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American Morning

U.S. War in Iraq Officially Ends; Soldiers Continue Returning from Iraq; Analyst Looks at History of Iraq War; Sources: Democrats Concede Millionaire's Tax; Interrupted In Iowa; The Gingrich Pledge; Worst Recession Since Great Depression; European Banking Crisis Repeating History; Congress Has Extended Jobless Benefits 8 Times

Aired December 15, 2011 - 06:59   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: The war is over. The U.S. military lowers the flag in Baghdad. The final U.S. troops leaving Iraq with pride and putting the fragile nation in the rearview mirror.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Iraq still haunted by fear that terrorists are waiting in the wings after more than 4,000 deaths and $1 trillion. Can America declare victory? We'll have an in-depth look at the war after the war.

COSTELLO: And breaking news for your paycheck. Talk about a big compromise on Capitol Hill that could save you $1,000 or more next year.

ROMANS: Plus -- Occupy Gingrich. Newt Gingrich gets heckled by Wall Street protesters, and they get it back on this AMERICAN MORNING.


COSTELLO: And good morning to you. It is Thursday, December 15th. Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING.

ROMANS: All right. Up first, it is over. Just an hour ago, U.S. forces lowered the flag in Baghdad to mark the end of the nearly nine- year Iraq war. The final few thousand U.S. troops are leaving Iraq ahead of the New Year's Eve deadline to get out.

It is a war that started with something called shock and awe. And after quick success, it morphed into insurgency and a sectarian bloodbath. And today the departing soldiers are remembering more than 4,000 who did not come home alive. We've got two reports this morning. Arwa Damon is live in Baghdad. David Mattingly is at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Let's begin first with Arwa in Baghdad. Arwa, the big question is, what happens after U.S. troops are gone?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That, Christine, most certainly is the big question. And it is a question that at this stage no one can answer. And that is why there is so much concern about the U.S. troop withdrawal, not just among the Iraqi population for whom the war has not yet ended, but also for the United States itself. There are many unanswered requests. Iran has established a significantly large footprint here. What sort of a role will that nation be playing next? Will it continue to use the Shia special groups that are directly backed by the Iranian Quds force to try to wreak havoc in the country, or will it move towards a more diplomatic role? Will the current Iraqi government be able to move towards being a power-sharing one that will serve the people? Or will it continue to, as the opponents of the Iraqi prime minister say, remain a dictatorship?

Iraqis incredibly unsure about their future. The U.S., too, sharing its concerns behind closed doors about the type of Iraq the Americans are truly leaving behind despite the fact that from the U.S. officials, the political officials or military officials, we are hearing about a fairly optimistic future.

ROMANS: All right, Arwa Damon in Baghdad. Thank you, Arwa.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama marked an end to the Iraq war at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, saying U.S. troops are leaving with their heads held high. But he stressed that America still has an obligation to its returning heroes, many of whom are suffering from the invisible wounds of war. David Mattingly is live at Fort Bragg this morning. Good morning, David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. So many troops coming home now here to Fort Bragg have questions when they hit the ground here. They were listening intently to the president yesterday remark what is described here as a profound moment as they were all coming home. But he started it with two simple words.




MATTINGLY: Soldiers out of Iraq and home for the holidays, that alone is worth celebrating. But troops at Fort Bragg are looking for more, assurances from the president their sacrifices will not be overlooked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lot of stuff behinds that we will never understand, but we know the government is going to do its cutbacks.

MATTINGLY: After eight years in Iraq and budget cuts at home, soldiers worry about holes opening in safety nets, pensions, medical support and treatment for PTSD.

(on camera) How much pain are you in right now?

SPECIALIST WESLEY DODD, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Quite a bit. I mean, on a daily basis, you know, it's aches and pains and stabs and needles. MATTINGLY (voice-over): Iraq vet Wesley Dodd came home in 2008 with a painful knee injury, PTSD, and eventually an addiction to pain medication. Today he's medically retired and in a methadone program.

(on camera): Do you consider yourselves lucky?

DODD: Absolutely. I'm alive. I came home alive. That's -- - I can't say the same, you know -- I have a number of these bands. This is Corporal Ryan Woodward. He was killed on a mission while I was there. So there's a lot of people that don't come home. It is not easy.

MATTINGLY: But Dodd was also arrested for forging a prescription. He's now on probation. He believes as more troops come home there will be more like him, in pain and in trouble. Since the war in Iraq began Fort Bragg and the army also have the h to find new ways to deal with long-term problems of domestic problems and suicide. In just the last week outside of Bragg, there have been two murder/suicides involving soldiers. One killed a sheriff's deputy, another killed his wife. These female Iraq vets tell me military families demand for access to counseling and treatment could go on indefinitely.

(on camera) What's the biggest problem had you when you came back immediately?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, problems sleeping. Oh, lord. Nightmares.

MATTINGLY: Nightmares?


MATTINGLY: How long did that take tore that to go away?


MATTINGLY: But troops with questions about their future seem to get their answer -- a pledge from the commander in chief.

OBAMA: You stood up for America and America needs to stand up for you.


MATTINGLY: And the president went into great detail, not only assuring the troops that America will stand beside them now that they are home, but also their families that had to bear a burden through this war as well. Carol?

COSTELLO: David, do the troops believe the president?

MATTINGLY: They walked away yesterday with some big smiles on their faces. That's just the group that was here listening to him. They felt like he was very sincere when he was offering his -- the thanks on behalf of the nation to them. And he was very specific about recognizing the dangers that they were in and about the sacrifices they made and the problems they encountered and what they went through not only physically but emotionally as well.

And, again, he was very specific going through all of the things that they noted they went through and they will continue to be dealing with as they came back. So they felt like all the right questions were answered, all the right bases were touched, and now they are going to get back to work here because there's still a war going on in Afghanistan.

COSTELLO: David Mattingly reporting live from Fort Bragg this morning.

ROMANS: All right, in a political fight a big concession by the Democrats in that political fight to extend the payroll tax cut. A source tells CNN Democrats are working on a new proposal that drops their demand for a tax hike on millionaires to pay for tax relief for the middle class. That has the two parties talking.

House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell met privately for an hour in the Capitol last night as 150 million American workers are facing $1,000 tax hike on New Year's Day if Congress can't come up with a compromise. The big fight of course is how to pay for it.

COSTELLO: It seems just about everybody is ganging up on Newt Gingrich these days. The Republican front-runner took a few verbal hits yesterday, first from Mitt Romney who told "The New York Times" that he believes the former House speaker's judgment is suspect.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Zany is great in a campaign, it's great on talk radio. It is great in the print. It beats -- makes for fun reading. But in terms of a president, we need a leader. And a leader needs to be someone that can bring Americans together.


COSTELLO: So far Gingrich is not taking the bait. The former speaker insisting no matter how ugly things get, he's not going negative.


NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I understand what all the consultants are doing. That's fine. They should run their campaign the way they want to. I'm going to run my campaign the way I want to.


COSTELLO: But at a speech in Iowa City yesterday, Gingrich was interrupted by occupy protesters. They accused him of being arrogant when it comes to the plight of the poor, and things got heated with one of the demonstrators.


GINGRICH: One more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. You talk about money not being everything, but you have taken millions publishing your books and marketing them. It seems like you have --

GINGRICH: How would you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have been cheating on your wife --

GINGRICH: How would you -- other than -- other than -- other than -- other than personal hostility, which is understandable but not part of the academic experience, how would you know anything about how I published and sold books?


COSTELLO: That Occupy Iowa City protester that challenged Gingrich will be joining us live at the bottom of the hour.

ROMANS: Signs of the death penalty may be dying a slow death itself in the U.S. Just 43 people have been executed this year. That's according to the Death Penalty Information Center. That's down from 100 just a dozen years ago. The number of death sentences also hit a 35-year low. Texas by far led the way with 13 executions, Alabama with six, and Ohio with five.

COSTELLO: Eight minutes past the hour. This story is new for you this morning. A French court convicting former president Jacque Chirac on corruption charges and giving him a two-year suspended prison sentence. The former French president was put on trial on charges that dated back to his time as mayor of Paris. Chirac was accused of paying members of his political party for municipal jobs that simply did not exist.

ROMANS: Seven miners injured overnight when a rock burst more than a mile underground a Lucky Friday silver mine in Idaho. The company says 25 miners were in the area at the time. Officials say the seven are being treated for nonlife threatening injuries.

COSTELLO: The awards season in full swing. Some of the biggest stars in Hollywood could hear their names called later this morning when the nominations for the 69th Golden Globes awards are announced. You can catch it here, live.

ROMANS: Still to come this morning, the official end to the Iraq war. What does it mean for the Iraqi people, for the Middle East? We are going to ask a man who knows this region better than most, Brett McGurk, former national security adviser to presidents Bush and Obama, will join us next.

COSTELLO: And Newt Gingrich pledging marital fidelity. In the next half-hour we will hear from one analyst that thinks that's a big mistake. You are watching AMERICAN MORNING. It's nine minutes past.


ROMANS: Welcome back. This day marks the official end of the war in Iraq. Earlier this morning U.S. soldiers lowered a flag in Baghdad and brought the curtain down on a nearly nine-year conflict. It remains to be seen how history will record our role in Iraq, whether that country is ready to stand on its own. As Arwa Damon just reported, for the Iraqi people, they do not feel as if this war is over.

Let's go in depth now. Brett McGurk served on the national security team for President Bush and Obama. He has been a senior adviser to three U.S. ambassadors in Baghdad. He joins us live from Washington. He certainly knows the scope of the political and also military challenges there. Thank you for joining us in morning.


ROMANS: First, you know, how significant is this day, not only for the U.S. troops but for Iraq? I mean, from your perspective, reflect for us.

MCGURK: It is a significant day. I think as Americans reflect on everyone who served in Iraq and there's poignant moments from a ceremony today, in general many Americans don't know, General Wood Austin is the commanding general of all our forces in Iraq today and he folded the colors in Baghdad. He led the invasion as an assistant commanding general of the third infantry division in 2003, actually led the charge into Baghdad. In a subsequent tour in 2008, March of 2008, as a deputy commanding general, he flew into the heart of a battle in Basra when the Iraqi army was taking on Iranian backed Shia militia groups in a 72-hour period in which we almost lost the war. The Iraqi army almost collapsed. The general went down there, helped turn the battle around and helped stabilize things.

And then as the commanding general of all U.S. forces in Iraq since last summer, he has been engaged in a diplomatic process and organizing the withdrawal of our forces. It's a symbolic story given all of the troops that have served there in all sorts of different roles, from war fighting to diplomats to mayors and relationships that they built.

ROMANS: And that role has morphed over the past eight-and-a-half, almost nine years. A generation of Americans so has the story for them. I mean, this has dominated the newscast and the -- and the public discourse for almost nine years. We had shock and awe in March of 2003. Put a new kind of phrase on -- in the Lexicon about war.

President Bush notoriously saying that mission accomplished three months later. Saddam Hussein captured in December of that year. Abu Ghraib in 2004 and the detainee abuse scandal there. Suicide attacks peaking then by 2005. The surge of troops sent to quell that violence. The surge in 2007. And then finally today, the real end of our mission in Iraq. Are the headlines to come the next eight years are going to be about civil war or about a strong ally for the United States of the Middle East?

MCGURK: You know, Christine, I could paint very optimistic scenarios and I can paint very pessimistic scenarios. I think if you look back on that history if you look to where we were in 2005 or 2006, to where we are now, I think there's some real reason for hope so long as we stay deeply engaged with the Iraqi government, which we will. And President Obama had talked about some of that.

It's important for viewers to know it's not like we were in, you know, controlling Iraq's security situation last week and now we're suddenly leaving. This has been a very phased and deliberate process based on an agreement signed in the -- in the last months of the Bush administration.

And we left Baghdad and all Iraqi cities and towns and villages in June of 2009. You remember Baghdad was really the heart of the sectarian conflict. We haven't had troops in Baghdad for over two years. President Obama then set that intermediate marker to get down to 50 thousand troops by August of 2010. And security has remained stable. So it's been a very phased and deliberate process.

I spent the better part of the last six months in Iraq, engaged in conversations with Iraqis of whether we should extend this deadline.

ROMANS: Right.

MCGURK: It was ultimately determined given the legal requirements and Iraqi parliaments that the risks of trying to get that through the parliament really outweighed the risks of drawing down. Iraqi Security Forces have been handling security on their own know now for -- for almost two and a half years.

ROMANS: And people have a significant diplomatic presence there. I mean, when you take a look at just the sheer size of the Embassy there and councils in two or three other cities with -- or two cities and another one planned, I mean, we have when you look at the embassy in Baghdad, it sits on more acreage than the White House and Executive Office Building and all of that. I mean, 1,700 staffers will be there. At least 5,000 security contractors, 4,500 general contractors.

This -- this is -- you know, for the security of the U.S. people there but also because the U.S. wants Iraq to be -- to have U.S. influence, not Iranian influence.

MCGURK: Well, that's right. And we have -- we have great people there. And over the next year, it's going to be a real challenge. And, you know, I saw Arwa's report about the Iranian influence in Iraq and that's a -- that's a real concern.

But, look, the Iraqis do not want any foreign power in their country telling them what to do. And, you know -- ROMANS: Right.

MCGURK: The majority of Iraqis are Shia, Iranians or Shias, so people -- or Shia, Shia they must be the same but traditions that underpin the Iranian regime -- this is very important -- of a supreme leader, a cleric being able to rule over all the population is totally alien to all of their religious and cultural traditions in Iraq.

The Grand Ayatollah in Iraq happens to be Ali al-Sistani. He used to be in the news quite a bit back in the earlier period of the war. He believes that cleric should have no say really in political affairs and that is what most Iraqis believe.

And to the Iranians who want to try to dominate Iraq, I would just tell them, you know, good luck. Anyone who comes into Iraq and says here is what you need to do, they're in for a pretty rude awakening. The Iraqis are a tough people with hundreds of years of history of conflict and also real bravery and --

ROMANS: You've mentioned -- you mentioned before -- you talked about those attributes. But you have mentioned before that half of the population is under 19. Do you think if the U.S. hadn't been there it would have had its own Arab spring?

MCGURK: I actually don't. And I talked to many Iraqis about this. I was -- I happened to be there when Arab Spring was popping up. And even in the summer of 2009, when the Iranian Green Revolution was happening.

And most Iraqis said that if they ever tried to do that under Saddam, they would have been slaughtered like sheep and that happened in 1991. Numbers are hard to verify but up to 300,000 Iraqis were killed by Saddam when they tried to rise up against his regime.

ROMANS: All right. Brett McGurk, we have to leave it there. But I really appreciate your -- your thoughts and reflections. You know that -- you know it better than anybody else. Thanks so much. Nice to see you.

MCGURK: Thanks so much for having me.

COSTELLO: Rob has the day off. Let's head to Atlanta and check in with Reynolds Wolf for your travel forecast. Good morning.


We are going to see some delays popping up in parts of the northeast and that, of course, includes New York, Philadelphia, also places like Boston, Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit. And the reason why we're going to see most of those is pretty simple. We've got a big storm system. That big storm system is going to bring some scattered showers to parts of the northeast. In fact, some locations could see some fairly heavy rainfall south of Cincinnati. So with the clouds and with that, at the same time we have some winds that's going to be building in right behind it. This is your precip, your accumulation. We expect in some locations just shy of two inches of rainfall in parts of 65, south of Cincinnati, right through the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky, also east of Dallas, you can expect some heavy rain there, maybe few delays there also.

So now we're going to be seeing the wind begin to pile up in parts of the southland in California, Los Angeles, back into San Gabriels, you're getting some wind gusts topping 45 even 55 miles per hour. Perhaps later in the afternoon as these winds begin to accelerate a bit more, you might have some even stronger wind gusts. That coupled with some very dry conditions could give you a fire threat, but for the time being, wind is going to be the big issue. And you might even have some delays in many of your airports and to L.A.X., perhaps even towards Burbank, John Wayne. Just be prepared for you might have a bit of a wait. That's going to be an issue for both Thursday and for Friday.

That's a quick snapshot of your forecast. We've got more coming up. Let's send it back to you in New York.

COSTELLO: Thanks, Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet.

ROMANS: All right. Still to come this morning, lessons from the Great Depression. Find out what that economic downturn teaches about our recovery today and what mistakes are on the verge of making again. Plus this --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it seems like you have a --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- you've been cheating on your wife --

GINGRICH: How would --

COSTELLO (voice-over): Live from Iowa. We'll speak to the Occupy protester who went toe to toe with Newt Gingrich.




ROMANS: Welcome back. "Minding Your Business" this morning.

Wall Street just can't shake its concerns about Europe and its debt crisis there. Stocks took a hit yesterday. The Dow, NASDAQ and S&P 500 all dropped more than one percent. U.S stock futures this morning are trading higher. It's looking more likely that France could be the first E.U. country to lose its AAA credit rating. French leaders are said to be preparing for the downgrade after a warning by Standard & Poor's ratings agency last week. If France is downgraded, analysts say it could create a ripple effect with other countries in the region losing their AAA rating and that could result in a run on those countries sovereign debt.

In about an hour from now, we'll get a fresh read on the employment situation here in the U.S. The initial jobless claims report is expected to show that 390,000 unemployment claims were filed for the first time last week. Any time that number is below 400,000, it is a good sign for the labor market.

Michigan's unemployment rate is now below 10 percent for the first time in three years. It dropped to 9.8 percent in November. Over the past year, Michigan has seen job growth in manufacturing, health care, and business services.

Brazilian prosecutors reportedly want to shut down Chevron and Transocean's offshore drilling operations after an oil spill there last month. They're also suing both companies for $11 billion in damages allegedly caused by that spill.

And "Playboy" moving the majority of its operations from its longtime home in Chicago to Los Angeles. The move brings the magazine closer to its founder, Hugh Hefner. Hefner took the "Playboy" private this year because of dwindling circulation and staff.

Don't forget for the very latest news about your money, check out the all-new

AMERICAN MORNING will be right back after a quick break.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Occupying Gingrich. The Republican front-runner interrupted in Iowa and under attack on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ROMANS: And welcome back. It's half past the hour. Time for the morning's top stories.

The Iraq War is now over. Earlier this morning, a ceremony in Baghdad brought the nearly nine-year long conflict to an end. Only a few thousand troops now remain in Iraq.

COSTELLO: Senate Democrats are caving in their demand for a millionaire's surtax. They are now preparing a compromise deal to extend the payroll tax cut and avoid inflicting a $1,000 tax hike on the 160 million working Americans. Leaders of both parties met privately at the capitol last night.

ROMANS: And it's also a marker for the Oscars. Nominations for the 69th Golden Globe Awards will be announced just over an hour from now. We are going to bring that ceremony live. COSTELLO: Newt Gingrich has been around long enough to know how things work in politics. When you are on top, everyone wants a piece of you. Conservatives have been challenging his credentials. Mitt Romney just called him zany. And yesterday things got personal with "Occupy Iowa" demonstrators.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have taken -- to get your millions publishing your books and marketing them and it seems like have you --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- cheating on your wife.

GINGRICH: How would you -- other than -- other than -- other than personal hostility, which is understandable but not part of the academic experience. How would you know anything about how I published and sold books?


COSTELLO: That "Occupy Iowa City" demonstrator who took on Gingrich is joining us live from Iowa City this morning. His name is Mauro Heck. Mauro, thanks for being here.


COSTELLO: I just want to make sure that people heard exactly what you said. You said Gingrich had, what, a PhD in cheating on his wife. You didn't really finish your question, though. Did you have one?

HECK: Yes. My question to him now was something -- going to be on the lines of since you have a PhD in wife cheating, are you still biblically qualified to be a candidate?

COSTELLO: What were you hoping to accomplish by heckling Gingrich in this way?

HECK: He is a big target, as you well know and I think Occupy -- Iowa City, although it is a small group for us here, small college town, we just wanted to have him hear us.

COSTELLO: Gingrich said, I think after you left, but I'm not quite sure about that because maybe you heard it, he said and I quote, "I appreciate the fact that 95 percent of you, maybe even 99 percent of you, wanted to actually have an intelligent discussion and are not going to be drowned out by the 1 percent who impose their will by making noise."

Wouldn't it have been more educational, for lack after better word, term, for to you just listen to what Gingrich had to say and then challenge him after the speech?

HECK: Well, I think that this make check, what we call it with the Occupy Movement, has become a -- gets the message out there and so -- that's what we did.

We believe in that. I agree it is slightly rude in some ways. It is slightly uncivil, but sometimes free speech has to be uncivil and has to be rude.

COSTELLO: You were criticizing Newt Gingrich's three marriages. Is that really important, you know, in a president of the United States that he -- you know, is faithful to his wife?

HECK: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, 1994, 1995, he was cheating on his wife and he -- he wants to -- the Congress like he's a saint and try to get Clinton impeached while he's, you know -- while Clinton was having a little affair with Monica. He was cheating on his wife and being a big hypocrite about it.

COSTELLO: So it's -- it is not Newt Gingrich's infidelity, past infidelity. It is more that he is hypocritical about it as far as Bill Clinton is concerned? Do you condemn Bill Clinton as well for his infidelity?

HECK: Absolutely. It is just -- it is just that that was just an issue I personally have a problem with so many politicians. That does not -- I don't think the Republicans have a monopoly of that. That goes for a lot of the Democrats as well.

If not -- most of them. A lot of these politicians have just -- hypocritical. You know, watching out for their own backs, re- electing themselves. Making sure that the money is flowing from all kinds of venues and that's what this country has become. It is not a democracy anymore at the national level.

COSTELLO: Just on the fidelity question once again, why can't a man be an effective leader if he has been married more than one time?

HECK: Well, I think it goes beyond that. I think it is the double talk. You know, if I am cutting down forests and I go about criticizing people who are doing the same thing. That just does not bode well to a person who should be in a position of leadership like that.

COSTELLO: Mauro Heck, thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate.

HECK: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Let's bring in contributor, Ruben Navarrette right now. He has a new piece online this morning. Looking at these attacks on Gingrich's personal life. First of all, thanks for being with us, Ruben.

RUBEN NAVARRETTE, COLUMNIST, CNN.COM CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Carol. Great to be with you again.

COSTELLO: OK, you just heard Mauro, but you have a completely different view of fidelity.


COSTELLO: As to how it applies to a leader.

NAVARRETTE: Right. Well, first, you try to get out of this heckler named Heck that somehow there was a purpose for this. What was your goal? The goal was simply to embarrass Gingrich and get publicity for the "Occupy Iowa Movement."

If he really, I guess, cared about some of the principles of the movement, he would go and some of the people that helped caused the crisis that formed the Occupy Movement to begin with.

Beyond that, in terms of infidelity, in the issue of infidelity, I don't think we have any sort of evidence that says just because Bill Clinton was, for instance a bad husband, that makes him a bad president.

If you flip that coin over, how do you then begin to argue that somehow Newt Gingrich's infidelity would make him a bad president? That's a line of attack. It's a popular line of attack that some of his opponents are using in the GOP primary, but I don't think it makes sense.

COSTELLO: Well, this is what I've heard of people. It is not just the fact that Newt Gingrich has been married three times. It is how he left his two previous wives. When they were in great need, he just left and he cheated on them. They say somehow that makes on huge difference.

NAVARRETTE: Right. It goes to character, but there's a whole bunch of things that go to character and, you know, the one thing that I found interesting in the interview that you just did was the idea of hypocrisy is a very powerful point.

I like what Ron Paul said during the last debate where he said I worry a lot more about people that break their oath of office. So think about this. If you have someone who has been faithful to their wife, but break their oath of office, the oath that they made to the rest of us, you know that's a pretty deal and a pretty big slam against them.

So I think there are lots of things that go to character. I just want to give anybody a pass. Just because you have been faithful to your wife for 40 or 50 years, doesn't mean you get to slam the rest of us and we will turn away and ignore it.

So I think it is much more complicated than those Republican primary candidates would have us believe.

COSTELLO: So what do you make of Newt Gingrich's public repenting and the pledge he took promising to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity?

NAVARRETTE: Carol, that really shocked me because, you know, in all these debates, one thing you like about Gingrich, I like about Gingrich and I see in Gingrich, he likes to fight. He does -- not flappable.

He is not someone that's -- get under his skin very easily. You saw it in that clip you showed. He can handle hecklers. He likes it. He relishes it. The fact that somehow in Iowa, they driven home that point to him that your past infidelity, your marriage failures, could hurt you with these conservative voters.

That has gotten Gingrich's attention and that really is what struck me about this marriage pledge. The fact that we have finally sort of discovered Newt Gingrich's soft spot, it's this very issue and that's why he came forward with this pledge.

COSTELLO: It is interesting because some people might think that, you know, you have to be so pure to run for president star having a perfect marriage and perfect children that it is keeping good candidates from running for office. I can bring up former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.

NAVARRETTE: Right. There are lots of good politicians out there. Mitch Daniels is a great one who likewise says I don't want to put my family through this. I think Mitt Romney, though, some of the opponents of Newt Gingrich are on a losing campaign here.

Because when you really think about it, they are talking to a country of imperfect people. You know, those of us who are married and have been married before, you know, we struggle with this. Marriage is not easy.

And likewise you may fail in business. You might fail at any number of things. Basically, what Gingrich is saying to his opponents in the next debate tonight -- OK, tell you what.

You guys take all the votes of all the perfect people who never made any mistakes in this country and I will take all the votes of the others and guess what, Gingrich wins in a landslide.

COSTELLO: OK, you mentioned Mitt Romney and what he is saying about Newt Gingrich these days. He called him zany. Let's listen.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Zany is great in a campaign. It is great on talk radio. It is great in the print. It beats -- makes for fun reading. But in terms of a president, we need a leader and a leader needs to be someone that can bring Americans together.


COSTELLO: OK, so zany. That's such a strange adjective.

NAVARRETTE: I feel bad for Mitt Romney. You don't hear me say that often on your show, but I do because he doesn't know what to be anymore. He doesn't know what line of attack to pick up.

In the last debate, he said that Newt Gingrich was a bomb thrower, incendiary. That's a serious person who's a bomb thrower. Now we are told he's zany. Not so serious person.

Romney just wants to be president. He wants to beat Gingrich and he doesn't know how to do it so he is throwing everything he can up he can at the wall even contradictory statements and hoping they all stick.

One last thing, this idea of dividing Americans, this is the same Mitt Romney who put an ad up in New Hampshire attacking Rick Perry for his position on illegal immigration where he likened Rick Perry to the president of Mexico. If that's not divisive, I don't know what is. Mitt Romney is a hypocrite.

COSTELLO: Wow. Ruben Navarrette, thank you so much for your thoughts this morning. If you would like to read more, your column will be posted online on, right?

NAVARRETTE: Yes, that's right. Thanks, Carol.

COSTELLO: OK, thanks, Ruben.

Coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING, we will take a look at what Americans can learn today from one of the worst times in our financial history, the great depression. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. It's 40 minutes past the hour.


ROMANS: Welcome back. In the great depression, there was a stock market crash and then there was a European banking crisis. What do we have now?

Well, there was a stock market crash and now we are in another European banking crisis. How do we make sure that we are not repeating history and world's leaders reading their history books?

Joining me now, Niall Ferguson, author of "Civilization, the West and the Rest," columnist with "Newsweek" and the "Daily Beast." You say that the great depression was like a soccer match.

There were two halves and here we are in the second half here. Are you concerned that we are repeating history here or could?

NIALL FERGUSON, AUTHOR, "CIVILIZATION: THE WEST AND THE REST": Christine, I'm very concerned. In the second half of the great depression, it was mistakes in Europe that set the world economy down another leg.

And the history seems to be repeating itself. It is the same old issues, not only the banking crisis that you mentioned, but also excessive public debt.

And so it seems to me the big risk to the U.S. going into 2012 is not really what we are doing here. It is what is going on over there on the other side of the Atlantic.

ROMANS: Well, we saw markets at least for a few days and the world was cheering this intergovernmental treaty between the euro nations and a few others that want to join the euro.

But now, you know, implementation, there is a lot of -- I don't know, concern about hurdles in the road. I mean, do you think Europe is going in the right direction at least here?

FERGUSON: No, I think it is going in completely the wrong direction. As soon as I saw the details of what was announced last Friday, my heart sank because what it represents is a kind of austerity pack imposed largely at the insistence of the German government.

Now I'm the first person to argue for fiscal responsibility. But in the midst of a crisis like this, to insist everybody go straight to a balanced budget, makes it a constitutional requirement and then puts the policing power in the hand of the European Commission, just seems like folly. Without too much in return, remember, the key question here is, are enough resources being made available to the banks and to government?

If you go back to the U.S. crisis in 2008, 2009, very quickly, the administration got the TARP into place and at the same time, a stimulus package. This all happened with, I think, admirable speed. Credit where it is due to Secretary Tim Geithner.

The Europeans have been dithering ever since that time. And the results of the dithering is that their crisis has gotten much worse. This is a real concern as we look ahead to next year.

ROMANS: You also make the point -- others made the point as well, that other mistakes made during the Great Depression were countries that were, again, tightening the belt too quickly and, in some cases, raising interest rates too quickly when the economy was on its heels. What kinds of things are critical to avoid so that we don't having a second half to that 2008 financial crisis like the Great Depression?

FERGUSON: There were two great lessons from the Great Depression. One was John Maynard Keynes', which was, don't try to balance the budget when your economy is in a freefall. The other one was Milton Friedmans', which was, central banks have to be really expansionary when there is a risk of a domino effect as the banks fail through the system. I think in the U.S., we did learn from this. The problem, of course is, when your debts get to as a certain level, it gets progressively harder to do more borrowing. That's why I have been skeptical of year-upon-year of stimulus in the U.S. without any sign of a fiscal balance even 20 years out.

But the big problem in Europe has been the slow move by the European central bank to follow the example of the Federal Reserve. And which, under Ben Bernanke, in fact, did a very good job of counteracting potential implosion of the banking system after Lehman Brothers failed. Really, the Europeans have been much slower on the uptick. What I see in Berlin is a bizarre failure to learn the lessons of the Great Depression. I mean, remember what happened in Germany after 1931, '32, the complete collapse of democracy. You would have thought the Germans learned how dangerous it is to mess around with an economic meltdown. ROMANS: You give credit here to Ben Bernanke. He's a scholar of the Great Depression. Are you saying the world central bankers, at least central bankers are doing the right thing here in the absence of political leadership elsewhere?

FERGUSON: Good Ben Bernanke made all kinds of mistakes prior to the crisis but when the cries struck, I think he got it right, and that was because he knew the history of the Great Depression. That's what he studied as an epidemic.

Europe was much slower on the uptake. The European banks remind me of the generals that fight the last war. You know, they have been fighting the war against inflation, even when the risks of the world economy has been deflation.

Notice also, Christine, the worst things get in Europe, the more popularism you begin to see, and potentially the more instability in Europe's multi-ethnic cities. This is a very dangerous process where you transition from economic crisis to political crisis.

ROMANS: And I think that's what -- the other -- the other, I guess, not undertones but overtones of the whole European story is that this is a -- this is a union that's been forged over 60 years and it has been careful and, I would say, complicated how countries have been coming together after what were terrible days of -- these countries hated each other. People hated each other. And now trying to move together, and that just seems so dangerous at a time when you are talking about complications and problems keeping it together.

FERGUSON: You know, the creation of the United States of Europe has always seemed to some people like a wonderful idea. But what, in practice, a federal union means is that resources get transferred from the more prosperous states to the less prosperous states. That goes on in the United States on a routine basis. People pay their tax dollars in Texas and the money ends up getting spent in Nebraska. In Europe, it is much, much harder to get, say, Germans to fork out for Greeks or Portuguese. It was one for the Germans to pay for German unification after 1989. But just try getting them to get them to pay for European unification. I think that's really the central problem here for the German government that its own voters are not keen on the idea of a federal fiscal union.

ROMANS: It all matters here. It really matters -- it matters here.

All right, Niall Ferguson, author, "Civilization, the West and the Rest," thanks for joining us.

FERGUSON: Thank you.

ROMANS: Today's "Romans' Numeral," it is eight. And here's a hint. It has to do with a vital safety net for millions of Americans. What has been extended eight times? We'll tell you right after the break.

Forty-nine minutes after the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: 10 minutes until the top of the hour. Here's what you need to know to start your day.

The Iraq war now over. Earlier this morning, U.S. soldiers lowered a flag in Baghdad, officially bringing the nearly nine-year- old conflict to an end. Only a few thousand troops remain in Iraq right now.

Big concession in the effort to extend the payroll tax cuts. Democrats are working on a new proposal that drops their demand for a tax hike on millionaires. And that has the two parties talking.

Tragedy averted at a silver mine in northern Idaho. Seven miners were rescued after a rock burst trapped them more than a mile underground at the Lucky Friday Mine. Their injuries are said to be non-life threatening.

Death penalty on the decline. Just 43 people have been executed this year in the United States. That's according to the Death Penalty Information Center. That's down from 100 just a dozen years ago. Texas led with 13.

A new survey says teens are putting down the booze and picking up the bongs. That's right. Far fewer teens are drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes than at any time in the last 30 years. But teenage marijuana use is way up, hitting its highest point in two decades.

Two of Hollywood's finest, George Clooney and Brad Pitt, could be going head-to-head at the Golden Globe Awards. The nominations will be unveiled in less than an hour from now. We'll carry it live.

You're now caught up on the day's headlines. AMERICAN MORNING, back after a short break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: This morning's "Romans' Numeral," a number in the news. The number is eight. It is the number of times Congress has already lengthened or extended jobless benefits.


ROMANS: And if Congress does not extend benefits the next few weeks, five million Americans will find themselves out of this vital safety net. But it is also raising a very big debate in America, how long is long enough or too long to be getting a jobless check? And are those checks preventing people from going out and finding work? People fight and argue about this a lot. Eight times is how many times it has been lengthened or extended. Shows you the depth of the jobs crisis.

COSTELLO: And maybe nine times. Who knows?

ROMANS: Maybe. COSTELLO: "The Next List" is a new CNN program, focusing on some of America's most creative minds. Every Sunday, Dr. Sanjay Gupta profiles people on the cutting edge of technology and innovation.

ROMANS: This week, Sanjay introduces us to an interactive media artist who knows no boundaries. He's changing the way we see ourselves and the world around us.


UNIDENTIFIED INTERACTIVE MEDIA ARTIST: The next step for me is towards feature-length experiences. I would love one day to make the 2001 of interactivity. You can imagine an experience that was like a huge room or even a huge building where you move from floor to floor and, in each room, there was another narrative experience, part of a story that is told partly through your relationships to other people and also through your relationships to interactive walls, ceilings, floors and tables. So, you know, just keep your eyes on our web site, I guess --


-- and you'll see what comes out in 2012.


ROMANS: You can catch "The Next List" each Sunday, 2:00 p.m. eastern, right here on CNN.

COSTELLO: Just ahead this morning, the Iraq war officially coming to an end. The president reminding America of its obligation to returning soldiers who will be haunted for years by PTSD and other illnesses. We're live at Ft. Bragg with a look at the struggle.

ROMANS: And he was blocked from bringing his adopted Columbian sons home only because he's gay. Now they're reunited and they're all going to join us live.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. It's 56 minutes past the hour.