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Clinton wins Puerto Rico; Democratic Party Members React to Florida and Michigan Ruling; Obama Cuts Ties With Controversial Church; Senator Ted Kennedy Undergoing Surgery
Aired June 2, 2008 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: It was going to be built, not be built. And, you know, everybody thinks that it was in Woodstock but it wasn't.
PHILLIPS: Maybe that should be the trivia.
ROBERTS: No, back to New York.
PHILLIPS: Oh, you just gave it away.
Anyway, good morning.
ROBERTS: Good morning.
PHILLIPS: Happy Monday.
ROBERTS: (INAUDIBLE) Farm. That's we were talking about just a second ago.
PHILLIPS: Here we go.
ROBERTS: It's the 2nd of June, it's a Monday and we begin with the most politics in the morning.
A sweeping coast to coast victory for Senator Hillary Clinton in Puerto Rico as we head into the homestretch now. After 23 weeks, 54 contests, and just two remaining, Hillary Clinton says she is taking the race "a day at a time. Yesterday she won 68 percent of the vote to Barack Obama's 32 percent, picked up about 38 delegates, but the turnout not as big as she would have liked it to be.
And with the finish line now in sight, Clinton is repeating what is becoming her rallying cry. It has become mathematically impossible for her to win more pledged delegates than Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This party has never, nor has any other party in recent electoral history, nominated somebody who didn't win the popular vote. And I'm going to win the popular vote and Senator Obama will have a slight lead in delegates, and it will be up to the delegates to determine who they think is the stronger candidate for the fall and who would be the best president.
And I think the evidence is accumulating that I'm the stronger candidate. People have been trying to get me out of this race since Iowa, and my political obituary has yet to be written and we're going forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: And Clinton reminded reporters on her campaign plane that superdelegates can still change their minds. As proof, she brought on board Virgin Island superdelegate, Kevin Rodriguez, who was originally Hillary Clinton, switched to Obama, but as of last Tuesday is now back in Clinton's corner.
And now, she is reaching out to other uncommitted superdelegates hoping that her Puerto Rico victory boosts her case for their support.
Jessica Yellin has got a look for us this morning.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another landslide victory.
CLINTON: Que quiero, Puerto Rico.
YELLIN: But could it be Senator Clinton's last? The candidate insists there will be no clear winner even after the last primaries on Tuesday.
CLINTON: I will lead the popular vote. He will maintain a slight lead in the delegate count. The decision will fall on the shoulders of those leaders in our party empowered by the rules to vote at the Democratic convention.
YELLIN: Her campaign is still arguing those superdelegates should back her, insisting the Puerto Rico primary makes her case.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: It helps the popular vote argument. Second, it helps with the Hispanic argument that, you know, it's a key core voting bloc for us to win in the fall.
YELLIN: In other words, only Clinton will turn out the Latino vote in November. Here supporters sounded familiar themes from a Clinton supporter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's the most qualified candidate for the presidency.
YELLIN: And Obama supporter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need a change in perspective. We need a more collegial international approach.
YELLIN: But Puerto Rico differed from almost every other Democratic primary in one key way, turnout was exceptionally low. Less than 20 percent came out to vote.
But the Clinton campaign was counting on Puerto Rico to pump up her popular vote total. They insist they're not disappointed and the campaign continues.
CLINTON: I ask you to consider these questions. Which candidate best represents the will of the people who voted in this historic primary? I am in this race because I believe I am that candidate.
YELLIN: Jessica Yellin, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
ROBERTS: And now some of Hillary Clinton's closest supporters are hinting that it is time to move on. The national co-chair of Clinton's campaign, former Governor Tom Vilsack says, "It does appear to be pretty clear that Senator Obama is going to be the nominee. After Tuesday's contests, she needs to acknowledge that he is going to be the nominee and quickly get behind him" -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Well, Hillary Clinton's campaign suffering a blow this weekend after the Democratic Party's Rules Committee decided to allow delegates in Florida and Michigan a half vote each. A senior Clinton campaign adviser calling the decision a "stunning outright hijacking even hinting that there could be a floor fight at the national convention." Now the campaign is upset with the Michigan arrangement because it awards delegates to Barack Obama even though he pulled his name from the ballot there.
The decision added 174 delegates for Senator Clinton, counting as 87 votes. Senator Obama gains 126 delegates, counting as 63 votes, but Obama is still ahead by 178 delegates. Party members reacted to the compromise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON AUSMAN, DNC MEMBER: Florida has well been punished. We have not seen presidential candidates in our state. We do not have a say like every other state has had.
We've been hurt and we've been hurt badly. We've been shunned. You can go to the "Washington Post," "New York Times," any Web site right now. Click to Florida, how many delegates they have. The answer is zero.
HAROLD ICKES, DNC MEMBER: The party is asking to just take four delegates from Hillary Clinton. Just take them and give them to Barack Obama. Hell, why not take 10 of them. Take 20 of them? Just keep on going.
JIM BLANCHARD, DNC MEMBER: It doesn't make sense to punish the voters of Michigan because you felt that our party leaders were overly aggressive, however, well intentioned, it makes no sense at all, anymore than it makes sense for our party's rules to be used to disenfranchise voters.
DONNA BRAZILE, DNC MEMBER: And my mother also taught met, and I am sure your mother taught you because you are clearly a fine man and a public servant that I have admired for years, that when you decide to change the rules, especially in the middle of the game into the game, that is referred to as cheating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: And voter say that they're furious. You're going to hear from some of them in just a few minutes.
ROBERTS: Hillary Clinton insists that she is winning the popular vote and in a much stronger position than Barack Obama is to win several key swing states. They will help the Democrats take back the White House in November, and she is hoping that a strong showing in the final primaries in Montana and South Dakota will help her make her case.
Here's CNN's Jim Acosta with that.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Barack Obama may be closing in on clinching the nomination, but don't tell that to Hillary Clinton who is fighting hard to pull off an upset sweep in South Dakota and Montana to make one final pitch to superdelegates that she is the most electable candidate.
ACOSTA (voice-over): It's a fitting campaign stop for a presidential contender looking to make history. Standing before Mount Rushmore over the weekend, Barack Obama was asked whether he sees his face joining the likes of Washington and Lincoln.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think my ears would fit. There's just only so much rock up there.
ACOSTA: But there is little time to play tourist. Obama doesn't want to end the primary season stumbling at the finish line states of South Dakota and Montana.
OBAMA: I won't be a perfect president, but I can promise you this. I will always tell you what I think. I'll always tell you where I stand. I'll be honest with you about the challenges we face as a nation.
And most importantly, I will spend every day working hard to make your lives better. I will think about you when I'm in the White House.
ACOSTA: Her original battle cry back in the speech --
CLINTON: Who is ready on day one to walk into that Oval Office and start making the tough decisions? ACOSTA: Hillary Clinton is still campaigning with gusto, determined to show the nomination is within her grasp. Working in her own Rushmore pit stop, she has taken her case from small town diners to Indian reservations knowing eight percent of South Dakotans are native Americans.
CLINTON: And I will elevate the head of the Indian Health Services to the assistant secretary level. Indian Country will have a seat at the table in my White House.
ACOSTA: And Clinton is airing this new ad which again makes her campaign's much disputed claim she holds a popular vote lead over Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: Seventeen million Americans have voted for Hillary Clinton, more than for any other primary candidate in history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: But Obama has won most of the Democratic western showdowns. A recent poll shows him riding high over Clinton in Montana's Big Sky Country, and he's already secured South Dakota's biggest endorsements.
ACOSTA: The Democratic Party has its sights set on the west for the upcoming general election. That's because it's a region that has grown less red and more blue with every election cycle -- John.
ROBERTS: Jim Acosta for us reporting from South Dakota. Jim, thanks -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Barack Obama cutting ties with his controversial church after being a member there for 20 years. The announcement comes just days after visiting Catholic priest Father Michael Pfleger, he delivered as you remember, that divisive sermon at Trinity United Church of Christ. And as you know, that fiery message made the rounds on YouTube. The Democratic front-runner says it wasn't an easy decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is not a decision I come to lightly and frankly, it's one that I make with some sadness. I did not anticipate my -- my fairly, conventional Christian faith being subject to such challenge and such scrutiny.
It's clear that now that I am a candidate for president, every time something is said in the church by anyone associated with Trinity, including guest pastors, the remarks will be imputed to me even if they totally conflict with my long-held views.
(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIPS: The Reverend Pfleger apologized again yesterday for his sermon last week where he mocked Hillary Clinton for getting choked up before the New Hampshire primary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. MICHAEL PFLEGER, SAINT SABINA ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH: I am deeply sorry, and I pray that my apology will be accepted even by those who have told me they won't accept it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Trinity United Church of Christ says that it is saddened by the news but understands it's a personal decision.
ROBERTS: Universal Studios will be back open today after a spectacular fire destroyed many famous movie sets. Hundreds of firefighters battled the three-alarm blaze for more than 12 hours. The crews said the popular "King Kong" exhibit is a total loss and dozens of sets and tens of thousands of reels of film have been destroyed. Witnesses say it looks like a bomb exploded.
Our Thelma Gutierrez has got the story.
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a very stubborn fire that took more than 14 hours to put out, but not before 10 firefighters sustained minor injuries and a good portion of a Hollywood landmark was reduced to ashes.
GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Shortly before dawn, a spectacular fire lights up the sky above Universal Studios Hollywood.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was nasty, very nasty.
GUTIERREZ: John Hartman (ph) awakens to several explosions and grabs his camera.
JOHN HARTMAN, WITNESSED UNIVERSAL STUDIO FIRE: It was the sound of automobile tires exploding on trucks. Whatever it was, it was loud.
GUTIERREZ: A dark plume of smoke shoots hundreds of feet into the air as flames race through the back lot of universal, consuming famous city facades on New York Street and the Courthouse Square, you remember from "Back to the Future.
This is what happened to the "King Kong" attraction, part of the tram ride at Universal, completely destroyed.
CHIEF MICHAEL FREEMAN, LOS ANGELES COUNTY FIRE DEPT: We had essentially two city blocks on fire at the same time.
GUTIERREZ: Four hundred firefighters attacked the flames from the ground, from rooftops and ladders, trying to keep the fire from spreading through the park.
FREEMAN: They were flown in excess of 18,000 gallons of water for a minute.
GUTIERREZ: Firefighters and studio employees carried boxes of recordings to safety before the video vault burned down. A huge relief for Universal President Ron Meyer, because the main vault of the motion picture negatives was not affected.
RON MEYER, UNIVERSAL PRESIDENT: Fortunately nothing irreplaceable was lost. We have duplicates and obviously it's a lot of work to replicate what's been lost but it can be done.
GUTIERREZ: How it started is still a mystery. But before it was over, arson investigators began to sift through the damage. As for the thousands of tourists who came to visit, the gates remain closed as clouds of smoke billowed into the air.
GUTIERREZ (on camera): Universal Studios and City Walk will be open for business later today. Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Universal City, California.
ROBERTS: In fact, the theme park is going to reopen at 10:00 this morning. Investigators still looking into what caused the fire. A fire at the same location back in 1990 was started by a security guard who later pleaded guilty to arson.
PHILLIPS: Well, this just in to CNN. The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog says that Syria will allow inspectors into the country over nuclear reactor allegations. This is according to the "Associated Press" right now.
Israel says it destroyed a nuclear reactor in that country last year. The Bush administration has said that Syria's alleged program may be much bigger than that.
Rescuers in China draining a dangerous lake in the earthquake devastated region. CNN getting a firsthand look at the desperate effort to prevent massive flooding. We're going to have a live report from the danger zone straight ahead.
ROBERTS: The decision to seat delegates from Florida and Michigan with a half a vote each is not sitting well with voters in Florida this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole -- the whole thing makes me furious.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator Clinton backers are about as steamed as their pot coffee. This woman says she'll write in Clinton's name in November no matter what. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to make more than a couple of weeks of healing, and we're all going to hold hands and clap and be happy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Reaction from the voters on the compromise deal. That's coming up.
PHILLIPS: And if you missed the magic bus because you were in a purple haze, the brand new Woodstock Museum can help you relive the '60s. But the exhibit itself is kind of a bit of a political debate for a new generation. We'll give you a look inside, straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERTS: Sky high gasoline prices putting the squeeze on employees, and now some employers are stepping in to help. Our Stephanie Elam in this morning for Ali Velshi stepping in to help.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Stepping in --
ROBERTS: For Ali.
ELAM: How about --
ROBERTS: Did you have to drive here? Did it cost you a gas?
ELAM: Someone had to drive here, yes. And gas was paid for.
ROBERTS: We'll make sure that Ali foots the bill for that.
ELAM: I think that's a good idea. Yes, I like that idea.
But you know what, how about some good news? Gas prices didn't go up today.
ROBERTS: That will be a change. That will be a change.
PHILLIPS: Stephanie comes in, the whole dynamic changes.
ELAM: Changes, right?
So we held steady at a nice, low $3.97. That's the national average for a gallon of regular gas across the country. So this breaks 26 days of consecutive increases but it's still holding up at $125. Big deal, right?
ROBERTS: What is the sound of one hand --
ELAM: I know exactly. But, hey, every little bit helps, John. Every little bit helps.
So, obviously with this in mind, a month ago, gas $3.61. A year ago, $3.16. Commuters are feeling the pain and they're trying to do some things about it. So there was a survey of 4,000 driving commuters in 10 metropolitan areas, and in that they found 30 percent of those surveyed said they want the option to work from home.
Sorry, you guys cannot do that. That's not an option for you.
PHILLIPS: Wouldn't that be nice. It wouldn't look right. Good morning, everybody.
ELAM: High fuel cost obviously part of the issue there. Traffic also hurting, but the real key thing is that there's saying about half of these people say that if gas got to $4.50 a gallon that would be the tipping point, and at which point that they would want to stop commuting in the cars. And so, that brings this whole idea that a four-day workweek of some companies are staggering their workweeks, where some people are working from home on one day and then other people are doing it a different day just so that people would stay home. And that would save 65 million gallons of gas a day, if people did that commuting, dropping their commuting down like 20 percent.
ROBERTS: You know, even some schools were canceling classes on Fridays.
ELAM: Definitely. We're going to take a look at the effects on college students as well.
ROBERTS: All right. Steph, thanks. It's great to see you this morning.
ELAM: Thank you so much.
PHILLIPS: Well, straight ahead we're talking about construction and how it's halted on five New York sites after last week's deadly crane collapse. Officials there launching a criminal investigation. New questions being raised about the crane's history.
ROBERTS: Barack Obama left his church over the weekend, but the controversy not over yet. Was quitting the right move for him? We'll take a look ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCAULIFFE: They took delegates that, a, Hillary Clinton won fair and square. They went into a polling booth, they voted for Hillary Clinton. They took them away from her based on no formula.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: That was Hillary Clinton Campaign Chairman Terry McAuliffe talking about the Michigan decision with Senator Obama receiving delegates despite not being on the ballot there. And he's not the only one that's upset over this weekend's delegate decision.
Susan Candiotti shows us many Florida voters are irate that their delegates will now only have a half a vote.
CANDIOTTI: Good morning, John.
Florida party leaders are putting out a victory cry that Florida votes count. But some everyday voters are -- how do you put this -- mad as heck and patching things up might take some doing.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Some might compare it to getting only half your breakfast order. At Lester's Diner in Fort Lauderdale, word that Democratic delegates are getting half a vote is hard to swallow.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole thing makes me furious.
CANDIOTTI: Senator Clinton backers are about as steamed as their pot coffee.
This woman says she'll write in Clinton's name in November no matter what.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to take more than a couple of weeks of healing, and we're all going to hold hands and clap and be happy.
CANDIOTTI: This Barack Obama supporter senses trouble.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see how he can smooth things out with the Clinton committee there, so I think it always will be a problem there.
CANDIOTTI: And that seems to be the headline. Can Democrats overcome bitterness before voting in November?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will vote no matter what. But I don't know for 100 percent sure at this very moment what I will do.
CANDIOTTI: In Democratic-rich Broward County, Florida, where there was a record primary turnout, the supervisor of elections, a Democrat, is less than happy.
BRENDA SNIPES, BROWARD CO. ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR: The voters did what they thought was the right thing to do and I think we've really penalized our voters and therefore our representation at the convention.
CANDIOTTI: Some say the battle over primary vote distribution in Florida and Michigan is great fodder for Republicans.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they're thrilled to death that we have -- the Democrats have allowed us to become such a fiasco.
CANDIOTTI: How does the party get over the hurt feelings that exist right now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I don't know. There's so much going on that, you know, there's a lot of things to get over. You know, it's just -- we just have to move on.
CANDIOTTI: But how to move on? Despite some rancor now, the party says it's confident Florida Democrats will unite come November and predict a record turnout for the Democratic nominee -- John.
ROBERTS: Susan Candiotti for us this morning. Susan, thanks.
And coming up, we're going to get an inside look at the delegate decision. Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida is an Obama supporter. He was at the Rules Committee meeting this weekend. He's going to join us live in 20 minutes time.
PHILLIPS: Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, time trip. Remembering Woodstock. Tune in and trip out with us ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
PHILLIPS: Well, Barack Obama's decision to quit his church is sparking a new round of political questions this morning. Obama's resignation came just days after the latest controversial sermon became public. This time it was the Reverend Michael Pfleger mocking Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PFLEGER: And then out of nowhere came hey, I'm Barack Obama. And she said, oh, damn, where did you come from? I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Joining us now from Washington, David Brody, senior national correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network.
David, good morning. You know, when I first saw that, I'm just curious what your reaction was. OK, white guy, Catholic priest, it's like he's auditioning for the AME Church in Los Angeles.
DAVID BRODY, SENIOR NATL. CORRESPONDENT, CBN: Oh, I don't think there's any question about it. I mean, quite a performance. You know, he wins best actor in a supporting role, if you will, at Trinity United.
No, I mean, clearly -- I mean, and when the Obama camp saw this, you can imagine the reaction. I mean, this is just, you know, who next into the pulpit of Trinity United Church, and clearly this is a big reason why Barack Obama had to say no more.
PHILLIPS: So, is it a good move for Barack Obama? Did he have to do this? Should he have done this?
BRODY: Well, there's doubt. I mean, he had to do that. And the reason, Kyra, as we all know in politics, the campaigns want to control every situation and they could not control anything coming out of the pulpit at Trinity United Church. And so politically, they had to do that.
You know, this really goes, Kyra, to the authenticity issue for Barack Obama and this is what I mean by that. John McCain in the fall could make this an issue from an authenticity standpoint to say, hey, you know what, look. You know, you talk about being a new type of politician here, but when things got tough, you went ahead and just said, you know what, enough with the church.
And so, it seems a little bit like a politically expedient move and the question will be, will the John McCain camp, will the Republican National Committee actually continue to harp on this because they believe, Kyra, talking to officials privately, they believe that they need to get Barack Obama down from the rhetoric, from the speeches, from the lofty words, and get him down into the weeds and make him out to what they believe of who he really is. And I think that's going to be an interesting --
PHILLIPS: That's interesting who he really is because if we look at what happened with Reverend Wright and now with Pfleger, I mean, the church responded to this priest. It wasn't just the priest getting up there and doing his theatrics, but you saw the people around him going crazy.
I mean, they loved what he was saying. So does this -- is there something about Obama we don't know? Is that fair to tie Obama, who appears to be one way, to these very charismatic individuals that we have been seeing on YouTube?
BRODY: Well, it's an unanswered question. But here's what's going to go on -- is that the McCain camp -- and you have heard these words, Kyra -- judgment and experience when it comes to Barack Obama. They will say this goes right to the judgment issue.
They'll say -- you know, you resigned your church membership, but why didn't you do it in the 20 years before that in the time when some of this was coming from the pulpit. And so they'll go right to the judgment issue as to whether or not this becomes an issue later on in the campaign.
PHILLIPS: And you know, bottom line, this is just sad. I mean, church is supposed to be a place where you can go, feel safe, secure. You have your spiritual advisers and this has turn in to a movie script.
BRODY: Well, that's so true. And that's a great point because, you know, we talk about the politics of this. But let's remember, this was his church family. He cares about the people deeply in this church. It really is in essence a sad moment for Barack Obama. And so going forward, you know, it's tough for him to look at, but you know, this is the way it is.
PHILLIPS: And it will be interesting to see if he finds another place to worship, too, and where that will be.
David Brody, great talking to you this morning.
BRODY: Thank you.
PHILLIPS: All right -- John.
ROBERTS: Authorities in China are trying desperately to prevent lakes created by last month's earthquake from flooding towns downstream. CNN's Wilf Dinnick got a first-hand look at the massive lake that was formed by the earthquake and the destruction in the quake zone.
They gained exclusive access to a closed area by hiking up the mountains for more than six hours. Wilf joins me now live from Myangying (ph) in Sichuan Province in China.
What's the progress on trying to let the water out of this earthquake lake slowly at this point, Wilf?
WILF DINNICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, they feel pretty confident obviously because Chinese authorities over the next 24 to 48 hours are starting to evacuate that base camp where they have been doing all that work. And to be very clear what they're doing, they've taken backhoes and diggers and using all the power and lights at night, 24-hour a day operation.
And digging a man-made river and what they want to have happen is they want the water to come up slowly over the barrier and it's been formed because landslides on both sides of the mountain there come down and created sort of a dangerous dam. And the water there has been swelling at about six feet a day.
And so they're trying to create a man-made river, a natural spill way that it would come up over and that control the flow. And it wouldn't burst it's banks and flood downstream -- John.
ROBERTS: Wilf, how difficult was it to get up into the area and get some eyes on that lake and the operations to try to let that water out?
DINNICK: John, an unbelievable journey I can tell you. The only way in there has been by helicopter. That's how they ferried all that huge equipment in there. All the diesel to do all that work.
They wouldn't take us despite much pleading by helicopter so we had to do it by foot and a few local guides. But six hours straight up this mountain tops and straight down to get that view, very difficult. And it did give you a scope with the challenges this government has been facing to do the work. But also the devastation of this earthquake, huge cracks on the mountain and --
ROBERTS: Sorry, we've got to interrupt Wilf there, because we got breaking news to tell you about this morning at 33 minutes after the hour.
This is important stuff concerning the health of Senator Edward Kennedy. Just receiving a statement from the spokesperson for the Kennedy Family, and let me read it to you verbatim here. He says, quote, "I am deeply grateful to the people of Massachusetts and to my friends, colleagues and so many others across the country and around the world who have expressed their support and good wishes as I tackle this new and unexpected health challenge." Talking about the brain tumor that he was diagnosed with just recently.
He says, quote, "I am humbled by the outpouring and I am strengthened by your prayers and kindness over the past several days, Vicki -- his wife -- and I along with my outstanding team of doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital, have consulted with experts from around the country and have decided here that the best course of action for my brain tumor is targeted surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation."
"This morning I will be undergoing surgery -- that's this morning -- he will be undergoing surgery with Dr. Allan Freedman at Duke University Medical and he expect to remain there to recuperate approximately one week. Shortly thereafter I will start radiation treatments in Mass General Hospital and begin chemotherapy. After completing treatment, I look forward to returning to the U.S. Senate and doing everything that I can to help elect Barack Obama as our next president."
So Senator Kennedy, the question has been, Kyra, what was the stage of his cancer, was it operable, was it inoperable. We're getting some answers to that this morning. He was at Duke Medical Center in North Carolina this morning and he will be undergoing targeted surgery.
We don't know if this is, you know, stereotactic radiation surgery or if it is actual physical surgery where they open up the head and they get in there and then try to cut out what they can of the tumor, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. So a lot of questions being answered this morning.
PHILLIPS: Interesting that they're doing this as well considering his age. As you get older, the brain -- it is much softer, the tissues. So going in and doing that type of surgery -- I mean, it's risky. No doubt any kind of brain surgery is. But you take that, in addition to the radiation, it's going to take a big physical toll on him.
ROBERTS: Right. Just an update that that statement is from Senator Kennedy, himself. It was passed to us through a spokesperson just to clear up any confusion there.
PHILLIPS: Going to one of the best medical schools.
ROBERTS: Yes. The spokesperson is obviously watching this morning, so it would be great to know when the surgery will be, how long it will last as well, if we could get that information, that would be helpful. So breaking news this morning, Senator Ted Kennedy will be undergoing surgery at Duke Medical Center this morning. A fine institution. I was a medical correspondent for CBS for some time. Did a lot of stories out of Duke. It's just a top notch facility. One of the best hospitals in the world. So he will certainly be in good hands.
PHILLIPS: We're also talking about the extreme weather that's hit Tulsa, Oklahoma. You can check out the damage done by those strong winds right here, just knocking down trees, power lines, flooding the area.
Rob Marciano watching the severe weather for us this Monday morning.
Good morning, Rob.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Kyra.
Yes, we are in severe weather season, but we are also now in hurricane season. And we've already had our first tropical storm over the weekend. Talk about Arthur when we come back.
MARCIANO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. You're looking at pictures out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. 70-mile-an-hour winds doing some damage there. 68,000 people at last check were still without powers as severe thunderstorms rolling through central parts of Oklahoma.
PHILLIPS: Bringing you up-to-date on the breaking news we brought you just a few minutes ago concerning Senator Ed Kennedy. We're being told he's going to go into surgery now at 9:00 a.m. this morning. It's going to last for up to six hours, we're being told.
The treatment for his brain tumor will include surgery and also highly focused radiation and chemotherapy. So the discussion was which way were they going to go. And apparently, Senator Kennedy selected a combination of neuro-oncologist from the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Duke University Medical Center.
John, your sources were talking to you just a few minutes ago giving you the details on what they decided to do. We didn't know, though, exactly what time the senator would be going into surgery. Now, we're getting word it will be 9:00 a.m. So in about two hours and a lot of prep that takes place before a surgery like that and it lasts up to six hours. Those team of doctors that will be working on him.
ROBERTS: All right. This just in to us as well this morning. South Korea delayed its plans to resume importing U.S. beef after thousands of people hit the streets over the weekend to protest the move. South Korea banned U.S. beef more than four years ago because of concerns about mad cow disease. PHILLIPS: Well, it's been a fight to the finish. But when the Democratic primaries end tomorrow, will the party unite behind one candidate? A Democratic strategist gives us his take.
ROBERTS: A huge win for Hillary Clinton in Puerto Rico after a set back from the party. She still says that she will be the stronger candidate against John McCain. What does Barack Obama's camp say? We'll talk live with a key supporter coming up next.
PHILLIPS: And if you think you're getting robbed at the pump, well, wait until you see what our Chris Lawrence found.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flip the switch, it sucks the diesel out into their storage tank in their van.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What night's work costs 4 grand?
Can you afford to keep getting hit like this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we don't recoup that. It just comes out of our bottom line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: We're going to tell you exactly how the gas thieves do it, coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: It's not over until the votes are cast. It's not over until there's actually a tally to give somebody the nomination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: That was Hillary Clinton speaking with reporters on her way home from Puerto Rico last night. She won by a huge margin there, boosting her claim that she holds more of the popular vote. But Barack Obama leads in pledged delegates and superdelegates and after tomorrow's contest, he could be just a handful away from clinching the nomination.
Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida is an Obama supporter. He also testified, made his arguments before the rules committee on Saturday. He joins me now from Washington.
Congressman, by our count, Barack Obama will only after tomorrow night's contest needs about 30 superdelegates to put himself over that new finish line of 2,118.
Can he do it? REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA: Yes, he can. And he will have, in fact, the requisite number of delegates by the end of this week and will be able, I believe, to accurately and earnestly claim to be the Democratic nominee for president.
He has, in fact, won the majority of the elected delegates. He also has won a majority of the popular vote. He is leading the popular vote. It is inaccurate to suggest otherwise. And I suspect at the end of the primaries that will still be the case.
But the most important thing to recognize is that the winner of the elected delegates is the nominee. The Democratic Party has always nominated the candidate who wins the elected delegates.
ROBERTS: Superdelegates, he only needs about 15 percent of the remaining superdelegates. Hillary Clinton -- I'm sorry, my mike is dying so we're going to get that replaced. I'm hoping that you can hear me here.
WEXLER: I can hear you fine.
ROBERTS: Good. He only needs about 15 percent of the remaining superdelegates. She needs about 85 percent. She's continuing to make the case, though, to those superdelegates. Let's listen to what she said last night in her victory speech.
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CLINTON: I do not envy the decision you must make. But a decision has to be made. And in the final assessment, I ask you to consider these questions. Which candidate best represents the will of the people who voted in this historic primary?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So let me put that question to you, Congressman Wexler. Which candidate does best represent the will of the people who voted?
WEXLER: I believe that's reflected by the candidate who has won the most elected delegates. That's the standard in which we choose a nominee and that candidate is Senator Barack Obama.
Senator Clinton is entitled to make her argument. We respect that. But the fact is, the superdelegates, the people she's in theory talking to there, since Super Tuesday have overwhelmingly chosen Senator Obama which is consistent of course with the fact that Senator Obama has won the majority of the elected delegates.
And as you accurately have said, this week, he needs about 30 more superdelegates to reach the number required to be the nominee. He will get it. He's on the cusp of becoming the Democratic nominee and this week, he will most likely be the nominee.
ROBERTS: Congressman, let's turn to what happened on Saturday. And that extraordinary day at the DNC Rules Committee. Our Susan Candiotti has been talking to many voters there in Florida who are very upset about what happened -- only getting half a vote per delegate. What do you say to those people?
WEXLER: Florida achieved an extraordinary victory on Saturday. And remember where we started. The DNC stripped Florida of all of our delegates and didn't count the votes cast during the January primary. We, meaning the Obama campaign, the Clinton campaign and the Florida State Democratic Party all argued to reinstate Florida's delegates.
ROBERTS: Well, let me ask you this question. Do you have a guarantee from Senator Obama that should he become the nominee, he will reinstate Florida to 100 percent?
WEXLER: I think that's a decision for Senator Obama, one that likely he will make. But certainly, I don't want to suggest that there's any guarantee. But please understand what people need to know is that the votes that were cast in the Florida primary were counted -- in full.
The delegates that will be going to the convention now from Florida were determined based on the vote in Florida in January. That's what the Floridians I hear from for the most part were concerned about.
ROBERTS: And on the issue of Michigan votes, you know how upset Harold Ickes was on Saturday. And he said that Hillary Clinton has reserved the right to take this to the credentials committee, which wouldn't happen until at least July. It could stretch all the way to the convention in August.
Do you think that she would make good on that threat?
WEXLER: I hope not, because if there's any type of action that goes to the convention, the beneficiary of that action is John McCain. That's what Senator John McCain wants.
When the nominee -- the Democratic nominee gets the required number of delegates, we need to unify our party. Focus on the issues that are important to the nation -- talk about fixing the economy, getting our prices down in terms of gasses, getting our troops out of Iraq. These are the things Democrats want to talk about going to the convention will be a very problematic situation.
ROBERTS: Congressman Robert Wexler, good to talk to you this morning. Thanks for coming in.
WEXLER: Thank you.
ROBERTS: All right.
Here's Kyra now with some more of our breaking news.
PHILLIPS: That's right. Continuing coverage of our breaking news we just brought to you moments ago about Senator Ted Kennedy. The question has been when will he go into surgery. What type of surgery will he have for that brain tumor he was diagnosed with?
We're now getting word, live pictures from Duke University, that this is where it's going to happen. And it is going to happen today in just about two hours. 9:00 a.m. the Senator will undergo a number of selected treatments that will include surgery and highly focused radiation and chemotherapy.
Apparently the past week, the Senator, his family, a team of doctors have been consulting on what they should do about this brain tumor. The Senator has selected a combined team of neuro-oncologist from Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Duke University Medical Center. And now he will undergo six hours of surgery today.
We will be updating you throughout the morning. More on AMERICAN MORNING, straight ahead.
PHILLIPS: History of how the 60s became the 60s. A New Woodstock Museum now open on the site where half million people showed up for a little peace, love and rock n' roll some 39 years ago.
And we're finding out that politics of the time is still prevalent today. Richard Roth live for us inside that museum. And you got to remember it's Bethel, New York, not Woodstock. Some folks still mess that up.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kyra.
It's all groovy now. But yes, as you mention, politics, problems to get Woodstock off the ground, and even this museum. But everything was eventually settled and it's time to get on that magic bus.
ROTH (voice-over): In August of 1969, half a million people swarmed Bethel, New York for a music festival that became known simply as Woodstock.
Jimi Hendrix and dozens of other musicians played to the masses during one of America's most discordant periods. Woodstock has always lured people searching for the spirit of the 60s.
DUKE DEVLIN, WOODSTOCK FESTIVAL, "SITE INTERPRETER": A year after Woodstock, people found this site. People came here. It was like a Mecca.
ROTH: Now a museum is letting the public get on the magic bus and take a trip back in time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is about the '60s. This is about the best parts of the '60s. And yes, there's some of the not so nice parts of the '60s.
ROTH: Not so nice -- deep divisions between left and right, between pro and anti-war factions. Sound familiar?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of what happened then can be traced to a lot of what's going on now.
ROTH: The establishment didn't dig Woodstock then and current leaders have used the festival to take political pot shots.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, my friends, I know that was a cultural as well as a pharmaceutical experience.
ROTH: Senator John McCain of Vietnam POW likes to say he was tied up during Woodstock. Last fall, McCain and fellow Republicans blocked New York's Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer from earmarking $1 million in federal government funds for the museum. Though after securing private funding the show goes on.
ALAN GERRY, DEVELOPER, "MUSEUM AT BETHEL WOODS": This was a squabble between the folks down there in Washington. The said that they were supporting the hippies. Well, you know, what's a hippie?
ROTH: One week and back in 1969, this field was filled with half a million of them and while the museum does its best to capture the spirit of that day and of those times --
JOHN SEBASTIAN, WOODSTOCK PERFORMER: Woodstock is a hard thing to grasp, especially for those who weren't there.
ROTH: As the saying goes, if you remember Woodstock, you weren't there.
ROTH: This is the opening day of the museum. And if they get the 450,000 who turned up for the Woodstock Festival, it would get a little crowded in here -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Richard, I'm curious. Did you have any flashbacks?
ROTH: I have flashbacks any time I wake up early in the morning. But I'm functioning and a lot of peace and love this morning.
PHILLIPS: Outstanding. All right, Richard Roth, appreciate it -- John.
ROBERTS: I love the fact (INAUDIBLE) with thunderstorm in there as well. (INAUDIBLE).
We're following a breaking story this morning. Senator Edward Kennedy going to undergo surgery this morning to treat a malignant brain tumor. He's at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina. We'll have full continuing coverage coming right up after the break.
ROBERTS: Just about a minute and a half before the top of the hour. Breaking news this morning that we're following. Senator Ted Kennedy will be undergoing surgery targeting his brain tumor about two hours from now, 9:00, at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. Expected initial estimates to last about six hours.
In a statement released just minutes ago, Senator Kennedy said experts from across the country decided that it is the best course of action to try to treat his brain tumor.
He also said the surgery will be followed by a round of chemotherapy and radiation. The Senator added, quote, "After completing treatment, I look forward to returning to the United States Senate in doing everything I can to help elect Barack Obama as our next president.
CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is a neurosurgeon himself. In fact, he's got his own case that he'll be doing about half an hour from now. But he's joining us on the telephone this morning.
Sanjay, walk us through based on your experience what Senator Kennedy can expect to undergo this morning.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, we have been talking about the Senator for some time. We mentioned that an operation, removing as much of this tumor would be the best course of action for him.
It sounds like what Senator has done is founding team of neurosurgeons who can do as you said what's known as -- at least colloquially called targeted brain surgery.
In this case, most likely one of the things that Dr. Freedman and Duke are known for are being able to do what's called motor mapping. When you find that area in the brain that's responsible for movement and, yes, to map it. You actually, you know, you notice where it is and you stay away from that. You can also do that with speech areas of the brain as well.