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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Foley Fallout; High-Rise Crash; New Racial Tension; The Latino Rise; Women in the Workforce; War in Iraq; Mel's Mea Culpa

Aired October 12, 2006 - 23:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEL GIBSON, ACTOR: I'm ashamed that that came out of my mouth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: But will his confession help boost his image?

Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360. Reporting tonight from the CNN studios in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We start the hour with yet another day of fireworks in the Foley page affair. What began a few weeks ago as report that a Florida congressman had sent inappropriate e-mails to a page has turned into a full blown scandal that could tip the mid- term elections.

The Congressman Mark Foley is gone, the House Republican leadership has taken a hit. And right now two investigations are under way. One by the FBI that could result in some criminal charges; the other, a House Ethics Committee inquiry. That was the venue today for a showdown.

CNN's Dana Bash reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Mark Foley's former chief of staff returned to Capitol Hill to deliver 4- 1/2 hours of potentially explosive testimony, telling the House Ethics Committee under oath he repeatedly sent warnings about Foley's questionable contact with pages.

TIM HEAPHY, FORDHAM'S ATTORNEY: He's 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 ago 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, had 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's 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), HOUSE PAGE BOARD: 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 reach a conclusion.

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

(On camera): Te 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, before moving on, we want to show you some late video from CNN Affiliate WLS in Chicago. It is President Bush at O'Hare airport on the tarmac with U2 lead singer Bono. Bono is in Chicago campaigning against AIDS. You'll recall he's been known to embrace politicians of just about any party to help in the cause. And Mr. Bush, he was in Chicago to embrace Denny Hastert.

More on that now from CNN's Ed Henry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

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

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 quite a lot. It might actually start the hemorrhaging.

HENRY: Hastert, though, is still bracing for a House Ethics probe that's heating up. And on the campaign trail, some Republicans have cancelled fundraisers 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 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 7th 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 fundraiser for the speaker.

Ed Henry, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Here in New York, just a day after the crash, investigators have already learned a great deal about what happened in the minutes and the seconds before a small plane hit a Manhattan high- rise.

New York Yankee Cory Lidle and Flight Instructor Tyler Stanger died in the crash. Stanger, 26 years old, is survived by a pregnant wife and an infant daughter. Cory Lidle was also a young parent.

In a moment we're going to give you a pilot's eye view of their deadly final flight path. But first, more on the investigation from CNN's Allan Chernoff.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANAND SAHEDEO, EYEWITNESS: And they were coming like this, and then all of a sudden, blew like two turns.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Upside down?

SAHEDEO: Upside down. And then it hit the wall -- hit the building. It was unbelievable.

CHERNOFF: Eyewitness who saw Cory Lidle's small plane just before impact say it was clearly out of control.

SAHEDEO: The belly, the belly of the plane, like, hit the building.

CHERNOFF: It was the belly of the plane that actually smashed into the building?

SAHEDEO: Yes. Not like head-on collision like that straight on.

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

STEVE BHAWANIDIN, EYEWITNESS: It a flipping over like this, 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, NTSB: 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 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 LaGuardia 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 backing 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, whoever was as the controls, he was flying a route that leaves very little room for maneuvering. Close to buildings, close to airline traffic and surprisingly to some, open to just about any pilot who wants to fly it.

CNN's Miles O'Brien is a private pilot with hundreds of hours of flight time. And today, as you are about to see, he put his experience to the test.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ottawa (ph) bound, 222 Charlie Victor with Hotel northbound VFR departure.

Basically, what we're going to do here is we'll try to recreate the river portion of that flight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: We'll go down the southern part, down south on 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's the Hudson River. The Hudson River is a much more forgiving place to fly, isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say, yes, you have more options and places to land. Why don't you circle the statue and then head up the East River, 1-2-2 Charlie Victor, and then cross over the north end of Manhattan, back to New Jersey.

O'BRIEN: Now suddenly, the East River, when you approach the East River, it's quite evident it's a lot tighter. It's 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 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'd be reluctant to come through here with just one pilot. I need somebody to work the radios, another set of eyes and ears. I just think that this is a fairly intense bit of fly hearing because of all the things that are going on.

We've gone through LaGuardia airspace twice, Newark air space. We've got JFK over there. This is a busy little piece of air space to be sure.

This is 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.

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 canyon as they were. And even then I could see -- I could 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.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) towers, CRS122, Charlie Victor, just (UNINTELLIGIBLE) through Teterboro, landing with the -- straight in for 2-7 at 4-3 miles. 1-2-3 Charlie Victor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well the skies are full of private planes these days. Here's the raw data. There are nearly 220,000 private aircraft in the United States. In 2004 they logged 28 million hours in the air, resulting in some 662 accidents and 556 fatalities.

The other number that we're talking about tonight is 300 million. That's the population America is about to reach. 300 million people, a booming society. Some worry with new tensions between Latinos and African-Americans. We're going to show you tonight in a preview of our special report this Monday, "300 Million: Melting Pot or Meltdown?"

Plus, as the war in Iraq drags on and seems to get more deadly by the day, we meet some of the people waiting for loved ones to return, hoping and praying they come home soon and safe.

And Actor Mel Gibson takes on a new role, going on the talk show circuit to say he's sorry for the mistakes he made while he was drunk. Will it make a difference? Do you believe him?

Those stories and more when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN GRAPHIC)

Median Income by Race:

Asian: $61,094 White: $48,554 Hispanic: $35,967

(END GRAPHIC)

COOPER: Some time this month, nobody quite knows exactly when, the 300 millionth American will be born.

Monday we're going to look at the population boom in a special edition of 360, "300 Million: Melting Pot or Meltdown?" That's what we're calling it.

Tonight, we're previewing with a look at how the racial balance will be shifting. According to the census, Latinos have overtaken African-Americans as the largest minority group. And that trend looks set to continue. Latinos are going to make up a quarter of the population in about 45 years.

CNN's Randi Kaye now reports from a small town in Georgia, where the rising number of Latinos is creating tensions with some African- Americans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The tiny town of Willacoochee, Georgia, just 45 miles north of the Florida border, is a kind of demographic time machine into the future.

Some of the largest growth in Latinos in the United States has occurred right here, much to the dismay of many black residents. Racial tension here, having summered between blacks and whites, is now, as they say, between blacks and browns.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, when you have another, you know, race that's coming in and trying to survive, jut like we're trying to survive, it just makes it that much harder.

KAYE: It's no secret here. Town's people say the two races don't get along. There's a language barrier and they're competing with each other for jobs and public assistance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's always rumor that Hispanics are hard working. So if you have 10 openings in a factory or distribution center or whatever, the majority will go to a Hispanic.

KAYE: County Clerk Joy Solomon (ph) says her daughter was laid off, then replaced by a Hispanic worker.

This man tells us his African-American neighbors turned down jobs he's willing to take. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They think we're stealing their work, but we're not stealing anything from anyone. On the contrary, we are going forward. I've never seen a black person that works like we do in the fields.

KAYE: But if there's anything that could unite this Willacoochee...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do pray that we all can be as one.

KAYE: It just might be the longtime friendship of Pastors Harvey Williams and Atonocia Ghaona (ph), even though few others accept it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can feel that look. You know, they're looking at us, kind of, what's going on with this.

KAYE: People stare because Pastor Ghaona is Latino, Pastor Williams, black.

PASTOR GHAONO (ph): I just see him as human being like myself.

KAYE (on camera): About you?

PASTOR WILLIAMS: I saw him as just a human being. I've never saw color. I've never seen color. I've never -- I don't know, I just -- I've always been attracted to the people because of their character, rather than the color of their skin.

KAYE (voice-over): Pastor Ghaona (ph) came here from Mexico 20 years ago. Part of a steady stream of Latino immigrants to Atkinson County. Today, half the preschoolers are Latino.

(On camera): These days in Atkinson County, blacks are outnumbered. Hispanics make up 21 percent of the population, blacks just 19 percent. Compare that to the 1960s, when the county was segregated and the nation's population was closer to 200 million. 30 percent population here was black and there were no Hispanics. Thirty percent of the population here was black, and there were no Hispanics.

(Voice-over): Blacks are losing their edge and their place.

WILLIAMS: I don't think we should be on the critical side of this issue. We shouldn't be criticizing them. I think we should be learning from them. How are they able to do this? They're coming over and in just a few years they're able to purchase land and own property. And here we are, we was born here and they are exceeding us.

KAYE (on camera): And one day they plan to bring both congregations together for a service.

GHAONO (ph): They need to understand that we're different colors, but we're still human beings and we deserve respect. Every one of us.

KAYE (voice-over): A small town, a kind of imperfect mirror image of where much of this country may be headed.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Willacoochee, Georgia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, now that Latinos are the largest minority, the ramifications will be felt everywhere from politics to pop culture.

Earlier I spoke to Demographer William Frey, author of the book, "America by the Numbers."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Bill, as we pass the 300 million mark, how will the growing number of immigrants in the United States change life here?

WILLIAM FREY, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN POPULATION STUDIES: Well, I think it will change the life here from the bottom up. By that I mean, it's the younger part of the population, is represented by the 300 millionth American that will make our country back into a melting pot mold. That we haven't really known for a while in this country.

Most adults today grew up in an era where we didn't have very many immigrants. The immigrants we knew were older people who immigrated very early in the 20th century.

But these new kids that are going to be born will bring to us a diversity, I think that will be very refreshing and help us as we get in to the 21st century. Because we really are going to want to make connections with other parts of the world, and this will help us do it.

COOPER: But, I mean, as you know, there are a lot of people who are frightened by the rise of immigration. I mean, you see it as the biggest driver of population growth. A lot of people find that very alarming.

FREY: Well, they do. And I think it's partly because we haven't been much of an immigrant nation for a good part of the 20th century. People who are living in the center part of country, who are not living in Los Angeles or New York or Miami, are seeing for the very first time new immigrants coming into their communities. Hispanics, people speaking Spanish, and it's a little bit different. They're a little concerned about the whole thing, and what we're...

COOPER: What does it mean to be an immigrant nation now?

FREY: Well, I think it means now that we need to be connected with a broader part of the world than we've been in the past. An immigrant nation here and now in the 21st century is not just bringing people in from Europe, not just bringing people in with the saying, sort of ethnic stock that we knew for the last 200 years in this country.

I think we need to reach out to these other countries. And I think our immigration policy is getting there. I don't think we should reduce the number of immigrants. I think we should at least broaden the countries even that we bring immigrants in from.

COOPER: Do the immigrants change America? Does America change the immigrants?

FREY: Well, that's a very good question. I think a little bit of both. Because since we are a nation of immigrants, what's called the center of our country, the center of our culture, does change. Depending on which groups are coming in at which points in time. And it will change for different parts of the United States.

On the West Coast and the western states where we get a lot Mexican-Americans, there will be some bilingual commerce going on, bilingual on the street and in the schools. And I don't think that's bad, because people there...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You set that increasing? Because, I mean, that already exists in a lot parts in the southwest?

FREY: Yes, that's right. But what also happens is the children are speaking English. They're speaking Spanish to their immigrant parents, but they're speaking English to their friends and that's what they see themselves as destined to, is being Americans. They listen to American music, American culture. They're being a little bit shaped by their Hispanic background.

COOPER: That assimilation you see as essentially American and something that does continue into the future?

FREY: Absolutely. It's in our bones. It's in our DNA. We're a nation of immigrants. And even though there's a little bit of a road block from time to time, when people have to get used to that all over again, we're a much more open and accepting in the long run to this kind of change, certainly than a lot of the European countries.

COOPER: Bill, appreciate your perspective. Thanks.

FREY: Sure, enjoyed it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Another population factor, the growing number of women in the workforce. Is there power in numbers or are women still having to play by men's rules?

We'll have more of our special report, "300 Million: Melting Pot or Meltdown?" when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN GRAPHIC)

Stay-at-Home Parents in the U.S. Moms: 5.6 million Dads: 143,000

(END GRAPHIC)

COOPER: The United States had 200 million in 1967. It's taken a little less than 40 years to add that extra 100 million. We're expected to hit 300 million sometime this month.

As we continue our preview of our special report on Monday, "300 Million: Melting Pot or Meltdown?" Randi Kaye now looks at one of the biggest shifts in the past few decades. The number of women working outside the home has almost doubled.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE (voice-over): For more than a decade, Michelle Dix worked 15-hour days climbing the corporate ladder at MTD Networks.

MICHELLE DIX, SENIOR V.P. MUSIC & TALENT DEVELOPMENT: I focused for 11 years and didn't really look up to say I want to pursue motherhood or getting married with the same sort of intensity that I was my projects or my next job.

KAYE: But one day this 39-year-old executive says an internal switch clicked, and she began hearing the loud tick tock of her biological clock. That's when Michelle Dix decided the time had come to put some balance in her life.

She went to work for VH1 in a different role, which allows her more time to date in the hopes of starting a family. What Michelle Dix is living is not a new experience for working women.

While the number of women in the workplace has nearly doubled in the last 30 year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the percentage without children hasn't changed much. Right around 60 percent.

(On camera): And these days, women who reach success in their 30s are finding a more competitive, more intense, more time-consuming workweek. And despite their commitment to work, they are finding it incredibly difficult to hold a full-time, high-level job while also trying to date or raise a child.

(voice-over): Sylvia Ann Hewlett is the author of "Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children." She finds a surprising number of women in their 30s are bailing out of the workforce. Some temporarily, some for good.

SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT, FOUNDER, CENTER FOR WORK-LIFE POLICY: That's when the biological clock is beginning to tick loudest. So the demands of your career, the constraints of the biological clock, they kind of clash and collide in the worst ways for modern women.

KAYE: The result, Hewlett warns, is a corporate brain drain.

HEWLETT: For women these days, take I think 58 percent of bachelor's degrees and something like 60 percent of graduate degrees. I mean, they're the main talent in our pipeline.

KAYE: Hewlett says too many talented career women are jumping on the nearest off ramp out of the fast lane. In fact, Sylvia Ann Hewlett found only 14 percent of women in corporate America want to be childless. But 42 percent of the women she interviewed did not have children by age 40. By comparison, the number of male high achievers without children is just 25 percent.

With her 40th birthday quickly approaching, Michelle Dix is feeling the pressure to date.

DIX: My mom is definitely someone that thinks if you're going to find the person you're going to marry, you need to play it like a numbers game. And, you know, she's someone who's like, you got to just treat it like you did your job. You got to treat it with the same intensity. You got to be open. You got to tackle it like a project.

KAYE (on camera): What if you don't meet the right guy in the next year or two or even five years?

DIX: I think I would be very open to single motherhood.

KAYE: Michelle Dix is considering all her options. Freezing her eggs, adopting, even having a child with a friend or an unknown donor.

(Voice-over): What she really wants, though, is someone with whom to raise the child.

(On camera): What's your perfect kind of guy? We might be able to find him for you with this broadcast.

DIX: Heart and soul and, you know, mixed in with ambition.

KAYE: Someone who has a good balance, though, right?

DIX: Absolutely. Someone who, you know, wants to have it all.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, Monday night, right here on 360, we're going to look at the impact of America's population explosion. "300 Million: Melting Pot or Meltdown?" It's a special at 10 p.m., Eastern.

Tonight, the welcome home signs were already up for one combat brigade coming home from Iraq. Then the troops were handed another tour of duty. And the community bonded together to get the answers why. We're going to have that story.

And later, in his own words, Mel Gibson on his drinking and the hateful things he said when he was drinking.

You're watching 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: That's a picture of the massive explosion at a Baghdad ammunition dump on Tuesday. Tellingly, alarmingly, the video was supplied by the insurgents, who claimed they set it off with a mortar attack. A sign of the times, and it is not the only one.

Today, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed that he has begun a top to bottom review of U.S. war strategy in Iraq. The acknowledgement from General Peter Pace comes one day after President Bush expressed a willingness to change plans if necessary.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With U.S. casualties in Iraq on pace to make October the deadliest month in two years, the top general at the Pentagon tells CNN the overall strategy is under review, including the linchpin of the U.S. exit strategy, relying on Iraqi forces to take up the fight.

GENERAL PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Are those assumptions still valid? If they are, OK, then how are we doing in getting to where we're supposed to be going? If we're getting there, how do we reinforce that? If we're not, what should we change?

MCINTYRE: Pace's candid comments come a day after Iraq Commander General George Casey met with President Bush, whose Iraq policy is being questioned by key members of his own party.

Armed Services Committee Chairman Republican Senator John Warner, for instance, returned from Iraq, saying a change of course may be needed if the current level of violence continues.

BUSH: If the plan is now not working, the plan that's in place isn't working, America needs to adjust. I completely agree.

MCINTYRE: Pace says he and the other joint chiefs are debriefing commanders just back from the front lines, including one colonel recognized as a rising star and creative thinker. Colonel H.R. McMaster is the author of the 1997 book, "Dereliction of Duty," considered the seminal work on the military's responsibility during Vietnam to confront their civilian bosses when the strategy wasn't working.

But so far neither Casey nor his civilian boss, Donald Rumsfeld, admit any flaws in the current approach. And Rumsfeld gave this terse response when asked if he was responsible for what's gone wrong in Iraq.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Why do we have to keep going through this? Of course I bear responsibility. My Lord, I'm secretary of defense. Write it down. Quote it. You can bank it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, that was CNN's Jamie McIntyre reporting. For some Americans serving in Iraq, the long wait to go home is getting longer.

CNN's Dan Simon reports on the impact one brigade's service is having at home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Evan Grimes (ph) just had his fourth birthday and got lots of new toys. But on this day...

(On camera): You put all three of these in here?

EVAN GRIMES, SON OF SOLDIER SERVING IN IRAQ: Yes.

SIMON (voice-over): He wanted to show us a present for his dad.

GRIMES: This one and this one and this one.

SIMON: Three American flags he placed in the front yard of his house. Evan says he did it to help his father, an Army captain fighting in Baghdad, find his way home.

GRIMES: He will get his binoculars and see these.

SIMON: Evan's dad would have been home a long time ago. He's a member of Alaska's 172nd Striker Brigade. The 4,000 troops were scheduled to leave Iraq during the summer. But just days before their tour of duty was to end, the soldiers learned their year-long deployment had been extended for up to four months.

The Army says that's something that's happened to only one other unit in this war.

For the soldiers' families who had already posted welcome home signs, the news was crushing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I honestly threw something at wall.

SIMON: CNN spoke to several soldier's wives who told us the extension...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was angry. Then I was really sad.

SIMON: ... caught them off guard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was like being kicked in the gut.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because we were, you know, understandably very upset, very distressed over the whole situation.

SIMON: Making things even worse, many had packed up their households in preparation for their husband's next duty stations. Others had booked and paid for upcoming vacations.

SHERRI GRIMES, WIFE: We were going to take a family trip to Hawaii, and kind of reconnect as a family.

You rally and you get through.

SIMON (on camera): This is Evan's mom, Sherri.

S. GRIMES: My husband missed my daughter's birth and now he'll miss her first birthday. He missed my son's third and fourth birthday.

SIMON: It wasn't just the wives who were upset. It seemed the whole town was too. A couple of community leaders felt they to take action, even if it was only symbolic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what everyone's talking about.

SIMON (voice-over): Fairbanks elected assembly took up a resolution, calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's immediate resignation. More than 100 people spoke out about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think really it's high time that we take a stand on this.

SIMON: The resolution failed by one vote. Critics argued it would send the wrong message to troops.

So what does Rumsfeld have to say about the extension?

RUMSFELD: I wanted to be here personally.

SIMON: Well, in Alaska in late August, he made a personal appeal to the soldier's wives and a few husbands, asking for their understanding. The media wasn't invited, but CNN obtained this video shot by one of the wives.

Rumsfeld tells the crowd of 800, the decision to extend wasn't made lightly.

RUMSFELD: We tried to move heaven and earth to not to do it, and -- but in this case we had to.

SIMON: In this case he suggested because of the rising sectarian violence in Baghdad.

RUMSFELD: We are facing a long (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I'm afraid, against violent extremists.

SIMON: But what many wanted to know is if their loved ones would be home before Christmas. The response wasn't what they wanted to hear.

RUMSFELD: I wish I had a magic wand and the power to say, yes. I don't.

SIMON: Some spouses understand the secretary's position, because they believe in the mission.

CAROLINE WEBSTER, WIFE: You have to trust in the commanders (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I have know that they are doing the right thing. SIMON: But it's 9-year-old Tristan Mills who seems to speak for many soldiers' families when talking about his dad.

TRISTAN MILLS, SON: I think it's good that he's helping some people, but, too, I also want him back here.

SIMON: Some soldiers, though, will never have that opportunity. Four members of Alaska's Striker Brigade, who would have been home, were killed recently in combat. And the 4,000 Strikers remaining in Iraq will have to keep fighting until they can find their way home.

Dan Simon, CNN, Fairbanks, Alaska.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, what about those who come home from Iraq and Afghanistan injured? Coming up, 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta reports on the efforts to help those in need. The numbers -- well, they may shock you. One of every three military personnel returns with physical and/or mental wounds. A report on that, coming up next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, before the break we visited a little boy whose dad is serving in Iraq. The wait for him to come home seems endless. And they're not the only one whose sit and hope.

As we reported, the military is planning for the possibility that troops will remain in Iraq at current levels the next four years.

But for some who do come back, their problem may only just be starting.

360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): An early morning gun fight in Iraq. 25-year-old Marine Jesus Vidana mans the radio while his unit battles snipers. Bullets whizzing around him.

JESUS VIDANA, INJURED MARINE: My head jerked forward, like that. And it popped back up.

GUPTA: That's the last thing Jesus remembered. A sniper bullet piercing his helmet, spraying shrapnel through his brain. A fellow Marine pronounces him dead at the scene. But Jesus was alive, barely.

VIDANA: They said I started yelling out. I started like crying out and yelling out. And that's when he realized I was still alive.

GUPTA: Jesus needed two emergency operations. I performed the first one when I was in Iraq covering the Devil Docs, a team of military doctors.

Jesus returned to the United States for more treatment and to begin his rehabilitation. He's not alone.

Statistics from the Veterans Administration show one of every three military personnel returning from Afghanistan and Iraq is injured. Maybe it's a shot in the head, maybe it's a recurring nightmare. But each one needs care, and care is expensive.

STEVE ROBINSON, VETERANS FOR AMERICA: We're seeing the injuries of bullets and bombs. We're seeing the injuries of endemic disease. It's going to put a tremendous strain on the system.

GUPTA: Veterans Advocate Steve Robinson says the evidence is in the numbers. Of the nearly 600,000 war vets recently discharged from the service, about one-third of them has sought care from the Veterans Administration healthcare system.

In addition to their healthcare costs, about 100,000 of those servicemen and women are also receiving disability compensation for their injuries. And Robinson says that number could go up dramatically.

ROBINSON: Every day a new veteran comes into the V.A. healthcare system. Right now about 33 a day from this war enter the V.A. healthcare system. And it just keeps going up on a skyrocketing plain. The longer the war goes on, the more people are going to come back that need healthcare and benefits.

GUPTA: And he says there could be as many as 700,000 disability claims when all is said and done.

Now, disability payments range from a few hundred dollars to about $1,000 month, depending on the injury. Multiply that by a number like 700,000 and also factor in the 2.6 million vets from previous wars still receiving disability payments, and you get the picture. It's a lot of money.

Jesus Vidana is doing well. We caught up with him last year on the ski slopes in Aspen. But many injured war vets aren't doing well at all. They need much more frequent care.

You see, as medical technology gets better, doctors are able to save more lives. But many of the injured have very severe medical problems that require constant attention, and large amounts of taxpayer funding.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You say that one in three servicemen and women come back with some kind of injury. How is that possible? I mean, what -- are there some that are more common than others? I mean, one in three sounds like an awful lot?

GUPTA (on camera): It is. And you got to remember, I mean, this particular conflict, more people are surviving than ever before, but a lot of these people are coming back with devastating injuries. Alive, but severely damaged. Still, musculoskeletal injuries are still the most common, you know, broken bones, muscular injuries. But PTSD and psychiatric illness is probably the second most common after that, you know. So Mental illness, a significant cardinal feature of this war. And then after that, also head injuries because of these IEDs and all of those blast injuries that you see to the brain being rattled around the helmet, also very common.

COOPER: So the disability payments differ. How does the V.A. decide, I mean, who gets what?

GUPTA: It's kind of an odd system, Anderson. I mean, they do something called a percentage of injury. So for example, a quadriplegic is going to have a significant percentage of injury, as opposed to your non-dominant hand, for example, which is going to have a much lesser degree of percentage of injury. So they sort of figure out how much of an impact this injury's going to have on your life and your ability to carry out what you were doing before. And they decide on that.

COOPER: There were a lot of large numbers in the piece. What does it boil down to, though? If 700,000 vets need disability compensation, how much money are we talking about?

GUPTA: It can be a huge amount of money. And I was trying to do some of the math on this as well. Maybe $1,000 a month on average, per person, times the number of vets returning. You're talking about $700 million a month, which is about $8.4 billion a year. And that's per year.

A lot of these people are going to need lifelong care. So you'd multiply that towards lifetime. And also that doesn't even count the 2.6 to 3 million people who were previously disabled from other conflicts. So, you're talking about a huge, you know, over $10 billion bill for the V.S. per year.

COOPER: Wow. Sanjay, appreciate it. Thank you.

GUPTA: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up, Mel Gibson talking about the wounds he is trying to heal after speaking some, well we all know what he said.

First, Erica Hill, though, with "HEADLINE NEWS" joins us with a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the Dow has done it again. Blue chips hitting a new all-time high, closing up 95 points to end the day at 11,947. The NASDAQ gained nearly 38. The S&P added 12.

Meantime, some relief for spinach growers tonight. California health officials say the recent E. Coli outbreak in spinach is linked to cow manure from adjacent farmland. They say somehow the manure got into the spinach field. Now the next part of the puzzle is trying to figure out how that happened. Three people died from the E. Coli outbreak. Nearly 200 people got sick.

In Pennsylvania, bulldozers have demolished the tragic reminder of last week's Amish school shooting. A community leader said there was a widespread feeling the one-room schoolhouse had to be torn down. Ten girls were shot in that schoolhouse, five of them fatally, before the gunman killed himself.

And fall snow in parts of Michigan and Illinois. Some spots are going to see up to a foot of it, come tomorrow. It's the earliest measurable snow fall since recordkeeping began back in the 1800s.

Anderson, I think we can expect some pictures of snowmen tomorrow.

COOPER: I'm not ready for snow.

HILL: I'm not ready for snow either.

COOPER: Just throwing that out there.

HILL: But then again we don't really get snow in Atlanta.

COOPER: Well, that's true. Well maybe this year. Erica, thanks.

HILL: See you later.

COOPER: Well, that's not the only snow falling. Here's the shot for today. The new video just in to CNN. More signs that Indian summer giving way to winter tonight. Parts of western New York are under a blanket of white. The National Weather Service says more than half a foot of snow could fall in the Buffalo area by tomorrow. For now, nearly 100,000 home do not have power.

A public apology, or perhaps a bit of P.R. from Mel Gibson, maybe some of both. His forgiveness tour begins, and so the explanations about what he said and why. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Finally, the world according to Mel -- and that, of course, would be Mel Gibson. The man who gave us "The Passion of the Christ," well, he's now seeking some redemption.

In his first televised interview since his drunken arrest and anti-Semitic tirade, the actor and director says he wants to set the record straight.

CNN's Brooke Anderson has more of Mel's mea culpa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MEL GIBSON, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: I must have been angry all my life. And I try not to have it manifest itself, you know. You try and keep a lock on it.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That was Mel Gibson, coming clean to Diane Sawyer on ABC for the very first time since his drunk driving arrest and anti-Semitic tirade in late July. And though Gibson may have self-admitted issues with anger, it was his nervous, fidgety energy and visible embarrassment that stood out.

No wonder, with admissions like these.

GIBSON: Alcohol is used to kill pain, and there is no excuse, by the way. It's not a good enough excuse.

ANDERSON: The timing for his exclusive sit down with Sawyer is no mistake. The 50-year-old actor/director's televised apology comes just two months before "Apocalypto," his new film about the decline of the Mayan kingdom is scheduled to hit theaters.

Hollywood Publicist Howard Bragman believes it's a well orchestrated effort by Gibson to repair his public image. A campaign some websites have labeled "Gibson's Redemption Tour."

HOWARD BRAGMAN, FIFTEENMINUTES.COM: It's what we call catharsis in our business. You have your big screw up, you give it a little time. And then you say, well, am I going go to Diane or am I going to go to Oprah, or who's going to get the first one.

ANDERSON: Visibly uncomfortable in the interview, Gibson directly addressed his anti-Semitic remarks, which included "F'ing Jews." "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world."

GIBSON: Sounds horrible. And I'm ashamed of that. That came out of my mouth, and I'm not that. That's not who I am, you know. Alcohol loosens your tongue and makes you act, say and behave in a way that is not you.

ANDERSON: While this act of contrition goes to the core of Gibson's Christian beliefs and is part alcohol recovery programs, is it enough?

The true test of the public's reaction will come when "Apocalypto" is released December 8.

Brooke Anderson, CNN, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, we'll see. More of 360 in a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Well, tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING," could be one of the largest mortgage scams in U.S. history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very angry. I can't use the words that I want to use, but I'm very angry, you know? Because these are people that we trusted. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Could you be the next victim in a similar scheme? That and all the latest news tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING," starting at 6:00 a.m., Eastern.

That does it for us tonight.

"LARRY KING" is next with the latest fallout on the Mark Foley page scandal. A big day of testimony in the investigation. That's next.

We'll see you tomorrow. Thanks for watching.

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