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THE SITUATION ROOM
Michael Jackson's Burial Secrets; Health Care Heat
Aired September 3, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Stand by for the best political team on television.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics, and extraordinary reports from around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The final act of Michael Jackson's dramatic life and sudden death -- about four hours from now, that is when the private burial service is scheduled to begin at Forest Lawn Cemetery in California. This comes over two months after the pop star died and just days after the coroner ruled it was a homicide caused by an overdose of powerful medication.
CNN's Randi Kaye is in Glendale, California, with the very latest information on tonight's very secretive ceremony.
Randi, what do you know?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi. Hi there, Suzanne.
Yes, this is a very private burial for Michael Jackson. Just close friends and family will be arriving here at 7:00 p.m. local time, 10:00 p.m. Eastern time. And I have here in my hand the actual invitation that went out to friends of the family.
It's about nine pages long. There's a beautiful picture of Michael Jackson inside at Neverland Ranch. There's also a much younger picture of him. The only people really who don't seem to be invited here tonight would be the media.
And if you take a look just down here, I can just give you a sampling of the scene here. That's how much media is here. We are lined on both sides with plenty of media. But this night, really, I will say, will be very special and very important for the family, even with all of us out here. The burial is actually supposed to cost about $1 million.
But, today, it is not about the cost. It is about finally laying Michael Jackson to rest.
KAYE involve It sprawls 300 acres and is home to nearly a quarter-million people, all of them dead. This is Forest Lawn Glendale Memorial Park, the king of pop's final resting place. Far beyond the entrance gates, believed to be the largest wrought iron gates in the world, Michael Jackson's secret crypt.
It's inside the Great Mausoleum, in the memorial court of honor, which houses exact reproductions of Michelangelo's greatest works, seen here in pictures obtained by CNN. The mausoleum overlooks majestic rolling hills, its main entrance marked by a gothic tower more than 100 feet high.
Scott Michaels owns Dearly Departed Tours in Los Angeles and has been inside.
(on camera): What is it like inside that mausoleum?
SCOTT MICHAELS, OWNER, DEARLY DEPARTED TOURS: The Great Mausoleum of forest lawn is like a gothic church almost. It's got -- when you walk in, it's got enormous ceilings, probably 20-feet tall, big archways. And it goes up into different hallways where the A- listers are, like Gable, and Lombard, and Jean Harlow, and -- and those types of people.
KAYE (voice-over): On Forest Lawn's Web site, pictures of the main attraction at Jackson's mausoleum, the Last Supper window, a life-size stained glass recreation Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, fitting, since Jackson reportedly once commissioned his own Last Supper painting. It hung over his bed at Neverland Ranch.
(on camera): From what you can see nobody will be able to get near Michael Jackson's crypt?
MICHAELS: No, not without passing the crypt keeper. I mean, they are very strict about who they allow in. Now that Jackson's going to be in there, there's absolutely no way you're going to be able to wander around there.
KAYE (voice-over): Tight security may be one reason why the Jackson family decided to bury the singer here. Every entrance has a buzzer, guards posted throughout.
Michael Jackson will be surrounded by celebrities. Celebrity Web sites say his good friend Sammy Davis Jr. is buried here. So is Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, Nat King Cole, George Burns, Gracie Allen, and Walt Disney, just to name a few.
(on camera): But if you come here for their graves, good luck. The memorial park does not provide a map of the celebrities' graves. In fact, it won't even confirm who is buried here. A spokesman for Forest Lawn told me -- quote -- "It's inappropriate to market such a thing."
(voice-over): Forest Lawn attracts more than one million visitors a year. Even Pope John Paul II toured the grounds during a trip to Los Angeles. No doubt Michael Jackson's burial here will inspire even more starstruck visitors, who refuse to let the king of pop rest in peace.
(END VIDEOTAPE) KAYE: And still, this close to the service, very few details, Suzanne, coming out. All we can tell you at this hour is that Gladys Knight is expected to perform, and Reverend Al Sharpton is supposed to be here as well.
MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Randi.
Well, stay with CNN for updates on Michael Jackson's burial. At 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific, "A.C. 360" is live at Forest Lawn for the ceremony.
Well, we have important new information about the way swine flu is striking America's children. Slightly older kids are getting hit the hardest. Federal health officials report that more than 80 percent of the children who have died from the H1N1 virus were age 5 or older.
Now, in a regular flu season, at least half of the children who die are age 4 or younger. This is the first government study of swine flu's youngest victims, and, in all, about one out of every 13 Americans killed by swine flu was younger than 18.
Here are some of the numbers that drive home the economic pain that many of you are feeling right now -- 69 percent of Americans say that things are going badly in this country. That's a slight improvement since our CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll back in April, but not much.
Still, Vice President Biden sounded pretty upbeat about the economy today, touting the success of the stimulus package.
Our CNN's Kate Bolduan, she is here to check all of his facts.
What do we know, Kate?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, we are marking the nearly 200-day mark for the stimulus. At the same time, we're also facing new numbers expecting to show unemployment rising to 9.5 percent. That said, the vice president is touting stimulus success.
BOLDUAN (voice-over): Vice President Biden is pushing back on critics, offering an upbeat progress report on the economic stimulus plan.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Recovery Act dollars are going further and working harder than the vast majority of people anticipated.
BOLDUAN: The man President Obama deemed the stimulus sheriff says he's confident stimulus money is well spent and his policing is working with projects coming in under budget.
BIDEN: The FAA initially committed $1.1 billion to about 300 airport improvement projects. Now we're going to finish those projects for $200 million less than originally estimated.
BOLDUAN: But the inspector general for the Transportation Department reported last month, millions of dollars were awarded to questionable airport projects. Remote Ouzinkie, Alaska, received $14.7 for a new airport seen here, one that averages 42 flights per month.
MICHAEL GRABELL, REPORTER, PROPUBLICA: What we found was that there were many really tiny airports that don't get a lot of flights, cater to very small communities, that were getting the maximum airport grants.
BOLDUAN: Michael Grabell is with ProPublica, an independent watchdog tracking the stimulus. Another questionable claim? Jobs. The vice president cites estimates of up to 750,000 jobs created or saved so far.
GRABELL: We will never be able toe take 750,000 people, put them in a room and say, you got a stimulus job, you got a stimulus job, you got a stimulus job. It's based on a little bit of economic guesswork.
BOLDUAN: Overall, where do things stand with the $787 billion package? According to the Obama administration, of the $499 billion in stimulus projects, $217 billion has been made available, $88.8 billion paid out.
In addition, there's been $62.5 billion in tax relief. Responding to the vice president, Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele said, "The Democrats' rhetoric on their economic experiment doesn't match with the reality of millions of Americans remaining unemployed."
BOLDUAN: Now, possibly underlying all of this are approval ratings, and some bad news for the White House. According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, support for the president's economic plan, Suzanne, have fallen 13 percent since March.
MALVEAUX: Despite the fact that there are some good economic indicators.
BOLDUAN: That's right. And, you know, we keep talking about it, a bit of a mixed bag, and that's what the vice president kind of seems to be trying to get out there and lead into the Labor Day weekend with some good news.
MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Kate.
Well, Jack Cafferty is joining us this hour with "The Cafferty File."
Hey, Jack, what are you watching?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The administration could use a little good news. President Obama is going to try to regain the upper hand in the debate over health care reform when he addresses a joint session of Congress next Wednesday evening. The White House and Democrats endured a brutal month of August, with rowdy town hall meetings and a lot of Republican criticism.
Anti-reform forces spent millions trying to defeat this legislation. President Obama will reportedly use his speech to lay out more specifics for his plan. Specifics have been sorely missing from the president on this issue from the beginning.
And he's come under a lot of fire for only outlining broad principles for what he wants and leaving most of the details to Congress. Huge mistake. You wouldn't let those guys sort your sock drawer.
Republicans are already saying the president's speech will be too little too late. They say the real problem is the substance, and that the American people are not buying what the president's trying to sell.
But Democrats are hoping that a more forceful pitch from President Obama will help to move this thing along. In fact, the vice president's promising success when it comes to health care. Joe Biden says -- quote -- "We're going to get something substantial, but there's going to be an awful lot of screaming and hollering before we get there" -- unquote.
Meanwhile, polls show Americans are evenly split on whether to support the president's health care plan. Six in 10 younger Americans support it. Six in 10 senior citizens oppose it.
It's worth remembering that senior citizens vote in larger numbers than any other group in our population.
Here's the question. What should President Obama say about health care reform in his address to Congress next week? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Jack. I know we will be paying close attention.
Well, they endured 18 years of separation hell. Now a kidnapped girl is reunited with her family. You will hear the first account of that reunion.
And angry clashes over health reform leaves blood in the streets. One person attends a rally, leaves missing part of a finger, after a man ripped it off with his mouth.
And smash and grab -- thieves bust their way into an Apple store, swiping laptops and iPhones in seconds. Do you know them?
MALVEAUX: It looks as though Vice President Biden may be hoping for divine intervention on overhaul health care. Check this out. He crossed himself and then chuckled when asked today whether the president will deliver on his promises for reform.
Biden said Mr. Obama will get specific in his health care address to the joint session of Congress next week, and he predicted that all this heated national debate will pay off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We're going to get something substantial. It's going to be an awful lot of screaming and hollering before we get there, but I believe we're going to get there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Right now, hundreds of members of Congress are grappling with the details of health care reform, and getting an earful from voters.
Let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.
And you spent some time with one lawmaker who is listening to a lot of folks, as well as his conscience.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I went to see a freshman Democrat who left Washington, left the capital five weeks ago undecided. He still is.
And we spent some time together as he talked to constituents and also as he delivered a tough message for the president.
BASH (voice-over): Here's something you haven't seen during the summer of angry town halls.
SUSAN BURTON, BUSINESS OWNER: Welcome so much for coming to my home.
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: Oh, my pleasure.
BURTON: Really appreciate it.
CONNOLLY: Thanks for having me.
BASH: A health care house call.
Democratic Congressman Jerry Connolly at Susan Burton's table, invited to hear her explain why she may have to cut health coverage for workers at her small business.
BURTON: A thousand for full family coverage, so that's the one we went with. That's outrageous for a group.
BASH: Connolly, a freshman, wants to back health care reform, but is wary because his Virginia district is fairly conservative. Afterwards, the congressman lamented that deep concern he heard here about the current health care system has been drowned out.
(on camera): Why is public opinion turning against public health care reform if you have stories like that?
CONNOLLY: Well, partly, we have had a steady drumbeat of the negative playing on people's fears and anxieties, and to some extent that's clearly taken hold.
This is the bill. This is the bill.
BASH (voice-over): In a car ride through his district, Connolly blamed his own party, especially the president, for losing control of the debate.
CONNOLLY: I think the White House, candidly, underestimated the passion on the other side. I think we underestimated the ability of the opposition to really initially frame the issue in outlandish ways.
BASH: Connolly goes back to his district office to see Democratic groups scrambling to reframe the debate and get his vote.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was the whole point of us getting people elected.
BASH: Members of a local union there to lobby him in one room, and, in another, volunteers from the president's political group, Organizing For America, deliver a box of petitions, and bring emotional stories of preexisting conditions that make insurance unaffordable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I had to resign from my job because of my health issues.
BASH: Connolly says those meetings are effective, but back in this car this Democrat with conservative constituents says what he really needs is better leadership from the president.
CONNOLLY: We need Obama to maybe put aside the cool, cerebral part of himself. He has to show some passion.
BASH: Connolly says, if House Democrats change their health care bill to better control medical costs, he would support it and knows it could cost him his seat.
CONNOLLY: That you had to, to keep your head clear, and to never sell your soul, you had to be willing to go into this business saying to yourself and meaning it, there are some things worth losing an election over.
BASH (on camera): Would this be one of them?
CONNOLLY: For me, yes.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: Now, Connolly was just elected in November. Before that, a Republican represented his district for 14 years. He told me that it's time for the president the take advantage of his big Democratic majority in Congress by engaging, he said -- quote -- Suzanne, "roll up his sleeves and cut a deal." That's what he wants the president to start doing.
MALVEAUX: And you mentioned during the break that this happened this morning, all those different meetings that he was involved in.
BASH: That's right, at the house and then two meetings in his district office. They were over by 11:30 this morning. Busy time.
MALVEAUX: Wow. Very busy. OK, thank you, Dana.
BASH: Thank you.
MALVEAUX: Well, health care reform rage, push literally coming to shove. In an ugly twist, one man bites off the finger of another.
Also, a fire flare-up forces new evacuations in Southern California, but some residents refuse to leave. They will tell us why.
And smash-and-grab at the Apple store -- a high-tech heist in just 31 seconds all caught on tape.
MALVEAUX: Marlton, New Jersey, police are appealing for help finding five men who were captured on security cameras smashing their way into a New Jersey Apple store and cleaning house. They were cleaning house as in all of 31 seconds.
Let's go to our Abbi Tatton.
And, Abbi, when did this happen? What do we know about this?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: This was 2:05 a.m., according to the time stamped on to these security cameras. And by 2:06 a.m., these suspects were long gone.
Take a look at this angle here. You see five men walking up to the Apple store just outside of Philadelphia. Rock goes through the window. You see it going on to that angle there, and then they spread out around the store, two of them going into the back.
Now, just about 12 seconds in, one of them is making his exit already, but the others are more persistent. This guy down here at the bottom wearing red, he is piling up laptops, MacBook Pros, 23 of them. Plus, they got 14 iPhones, nine iPod touches, we estimate about $50,000 worth. And this is all in 31 seconds.
A few seconds later, the last one heads out. Police now appealing for information about this robbery that took place just outside of Philadelphia. The security guard wanders in. He would have been threatened with a handgun, but no suspects as of right now.
MALVEAUX: OK, thank you, Abbi.
Well, some can't believe that the health care reform debate could come to this, but we are following the trail of blood and a finger bitten off. Yes, you heard right. Stand by to find out what the best political team on TV makes of that.
Plus, we are getting our first glimpse into what Jaycee Dugard is going through right now, two decades after being kidnapped, the good memories and the nightmares.
And life-and-death decisions in California amid wildfires. Families consider whether to stay or leave. Our Brian Todd is near the line of fire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can see the flames on the hillside there. It looks like a pretty fast-moving fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Firefighters say it could be another 12 days before they fully contain a monster blaze burning near Los Angeles, but they are making some headway, one of the biggest challenges, persuading some residents to get out of harm's way.
Our Brian Todd, he has been on the front lines of that fire. He got a firsthand look at people making what could be life-and-death decisions -- Brian.
TODD: Suzanne, as much progress as firefighters have made in containing these fires, this is still a very unpredictable situation. And today, in these hills, we got some real insight into the stress of a mandatory evacuation, stress on firefighters and homeowners.
(voice-over): Around dawn, a menacing fire creeps down a ridge in Tujunga Canyon, posing an immediate threat to nearby homes.
(on camera): We just heard of a mandatory evacuation order. Two communities called Dillon Divide and Pacoima Creek, they have another hour to get out of their homes.
Heading up there now. And you can see the flames on the hillside there. It looks like a pretty fast moving fire.
DR. BRUCE HECTOR, RESIDENT OF PACOIMA CREEK, CALIFORNIA: Anywhere coming down the canyons. TODD (voice-over): We catch up with Dr. Bruce Hector, a family practitioner who's lived in Pacoima Creek for 10 years. A firefighting unit is manning his property.
B. HECTOR: So, I'm confident, with these guys, we can defend the house.
TODD: And he watches with the crew as a column of smoke builds over a nearby ridge. While we're there, a sheriff's deputy arrives with a warning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know it's under mandatory evacuation? OK. You're not leaving?
B. HECTOR: No.
TODD: Hector's got his own fire truck...
B. HECTOR: I have had it for about six, seven years.
TODD: ... and is determined to stay, despite the warnings.
(on camera): Doctor, you have been told to get out. You have got this fire crew here on your property. They say they would be here whether you were here or not.
B. HECTOR: Yes.
TODD: Your house is made completely of wood. What are you doing here? Why stay?
B. HECTOR: The reason I'm staying is because I have a fire retardant to apply to the house. When I have about an hour before the fire's going to get here, then I apply the retardant, and I leave.
TODD (voice-over): Hector says he's not a -- quote -- "crazy cowboy."
But a battalion chief who's guarding Hector's property tells us this fire's bearing down.
CHIEF FRED BLAND, LOS ANGELES COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: It's very dangerous. Where their house sits and the type of fuel load they have around their home, and the fire intensities that we have seen on this fire, it's very hazardous for them to say.
TODD: Dr. Hector, his wife, Justina, and son, Bruce Jr., are confident when we first get there, but grow increasingly worried and keep packing.
TODD (on camera): Is this stressful for you, Justina, this...
JUSTINA HECTOR, RESIDENT OF PACOIMA CREEK, CALIFORNIA: Quite, yes. TODD: How?
J. HECTOR: Not having to leave, just not knowing when -- when the time to go.
This goes back to the early '80s.
TODD (voice-over): Justina makes sure the irreplaceable things are in the car.
J. HECTOR: That's my son, Bruce.
TODD: Just down the road, a fire crew is forcing 30-year resident Bill Chambers to leave.
BILL CHAMBERS, RESIDENT OF PACOIMA CREEK, CALIFORNIA: You know, I have flashbacks for the other people that have experienced this. And you can understand where they're coming from. OK. So, I better get out of here before the...
TODD (on camera): OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, we need to get out of here. Back up.
TODD (voice-over): The crew follows Chambers out. His neighbor, who's staying, offers perspective.
(on camera): Any of this ever make you think about moving?
DR. BRUCE HECTOR, PACOIMA CREEK, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: Sure. But, you know, there's hazards everywhere. And I live three miles from 1.3 million people and at night, I have no visible lights. It's all green around me.
TODD: And you like that?
HECTOR: Yes. So you've got to pay a price.
TODD: And this has given us even more insight into the dedication of all of these firefighters. They've told us they had been at these houses the entire night before this mandatory evacuation was ordered. They said even after these homeowners left, they were going to stay on the property and do whatever they could to save these homes -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Brian. And we are told that the people you just saw, they have lost their homes to fire -- at least not so far. We're going to keep an eye on how they're doing.
And a different kind of painful drama in California right now. We've got new information just a short while ago about the criminal record of Jaycee Dugard's alleged kidnaper. Police revealed that Phillip Garrido was arrested in 1972 on suspicion of drugging and raping a 14-year-old girl. But she refused to testify. Now, that would have been about 20 years before he is charged with kidnapping Dugard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. LEONARD ORMAN, ANTIOCH, CALIFORNIA POLICE: Mr. Garrido was charged in the matter. The details of that are very slim at this point, with respect for records to rely on. But at some point, the prosecution was dropped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Let's bring in our CNN's Dan Simon, who is in Antioch, California -- Dan, we got a first glimpse today of Jaycee Dugard's reunion with her family after two decades.
What are they saying?
How are they describing the family reunion?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Suzanne.
Given the graphic and disturbing details of this case, it was certainly nice to hear from Jaycee Dugard's aunt, who explained how the family is rebonding in private.
TINA DUGARD, JAYCEE DUGARD'S AUNT: Jaycee and her daughters are with her mom and younger sister in a secluded place reconnecting. I was with them until recently. We spent time sharing memories and stories and getting to know each other again.
Jaycee remembers all of us. She is especially enjoying getting to know her little sister who was just a baby when Jaycee was taken.
SIMON (voice-over): Jaycee Dugard's aunt providing the first firsthand account of how Jaycee and her two daughters are coping after years of captivity and living in backyard tents and sheds. Tina Dugard describes Jaycee as a resourceful mother who used her limited knowledge to raise her children.
T. DUGARD: Although they have no formal education, they are certainly educated. Jaycee did a truly amazing job with the limited resources and education that she herself had and we are so proud of her.
SIMON: This is how Tina would have remembered Jaycee -- more as a child than the 29-year-old woman she is today.
T. DUGARD: Not only have we laughed and cried together, but we've spent time sitting quietly, taking pleasure in each other's company. We are so very grateful to have her home.
SIMON: Jaycee Dugard was abducted outside her South Lake Tahoe home in 1991. The suspects, Phillip and Nancy Garrido, have been charged with 29 counts, including rape and kidnapping. Both have pleaded not guilty. Over the years, there were emotional pleas from Jaycee's mother for a safe return.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY KGO)
TERRY PROBYN, JAYCEE DUGARD'S MOTHER: She's a pretty, young, innocent child. And you may like her, but we love her, too. And it's time that she comes home to her family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIMON: Today, her aunt describing the bond that never ended between a mother and daughter apart for nearly two decades.
T. DUGARD: The smile on my sister's face is as wide as the sea. Her oldest daughter is finally home.
SIMON: Tina Dugard not talking about the conditions Jaycee faced, instead focusing on what they're doing now -- playing games, reading books, watching movies -- doing things that families do -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Thank you. Very touching.
Conservative commentators -- they are outraged at President Obama's plan to give a speech to students.
But didn't President Bush speak to school kids, as well?
And health reform rage spirals out of control -- a protester's finger bitten off during a fight with a counter demonstrator.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
MALVEAUX: We want to go directly to Deborah Feyerick, who's got some breaking news regarding an emergency landing of a plane -- Deb, what do you know?
FEYERICK: That's right, Suzanne. A scary time for about 90 people on that plane. A JetBlue aircraft had to make an emergency landing today. The full plane left Orlando at about 12:30 and landed in Nassau Bahamas about an hour later. We are told there was fire on the left side of the aircraft near the engine. We are also told that everyone exited the plane on the slides. No one was injured. It's under investigation -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Deb, for the very latest breaking news.
FEYERICK: Yes. MALVEAUX: If we have more details, we will get back to you.
Now time for a political Time Out with our CNN's senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; former Bush speechwriter, David Frum; "Washington Post" columnist E.J. Dionne; and CNN's senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.
But first, CNN's national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is going to kick it all off for us -- hey, Jessica.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Suzanne.
Well, talk about outrage -- conservative commentators are crying foul because the president plans to give the first ever presidential address to school students. He'll do it via C-SPAN and the Internet. And the White House has asked schoolteachers to play it in class and even tie it into their curriculum by having students write a letter to themselves about how they can help the president of the United States.
Well, the fury is intense. Some conservatives call it indoctrination and accuse the president of politicizing the classroom. Some schools won't broadcast it. And there are calls for parents to keep their kids home.
OK, let's put this in context. Other presidents have spoke on it school kids.
Where was George Bush -- President Bush -- on 9/11?
Speaking to school kids. And on the fourth anniversary of the event when No Child Left Behind was announced, President Bush was at a Maryland elementary school to stand up for it. In fact, he made these comments at that elementary school.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Any attempt to roll back the accountability in Washington, D.C. Will be -- I'll fight any attempt to do that. I'm just not going to let it happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: That sounds -- that sounds pretty political.
Now, as for President Obama, the White House says his speech is all about challenging kids to stay in school and reduce the dropout rate -- no health care, no politics. They changed the essay question. It will now ask kids to write letters explaining their own educational goals, not to write a letter to the president. And they'll release a text of the speech in advance.
So the question is, what is the outrage about? MALVEAUX: All right. Let's kick it off with you -- Gloria.
What do you think of this?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I hate essay questions, first of all so -- I -- I think it's ridiculous. Honestly, Suzanne, I mean there was -- the Florida Republican chairman called it "a socialist power grab."
Come on. Maybe the questions weren't the best questions in the world, but why can't the president try and inspire young people to do well?
I mean what's wrong with that?
I -- I see no problem with it.
MALVEAUX: David, is there anything?
DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: There was something wrong with Plan A. I think we are going to end up with don't take drugs, stay in school. Everybody is cool with that. That's one of the things presidents do.
But the -- there was, in the very first reports of this, as Jessica said, an attempt to mobilize children.
And when you say to help the president, I mean to help him do what?
That is something that, I think, rings alarm bells. And with that period of mobilization that, I think excited a lot of people. And I'm glad to see that the White House backed off it. They should never -- it was one of the ideas that should have landed on the cutting room floor in the first place.
E.J. DIONNE, "WASHINGTON POST" COLUMNIST, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: This is outrageous right-wing extremism. The letter didn't say -- if you actually read what the Department of Education was saying, he is giving a speech telling kids to stay in school. He's telling them to work hard. Everybody said Barack Obama can be a great role model for low income kids. He's doing what he promised.
And what they were saying is how to meet the goals he is going to set, which is about staying in school. And now they've changed the letter.
If telling kids to stay in school and work hard is socialism, then Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater were socialists. It's ridiculous.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It wouldn't have changed what they -- what they want the kids to write about, unless they saw that there was a bit of a problem here. And they started out saying, I want you all to write a letter to yourselves about why you want to stay in school, about what your educational goals are. Fine. But they changed it from write a letter to the president about how you're going to help him.
So, I mean, I think it's clear that the White House thought it was a problem. Now, whether or not it was a problem, we didn't even -- he didn't even get a chance to speak, so who knows?
And I think there's a difference between George Bush going to the fourth grade or Jimmy Carter going to the third grade and a national, everybody tune in to the Internet, I'm going to talk to all the kids...
DIONNE: But there was nothing...
CROWLEY: -- which is a great idea.
DIONNE: But there was nothing in that let -- that letter that was about anything political. It was all about you kids stay in school, you kids work hard. And there...
DIONNE: ...there was a lousy sentence in there...
CROWLEY: Then why did they change it?
DIONNE: They changed it because they didn't want it misunderstood...
DIONNE: ...because right-wing commentators took it out of context. So they said, OK, let's make clear what we meant. They should have went with that.
FRUM: The difference between a politician coming to a school and speaking and the kids either listening or not listening, either liking it or not liking it. They are -- they are left free to have their own reaction and some attempt to mobilize some kind of reaction to what that particular politician...
BORGER: Well, wait a minute...
DIONNE: ...you're going to stay in school.
DIONNE: What's wrong with the president telling kids in America they shouldn't drop out of school?
BORGER: Right. And presidents, you know, talking to children...
CROWLEY: -- is how can you help?
FRUM: There's nothing wrong.
FRUM: But not in the whole context of that.
BORGER: George W. Bush told children to go...
BORGER: ...to donate a dollar to Afghan children.
That was a cause -- a very good one, I might add.
FRUM: There was no one...
BORGER: And he was mobilizing kids.
FRUM: There was no one checking up whether the kids followed up. And the -- there's nothing wrong with a politician speaking to the children. It is the requirement that the children speak back -- that was the problem. And I'm glad they're not going to do it. They're going to make it more neutral. And this...
DIONNE: That's what they intended in the first place.
MALVEAUX: OK. We're going to have to leave it...
DIONNE: ...say what you said and...
MALVEAUX: We have to leave it there. This is very interesting for a topic. We're going to ask to you stand by for another topic here. The rage over health care reform now getting uglier -- a protester's finger is bitten off during a fight with a counter demonstrator.
Is this where things are heading?
MALVEAUX: We're back with our best political team on television.
Let's kick it off with Jessica Yellin -- Jessica. YELLIN: Suzanne, here's something you don't hear about every day. Last night, a man had the tip of his pinky finger bitten off at a rally for health care reform in Southern California.
Now, CNN producer Kevin Bond spoke with the victim, this man here, William Rice. And he won't say if he's actually for or against health reform, but he says he got into a confrontation with someone who does support the president's reform plan. He says that man taunted him and called him names, so he hit the man.
His hand ended up in the man's mouth -- or his finger did. And that guy bit down.
Now, he severed the tip of Rice's pinky. On the bright side, reportedly he has Medicare. He was treated at a local hospital and the hospital tells us he chose not to have the pinky tip reattached. He didn't want to get surgery.
OK. So, clearly, this is not the norm at health care rallies. It is the first incident of contact politics I can remember in recent years.
But the question is, how did the health care debate get to this point -- Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: OK -- Candy, let's start with you this go around.
CROWLEY: Well, let's just begin with ick.
YELLIN: There's a lot of ick factor in this story.
YELLIN: That's pretty much what we need.
CROWLEY: You know, it's time for winter to come so everybody can go back in their homes and not come out until spring.
And it -- you know, who knows, because you know, sometimes people show up at rallies and they're all het up and, you know, they apparently do stuff like this.
But this is -- I don't think you can say this is the result of town hall meetings. This is like two people getting out of hand, as people tend to do, even without liquor.
DIONNE: It's a pretty gruesome way to demonstrate the need for universal health care coverage, I'll tell you. But, you know, what's funny about this -- or not funny, but sort of sad is a lot of the Congresspeople you talk to who've come home says most of the town meetings were not about screamers, they were not about people disrupting, they were about a lot of Americans, some of whom support health care reform, some of whom are skeptical, who actually asked a lot of serious questions. And guess what?
That's not interesting television. That doesn't get a lot of coverage. That's what most of the town meetings were about -- not about the shouters. And, certainly, thank God, not about people biting fingers off.
FRUM: Well, you -- you want to call it school yard, except when I was in school, I remember the rules were no biting, kicking or scratching. So, you know, it was a good -- a good, clean blow.
It is -- it is a big country. There are a lot of people involved in this debate. And it is maybe statistically predictable that something like this would happen.
MALVEAUX: Has it kind of just gotten out of control, though?
BORGER: Yes, well...
MALVEAUX: Is there a point where people need to step back and say need to step back and say look, you know, let's -- let's lower the temperature here and let's have a real healthy discussion?
BORGER: Well, you know, as E.J. said, there was a lot of that going on over the Congressional break -- clearly, not between these two people. And I think -- look, there's a lot of anxiety out there. We have economic anxiety. You have a lot of senior citizens that are worried what's going to happen to their health care.
And so I think it -- it's kind of a, you know, a pot that gets stirred...
FRUM: And there are a lot of...
BORGER: ...and shook.
FRUM: ...there are a lot of bar fights at the top of bull markets, too. I mean in good times, people also will sometimes take a swing at their neighbor.
CROWLEY: This is about two people out of control.
BORGER: Well, it's about anger, let's put it that way.
CROWLEY: I mean this is just sort of so -- such an outlier here. I mean there's a difference between people getting up and yelling in a town hall meeting and biting someone's finger off. I mean this is...
BORGER: I don't even know how to bite someone's finger off.
DIONNE: ...also got way more attention than their share of the population. And I think their role in this was way overplayed in all this.
MALVEAUX: Well, who was doing more of the yelling?
DIONNE: This was much more complicated (INAUDIBLE)...
MALVEAUX: Was it Democrats or Republicans?
Who was doing more of the yelling, do you think, in this, when we saw these town halls and (INAUDIBLE)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- did the most, yes.
DIONNE: It was a small group of right-wingers who showed up and were mad and yelled and disrupted and were (INAUDIBLE)...
CROWLEY: -- of the right-wingers, but people who don't want the health care plan, who think it's a bad idea. I mean that's always the case in any issue -- the people who are against it are the most passionate and those are the (INAUDIBLE)...
FRUM: And I think, actually, that way of framing it, as Republicans versus Democrats, is seriously misleading to both sides, because Republicans are getting the idea that there's this great populist head of steam out there for them.
What there is, is a great populist head of steam out there against tampering with Medicare. And that will be -- and that head of steam will be the same when it is a Republican who is trying to restrain the growth of Medicare spending, as it is with -- as with a Democrat.
And what I am left wondering about this is if there's a Democrat who's volunteering to do that job, I don't know why you want to get in his way.
MALVEAUX: All right. We're going to leave it there.
Thank you, everybody, for joining us here. A very lively discussion.
Jack Cafferty joining us again -- hey, Jack.
CAFFERTY: A tough act to follow.
The question this hour, what should President Obama...
CAFFERTY: Stop laughing.
What should President Obama say about health care reform in his address to Congress next week?
Susan in Alabama: "It really doesn't matter what he says to Congress, which is already bought and paid for, but what he says to the public. He's got to lay out the plan with specifics on coverage and costs. I hope he takes the offensive and hits hard at the critics. Or maybe he should just take Bill Maher's suggestion and tell them he had a vision and Jesus told him to do this. Whatever works."
Ralph in Chicago: "The American people have to be given a choice. They have to be told 14 percent of our GDP goes to our health care. In Europe, where no one is left out, they pay 8 percent of GDP. In Europe, they live longer.
Our birth rate is one of a Third World country. The insurance Industry has a bottom line. Our health isn't part of it."
Christopher writes, "The president needs to fight. He needs to put conservatives on their heels by reminding them this is a moral issue, not just an economic one. These are the same people who wave their bibles around over gay marriage and abortion. Now that we want to take care of the poor and the sick, they put their bibles down and clutch their checkbooks. He needs to remind Americans that love, not fear, makes us a great country."
Then he writes: "He ought to apologize for trying to socialize and bankrupt the country and say he's taking a couple days off to read the story of why America was founded. Maybe he'll understand that America was founded on a limited federal government."
Andy in Cleveland, Ohio: "Jack, my man, he ought to give one of those pre-election speeches. Remember those? Give Congress the details on what exactly he wants, work the crowd, show that confidence that he once had. Or maybe he ought to just grin and say, hey, how about those Browns?"
Brian says: "He ought to say members of Congress, fellow citizens, I come before you tonight to confess that I used health care as a ploy to get elected. I don't have a clue what to do. There is no plan. When I said if anyone has a better idea, put it on the table, I really meant it. Anybody got any ideas?"
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there. There are hundreds of them posted -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Jack.
Well, swine flu survival -- will washing our hands and sneezing into our sleeves really help?
Jeanne Moos is on the case.
MALVEAUX: Here's a look at "Hot Shots."
In Nepal, a boy dressed as a demon participates in a festival.
In Afghanistan, a woman dressed in a burka looks through colorful fabrics in a shop.
In Somalia, displaced children eat in a camp in Mogadishu.
And in California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger picks up a dumbbell left behind in a home destroyed by a wildfire.
"Hot Shots" -- pictures worth a thousand words.
Well, wash your hands, watch where you sneeze -- the nation is in swine flu survival mode. And our Jeanne Moos finds it "Moost Unusual."
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): Forget the atomic bomb.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY U.S. GOVERNMENT)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please duck and cover.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: These days, it's cover your mouth and duck if the person next to you doesn't cover theirs. Lately, it's hard to distinguish the president from Elmo.
BAARCK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wash your hands frequently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM HHS PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, come on, wash with Elmo. Wash, wash, wash.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: Brainwashing about hand washing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And wash your hands often.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So simply washing hands over and over again.
MOOS (on camera): At this point, you just want to probably wash your hands of all these hand washing tips.
(voice-over): So let's give a hand to the contestants trying to make educating the public about swine flu interesting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)
DR. JOHN CLARKE: I recommend you wash your hands for protection front and back real thorough while you count for 20 seconds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: Dr. John Clarke is a real doctor, one of over 200 people...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cover your mouth and your nose when you sneeze.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: ...who created public service announcements for a Department of Health and Human Services contest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wash your hands on a regular basis. Sing in the mike and not in people's faces.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: cough into your shirt sleeves, it will relieve a goodly bit of danger and anxiety.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: Some real doctors have been producing germ fighting videos for years, like Soap in the City.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY COUGHSAFE.COM)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're dirty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: we're dirty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: please wash us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: And presenting the sneeze in your sleeve advice tongue in germ-filled cheek.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY YOUTUBE/OTORHINOLOUNSBURGOLOGY) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The technique will vary depending on your dimensions. The perfect answer would be an armband that could be changed after each use.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS (on camera): With everybody sneezing in their sleeve, the swine flu is going to spread to the dry cleaner.
(voice-over): And poor Elmo. Comedians like Conan are putting new words in his mouth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH CONAN O'BRIEN," COURTESY NBC)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first thing you have to do to stay healthy is always wash your hands.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't listen to him. Everybody run for your lives. We're all going to die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: Cartoonist Walt Handelsman coined a new pledge -- "I pledge allegiance to the sink, in the bathroom, near the gymnasium."
OBAMA: Cover your sneezes with your sleeve, not your hands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)
OBAMA: I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bless you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: Do as he says, not as he sneezes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Cover your mouth when you cough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY NEWS 14 CAROLINA)
OBAMA: I'm all right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: And though this baby panda didn't cover up when it sneezed, an adult panda seems to instinctively do what we humans instinctively don't.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
MALVEAUX: Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT".
Lisa Sylvester is in for Lou -- Lisa.