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Senate Showdown; Steroids Crackdown

Aired May 18, 2005 - 07:30   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. It is just about half past the hour on this AMERICAN MORNING.
One of the key players in the Senate showdown over the filibuster is going to join us coming up next.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Ben Nelson is part of this group working on a compromise. We'll talk to him about that, whether or not they're making any progress or not. Some say yes. Some say no. But it's heating up in D.C., we do know that.

First, the headlines. Here is Carol Costello wit the rest of those.

Good morning -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to both of you. Good morning.

"Now in the News.".

New details this morning about the grenade found during President Bush's speech last week in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. An FBI agent says the grenade was thrown and could have exploded. Georgian officials had said the device was found in the crowd and was relatively harmless. It is still not clear where that grenade came from.

Authorities in Idaho are looking for a man identified as a person of interest in the triple slaying and abduction in that state. An Amber Alert has been issued for 9-year-old Dylan and 8-year-old Shasta Groene. Their mother and older brother were among the victims found dead early Tuesday. Police now want to talk to 33-year-old Robert Roy Lutner. He may be driving a 1975 silver Ford pickup or a 1990 white Toyota pickup.

Army reservist Sabrina Harman making a tearful apology for her role in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. Harman has been sentenced to six months in prison. She told the military jury afterwards, and I quote -- "Not only did I let down the people of Iraq, I let down every single soldier that serves today." With time already served, Harman's actual sentence will be about four months.

Atlanta courthouse shooting suspect Brian Nichols has pleaded not guilty to charges, including four murders and a kidnapping. Nichols was arraigned Tuesday in the same courthouse where the March shooting rampage began. Pretrial hearings are expected to begin next month. The defense may try to move the case out of Atlanta.

And finally, Los Angeles has its first mayor -- new mayor in more than a century, the first Hispanic mayor. But this election has gone on a long time. Leading in the battle, Antonio Villaraigosa claimed victory over incumbent James Hahn. Villaraigosa told his supporters, you all know I love L.A., but tonight I really love L.A. Hahn conceded a short time later. Good for him. Finally, he comes out the victor.

HEMMER: It sounds like a new country song, too, don't you think?

COSTELLO: It does.

HEMMER: They're working on it in L.A.


HEMMER: Thank you, Carol.

I mentioned this deal in D.C. The Senate could take the first step toward the so-called nuclear option today. Republicans brought Judges Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown in front of the cameras on Tuesday. Now, Owen's nomination for Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals goes to the floor for debate starting today. A test vote is expected on her nomination sometime next week.

If Owen is filibustered, Majority Leader Bill Frist will begin the procedure to ban judicial filibusters. And Democrats then are expected to retaliate by shutting down work on other legislation.

Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a Democrat, one of the moderates still trying for an 11th hour compromise. Senator Nelson is my guest now from Capitol Hill.

And good morning, senator. This is...

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: Good morning.

HEMMER: This is a fight that's gone on for sometime, and perhaps now it's coming to a head. The headline from the "L.A. Times" is this: "Moderates" -- including you -- "Moderates Fail To Avert a Senate Fight." Is that headline accurate?

NELSON: It is accurate. A group of us are recognizing that shutting down the government is not an option, nor is not giving judicial nominees an up or down vote, except in exceptional circumstances, is not an option as well. So, that's what we're trying to put together, an agreement and memorandum of understanding where we can work together with trust, mutual trust, with comity, as well as with just the ability to trust one another.

HEMMER: Senator, in a word, would you say are you still making progress or not?

NELSON: Well, I think we're making progress. We met yesterday on several occasions. We're going to meet again today. And it's true the process is beginning with the nomination now coming before the Senate. But until there's a vote, we still have an opportunity to reach an agreement, where six Democrats and six Republicans agree not to filibuster, except in extraordinary circumstances. And then the other -- the Republicans agree to withhold a vote for any kind of nuclear option.

HEMMER: Also, there is this provision that you're working on, too, that deals with so-called extreme judicial nominees. How does one side or the other define who is extreme and who is not?

NELSON: Well, it's left up to, as you might imagine, and should, up to the discretion and judgment of each senator. I'm not willing to lay out a complete definition of who I might consider extreme. But as I think it was yesterday when one of my colleagues, John McCain, said it's sort of like pornography. You'll know it when you see it. You'll know that you've got an extraordinary set of circumstances with a judicial nominee when you have it.

HEMMER: Then help me with this then. Priscilla Owen of Texas, the debate begins on her today. Perhaps she gets a vote next week. Is she considered extreme?

NELSON: I can only tell you from my judgment, I've already voted for cloture for Priscilla Owen. She wouldn't be somebody that I would nominate, and I probably will vote against her when there's an up or down vote. But I would vote, and I did vote, to move her nomination forward for an up or down vote.

HEMMER: Listen, you know what the White House's position is on this. They say it's only fair to get an up or down vote on the people that the president has put forward, and to delay and stall is just doing the system no good. If you were to reverse the order in the White House, and if there were a Democrat sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, do you think that's a fair argument the White House is offering?

NELSON: Well, quite honestly, if you go back when the Democrats were in control of the White House during the Clinton years, the other side refused to give about 60 nominees even a hearing within the committee. So, there's a lot of blame going back and forth, a lot of payback that's been involved in this. Now it's time to put that behind us and move forward. I wasn't a party to it back then; I don't want to be a party to it now.

HEMMER: Senator, one thing quickly here for the people living outside of Washington D.C., looking at this ballot from the outside in, what has this done to the tone or perhaps to the atmosphere in Washington today?

NELSON: Well, I think it poisoned the atmosphere for quite a period of time. But I do believe that if we're able to get this agreement -- and I do think we will -- that it will help improve it, because at least a half-a-dozen on each side will have to trust one another to work together on judges. That's at least a small start and I think probably a giant step forward for working together in mutual trust and respect within the Senate. HEMMER: Ben Nelson, senator from Nebraska, thanks for your time. We'll be watching it from here throughout the day today. Thank you, sir.

NELSON: Thank you, Bill.

HEMMER: All right. Here's Soledad.

O'BRIEN: In just a few hours, professional sports commissioners will weigh in on a strict proposal to crack down on steroid use. Representatives from the NFL, the NBA, Major League Baseball and soccer will testify before a House subcommittee.

Bob Franken is live for us in Washington, D.C., this morning.

Hey, Bob , good morning.


Whatever the season, whatever the labor agreement, the games go on, whatever the sport.


FRANKEN (voice over): Baseball. Football. Hockey. Basketball. Politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One in 45 high school students reported steroid use.

FRANKEN: The subcommittee chairman, Republican Cliff Stearns, knowing that steroid use is a strong issue, will hold a hearing today, where the head honchos of most organized professional sports might be expected to squirm over Stearns' one-size-fits-all legislation.

REP. CLIFF STEARNS (R), FLORIDA: We need to take the bill that I have and use it as a starter.

FRANKEN: A start to negotiations that would create a policy to prohibit performance-enhancing drugs. And it's quite a muscular start.

As written, it would require random testing for each and every athlete at least once a year with a two-year suspension for the first violation, lifetime suspension the second time.

Prior to this appearance, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig says he's favorably disposed. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has already testified he is unfavorably disposed. As we've already seen, some in professional sports would love to dispose of the issue.

MARK MCGWIRE, FORMER MLB PLAYER: Well, sir, I'm not here to talk about the past. I'm here to talk about the positive and not the negative.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FRANKEN: What is positive is that the members of Congress will positively attack steroids and also take on the sports that they claim tolerate it -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Bob Franken for us this morning. Bob, thank you.

(AUDIO GAP) from today's hearings is having its own problems with steroid use. On Tuesday, heavyweight boxer James Toney was stripped of his championship title. Toney tested positive for steroids after defeating the defending champion, John Ruiz, in New York last month. Ruiz's title was reinstated -- Bill.

It's 21 minutes now before the hour, Soledad. A check of the weather.


O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, Andy is "Minding Your Business." That's coming up next. He'll tell us how a drug company is actually benefiting from the withdrawal of one of its biggest sellers.

HEMMER: Also, coming this fall to a television set near you, meet President Geena Davis. Just one thing you will see in the new season. What else will you see? stay tuned for the poppers. They're next here on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Pfizer, a surprise winner after being forced to withdraw one of its most popular pain relievers. With that story plus a preview of Wall Street today, Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business."

Good morning.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Good morning, Soledad.

When the FDA pulled Pfizer's pain reliever Bextra from pharmacy shelves on April 7, most observers thought this would be a major blow to the drug maker. And in fact, it wasn't good news. But guess which drug has benefited from that move? Celebrex, which is made by Pfizer. And it seems that Celebrex has picked up about a third of Bextra's market share.

Meanwhile, the company, Pfizer, continues to work with the FDA to try to get the labeling changed on Celebrex. And it is also trying to get Bextra back on the market. That's going to be a tough road for them, however.

Let's talk about the markets yesterday a little bit. Up two days in a row now. You can see here green ink across the board. The Dow and other indexes -- excuse me -- climbing. Yesterday afternoon, after the Treasury Department threatened action against China if that nation does not allow the yuan, its currency, to rise against the dollar. A little bit of posturing by the two governments there. And that will be a continuing story, I predict, over the coming weeks.

O'BRIEN: Yes, something to watch. All right, Andy, thanks.

SERWER: You're welcome.

HEMMER: Reflections of "Star Wars" for a lot of different reasons in the "Question of the Day."

What's happening?


The Air Force wants President Bush to OK a weapons program in space. The "Times" is reporting this morning the proposed national security directive would be a substantial shift in policy, replacing a 1996 Clinton policy that emphasized using space for peaceful purposes. The new initiative would require the Pentagon to come up with more weapons, more space satellites, new ways of doing battle and, of course, hundreds of billions of our dollars.

The question is this: How important is it for the United States to have a weapons program in space?

Pamela in Michigan writes: "Ground weapons, nuclear weapons, technology weapons, space weapons. More weapons increase the fear around the world that the United States will use them to keep control of the power in the world."

Jerry in Georgia: "Military prowess, the position of being able to dominate and intimidate both friends and foes is the only course to be taken to effectively spread our brand of democracy. We have a manifest destiny to assure the freedom of the entire world."

Robert in Tacoma writes: "Do you really believe that other countries have space weapons? It sounds like huge waste of money to me when we have way too many homeless people and more to come as our country falls apart."

Phil in New Jersey writes: "That's like saying how important is to it brush your teeth? The same principle here, to fight decay and prevent cavities. In the caveman times, the guy with the biggest club couldn't be intimidated."

And Rex in Ontario writes: "It's critically important that the U.S. have weapons in space. It's a known fact that the Martians, moon men and gray aliens all have WMD."

HEMMER: A known fact.


HEMMER: I think a lot of this goes to the argument about how the testing has gone in the Pacific. It seems like they have a couple hits and they have a lot of misses, and folks in Washington are going to gauge how things are going out there to decide whether or not...

SERWER: But doesn't this remind you of Ronald Reagan's star wars?

HEMMER: Sure it does, in '80s, absolutely.

SERWER: Yes. It goes back to that. And some people said credit the fall of the Soviet Union with his threat to do that. Other people sort of ridiculed it. So interesting stuff.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it is. All right, Jack, thanks.

Still to come this morning, behind the scenes with Mr. and Mrs. Federline, Britney and Kevin in their reality TV debut. Do we learn anything from those revealing home videos? Our "90-Second Pop" will weigh in up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. It's time for another episode of "90-Second Pop" with our AMERICAN MORNING" idols. Sarah Bernard from "New York" magazine. Toure, CNN's pop culture correspondent. Karyn Bryant, she's the co-host of "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT."

Toure, I haven't even thrown a question your way, and already I can hear you, like, yackity yackity, yackity yak. We're not even starting with you. We're going to start with Sarah this morning.


O'BRIEN: Because, of course, there's a reality show, another one.

BERNARD: Yes, another one.

O'BRIEN: And it stars the Federlines. Before anybody says anything, let's watch a little bit of Britney and Kevin, shall we?


KEVIN FEDERLINE, HUSBAND OF BRITNEY SPEARS: That was just a regular night, you know, just like any other night that you go out and didn't expect anything. Britney was there.

BRITNEY SPEARS, SINGER: I saw Kevin there. I just knew.

FEDERLINE: And a couple of her dancers introduced us. That was it.

SPEARS: He was very, very mysterious. He just seemed not fazed by anything. And just his whole vibe was really sexy. I liked that.


TOURE: All right, enough.

O'BRIEN: All right, enough.

TOURE: Rap, rap, rap.

O'BRIEN: Oh, man! What do we learn from this new reality show? Because it's Britney shooting her own stuff.

BERNARD: That's right. There are no cameramen. That's sort of the difference between "The Newlyweds," Jessica Simpson's version and this. This is their hand-held camera shot as their love blossomed on tour.

This is a really strange combination of extremely revealing -- we see Britney drinking, she's smoking, she's talking about how obsessed with sex she is. But on the other hand, it's totally phony. There's all this truth being exposed, but no one mentioned that Kevin had another family and two kids!

TOURE: Yes, yes, yes.

BERNARD: So, he was just out at a club and met Britney. He had a fiancee and a baby on the way at that point.

O'BRIEN: Right.

TOURE: And then he flies to London to be with her for a week. And she says how do you feel about love and commitment? While in the background we all know you have a wife and child at home.

BERNARD: Exactly.


BERNARD: The best part of the whole thing actually was an interview with her bodyguard, because they said what do you think? And he said, I...

O'BRIEN: Right. What do you think of Kevin?

BERNARD: What do you think of Kevin? Exactly. That she's imported to London. And he said, I don't like the way he looks. I don't like the way he wear clothes. I don't like the way he breathes.

TOURE: I don't like the way he talks.

BERNARD: Sure, I think I'll marry him.

BRYANT: It's not great. I think it's a bad idea. I don't think it makes her look good. And I just think it's a bad idea.

TOURE: It really did remind me of "Truth or Dare," right? That old Madonna movie and the narcissism and the self sort of naval gazing...

BRYANT: Right. That's the one...

BERNARD: If she had a strategy, it's kind of like the Madonna strategy, to shock.

TOURE: If there's no, like, narrative, there's no plot, it's like a Britney infomercial.

O'BRIEN: But you know what? We're still talking about it, so it must be doing something, because obviously...

TOURE: Get real. Because we talk about it that means, what is that?

O'BRIEN: And now that we're cutting into your "American Idol" time.

TOURE: I know.

BERNARD: Do not do that.

TOURE: Good, good, good.

O'BRIEN: Bo, Vonzel and Carrie are the three last people standing.

TOURE: Bo performed last night like his life depended on it...

O'BRIEN: He did.

TOURE: ... and lurched into the lead. His acapella was, like, a thunderous slam dunk. It was unbelievable. He could be the first cool "American Idol" winner ever.

BRYANT: Exactly. I think he's got it now. I think he beat Carrie last night and...

TOURE: Well, Carrie is wooden. She needs to go home and get a real...

O'BRIEN: I was going to say, don't even raise the name of Carrie.

BRYANT: I'm sorry.

O'BRIEN: He hates that girl.


TOURE: Only America's love of blonds can save her, because her voice cannot.

BERNARD: I hope Bo wins, and then I hope he gets an extreme makeover.

BRYANT: Right.

O'BRIEN: Right.

TOURE: He doesn't need a makeover, though. He's got the pseudo Jesus thing working.

BRYANT: His hair is a little tired. BERNARD: He could use a trim. He could use a little trim.

BRYANT: I think he needs a total reworking.

TOURE: And Vonzel, extra points for dad's red suit. Her dad is killing it every week!

BRYANT: Maybe her dad can go shopping with Bo.

TOURE: Leave him be!

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about a little bit about the up front.

BRYANT: Right.

O'BRIEN: The up front, of course, is where all of the networks show off what's going to be coming up for the new season.

BRYANT: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: ABC had a homerun with "Desperate Housewives."

BRYANT: Exactly. And they're not messing with the Sunday formula. That's going to stay the same. They're doing some new things. Geena Davis is going to star in "Commander-In-Chief" as the first female president. I don't know how long that one is going to last. She's a likeable person, but I don't know if that's going to be great. They have a show called "Night Stalker." They're bringing back the old show.

O'BRIEN: "Night Stalker," remember that?

BRYANT: Yes. And they're going to pair that up, coming on after "Alias." They're going to try some new things with some old successful things. A new sitcom from Freddie Prinze, Jr., teamed up with George Lopez.

TOURE: That's a good idea.

O'BRIEN: How about NBC? Remember back in the day when it was must-see TV?

BERNARD: Thursday night.

O'BRIEN: Right. Not so much anymore.

BRYANT: See, that's the thing. NBC now really is on the defensive, and they say that they're going to try to create some excitement at 8:00, because the shows at 9:00 can't succeed if 8:00 isn't a good lead-in. So...

TOURE: So, "Joey" at 8:00.

BRYANT: So, "Joey" stays, believe it or not...

TOURE: Good choice. BRYANT: Believe it or not, Thursday is going to stay the same. They're going to have a few new shows, though. There is going to be a show called "Invasion" that's about aliens and everything. But their big show is "My Name is Earl." This is, they said, the highest testing show they've had in 15 years. It stars Jason Lee. It's a single camera show. And it's about a small-time crook who wins the lottery and then starts to make good. They said it's the best a show has ever tested.

BERNARD: But don't you think their best show is going to be "The Apprentice" with Martha Stewart?

BRYANT: That's going to be good. That's going to be good.

BERNARD: And pretty much the only thing. It's on Wednesday night.

O'BRIEN: They're so hopeful. There is some hope on the horizon.

BRYANT: Right. They're hoping. They really need a hit, though, for sure.

O'BRIEN: Yes, we will see. You guys, we're out of time. But thank you very much. Appreciate it.

And we want to mention, of course, you can see Karyn each weeknight on "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT." That's on Headline Prime. Tonight, part of a special series, TV secrets exposed. How reality shows are really cast. "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time -- Bill.

HEMMER: In a moment, Soledad, does the punishment fit the crime? Why are so many 3 and 4-year-olds getting kicked out of preschool? That startling trend to be examined next hour here on AMERICAN MORNING. Back in a moment.



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