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CNN LIVE AT DAYBREAK

Remembering Columbine Tragedy; Violence in Schools; Today's Talker: Saudis, Gas, War

Aired April 20, 2004 - 06:30   ET

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


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: There will be no classes today at Columbine High School. Instead, people will gather for memorials and vigils. It is the fifth anniversary of the nation's worst school shooting.
CNN's Adrian Baschuk has more from Littleton, Colorado.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ADRIAN BASCHUK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as police, which at one point, police transcripts, detail thought there were as many as 12 shooters inside. The live pictures of a school under siege gripped the nation.

(voice-over): Finally, at day's end, we learned Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were the sole shooters.

A five-year investigation of the shootings made public in February revealed two teens with access to an arsenal of weapons and, as police reports describe, a volatile history of being bullied and violent behavior, including death threats Eric Harris made to one-time friend, Brooks Brown.

BROOKS BROWN, CLASSMATE: We all knew someone who died, and it was just a horrific day.

BASCHUK: Today, this is Columbine, a new $3.5 million library, refurbished lockers and a renovated cafeteria stand, where students once hid under lunch tables and ran for their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it would have been very difficult for students and staff members to return to a place where so much carnage was. I think our resolve has just been outstanding.

BASCHUK: So outstanding that despite the killings, they are still proud to say we are Columbine.

Adrian Baschuk, CNN, Littleton, Colorado.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: So, what have we learned since then? Are schools any safer today?

Here to talk about it is Curtis Lavarello of the National Association of School Resource Officers. Welcome, Curtis.

CURTIS LAVARELLO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS: Thank you.

COSTELLO: What happened to security after Columbine happened?

LAVARELLO: Well, immediately following this tragic event, we really did a great job of swinging into high gear and making sure we took our school crisis plans off the shelf. We dusted them off. We actually began testing our school crisis plans in the nation. We started funding school resource officers in our schools around the country. We really did a lot of things that were designed to enhance school safety.

COSTELLO: And it all sounds great, but how much of it sticks with us today?

LAVARELLO: Well, unfortunately, it's been a roller coaster ride in some respects. We've seen it peak about two years, and then about three years ago we actually started seeing a decline. We've put the crisis plans on the shelves. We've started decreasing our funding toward safe schools, decreasing our funding for the amount of officers that are provided in schools around the country.

And here we have an assault weapon ban that we're about to repeal, and we seem to have -- part of it is because I think we're such a resilient nation, but we also have become very complacent in a lot of these tragedies.

COSTELLO: Well, in fairness, couldn't you say another Columbine has not happened, although there have been school shootings? So, was this just an awful thing that happened?

LAVARELLO: Without a doubt this is a very, very horrific day. However, what a lot of people don't know is that we've actually lost more students in schools this past year alone, but they haven't had the mass casualty like a Columbine or a Paducah that we've seen yet. We've had more kids die in school-related violence incidents this year than the last 10 years.

COSTELLO: Well, let's talk about some specifics as it applies to school preparedness now. You brought some statistics to show our viewers. What are they?

LAVARELLO: Well, I think we have a serious gap in the amount of folks that are actually trained and prepared to handle a school crisis. A lot of our school crisis plans are simply not tested or inadequate, and that comes directly from the front lines of those providing the safety for our children and our schools, that being the officers who actually work on the campus day in and day out.

COSTELLO: Well, you know, all of this takes so much money, and schools don't have all that money. If they have a choice between a tutor and another school security person, I believe they would take the tutor. LAVARELLO: Well, there is. There's a big emphasis right now on standardized testing. But this has got to be -- this has got to be a bleep on the radar screen of overall homeland security. If we can fund airline security and we can make sure that our bridges and tunnels are safe around the country, we've got to make sure that our most precious commodity in this country is safe, and that being our children.

COSTELLO: Curtis Lavarello, thank you for joining us live from Tampa, Florida, this morning.

The rising death toll of U.S. troops in Iraq and the new books about President Bush's handling of Iraq, are they affecting potential voters in the upcoming election? That is a question for Gallup Poll editor-in-chief Frank Newport. Let's head live to Princeton, New Jersey, now to ask him about the latest numbers.

Good morning, Frank.

FRANK NEWPORT, GALLUP POLL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Good morning, Carol.

You know, presidential job approval is what we call a labile (ph). That's a medical term. It goes up and down a lot -- measurement. It goes up. It goes down. So, a lot of us expected that we might see some significant changes, as you mentioned, given all of the tumultuous events that we've seen over recent weeks.

What have we found in our CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup Poll? Basically no change at all. Bush's job approval rating actually for months now has been in and around that 50, 51, 52 percent mark. It goes up a little and down a little, but nothing significant. This weekend, 52 percent. Notice in early April, 52 percent. So, we've seen basically no change at all in Bush's job approval rating.

And for an incumbent, Carol, as I've told you before, if you're above 50 percent in an election year, that's a lot better than being below 50 percent. And that's where Bush is at this point -- 52 percent.

COSTELLO: You know, Frank, the publication of Bob Woodward's new book on the run-up to the war in Iraq has given the Democrats and John Kerry a renewed opportunity to attack Bush. Are there any signs that Kerry has gained on the president?

NEWPORT: No. If anything, it is the opposite. The Kerry campaign says, wait a minute. Is this right? Yes, indeed it is. Let's show you. Handling of Iraq -- Bush job approval of handling Iraq is down about 3 points, which is not a significant number at all. That's been roughly the same.

And then when we asked the ballot, who would you vote for if the election were today, John Kerry or George W. Bush? Bush has actually moved ahead slightly. He's now got a 5-point lead among likely voters -- 51 percent for Bush, 46 percent for Kerry. If you look at the last month or so, basically they've been close, but if anything Bush is slightly more ahead. So, at this point, it may be a rally effect of sorts, Carol, as we say in polling. With the fighting overseas, Americans are coming a little more behind their president, at least in the short term.

Carol -- back to you.

COSTELLO: Interesting. Frank Newport live from Princeton, New Jersey, this morning.

The people in the conversations that took place before the war in Iraq are getting a lot of attention because of Bob Woodward's new book. We'll take a look from both sides of the political fence coming up.

And, on the auction block, words of John Lennon shortly before his death 23 years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": What I say in the book is, according to Bandar, the Saudis hoped to control oil prices in the 10 months running up to the election, because if they skyrocketed, it would hurt the American economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: And with that, it's time to pump up the volume with our talker of the morning. Every day or two, we like to tune the dial to see what's being said over the airwaves. This morning, the dial has landed on syndicated Libertarian talk master, Neil Boortz, and liberal talk show host, Mike Malloy. Both join us live.

Welcome, gentlemen.

MIKE MALLOY, LIBERAL TALK RADIO HOST: Hey, Carol.

NEAL BOORTZ, CONSERVATIVE TALK RADIO HOST: How are you doing?

COSTELLO: First up, gas prices and the Saudis, the charge the White House had a conversation with the Saudis. Prince Bandar, supposedly he offered to lower oil prices shortly before the election. Neal, could it be true?

BOORTZ: Oh, absolutely. Well, I mean, it's true that they had conversations with the Saudis. Jimmy Carter did. Ronald Reagan did. They all do. It's quite common to lower prices before the election.

Look, we haven't built a new refinery in this country since 1976. We have half the refining capacity now that we had 30 years ago. We're at a high demand period. It's summer travel. The prices go up, though they are not at record levels.

COSTELLO: Yes, but, Mike, and you can combat Neal with this, the timetable is interesting. Ten months before the election. MALLOY: Well, you know, this reminds me of Inspector Louis Renault (ph) from the movie, "Casablanca," when he was asked about gambling in Rick's Place. He said, "Gambling, gambling? I had no idea this is true."

When Prince Bandar called Larry King last night in order to spin what Bob Woodward and Larry King were talking about, I think it underscored exactly what happened.

Now, Neal says this is to be expected. Of course, around an election, they're going to lower gas prices. The question should be why?

As far as refining capacity in this country, Neal should know that the reason refining capacity is down is because exploration and discovery of gas in the United States is practically zero.

COSTELLO: Well, let's go back to the issue at hand. The Bushes and the Saudi royal family have been friends for a long time. So, Neal, is this so surprising that they would talk about this as it applies to the upcoming election?

BOORTZ: No. It's not surprising. I think we would probably be a lot better off, of course -- or maybe Mike thinks so -- with the president and the Saudi royal family that are bitter enemies of one another.

But let me tell you about Mike said the timing is right here. Well, he's right. It is. November the 2nd, the election. Just prior to November the 2nd, what happens? Kids are back in school. People stop driving so much. The demand for gas goes down. What happens when the demand goes down? The price falls. It happens every year.

Now, this year, however, the left is going to say, it's because George Bush had secret conversations with Prince Bandar in Saudi Arabia.

And Mike's right about the exploration. I agree with you, Mike. And I know you'll join me right now. Let's get to Anwar. Let's sink some holes. Let's start pulling some of that crude out of that ugly little patch of land up there and start building our own reserves down here.

MALLOY: Neal, Neal, you absolutely crack me up. You haven't changed in 25 years. I swear to God, you haven't.

BOORTZ: Well, I've lost a little hair.

MALLOY: You know, Willie Sutton, the bank robber -- you know Willie Sutton. When he was asked after he was busted for about the fourth or fifth time, they said to him, "Willie, why do you keep robbing banks?" And he said, "Because that's where the money is."

Why do the Bush family and the Saud family continue to do business together? Because Saudi Arabia is where the oil is. Now, there's another family that the Bush family is involved with or has been involved with for decades that's Saudi Arabian, and that is the bin Laden family. So, when you have a combination of the bin Ladens, the Bushes and the Saud family, you have a pretty potent force.

The new book that's out, another new book, about the Bush family and the bin Laden -- or the Saudi royal family, I would recommend that people read that one, too, along with Bob Woodward's.

BOORTZ: But, now, wait, wait...

COSTELLO: Before we go along in that vein, I want to apply it to the upcoming election as far as Bush versus Kerry. According to Gallup, 44 percent of voters feel the economy is the issue.

MALLOY: Right.

COSTELLO: Kerry has seized this oil price-fixing plan, saying if it's true, he prays that Americans are not being held hostage to a secret deal. Can he turn this into an issue with legs?

BOORTZ: No.

COSTELLO: Why?

BOORTZ: No. Well, he cannot, because the -- everybody is complaining about the prices, but it doesn't seem to be slowing down people on their vacation trips and their travel.

And, Carol, I want to insert this about this nifty little way that Mike snuck the bin Laden family in there. Please note, everybody, that when he talks about the bin Laden family, he's talking about a construction family in Saudi Arabia, whose only connection with terrorism is the fact that they happen to have one renegade son that has escaped to the caves of Pakistan somewhere.

So, anybody that does business in Saudi Arabia is probably going, at some point or another or in the past, to have done business with the bin Laden family, because they built half of the country.

MALLOY: Well, actually, Neal, the point I was trying to make with the bin Laden family -- and I do admit, I slipped the name in there on you -- but the fact is of the 19 bombers that came to this country on September 11, 15 of them were Saudis. The bin Laden family, the Saudi royal family, has been supporting these madrasas, the religious schools that turn out these Islamic militants by the scores for years now.

So, to not include the name bin Laden when we're talking about Bush and the Saud family would be disingenuous, I think, on our part. Now, as far as...

BOORTZ: Well, with that endorsement of an invasion of Saudi Arabia, I would like to say it's been a great morning.

COSTELLO: All right.

MALLOY: The invasion of Saudi Arabia?

COSTELLO: And with that, we're going to have to end this part of our debate. But I want you two to stick around for this next story, because I want to get your viewpoint.

MALLOY: Sure.

BOORTZ: OK.

MALLOY: Will do.

COSTELLO: Here's the question for you: Is political preference nothing more than an impulse? Researchers are using MRIs to map brain patterns in an effort to see if there is any difference between Democrats and Republicans. It's possible the result of the study could influence the images candidates use in their campaign ads. Researchers, of course, say it's too early to tell if the results actually mean something.

But do you think your brains work differently?

MALLOY: Oh, absolutely. There's no question. I've known Neal for 20 years, and I can tell you right now that his brain and my brain work entirely different. Mine is analytical. Mine looks for the truth. Neal's follows the right-wing/Libertarian line. Always has; always will. I still love you, Neal. It's OK.

BOORTZ: Well, listen, it's been a pleasure to be associated with the prince of darkness for so many years like this.

COSTELLO: Oh, no! Neal Boortz, Mike Malloy, many thanks for joining DAYBREAK this morning.

MALLOY: Thank you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Your news, money, weather and sports. It is 6:46 Eastern Time. Here's what's all new this morning.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear appeals today on the legal status of detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds hearings on Iraq today. Senators will hear testimony on the handover set for June 30.

In money news, Tennessee is the 27th state to join the Powerball lottery. Hundreds of people lined up to get their tickets for tomorrow's drawing for an estimated jackpot of 90 million bucks.

In sports, the old Yankee stadium seats are going from the ballpark to the living room. The nearly 30-year-old seats were sold at auction for 1,500 bucks apiece for a set of three.

In culture, an anniversary of illusion. Magicians Penn and Teller are celebrating 30 years together. They're still going strong with TV specials, books and, of course, their Vegas act.

(WEATHER BREAK)

COSTELLO: Those are the latest headlines. Thank you, Chad.

What goes up must come down, right? Well, don't count on it when it comes to gas prices. But we're not the only ones who face pumper shock? We'll check in with our business desk about that.

And, what's fueling this high-flying daredevil? His name is Rocketman. We'll take you on his journey next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Remember that song? Of course, you do.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes.

COSTELLO: Did you like it?

MYERS: Maybe at the time.

COSTELLO: This has been voted the worst song ever by "Blender" magazine. VH1 is going to do a special, along with "Blender" magazine, of the 50 worst songs ever.

MYERS: Yes.

COSTELLO: This tops the list.

MYERS: Do you have a vote?

COSTELLO: I think "Don't Worry, Be Happy" would be top on my list.

MYERS: Oh, Bobby McFerrin. Mine was "My Sharona."

COSTELLO: "My Sharona."

MYERS: "My Sharona."

COSTELLO: Some of the other bad ones here...

MYERS: Or something by Cheech and Chong, of course.

COSTELLO: Anything by Cheech and Chong. But I don't think they meant of their songs to be good.

The difficult part of this is not only does it have to be a bad song, but it has to be a chart topper as well.

MYERS: Yes, right.

COSTELLO: So, that's pretty interesting.

MYERS: So, it couldn't be just some bad song that never made it. COSTELLO: No.

MYERS: It's got to be a bad song that actually got to No. 1.

COSTELLO: The weird thing about this song, it was done by Jefferson Airplane, and they said this was the group's final demise, this song.

MYERS: Yes.

COSTELLO: It ruined it forever.

MYERS: Right. It turned into Jefferson Starship.

COSTELLO: Destroyed its legacy, whatever, yes.

Other songs are "The End," the Doors' "The End." This is the end. My only friend, the end. Remember those lyrics? And "Barbie Girl" by Aqua.

MYERS: Yes, and "Oobla di, Oobla da." Remember that one?

COSTELLO: Who could forget?

MYERS: A little (UNINTELLIGIBLE) things going on there.

COSTELLO: Yes.

MYERS: Hey, time to give away the mug now this morning. You really needed to be paying attention today, because these are tough. I said we need to make them tougher, but maybe we went over the board here.

Which American airport could become the first to allow non- ticketed passengers pass security checkpoints once again so you can go...

COSTELLO: Yes, you can kiss your loved ones at the gates again at what airport?

MYERS: We'll see.

And what percentage of school resource officers say the schools are not adequately prepared for events like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Columbine? What percentage?

COSTELLO: That is difficult.

MYERS: That is hard. We said it one time and only one time in that package.

COSTELLO: Yes. So, if you Google it, you may not get the answer this time.

MYERS: Oh, good answer.

COSTELLO: And read our transcripts. I know what you guys do.

Time for a little business buzz right now. For four weeks in a row, you have been paying more at the pump.

Carrie Lee has why live from the Nasdaq Marketsite.

Why, Carrie...

CARRIE LEE, CNN FINANCIAL NEWS: Why?

COSTELLO: ... the all-knowing business reporter?

LEE: Strong demand, tight supplies, Carol. Basic economics here are pushing prices higher. We've been talking about this for four weeks, because prices have been going up for four weeks. The national price for a gas is hitting a record high now: $1.81 a gallon. That's up 2.7 cents from last week, up 29 cents from a year ago -- this, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Interesting, because the record price comes as a new book by "Washington Post" reporter Bob Woodward claims that Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, has promised President George W. Bush that the Saudis would actually cut oil prices before November. Basically, trying to fine-tune prices, prime the economy just in time for the election. A little interesting aside there -- Carol, Chad.

COSTELLO: Carrie Lee live from the Nasdaq Marketsite.

Chad will join me for "The Lightning Round" coming up, but first the latest news headlines for you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: It is time for our cheesy segment we like to call "The Lightning Round." So, let's get going and let's introduce our viewers once again to Rocketman.

MYERS: Where is Elton John when you need him?

COSTELLO: Look at this guy. This is in the U.K. It happened a little more than two hours ago. We were riveted in the newsroom. The professional stuntman certainly lived up to his name. He flew to the top -- every time I see that it cracks me up. Thirteen stories up into the Castle Tower. We just hope there was a platform up there, because you'll see he suddenly disappears.

MYERS: He's still going. He's a weather balloon now.

COSTELLO: That actually breaks the world record for the highest human flight with a rocket pack. Of course, none of it's official yet.

MYERS: He did land, too.

COSTELLO: Oh, thank goodness. MYERS: Yes.

COSTELLO: He's safe and sound somewhere in that turret.

It may be the last thing John Lennon ever wrote. A half-hour before he was shot, the former Beatle and his wife, Yoko Ono, signed this sketch for an employee at a recording studio. Well, now the employee is auctioning the sketch, worth $325,000. Don't say, oh, my goodness yet. He's doing it to raise money for a horse rescue center in Virginia.

MYERS: Oh, OK.

COSTELLO: It's the year of the monkey, Chad. So, it does seem fitting that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) just welcomed these twin golden monkeys. Look at them.

MYERS: Yes, they're cute.

COSTELLO: It looks kind of like you as a baby.

MYERS: Thanks. And my mom appreciates that.

COSTELLO: They weigh just over a pound each.

And quickly now -- oh, we don't have time. We'll have to show you that story tomorrow about the most beautiful bulldog in the world, because "AMERICAN MORNING" stars right now.

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