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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

NTSB Sifts Through New York Plane Crash Wreckage; Congress Investigates Foley Scandal

Aired October 12, 2006 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone. Thanks for joining us.
Cory Lidle's final flight -- tonight, we retrace his flight path and what we can learn from it about this post-9/11 world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Pretty as a postcard, deadly as a mine field -- tight turns, busy airspace, a pilot's-eye view of the flight path that ended in strategy, and growing questions about why this risky route is still on the map.

He says anyone who covered up the Foley page should be fired.

He says, Speaker Hastert, try starting with your own office. Secret testimony, could it implicate the most powerful Republican in Congress?

And picture your child snatched by kidnappers, taken to a foreign country, forced into slavery. Who could do anything so sick and bizarre? Yes, North Korea's more than just a rogue state with a bomb.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

Reporting tonight from the CNN studios in New York, here is Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Thanks for joining us.

Tonight, you will have a seat next to a pilot aboard a plane similar to one that Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle flew yesterday, the plane he died in yesterday, and along the exact same path that led him and his instructor to their deaths.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, this really is a thrill, but it's also something that requires a lot of attention. I would be reluctant to come through here with just one pilot, somebody to work the radios, another set of eyes and ears.

I just think that this is -- this is a fairly intense bit of flying here, because of all of the things that are going on. We have -- we have gone through La Guardia airspace twice, Newark airspace. We have got JFK over there. This is a busy little piece of airspace, to be sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That is CNN's Miles O'Brien in the cockpit. We will have more from him, as he flies along Manhattan, in a moment.

We will also have the latest on the investigation into the New York high-rise crash.

But, first, as any New Yorker knows, planes, both big and small, commercial and private, crisscross the city day and night. Given the fact of what happened on a Tuesday morning in September, many want to know why the airspace hasn't been tightened.

CNN's Mary Snow tonight "Keeping Them Honest."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is still shock over the plane crash that killed Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and a flight instructor.

But some New Yorkers are equally surprised that, five years after 9/11, a small plane could get so close to the city skyline.

JOHN GARRISON, RESIDENT OF NEW YORK CITY: I have often wondered, why would they allow this? I mean, this is really crowded airspace.

PATRICIA MONTAGUE, BUSINESS OWNER: I thought, after 9/11, that was totally supposed to be banned.

SNOW: New York Governor George Pataki said he didn't know that a small plane could fly above New York's East River under flight visual rules only, meaning it was not required to communicate with a flight control tower.

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI (R), NEW YORK: This is something that I was as surprised as any other New Yorker yesterday, that someone flying visually, not under the control, I believe, of any of the towers of the airports, could just circle Manhattan.

SNOW: Pataki is calling on the FAA to review its rules. And some security analysts are asking what-ifs, in the wake of Wednesday's accident.

CHARLES SLEPIAN, CEO, FORESEEABLE RISK ANALYSIS CENTER: If, in that aircraft, sitting alongside the pilot was not an instructor or a passenger, but, rather, 200 pounds of explosives, when that plane flew into that building, we would have seen a major disaster.

SNOW: Some pilots say more restrictions are not necessary. They point out it would be easier to load a car or truck with explosives than a plane. PHIL BOYER, PRESIDENT, AIRCRAFT OWNERS AND PILOTS ASSOCIATION: A small plane, the type of airplane that -- that went into the East Side building, is about the size of a Honda Civic and the weight. It doesn't carry much fuel. It can't carry much of a payload.

SNOW: The city's mayor also questions tighter restrictions, saying they would overload an already badly stretched air traffic control system.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Having everybody controlled doesn't necessarily make it safer. It may make it less safe, because the controllers can't handle the volume.

SNOW (on camera): The governor has proposed making temporary restrictions permanent. The FAA says it's reviewing its guidelines.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, the route that Lidle took covers one of the most dangerous flight paths in the country. It's along the East Side of Manhattan, where the space is narrow, congested, and surrounded by skyscrapers and other manmade hazards.

To give you a sense of just how treacherous the path is, CNN's Miles O'Brien, who is an experienced pilot, flew a plane along the exact route that Lidle took yesterday.

Here is his report from inside the cockpit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: (INAUDIBLE) one-two-two Charlie Victor, (INAUDIBLE) hotel, northbound (INAUDIBLE) departure.

Basically, what we're go doing here is, we will try to recreate the river portion of that flight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: We will go down the southern part, down south the Hudson River, circle the lady, as they say, the Statue of Liberty, and then up the East River, and turn back around to the south, and back in.

OK. So, here is the Hudson River. The Hudson River is a much more forgiving place to fly, isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To some extent, yes. You will have more options, places to land.

Why don't you circle the statue, and then head up the East River, one-two-two Charlie Victor, and then over the north end of Manhattan, back to New Jersey.

O'BRIEN: Now, suddenly, the East River, when you approach the East River, it -- it's quite evident it's a lot tighter.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: This is a tight little canyon corridor of airspace, isn't it?

Now, we're in a different position. We're talking to controllers. They weren't, so, they had to stay within the confines of this river. But I can see how tight it is to make a turn here.

This is a thrill. I mean, this really is a thrill, but it's also something that requires a lot of attention. I would be reluctant to come through here with just one pilot, somebody to work the radios, another set of eyes and ears.

I just think that this is -- this is a fairly intense bit of flying here, because of all of the things that are going on. We have -- we have gone through La Guardia airspace twice, Newark airspace. We have got JFK over there. This is a busy little piece of airspace, to be sure.

This pretty much the turn they would have been trying to make, only lower. And it's a very, very tight turn. That is -- wow. That is a box canyon, is what that is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're absolutely right.

O'BRIEN: So, what you have to consider here is, we're at 2,000 feet. That was about double the altitude they were at.

And we were -- so, we weren't really boxed in by that -- that canyon, as they were. And, even then, I can see -- I can see the kind of situation they were in, depending on how much speed they had, exactly what the wind was doing, which was blowing them toward Manhattan. They were in a -- in a situation where they really had no place to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) tower (INAUDIBLE) one-two-two Charlie Victor to transition through Teterboro, landing with (INAUDIBLE) Straight in for two-seven (INAUDIBLE) three miles, one- two-two Charlie Victor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You know, when you fly out of these small airports, though, there -- there is very little visible security.

O'BRIEN: Yes. You are not taking your shoes off. You're not putting your bags on a conveyer belt. There's no -- none of the visible signs of security that you would see if you were going to a big airport.

What I should point out, though, is that aviation, at that level, is a much -- it's more clubby, and -- and...

COOPER: More intimate. O'BRIEN: Yes, it is more intimate.

There are fewer people doing it. And there a lot of people watching you when you go to these airports. These airports have an atmosphere of people knowing people. And the -- the fuel jockeys, the -- the people at the desk, the guards who patrol them are really on the lookout all the time for things that are suspicious.

And because there -- there are fewer number of people who fly these planes, they know the people. And they are familiar with the patterns of these places. And things that look suspicious do stand out.

COOPER: Beyond terrorism, though, I mean, should aircraft like the one involved in -- in yesterday's crash, I mean, be allowed to fly that close to the United Nations, you know, up the East River, up the Hudson River, in New York, around large landmarks?

O'BRIEN: You know, yes and no.

I -- I think it -- it's -- it -- you know, taking aside even the landmarks, being in those densely populated area, with all that traffic, it's -- it -- I found the flight I flew today tense -- it really was -- because of all the traffic.

COOPER: And you have been flying for years.

O'BRIEN: I have been flying for years.

And, so, what I'm saying is, I don't think it's for everybody. I think you have to have a lot of experience. And I think, if you don't have the experience, you should have somebody in the airplane who is very familiar with the area and does have the experience.

COOPER: What surprised you most about -- about the flight you took today, I mean, when you got into that -- that area?

O'BRIEN: Well, it was interesting.

I flew down the Hudson River. And it was just beautiful. It was a beautiful day. And it -- it was nice and -- the -- the river is wide. And you go down, and you circle the Statue of Liberty, and you think, this is the most exhilarating thing. This is what freedom is all about. There you are, circling over the Statue of Liberty. And this is what the -- you know, the American dream is all about.

And, then, you take that left turn up the East River, and it's like night and day. It's this narrow, little confine there. It's -- it's like a -- it's a narrow box canyon, if you will. And it was -- it was a very tight, little space to be.

And it really became very clear to me that it wasn't designed for small fixed-wing aircraft for -- for -- to -- to go on a sightseeing mission. It's there for the helicopters. It's there for the seaplane base which is there. It's not an ideal place to go up and fly around and look at buildings. COOPER: Miles O'Brien, thanks.

As Miles just reported, the dangers of the flight pattern are obvious. But that still doesn't explain what went so horribly wrong yesterday. To find out, authorities are looking for clues and talking to witnesses.

CNN's Allan Chernoff has the latest now on the investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was, like, coming like this, and, then, all of the sudden, do, like, two turns...

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Upside down?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Upside down. And, then, it hit the wall -- hit the building. It was unbelievable.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Eyewitnesses who saw Cory Lidle's small plane just before impact say it was clearly out of control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The belly -- the belly of the plane like hits the building.

CHERNOFF (on camera): It was the belly of the plane that...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

CHERNOFF: ... actually smashed...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

CHERNOFF: ... into the -- the building?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It's not like a head-on collision, like that, straight ahead, you know?

CHERNOFF (voice-over): They also say it looked like the pilot was trying to avoid this taller apartment building across the street from the crash site.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was flipping over, like it was trying to dodge the buildings, going between that -- the tall one and the small one.

CHERNOFF: What caused the sudden loss of control? Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies have been combing through the wreckage, both outside the Belaire condominium and inside the apartments that burst into flames, where the engine and propeller landed.

Their initial impression: The engine was delivering power to the propeller at the time of impact, indicating it's unlikely engine failure was the cause.

DEBBIE HERSMAN, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD MEMBER: Early examination indicates that the propellers were turning.

CHERNOFF: Investigators face a challenge, because, after Cory Lidle's plane took off from New Jersey's Teterboro Airport, there was no contact with air traffic control. Small planes, like the Cirrus SR-20, have no black box or flight data recorder.

(on camera): Given the rules of flying above Manhattan, it's not that difficult to make an educated guess as to exactly what went wrong.

(voice-over): Cory Lidle and his flight instructor, Tyler Stanger, were flying north, above the East River. They did not have permission to enter La Guardia Airport's airspace further north, so the plane had to turn around.

Small planes are allowed to fly only above rivers, not above the island of Manhattan. But the plane broke that rule, turning left, bringing it directly above high-rise apartments on the Upper East Side.

HERSMAN: The final radar return shows the airplane in a left turn a quarter-mile north of the building at an altitude of approximately 500 feet.

CHERNOFF: Pilots say it's a tight spot for a U-turn, and banking the plane too sharply could have caused a loss of control and elevation for the aircraft. Indeed, the radar shows the plane dropped 200 feet in a matter of seconds as it made that final turn.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, in the glare of coverage over the crash and the death of a New York Yankee, Cory Lidle's flight instructor has been overlooked.

Today, we learned his name, Tyler Stanger. He was 26 years old, of Southern California. He had been flying since he was a teenager. That is his picture. And he leaves behind a wife, who is pregnant, and an infant daughter as well.

The plane they were flying in was light, compact, no match for a New York high-rise. Here's the "Raw Data" on it.

The Cirrus SR-20 weighs just over 2,000 pounds -- empty, that is. It has a maximum weight 3,000 pounds. The plane is just 26 feet long, with a wing -- wingspan of 35 feet, 7 inches.

Unlike New York, much of Washington is a no-fly zone, not, however, because of the radioactive cloud over the Capitol tonight from the Foley page scandal. Up next: high-stakes testimony from a man who says the House leadership knew about Congressman Foley's page problem years ago, and did nothing about it.

Later: how Foley and Iraq and everything else is factoring into Democratic and Republican playbooks -- the tricks each side are trying to get you to the polls and win your vote.

And a story as strange as it is heartbreaking: a country kidnapping children, turning them into slaves, and worse. What we're learning will make you -- well, make you can't believe it's actually happening -- when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Hi drama today in the Foley page scandal -- secret testimony before the House Ethics Committee centers on who knew what and when about then Congressman Mark Foley's alleged pursuit of teenaged boys.

We should mention that the committee's investigation will not affect Mr. Foley, who is no longer a congressman. It could, however, cripple the country's top congressman, House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Speaker Hastert says his office first heard of the allegations against Mark Foley late last year -- today, hour after hour of testimony from Congressman Foley's ex-chief of staff, who has been saying something very different.

CNN's Dana Bash has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mark Foley's former chief of staff returned to Capitol Hill to deliver four-and-a-half-hours of potentially explosive testimony, telling the House Ethics Committee, under oath, he repeatedly sent warnings about Foley's questionable contact with pages.

TIMOTHY HEAPHY, ATTORNEY FOR KIRK FORDHAM: He has been truthful and cooperative, and will continue to be throughout this and other investigations.

BASH: Kirk Fordham says, he began alerting senior Republicans, including the House speaker's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, at least three years ago about Foley's inappropriate conduct.

That contradicts the speaker's timeline, which says his staff learned about Foley just last year, when informed of a troubling e- mail exchange with a 16-year-old former male page.

CNN is told, Fordham was so concerned about Foley's behavior, he arranged a meeting three or four years between the speaker's chief of staff and Mark Foley. That move was prompted, in part, by an alarming report Fordham got. His boss, Mark Foley, has allegedly shown up at the page's dorm, drunk -- that according to a source familiar with Fordham's account.

In response to Fordham's charge that he alerted GOP officials about Foley, the speaker's chief of staff has only issued this one- line statement: "What Kirk Fordham said did not happen."

Who is telling the truth? Did anyone cover it up? That's what the Ethics Committee must determine, as it judges how the Republican leadership dealt with the Foley matter.

Also testifying, GOP Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, angry about how fellow Republicans handled Foley. Capito is one of three lawmakers on the board that oversees House pages. Yet, only the GOP chairman confronted Foley last year about the worrisome e-mail exchange. Capito and the Democrat on the board were kept in the dark.

REP. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (R), WEST VIRGINIA: I'm a member of the Page Board who was not informed of the e-mail messages that were sent. And I want to see this investigation go forth quickly, and -- and reach a conclusion.

BASH: Capito is getting pounded back home by her Democratic opponent, who took out a newspaper add saying -- quote -- "This House Page Board has failed our children and the American people."

(on camera): The speaker's office wouldn't directly address Fordham's testimony, but did take a veiled shot at him by issuing a statement, saying the Ethics Committee would -- quote -- "determine the real facts."

The investigation continues Friday with testimony from Republican Congressman John Shimkus, the only lawmaker who admits confronting Foley about his inappropriate behavior towards pages.

Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, all this is making Speaker Hastert a political liability, just when he would ordinarily be out stumping for fellow Republicans. It couldn't come at a worse time.

But, as CNN's Ed Henry reports, one Republican, the country's top Republican, the president, is standing by the speaker.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four weeks before the midterm elections, President Bush gave the embattled House speaker a shot in the arm yet again at a Republican fund-raiser in Chicago.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm proud to be standing with the current speaker of the House, who is going to be the future speaker of the House.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

HENRY: Conservatives have called on Dennis Hastert to resign for, in the words of "The Washington Times," giving phony answers to questions about what did he know and when did he know it in the Mark Foley page scandal.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Having President Bush come out and defend him means a lot. It might actually stop the hemorrhaging.

HENRY: Hastert, though, is still bracing for a House ethics probe that is heating up. And, on the campaign trail, some Republicans have canceled fund-raisers with Hastert, cutting and running from a radioactive speaker, but not the commander in chief, who phoned Hastert last week to tell him to hang in there, and then backed Hastert at a Rose Garden press conference Wednesday.

BUSH: I think the speaker's strong statements have made it clear to not only, you know, the party members, but to the country, that he wants to find out the facts.

HENRY: The president's support for Hastert stands in stark contrast to four years ago, when Mr. Bush slammed then Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott, who later lost his leadership post.

The difference: Hastert has delivered for the president. And Mr. Bush will need the speaker more than ever in the final two years of his presidency.

PRESTON: He's basically a lame duck after the November 7 elections. And, right now, if Denny Hastert were to be forced out as speaker of the House, that would basically doom Mr. Bush's presidency for the rest of his term.

HENRY (on camera): The White House will give Hastert another vote of confidence this weekend, when Press Secretary Tony Snow headlines a fund-raiser for the speaker.

Ed Henry, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, up next: how the scandal is affecting the polls, and how each side is planning to win in this crucial election -- John Roberts with a look at the political playbook.

And, just when you thought a nuclear test was the worst thing you could learn about North Korea, a stunning story of a government that sponsors kidnapping -- ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: With Election Day fast approaching, who has got the winning strategy? The Democratic and Republican playbooks -- next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, elections normally come down to three words: turnout, turnout, and turnout. Normally, though, doesn't begin to describe what is happening this time around. This time, it's turnout- plus -- plus scandal, plus a lot of high-stakes, high-power games -- gamesmanship.

CNN's John Roberts now with a peek at both sides' playbooks. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Republicans had their secret weapon out Wednesday, first lady Laura Bush, brining her star power to the tightening Senate race in Tennessee.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, Bob.

ROBERTS: Many Republicans thankful the election isn't for another four weeks.

(on camera): How -- how bad does it look?

ED GILLESPIE, FORMER REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: How bad does it appear?

GILLESPIE: Clearly, this is not a positive time right now.

ROBERT (voice-over): In fact, it couldn't be much worse: the Foley scandal, the ongoing problems in Iraq, new CNN poll numbers that show congressional Democrats the clear preference of voters and leading on all the major issues, including, for the first time, terrorism. It all adds up to possible losses for the GOP on November 7.

But Republicans aren't about to go looking for a bridge just yet.

GILLESPIE: Because, in politics, nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems. And, over the course of the next 30 days, things will get back to equilibrium.

ROBERTS: At the moment, Republicans are trying anything. Connecticut Congressman Chris Shays, fighting for his political life, contrasted the Foley scandal with Senator Ted Kennedy's famous 1969 accident on Chappaquiddick, claiming, with Foley, at least no one died.

House Republicans also suggested they should haul President Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger, before Congress to ask him why he stuffed classified documents from the National Archives in his socks three years ago. It's all a way to change the subject and try to make the opposition look shady, something the Democrats won't take lying down.

ANITA DUNN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: For Democrats, what they need to do is, they need to respond aggressively, not be defensive. And they need to take the case of why there needs to be change directly to the Republicans.

ROBERTS: The Democratic strategy is to ride a wave of anti- incumbency and conservative disillusionment with the Republican Party right into the congressional driver's seat.

DUNN: Every day, there is a different way to illustrate the fundamental message that it is time for a change, and that these people should not be allowed to rule the country any longer.

ROBERTS: Republicans hope to break that wave with their famous 72-hour get-out-the-vote campaign and a remarkable database dubbed the voter vault that identifies possible Republican voters, based on everything from the cars they drive to the magazines they read.

GILLESPIE: It's incredibly valuable. To be able to determine the likelihood that someone will vote Republican, and affix it at, you know, 85 percent, and then get that person to go vote, is a -- is a valuable tool.

ROBERTS: Even the Democrats admit Republicans have it all over them on vote operations. Add to that $100 million Republican edge in fund-raising, and Democrats are at a significant tactical disadvantage.

But what they lack in organization, says political analyst Amy Walter, Democrats may make up for in enthusiasm.

AMY WALTER, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT": I would rather have a less organized group of enthusiastic, angry people than a well-organized group of disillusioned or disappointed people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So, John, how long does the Foley effect go on for you, you think?

ROBERTS: Depends, Anderson, on -- on who you listen to, and where you listen to them.

In -- in public, Democrats will tell you, this is going to go on well past the election. Republicans will say, no, it's going to fade soon.

But, privately, they both believe that it -- really, unless it catches somebody big, like Dennis Hastert, or maybe even his chief of staff, it -- it doesn't have much legs left.

The big question after that is going to be, can Republicans start to narrow those poll numbers? Can they fire up the base by saying, look it, here is the alternative; if you don't come out to the polls on November 7, we are going to have a Democratic Congress; Democratic policies will be ruling the roost on Capitol Hill; you have got to come out; you have got to vote Republican?

It -- it's not a matter of either one stealing votes from the other. It's a matter of, as you said at the beginning of this, Anderson, turnout, turnout, turnout, and who can get more people out to the polls on November 7.

COOPER: That is the question. John, thanks. Appreciate it -- John Roberts.

Some perspective now from David Gergen, who, in addition to being a former presidential adviser, is a veteran of more than a few campaigns, you could say. Also joining us is A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of "The Hill," a newspaper which covers Congress.

Both of you, appreciate you being with us.

David, let's start with you.

Today, the president appearing with the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, saying positive words about him. Is that the good strategy?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Not in the present circumstances. I understand why he's doing it.

But, you know, turnout does matter. And, in some very close races, Republicans will win because they have a -- a better turnout machine. But turnout -- it's turnout vs. tide at this point. And, at this moment, Anderson, the tide is running more heavily in the Democratic direction than at any time in perhaps 20 years. And the tide is so high they could wash right over the turnout machine the Republicans have.

COOPER: But I mean, you've sort of got to stick with -- with Hastert at this point. You know, he doesn't have much of an alternative, does he?

STODDARD: The strategy is aimed towards wavering Republicans. The angry voters have made up their minds, and they're not the ones that Bush and Republican Party are talking to now.

The Republicans are trying to talk to their base, and they're worried they're going to stay home as John just told you. And so the sticking with Hastert plan is actually, I think, the right calculation.

It's -- if you replace Hastert now it's too much of a mess. If you stick with -- if you stick with Hastert and say he's a good man, he's been a good speaker and you get out to your activists and you go on talk radio and talk about how this is all a Democratic conspiracy you might win over some wavering Republicans, and that could tip the balance in a lot of these races.

GERGEN: Anderson, let me respond to it. Here is the problem, though. When the president chooses to appear with Denny Hastert, keeps -- and keeps talking about it, it helps to keep the subject in the news. And you know, your report tonight about Mr. Fordham going up and the conflicts now in testimony, that keeps the story alive.

And the longer the story stays alive, the harder time the Republicans have of getting their message out. Their message is being squelched in this. It's being snuffed out by this continuing Mark Foley story. That's why, if you look at it, I think we missed an opportunity as Republicans to essentially take the air out of this story maybe 10 days ago, when Denny Hastert decided to fight it out. It helped keep the story alive.

I understand why he did that, but as a political matter he took a big gamble. The story keeps out there, and it's been very, very hard for Republicans to make an argument about anything in this environment.

COOPER: Well, what the Republicans do seem to be doing is kind of hearkening back to the past. I mean, they're now talking about Sandy Berger stuffing stuff in his socks, allegedly. They're talking about Chappaquiddick, Chris Shays comparing the Foley scandal to Chappaquiddick in the late '60s. Does that work? Does that make them look kind of desperate?

STODDARD: Well, I mean, anything to change the subject at this point, I think. The better thing to do is do what President Bush did yesterday, which is to start talking about Democrats, the possibility of them raising taxes.

I am really surprised that it took sort of an 11th hour desperation on the part -- I mean, the Republicans are sort of in a free fall right now, and I was surprised that President Bush waited until now to bring this up, because that's a powerful message for the Republicans. And they should be talking about that and not Chappaquiddick.

COOPER: But David, isn't talking about, you know, raising taxes, isn't that, like, the oldest trick in the book?

GERGEN: Well, it's just not on the radar screen. It's not what people care about right now. What they care about is the general economy, worrying about jobs and what they care about is Iraq. And they care about terrorism. And the other thing that's happening now, which I think...

COOPER: And yet those are subjects. I mean, traditionally Republicans have done well on.

GERGEN: Absolutely.

COOPER: And yet he can't talk about that right now, because I mean, it seems like the Democrats are winning on that, David.

GERGEN: That's right. But I think that's why he's got to push back. He can't afford to sort on the fold on war on terror and Iraq.

I mean, I thought it was also not helpful to the Republicans this week, in addition to the Foley issue, not helpful, that now we suddenly have a lot of public conversation about reevaluating our plan in Iraq as if we're going to change course.

Everybody in Washington has known there's probably going to be a plan B after the election. To start talking about it before the election, saying, "We're going to change course," that's what Democrats have been arguing; we've got to change course. This course is not working.

Now suddenly, the president is saying, "Hey, I'm open to changing course." Head of the joint chiefs comes out and says we've got to reevaluate. We've got the Baker commission moving up. That really basically says we didn't -- you know, the administration hasn't gotten it right.

See, I'm astonished that that is now all happening just before the election.

COOPER: They are talking about Democrats will raise your taxes. In the past they would probably also start talking about gay rights and the gay agenda. Can they do that now, though, with Foley so much in the news?

STODDARD: No. I think they really -- I think the social issues that usually help them in the final weeks are not -- it's just not a good idea for them right now.

I mean, look, the ethics committee investigation is going to keep this story alive, no matter what Dennis Hastert does, and that story is not going to go away, but -- before the election.

But I agree with what we talked about at the top. This turnout and the getting out of the money and the getting out the vote thing is really, really the Republican strength. Don't underestimate their ability and their determination to get that vote out.

And if they end up holding on, I will not be surprised because they have the mechanical edge. They really do, and they'll use it.

COOPER: David, you agree?

GERGEN: I think the turnout effort by the Republicans is probably worth maybe 2, 3, in some important races as much as 4 percent. Much beyond that, if the Democrats go into, you know, some of these races 8, 10 points ahead, the turnout effort is not going to be enough to turn it around.

COOPER: David Gergen, A.B. Stoddard, appreciate you joining us. Thanks.

STODDARD: Thanks.

COOPER: Now imagine if another country kidnapped your child? Incredibly, that is exactly what happened to the parents of at least one girl -- a lot more, actually -- who was abducted by North Korea. You will not believe why she was abducted. We'll have that story next.

And later, a milestone for this country. Sometime this month the population will reach 300 million, and it could change everything. We'll look at that later on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, there's much we don't know about North Korea, but what we do know is chilling and almost impossible to believe at times.

The communist state is ruled by one man. You all know that. Kim Jong-Il. He is mysterious. He's been called maniacal and he may now possess nuclear weapons.

The Dear Leader wants to be recognized as a world power. There's no doubt about that. His country is sealed off. Few are allowed in. Even fewer are allowed out.

But the secret state has gone to great and, frankly, bizarre lengths to find out how the outside world lives, including kidnapping citizens from other countries, children in some cases.

CNN's Tom Foreman investigates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It began on the Japanese coast in 1977, the mystery that was little noticed then but now shakes the shores of two nations.

A 13-year-old girl did not come home from school. Her mother was cooking dinner, her twin brothers playing. Megumi Yokota was expected any moment.

"I thought it was getting late and she wasn't home yet. I turned off the stove and ran to the school. When I looked in the gym, there were no badminton players. At that moment I felt a chill. We grabbed a flashlight and started yelling, 'Megumi! Megumi!'"

Now in a haunting new documentary, American filmmakers Patty Kim and her husband, Chris Sheridan, are telling the story.

"My wife told me Megumi hadn't come home yet."

"I told him get home now."

But this is more than a family's loss. Nearly 30 years later, the disappearance is rattling the highest levels of Asian governments, even affecting nuclear arms talk.

PATTY KIM, "ABDUCTION" FILMMAKER: It's a personal tragedy that's now evolved into one of the most talked about, one of the most emotionally charged political crises in Asia.

FOREMAN: The reason lies in North Korea. After years of waiting, worrying and asking question, Megumi's family stumbled onto a horrible truth. Their daughter and at least a dozen other Japanese citizens had been snatched by North Korean agents.

CHRIS SHERIDAN, "ABDUCTION" FILMMAKER: These were average, normal Japanese people, cooks, clerks, a carpenter, people who had -- were not particularly well-educated but were just average, regular people. And that was the whole point.

Yes, that was the whole point, was to get people who were normal, who could basically exhibit the kind of traits that the average, everyday person exhibits that we take for granted but that foreigners wouldn't quite understand.

FOREMAN: They were, in short, slaves, forced to teach language and cultural skills to North Korean spies.

KIM: These North Korean spies would go out, using Japanese passports and their new identity to carry out missions for North Korea.

There is one incredibly dramatic and tragic example of how this program did, in fact, work.

FOREMAN: In late 1987, just months before the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, two North Korean agents were apparently sent to disrupt the games. They posed as Japanese citizens and planted a bomb on a plane headed for South Korea. Everyone on board died, 115 people.

The North Korean government denied involvement. But the saboteurs did not get away.

KIM: The female spy was captured by authorities, and she later confessed that her teachers, the people who taught her to speak Japanese and taught her everything she had to learn to be a Japanese person, was a woman who had been abducted from the shores of Japan.

FOREMAN: The North Koreans eventually admitted to some abductions, and ever since the fate of the abductees has become a scorching issues for Japanese political leaders.

"You should be ashamed. You haven't done a thing."

The families of the missing have pressed hard for answers, even as Japan has tried to ease historic tensions with North Korea in recent years. The result?

(on camera) Even after North Korea returned some surviving abductees many Japanese citizens remain convinced that scores more are still in captivity, along with perhaps hundreds of South Korean kidnap victims.

(voice-over) The Japanese keep pressing, putting more tension on the already strained nuclear arms debate. Even President Bush has acknowledged the issue.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have just had one of the most moving meetings since I've been the president.

FOREMAN: He met Megumi's mother earlier this year and just this week spoke again about her horrible story.

BUSH: It broke my heart. And it should break everybody's heart, but it speaks to the nature of the regime.

FOREMAN: So what has become the Megumi? Under the relentless pressure from Japan, the North Koreans finally said she committed suicide years ago. But her parents think that is a lie, too.

(on camera) Does she believe her daughter is alive?

SHERIDAN; Absolutely. The parents, unequivocally, believe that their daughter is alive. North Korea says she's dead. Japan believes she is alive, and there's plenty of evidence on both sides.

FOREMAN: The North Koreans say they produced this picture of Megumi as an adult. And they also say she married and gave birth to this girl, who is now 18 and bears a startling resemblance to the Japanese grandmother she has never met.

What we know for sure is this: if Megumi is alive, she would have turned 42 this month.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That is extraordinary. Can you imagine, a mother having to live with that, families separated.

And along the border with South Korea, another division. Enemies staring each other down. A military showdown. Tonight, we'll take you to one side. A true build up. We'll take you to the DMZ for the latest on North Korea.

And America's population about to hit 300 million. Melting pot or meltdown? How the boom may produce a new racial tension when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The United States is trying to get the United Nations Security Council to vote tomorrow in favor of strict sanctions against North Korea over its claimed nuclear tests.

The Russian and Chinese governments seem to want to wait until next week. Then there's Japan's cabinet. It was just in the past hour or so slapped sanctions of its own on Pyongyang. All Japanese ports will be off limits to North Korean shipping.

Meanwhile, North Korea's neighbor to the South, well, they are now on high alert. CNN's Dan Rivers is there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Commander Kim Yong Woo surveys the demilitarized buffer zone that separates North and South Korea with an expert eye.

Suddenly, this fault line between communism and capitalism has the world's attention. It gives me a tour of the section of the fence and reveals that the South Korean army has increased the number of soldiers patrolling and manning watch towers by one third since the north claimed it had tested a nuclear device. He says, "Since the nuclear test we are not detecting any movement of North Korean soldiers, but we are sure North Korea will have another test. We are preparing for this. We are heightening our defense posture to confront the north's aggression."

The patrols are bigger and more alert. A once boring routine now has an edge.

(on camera) Despite Kim Jong-Il's saber rattling, the message here from the Southern Korean army message is clear: they are highly trained and heavily armed, prepared to repel any aggressive incursion into their territory.

(voice-over) North Korea hasn't threatened South Korea directly but has threatened to retaliate against international sanctions.

Beyond the razor wire we managed to glimpse a slice of daily life inside the world's most secretive state. North Korean villages clearly visible, and even workers can just be made out tending the fields by hand. Their society cut off from the outside world, probably largely oblivious to the current international crisis, which is growing deeper each day.

Dan Rivers, CNN, on the border of North and South Korea.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, in the world's other hot spot, Iraq, it was another violent day. A television station was attacked in Baghdad. Several people were killed. We'll have the details coming up.

And the death of Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle. CNN's Miles O'Brien retraces his final flight path. Find out why things might have gone so tragically wrong. Next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Today's "Shot" is coming up, but first Erica Hill from Headline News has a 360 news and business bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Anderson, chilling words today from the U.S. military spokesman in Iraq. His message, quote, "We assume it will get worse before it gets better."

Seventeen people were killed in Baghdad today, including nine at an Iraqi television station. That TV station attack was the most deadly since the media -- against the media since the war began.

The U.S. military says violent attacks typically go up about 20 percent during Ramadan.

A British man whom U.S. authorities say is a senior al Qaeda member pled guilty to trying to bomb several financial buildings in Britain and the U.S., including the New York Stock Exchange. British prosecutors say the man planned to set dirty bombs in basements of several buildings and wanted to kill as many people as possible. In business news, Americans are buying more from overseas, the trade deficit is at a record for the second straight month. It was at nearly $70 billion in August, up from the previous record of $68 billion the month before. The gap rose even with a rise in exports of nearly 2.5 percent.

Well, let's end on a good note here. A new record for the Dow today, blue chips climbing past the 11,900 mark for the first time ever and marking the fifth record close in a little more than a week. The Dow packed on 95 for that record. The NASDAQ added nearly 37 today. The S&P, Anderson, was up 12 points.

COOPER: Good news for investors.

Time for today's "Shot". Let's just say you should turn away right now if you can't stand the sight of cute furry animals.

HILL: Who doesn't like cute furry animals?

COOPER: There you go. Zoo Atlanta's 36-day-old panda cub opened her eyes for the first time today during her routine physical exam. The vets say that this cub -- they haven't named her yet, but that it's probably difficult for her to see. She probably can see, but they can't tell how well.

And she's sort of in good health. She's 16 inches long. Just a little smidgen of a thing, really.

HILL: She is a little munchkin. When she's born, they're only, what, the size of a stick of butter or something, they say?

COOPER: That's an interesting measurement. Yes, I guess a stick of butter. She's just under four pounds, so I guess that's a big stick of butter.

HILL: Well, no. When she was born, she was a stick of butter. That would be like a large tub of butter, probably. You know, if you were churning it, maybe.

COOPER: Her mother's name is Lun-Lun.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: Make of it what you will.

HILL: Are they taking submissions for names? I mean, should we, you know, Anderson?

COOPER: You know, there's going to be some -- I'm sure there's going to be some competition and there's going to be a big fund- raising effort. And I don't know. I'm always skeptical about the whole panda thing.

HILL: Why? You don't think they're cute?

COOPER: It seems like a scam to me. No, they're cute. HILL: Are you against pandas?

COOPER: No, I'm not. Of course, they're cute. I don't know. You know. I don't know what it is about the pandas. Anyway...

HILL: OK. Well, I'm going to go down to Zoo Atlanta and say hi to the panda, but I won't tell her you said hello.

COOPER: Erica, thanks.

HILL: See you later.

COOPER: So there.

To Washington now. New testimony in the Foley page scandal, pointing a finger at Dennis Hastert, speaker of the House, and politically, at least, a radioactive man. That story is next.

Also, what Cory Lidle saw as his small plane made its way to what some are now calling a canyon of death.

And later, 300 million Americans. We're going to get there this month. How has life changed in not a lot of time for about 51 percent of us? Women in the workplace, part of a 360 special on Monday. We'll have a sneak preview later tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: High stakes and high drama. Secret testimony about what top members of Congress knew about Mark Foley and teenage pages. What did they know and when?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Grilled for answers. Mark Foley's former chief of staff in the hot seat on Capitol Hill, sharing what he knew about the ex-congressman's steamy online messages with pages.

Too close for comfort. After the high-rise plane crash, questions are raised about New York City's flight path.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought after 9/11, that was totally supposed to be banned.

ANNOUNCER: We retrace the fateful flight.

America's population about to hit 300 million. A melting pot or a melt-down?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, Latinos versus blacks. Tensions on the rise.

And Mel Gibson comes clean over his hate-filled words.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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