imagine fans lined up all the way across that pool pushing and blowing at that same consistent speed and you're going to have a lot more slosh and a lot more action.

Second reason why this is so critical is the coastline and all of the bays in this area. So if you take that push of water and you funnel it up the bay, you're going to have a much higher slosh or a much higher blow on the back end of that bay. That's why we're looking at 20 to 25 feet surge. Those winds are going to be picking up along with that water throughout the day today. This is really becoming a dire situation for much of the Galveston area as the storm closes in. Landfall will likely occur late tonight or early tomorrow morning. But this is just an incredibly large, large storm. Carol.

COSTELLO: And we will be keeping an eye on it as you said. Jacqui Jeras, thanks.

To politics now and a 53-day sprint to the general election and in a new special CNN is taking politics to the street to get your opinion on the campaign so far.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People assume because Sarah Palin's a woman that women will automatically vote for her. And that's bothered me considerably.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The media is hyping in to the whole gender issue, the race issue, and the age issue. That's all you're hearing from the media so we need to hear the issues.


COSTELLO: Joining me now is the host of "Seven Weeks To Go," CNN contributor Roland Martin. And let's talk about -

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We got creative with the title, didn't we?


MARTIN: Of course, next week will be six weeks to go and then the following week it's five weeks to go. So we have three shows and you know, we got a little creative.

COSTELLO: Seriously though, let's get into the race and gender issue because at one point -

MARTIN: And age.

COSTELLO: And age issue but that's really kind of gone to the banks -

MARTIN: No, it's not. I'm trying to tell you.

COSTELLO: Oh, come on.

MARTIN: No, it's not. If you know, the people we talk to, age plays a critical role not just these young voters but also older voters. I've talked to many senior citizens who say, look, I'm 70 years old. I don't want somebody like me sitting in the White House. That's going to be a major issue. He tries to deny it but it's also called a generational issue. OK Obama's 47. McCain is 72. Some people say a younger person, someone that age, is not ready for the White House. Trust me, generational, major.

COSTELLO: Let's get back to race and gender -


COSTELLO: Because at what point will we all just shut up about it?

MARTIN: We can't.


MARTIN: Because it's in the DNA of America.

COSTELLO: Didn't you hear what those people said in your special? We need to get to the issues.

MARTIN: People always say that. Let me tell you something, the natural reaction of everybody is always, oh, no, it's about the issues. When you keep talking to them, all of a sudden, yes, I know I'm a Democrat but I really love Governor Sarah Palin. She's a woman. Love to see a woman as vice president. People say Obama's an African-American. Love to see an African-American. The natural reaction of everybody is always the issues but deep down inside, in their gut they're making decisions based upon their personal bias.

COSTELLO: OK. Well, let me read you something. This is from Warren Valentin, he runs a nationally syndicated -

MARTIN: I know Warren.

COSTELLO: You know Warren, OK. He said once Sarah Palin was picked African-Americans saw the Republicans ignited again. They got worried. We are scared now and they are angry at the Democratic Party.

MARTIN: First of all I disagree with what Warren stated. First of all, people sided in terms of, on the Republican side because, frankly, that was the walking dead ticket and now all of a sudden she's frankly revived it and sort of like Jesus and Lazarus.

COSTELLO: Not like Barack Obama has had a good answer to the revival of the Republican Party.

MARTIN: Yes. But the reality is this is a changing game. Think about it. He gave a speech before 90,000 people, it's a game changer. McCain names Palin. This is back and forth. So you don't know what's going to happen over the next several weeks.

But here is what we do know and what we're trying to focus on that the biases could be real, keep in mind, Bush won New Mexico against Kerry by 6,000 votes. He beat Kerry in Iowa by 10,000 votes. Imagine if the biases of people could very well determine who is sitting in the White House. That's real and we need to own up to it.

COSTELLO: OK. We're going to watch your special to find out more.

MARTIN: I got a radio show to get back to.

COSTELLO: OK. Get going there.

MARTIN: All right. I'll see you guys later.

COSTELLO: Roland Martin, thank you.

MARTIN: Thanks a lot.

COSTELLO: And be sure to catch Roland Martin's special, what is it 9:00 p.m. Eastern time?

MARTIN: 8:00 p.m. Eastern, Saturday and Sunday. Come on, Carol. COSTELLO: Thanks, Roland.

MARTIN: All right. Thanks.

ROBERTS: Protecting your plane. The secret test design to prevent terror attacks in the sky.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just about anything that a terrorist must consider.


ROBERTS: You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: 39 minutes after the hour. We're following breaking news for you this morning. The waves crashing into that seawall there in Galveston, Texas. Some areas of the island already submerged in water. Don't forget that the average height across Galveston island, only 20 feet. We're expecting a storm surge that could be that high so everything in Galveston potentially underwater as Ike comes aboard and as well the Coast Guard after a 584-foot Panamanian flag tank at the left port of Texas, trying to outrun the storm, it has lost power and so now they're trying to effect some sort of a rescue to get those 22 members aboard that freighter off.

Explosives made from seemingly harmless ingredients a weak spot in aviation security around the globe but the U.S. government is trying to change all of that. And CNN has been granted unprecedented access to a government test site which is designed to help keep you safe.

CNN's Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve went there.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: John, Carol, government scientists are blowing thing up in order to make aviation safer.

(voice-over): In a plastic bottle mix one liquid with another until you have about 10 ounces. Then detonate.

Do you think looking at that blast, that will be enough to bring down an airplane?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I won't speculate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the Transportation Security Administration needs that answer.

KIP HAWLEY, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: It's critical to know exactly what it is that could destroy a plane because then you can target your detection measures to meet that threat.

MESERVE: After the explosion of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland testing was done on real aircraft with conventional explosives. CNN was given an exclusive look at new testing ordered by the TSA after terrorists in London demonstrated their intent to use homemade liquid explosives to blow up planes in 2006.

Scientists at the Sandia, Los Alamos and Livermore (ph) National Labs have secretly worked on it for more than a year. Results expected this fall could impact how much liquid travelers can carry on planes and how screening is done.

JIM PHELAN, SANDIA NATIONAL LABORATORIES: This is going to help TSA define what the requirements are for explosive detection for the checkpoint and for checked baggage and for air cargo.

MESERVE: Materials from an old Boeing 737 have been stressed to the breaking point.

DENNIS ROACH, SANDIA NATIONAL LABORATORIES: We want to understand how it fails and at what load level it fails.

MESERVE: Tat information is being used to create a computer model which shows not only how a plane is built but how it will behave. Pressure data from different tests are added.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Homemade liquid explosives, homemade powdered explosives, gels, just about anything the terrorists might consider.

MESERVE: The model is helping scientists determine what damage different explosives will do placed differently in different aircraft at different altitudes, what it will take to bring a plane out of the sky.

(on camera): The data being collected could be used to design a stronger aircraft but scientists say there will never be a blast-proof plane. You simply can't make a tank that can fly. John, Carol, back to you.

COSTELLO: Two former mayors, two very different points of view. Former New York Mayor Ed Koch tells us why Sarah Palin scares him.

You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


COSTELLO: He supported President Bush in 2004. Now former New York City Mayor Ed Koch is endorsing Barack Obama. Mayor Koch is here to tell us why this morning. He's the author of "The Koch Papers: My Fight Against Anti-Semitism."



COSTELLO: Thanks so much for being here. OK. So you supported President Bush in 2004 because you thought he could better protect the country.

KOCH: Correct.

COSTELLO: Why did you decide to support Obama this time around?

KOCH: Well, in 2004 the Democratic candidate did not convince me that he was understanding enough of the Islamic terrorism and the danger to the United States. And so I crossed party lines because country is more important than party. But here there is no question that all four candidates on the Democratic-Republican side understand international terrorism and will fight it.

COSTELLO: So what does John McCain lack, though? Isn't that his strong suit?

KOCH: I will tell you.


KOCH: But protecting the United States is more now than simply fighting a foreign foe and protecting from that point of view. There are also domestic matters. There are the issues of abortion and gay rights and fair taxation and social security. And there the Republicans just fail completely.

COSTELLO: But George Bush felt about those things much like John McCain does and you supported him in 2004.

KOCH: Yes. And I said it at the time I didn't agree with George Bush in 2004 on a single domestic issue but that the fight against international terrorism was more important than any domestic issue. That's not true anymore because all four candidates understand the dangers of Islamic terrorism.

COSTELLO: Let's talk about John McCain's choice for his running mate, Sarah Palin.

KOCH: Yes.

COSTELLO: How would you characterize her?

KOCH: Plucky, perky, and scares the hell out of me.

COSTELLO: You know plucky and perky are words that some people might object to.

KOCH: Why?

COSTELLO: Perky? With a woman? I mean -

KOCH: Oh, please. It's ridiculous.

COSTELLO: I'm telling you.

KOCH: You can't compliment somebody by saying they're perky anymore? Perky means they're vivacious. COSTELLO: Are you complimenting her by saying she's perky?

KOCH: Yes. Of course I am.

COSTELLO: But not the scares the hell out of you.

KOCH: Plucky is a compliment but when I say she scares the hell out of me, I use one illustration. There are others. Of her allegedly, according to "The New York Times," it's in dispute but "The Times" has not retracted, that she went to the library in the town of which she was mayor and she told the librarian she'd like to have certain books censured.

COSTELLO: I think that has been disputed and we have found it's not true.

KOCH: No. It's been disputed -

COSTELLO: It's not true.

KOCH: But "The New York Times" has not retracted.

COSTELLO: But we have found it's not true. CNN.

KOCH: But you're not better than "The New York Times."

COSTELLO: Of course we are. We're CNN.

KOCH: I don't think so.

COSTELLO: CNN truly has found that's not true.

KOCH: I don't accept that. When "The New York Times" accepts it - you have to understand. I put out commentaries. I rely on the great newspapers to investigate the facts and I have to rely on them.

COSTELLO: We want to you bring us the facts and then we'll look at it but we have proof.

KOCH: But I want to tell you what she said. She doesn't deny she asked about how do you censor books.

COSTELLO: We have found that story not to be true soy so I don't want to get into it unless like I have proof in my hand that she actually did these things. Let's talk about though her interview with Charlie Gibson last night.

KOCH: Yes.

COSTELLO: And let's listen to a bit of it right now -

KOCH: Sure.

COSTELLO: And what she said about being ready to lead.


PALIN: I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink. You have to be wired in a way that you're so committed to the mission, -- the mission that we're on, reform of this country, and victory in the war. You can't blink. So I didn't blink then even when asked to run as his running mate.


COSTELLO: Does that make you feel any better about her?

KOCH: I think that's fine. In fact I said that Charlie Gibson was unfair to her when he asked do you support the Bush doctrine. I've never heard of the Bush doctrine. I've heard of the Bush statement related to preemptive strikes, which I support, so I thought that was a tricky question and terribly unfair.

COSTELLO: Mayor Koch, thank you so much. I know you're going to hit the campaign trail for Barack Obama.

KOCH: I am. They've asked me to.

COSTELLO: You have huge energy.

KOCH: Florida, here I come.

COSTELLO: That's right. Thank you so much. That's right. Hey, need to shore up the Jewish vote and you're the guy who can do it. John.

ROBERTS: As long as he doesn't stay. As long as he doesn't stay.

A dangerous new drug trend among teenagers, it's called snurfing. What is it? Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains.

You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


NINA CHARISON, MOTHER OF FIREFIGHTER: There was excitement in his voice that he was going to be flown out into a remote area.

SCOTT CHARISON, FALLEN FIREFIGHTER: Hey, it's Scott. I just got called out to a fire in California. So I was just calling to let you know.

N. CHARISON: And that was it.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN, ANCHOR: Eight firefighters are presumed dead after a helicopter crashed in Northern California.

VICKI MINOR, COMMUNITY CRUSADER: I don't think there's any words of wisdom that you can give somebody when they just found out that their son or daughter have burned to death. There's a lot of things that need to be done for those families. I'm Vicki Minor and I take care of the injured and fallen firefighters and their families. Southern California is starting to burn now.

That is not good.

Our firefighters rarely die or get injured in the state they live in. So the foundation raises money to get families to the bedside of those injured and to help bring other family members in when a firefighter's killed.

JONATHAN FROHREICH, CRASH SURVIVOR: She actually showed up in my hospital room the day after it happened. She was there to do anything for me.

MINOR: We provide their motels. We give them money. Do whatever is needed, we'll do. I hope they feel they can go on and fight that fire and know we'll take care of their family and their friends.



ROBERTS: Four Pennsylvania high school students ended up in the hospital this week after taking drugs they bought on the internet. They are calling them snurfs. All of the students are out of the hospital now but what were they taking?

Joining us this morning from the CNN Center in Atlanta is our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. It shows you the difference between when I was a kid.

Snurfing was like surfing on snow and now it's something totally different, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is and drug officials and school officials still aren't exactly sure what these snurf tablets are. As you pointed out, you can buy them on the internet. They're sort of pitched as this herbal supplement but what it seems to be is a combination of some herbs and a substance known as DXM which is dextrometropan. That's typically a cough suppressant. People have seen it in their cough medication as one of the active ingredient and certainly in low doses it can be a good cough suppressant but in higher doses over 100 milligrams, it can cause some of the things you see on the screen.

Psychedelic type effects, confusion, blurred vision, nausea, heart issues, high blood pressure, and it can even cause death in some cases. Now people are trying to figure out how best to regulate this substance DXM, which actually seems to be the problem here but it's hard to regulate. Again, because in low doses it can be a very effective cough suppressant. This is something we're learning, the FDA is looking into now. John.

ROBERTS: In higher doses, this cough suppressant suppresses what the respiratory system? Is that why these kids are ending up in the hospital?

GUPTA: Well, it appears to be a morphine-type derivative. So, yes. It can suppress the respiratory system. It can also have a lot of the hallucinogenic effects that are sometimes associated with high doses of pain medications and I think it's that sort of high feeling that I think people might be experiencing and then leading to some of these other things, John.

ROBERTS: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta for us this morning, something else for parents to be on the lookout for. Doc, thanks very much. And don't forget for more medical headlines tune into "House Call" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, 8:30 a.m. Eastern Saturdays and Sundays. Carol.

COSTELLO: OK. We want to clarify because it was a spirited conversation that I had with Mayor Ed Koch, he was talking about Governor Sarah Palin asking the librarian to ban some books and it is true that she did ask the librarian to do it but the librarian refused to do that and Governor Palin did not order the librarian to ban any of those books. So I wanted just to clarify so we were all on the same page. We'll be right back.


ROBERTS: Two minutes now to the top of the hour. I want to take you back live to pictures from Galveston, Texas. That guy is sort of tempting fate there driving that car along the road that borders the Gulf of Mexico. You can see -

COSTELLO: That's just crazy.

ROBERTS: ... and the waves coming over that seawall there. The seawall some 16 feet high. The waves easily clearing it and as that storm hurricane Ike gets closer, the storm surge expected to completely swamp that seawall and perhaps drown much of Galveston Island.

COSTELLO: Yes. Cover it like, you know, it reminds you of the storm they had in the early 1900s when the entire city of Galveston was destroyed.

ROBERTS: That was a high category 4 storm with winds up to 150 miles an hour. This one expected to reach category 3 status, could become a category 3.

COSTELLO: But the storm surge could be bigger because the storm is just so darn big.

ROBERTS: It is. It's piling up a lot of water and it's also expected to go right up the Houston ship channel which is about the worst of all worlds because you can imagine a 15 to 20-foot high wall of water going up in the area where there are so many refinery facilities, so many chemical facilities, so many docks. It could cause an enormous amount of damage. You know, it's the water very often and not the wind that does much of the damage with these hurricanes. And that is going to be very problematic over the next 48 hours.

COSTELLO: And even without damage to those refineries, even if they're, you know, put on hold for a while, that, of course, could affect all of our gas prices as well.

ROBERTS: Yes. CNN is your hurricane headquarters. We are going to be following this storm as it approaches shore and once it gets onshore as well we'll have all of the live coverage of Hurricane Ike as it makes landfall and of course the aftermath as well. So stay with CNN all weekend long. Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. Thanks for pitching this morning. It's good to see you again.

COSTELLO: I had a good time. Thanks for having me.

Right now, here's "CNN NEWSROOM" with Heidi Collins.