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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Remembering World War II Veterans; Security Tightened For Memorial Dedication, Looking at Alternative Fuels and Vehicles
Aired May 28, 2004 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, preparing for an honor that is long overdue.
AL SIMPSON, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: I had to come because of my buddies that are not here.
ZAHN: By the thousands, World War II veterans are gathering in Washington for the dedication of their memorial.
And what is being done to keep the ceremony and the country safe from terrorists this holiday weekend?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please have your boarding pass, your I.D. ready when you get here.
TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: America is the target of potential terrorist attacks.
ZAHN: Tonight, remembering an old war as the country fights a new one, the war on terror.
ZAHN: And tonight, a stunning sight, the new national World War II Memorial, as he sun sets on the Mall in Washington, D.C., on the eve of the memorial's dedication.
In the center of its seven acres is a rainbow pool ringed by 56 pillars, one each for the states and territories that made up the U.S. some 60 years ago.
Good evening from our nation's capital. Thanks so much for joining us. Glad to have you with us tonight.
The memorial is symbolic of a nation that was united in a struggle to defeat forces that wanted to enslave humanity. Now, six decades later, as America fights a very different kind of war against a very different kind of enemy, the nation honors the millions who served so long ago.
ZAHN (voice-over): They were children of the Depression who struggled through hardship, who proudly fought for freedom, fought for their nation, fought for the world; 16 million answered the call, 400,000 buried on those foreign shores, never to see their families again, 600,000 wounded.
NARRATOR: The Japanese fleet was bearing down on Hawaii.
ZAHN: For more than 1,000 days, they fought and died. From that day that will live in infamy, the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, to war.
NARRATOR: In the Philippines, the situation was heroic, but hopeless.
ZAHN: First in the Pacific, ferocious battles at Midway, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, then in Europe.
NARRATOR: Tanks move forward, driving on the Gustav line.
ZAHN: Places that will go down forever in history, the Battle of the Bulge, then the battle that changed it all, D-Day, the beginning of the end for the Nazis.
NARRATOR: It has taken 12 years and a united world, but, again, the German war has ended.
ZAHN: But war still raged in the Pacific, until...
ZAHN: Then, finally the Japanese surrender.
NARRATOR: America's nuclear gamble had paid off.
ZAHN: So the boys and girls, now men and women, came home to a postwar boom that made life a little bit easier. These men and women grew old and remembered.
While monuments were built in the nation's capital to the men and women who fought and died in Korea and in Vietnam, there was nothing to honor the brave who gave their lives in World War II. But then this congresswoman, Marcy Kaptur, met a veteran named Roger Durbin at a fish fry in Ohio in 1987. Durbin, who had fought at the Battle of the Bulge, had a simple question: Why wasn't there a memorial on the Mall in honor of his buddies who had died so that American could be free?
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Roger Durbin, a World War II veteran.
ZAHN: Roger Durbin never lived to see his dream. The World War II Memorial with the 56 columns, the two arches, the rainbow pool and the 4,000 gold stars, each star representing 100 of his brothers in arms who died for their country. And many others are missing the realization of Durbin's dream as well.
Almost 60 years after the end of the war, more than 1,000 of these heroes pass on each day. But tomorrow, more than 100,000 guests will watch as President Bush dedicates this gleaming granite memorial to the men and women who gave their lives for their country.
ZAHN: And joining us now, three American veterans of World War II.
John Marr was in the Army and parachuted into Normandy on D-Day. Willard Smith fought on the ground with the Army in the Philippines. And Kenneth Chapek was in the Air Corps and flew 50 missions over Europe.
It's an honor to have all three of you with us this evening.
John, what does it mean to you to have this monument dedicated this weekend?
JOHN MARR, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: Well, I think it's very, very historic.
And I look at the monument in a thematic way. That is to say, the Washington Monument, which is emblematic of the Revolutionary generation, and the Lincoln Memorial, which is emblematic of the Civil War generation. And now right in the center is the World War II Memorial of the largest conflict that we had, and I think it is a grouping that is absolutely ideal.
ZAHN: But, Willard, it was a long time in coming. And it must be bittersweet for all of you to think about the symbolism of what it represents.
WILLARD SMITH, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: Well, it's been a long time, but we like the feeling that we're humbled by it, I suppose you could say, because we just went off -- we got drafted and we went off to the service. You know, it didn't make any difference. I...
ZAHN: You were a part of the greatest generation, a generation that didn't like to talk about this tremendous patriotism you have.
SMITH: It's kind of embarrassing. Right. Right.
ZAHN: Why is it embarrassing to all of you?
SMITH: I don't know.
ZAHN: Why does it make uneasy for you to reflect?
SMITH: I think it's just because we knew we had to go fight, and we knew that we were doing it to save the country. We didn't -- we wanted to remain what we were. We didn't want to be overrun by two different countries. And so we just went, you know.
ZAHN: Kenneth, what does tomorrow mean to you?
KENNETH CHAPEK, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: Well, it's -- it was a long time coming. You know, the Korea and Vietnam were memorialized before World War II. I don't know why it took so long. But I think it's more for -- not for us, but for generations to come to see. I hope they get some idea of what we went through.
ZAHN: What do you want it to represent to the future generations of Americans?
CHAPEK: Well, I'm not sure. I think maybe if they can maybe study World War II more in the schools, so they know what we went through, I think that would help a lot.
ZAHN: I'm sure it will help everyone gain a greater appreciation of what you all endured.
I've spoken with a number of veterans today who talked about the pride they feel to have their hard service represented there, but also just the sadness, thinking about -- back to all the loss that you witnessed.
Is that something going through your mind, John?
MARR: Well, with reference to the memorial...
ZAHN: The memorial and your service.
I think the memorial is -- I like to look at it as a beacon for all that we stand for around the world, that everybody can look at, not just Americans, but everybody else, that it was -- when you look at it that way, the sacrifice was certainly justified.
ZAHN: And, William, even as humble...
ZAHN: Willard, excuse me -- as humbled as you are by this great honor, you have to think back to some of those dark days that you witnessed.
SMITH: Well, you know, I think we have a tendency to overlook the darker part of the days, and we see some of the other stories that we remember, and we've been swapping stories all day long and talking to people.
I think that we just feel that we can live with what we have and not -- you know, not get all upset about it. It just -- it occurred. It occurred to us. And we were there, and we went off and fought, and we came home. I don't think we even thought about having a memorial built. I certainly didn't.
MARR: No, not at that time.
ZAHN: And you have a very interesting story about how your life was saved. Who has the candy story here? It was Willard's story. You ended up eating a piece of candy that made you very, very sick. SMITH: Yes.
And when I got back to my outfit -- well, a fellow had told me to jump on a truck, and we went off on a duty and we wound up at the front when I was in the artillery, and the artillery was usually not at the front. So, at the front, we took a lot -- did a lot of work. And then I ate this candy that this Filipino boy gave me. And they said don't eat anything, and I ate it anything because I was really hungry.
And it was midnight. And by morning, I got really sick and went to an aid station. And they sent me to a general hospital. And they put me on a boat and sent me to New Guinea. And I left my whole buddies behind in my outfit. And while I was down there, I did point- system work. And I got out of the Army and got back in Madison, Wisconsin, walked down the street.
And I met some fellow on the street, and he said, are you Bill Smith? And I said, yes. And he said, well, you can't be. You're dead. And I said, no, I'm standing right here. And he said, no, you're dead. He said, we divvied up all your belongings. And it turned out that the night of the morning that I got sick and left the outfit, the Japanese had overrun and killed just about everybody. And so...
ZAHN: Best piece of candy you've ever eaten, wasn't it?
SMITH: Best piece. And I've been eating candy ever since.
ZAHN: And I don't blame you for that.
SMITH: Trying to stay alive.
ZAHN: John, Willard and Kenneth, thank you for sharing your stories with us. And we salute the tremendous service you gave our nation. Thank you for your time.
SMITH: Thank you.
MARR: Thank you.
ZAHN: It's expected tomorrow's that dedication ceremony will bring huge crowds to the Mall here in Washington. Coming up next, we're going to show you who is making sure none of those attending will be a terrorist.
Also, we are going to turn our attention to one of the most important priorities for Iraq and its people. What will it take to rebuild the nation? We'll look at that coming up.
ZAHN: Tomorrow's dedication of the World War II Memorial is expected to bring well over 100,000 people to the Mall in Washington. And concern over terrorism will mean security will be exceptionally tight.
Here's homeland security correspondence Jeanne Meserve.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the nation commemorates one war, it is waging another, on terror. New threat warnings have triggered new concerns about the dedication of the World War II Memorial.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's had an effect in ways that I can't really discuss on TV, but, of course, it has an effect.
MESERVE: Armed Coast Guard patrol boats are policing the Potomac. Instruments are in place to detect and track any chemical, biological or radiological release. Cameras like this one on the Lincoln Memorial will survey the crowd of more than 100,000.
The unprecedented interagency planning effort led by the U.S. Park Police has been under way for a year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The security effort will have over 30 law enforcement agencies and probably close to over 1,000 officers.
MESERVE: And this is just the start of a summer of security.
TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We have a couple streams of threat reporting, coupled with the fact that from Memorial Day through the end of the year, there are many, many high-profile public events, symbolic events.
MESERVE: Security is already escalating around Sea Island, Georgia, where the G8 economic summit will be held in little more than a week.
Mike Wootin (ph) runs the local bait shop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was fishing the other day and I ran up on a missile battery.
MESERVE: Fourth of July celebrations and the Athens Olympic Games are other events of major concern, but the terrorist strikes on trains in Madrid just days before the Spanish election amplified concerns that the U.S. electoral process could be at risk. The Secret Service has already decided to close a key highway and train station in Boston during the Democratic Convention in July.
Security will be intense through the Republican Convention in New York in August, Election Day, and the inauguration, though the current threat information is vague.
RIDGE: No specific information as to who, what, when, where and how.
MESERVE: Some wonder if authorities' anxieties about big events aren't misplaced. David Heyman is with the Center For Strategic and International Studies.
DAVID HEYMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Frankly, what's really at stake in terms of protecting America's homeland is our critical infrastructure on a daily basis, concern about trains and trucks and those types of things, cargo coming in and out of our country.
ZAHN: Homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve joins us now.
Always good to see you, especially in personal.
MESERVE: Hi, Paula.
ZAHN: Let's talk a little bit about some of the confusion surrounding the news conferences we've all been exposed to this week. The public at times has been left with two distinct impressions of what we face.
Is the Justice Department now on the same page as the Homeland Security Department?
MESERVE: Well, they sure want you to believe that. They issued a joint statement today, Secretary Ridge and Attorney General Ashcroft, saying, we are sharing intelligence, repeating the common line right now on what that intelligence is, saying we are communicating with local officials.
So for right now they're singing kumbaya. I'm told that in fact the two have not gotten along. And one Homeland official I talked to said that it may be a good thing that this came out, because it's smoked into the open some disagreements the department was having, made it very public, and maybe now something will be done to address this.
ZAHN: Was Tom Ridge left out of the loop? Do we know that?
MESERVE: Well, I would say this.
I'm told that Homeland was well aware that there was going to be a press deference. They were well aware that there were going to be some BOLO, be on the lookouts, issued that evening. Where there was a difference was on the assessment of what the intelligence was. John Ashcroft went a little further than Secretary Ridge was willing to about the intelligence. He was much more dire.
He said that an attack on the U.S. was 90 percent complete in the planning stage. They were on a different page right there.
ZAHN: And there are a number of analysts suggesting tonight that in it was fact politically motivated on John Ashcroft's part, which is something we will explore with the men from "CROSSFIRE" a little bit later on tonight.
Jeanne Meserve, thank you.
MESERVE: You bet.
ZAHN: Have a good holiday.
Coming up next, we'll look at one of the toughest challenges facing Iraq, getting the nation rewired, reconnected, and ready to run itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW NATSIOS, USAID: Well, this will take years to do. You don't repair the damage of 25 years in a couple of years. This will take years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And a little bit later on, we're going to see some of the stars of the show when it comes to high-mileage alternatives in the era of very high gas prices.
ZAHN: Welcome back.
There are 33 days left until Iraq regains its sovereignty. The Iraqi Governing Council voted unanimously today to name Iyad Allawi as the prime minister of the interim government. He will be the first Iraqi other than Saddam Hussein to lead the government in more than three decades.
Selecting a government is one of the five steps President Bush outlined this week as necessary for Iraq to achieve democracy. We have been working our way through the list, taking a closer look at those steps. One key part of the strategy involves making Iraq livable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The third step in the plan for Iraqi democracy is to continue rebuilding that nation's infrastructure, so that a free Iraq can quickly gain economic independence and a better quality of life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Reconstruction of Iraq's infrastructure "In Plain English," that's rebuilding roads, water pipes, power lines, and plenty of other things most of us take for granted.
ZAHN (voice-over): On the streets and in homes, how is Iraq working? Is there running water, electricity? Just what is the state of Iraq's infrastructure?
LT. GEN. ROBERT FLOWERS, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: When we arrived in the country, what we found was an infrastructure that had been very badly neglected for the last 30 years. No money had been put into maintaining the infrastructure, and then shortly following the war, it was severely looted.
ZAHN: Looting, neglect, a decade of sanctions and the war have resulted in reconstruction that is moving along slower than expected. "We wish stability and happiness for our society," says unemployed Rabi al-Dalami (ph). "Then comes reconstruction, electricity and housing."
NATSIOS: There are three big areas we're working. One is physical infrastructure, like bridges and roads, water sewage treatment plants. The second is social services, like education and health. And the third is building a new Iraqi democracy.
ZAHN: Let's look at some specifics. Here are the details, according to the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority. But due to travel restrictions and security issues, CNN cannot independently verify this.
Bridges. Three major bridges having rebuilt or are soon to be finished. More need repair. Ports. The main seaport at Umm Qasr has been reopened. The U.S. says Baghdad's airport has handled 5,000 flights since July, but due to security issues is still closed to commercial flights. Water. Contractors are working to repair the estimated 1,700 critical breaks in Baghdad's water system alone.
Sewage systems. The treatment plants are still being rebuilt and repaired. Electricity. The government agency USAID says the amount of electricity generated today has surpassed prewar levels. But for many people supplies are still unreliable.
"We've had no electricity at home for two days," says roadworker Munim Tahir (ph).
As for the schools, of the nearly 4,000 targeted for reconstruction, the U.S. says more than half have been rebuilt. Iraq's health care system remains a major problem. The coalition says, while more than 100 clinics and hospitals have been upgraded, 17 still have major damage. Iraqis in many parts of the country are suffering from malnutrition.
And finally, oil. Despite what the U.S. estimates to be more than 85 attacks on refineries and pipelines since the end of the war, outside experts say Iraq is producing nearly two million barrels a day, roughly equaling the country's prewar level.
"Now we want the basics," says Amir Naki (ph). "The rest will come later."
NATSIOS: This will take years to do. You don't rebuild all of this overnight.
ZAHN: And continuing our discussion on the president's five- point plan in Iraq, earlier, I spoke with "CROSSFIRE" co-hosts Paul Begala and Robert Novak. And I started off by asking Paul whether he thought the plan would work.
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, that's what we don't know.
The plan is sort of aspirational. It's like saying, I have a plan to go the moon. Here's my plan. First, we go to the moon. Then we come home. The devil is in the details. And I think there's a part of it that actually, if it succeeds, can work against them. And that is this.
On the infrastructure, for example, Americans are going to start asking, why are we opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them here in America? Why are we building schools and hospital in Iraq, but not funding them here in America? And so there's a risk here that he looks like he is neglecting his American domestic priorities.
ZAHN: Bob, those are fair questions, aren't they?
ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": I don't think the American people, Paula, really care much whether the firehouses are open there or not, whether they're spending too much money or no money, or how good the life is.
What they want to do is get this war over with, get the troops home, and in a position where the United States has not surrendered its honor in Iraq and left a civil war going.
ZAHN: But they care what it costs, Bob, don't they?
NOVAK: I don't think they care at all what it costs. Those numbers are so astronomical, they're out of anybody's scope. The only number they care about, Paula, is the casualty list.
Americans have a very, very poor tolerance for death, and particularly on a war on the other side of the globe. So that's what politically the president has to do if he's going to be a two-term president.
ZAHN: Thanks, gentlemen. We need to take a short break, but stay right there, because in just a minute, I want to ask you about the state of the presidential race and John Kerry's latest claims about his resume.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have more experience today as a senator in foreign affairs and making our country stronger than George Bush does in his four years as president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Presidential politics is next.
ZAHN: And welcome back.
This week, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has been highlighting his foreign policy resume and national security plan.
We're back now with the two hosts of CNN's "CROSSFIRE," Paul Begala, Robert Novak, still with me, ready to debate.
Welcome back, gentlemen.
NOVAK: Thank you.
ZAHN: Let's revisit very quickly a little bit of what John Kerry had to say about the importance he thinks of his foreign policy experience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have more experience today as a senator in foreign affairs than (ph) making our country stronger than George Bush does in his four years as president and I'm going to put that experience to work for our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So, Bob, will John Kerry's renewed focus on foreign policy make any difference at the polls?
NOVAK: No, I really don't think so. The idea that somebody wins the presidency on the basis of their experience has never been shown. We've had all kinds of inexperienced people, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, who didn't have any experience at all, even though foreign policy is obviously more important now, it was important in those days with fighting the Cold War. I really don't believe it's experience. I think this whole election is going to hinge on how well the situation matures in Iraq. Is there going to be an end to the fighting? Is there going to be -- to use a terrible cliche, a light at the end of the tunnel or not?
ZAHN: John Kerry is taking some heat from members of his own party for not offering enough specifics about what he thinks should be done in Iraq, fearing perhaps that that will be used as ammunition by the Republican party. BEGALA: But also I got the strong sense that President Clinton had this right when he said, you know, we can only have one president at a time. Even though John Kerry wants the job, he doesn't have it today. So he should not be second-guessing every single tactical move during the war. He should talk about his overall vision. He would have a very different foreign policy, I think, than President Bush and this week, I think he did a good job of outlining that.
ZAHN: You've got Bob rolling his eyes on that one. Let's move on to the issue of John Kerry's accusation that the Bush campaign, or actually, the Bush administration has compromised national security while fighting this war in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: Two-thirds of the firehouses in the United States of America are understaffed. One thing I know, we should not be opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them in the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Bob, in addition to John Kerry's criticizing the Bush administration for hurting domestic programs here, there are also some strong accusations going around that John Ashcroft's news conference the other day was politically motivated.
NOVAK: I think all that Attorney General John Ashcroft was supposed to do was show the pictures of these al Qaeda suspects, and John Ashcroft just pumped it up. He wanted -- he's been out of the spotlight for a long time, and he wanted to indicate that things are very tough and we have to be on our guard. So I think, Paula, this was a case of incompetency by the administration or inefficiency, rather than it was a serious plot to score a dirty trick in the political campaign.
ZAHN: Paul, incompetency or craven-cynicism?
BEGALA: Well, I feel like a bit of a chump because when Attorney General Ashcroft had that press conference, I said it was great, I applauded it. I thought it was serious, and I said I have no reason to doubt him, and, you know, now I do. And I feel kind of like a fool for thinking that it was on the level, Paula.
ZAHN: Gentlemen, we've got to leave it there. I think that's the first time I've ever heard Paul admit in front of Bob that he felt like a chump about something.
NOVAK: He should do it more often.
BEGALA: Not the last time I'm sure, Paula.
ZAHN: We're saving that one in the videotape file. Gentlemen, have a good weekend.
When we come back, we'll continue our series, "Crude Awakening." If the high price of oil has you ready to trade in your gas guzzler, what alternatives are there out there?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there's been tremendous breakthroughs but nobody's been able to make a real impact on the marketplace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and we will do a little dreaming, too. Will any of us get to commute like George Jetson? I'm waiting for that day.
ZAHN: We continue our "Crude Awakening" series tonight with a look at alternative fuels and vehicles. One way to soften the pain at the pump is to go to the pump less often. While rapidly rising gas prices have sparked an interest in hybrids and other cars that don't burn so much fuel and as national correspondent Frank Buckley reports, it's a case of history repeating itself.
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gas lines and prices in the 70s sent consumers in search of cars that got better gas mileage. A quarter-century old TV commercial might be just as effective today.
AD ANNOUNCER: If you had known what was going to happen to the price of gasoline would you have bought the car you drive now?
BUCKLEY: Honda was a hit. Today consumers are again in search of alternatives and this one is flying off the lot. The Toyota Prius, a hybrid car which combines a gas engine with an electric motor and a battery pack. It took off as a status symbol in Hollywood of the environmentally conscious. It became a car so in demand that the wait for delivery is now from four to six months.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been fueled, so to speak, by the celebrities and the Hollywood environmentalists. It also has got down to, you know, Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith and the family who have thought that this is the future and they should get on board now.
BUCKLEY: And soon you'll be able to drive a Hybrid SUV. This one. This is the Ford Escape hybrid. It's being rolled out right now for the automotive media, but it will be available to the general public in August or September. Ford says it's priced about $3,000 over the cost of a similarly equipped six-cylinder version of its non- hybrid Escape.
MAURICE DURANO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: This is the most consumer friendly at the moment of the alternative fuel solutions.
BUCKLEY: But there are others. Electric cars are already on the road. So are biodiesel vehicles, which use alcohol and vegetable oils, fats and greases. Natural gas is already here. So is propane. If you watch the Indy 500 this weekend, you'll see methanol powering the cars. And the most widely used alternative is ethanol. The National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition says some 2 million flexible fuel vehicles that can use it have already been sold in the U.S. Experts say, however, no one single alternative appears to be the silver bullet.
BILL VAN AHBURG: So there have been tremendous breakthroughs, but nobody's been able to make a real impact on the marketplace but they are looking at, with the cost of gasoline where it is, maybe these alternatives now make economic sense.
BUCKLEY: Finally, how about the hydrogen Hummer.
TAI ROBINSON, INTERGALACTIC HYDROGEN: It's a multi-fuel vehicle. It can run on hydrogen, it can use compressed natural gas, but it still retains its ability to use gasoline.
BUCKLEY: Tai Robinson's research and development company is among those trying to develop hydrogen-powered vehicles. They're not available yet but with a pledge from California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to build a hydrogen highway of fueling stations along California's roads, hydrogen cars, maybe even a hydrogen Hummer, may be among the alternatives of the future.
ZAHN: We'll see. National correspondent Frank Buckley.
Earlier this week, I talked about hybrid cars with the proud owner of one, environmentalist Laurie David. She happens to be a member of the National Resources Defense Council board of trustees, and a founding member of the Detroit Project, a campaign aimed at convincing auto makers to build vehicles that would end our dependence on foreign oil. She also happens to be the wife of a comedian, comedian Larry David, star of HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and co- creator of "Seinfeld."
ZAHN: Laurie David, great to see you. Welcome.
LAURIE DAVID, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: Great to be here. Thank you.
ZAHN: I've often wondered who your husband was talking about in his series of his. Now we know. Good to have you with us.
Let's talk a little bit about hybrid cars. First of all, what do you think is the answer to these record high gas prices that we're paying?
DAVID: Well, I think there's a couple things. And one is a hybrid car. I mean, you can go out tomorrow and buy this fantastic car that gets 40 to 45 miles per gallon, and you'll go to the gas station maybe about once a month to fill that gas tank up. And you'll be saving money. You get a tax break when you buy them. And this is -- this is a fantastic option for the American consumer.
ZAHN: How are you going to convince the 17.7 million Americans out there, who are happily driving their SUVs around, to shift to a hybrid car?
DAVID: Well, the good news is there's a hybrid SUV coming out. I think that the American consumer's going to make this decision themselves every time they go to the gas stations.
ZAHN: You have been known to use some pretty aggressive tactics to try to get SUV drivers to change their habits. You've ticketed people, right?
ZAHN: Put tickets on the windshield...
DAVID: I have done that.
ZAHN: Which is more of a joke than anything else.
DAVID: It kind of is.
ZAHN: But what is the greatest length you've gone to to get somebody to quit their SUV?
DAVID: Well, I actually confront people personally one on one. And that's one of the strangest things I think I've done, because I have kids in the car sometimes. And my kids see a Hummer coming the other way, and they literally start talking from the backseat, mom, don't say anything. Don't say anything. So I take it to a very grass-roots level. One one one.
ZAHN: And what do you say to them?
DAVID: I say, how many miles per gallon does your car get? And wouldn't you rather be driving a car that had a higher fuel efficiency? And you know, I try to talk to people about it. And most people, you know, in the past haven't really thought that much about it. But we are at a 22-year low in fuel efficiency. That's outrageous. I mean, we have serious problems in this country. We have global a warming problem, and we have an insane dependence on foreign oil that we have to confront. And people really need to start thinking about what they're doing and what they're driving.
ZAHN: What kind of a difference do you think it would make, just simply to get people to switch from SUVs to hybrid cars? Is it going to make that big of a dent?
DAVID: If you think about what the scientists say about, for example, global warming problem, they say it's power plants and cars. So I think it will make a huge difference.
ZAHN: It's interesting what approach you've taken, because you tried to get some of your Hollywood friends to drive these cars around, and it's had an impact, hasn't it? Who's driving the hybrid cars now?
DAVID: Well, I started with my husband, first of all, Larry David. And he started driving it on his show.
ZAHN: And he's a big guy.
DAVID: And he's a big guy. Plenty of room. He's very comfortable in it. Great car. Tom Hanks is driving one now, and Will Farrell, and Ben Stiller, and Dustin Hoffman, I mean, Pierce Brosnan, I mean, the list goes on and on and on.
ZAHN: So if a hybrid is not a reality for an American consumer, are there any other alternatives for them?
DAVID: Well, there are...
ZAHN: As we watch the price go up, up, up for gas?
DAVID: Yes, there are cars -- I mean, really -- it's important -- when you see advertisements for cars, you see the latest cupholder in the car, the latest sound system in the car. What you don't see advertised is the miles per gallon. And that has to change. And I think what the American consumer can do is start asking, make that a priority, and make Detroit make you make more fuel-efficient cars as a result.
ZAHN: How does your husband, Larry David, view this whole campaign?
DAVID: He's a reluctant environmentalist. He's -- I kind of force him to do things and he goes along begrudgingly. But he drives his Prius in real life, and he loves it, and I'm proud of him for that.
ZAHN: I read one article where one man was a little bit critical of you. He said, great, they're driving the hybrid cars, but they have a home that's 10 times the size of my home, and they use more air conditioning than I do.
DAVID: Well, you know what, I believe if everyone in this country did one thing, this place would be -- we'd be much better off and we'd be on our way to solving some of these problems. So if you start going into specifics -- do you use Christmas lights? Do you heat a pool? Do you use air conditioning? I mean, you know, we all have to live. The point is to have some options for everybody, and to make the best choices that you can, but at least have the options available so that you can make that choice.
ZAHN: We appreciate you driving by.
DAVID: I appreciate you covering this. Thank you.
ZAHN: Thank you. Good luck to you.
DAVID: Thanks, Paula.
ZAHN: Well, 40, 50 and even 60 miles to the gallon sounds pretty good, doesn't it? And in a world of gas that's $2 a gallon and climbing, how are most drivers coping? Jeanne Moos will ask some later on.
But next, some ideas that will allow us to skip the gas pumps altogether. Fasten your seatbelts. Stay with us.
ZAHN: So what will highways look like five or 10 years from now? Well, sales of hybrid and other alternative fuel vehicles may be taking off with the soaring gas prices, but are they the wheels of the future? Joining us now to discuss this, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, the editor in chief of "Car and Driver" magazine, Csaba Csere. Good to see you. Thanks for joining us.
CSABA CSERE, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "CAR AND DRIVER": My pleasure.
ZAHN: So in our last segment, Laurie David talked about the benefits of hybrid cars. What are the downsides to them?
CSERE: There's a couple of downsides to hybrids. For one thing, they're more expensive up front. Current hybrids probably cost about $3,000 more than the equivalent non-hybrid version. And that's an amount of money you need to make up in gas savings, and that's pretty tough to do.
The other one is that the hybrids have a large battery pack, and nobody knows how long that battery pack is going to last. For now, they're guaranteed for eight years, but after that eight-year warranty runs out, it could be $1,000 bill for a hybrid owner.
ZAHN: And let's move to the whole issue of the number of SUV drives on the road, more than 17.5 million out there. Today, news that there will be a hybrid SUV coming down the pike. Will that make much of a difference?
CSERE: I think people are really champing at the bit waiting for the Ford Escape, which will be the first hybrid SUV. And then there is going to be a Lexus a couple of months after that, and then a Toyota shortly afterwards. And there's a lot of drivers who have been beaten up because they're driving SUVs, and the notion of driving an SUV that gets better mileage is very attractive.
ZAHN: And what's the latest status on electric cars?
CSERE: Electric cars are pretty hopeless. There are a few of them out there, years ago, when California basically mandated them, but the problem is they don't have enough range. Someone once said that the range of an electric car is like the range of a gas car when the low fuel light comes on. And that's pretty bad, but it's even worse than that. Because if you go 50 miles on a tank of gas, you can refill in five minutes. You go 50, 60, 70 miles in an electric car, and then you have got to recharge for eight hours. Nobody wants to put up with that .
ZAHN: What difference is public pressure going to make in Detroit if consumers really do want to give up their gas guzzlers and want good options?
CSERE: I think if customers really decide they want fuel efficiency, Detroit and the rest of the car makers are fully capable of delivering it, but for now customers haven't really said that. And keep in mind, it isn't usually just fuel efficiency in everything else. When you demand fuel efficiency, you're either going to give up size or carrying capacity or power or luxury features or you'll pay more for the vehicle. That's why most customers, when they look at these tradeoffs at this point, haven't been demanding fuel efficiency as their No. 1 priority.
ZAHN: So you're basically telling me tonight ten years from now our highways will look pretty much like they look today?
CSERE: It depends on the gas prices. If gas prices stay where they are or even better, go further up, that will change consumers' perceptions. If gas stays permanently at $2.50 a gallon or maybe reaches $3 a gallon, customers will definitely want more fuel- efficient vehicles. I don't know what gas prices will do in the future. They go up, they come down, they fluctuate all over all over the place but that's going to be the difference.
ZAHN: We do know they're driving people crazy this Memorial Day weekend, aren't they? Those price hikes. Thanks for your time.
CSERE: My pleasure.
ZAHN: Happy driving. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: And hybrids may be the next way of transportation, but they're not exactly what science fiction had promised us. Whatever happened to those flying cars and jet packs? Technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg looks for some answers.
DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: When it comes to transportation, movies like "The Fifth Element" and "Minority Report" make lofty predictions. But why are futuristic modes of travel always in the future? You can go back to the future for ideas about alternative fuels.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need fuel.
SIEBERG: OK. No garbage-powered nuclear cars yet, but you can turn grease into gas. Some diesel engines already run on waste from fast food fryers. And what about flying cars like the one in "Blade Runner?" Here's a reality check from its designer, Syd Mead.
SYD MEAD, DESIGNER, "BLADE RUNNER": You run into FAA licensing, what is the flight path requirements, how high does it fly? There's altitude limitations, there's local traffic from airports?
SIEBERG: In reality, the sky car from Muller International Works, you can fly nearly 300 miles and it gets better gas mileage than most SUVs. With a half million dollar price tag it won't be parked on your block anytime soon. Have you been waiting for your jet pack since James Bond rode (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the 1965 movie, "Thunderball"?
A Dallas inventor built one for stunts, though its distance may be limited. While the fan-powered Solotrek in California may one day have a 150-nautical mile range, it's still working out the kinks. How about the magnetically levitated cars in "Minority Report" making your commute to work, well, wall to wall? At the moment, speedy MAGLEV (ph) trains are being tested in planes like Japan, though the technology may be cost-prohibitive for mainstream use.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It runs between $30 and #50 million a mile. The average four-lane highway costs you about $30 million. I think we'll get over the price tag. We're very good at doing that when we make up our minds.
SIEBERG: Hoverboard. So how's that coming along? Maybe the closest example used in cities today is Dean Cayman's (ph) much-hyped Segway Transporter. Designer Syd Mead actually illustrated a similar concept more than 40 years ago. So at least one futuristic invention has come to fruition, sort of, though its wheels are still planted firmly on the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads.
SIEBERG: And now back to the immediate future with more than 200 million registered vehicles driving on more than 4 million miles of road this year, it looks like we'll be stuck in the present, at least for a while. Daniel Sieberg, CNN, Atlanta.
ZAHN: All right. So it doesn't look like cars or people will be flying soon. So next Jeanne Moos gets some drivers' down to earth advice for coping with sky-high gas prices next.
ZAHN: All this week we've looked at why gas prices are so high and as we wrap up our series, "Crude Awakening," Jeanne Moos shows us the extreme some drivers are going to to beat the gas influence.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to gas prices, there is no escape. Listen to the sound of money flowing out of your pocket.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gas prices are ridiculous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're insane right now.
MOOS: With the screws tightening, it helps to have a strategy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I drive an SUV and my strategy is to turn this car in for a four-cylinder car.
MOOS: A worthy thought befitting a guy who asked the gas station attendant if he could pluck roses for his mom.
Smell the roses on gas prices. Even a few stations themselves are making fun of their prices. New Yorkers who don't want to pay say $2.47 for regular can tunnel through to New Jersey and save 10 to 40 cents a gallon. Drivers are deserting familiar brand-name gas and fleeing to so-called no names. As for those accustomed to nothing but the best...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People who used premium are backing down and they're going for the regular.
MOOS: When you come to a place like this where there's like six stations, do you go to the cheapest one, obviously...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to know something, I own stock in Exxon, so I go to Exxon.
MOOS: Exxon stock, by the way, is up about 20 percent from last year. Some folks don't worry about gas prices.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I figure I'm getting hosed either way. God bless Bush, you know.
MOOS: And God bless those gas-saving tips such as keep tires properly inflated, use less air conditioning, fat chance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a big guy, I don't like to be warm.
MOOS: With prices this high, station owners get some odd requests.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me a dollar's worth. I'm like, where are you going with a dollar's worth.
MOOS: And just when you think you've stumbled upon a miracle, gas at $1.05 a gallon? Don't get too pumped up. $1.05 is just a rusty weed-choked memory. Here's reality.
What's the most times a day you've have to...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three times.
MOOS: Three times in one day.
Imagine the thrill when station owner Jamie Karpa (ph) let me personally raise gas prices.
So what if bystanders booed. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've gotten a little bit of the wrong angle.
MOOS: It's not every day I get to throw in my two cents. Jeanne Moos, CNN, Union City, New Jersey.
ZAHN: Tomorrow the nation pays tribute to the bravery, courage and sacrifice of the greatest generation and what a stunning sight it is tonight. The World War II monument. I hope you will join me for CNN's special coverage of the dedication of that monument tomorrow. I will also have an exclusive live interview with a war veteran and former President George H.W. Bush. Then I'll get underway at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time tomorrow. Thanks so much for being with us tonight. That wraps it up for all of us here.
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