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CNN NEWSROOM

Donald Rumsfeld Undergoes Surgery; Interview With Congressman John Murtha; Bush Appoints New Transportation Secretary

Aired September 5, 2006 - 13:59   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: The president of the United States there in Washington addressing military officers, an association there in D.C. And we're going to talk more the president's speech. Congressman John Murtha is going to join us in just a few minutes, along with our legal team, to talk about what the speech means as midterm elections approach.
But, real quickly, we want to get to the Pentagon. Jamie McIntyre with some developing news about the defense secretary and that he underwent elective surgery today. We just got word of that.

Jamie, what do we know?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, just as the president was speaking we were called into one of the offices of Rumsfeld's aides and informed that the defense secretary did, in fact, have previously scheduled elective surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. It was described as an old athletic injury.

Rumsfeld, you may recall, was -- was a wrestler in college. He also was famous for doing one-arm push-ups at one time. We're told that the procedure went well, it took about two hours, arthroscopic surgery.

The defense secretary was not under general anesthesia. He took a local anesthesia, although he did for that time transfer some of that authority for defense operations to his deputy, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.

But Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said to be resting comfortably at Walter Reed Medical Center. He'll probably stay overnight and be back on the job by tomorrow.

They say, again, this was a previously scheduled elective surgery, something that Rumsfeld, who is 74 years old, needed to take care of because it was beginning to cause him some discomfort, on recommendation of his doctors.

Again, no suggestion that Rumsfeld has any serious health problem that would prevent him from continuing as defense secretary. In fact, today the White House gave him another ringing endorsement, saying to those who are calling for him to step aside, "It's not going to happen" -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And this is someone that recently gave a speech to the American Legion, now we see the president talking about a number of speeches he's going to give as we're approaching midterm elections. Could we see more from Rumsfeld? And did this surgery definitely have to take place at this time?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, they say that the reason it was scheduled -- it wasn't something that he did suddenly -- it was scheduled in between all of the obligations that Rumsfeld had. You know, Rumsfeld is scheduled to do a series of interviews at the end of the week, recalling the events of September 11th. And as far as we know, he's still scheduled to do those interviews.

This is something that they say he simply had to take care of so that it didn't cause him more discomfort in the future. It was causing him a little pain in his shoulder. And you can imagine, although he's quite vigorous at age 74, you know, at that age some of the parts do start to wear out.

PHILLIPS: Jamie, you wouldn't know that. You're nowhere close to 74 years old.

All right. Jamie McIntyre there from the Pentagon .

Appreciate it.

Well, 9/11 and national security top themes in the president's speech and in this year's elections, but what voters say they want, well, what they want most is change.

CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider here with a closer look at the speech.

Let's talk about the purpose and the timing.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the president clearly was attempting to explain to Americans the threat of totalitarianism, which is the way he characterized the terrorist threat against the United States. He portrayed Iraq as a central front in that battle, quoting the al Qaeda extremists as depicting Iraq as the central front in that battle, essentially dramatizing the terrorist threat.

The political idea is that he wants to make terrorism the central theme in the 2006 election just as it was in 2002, just as it was in 2004. Both elections in which Republicans did extremely well. President Bush was re-elected, the Republican Congress was re-elected.

He wants to try that a third time, but, of course, this time there's a good deal more disillusionment than there was in previous years -- in 2004, certainly -- with the war in Iraq.

PHILLIPS: From disillusionment to distinction, there are definitely two distinct arguments, right, Bill, when it comes down to what voters are going to have to choose between? And that is leaving Iraq, what does that mean, staying in Iraq, what does that mean?

SCHNEIDER: Well, the president in his talk today essentially said leaving Iraq would create a threat to the United States because it would leave Iraq as a ground for terrorists, a base for terrorists from which they could launch attacks on the United States. So he depicted that very dramatically as a security threat to the United States.

His critics, critics of the war, many Democrats argue that the threat is to stay in Iraq. If the United States stays in Iraq, what it's doing is building up resentment in the Muslim world and helping to recruit more terrorists. That's essentially the argument that is taking place in this midterm campaign.

PHILLIPS: You listen to all these speeches, you pay attention to every detail, Bill. Did anything stand out, did anything grab your attention from other speeches in the past few months?

SCHNEIDER: Well, two things grabbed my attention. The president never mentioned the word "fascist." That's become a very controversial word in which both Donald Rumsfeld and others have talked about, have characterized the terrorist enemy as a fascist enemy, Islamic fascist.

The president called them "radicals," "extremists," "totalitarians," "fanatics," but he never quite used the word "fascist," which is a very loaded word, particularly to the political left, which is very critical of the war, and he never used the word "appeasement," something that Donald Rumsfeld did the other day in his speech, where he accused critics of the Iraq war of appeasement.

The second thing that grabbed my attention was the president's characterization very dramatically of Shiite extremists. He said that Shia extremists are learning from al Qaeda, the Shia strain of Islamic radicalism is just as dangerous and just as big a threat to America. That's the strain that has power in Iran and that controls Hezbollah, which actually has killed many Americans in Lebanon and at the Khobar Towers.

The president gave more emphasis to the Shia strain of extremism and terrorism than he has in the past as something parallel to the Sunni strain, which, of course, is dominant -- is the controlling force in al Qaeda.

PHILLIPS: Bill Schneider, appreciate it.

Well, this weekend, get a look at the man who brought terror to America, watching "The Footsteps of bin Laden," the "CNN PRESENTS" investigation. The encore presentation airs Saturday and Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

America is safer, but not yet safe. It's a message the White House is repeating today as it reveals an updated strategy to fight terror. President Bush talked about it in his speech that you just heard on CNN. He also talked a lot about Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These evil men know that a fundamental threat to their aspirations is a democratic Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. They know that given a choice, the Iraqi people will never choose to live in the totalitarian state the extremists hope to establish. And that is why we must not and we will not give the enemy victory in Iraq by deserting the Iraqi people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Joining me now, Congressman John Murtha, a Democrat from Pennsylvania. He's a very vocal critic of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq.

Congressman, great to have you.

When it comes down to it, is this about not deserting the Iraqi people?

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, this is a failed policy wrapped in illusion. And I've said this before.

He brings in 9/11. Everything directed towards the al Qaeda in Afghanistan was absolutely right. Then when the military asked for more troops in Afghanistan, instead he diverted himself to Iraq, where there were no weapons of mass destruction, no al Qaeda.

The incidents have increased since the -- since the government election is over, almost doubled to 800 a week. More people are being killed every day. Electricity, oil production, everything is below prewar level.

We need a change in direction. Rhetoric is not going to solve this problem. To get up and make a speech doesn't answer it.

These young people are walking out there with 70 pounds on their back in 120 degrees, very small proportion of people in this country are suffering. The families are suffering.

I have a great admiration for the military. Nobody has done a better job when they're asked, nobody is more dedicated. But they can only do so much. You can't win this militarily. The president has to change direction, and he has to hold somebody accountable.

PHILLIPS: Congressman, if U.S. troops pull out, it brings our men and women home, obviously no more men and women will die. But what happens to Iraq, to the insurgency, to the overall political picture, the chance for democracy? Does -- does all of that just not matter anymore?

MURTHA: Let me tell you, I have been all through the country, and people have changed their mind. They realize we can't win it militarily. It has to be done diplomatically. We have to have a change in direction.

We gave George Tenet, the intelligence advisor, a gold medal. We promoted Paul Wolfowitz -- was the under secretary of defense. We keep Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld in position.

Nobody has been held accountable. So -- so they haven't really worked on the diplomatic effort.

This cannot be won militarily. Incidents keep increasing. We've got 130,000 troops there.

Now, in World War I, World War II, in Korea and Vietnam, we had a draft. Everybody had an opportunity to serve this great country. Here, a very small proportion of people being rotated over and over again.

It's not only hurting them, it's hurting the forces in the United States. Almost every one of our combat forces in the United States are below deployment level because they don't have the equipment they need in order to be deployed incase something happened in Iran and North Korea. We've got a real problem here.

We're spending $8 billion a month on this war. Things that could be spent on homeland defense and other kind of issues.

There's no question about the military capability. It's this type of war. That's why this president has to change direction.

Rhetoric is not going to solve this problem. You can't get up and just speak about it. We've got to -- we've got to focus the country on what change needs to be done.

I hear an intensity I've never heard before. For instance, today I just got a Legion of Merit Award to a person sent to me and said, "I no longer feel I can wear this because I've been so disappointed in what's happened in this country.

I got two Purple Hearts. One from a son whose dad was killed in 1944, and one from a wife whose husband was killed in 1944. They're sending me a signal that they're so upset about what's happening in this country.

There's a sentiment out there and intensity that I haven't seen for a long, long time, since Watergate.

PHILLIPS: And with great intensity -- wow, since Watergate. Interesting.

I'll get back to that in a second. That leads us into another part of this discussion.

But you talk about this intensity. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave a speech recently to the American Legion, and Rumsfeld compared people who are wanting to back down on the Iraq war to the people who appeased Hitler.

MURTHA: Well, just because he says it doesn't make it so. For instance, he makes these broad statements in order to scare people.

President Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." These statements are made in order to try to scare the American people. That's not what we need. We need a change in direction. We need the people -- and we also need to spread out the service so that everybody in this country has an opportunity to serve.

PHILLIPS: What is that change of direction, Congressman? You keep saying change of direction, change of direction. What is your idea of what that change should be?

MURTHA: I'll tell you exactly what we have to do. We have to start a redeployment and tell Iraqis, you have to take over.

They've just scuttled another changeover. They're going to change from one providence -- they were going to let the Iraqis take over. They said, well, we're not ready to do it. This is the fourth or fifth time they've done that.

I mean, look, the Iraqis are not going to take over until we tell them they have to take over. There will be some chaos. There's chaos now.

When you have incidents with 138,000 troops actually in Iraq right now, and incidents have doubled, what makes us think in another year it's going to get any better?

PHILLIPS: Let's talk about that chaos for a minute and the fact that you said that it's doubled. Just yesterday I had a chance to interview a radio talk show host. The radio is called Al Mahabba. It means "love" in Arabic.

And her name is Bushra Jamil. They have four different talk shows on this radio network.

And I asked her about the fact that -- about the danger and what is life like, can you go out to dinner, can you go to school, can you enjoy your summer vacation? This is what she said.

I just want to get your response.

MURTHA: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSHRA JAMIL, RADIO AL-MAHABBA: Now, you talk to Iraqis, they all tell you, even those who were against the American troops at the beginning, they know what this country -- what holds the country together is the presence of the American troops. And people know for sure that if the American troops pull out, they're going to be slaughtered. They're going to become an easy prey for the neighboring countries and the militias and insurgents and the terrorists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Congressman, this is a tremendous voice for the Iraqi people. It's a powerful network. And she is saying if the American troops go, they are in tremendous trouble. MURTHA: Well, we've had 130,000 troops there for three and a half years and it's gotten worse. So what makes you think it's going to get better?

Incidents have increased from 400 a week to 800 a week. So the incidents actually are over 125 a day. That's what I'm -- and oil production, energy production is below prewar level.

There is no progress being made. We need a change in direction. We need an international diplomatic effort here. We need an international conference which helps them take over.

Sure, they're going to have to solve this themselves, just like we had to solve the Revolutionary War ourselves with help -- a little help from the outside. We can't keep dictating to them and then say, OK, we're going to continue to do it. The Iraqis have to take the lead. They...

PHILLIPS: And you're retired military. You are retired military. You -- you're saying 100 percent you are -- you are absolutely sure that if American troops pull out Iraqis will be forced to take charge and it will be even better later on than it is right now.

You feel that without a doubt?

MURTHA: There's no question, we can't solve it ourselves. The Iraqis have to take this under their own control and they have to solve it themselves. That's what I'm saying. And American troops have to be redeployed to the periphery, and incase something affects our national security, they can go back in.

PHILLIPS: So, Congressman Murtha, who is going to it be the next president of the United States?

MURTHA: Well, that's a good question. I hear a lot of different people make a lot of different recommendations out in the field, but they're not focusing on that. They are focusing on -- they want this president to understand there is an intensity which has changed dramatically in the last year.

PHILLIPS: Congressman John Murtha, sure appreciate your time, sir.

MURTHA: Nice talking to you.

PHILLIPS: A pleasure.

Back to Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre with an update on Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's elective surgery.

What do we know now, Jamie?

All right. We're trying to work out the mic issue.

Jamie, if you can hear me, I apologize. We cannot hear you. We'll see if we can work it out.

OK, Jamie. I'm sorry. I think we have you now.

MCINTYRE: All right. How about now?

PHILLIPS: There we go. Let's take it from the beginning.

MCINTYRE: Here's an audio test.

PHILLIPS: There you go. We're known for audio problems.

MCINTYRE: The...

PHILLIPS: Go ahead, Jamie.

MCINTYRE: ... defense secretary is said to be resting comfortably at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington -- or just outside Washington -- after undergoing two-hour elective surgery this morning for what was described as a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, described as an old athletic injury. And Rumsfeld is both old and an athlete.

He is 74 years old. He's described to be in excellent health. But he had been apparently experiencing some pain in his -- in his shoulder.

He underwent arthroscopic surgery. This was something that was on his schedule. It just wasn't disclosed to us until, really, right in the middle of President Bush's speech. A Pentagon official called a number of reporters in to say, "Look, we just want to tell you, Rumsfeld is fine, he underwent surgery, he had a local anesthetic, but he did turn over some of the responsibilities in the chain of command to his deputy, Gordon England."

Particularly what's called Noble Eagle. That's the mission to protect the United States with overflights of U.S. planes. If they ever had to do anything, somebody has to make that call.

But he is probably going to stay in the hospital overnight. He should be back -- they say he should be out of the hospital by tomorrow and back at work this week. And it was just -- it was surgery that was elective, but it was recommended by his doctor so that he didn't experience more pain in his shoulder.

And once again, the Pentagon underscores that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is not planning to step down for health or any other reasons. And today the White House again echoing that, saying for those calling for Rumsfeld's resignation, "It's not going to happen," according to White House spokesman Tony Snow.

PHILLIPS: All right. Jamie McIntyre, thanks so much.

No recess or outdoor sports for kids in rural western New York today. Even hunters are warned to stay out of the woods, all because of a notorious fugitive.

Coming up from the NEWSROOM, the latest on efforts to snare "Bucky" Phillips.

Plus, larger than life, even in death. Friends and fans honor and mourn the late Steve Irwin. Australia even offers a state funeral for its beloved native son.

The NEWSROOM'S got the details straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: ... it's pronounced "hurricane." It's 25 miles north of the twin cities of Hilldale, Utah, Colorado City, Arizona. That's Warren Jeffs power base. That's still where thousands of his followers live.

And Purgatory, yes, it's an ironic name, but it's an appropriate name because he is in legal purgatory, innocent until proven guilty. But a lot of this country thinks he's already guilty on the top 10 list. However, under our legal system, the man is still innocent until he goes to court.

And what's going to happen is this: he was in jail in Nevada, he boarded a helicopter a short time ago. He's going to land in the helicopter here, about 120 miles to the northeast, any minute.

You can see right over here there are sheriff deputies here in Washington County getting ready for his arrival. A lot of security for this little -- this is a very small area. This is one of the least inhabited parts of the southwestern United States. And that's one of the reasons that the FLDS Church decided they wanted to be based here.

They wanted to be away from everybody. They've been here now for about 100 years. They're not affiliated with the LDS Church, the Mormon Church. They broke apart from the Mormon Church because they firmly believed in polygamy.

That's how the Mormon Church started back in 1830. Sixty years later, though, the Mormon Church renounced it. And these people continue.

These people are a lot different than other polygamists. Most polygamists are not affiliated with Warren Jeffs. Warren Jeffs, though, is accused -- the charge here in Utah is rape as an accomplice.

He's not charged with actually raping someone. He's charged with setting up marriages with men and underage girls. And those men and underage girls allegedly had sexual relations.

It's a very weird area. A very strange rule. And weird not in a bad way, but weird in a unusual way.

You don't expect to see a jail here across from a thoroughbred race track. Horse racing, gambling is illegal in the state of Utah. So they have horse races here, there's no betting. But we just saw some horses galloping by a short time ago. These are the fairgrounds here in Washington County, Utah, and they have horse races here periodically.

So they're awaiting the arrival of Warren Jeffs. Once he gets here they have 48 hours to give him an initial appearance in court. It will either be tomorrow or the next day here in the town of St. George, which is the county seat of Washington County, where he will say that he is, indeed, Warren Jeffs.

They'll talk about whether he has a lawyer or not. And then within 10 days after that he's supposed to have a preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing the prosecution has to say, has to determine if they have probable cause to continue holding this 50- year-old man, the leader of this fundamentalist polygamist church.

Kyra, back to you.

PHILLIPS: Gary, it's been quite interesting watching a number of your pieces in Gary Tuchman style trying to get people to talk about Warren Jeffs, specifically his followers. Any idea -- have you been able to sit down with anyone to know what they think of his capture?

TUCHMAN: Well, Kyra, you're right. I mean, it's our journalistic obligation each time we come here to try to get reaction from the people who live here. It's part of our job.

But Warren Jeffs has demanded, has commanded that nobody talk to outsiders. So we've never had a very casual sit-down interview with someone who loves Warren Jeffs. We've talked with some of them and they've told us to get the you know what out of town and given us a hard time, made it very difficult for us, but they haven't told us how they feel.

We can tell you, though, since he was arrested eight days ago on a traffic stop in Las Vegas, we've been in town, it's much quieter than normal. The women are running away from us faster than they were before he was arrested. The men are meaner than normal.

So there's not a lot of happiness there. But it's hard to tell exactly how they feel about this man being arrested.

We can tell you, however, we talked to people who still consider themselves part of the church but don't much like Warren Jeffs anymore since he's been on the run. And they're telling us, no matter what, as long as he's still alive, he will still be the leader of this polygamist church. They will still regard him as the only living prophet to god on the planet Earth as long as he's alive.

PHILLIPS: We'll talk again once he's there.

Gary Tuchman, thanks so much.

Hunters beware. State troopers in western New York say that anybody who is out and about in the woods may be in danger from Ralph "Bucky" Phillips or from police who are looking for him. CNN's Allan Chernoff has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Police are scouring western New York for fugitive Ralph Phillips, who they believe shot two officers last week while they were searching for him near the home of his ex-girlfriend. State Police Officer Joseph Longobardo died of his wounds Sunday. Trooper Donald Baker is in serious condition. Phillips is also wanted in the shooting of another officer in June.

WAYNE BENNETT, SUPERINTENDENT, NEW YORK STATE POLICE: It's a wake-up call. It makes you re-assess the fact that you are vulnerable. That you can be hurt. You can be killed.

CHERNOFF: Phillips, a career criminal known as "Bucky," has been on the run for five months. He escaped from the Erie County Correctional Facility by using a can opener to actually cut a hole through the roof above the kitchen. And he did it only four days before his scheduled release from a three-month term for violating parole.

Police are offering a $225,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. With hundreds of local, state and even federal officials on the hunt, authorities say they're closing in on Phillips.

MAJOR MICHAEL MANNING, NEW YORK STATE POLICE: He's in hiding. I don't think he has any place to go right now.

CHERNOFF: Police have arrested six of Phillips' friends and family, charging them with providing aid to the escaped convict.

SHERIFF J.A. GERACE, CHATTAQUA COUNTY, NEW YORK: We just need the help of the residents of the county to bring him into custody. And those that aided and assisted him have blood on their hands.

CHERNOFF: As Phillips' has evaded capture, his legend has been growing. There are Bucky Phillips T-shirts and Grandma's Family Kitchen restaurant served Bucky burgers, to go. Some locals still feel sympathy for the fugitive.

DAWN COCHRAN, BLASDELL RESIDENT: The only danger there really is, is with all the troopers flying around and, you know, stopping traffic and getting in everybody's way trying to find this guy.

SUE SNOW, IRVING RESIDENT: Most people are taking it as a joke and they think that he should go. Like just keep running.

CHERNOFF: But after the death of Officer Longobardo, the hunt for Ralph "Bucky" Phillips is now anything but a laughing matter.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, Alden, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PHILLIPS: In his final moments, "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin stoically yanked a stingray's barb from his chest, then collapsed and died. Like so much of his life, his death was captured on videotape that only police and his closest companions have seen.

By all accounts, it's horrifying to watch.

On Australia's sunshine coast tributes are piling up at Irwin's zoo. The ones from his young fans are the most poignant. Legions of kids around the world have grown up watching Irwin's antics. Animal Planet says it will keep airing "The Crocodile Hunter" and says it may set up a fund in Irwin's name to support wildlife protection and education.

How are kids coping with the death of Steve Irwin? Our Rusty Dornin is at the Georgia Aquarium talking with his youngest fans. We're going to go there live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Here's why they call them wildfires. Hundreds of people are out in their homes in Montana where fire is blocking 280 square miles and is still spreading. More than two dozen homes have been lost. Crews say this fire stays active well into the night rather than quieting down and still many others fire due.

Well more smoke than fire in the Lake Tahoe basin. Crews quickly corralled displays in the Eldorado National Forest, holding it to about 12 acres and fire ravaged northeastern Nevada. Those thunderstorms sparked even more fires. The state has seen 1,000 wildfires so far this year. So much range land has burned in fact that experts say what's left can't support all the antelope. So the state is allowing hunters to thin the herd by about 200.

Well, kiss my grits. Flo finally has formed. Where is Tropical Storm Florence headed? Jacqui Jeras tracking that storm from the Weather Center. We had to get in there, didn't we?

(WEATHER REPORT)

PHILLIPS: Well the company that severed its long-standing relationship with Tom Cruise two weeks ago today announced that it's cutting ties with one of its best-known executives. Susan Lisovicz has more on this bombshell from Viacom. What's the deal, Susan?

(BUSINESS HEADLINES)

PHILLIPS: Well if you've ever said "I want to report for CNN," now is your chance. CNN has launched I-Report with you the viewer as our eyes and ears. If you capture a great picture or video on your camera or cell phone, just send it to us. Log onto CNN.com or punch ireport@CNN.com on your cell phone. Your I-Report is your chance to share what you have witnessed. Can I tell you, we have been swamped with pictures and personal stories about Steve Irwin. Here's just a few. This from Rachel Wilkins (ph), who now lives in New York but last Easter she was in her native Australia at Steve Irwin's Australia zoo. Rachel says of all the photos she took, this one stood out because it shows Steve Irwin, the family man, sitting there with his wife, Terri and their two kids, Bindi Sue and Bob.

We also heard about Andrew Wright (ph) in South Torrey, Utah. A few years ago, he dressed up as the "Crocodile Hunter" on Halloween. Andrew's mom also sent us this tribute. "Because of you, I have cared for chickens, cats, hamsters, fish, bunnies, a garter snake, a python and want every other animal that I see. Because of you I stop to help injured snakes off the road, trap spiders in my home and release them in the yard and put baby birds back in their nest." Andrew's mom says he's been crying all morning over Irwin's death.

Back to the president now at the White House, he is about to announce a new secretary of transportation. Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... transportation infrastructure is vital to our prosperity and competitiveness. It's critical to the everyday lives of our citizens. The secretary of transportation is responsible for maintaining a safe, reliable and efficient transportation system.

In addition, the secretary of transportation plays an important role in our nation's coordinated efforts to guard against terrorist threats to our aircraft, our seaports and our infrastructure.

It is the job that requires vision and strong leadership.

Mary Peters is the right person for this job. She brings a lifetime of experience on transportation issues from both the private and public sectors. She now serves as a senior executive for transportation policy at a major engineering firm. Before that, Mary served in my administration as the head of the Federal Highway Administration.

As administrator, Mary led efforts to improve safety and security, reduce traffic congestion, and modernize Americans' roads and bridges.

And before coming to Washington, Mary served in the Arizona Department of Transportation for more than 15 years, rising to the ranks to become the director in 1998.

Mary has a reputation for character and common sense. She's an innovative thinker. She knows how to set priorities and to solve problems. And as a member of my Cabinet, Mary will work closely with state and local leaders to ensure that America has a state-of-the-art transportation system that meets the needs of our growing economy.

When confirmed by the Senate, Mary will succeed one of our nation's finest secretaries of transportation in Norm Mineta. When I came to Washington, I asked Norm to continue his service by joining my Cabinet. And he shows that when we put politics aside, people from different political parties can work together to achieve results for the American people.

He was the secretary of transportation on September the 11th, 2001, and he led the unprecedented effort to bring tens of thousands of passengers aboard commercial aircraft to safe landings.

Since then, he's worked to strengthen the security of at America's airports and seaports. He's played a critical role in keeping America safe from terrorist attacks. Norm also worked hard to modernize the aviation market.

And after Hurricane Katrina, Norm and his team swung into action to repair and reopen major highways and seaports and airports and pipelines along America's Gulf Coast.

Norm Mineta has served America with integrity and dedication and distinction. He leaves office as the longest serving secretary of transportation in our nation's history.

I appreciate Norm's lifetime of service to our country. I wish him and Danealia and all of his family all the best.

I also want to thank Maria Cino for her outstanding leadership of the department since Norm stepped down in July.

Mary Peters knows the legacy she has to live up to at the Department of Transportation. She would take this new post during a time of historic challenges for our economy and our transportation system.

I want to thank Mary for her willingness to serve yet again. She's going to make an outstanding secretary of transportation, and I call upon the United States Senate to confirm her promptly.

Congratulations.

PHILLIPS: All right, President Bush naming the new transportation secretary now, former Federal Highway Administration head Mary Peters now replacing, officially, Norman Mineta.

Now, in a speech last hour that you may have seen live right here on CNN, the president talked about the changing face of the enemy and why the U.S. should not change course.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We're taking the words of the enemy seriously. We're on the offense. We will not rest, we will not retreat and we will not withdraw from the fight until this threat to civilization has been removed.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIPS: Yet, many war-weary Americans are wondering when the troops will come home. Increasingly Democrats are saying it should be right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I've been all through the country and people have changed their mind. They realize we can't win it militarily. It has to be done diplomatically. We have to have a change in direction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Joining me now, senior political analyst Candy Crowley. A lot of rhetoric back and forth. What's the deal, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I was sitting here thinking, you know, if you and I could collect a quarter for any time John Murtha said "change" or "new direction", we could do damage in the new Macy's.

You're sort of looking at the framework of this election when if it comes to defending the nation. You've got Democrats saying, listen, this war in Iraq has absolutely nothing to do with the war on terror. We need to focus our attention on finding bin Laden, we need to focus our attention on securing our ports and our airplanes.

And then you hear the president, as he has in this number two in his series of speeches say, listen, World War III is going on Iraq right now. We can't pull out, this is the war on terror. So that pretty much frames the election.

PHILLIPS: You know, and we've been talking so much about the polls, Candy, and specifically the polls regarding the president. How voters feel about him, are they for him, are they against him? But the poll that we haven't talked a lot about is the one with regard to Congress. What Congress has done so far this year, Americans that are satisfied, 12 percent. Americans that wish had done more, 84 percent. I mean, wow, that's a tremendous gap.

CROWLEY: It is. It is probably more bad news for the Republicans than the Democrats because, of course, there's more Republicans in Congress right now and they're in charge. So, you know, I talked to one of the pundits the other day who said, you know, Americans don't like Congress, period. They just dislike Democrats less than they dislike Republicans. So, you know, there is this general feeling that Congress has not done anything, but there is not any real feeling that Democrats are offering anything new, just that it's time for a change.

PHILLIPS: Candy, the other poll. Your feelings about how things are going in the country. Those that are content, 21 percent. Those that are angry, 76 percent. Why are Americans so angry?

CROWLEY: Top of the list, Iraq. There are pockets in the country where the economy is in the dumper, you think of Michigan with its problems in the auto industry. Ohio has had problems in various places, gas prices. That's huge in the Midwest where they have to travel long distances.

So, there's this general malaise out there, to quote Jimmy Carter in a different era, that really is making voters angry. And the fact of the matter is that the worrisome thing about that for Republicans is that angry voters trump, get out of the vote efforts every time. Angry voters go to the polls.

PHILLIPS: Candy Crowley, always great to have you, thanks.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Larger than life, his death shocks a nation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like I've lost a son. I never met the man personally, but I just feel gutted. He'll be missed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Aussies salute Steve Irwin. Straight ahead on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: It's been nine days since the fugitive polygamist Warren Jeffs was snared in a routine traffic stop but now he's in purgatory. Purgatory Jail that is, in St. George, Utah. Our Gary Tuchman is there -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, he's been in prison in Nevada for eight days, and just minutes ago, a helicopter landed right behind me, behind the prison you just named, the Purgatory Correctional Facility. That is, indeed, its ironic name.

Warren Jeffs, 50 years old, leader of the FLDS, the Fundamentalists' Latter Day Saints Church, not connected with the Mormon church, but adopting some of the original Mormon ideas that polygamy is OK. He's now inside this prison.

He landed about ten minutes ago. Took off from Las Vegas a couple hours ago, actually. He was brought out in silhouette, it was hard for us to get a look at him when he came out in Las Vegas, in Clark County Nevada to the helicopter, the police helicopter, that took him on the ride here. But now he's here. This is where he will remain his court festivities get under way. We're expecting tomorrow or the next day an initial appearance hearing here in Washington County.

Washington County, Utah is 25 miles north of Warren Jeffs' hometown of Hilldale (ph) Utah, and the twin city of Colorado City, Arizona. That is where he presided over thousands of followers, followers who are still very devoted to him.

Little bit about this prison. There are 450 to 500 inmates inside. This is a minimum to medium security facility. This is not where Warren Jeffs would stay if he was found of being an accomplice to rape. That's the charge against him in Utah. He would be transported to a maximum security prison facility in the northern part of the state. But there are some state inmates here, it's just not the maximum security state inmates.

But once again, the hearing will be held a day or two from now. This preliminary hearing, and then Warren Jeffs will start his trip through the court system in Utah, one of the top ten fugitives in the United States now in jail in the county where he lived for many years.

Kyra, back to you.

PHILLIPS: All right, Gary, we'll keep following it. Thanks.

In Australia, many compare it to the death of JFK or Princess Diana. But the sudden, shocking death of Steve Irwin is especially sudden and shocking to kids around the world. How are the youngest fans of the crocodile hunter dealing with the loss?

CNN's Rusty Dornin, live at the Georgia Aquarium, where one of the most popular features is actually the stingray petting tank. What are kids telling you, Rusty?

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, this is the tank -- there are cow-nosed rays here, young cow-nosed rays. These rays usually can grow to be between five to seven feet wide. This is the touching tank. Very popular. A lot of parents are using it as an opportunity. And we will, too.

I'm here with Will Purcevill (ph), 6-year-old Will Purcevill. And you can touch the rays on top. They're very kind of smooth on top. And their barbs are trimmed twice a year here at the aquarium to make sure no one accidentally gets stung by them or anything like that. But many families are using it as an opportunity to talk about Steve Irwin's death.

And here with the Purcevill family, Brenda (ph). You talked to your kids about it last night?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did.

DORNIN: What did you tell them?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We talked about it last night and this morning. We basically talked about the good that he has done. And my kids love his program. We've talked about, you know, what we want to remember him by, which is the way that he protected the environment, the way that he protected the animals and saved them and provided homes for them.

DORNIN: And how about -- we've got Will Purcevill, 6 years old. You used to watch the program a lot. What are you going to miss the most about Steve Irwin?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he, like, saves the animals. DORNIN: What was your favorite part about his program?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he goes out and gets them, when they, like, catch the alligators.

DORNIN: Would you like to do anything like that when you grow up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mmm hmm.

DORNIN: Do you use that as an opportunity, too, to talk about caution with animals?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do. One of the things that I appreciate about his program was that he cautions children not to try this at home. He talks about how long he's been doing it, and just gives them a general caution about not picking up dangerous animals. And we have used that as a teaching tool for -- many, many times as we watched the programs.

DORNIN: Great. First of all, family here on vacation at the Georgia Aquarium. And as I said, a lot of people using it as a teaching tool. There were some parents I did talk to who hadn't really broached it. Their children didn't know that Steve Irwin had died, but they hadn't really taken the opportunity to talk about it yet. And a couple of them that I talked to took that opportunity here at the touching tank to bring it up -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And Rusty, there at the tank, have you actually pet the stingrays? And isn't it right -- I think what Ray Davis was saying, that they kind of -- what is it, scale down the barbs, right, so they're not so sharp? They were kind of telling the safety precautions that they take.

DORNIN: They do. They trim them -- they trim the barbs on the back. You know, they're not on the end of the tail, as a lot of people think. You know, they're right towards the bottom of the body. And they actually trim them twice a year to make sure that no one gets hurt by them. And, of course, these animals are not considered aggressive, they're not considered on the -- being on the offense. Their barb reaction is a defensive one. But they do make sure that they're trimmed very close so that no one here does get hurt.

PHILLIPS: What do they feel like, Rusty?

DORNIN: Very soft. What do they feel like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They kind of feel like plain sand, kind of. They feel very soft.

DORNIN: Well, the interesting thing is that one way when you touch them, they're very soft. And if you push your hand the other way up their body, it's very rough. So it depends on which way you go as they go by as to how they feel.

PHILLIPS: I still got to get over there and visit that aquarium. Rusty Dornin, thanks so much.

Straight ahead, a presidency in limbo. But the end seems to be in sight. A final court ruling in Mexico's hotly contested election. That's straight ahead from the "CNN NEWSROOM."

Plus, entertainment news with A.J. Hammer of "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT." A.J., what's on tap?

A.J. HAMMER, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT": Well, Kyra, a brand-new day for Rosie O'Donnell and Katie Couric. I'll have that and more when "CNN NEWSROOM" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Well, a T.V. tribute to the late crocodile hunter, some big names are making news debuts, and Oprah is digging into her purse for a good cause.

Reporting on all the entertainment headlines, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT's" A.J. Hammer in New York. Hey, A.J.

HAMMER: Hey there, Kyra.

Well, the man known as the crocodile hunter is being mourned by many, including the network who helped make him famous. Discovery Communications' Animal Planet Channel is all set to air a tribute to Steve Irwin tonight at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. The channel plans to continue airing Irwin's programming, including his current show and a bunch of other projects that he had in post-production. Discovery will also rename the space in front of its Silver Spring, Maryland, headquarters the Steve Irwin Memorial Sensory Garden.

His show really helped popularize Discovery's Animal Planet after it made its launch back in 1996, and he's made more than 200 appearances on Discovery network shows. Steve Irwin died yesterday after being stabbed in the chest by a stingray's barb while shooting a show on the Great Barrier Reef. He was 44.

"My name is Meredith Vieira and welcome to 'The View.'" Well, that's the way new co-host Rosie O'Donnell opened up that show today. It was O'Donnell's debut as she fills the moderator's spot left open by Vieira, who went to NBC's "Today Show." O'Donnell was greeted by a rousing standing ovation, as you can see from the studio audience. And she told me she really had a good time with her first day on the new job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSIE O'DONNELL, "THE VIEW": Yes, it's really fun. And what I love about it is, it's so much easier than doing your own show.

HAMMER: Yes. Because you don't have to..

O'DONNELL: And you have people to help you and, like, you can relax and just listen and it's fun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: And today is also a first for Katie Couric. She begins her stint on the "CBS Evening News" tonight. Couric will be the first woman to solo anchor a network evening newscast. And CBS built a brand-new set just for Couric, and they enlisted the man who did the music for the movie "Titanic," among others, to compose the new theme music for the "Evening News."

And who says you can never go home again? Well, yesterday, Oprah Winfrey did just that. Talk show mogul visited her birthplace, Kosciusko, Mississippi, where Winfrey dedicated a $5 million state of the art Boys and Girls Club facility, which she helped sponsor. Now, this thing houses a gymnasium, a computer lab and a garden, and it's going to be used for after-school activities for boys and girls ages five through 18. The facility will actually open up to the public in just a few weeks.

And, Kyra, backing up to the Rosie O'Donnell story -- I don't know if you saw when they took that wide shot of the set -- the flowers that were in front of "The View" desk today?

PHILLIPS: From you? Were those from you?

HAMMER: No, they were actually from a big-time celebrity who has a recent daughter. Let's see if we can see those flowers.

PHILLIPS: OK.

HAMMER: Well, I don't know if they're going to make it into the shot. They might not be in that particular shot.

PHILLIPS: There they are!

HAMMER: The flowers...

PHILLIPS: No, there they are.

HAMMER: There they are. Those are from Tom and Katie, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, as a little welcome to your new job.

PHILLIPS: Yes, what happened to that? She used to have the big love fest between the two, right?

HAMMER: She did. You know, she's always had an infatuation with Tom Cruise, and, of course, that preceded all of the sort of the weirdness of Tom Cruise of the last year. But she actually spoke with Tom last week, and apparently Tom and Katie wished her well on her new endeavor on "The View." So it was nice to hear that those guys are actually in touch.

PHILLIPS: A.J. Hammer, thanks so much.

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