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American Morning

White House Considering "Going It Alone" on Health Care Reform; Rep. Frank Hits Back at Town Hall Protesters; Jackson's Doctor Speaks on YouTube; Jenny Sanford Opens Up; Hurricane Bill Increases Intensity

Aired August 19, 2009 - 07:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And that little bit of intrigue from Allan Chernoff brings us up to the top of the hour. Thanks for joining us on the Most News in the Morning. It's the 19th of August. It's a Wednesday. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry. Glad you're with us. Here are the stories we'll be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes. We're starting in Washington, where Democrats say they're ready to take drastic measures, considering a "go it alone" strategy on health care reform. Do they have the votes to make it happen?

ROBERTS: Hurricane Bill is now a major storm, a category four with winds of 135 miles and hour. Our Rob Marciano is here to tell us whether it will be a hit or a miss for the East Coast of the United States.

CHETRY: Some good news for the auto manufacturing industry. General Motors upping production and calling back some employees, delaying plant shutdowns. They say the Cash for Clunkers program has been a shot in the arm.

ROBERTS: And Michael Jackson's doctor, the man who was there when he died, the man at the center of the manslaughter investigation, speaking out now for the first time, making his case in a YouTube video. Hear why Dr. Conrad Murray fears for his own life.

CHETRY: First, though, a big development this morning that could change everything in the make-or-break month for health care reform. Democrats fed up with contentious town halls and what they call misinformation are getting ready to push through a bill with no Republican support at all. At least that is a big possibility now.

Our Elaine Quijano working her sources at the White House. I know they haven't pulled the trigger yet, so we don't want to prematurely say they're definitely going to do it. But it's something that's now gaining some steam there in Washington. What's going on, Elaine?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. According to top Democrats close to the White House, Kiran, officials are now quote/unquote "actively considering this option."

It's basically a budget maneuver known as reconciliation, and what it would mean that instead of the 60 votes needed in the Senate to pass health care legislation, instated they would only need a simple majority or 51 votes.

We should note, again, there are no final decisions that have been made on this option. This is just a possibility, one that we should also note has been on the table all along here.

What's different now is the context. Of course, we're just weeks away from when Congress gets back in to town off of their August recess. At the same time, this is a White House that is facing not only reluctant Republicans but also skepticism from some conservative Democrats on health care reform.

So, again, no final decision made, but word now that officials are quote/unquote "actively considering" this option - Kiran.

CHETRY: Elaine, if the White House doesn't pull the trigger soon, when might we see this happen?

QUIJANO: Right. This is going to be a critical time coming up here, mid-September really is what we're looking at. That is, of course, when members of Congress will be back in town, and that will be decision time.

Right now it's basically let's make a deal time. And if, of course, Republicans do come onboard, that, obviously, will change the equation here. But mid September is going to be the critical time when we'll see whether or not the White House -- the Democrats will decide to pull the trigger on it -- Kiran?

CHETRY: We'll see what the political fallout is today from even talking about it, which as we heard from Bill Bennett a little earlier, this is something that could ignite the fireworks yet again.

Elaine Quijano, thanks so much.

ROBERTS: Just a little while ago, we did spoke with CNN political contributor Bill Bennett about what the Republicans have been saying about health care reform during this month of August at all these town hall meetings and elsewhere.

The Democrats have said that the Republicans have a purposefully strident tone against health care reform, at least the Democrats plan. Here's Bill Bennett's take.


BILL BENNETT, RADIO HOST, "MORNING IN AMERICA": I don't think it's been strident. I think it's been tough, but I don't think it's been strident.

But notice, George Bush got education reform with Democrats signing on. He got tax cuts. He got Iraq, he got Afghanistan. Ronald Reagan got Democrats for his tax cuts.

If you have a big signature issue, and I just mention these signature issues for Republicans, you need to get other people on the other side, otherwise you are really dividing.

They are starting fires, putting out fires, starting fires, putting out fires. It's a mess right now, too soon to tell the outcome of this.


ROBERTS: We have heard all kinds of snarky, snide, and sarcastic remarks during the health care town halls, and they're just not usually coming from the member of Congress at the front of the room.

But never known for biting his tongue, I think it's fair to say Congressman Barney Frank was rather Frank with some of his constituents in Massachusetts last night. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy as Obama has expressly supported this policy? Why are you supporting it?

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA), CHAIRMAN, FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE: On what planet do you spend most of your time? Ma'am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it.



ROBERTS: Our Jim Acosta was in the room in the rowdy debate, and he's live for us this morning. He's in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Barney Frank never shrinks from a fight, does he?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, John, that's right. You know that old saying, "I went to a fight last night and a hockey game broke out." Well, a town hall broke out in Barney Frank's congressional district last night.

And the White House has suggested that the public has only seen the rowdiest moments of these congressional town halls. Not always the case. Last night here in the Frank's congressional district, we didn't have time to show all of the rowdy moments.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman Barney Frank.



ACOSTA: It didn't take long for the shouting to start.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's the line?


FRANK: Which one of you wants to yell first?

ACOSTA: And before the first question was asked, Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank was swinging back at opponents of health care reform.


FRANK: Disruption never helps your cause. It makes it look like you're afraid to have rational discussion. You just drive people away.


I'm not here -- this is the council on aging, not kindergarten.

ACOSTA: Frank tried to dispel some of the bogus claims about the bill in the House.

FRANK: Illegal aliens are specifically excluded from getting assistance in the bill.


ACOSTA: To that, some in the crowd shouted, "Read the bill!" So he did and found the section where illegal immigrants are excluded.

FRANK: Right in the bill. I will show you.

ACOSTA: But even that didn't satisfy everyone.

FRANK: It is odd of being accused of not having read the bill by people who objet when I do.

ACOSTA: Several audience members insisted reform would bust the budget.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to pay more taxes because of you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This bill would practically bankrupt the economy of the United States government.

ACOSTA: Time and again, he took that grenade and threw it back.

FRANK: I do worry about the deficit. That's one of the reasons, not the only one, that I voted against the single most wasteful expenditure in the history of America -- the Iraq war.

ACOSTA: The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee took a few questions on reforming Wall Street. Instead, Frank talked at length for supporting a public option.

FRANK: I'm not voting for any bill that forces anybody to anything. It will have a public option. ACOSTA: And try to reassure seniors there were no death panels in the bill.

FRANK: This notion that something in this bill that would require people who were elderly or sick to be denied medical care and killed is the single stupidest argument I have heard in all my years in politics.

ACOSTA: It was that absurdity in the health care debate that retiree and Medicare recipient Mary Casinto (ph) was happy to see put to rest.

ACOSTA (on camera): Can I tell you though that I know for a fact that they are not going to pull the plug on grandma?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're not going to pull it on me, I tell you, because I'd fight to the death.


ACOSTA: I think we now know why Barney Frank can be so tough sometimes, if you just listen to that constituent there.

He did make a little news after this town hall meeting when we pressed him on this public option. Unlike some of the liberal members of the House such as himself, Barney Frank did not insist that there be a public option in the reform bill in the House or in the Congress.

He says to the contrary, at this point he does not want to negotiate that element of this legislation out in the public - John.

ROBERTS: Barney Frank's meetings are nothing if not spirited. Jim Acosta for us today. Jim, thanks for that.

CHETRY: Also new this morning, New Mexico governor Bill Richardson is starting a two day meeting with two senior North Korean diplomats in Santa Fey.

Richardson's a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and has been to Pyongyang several times. The governor's office said they will not be representing the White House in these talks.

ROBERTS: The feds say at least one of the wild fires burning across California started was probably started with marijuana farmers with ties to Mexican drug cartels.

That fire has burned 90,000 acres in Santa Barbara County. One federal agent said, quote, "No pun intended, but it's a growing problem."

CHETRY: And passengers stuck for five hours with crying babies and smelly toilets on a Continental Airlines jet, a regional plane, say they are not getting enough from the airline.

Continental has publicly apologized, refunded their original ticket, and sent them the $200 voucher for another flight as well as a $50 gift card. But there are customers who say for what we went through, Continental's attempt at compensation is wholly inadequate.

Remember we spoke to Link Christin here right on our air. He says he felt imprisoned for the five and a half hours waiting on the tarmac.

ROBERTS: No question, it was a bad situation for everyone involved.

Well, we've been talking about the fact that until recently we had a pretty quiet hurricane season. We have a big one out there. Hurricane Bill is now a major category four storm.

Take a look at these incredible pictures taken from the international space station. Bill was upgraded overnight, the storm's gusts now topping 135 miles an hour.

The big question -- where is it heading? Will it be a threat to the East Coast of the United States?


CHETRY: In talk about this health care debate, one of the thing that a lot of people worry about with the public option, will it lead to rationing? And so there are a lot of questions about what exactly is rationing of health care? Others argue we're rationing health care now.

So when we're talking about co-ops as well, is that a form of rationing? We're going to take a look at the debate over what it means.


ROBERTS: In the debate over health care reform, we keep hearing the word "rationing." And for Republicans, it has been one of the top talking points. Here's Alabama Senator Richard Shelby.


SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, (R) ALABAMA: I think rationing is underlying all of this. If you don't get health care when you need it, you know, ultimately, it's going to affect your life.


ROBERTS: So we want to find out more about this. We're bringing in Peter Singer. He's a bioethics professor at Princeton University. He wrote a long article for "The New York Times" on it and says rationing isn't as scary as it sounds. Professor Singer, good morning to you.


ROBERTS: Good to have you in. We're looking for as much detail as we can get on all of these contentious issues.

So let me ask you, first of all, when you talk about rationing health care, what specifically is it that you mean?

SINGER: It's the public part of health care that I'm talking about. I'm not talking about stopping people paying for whatever they can afford to pay for or paying for whatever extra insurance they can pay for.

But if you have public funds going for something, you want and the taxpayer wants to get good value for that public fund.

So that means you're going to have to say, look, at the margins, if there's a very expensive new treatment or new drug that perhaps doesn't do any good anyway, perhaps there's no good scientific studies that shows that it's really going to help you significantly, we're not going to provide that.

We're going to say, we want to get a certain standard of value for money, just like you would if you're shopping at the supermarket. That's rationing.

ROBERTS: I see. Rationing goes on all the time, in the corporate world, it goes on in our personal lives. It's sort of a cost-benefit analysis. Is it worth spending the money on this?

Why is rationing such a dirty word when it comes to health care? Is it because people don't -- they want this care and can't get access to it?

SINGER: I suppose people are reasonably worried about the idea that their doctor may say to them, this is something that's good, but you can't get it. You can't afford it.

But, of course, we have a health care system where there's 45 million uninsured Americans who can't get it. There's also people on Medicare and Medicaid who knows that they can't get everything because they have quite high co-pays that they can't afford.

So we are already rationing health care, and in a way that I think is not the best way, because it means that there are really effective treatments that could make a big difference to people, and they can't afford it. And we should change that.

ROBERTS: Kathleen Sebelius, who is the HHS secretary, was for a time before she was governor out there in Kansas, she was the state insurance commissioner, talking about rationing.

She says She saw rationing on a regular basis by private insurers who often made decisions overruling suggestions that doctors would make for their patients.

So we talk about rationing potentially in the framework of a public option when it comes to health insurance, but is it not true that rationing is already taking place?

SINGER: Definitely, it is.

After I wrote "The New York Times" article, I had a letter from someone who had multiple sclerosis, and he was both a British citizen but living in America. And he was saying there were treatments like physical therapy that he was denied by his private insurance company which were very effective and very helpful that he could get free on the British National Health Service.

ROBERTS: What about -- talk about this idea of best practices, which president Obama brought up several times in town hall meetings. And it begs the question -- what is the price for a life? What price do we put on life, this idea of so-called best practices.

"The Washington Times" newspaper, which tends to lean right, said about that recently, "Rationing takes place when people want more health care than is available and thus cannot get the care they need."

Is it the care they need, Peter, or is it the care they want?

SINGER: This is the problem -- if you have a system where if somebody says oh, I have heard of some treatment, or a doctor even says maybe this could help you, perhaps to give the patients some hope. But it's an expensive treatment and there is no really good evidence that it will do them any significant good, then there is really a question as to whether we should be providing that treatment.

It's not the best use of our funds. That's always the question, how do we most effectively use the money we have and the resources we have to improve people's health?

ROBERTS: But again, back to this idea of being in a public plan where there's rationing, is it not true that there's rationing in private health care plans right now? How many people have had arguments with a bureaucrat at a health care provider, a health insurance company, who has said "we're not going to pay for that treatment."

SINGER: Yes, absolutely. That is rationing, and in a way the private insurance companies have to do that to keep the premiums down. If they don't do that -- they're premiums are already rising, but they will rise even faster than ever and we'll end up with bankrupt plans.

ROBERTS: The president keeps on telling us that cost containment is one of the big must-haves when it comes to health care reform. The only way to get the deficits down, the only way to get overall debt down, is to reform health care.

Where is the cost savings in rationing, particularly if -- in some of the -- not the case all the time, but we hear some of these horror stories about people who were denied care at the outset only to get it later, but in that time the disease has progressed to the point where it becomes so much more expensive to treat it?

SINGER: Right. So there was a saving in providing the basic treatment for everybody, and then they are not going to get to a situation where they don't go see a doctor and things get worse. But another area of saving is in the costs of pharmaceuticals. We can see that the same drug that we're buying in the United States is on sale for much less money in Britain because the British National Health Service says we will not provide that at that price.

So the drug manufacturer brings down the price for Britain but doesn't bring down to the United States, because we still have that kind of scheme of saying, sorry, that's too expensive.

ROBERTS: The same thing north of the boarder to Canada. That's why people go across the border to Canada.

But we hear that the why the drug is so much more expensive in the United States is because of the research monies that are needed to develop drugs like that.

SINGER: Well, the drugs are being developed for everyone, Canadians, Britains, and Americans. If the drug companies can sell them for less money across the border, they can sell them for less money here.

ROBERTS: Peter Singer, it's great to tap your expertise on this. We appreciate you coming in this morning.

SINGER: Thank you, John, good talking to you.


CHETRY: All right, well, still ahead, we're going to talk about good news for General Motors. They're firing up some plants again, getting ready to produce more cars and trucks and hiring more people. We're going to talk with Christine Romans about whether manufacturing is getting a big boom from the clash for clunkers.


CHETRY: It's 23 minutes after the hour.

Christine Romans is "Minding Your Business" this morning. And we have some good news to talk about when it comes to car manufacturing.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. There are some GM workers who are going to go back on the job. And in fact there are about 10,000 GM workers who will see extra money in their paychecks because of extra shifts and extra work. They'll be getting overtime as GM ramps up some production in response to the cash for clunkers program.

This is what we know. GM will be recalling 1,350 workers back to the job, back to the line. They want to make 60,000 more cars in the third quarter, in the fourth quarter. And again, about 10,000 workers will see some overtime. They'll see some shifts reinstated, mostly in Lordstown, Ohio and also some jobs in Ontario.

So these are Canadian auto workers and UAW auto workers who will see a response to that cash for clunkers as they try to make some more cars. In Lordstown, Ohio, they make the Chevy Cobalt there, which is something that has seen some demand because it's a smaller, more fuel efficient car.

We know that last week Ford announced that it was going to try to make 10,000 more cars, try to ramp up a little bit of production there so some floor workers can get some extra overtime and some extra time and some people being reinstated on the line.

But this comes at the same time that, a company that tracks the industry, says they think the demand for clunkers is waning and that three waves now of buyers are petering out.

These are the waves of buyers that sees. First, the informed buyers are people who waited and waited, and then came in and did the cash for clunkers deal.

Then there's the mass market, they say. The next wave of people who responded to advertising and the buzz and decided to get in on the deal.

And the late participants, these are the last people now who are in the deal. These are people who had to chase down their titles that was lost, maybe. They have to get their paperwork together. Maybe they didn't have all of I's dotted and the T's crossed, and now they're here.

And said it's unclear where the next wave of customers will come from. So you're seeing the industry starting to ramp up production at the very same time says we think this thing is running its course.

CHETRY: We'll see. We'll see if by then the economy is goosed enough down the road that more people will keep buying cars.

ROMANS: Maybe, maybe. Or it's all this kind of demand is done, so who knows?

ROBERTS: Do you have a Romans numeral for us this morning?

ROMANS: I do. It's a big number, and it has to do with where we are on the trajectory of this for the cash for clunkers -- 411,624.

ROBERTS: IS that the number of cars sold in the cash for clunkers program?

ROMANS: That is exactly right. And I was surprised that it was that many, quite frankly.

ROBERTS: Tell him what he wins, Johnny! You've got a new car.


ROMANS: Yes, a clunker. John gets a taxi ride home this afternoon, not in the car, his own car, but in a Taxi.

Yes, 411,624, the cash for clunkers so far, which would suggest maybe this thing -- that's a lot of cars. Has this thing run its course? Can they squeeze more out of it? We'll have to wait and see.

CHETRY: Well, it runs its course when they run out of money, right? They put through another $2 billion.

ROMANS: And some dealers, frankly, are starting to step back a little bit saying there's paperwork delays and the like.

CHETRY: Christine, good to see you.

ROBERTS: The dynamic between South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and his wife, Jenny, it is a relationship counselor's field day. And our Jeff Guardeer is going to come up in a few minutes to talk about that and what all his fellow psychologists are saying about what's being said on both sides of this interesting fence.


ROBERTS: The man who was with Michael Jackson the day he died is breaking his silence. Dr. Conrad Murray is under investigation. He allegedly gave the singer Propofol in the 24 hours before he died. It's a powerful operating room drug that doctors say should never be used outside of medical setting.

Here's CNN's Randi Kaye with the doctors first public remarks.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning John and Kiran. It may be just 60 seconds long, but that's long enough for Michael Jackson's doctor to say he told the truth.


DR. CONRAD MURRAY, MICHAEL JACKSON'S DOCTOR: I've done all I can do. I told the truth and I have faith the truth will prevail.

KAYE: Dr. Murray has been interviewed twice by investigators. But this is the first time since his star patient died back in June that he's speaking out publicly.

The doctor was at Jackson's Beverly Hills mansion when he stopped breathing and is at the center of the investigation to the star's death. His lawyer's office says he's, quote, "under siege with threats and has a bodyguard 24/7."

MURRAY: Because of all that is going on, I'm afraid to return phone calls or use my e-mail. Therefore, I recorded this video to let all of you know that I have been receiving your messages.

KAYE: A source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN that Dr. Murray gave Jackson the powerful sedative Diprivan, also known as Propofol, within 24 hours of his death. That anesthetic, which investigators believe killed him, is not supposed to be used outside of a hospital setting.

There is no mention of Michael Jackson or his treatment on the video. KAYE (on camera): A spokeswoman for Dr. Murray's lawyer told me the video was recorded last week inside a Houston home. She told me that Dr. Murray's lawyer gets 20 to 30 calls every day from patients, even strangers, asking him to tell Dr. Murray they love him and are praying for him.

KAYE (voice-over): Dr. Murray's clinics in both Houston and Las Vegas have been searched by federal drug agents. His Vegas home was also searched.

MURRAY: Your messages give me strength and courage and keep me going. They mean the world to me. Please, don't worry. As long as I keep god in my heart and you in my life, I will be fine.

KAYE: But there's more. Dr. Murray may also be the target of a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the Jackson family. The family's lawyer said the idea had been, quote, "floated," and that Dr. Murray and even Jackson's tour promoter, AEG, could be named.

Dr. Murray's lawyer's spokeswoman said, "We're just asking people to reserve their judgment until we have some definite ruling on what killed Michael Jackson."

At AEG, a spokesman told me he was not aware of any lawsuit.


KAYE: Dr. Murray was to be paid $150,000 a month. That was money that was advanced to Michael Jackson from the tour's budget. The singer died before Dr. Murray ever saw a penny. John, Kiran. Back to you.

ROBERTS: And we're crossing the half hour checking this morning's top stories. It's a deadly day across Iraq. Officials say bombings in Baghdad have now killed at least 75 people and wounded more than 300. These are pictures, brand new into us. They say there are six explosions in one hour there. It's one of the deadliest days since the U.S. handed security over to the Iraqi forces.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama and former President Bill Clinton sat down to talk about the trip to North Korea that the former president made. He met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. You remember he brought journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling back home to California. Well, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also says her husband's account has been "extremely helpful but added that the White House is not changing any policy toward Pyongyang."

ROBERTS: And two new study show that the cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil has low occurrence of side effects. But the manufacturer, Merck didn't explain those side effects very well while promoting the drug. The studies show that after 23 million doses, 12,000 people reported medical problems, usually mild dizziness and headaches. But there are more than 700 reports of more serious problems, including 32 reports of death. Merck says it's confident that its vaccine is safe. CHETRY: Well, when news broke about South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's affair with a woman in Argentina, a lot of people wrote it off as just another politician straying. But Governor Mark Sanford's wife, Jenny, is really doing something unexpected. She is opening up in a different way about her husband's affair. She talked to "Vogue" magazine. And unlike other political wife she didn't stand by her husband during his tear-filled press conference. At the same time, the couple hasn't ruled out a reconciliation either. But why would someone go so public with such a private problem?

We bring in now our clinical psychologist Jeff Gardere to weigh in on more about what Jenny Sanford had to say.


CHETRY: And she did open up in a very public way about this private humiliation. What purpose does that serve in your opinion?

GARDERE: Well, I think in many ways, it serves as a catharsis where she can free her soul and talk about what it is that she went through. Because she suffered through this. She kept her head low and while her husband was kind of making a fool of herself when he was talking about this whole issue of soul mates, humiliating her and the family and so on, she just was silent about it.

So this was her chance to come out and talk about it. And I think it's important because as a public figure, people do want to know what's going on with her. And I think in some ways, she has the responsibility in doing that and she recognizes it.

CHETRY: Well, it's interesting in the interview with "Vogue," she said "it never occurred to me that he would do something like that. The person I married was centered on a core of morals. The person who did this is not centered on those morals." And the article went on to quote some of her friends saying that "if you line up 10 guys, he'd be the last guy you would think would do this." So is it basically impossible to tell whether or not if your spouse would be unfaithful?

GARDERE: Well, it's not impossible. If you marry someone who was philandering to begin with, who had a lot of dates, who is always involved with a lot of women, then you can possibly tell that restless spirit may not calm itself during a marriage. However, we do know that people change. People have midlife crisis. They go through conflicts. They do have issues. And they do philander. They do these things in a way I think that overcompensates for them whatever their psychological issues may be. And she talks about he's got some real issues that she's got to look into.

CHETRY: She does. In fact, she went on to say, "It became clear to me that obsessed with just going to see this woman. I have learned these affairs are almost like an addiction to alcohol or pornography. They just can't break away from them." Do you agree with that? I mean, isn't that sort of giving it an excuse to chase down your every desire and fantasy by saying it's an addiction. You can't help it. GARDERE: Well, I don't think she's giving an excuse for the simple fact that she talks about these foibles and the issues that he does have and that he has to look into as I said earlier. But at the same time, we have to look at this whole issue is this really an addiction to one person? Normally, I don't see that.

It might be an addiction to the idea that you have to get out and get your shot of adrenaline, do something that brings you some joy, even if it's something that's outside of your marriage, which is completely wrong. As we know. But people do that. We see there are very high rates of infidelity and they keep going higher as time goes on.

CHETRY: And she also did address the question as to why men, specifically male politicians, maybe don't understand the damaging effects of an affair. They lose sight of, I guess, reality.


CHETRY: She said that basically, if they need something, 10 people want to give it to them. It's an ego boost. It's easy to drink your own Kool-Aid. As a wife, you do your best to keep them grounded but it's a real challenge. Is it more common with people in positions of power to think that there's really no consequences to their actions or to forget that?

GARDERE: Well I don't think they don't think about consequences. They never consider that because she is right. They drink their own Kool-Aid. They feel that they deserve to have these affairs because now everyone is created equal but they're created a little bit more equal. They're used to the power, they're used to having people catering to them at all times. So they feel that they can go ahead and have these affairs.

And again, they don't think about the consequences until it's too late. The interesting thing about what she says about her husband is that he was always a wandering spirit, always looking for the next big thing. And so I wonder if this is very telling about his personality. Here he is, kind of wandering through life even though he's a governor and looking for that next big thing. Was it this affair? Was it something that excited him? Because a lot of people said he as dead on the inside for a very long time and she put up with that. This is what made him alive. But as we know, an inappropriate way to do that, of course.

CHETRY: And some of my female friends have said, even though people are saying oh, she's the model of how to deal with it. That she was an enabler as well. She did everything for him, ran his campaign, lived there. And she said that she kept the possibility of reconciliation open.

GARDERE: And I think it's a very healthy thing.

CHETRY: You did?

GARDERE: Yes, absolutely. Because she said she will be open to reconciliation if he explores what his issues are and if he looks at what he needs to do in order to be a good father and a good husband. Because her life is grounded in her four children, her boys. And so she wants a father for those boys. So she's giving him a chance. The ball is in his court.

The thing is when we have people involve in affairs, it's so easy to get into the blame game and say one person did everything. But as you said, there is an enabling going on and you have to take responsibility for what may be happening in the relationship, what's missing in the marriage. And that's what makes a healthier marriage and why we can reconcile these things if it's not too much of a blowout.

CHETRY: All right. Well, Jeff Gardere, always great to get your take. Thanks so much.

GARDERE: Thanks, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Hurricane Bill went from just a nominal hurricane to now a category 4. A major storm. The big question that everyone is asking just how close to the eastern United States will it get? Rob Marciano got the latest forecast track. He joins us in a just a couple of minutes. It's now 38 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Hurricane Bill out there in the Atlantic Ocean, now a dangerous category 4 storm. But is this one just going to be a fish storm or might it actually affect the coast of the United States. Rob Marciano is following Bill. He is at the weather center in Atlanta. How are we looking so far, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, they're sending a hurricane hunter aircraft in there right now, John and Kiran. So whenever they do that, you know, there is a chance it doesn't remain a fish storm. Although right now, it's pretty far out to sea. Here it is, about 400 miles east of the Leeward Islands. But look at that well-defined eye. My goodness. That really has grown in intensity for the past 12 hours, as a matter of fact, with winds of 130 miles per hour, 135 miles per hour. That's a decent cat-4 and it may very well strengthen as we go through time.

All right. What's the realm of thinking here for the National Hurricane Center as far as where this thing is going to go. You got high pressure that will steer and you've got a cold front that's going to try to sneak in to the east coast. That will act and often does as a block. But if it doesn't get there quick enough, then that allows the storm to move a little bit farther to the west.

These are the computer models that we follow. Or at least a handful of them. They all show that recurvature but there has been a slight shift to the west and that is reflected in the National Hurricane Center track. You know, cone of uncertainty as it gets a little bit closer to the New England coastline here as we head towards Sunday afternoon into Monday. So this is certainly something that we're going to have to watch very closely. Also something that we're watching closely is the potential for seeing something develop here in Florida. Very low chances - this is what's left of Ana but it's drifting into the Gulf of Mexico. So certainly, it's something that we want to watch. At this point, there's a very low probability of this developing. But remember Claudette over the weekend, that thing popped up in a real big hurry, became a tropical storm, made landfall, all within 18 hours. So we'll watch this as well. John, Kiran, back up to you.

ROBERTS: Rob, thanks so much for that. We'll check back with you soon.

CHETRY: Well, 42 minutes past the hour right now. Let's look at the "AM Rundown." What's coming up in the next 15 minutes.

Remember the case of the woman driving the wrong way on a New York highway. Eight people were killed in that crash. She died. Her daughter died and her three nieces. Well, now, as well as three other people in the other car. Well, now prosecutors have made a decision about whether or not to file charges. We're going to tell you what happens next.

At 7:50 Eastern, we're "Paging our Dr. Gupta." There are some sincere concerns about how people with disabilities and autism will fit into any health care plan. He's taking questions about health care reform and giving you answers.

Also at 8:00 Eastern, will the president and democrats go it alone on health care reform. We're live in Washington, ahead on the most news in the morning.



CHETRY: Beautiful shot in Nashville.

ROBERTS: Lovely shot. Music city. Look at that. Sunny and 72 degrees right now. Later on today, though, thunderstorms, a high of 87. There's a lot of potentially dangerous weather moving through the midsection of the country today. Rob Marciano is tracking it all. We'll keep you completely up to date on all of that, through the day here on CNN.

CHETRY: There's also perhaps a little controversy brewing in Tennessee as well, right?


CHETRY: About whether or not people can...

ROBERTS: Exactly.

CHETRY: ... bring guns in to bars and restaurants. ROBERTS: They passed a law about a month ago that allows people to carry concealed weapons into restaurants and bars. And some of the restaurant owners who are gun owners themselves are saying that's a terrible idea. We'll be taking a look at that debate coming up in our next hour here.

CHETRY: Meanwhile, let's take a look at the national headlines.

$10 million have been set aside for veterans returning from active duty by the state of Massachusetts. And so far that money is unclaimed. A three-year-old program offering $1,000 bonus to members of the military to members who serve. Some officials speculate that veterans are perhaps reluctant to accept handouts. Other says it's part about getting the information out there to people who didn't even know this is available.

ROBERTS: Well, she drove the wrong way down a New York highway for almost two miles, allegedly extremely drunk and high. She killed herself and seven people including four children. But New York prosecutor says there's not enough evidence to file criminal charges in that crash at State Parkway last month. Toxicology results show Diane Schuler's blood alcohol level was 0.19 at the time of the crash, more than twice the legal limit. Two of the victims' families are expected to file for a civil suit against Schuler's husband.

CHETRY: Well, we've learned who is behind the image of President Obama as the Joker from the "Dark Knight." It ended up on posters with the caption, "socialist" at town hall meetings on health care. But the artist isn't part of any right wing group. He's a 20-year-old student of Palestinian decent from Chicago. He says he created the image, playing around with Photoshop and posted the results on Flikr. Also he said he didn't expect the image to get the response that it did. We're going to be talking to him on the show tomorrow about how that picture went viral and how he feels about all that attention.

ROBERTS: What part did you miss about not getting a response when it did?

CHETRY: I don't know. We're eager to hear from him.

Forty-seven minutes past the hour.

ROBERTS: Just saying.



ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. As President Obama's make or break push on health care continues, we're trying to cut through the clutter and the politics and give you the real answers. And for more on that this morning, we're paging our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

CHETRY: Hey, Sanjay, good to see you.


CHETRY: We got a question from one of our AM fix viewers concerned about the impact that made health care insurance changes may have on the disabled. So let's listen.


JAMES WINDINGS: Hello, this is James Windings. I am in West Frankfurt. I just have a question about people who have disabilities, will this health care reform affect us? OK, thank you.


GUPTA: Well, yes, that's a great question, an important point. And I tell you there's about 1,100 pages of House reform bill. We've scoured through this looking for this exact issue, looking for mention of how disabilities, people with disabilities, would be covered. Now a couple of numbers to keep in mind. There is about 54 million Americans who have some sort of disability, physical impairment, a mental impairment. They may have visual or hearing impairments. A lot of those people as far as we can tell simply are either under insured or uninsured as things stand right now.

So starting off basically what they say if you do have some type of insurance, including Medicare or Medicaid, there would be no change in coverage. Medicaid does cover a lot of people who do have some sort of disability. What happens a lot of times is people make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, yet they still can't afford their premiums. That's what happens to a lot of people who have some sort of disability, they fall through the cracks. This has been a big concern for some time.

So take a look here. This is a good sort of glimpse at how this might work for somebody who's watching right now that has a disability and simply can't afford their health care insurance. Pre-existing conditions now covered. You can't discriminate. Huge potentially for the community of disabled, no cap on annual insurance claims. You can imagine, you get to September, then suddenly you got no money left in your insurance program, no cap anymore annually and more doctors insurance plans to choose from overall.

So this is potentially how this will be addressed for the disabled community. And the advocacy groups that we've talk to, James, say they are pretty pleased at how this bill looks. I thought one thing that's interesting, John and Kiran, there are hospital facilities right now that don't necessarily need to be wheelchair accessible. I thought there was a federal law saying all hospitals facilities had to be wheelchair accessible but there's not but it's part of this House reform bill there would be as well.

ROBERTS: That is not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act?

GUPTA: Yes. I was surprised. I'm not sure how that's regulated but apparently there are hospital facilities today that you can't access with a wheelchair. ROBERTS: That is real surprising, Sanjay. Hey, when we talk about coverage for people with disabilities, autism keeps coming up around here. There seems to be some confusion out there about that. Question from your Twitter feed, this person asks, why doesn't HR 3200 - that's the House health reform bill - why doesn't it have insurance coverage for autism treatment? What do you say?

GUPTA: Well, first of all, the twitter writer is absolutely right. Again we scoured through the entire thing. The word "autism" is actually not mentioned anywhere that we could find in this particular bill. We talked to an advocacy group called Autism Speaks about this specifically. They looked at it as well, They said they were quite surprised that autism wasn't mentioned.

I think what is important here - we called the White House to ask specifically about this - they say if you look at some of the other plans with regard to disabilities in general, including again no discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, no caps on annual insurance claims. That's going to affect an improved treatment for autism as well.

Right now 36 states are allowed to deny coverage, behavioral cognitive therapy. They think that would change as a result of this bill. But the writer is absolutely right, there is no mention of autism.

ROBERTS: Sanjay Gupta out there for us this morning in Atlanta, straightening it all out for us. Sanjay, thanks so much for that.

GUPTA: Thanks, John.

CHETRY: What about the nuclear option before, right? That was when there was talk about maybe bypassing Democratic concerns when it came to judicial nominees. Well, now the nuclear option is something that we're talking about yet again, and this time it has to do with Democrats considering going it alone when it comes to health care. We're live from the White House next hour.



ROBERTS: Could there be a better song to begin this segment with.

CHETRY: Yes, she - Alanis Morissette harnessing the anger of a break-up.

ROBERTS: That song scared more men than the movie "Fatal Attraction."

CHETRY: I don't know. That's a tie perhaps.

But for the first time since South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford talked about the affair, admitted to having an affair with an Argentinean woman, we're hearing more in depth from his wife, Jenny. She actually gave an interview to "Vogue" magazine.

ROBERTS: Oh, yes. Jenny Sanford is being called the role model for wronged spouses. And now her family's scandal and others like it are giving rise to a television show that's literally ripped right from the headlines.

Our Carol Costello is in Washington this morning and she is looking at all of this. It's pretty interesting stuff, Carol.



ROBERTS: Now we can hear you.

COSTELLO: Good. I was saying who knew cheating women are in? You know, they're being called a new kind of feminists. Watch.


COSTELLO (voice-over): The betrayed wife is empowered role model. It's the picture September's "Vogue" paints of Jenny Sanford whose cheating husband is fighting to hold on to his governor's seat in South Carolina. And she's not the only wronged woman to hold our attention. These ladies have inspired a new CBS drama. It's called "The Good Wife."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have never traded lighter sentences for financial or sexual favors.

COSTELLO: That scene was inspired by former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who resigned after he was caught in a call girl scandal. His good wife by his side.

MICHELL KING, EXEC. PRODUCER "THE GOOD WIFE": So many of these women are so accomplished and so high-powered and intelligent.

ROBERT KING, EXCC. PRODUCER "THE GOOD WIFE": We just kind of like the idea of what would happen to that woman a minute later, six months later, seven months later and throughout the rest of her life.

COSTELLO: Bits and pieces from the real-life Sanford soap opera will figure into "The Good Wife, 2." Mrs. Sanford is appealing because she didn't stand by her man as he told the nation he cheated. She took the kids and moved out of the governor's mansion telling "Vogue" she's forgiven her husband, that "they weren't madly in love when they met but were good friends..., that he became obsessed with going to see the other woman. It was like an addiction to alcohol or pornography for him." For many, her candor is refreshing.

DR. JERI CABAT, COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON: What's interesting is that every time she speaks, people seem to understand and kind of support her words. Every time Mark Sanford speaks, people are left with more questions and are wondering how did this man get so far in his political career? COSTELLO: It's the kind of thing that fits perfectly into a TV drama. In "The Good Wife," the political spouse uses a sort of Sanford power to return to work as a lawyer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not only are you coming back to the workplace fairly late, but, yes, with very prominent baggage.

But hey, if she can do it. So can you.

COSTELLO: Mrs. Sanford isn't going back to work but some in South Carolina are urging her to run for political office. Maybe even for governor.


COSTELLO: Wouldn't that be something? Mrs. Sanford did run her husband's campaign. And many consider her the brains behind the man. I asked Mrs. Sanford's press person about that possibility. She told me, for the time being Mrs. Sanford is totally focused on getting her boys started in their new school and settling into the house. Don't think she has any political ambitions, but I will pass along your compliment. But there are some in South Carolina willing to raise some money for Mrs. Sanford.

ROBERTS: Yes, and we'll keep following this drama in real life and on TV in the fictional version of it all. Just can't get enough. Carol Costello this morning. Carol, thanks so much.