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American Morning

NATO Investigating Troop Break-In at Afghanistan Hospital; Laura Bush Writing Memoirs; Prisoners Using Cell Phones to Commit Crimes; Some Schools not Showing Obama Education Speech

Aired September 08, 2009 - 08:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up now on the top of the hour. Thanks very much for being with us on the most news in the morning on this Tuesday morning. It's the 8th of September. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry. Glad you're with us, and here's what's on the agenda. The big stories we'll be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes, including a huge day in Washington.

Congress is going back to work this morning. One senator will be working hard to sell a new health care plan and another lawmaker just putting a time line on when we could see some progress. That's just in to us. And we're going to be getting details on that live from Capitol Hill.

ROBERTS: Do you hear that? It's the sound of school bells this morning and President Obama is kicking off the school year by speaking directly to America's classrooms. The planned speech sparking a firestorm, but now at least one big-name Republican is endorsing it. We're live at the White House today with details.

CHETRY: Also, an exclusive one-on-one interview with Laura Bush, the former first lady talking about the president's speech to school kids today. We're going to find out what she told Zain Verjee about whether she thinks it's a good idea.

We begin, though, in Washington. Congress back in session this morning and health care is the critical item at the top of the agenda. The president is wasting no time on that front. In fact, in just a few hours, he's going to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

And ahead of his speech to a joint session of Congress tomorrow, the president is also putting critics of reform squarely in his sights.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've got a question for all these folks who say, you know, we're going to pull the plug on grandma and this is all about illegal immigrants. You've heard all the -- all the lies. I've got -- I've got a question for all those folks. What's -- what are you going to do? What's your answer? What's your solution?

And you know what? They don't have one.


CHETRY: Well, this morning, all eyes and the health care debate are on Capitol Hill. Our Brianna Keilar is there.

And as lawmakers return, you're already breaking some news about whether there is a plan out there. Hey, Brianna.


Yes, we're paying a lot of attention today to a meeting going on at 2:30 this afternoon between that so-called "gang of six," those three Democrats, the three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee who will be reacting to a proposal they got from the chairman of that committee over the weekend.

Now, I just spoke with Charles Grassley, who was on AMERICAN MORNING in the last half hour, and I asked him, you know, what is he hoping for this meeting. He said that they will just be reacting and really stating their opinions on this proposal they got. But he said, what he understands is that Senator Max Baucus, the chairman of the committee, wants something that he can take, some sort of agreement among this "gang of six" that he can take to the full committee.

And he said, it's not -- he said that Senator Baucus wants to do that before the president's speech tomorrow night. He said it's not ideal timing. I said, ideal, perhaps not, but is it possible? And Senator Grassley told me, Kiran, he hopes so.

So, what we're going to be paying a lot of attention today is what comes out of that meeting. There are certainly some issues that Republicans may raise with this proposal that they've gotten from Senator Baucus, but again, Senator Grassley saying that he hopes they can reach an agreement that they can take to the full Senate Finance Committee and move forward from there. So, they're talking about a bipartisan agreement and he is hopeful, Kiran.

CHETRY: Interesting, because likely, if they do come up with a bipartisan agreement, it would have to be the end of the public option, right? Is that why you're talking about whether or not it's ideal ahead of the president's speech?

KEILAR: Well, when he said it wasn't ideal, he meant that he would like to have had more time. The time line had been September 15th, and the president's speech, he said, accelerated the time line, that they really need to figure out something before the speech tomorrow -- so, having a week less time.

But what it would be based on, and Senator Grassley said, the proposal that they got from Senator Baucus was a lot of ideas that this gang of six have already agreed to, here's what Senator Baucus' proposal is: A co-op -- not a public option, but we're not really surprised by this, because they've been talking about this health care cooperative, which would be a nonprofit co-op governed by the patient that it serves. They've been talking about this all along for the last months, Kiran.

This plan of Senator Baucus' would also expand Medicaid. Right now, Medicaid covers kids up to 5 years old, pregnant women who are below the poverty line, and up to a third above it. Under Baucus' proposal, it would expand to cover everyone who is up to one-third above the poverty level. So more kids and even adults who do not have children.

And then the other question of how do you pay for it. Well, in part, Kiran, the idea would be to tax these high-end health insurance policies, these "Cadillac" plans. Critics say that this is actually going to be a tax that is passed on to the consumer, even though it's supposed to be the insurance companies who are paying them. That is a concern of Senator Grassley's, and obviously something that will be discussed today at that meeting this afternoon.

CHETRY: All right. Just quickly, yes or no on the pre- existing condition situation -- would this bill no dropping people for pre-existing conditions?

KEILAR: You know, I don't know that specific detail, Kiran, because what we have is a proposal that's come from a source familiar with the discussions, from an anonymous source. So, we're still trying to figure out exactly what the specifics are.

CHETRY: All right. Brianna Keilar for us this morning with new details on whether or not an agreement can be reached ahead of this speech tomorrow, at least in one of the committees in the Senate. Very interesting stuff. Thanks, Brianna.

ROBERTS: We're also following a story from the White House this morning. Our Suzanne Malveaux is live there this morning.

And, Suzanne, what do we expect to see on the health care front there at the White House today. We know what's going on at Congress. What about there at 1600 Pennsylvania?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the president's going to be meeting with Democratic leadership at the White House this afternoon to talk about various plans, various possibilities in his speech. We know that he's working on his speech before the joint Congress and obviously, Nancy Pelosi as well as Harry Reid figuring in in terms of trying to push forward that public option.

White House aides have made it clear over the last week or so that this is something the president, he prefers, but it certainly is not necessarily essential in calling for health care reform. But the president is going to be more specific when he goes before Congress in terms of what he wants to see out of health care reform.

But that is the main thing here, John, is that we don't necessarily expect that this whole idea of a public option -- the government's alternative in providing some sort of competition to private insurance companies -- is necessarily going to be a part of this. It may be part of a deal later on down the road, if you find that private insurance companies don't actually reform on their own, that this kind of trigger for the public option would take place, that that is something that they are heavily discussing with Republican Olympia Snowe -- John?

ROBERTS: So, lots of meetings, lots of talk on health care ahead of the president's address to a joint session of Congress tomorrow evening. But in the meantime, just about four hours from now, the president is going to be talking education. He's giving that speech to students that stirred up so much controversy last week.

MALVEAUX: And, John, it doesn't end. It's still very controversial to a lot of folks. Obviously, the White House is trying to tamp it down. They released the text of the president's speech that he's going to give to the schoolchildren, Wakefield High School, later this morning. He's going to be speaking with ninth graders, and then they're going to go ahead and broadcast the speech to schools and teachers throughout the country. But really trying to calm the nerves here of people who were concerned about what was the message.

I spoke with Jim Greer. This is the guy who kicked off all of this, the controversy, the chair of the Republican Party out of Florida. And he said, "Look, I think this is a socialist ideology. I'm afraid he's going to be indoctrinating my children." Well, he's taking a look at the speech and seems to have had a change of heart. I spoke with him yesterday and here's how he put it.


MALVEAUX: Are you going to send your children to see the speech tomorrow at school?

JIM GREER, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN PARTY OF FLORIDA: I am. My children have been taught to have the highest respect for the presidency and this president and all presidents. So, after reading the text, seeing the Department of Education have told teachers they are not to lead students to the direction that they would have a week ago, my kids will be watching the president's speech as all -- I hope all kids will. I don't advocate children not watching this president's speech with this text.


MALVEAUX: John, what he did say is that he objected to the lesson plan the Department of Education suggesting that children go ahead and write an essay on how to help the president. The White House has since removed that request for that lesson plan.

But one thing that was really fascinating, I asked him about this, you know, I said, "Why do you have such suspicion of the president's intentions?" And he said, "Well, you have President Obama, the auto executive; President Obama, the doctor; now, he's going to be the schoolteacher." That he feels, because the president feels there's a more significant role for the government that somehow he will take over this role of education. That was one of his concerns.

And he was so suspicious, John. He says he doesn't even believe that this really is the speech that was going to be delivered to schoolchildren. He believes that it was changed. The White House says that's nonsense but it really does underscore some of the unease, I guess, that some people feel with this president -- John?

ROBERTS: You know, it's significant to point out that President Obama is certainly not the first president that's talked education with students. And even Jim Greer was going into classrooms in Florida talking to students.

So, where do you draw the line between...

MALVEAUX: Oh, absolutely.

ROBERTS: ... being somebody who's encouraging people to get an education, stay in school and becoming a schoolteacher?

MALVEAUX: Former President H.W. Bush, he was in the classroom saying the same thing. And we should note that this speech, you know, it's about kids taking responsibility. It certainly doesn't sound like anything political.

ROBERTS: All right. Suzanne Malveaux for us live from the White House this morning -- Suzanne, thanks so much.

We'd like to know, by the way, what you think about the president's back-to-school speech. We've posted the full text on our blog at Read it and tell us what you think.

CHETRY: And in a CNN exclusive, former first lady Laura Bush reveals what she thinks about the controversy surrounding President Obama's speech to school kids today. Here's what she told our Zain Verjee.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Obama is giving a back-to-school speech and there's so much controversy over that. Do you think it's a good idea?

LAURA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: I think that there is a place for the president of the United States to talk to schoolchildren and encourage schoolchildren, and I think there are a lot of people that should do the same, and that is encourage their own children to stay in school, and to study hard and to try to achieve the dreams that they have.

VERJEE: The issue that's been raised is by many conservatives that are critical of this. They say that this is a dangerous socialist plot that's indoctrinating schoolchildren. Some parents say, "No, our kids are staying home and not going to listen to the president talk about education in schools."

BUSH: Well, that's their right. You know, that's -- that certainly is the right of parents to choose what they want their children to hear in school. But I think, really, what people were unhappy about were the guidelines that went out with the -- before the speech went out, and I think those have been changed. And I think it's also really important for everyone to respect the president of the United States.


CHETRY: And so, for more on Zain's interview with the first lady, the former first lady, we're going to hear it throughout the hour and you're going to hear what Mrs. Bush says, she thinks, about President Obama, and also how she's enjoying life now as a private citizen.

ROBERTS: Seems to be enjoying it.

CHETRY: Yes, she does.

ROBERTS: You know, putting the house together and the former president said they're riding the mountain bike a lot.

CHETRY: That's right. She's also trying to get a library in the name of the president already.


CHETRY: The whole nine yards. Busy, busy.

Well, still ahead, we're going to be speaking with one congressman who's still undecided on health care. As we know, it's a huge debate. Many, many congressmen and women have been hearing from their constituents on both sides. What will it take for him to decide whether or not he can support it? We'll find out. We're going to talk to him -- coming up.



CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Fourteen minutes past the hour.

As we know, over the past several months, we've seen the health care debate get very heated across the country and members of Congress have, of course, picked sides -- some for the plan, some against it, some for a public option, others against it.

Joining me now, the one lawmaker who still on the fence, Virginia Democrat, Congressman Gerry Connolly.

Thanks for being with us this morning, Congressman.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: My great pleasure, Kiran.

CHETRY: As we know, you've been holding town halls. You had two town halls. You also sat down with some folks over at a retirement home in your district to talk a little bit about what their concerns are when it comes to health care.

What did you hear the most common questions from your constituents about what they can expect, if there are changes passed?

CONNOLLY: Well, will I still have private choice? How will this affect Medicare? What does it do in terms of cost? Won't this increase cost, because you're bringing so many more people into the system?

Now, there are -- there are a lot of other sort of fears that have to be addressed that have been sort of whipped up by some talking heads on one of your rival networks. But the basic concerns have to do with how does this change the existing system, and will I still be able to have the choices I have now.

CHETRY: Yes. And as we know, the president is going to be speaking about this tomorrow, expected to give some greater detail. There's still a good chunk of people polled who says they still don't know what it means for them.

But one of the things you've talked about in terms of why you haven't decided yet is the cost. You want to know...

CONNOLLY: That's right.

CHETRY: ... how are we going to pay for this and where's the proof of any type of long-term savings.

CONNOLLY: That's right.

CHETRY: Are you still facing those same concerns, or do you think they've been answered?

CONNOLLY: No, I still have those concerns. I'm not convinced that we've wrung out all of the savings that we can in the system. A quick example, the drug companies have put $80 billion, voluntarily, on the table to help finance this reform. The hospitals have put $130 billion on the table to help finance this reform. The insurance companies -- which are the biggest profit makers in the whole health care system -- have put zero dollars on the table.

So, there are more savings to be had and I'd like to look at those savings before we even talk about revenue enhancement.

CHETRY: You also have concerns about fraud in the system. That's also a big deal and perhaps when a lot of people have said, which is the electronic medical records. Are there possibilities, as we've seen in other countries, like France, to go completely electronic and save money?

CONNOLLY: Absolutely. My doctor -- my primary care physician tells me that about 30 percent of his time is just spent on administrative overhead, filling out forms.


CHETRY: Well, a lot of them say that. Yes, absolutely, we heard that.

So, you know, when we talk about whether or not there's anything realistic -- a lot of people agree that, you know, we have to find a way to get costs down. At our current rate, Medicare and Medicaid are not going to be sustainable in the next few decades, et cetera.

So, in the meantime, how do you put that into practice? Well, right now, in the Senate, it looks like the finance committee is trying to hammer out something. Would you be willing to listen to what the bipartisan consensus is -- if there is one in the Senate -- and perhaps find a way to hammer that out with your colleagues in the House? And would that be OK if that includes no public option?

CONNOLLY: With respect to your first question, absolutely yes. I want to hear what they come up with. And if they can appeal to a broader array to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, that has a certain appeal to it.

I don't think we ought to be making these things a matter of theology and drawing lines in the sand -- because that's going to make an ultimate compromise, which is inevitable, much harder to achieve. If we are really committed to getting meaningful health care reform in America -- and I certainly am -- then I think we need to sort of keep our powder dry and work through the system with a set of principles, certainly, we're committed to, but retain some flexibility about how we get to the outcomes all of us want to see.

CHETRY: There are other concerns as well. There are some on your side of the aisle who fear that perhaps they could lose re- election because if they sign on to something that their constituents have let them know they're not happy with, it could mean that they don't get re-elected. I mean, how much of this is political? And how much of this is actually trying to change a system that many agree is not sustainable?

CONNOLLY: You know, honestly, most of the colleagues I talk to the in the Congress are far more preoccupied about the substance, about health care reform, than they are about the politics of health care reform. And frankly, I think most on our side of the aisle, anyhow, would recognize that to do nothing, to have this effort fail is far more perilous from a political point of view than to try to get some meaningful health care reform done this year.

CHETRY: Does what the president say tomorrow night play a role in whether or not you ultimately agree to sign on to health care?

CONNOLLY: Absolutely. It's going to play a critical role. And I think he's got to do -- he's got to do sort of three things. He's got to lay out with more specificity what he wants to see in a health care reform bill. He's got to speak directly to our senior citizens to allay the fears -- the legitimate fears many of them have about this process and what it might mean for them.

And he -- and he has to show some passion. He has to show that he can go beyond being the cerebral, analytical cool hand at the tiller -- which is fine in a crisis -- but right now, we need to hear more from his soul and his heart about his passion for this subject if we're going to get it done.

CHETRY: And why he's willing to take it on, right? Despite the fact that it's turned...

CONNOLLY: That's right.

CHETRY: ... into quite a heated debate everywhere around the country.

Congressman Gerry Connolly, very interesting to get your perspective this morning. Thanks for being with us.

CONNOLLY: Thank you. Great being with you.

ROBERTS: So, in this economic downturn, is the whole -- not just the era of conspicuous consumption -- but the whole idea of conspicuous consumption dead? Are people less materialistic now than they were just a couple of years ago? Our Christine Romans takes a look at that. She's "Minding Your Business" this morning, choosing Wal-Mart over Tiffany's. You'll be surprised to see what the survey said.

It's 20 minutes after the hour.



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

Christine Romans is here "Minding Your Business."

And frugality is the new chic here in America.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I can't tell if we're less materialistic because it's the right thing to be or it's because we're broke and we can't buy anything.

ROBERTS: It's a person of Scottish heritage. I mean, it's the way that I was wired.

ROMANS: Right, exactly. I know. And, you know, and I grew up with my grandparents talking about depression era, you know, a fool and his money are soon parted. This is the kind of thing that was really in my psyche.

But now, this new study from Zogby Interactive is saying that, frankly, we're becoming more simple, less materialistic. We're giving our things away. We're paying more attention to what we buy. We're living a less materialistic lifestyle. It's amazing.

John Zogby, the pollster, said that people are moving towards a simpler, less materialistic life. So, I call them secular spiritualists, because they're looking for more meaning in their lives. They're sticking with their family and friends.

He surveyed people and found that 80 percent of them gave away some belongings in the last year and, frankly, two-thirds of them, just over, many of them give away -- hold on, let me make sure I got this right -- a third of them have given away more of their belongings in the past year than they had previously. So, then he said, look, there's this Tiffany blue box with $500 item and then there's this $250 item at Wal-Mart.

ROBERTS: And the same item or same looking.

ROMANS: Right. Most people said they would pick the Wal-Mart. Now, I say, are you less materialistic or are you just broke? I mean, I think that it's pretty reasonable that you would not be buying something from Tiffany right now if you had the choice, if you were stuck.

But I've been looking at a lot of these numbers you guys and I really see this new normal for the American consumer. I mean, across the board -- you know, they're making a list, people are making list, they're clipping coupons -- so 1960s and 1970s. They don't shopping for store brands. They're shopping at dollar stores.


CHETRY: And there are so many people so many people laughing right now saying, "I've always done this.


CHETRY: ... were good. I've always done it when times are bad. And they're saying, they do crazy things like clip coupons."

ROMANS: I know. Well, this is because for so long people were living on plastic, living way beyond their means on plastic. And you have no choice but to get back to some more rational, frugal behavior.

Stores are starting to bring back layaway. People are eating in. People really want an experience with their money. And they know what a dollar is worth and they know what they can get for the dollar. Imagine -- I know it sounds horrible.


CHETRY: Because yesterday, you did a story saying, (INAUDIBLE) average retirement savings account is under $20,000.

ROMANS: Yes, 26,000 bucks.

ROBERTS: Twenty-six grand.

ROMANS: I mean, you can either say, oh, good job, Americans, you're becoming less materialistic or you can say, we simply don't have another choice and we're idiots for living beyond our means for so long. Whatever it is, it's a new normal for the American consumer.

ROBERTS: Christine Romans is "Minding Your Business" this morning. Thanks so much.

CHETRY: We're getting new seeds for Christmas. We'd like you to grow us some tomatoes and some cumbers.

ROBERTS: At least some green shoots in the economy.

ROMANS: There you go. That's right.


CHETRY: All right. Thanks, Christine.

Well, there's a lot of talk about exactly what would happen if this public option, government gets involved in competing with private insurance in this health care debate. Well, what about the talk about the trigger option? That's a new buzz word. Jim Acosta is going to be joining us to tell us what exactly that means.

It's 25 minutes after the hour.


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

It is make or break time for health care reform. The White House is scrambling to find a compromise. One possibility is being called the "trigger option."

Our Jim Acosta joins us now live from Washington with the details.

So, Jim, this trigger option, what is it? It sounds like a horse.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It does sound like a horse, but we're not talking about Roy Rogers in this equation, John.

And it's interesting, you were just talking to Congressman Connolly, he was walking off the set and saying, "If we don't pass something, we could lose 30 to 40 seats in the House in the upcoming midterm election."

So, Democrats know -- at least some know -- that they have to compromise, and Wednesday's speech to Congress will be one of those high noon moments in the Obama administration.

Surrounded by liberals demanding the public option and centrist Democrats who want to dump the option, President Obama might just have his finger on something that can get him through this health care showdown, the trigger.


OBAMA: We have never been this close!

ACOSTA (voice-over): As the president delivered one more campaign-style pitch on health care reform, the question remains whether he will make a play for the public option -- the idea of giving Americans the choice of joining a government-run insurance plan.

OBAMA: And I continue to believe that a public option within that basket of insurance choices will help improve quality and bring down cost.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy...

ACOSTA: During that noisy congressional recess...

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: On what planet do you spend most of your time?


ACOSTA: ... one of the more soft spoken voices of the Senate, Maine Republican Olympia Snowe was quietly talking to the White House about a compromise that would replace the public option with something called a "trigger."

Unlike the proposal in the House, the trigger would threaten the insurance industry with a public option down the road. The idea is backed by two former Senate leaders.

BOB DOLE (R), FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We recommend that after about five years, if the insurance companies don't clean up their act, then there's sort of a trigger where certain things happen and we think that's a step in the right direction.

ACOSTA: Throughout the health care debate, Snowe has shied away from radical changes to the nation's private insurance system.

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: We obviously want to, you know, protect those who have -- currently have good health care, you know, insurance plans and they want to preserve it and they want to maintain it. And we don't want to interfere with that, nor do we want to interfere with the doctor/patient relationship.

ACOSTA: Even though Snowe's trigger could win over Senate centrists like Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, congressional liberals have said in no uncertain terms -- no public option, no deal.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: I say, there is no option but a public option! For those who say we need a trigger, I say, be careful, you could be shooting down health care.

ACOSTA: Political analysts wonder whether in the end, Democrats will shoot themselves.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UVA CENTER FOR POLITICS: What politicians say in September and what they do in November or December are often two deferent things, because they come to terms with reality.


ACOSTA: And that reality is, the trigger may be the last best hope of getting a few Republicans on board. But after those rowdy town halls, liberals wonder if a bipartisan health care deal is already out the window and many in the party say the trigger just gives the insurance industry one more pass, John.

And as some Democrats are already saying, the trigger has already been met. The insurance industry, they say, has already shown it can't be trusted. So why have a trigger?

ROBERTS: As we heard from Senator Chuck Grassley earlier, Jim, they're at least going to give it the old college try in reaching a bipartisan agreement with that meeting this afternoon. Jim Acosta this morning, Jim, thanks so much.

CHETRY: And It's now 31 minutes past the hour. We check our top stories this morning.

Terrorists setting their sights on smaller targets, perhaps hotels. That's the finding of a new study by Global Intelligence Company Strap Four. The findings say terrorist organizations like al Qaeda are changing from centralized groups. They're franchising out according to the study.

These smaller cells then get less training and less money, so they set their sights lower on, quote, "softer targets."

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Congress could be one step closer to a passing a law that would let passengers stranded on the tarmac for at least three hours get off the airplane.

"USA Today" reports the Business Travel Coalition, which represents hundreds of companies, will throw their support behind such a law today. Government numbers show in June 278 flights sat on the tarmac for three hours or more.

CHETRY: Well, the Taliban claiming responsibility for a deadly car bombing outside of a military airport in Kabul. Officials think three people were killed, six others hurt. The attack was apparently targeting a NATO convoy. It's the third major attack by insurgents in the Afghan capital this past month.

Meantime, there's also a new controversy that's surfacing in Afghanistan. Right now the U.S. military is investigating claims that American troops stormed a hospital looking for insurgents.

CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon. And Barbara, with General Stanley McChrystal looking to win hearts and minds, how is he hoping to deal with this situation?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is just more news that General McChrystal really doesn't need, Kiran, as you say. U.S. troops acknowledged they were at this hospital, but they say they obeyed the rules. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Swedish charity workers say U.S. soldiers and afghan forces forcibly entered this hospital last week, breaking down doors, ordering patients out of their beds, and tying up staff. It was only later, they say, the troops told them they were looking for an insurgent leader.

ANDERS FANGE, DIRECTOR: They didn't find any insurgents in the hospital and they didn't hurt any of the staff. Still, this is a clear violation of internationally recognized principles and rules.

STARR: NATO is investigating, but it couldn't come at a worse time for General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces. He's trying to convince Afghans that foreign troops will protect them against the Taliban.

But for now, he's busy trying to explain NATO's actions. McChrystal personally inspected a site where a predawn air strike on two hijacked fuel trucks killed perhaps dozens of Afghan civilians, and he promised another investigation.

GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, US/NATO COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN: From what I have seen today in going to the hospital, it is clear to me that there were some civilians who were harmed at that site.

STARR: Afghans are already upset by civilian casualties caused by NATO. McChrystal may soon be asking for more troops to deal with the rising Taliban threat and then informing Afghans more foreign forces will be on their soil.

Those familiar with McChrystal's thinking say perhaps his most urgent worry, the Afghan view that the ongoing counting of votes in the presidential election is riddled with fraud, and Hamid Karzai may not win the people's support. Without it, it will be tough to ask others to invest in Afghanistan's future.

STEPHEN BIDDLE, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: We need, at the end of the day, to have a degree of support for the legitimate government of Afghanistan that at least exceeds the support for the Taliban.


STARR: Many U.S. commanders, Kiran, are saying this whole issue of election fraud is really so critical right now, because if Hamid Karzai cannot take office as a legitimate candidate in the eyes of the people there, it will be very tough for General McChrystal to ask NATO and the U.S. for more troops, more equipment, and more support.

And whatever went on at that hospital still remains to be sorted out -- Kiran?

CHETRY: All right, Barbara Starr for us this morning. Thank you. ROBERTS: Former first lady Laura Bush sat down with our Zain Verjee for an exclusive interview. We hear from her on her thoughts on living in Texas, what she and the former president are up to, as well as her thoughts on Michelle Obama and the upcoming memoirs of the Bushes.

It's coming up now on 36 minutes after the hour.


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

And more of our CNN exclusive. Former first lady Laura Bush has been out of the White House and out of the spotlight, but she's certainly been keeping busy.

CHETRY: That's right. She's been in Paris. She's promoting her worldwide literacy tour.

Also, around 700 million adults around the globe cannot read, and she's hoping to change that, so she's giving a speech on literacy there today, in fact. But first, she sat down for a chat with our Zain Verjee. Take a look.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How is President Bush doing, is he glad to be out of the spotlight?

LAURA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: He's doing very well, thank you for asking. He's riding his mountain bike a lot. He likes that. And he's very disciplined by writing his memoirs. In fact, I'm...

VERJEE: Better than you?

BUSH: Yes, a lot better than me. He's always been a lot more disciplined than I am. So he's working on those.

I keep telling him that I've gotten to the second grade in my memoirs.


VERJEE: How do you think the world will remember him?

BUSH: I think the world will remember him for, really, what he is, and that's what I think people will get to see both from his memoirs and for mine, and that is somebody who stood for freedom and who stood for the security of our country.

And I think people know that. I think the people that really know him know what he is like and they see what he stood for, and that's the freedom of 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

VERJEE: Many around the world would say that he stood for divisiveness and destructiveness much more. BUSH: Well, I would say that that is absolutely not right, and I don't think they have either the right view of him or what his responsibilities are and were as president of the United States.

VERJEE: How do you think Michelle Obama is doing?

BUSH: I think she's doing great. I think she's doing very well.

VERJEE: You've been there. You --

BUSH: Well, I saw her at the funeral, Teddy Kennedy's funeral last week. And I asked her about the girls and how they're doing.

And I know what she's doing. It's what every woman who moves there does, and that's try to make it a home, both for her husband, who is the president, and for her children.

VERJEE: President Obama is giving a back to school speech. There's so much controversy over that. Do you think it's a good idea?

BUSH: I think that there is a place for the president of the United States to talk to school children and encourage school children. And I think there are a lot of people that should do the same, and that is encourage their own children to stay in school and to study hard and to try to achieve the dreams that they have.

I also am happy that it seems like that have not -- the Obama administration has not backed off the accountability part of the no child left behind act that President Bush worked with Ted Kennedy to pass. And I think that's really important.

We want every American child to have the very best education possible. And I think that's what that legislation really demands.

VERJEE: The issue that's been raised is by many conservatives that are critical of this, they say that this is a dangerous socialist plot that's indoctrinating school children. Some parents say, no, our kids are going home and not going to listen to the president talk about education and schools.

BUSH: Well, that's their right. That certainly is the right of parents to choose what they want their children to hear in school.

But I think, really, what people were unhappy about were the guidelines that went out with the before the speech went out, and I think those have been changed.

And I think it's also really important for everyone to respect the president of the United States.

VERJEE: Do you think he's doing a good job, President Obama?

BUSH: I think he is. I think he's got a lot on his plate, and he's tackled a lot to start with. And that's probably made it more difficult.

VERJEE: What's it like for you being a private citizen?

BUSH: Well, it's great, really. It really is nice. We're enjoying our home in Texas a lot. We have a new house and...

VERJEE: Furniture yet?

BUSH: Getting some furniture. We had a lot of fun working on that. We're both working on our memoirs, writing our memoirs.

And then we're also building the presidential library at SMU with the institute that will be a part of it. And I've been the chairman of the design committee, and that's been a lot of fun to work with Bob Stern, our architect, and Michael van Vockenberg (ph), our landscape architect.

And we just had our last design meeting and now we'll go to the construction plans and get ready, I hope, to break ground in sometime a little over a year.


CHETRY: Sounds just as busy as when she was in the White House.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. And doing a lot of interesting things too. Doing a lot of traveling there in Paris. Good to see her out there.

So a lot of criminals go behind bars, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they stop committing crimes. And what could make it very easy to commit a crime from behind bars? A cell phone. Big thing in terms of smuggling inside prisons.

Our Jeanne Meserve takes a look at the high-tech way the authorities are trying to combat this.

It's 44 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Good morning, Charleston, where it's cloudy and 70 degrees with the -- what's bridge there in the background?

CHETRY: Oh, you're going to start this again? The admiral...

ROBERTS: The Arthur Ravenel Bridge, also known as the Cooper River Bridge between Charleston, Solomon's Island, take you out to Mount Pleasant. It's a fabulous place. Can you tell I've got a daughter going to college in Charleston? I know the place down.

CHETRY: You, A, have a daughter, and, B, got a lot of e-mails about calling it the wrong thing.


ROBERTS: It was the words I used to describe my frustration in calling the wrong thing I got the e-mails about.

Mostly sunny, 90 degrees there today.

CHETRY: You know what, though, that's a bridge that's working. We can't say the same thing about the Bay Bridge in San Francisco.

ROBERTS: There you go. The Arthur Ravenel Bridge is a beautiful bridge. There is new construction like the sunshine sky way in Tampa Bay. It's very nice.


ROBERTS: It's now 49 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It's 51 minutes past the hour.

Now, across the country, prisoners are using some really clever tricks to sneak cell phones past the guards, and they're using them on the inside to commit more crimes. So now corrections officials are using technology to try to fight back.

Our Jeanne Meserve has the story from Washington this morning.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Using dogs and searches, Maryland corrections officials ferreted out more than 900 contraband cell phones last year.

Across the country, inmates have used cell phones in extortions, escapes, drug deals, even murders. In 2007, a Maryland prisoner used a cell phone to order a hit on a witness who was about to testify against him in a homicide case.

GARY MAYNARD, SECRETARY, PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES: We want to use all the technology available to detect, to jam, to discover.

MESERVE: Jamming is illegal, but some other technologies recently got a tryout at a closed prison in Jessup, Maryland. One product claims to detect a cell phone every time the phone is used or even turned on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then they will know exactly where that cell phone is and they can go and retrieve it.

MESERVE: Another company says its product can selectively block unauthorized calls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I tried twice basically on an AT&T network, and it didn't go through.

MESERVE: If legally authorized, it can also collect information about calls and even record them.

JAY SALKINI, TECORE NETWORKS: If Mike is calling John and Mike sends a message to call Sam, we know exactly who said what.

MESERVE: Some say a more effective solution would be to jam all cell phone calls in and out of prisons. But critics say that could block legitimate users nearby, even emergency calls.

JOHN WALLS, CTIA - THE WIRELESS ASSOCIATION: Maybe that 911 call for someone who needs urgent help right away, right now, that would be tragic if that call was blocked by jamming technology.


MESERVE: Congress is considering changing the law banning jamming to make exceptions for prisons. Many corrections officials favor that idea, but say they would like an array of tools to fight what has become a pervasive and dangerous problem. John and Kiran, back to you.


ROBERTS: Jeanne Meserve for us this morning. Jeanne thanks so much.

The president giving his big speech today on education, 12:00 noon eastern. Of course, you can see it right here on CNN. But there are some schools that won't be carrying the speech.

CHETRY: That's right. And not necessarily because they officials don't agree that it's a good thing. They say they're doing it to try to avoid controversy. We'll explain. Gary Tuchman join us in just a minute.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. When the president gives his back-to-school pep talk today at noon, students all over America will be listening, except for the inevitable day dreaming here and there.

The text of the speech has been posted on the White House's Web site for parents to read. But some schools still don't want to hear it. Our Gary Tuchman went out to find why.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This North Carolina school principal had to decide whether or not to air president Obama's speech for students in his school. The pressure was on.

CHRIS GIBBS, PRINCIPAL, CLAREMONT ELEMENTARY: This may sound a little strange, but after a flurry of phone calls, my first thing was to go into my office, shut my door, and have a prayer, because I knew I was going to have to make a decision.

TUCHMAN: What was he hearing from parents? Mostly comments like those we heard at the county fair just down the road.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Do you think the school should play Barack Obama's speech?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's getting more like communism, saying we're going to do this and do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it should be up to the parents' decision if they want their children to hear that or not.

TUCHMAN: And that is exactly what Principal Chris Gibbs decided, the speech will not be shown at Claremont Elementary School.

Teachers we met at the school told us they backed the decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not something that we want to divide our school with.

TUCHMAN (on camera): In our research of the school and school districts that will not be showing the president's speech live, we found that most of them, perhaps not surprisingly, are in counties where Barack Obama did not do particularly well during the November elections.

Catawba County, the home of the Claremont elementary school is no exception. John McCain received 67 percent of the vote here.

TUCHMAN (on camera): This is what he's going to say in the speech. "If you quit on school, you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country." Isn't that a message you want your kids to hear? Isn't that what education is all about?

GIBBS: Most definitely. And we've asked our parents again, going back to responsibility. A responsible parent will sit down and talk to their kids about staying in school.

TUCHMAN: But Barack Obama's message about it won't even be shown here in an edited form in the days to come. The principal has decided if the children are to see any of it, it should only be from their parents.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Let's say President Obama says, I want to come to your school, he calls you up, I want to have a live appearance at your school and have an assembly." You'd be dealing with the same thing with these parents, wouldn't you?

GIBBS: I would, probably.

TUCHMAN: How does that make you feel?

GIBBS: Well, we have a long way to go. And the issues out there today are divisive issues. They're sensitive issues.

But if the president wanted to come to Claremont elementary school, he'll certainly be welcome to come to Claremont elementary school. And I guess I'd go back in my office and shut the door and pray again. TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Claremont, North Carolina.


ROBERTS: By the way, we've posted the full text of the president's back-to-school speech for you to read ahead of time -- three hours now until the speech, so you have lots of time to read it. Go to our blog at to check it all out.

And CNN will carry the president's back-to-school speech live in its entirety from Wakefield high school in Arlington, Virginia at noon Eastern.

CHETRY: All right, there you go. At least the principal was keeping a good attitude about it. He said he'd have to cross that bridge when he came to it.

ROBERTS: Crossing his fingers that the White House never calls him and says, "Can we drop by?"

CHETRY: Exactly. Who would want to miss that opportunity?

ROBERTS: He'll be doing a lot of praying, that principal.

CHETRY: Today is the first day back to school for all the kids out there, so good luck. And I'm not going to give any speech about doing well or staying in school, but good luck, and I hope everything goes great for you out there.

ROBERTS: There you go.

That's going to wrap it up for us. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

The news continues now with Heidi Collins in the "CNN NEWSROOM."