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AMERICAN MORNING

Kerry Camp Responding to President's Bounce in Polls; Evidence of Iran's Nuclear Program?; Peterson's Father May Be Called as Witness

Aired September 7, 2004 - 07:29   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: 7:30 here in New York. Welcome back. Kelly Wallace with us today on this AMERICAN MORNING. How are you doing? OK?
KELLY WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Great to be with you.

HEMMER: We have a lot of campaign stuff to discuss...

WALLACE: We love it.

HEMMER: ... and we shall.

WALLACE: Yes.

HEMMER: Yes. John Kerry apparently making changes at the top for his staff. How will that change his message, or will it? We'll talk to Kerry's national campaign chairwoman about that, and also about these new poll numbers in a moment here. So, stay tuned for that.

WALLACE: Also, the Scott Peterson trial is attracting more than just reporters to Redwood City, California. In a few minutes, we'll look at the normal citizens out there who have an abnormal desire to become a part of the trial.

HEMMER: In the meantime, though, want to go back to Betty Nguyen at the CNN Center looking at news there. Betty, good morning.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning, Bill.

U.S. troops are clashing with Iraqi insurgents in a new burst of violence in Sadr City. These pictures just in to CNN. American forces are battling supporters of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Within the last hour, CNN learned that at least one American was killed in the fighting, bringing the American death toll to 998 since the war began in March of last year.

Tropical Depression Frances, no longer a hurricane, is billowing over Georgia this hour. Frances' assault on the south is leaving millions of people with flooded homes and without power. Weary residents are already eying Hurricane Ivan, even though it's still too early to tell whether that storm will move toward Florida.

Now, in less than 10 minutes, Rob Marciano has the latest on its projected path. Today begins week 15 in Scott Peterson's double murder trial. Police officers who tailed Peterson after his wife's disappearance testified last week that he acted very suspiciously trying to evade officers, and visiting the marina where police say he dumped Laci's corpse. In about 15 minutes, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joins us with a look at what's ahead this week.

And Michael Moore is going for the big prize at this year's Oscars. Moore announced he is not submitting his controversial film "Fahrenheit 9/11" for consideration in the Best Documentary category. Instead, he is shooting for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, an honor never achieved by a nonfiction film. Very interesting, that Michael Moore.

Back to you, Kelly.

WALLACE: Thanks so much, Betty.

Hard to believe 56 days now until the November election. And both presidential candidates are pounding the pavement in the battleground Midwest.

Yesterday in Missouri, President Bush defended his decision for war in Iraq, saying ousting Saddam Hussein was, quote, "right for America." Democratic hopeful Senator John Kerry greeted supporters Monday in Pennsylvania, saying Iraq was, quote, "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Today, John Kerry will visit North Carolina. The president continues his tour through Missouri.

So, how is the Kerry camp responding to the president's post- convention bounce in the polls? Former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen is national campaign chairwoman for Kerry/Edwards team. She joins us from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Good morning, Governor.

JEANNE SHAHEEN, KERRY/EDWARDS CAMP. CHAIRWOMAN: Good morning.

WALLACE: Thanks for being with us.

Let me first show you CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll -- a poll released yesterday afternoon looking at the horse race. Right now, President Bush at 52 percent above John Kerry, 45 percent -- a seven- point lead.

How do you turn this around?

SHAHEEN: Well, the race is much closer among registered voters. As we see, it's the closest race, actually, in -- almost the closest race in history. But we are going to continue to draw the comparison between what John Kerry would do and what George Bush has done.

The fact is, George Bush has taken this country in the wrong direction. We've lost 1.6 million jobs. His own secretary of labor says outsourcing job is good. We've had more people without healthcare. The healthcare costs are going up. Just Friday, they announced that the cost of Medicare was going up -- the greatest amount since the history of Medicare.

WALLACE: Governor, let me jump in...

SHAHEEN: As we've heard yesterday, we've lost troops -- the most troops in Iraq since May.

WALLACE: Governor, let me jump in, because we want to cover a lot of ground.

SHAHEEN: OK.

WALLACE: You talk about the key issues. In our poll, right now voters find that the most important issues, they say terrorism and the economy -- for the first time at least in months, terrorism and the economy, both the top priorities.

But take a look at this: When asked who would do a better job on terrorism, President Bush with almost a 30-point lead over John Kerry. John Kerry leading on the economy by three points.

Let me ask you: If this election could turn on the issue of terrorism, how can John Kerry win with numbers like that?

SHAHEEN: Well, the fact is, again, George Bush has taken us in the wrong direction. He misled us into war in Iraq. That war has not made us safer and more secure at home.

We need a president who understands that the way we become safer here is -- and stronger, is by making sure that we have a strong economy, that we're creating good jobs for people again, that people can get the healthcare they need. John Kerry has plans to do that.

He also understands that the best way to make us safer around the world is to restore the respect of this country in the global community, to work with our allies again. You know, we have not stabilized Afghanistan. We have not stabilized Iraq. There is no plan to win the peace.

We need a president who understands that we've got to move in a new direction. That's what John Kerry would do, and he has plans to do that.

WALLACE: Governor, let me ask you: the state of the Kerry campaign. Have you received any phone calls from Democrats who are nervous and upset and frustrated with the way the campaign is going right now?

SHAHEEN: No. I've received a lot of calls from Democrats who say we have got to work harder, because there is so much at stake for the American people.

WALLACE: So, no nervousness from people who are saying -- I mean, you had Democrat Senator Chris Dodd telling "The New York Times" that -- in August, he said John Kerry had a, quote, "very confused message" and the Republicans had a, quote, "clear and concise" one?

SHAHEEN: Well, we have just gone on the air with a $50 million ad buy. We -- because of the positioning of the Republican convention, we did not have ads on the air in August.

But the issue really is: Which leader would make a difference for the American people?

WALLACE: Let me ask you, Governor...

SHAHEEN: Which person has plans for healthcare, for jobs, to get this country moving again, to take it in a new direction? And that's John Kerry.

WALLACE: Let me ask you -- we're almost out of time, Governor -- I know the campaign doesn't like to use the word shakeup inside the Kerry campaign, but how else do you explain? If things were going very, very well, why, then would Senator -- or the Senator, if things were going so well, he might not be inclined to add so many new people to his team.

SHAHEEN: Now, listen, we're in the final phase of the campaign. The plan was always to have as many people on at this point as we could. We want all the help that's out there, because there is so much at stake for the American people.

We need to turn this country around. We need to move in a new direction. We need to have a president who has plans to create jobs, to lower the cost of healthcare. John Kerry would do that. He has a plan to lower the cost of healthcare $1,000 for an average family a year, and we need a president who understands that.

WALLACE: Jeanne Shaheen, we have to leave it there -- national campaign chairwoman for the Kerry/Edwards campaign. Thanks for being with us this morning.

And in our 9:00 hour, we will speak will Nicolle Devenish, communications director for the Bush/Cheney campaign -- Bill?

HEMMER: About 22 minutes now before the hour, Kelly.

From Moscow now, people gathering now for a rally planned to start in about 90 minutes; an expression of grief over the school hostage tragedy that left 335 dead. Some criticizing authorities for not preventing the carnage.

Meanwhile, more and more of the children killed in that ordeal are now being laid to rest. A memorial has been erected at the burned-out gymnasium where many of the children were killed. Russian President Vladimir Putin responding to calls for talks with Chechen terrorists saying that would be like negotiating with Osama bin Laden.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials trying to convince doubting allies that the latest evidence on Iran's nuclear program justifies bringing Tehran before the U.N. Security Council.

For more on that this morning, here's David Ensor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iranian officials have admitted to international inspectors that, by the end of this month, they will have reprocessed 37 tons of yellow cake into uranium hexafluoride, producing enough for five nuclear warheads. But the Iranians insist the material is for nuclear power production only.

At the rate they're going, experts say, the Iranians could have nuclear weapons to put on their medium-range missiles within two to four years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have much time. They're making steady progress now.

ENSOR: Both President Bush and his challenger John Kerry have called a nuclear-armed Iran unacceptable. How to stop it, though, is far from clear.

Back in 1981, with a single bombing raid, Israel stopped Iraq's nuclear bomb program in its tracks, but Iran's program reflects lessons learned from that. Nuclear facilities are widely dispersed, and U.S. officials say only some of them have been identified.

GEOFFREY KEMP, THE NIXON CENTER: These are deep deeply buried facilities. There are thousands of them. We don't know where they are. And so, even if we bomb them with the most precise weaponry, it won't be clear that we've got them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An ineffective military strike would be the worst of all worlds.

ENSOR: The Bush administration has been relying on European diplomacy to convince Tehran to give up any potential for nuclear weapons. But even Republican experts now say the U.S. needs to take over and needs to offer Iran something in return.

KEMP: What this will require on the part of the Bush administration is some carrots. There is no way the Iranians are going to back down on this issue, unless they are offered something in exchange.

ENSOR: The U.S. could offer to let Iran finish its peaceful nuclear energy plant at Bushehr with spent fuel being re-exported back to Russia. It could also offer Iran's Mulasa (ph) non-aggression pact, even the lifting of economic sanctions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency Board meets next week on Iran, but no one expects real movement before the November U.S. elections. At that point, though, experts say whoever wins needs to tackle the problem and quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we've lost a lot of time in the last few years. ENSOR: Washington needs to deal with Iran on other issues, too. The U.S. Military suspects Iran of meddling in Najaf and in Iraqi Shia politics, generally. U.S. intelligence wants al Qaeda terrorist leaders like Saif al-Adel, believed to be Iran.

(on camera): Senator Kerry has said, if elected, he would try to set up talks on nuclear matters with Tehran. But even if the president gets a second term, experts say look for a new sense of urgency and a new approach.

David Ensor, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: One other note on the story: Last week, the IAEA said that weapons inspectors have found no evidence to support accusations that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program -- Kelly?

WALLACE: And Bill, we've been talking about it: Frances still causing trouble around the country.

Rob Marciano is in for Chad Myers at the CNN Center. Rob, what's it looking like right now?

(WEATHER REPORT)

WALLACE: OK, Rob. Thanks so much.

And would you believe we're moving from hurricane season to, get this, a summer snowstorm in Colorado. Drivers on Loveland Pass got out of their cars to enjoy a jolt of winter.

One hundred miles away from this spot, in Silverton, Colorado, the ski area was able to open one chairlift for people who wanted to try summer skiing. And in Breckenridge, runners in the Labor Day marathon had to deal with several inches of snow on the course. The expected high today in Denver: 80 degrees.

You've got to love Colorado.

HEMMER: It's September 7th, right?

WALLACE: Yes.

HEMMER: They're opening up a chairlift there?

WALLACE: Yes.

HEMMER: Cool.

In a moment here on AMERICAN MORNING, the Army may be ready to cut ties with a controversial partner. Andy has that; "Minding Your Business" in a moment, here.

WALLACE: And a surprise witness in the Scott Peterson trial. The prosecution may look to Peterson's only family to help convict him. Jeffrey Toobin joins us on that.

Stay with us right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: Testimony set to resume today, in fact, in the Scott Peterson double murder trial. Scott Peterson's father says he would, quote, "stake his life on his son's innocence" -- may be called as a prosecution witness this week.

Our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, back from vacation and back with us here on AMERICAN MORNING. Good morning to you.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Howdy.

HEMMER: So, you go on break, and it's still going on.

TOOBIN: It's still going on. Fifteen weeks -- it is outrageous that this trial is going this slowly.

HEMMER: Outrageous.

TOOBIN: Oh, it's terrible. And you know, it's bad for the prosecution.

You know, one of the things that you want to do as a prosecutor is tell the jury this is a relatively simple story. Any case you're bringing, you want to say, look, don't worry about the complexities. This is a simple story. When you call this many witnesses, this many marginally relevant witnesses, you take this long, you are implicitly telling the jury, boy, this is complicated.

HEMMER: You say outrageous today; last night, you said a disgrace.

TOOBIN: Well, I think it's just terrible. And also, I think it reflects the California legal system, which is inherently slow, and one of the slowest...

HEMMER: And getting slower, apparently.

TOOBIN: Right. In Virginia, this trial would take two weeks. And I think that's probably too fast, but the contrast is really remarkable.

HEMMER: Let me get to what's happening today -- or this week -- what's expected, anyway. Scott Peterson's father on the stand. Why does the prosecution do this?

TOOBIN: Well, we don't know this for sure, but again, this seems to me another marginally relevant witness. And here, you of course have the problem of generating sympathy for Scott Peterson, because you know, forcing someone's father to testify against them is an uncomfortable thing.

And how relevant is his testimony? Again, it's going to be probably about Amber Frey, what he said when. Look, the jury knows he an affair with her. The jury knows he lied to everybody about his affair. But as Lee Peterson has said in his interviews with the authorities, and as lots of witnesses said, and as common sense tells us, just because you had an affair doesn't mean you murdered your wife.

HEMMER: You're suggesting, again, the prosecution's wasting its time.

TOOBIN: I do.

HEMMER: On the screen, this is the statement he gave on, I think, January 2003: You know that sure isn't proof that my son was involved in this thing, and I'll stake my life that my son was not involved in his wife's disappearance. I'm behind him. I can understand someone having an affair. I mean, it's not a good thing, but I can understand.

Isn't proof that my son was involved -- that's kind of the lynch pin for the entire case.

TOOBIN: Well, I mean, that's the whole case. That's what the case was about: Is the affair with Amber Frey evidence of murder? His father says -- understandably, since he's his father and loyal to his son -- that it's not proof of anything.

Look, the jury knows at this point about the affair. If that's all they're going to get from Lee Peterson, I don't understand why they're calling him.

HEMMER: You know, I was going to ask you how the prosecution's doing, but I think I know your position.

TOOBIN: Well, I'm not sure. You know, look, there's still important evidence in this case. If the jury could simply be focused on the fact that this woman's body was discovered exactly where Scott Peterson was on Christmas Eve, that's extremely incriminating evidence. All this other stuff is a side show.

HEMMER: Good to have you back.

TOOBIN: Nice to be back.

HEMMER: Talk later...

TOOBIN: All right.

HEMMER: ... Jeff -- Kelly?

WALLACE: Thanks, Bill. And we're sticking with the Scott Peterson murder trial. For some, getting a seat in the courthouse is just as good as getting a reservation at a hot, new restaurant.

CNN's Ted Rowlands introduces us now to some trial watchers who just can't seem to get enough.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-eight seats.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the first day, mistress Amber Frey testified in the Scott Peterson murder trial, more than 250 people showed up hoping to win one of the 30 open spots in the seat lottery. This trial has attracted locals and people from across the country. Some come for a day or two. Others who are here every day have taken up specific roles.

Marlene Newell updates those who think Peterson is not guilty through her Web site, scottisinnocent.com. Marlene, who lives nearby, spends her days trying to get into the courtroom and her nights updating the Web site.

Then there is Phil Devan. A mechanical engineer from New England, Phil moved to the Bay Area to watch the trial. He thinks Peterson is guilty and he wants to prove it.

PHIL DEVAN, TRIAL WATCHER: We're going to take a left beyond this breakwater here.

ROWLANDS: Phil pays a local boat owner $40 an hour to help him drag his homemade rake and weighted hooks around the San Francisco Bay. Phil says he's trying to find cement anchors prosecutors believe Peterson used to weigh down his wife's body.

DEVAN: I just think it would really be critical to the case if we could find it.

ROWLANDS: While Phil posted this flier hoping others would join him, so far he is on his own and hasn't found much.

DEVAN: Just a little bit of seaweed.

ROWLANDS: Phil says he plans to keep spending his time and money until this trial is over, spending weekends looking for evidence and trial days doing his best to get into the courtroom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 3107.

ROWLANDS: Ted Rowlands, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: Incredible.

HEMMER: Does that speak vigilance (ph) to you, or does that say eBay?

WALLACE: Yes, or is it just a fascination with sort of murder mysteries in this country? Anyway, you want to head out there and leave your job?

HEMMER: No. Let's get a break here. In a moment, one of the big controversies of post-war Iraq soon could be a thing of the past, or so says Andy. Back "Minding Your Business" in a moment here, on AMERICAN MORNING, after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: And word that Halliburton could be losing what many call a sweet deal with the U.S. military and a preview of the post- Labor Day markets. Andy Serwer is here, "Minding Your Business." Great to see you.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Thanks. Good to see you, Kelly.

We're talking about the $13 billion no-bid contract the Army awarded Halliburton to feed, clothe and take care of the logistics of U.S. troops. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting this morning, that contract may be broken up and put out to bid.

This is big, big news here, because, obviously, been charges of accounting problems, as well as over-billing by this company, and of course, Vice President Dick Cheney used to be CEO of this company, "The Wall Street Journal" story this morning reporting that.

Let's talk about the markets a little bit, though, Kelly. As you mentioned, today is the first day back to work after the summer for most people on Wall Street. Last week was a mixed one. Let's see here. Blue chips were trumping techs. You can say that. Intel, et al., were a bit weak. This morning, futures are looking bright. The future's always looking bright around here.

WALLACE: You like to think that.

SERWER: Yes, and so we'll be checking trading a little bit later on this morning.

WALLACE: Likely to be a busy day, Labor Day?

SERWER: Yes, everyone's streaming back in and buying and trading stocks.

WALLACE: Thanks, Andy -- Bill.

HEMMER: Jack's on vacation; Toure is not.

What's happening, man? What's on your mind?

TOURE, "ROLLING STONE": We're talking junk food today. Bill Clinton ended up on the surgeon's table at New York Presbyterian Hospital after years of indulging his appetite for the stuff. His affinity for junk food contributed to his charisma and certified him as a man of the people, but all that junk food nearly took him out. Junk food is quick, cheap, tastes good and it's terrible for you.

HEMMER: Nah! TOURE: Some people say marijuana should be legal. We're wondering if jung food should perhaps be illegal, or at least closely monitored by the government, like alcohol? Are we smart enough to handle junk food in our lives? Or does it have to become a controlled substance?

Our question is, should the government regulate junk food like it does with alcohol and tobacco? Some e-mails.

Here we go!

Mel from Cornwall-on-Hudson, a consistent e-mailer, love that! "Oh, sure," he says. "There's even an existing regulatory agency for that sort of thing. And only a slight name change will be necessary: 'The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Twinkies.'" Very good.

Gale from Hillsdale, Michigan: "A very big no. Big Brother is already taking over our freedoms. At least let us eat what we want."

And Andrea from Vernon, Connecticut: "Sure! As long as everyone is stuffing their faces and getting fat and lethargic, no one has the energy to complain about the current state of affairs in the country."

SERWER: So how would it work? Would you have a card? You know, and you're allowed to go to...

WALLACE: You got only a certain quota.

SERWER: Yes, right, and they punch the card at the supermarket.

WALLACE: Twenty burgers.

SERWER: I'm thinking about the mechanism. As a markets guy, how would it work?

HEMMER: I'll tell you what, we ate a lot of jung food in Florida over the weekend. I had no hot meals, no MREs from the military. I mean, you just eat junk food.

TOURE: You eat junk food, Bill?

HEMMER: By the way, I just want to show how I spent my weekend here quickly?

SERWER: Show me, please.

HEMMER: Have a look at this.

SERWER: What is that, a poncho, Bill?

HEMMER: It's an extremely wet jacket.

SERWER: What were the winds at that point? Any idea?

Strong. They were strong.

HEMMER: Say, 50?

Listen, here what I want to tell you about. That was Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m. The winds were blowing twice as strong at 4:00 on Sunday afternoon. So, when people talk about the size of this storm, that's exactly right. You heard the piece earlier today, the guy saying it just went on and on and on, and they're still dealing with it today, and will perhaps the rest of the week.

WALLACE: You deserve a pay raise.

(LAUGHTER)

SERWER: Or a towel. Let's give him the towel. That's all he deserves.

WALLACE: All right, still to come right here, Bill Clinton's quadruple-bypass surgery was successful, and that is good news, but the former president may face several post-operation challenges. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us to tell us what's lies ahead.

Stay with us, right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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