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Kerry Prepares For DNC; Flooding In Texas; Recap And Preview Of DNC Speeches

Aired July 29, 2004 - 13:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Preparing for the speech of a lifetime: John Kerry just hours before his big moment in the national spotlight. We're live from Boston.
Dallas deluge: Flash floods force rescues and damages hundreds of homes in Texas, and its not over yet.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Gary Tuchman in Eagle County, Colorado. For the third time, information that was supposed to be kept confidential in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case has ended up on the computer and the alleged victim's attorney is so angry he's speaking out about it.

PHILLIPS: Will cholesterol-lowering drugs be going over the counter? Expected new guidelines could mean more of us will be taking them.

From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Kyra Phillips. Miles O'Brien is off today.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield -- CNN's LIVE FROM starts right now.

PHILLIPS: We begin this hour with the moment John Kerry has waited for, worked for, dreamed about maybe all of his life.

It's nine hours away, give or take, and it may well set the course for the rest of Kerry's life, not to mention U.S. history.

It's the Democratic nomination acceptance speech. It'll either be a peak, plateau, or stepping-stone in Kerry's quest for the presidency.

CNN's Bob Franken has more from FleetCenter.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right -- he as you saw just a moment ago has made the ritual walk to the podium to do what is billed as an audio check, a check of the house, but it is really a photo op.

John Kerry clowned around a little bit and, as I said, checked out the podium where he's going to be going tonight to make what everybody says and, if you are among them, the speech of his life.

He is expected to speak around an hour. The whole mission for this speech is to present himself as a person to those outside the FleetCenter. I mean, those inside are, of course, among the converted.

He is going to speak to the American people, talk to them about his qualifications as an individual because of his background, because of his record, and because of the beliefs that he has in personal living that he is the person who would be the better president.

And to reinforce that, there's going to be a nine-and-a-half minute film that's going to be shown. No amateur film: The production of it was supervised by Steven Spielberg.

It's going to be one that relies heavily on home movies, even some of those he took and had taken when he was in Vietnam, giving the rise to a little bit of a controversy over whether he did that so he could bring it back and use it as a springboard for public office, something that Kerry and his staff adamantly denies.

You're hearing more audio checks here in the room, they're getting ready for the big, big finish tonight which of course is the acceptance by John Kerry and John Edwards of the nomination and what they hope is a real good catapult out there into the battles of the campaign -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Bob. John Edwards went through 30 drafts before he got his speech just perfect. This is according to aides. What do you think? John Kerry -- you think he got it on the first try?

FRANKEN: No, don't even think that for a second. As a matter of fact, after the photo op boat ride yesterday, he hid from the cameras for a while inside his house here in Beacon Hill so he could work on ever how many drafts of the speech that he is going to give.

This is obviously one that has to set exactly the right tone. So it's not something he's taking lightly.

Every word is being considered, and we'll watch tonight not only what the words say but what his demeanor is. He has a reputation for being somewhat aloof. But that of course cannot show, so the speech, the delivery, everything tonight is going to really matter.

PHILLIPS: Bob Franken, live on the floor there at the FleetCenter, thanks so much -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Well, Kyra, for the soldier turned protester turned prosecutor turned senator turned presidential wannabe, the pressure is on.

And it only gets harder once the Democratic love fest is over. CNN's Frank Buckley is with the Kerry cavalcade -- Frank.


In fact, as soon as John Edwards and John Kerry become the official nominees of their party, they will embark on a tour across the country. They're calling it the "Believe In America" tour. They hope to build on any momentum coming out of the convention, on any bounce, and also to take advantage of any free media. That is, reporters covering them during the month of August at a time when they will be advertising less about their campaign in -- in purchased television time and at a time when so much will be occupying the American public, the Olympics, the Republican convention at the end of the month, people being on vacation.

This coast-to-coast tour will cross 3500 miles; they will take bus, train, boat and plane across 21 states. The first three states coming this weekend.

Starting on Friday, in fact, they'll be heading to Pennsylvania, then West Virginia and Ohio. And again this will be coast-to-coast tour starting on Friday -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And Frank, while it sounds pretty predictable, we know that anything can happen. You were traveling with the Kerry camp last week. Something interesting did take place. Explain.

BUCKLEY: Yes, we were on this -- on the trip and as you know, Sunday Senator Kerry famously diverted his campaign plane to Boston to attend a baseball game here.

We were supposed to be going to Florida and, in fact, some of us were told before we left Ohio that, hey, we know that some of you have to be in Florida, and so we're going to put you on this smaller jet, this gulf stream, and send you guys ahead to Florida -- the others will go on the big plane to Boston.

We're in route to Florida, we thought -- and I actually pushed this button on the plane that shows you the in flight map and we noticed that we were over Cleveland somewhere, and it looked like we were headed toward Boston, so -- we talked to the staffer on the plane and the staffer said, well, I don't think that's right, but let me check.

The staffer checked with the charter folks and they said, yes, we're going to Boston. And then began this whole process of trying to divert us back to Florida. At the end of the day, we ended up in Boston. We didn't get to watch the game, but it really gives you a sense of how logistics really play a big role in this kind of a cross- country trip.

WHITFIELD: Got to be flexible, bottom line. Frank Buckley, thanks very much from Boston -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And coming up in about 10 minutes here on LIVE FROM we're going to talk with two political analysts about the great expectations John Kerry is facing tonight.

Now here's tonight's line up. Ahead of John Kerry, look for: former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; former NATO Supreme Commander and -- briefly -- presidential contender Wes Clark; U.S. Senator and former vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman. CNN's special prime-time coverage starts 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 Pacific. And don't forget to tune in to CNN Radio's John Lisk and me on CNN Radio for one more night of play by play on the DNC. We're on from 8:00 until 11 p.m. Eastern, and if you don't want to leave your computer, hey, you can still catch every word via streaming audio on

WHITFIELD: Well, the conventional wisdom in Lancaster, Texas is enough already. This southern suburb of Dallas picked up 13 inches of rain in ten hours and Texas-sized floods are the result.

We get the latest now from reporter Gary Reaves of CNN affiliate WFAA.

GARY REAVES, REPORTER, CNN AFFILIATE WFAA: Yes, we are live here in the town of Lancaster, just south of Dallas, where we're not exactly sure -- probably hundreds of homes damaged with the high flood waters. They're talking about 12 inches of rain falling in just a few hours.

These houses sit on what's called Ten-Mile Creek. And if you look over at this one, you see the high-water mark here on the glass and on the bricks. That gives you an idea of just how much of Ten- Mile Creek flowed into these houses.

At least 20 on this street suffering significant storm damage.


REAVES (voice-over): The flooding on the Chenalenn (ph) started around 1:00 a.m. By daybreak the yards that back onto Ten-Mile Creek were filled with its overflow.

Earlier the floodwaters were deep enough to damage homes even across the street.

DENISE PRETTMAN, RESIDENT: My carpet in my bedroom was squishy; there was water in my bathroom and in my kitchen.

REAVES: But you didn't get the worst of it?


REAVES: No, the worst hit the pretty homes that back onto to Ten-Mile Creek. Vicki Couch's was devastated.

VICKI COUCH, RESIDENT: We woke up about 12:30 with about a foot of water in the house

REAVES: Around the bed?

COUCH: Yes. So we didn't have any warning.

REAVES: They rushed outside to try to save their three cars. For two of them, they were too late.

COUCH: My car was -- well, it was this deep in water. You can see from the water line that it was over the top of the car.

REAVES: Back inside, the furniture all got soaked, and so did the big screen TV.

COUCH: See the line where the TV -- we haven't even tried to turn it on yet.

REAVES: Yes. But you've got power?

COUCH: Yes; it stayed on the whole time.

REAVES: Well, (INAUDIBLE) husband work.

COUCH: He works for THU.

REAVES: Amazingly, she retains her sense of humor in spite of the sizable loss. Each room seems worse than the next. The pool table looks more like a swimming pool.

And in the kitchen, evidence of the power of the water that surged through.

COUCH: I never would have imagined my icebox is laying over and I've got water in my -- in my stove.


REAVES: Now back live here in Lancaster, Texas -- we've been speculating on how this red Mercedes -- looks like it's in pretty good shape -- ended up lodged against this telephone pole.

We thought it came out of that driveway behind us here, but no, we just found out it actually came from that driveway. It floated over from where you see that white Suburban parked.

So they've got a lot of damage here, a lot of evidence of the power of a storm, and a lot of cleanup yet to go.

Reporting live for CNN, I'm Gary Reaves in Lancaster, Texas.

WHITFIELD: A lot to clean up, that's the understatement.

All right, Gary Reaves, thanks very much -- of our affiliate WFAA.


PHILLIPS: Straight ahead decision day in the Scott Peterson trial. The judge considering a request to dismiss charges.

A live report from the courthouse later on LIVE FROM.

And dangerous discovery: baby food jars contaminated with the poison Ricin. The latest on that investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REV. AL SHARPTON (D), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We didn't get the mule, so we decided we'd ride this donkey as far as it would take us.


PHILLIPS: Sharpton's sharp words electrify the crowd. Ahead, will the convention kick the Democrats give the edge in a tight race? We'll talk about it.

ANNOUNCER: You're watching LIVE FROM on CNN, the most trusted name in news.


WHITFIELD: You're looking at a live picture right there of the FleetCenter. On stage right there, former Georgia Senator Max Cleland trying to get a sense and a feel for the stage there, just as we saw John Kerry doing a little bit earlier, too, before he takes to the stage this evening before the delegation.

Well, John Kerry and the folks at the FleetCenter are getting ready for tonight's convention, and it's the finale.

It's Senator Kerry's watershed moment in fact where he officially begins trying to convince Americans, particularly the undecided, why he should be president.

Already we've heard from a legion of folks during the convention explaining what needs to be done and how Kerry can do it.

Let's go to Boston right now to talk about what we've heard and what we're about to hear. Peter Beinart, editor of "The New Republic" is with us along with John Fund, editorial page writer for "The Wall Street Journal."

Good to see both of you gentlemen.


WHITFIELD: Well, if this convention is about humanizing the Johns, John Kerry and John Edwards, is this taking place? Peter?

PETER BEINART, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": I think it is to some degree. I don't think John Edwards needed as much humanizing, frankly. I mean, he has a very good rapport with audiences, a story about how he started out in a mill town that connects.

John Kerry is the -- really the guy who needs to do it. It hasn't happened yet, but that's all really being set for tonight. The biographical film about him, the introduction by Max Cleland, the speaker of one of his boatmates in Vietnam. That's one of the two big things they have to do tonight, along with articulating a compelling national security message.

WHITFIELD: And John, if the film is going to help humanize him, like we haven't seen before, need John Kerry spend a big of time, a significant amount of time, talking about the issues, which a number of people have criticized they haven't heard enough about?

FUND: I think he should let the film speak for his Vietnam service, because real war heroes don't talk a lot about what they did.

I think John Kerry is going to give a very good speech tonight. The only problem is there might be a little too much of it. The early reports are that it's 55 minutes. That's approaching Castro-like length. I would not want to compare the Nielsen ratings at the beginning of that with the end of that if it's going to be that long.

WHITFIELD: All right, well we -- before we talk a little bit more about what we might hear from Kerry, let's talk about the things that have already been said. We saw John Edwards last night.

We got a chance to see him in a very candid, comfortable way on stage. He's paying respects to his parents first. And then he spent a little bit of time talking about what kind of promises are being made and how Kerry is the man to do it.

Let's listen.


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With our credibility restored, we can work with other nations to secure stockpiles of the world's most dangerous weapons and safeguard this extraordinarily dangerous material; we can finish the job and secure the loose nukes in Russia, we can close the loophole in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty that allows rogue nations access to the tools they need to develop these weapons.

That's how we can address the new threats we face. That's how we can keep you safe. And that's how we can restore America's respect around the world.


WHITFIELD: Peter, was he convincing?

BEINART: I think he deserves some credit for giving a speech that, by comparison to most convention speeches, had a lot of specifics in it.

He's better on domestic policy than he is on foreign policy because on domestic policy it connects more seamlessly to his very powerful life story and I think he has a greater command of the issues on domestic policy.

I think it was a very good speech, not a great speech, but you have to recognize that many of the people in this hall, the delegates and the journalists, have heard a lot of that speech before because it was similar to his stump speeches. For many Americans and people outside how may not have heard it for the first time they probably found it pretty compelling. WHITFIELD: John, some people are associating Rev. Al Sharpton's speech with being a great speech. Let's take a listen to what -- some of what -- he had to say last night.


SHARPTON: The promise of America guarantees health care for all of its citizens and doesn't force seniors to travel to Canada to buy prescription drugs they can't afford here at home.

The promise of America provides that those who work in our healthcare system can afford to be hospitalized in the very beds they clean up every day.

The promise of America is that government does not seek to regulate your behavior in the bedroom, but to guarantee your right to provide food in the kitchen.


WHITFIELD: John, how has a transformed Reverend Al Sharpton helped John Kerry?

FUND: Oh, I'm not sure if he does. If you look at how many votes he got in the primary, he really doesn't speak as a true representative of black voters.

Look, he's a very good demagogue. That was an outstanding speech. But it was a demagogic speech and I think it is a little bit sad for the Democratic Party to give him quite as visible a platform as he wanted.

He obviously would have created a lot of trouble if he hadn't gotten that platform. It's still a shame that he's there.

WHITFIELD: So then it -- that he had that platform -- we saw Dennis Kucinich, we saw Howard Dean -- all taking the platform. Is it expected that if John Kerry does end up in the White House that all of these people who were once his challengers just might find themselves with executive branch positions? Peter?

FUND: Well, notice Wesley Clark was certainly not given much of a position on this platform here. I think he was pretty much sidelined. So I think that most of these people are just being given this as a reward for basically soldiering on and supporting the ticket. I don't think it means anything about who would serve in a Kerry administration. In some cases, I hope not.

WHITFIELD: All right, and Peter you get the last word. Is this a speech tonight from John Kerry that really needs to appeal to the undecided voters?

BEINART: Absolutely. Voters who are undecided, who have very negative feelings about the president and where the country is going.

They have in a sense already made a decision; they are unlikely most pollsters say to support the president. John Kerry has an opportunity with these people, many of whom don't know much about him because they are the people who pay the least attention to politics.

He needs to come off as a man of conviction and a man who has an idea about how to keep the country safe beyond just the fact that he served in Vietnam. Those are the two chief hurdles.

WHITFIELD: Peter Beinart of "The New Republic" and John Fund of "The Wall Street Journal," thanks very much, gentlemen, for joining us. Thanks very much for joining us. Appreciate it from Boston.

And you can watch John Kerry's speech and all of tonight's convention activities right here on CNN. Our prime-time coverage begins at 7:00 Eastern with Anderson Cooper, followed by Wolf Blitzer and Larry King.

And we'll hear from Kerry at 10:00 p.m. then wrap up the events with Aaron Brown and Larry King -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, should Arab forces take over in Iraq? Coming up, Iraq's prime minister calls on help from a different source while meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Yet another leak in the Kobe Bryant case. How does sealed information get put on a Web site?

And leaping leopards -- a neighborhood on the alert for a big cat on the loose. We're hot on the trail later on LIVE FROM.


PHILLIPS: News around the world now stopping the insurgents. Iraq's interim prime minister meets with Secretary of State Colin Powell and embraces a plan for Muslim security forces in his country.

They met in Saudi Arabia, which is proposing the plan. Ayad Allawi also says that he would visit the United States pretty soon.

A hostage drama intensifies in Iraq. Militants holding seven international truck drivers have threatened to kill one of them if demands aren't met by tomorrow. They want the Kuwaiti company the men work for to pull out of Iraq.

Bobby Fischer's next movie: The one-time chess champ, may go up to the judicial ladder in Japan to appeal a decision to send him back to the United States. He was wanted here for defying sanctions by playing in 1992 match in Yugoslavia.

WHITFIELD: Oil prices soared to a record high yesterday. How will this effect prices at the pump? Mary Snow joins us live from the New York Stock Exchange with a look at what analysts are saying. Hi, Mary.

MARY SNOW, FINANCIAL NEWS: Hi there, Fredricka. Yes, some analysts saying that that spike in oil prices may not translate into a spike in gas prices. Gas prices have been easing. Oil prices, though, surged to more than $43 yesterday. This on supply concerns following problems with the troubled Russian oil company Yukos.

Some oil watchers, though, think the trader's fears were overblown and as a result prices at the pump may not climb back above $2 a gallon so quickly if at all, they say. Helping to keep prices stable, inventories are up and demand is easing.

Also they point out that because Labor Day is right around the corner that marks the end of the heavy summer driving season -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: So, Mary, if the price of oil is easing a bit today then what is triggering the pull back?

SNOW: Yes, it has been pulling back on word that Russia won't force Yukos to halt sales after all and even though crude is still trading near $43 a barrel, ambassadors are breathing a sigh of relief that the price isn't going any higher today. That is triggering some buying here on Wall Street. Tech stocks leading the gainers, pushing the Nasdaq composite up (INAUDIBLE) 48 points.

General Motors, though, was dragging on blue chips. Shares of GM were down more than three percent. This after two brokerages downgraded the stock on concerns about rising inventories and slowing sales. And that is the latest from Wall Street.

Still ahead, the shrinking American paycheck. I'll tell you why later this hour. CNN's LIVE FROM will be right back.



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