March 9, 2004 | Broadcast

American Morning

SOLEDAD O’BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Also this morning, a look at some new information about how much cholesterol is too much. We are going to talk to a doctor about how to lower your risk of a heart attack.

MILES O’BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We begin in Iraq, where another U.S. soldier has been killed in a roadside bomb attack. The incident took place near Bacuba (ph), north of Baghdad. A military official says the soldier was the first member of the 1st Infantry Division to die in the Iraqi conflict.

Five British prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp in Cuba expected to head back to Britain today. That’s according to British officials, who say the men will be interviewed by counterterrorism police upon their return.

The U.S. State Department and the U.S. military would not comment on their release. Another four British terror suspects will remain in custody.

A Philadelphia mom is getting acquainted with her 6-year-old daughter she thought died in a fire. Luz Cuevas and her daughter, Delimar, were officially reunited in New Jersey yesterday. The little girl was just 10 days old when her mother last saw her. A suspect has been arrested and charged with setting the fire as a diversion so she could kidnap the baby girl allegedly.

And over a million dish networks customers across the country have lost a portion of their television service. Viacom-owned channels like MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central went dark after dish network’s parent company echo star pulled the plug. The shutdown, a result of a contract dispute over programming fees.


S. O’BRIEN: Senator John Kerry will move closer to the official Democratic presidential nomination and voters go to the polls in four southern states. Primaries in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas should raise Kerry’s delegate count to within striking distance of the official nomination. And a new CNN/”USA Today/Gallup poll has some good news for both Senator Kerry and also some for President Bush, too.

Senior political analyst Bill Schneider has the results.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Gentlemen, start your engines.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POL. ANALYST (voice-over): And they’re off. The early lead among likely voters goes to John Kerry by eight points. Let’s see what happens if you throw Ralph Nader into the mix, even though he may not get on the ballot in every state. Nader gets 2 percent, at Kerry’s expense. The race gets even closer. Nader actually gets 5 percent among all registered voters, but most of them are unlikely to vote.

Want to see a picture of polarization? Here it is: Republicans are voting 95-3 for George W. Bush. Democrats are voting 95-3 for John Kerry. Wow. Coming out of the primaries, Democrats are just as united as Republicans.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that in 2004, one united Democratic Party, we can and we will win this election.

SCHNEIDER: The outcome is in the hands of swing voters, independents who make up a quarter on have the electorate, and they favor Kerry right now. He who controls the agenda controls the outcome. The public rates Kerry as better than Bush for handling health care, the deficit, Social Security and the economy — domestic issues. The public rates bush as better than Kerry for handling terrorism, Iraq and world affairs — international issues.

Here’s a surprise, the two candidates are rated the same on taxes, despite President Bush’s big tax cuts.

Here’s another surprise, Bush has only a slight advantage on gay marriage within the margin of error. There’s no broad consensus behind the president’s call for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.

President Bush has been criticized for using images of 9/11 in his campaign ads. His response:

BUSH: I will continue to speak about the effects of 9/11 on the country and my presidency.

SCHNEIDER: The people’s response: Most say it’s not appropriate for President Bush to use those images.

President Bush criticizes Kerry for flip-flopping on the issues.

BUSH: My opponent clearly has strong beliefs. They just don’t last very long.

SCHNEIDER: The people’s response — the public sees Kerry as more likely than bush to change positions on issues for political reasons.

(on camera): Less than a week into the campaign score one hit for each side. Many more to come.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.


S. O’BRIEN: Interesting analysis. Let’s talk more now about the heating up of the presidential campaign, as well as Martha Stewart’s future, too. To do that, we have got some guests who rarely agree with each other. From Miami this morning, Democratic consultant Victor Kamber of the Kamber Group.

Nice to see you, Victor. Good morning.


Also from Washington D.C. this morning is former RNC communications director Cliff May. He’s now with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Nice to see you, Cliff. Good morning to you.

CLIFF MAY, FMR. RNC COMM. DIR.: Good to see you, Soledad. Hi.

S. O’BRIEN: Let’s see, let’s do politics, Martha. Let’s go with the politics, shall we.

We heard Senator Kerry yesterday. He was telling a group of supporters in Florida that there are some unnamed international leaders who would like to see a new American president.

Here’s what he had to say: “I’ve met four leaders who can’t go out and say this publicly, but boy, they look at you, and they say, you’ve got to win, you’ve got to beat this guy. We need a new policy, things like that.”

S. O’BRIEN: Victor, let’s give this one to you. What do you think, realistically, is the impact on the electorate when they hear something like from Senator Kerry?

KAMBER: Well, I think there’s believability. We have seen, frankly, a president who has alienated most of the world, who has not worked with world leaders, who is a bully, who likes to think that whatever America says is the right answer and the only answer. Our natural allies haven’t joined us with Iraq, certainly haven’t joined us with Haiti, haven’t joined us with anything. I am not surprised.

I am surprised at John Kerry for saying it. I don’t know that it was necessarily the right political thing to say at this point in time. But it’s totally believable. I am surprised it’s only four.

S. O’BRIEN: Bush campaign spokesman, in fact, Terry Holt took a shot at it pretty quickly after that. He said, “Kerry’s foreign friends may prefer him as U.S. president, but the election is in the hands of the American people, a little reminder there.

Cliff, why don’t you take a stab at that? Do you think that Terry Holt left anything out of that that he should have added?

MAY: Yes, I think there are foreign leaders who would prefer John Kerry, but I’m not sure we care what Kim Jong-Il of North Korea really wants.

KAMBER: Give me a break.

MAY: That’s a joke. But let me also say, when we say none of our allies are with us, excuse me, the British, the polls, about 60 countries are with us in Iraq. In Haiti, France is with us. Everybody is with us. I don’t know who isn’t Victor.

Look, I think what we want is that the American people understand we have a president who cares about them and cares about their issues, not that we have a president who is popular in provost (ph).

S. O’BRIEN: At the same time, Cliff, let me challenge you a little here, it is important, certainly, what world leaders think. I mean, at the end of the day much of what goes on is about negotiation and respect between world the leaders, right? Are you saying it doesn’t matter?

MAY: No, I think it does matter. And I think the president has wonderful relations, for example, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He has wonderful relations with the head of government of Italy and of Spain. I don’t think we want a president who’s a pushover for the Europeans, who too often wants thing that are not good for the United States and the American people. And particularly in terms of Iraq, where if you remember back, there were those in Russia, in Germany, in France, who wanted to end sanctions, and had cut deals with Saddam Hussein. I think we want a president who will stand up for American interests, and where possible cooperate, and where possible also disagree with our foreign friends.

KAMBER: And that’s John Kerry. The president he just described is John Kerry.

S. O’BRIEN: Back in 1995, Victor, John Kerry proposed to cut intelligence spending by $1.5 billion. This is something highlighted now by the Bush administration. The president himself called it deeply irresponsible. How does John Kerry defend this?

KAMBER: Well, first of all, John Kerry has been in the United States Senate 19 years. He has probably voted publicly, I’m guessing, in a little over 11,000 votes in the Senate, probably about 22,000 votes in the Congress. To take one vote out of isolation without knowing what was the parameters of that vote, it doesn’t make sense. John Kerry on defense, John Kerry on the CIA is as strong as anybody.

When I worked in the Congress, for members of Congress during the Vietnam War, if you were against the war in Vietnam, you voted against defense authorizations. That didn’t mean you were against the military raises. That didn’t mean you were against weapons. You voted against the war in Vietnam, but that’s how Republicans would interpret it. That’s what’s taking place here. It’s a vote taken out of context.

And listen, what John Kerry has said all along, bring it on; let’s have that debate about who is better and stronger on defense in this country, or the CIA.

MAY: If Victor will be quiet for quiet, I’ll be glad to bring it on.

S. O’BRIEN: And keep it brief, because we want to get to Martha Stewart.

MAY: Yes. We are talking about a 1995 vote. It wasn’t just a vote. It was a bill that Kerry proposed that nobody would cosponsor with him, because it cut intelligence spending at a time after the ’93 bombing of the World Trade Center, that we really needed it.

I think that Kerry should be honest, and that like a lot of people, after the Cold War, he saw no good reasons for a lot of intelligence and defense spending. He should say, like a lot of people, after 9/11, I have woken up to the need for this. That would be better than trying to defend a record that’s anti-intelligence.

S. O’BRIEN: Cliff, that was you keeping it brief. Thank you, I appreciate that.

Let’s talk about Martha Stewart for just the few second that we have left. How much time do you think she’s getting in prison? Cliff, why don’t you take that one from me first?

MAY: I don’t know. I don’t think it pays for her to spend a lot of time in prison. I am not an expert on this case. What I would say is basically this. We live in a Democratic society. That means we have the rule of law. That means no one is above the law — not a president, not a CEO, not judges, and for that reason, it is wrong to lie to prosecutors, as she apparently did, and so she deserves to be punished.

S. O’BRIEN: Victor, what do you think?

KAMBER: I think it’s much ado about nothing. I mean, the country has been embroiled with Martha Stewart. You know, we stopped the news when the conviction came through to announce it like we did when we captured Saddam Hussein. We are talking about how many hairstyles she is going to get in prison, what her outfit is going to be. I mean, give me a break. The country is better than that. I would like to start studying Haliburton and Dick Cheney’s relationships with stocks and so forth. I don’t care about Martha Stewart.

S. O’BRIEN: That’s it for time. We will continue at another time. Gosh, you both were quiet there for a moment. Thanks you guys. As always, nice to see you. Appreciate it — Miles.

M. O’BRIEN: It’s a good thing, that quiet stuff.

All right, in California 14-year-olds may some day be allowed to vote. Some state lawmakers have proposed an amendment to California’s constitution that lower the voter age, that would give 16-year-olds a half vote, and 14-year-olds a quarter vote in state elections. This is the only in California moment of the morning here. Two-thirds of the legislature must still approve the proposal for it to appear on the November ballots, so I guess there will be referendums on whether I have to clean up my room mom, you know, stuff like that.

M. O’BRIEN: It’s not going to happen anytime soon.

S. O’BRIEN: Still to come on AMERICAN MORNING, the Scott Peterson trial faces some huge delays as attorneys consider hundreds of potential jurors. We’re going to take you live to Redwood City in California.

M. O’BRIEN: The government may try to promote the dollar coin, again. Andy Serwer will tell us about a new proposal to try to get you to use them.

S. O’BRIEN: And also, how low should you lower your cholesterol? We will tell you about an important new study concerning heart health, just ahead as AMERICAN MORNING continues.


S. O’BRIEN: Lowering cholesterol far beyond current recommendation levels may substantially reduce risk to heart patients, including the risk of dying of a heart attack. That’s a finding of a new study comparing high doses of cholesterol-lowering drugs. So how might these findings change, how doctors treat heart disease?

Joining us this morning from Cleveland is Dr. James Young. He’s a chairman of the division of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.

Nice to see you, doctor. Thanks for being with us.


S. O’BRIEN: Doctors, generally, have always said that lower cholesterol is better, but this new study takes it a step further. Explain what was found in this study.

YOUNG: Well, no question, Soledad, this has shaken us up a bit, the study, the so-called prove it trial, and coupled with an earlier study published just last week, the reversal study, showed that for the bad cholesterol, the LDL, driving those levels down even further than we had imagined is beneficial. The lower the better, less is more.

S. O’BRIEN: The national guidelines right now for the LDL is something like 100 milligrams per deciliter, which is all doctorspeak, but 100, let’s say, is something like that. Someone who is high risk is where there doctor would put them. What is the number they are aiming for now? Is there a specific number that came out of this study as the optimal?

YOUNG: Well, yes. Both of these two trials suggested that getting down into the range of 70 was even better. The outcomes were better. There were less adverse events. So perhaps we’ve got a tougher target to aim for now.

S. O’BRIEN: How do you aim for that target? Obviously, this was a study of cholesterol-lowering drugs? Is the take-away message — and granted, it was done on high-risk patients — but is the take-away message everybody should be taking these statins.

YOUNG: Well, no, I don’t think everybody should be taking these particular medications. But certainly if you are at risk in the prove-it trial. There patients who had had a heart attack or a hospitalization for scinic (ph) problems — chest pain syndromes and what not. And if you have ahtrosclerosis (ph), blockages of your arteries, with high cholesterol levels, no question, you should be on these medications.

S. O’BRIEN: What are the implications then, out of this stud, for patients who don’t have all that you describe? They are not particularly high risk. Any implications for them?

YOUNG: Well, no, these studies focused on so-called secondary prevention. They were patients who had problems. We are doing a lot of work with primary prevention. And in individuals, particularly males, who are older, if you have abnormal cholesterol levels you should be treated.

S. O’BRIEN: How big of a deal is this? I have read that the study actually didn’t prove what it set out to prove, and to some degree, it kind of backfired.

YOUNG: Well, it set out to proof equivalency, or that there really was no difference between the high dose and the low dose, and what it showed was there was a huge difference. So it was a bonus observation.

S. O’BRIEN: And you think it’s a big deal for the medical profession and for heart patients across the board?

YOUNG: I do.

S. O’BRIEN: Well, Dr. James Young, thanks for being with us this morning. Sure appreciate your time.

O’BRIEN: Thank you.

Still to come this morning, remember the guy who went over Niagara Falls and lives to tell about it? He has undergone a major career change. Jack’s got a look at that, just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O’BRIEN: And welcome back everybody.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Here’s what the world needs, could the dollar coin be making a comeback? We don’t have anything else going on, here’s a an issue we need to focus on. Plus the online payment service Paypal settling an investigation.

With all that and a look at the markets, Andy Serwer here, “Minding Your Business.”

Good morning.

ANDY SERWER, “FORTUNE” MAGAZINE: We find these stories for you, because I know how much you love these babies.

CAFFERTY: Money and mars, my favorite, m&m’s.

SERWER: All right, Let’s talk about Paypal, Jack. That, of course is the online payment service owned by eBay, yesterday settling a dispute with New York state attorney General Elliott Spitzer. Here’s the issue. Paypal, which allows people to buy thing on the Internet. Spitzer and others charge that they sort are holding themselves out as a credit card, whereas if you get in a dispute, Paypal says they will reimburse you. Problem is, they don’t always do that, and it doesn’t happen as smoothly as they maintain. This according to Spitzer. Pay pal paying the New York AG $150,000. We’ll have new rules about that. But it’s a big, big business. Forty million people belong to Pay Pal and 12 billion of transactions go through them these days.

CAFFERTY: No, the other day, we had a thing on here about they redesigned the nickel for the first time in 3,000 years, and they put something on the back besides Monticello. The nickel is worth less than 5 cents. Nobody cares. They spent nickels to hire architects, and engravers and design people.

SERWER: True, all true, Jack.

CAFFERTY: All right, now we’re going to do the same with the dollar coin, all on the taxpayers nickel.

SERWER: Nickel, yes, pun intended.

This is a guy, Representative Mike Castle of Delaware, is the man behind those collectible quarters, with all the 50 states. And a huge success, he says. For me, it’s just a matter of my kids stealing them off my dresser every morning and me not having any change.

Anyway, what he wants to do is start a new program with a dollar coin. This with presidents on the front and something else on the back. And so, you know, he says — there you go, the statue on the back. He says that the mint makes a lot of money. The mint has made $4 billion, they claim, off the quarter program, because the fed buys more from the mint. But whose money is that, that’s the question?

CAFFERTY: What state’s this guy from?

SERWER: Delaware, the great state of Delaware.

CAFFERTY: The people apparently of that state have no issues at all that would require their representatives attention in Washington, D.C. All of the social problems in Delaware have been solved. There are absolutely nothing there that the people need, so the elected representatives are free to devote their time to this crap.

SERWER: Well, you have a point, but I want to make one last point about this, because there’s a corollary to this new program he wants to have, which is the $10 first lady’s coin. Serious business.

CAFFERTY: I am going to walk off the set if you don’t stop.

SERWER: This is serious. I’ll trade you my Mamie Eisenhower for your Jackie Kennedy. He wants to do this.

Anyway, we’ll leave it at that, Jack.

CAFFERTY: What about the markets?

SERWER: Well, the markets, all right, well, yesterday was a down day. This morning, futures are looking up, and now they’ve been sagging back. That’s yesterday. That’s not a good picture. Texas Instruments numbers looking good, so maybe they will help us out. But Like I said, future’s been drifting a little bit.

CAFFERTY: All right, thanks, Andy.

On to the File. The man who survived his jump over Niagara Falls last October has joined the circus. Kirk Jones, the only known person to survive a leap off the Falls without safety gear, looks after the elephants — what, and get out of show business? — and the other animals in an outfit called the Toby Tyler Circus. He leads the alpacas (ph) into the ring at the beginning of the show.

In an interview with the Associated Press, he said, quote, “I have taken a 180-degree from what I was doing the rest of my life.” He used to work in his father’s tool and dye shop. Just go away.

An English woman says she wants twins, Soledad, even though she has nine kids already and is pregnant with her tenth.

SERWER: What is she thinking.

CAFFERTY: Note to Helen Ogelby (ph), get a TV. There are other things to do with your time. Her nine kids range in age from 1 to 21, and she is pregnant with a 10th, and says she’s going to keep trying until she has twins.

You may want to call Soledad, because Soledad is pregnant with twins. Maybe there’s a secret. Forty-one-year-old’s husband says — quote — “Every time we have another one, she promises it’ll be the last.

Hey, partner, you’re involved in that. Look it up in the Britannicas. Nine, 10th on the way, says I’ve going to stay at it until I have twins.

S. O’BRIEN: You could be staying at it for a long time. Not that common.

CAFFERTY: Try bowling. That’s good.

M. O’BRIEN: Talk about the big minivan. They need that vehicle interest, don’t they?

CAFFERTY: They need a fleet of them.

S. O’BRIEN: Oh, you know, some people. Gives you something to talk about in the file, doesn’t it?

CAFFERTY: Yes, it does.

S. O’BRIEN: Thanks, Jack. Still to come this morning, could it be deja vu in Florida. This year, we’re going to tell you why some people are concerned about the state’s voting system in the presidential elections. That’s ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.