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Stopping Zacarias Moussaoui; Hillary Clinton's Future; Victims' Families Confront Serial Killer in Court; Brokeback Mountain Jokes

Aired March 2, 2006 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, and thank you all for being with us.
Tonight, a story you're not going to see anywhere else -- in their own words, how two men helped capture a very determined man bent on terror.


ZAHN (voice-over): On the CNN "Security Watch," an exclusive -- the untold story of two veteran pilots who sniffed out an al Qaeda terrorist.

TIM NELSON, FLIGHT SCHOOL MANAGER: He wanted to do -- be able to take off and land a 747-400.

ZAHN: A man who wanted to fly a jumbo jet right into the White House.

SIMS: I would have been a fool not to recognize this.

ZAHN: Gut feelings that saved lives.

"Outside the Law" -- the silence of a serial killer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you hear me, Mr. Cullen? Are you choosing not to answer me?

ZAHN: A man who murdered helpless patients finally faces justice and rage.

MARY BURKE, DAUGHTER OF CULLEN MURDER VICTIM: You are a coward. You deserve to be injected with every ounce of medication you gave your victims.

ZAHN: Tonight, you will witness an incredible courtroom drama.

And boiling point -- when it comes to Hillary Clinton, no one is neutral.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somewhat negative, angry...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... have a surge support from so many voters across the country. ZAHN: Is she getting ready to run? Can she win?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next great president of the United States of America...

ZAHN: What is ahead for Hillary?


ZAHN: We start tonight on the "Security Watch" with two chilling stories of people who looked terrorists directly in the eye and reacted completely differently. In one case, the result was 9/11.

But our first story deals with Zacarias Moussaoui, the September 11 co-conspirator whose sentencing trial begins on Monday. He faces life in prison or the death penalty for plotting to fly a plane right into the White House. He might have succeeded, if it weren't for the instincts and courage of the two men you're about to meet, two men who acted on their suspicions and called the FBI.

Here is justice correspondent Kelli Arena now with this exclusive, two men who have never told their story together on camera before, taking us "Beyond the Headlines."



KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're good friends, military veterans who work together at the same flight school. Tim Nelson spent 20 years in the Air Force, flew missions as a B-52 gunner in the Gulf War. Hugh Sims was in the Air Force for 24 years, flew 150 missions in Vietnam, and then was an airline pilot for 16 years.

SIMS: They offered me a job.

ARENA: They don't see much of each other since Sims retired. But, when they do, the talk inevitably turns to the strange flight student they met in August of 2001.

It was in Eagan, a small city 15 miles outside of Minneapolis. A foreign student was coming to the Pan Am International Flight School to learn how to fly 747 jumbo jets.

Hugh Sims says, the guy didn't even have a pilot's license.

SIMS: So, at first, it was more curiosity that my antenna was up.

ARENA: All the school had was an e-mail from the aspiring pilot, asking for -- quote -- "help to achieve my dream. I am sure that you can do something," he wrote. "After all, we are in America, and everything is possible."

It was signed "Zac," short for Zacarias Moussaoui.

TIM NELSON, FLIGHT SCHOOL MANAGER: He wanted to do -- be able to take off and land a 747-400. And he wanted to operate it between two particular points, between New York and Heathrow, between JFK and Heathrow Airport in London.

ARENA: Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, sent the e-mail under the username "zuluman tangotango."

(on camera): That e-mail made staffers at the flight school curious, even before Moussaoui got here. But, after he arrived, the curiosity turned into outright suspicion.

(voice-over): Monday, day one: Moussaoui showed up in the morning and settled his bill by putting down about $7,000 in cash.

NELSON: Cash is hard to track. You know, we get a customer who pays by check or by a credit card, you can kind of go back and say, OK, where did this guy come from?

SIMS: He came in. He was dressed in jeans, a color T-shirt, and a ball cap. This guy doesn't look like he has the kind of money that would be just to -- just to do this for -- for fun.

ARENA: Nelson, who had not seen Moussaoui yet, went out of his way to meet him.

NELSON: He was telling us that, well, it is an ego thing. I want to be able to tell my friends, hey, I can fly a 747. Well, that's a lot of money to spend to play, basically.

ARENA (on camera): Did you believe him?

NELSON: I didn't.

ARENA (voice-over): Nelson says he had just viewed a training tape about a 1999 Japanese hijacking.


NARRATOR: Brandishing a knife, he got into the cockpit as the plane was making its ascent from...


ARENA (on camera): So, you had seen that tape right at the same time that Moussaoui shows up?

NELSON: Yes, I had.


NARRATOR: And his motive for hijacking the plane was that he wanted to fly it.


NELSON: I'm thinking, do I have that, or do I have something worse on my hands?

ARENA (voice-over): Even before 9/11, hijackings were often associated with the Middle East. At the time, Nelson had a class of Syrian airline pilots. He saw two of them greet Moussaoui in Arabic.

NELSON: I said, what were you guys talking about?

And he said, oh, they're just greeting in Arabic.

I said, how is it?

Oh, he's fluent. He's a native speaker.

That bothered me.

ARENA (on camera): Why?

NELSON: It was just one more red flag.

ARENA (voice-over): Tim Nelson is the son of a cop, and once took the FBI entrance exam. With Moussaoui, things just didn't add up. And, at the end of Moussaoui's first day at flight school, Sims was also troubled.

Sims got a chance to spend some time alone with Moussaoui when he gave him a ride to where the 747 flight simulators were located. During the two-mile drive, Moussaoui said he was an international consultant. Sims didn't buy it.

SIMS: Well, his English skills, for one, although they're adequate, they certainly didn't indicate a high degree of sophistication or indicate someone who had spent a lot of time in English conversations.

ARENA: Day two, Tuesday: Tim Nelson pulled Moussaoui's flight school file, which should have contained all sorts of documentation. Oddly, this one had nothing. Then he ran into Moussaoui's flight instructor, who said his student wanted to know about unusual things.

NELSON: He had asked questions like if the oxygen could be shut off, if I pull the circuit breakers to disable or turn off the transponder.

ARENA: Sims and Nelson say Pan Am flight school management was cautious about questioning a paying customer. But, by the end of Moussaoui's second day at school, Nelson and Sims were convinced something was wrong.

NELSON: I'm saying, guys, do you really want this guy to go out and do something with this training, come back and say, where did you learn, you know, to fly, Pan Am in Minneapolis? I don't want that.

ARENA: Wednesday, day three: Moussaoui was staying at this Marriott Residence Inn. He was scheduled to take flight simulator lessons the next day. Hugh Sims and Tim Nelson were worried that he might learn just enough about flying a 747 to become very dangerous. (on camera): After just two days, Sims and Nelson had seen enough. They both decided, without the other knowing, to call the FBI field office here in Minneapolis.

(voice-over): Their calls were transferred to a counterterrorism agent.

NELSON: I have got a student that is raising a lot of red flags. And I said, you need to understand that this aircraft weighs 900,000 pounds. It carries between 50,000 and 57,000 gallons of jet fuel. And I said, and if you fly it at 350 knots into a metro -- a heavily populated area, you're going to kill a boatload of people.

ARENA: Sims called around the same time.

SIMS: I explained to them that we had a student at the Pan Am flight academy that I think is asking for training that could become dangerous. And I think that somebody ought to really look into what he's doing here, is he here legally.

ARENA: It turns out, Moussaoui was not.

On Thursday, day four, FBI agents confronted him at the Marriott, along with immigration officials, who took him into custody.

NELSON: Hopefully, calling -- between Hugh and myself calling, then, maybe we did stop something from happening.

ARENA: Later investigation by the FBI would show, Zacarias Moussaoui was an al Qaeda operative, like the four 9/11 pilots who had also trained at U.S. flight schools. Of all the Americans those operatives ran into, Nelson and Sims were the only ones who called the FBI.

SIMS: I had 40 years of experience being around aviators. I would have been a fool not to recognize this.

NELSON: I was willing to be wrong over it. You know, I was hoping I was wrong, because being right -- you know, we saw what being right was, 9/11.

ARENA: Moussaoui later said his plan was to fly a plane into the White House. If Nelson and Sims hadn't acted on their suspicions, he just might have done it.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Eagan, Minnesota.


ZAHN: And, just last year, the Senate issued a proclamation unanimously commending Sims and Nelson for bravery that possibly prevented another attack against our nation.

We're also going have a story for you tonight that is the exact opposite of what we have just seen. What is it like knowing you could have not one, but two of the 9/11 terrorists in your hands? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're holding their I.D.s up. And I'm looking at them. It is not nice, but I said, geez, if this doesn't look like two Arab terrorists, I have never seen two Arab terrorists.


ZAHN: Coming up, the gate agent who came face to face with the hijackers who flew into the World Trade Center. Why did he give them boarding passes that let them get on a plane?

Also ahead:


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why don't you look at me? You're not a man. You are a coward.


ZAHN: He also happens to be a serial killer. What else did his victims' families have to say to him today? Quite the fireworks in that courtroom. We will share that with you a little bit later on.

But, first, our countdown of the top 10 most popular stories on -- about 19 million of you logging on to our Web site today.

At number 10, you figured in the story of a newly remodeled fuel tank for the shuttle Discovery, which is now at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA wants to try for three shuttle flights this year, if it can launch Discovery in May or in June.

And, number nine, firefighters near Duncan, Oklahoma, have contained wildfires that charred 8,000 acres and destroyed some 30 to 40 homes. Several hundred residents evacuated yesterday. They are now finally being allowed back into the area tonight.

Don't go away. Numbers eight and seven ahead.


ZAHN: Before we just went to a break, we heard the story of two flight training school employees who tipped off the FBI to 9/11 co- conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. He is awaiting sentencing now for plotting to fly a 747 right into the White House. Their actions may have saved countless lives.

Now a man whose story is vastly different -- Michael Tuohey was the first person to confront two of the 9/11 hijackers on the day of the attack. That encounter haunts him to this day.

Here is investigative correspondent Drew Griffin with tonight's "Eye Opener."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 9/11 Commission would describe the dawning of September 11 as temperate and nearly cloudless. By 4:00 a.m., Michael Tuohey was already at work at the U.S. Air ticket counter at the airport in Portland, Maine.

MICHAEL TUOHEY, RETIRED GATE AGENT: Crystal-clear blue sky -- it was just a fabulous day, you know, to go to work.

GRIFFIN: One hour and 43 minutes into Tuohey's day, two men approached his ticket counter, rushing to catch the 6:00 flight to Boston.

TUOHEY: They had a tie and jacket on, all right? And as I'm looking at them, you know, they're holding their I.D.s up. And I'm looking at them. It is not nice, but I said, geez, if this doesn't look like two Arab terrorists, I have never seen two Arab terrorists.

GRIFFIN (on camera): That was your...

TUOHEY: Thought.

GRIFFIN: ... first reaction?

TUOHEY: That was my thought as I'm looking at them. I'm looking at their licenses and I'm looking at their -- and -- and that thought ran through my mind.

GRIFFIN: Where -- where did that thought go?

TUOHEY: I don't know. It -- just, immediately, I felt guilty about thinking something like that. I -- I just said, this is awful. How -- you know, I have checked in thousands of Arabic people over the years, in doing the same job. Businessmen -- I says, these are just two -- a couple of Arab business guys.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): But something about these two men was different. Tuohey says the younger man, Abdulaziz Alomari, could barely speak English. The other was Mohamed Atta. Tuohey says he had the eyes of a killer.

TUOHEY: He did. He had the deadest eyes I have ever seen.

GRIFFIN: Setting aside his gut reaction, Tuohey issued the boarding passes. Less than three hours later, Tuohey was told by a co-worker that American Flight 11 had crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

TUOHEY: I said, oh, my God. I said, I just put -- I put two people on that plane. And I was feeling horrible. You know, I'm saying, here I was thinking that these guys are terrorists, you know, and it -- it -- it -- I just had a flashback. I says, now the poor bastards are dead.

And, then, you got the word on the second plane, and -- and then it was like a punch in the stomach. GRIFFIN (on camera): You knew then that those two guys were involved?

TUOHEY: As soon as I heard it, the second I heard it. I said it. I was right. I was right, you know?

And, and it was just -- I don't know how you describe it, how your -- how your stomach twists and turns. You get sick to your stomach. It still does, to this day, not so much that I -- like, I felt ashamed that I -- I did not react to my instincts.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Once he and other employees realized what was happening, they called the FBI. And within hours, Tuohey found himself viewing this videotape of the two Arab men he had ticketed passing through security. He told the FBI who they were. He also told them that he observed something curious on the tape.

TUOHEY: And they are saying, well, what do you mean?

And I says, well, these guys had on -- they were very business looking. They had on ties and jackets. And I says, and if you look at these guys, they both have like open collar. They have like dress shirts with the open collar. I said, but that's them.

GRIFFIN: Tuohey went home after that and watched the dreadful events unfold on television. His wife, a flight attendant, was grounded in another city. He was alone.

The next day, this self-described tough kid from a Boston housing project broke into tears. He talked with a psychologist the airline referred him to. Then he called the one person he knew could help.

TUOHEY: I called my mother, and she said, what are you crying for?

And I says, I feel bad about all them people that got killed.

And she says, what did you have to do with it? And I told her. And she says, I'm coming up.

GRIFFIN: His 91-year-old mother told him it wasn't his fault, a judgment he believes the 9/11 Commission has now confirmed.

Warnings had been conveyed to the highest levels of government, but no one had instructed Mike Tuohey to be more vigilant. Tuohey says he just hopes that the next person chosen by chance to make that first contact with evil, whoever becomes the first footnote of the next attack, does what he did not, and reacts when his gut tells him to.

TUOHEY: I had the devil standing right in front of me, you know? And -- and I ignored him.

GRIFFIN: Drew Griffin, CNN, Scarborough, Maine.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN: And, unfortunately, what we all have learned since that horrible, horrible day.

Still to come tonight, some people love her; others simply can't stand her. Is there any way she could be the country's first female president?

Before that, let's check in with Erica Hill at Headline News to update the other top stories at this hour -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Paula, six months after Hurricane Katrina, Matthew Broderick, who oversaw the Department of Homeland security's slow response to the disaster, is resigning. A spokesman says Broderick wants to spend more time with his family.

The Food and Drug Administration wants to speed up production of vaccine for bird flu and other forms of influenza. Meantime, that seasonal flu alone takes 36,000 American lives every year.

A government report finds a sharp increase in methamphetamine abusers seeking medical help. The largest increases were seen in Oregon, Hawaii, and Iowa.

And, in Texas, the first reported arrest for child pornography stored on an iPod. One suspect could get up to 90 years in prison if convicted.

Paula, talk about a scary turn of events there.

ZAHN: And talk about other people learning from that arrest.

Erica, thanks so much.

A nurse who killed at least 29 patients was sent to prison today, but not before he was confronted by his victims' families. What did they tell him?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are the reason I cry myself to sleep almost every night of the week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are Satan's son.


ZAHN: And, after all that, after family after family letting everything off their chest, what did the killer have to say for himself? The surprising answer coming up.

First, though, let's move on to number eight on our countdown -- fiery attacks on the U.S. and Israel from Iran's president and fears about its nuclear program have prompted the State Department to set up a new office just to deal with Iran.

Number seven -- Israel's largest shipping firm is voicing support for the Dubai port deal in a letter to Senator Hillary Clinton -- much more on that coming up.



MELISSA HARDGROVE, DAUGHTER OF CULLEN MURDER VICTIM: I lost my father, Christopher Hardgrove, August 11 of 2003. He was taken in the gravest -- gravest way. He was murdered by Charles Cullen.


ZAHN: You don't often see anything like the emotional scene that took place inside a courtroom in New Jersey today, where a serial killer was confronted by the families of his victims.

Charles Cullen, a nurse, who worked in hospitals and nursing homes, killed at least 29 people by giving them lethal doses of drugs.

Here is Allan Chernoff with tonight's "Outside the Law."



ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The courtroom was filled with unbearable pain, as members of the victims' families told of their suffering...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are the reason I cry myself to sleep almost every night of the week.

CHERNOFF: ... and anger

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are Satan's son.

CHERNOFF: Serial killer Charles Cullen sat expressionless, with his eyes shut, for nearly three hours of testimony.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why don't you look at me? You're not a man. You are a coward.

CHERNOFF: Cullen confessed to administering deadly doses of medication at nine hospitals and one nursing home in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, killing 29 people in all.

He once claimed he was putting patients out of their suffering, though many, if not most, of his victims did not have fatal illnesses.


CHERNOFF: In May of 2003, 21-year-old Michael Strenko became one of Cullen's youngest victims. His parents were in the courtroom.

MARY STRENKO, MOTHER OF CULLEN MURDER VICTIM: My heart, it aches for my son. It bleeds for my son. THOMAS STRENKO, FATHER OF CULLEN MURDER VICTIM: What kind of person takes a child from their mother and father? He is a sneaky, cold-blooded killer, with no regard for human life.

CHERNOFF: In the face of all this emotion, Cullen himself showed no remorse and gave no explanation for his crimes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Cullen, are you ready to address this court, the assembled families of your victims, and society as a whole.

CHARLES CULLEN, CONVICTED MURDERER: I have nothing to say, Your Honor.


CULLEN: I have nothing to say, Your Honor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is that? Mr. Cullen, I asked you a question. Why is it that you have chosen not to address the court?

CHERNOFF (on camera): New Jersey does have the death penalty, but the courts here haven't allowed an execution in more than 40 years. So, prosecutors agreed to a life sentence for Cullen, in return for his cooperation in identifying his victims.

(voice-over): Cullen was stone-cold when the judge pronounced his sentence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are hereby sentenced to New Jersey state prison, to two consecutive life sentences.

CHERNOFF: Cullen will never be paroled and will die in prison.

Mary Strenko says, that will now help her move forward.

M. STRENKO: And, at this point, the healing process has just begun now for us, just started.

CHERNOFF: On March 10, Charles Cullen is to be sentenced for seven murders in Pennsylvania, where he will also receive a life sentence.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, Somerville, New Jersey.


ZAHN: And coming up in our next half-hour, the movie that spawned 1,000 jokes about gay cowboys. Is it bad to make fun of "Brokeback Mountain"?



Can Hillary Clinton ever be president? Some smart political experts think she's already running. I will have details when PAULA ZAHN NOW continues.


ZAHN: And now number six on our countdown.

Oscar nominees getting pointers on acceptance speeches -- they all got a special DVD with dos and don'ts for would-be winners.

One tip: Keep the thank-yous to a minimum. That means keep it short, so we don't have to stay up and watch the show for over four hours.

And, number five, several doctors want to stop a federally approved study of a blood institute. They say it is unethical because it is being done on trauma patients without their consent -- numbers four and three up next.


SIBILA VARGAS, ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hi, I'm Sibila Vargas in Hollywood. Have you heard the one about the gay cowboy? Well, if you haven't, there's a lot of jokes about Oscar's biggest contender, "Brokeback Mountain." But a lot of people aren't laughing. I'll tell you why when PAULA ZAHN NOW continues.

ZAHN: And also ahead, hear what is next for Roseanne Barr. She happens to be Larry King's guest tonight at the top of the hour.

There are some eye-opening developments today in the deal to let an Arab-owned company run operations at six U.S. ports. For starters, as incredible as it might seem to you, Israel's largest shipping firm is for the deal and says the company is not a security risk.

Now, that is raising eyebrows because Dubai Ports World is owned by the United Arab Emirates, a country that officially won't have anything to do with Israel.

But there's more. The Israeli company's CEO let his support be known by writing a letter to U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who happens to be a major opponent of the takeover. Now he wrote that letter back on February 22nd, but the senator has never mentioned it. We found out about it today because it was leaked to Wolf Blitzer.

Now, the political timing is interesting -- and we'll debate that in a moment -- but everything Senator Clinton does sparks debate, because just about everyone expects her to run for president. Will she, or is she already?

Senior national correspondent John Roberts checked her out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next great president of the United States of America, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are two constituencies anxious to see the junior senator from New York take a run at becoming the first female president of the United States.

One, Democrats who think she'd energize her party.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Hillary Clinton, if she throws her hat in the ring, will not only create waves, but she can, of course, have a surge of support from so many voters across the country.

ROBERTS: And second, Republicans, who think Hillary Clinton's personality and politics won't play well with voters.

ED GILLESPIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: She does not have the same ability to connect with voters that her husband has. And that underlying anger and that underlying pessimism and almost cynicism is off-putting to voters and could result in helping to elect the Republican nominee.

ROBERTS (on camera): So will she run or won't she? The Republican strategist who got the current president into office has no doubt she will. But in a recent interview, Hillary Clinton was, let's say, non-committal.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Karl Rove spends a lot of time obsessing about me. He spends more time thinking about my political future than I do.

ROBERTS: But the Democratic smart money is following Mr. Rove.

BRAZILE: I bet that she runs in 2008.

ROBERTS: Certainly, all the signs are there. She's traveled often to politically important states, though she studiously avoids New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina. She's been working with one of her husband's foreign policy speech writers. Maybe most important, the money. She already has a huge war chest, $17 million, to battle a no name candidate in her Senate campaign this year.

A campaign veteran says her fundraising apparatus is set up to run a national, not just a state, race. And the architects of Bill Clinton's 1992 victory, James Carville and Paul Begala, have recently signed on to help her raise even more money.

(on camera): This has got to mean that she's going for 2008.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: If she is, she hasn't told me. I want her to. But, you know, I'm not like the person who makes this decision. She's got to decide for herself.

ROBERTS (voice-over): Political handicappers put her well ahead of former Virginia Governor Mike Warner, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson, presumed candidates for the Democratic primaries.

The big question, can she win a presidential election? Republican polling shows she's seen as far more liberal than voters in general, and there's no doubt Hillary Clinton is a polarizing figure.

BRAZILE: She is one of those leaders that attracts large -- largely negative responses from the other side.

ROBERTS: A lightning rod to be sure, one whose every statement is hypersensitized.

CLINTON: Because when you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about!

ROBERTS: Some Democrats worry rather than talk about the issues, she'll be the issue; and that after Gore and Kerry, that's the last thing they want. Already, Republicans are trying to label her.

GILLESPIE: Senator Clinton has shown herself to be someone who does tend to be somewhat negative. Angry, brittle.

ROBERTS: But Democrats believe those negative labels may only increase her appeal with that critical voting block: women.

BRAZILE: The Republicans are trying to label her as uncontrollable, emotional, angry, brittle. It won't work. Those are all stereotypes used to stop women from running for office.

ROBERTS: At this point, there is one thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Another Clinton candidacy would certainly change the dynamic of presidential politics.

John Roberts, CNN, Washington.


ZAHN: So we have had two Bushes in the White House. Will we have two Clintons? Let's see how quickly that question gets a discussion to the boiling point.

Joining me now are Republican strategist Ron Christie and Democratic consultant Doug Hattaway. Good to have both of you with us tonight.



ZAHN: So Doug, both sides can see Hillary Clinton is an extremely polarizing figure. What is it about her personality that rubs so many people the wrong way?

HATTAWAY: You know what, I don't buy this, actually. I think the most polarizing figure in American politics is George Bush, and he managed to squeak by an election victory in 2004. I think the fact that rabid right-wing Republicans don't like her doesn't make her a polarizing figure. If you look at her success in New York, where she runs successfully upstate, gets independent and Republican votes from women, I think she could do that across the country. ZAHN: All right, but Ron, you've got people like Karl Rove out there, consistently using labels, and even Republicans are telling me sexist labels. Labeling her as brittle, labeling as angry. And they're afraid you're underestimating how she might do. Is that a mistake?

CHRISTIE: Well, Paula, I think anybody who is originally from Illinois who came to run for the Empire State, didn't live in New York and became a successful candidate for the United States Senate in New York and is of course up for reelection is someone to be taken seriously. But now that Senator Clinton is an elected official and she has her record, I think a lot of the focus and a lot of the attention is going to be on her record. What does she have to say? What are her positions on national security, homeland security? Making sure that we strengthen our borders and provide for education so as we move closer to 2008, past this 2006 election cycle, I think people are going to focus more on her record.

ZAHN: All right, but what do you think her record has been like, Ron? Are you saying she's been inconsistent? Just a real brief rejoinder to that.

CHRISTIE: No, I'm not saying she's been inconsistent. I think that her approval ratings in New York state have been consistently high and I think that she stands a very strong, in fact, extremely likely chance to be re-elected.

But as we move forward into 2008, Paula, I think if you look at some of the things she's said about the ports deal -- the port deal and some of the things she said about the National Security Agency and wiretapping, there is a little bit of an inconsistency there. There is a lot of time between now and 2008.

ZAHN: Doug, even some Democrats have pretty much said on the record they are fearful some of the issues are going to get drowned out because she's going to become the issue and a lot of the baggage of previous campaigns is going to get run through the next one that comes to Monica Lewinsky, Whitewater and all those other sordid issue that the Clintons wish would just go away. Is that going to be a problem for her?

HATTAWAY: I don't subscribe to that theory. I mean, the things you mentioned, we've been there, we've done that. Everybody's heard this. The right wing has attacked Hillary Clinton since she was the first lady. I don't think any of this is going to be new to people.

And I agree with what Ron said. The more that she is the issue, I think that it is going to turn off Independent and even Republican women. The thing about having a woman on the ticket is going to energize a lot of people that might not have considered her.

And that -- I've seen that in other races where a woman was the first governor in a state, for example, and she really got a lot of excitement from that.

Hillary Clinton has a prove ability to mobilize Democrats, which is critical. I think she'll get independents votes, as she has done in New York and she can turn out women and single women particularly are big constituency for the Democrats.

ZAHN: And, Ron, you've got about 10 seconds left. You've got to be a little bit concerned about that war chest she has on hand, which if not used for a Senate race could certainly be transferred to a presidential race.

CHRISTIE: I'm not concerned about that. I think Senator Clinton, if she elects to run for the presidency, will galvanize a lot of Republican support. The Republican candidate would be very well funded. It will be a very interesting race. I only hope that Dr. Condoleezza Rice decides to enter the race so we have a Condi against Hillary race. That would be very exciting.

HATTAWAY: That would be good.

ZAHN: And then maybe once and for all, we can get rid of these sexist labels, how about that, gentlemen?

CHRISTIE: Hey, it's about time, Paula. Let's have a woman in the Oval Office.

HATTAWAY: That would be nice.

ZAHN: A lot of people would support that idea, including this sister right here. Ron Christie, Doug Hattaway, thank you.

Moving on to the issue of the movie "Brokeback Mountain," it has certainly sparked a lot of controversy. But it has also inspired a lot of jokes. Do you find that funny or disturbing?

First though, let's turn to Erica Hill. She has our "Headline News Business Break" right now. Erica?


ZAHN: And we will, for the next couple of hours. Erica Hill, thanks so much. Coming up, the movie that has turned into a gold mine for late-night comedians. Is humor aimed at "Brokeback Mountain" harmless or hurtful?

Right now, No. 4 in our countdown. A terror attack in Pakistan on the eve of President Bush's visit, a suicide bomber in Karachi today killed an American diplomat and three other people. At least 50 others were hurt.

No. 3, the president seals a historic deal during his trip to India. The U.S. will share nuclear reactors and technology. In return India will allow nuclear inspections. No. 2 on the countdown coming up.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HEATH LEDGER, ACTOR: The bottom line is, we're around each other, and this thing grabs hold of us again, in the wrong place, in the wrong time, and we're dead.


ZAHN: That's a scene from "Brokeback Mountain." The Oscars, of course, only three days away. Leading the nominees is the cowboy love story, "Brokeback Mountain," which has eight nominations in all. It has already won four Golden Globes and four British Academy Awards and the critics love it.

Well, so do comedians. All over the country and all those jokes about gay cowboys have some people pretty darn upset. Here is entertainment correspondent Sibila Vargas.



VARGAS (voice-over): The ads and the accolades have been hard to miss. The critics downright giddy. "The stuff of Hollywood history, flawless, a landmark film, a classic in the making." When "Brokeback Mountain" hit American theaters in December, reviewers swooned and the gay community cheered.

MATT FOREMAN, NATIONAL GAY AND LESBIAN TASK FORCE: I think the movie is extraordinary and I think it touches people, gay or straight, whatever age, because it's so moving.

VARGAS: A widely-promoted mainstream movie, a love story between two men, could sensitize people to the gay experience, they hoped.

JAKE GYLLENHAAL, ACTOR: I wish I knew how to quit you.

VARGAS: Then came the comics.

DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST: Here we go, top 10 signs you're a gay cowboy. No. 10, your saddle is Versace. No. 9, instead of "Home on the Range," you're singing "It's Raining Men." Raining men, there you go, buddy.

JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: And they're sheep herders, they're looking after sheep, then they fall in love and start having sex with each other. Boy, how relieved were those sheep, you know what I'm saying?

JIMMY KIMMEL, TALK SHOW HOST: I think it's great, honestly, that "Brokeback" led the way, because you don't want those guys behind you, you know what I'm saying?

VARGAS: On late night T.V., Jimmy, Jay, Conan, and Dave, and their guests use "Brokeback" for laughs, the minute it came out.

NATHAN LANE, ACTOR: There's a couple of guys in the meadow, faring their supple thighs in the meadow. VARGAS: SNL took a shot too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know you must be lonely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nope. We're good. Nice seeing you though, run along.

VARGAS: Meanwhile, silly takes dot (ph) magazine covers and fake movie trailers like "Brokeback to the Future" or "Top Gun 2: Brokeback Squadron" and other parodies run rampant online.

FOREMAN: Its just kept on going and going and going and gotten cruder and cruder and cruder. I don't know where the line is, but its definitely been crossed in "Brokeback." And it's really an example of what we call the gay exception, meaning that it's OK to say things about gay people that people would never say about another minority.

VARGAS: Still, comedians insist they have a right to joke about whatever they want.

BILL MAHER, TALK SHOW HOST: There's never been a subject for comedy that has been more ripe or, I mean, or more done than homosexuality. I mean, it's the go-to subject for every comedian and has been forever.

DAVE SIEGEL, COMEDIAN: Yes, I'll go see a Western man, let's go.

VARGAS: In his cross country stand-up act, comic Dave Siegel sees no reason to edit himself or his popular "Brokeback" bit.

SIEGEL: In some cases, jokes about gay people comes from homophobia. But other times it doesn't. I mean, just like any group of people, white people, black people, gay people, Jewish people, you can make jokes about them and it could be just good-hearted jokes and I think that gay people and heterosexual people should accept that.

FOREMAN: It's a little hard to accept that people think it's just funny if you start talking about love and sex between two men, that that's something inherently funny. It's actually not.

VARGAS: But other gay rights advocates don't think it's all bad.

JOE SOLMONESE, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: The good conversations that are forced as a result of this movie being so in the American people's consciousness, outweigh the insensitive joke and the snickering and the kind of late night talk show commentary that we're hearing.

VARGAS: And with late night's Jon Stewart as this year's host, the Oscar show writers tell us to expect a fresh batch of Oscar jokes. Sibila Vargas, CNN, Los Angeles.


ZAHN: We figured that would be coming. Please join Sibila, Brooke Anderson and A.J. Hammer for live red carpet coverage before the Oscars on "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT." That gets underway about 5 p.m. on Sunday on "Headline News." And at 6:00, live coverage moves here to CNN with "Hollywood's Gold Rush." Just about seven minutes before the hour, which means we're just about seven minutes away from "LARRY KING LIVE." So Larry, who's joining you tonight?

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Roseanne Barr is the featured guest of the hour, and her children later on in the show. She's got a DVD out called "Rockin' with Roseanne: Calling all the Kids." We'll talk about the ups and downs of her extraordinary career. Roseanne Barr for the hour next with viewer phone calls as well. By the way, tomorrow night, Sir Paul McCartney and Lady McCartney.

ZAHN: Oh, lucky you. Two good shows, right there in a row. Have fun with Roseanne. She always makes us laugh. See you in about six minutes from now.

And from time to time, we happen to bring all of you stories of people who have made their dreams come true, whether it's a career change or retirement. And tonight in Alabama, a woman who found a haven in Mexico. Here's Jennifer Westhoven with tonight's "Life After Work."


NANCY HOWZE, RETIRED IN MEXICO: I have the most delightful, beautiful life. I'm just a little person from Alabama. And I get to live this wonderful life every single day.

JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nancy Howze has never even been to Mexico when a friend of hers said, "Why not retire south of the border?" Now she's living the good life after leaving her real estate job back in Birmingham.

HOWZE: One of the things that is so wonderful about the community of people that live in San Miguel is that everybody is warm and welcoming. We're all people who have left friends and family behind. So that gives us a common -- it is like a level playing field so to speak when we all arrive. And people are very helpful to tell you, "Well, now this is how you do this."

WESTHOVEN: Set in the mountains, four hours north of Mexico City, San Miguel is home to thousands of American retirees. The warm weather, vibrant arts community, and affordable household help, make this town particularly attractive to those who want something different. Like Nancy, she has a driver, a cook, and a maid and says they bring her closer to the Mexican community.

HOWZE: I'm often included in things, personal things in my staff's lives, like the baptism of their children, or quinceanos. I personally love the peace and quiet and the tranquility because for me, it is now like I have everything. I can't imagine a better life.

WESTHOVEN: Jennifer Westhoven, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN: Now on to No. 2 on our countdown. Dave Chappelle says he may leave Comedy Central for good if the network airs material he recorded before he left his series in a lurch. No. 1 is next.


ZAHN: No. 1 in our countdown, 17 million of you logging on. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice lets the country in on her daily workout, including a spin on the exercise bike and even a few really well-controlled crunches. That's it for all of us, thanks so much for joining us. See you again tomorrow night.


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