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American Morning

White House May Not Push for Public Option; Green Jobs Czar Resigns; Outrage Erupts Over Bank CEO Bonuses; Southwest Airlines' Early Bird Program Doesn't Sit Well With All Customers; Doubling Down on Afghanistan

Aired September 07, 2009 - 07:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And it's a CNN exclusive, one-on-one with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. See what he says about the stimulus, the economic recovery, and why he says we are back from the edge of abyss now.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And how many added airline charges are you willing to take? In the first three months, U.S. air carriers took in over a half billion by making you pay for checked bag. Well, now there's another way to rake in some cash of customers and flyers. We're going to show you what's next, coming up.

ROBERTS: Several great white sharks spotted off a beach on a holiday weekend. We're not reading the script of "Jaws." Two of them were tagged for the first time ever in the Atlantic Ocean. They were just off of Cape Cod. Why the beaches could be quiet this Labor Day in New England.

CHETRY: We begin the hour, though, with President Obama's make or break push on health care reform.

At a speech on Wednesday on Capitol Hill, the president's inner circle was out in full force hitting the Sunday talk show circuit, but they were noticeably tightlipped on whether or not the president's plan will include a so-called public option.


CHETRY: Months of debate and deadlock on Capitol Hill and weeks of hostile crowds and plenty of shouting at town hall meetings -- will President Obama's plan for health care reform continued to include a government insurance plan to complete with the private ones, known as the public option? His inner circle still won't say yes or no.

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: He believes the public option is a good tool. Now, it shouldn't define the whole health care debate, however.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president strongly believes that we have to have an option like this to provide choice and competition, to provide a check on insurance companies, because, without it, again, we will have markets as big as the whole state of Alabama, almost 90 percent of which is dominated by one insurance company. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But is it essential? That's the key question. We've known for months that the president is for it. Is it essential for health care reform?

GIBBS: The president believes it is a valuable tool.

CHETRY: Along with the answer to will he or won't he on the public option, the president's senior adviser says after Wednesday night's speech to the House, the Senate, and the nation, we'll know exactly where his boss stands on all of the details of the plan and why he thinks reform is an absolute must.

AXELROD: I think they will come away with a clear sense of what it is and what it's not. What it is is a plan that will, again, give more security and stability to people who have insurance today, and it will make it easier for those who don't.

CHETRY: And while there has been some talk of compromise inside the beltway, other lawmakers on Capitol Hill still seem miles apart.

REP. MIKE PENCE, (R) INDIANA: The American people don't want another speech. They want to know the plan, but they don't want a government-run plan that will send us on a pathway towards socialized medicine and over $800 billion in higher taxes.

REP. MAXINE WATERS, (D) CALIFORNIA: Our speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has made it very clear that we will have public option in any bill that goes off on the House side. The president is going to have to use his muscle on the Senate side.


CHETRY: There you see it. Even after talking about how, hopefully, they are trying to come together, you still see how different the opinions are about that public option.

Well, for reaction from the West Wing, let's bring in our Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry. And Ed, bottom line it for us -- exactly how important is the public option to the point where we didn't get a straight answer from the Sunday shows about whether or not it has to be in any bill?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Kiran. And I think the way we have to read the tea leaves is when you hear Robert Gibbs asked is it a public option essential, and he says, well, no, it's valuable. And when David Axelrod says the president wants a public option but it shouldn't be the entirety of health reform, what that really means is the president thinks the public option is important, but not important enough to spike a deal.

And so that's why we've been hearing that the president and his top aides are deep in conversations with Republican Olympia Snowe who doesn't necessarily want a public option up front.

Instead she wants what they call a trigger. They say give the insurance companies a couple of years to reform themselves. If they don't do it, then a public option triggers.

People like Maxine Waters just in your piece there, they don't want that. They don't think that's pure enough.

And the bottom line question for this president is will liberals revolt if he doesn't go for a full public option? So he's going to have to on Wednesday show the good fight there.

But in the end, if he wants to get a deal, he probably will have to pull it back here.

ROBERTS: Ed, the president has so many things going on. He's got big issues like Afghanistan, the G-20 meeting coming up, and then he has these nagging issues like the Van Jones resignation, the education speech tomorrow that's getting a lot of heat. Is he spread too thin? Can he focus enough to get what he wants on health care?

HENRY: Inside the West Wing, they certainly do not think he's spread too thin because they think that health care reform is critical not just for in and of itself reforming the system, but also dealing with the economy, dealing with the exploding costs long term in terms of our budget deficit. The rising health care costs are the most critical piece of the whole situation.

But you're right. He's going to continue to face criticism, especially if this fight drags on now through almost the end of the year. He has set a deadline now. All kinds of deadlines on the Hill have been missed. But the latest deadline is get something done by the end of the year.

This keeps dragging on, and it pushing out some of the other issues, like dealing with Afghanistan, dealing with climate change legislation. He'll start hearing much, much more criticism that he's spending too much time on this -- John?

ROBERTS: Ed Henry for at the White House this morning. Ed, thank you so much.

Over at the Senate, the man who heads the committee who holds the purse strings there is drafting his own blueprint for reform. To explain that side of the story, let's bring in our Congressional Correspondent Brianna Keilar. Brianna, Senator Max Baucus was out this weekend saying he is ready to mark ahead. What's he calling it?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, after months and months of negotiations, Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he's the one who's been heading up these bipartisan talks among his committee members, he told the other members of the so-called gang of six that he will be coming to them with a proposal, sources tell CNN, if not today, then tomorrow when Congress reconvenes after the month-long break.

So we are expecting it to include a nonprofit health care cooperative instead of the public option, the government run insurance plan.

This group of course has been seen as the best chance for bipartisan compromise. But obviously the window of opportunity for these senators to really have an impact is starting to close here. As President Obama's Wednesday night address to Congress looms, as he is obviously prepared to forge ahead whether or not this key committee's proposal is on the table -- John?

ROBERTS: Democratic Senator Ben Nelson from Nebraska was on with John King on "State of the Union" this weekend. He was saying that he could support this idea of a trigger mechanism to the public option which would give private insurance a certain amount of time. And if they were not able to bring people under the rolls of the insured from the uninsured, then the trigger mechanism might provoke a public option.

But he also warned about rushing the whole process through. Let's listen to what he told John.


SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: People in Nebraska are already concerned that we've been rushing things through, and if we went to some sort of a parliamentary shortcut, I think they would be even more alarmed than they are right now. That's what I heard during the town hall meetings.


ROBERTS: Brianna, how much does this undercut fellow Democrats who want the public option?

KEILAR: If it undercuts Democrats, he wouldn't be the only one undercutting Democrats.

Senator Nelson is talking about this budget maneuver that will allow Democrats to go it alone to pass health care with only 51 votes in the Senate. So no doubt there are many Democrats like him who are really uncomfortable with this idea. That's what you're hearing.

But John, you talked about something else Senator Nelson said yesterday that was particularly interesting, that he said he wants to hear President Obama signal on Wednesday that he's open to this idea of a public option with a trigger.

Yes, some liberals in the House, many of them, in fact, maybe even a critical mass number, have an issue with this. But it's also particularly interesting because he is signaling an area where there could be compromise in the Senate, and certainly, as you heard Ed reference, Senator Olympia Snowe, even a Republican from Maine, has been talking to the White House this.

So this is really an area that we're concentrating on right now to see if there would be enough members of Senate to get on board here.

ROBERTS: Brianna Keilar live in Washington this morning. Brianna, thanks so much.

And as President Obama steps up to the podium on Wednesday night to take his health care plan to a joint session of Congress and the nation, CNN is the only place to be. The best political team on television will be here to break it all down starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern. That's Wednesday night, only on CNN.

CHETRY: Well, the marine biologists and scientists are thrilled. Maybe if you're swimming off the waters, you may not be.

It's a Labor Day shark scare as great white sharks spotted in the waters off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. They now have the beaches closed in the area.

These giant sharks, as big as ten feet long and in some cases weighing as much as 1,000 pounds, are rare in New England waters. Two of them were electronically tagged for monitoring for the first time ever in the Atlantic Ocean.

State officials are now warning swimmers at nearby beaches to be on the lookout for the possibility of even more great whites.

ROBERTS: So we have a whole bunch of things that the president has got on his plate this week. He has the health care speech coming up on Wednesday, he has education speech tomorrow, Van Jones, his green jobs czar resigned -- a lot of people say he was forced out -- on Saturday night.

We'll kick that around with our political panel coming right up.


ROBERTS: Good morning, Washington, where right now, it's cloudy and 67 degrees. Later on today it's going to be sunny with a high of 78. Sounds like a beautiful day in the nation's capital.

He was supposed to be President Obama's go-to guy to create more green jobs. Now he's out of a job. Van Jones has been under fire for some pointed comments about Republicans and a petition that he signed in 2004 questioning what the Bush administration knew about 9/11.

Here to help us break down this controversy is our political panel. On the left with have Maria Cardona with us this morning, and along with Kevin Madden on the right. And full disclosure -- Kevin also works for a P.R. firm with clients in the health care industry.

Kevin, let's start with you. On this issue of Van Jones, the left is infuriated by how he was treated by the White House, the right seems to be emboldened. Republicans may be smelling blood in the water. Do you expect that this is just the first of many inquiries into some of the czars?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think that's the main issue here. What you see with President Obama is this reliance on czars, and they in Congress believe that's an end run around their oversight. And I think there are probably even some corridors of power within the administration that probably didn't like the idea that you have czars that are encroaching on their policy portfolios.

So I believe that the pressure on this, though, for President Obama will come from Congress. You have many up there that believe these czars ought to be confirmed by the Senate. And since they are not, when they do get into the center of fire like this, they'll continue to take aim.

ROBERTS: Maria, do you think that's true? Is the pressure going to come from Congress or right-wing talk radio and right-wing talk TV and other people who are illuminating the potential problems with Van Jones for some weeks now?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't think it's an issue of having too many czars. I think this is something that happens in all administrations. We all have things that we've said in our past, things that we've done in the past that we regret.

I do think unfortunately that the right-wing talk show hosts and the right wing media did focus upon this, and really used it to bring this guy down. And I think it's a shame.

Mr. Jones is an Ivy-League educated lawyer. He was an expert in his field, an internationally renowned author on the subject. And I think that it's too bad for the administration and this country that we're losing his expertise.

But he did the right thing. He resigned. He didn't want to us be talking about this. He wants the focus to be on President Obama's agenda. So I think he did the right thing in resigning.

ROBERTS: Do you think he resigned or was he forced out, Kevin?

MADDEN: I think that's right. Look, at the end of the day, he probably didn't have much choice, he became such a distraction to the administration.

And I have to disagree with Maria that this was right-wing talk radio. This was something that the White House did to itself. When you go through a vetting process that doesn't catch things like having a top White House adviser or a middle level White House adviser like Van Jones that signed a petition that says that we ought to investigate 9/11 as an inside job, then the White House brought this on themselves.

And that was why they were very quick to accept the resignation and allow Van Jones to leave the White House.

ROBERTS: What do you think about that, Maria? Was he just not thoroughly looked at?

CARDONA: Look, all White Houses have gone through this problem. This is not the first time this happened in this administration and past administrations, and it won't be the last. In hindsight, you could you say, yes, the vetting process needs to be better. But that's easily said when you find something that wasn't found before.

So again, I don't think it's an issue of the vetting process. I don't think it's an issue of having czars. I do think it's an issue that you do have right-wing radio talk show hosts and right wing media who are completely focused on having this president and this administration fail.

ROBERTS: Let me switch just gears to health care, because there are many Democrats who say the White House capitulated on Van Jones. They are also fearing that the White House it might capitulate on this idea of a public option.

David Axelrod said "The president believes that the public option is a good tool. It shouldn't define the whole health care debate, however." That prompted headlines that the White House was willing to give up the public option. David Axelrod told the "Politico," no, that's not true.

But what do you think, Maria and Kevin? Is the White House going to have to be extraordinarily flexible with this idea of a public option if they want some bipartisan support? And if the president is laying down some new markers for health care on Wednesday, does he have to indicate that he might have to move on the public option?

MADDEN: I'll take this one, John, first. The biggest problem that the White House has faced right now is the conflicting messages on the public option.

You have folks on the left that are drawing a line around that and saying any bill they pass must have a public option. They have become very disenchanted with the White House because they have shown too much flexibility.

And then on the right you have a lot of folks up on Capitol Hill believe who believe any movement toward the public option is a nonstarter when it comes to finding a bipartisan solution here.

And then the White House is stuck in the middle holding nothing.

One of the biggest problem for the White House is that those on the left, they are not sure exactly what it is that this White House will fight for when push comes to shove. And there's no doubt we are at that point right now.

ROBERTS: Maria, we saw Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska suggesting he might be for this idea of a trigger that doesn't require a public option, at least not immediately. And then you have Speaker Pelosi and others who are saying there's got to be a public option.

CARDONA: John, from the very beginning, this White House has been very clear, and they really have not changed their tune at all.

What they have said from the very beginning, including President Obama, is that what he wants in this health plan is security and stability for those Americans who currently have health insurance, but who are afraid they could be kicked off tomorrow because they get seriously ill, who have extremely high out of pocket expenses, and whose co-pays and premiums have tripled, have gone up three times faster than wages. He wants some protection for those people.

Secondly, and incredibly importantly, is he wants choice and competition for the 47 million Americans who don't have it and the 14,000 American who's lose it every day. They cannot now go out and get affordable health insurance.

He said from the very beginning that an exchange where people can go on and figure out the best plan for them and their family or their small business. I think small business owners are an incredibly important part of this. He has said that the public option is a very important tool to make sure there is competition, to make sure that there are choices available out there.

But he has never basically said that is the one all-important thing that needs to be in this health reform plan.

ROBERTS: We'll see what he has to say on Wednesday. I'm sure we'll hear more about it between now and then.

Maria Cardona, Kevin Madden, great to see you this morning. Thank you for joining us.

MADDEN: Thank you.

CARDONA: Thank you so much.

ROBERTS: And good Labor Day to you.

It's 19 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: All right. We see a beautiful shot this morning of Coco Beach, Florida where it's partly cloudy. You can see the clouds back over the water. It's 75 degrees. A little later, could get storms, 87 for a high on this Labor Day.

We have a question. Is our Rob Marciano working or playing today? Clearly he's laboring, but is he working? He's out there surfing, having a little fun.

It's a special edition of "Rob's Road Show," and he is at the pro-am surf festival in Coco Beach, Florida, today. And he's also getting a few lessons from the pros, so you don't want to miss that.

Meanwhile, now to a CNN exclusive, Treasure Secretary Timothy Geithner sat down for a one-on-one interview with our Richard Quest over the weekend, speaking candidly about things like the stimulus, is it working, the state of our nation's economy, are we on the right track, and also the big wig bonuses, the outrage over bank CEOs raking in millions while many are still struggling. Christine Romans joins us now with more on that interview. What did Tim Geithner have to say?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Timothy Geithner was in London with the other finance ministers for the G-20 countries. Basically they agreed to keep up their stimulus efforts, but also in broad brush strokes agreeing to rein in banker pay.

Some of us sitting our here, it feels like nothing has changed with banker pay. A lot money is still being paid out to the CEOs of some of the companies that had to take bailout funds. And Richard Quest asked Timothy Geithner, the U.S. treasury secretary, if they are committed to making sure this doesn't continue.


TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: There is no risk that we will -- can afford and will allow, conditions to go back to what they were in the peak of the boom.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But the speed in which they've gone back to their sort of...

GEITHNER: Haven't gone back yet.

QUEST: ... on the way.

GEITHNER: No, haven't gone back yet. And I think it's important that it not happen again. You are going to see very significant reforms and compensation practice across the major finance centers.

And one thing we did today which was very important was reach agreement on a common framework and commit ourselves to make sure that we will apply those standards on an even basis across our countries.


ROMANS: So what will those standards be? Will they be, as many Europeans want, just caps on CEO pay and banker pay and pay for the people who take big risks with banks' money, or will they be some combination of that and capital rules, meaning if the banks take big risks, risks that could hurt the financial sector, the banks have to put more money aside?

We don't know how that will work out just yet. But Timothy Geithner is agreeing that there have to be new competition standards, and that's what their working toward.

ROBERTS: Do you have a "Roman Numeral" for us this morning?

ROMANS: I do -- $32,613,828,763. This has to do with compensation, reigning in the executive compensation for the banks who received TARP money.

CHETRY: That's all the pay when you add it all up from the CEOs? ROMANS: It was the top nine banks bonuses last year, that horrible year in the banks when the banks had to rescued by taxpayers. In bonus paid out just to the top nine banks, $32 billion.

ROBERTS: In bonuses?

ROMANS: Just in bonuses, yes.

The whole Wall Street culture is built on bonuses. Thousands of people get bonuses, and they get bonuses for making a lot of money quickly and taking risks in the economy. All of these are things that the G-20 finance ministers...

ROBERTS: $32 billion no bonuses, unbelievable.


ROBERTS: Everyone is trying to make money these days, it would seem, including the airlines. They are doing all kinds of things to try to up the bottom line. But are all of these fees they are charging, is it just a way to make money, or is it actually gouging travelers? Our Carol Costello takes a look coming right up.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

If you check your bags when you fly, you pay the airlines a half a billion dollars for that convenience in just the first three months of this year. It's a convenience that used to be free. But so many things used to be free.

That's just the beginning. Our Carol Costello joins us now for the latest new fees. Carol, I was flying this weekend, and all across the Atlanta airport, all you could hear was "If you would like to upgrade to first class, you can stand by for just $75."

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: People actually do it too. That always amazes me.

ROBERTS: They're trying to get you coming and going there.


Well, there is good news. Do you want good news or bad news first?

ROBERTS: Give me the bad first.

COSTELLO: Let's do the good.

ROBERTS: Why did you ask?

COSTELLO: Women rule, John. We're going to do the good news first.

ROBERTS: Believe me, I get that hammered into me every day.

COSTELLO: According to "The Wall Street Journal" the demand for air travel has bottomed out. so it has nowhere to go but up.

Here's the bad news. It does not matter to one iota to air travelers' wallets. You won't see airline fees going away. Even Southwest has gotten into the game.


COSTELLO: Southwest Airlines just got a little enhancement. That's what the airline is calling its Early Bird program. If you don't like the airline's no-reserve seating policy, the airline will now allow to you board early to grab a plum seat if you dole out 10 bucks each way. Already some are saying, hmm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tired of being nickeled and dimed by other airlines?

COSTELLO: The Early Bird program, they say, is nothing more than an extra fee, something Southwest prides itself on resisting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Southwest Airlines, we don't charge fees for stuff that should be free.

COSTELLO: Southwest insists, though, it's not breaking that promise. Early Bird, it says, is an enhancement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a valuable-added extra that people can decide for themselves if they want to do it.

COSTELLO: Southwest does find itself in a tough position as one of the few airlines turning a profit again, but it's not as fat and happy as it once was.

Ben Motsal (ph) covers the airlines for "USA Today."

BEN MOTSAL (ph), REPORTER, "USA TODAY": They are feeling some pressure from shareholders, for example, for not adding a checked bag fee, whereas their competitors are making hundreds of millions of dollars off of these fees.

COSTELLO: He's not kidding. In the first quarter of 2009 alone, U.S. air carriers charged $566 million in baggage fees. That's more than four times than what they collected in 2008.

Southwest is trying to save money by cutting back on some flights, but says it has to find a revenue source, too, so it won't have to raise ticket prices. Travelers have mixed feelings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not the amount. It's the concept that you give me $10. Well, then, what if I give you $50? Can I get in front of him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If that's a way for them to turn a profit and keep my ticket, pay the $10 ahead, then I'm all for it. CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Analysts say early bird will turn a profit for Southwest. One financial research analyst says if 25 to 30 passengers on each flight buy the service, Southwest could rake in $250 million a year.


COSTELLO: No small change there. Southwest will also put wi-fi on 500 flights come 2010. I asked how much it would charge. So far, it's free, but, of course, that could change. Just depends, John. They told me.

ROBERTS: Yes, a lot of other airlines are already charging $9.95 for what do they call it? Go go wireless in the air. Sometimes you get those little discount coupons for 20 to 30 percent off but they are making some money off of that at this point.

CHETRY: And you know the new one, if you want seats -- you want a seat, it's like $50. Otherwise you can just crouch.


CHETRY: I mean, that's where we're heading, right?

COSTELLO: It seems that way. You have to pay for everything extra, like to sit in the emergency row exit on some airlines, you have to pay extra.

ROBERTS: That's true, but if there's an emergency and you have to go into action, do they have to pay you for helping out? I mean, just saying.

Thanks, Carol. Good to see you this morning.

CHETRY: All right. Well, meanwhile, other stories new this morning.

President Obama is warming up, I guess you could say, for his make-or-break health care push. He's going to be speaking to both chambers of Congress and the entire nation in a televised speech. White House officials say the president wants to see government-backed health care included in the plan, the so-called public option, but they won't say whether he'll veto a plan that's passed without it.

ROBERTS: And if you're headed out on this labor day, you'll be glad to know that the price of gasoline is still heading down. AAA reports the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded, $2.58. Down a fraction of a penny since yesterday and three cents over the past week.

Afghans loyal to President Hamid Karzai set up hundreds of fake polling sites during the countries recent presidential vote. That's according to today's "New York Times." This report goes on to say that while no one voted at these bogus ballot stations, hundreds of thousands of votes were still recorded for Karzai. A spokesman for Karzai's campaign accused opponents of trying to score political points with those accusations.

But meantime, the White House is hoping for some political stability in Afghanistan as the Pentagon gets set to send even more troops into the war zone. But more troops, more U.S. involvement, is that really the solution there? Our next guest says no. Nicholas Kristof is a "New York Times" columnist. He also wrote "Half the Sky, Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide." And he joins us on this Labor Day. Thanks for being with us.


CHETRY: So, you know, it would seem -- as we talk about in Iraq and the big debate over whether or not we needed more troops, whether or not we needed a surge, and as it turns out we saw the surge at least yield some positive result. Afghanistan, many who are familiar with the country say it's a different story there. Why is sending more troops not necessarily a no-brainer

KRISTOF: Well, it's different in that in Iraq the Sunnis were very concerned about being attacked by Shias. So they did welcome our presence there and we were also able to buy them off. In Afghanistan, it's different and in fact, I think sending more troops into the Pashtun areas in the south and the east is regarded by almost everybody who has spent time with the Pashtuns as something that is actually going to undermine security. It's going to create more opposition, not less. And so there's a pretty broad consensus that this would be a terrible mistake.

CHETRY: And the reason why, part of it is there is mixed feelings about the Taliban. It's not so black and white. While they understand and they don't like the destabilization elements and the attack elements of the Taliban, they also respect, I guess, the piety -

KRISTOF: That's exactly right.

CHETRY: And the purity, I guess, of their religious feelings.

KRISTOF: That's exactly right.

CHETRY: How do you convince them that it makes more sense to side with the coalition than the Taliban?

KRISTOF: Well, there's -- I think you're exactly right. There's a deep ambivalence on the part of the Pashtuns. And what we have in mind is this notion that people are either Taliban or anti-Taliban. In fact, most of the Pashtuns I've interviewed are somewhere in between. But they are nervous about the Taliban argument that the Americans there are not as liberators but as infidels who want to occupy Afghanistan.

And so the heavier the military footprint that we have there, the more that makes the Taliban argument and the more that tends to increase support for the Taliban...

CHETRY: Right. KRISTOF: ... which is exactly counterproductive.

CHETRY: But then, yet on the other side you ask, where do you go then? We're eight years into the situation, we're seeing more U.S. troops killed. This was the deadliest month since we've entered the country and what is the end game? What are we hoping to achieve, if not to provide some stability that clearly the Afghan army is not able to do on their own?

KRISTOF: Yes, of course. I don't think we're not providing that. The additional $21,000 troops that President Obama sent, did not provide extra stability, of course. Some people are calling for pull out. Some people are calling for a doubling down. I think we should do neither. I think we should continue with a lighter footprint. I think we should emphasize investments in education, and infrastructure, in ways that give Afghans the sense of tangible benefits from our presence. But it's going to be hard.

CHETRY: But at the same time, you have NATO. I mean, you have some European countries saying let's leave more of the protecting -- let's leave more of that to the Afghans, but there as we've seen, there has been trouble, of them being able to actually carry that out and secure the population.

KRISTOF: But it would be much easier to work out an agreement with the Europeans if it were for a lighter footprint. For example, if we were to defend the city of Kandahar but not think that we really have to keep all of Kandahar province secure.

CHETRY: Most people say we're missing the main point here which is that Pakistan harbors Al Qaeda in that mountainous region where we don't necessarily any control over is where the biggest amount of problems are. So what's the solution to that?

KRISTOF: Well, one of the problems we're sending more troops in the Pashtun areas into Afghanistan is that it radicalizes Pakistan. So even if the people in favor of more troops are correct and there is some benefit in Afghanistan, we undermine security in Pakistan and increase the risk of a collapse there. And you know, at the end of the day, we have to get Pakistan to worry not only about the Pakistan Taliban, but about the Afghan Taliban. That still we have not seen.

CHETRY: That sounds like a big challenge still ahead for this administration.

KRISTOF: I think that sending more troops would be a defining moment for the Obama administration in my view, in a very bad way.

CHETRY: Well, you can read the rest of the article. It's very interesting. It's posted yesterday, Nicholas Kristof, columnist for "The New York Times." Thanks for being with us.

KRISTOF: My pleasure.

CHETRY: Happy Labor Day.

KRISTOF: Thank you.

CHETRY: Well, Anderson Cooper, by the way, is in Afghanistan. And he's in there this week to find out first hand exactly what's going on and why we're seeing a spike in U.S. casualties there. Do we really need to send more troops. It starts at 10:00 Eastern, only on CNN. Thirty-seven minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. How far would you go to get good health insurance? One man who lost his job and medical benefits reenlisted in the Army just to get his family covered and then he paid the ultimate price. This is a story that you'll see only here on CNN.

Jim Acosta joins us now from Washington for the heart-wrenching report. It's unbelievable story, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESONDENT: It is terrible, John. The story of Greg Missman as you mentioned is not just about a soldier's sacrifice in the intensifying war in Afghanistan. It's also about a father's sacrifice to his family, when that family has no health insurance.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Army Specialist Greg Missman was only on the ground in Afghanistan for one month.

JIM MISSMAN, FATHER OF ARMY SPC. GREG MISSMAN: My son's convoy had been ambushed.

ACOSTA: In July, his father Jim got that knock on the door.

J. MISSMAN: A chaplain and a master sergeant showed up. So it was - it was not a pleasant day.

ACOSTA: It was an abrupt end to what was actually Missman's second stint in the Army. He left the service 11 years ago, but last year, he lost his job as a computer consultant.

(on camera): He lost his job?

J. MISSMAN: Um-hmm.

ACOSTA: And became unemployed.

J. MISSMAN: Became unemployed. Lost his health insurance.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Missman says his son reenlisted to see to it his family had health insurance.

J. MISSMAN: See you in a year.

ACOSTA: He was full of confidence on the day he left for Afghanistan. J. MISSMAN: So he said, you know, I'm going to go back in the Army and make sure Jack has -- his son Jack would have health insurance. That was really the motivating thing to have him go back in.

ACOSTA (on camera): Greg Missman grew up in a community that's already lost two of its sons in the war of Iraq. Greg made it three, only in Afghanistan.

(voice-over): Keith (INAUDIBLE) son, Matt, is one of the other fallen soldiers.

(on camera): Do you think we'll see more cases like Greg Missman?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No doubt about it. We probably will. You know, I was going to say hope it isn't from here, but I hope it isn't from anywhere. But it will happen again.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Jim Missman looks at the letters he has received from the president and military leaders and worries about the future.

J. MISSMAN: I'm a gold star parent because of my son's sacrifice, and I would rather not see any other Gold Star parents.

ACOSTA: But this Gold Star parent doesn't have the answer on how to fix the nations' health care system.

J. MISSMAN: He made quite a sacrifice. Health care is - it's going to be a tough one.

ACOSTA: These days he's remembering a son who sacrificed to country and family.


ACOSTA: And a Pentagon spokesman said there is no way to count how many soldiers have joined the armed services to get health care benefits. As for Greg Missman, his son will continue receive military health insurance so this soldier's sacrifice will live on, John.

ROBERTS: What a shame. What a story. Jim Acosta for us this morning. Jim, thanks so much.

Forty-three minutes now after the hour.



CHETRY: Good morning, Fort Lauderdale. It's now 75 degrees, partly cloudy, a little bit later, mostly sunny, 87 degrees if you're out there enjoying yourself on this Labor Day.

And welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Forty-six minutes past the hour right now. He's great with the weather. We know that. Maybe not so great with the surf board. Hey, you know what, it's his first time. "Rob's Road Show" brought him to Cocoa Beach, Florida this morning. And as we understand it, you hopped on board. We have a chance to actually see some of it. Not too shabby, for your first shot out of the bag.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I appreciate that. You know, you're being extremely generous. It was pretty - it was pretty bad actually. And we'll show you some more of those highlights as we get into this. Great surfing weather. Great water temperatures here off the coast. Let's take a look at the surf forecast.

You know, if you're going to catch a wave today along the southeast coast. Actually, the waves shouldn't be too bad because there's a bit of a disturbance up near the Carolina coastline. Water temps right here in the mid 80s. So that's not the least that can be running out of the water. National forecast for today, Labor Day, a little bit cool across the northeast and a couple of showers from the Ohio Valley down into the central Appalachians.

One other note is that there is a high potential for seeing a tropical storm develop way out there at the African coastline. Safe to say that's not producing the big swells that we need down here at Cocoa Beach. Sun coming up here on the coast. Surf competitions, the finals are actually get going in about 10 minutes. There you see some of the guys at the end of the practice. We could use bigger swells, no doubt about that. So these are the guys that know what they are doing.

Just to give you some flavor, I took a surf lesson yesterday. Never been on a surf board. A bit of a landlubber. That's for sure. And took me three and a half times for me to get up. Almost took a couple of kids out. So CNN lawyers be on the lookout for that. There could be some legal issues. But nobody got seriously hurt, at least that I know of and all in all, it's a successful day of me looking exceedingly bad.

Guys, this is all of the benefit for the National Kidney Foundation of Florida. Over the past 24 years, they have raised between $4 million and $5 million and helped hundreds of thousands of people who have had kidney transplants. The guy who started this is a retired professional surfer and he has had three kidney transplants. It's not only a great event just to be out on the beach on Labor Day. I kind of like that. But it's also a great event to raise some money.

I don't know which part of the video you guys saw, but there was this one spot where this monster wave was just ripping right over the top of my head, dude, J.R., you would have been so proud of me. I was just curling right through the tube, hanging, splashing off the top.

CHETRY: It was amazing. We saw that part.

MARCIANO: Did they show that video because I can't tell. The monitor is so far away, did they show that part?

ROBERTS: You did that fabulous kick out over the top. Adventurous music play. It was amazing, Rob. It was thing of beauty.

CHETRY: And in the little corner, we could see there was a shark also riding the wave with you but you were undeterred. And you stayed and rode the entire thing. So it's pretty amazing. I'm sorry we couldn't bring that to our viewers. We lost that tape.

MARCIANO: Yes. We'll try to dig that up.

CHETRY: We just have you almost beaming an eight-year-old.

ROBERTS: It's one of those things. It's a machine (INAUDIBLE). Rob, good job out there this morning.

MARCIANO: I'm more afraid of the eight-year-old than I am of the shark.

ROBERTS: All right.

MARCIANO: See you guys.

ROBERTS: Rob out there the water. Our Ali Velshi is out there on the road in the CNN Express talking to folks about health care reform. What they want to hear, the president say on Wednesday night. We'll bring you some of that, coming up next. It's 49 1/2 minutes after the hour.



ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. The White House says President Obama will lay out the details of his health care reform plan in his prime-time speech that's coming up on Wednesday.

CHETRY: That's right. And in the meantime, our Ali Velshi has been riding the CNN Express across the country and today he is in Kansas. He found out that when it comes to reform, people still have a lot of unanswered questions.


ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (on camera): What's your view on this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's too fast. I think time needs to be taken out to educate everyone, as many people in America. I think there needs to be a forum held to educate people as far as what this whole thing is about.

VELSHI: Isn't that what those town halls were supposed to be?


VELSHI: What was your general impression about how that went down? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the fundamental problems to the town halls was they were highly politicized. There was an agenda. Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, Libertarian, whatever your affiliation you want to claim, there was a polarization to those town halls. This was marketing. It was blatantly so. And there was just no - in my estimation, there was a lack of value because it wasn't informative, it was politicized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it was so much marketing or what appeared to be marketing to me, made people tune it out. And then we still leave ourselves unknowledgeable about what's really happening. So this is probably a much better representation of how this should be handled, just maybe in larger numbers, throughout the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's just say though that it shows you how passionate people are about health care, and that this is a huge issue and to rush through this bill is not the answer at all.

VELSHI: We should be happy that people are passionate about these things, that they're prepared to come out, they're not bored and they're not lackadaisical.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's about my children. I mean, it's not so much about me, it's about my children. The changes that we're going to make for the United States that are long standing. That's paramount in this situation.

VELSHI: What type of things you look back at and go, it made or broke us, I mean, flat out? This is one of those turning points where everything could change for the better or the worse.


ROBERTS: And the only place to watch the president's speech with the best political team on television is right here on CNN. Our prime-time coverage of President Obama's health care address starts at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday, only on CNN. Six minutes now to the top of the hour.



CHETRY: Oh, the memories. Memories of the Jimmy Buffet parking lot before you went to the concert.

ROBERTS: You can remember that?

CHETRY: Right, I must not have really had fun, huh?

ROBERTS: I guess not.

CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Well, there may not be any creature in the world as feared at the great white shark. ROBERTS: Unless it's the great hairy tarantula. On this busy Labor Day, the awesome predators, the sharks we're talking about, not the tarantulas. I threw a monkey wrench into the plans of beachgoers at Chatham on Cape Cod.

Our Jason Carroll joins us now this morning. We mentioned tarantulas because like the story your grandfather tells you about walking four miles to the school in the snow in flip-flops, Jason had to walk past tarantula hill every morning on his way to school. So he's used to dealing with these predators.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'm far more afraid of tarantulas.

CHETRY: And then you had to swim through Mayco Alley and then after that, you finally made it to school.

CARROLL: Yes. Eventually, I got there. But you know...

ROBERTS: The man can handle tarantula hill, he can handle great whites.

CARROLL: Yes, so long as I'm watching them in a movie or something like that. You know, some species of sharks are common in cape waters off the coast of Massachusetts, but despite what you may have seen in the movies, great white sharks are relatively rare in New England.

So imagine the surprise of researchers who spotted not one, but two and were able to tag the giant predators near Chatham Beach. They estimate each one weighed 1,000 pounds. This is the first time two great whites have been tagged in the Atlantic. It all happened on Saturday when researchers and local fishermen made a little bit of history at sea.


BILL CHAPRALES, TAGGED GREAT WHITE SHARK: Well, as soon as the shark does come to the surface, you know, I raised the harpoon and get ready to take aim. As soon as we gets within range, I just throw the pole into the fish that puts the tag into the fish and he takes - as soon as it hits him, he takes right off, the tag is in place.

GREG SKOMAL, SHARK SPECIALIST, MASS. INSTITUTE OF MARINE FISHERIES: I've tried to go out and find white sharks over the last 27 years, I can't find them. So that's a lot of time, a lot of commitment and in one day, boom, two animals. That kind of puts it in perspective.


CARROLL: Well, the great whites were tagged with high-tech devices programmed to stay on the sharks until January 15th and the devices should pop off, float to the surface, and transmit data via satellite back to the researchers. Scientists hope the information will help them learn more about the sharks migratory patterns and lead to better conservation efforts. Also, an important note, state officials are warning swimmers to be on the lookout for sharks. Several beaches in the area have been closed as a precaution.

ROBERTS: Well, don't forget, they filmed "Jaws" not too far away from there in Martha's Vineyard. So...

CHETRY: All I want to know is if they tagged two, how many are out there?

ROBERTS: Yes. And Jason's got this great story too, walking to school over tarantula hill and he accidentally stepped on a tarantula.

CARROLL: On a tarantula. It sounded like a styrofoam cup, it popped. It's disgusting.

ROBERTS: Imagine what you would sound like if you got in the jaws of one of those great white sharks.

CHETRY: Poor Jason. No wonder you made it so far.

ROBERTS: Traumatized.

CARROLL: Traumatized.

ROBERTS: I think we have a good psychological plan in the health plan. Get you some help there.

Thanks, Jason.

CHETRY: Thank you.