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Former Congressman Mark Foley Admits He's Gay And Was Molested By Clergyman; Many Conservatives Say GOP Leaders Put Politics Over Morality; Is Rehab A Refuge For Famous Names In Trouble?; Republicans Getting Hit Where It Hurts; Amish School Shooter Tortured By Past And Sexual Demons That Haunted Him

Aired October 3, 2006 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, John.
Hi, everybody. Thank you so much for being with us tonight. We go in depth on the top stories of the day including bombshell disclosures from the disgraced former congressman and new allegations of cybersex involving teenagers.

The scandal is igniting a Capitol Hill power struggle that could topple the speaker of the House and put the Republican Party in danger just weeks before the November elections.

Meanwhile, in Amish country, a gunman's dark secrets and twisted plans come to light today.

We begin with a Capitol Hill sex scandal involving former Republican Congressman Mark Foley. Just a short time ago, Foley's attorney announced the former congressman now admits he's gay and that he was molested by a clergyman some 40 years ago. Now that comes after the revelation of still more lurid computer messages allegedly from Foley to a former congressional page.

Our in-depth coverage starts tonight with Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The attorney for a disgraced former congressman tells reporters that disturbing incidents in his client's past may have contributed to the behavior that ruined his career.

DAVID ROTH, MARK FOLEY'S ATTORNEY: Mark has asked that you be told that between the ages of 13 and 15, he was molested by a clergyman. Mark will address this issue further upon his release from treatment. He very much wanted to release the name of the individual, the church affiliation and other details, but was advised by civil counsel to delay that decision pending his completion of treatment.

TODD: Along with that, David Roth says Mark Foley accepts responsibility for inappropriate e-mails and instant messages with young men, blaming alcoholism and mental illness, but says Foley denies ever having sexual contact with a minor.

Roth also says Foley is a gay man. This follows other surprises about Mark Foley's alleged conducts with contacts with former pages. According to ABC News, Foley had Internet sex with a former page just before going to vote on the House floor in 2003. ABC says its transcripts of those exchanges were provided by former pages.

A different former house page tells CNN he was warned early on about Foley. Mark Beck-Heymen (ph) didn't want to go on camera. He says the first warnings about Foley were general in nature and he says it wasn't long in that summer of 1995 before Foley introduced himself and got friendly.

Foley asked the page, quote, "Want to go out for some ice cream? Beck-Heymen says he turned that down because he was working and says Foley later told him they should get together in San Diego the following summer. Beck-Heymen says he never did. Beck-Heymen was a Republican then but is now a Democrat. Beck-Heymen says he didn't think much of Foley's approaches to him at the time but they seemed more significant in retrospect.

CNN contacted several other former pages to see if they got warnings about Foley or other congressmen, some said they heard gossip. But ...

SAMUEL BURKE, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL PAGE: They never said stay away from this congressman, never.

KARA FRANK, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL PAGE: He was very nice to us and again, I never got that creepy feeling from him or anything. And I never heard any stories. So to hear this, it's just very shocking.

TODD: Another former page tells CNN, quote, "A supervisor mentioned Foley was a bit odd or flaky and did not connote by tone or otherwise that he should be avoided."


TODD: A senior federal law enforcement official telephones CNN FBI agents are trying to track down former pages to question them about former Congressman Foley and to make sure those electronic communications attributed to him are authentic -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, Brian, what do you hear? Has law enforcement contacted Congressman Foley directly himself or his attorney?

TODD: Well, the attorney, Mr. Roth, says the only contact that he has had is an after-hours fax from an attorney from the House of Representatives. And says he has not had time to review. He says that he himself has not been asked for any files or computers and he does say that Mr. Foley on his own says he will not alter any files or computers in any way.

ZAHN: An awful lot to say on topic tonight. Brian Todd, thanks so much.

TODD: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Now, Mark Foley's attorney went on to say his client is at an undisclosed rehabilitation facility as he tries to deem with alcoholism, though. The scandal he's created could redraw the country's political landscape.

Tonight just five weeks from the-from-election night, top Republicans are attacking one another and most of the rhetorical lines are aimed at the speaker of the house, Dennis Hastert. Let's go straight to congressional correspondent Dana Bash live now for that part of our top story coverage -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, the speaker spent all day working the phones trying to shore up report, essentially trying to keep his job, making the case to Republicans, lawmakers and owners around the country that he, A, did not do anything wrong in the Mark Foley case and, B, Democrats should be where the fire should be aimed, not at him.


BASH: The headline rocked Washington. "Resign, Mr. Speaker," is how this conservative newspaper put it. "The Washington Times" editorial slammed House Speaker Dennis Hastert for not doing enough to stop Mark Foley saying, "Either he was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account" or he "deliberately looked the other way." That gave voice to the fury of many conservatives who say GOP leaders put politics over morality.

RICHARD VIGUERIE, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: The alarm bells should have gone off from one end of the Capitol to the other and it's just no excuse for the entire Republican leadership to have turned a blind eye. It looks like they just wanted to cover this up until after the election.

BASH: Not so, said the House speaker, who launched a major counteroffensive to head off an all-out revolt. CNN is told he was burning up the phone lines to fellow Republican congressmen asking for their support and calling talk radio hosts around the country trying to convince their conservative listeners to keep faith in his leadership and blame Democrats for stirring up the issue.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: People are trying to tear us down. We are the insulation to protect this country and if they get to me, it looks like they could affect our election as well.

BASH: And the speaker got a boost from the president.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is a father, teacher, coach who cares about the children of this country. I know that he wants all the facts to come out.

BASH: But behind the scenes, intense anxiety inside the GOP House leadership. House majority leader John Boehner walked such a fine line trying to defend his own actions he seems to contradict himself. In the morning he was critical of Hastert.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MAJORITY LEADER: I talked to the speaker and he told me he'd been taken care of and in my position, it, in his corner, it's his responsibility.

BASH: But hours later, he wrote a letter to "The Washington Times" defending the GOP leadership and said Democrats were behind the revelations about Foley timed to release right before the election. Writing, "If this evidence was withheld for political purposes, one can only speculate as to how many additional children may have been endangered before this information was finally revealed."


BASH: Now, no Republican lawmaker so far has called for the speaker to resign but some, Paula, have walked right up to the line. For example, Congressman Chris Chocola in a very tight race in Indiana released a statement saying, if anyone in the leadership acted improperly, they will lose his support.

Another Republican in another tough race in Pennsylvania, he canceled a fundraiser he was going to hold with his own majority leader, John Boehner last night because his campaign simply thought it was inappropriate until everything is understood better in terms of how the leadership dealt with the Foley matter.

ZAHN: And Dana, you've got leadership there now trying to analyze what it is that Mark Foley's attorney said tonight. Is there a sense that in somehow, some way, the damage control is contained taken by the revelation of Mark Foley was allegedly molested by a clergyman some 40 years ago. Even though his attorney says it doesn't excuse his behavior.

BASH: And that is the key point politically that they understand very well here in Washington and around the country, the Republicans who are running for re-election is that they think, basically, politically, it's probably too late for Mark Foley to be a sympathetic figure and what Republicans I talked to, lawmakers, several of them who are home with their constituents, home with potential voters, were they say they're hearing is not only how upset people are about the Foley matter but again, what we've been talking about, how the Republican leadership handled it.

ZAHN: Dana Bash, thanks so much, member of the best political team in TV. This isn't the first time Speaker Hastert has been criticized for inaction during Republican scandals. He took no action against former Republican majority leader Tom DeLay even when the House Ethics Committee cited him three separate times. Hastert took no action against former California Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham" amid charges of accepting bribes from defense contractors. He later resigned after pleading guilty.

And Hastert let Congressman Bob Ney stay on as head of a powerful congressional committee for months even though Ney was linked to the Jack Abramoff scandal and is about to plead guilty. So is the Foley scandal the last straw for Speaker Hastert?

We put together a top story panel tonight. Joseph Farah have the editor of the online news site WorldNetDaily which specializes in stories about government waste, fraud and abuse. Richard Viguerie is a long-time conservative activist. We saw him in Dana Bash's report just a moment ago. John Fund is a columnist for "The Wall Street Journal." glad to have you together tonight.

Richard, I'm going to start with you. What is your reaction to the latest revelations by Mr. Foley's attorney and does that make any difference for Mr. Hastert's future?

VIGUERIE: Well, maybe the first rule in a public relations book is when you're under attack, you have problems, change the subject. And this is what they're trying to do is change the subject. But it doesn't impact anything. It's too little too late and the focus is on those who were in responsibility to protect those boys who were pages.

ZAHN: Joseph, they ticked off an awful lot of Republicans today by in a column saying the Foley scandal is great illustration of, quote, "why Republicans are unworthy of retaining control of the federal government." What do you want to see happen?

JOSEPH FARAH, EDITOR, WORLDNETDAILY: Well, I think it's time for Mr. Hastert to go. You know, if you're a parent and your child comes into the room and says, you know, daddy, I see smoke, if your answer is, well, it's only a little bit of smoke, maybe we can ignore it, that is essentially the story that I see that Dennis Hastert is trying to tell the country that a year ago, he got these reports of smoke in his House of Representatives and he didn't go figure out where the fire was back then.

Now, it's come back to haunt him. It's come back to haunt his party. His House of Representatives and his country. And I think it's time for Dennis Hastert to move on.

ZAHN: And John Fund, that's essentially what the "Washington Times" wrote today in an editorial calling on House Speaker Dennis Hastert, "He must do the only right thing and resign his speakership at once." Why shouldn't he resign?

JOHN FUND, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Because we don't have all the facts and I think the facts will make things a little bit more interesting here. Remember, the parents of the boy who brought the original e-mail to the attention of the congressional leadership didn't have the instant messaging e-mails, so all they had were the suggestive e-mails, they didn't have the lurid ones.

And the parents told the members of Congress, we don't want to pursue this, we only want to give you the heads up. They met with Foley and they said, you've got to cut it out. Now should they have done more? Yes, in retrospect they should have done more. They especially should have consulted with the Democrats. That was a mistake.

However, let's be clear. What do you do if you don't have the rest of the evidence because the teenager apparently kept the evidence for another year and what do you do with the congressman, you quarantine him?

ZAHN: Let me pose that question to Richard Viguerie. If they did not have access and they said they had never seen these lurid e- mails until Friday when ABC News exposed them, what kind of investigation could they have launched?

VIGUERIE: Very simple, Paula. Here you have a man who writes to a boy and says, what's your age? When's your birthday? What do you want for a birthday present? Let's have dinner. Send me a picture of you, and then -- if that had happened to the speaker's son or grandson, I guarantee you, he would not have walked away from it.

So, for openers, you say, all right. Let us look at your computer. Give us your hard drive. We want to investigate this further. I mean, it's a very simple thing to find out if there is more smoke and more fire there.

ZAHN: And just a quick closing thought, a lot of people saying this is a convenient way to try to shove a moderate out of office, Dennis Hastert, a 10-second answer for me.

FARAH: Well, it's not part of my objective. You know, I was -- I was the first guy to call for Newt Gingrich's resignation, too. I don't think he was a moderate.

FUND: I will call for resignation of the speaker's staff. They did disserve him. They should all resign because they did not inform him completely of this. They're part of the problem.

ZAHN: Gentlemen, we've got to leave it there. Joseph, Richard Viguerie, John Fund, thank you all. Now, Congressman Foley built his reputations as a fighter for children's safety. Coming up next I'm going to ask the top story panel whether Foley's secret behavior will land the former congressman in prison.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ted Rowlands in Los Angeles, the first thing Mark Foley did when he got in trouble was check himself in for treatment. He's not the first politician or celebrity to do that. We'll have that story coming up on PAULA ZAHN NOW.

ZAHN: And a little bit later in or "Top Story" coverage, the emerging picture of a killer and the shocking plan he wasn't able to carry out in a Pennsylvania school.


ZAHN: The Mark Foley scandal was also part of a much bigger "Top Story" in politics tonight. Coming up with the election just around the corner, how much more can go wrong for the Republicans? Are they getting hit by the perfect political storm?

Now, meanwhile our "Top Story" coverage continues with the Capitol Hill scandal. Each new ma e-mail that comes out just makes it look worse and worse for ex-Congressman Mark Foley. He was a leading voice in Congress for protecting children from sexual predators now facing the possibility of being charged under laws he helped write.

Let's go to our top story legal panel right now: senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin looking very junior tonight, former New York City prosecutor Paul Callan who is now a criminal defense attorney and Court TV anchor Lisa Bloom. Glad to have all three of you back with us tonight.

So just this past summer, the congressman played an integral part in getting this law passed. Is it possible that he will be prosecuted under the same law he helped put into effect?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Not the Adam Walsh Law. That's the law he played a part in. I don't see any way he could be prosecuted under that law, but he could be prosecuted under federal law that makes it a crime to entice a young person into sexual conduct. A lot we don't know about whether a case could be made, but certainly, that's worthwhile investigation at this point.

Let me read from that practical law that Jeffrey just mentioned that he could be charged under. Coercion and enticement, "whoever knowingly persuades, induces, entices or coerces any individual to engage in prostitution or in any sexual activity," you will see this on the screen shortly, "shall be fined under this title or imprisoned."

Do they really have a potential strong criminal case against Mark Foley?

PAUL CALLAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it's a tough case, but today something came out that may give them a case. There was talk about telephone sex being engaged in between the congressman and another page, I guess while the House of Representatives was in session. That law refers to engaging in sexual conduct and I think you could read that to mean that if the child was engaging in sexual conduct or the congressman was, possibly that would be an interpretation that would invoke that law.

ZAHN: Even if there was no physical contact, if it was implied conduct online?

CALLAN: I have to tell you that 99 percent of the time, when these cases are prosecuted, there is physical contact between the people involved. There's a meeting between the people involved. It's very, very rare we see a case where someone is prosecuted for the use of words over the telephone. But because of the ...

ZAHN: But his attorney has suggested that's the kind of case we're talking about here.

LISA BLOOM, COURT TV ANCHOR: There's a variety of laws that prohibit sending sexually explicit material to minors and that's what he's clearly done if indeed these instant messages and e-mails are true. So he could be caught under all of those state and federal laws for sending what's effectively pornography to a minor.

ZAHN: And while you're talking about that we're going to put up on the screen a Florida law that pertains exactly to what you're talking about. This could lead to a potential third-degree felony? BLOOM: We've got a couple different states. First of all, Florida, Ohio, we've got the District of Columbia, we've got federal law, so the FBI is investigating as we speak and trying to figure out where he was. One of the e-mails he says he's in Pensacola, Florida. That's going to be helpful to investigators. They've got to figure out where he is, where the teenagers were, when the acts took place and then they can figure out which laws apply.

But wherever he is, sending materials like this to a juvenile is going to be illegal.

ZAHN: Can you tell me where the heck his attorney was going with this tonight? He said, he's not a pedophile. He wants everybody to know he's gay. That does not excuse him for what he is accused of doing.

TOOBIN: It's the excuse du jour. Yesterday he was an alcoholic. Today he is an abuse victim. I think what he's thinking about is with these sorts of crimes, there's a lot of prosecutorial discretion. Prosecutors can decide to bring them or not. One thing prosecutors sometimes consider is whether the person has something in their background that would make you a little sympathetic to them. He's a pretty unsympathetic defendant would be defendant and this point.

ZAHN: Even with the alleged abuse by a clergyman.

TOOBIN: He's trying to humanize him a little bit, trying to make some sort of explanation, it's not terribly persuasive at this point, but down the road when the passions have cooled a little bit and a prosecutor has to make a decision on whether to bring the case, maybe these will be ...

ZAHN: The case comes home, he's convicted, what kind of time are you talking about?

CALLAN: You're talking about very serious time. Under federal law, the maximum sentence is 20 years. Now, he'll get much less than that, under some of the state statutes, you're looking at five to seven years, so there's a very, very substantial sentence involved. But you know, getting back to what you raised before, this stuff about him being an alcoholic, this guy gives alcoholism a bad name. I mean, invoking the use of alcoholism to try to get off.

BLOOM: In one of the instant messages he offers to give alcohol to the underage kid and he says you have to come to my house to have it because it would be illegal to have it in public.

And you know, Paul, I think it's offensive to gay people to even raise the gay issue, this is about soliciting sex with children. This is about soliciting sex with children. If the child was 18 and an adult instead of 16 years old, we wouldn't even be talking about this.

ZAHN: That's why a lot of people found it curious the attorney brought all that up in one news conference. Team, thank you. Jeffrey Toobin, Lisa Bloom, Paul Callan, glad to have you with us tonight on our brand-new set. Like it? BLOOM: Very nice.

TOOBIN: Totally impressive.

ZAHN: We've got more top stories -- I didn't pay them to say it. We've have more "Top Story" coverage ahead. Right now Melissa Long has our countdown on top stories on Melissa?

MELISSA LONG, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, Paula. Your set is very snazzy, very impressive.

ZAHN: Thank you.

LONG: Some 22 million people went to our Web site today and story number ten is about the discovery of one word, one word that's missing from Neil Armstrong's famous first words from the moon in 1969, a computer programmer says he's found the missing "a" from Armstrong's phrase, "One small step for man." he says analysis of an audio recording reveals Armstrong actually said, "one small step for a man."

Story number nine. The sole survivor of the plane crash at a Lexington, Kentucky airport is out of the hospital tonight-tonight. Comair Flight 5191 crashed, you'll recall, back on August 27th, 49 people on board were killed.

And story number eight, the man whose pleaded guilty to shooting and wounding singer song writer Mark Kohn gets 36 years in prison. Kohn was shot during a botch carjacking in Denver last year. He won a Grammy for his hit, "Walking in Memphis." Paula?

ZAHN: Lissa, thanks, see you a little bit later on.

Now, meanwhile, with his career wrecked by scandal, Mark Foley isn't taking, or is taking a pretty well-traveled path. Next, on our "Top Story" coverage, the many celebrities who have used rehab to get better and to attempt to dodge media firestorms.


ZAHN: More now on the "Top Story" coverage of the explosive scandal surrounding ex-Congressman Foley. His immediate response when the news first hit the headlines was to check into a rehabilitation center for an alleged drinking problem. Got a problem with that? Well, as Ted Rowlands found out, some people wondering if rehab isn't just becoming a refuge for famous names in trouble.


ROWLANDS (voice-over): As Mark Foley rides out the storm in rehab, a storm he created by allegedly sending sexual messages to teenage boys, his lawyer is blaming alcohol for the former congressman's behavior.

ROTH: He is absolutely, positively not a pedophile. ROWLANDS: Over the years, it's been a familiar drill. When the going gets tough, politicians and celebrities go to rehab. Just this year, Ohio Congressman Bob Ney checked into rehab for alcoholism after admitting he accepted inappropriate gifts and Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy retreated to a clinic after crashing his car on Capitol Hill.

REP. PATRICK KENNEDY (D), RHODE ISLAND: That's not even excuse for what happened Wednesday evening. But it is a reality of fighting a chronic condition for which I'm taking full responsibility.

ROWLANDS: Mel Gibson blamed the booze after his drunken anti- Semitic tirade and checked in for treatment as did TV personality Pat O'Brien, who went into rehab after his sexual phone messages were leaked to the media.

HARVEY LEVIN, MANAGING EDITOR, TMZ.COM: What rehab does is it creates the safe haven for the celebrity. He basically has this kind of, this past to be able to do what he needs to do to for four or six or eight weeks and hopefully, for him there will be another scandal and people will be off his case.

ROWLANDS: Politicians going to rehab after getting in trouble is nothing new. More than 10 years ago, Oregon Senator Bob Packwood apologized for his behavior and checked into rehab after more than a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment.

You can even go back more than 25 years to Arkansas Congressman Wilbur Mills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was it like when you first had to admit to yourself that you were an alcoholic?

WILBUR MILLS, FMR. U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Oh, it was devastating. I had become the lowest thing that God ever let live.

ROWLANDS: Mills ran into trouble after he was caught with this exotic dancer, Fanny Fox, that caused an uproar on Capitol Hill. Mills checked himself in for treatment and retired two years later.

While skeptics may think that treatment is a copout, experts say alcohol and drugs can truly cause some people to do outrageous things.

DR. DREW PINSKY, ADDICTION SPECIALIST: Things they do when they're intoxicated, when they're in their disease, are shameful. They feel awful about it up. When they sober up, they look at it and can't believe they've done some of those things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark has been admitted into an alcoholism, substance abuse and mental health facility as an in-patient and we anticipate that he will be there a minimum of 30 days and possibly, if not probably, longer.

ROWLANDS (on camera): Medical experts say rehab should last as long as it takes for somebody to start responding to treatment. But when it comes to politicians, or celebrities in trouble, some people think that rehab lasts as long as it takes for a story to go away.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.


ZAHN: And our top story coverage continues in a moment or two, but first, let's check back in with Melissa who has more of our countdown -- Melissa.

LONG: And President Bush's campaign swing through the west is story number seven. Air Force One actually just touched down about 30 minutes ago in L.A. He's raising cash for candidates in California, Nevada and Arizona. He's telling voters that the Democrats can't be trusted to run Congress.

Story number six, a Turkish man hijacked an airliner in Albania with 113 people on board and forced it to fly to Italy. No one on board was harmed and the hijacker is under arrest tonight in Italy. Authorities say the man was an army deserter seeking political asylum.

And story number five, North Korea says it will conduct a nuclear test. However, no date, no time were mentioned -- Paula.

ZAHN: You moved all over the place there, Melissa. I found you. We'll be back for a little more on the countdown in a moment.

The Foley sandal is the top political story tonight, but so is the election that is, believe it or not, five weeks away. Coming up, can the Republicans weather what looks to be the perfect political storm of bad news?

Also tonight's stop story in crime, a killer's chilling words about what he was planning and why he did what he did.

Plus, my colleague, Anderson Cooper, joins us live from Africa for a firsthand look at broken and desperate nation. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: Coming up in this half hour of top story coverage, a killer's secret -- the reasons for his horrific crime at a Pennsylvania school and the plan he wasn't able to carry out.

And our top international story, the crisis in the country the world mostly ignores. My colleague, Anderson Cooper, is there tonight and he'll be joining us.

It is being called the political perfect storm: the Foley scandal, Bob Woodward's new book on the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq on top of a year's worth of other scandals. It all may add up to a Republican disaster on Election Day just five weeks away. That is tonight's top story in politics right now. Republicans are getting hit where it really hurts, among values voters and voters who think Republicans are tougher on national security.

Here's how senior political analyst Bill Schneider sees it.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): With growing voter unease about the war in Iraq, congressional Republicans were already in troubled political waters but recent developments have driven them into the perfect storm.

DAVID GERGEN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I think that for the Republicans in this campaign race, they were gaining momentum and they're gaining ground here over the last couple of weeks. And now, we've had a one-two punch, first with the Bob Woodward book and now, with the Mark Foley scandal.

SCHNEIDER: Is President Bush in a position to throw his party a lifeline? Not really. The president's job approval rating is 39 percent, slightly lower than last week. Only 42 percent of the public feel most members of Congress deserve to be reelected.

Incumbents hope they can find shelter from the storm by keeping their campaigns local. After all, 57 percent think their own representative deserves to be reelected. But that's the lowest level of support for reelecting your member of Congress since 1994. That was that the last big scandal, the one that swept away the Democratic majority.

Another possible refuge, maybe voter anger is targeted at all incumbents, not just Republicans. But, no. Asked whether most Democratic members of Congress deserved to be reelected, a majority says yes. Asked whether most Republicans members deserve to be reelected, an even larger majority says no. What's driving this storm? Iraq, more than anything else. President Bush argues ...

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Success in Iraq would help make this country more secure.

SCHNEIDER: But Americans see little success in Iraq and the leaked national intelligence estimate found that so far the war in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism. Most Americans believe the Iraq war has not made the United States safer from terrorism. In his new book, author Bob Woodward charges that the Bush administration has not been honest with the American people about Iraq.

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "STATE OF DENIAL": We have not been getting the straight story, unfortunately.

SCHNEIDER: The public agrees. Fifty-eight percent believe the Bush administration has deliberately misled them about how the war in Iraq is going.

Republicans hope some good economic news may calm the waters -- lower gas prices, a rising stock market. They say when the economy is bad, the economy is the issue. When the economy is good, something else is the issue. Right now, the economy may be showing some signs of improvement, but the storm is coming from another direction.


ZAHN: Bill Schneider joins me now for a top story panel, along with senior political correspondent Candy Crowley and senior national correspondent John Roberts, here with me in New York tonight.

Bill, we know the Democrats are already using this Foley explosion for ads. How will the Republicans try to counteract that?

SCHNEIDER: Well, the Republicans he essentially are trying to argue that this could have been deliberately staged by a Democratic source after the Foley name could not be removed from the ballot. The Republicans have more money and they hope that money will pay off by more ads, a get out the vote effort. And the most important thing of all is that Republicans are saying over and over again, all politics is local.

ZAHN: OK, but wait, Bill. You got me lost in this one. Help me with this again, that they staged this after Foley's name was removed from the ballot? The Democrats?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, the accusation is pretty ...

ZAHN: So they have been sitting on this information for a long, long time?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, the accusation has been raised that Democrats released the e-mails, the damaging e-mails, late enough so that Foley's name could not be removed from the ballot. That's what they're saying. I haven't seen any evidence of that.

ZAHN: But, John, we certainly have seen evidence of the conservative camp getting really angry about this and how concerned does the Bush administration have to be about trying to bring them back into the fold?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're completely flipped about conservatives because who do you count on to go out to the polls to maintain the Republican majority in Congress? Conservative. And there's this fundamental split now between the Republican party and many conservatives. Many conservatives say we want to stand up for what's ethically and morally right and the rest of the party wants to stand up for what's politically expeditious and there is a big battle of ideology there.

If they don't win the conservatives back, it's really, really going to be rough for them. On the point about this being a Democratic trick to make sure that Foley stays on the ballot before they released these e-mails, you know, don't forget, and I don't care what political stripe you are, don't forget, the Democrats weren't sending out these e-mails, you know. Somebody from the Republican side could have said something about this a long time ago and didn't.

ZAHN: Well, of course, and that's why a lot of people were calling for Dennis Hastert's resignation tonight, Candy Crowley. So this seems to me to be one big problem after another for the Bush administration over the last couple weeks. What are they worried about the most, the fallout from the Bob Woodward book and the allegations about how wrongly this war has been prosecuted or this?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This really does worry them because, first of all, it's pretty understandable. You've already seen ads, as you mentioned, going to the Foley issue. It's very hard to kind of make an ad out of Bob Woodward's book because there's this and then there's on the hand. You take a National Intelligence Estimate and you say well it says or it says that. Those are tough issues with nuances.

No nuance to this issue at all. And it's a home and hearth issue, everybody that has a teen or a grandchild or has a neighbor who has children really get this. So that's the issue that they worry about the most. And they don't worry that, you know, now conservatives are going to go vote for someone else. They worry that they're going to sit home and that really is a problem.

ZAHN: So, what do Democrats plan to do, Bill, beside capitalize on this through ads that are already on the air?

SCHNEIDER: They are going to charge the congressional leader, they already are, with at least negligence and a cover-up. They're going to say that this reinforces the image of a corrupt and arrogant Congress. It's exactly what the Republicans did to the Democrats in 1994 with success and they're hoping to turn the tables against the Republicans and the image of very bad and angered electorate could take it out on this reach Republican controlled Congress.

ZAHN: We're going to have a very interesting five weeks leading up to this election John, aren't we.

ROBERTS: Boy, can you imagine, we thought it was interesting enough with the NIE and Woodward's book and now this, my goodness.

ZAHN: Bill Schneider, Candy Crowley, John Roberts, part of the best political team on TV. Glad to have all of you with us tonight. We'll be looking for you a little bit later on tonight as well, John.

ROBERTS: See you.

ZAHN: More top story coverage just ahead. First, Melissa Long continues our countdown, Melissa.

LONG: And Paula, paternity battles breaking out over Anna Nicole Smith's baby daughter. The story is number four on the list. Photographer Larry Birkhead (ph) and Smith's attorney both say they're the baby's father. Now, Birkhead has served Smith with court papers, demanding that she return to California and submit the baby for a paternity test.

George Clooney's plan to outsmart the Paparazzi is story number three, rather creative of Clooney. He tells the November issue of "Vanity Fair" magazine that he wants to date a different famous actress every night for the next three months.

In story number two, this hour's top story, ex-Congressman Mark Foley accused of sending the sexually explicit computer messages to teen pages, now says he's gay and has suffered abuse by clergymen when he was a teenager. Paula?

ZAHN: Melissa, thanks so much. Our next story is number one on the countdown. It is tonight's top story in crime. Police reveal more about why a killer laid siege to an Amish schoolhouse. My colleague Anderson Cooper then will be joining us from a country that has seen horrific slaughter but may be reaching a turning point. That's all coming up as we join you from our brand-new studio here in New York. John Roberts, what do you think, not bad, huh?

ROBERTS: It's pretty amazing. I've seen things like this existing in cyberspace, but nothing that's actually real. I'm looking forward to giving it a whirl around the block tonight too.

ZAHN: Good, enjoy. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: We are back. Coming up at the top of the hour, Larry King will be going in depth on the Mark Foley scandal and the fallout. He joins right now for a little preview, hi Larry.

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hey Paula, great show coming up. We'll have the first interview, by the way, with John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted" on the scandal of Congressman Mark Foley who wrote, by the way, the Child Protection Law, signed in July. It's named for John Walsh's murdered son Adam. There is irony.

Plus, a former page in Foley's office on what it was like to work for him and a pastor who spoke today with the families of the killer and the victims in that terrible Amish school massacre. It's all ahead at the top of the hour, Paula.

ZAHN: Yes, the details on that story only seem to get worse as we learn more. Larry, thanks, see you at 9:00.

Switching gears, to our top story outside the law, which is also the number one story on Today we learned some new information about exactly what drove a suicidal man into an Amish school to commit an horrific crime. And as the death toll climbed to five, police in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, painted a picture of a man tortured by his past and the sexual demons that haunted him.

Allan Chernoff has tonight's top story outside the law.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police believe the possible motive in this horrific shooting was a dark secret inside the mind of a man who, on the surface, appeared to be an ordinary father. Milkman Charles Roberts finished his early Monday morning pickups from local dairies. Then followed his daily routine.

MARY MILLER, CHARLES ROBERTS' NEIGHBOR: He seemed like a normal guy. He walked his kids to the bus stop about 8:45 every morning.

CHERNOFF: His wife, Marie, was at this local church leading a mother's prayer group for their children and schools.

(on camera): Was there ever any indication that Marie had a clue what was inside of the mind of her husband?

KRISTINE HILEMAN, MIDDLE OCTORARA PRESB. CHURCH: No. We had a wonderful prayer meeting. Uplifting and fervent and honest and everybody there felt the presence of God while we were praying.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): As Marie Roberts was praying for her children, her husband Charles entered another school heavily armed. He let the teachers and boys go, then boarded up the one-room Amish schoolhouse. At that point, with ten girls captive, Roberts revealed his deepest secret to Marie during their final phone conversation. Twenty years ago, he claimed, he had sexually molested two of his very young relatives when they were three or four-years-old, a claim that police are still working to confirm.

COL JEFFREY MILLER, STATE POLICE COMMISSIONER: This was a very deeply disturbed individual, but he wasn't disturbed in the sense that people could pick up on that at the surface. He was very deeply troubled underneath.

CHERNOFF (on camera): As he held the school girls at gunpoint, Roberts told Marie he would not be coming home. He also told her where to find his suicide note to her and their three children.

(voice-over): Roberts wrote that he had dreamt for two years of molesting children again, a plan police say he may have intended to carry out at the Amish schoolhouse.

MILLER: It's very possible that he intended to victimize these children in many ways prior to executing them and killing himself.

CHERNOFF: Police quickly arrived at the schoolhouse, and authorities say Roberts panicked and began shooting the girls who stood at the blackboard execution style. Five children are dead, and tonight, five other girls, age 6 to 13, are fighting for their lives in area hospitals.

Another possible motive, Roberts also spoke in the note to his wife about his anger that his firstborn daughter, Elise (ph), died only 20 minutes after her birth. He wrote, quote, "I am filled with so much hate, hate toward myself, hate towards God, and unimaginable emptiness."

Alan Chernoff, CNN, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.


ZAHN: Well, as you can imagine, the recent school shootings have everyone on edge and today several schools in Broken Air (ph), Oklahoma were briefly locked down as police searched for three young people who stole knives from a sporting goods shop. The schools reopened a short time later.

(MARKET REPORT) ZAHN: A top international story is unfolding in a place that has seen decades of misery. Coming up, Anderson Cooper joins me live from the Congo where some say that nothing less than the future of Africa is hanging in the balance tonight. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: We have an extraordinary two hours of "ANDERSON COOPER 360" coming up live from Africa tonight, focusing on a dire humanitarian crisis in the Congo, where war has forced millions to become refugees and so far, there has been precious little help from the rest of the world.

Anderson Cooper now joins me from Congo for his special "The Killing Fields: Africa's Misery, the World's Shame."

So, Anderson, by some reports there are some 16 million people starving there today, a couple million people displaced by war. What have you seen since you've landed on the ground there?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's hard to fathom how big the problem here in the Congo is. I mean, it is an enormous country, bigger than Texas and California and several other American states combined. There are only about 300 miles of actual paved roads in the country. Two-thirds of the people have no access to medical care, so imagine that you get sick, there's nowhere for you to go, nowhere for are you take your child.

Malnutrition is in about 75 percent of the homes. This is a failed state, Paula. The state -- it's a predator state. The government has been called a kleptocracy for the last several decades. It is not a rule that the people on the ground really see any impact from. They don't see schools run by the government. They don't see hospitals run by the government.

They see the government as a predator and in many ways, that's what the government here has been in the lives of these people. The U.N. has launched a massive human humanitarian effort here. The largest peacekeeping effort is going on right now in U.N. history, the largest election effort. They're trying to get Democratic elections here. There's now a runoff between two main candidates.

But really, this country hangs in the balance and as you said earlier, as this country goes, so may go the rest of Africa. This country right in the heart of Africa has the potential for changing the entire region of Africa. So that's why so much attention is being paid right now to what is going on right here, Paula.

ZAHN: All right. Thank you, Anderson, and, of course, we'll be looking for your report "The Killing Fields: Africa's Misery, the World's Shame." That gets underway at 10:00 p.m. tonight. Again, thanks, Anderson.

Coming up at the top of the hour, "LARRY KING LIVE" takes on the Mark Foley scandal with John Walsh from "America's Most Wanted." We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. We hope you enjoy us then, and we hope you've enjoyed our new set tonight. Have a great night. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.


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