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THE SITUATION ROOM
Recovery Hits A Wall Again; New Help for Struggling Homeowners; Preparing for Another Katrina; The "Poster Child For Misery"; Wave of Attacks Across Iraq
Aired August 27, 2010 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN HOST: Happening now, new economic numbers stoke fears of a second recession. This hour, a reality check on the stalled recovery and the long-term forecast for growth and new jobs.
Also, trapped miners hold onto their sense of humor and their sense of hope. We have the remarkable video they made for their families. It gives us our best look yet at their difficult conditions 23 feet -- 2,300 feet, rather, below ground.
And Dr. Sanjay Gupta with flood victims in Pakistan struggling to save one person, one child at a time. His firsthand account of a nation overtaken by water, disease and death.
Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Now, the newest snapshot of the U.S. economy shows the recovery hitting a wall once again. The government now estimates the gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 1.6 percent in the three month period ending in June. Now that is down sharply from the initial reading of 2 .4 percent growth during that period.
Our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, is joining us -- Ali, I want you to help us understand this. Put these new figures in context for us.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, we think of the economy as a lot of things, but the way we measure it is gross domestic product. It's the sum of everything we produce as consumers, as businesses in the United States. And when you talk about the V-shaped recessions or W-shaped recessions, it's this shape you're talking about. It's -- in the end, of 2008, the economy was really bad and then it got better and got better. And then we actually had economic growth -- everything that's yellow is growth.
And then look what's going on over there, Suzanne. It's -- it's growing, but it's growing less. The first -- the second three months of this year -- the second quarter, April 1st to June 30th, we only grew by 1.6 percent. That's not a bad thing. It's not a recession, except we thought we had grown by 2 .4 percent.
When it comes to GDP, you get the initial estimate, then a second one and a third one, and a year later, you get the final. So they do change, but you don't want them changing that way because it's starting to show another leg down in the economy. There is absolutely no evidence that we're headed toward a recession. But if you thought that we might be, this is part of the problem. It shows that things were not as strong in the second quarter as we thought they were. We, of course, won't get the measurement for the current quarter for a few months and that's what's got people worried -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And now I know political watchers, they see that and they think the GDP at least has to go up 3 percent or 4 percent by November of mid-term elections to make a difference when it comes to the -- the unemployment numbers. That's bad news for the administration. But we saw the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, today spoke about the state of the economy at a federal gathering in Wyoming.
What did he say?
Did he offer any kind of hope?
VELSHI: Yes. He offered clues, let's put it that way. And I would say that if you had to contextualize it, I would say that the -- the glass is one quarter full as our -- as far as he's concerned, as opposed to three quarters empty.
He talked about consumers and he talked about businesses. Let me tell you about consumers first. He mentioned credit. It has not loosened up fully enough to make a difference in this economy just yet. Credit is still hard to come by. But he said Americans are saving a lot of money. Six percent is what we're taking home now and we're saving.
When we started this recession, ah, a little before the recession started, we weren't saving anything.
The problem is, people are saving. They're paying off credit card bills. They are not spending enough to get this economy going. He thinks that the spending will start sometime in 2011 and we're just going to see a later recovery than we've got now.
He also mentioned that for people who want to buy houses, some of them are just not getting those loans. Mortgage rates may be low, but some people just can't qualify.
And, finally, the foreclosures and the fact that people can't buy the homes they want is keeping home prices down and mortgage prices down. That's what he said about consumers.
Let me show you what Ben Bernanke said about the state of business in this country. He said people are buying computers -- not people. Businesses are buying computers and equipment, they're just not hiring people right yet.
What's being built in this country?
Well, the only structures -- the only construction that is going on outside of the stimulus funded stuff is in the oil industry and the mining industry, so things having to do with energy.
How about credit?
Remember this whole thing got really bad when we had a credit crisis. Large firms, large companies are actually able to secure credit because they don't do it through the banks. They do it through the larger ways of getting credit, through equity, through debt and things like that.
But smaller the businesses, Suzanne, the one we -- you know, the ones we count on to actually get the economy going and to -- to hire people, they have to go through banks like you and I do. And banks are not lending as much as they could to smaller businesses.
Finally, those big businesses, the ones that actually do have money and are making money. They're not investing it just yet. They're holding onto that cash until they see consumers coming in. They're not opening new factories and hiring new staff because they want to see that there's demand.
Finally, Suzanne -- you and I talked about this last night, we talk about it a lot -- jobs. That's what's behind all of this. A lot of companies, even if they are seeing demand pick up a little bit, they're not hiring new staff. They're getting part-timers. They're getting freelancers. They're getting temporary workers. And they're asking people to work longer hours doing everything they can not to hire staff just yet, until they see people spend more. And that is that whole chicken and the egg thing, Suzanne.
When companies hire more...
VELSHI: -- that's people with more jobs and more money who then spend, creating demand for companies to hire more. This side of the recession is supposed to be more fun than it is. That's part of the problem -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: OK. Ali, thank you so much for breaking it all down for us.
I want to zero in on one of the big influences on the economy, as well. That, of course, is the housing market.
The secretary of Housing and Urban Development is promising some new tools to help struggling homeowners.
I want to bring in our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry -- and, Ed, you are hosting "STATE OF THE UNION" this weekend. You had an exclusive, a chance to talk to the secretary. I understand bad economic housing numbers, 27 percent down in housing sales for July.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Sure.
MALVEAUX: He made some news. HENRY: He did because he realizes, Shaun Donovan does, that these numbers are awful. And the bottom line is that Shaun Donovan is saying this week the president is going to come out with some new initiatives, coming into next week.
But they realize, also, that this is an expectation game heading into the mid-term elections. You hear Ali talking about it. Look, the White House said this would be a recovery summer. Ali, as he lays it out with these new GDP numbers, people are not feeling the recovery.
Look at what Shaun Donovan has said in the last few months.
If you look at December, late last year, Shaun Donovan: "We believe we may finally be seeing light at the end of the tunnel."
Then in May, he said: "The truth is that our housing market, like our economy, has begun to turn the corner."
Then just this month, early this month he said, : "There's no question that the state of today's housing market is in significantly better shape than anyone predicted a year ago."
I pressed him and said given the numbers we've seen this week, existing home sales, down; new home sales, down; how can you still say that we're turning the corner?
He acknowledged these numbers were worse than expected and said the president is going to act next week.
Take -- take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "STATE OF THE UNION")
SHAUN DONOVAN, HUD SECRETARY: In July, we all expected the home sales numbers to go down as a result of the end of the tax credit. But they were clearly worse than we expected. And so, in addition to the tools we already have in our tool box, we're going to be launching, in the next few weeks, two additional tools that are critical. One is we're going to be rolling out an FHA refinancing effort to help borrowers who are underwater in their homes get above water. And, second, we're launching -- launching an emergency homeowners' loan program for unemployed borrowers to be able to stay in their homes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, he went on to say that, essentially, the door is open on extending that tax credit for first time homebuyers -- $8,000 for first time homebuyers. A lot of experts say when that expired a couple of months back, that's what led to sales going down on homes. He said they're not going to go to that right away. But he said it's a tool in the tool box and they're going to focus on this like a laser beam -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And -- and we know President Obama had, in the first hundred days, this plan to stem these foreclosures. It was a confusing plan at the time.
MALVEAUX: We had covered this.
What -- what -- what do they make of it now that we're -- we're in this housing crisis yet again?
HENRY: Look, Shaun Donovan was frank, also, in this interview about saying it -- the president's plan has not done enough. He said it's helped some people.
Let's break it down.
When you look at the numbers, basically 1.3 million homeowners enrolled in this program to modify their mortgages. About 630,000 have canceled. They've walked out of this program. It's too frustrating with the paperwork, etc. Four hundred and twenty-one thousand, just over that, are still active in getting their loans modified.
Shaun Donovan says, look, we're happy that 400,000 people have stayed in their homes. He says with other programs, even more people stayed in their homes.
But let's face it, as you noted, the president, at the beginning, when he sold this, he said it would help three million to four million people. Clearly, it has not come anywhere close to that.
It's pretty similar to -- in some ways, to what's happening in New Orleans. Shaun Donovan was in New Orleans talking to me about rebuilding on the fifth anniversary of Katrina this weekend. He said a lot of progress has been made, but he also acknowledged a lot more needs to be done in New Orleans. You can see that picture around the country, as well.
So we talked to him exclusively Sunday. He was pretty frank about this housing crisis.
MALVEAUX: All right, Ed.
Looking forward to seeing more of your interview.
HENRY: Thanks, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: An exclusive interview with the HUD secretary, Shaun Donovan, on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." It airs Sunday at 9:00 a.m. Eastern and again at noon.
Jimmy Carter gets what he wanted out of his trip to North Korea. He is now back in the United States and a freed captive's family is very grateful.
Plus, what is next for U.S. troops in Iraq now that the combat mission is ending?
I'll ask a retired NATO commander about the battle ahead and what he wants to hear from President Obama Tuesday night.
And they failed to hold back the floodwaters five years ago.
Are the levees in New Orleans strong enough now to withstand another Katrina?
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: Hurricane season is in full swing in the Atlantic Ocean. The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Danielle remains a powerful category four storm. Danielle turns in the middle of the Atlantic, packing 135-mile an hour winds. No warnings or watches, but people in Bermuda are urged to monitor Danielle's progress.
Tropical Storm Earl is about 1,300 miles behind Danielle. Forecasters expect Earl to become a hurricane by Sunday.
Well, when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August of 2005, New Orleans thought at first it had dodged a big bullet. Well, then, the levees broke, filling the basin in which most of New Orleans sits.
What if a major hurricane hit New Orleans again?
CNN meteorologist, Jacqui Jeras, looks at the system that failed and work on the -- the work that's underway to make it stronger.
JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It wasn't Katrina alone, it was the levees, too. A government task force reports that major levee breaches and pumping systems that didn't work are what flooded the Lower Ninth Ward and other parts of the city. In Louisiana, more than 1,400 people died as a result of Katrina.
(on camera): Of the 15 major levee breaches, those along the Industrial Canal were amongst the most compromised.
What happened is that water got pushed from Lake Borgne and funneled through the Intracoastal Waterway and then pushed up against the Industrial Canal. And it just couldn't hold against that fury.
Here's a Google Earth that shows you what it looked like before Katrina. This is the canal here. And this is what it looked like afterwards. You can see the breaches and the water everywhere. The system was so compromised that those that stayed in New Orleans after Katrina were concerned that even a tropical storm could put them back underwater.
(voice-over): Five years later, the United States Army Corps of Engineers says the city is safer than ever thanks to $14 billion of federal funds that's being used to build and rebuild the system of levees, flood walls, gates, pump stations, breakwaters and armoring. (on camera): The project began in late 2005 and the Corps says it's about one-third complete. It promises a 100-year level of flood protection and it's slated to be finished in June of 2011. Already the three major canals that you can see you here have been reinforced and gates have been added.
It is a very complex system. The levees and walls encircle New Orleans 350 miles around the city and these walls are as tall as 20 feet. The Corps says that there is a 1 percent chance on any given year that storm surge or flooding would equal or exceed the level of protection.
(voice-over): The areas most vulnerable today, as shown on this map on the Corps's website, are eastern New Orleans and the area between Lake Borgne and the Mississippi River. Although the project is still under construction, the Corps says there is better construction now than before Katrina struck.
Even when the multibillion dollar improvements are complete, New Orleans remains a place of risk. The city is surrounded by water on all sides and for the people here, it's literally like living in a bowl. The ground there is slowly sinking. Add in global warming, causing sea levels to rise, and Louisiana is losing a little bit of land every day.
(on camera): The bottom line is that New Orleans will always be a risky place to live when it comes to hurricanes. There will be another Katrina or worse. It's not an if but a when, and you can't rely on manmade walls to protect you. You need to heed the warning and evacuate.
I'm CNN meteorologist Jaqui Jeras.
MALVEAUX: During Katrina, thousands of people took refuge in the New Orleans Superdome. In our "Building Up America" segment, Tom Foreman visited the arena which has come back bigger and better than ever.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, the Louisiana Superdome is more than just the place where the Saints play. It really is an economic engine for this town drawing conventions and concerts and feeding people into the restaurants, the hotels, the airlines, the tour business, everything here that matters. It was critical for this town to get it back.
FOREMAN (voice-over): No place was more emblematic of all that went wrong with the evacuation in Katrina than the Superdome. The 10- acre roof ripped open at the height of the storm, packed with people who had nowhere else to go.
The man in charge then and now, Doug Thornton. DOUG THORNTON, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, SMG: Debris, we were very concerned about falling debris from the roof. We had no water pressure. We had no ability to move -- remove trash and debris. And we're taking on more and more and more people and the Superdome was literally the poster child for misery and suffering.
FOREMAN: It took days for the rescue to be complete.
(on camera): As soon as the last person was out, the hard work began. Teams of laborers swarmed all over the dome trying to restore this crown jewel of the city.
(voice-over): Mountains of debris were cleared. Architects worked out a plan to save the dome, to repair the damage from an ocean of water dumped into two million square feet of walls, electronics and furniture.
A new sound system, $7 million; new concessions, $3 million; $8 million more for phones. They did it all while fighting budgets and racing the calendar to reopen.
More than 70,000 seats were soaked and moldy. By cleaning them, wrapping them in plastic and blowing hot air for two months all but 20,000 were saved.
THORNTON: If we would have had to replace 72,000 seats, we wouldn't have made it.
FOREMAN: But they did. Opening for the Saints first home game little more than a year later, they won.
(on camera): The work has continued nonstop for five years and it is going on still. This is the largest restoration project ever attempted in this country on what remains one of the biggest rooms in the world.
(voice-over): The final bill will be over $300 million. For Thornton, it's worth every penny.
THORNTON: I didn't think there would be anyway to come back, not to the city, not to the dome and not to my home.
FOREMAN: But the Superdome has come back. The Saints have, too, in a very big way. And no homecoming for any town has ever been sweeter.
FOREMAN: And I have to say, having seen both the Saints and the dome many, many years ago, they're both much, much better than ever and lot of tourists will get a chance to see them in the coming years -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Congratulations to the Who Dat Nation.
Well, a new wrinkle in a massive U.S. egg recall. One lawmaker has questioned the timing and fears more tainted eggs may have entered the food supply because of it.
And in one Texas county the upcoming election hits a snag, all its voting machines have gone up in smoke. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MALVEAUX: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some of the top stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Hey, Fred. What are you working on?
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you , Suzanne. Hello, everyone.
Well, the man suspected of stabbing a Muslim cab driver in New York has been moved to a psychiatric ward. Officials say medical staff examined Michael Enright and decided he should be transferred from Rikers Island jail to Bellevue Hospital.
The 21-year-old film student is facing multiple charges, including second-degree attempted murder as a hate crime. The cab driver, Ahmed Sharif, was slashed across the neck, face, shoulder, and hand in the Tuesday night attack.
And more on that nationwide egg recall with one lawmaker questioning the timing of it. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut says there was a delay of three days from when the Wright County Egg Company conducted a voluntary recall and when the government formally told the public about it. DeLauro Americans may have bought recalled eggs during that time.
And Florida Governor Crist is taking some heat for comments he made on healthcare reform. Crist, who is in a three way Senate race, now says he misspoke in this television interview. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: This health care bill, how would you have voted on that?
GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (I), FLORIDA: I would have voted for it, but I think it can be done better. I really do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Crist quickly clarified the remarks saying he would have voted against the health care bill if he were in the Senate, but he adds that despite its, quote, "serious flaws," the bill has positive aspects -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: OK. Fred, thank you.
As the combat mission in Iraq winds down, will U.S. forces be better equipped to fight the war in Afghanistan? I'll talk about the drawdown and tradeoffs with a former allied commander.
And trapped miners send a video message to their loved ones. Stand by to see for yourself what they are going through and how they're coping.
MALVEAUX: When President Obama delivers his big speech on Iraq on Tuesday, he'll address the exit of U.S. combat troops while facing a new span of bombings across the country. A lot of questions about the next phase of the mission and whether Iraqis are ready to fill the void.
MALVEAUX: Joining me now, the former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, the retired Army General George Joulwan.
Thank you so much for joining us, General.
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN (RET.), FORMER SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER, EUROPE: A pleasure to be here, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: In light of this week, what we saw -- it was a spectacular display of violence in Iraq across 13 cities, dozens killed, hundreds injured -- is now the time for U.S. troops to really pull out?
JOULWAN: I think first of all we expected that there was going to be violence as the U.S. nears its deadline of 31 August. So I won't call them spectacular. It was impressive of how they were conducted, but much of that was expected.
The decision now is what do you do about that? We still have 50,000 U.S. troops there. The Iraqi forces have gotten better since I was there three years ago doing an evaluation of the Iraqi Security Forces.
And so, I think what needs to happen now is the Iraqi political side of it needs to get their act together, form a government, because the military and police forces of Iraq have gotten much better in the last three years.
MALVEAUX: In light of what happened on Wednesday, how vulnerable are the Iraqi citizens?
JOULWAN: That's one of the tragedies. They are killing a lot of Iraqi citizens, particularly the police are targeted, those that are trying to be recruited for the police. And that is a very interesting part of it because that's part of the stability that's required, and the al Qaeda and the other sectarian groups understand that.
So I truly think that the Iraqis citizens are under great threat now from some of these bombings, but I am confident that if the political side gets their act together, the Iraqi military and police can't provide for the security and sovereignty of their nation.
MALVEAUX: What is the timetable for the Iraqi government to actually get its act together, cause we've been waiting a long time here? JOULWAN: A long time. That's an excellent question.
I would say it better happen sooner rather than later. It's been about six months. That's six months too long. I think there has to be a lot of international pressure. The U.N. just came out with a statement. I think NATO, the EU, the United States, all the surrounding neighbors of Iraq need to put pressure on to get some leadership in here and to form a government. That is what is urgently need.
MALVEAUX: Does the Obama administration, does President Obama need to do more in terms of pressing the Iraqi government to move forward?
JOULWAN: I think the U.S. is doing quite a bit to try to get this thing moving. As you know, it's a very close vote in -- when the elections were held but for the sake of that country, and for all that has been expended, particularly by the United States and others over the last seven or eight years, it's important that a government be formed and a government formed quickly. And I would say hopefully within the next 30 days.
MALVEAUX: Help us understand what our mission in Iraq is going to be now? Now that it goes from a military mission to one that is more diplomatic. What are the troops, U.S. troops that are still going to be stationed there and going there - what are they going to be doing?
JOULWAN: We'll they are going - we going to call it stability operations but they're training and helping in the equipping.
It was very interesting when I was there three years ago. They had about ten or 11 divisions, poorly equipped, mostly with old Soviet tanks and equipment and we...
MALVEAUX: This is Iraqis.
JOULWAN: Iraqis. And we pointed that out. So the Iraqis today they've got, soon to have nearly 150 m1A1 tanks, personnel carriers, excellent equipment, and they bought it themselves. They paid for it themselves, billions of dollars.
So that's why I'm confident that if we can get the political side handled that I think the Iraqi military and the U.S. military, the 50,000 there, will continue to provide training and support for those forces as they develop.
MALVEAUX: How dangerous is this next phase of the mission for U.S. troops who will be there? They won't be in a combat role but can we expect they'll be faced with danger and trouble?
JOULWAN: Absolutely. And they need to have the rules of engagement but let them defend themselves. You know, and they do have those. So they're going to be in a very interesting, difficult but important role as the focus shifts more and more to the Iraqi police and military. As trainers, as suppliers to them, of the equipment, et cetera.
MALVEAUX: And what will be the role of military contractors? Are we going to see a greater increase in that? And does that create a murky situation, a murky area where we're not so -- not held accountable as we were before?
JOULWAN: Well, I think, yes. But the -- for example some of the capacity building within the government of Iraq, the State Department is going to become more and more and more involved and a lot of that is going to be done by contract work for the State Department. The military also has contractors on power generation, et cetera.
I think you're going to see shifts to contractors but in the end it's going to be the Iraqis that need to take all that from what they're given in equipment and training and stand up on their own.
MALVEAUX: What do we expect to hear from President Obama on Tuesday?
JOULWAN: I'm not sure. But I would hope he would point out some of the successes that we have seen, particularly since we measured them and General Jones was on this commission three years ago and is a National Security Adviser now. We measured them three years ago and there's been substantive improvement since then. And I hope he points that out.
But I also hope he puts pressure on the Iraqi government to form a government sooner rather than later and I would hope in the next 30 days, because then what has to happen, there is another little over a year before the other 50,000 pull out.
So in that time, the Iraqi government's got to stand up and form a good government.
MALVEAUX: OK. General, appreciate your time here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
JOULWAN: Thank you.
MALVEAUX: Thank you very much.
Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, and the best political team on television, we'll have live coverage of President Obama's address Tuesday night. 8:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN.
Former President Jimmy Carter returns to the United States accompanied by an American citizen who has been jailed in North Korea. He has made good on that mission. Was there more on his visit to the communist north than an activist release?
Officials in one Texas county have a fresh challenge as they get ready for the November election. They have no voting machines.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some of the top stories coming into the Situation Room right now. Hey, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Hello again, Suzanne. Hello everyone.
Well, New Jersey governor Chris Christi says he fired the state's schools chief Bret Schundler over a $400 million mistake. New Jersey law lost out in federal funding for public schools because it provided budget data for the wrong years. If the state had provided the right information, it would have been eligible for hundreds of millions of dollars.
And a three-alarm fire in Houston, Texas has destroyed all of Harris County's 10,000 electronic voting machines. The county clerk says she has confidence the election will go smoothly but is urging voters to cast their ballots early. She says she hopes to get replacement equipment from vendors and borrow voting machines from other counties. The fire department has not determined the cause of the warehouse fire as of yet.
And a live tiger cub was found hidden in a suitcase full of stuffed animals in the Bangkok airport. A nonprofit group says a baggage scan showed what looked like a real cat in a passenger's bag. Sure enough, officials found a sedated, two-month-old tiger cub inside. Wild life advocates say this case shows the need for more monitoring and tougher punishment.
And as far as we know, Suzanne, the cub is doing just fine.
MALVEAUX: Oh, good. OK. Thank you, Fred. Close call.
Who owns the rights to the Civil Rights movement? Well, it's the hot debate whipped up by an upcoming and controversial Washington event. We examine the politics of the rally organized by conservative commentator Glenn Beck of FOX News in our Strategy Session.
Also, President Obama will come back from vacation with a full agenda. Should the economy be job one? What should he do to show people that he is paying attention?
MALVEAUX: Conservative commentator Glenn Beck's rally in Washington tomorrow is stirring up a hornet's nest. The FOX News host will stand at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech in the same spot.
Beck has declared it is time to, quote, "reclaim the Civil Rights Movement." Well, who owns the Civil Rights Movement if anyone? The dream and the march on Washington.
Joining me for today's "Strategy Session" are CNN contributors Roland Martin and republican strategist Ed Rollins.
First and foremost, Reverend Walter Fauntroy, one of the organizers of the original march, said he believed this movement and conservatives were hijacking the Civil Rights Movement because of this demonstration.
What do you make of that? Let me start with you, Roland.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First of all I don't really care h care what Glenn Beck does. This isn't news to me. He is a talk show host, radio, television, so it has no legislative priority. So frankly, to me, he is irrelevant.
The whole notion of who actually owns a movement, the people own the movement. This was not a movement by one person. There are people all across this country, largely African-American because that was the basis of the Civil Rights Movement, and it expanded to economics, to human rights as well. And so, the people own it, not any one particular person.
MALVEAUX: Ed, do you agree?
ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. Equally as important, I think the people who own the park. You have to go to the Interior Department. Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and the Tea Party and anybody else can go on that park. We just had a great history of people coming before their government and protesting in some cases and advocating positions.
But I think what they're about is lower government -- smaller government, less taxes. They may have some objections to the president's programs and they certainly have the prerogative to go there and express those views.
MALVEAUX: Clearly, there are strong -- go ahead.
MARTIN: Let's also be clear, the August 28th, 1963 was called "The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." Everybody gets excited about calling it the "I have a dream" speech, but actually it was actually titled "Normalcy Never Again" as Soledad O'Brien laid out in "THE MLK PAPERS."
Also, it was a radical economic message. We get caught up in, well, it was about racial harmony. No. If anybody goes back and reads that speech and watches it, it was about economics. It was about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was about the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That was the focus.
And so, I think people get so excited as if it was one different thing. No, it was about the poor people in this country, the people who are downtrodden. And so when other people try to compare whatever they're doing to that rally, I say you put the message on the poor people in this country and not those who are well off. That was the focus of that march 47 years ago tomorrow.
MALVEAUX: And the question is whether this is going to alienate independents and others who are looking for -- looking for some answers essentially either -- whether from the government or not from the government in terms of improving their own lives.
We heard Representative Chris Van Hollen of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee say this earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Americans are going to be turned off by the sort of just outrageous rhetoric on the right. Conspiracy theories, rants, I mean, there is certainly an element of the electorate that is charged up by that but, again, I think it's a turn off to the sensible center and the people who constitute the key, independent voters in these swing districts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Ed, do you think Van Hollen has a point here?
ROLLINS: Well, I don't know if he's got a script that he's read that he is not going to know what people are going to say until they say it tomorrow. I mean, at the end of the day it's one more march. No one has ever been able to make a speech like Martin Luther King did on that speech. That speech was many years ago. Anybody even tries to compare a speech, any speech to that speech, is -- they pale in comparison.
You know, I think the congressman has got to energize his base in some way, shape, or form. These people tomorrow -- Glenn Beck is going to rev them up, Sarah Palin is -- they're out working in the trenches. Every single poll indicates they care deeply about this country and they want to change it and they're going to change it in the election box. This is just one rally to get people revved up to do that. He needs to do that on his side. He hasn't been very effective at doing that.
MALVEAUX: I want to turn the corner if I can. Go ahead.
MARTIN: Yes, very simply I don't know of anybody who is going to be excited and get focused by a self-described rodeo clown.
Look, we need people with real answers not those who shout, who cry, and who misrepresent stuff. People care -- republicans, liberals, progressives, left, and right. And so, I don't see -- look, I'm going to ignore tomorrow because it has no relevance to me. We need people with real answers not more drama.
MALVEAUX: OK. Let's turn the corner on the -- obviously the president, a lot of people seeking real answers from President Obama. He's wrapping up his vacation, 10-day vacation. This is what he's got on his agenda.
Sunday he is going to be going to New Orleans, obviously for the fifth anniversary of Katrina. Tuesday he is giving an Oval Office address on the end of the combat mission in Iraq. Wednesday, Thursday, later in the week he's going to be trying to jump-start the Middle East peace process.
Where in this calendar does the president address the issues that a lot of folks are talking about, and that is the need for jobs?
ROLLINS: One more time, this -- this -- and all of those are important issues, but this president talks on so many different issues and doesn't focus on what people care about. He's got a very short timeframe here and he's got to convince the American public that Democrats have done good things for them, for the working people and that things are going to be better.
My sense is this is another week of distraction. Last week it was the mosque. This week was vacation. The four things -- the three things you mentioned right there are not going to let him go out and talk about jobs and articulate what he wants to do and the direction he wants to take this country. Republicans will attempt to counter that very effectively.
MALVEAUX: Roland, how does the president reach American people and convince them that he is paying attention?
MARTIN: Well, first of all, the war has a direct correlation with our economy and when it comes to our spending, and so I think a lot of people, if you look at the CNN polling data, they likely want to know when are we getting out of Iraq, when are we getting out of Afghanistan and not spending billions upon billions of dollars every single month.
But also they are going to have to flood the zone. You've got to have your economic people, you got to have your labor secretary, your HUD, your housing person, your commerce person talking about what you're actually doing.
And I'm sorry. I get the whole issue of Mid East peace, but that is not a primary issue for American voters between now and election.
MALVEAUX: All right. We're going to have to leave it there.
Roland Martin, Ed Rollins, thank you so much for joining us here.
MARTIN: Thank you.
MALVEAUX: Well, an American who was held in North Korea is now home with help from a former president.
And Dr. Sanjay Gupta's first-hand account of disaster and disease in Pakistan.
MALVEAUX: A U.S. citizen sentenced to eight years of hard labor is back on American soil after months in North Korean jail. He was accompanied by former president Jimmy Carter who made it his mission to gain his release.
Our CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti joins me from Boston where the Carter delivered the man to his family.
What did the former president say about what happened? And how does the family feel?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (AUDIO GAP) -- off the plane. President Carter stayed off to the side and remained there. It's possible that he took his cue from the family, simply watching and content to do so, watching the family reunite with their son Aijalon Gomes who had spent eight months in the custody of North Korea.
I will wait until the plane flies by - in any case, it was hard not the feel the emotions of the moment as the family stood at the bottom of the stairs and rushed over to greet their loved one with hugs and with tears as President Carter stood and watched. And then one by one family members came over and thanked him for all of his help.
It was a humanitarian mission that he carried out on his own to earn his release, to earn his release - to get his release from the North Koreans.
Now, right there at the airport, the family decided against saying anything. However, later on at one of the relatives' homes, family members came out and spoke with the press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL FARROW, UNCLE: First of all, we'd like to say we are gratefully pleased and thankful for the coming home of Aijalon. And we thank all of those that was involved with his safe return.
Certainly, it is a happy and wonderful occasion for us. We are yet rejoicing, and we thank everyone for the prayers that they are praying for and we thank god most of all, because he made it possible for his safe arrival. And we are just overwhelmed.
DIERDRA BILLINGLY: We also want to thank President Carter, and all of the -- you know, State representatives and everybody that helped him to get home. So, we are just very appreciative.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: You know, it remains unclear why Mr. Gomes left South Korea for North Korea. His family said they don't know either. They have been asked not to ask him questions. That is what their advice has been, to let him sort of let him unwind and take his time before revealing exactly what the eight months were like over there before he was freed. And they are content to do that.
Mr. Gomes is a teacher. He has been over there for ten years. He has been described as a human rights activist. His family will only say this, that he is a teacher who is compassionate and who always has the best of intentions, and they suggest that perhaps he went over there to teach people English and to help them learn how they might be able to live a better life.
Of course, in the days and weeks and months the come, we may find out more, but for now, it is time for him to decompress with the family - Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Susan, we him the very best. Thank you very much.
Thirty-three trapped miners sent a video messages to their families not knowing if and when they will see them again. See for yourself how they are living and how they are coping under terrifying conditions.
And the big fix on Capitol Hill. There is a lot happening now right now even though Congress is on break.
MALVEAUX: On Capitol Hill right now, it is not as quiet as you might think. Even though Congress is away for the August recess, there is a makeover that is happening under the dome. Our congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar is here to tell us about it.
And Brianna, there is a lot of stuff going on at the White House, too. It's crazy. I mean, it's like a construction zone.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And these are basically museums, living museums - living, working museums with all of these amazing national treasures in them. And they have to be maintained.
As you know on the Hill, day in, day out, you have thousands of employees, and then each year, there is more than 3 million tourists that come through. So you can imagine the wear and tear and that means a whole lot of time and energy as well as paint goes into restoring the Capitol, more than 500 gallons, just for the dome.
RON RITCHIE, SENATE HISTORIAN: The U.S. Capitol dome is the most recognizable symbol of American democracy anywhere in the world.
KEILAR: And it is getting a facelift while Congress is away. Workers are repairing cracks and repainting the 144-year-old cast iron dome. Inside, they are updating the House chamber with a new digital vote tally board with led lights shown in these photographs taken by a congressional staffer. And a gold replica of the Magna Carta has been shipped off for a six-week restoration, its first since the British gifted it to the U.S. during the bicentennial in 1976. (on camera): Some of the most noticeable repairs that are being done inside of the Capitol are done to the plaster work here. You can see the woman up here is working on the plaster, the very wall here. And also some of these paintings that are being restored.
And these are not simple repairs, these are really national treasurers, these paintings that date back to the late 1800s. And so it takes a lot of expertise.
BARBARA WOLANIN, CAPITOL CURATOR: In the past, there really wasn't a historic preservation ethic. So if something got dirty, it was painted over.
KEILAR: And so over time, the original frescoes by Constantino Brumidi, the so-called Michaelangelo of the Capitol, became shadows of themselves, until recently.
WOLANIN: Conservators mostly developed techniques for cutting the layers of paint that were put over the original Brumidi, you know, inch by inch.
KEILAR: Just outside the Senate chamber, a team of art conservators are filling cracks in what is looking like marble walls, but it is actually painted plaster.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of it is caused by the building settling.
KEILAR: It is painstakingly detailed work. But it is work that must be done.
RITCHIE: George Washington laid the cornerstone on this building. There really is nothing that compares to it. And therefore, it is really our responsibility to maintain it.
KEILAR: And so much more to do come November, because a number of members of Congress will either be retiring or they'll be voted out of office. And Suzanne, all of their offices have to be refurbished. It's going to be like the move out day of the dorms in college, I think.
MALVEAUX: That's a good analogy.
At the White House now, they're digging up and replacing pipes and cables on the front lawn. And it's a big mess that's going to last for years. So a lot going on here.
KEILAR: A lot. They're very busy.
MALVEAUX: All right. Thanks again Brianna.